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

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

John 10:10

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The first two months of Cora's life were great. She was a happy baby and relatively good sleeper. Then, she turned 2 months old. Suddenly her skin looked rough and dry. She was not happy. She also stopped growing, both in length and weight. We knew something was not right, but could not figure out what it was. It was a scary time.

After numerous doctor visits and research, we discovered that she has food allergies. I was elated to be through those rough 4 months and finally have an answer to what was wrong with my baby. It was not anything life threatening. It was something I could deal with. I took out her problem foods in my diet so she could have allergy free breast milk, and within days she was a different child. She was happy and healthy looking again.

We recently went back to the allergist for a more specific check with her allergies. We did a blood test to find that she is Very allergic to eggs, pretty allergic to peanuts, allergic to dairy, and somewhat allergic to almonds. Now that she is eating all table food, I need to figure out how to deal with this.

It is just hitting me that this could really affect our life for a long time to come. On Sunday, we unexpectedly stayed after church for a luncheon. I had not planned on being there, so I had no food for Cora and there was nothing she could eat. The rest of us ate quickly then went home to feed her. For her birthday party on Monday, I brought along a special egg free dairy free cupcake just for her while everyone else ate the "regular" cake. Next week we go on vacation. I am going to have to be proactive in bringing along enough food for her to eat because she can't eat most restaurant food.

I know that none of these things are major problems, but it will be a part of my life. Do I change the way our entire family eats and make everyone egg, nut, and dairy free, or always have special food for her? How do I watch out for her when we go places? She is already small in size, how is she going to get enough nutrients, fat, and calories with her reduced diet? What can I do to help her grow out of this?

This is new territory for me. It is well worth the trouble of an allergy free life to behold the joy of healthy Cora. Thankfully, there are many resources out there to learn how to adjust my cooking for allergies. If you have any insights, send them my way.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Woo hoo!

I cannot even explain to you how happy I am that Anna is now pottying and pooping in the toilet. She has had no accidents for 3 days. It has been a long road battling an obstinate child, but I think we made it. I despise potty training. I believe it is my least favorite parenting responsibility thus far. Yet, I have fought the good fight, kept my eye on the prize. And now we have reached the goal: no more diapers. Praise the Lord. Hallelujiah.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Today Mark and I celebrate ten years of marriage! We have packed a lot in those ten years: 4 children, 5 homes, many memories and lessons. One of the best things about marriage is that we are doing life together. I could not do all I do without Mark. He could not do all he does without me. He leads and provides for me. I support and provide for him. We have our different roles, responsibilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Yet, we are one. Although the vision for our family is constantly changing, it is our vision together.

We are going to take a big vacation next winter to celebrate our 10th anniversary. When it is absolutely miserable here with snow and freezing cold temperatures, we are going to head to a hot beach. We have never done a trip like this. If you could travel anywhere warm and tropical with your husband, where would you go? We are open to any suggestions.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Does anyone find it ironic or annoying that Satan tempted Eve with FOOD? That crafty serpent knows us women.

"When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." Genesis 3:6

Poor Eve. She didn't stand a chance.

Maybe it was actually chocolate chip cookies hanging on that tree?

Lord, help me to fill my mind, heart and body with what is good and pleasing to you. Make me strong to withstand temptation. Amen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer plans

Somehow it is already the middle of June. We are having a grand summer, but it is flying by as usual. My goals for summer are:

1. Explore the woods with a nature hike every week. Until monsoon season hit last week, we were making good progress. The girls have loved trekking through the woods. I just need to remember bug spray. Mosquitoes like my sweet girls.
2. Go to the library every week. Lydia and Anna are attending story time.

3. Keep up with math. So far this hasn't been our strongest effort. As Madeline says, "Its summer!"

4. Make our way through Apologia Exploring Creation with Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. This has been a delight. It is an engaging and interesting read, making us more observant of the world around us. We are completing the nature scavenger hunt with the study, which is a fun challenge to complement our nature hikes.

5. Complete some "projects." We have not been too artsy yet. Madeline did make some mud cup cookies last week all by herself. I let her do everything, from turning on the oven to mixing up the pudding and inserting the worms.

