One week down

We had a really good week, overall.  But it was a taxing week for me.  I'll get to that in a minute.


-bedroom mailboxes

-Landmark cards are back (as per the kids' request).

-breakfast helpers.  Even though one child didn't show up, and another was there, but really just stood there talking the whole time and telling me about the dream he/she had. ;)   I am still thrilled, help or no help.  :)

-introducing (and implementing) our "Wednesday Walk", where we take a walk every Wednesday after breakfast.  We packed up our nature journals, pencils, bags for collecting nature-y things, a blanket and our history read-aloud, and headed for a nearby park.  We collected treasures along the way: pinecones, fall leaves, and little helicopters, mostly.  When we got to the park, I let the kids play for about an hour (along with the preschool class that showed up.  Probably twenty preschoolers with two teachers, who promptly sat down on the bench and supervised from afar.  Since we were actually playing, most of the preschool class gravitated towards us, and we got to entertain them for most of the hour.  (Delight!  I'm serious.  I mean, phooey on those teachers for missing out on all the fun!)  We learned all their names and ages and Ella thought she'd died and gone to heaven because they were all so cute and now she wants to be a preschool teacher, as well as a mommy, a missionary, a mail carrier, a babysitter, and a nurse.  (Yes.  Those are all actual things she's recently told me she'd like to be when she grows up.)  Anyway, then I called my kids over to the blanket and we sat and drew while I read aloud and after about 20 minutes, they played again for about 15 minutes until we had to leave.

-getting dinners on the table each night we schooled (M-Th, this week).  Success!

-one-on-one English time with the kids

-buddy times (I had forgotten how much the little girls love this time!) I'm more organized with buddy time activities this year and that is helping.  I now have a list:

So now it's not up to the older child to find *just the right thing* that their little buddy wants to play/do.  I have a schedule.  And they do the next thing on that schedule.  Period.

-new books! (assigned reading shelves + our history book bin + our new read-alouds)

-kitchen chores in the evenings.  Mark is in the process of making a *kitchen clean-up playlist*, and we all sing and enjoy working alongside each other.  Favorite songs, so far: 
Ho Hey (The Lumineers)
We Are Family (Sister Sledge.  I only know the artist because I just looked it up.)
Farther Along (Josh Garrels)
The Sweetest Song I Know (Russ Taff)
Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Extreme Party Animals- seriously? Is that truly the name?)
In The Light (Charlie Peacock)

* * *
The challenge- for me- was just transitioning back to the constant demand for my attention.  One child is weepy over a math problem and needs me.  While I'm doing that another child is calling me, needing me to answer a question.  All the while the girls are waiting for me to put a movie in for them or to help them with a toy or a zipper or read them a story or get that dolly's dress on or get them a drink or just wanting to be held, and another child is waiting in line to ask a question.  And.... Repeat, for the entire time we're doing school.   In addition to that, I have this running to-do list going on in my head the whole day, too- *put in a load of laundry *thaw meat for dinner,  etc.    I felt like I was running to catch my breath most of the day.  Which I was truly okay with... until quiet time, which I was so desperately looking forward to, and then I didn't get it, due to disobedience and interruptions.  A couple days of that pace (with no down time) had me a very tearful, wanting-to-run-away-from-home-Mommy as soon as Mark got home in the evenings. 

One night Mark got home early enough for me to go for a jog.  And that was good for me.  (Note to self: exercise is important.)  While I was running, I was reminded of these verses:

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Philippians 2:3-4 
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  (italics mine)

This dying to self is difficult.  I find that I go through my days holding out for quiet times- some peace, for me! finally!  And if I don't get it, I get cranky.  I need to remember that God has me covered.  He knows what I truly need.  The best thing I can do is lay it before Him in prayer- "Lord, please give me rest." And then trust Him.  He will provide the rest I need as He sees fit.  In the meantime, He will strengthen me to keep going.

And I love it.  I do.  I don't wish it any other way.  What a privilege and honor it is to be with these dear little people each day.  I am so blessed!

