Gift idea for girls

I'm amazed at all the gift idea lists circulating around on blogs- recommendations for toys and books and games.  So very helpful!  I wish I was so organized to put a list together, but I am so not.  ;)

I do want to offer up one small recommendation for girls, though, that may not be as well-known to some of you.

Noble Rose Press has the sweetest offerings for young girls, and they are really affordable, too.  Our favorite is the Family Treasure Coloring Book, which is lovingly drawn by the talented Breezy Tulip.  (I adore Breezy's illustrations!)  Her drawings throughout this book are of siblings and families doing various activities.  Our three girls have each colored their way through a book, and requested new ones this year.  (The coloring books are only $7, and it is hands-down the best coloring book I've ever seen.)

Noble Rose Press also has paper dolls (another favorite at our house!) and a new Bible Story book for girls, written by Angie Smith and illustrated by Breezy Tulip.  I ordered two copies, and was so grateful to see that it was just as beautiful as I'd hoped.  Their collaboration on the Bible story book was a prayerful one and a thoughtful one, and turned out beautifully. 

Blessings to you and yours as you celebrate this season of Jesus' birthday!


Finger-painting for Christmastime

We all had fun doing some (super easy, super cute) finger-painting today:

I think this would also be cute on some brown kraft paper for gift-wrapping!  [Thank you, Pinterest!]


I've started working on a little handmade Christmas gift for my girl...  (Shh!)


 ... and having so much fun.  I can't wait to make some dresses! 

{Inspiration here and here.}

Worth Watching

Oh, wow. 


Do you have 15 minutes to go watch something?  I just finished watching an adoption story.... twice.  Once alone, once with Ella.  I *loved* this adoption story, and how the character of God is revealed through it. 

In an effort to "hook" you to go watch, this is a family (The Via family) in the process of adopting a little girl, Chloe, from Uganda.  They find out that Chloe is not granted a visa, so she is not able to come home to them.

So they decide to bring home to her.

Go here to watch.  (Follow the link, watch the video (4:58) at the top of the page, and then watch the video at the bottom (10:09)).

Loved this.


ABC Hunt, Take 2!

Major parenting fail, here.  A couple of weeks ago I was singing the ABC song with the little girls and it became apparent that Audra isn't super familiar with that song.   #youngestchild #sorryaudra  ;)

This is not to say that she doesn't know her ABC's.  She does.  And she knows the sounds most of them make.  And she can write all of her uppercase letters and is learning her lowercase letters.  But.  The ABC song?  Not so much.

I'd been meaning to put up the alphabet somewhere around our house for the girls, so I did that recently.  And now we're practicing the song.


This reminded me of a game I started doing back when Isaac was in Kindergarten (*sob* about him being five.  I love memories of Isaac-at-five.)  We did a game called "ABC Hunt".

^^^These are Isaac's chubby little five-year-old hands and his wobbly five-year-old handwriting.
So this morning I did this with the girls.  I just traced a plate onto cardstock and cut out the circle, then glued it onto a craft stick and did some cutting and writing.  They thought it was pretty fun.  :)  The only rule was that they couldn't stand in front of the alphabet on the wall and flip their little tabs.  ;)


Fixing our gaze

Encouraged and exhorted by these excerpts from the book Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin:

We must make a study of our God: what He loves, what He hates, how He speaks and acts.  We cannot imitate a God whose features and habits we have never learned.  We must make a study of Him if we want to become like Him.  We must seek His face.

We become what we behold.  Do you believe that?  Whether passively or actively, we become conformed to the pattern we spend the most time studying.

Upon what is your gaze fixed?  ...It is the nature of this life that we must fight daily to make room in our line of sight for that-which-transcends.  Many things hold a legitimate claim on our attention, but when our eyes are free from the two-year-old or the spreadsheet or the textbook or the dinner dishes, where do we turn them?  If we spend our time gazing only on lesser things, we will become like them, measuring our years in terms of human glory.

