"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

John 10:10

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cinnamon crackle cookies

These cookies taste like Christmas.  They are excellent dipped in coffee or hot chocolate.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
Additional sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugars.  Add the egg and extracts; mix well.  Combine the next eight ingredients; gradually add to the creamed mixture.  Shape into 1 inch balls; roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Madeline

Earlier this week Madeline and I left Daddy with the little girls, and snuck out for some time to ourselves.  We perused Barnes and Noble, drank some hot chocolate, and did some Christmas shopping.  It was just what we needed. 

One of the most amazing things about Madeline is how thoughtful she is.  Sometimes when I'm trying to think of a gift for someone I will ask Madeline if she has any ideas.  She usually has some fantastic ideas because she is so considerate. 

On our night out together we were looking for a gift for my cousin Kaylissa.  Kaylissa is a year older than Madeline, and they are great friends.  Whenever they see each other they give each other a big hug.  Madeline didn't want to get Kaylissa just anything.  She wanted to get her something that Kaylissa would love.  She wanted to get her something that showed Kayli how much Madeline loves her.  I'm not going to share the secret of what we bought, but we think Kayli will be excited.

About a month ago, I found Madeline and Lydia in their room together, scheming about what to get me for Christmas.  They had their own money, looking through a catalog of things they know I love.  How sweet is that?  That is my Madeline!   

Here she is on our first day of school in our new house.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The moving saga

It has been a jam packed couple of weeks around here, both physically and emotionally.  Moving is hard work. Pretty much everything has gone well and I love our new home.  If you would like the whole story, grab a mug of hot chocolate and get cozy. 

I am not an overly emotional person and do not cry very often.  Last week, I cried at some point during the first four days of the week.  Through our previous moves, I found that I emotionally checked out of the place before we actually left.  This time, I was "in" Iowa until we physically arrived in Nebraska.  Sunday was our last day at Westkirk, and we enjoyed a fabulous supper with some of our small group friends that night.  Leaving our wonderful church family made me cry.  Monday the movers came to pack up all our things.  The boxed up house where so many good memories had been made caused me to cry.  Tuesday was our last day at our Des Moines Classical Conversations community.  I cried because I was leaving a group that helped me to discover what I want our homeschooling family to look like.  When we got home from CC, all of our things were loaded on the truck.  We finished cleaning and took off for Nebraska.

On Wednesday, Anna, Cora and I were relaxing in our hotel room before closing on our new house.  Cora was on the bed with me.  She climbed over to the side of the bed, reached for the light, and fell.  There was a small gap between the bed and nightstand that she fell in to after hitting the nightstand.  She was immediately screaming and bleeding.  She bit the inside of her mouth pretty bad, and had a fairly deep cut on the outside right below her lip.  This was new territory for me.  We are on our fourth child but have never been to the emergency room, had any broken bones or stitches.  What do I do?  Call my husband.  Mark found an urgent care close to his office where he met us.  The doctor decided we would need to stitch the outside cut up.  The worst part of the whole ordeal is that they had to strap her down to do the stitching.  They put her on a papoose board, strapped her arms and legs down, and held her down.  Mark held her hand while I cried on the other side of the room.  When Cora got done, the first words out of her mouth were a shaky "Good Job." with a high five.  We made it to our house closing a half hour later with a very swollen lipped Cora.

She's a tough cookie.
Thursday was move in day.  We had an excellent unloading crew that got done about 1:30.  Mark and I got right to work unpacking our bedroom and kitchen.  As I was moving around a box in our closet, I felt my knee twist.  It felt like my body went one way but my knee went the other.  It hurt, but was not excruciating.  The rest of the day I was a little slow.

Friday the unpacking people came.  They take everything out of boxes and put it on a flat surface, either a floor, counter top, or shelf.  The best part is that they take all the boxes and paper away.  This was a great help, although a bit discouraging to see our house a big pile of "stuff" needing to be dealt with. The worst was the play room.  Our play room was by no means perfectly organized, but it did have a rhyme and reason to the madness.  However, it seems that they packed it up by just dumping everything in to a few boxes.  Do not worry about leaving all the doll materials that were in a container together.  Forget keeping all the pretend food in its original container.  Just dump it.  The unpacking was similar:  dump everything from the said boxes in to a big pile on the floor.   It seems that Santa's sleigh had some mechanical problems, made a dive, and spilled over on to our basement floor.

When I woke up Friday morning, my knee did not feel good.  As I went through the day it got worse so that by Friday afternoon, I was dragging it up and down stairs and really moving slow.  People, this is not good for a mama bird who just wants to feather her 2 story with a full basement nest.

