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

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

John 10:10

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lydia is 6.

Dear Lydia,

You turn six years old today.  When I think of my sweet Lydia, a smile comes to my lips.  You are so full of life, experiencing everything to the fullest.  Things are either really really wonderful, or really really bad.  You are always skipping, frolicking, wiggling, or hopping from one place to another.  That is you.  

You are very observant, which makes you a talented artist.  You love to draw, color, and paint, with a lot of color.  Sometimes your observations of the world cause me to pause and look at things with new eyes.  Thank you for really seeing.  As you learn to read, write, memorize CC facts, and recite math facts it is obvious that you are very smart.  From the moment you wake up in the morning, you have a smile on your face.  The out of control Lydia has been replaced with my sweet spirited, lovely Lydia.  

You are drawn to other cultures and places.  You love it when we read from our Window on the World book, to see the pictures of other lands and people, and to hear the stories of people who need help.  You are many times the first of your sisters to think of others above yourself.  

You love to play outside, create new concoctions, play house and school, and be with Chloe and Kennedi.  You and Anna are very good friends, although it is amidst many disagreements.  Your Daddy and I love to come peek at you at night when you are sleeping, only to find you in bed with Madeline.  You become concerned if Cora is upset, and love to bring her her blankie to make her happy again.  You are a very blessed and loved little girl.  I think you know that.

Dydi Debra.  Lu Lu.  I cannot wait to see what God has planned for your life.  You bring immeasurable joy to your Mommy and Daddy.  We pray that you will seek God above all others, and walk with Him daily.  We love you and praise God that you are ours.


Madeline is 9.

My dearest Madeline,

I can't believe that you are already nine years old.  You are such a mature and bright girl.  You have experienced a lot these past nine years old with your Mommy and Daddy, and you seem to roll with the punches.  You can make friends easily and don't shy away from being "you."  We love you so much.  I can't explain how my heart swells with pride thinking about how God is molding you.  

You are not a girly girl.  You love to play with Legos, decipher mysteries, and long for more spy equipment.  You are an outside girl.  When we are at your grandparents' houses, you enjoy being outside working with Papa or Baka.  At home, you like to help Daddy when he has a house job to finish.  You could ride your bike all afternoon.  And of course, you love to read.  It is hard keeping enough books stocked to keep you reading.  You especially love reading mysteries right now.  You are very gifted in remembering history.  The colonial, revolutionary, and pioneer eras fascinate you.  This year has been a jump for you in school, with more difficult and simply more work.  You are learning how to deal with challenges, and it is not an easy lesson for anyone.  

Your little sisters adore you.  They turn to you for help, affirmation, and hugs.  You love your family being at home, all together.  Of all the girls, you are the one to get homesick.  

In so many ways I see myself in you.  You are not emotional, but logical and analytical.  You are very thoughtful.  Oftentimes, if I need a gift for someone I will ask you what you think they would enjoy.  I know that these traits will benefit you in many ways as you grow.  Yet I also know the downfall of these traits because I deal with those downfalls myself.  

I pray that you would know God, love God, and serve God all your life.  This is the only way to true joy.  Do not be afraid to do hard things.  Know that your mother and father love you, wholly and completely.  


p.s.  This is two days late.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

2011-2012 School Plans

The school bell was ringing around here this last week.  We have officially started.  We were all ready to follow a schedule, be productive, and get school rolling.  My philosophy is:  The earlier we start, the more days we can take off throughout the year.

Our crew for the year:  
Madeline - 3rd grade
Lydia - Kindergarten
Anna - PreK
Cora - Along for the ride

Lydia is still making her way through The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
Madeline reads, and reads, and reads, and reads.  

Lydia and Anna are both working through the Zaner Bloser K Handwriting workbook
Madeline is learning cursive with the Zaner Bloser 3 Handwriting workbook.
Madeline will also be learning how to write with the IEW system through Classical Conversations.  They are using U.S. History Based Writing Lessons, Volume 1.  

Lydia is starting Saxon Math 1.
Madeline is part way through Saxon Math 3.

We are all going through the Picture Smart Bible, New Testament.  We'll memorize various scripture passages with AWANA, and John chapter 1 with Classical Conversations.

We are galloping through early modern times with Story of the World Volume 3 together, and supplementing with library books and the SOW 3 activity book.  

In Classical Conversations we'll be studying human anatomy and chemistry.  That is our base, with readings from Usborne books and other science sources.  

Madeline will be participating in Essentials of the English Language through Classical Conversations.  This will be our first true crack at intensive grammar, and I'm a little nervous about it.  