By fixing our gaze on [His] face, we trade mere human glory for holiness: "Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we are] transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another" (2 Corin. 3:18)

There are really only two possibilities in this life: be conformed to the image of God or be conformed to the pattern of this world.  No doubt, you want the former.  So make a faithful study of the One you want to imitate, as a dearly loved child.  Study everything that makes God wonderful and mimic to your heart's delight, as the joyful expression of your reciprocal love for Him.  Respond as David did, "My heart says to you, 'Your face, LORD, do I seek'' (Ps. 27:8).  To the one that seeks Him, the Lord is pleased to lift up His countenance.

Good reads on the web and some organizational stuff

Well.  Somehow I've injured my foot and I'm hobbling around the house- seeing all the things I can't do as easily and wishing for pain-free walking.  But tomorrow I get to find out what the doctor says. Peeking in here a day late to let you in on some reading I've enjoyed around the web, and some things I'm doing on the homeschooling/organization front:

My carry-around-with-me-throughout-the-day clipboard
  • I really appreciated Misty's recent series of 31 Homeschool Lists.  I read this post (and watched her video) and was inspired to re-vamp the top sheet of my carry-around clipboard, and I started filling out daily index cards.  I also made daily checklists for my older three kids after reading this post.  (I tried this once before, a couple years ago, and it was a flop, so I'm trying it again, in an effort to get the kids working more independently without having to rely on my to-do-today list on the dry erase board.) 

I hope you're having a wonderful day!  Mark is just wrapping up two days off in.a.row (unheard of!) and so it's been a great two days and I am loving it.  Blessings to you all...


Book recommendation (for boys!)

Isaac would like to recommend this book:


He got it for his birthday, read it in two days, and loved it.


And since it can be difficult to find good books for boys?  I'm recommending it to you.  This is the fourth and final book in a series written by Andrew Peterson.

What are your boys reading and liking?

Commonplace Entries

There are times I feel slightly embarrassed at the copious amount of fiction that I read.  It doesn't seem intelligent enough of me or something.  I see the book lists of others and sort of wince at all the deep things I'm not reading.

But here's the thing: I love stories.  And no matter what else I'm reading, I am always yearning for a good story.  Maybe those with the extensive and academic book lists aren't wired that way.  But I most decidedly am.  So I'm becoming accustomed to that in myself.

I've been busily copying into my journal portions from the book I'm reading, and I've decided to share some here.

From L.M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill:
Gay Street should be a gay street, thought Jane, with gay, friendly houses, set amid flowers, that cried out, "How do you do?" to you as you passed them, with trees that waved hands at you and windows that winked at you in the twilights.
"I love making jam," she said, when dad asked her why she bothered.  Just to go into the pantry and look at shelf after shelf of ruby and amber jams and jellies gave her the deep satisfaction of a job well done.
(Is it any wonder how much I love L.M. Montgomery?)  I copied far more down than this tonight, but I'm just giving you a sampling.  :)

Ella finished Jane of Lantern Hill last week and promptly declared that I ought to read it.  (I'm not usually fond of reading a book twice, and this one I know I've read at least once before, but I agreed.)  And now I'm pretty sure I'll be reading all of L.M. Montgomery's books all over again.  I love them that much.

For those of you who appreciate L.M. Montgomery, what is your favorite title of hers?  (My mom just finished The Blue Castle and thoroughly enjoyed it.)  I think this one, below, will always be my favorite of hers, but I'll check back in when I've read through them all again and let you know....

My well-worn, well-loved, much-read copy

Recommending.... Ellie!

I love to sing.  Pre-children, I used to listen to music all the time.  I could even sing along because I had the lyrics memorized.  GONE are those days.  What with all these people around, talking or squealing or screeching or just-- making NOISE all the time, I just... can't.  Music ends up being extra noise and I really don't need any more of that around here.  I cherish quiet. 

This summer I made a whopping exception.  I'll get back to that in a minute. 

I struggled so much last year.  Wintertime brought life and joy and then suddenly, anguish.  Spring came, and as we approached what would have been our due date, God blessed us with yet another life growing within me.  We quietly held this news, and cautiously hoped.  The gift of that tiny life within me eased our grief and pain as our due date neared.  And then, when we lost that baby, too?  I was so very broken.  The grief crippled my spirit.