Thankfully, Mark's mom got here Friday afternoon.  She was a huge help with the girls, and brought us food for the next couple days.  Praise the Lord.  She stayed until Sunday morning.  Sunday afternoon, my parents got here.  Praise the Lord.  They have been painting, feeding us, and loving on us since then.  My mom is a crazy good and fast painter.  She gets really excited about it, so we are more than happy to let her paint.  She and my dad painted the piano room, front entry, and halls up through the second floor.  I cannot tell you how big of a help this has been, especially with my knee all whacked out.  Papa and Nana left this afternoon.  We considered slashing their tires so they couldn't escape.
Sunday we attended  a good church.  I think we'll visit again.  We met two families there after church.  One family had four girls, very closely lined up in age with our girls.  The other family is a homeschooling family who follows the classical model similar to us.  Thank you, Lord, for your providential hand.

It seems like the girls are handling everything as well as can be expected.  It is a hard move for Madeline, but we talk about how it is always best to do what God wants for us even if it is not something we would selfishly want.  This is a difficult lesson for an 8 year old, not to mention a 30 something year old.  Lydia has cried a couple of times for her friends in Iowa, even though we would not have seen them any sooner if we were in Iowa.  Anna is thoroughly confused.  She referred to the hotel we have stayed at when we've been here during the transition time as "Nebraska,"  and said she wanted to go back to Nebraska.  She asked just the other day how many days we are going to be staying here.  On Sunday she said that we were leaving Nelda's (our real estate agent) house when we left our house for church.  I don't blame her for being confused. 

We have made significant progress toward making this our home in the last few days.  The guest room is the only area that needs a lot of attention yet.  Then, it will be another sweep through the whole house to put away the mess of incidentals.  My knee felt better yesterday.  Today, I can walk up and down stairs almost normal with using hand support on the walls.  It gets worse throughout the day, but I can feel definite improvement and have hopes of running up and down the stairs again some day. 

Now, for a preview of some of my favorite parts of our new home:

 The Mud Room.  
Oh, man.  I love this. 

The Laundry Room.  
On the top floor, right next to the bedrooms.  With brand new fancy pants washing machine and dryer.  I love this beautiful sight more than a pair of shiny diamond earrings.  (Not that shiny diamond earrings would be bad.)  I may have to buy a stair master to replace all the exercise I got carrying loads of laundry from the basement to the top floor in our last house. 

 My Big Bath Tub.  
Ahhhh. It is calling my name.

The Home School Area.  
All the books and supplies are contained in one area, with plenty of space for mroe books.  
This makes my heart go pitter patter. 

Thank you to my hard working husband for providing above and beyond our needs.  He spoils me rotten.  There are other beautiful things about this house that I'll share with you later.  But for now, these practical areas are shouting my love language. 

I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for us in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trick or Treat

This is a little late but as cute as ever. 
Detective Madeline, Lydia the Butterfly, Anna the Monkey, and our lil pumpkin Cora.

Cute cousins.

Monday, November 1, 2010

House hunters

Moving is not easy.  It interrupts life.  There are a lot of decisions to make.  So while all these things are on my mind, I thought I'd provide some (hopefully) helpful tips concerning the topic:

When you are looking for a new house, take notes on house detail sheets that will help you recall the specific house.  Our moves are always quick.  We go to our new place, see 20-30 houses in a couple days, make a decision, and put in an offer.  Touring so many houses in a short amount of time causes many of the houses to blur together.  I remedy that by making unique notes about the houses, things that will make sense to me but may not to anyone else (such as big dog, ugly wallpaper, or boy house).  Later on when I am reviewing the houses, my notes will usually spark a memory of the house.  In addition, take notes about important aspects of the house.  I love to take baths, so I usually noted if the house had a big bath tub or not. 

Try to keep a running ranking of houses in your mind.  If I walk in to a house and it doesn't make my top three, I don't think about that house any more.  Don't get bogged down by too many options.  

Looking at house pictures online is helpful, but you have no idea what the house will be like until you walk in to it.  One house we went in to had a sloping basement floor.  Another house boasted a pond view.  Well, it was a small pond with a huge electrical facility behind it.  Don't waste too much of your precious time on the Internet.  (I know this is easier said than done.)

Make sure you are not too hungry or tired when house searching.  This sounds silly, but it really is important.  The houses we see just before lunch or supper are just not as appealing.  Our blood sugar is low, we are tired, and want to be done.  Be aware of this and bring along snacks or drinks. Schedule in some downtime for your mind to unwind, then wind back up again.