6. Swim.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The book that got me started

When Madeline was one year old, I impulsively picked up a book at the library that was laying on a shelf. I don't think I had heard of it before, and don't really know why I grabbed it. I took home the book, read it, and loved it. It took me many more years of reading, thinking, and praying to fully commit to homeschooling. But reading that book was really the beginning of our homeschool journey.

Since then I have read many more outstanding homeschool books that I would highly recommend. "The Well Trained Mind" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer is the one I always go back to. The theory and layout of this type of education resonates with me. The idea of a classical education clicks with me. It makes me wish I know about great wars, intriguing books, and important discoveries. The fact is, I don't know much about all those things. "The Well Trained Mind" gets me excited to learn these things along with our children. Yes, it is overwhelming to consider the academic rigor the book suggests. But, you only go one year at a time. Don't all really difficult things end up being really great in the end? So when I'm feeling discouraged, planning next year's curriculum, or need to go back to the why, I go to this book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DIY flowers

A few weeks ago, I wanted a small gift to bring to a friend's house for a baptism celebration. I wanted to say "Thanks for having us over!" and "We love you guys!" Of course it was an hour before bedtime that I thought of this and needed it to be ready for the next morning. After some quick mental shopping, I decided to put together a flower arrangement for them.

If you run in to this same situation, here is what to do:

1. Retrieve a glass vase from under the sink. If you have a husband who loves to give you flowers, you'll have plenty of these. (Wouldn't that be nice? But hey, they are expensive and die quickly.) You could also use a canning jar or other creative container.

2. Stroll through your yard to find plants for the arrangement. Think outside the box. Even if you don't have a lot of flowers, consider branches, grass, or leaves. The main flower of this arrangement is from a flowering bush. The other flowers are from a wildflower area we planted last year. Whatever you find, clip it. I usually end up needing more than I'll think, so cut a lot.

3. Fill your vase with fresh water, trim the plant clippings, and arrange. I have no secret to this. Try different arrangements until you think it looks right. Have fun with it.

4. Enjoy your free, beautiful, from the heart flower arrangement.
I'm linking up to Works for Me Wednesday. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Baby books

We love books.

These are our favorite baby books.

The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
That's Not My Bunny by Fiona Watt
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle
Baby Angels by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
These books are precious to our family. They are simple, sweet, and fun. I have so many good memories of snuggling with the girls and reading these books, over and over and over.
What are your favorite baby books?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Freezer meals

Last Friday a friend and I got together (along with our 7 children) to prepare freezer meals. It has been on my radar to do this for a long time. With summer in full swing, I am realizing that I don't want to be slaving away in the kitchen. I want to be outside enjoying the nice weather (when it doesn't rain) too. Now I have 8 meals in the freezer, ready to pull out and bake for an easy supper. I'm sorry I don't have pictures to go along with this. I am new to this blogging business and keep forget to take pictures of our activities. Here are my tips for freezer meal marathons:

1. The most important part of mass freezer meal preparation is planning. I first made a list of our meals. Then I made a grand ingredient list. I went through each dish and wrote the ingredients on the grand list. I made tally marks for multiple items. I like to plan and organize, so this was actually fun for me.

2. Pre cook the meat. I figured out exactly how much meat we would need, both cooked and raw. I had her bring the ground beef, already cooked. I made the chicken, already cooked. I simply cooked it in a crock pot then shredded it the day before.

3. Have all the non perishable ingredients, recipes, and tools laid out. One of the difficult parts is having someone else try to figure out your kitchen. So, I had the ingredients and containers laid out in meal groups on the table. For example, there was a tater tot casserole section with 2 containers, the recipe, 2 cans of green beans, 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, and seasonings. All the refrigerated items for the day were in one area of the refrigerator. I also had all my mixing bowls, spatulas, and measuring cups in the middle of the table ready to go. This handy tip was from my sister Marissa who has done this before.

4. Buy your containers at the dollar store. I got packages of 3 foil 9x9 containers with lids for $1. All in all, we spent $64 to makes 16 good sized meals for a family of 5. I stocked up on chicken when it was $1.89/lb at Fareway. The rest of the ingredients were from Aldi. I love Aldi.

6. Prepare the meals with a friend who has a similar size family. That makes it easy to split the meals if you both need the same size portions. We had a lot of kids running around when we were preparing the meals, but they were better entertained with friends there than if I had done this without visitors. Plus, it was fun to have another adult to chit chat with while we worked.