Madeline is continuing with Memoria Press's Prima Latina.  

Classical Conversations
Every year in CC, I am learning how beneficial it is to use CC as the base of our academics.  If the girls really memorize all the CC work, they are cementing a firm foundation of knowledge.  CC covers math, science, history, grammar, geography, Latin and fine arts.  

Read Alouds
Dangerous Journey
Amos Fortune, Free Man
Carry On, Mr. Bodwitch
Johnny Tremain
Sign of the Beaver
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
Anne of Green Gables

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Life Lately

:::Remember when I twisted my knee the day we moved in to this house?  It never really completely healed.  This past Wednesday I had a knee scope to remove the loose cartilage floating around in there.  Since then, I have been out of commission.  The first day (OK, maybe two) of laying around were nice.  But now it is just annoying.  I am ready to get up and do something.  

::My middle sister and my college roommate are both ready to pop out a new baby any day.  I can not wait to meet the little guys.  

::We are loving the warm weather.  The girls have been bike riding fools.  And how lovely is it to head out the door and simply slip some sandals on the little feet?  

::In Urbandale we had twin girls right next door that were Madeline's age.  Here, we have twin girls that are Lydia's age.  It often seems that there are six girls in our family instead of four.  Chloe and Kennedi are sweet girls and we'll take them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sharin' the Love

If you can't tell from my recent posts, there have been some tough days around here lately.  They are not all like that.  Even in the midst of the frustrations, I love my girls.  We have a lot of fun together!  My cup overflows more than it runs dry.  Let me tell you about...

She is up at the crack of dawn (literally), smiling and ready for some eggs and bacon.  She goes hard all day, then dives into bed at night.  Anna snuggles under the covers and sighs, then is out.  
Yesterday Anna came in to our room about 6:00 AM and asked me how many days there are until we bake gingerbread boys for Christmas.  
The other day I was asking the girls what they want to be when they grow up.  Madeline wanted to be a spy for the President, Lydia wanted to be a weather person.  Anna wanted to be a bus, house, or car.  
Anna's voice is fairly deep for a little girl.  It has been that way since she was a baby.  I can't help but feel my heart melt when she says "Happy Mudder's Day."  

We have been having a blast with Cora lately.  I realized that when Lydia and Anna were her current age, I was either very pregnant or had a new baby by now.  
Cora's hair is really curling up, just like Madeline's did.  This was her hairdo this past week when it has been hot and humid.
Cora has rounded the corner from baby to toddler.  The proof?  When she finished her lunch today, she said "More ketchup please."  
She copies everything we do and say.  When we got out of the van and the wind hit us, she said "Woofta."  Amen to that.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not for the faint of heart

It has been one of those days here.  
I hope my girls remember the happy days of their childhood instead of today.  

Here is what happened all before 10:00 AM...
Cora dropped her bowl full of oatmeal and honey on to the floor.  
Anna spilled her cup of orange juice.  
I decided I need to steam clean the kitchen floor.
Anna was disciplined for yelling at her sisters.  She then embarked on a major meltdown, including throwing apples and pears across the kitchen and knocking toys off her dresser in anger.  
After I was cooling down from the frazzle of Anna, I panicked when I realized I didn't know where Cora was.  A quick search of the premises revealed she had accompanied her other sisters across the cul de sac to the neighbor's yard.  This was after I gave the older girls explicit instructions to keep Cora in the backyard.  

Woofta.  I was exhausted, frustrated, crying overwhelmed, feeling like a failure.  

Parenting is hard.  

I get annoyed when people suggest raising girls is so much easier than raising boys.  Girls are different than boys, but it is still a struggle.  I am surprised when people ask if I get overwhelmed.  Yes!  Every day I get overwhelmed at some point.  I recoil for a moment when people compliment me on how well behaved and calm our girls are (in public).  They are still kids who act crazy most of the time, and it is hard work to teach them how to behave.  More days than not, there is crying, anger, and quarrels.

I have to tell myself everyday that patient perseverance is the best way to train these little sinners.  If they were perfect, they would not need me or their father.  I love them too much too avoid the tough situations where they need me to lead them.  Giving of myself is my ministry to my children.  

It is humbling to see myself in my children.  My Heavenly Father gave himself for me, even though I make a mess of His beauty, follow my selfish whims, and do not obey Him.  
But He will not give up on me, and I will not give up on my children.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to My Mom

If you don't know my mom, she is fabulous.  If you do know my mom, you already know that.

As I get older, I realize more and more everything that she has done for me to make me who I am.  