I prayed long for God to give me something- a verse, a song, a word, something- from Him.  I wanted Him to speak into the darkness.  He did.  First, through song, and then months later- with a passage of Scripture.  But the gift He gave me over the summer was the music of Ellie Holcomb.  I can't describe it other than to say that there are words Ellie sings that seemed like they had come straight from the pages of my journal.  As I journal, I often pray through Scripture and write out my prayers and thoughts, but she sings the truths of God's word- and beautifully.  My soul needed the beauty of her melodies rooted in Scripture.  And my gracious Father gave me such a gift in Ellie's songs.

Every single time I got into the van, I played Ellie.  I would carry around my phone and play Ellie.  On the treadmill, Ellie.  In the kitchen doing the dishes?  Ellie.

My kids always knew that the CD mama was reaching for or the song I was searching for on the iPod would be Ellie.  Without any effort on their part, they all have ALL of Ellie's songs memorized.  Just from the sheer number of times they have heard her.  ;)  And they love her, too.  (Ella's favorite songs are Marvelous Light and The Broken Beautiful.) 

Her song Anchor of Hope* was the prayer of my heart in the darkness.  For weeks I couldn't even sing.  I just wept as I listened.  Then I was able to sing bits and pieces- through my tears.  Finally, weeks later- I could sing it and own it.  I still grieve, of course.  But I truly believe that God used Ellie- we are SO on a first-name basis around here, me and Ellie- to pull me out of despair, and for that I am so grateful.

And so, I heartily recommend to you all: Ellie Holcomb.  Get some of her music and listen.  I think you'll love her.  :)  [I hear she won "new artist of the year" at the Dove awards, recently, too.   She's not actually new, though.]  She's been singing in a band with her husband, Drew, since 2006.  Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors.  Also good.  But Ellie-on-her-own?  LOVE.

 *Anchor of Hope is on Ellie's Magnolia EP.

Oh!  -and I'd love to know who you're listening to.  Who would you heartily recommend?



Last night Mark helped me rearrange the living room.  We pulled all the furniture in around the fireplace, in anticipation of upcoming cold nights with a crackling fire.  It was only last autumn that we got our chimney fixed, so we were able to light fires for the first time in the fifteen years we've lived here.  I am getting so anxious for the temperatures to drop so that we can have the warmth and coziness of a fire again!

(my apologies for the dim photos.  our living room doesn't get much light due to the trees in our neighborhood)

Tucked behind the couches is a table we've set up just for puzzles.  (There's also a puzzle board beneath one of our couches with another working puzzle on it, that we'll pull up and out onto the ottoman when Mark reads aloud at nights.)  It's one of our traditions during the fall/winter seasons.  

I love our home.  I am so thankful for it. 

Life in Pictures

It's been a crazy day (which is pretty much our normal, I guess) but we had a few extra challenges tossed in today which have made it even more crazy.  (Beginning with the fact that I did NOT get up early this morning so I've been running to catch up all day long.)  Hence, a post that is mainly pictures:

One day last week we'd had a particularly rough day (evidenced by the fact that I was already in tears by 8:30 in the morning).  I felt like I needed to escape, so after a couple hours of school, I packed the kids up, picked up fast food, and we headed to the water.  The kids were able to wade, throw rocks and get out some energy, and I was able to breathe.

Ella was hunched over like this- completely still, for about thirty minutes, holding out a french fry to this seagull.  The seagull finally took it from her hand.  She was so thrilled.



And here on the home front, the kids have dug a huge hole in our finished-for-the-season garden, and now there are whole battles being fought out there.  :)


They are having so much fun with this.

Okay.  I'm off to help the kids get lunch, then it's quiet times (bliss!), and then it will be time to prep dinner already.  We have small group tonight, and then I'm looking forward to sitting down with Mark to watch The Voice.  

How is your day going?


If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  -James 1:26
That verse has had me reeling for a few weeks now.  Ugh.  Some days I feel like I'm sinning every other minute with my tongue.  I am thankful for this only because it brings me to the fresh realization that I am in desperate need of my Savior; and that there is no good in me apart from Him.  I am so thankful for the good news of Jesus- that my sins have been paid in full.

