In an effort to make it *on time* to church tomorrow...

... we're trying this:

{Many thanks to our sweet Ella, who rounded up everyone's clothes. She relished the opportunity to organize and dress everyone! :)}

This is a great week

Today we celebrated Isaac's 7th birthday~ with balloons and gifts and for breakfast: Swedish pancakes with syrup and whipping cream, sausages and fruit smoothies. With pizza for lunch and meatloaf, sweet potatoes and applesauce for dinner. With a trip to the library and time to play in the back yard and lots of time to play on the living room rug with Legos. With birthday kisses from his little sisters and the Happy Birthday song sung all day long. With phone calls and emails from those far away. With hugs and smiles from loved ones gathered round our living room tonight to celebrate our boy. With lemon cake and lime sherbet or chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. We are so thankful.

Tomorrow is a regular school day.

But Thursday? Thursday is not regular at all. I get to drive to the airport to pick up one of my dearest friends and then we're going to stay at a hotel for TWO blessed nights and just talk and pray and laugh and sleep and eat.

I know.

I feel incredibly blessed. God is so good to give me (us!) this time, and Mark? Such an incredible husband to let me do it. [Michelle's husband, too! {Thank you, Chad... for letting her come!!!!}]

What's great about your week?

Coming up in November...

Are you aware that November is National Adoption Month? It's a month set aside each year to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care.

That~ and really more the fact that all things adoption and foster-care-related are very near and dear to my heart (and: more importantly, to GOD's heart)~ I am going to be spending the entire month of November talking about those topics here on the blog. Hooray! :)

I don't know yet all that will entail, but here are two things I can tell you: I've interviewed a foster mom who is very dear to me, and I can't wait to introduce her to you and share their family's foster-care experiences with you. And: my own Mark has promised me a guest post on the topic of adoption.

Most of you know that we have adopted internationally, done foster care, and adopted domestically. I know that doesn't make me an expert on any of it (far from it!) but what I do have to offer is this: I am an open book. :) Also, this: one of the great things about being a foster/adoptive parent is that you get to be part of a whole community of other foster and/or adoptive parents. If I can't offer any personal experience on a topic, I can easily find someone who will.

So. Here is where you come in:

If there are any questions you have about adoption or foster care~ whether it be about our experiences, yours, or the whole idea in general, please comment on this post, and I will make sure to get to it sometime within the next month.


Friday mornings

How I love Fridays! Every Friday, my mom comes and takes the two little girls for two (precious!) hours so that I can do uninterrupted school with the older three.

I really look forward to this time with Ella, Isaac and Isaias.

I can't believe how much quieter and calmer things are on those mornings, and how fewer the "just a minutes" are, and how relaxed I can be as a mama without having the two toddlers. I also love knowing that my little girls are having special time with grandma. This morning they worked on puzzles, played babies, danced, and ate snacks! (They always get snacks at grandmas!)

This has been a huge blessing to me this year.

* * *

We played a fun game this morning during math time, and it was a big hit. Here's how to play:

Roll a die, and fill in the number rolled in the left-hand box.
Roll again, and fill in the number in the right.
Then add (or subtract) those numbers (younger children can use counters) and fill in the solution.

Easy and fun!

(Personally, I'm hoping that this means some rousing family games of Yahtzee are right around the corner!)

The other day I was following links to other blogs and stumbled across Confessions of a Homeschooler. That's where I found this idea, and you can download the Dice Addition/Subtraction worksheets here, if it sounds like something your kids would like, too!

Happy Friday to you! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

My ambitious son

One of the things I asked Isaac to do for school today was to find three objects in the kitchen and do word building with our wooden alphabet letters. The examples I gave him earlier this morning were "pen" and "cup".

When I walked over to the table to check in on him, these are the letters he had on the table:

b u d r n u t s q w

I was trying to decipher if he was working on all three words in the above selection of letters, so I asked him what his words were.

First word? butternut squash. Ah, yes.... that simple word. So very similar to those examples I suggested.

The next word he chose was toothpicks.