Thank you for showing me what it means to be a mother.  I know that even today, my well being is more important than your own.  Thank you for loving me and doing your best with me.  Even during your Aldi shopping days when things were not easy, you decided to make Dad and us girls your top priority.  I never questioned whether all was well at home.  You and Dad are committed to each other.  You are committed to your children.  And now you are committed to your grandchildren.  
I have always felt that I was cut out of the mold of Dad more than you.  Yet in these past couple months I am discovering more ways that I am like you.  I know that I received a love of hospitality from you.  We minister to others through service.  You are an introvert, becoming rejuvenated through a book alone in the quiet.  As do I.  
The legacy of motherhood that began before you is continuing on.  Thank you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

She drives me crazy, ooooh ooh ooh (remember that song?)

That girl does drive me crazy.

Although she has been potty trained for well over a year, the girls still potties and poops in her pants.  It is not every day, but definitely at least a couple times a week and sometimes more.  It has pretty much been like this since she was officially trained.  
A couple months ago we felt really bad about punishing her when it ended up that she had a urinary tract infection.  So the next time she started the multiple potty "accidents" I took her right in to the doctor.  Nope.  No infection, just choosing to potty in her pants.  And so it goes.  Her reasons?  I was playing outside.  I was in my room for my rest time.  Aagghh! 
Our latest creative attempt to cure the situation?  She has it in her head that she wants to go to McDonald's.  So, we cut her a deal.  If she can go five days in a row with no pottying in her pants we'll take her to McDonald's.  This afternoon she went poopy in her pants.  She was on day three.  She has been on day three two times before this.  
She cries when we give her spankings.  She cries if we take something away.  She cries if she is sent to her room.  But, she does it again.  I have no idea how to handle the situation any more.  She is just about four.  This should not be an issue.  What do I do?  Have you had a child like this?  I need your help.  What would you do?  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pink butterflies and polka dots

In my urgency to get our house in order, I attempted a crafty project last weekend.  That is a big deal for this left brained lady.  Channeling my inner Peter Marie and Kammy, I ventured to the garage to find an old canvas that I didn't like anymore.



I used leftover purple paint from Madeline and Lydia's room to paint over the canvas.  Then I stuck on vinyl polka dots I had originally purchased for our last house but never got up.  Finally, I attached those cute paper mache butterflies, from Hobby Lobby for $1.50, with a little hot glue.  I think it'll look great in Anna's pink room.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let's get it done

Well, we're back from Marco, Easter is gone, and school is in a transition period.  I am in the mood to get our house done.  I'm ready to fill the empty walls and windows, and be completely moved in.

 Here are the kitchen curtains I hung this past weekend.  I was going to hem them to be just as long as the window.  But I lost my patience and just put them up.  Now I think I might keep them long.  What do you think?  Seriously, let me know.  Long or short?

For the curtains above the sink, I used Heat N Bond no sew hem tape.  This was my first experience with this stuff, and I love it.  The lady at Hobby Lobby was not too thrilled with my idea to use it for curtains.  But hey, I don't sew.  If I did sew, I would do a traditional hem.  This way, I just cut the length I wanted, and ironed in the hem tape.  I can do that.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

We remember with heavy hearts...

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
     I John 4:10

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Marco Island

Mark and I had a great time in Marco Island.  The girls had a great time with Nana and Papa.  All in all, it was a fabulous week away.  After eating fancy meals (without cutting up anyone else's food), laying by the pool (and reading books that don't include curious monkeys), and loving time with my husband (without little girls to pull me away), I am ready to return to my insignificant but oh so significant life.  Not to make you jealous, but here is a quick picture recap, courtesy of Mark's Blackberry....

The view from our room.
Imagine our delight when we woke up the first morning to feel the warm air and see this beautiful sight.  
The sand was stunning.  It looked and felt like flour.

The first night everyone was there, we had a party on the beach. 
We rode on an airboat through the Everglades, and saw alligators hanging out in a river.
Swamps freak me out.  Holding this little alligator really freaked me out.  But, I knew I would score with my girls and nephews.  

The week ends with a fancy dinner and dance.  I really wish we had a bette picture of us, and my dress.  I found it on the clearance rack at Von Maur and loved it.  Hopefully I'll have a chance to wear it again.

Really, the entire week was fancy.  You feel like you're in a different world.  We were there as hosts for Allied.  Our job was to talk to the 350 agents and their guests that were rewarded the trip, and to help them have a good time.  That gets absolutely draining for this introvert.  But, we are thankful for our time away to be revived as husband and wife.  