Good books

I just finished reading Lawana Blackwell's Gresham series.  Mrs. Blackwell imparts such wisdom through her writing, and as a reader I appreciate that.  (The stories are set in England, beginning in the 1860's- if that sounds like something you'd be interested in.) 

After I wrapped up those books, I declared to  Mark that I was definitely born in the wrong era.  In particular,  I was lamenting how very nice it would be to be living in England in the 1800's, complete with a cook and a housemaid. ;)

Now that I've left the village of Gresham, I am re-reading Educating the WholeHearted Child, by Clay Clarkson (with his wonderful wife Sally Clarkson (whose words have encouraged me countless times in this journey of mothering and homeschooling)).  This book is a wonderful resource, and I have checked it out from our library several times, always taking notes in my journal as I read.  I'm reading the newest edition and am just as encouraged as when I picked up this book years ago.  Here's an excerpt for you from the first chapter:

There is a reason that Moses, before Israel crossed the Jordan to enter the Promised Land, exhorted all of the people (Deuteronomy 6:1-9) to love God with their whole beings, to have his commandments on their hearts, and to diligently teach them to their children at rest and at work, in the evening and in the morning.  (In colloquial Hebrew, he meant everywhere and all the time.)  There was a God and home-shaped vacuum in the heart of every child in Israel that needed to be filled with God's reality and God's truth.  That, and only that, would create a generation that would find its fulfillment and purpose in God.  Moses was writing the prescription for the future health of Israel.  Unfortunately, the people of Israel did not love God wholeheartedly, or have his truth on their hearts, and they soon forgot Moses' admonition and even Joshua's "as for me and my household" challenge to serve God after they were in the land (Joshua 24:15).  It should not be surprising that the next generation did not know God, forsook him, and served other gods (Judges 2:10-13).  The vacuum was never filled in the hearts of their children, who grew up and filled them with substitutes and counterfeits. 

We must not underestimate the importance of building a godly, Christian home.  We are no different from the parents of Moses' day, and his exhortation is just as fresh for us today as it was for those undoubtedly well-meaning parents 3,500 years ago.  Though we are not building a physical nation, we are nonetheless building a spiritual one, and the health of the future of the body of Christ and his kingdom will be affected by whether or not Christian parents heed the admonition of Moses concerning our children and of the Apostle Paul to "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).  We still must choose whom to serve and to build our homes for Christ.

I don't know about you, but sometimes this homeschooling journey can feel like a lonely one, and I need to be reminded and encouraged of truths like these.  If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it!

Bedroom mailboxes

The girls' bedroom door
Well, that's what we're calling them.  I guess technically they should be called "Bedroom Envelopes", but that's not quite as fun.  :)

Scrap paper near our pencils/crayons/markers buckets, for easy note-making
In any event, they're a hit.  Sure, we're just two days into school, but the kids are HUGELY excited about them, and I am, too.  (Even daddy has dropped notes in the mailboxes!)  And lollipops fit in there quite nicely, too.   I love getting the girls' little scribbles and explanations of what they've written, and I love seeing the kids take the time to bless one another with a note, and I love taking the opportunity to encourage the kids or just say I love you in the form of a note.

P is for pie

We discovered some blackberries near our home and went picking yesterday.  I love blackberries, and am so thankful God grows them free for our picking.  The kids were troopers- and braved the thorny branches with cheer.  They were good pickers, too!

our bounty

washed and ready

rolling out the pie dough.  {if it weren't for this step right here i'd make a lot more pies!}

ready for the oven

while the blackberry pie was baking, we began the apple pie {and some helpers showed up!  isaac rolled out the dough and ella mixed the appes + other ingredients and tucked them into the pie crust}


done.  {you'll notice the apple has a crumb crust.  i couldn't bear to roll out a fourth crust.}

Remember awhile ago I told you that Mark and I were having themed date nights, according to the letters of the alphabet?  It was my week, and we've made it to the letter P.   (Hence, the pies.)  Baked goods (with sugar) are one of Mark's love languages, and apple pie is his very, very favorite dessert.

He was pleased. 

