When All the Little Things Become Ginormous Things

Hello, sweet friends~

I am thankful to be here in this space to share a bit tonight.  As I type, I'm sitting cross-legged on our bed, wearing leggings, a tank top and a cardigan, and listening to the sounds of Mark scrubbing away at the mildew that has appeared in our bedroom closet.

Mildew is just one of the delightful attributes of an old home.  I am generally quite fond of our house and all its character, but these past months have definitely sapped my affection for it, what with flooding in our basement, plumbing problems, more flooding in our basement, a broken dishwasher (that KEEPS breaking), a broken washing machine, and now this mildew.  SighThank you, God, for our home: for shelter, for warmth, for rooms and beds and running water and all the life and love that resides within these walls. 

Last week was a difficult one.  I PMS'd hard.  Worse than ever.  It was fairly awful.  And I was a total wreck.  I spent a good deal of time sobbing.  And when I wasn't crying, I was angry and irritable and more yelly than usual.  I just didn't really LIKE anyone last week.  All the little things that I can usually just shrug off or don't actually even notice became Ginormous Things That Must Be Addressed This Very Second, and every single thing seemed so overwhelming and burdensome.  What I need during these times (space, quiet, rest, time with Jesus, time with Mark) were hard to come by and that made it so much more difficult.

My poor family.  Really.  I was such a mess.  Mark is the most supportive, loving, tender, gentle, patient husband.  He just waits out the storm, patiently listening to me vent and sob and tell him all the things wrong in our marriage, house, family, children, parenting, schedule, schooling, etc.  You name it, I covered it.  Completely.  And with MUCH drama.

One morning I was feeling overwhelmed because I'd been dealing with a discipline issue with one of the kids throughout much of our morning.  I was emotional and exhausted and it was only breakfast time.  Four of my kids were waiting at the table to eat and for me to start our morning time.  I walked out to the kitchen with a heavy heart, feeling so fragile and on the verge of tears.  I looked at our Morning Time list and it truly felt impossible to speak, let alone cheerily start our day with singing and poems and whatever else was on our list.  I just couldn't.

So I began by praying over our day, and of course that made the tears spill over and it was a good thing-- just thanking God for His mercy and asking Him to help me BE merciful with this particular child; and praying for wisdom and guidance for our day.  When we finished praying I still couldn't fathom going through our regular Morning Time routine, so I asked the kids if they would like to share with me what they'd been reading in their Bibles lately; what God had been speaking to their hearts or what they had been learning or what had stood out to them during their readings.  (I was happy just to get them talking so I could collect myself and not have to facilitate.)  For the next several minutes God ministered to my heart so sweetly through the words of my kids.  Each of them shared about what they'd been reading, and I later realized that that was exactly what my heart needed.  And how dear is it that encouragement came through the mouths of my kids?  I'm just so thankful for this season of life with them, for their sure faith and the growth I get to see in them.

Other highlights of the week: Getting outside with the kids-- on our nature study walk, and reveling in the beauty of fall around us.  And another day when I was able to get out by myself on a trail and ended up crying out to Jesus pretty much the whole walk.  And a hot bath one night where I read a few Psalms and let the truth of God's word wash over me.

I am so thankful to put last week behind us.  Mark has wisely decided that THIS week we will take the week off school, and I am so looking forward to it, and also needing that.  We're going to rest, sit in front of the fire and do lots of reading aloud, hit the library and bring home new books to cozy up around, meet up with friends to play, celebrate a birthday here (Isaac! 13!) and love well after a week of struggle.

Blessings to you, sweet friends.  Now please hit me with all your best how-to-handle-PMS tips.  If that becomes the new normal, we may have to take one week off every MONTH just to survive. Or maybe I just need to move out for a few days each month?  ;)

Poetry and Painting

Autumn Leaves
by Angelina Wray

In the hush and the lonely silence
Of the chill October night,
Some wizard has worked his magic
With fairy fingers light.

The leaves of the sturdy oak trees
Are splendid with crimson and red.
And the golden flags of the maple
Are fluttering overhead.

Through the tangle of faded grasses
There are trailing vines ablaze,
And the glory of warmth and color
Gleams through the autumn haze.

Like banners of marching armies
That farther and farther go;
Down the winding roads and valleys
The boughs of the sumacs glow.

So open your eyes, little children,
And open your hearts as well,
Till the charm of the bright October
Shall fold you in its spell.