Look at a map before, during, and after your house hunting.  When you move to a brand new place and have no idea of the layout of the place, it is very easy to become disoriented with where you are at.  You are riding along with a realtor who zooms around town.  Before you know it, you don't know how far away from the office, church, or school you are.  Being somewhat familiar with a map beforehand helps.

Verbally process your thoughts.  This is difficult for me, who keeps my words in my own head.  Point out the obvious and not so obvious aspects of a house.  Mark and I see completely different things when we walk in a house.  He notices the siding while I notice the light fixtures.  Talk about as many of these things as possible while you are in the house and once you are out of the house. 

Once you do the final viewing of the house you're going to purchase, take pictures of everything in the house.  We saw so many houses in a short time of high stress, I would not remember anything about our new house if I didn't have the pictures to look at.  Since I have my pictures, I can start to dream about where to position furniture, curtains, painting, and new purchases. 

Use some detective skills to learn about the neighborhood.  Visit the house at different times of the day.  Drive around the neighborhood at night.  Talk to any neighbors that are working in their yard.  Ask them who lives in the area. 


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catching up with the girls

Here is a photo overload update of the past month while I've been absent from blog land.

Apple orchard with homeschool friends
Mark and I at Pebble Beach, California for a work trip

Birthday festivities

Riding in the combine with Papa

More birthday parties

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Well, we're moving.  My stellar husband is taking the next step up with his job.  He is a very gifted man with a strong work ethic.  This leads to us being pushed on, even if we don't necessarily want to be pushed.  My first reaction with this possible move was "No!"  As time went on and God worked on my heart, it changed.  We believe that God has great things for us, wherever that may be.  We believe the things that we want for our life are not necessarily the things that God wants for our life.  We believe that Christians should be in positions of influence in our world, doing the best they can for God's glory. 

So, we are going to ride this next part of the journey with excitement.  This was not an easy decision as we will dearly miss our church, homeschool community, and close family.  This will always be our home. 

Where are we going?  Lincoln, Nebraska.  It is not too far away, relatively speaking.  Mark officially started the beginning of October.  Our present close date for our new house is December 1, but that may be moved up.  Until then, we are here, there, and everywhere. 

Am I stressed?  Yes.  Am I excited?  Yes.  We are leaving Hawkeye territory to join Cornhusker land.  Lydia mistakenly calls them the Corndogs.  We are not correcting her. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I am the oldest of three girls.  I love my younger two sisters.  Without a doubt, they are my best friends.  My heart is full of memories:  doing our hair together as we prepare for school, playing with my youngest sister as our "baby," standing up in each others' weddings.  When we had Madeline, I really wanted to give her a sister.  It turns out that was not a problem.  I consider all my girls so blessed to have sisters.  There is something about the bond of sisters. 

My sisters are incredible women.  Let me tell you....

My youngest sister, Marissa, delivered a handsome baby boy named Charlie two days ago.  She is going to have her hands full taking care of Charlie and his big sisters.  Maleah is a responsible 3 year old.  Layla is a very spirited 1 and a 1/2 year old.  We visited Marissa yesterday, less than 24 hours after giving birth.  You would never know she had just pushed a baby out.  She was walking around the room, looking fabulous, helping run after all the kids.  Seriously, people.  I think I birth babies and recover well.  Marissa is in a league of her own.  She is one tough lady. 

My middle sister, Alisa, takes amazing photos.  I could never do that. But she loves to bless others through her special gift. She is fabulous.

I pray that my girls have the same pride in each other.  I pray they have the same fierce dedication to helping find God's best for each other.  I pray they are as thankful for their sisters as I am of mine.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Easy Sunday morning breakfast

If you are like me, Sunday morning can be a little crazy.  Getting everyone ready and out the door to church on time is a challenge. 

I want Sunday to be special.  It is the Lord's day.  I want to go out the door with a smile on our face, our hearts and minds ready to worship our magnificent God.  One thing I have discovered to help us out in this endeavor:

Cinnamon Rolls!
Buy a bag of frozen cinnamon roll dough from the grocery store.  Put them in a pan on Saturday night.  Place a towel over them and let them rise through the night.  On Sunday morning, pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Spread the pre made frosting on the beauties.  Delicious and easy!  They are a Sunday morning tradition at our house.

I'm linking up with Works for Me Wednesday.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our reading list

As I mentioned yesterday, books really make learning come alive.  I am not a craftsy person.  We don't do many official science experiments or art projects at my house.  (I leave that to Classical Conversations.)  Instead, we read.  A lot.  My girls are immersed in good language throughout the day.  History becomes so much more vivid when you live it through a fictional character in an actual time period. 