On paying attention

Oh, wow.  So true.  I loved this:

In our amazing era of digital immediacy, I can tell the world where I am and what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I can present myself as a busy man living a rich and full life. I can take pictures of my meals, log my locations, snap photos of the people I’m with, and weigh in on what’s happening around the globe 140 characters at a time. But none of these things mean I’ve been paying attention.

-Russ Ramsey, in an article entitled The Courage to Put Away Our Cameras


( I want to pay attention, don't you?) 

I think about this a lot, actually.  I want to be present in each moment.  I truly want to pay attention.  But I don't just want to pay attention to whatever is in front of me. I want to be wise about what I choose to put in front of me.

The world offers MUCH in the way of distraction and I want to be faithful to what God has entrusted to me.  I want to be intentional to pay attention to those things.  (Specifically, those things are: my husband, our children (and their education) and our home. 

The other stuff?  It's all extra.  The extras often distract me from what God has clearly called me to.    I want to flourish here, in these relationships, with my wonderful man and my sweet children.  These are the ones God has given to me.  I choose to devote my time and attention to them.  They get my best.

There's not a right number of "extras", but I think we must be careful and selective.  The psalmist reminds us that our days are but a breath.  (So, then, let us be wise with the decisions we make with our time and attention.)

Obviously that's going to look differently for each individual.  For me:

It's one of the reasons why I deleted my Facebook account nearly a year ago.  (I don't miss it.)   

It's why I haven't joined Pinterest.  (Even though I bet it's right up my alley.  :))

It's why I don't have a fancy phone with internet/email access.

It's why I try to be careful about how many shows I watch.  (Just a few.)

It's one of the reasons why I struggle with the whole idea of blogging, and really try to limit my time on the computer.  (And I try to limit it to time when the kids are sleeping or during quiet times.)


Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.  1 Thess. 4:11

Taking inventory of the kids' clothing

Now that fall is just around the corner (hooray!) it's time to take inventory of the kids' clothing.  I now have a system for this.  This morning I made a chart- with their names on the left-hand side and the following categories along the top:

dresses (girls)
skirts (girls) church pants (boys)
tights/leggings (girls)
long-sleeved shirts
dress shirts for church (boys)
short-sleeved shirts

Then, one child at a time (that is important), we emptied drawers and tried on a bunch of stuff and made decisions.  If it was too small we decided whether or not it could be handed down.  Otherwise, it went into the consignment bin or the Goodwill bin.  Some of Ella's dresses that she's outgrown are now sitting on my sewing table where I'll cut off the top, sew up a casing for elastic and ta-da!- she'll have a skirt!

While they were trying everything on I also made notes of their sizes and- for the things that fit especially well- brand names.  (For instance, Ella is super slim and jeans are hard to find for her.  She has a pair that she loves so we'll just hunt for those again.)

Now I can take my list with me when we're at the consignment store, thrift store, or the mall (Target, Old Navy) and I know what we need!

Our history plans (A TruthQuest History review)

A couple of you have asked what we're doing for history this next year.  I'll give you the short answer first, and then the long-winded answer second.  ;)

Here's the short answer: We're doing TruthQuest History.  (If that's all you wanted, just move along now because I'm about to get wordy.)  ;)

Here's the long answer, and I love telling this story because God really directed our family in this subject.  Towards the end of last year I sort of hit a wall on our Ambleside readings.  Generally I truly like the Ambleside selections, but what became difficult was the lengthy readings about topics I didn't think we needed to be reading so much about.  Certain battles and historical figures are fascinating and we are genuinely interested in delving into their story for pages and pages.  Others?  Not so much.  I wanted to read a small blurp and move on already.  So I stopped reading and began pondering it aloud with Mark-- Is it just a difficult season?  Do I just press on, even though even I'm  bored?  If we don't do this, what DO we do? 

And I began praying, asking God to guide us and help me figure out where to go from my "stuck spot."