The meals we made were: rainy day chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken tetrazzini, chicken rice casserole, sweet and sour chicken, tater tot casserole, baked pasta, and meatloaf. It is great to know there are delicious meals just waiting for us in the freezer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer reading goodies

Yesterday we signed up for our library's summer reading program.
Everyone knows that the local library has summer reading programs, right?
But... did you know that Barnes and Noble has a summer reading program? And one of my favorite stores, Half Price Books, has a summer reading program?
Yes they do! For the Half Price Books program, all you have to do is read at least 15 minutes every day, then you get a gift card to their store. Easy! Everyone can sign up, from baby up to serious reader. What a great way to earn free books. We always need more books at this house.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Children's art gallery

I purposefully leave our crayons, markers, and paper where my girls have clear access to it so they can create to their hearts' content. It is good for them to learn how to draw, write, cut, and think by craftsy artsy exploration. However, more days than not this leaves me with a pile of artwork sitting on my kitchen counter. Somehow the pile can grow exponentially if I don't do something with it. Usually that means throwing away their pictures. My one piece of advice about this: do it while they are sleeping.

Then, I ran across the idea of creating a children's art gallery and loved it. I knew the big empty wall in our sun room would be the perfect spot. I gathered old frames I wasn't using, removed the glass pane, and painted most of them a matching color to unify the look. Then I laid the frames on the floor, arranging and rearranging them until I got the arrangement I wanted. After that, I hung them on the wall. I put a nail in the open space of the frame, and hung a paper clip on it. Soon, our wall was filled with custom made artwork .

One of the best things about this type of gallery is that you can change the artwork easily. You just put a different sheet in the paper clip, and throw out the old picture. The only regret I have about it is that I wish I would have used larger frames. I have a few 5x7 frames up, which really don't work well. I need to cut up the picture to make it fit. Ideally, 11x14 frames work the best. As you can see, the pictures are not all perfectly centered or cropped. That makes it easy for me to use, and adds to the charm.

I'm linking up with Works for Me Wednesday today. In the meantime, let me know... What do you do with your children's artwork?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tastes like pink

Strawberries are one of my favorite foods. Because it is high season for strawberries right now, last Saturday became the day of the strawberries at our house. I perused the blog world for inspiration, then embarked on a strawberry adventure.

First, I called around to local U-Pick farms and groceries to find the best price on strawberries. Fareway had the best deal. I purchased two flats of strawberries, 22 pounds worth, for $30. These were not garden strawberries, but they were fresh, red, big, and delicious. I did not have to get a sore back or sunburn retrieving them from the field. While garden strawberries win the contest for taste, they are usually small, resulting in more energy and waste in preparing them.

I used one flat of strawberries to make homemade freezer jam. Delicious! It has a slightly different taste than traditional canned jam because there is no cooking involved. It basically tastes like you are eating fresh strawberries. Freezer jam is incredibly easy to make. One package of pectin makes 5 total 8-oz. containers. I made 26 8-oz. containers from one flat. Here is what I did:

1. Mix 1 1/2 cups sugar with one package no-cook-fruit-pectin in a large bowl. Let sit.
2. Puree strawberries in food processor to make 4 cups mashed strawberries.
3. Mix strawberries with sugar/pectin. Stir for 3 minutes.
4. Pour jam into container, leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Let sit for 30 minutes. Store in freezer for up to a year. Or, use immediately and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. (It is highly unlikely it would last 3 weeks in the refrigerator without being gobbled up.)

Next, I made a scrumptious strawberry cake. When Anna took her first bite, she said it tasted like pink! I simply made a white box cake according to package directions. Then I made the strawberry frosting. I beat 2 sticks of butter until creamed, then added about 5 cups of powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Beat until a good consistency. Then, this is the magical part, add pureed strawberries! Use as much or as little of the strawberries as you want. In my opinion, the more strawberries the better.

I love making round cakes. They look so beautiful on a cake stand, and have the yummy frosting in the middle. However, in this case the bottom layer did not come out of the pan correctly so the cake is a bit lopsided and my strawberry ended up sliding off. Oh well. It still tasted great, like pink!

Monday, June 7, 2010

One of those days

Today was one of those days. Truly, nothing awful happened. I was just annoyed. It was nothing that an epic sized caramel classic lite couldn't fix.