When it comes right down to it?  Our favorite place to be is with these lovely ladies....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Still alive and kickin'

Yes, I'm still here.  Thank you for keeping up with me, even during my slight disappearance from blog land.  Right now Mark and I are stuck in the Detroit airport, waiting for a flight down to Marco Island, Florida.  We were suppose to be there about now but our initial flight this morning was delayed because of fog, resulting in a 5 hour wait in Detroit.  I really don't mind the down time, but would prefer it on the beach rather than the airport.  We're heading down there for a work trip.  Don't worry - there will be time to relax on the beach, but also some work.  We left the girls at my parents'.  I may be a blubbering mess by the end of our seven days away, missing my babies.

What else has been going the past couple months?  A lot of fun.  Here is a quick breakdown...

My parents, sisters, and families visited us the end of February.  We visited a water park, children's museum, and enjoyed a lot of cousin love.  We had a full house but were sad to see everyone leave.

The next weekend, I traveled to Memphis for a big homeschool convention.  It was a great mix of relaxation, fun with friends, and encouragement.  

After that, I had a shopping day with my sisters while my parents took all the kiddos to Madagascar Live.  I have to wear real clothes for this trip, not my everyday uniform of t shirts and black comfy pants.  Lucky for me, my sisters are more stylish and adept at at dressing me than I am.  

Since then, it has been swimming lessons, soccer, finishing up Classical Conversations, enjoying the warmer weather, and drinking in the cuteness of four beautiful girls.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alert: really great deal

Target is having a killer deal this week on freezer items.  Buy any 7 freezer items, get a $5 gift card.  The ad only shows certain items for the card.  Around the store, the deal is only posted on a few items.  But, this deal is for any freezer item.  You can buy 7 $1 bags of frozen vegetables, then get a $5 gift card at checkout to use on your next purchase.  Plus, you can use additional coupons on top of this.  Right now there is a $1 off four freezer vegetables coupon on the Target site.  So, I got 7 bags of vegetables for basically $1.  That is a fun shopping trip.
Head on over to Totally Target for the full run down and additional coupons.  Our freezer is full.  Is yours?  

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekend reading

Amy over at Milk and Cookies is hosting a 10 days of Classical Education series.  Guest bloggers are providing fascinating information on what it means to engage in a classical education.  It is definitely worth your time to hop on over.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bad news bears

It is a sad state of affairs around here.  Lydia began a good fever Saturday morning.  Since then, at least one girl (and usually two) has had it off and on.  This morning they all woke up happy and feeling better.  Now Lydia and Cora are both hot, and both sleeping.  To make matters worse, the weather is absolutely gorgeous here this week.  If they weren't sick, we'd be outside running our little tails off.  Instead, I have the windows open so the warm air and sunshine can saturate our house.  

So, while the girls have been doing this..
I've been doing this...
Filling my freezer, with the cutest assistant ever.  

We have many guests coming over the next few weeks, with extra mouths to feed.  And remember how I'm leaving my family for a weekend?  Well, I can't leave them empty handed.  You know how I love freezer meals.  I took this opportunity of relative quiet (aside from the groaning, crying, Ibuprofen dispensing, germ destroying, and cuddling) to wash my hands, make the kitchen a mess, wash my hands, and fill our freezer.  We now have meatballs and pepper penne, cranberry chuck roast for the grill, breakfast quiche, white chicken chili, broccoli pesto pasta, yogurt fruit snack cups, burrito mix, oatmeal raisin cookies, and cheesy ham and potatoes just waiting for us to enjoy.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I need to brag for a minute.

My husband got me the most fabulous Christmas present.  

A Cleaning Lady!

The idea popped into his brilliant mind a few months ago.  As Christmas got closer, he wouldn't tell me what his idea was but I could tell he was nervous about it.  He was worried I'd be offended, that I'd presume he meant I wasn't doing a good job.  Buddy, no offense taken!  I love it.  

I am really not a big gift person.  It is just about the bottom of my love languages.  My most prominent love language is service.  I like beautiful things and a nice house.  But ultimately, I am practical.  So this gift fits in line with me perfectly.

He wanted to get me something that would be a splurge and that I would never think about getting for myself.  He hit the nail on the head with this gift.  It has been hard to wrap my mind around spending money on something I know I can do myself.  I also know that I can't do everything myself.  I love homeschooling and creating a warm home for my family.  Homeschooling would be easy if I didn't have to also keep up with the laundry, meals, cleaning, and little girls.  In the same way, it seems now that laundry, meals, cleaning, and little girls would be easier without homeschooling.  Cleaning seems to be the reasonable area to ask for help.  This is probably the most difficult time of our lives to keep the house clean, with little girls running around and only one girl really able to contribute much help.  I also realize that the cost of a cleaning lady coming once a month verses the cost of private school tuition isn't even close.  