One night as I was falling asleep the words "Truth Quest" got stuck in my brain, and I had a hunch it was related to my prayers about our history.  (You know how you get a song stuck in your head and you can't turn it off?  It was like that.  I didn't know what "Truth Quest" even was but I knew I wouldn't forget it because those words were lodged that firmly in my brain.)  I determined to look up those words the very next morning- thinking maybe it was a book or a blog or something that would give me a clue as to what we should do.  So I Googled the words "Truth Quest", and initially only saw something about a children's VBS program and was about to click away when I saw-- further down the page-- "TruthQuest History", and clicked on that link only to find out that TruthQuest is a literature-based history study.

I spent some time over the next few days researching the site (which I had never before been to and had never heard of to my knowledge) and reading all the reviews and testimonials and continuing to pray and talk to Mark.  A few days later we decided to give it a trial run- to order one of the TruthQuest guides and use it for our remaining ten weeks of school, and see how we liked it.

We loved it.

It is such a good fit for our family in so many ways.  For those of you unfamiliar with TQ, as I was: the guides are arranged chronologically through history.  There are summaries about the topics and then lists of books relating to each topic.   One of the things I like so much about it is that it suits us so naturally: I already love book lists, we already spend a lot of time hunting for good books at our library, or at the local thrift store.  And we get to cover history by reading literature-- which is how we like to learn!   It has also drawn Mark into our history study in a way that he wasn't before.  He helps choose the topics we'll cover, he helps hunt for the books, and he chooses which books he'd like to read aloud to the kids.  It also gives us the flexibility to spend as much or as little time as we'd like on each topic, which I appreciate.

The author, Michelle Miller, loves God and views history through that lens.  In the summaries, she invites us to look at how God has initiated to mankind through the ages, and how we have chosen to respond.  I have been a part of the TQ Yahoo discussion group-- which is a group of moms utilizing this curriculum and swapping good book recommendations and ideas.  I have been so, SO impressed with the quality of women on the loop, specifically Michelle Miller herself-- who frequently pops in to add to the discussion-- and the moderator, Kimberly, who is full of wisdom and kindness. 

I am so thankful that God led us to these guides, and we are excited to tackle more history through literature this coming year! 

Fun links! (Printables!)

These (free!) printable Morning Routine Cards are cute.  I may print some of these out for the little girls!

And these (free!) printable ABC Scripture Cards are super cute, too!  What a creative mama! 

Organizing schoolwork with binders

me & my girl at the Mariner's game

I hope you're all doing well!  We just wrapped up a great week of vacation-- we worked hard on some house projects (we cleared brush and weeds, moved our fence closer to the alley to make our chicken yard bigger, painted the chicken house and duck house, and then pressure washed the house, sidewalks and patio) and then we played hard (we went swimming, went to a baseball game, went to the zoo).  It was sort of a whirlwind, and I think we're more tuckered out than when we started, but we're thankful for the time to work and play together with daddy!  :)

Our zoo crew (sans Mark, who was taking the picture).  That's my brother Micah there in the orange shirt, with his girlfriend and her daughter.  We had such a great day!

My school planning TO DO list is getting shorter and shorter as I cross things off, and since we start school at the end of this month, that's a good thing!

One of the things on my list is always: "organize school shelves", so here are a couple of pictures of that one in process.  Years ago, I saw a picture on Dana's blog of her color-coded binders, and it inspired me to organize our schoolwork the same way.

Here's what we do: each child has a binder for each subject with their color on the spine.  (They chose their color when we started doing this and there's no turning back now.  Ella is pink, Isaac is green, and Isaias is blue.)  Everything for that subject goes into their labeled binder.  At the end of the year I remove all the papers from the smaller binders and put them all into a big binder, so all of Ella's school work (all subjects) for the year is filed into one big binder (and another for Isaac, and for Isaias).  Then we re-use the smaller colored binders for the following year. 

Those simple binders have been such a great tool for organizing all of our paperwork.  I'd love to hear what works for you, too!  

Also- and this is an ongoing invitation- please feel free to ask any questions (covering any topic) and I'll tackle them in future posts.  (Christy- I'll post soon on what we're doing for history in response to your question.) 

Hope you have a great day!