Here is the chronological list of books we will be reading to correspond with our history lessons this year: 
The Bronze Bow by Speare
Beowulf the Warrior by Serraillier
Flame Over Tara by Polland
Twice Freed by St. John
My Father's Dragon by Gannett
Castle Diary: The Journal of tobias Burgess, Page by Platt
The Reluctant Dragon by Grahame
Door in the Wall by DeAngeli
Dangerous Journey
The Adventures of RobinHood by Pyle
Master Cornhill by McGraw
Joan of Arc by Stanley
Columbus by D'Aulaire
King Henry VII by Green
Courage and Conviction: Chronicles of the Reformation Church by Withrow
The Second Mrs. Gioconda by Konisburg

Some of these books will be read aloud together.  Some Madeline will read by herself, depending on the depth of the material.  I compiled this list by researching Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, and others.

Here is Madeline's just for fun reading list:
Black Beauty
Treasure Island
Peter Pan
Strawberry Girl
Misty of Chiconteague
The Toothpaste Millionaire
The Cricket in Times Square
The Railway Children
And the Word Came With Power

She can pick out other books to read.  However, she loves to read and reads fast.  It is helpful for me to have a guided list to direct her back to.  This allows me to keep her challenged, be able to discuss the stories she is reading, and know that she is receiving a well rounded education.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Madeline's 2nd grade itinerary

Here is a synopsis of what Madeline is covering this year:

Saxon Math
We are about 75% of the way through Saxon Math 2, then will be moving on to 3.  We really need to get those math facts to come automatically this year.  She understands the concepts well and learns math relatively easy.  Now we need to get it down so she doesn't even need to think about it.

Spelling Workout
This is DIY spelling.  She completes the workbook pages one day, copies the spelling rule and word list another day, takes a 15 word spelling test the 3rd day.  She gets phonics reinforcement with this approach, but does not belabor her too much.  We are just about done with Spelling Workout B, then we'll be ready to move on to Spelling Workout C. 
Writing With Ease
Writing With Ease uses quality children's literature for copywork, narration, and soon will be dictation.  It is all laid out for you in the workbook with a gentle yet fun style.  We are about half way through Book 1. 
First Language Lessons
This is our study of grammar.  Once again, it uses short but full lessons to verbally learn about the parts of speech.

The Story of the World
We are covering Volume 2: The Middle Ages this year.  We read about a chapter per week, then do the map work, review questions, and narration.  We supplement with additional informational books from the library and the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History.  An important part of history are the read alouds and independent reading of literature that correspond with the time of history that we are studying.  This really makes history come to life.  I'll post our reading list for the year tomorrow.

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day
I have enjoyed this science approach.  Honestly though, science is the on the bottom of my list of important subjects right now. 

Additional studies
Madeline is learning piano from me.  We all study the Bible together through the Picture Smart Bible.  Of course she is also attending Classical Conversations and working on that memory work.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Last Monday was our first adventure in the land of fun. We've had discounted tickets all year, and have just been waiting for the right day. Monday was it. Most schools around here had started, it was the last regular season day for the park, beautiful weather, and minimal amounts of people.

We had an absolutely fantastic time!  Madeline surprised us with her bravery, going on all the big rides.  She did it all.  Cora did great hanging out in the stroller most of the day. 

Lydia and Anna rode all the classic Adventureland rides, causing Mark and I to reminisce about how all the rides seemed larger back in the day.  

We arrived right as the park opened in the morning and rode rides all morning.  We hardly had to wait in lines.  Then we had a late lunch under some trees out by the van.  The girls changed in to their swimming suits, and we headed to the water park.  We stayed until just about 5:00, enjoying every minute of it.  Our first family trip to an amusement park was a hit.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I get a lot of questions around here. 
Inquiring minds want to know. 
About everything. 
Many things I can't explain. 

My most commonly used and most effective answer
Because that is how God made it. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The big yellow buses are rollin'

Well, school has started around here. Every time I see the school bus come down our street for the first time of the year, my heart starts to pitter patter. I panic. I get these crazy thoughts in my head:

Oh no! Am I ruining our kids by not granting them this classic American experience of going to school and riding a bus? Why are they picking the kids up already? What do they do there all day? We only "school" a couple hours a day. Those lucky moms get a break for a whole 6 and a half hours. They can go to the bathroom, go to the store, eat lunch by themselves. Those kids look so cute in their new school outfits and back packs. My kids are still in their jammies. What are we doing? Why are we so weird? Will our kids hate me for this?

As soon as those thoughts fly through my head at break neck speed, my next thought comes:

Praise the Lord.