So, I'm embracing it.  I have the first cleaning time set up for next week, the day before my extended family is coming to stay.  Praise the Lord.  Hallelujiah.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

9 plus 8 equals ?

I have been on hold with math for Madeline the last couple months.  We finished Saxon Math 2, and I realized she doesn't know the more difficult math and subtraction facts very well.  She knows the concepts and could explain the process of addition and subtraction.  But, the answers are not automatic in her mind.  She has to really think about them or count on her fingers.  This is a problem, because everything from here on demands a mastery of simple addition and subtractions.

I told her we weren't going to move on until she has those facts down pat.  We have been drilling the fact flashcards and completing math fact worksheets.  It has not been fun.  Madeline likes math.  She likes learning new concepts and picks up on them quickly.  This has been drudgery for both of us.  I really feel like we have to get through this.  Looking back, I think that because she does understand the new concepts so quickly I did not spend enough time drilling the facts.  I figured that since she "got it" we'd keep plugging along.  Now I realize you need to master each step along the way, even the ones that you understand.  It needs to be automatic.  

I recently purchased 1st grade and 2nd grade workbooks for her to complete.  It is all review for her, and is pounding those facts in to her head.  Once she finishes the workbooks, we will move on to Saxon Math 3.  

I offered her a deal a couple days ago.  She needs to finish the 2nd grade book by February 19.  For every day she finishes it early she will get a dollar.  If she finishes it 8 days early, she'll get $8.  If she finishes it after the 19th, she owes me a dollar for every day.  Madeline likes to earn and save money.  She just bought a Lego airport set for $90, all of her own money.  So is my deal a smart mommy move or a bad mommy move?  Is it bribery or motivation?  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good stuff

* We are having chicken fajitas with a lot of peppers for supper.  I love peppers.  For dessert?  Mint Oreo milkshakes.

*  It is sunny.  The weather is suppose to be in the mid to upper 50's by next week.  That means I can air out the girls, explore the neighborhood, and clean the inside of my embarassingly dirty van.  

*  My boyfriend and I are going on a date this weekend, banking on the hope that we can find a baby-sitter.

*  I have been figuring out all kinds of neat stuff with my Macbook.  This should eventually save me time.  

*  Cora is sleeping through the night again after her double ear infection.  When you are never getting good sleep, walking around in a blur becomes the norm.  Being use to getting a full night's sleep and then not getting it?  That's tough.  

*  Speaking of Cora, this is what her hair is looking like these days.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This morning we were learning about Russia.  Did you know that Rurik was the first Viking to settle in the Russian area?  Vladimir I brought Eastern Orthodoxy to Russia? Ivan the Great built the Kremlin in Moscow?  Ivan the Terrible ended up killing his own son?  Yeah, neither did I until this morning.

To celebrate Russia and learn more about its culture, we had a "Russian" tea party.  Mark spent a month on a mission trip in Ukraine, which used to be part of Russia.  He brought back a milk set as a gift from a family he partnered with there.  It has been sitting in our storage area since we were married.  This morning I pulled it out for Oreos and sweet tea.  

While they were eating, they watched a part of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" ballet.  

Yes, that is my new Macbook they are watching the ballet on.  Yee haw!  

P.R.O.U.D. proud

Thankfully today is a better day than the last two.  Cora has turned the corner from her double ear infection.  She still has the runny nose and isn't tip top, but a lot better.

There is a lot of exciting stuff going on around here.  But before I get ahead of myself, I need to let you know about this...

Madeline got second place in an area homeschool spelling bee last Friday.  It started off with about 15 kids.  When it got down to Madeline and Dorothy, a serious battle ensued.  Madeline ended up missing the word captain and gave Dorothy the victory.  I was a little surprised by my slight anxiety upon having my child in a competition.  Madeline, on the other hand, was not nervous at all and obviously had a fabulous time.  

Sorry about the slightly blurry weird colored photos.  For some reason my camera couldn't figure out what was going on.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why do we homeschool?

Today is one of those days where I feel like I am running around in circles. Cora and Anna are both sick.  After a trip to the doctor and a lot of holding crying girls, not much has been accomplished.  Madeline has been trudging a long with a little bit of school by herself.  The house is a mess.  We had drive through fast food for lunch.  I went to an easy plan B for supper.  Today I need to remind myself why we homeschool...

I want my children to love God, love each other, and to really learn something. I don't believe that homeschooling is the only way to achieve this, but the most effective.