This morning for Bible time we illustrated this verse, from Proverbs (using Draw to Learn Proverbs):


(I needed this verse today so much more than the kids did.)



I am trying to sneak in as many minutes as possible reading this.  (I've just discovered it's not worth trying to read while on the treadmill.


If you're not already in the know, Charles Martin is one of my favorite authors.  Because I love a good story, and I sort of marvel at the gifts God has given this man to tell a story.  (Click here, here, here, or here for previous posts where I've recommended his books.) The book in the above photo is his latest. 

I do realize there are other things I need to do today.  First up, devotions.  Then breakfast, Bible, memory work, spelling, read-aloud, history, narrations, math and cursive.  Some chores.  Dinner.  But I am going to try to read, too.  :)

What's the last good book you read? 

Organizing Homeschool Papers

It has taken me several years to settle on a method for organizing all the kids' school work.  I used to do it this way.

I have since simplified.  Now each child gets one binder a year.

Our binders reside on the bottom shelf of a hutch in our living room.

This year I even found some colored binders at Costco, which saved me the time of adding colored or patterned paper to differentiate between kids.  (Audra still has patterned paper for hers.)

I made a Table of Contents for each child:


And pages dividing each section listing the subject:


The Table of Contents vary for each child.  The little girls have a Kindergarten section and a Calendar section.  Isaias has a section for Spelling, while the older two have Dictation.)

This is the best way I've found to organize all the papers that accumulate with homeschooling!

My Creative Boy

A little stick figure named Sam started showing up on the pages of Isaac's math notebook last year.  Sam would often leave little messages for me that I'd find when I went to correct Isaac's work.  Sometimes I'd comment back.  Well, it wasn't long before there was a whole repertoire of little stick figures parading through his math notebook.  Now Nitram, Scarecrow, Joe, and Robber have joined Sam.  (I'm sure there are others, too.  Those are just the ones I'm most familiar with.)  They all have very distinct personalities.  And fonts, now, too, apparently.  (See two of his math lessons below.) 

I love my Isaac so much.  I wrote this post about him when he was two years old (!), calling him my dawdler.  He still is my dawdler.  I can give all the kids a 10-minute we're leaving soon warning.  Then a 5-minute better have your shoes on and be by the front door! warning.  Then, when it comes time to actually leave, I'll find everyone at the front door except for Isaac*, who will still be doing whatever he was doing before I gave the 10-minute call.  He just gets a little lost in his world; in his drawing or creating or building with LEGO bricks.  I used to think he was sluggish or lazy, and that this was a sin issue. It has taken me years to understand that it is just his personality.  This is the way God created him, and this is a gift.  (An exasperating gift, at times (for me), but a gift nonetheless.)

His mind is always busy creating and imagining.  He creates a story out of everything.  His math pages look too stark for him with simply numbers on them.  So he enlivens the pages up with characters, fonts and borders.  And dialogue.  And an ongoing story.

I can't wait to see what God has in store for him in the future.

*and Audra, who is EXACTLY like Isaac in this way.

The New Ungame

Did anyone else have parents that pulled out The Ungame for Family Nights?  I'm quite sure The Ungame was my mom's favorite game.  In fact, she would probably still pull it out at family gatherings if she could be sure we wouldn't all tease her.  (Maybe she just has the questions memorized and sneaks them casually into conversation. ;))

Anyway, if you've not heard of The Ungame, it was a game created in the 70's that consists of cards with questions on them like: "If you could choose to be any type of tree, what type would you choose to be, and why?" 

Not really.  

I totally made that question up. 

Fast-forward to our family vacation in August.  We were going to be spending 5 hours in the van each way, so rather than just rely on the individual snack bags I'd packed for them and our standby games (the ever-popular slug-bug game, ABC game and the license plate game), I came up with some road-trip activities.  I made little travel books for each of the kids, with pages and pages of games.   In my search for games to fill our book, I stumbled upon some great questions, here (from a mom who wanted some conversation starters for their dinnertime), and here.  I used some (not all) of their questions, and made up some of my own.   Then I cut them into strips and put them all into a plastic jar with a lid, and we took the jar with us on vacation.

Every so often I'd pull out the jar and pass it around and everyone would pull out a question.