He's working on word three now. Can't wait to see what he'll come up with!

* * *

In other news, Audra has recently discovered crayons. She loves to color with them. Everywhere. This morning so far she's colored on the dry erase board, the table, the floor, in Isaac's school book, on Isaac's wooden alphabet letters, and in two books. (In addition to the myriad of places I have not yet stumbled upon, I am sure.) Fortunately for her, she is very, very cute and is always very "sowwy".

How is your school day going?

Our Nature Study Specialist

I arranged for a new teacher to do Nature Study with the kids.

I'm really excited about what he has brought to our curriculum. He is super excited about the opportunity (he even volunteered to do it!) and is so engaging and creative and fun.

Besides all that, he's tall and handsome and happens to be my husband and the father of those schoolchildren of ours.

One night he peered over at my ever-growing homeschooling TO-DO list, and offered this: "Would you like me to do Nature Study this year?" I had to think about it for about a quarter of a second before I agreed.

I can't even tell you how fun this has been for the kids. Each week on Mark's day off he's taken them on a field trip and/or planned an activity for them- concentrating on a certain subject. Then later that week, before their next "lesson" with daddy, they are responsible to do some drawing in their notebooks (generally items they collected on their walk or trip). So- that makes twice a week for Science around here.

I knew Mark would be great, but I had no idea just how in line with his gifts this was. Seriously. People think I'm the creative one of the family but that is just not true.

See example #1, over there, to the left?

That was Week One or Week Two, when they were studying the parts of a tree. It's like a work of art, I tell ya. I had a difficult time erasing it.

I keep telling Mark I want him to do some guest posts here on the blog about what he's teaching. The man has even less free time than I do, so I don't know how often that will happen, but I'm going to try to record what he's doing with them. If we're lucky, he might actually write from time to time!

Radical: Are you reading this book?

If you are a follower of Jesus, I think you should read this book: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.

It's $5.51 at Amazon. Buy it. Read it.

I'm about halfway through it. Author David Platt is so, so right on and what he writes about is what I need to hear and I truly think: every Christian that lives in America needs to hear.

I even broke my rule of not marking up my books. I've underlined and starred and arrowed all over this excerpt from Chapter 1:

Let's put ourselves in the shoes of these eager followers of Jesus in the first century. What if I were the potential disciple being told to drop my nets? What if you were the man whom Jesus told to not even say good-bye to his family? What if we were told to hate our families and give up everything we had to follow Jesus?

This is where we come face to face with a dangerous reality. We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus. We do have to love him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate. And it is entirely possible that he will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor.

But we don't want to believe it. We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives. So we rationalize these passages away. "Jesus wouldn't really tell us not to bury our father or say good-bye to our family. Jesus didn't literally mean to sell all we have and give it to the poor. What Jesus really meant was..."

And this is where we need to pause. Because we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.

A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn't mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe upon our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.

But do you and I realize what we are doing at this point? We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us, because, after all, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.
Is anyone else sick of the rationalization of Scripture and the comfy Christian life? I sure am.

When Audra disappears

{this is what I usually find her doing}

{and I think it's just about the cutest thing ever.}

Ruth Bell Graham quotes, Part 3

Another Bible verse she implemented in her child-rearing was: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof.... Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3). From this verse she determined that being a disciplinarian wasn't enough: She also had to be an example. The more she corrected and shaped her children the more convinced she was of what she viewed as her own flaws: "The children misbehave," she wrote, "I reprimand them sharply-- more probably peevishly. The very tone of voice irritates them (I know because if it were used on me it would irritate me). They answer back-- probably in the same tone. I turn on them savagely (I hate to think how often! And how savage a loving mother can be at times). And I snap 'Don't you speak to your mother like that. It isn't respectful.' Nothing about me-- actions, tone of voice, etc.-- commanded respect. It doesn't mean I am to tolerate sass or back-talk. But then I must be very careful not to inspire it either."