I want my children to love God. The main reason we homeschool is to disciple our children. I want to live this Christian life with them, not only telling them what it means to love God and live for Him, but to walk hand in hand with them through the journey. This is a scary proposition because I am only a weak sinner. But, isn't that why God saves us? Isn't that what my kids really need to understand? Sending them to church for 1-3 hours per week while sending them to school for 30 hours per week does not seem to be a wise use of their time. It is my job, as the parent, to disciple them.

I know that at some point I need to release my children to the world. I want them to be thoroughly equipped for that day through the strong foundation we are building in our days together. Armies go through extensive training before they are sent to war. They are not just thrown into the battle with no armor or plan of attack. In the same way, I will not send my children into a crazy secular world until they are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready. Shouldn't we analyze things according to Biblical truth instead of what society deems as "normal?"

I want my children to love each other. The family is the most basic and critical unit of our society. Children should learn how to interact with all ages of people. Schools are one of the rare places where people are segregated according to age. The time we spend together, young to old, can not be replaced.  We find joy in experiencing life together as a family.

I want my children to really learn something. I want my children to dig deep, use their talents to their full ability, and drink in God's hand of providence and creation. I want them to love learning throughout their life. That doesn't mean we hit the books all day. Instead, we make effective use of our time with intense, short lessons mixed with lots of play and exploration. The christian life should be a life of excellence in all aspects, including education.

These are my ideals, the reason we homeschool. I do not live them out perfectly, but fail miserably every day. Being a homeschool parent is signing up to be deeply humbled everyday. I pray that God will work through me as we raise warriors for Him.

Homeschooling is not easy, but it is worth it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Teacher inservice

I'm planning a weekend getaway to the Mid South Homeschool Convention in March.
Just me and two of my favorite homeschool mom friends. 

Can you guess where we're heading?

Lego construction and photography courtesy of Madeline.

It is a good morning.

I woke up this morning to 3 little girls bringing me breakfast in bed.  

Cora slept until 7:15, not the 5-6:00 AM she's been pulling the last couple weeks.

Our breakfast menu the last two snowy, freezing cold morning?  
Hot chocolate and warm toast with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011


 Over the past year, I have been experimenting with making bread.  After various recipes that have been both good and bad, here is the winner.  It is a bread machine recipe so there is no kneading or waiting to rise.  Easy and delicious! 

1 1/4 c. warm water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. honey
2 tsp. vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. raw quick oats
1/4 c. flax seed
1/4 c. gluten
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. bread flour
2 tsp. yeast
Put in bread machine in order given.  Set machine to whole wheat rapid setting.

Monday, January 31, 2011


There is a lot of work to get done around here.  If we don't keep on top of it everyday, things quickly become a huge mess.  I have given up the idea of having a picture perfect house, and have traded in that idea for the reality of enjoying everyday with my four blessings.  However, I know that we function better if things are in relative order.  I want my children to learn about hard work.  Thus, we work as a family to run our house.  That means my girls have chores.

Here is a shot of our chore chart:

Using stickers or something cute doesn't work for me.  I fall behind with the stickers and soon it is irrelevant.  It might be fun for them, but this way is easy for me.  If things are not easy for me, I don't do them.  The important thing is that they get the chores done.

Our current system works like this:  They get up in the morning and eat breakfast, that my wonderful husband makes.  I look at the chart and tell them what their jobs are.  As soon as they get dressed, make their bed, and get their jobs done they have free time until school starts.  They need some incentive to get it done.  The free time is the incentive.  If they complain, I remind them that we are part of a family and all have special jobs to help out our family.

The biggest key to chores is consistency.  If they know they have chores to do everyday, they will do them.  When I first give them a new job, I need to walk through the job with them to show them what I expect.  How are they suppose to know what it means to clean the bathroom?  How clean does their room have to be?  What part of the floor do I have to sweep?  I probably have to walk through the job numerous times with them until they really learn it.  This is frustrating at first, but worth it in the long run.

If we did all our chores everyday, our house would be a lot cleaner than it actually is.  But, we go away for a day and the schedule gets messed up.  That's OK.  I have learned not to give up just because we get out of sync.  If the laundry isn't ready to be put away on Wednesday, I just switch that chore day with the laundry day. 

Here is an explanation of the jobs...
Sweep:   Sweep some part of the kitchen.  For the little girls, a small handheld broom works well for them to sweep under the table.
Vacuum rug:  We eat supper in our dining room.  The table is on a big rug.  You can imagine that the rug needs vacuuming a couple times per week.
Lunch:  Madeline packs our lunch for us to bring to Classical Conversations on Tuesdays.