Random Photos & This Week's Meal Plan *UPDATED*

*UPDATED to add the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin recipe and a link to my (well, my mom's) lasagna recipe (see the very bottom of the post for the lasagna link.)  :)  It's delicious!

Hm.  Hesitating to post this at all, because these photos appear blurry, yet they weren't so on my phone.  Sorry.  

Pumpkin muffins with cream cheese are the kids' favorite muffins so far this season. This past weekend I tried two varieties, and you can see what their new favorite appears to be:

Regular on the left, and chocolate chips added to the right.  We began with twelve of each.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or more if you prefer)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
8 T butter (I actually used 1/2 cup of applesauce and 4 T melted butter)

Then take about 4 oz of cream cheese and in a bit of sugar (maybe up to a Tablespoon?).  Optional: If you want to add chocolate chips, add them to the cream cheese mixture.

Fill the bottom of the (greased or paper) muffin cups with a heaping spoonful of the batter, then add a dollup of cream cheese mixture, then add another spoonful of the batter to sandwich in the cream cheese mixture.  Bake at 350 for 15-18 min. 

And this is what our window box looks like this season:

I discovered these small pie pumpkins at the grocery store for a little over a dollar apiece, so I brought five home and set them on the table with sharpie markers and this note: 

Preparing dinner for tonight, which was Pumpkin Chili. I tweaked the original recipe a bit, omitting the green chilies and one can of tomatoes and opting for more pumpkin and some beef broth.  It was very good!

And here's our meal plan for the rest of this week:

*My recipe for lasagna is in an older post called Sauces!

Evaluating our School Year | Science

This post is part of a series I'm doing as a way to evaluate our school year. I am covering each subject, describing what we did; what worked for us and what didn't work; and detailing any changes I plan to make. I find this process so helpful as I finish out our year and before I begin to plan for our next year.  (I realize many of you have started school already and are beyond this point, as am I, but it's taken me longer than I thought to finish this series, and I'm determined to finish!)

Um, it would be laughable to have a whole post devoted to this topic, because-- science?  

It's just not my thing.  At all. 

We sort of dabble in science.  I have purchased some Actual Science Books in the past and they were dry and long and boring and I hated them and felt like we were going through the motions but not actually learning anything.  So I stopped reading from them. 

I'm actually embarrassed to tell you this, because, yes, this is ALL WE DID, but here goes:

We read Holling C Holling's Pagoo, which is the story of a hermit crab.  It's listed in one of Ambleside's earlier years (Year 3, maybe?), but we'd never read it before and we already owned it, so  we read it once a week and the kids drew while I read.

We also tried some (three) science experiments I found by perusing Pinterest, and I made up some observation sheets for the kids to fill out regarding the experiments.

Other than that?  We have discussions about things around the table, we read books and occasionally may watch a video or video clip about something.  And that's all, folks.  Period. 

The kids all want to do more experiments.  So we will try to do that when I have time someday to find some more.  ;)  We are doing another read-aloud on the weather, and the kids will do written narrations on that.

Green pastures in the middle of the muck

God has a beautiful way of reminding me of His words of truth exactly when I need them.


It was last week, sometime, early on a Monday morning when I had gone into my room to sneak in a few minutes with the Lord.  Most of the kids were up, but Audra (7) still slept. I was glad she was sleeping because she's been really tired (read: emotional), and I don't think she's getting enough sleep.

I sort of have this idea that we should be quiet and considerate when others are sleeping.  I just think that's a nice thing to do.  So it's one of the rules that the kids stay away from the bedrooms/hallways of sleeping siblings.  So as I sat quietly journaling, attempting to align my heart to His for the full school day ahead, suddenly one of the kids busted into my room to ask me a question.  Loudly.  Since I had heard this particular child being REALLY noisy in the other room, I reminded this child of the sleeping sister.  Then another one of the kids came into the hallway (so very near Audra's door) and started talking to us.  I tried to shoo them all out of the hallway area and before you know it, a third child was there and suddenly there is bickering between two children and my stress that has been rising just bursts right open.  So I spill sin out in irritation and frustration and harshness, and command everyone away, NOW.

And then I turn again to my time with Jesus. Whereupon I have to confess and repent and then get on up and go make things right with all the people I hurt in the hallway and then plead for quiet and return.

I've been reading through the Psalms, and I picked up where I'd left off.  Psalm 23.
The LORD is my shepherd, 
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Honestly, I could barely read it because this does not resemble my life, as much as I want it to.  I wrote these above verses down in my journal and wrote these notes beside them:

*I WANT green pastures, LORD.
*and ESPECIALLY quiet waters. (emphasis on quiet)
*Seriously, HOW do I find *those* in the midst of THIS?!?!