My kids are home with me. We get to learn and grow together. They do not need to get on that bus with those other children. They will not hear bad words at home with me. They will not feel the pressure of fitting in. They will not have to confront serious issues until they are ready. I have the honor of studying the truth with my girls. I get to walk through life with them. My kids get so much more time to play, explore, and breathe than the regular school kids. Yes, we are going against the flow. But I have no doubt this is what God wants for our family.

Praise the Lord.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crunchy Granola Bars

1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
5 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. milled flax seed
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a saucepan, gently heat the oil, butter, sugar, and honey. Stir in the salt and cinnamon. When the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, stir in the oats, flour, and flax seed. Mix well and allow to cool slightly. Mix in the eggs and baking soda.

Spray a 15x10 jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Press the granola mixture firmly into the pan. Use a rolling pin to make sure the mixture is pressed tightly into the pan. Pay special attention to the corners and edges.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cut into 24 bars. Allow to cool in the pan. When the bars are completely cold, remove from the pan.

My thoughts:

After the mixture has cooled, before baking, I add chocolate chips or craisins. You could also add seeds, nuts, or whatever you have on hand.

These are crunchy and crumbly when eating.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fruit n Chocolate Oat Bars

1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 2/3 c. mashed ripe bananas (about 5)
1 1/2 c. uncooked oats
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Stir dry ingredients together in medium bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add egg and bananas. Mix well. Add flour mixture beating on low just until well blended. Stir in oats, cranberries, and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in sprayed pan.

Bake 20-25 minutes until edges are golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. Cut into 24 bars.

My thoughts:

Again, I wrap these individually and freeze them for ready to go snacks.

This calls for a lot of bananas. I think my girls are half monkey with how many bananas we eat on a daily basis. If I don't have enough bananas, I substitute 1/3 cup applesauce for 1/3 cup banana.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Whole wheat apple crunch muffins

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups chopped apples (about 2 medium apples)

Crunch topping:
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray. Combine first measure of flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and first measure of cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.

In a second bowl, beat eggs, oil and applesauce. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in apples.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, second measure of flour, brown sugar, and second measure of cinnamon. Cut the butter into the oat mixture using a fork or pastry knife until coarse crumbs form.

Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Top each muffin with oatmeal mixture. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to cool.

My thoughts:
Because chopping all the apples is a bit of work, make a double or triple batch of these while you're at it. I peel and cut the apples while Madeline chops them with the Pampered Chef food chopper.

From now on, I'm not going to make the crunch topping. I'm just going to swirl a little combination of brown sugar and cinnamon on top before they bake. These are so delicious, the topping is really not necessary in my opinion. It is just extra work and another dirty bowl.

I make a large batch of these, then individually wrap them in foil. I put a dozen or so in a ziploc bag and freeze them.

This recipe is from the cookbook "30 Day Gourmet's Big Book of Freezer Cooking" by Nanci Slagle and Carol Santee. I love this cookbook!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Snack time

At our house, my girls ask for a snack about every five minutes. Unfortunately for them, we only have snacks twice a day.

Snacks are one of the more difficult items to keep healthy, while still being easy and somewhat mess free. I also try to get a protein or more than one food group in the snack. I sat down and came up with the following list of snack possibilities, then set a plan for snacks for the week, just like I plan my meals.

Snack mix (Cheerios, raisins, craisins, chocolate chips, or other tidbits mixed together in a baggie)
Crackers with peanut butter (My favorite crackers are Trader Joe's multi grain and Kashi original seven grain.)
Cereal with milk
Veggies with ranch dip (Carrots, celery, peppers. Anything they can dip is good.)
Chocolate fruit bar
Apples and pretzels
Apple muffin
Bagel with cream cheese
Granola bar
Crackers and cheese

Over the next couple days I will post the recipes for the chocolate fruit bar, granola bar, and apple muffins.

What do you do for snack time at your house?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Trying to be healthy

Over the last year, we have been renovating some of our eating habits. I think that we've always been relatively good eaters. We all eat quite a bit of vegetables and fruit. My philosophy has been, you can eat the dessert as long as you eat the vegetables too. I don't harp on my girls to eat, but provide good choices for them. We have never had a lot of McDonald's or convenience food. But we do love our chocolate chip cookies!

When we discovered Cora's allergies I had to stop and rethink what we eat. The research I did opened my eyes to ways we could all be healthier. It is a gradual process, and I am not a purist. Here are some of the changes we have made:

1. Eat food closer to its natural state. This means we eat butter, not margarine or shortening. We eat whole milk, not skim. We eat the fattiest yogurt we can afford. We eat "real" cheese slices, not processed "fake" cheese. We eat a Smart Balance peanut butter that still tastes good but has very few ingredients. I am grinding my own wheat to use for bread and baking. (Please forgive me for how homeschoolish this is. I use a bread machine for the bread, and overall it does not take as much time or effort as you would think. If I don't have time for it, I buy bread from the store.)