Laundry:  I wash the laundry.  Then I sort the clean laundry into separate baskets for each girl.  Madeline and Lydia put their own clothes away in their room.  Madeline gets paid $1.50 to put away Anna's laundry. 
Baths:  Madeline can clean the toilet, pick up any bath items, and wipe the counters and sinks down with a cleaning cloth.  Lydia can pick up bath items and wipe down the counter and sinks.
Dishwasher:  Unload the dishwasher.  Moving the plates and bowls to a low cupboard was a huge help.  I still have the glasses high, but they just set anything they can't reach on the counter.
Clean van:  Remove any trash or non van items from the van.
Trash:  Remove all the bags from the small trash cans in the bathrooms and replace with a new bag.
Clean chairs:  Anna uses a washcloth to wipe down all the kitchen and dining room chairs.
The bottom job on each day's slot is for supper help.  One girl picks up the living room (clean lr), one sets the table (table), and one is my supper assistant (SA).  The supper assistant helps with getting salad dressings on the table, cutting vegetables, or whatever I think is appropriate.

I am always thinking about and evolving our chore system.  So I would love to know, what chores do your kids do?  How does it work?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The New Proverbs 31 Woman

When I read this piece, I laughed and was inspired. I hope you are too. 

"An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than diamonds, stocks, or blackberries. The heart of her husband trusts in her, because he knows that she has his best interest in mind. Every day of her life, she will benefit him and he will never be sorry he married her.

She plans carefully to be sure her family enjoys delicious and nutritious meals. She even drives a long way to get the best deals at the supermarkets. She makes everyone's favorite meals and she keeps the refrigerator stocked with yummies. She gets up, sometimes before sunrise, to make breakfast for her family, pack lunches, and makes sure that everyone gets to their appointments that day. She does all this without the help of one single maid.

She has a small garden where she grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. She plants all sorts of pretty flowers around the house and keeps the shrubbery looking nice, too. Her arms are strong, but her nails look terrible because she spends several hours each week scrubbing the bathtub and washing dishes. The lights in her house are on late at night because she is busy helping little children with their homework and ironing clothes for the next day.

She makes meals for the sick and elderly at her church and she takes in visiting ministers and missionaries. She writes letters to her church's missionaries and sends them special gifts at Christmas. She takes care of her parents and tries to remember the birthdays of her nieces and nephews. When shopping, she buys baby clothes for a new mom she knows that doesn't have a lot of money. When she goes to church, she works in the nursery, teaches Sunday school, and makes great dishes for the potluck. She never complains and everyone appreciates her work.

She is not afraid of the coming snow, because there are several blue plastic bins of last year's Winter clearance tucked safely int he garage. She searches for all the best deals on clothing, bedding, and linens, so her family always looks great and her house is clean, comfortable, and pretty.

Her husband is successful and well-respected because he never needs to worry about his home and children - they're in good hands. She finds clever ways to provide extra income for the family. She sells things on Ebay, transcribes medical transcripts, teaches piano lessons, babysits, sells Pampered Chef, and does freelance writing. Her friends make a lot of money working a full-time jobs, but she doesn't feel inferior because she exemplifies strength and dignity. She is irreplaceable. She knows that anyone can manage a business, but only she can manage her home.

With the precious few minutes of quiet time that she can find, she reads and prays, acquiring wisdom for herself and her family. She speaks with kindness, never gossiping or complaining, and she is a beloved mentor to younger women. She considers carefully the atmosphere at her home, and she guards it from bad behaviors and attitudes. She plays beautiful music and keeps good books accessible. She is always busy working, and she rarely has time to watch TV.

Her children are not disrespectful and they love her. Her husband cannot help but praise her. Many women are good wives, but she surpasses them all. She is not deceived by the craze for youth and beauty, and it doesn't bother her, that after having four children, her figure doesn't make the cover of Self Magazine. She knows that the crazed obsession with outward appearances and self fulfillment are silly and empty. She is confident because her life is founded on the fear of the Lord and she knows that her work is meaningful.

Don't believe me? Look around. See all that she has accomplished and the people that she has nurtured. She really doesn't need anyone's approval because her own works give her lasting joy and fulfillment, but nevertheless, she will be praised because her work and character are self-evident. "

Written by Dana Gage, in "The Well Planned Day 2009-2010 Planner"

Monday, January 24, 2011

True confessions

This is not easy to write.  But, I feel that I should because I know there are so many who deal with this issue also.  It is part of the fall.  Is it a coincidence that Eve could not resist food?  I don't think so. 