Ruth subscribed to a dog-training magazine and even "implemented rules" from it . The notes in parenthesis are hers.
  1. Keep commandments simple and at a minimum. One word to a command and always the same word. Come. Sit. Stay. Heel. Down. No. Etc. Etc. (I talk my children dizzy.)
  2. Never give a command without seeing it obeyed.
  3. Be consistent.
  4. When the dog responds correctly- praise him. Not with food. (And also don't reward the children materially. Your praise should be enough.)
A true mother, she recorded, "is not merely a provider, housekeeper, comforter or companion. A true mother is primarily and essentially a trainer."


In the main, discipline was rather forgotten when Billy was home. "Daddy would come home from a trip and break all the rules," GiGi said.
"Oh, let them stay up a little later," he'd say to Ruth when it was time to turn the television off and tuck the children in bed. "I hardly get to see them." He'd give them candy, gum, and soda pop during the week when he knew the rule was that they were only to be indulged on Sundays. And when the five young faces looked up to Ruth after their father had just granted them permission to break her rules, she would say with a smile, "Whatever your Daddy says is fine with me."
When he was home he conducted family devotions and told the children stories and played games with them, especially at bedtime, when he'd imitate a spider and creep through the house while the children scattered and screamed in delight. He was affectionate, frequently stopping them in the hallway to hug or kiss them, or perhaps sneak them away for a hike on the mountain. It delighted them when he and Ruth would "smooch", as the children called it. He was boyishly demonstrative, sometimes whisking Ruth away from the stove to waltz her around the kitchen; throughout the day he held her hand or sat her in his lap, the two of them laughing and teasing like highschool sweethearts. "His love and tenderness toward her were something we daughters looked for in our husbands," Bunny remarked.

Ruth Bell Graham quotes, Part 2

Billy's mother often said in exasperation that she "wanted the doctor to give him something to calm him down." (For some reason I just love knowing this!)


A man named Gregg Sawyer helped the Grahams on their property, and it was found that he had a fatal pancreatic disorder. The following passage is a conversation Ruth and Gregg Sawyer had:
One afternoon as they worked on a gate, he began thinking out loud.
"I figure I'm not good enough for Heaven," he said.
She smiled, her hands never stopping as she worked on the rocks, and she told him a true story:
"Well, you know, Mr. Sawyer, when Mr. [Dwight L.] Moody was in Scotland holding meetings, a little boy wanted to get into the building. He was a little urchin. Now when I say a little urchin, I mean his face was dirty, his clothes were ragged. And every door he went to was closed because the place was jammed. He was turned away. Maybe if he'd come in top hat and tails they would have been a little more respectful to him.
"But anyway, the little guy got turned away and turned away until finally he would up at the back door with tears running down his little face. And just about that time a carriage pulled up. People went to help the gentlemen out of the carriage and a big, tall man stepped down. And he noticed this little guy with the dirty face and tears running down and he put his hand on his shoulder and said, 'Sonny, what's wrong?'
"The boy said, 'I want to hear Mr. Moody and it's full up and nobody will let me in.'
"And the big man took his hand and said, 'Come with me."
"When they got to the door it was thrown wide and people bowed him in. The big man found the little boy a seat on the front row. Then he mounted the platform. It was Mr. Moody.
"When we get to Heaven, Mr. Sawyer," she concluded, her eyes filled with light like a sunny day, "that's the only way any of us are going to get in- if Jesus takes us by the hand. None of us are good enough. We're too dirty."

Ruth and Billy raised five children, and she recalls a day when her young daughter GiGi had been especially exasperating. Later that night, after dinner and a Bible story, GiGi asked questions about sin, repentance, and heaven. Following this conversation, they knelt together and prayed.