2. Stay away from artificial growth hormones and abundant antibiotics. Anderson Erickson, Target, and Aldi have non rBGH milk. I would love to drink non homogenized milk or completely organic milk, but right now can't afford it. I also aim to eat organic chicken with no antibiotics or hormones, but haven't found an affordable option for this either. Hurry up, Trader Joe's!

3. Reduce high fructose corn syrup and soy, because they are genetically modified foods. This is a tough one. Corn syrup and soy are in almost everything. Part of my solution for this has been to use more homemade snacks instead of ready made crackers and such. I have a nummy granola bar recipe and healthy chocolate chip bar recipe I make in big batches, then wrap the servings individually and freeze. I made homemade strawberry freezer jam with sugar. We mix this with natural vanilla yogurt to make strawberry yogurt. I am working on finding brands and foods that have less soy and corn syrup in them, then sticking with them.

4. Avoid artificial colorings and preservatives. If I can't pronounce or understand the words in the ingredient list, maybe I shouldn't be eating it. The fewer ingredients the better. To help with this, I am making my own macaroni and cheese. It really doesn't take any longer than making it from the box. You boil the macaroni, then mix in some real cheese, milk, and a little cream cheese. The girls have adapted to this fine. Pop is a big no no in this category. Unfortunately, I really like Mountain Dew. This is all a balancing game, which means I am reducing my intake of pop and feeling good about it.

The bottom line is that I would rather have a sick child with a healthy soul than a healthy child with a sick soul. But I want to be a good steward of my family. To that end, I am going to do all I can to keep us healthy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First day

Yesterday was our first day of school.
It is good to be back in a routine. It is good to have fun together. It is good to be productive. It is good to have a fresh start.

Lydia: Pre-K

Madeline: 2nd grade

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lydia learns

With school just around the corner, I'll be sharing how we homeschool at Scheve Academy. First off, we have Lydia...
Lydia is not technically school age yet. She turns 5 the beginning of October, which means she misses the cut off by a couple weeks. Although she is not ready for a rigorous academic schedule yet, she is ready for something. I am not a proponent of pushing your kids hard academically when they're young. We don't participate in a preschool program at home or out in the real world. The best way for young children to learn is through play, exploration, and reading with Mom. That being said, I will be doing a modified two year kindergarten program with Lydia this fall. We'll start to cover the basics in short lessons. Seriously, she won't have to sit at a table for more than 30 minutes total per day. Here is her curriculum:

The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington

This is a parent and kid friendly way to learn to read. The lessons are short. It is scripted for the parent. You can use additional flash cards if you want to, but it is not necessary. It is phonics based. They have the child reading words early, which gives the child confidence. I've looked at other reading books, but they seem too complicated. This is easy.

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, K

I did not do a lot of research about handwriting. This was recommended from a respected homeschooler, so I went with it. We work our way through the workbook in short and easy lessons. It has colorful pages, but not too much distraction.

Saxon Math K

We will start with the Saxon kindergarten math program, which uses a lot of manipulatives. There is a lot of counting teddy bears, sorting colors, and playing with pattern blocks. Saxon is not colorful or fancy, but it is thorough. Everything is scripted for the parent, which is good for the math leery parent. If we run in to topics that I feel Lydia is already very literate in, we'll skip that lesson. Saxon utilizes a spiral approach, which means there is constant review.

Classical Conversations

Lydia will be in a CC class for 4 and 5 year olds. I don't think that she absolutely needs to be in this class, but think she will really enjoy it.

Although her formal education at this point is limited, she is learning every moment. We read from the Bible everyday. She attends Sunday school class, children's church, and Wednesday night classes at church. Lydia usually sits in on history and science with Madeline if she wants. She plays outside, creates sculptures with playdoh, bosses her little sisters around, swings on our swing set, and goes to the store with us.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I apologize for ignoring my blog for so long. I'm still alive and kicking, just been busy with ordinary life duties. I promise I'll be better at blogging. Really, I will. Here is some randomness to make up for my blog delinquency:

1. Menu plan for the week. I know it is helpful to hear what everyone else is having for supper. Here is my proposal:
Monday- beef taquitos
Tuesday- grilled chicken with grilled veggies
Wednesday- chicken salad from leftover grilled chicken
Thursday- pizza
Friday- leftovers
Saturday- supper at church
We will also be having fresh green beans, homemade applesauce, and lots of cucumbers.