I never even got to finish that journal entry because I got interrupted again.  But I kept those few verses at the forefront of my mind as I went about my day and I puzzled over the incongruency of that serene picture verses my actual life.

As I pondered those words, I realized something that seemed profound to me that day.  (Now, I'm sure it's not actually profound and that God has whispered this to me several times before, but it was what I needed to be reminded afresh that day.)

There are a lot of us here, crammed into our house, full of our sinful selves, and there is a lot to accomplish each day in terms of school and chores and just relating to each other well.  It can get SO crazy.  (Meaning mostly that I can get so anxious/stressed/uptight.)  And God reminded me through these verses that those words are indeed for me, too, the crazy homeschooling mom.  Even the green-pastures-quiet-waters parts.  Because I can be calm and my spirit can be quieted and that makes all the difference.  I am able to rest in Him and to trust in Him and *not freak out* over things-- internally or outwardly (harshness, angst, irritation).

And I can do that because He lives within me.  So I asked Him to quiet my spirit, to be Lord over my mind and to lead me throughout the rest of our day.  (I need that reminder every single day, apparently, because my go-to in the craziness just doesn't happen to be a calm and gentle spirit.)


Then again, today, we had a really rough morning.  I was trying to get something done with the kids and one of them was working equally hard to sabotage my plans.  Or so it seemed.

Fast-forward to many (failed) attempts by me and many (successful) attempts by my child and I was all done.  I literally walked out the front door and took a walk around the block to cool my temper.  And then I came in, sat down, and sobbed. My internal recorder during these moments is this, on repeat: "I can't do this.  I cannot do this." Which isn't healthy, helpful, or true, I realize, but there it is.

So, hours later I sit down to process this all in my journal and I told Jesus that I needed a TRUE thing to repeat to myself, and would He give it?

And I turn to where I'm reading in the Psalms and read the next set of verses and here it is:

That's now taped into my journal so that I can be reminded of truth.  Right smack in the middle of my chaos and my helplessness and weariness, He gives strength, He blesses with peace.  He did, too.  The start of our day was rocky but we finished well today, and He strengthened and brought peace into the crazy.  I am so grateful for Him.  And I am thankful that He is busy refining me even though it's hard and there's a lot of refining to do.

Love to you, sweet friends.  May He strengthen you, too, with His word.

Children growing

Okay, I've had more than a few of you mention that it's been a long time since you've seen pictures of the kids and that they are so.grown.up. 

Tell me about it.

I can't even handle it.

It makes my heart ache in spite of the fact that this is what is supposed to happen and we want for them to do this growing.  So for this post: pictures and updates.  :)

Let's just start with my beautiful Ella~

This morning in church there was a young couple sitting in front of us. They have one little girl.  I thought of this mother and her sweet little girl and what their days must be like together.  It really doesn't seem like it can be possible that it has been fourteen years since it was just the two of us, me and Ella, sharing our days while Mark was at work. We would sleep as long as we could, then lay on our backs and read books together.  We chatted and played and did everything together, her and I.  When Mark came home from work we'd be waiting at the window and she would squeal with delight at the sight of him.  This morning I glanced down the row and let my eyes rest on my dear Ella girl for a moment.  Those days are far behind us.  Now she's nearly as tall as me.  Truly.  It sort of stuns me, actually-- how old she is and how fast this has all gone.  I love her so. 

Ella is always singing.  She is cheerful, sweet, kind, thoughtful, responsible, prayerful, compassionate, encouraging and helpful.  She has a great sense of humor.  She loves all babies and little children.  She loves to bake.  She plays piano beautifully.  She loves to read and is an excellent writer.  She loves being outside.  She knows so much about birds and flowers and seeds and plants.  She loves to garden and tend all living things.  She is creative and loves practicing her handwriting with me.  :) She plays with and leads her younger siblings well.  She loves God so much, and for that I am most thankful.  She is a dear girl and has grown into a sweet friend of mine.

Then there's my Isaac, who is imaginative, creative, soft-spoken, thoughtful, thorough, brilliant, sensitive, kind and gentle boy.  He is such an artist and he loves to figure things out.  He likes to draw comics and writes stories and still astonishes us with his great LEGO creations.  He is so inventive.  He loves baseball and whittling with his knife and puzzles of all kinds.  He is grateful and thoughtful.  He is the first to offer to pray for me whenever I'm feeling sick or when he can tell that I am stressed.  He will come up to me and say, "Mommy?  Can I pray for you right now?" And proceed to lay his hand on me and pray fervently.  He has a genuine faith and strong, quiet conviction.  He reminds me so much of his daddy. 