Last year I lost about 35 pounds with Weight Watchers.  I was tired of not losing the baby pounds after each baby.  After four babies, those pounds add up.  I didn't feel good about myself and knew that I was not healthy.  I also knew that I could not lose weight by myself.  I consider myself a fairly disciplined person.  I don't have temptations to spend a lot of money on clothes, waste a lot of time in front of the TV, or other common maladies.  My vice is food.  It brings me emotional comfort.  It tastes good.  It is how I show my family love.  My day revolves around food, thinking about what are we going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert, and snacks.  Most of my day is the kitchen.  Thus, I eat too much and have no self control with food.  So, last year I made a bold decision to do something about it. 

Weight Watchers worked for me.  It taught me how to control my eating.  I can have a cookie, just not six of them.  I can eat real food, just in sensible portions.  It was not a magic fix or a diet, but a lifestyle change.  It was difficult at first to adjust to my new eating, but after a while the pounds just came off.  It was great.  I felt normal again.  I felt healthy.

Now I have gained about 13 of those pounds back.  Ugh.  Frustrating.  However, I know the problem is not Weight Watchers.  The problem is me.  The past 3 months have been hard on me.  This move has been emotionally draining.  It has been stressful, with a lot of details to handle.  Out of necessity during our transition, we ate out a lot.  I felt like I deserved it.  I threw out all self control to indulge my hurt in food.  I want to turn to God during these times.  Instead, I turn to food.  I know this does not make logical sense.  Why would I gain back what I worked hard to take off?  I don't know.  It is a constant struggle between the spirit and the flesh. 

I am raising four girls.  They will deal with these same issues, just as I see my mom, sisters, and aunts deal with them.  I do not believe for one moment that beauty is only what you look like.  I don't want my girls to think they need to be skinny.  I don't want their weight to go up, then back down, in a never ending cycle.  I want them to know that following God's commands will fill them with peace and joy.  His love for them makes them beautiful.  For them to know that, I need to model that. 

Because of all this, I am back at it again.  Hello, Weight Watchers.  It is me again.  I am counting points and getting myself back under control.  For some reason, those stupid meetings are so helpful.  You feel like you are at an AA meeting.  My name is Erica and I'm addicted to food.  But, it works.  I guess I will be working on it for the rest of my life. Just like I work on my spiritual walk, my relationship with my husband, my care of my house, and so on.  Why would I think my health would be any different? 

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner saved by grace.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Need shoes?

I hope you have all heard about Groupon.  If not, I'm so sorry.  Now is the time to sign up!

Groupon is a daily deal for many cities around the country.  You can subscribe to a city through the site, then get an offer for a drastically reduced service, gift card, or purchase.  Some of the deals are for local businesses.  Other deals are for national organizations.  Today, you can purchase a $40 gift card to Shoebuy.com for only $20!  Shoebuy is a fantastic place to buy shoes and bags.  They have quality items at already reduced prices.  Then, they often run additional incentives to buy.  I bought an adorable $80 Kalencom diaper bag for a Christmas present for only $35!  If I had this gift card deal on top of it?  Wow.  I purchased all the girls' winter shoes through Shoebuy.  They have free shipping and free returns, so it is easy breezy.

To get this wonderful Groupon deal for today, follow this link:  Groupon!

Friday, January 14, 2011

This week was the start of Mark's busy travel schedule.  With the snow and freeezing cold weather we got this week, it was a long week for Mommy.  We were stuck in the house from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday night.  When Mark is gone, there is nothing to break up the day if we don't get out.  We were all getting a little stir crazy, but got some cleaning done, played games, accomplished a lot of school busy work, read a lot, ordered pizza, and even did a craft.  We welcomed Daddy home yesterday afternoon with a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies.  Nothing shows loves like chocolate chip cookies. 

My fair damsels

We have been studying medieval England the past couple weeks in history.  We (as in Mommy! and the girls) have been learning about the feudal system, knights, kings, and castles. Who knew that history was so fascinating? 

We are also reading through "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis this winter.  We just finished up "Prince Caspian."  These are delightful read aloud books, with such great lessons for mom and the kiddos.  Right now we're taking a break from Narnia to read "Canterubury Tales" and "Robin Hood." 

The girls have been using our moving boxes to make castles, swords, and coats of arms.  Madeline does a great English accent.

I found this art project on Deep Space Sparkle and thought it looked doable. I cut out shapes for a castle, such as long rectangles, a big square, roundish rectangles, triangles, and more.  Then the girls traced around the shapes to create their castle.  I showed them how to draw bricks and add landscape around the castle.  Then they used water colors to finish.