2. I have been experimenting in couponing lately. I have been a skeptic of couponing because it seems to require a lot of work. I usually buy generic, store brand. Can it really be cheaper? I have found a couple good blogs which do much of the prep work for you, and am trying to be diligent in not buying things that are not necessary. So far it has been fun and productive. For example, I bought the toothpaste the girls use for 12 cents. When they run out, we're set. I am still working on it and have yet to determine how much it saves in the long run. But I'm getting sick of our high grocery costs and am up for some help.

3. We're doing swimming lessons again this week. It was absolutely amazing how much progress Madeline and Lydia made the first time around. Anna is getting her turn this week, along with her big sisters. She did better than expected today.

4. School starts either this Thursday or next Monday, as soon as I get my act together. I have some laminating to do before then. I love laminating.

That's all for now. Thanks for hanging in here with me. More interesting posts will be coming soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Garden green beans

My garden green beans have been quite productive this year. When I dig in to a fresh batch of green beans, I feel like I am sitting in my Grandma's kitchen. They didn't have air conditioning in their old farm house, and there were usually fresh cut flowers on the kitchen table. There was always an abundance of homemade food, and green beans were one of the best.

To prepare green beans like Grandma, fry some bacon with olive oil in the bottom of a heavy stock pot. Remove the bacon, saving the bacon drippings in the pot. Cut the bacon in to bite size pieces. Add the bacon, green beans, and enough water to cover the green beans back in to the pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer until green beans are tender. The simmering part usually takes longer than you think. Add a touch of salt and pepper. Delicious!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The biggest (and most deserved) lollipop ever

Whew. My van and I are tired. We've been doing a lot of running around this week. Madeline and Lydia have a girls club at a friend's house from 9 to 11 in the morning. We hurry home, eat lunch, then head to swimming lessons from 12:30 to 1:00. Go back home for rest time and supper. Then it is off to Vacation Bible School from 6:00 to 8:00. That is a very busy week for this happy-to-just-be-at-home family. Leading a class full of preschoolers at VBS is enough to wear me out. With everything else on top of that, I'm tired. Thankfully, I have had the neighbor girl here to stay with the little girls during some of the running so I don't have to buckle and unbuckle them twenty times a day.

Swimming lessons have been interesting. Madeline has been a superstar. She has generally been afraid of the water. These past few months have been a breakthrough for her, and she is now loving it. Lydia, on the other hand, has been a challenge. The first day she screamed the entire time. It went like this:

Teacher: We are going to practice the back float now.
Lydia: I DON'T WANT TO GET MY FACE WET! I DON'T WANT TO BACK FLOAT! I DON'T KNOW HOW TO BACK FLOAT! (in a very loud voice while kicking her legs)
Proceed like that for 30 minutes.

I left because I couldn't handle it and thought maybe she would do better without me there. The teacher was great with her, stearn yet encouraging. I know that Lydia was feeling a tremendous amount of fear. I also know that she has got to get over this fear and learn to swim. So, we went back the next day. I made a deal with Lydia: If she doesn't scream, she can pick out whatever piece of candy she wants from the store. She still screamed.

Today, she did not scream at all. She had a few moments where she was starting to lose it, but got herself under control. She wouldn't jump in to the teacher, so another teacher had to dunk her in. But overall, she did great. It made me get a little verklempt, watching her and imagining all the courage she had to summon. Don't tell, but I think she might have even had a little fun. I am so proud of her. On the way home we stopped at Walgreen's, and this is what she picked out:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dairy free smoothie

We are an eggs and bacon family. Mark grew up with his dad making a full breakfast every morning. He wanted to carry on the tradition. Thus, every morning we get a full breakfast, compliments of my beyond fabulous husband.

With Cora stuck in her no eggs no dairy diet, breakfast is now a problem. She can only eat so many Cheerios and bananas. One solution I have found is this delicious dairy free smoothie. It is packed with nutrition and keeps you full for a long time.

Powerhouse Smoothie
1 1/2 C. orange juice
1 1/2 C. rice milk
3 bananas
3 C. fruit
3 Tblsp. ground flax seed
handful of spinach
Mix all in blender.

Just so you know:
I freeze over ripe bananas in a Ziploc bag. When it is smoothie time, I simply take my bag of 3 bananas from the freezer and blend.
The fruit does not have to be exactly 3 cups. Use whatever frozen or fresh fruit you have available. We have used strawberries, blueberries, and peaches. All are delicious.
You can not see or taste the spinach. It adds a power punch of vitamins and nutrients without your kids knowing about it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What is a Classical Education?