Isaias is eleven and my most helpful and hard-working child.  Any time he sees me in the kitchen he comes in to ask if there's anything he can do to help.  (That's SEVERAL times a day, mind you.  I'm in the kitchen a lot.)  He is goofy, playful, and teachable.  He is all boy, and loves being outside and doing anything active.  He likes to read, he likes animals, football, and he is a kind boy.  He has grown so much in truthfulness and in his faith.  He is physically strong and is growing such good spiritual muscles, too.

Adelia is my eight-year-old full of energy and questions.  She is so social that she constantly wants to talk and know what's happening next and who's doing what and what did that person say and why can't I do/have this or that?  She is always loudly bounding around the house trying to find someone who will play with her.  She has a great sense of humor and keeps us all laughing.  She loves snuggling up on the couch and being read to.  She also loves the water, and would swim every single day if she could.  She is generous and feisty and stubborn.  She has grown so much in empathy and in recognizing when she's in the wrong, and is learning how to accept no and not to argue with mommy about every single thing.  She is the one for whom I most often take to my knees in prayer for during this season of parenting, asking God to grant me wisdom, understanding, graciousness, and kindness rather than exasperation or anger.  She is a delight, and I can't wait to see how God will use her strong personality for His glory.

Audra is seven and sweet.  She is cuddly, sensitive, chatty and creative.  She is our paper crafter.  She always has some paper craft in process-- and we are all often stepping around her piles of paper scraps and tape (dollhouses made of cardboard and cardstock, whole life-sized creatures taped together with paper, board games, dolls and toys.  You name it and she's made it with paper.)  She loves to be outside, and is also a little nature lover.  She holds my hand wherever we go and still tells me I'm the best mommy in the whole wide world. (She's also currently the smiliest for the camera!)


Evaluating our School Year: Plutarch

This post is part of a series I'm doing as a way to evaluate our school year. I am covering each subject, describing what we did; what worked for us and what didn't work; and detailing any changes I plan to make. I find this process so helpful as I finish out our year and before I begin to plan for our next year.  (I realize many of you have started school already and are beyond this point, as am I, but it's taken me longer than I thought to finish this series, and I'm determined to finish!)

I'm guessing a lot of my readers don't know who Plutarch is.  No worries.  I didn't either, until I started seeing Plutarch show up on the schedules at Ambleside.  That was two years ago.  I looked at it, read a bit of it, said "Nope." and skipped it for the year.  

Last year I looked at it again, read a bit of it, and thought, "Well.  There are study guides.  And we could try it."  So this past year was our first year to tackle Plutarch.  

As to who he is?  Plutarch was a biographer who lived from 46-120 AD.  Basically he wrote about the lives of the famous Greeks and Romans.  

Last year we made it through ONE life:  Marcus Crassus.  

I printed out the text and Anne White's study notes (found HERE), and we slooooowly made our way through it.  Once a week, I pulled the pages out and I'd read a paragraph.  After reading, I would call on one of the older kids to narrate it back to me.  (If they looked confused, I would try to narrate it.)  We might do another two or three paragraphs, depending on how well it was going.  Sometimes my kids drew as I read-- sketching out a scene as I was reading-- but mostly we all had to work hard to listen.

Plutarch isn't easy reading by any means.  And that's actually one of the reasons I pressed on.  It's satisfying to have to work really hard at understanding something and then to GET IT.  Also, my boys, especially, really liked it.  (There were battles and vying for power and big egos and they dig that kind of thing.)  Charlotte Mason said:
Plutarch's Lives, . . . I think, stand alone in literature as teaching that a man is part of the State, that his business is to be of service to the State, but that the value of his service depends upon his personal character."
Yes, that.  That is the final reason we pressed on and will continue with Plutarch.  As we read through the life of Marcus Crassus, we were introduced to the character (or lack thereof) of the man.  We would read about a decision he made and discuss: Why did he made that choice?  Was there wisdom in that decision?  What was his motivation?  What do YOU think you would have done?  Valuable discussions took place as we examined his life and leadership.  
We began another life at the tail end of last year, and will continue it for this year.  Slowly and steadily, once a week.