Silly questions like:

-Would you rather wear your shoes on the wrong feet or wear your pants backward?
-If snow could fall in any flavor, what flavor would you choose?

And more thoughtful questions like: 

-If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete?
-If you could jump into any book and be a character in it, which book would you choose and why?
-If you could travel back to a specific moment in history, what would it be?
-If you could invent something that would make life easier, what would it do?

Maybe it's just my kids, but they LOVED those questions.  They always wanted to answer each others' questions and then pass the jar around again to draw another question.  We still had leftover questions when we got back home, so I just shelved the jar.  Last night after dinner was over, I asked a random question for everyone to answer and they were all asking for another question.  It was then that I remembered our jar, so I scurried off to get it, and we passed it around the table.

It occurred to me then that our little jar of questions is pretty much the The New Ungame. :)  Oh well. 

"My Word Book"

"Tommy's new words are written in his 'note-book' in print hand, so that he can take stock of his possessions in the way of words." ~ Charlotte Mason 
Mason goes on to describe that these are words the child knows and is able to "pounce upon anywhere".

That quote from Charlotte Mason, recalled to me through Laurie Bestaver's book The Living Page is what made me want to put together some sort of Word Book for the little girls this year.

It was a scene from a movie, though, that gave me the inspiration for what those books might look like.

{ photo from the movie The Book Thief }
In The Book Thief, (an excellent movie based on the book), Liesel is captivated by books but doesn't yet know how to read.  Her adoptive father immediately recognizes this and creates a word bank of sorts for Liesel in the form of a chalkboard wall that wraps around their basement.  As Liesel learns a new word, she runs downstairs and carefully writes her new word upon the wall.  It was a good visual to me of someone taking "stock of his possessions in the way of words."


Armed with my computer, a classic typeface, our printer and some scrapbook paper, I made "My Word Books" for my pre-reading girls, ages 5 and 6.  (Remembering my book-binding class from college, I also sewed the pages together and taped over the remaining thread, though it's not a necessary step.)



My plan is that as they learn new words throughout the course of our school year, we'll pull out their little books and they will carefully copy down the words they now recognize.

For now, they've just copied down everyone's name in our family.  :) 

Audra's word book
Perhaps you're not of the mind to sew together pages and don't have years of scrapbook paper on supply as I do.  No problem!  You could easily make one buy buying a blank book (Moleskine, perhaps?) and a set of alphabet stickers and you're set!

Lines from My Journal This Evening

It's a bit after 5 o'clock.  Mark came home about an hour ago.  He gathered the kids to clean the living room with him and then took them all to the library.  

I get to stay home.

I should be making dinner but he told me to rest, so I am.  

I came outside with my James study, my Bible, journal, pen and book.  I parked my chair on the sunny swath of grass, on the far side of the yard, by the raspberries.  I can hear the breeze rustling in the big tall trees in Ashley's yard.  The birds are chirping.  Our birds- the chickens- are looking at me curiously.  A squirrel is making his way to the top of the playhouse roof, and making quite a commotion as he goes.  It's warm out here.  The overcast day of earlier has been transformed into blue skies and full sun.  

I yearn for quiet amidst these crazy days of school, and I am thankful for this gift of it.  I am also thankful for this day with my kids.  For our walk about the neighborhood this morning, searching for Fall treasures to draw in our nature notebooks upon our return home.  I am thankful for You, God, gracing me with compassion for a sobbing child at the end of our walk, when that precious-to-him chestnut, all in its protective shell, was jostled and clattered across the sidewalk.  Thank You for giving me kindness in that moment, taking the usual place of impatience.

I am thankful for my fiery girl, always moving, always talking, with her constant questions.  But who, when asked, "Come, sit with me on my lap for a second", sat down without hesitation.  And stayed.  I'm thankful for the weight of her sturdy little-girl self, thankful for that wild hair of hers that brushes my face whenever she's near.  Thankful you saw fit to make this amazing girl my daughter.

I am thankful for good books to read aloud, for colored pencils scattered across the floor, for dishes piled in the sink, and for tissues littered everywhere- traces of two little girls with colds.  