"Mommy," GiGi said breathlessly, "I feel like a new person."
The next day, this "new person" scampered down Assembly Drive to the Montreat gate and uprooted a dozen water lilies that had just been planted in time for the arrival of the season's first tourists and conferees. Ruth escorted her to the town manager's office with the evidence wilting in her tight little fist, her face pale as she worried aloud that she was going to be thrown into jail (her mother saying nothing to dispel the fear). She confessed and apologized.
That night as Ruth tucked her into bed she asked plaintively, "Mommy, have I been good enough today to go to Heaven?"
"Now how much, " Ruth wrote that night, "should I impress on her Salvation by Grace when really for a child of her disposition one could be tempted to think salvation by works would be more effective on her behavior?"
(I read this excerpt aloud to Mark, and we both got a good chuckle out of this. Isn't that the truth!? :))

{And, because these passages are so lengthy, I'm going to give you the rest in Part 3!}

Ruth Bell Graham quotes, Part 1

I just finished reading A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham. The copy I read was given to my grandma by my mom on Mother's Day, 1984. Grandma has since gone to heaven, but when I asked mom if she had any biographies of Ruth Graham, she found this one on Grandma's shelves, a bookmark tucked between the pages of this passage:
As a wife, Ruth was no longer the young bride whose feelings were easily hurt. She had learned to laugh at almost everything, as illustrated by this example of how she dealt with Billy's chronic preoccupation:
One day the Grahams were expecting guests for dinner and Ruth asked Billy, "What would you like to have on the menu?"
"Uh-huh," came the reply.
Deciding to have some fun, Ruth began rattling off a rather unusual bill of fare.
"I thought we'd start off with tadpole soup," she began.
"Uh-huh," he replied.
"And there is some lovely poison ivy growing in the next cove which would make a delightful salad."
"For the main dish, I could try roasting some of those wharf rats we've been seeing around the smokehouse lately, and serve them with boiled crabgrass and baked birdseed."
"And for dessert we could have a mud souffle and..." her voice trailed off as his eyes finally focused.
"What were you saying about wharf rats?" he asked.

This made me smile, not just because of the Ruth-and-Billy moment, but because I can well imagine why this would have tickled my grandma so much. I am sure my grandpa had that very same problem of being attentive, and I wonder if grandma marked it to read aloud to grandpa one evening, or if she just kept the humor all to herself.

One of the things I do when I read books is that I make notes of pages numbers or write whole excerpts into my journal as I read. I never highlight or mark the pages of a book, as some do. But what I want to remember, or revisit, I make note of.

There are quite a few page numbers and notes jotted down in my journal after reading this book, so I thought I'd share them here on the blog, as well. (Stay tuned for Part 2, with more Ruth Graham quotes!)

Wise words from another mother

I love the most recent post up by Elizabeth Foss, called How do you do what you do?. It's packed full of wisdom, and I think you should head right over there to read it!

Some of my favorite things in this post?

  • {this quote} "Generally, I have a grounded sense of why I'm here. I live to love my God and my family. I'm not easily distracted by what's going on 'out there.'"

  • Her thoughts on their non-negotiables, such as naptimes, meal times, and going-to-bed times (same here!)

  • {this quote} "I am no longer afraid to say 'no' in order to preserve order and maintain sanity. I am quite content with my community of eleven at home and in my heart. My focus is on them."

Or how about this one?

I'm a hands-on mom. I love to hold my children or to sit next to them and read aloud. Talking to them about big ideas or little mysteries is a happy thing. I'm fond of books and truly enjoy sharing them with the loves of my life. We are all blessed because I genuinely love education. When I face homeschooling, it's not with a sense of dread or duty. I truly delight in it (most days). That's such a blessing and I know it! I'm very grateful for the gift of that joy.

Love it!

Have a wonderful Thursday, dear readers!


Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom beautifully tells the story (through word and illustrations) of the way God spoke to Harriet Tubman, guiding her steps to freedom so that she could then turn around and lead others out of slavery.

We loved this book!

See if your library has it! (And if your library happens to be my library, we have it and I'll return it soon. :))

{linking up to Children's Book Monday at A Path Made Straight}

New blog design!

If you read my blog via a reader, click over so that you can see what my blog looks like now!

(Isn't it the cutest blog design you've *ever* seen in your whole life?)

Thought so.

The amazingly creative Debi put this together for me. I am positively thrilled at how it turned out, and Debi is so talented and was wonderful to work with.

{Thank you, Debi!}

{first pigtails and pure cuteness!}