Sometimes the monotony of motherhood can be a little much. It just seemed that what I do doesn't matter. Why do they need me so much? Why do they always run to me with a problem, even if their father is sitting right there? Don't they see that I just got the kitchen clean and now they want something to eat? I have to wash all of Anna's undies again because she can't figure out the potty situation. It is not fair that I am stuck here folding laundry while my husband gets to talk to other adults and use his brain all day. And so on and so on. When I told Mark that I need to go to Friedrich's by myself with a good book after supper, he immediately said OK (with a very concerned look in his eyes). I guess they prayed for me while I was gone.

For the past couple years, I have been trying to focus on this: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." - Philippians 4:8 When I let little annoyances grow into big lies, I go back to this verse. On these days, I know that it is a battle for my mind. I tell myself to focus on the truth.

What I do does matter, very much so. They run to me because I am the mom. I take care of them, nurture them, and guide them. I am molding their souls as I take care of their everyday needs. That is my job, a very high calling. That is something to think about. That is honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praise worthy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Baby Love

Meet Cora and her cousin Sydney. Don't you just love them? Cora is three months older than Sydney, but Cora is small in size and Sydney is big in size so it works out.

Cora is a lot of fun right now. She explores everywhere, always with a big cheesy grin on her face. I often think of how blessed she is to have 5 people who absolutely adore her. She is getting ready to leave the baby stage, and I am going to greatly miss it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prayer for daily work

O Lord our heavenly Father, by whose providence the duties of men are variously ordered: Grant to us all the spirit to labour heartily to do our work in our several stations, in serving one Master and looking for one reward. Teach us to put to good account whatever talents thou hast lent to us, and enable us to redeem our time by patience and zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From The Book of Common Prayer, 1962

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Littles: Part 2

I know you are waiting with great anticipation to discover just what kind of activities may keep a toddler and preschooler busy for a few minutes...

A key part of our homeschool experience is establishing a routine for the little girls to know that it is "school time." That means giving them something to do, so they feel like they are participating in something special also. At the beginning of the year I make a list of activities for them. Then every week when I make out our schedule for the week, I write in what their activity for that day will be. I simply work my way down the list and then back to the top again. Having a set list that I systematically work through reduces the stress and thinking. To qualify for the list, the activity must be something special that only I have access to, and something they can do themselves.

The list for this past year was:
*Pattern blocks - a handy dandy math manipulative
*Create a Picture - an old Discovery Toys product where they piece together squares like a puzzle to form a house
*Play Doh
*Playful Shapes - another Discovery Toys product similar to tangrams but for younger kids
*Water color painting
*Bendaroos - those infomercial bendy sticks
*Cut pictures from magazines and glue them on construction paper
*Linking cubes - yet another math manipulative

This is what my counter looked like after a morning of school when the activity was water color painting.

What do you do to keep your littles busy?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Littles: Part 1

People often ask me what I do with the little girls while I school Madeline. My first instinct is to say that I lock them in a closet. But I don't know if they would think that is funny or appalling.

The first thing we do for school is have "table time." We all sit at the dining room table to read our Bible lesson, pray, work on scripture memory,and sing. Then Lydia and Anna go to the small kitchen table for their "activity." They work on their activity for however long they like. Some days they may be there for two minutes, other days they will be occupied for forty minutes. When they are done with their activity, they go down to the play room in the basement to play. They are suppose to stay down there until I call them for snack time. During this time, I do the most intensive school work with Madeline: math and classical conversations. After snack, we do our language arts work while the littles run around. During the littles' nap time in the afternoon, we do history or science. Lydia often joins us for this because it is mainly reading good stories.

I wish I could say that it always works out as nice as it sounds here. It doesn't. Often times, I teach while nursing Cora or mediating a brawl between Lydia and Anna. However, the little girls know what the routine is and know when they should be busy. By following this routine of starting the day, they do give Mommy and Madeline time to get some of the "hard stuff" done like math and memory work. After that, it is easy to get Madeline started on a worksheet or self directed study while I tend to other motherly duties. Hence, home centered education is centered around our home and all its lovely inhabitants.

(Be sure to check in tomorrow for more discussion on just what the "activity" for the littles may be. I need your help.)