There are many answers to that question. Here are my key elements of a classic education:

1. It teaches children according to the trivium. During the first four years of a child's schooling (approximately 1st through 4th grade), children love to learn and memorize. This is called the grammar stage. They are little sponges. It comes easy for them. So, we fill that sponge up. During these years we immerse the child in stories, facts, and ideas. They also do a lot of memorizing during this time. They may not understand everything they learn but we pound the pegs in so that later when we dig deeper, they are familiar with the ideas. The second four years of schooling (5th through 8th grade), we teach the child how to think. This is referred to as the logic or dialectic stage. This is when they really start asking why and want a decent answer to that question. We teach them logic. They learn how to work through ideas, finding the fallacy and truth in them. The third stage of learning (9th through 12th grade) is the rhetoric stage. During this time they learn how to express ideas. They gathered the information during the grammar stage, thought about the information during the logic stage, and now speak and write about what they think about these ideas during the rhetoric stage. The trivium is sometimes compared to a computer: input (grammar), process (logic), and output (rhetoric). This is how children naturally develop, and we teach them in accordance with these abilities.

2. It is systematic. Classical education works through history chronologically, integrating science, literature, and art developments during these same time periods. Every four years, corresponding with the trivium, we will cover all of world history from creation to modern time.

3. It embraces the great books. During high school, our children will be reading unabridged original books, not textbooks or watered down versions. This can occur because they have been exposed to these ideas before. This last year we studied ancient times. We read a child's picture book version of "The Odyssey." In four years, we will again study the ancients. This time we will read a more difficult version of "The Odyssey." By the time we reach high school and read the original "The Odyssey," it will not be too intimidating because we are already familiar with the story.

4. It teaches Latin. Yes, I know that no one speaks Latin anymore. However, Latin is the base for many modern languages. If you know Latin it will be much easier to learn other languages. The process of learning language is a good exercise for the mind and forces you to understand the grammar of English. Latin also gives you a head start in other areas where Latin word roots are used such as science and law.

Disclaimer: I did not learn this way so I am relatively new to these ideas and in no way an expert. There are many different thoughts about what constitutes a classical education. This is just how I hope it looks at our house.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Here's what I'm thinking

My mind is full these days. Here is a little peak inside...

I've been trying to figure out why there are so many more people with allergies today than there were even ten years ago. Something has to be causing it and there has to be something we can do to stop it. I am reading some interesting material and trying to get my mind wrapped around this. In the end, we are all in God's hands. But what do we do for our part in his stewardship? This is leading me to reading labels. It is surprising and unsettling what you find. I picked up my deodorant. The active ingredient in my deodorant is anhydrous. Seriously? I have driven the truck for my dad a couple times, pulling an anhydrous tank behind me. His instructions: If you go in the ditch or have an accident make sure you run away as fast as possible. This is the active ingredient I am putting on my skin, the largest organ of my body? I know it is a minuscule amount compared to an entire anhydrous tank. Still, isn't that kind of strange? I'm working on all these things, trying to get my sweet Cora more healthy.

We are going to start school again in August. That is not far away. I am a little panicky about how this is going to work now that Cora is very mobile and I will also be doing a little school with Lydia. Um, how am I going to get it all done?

Thankfuly, God's grace is sufficient for me because His power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Monday, July 12, 2010

We're back!

We enjoyed a splendid week away. We did a lot of swimming, eating, golfing, shopping, and enjoying our family's company. I'll hopefully have more pictures coming soon. For now, here is a picture of our girls on the patio of our condo, right on the lake.

Isn't it beautiful? Yes, the lake and the girls.

I love traveling, but I also love coming home. Vacation is wonderful. But for a mom with young children, it is not necessarily relaxing. You know what smart thing I did this time? I washed all our laundry in our condo's washer and dryer. We came home with suitcases full of clean clothes. I love it. Today, instead of being swamped with laundry, I picked a bowl of green beans from the garden. The girls are tired and resting. Their toys seem new again. I am catching up on mail and computer stuff. I am planning for the rest of the summer. You know you've had a good vacation when you are ready to get on with life again.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I came into the sun room yesterday and found Anna working on this...

I asked Anna what she was doing. She said, "Her is going on vacation." Well, yes we are! We leave tomorrow morning for a 6 day getaway with my parents, sisters, and families. If you are counting that is one 7 year old, seven children age 4 and under, and one just about fully cooked babe. Plus a stellar papa and nana. Oh yeah, and 6 super excited mommies and daddies.

Our van is loaded with snacks, leapsters, golf clubs, swimsuits, and a puke bucket for car sick prone Anna. We don't have anyone strapped to the top or a horse in the back like Boots' van, but we're ready to go!