I am thankful for the sounds of their voices.  For getting to hear the word mommy all day long.  For the privilege of doing this.  

I am thankful for my beautiful, competent Ella, who is pining to make dessert for us all tonight, who volunteered to help Audra build a fort this afternoon, who diligently practices her piano.  She loves and serves and sees what needs to be done and does it.  She is a treasure.

I am so grateful, Lord.  Thank you.  You are a good Father.

Books and Podcasts: What we're Reading and Listening to

Little boy Isaias (from the archives)

Isaias, now 9, just finished reading:
Mattimeo (Brian Jacques)

He is currently reading: 
Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder) 
Young Music Makers (Ireene Wicker)

Little boy Isaac~ in his dressing-up-like-a-cowboy phase
Isaac, now 10, just finished reading:
Wild Trek (Jim Kjelgaard)

He is currently reading:
Red Cap (G. Clifton Wisler)

Cute little Ella-girl (with bangs!)
Ella, now 12, just finished reading:
The Princess and Curdie (George MacDonald) 

She is currently reading:
Betsy-Tacy (Maud Hart Lovelace, on audio)
A Wind in the Door (Madeleine L'Engle, on audio)
The Savage My Kinsman (Elisabeth Elliot) 
{my reads}
I just finished reading:
A Praying Life (Paul Miller)
I am currently reading:
A Mother's Heart (Jean Fleming) 
How Should We Then Live? (Francis A. Schaeffer)
Teaching the Right Brain Child (Dianne Craft)

{reading aloud}
We are working our way through The Bronze Bow (Elizabeth George Speare), which is excellent.  We all love it.  We're also reading The Story Book of Science (Jean-Henri Fabre) and The Heroes, or Greek Fairy Tales (Charles Kingsley).  In the evenings, Mark is reading aloud Mary Emma & Company (Ralph Moody), as we work our way through the Little Britches series. 

Occasionally Mark and I will work on a puzzle while listening to a podcast together, which has been so enjoyable.  Other times I've snuck in a listen while I've been cooking or on the treadmill.  Here's the list of what I've listened to:

from Sarah's inspiring Read-Aloud Revival podcasts:
Episode 1: Reading Aloud to Older Kids
Episode 2: Engaging Conversations- How to Talk to Your Kids About Books
Episode 8: Every Book is a Mystery
Episode 10: The Art of Choosing Books

Andrew Pudewa: Nurturing Competent Communicators
Andrew Kern: Teaching Literature Without Killing the Book or Student

Many thanks to Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things for this post of her favorite podcasts.  :)

Okay, now tell me.  What have you been reading or listening to?

This Week for Dinner

{breakfast one day last week: buttermilk pancakes with mini chocolate chips}

This is kind of a cheater blog post because it's 10:30 on Tuesday night and the post I intended to write today (Books and Podcasts: What We're Reading and Listening To) will take too long to write, so I'm going with meal plans instead.  Mark had the day off today, and I had grocery shopping to do, and we hosted a huge small group at our home this evening.  It's been a busy day!

Here's what we're eating this week.  And next:

Week 1
Monday | Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork (w/ tortillas, avocados, sour cream, salsa)
                     *I've used this recipe several times and we love it!
Tuesday | Chicken Caesar Salad and bread
Wednesday | Green Enchiladas
Thursday | Pulled Pork Sandwiches w/ coleslaw
Friday | Cauliflower Soup   
                *This is one of our very favorite fall soups and I'm so excited to be eating it again!
Saturday | Potato dish with sausage
Sunday | Nachos

Week 2
Monday | Mozzarella Meatballs, rice (because it was in the loop last time but we had a rough day so we picked up pizza instead!)
Tuesday | Man-Pleasing Chicken (if you haven't made this yet you are SO missing out)
Wednesday | White Chicken Chili
Thursday | Beef and Bean Burritos (These were on the rotation last time, too, and were such a hit (and so easy for me) that we're doing a repeat on these again.)
Friday | Chicken Mirabella
Saturday | Meatloaf, potatoes
Sunday | Goulash


Chores for a bunch of kids

In years past I have asked my kids in advance what one chore they'd like to keep, and what one chore they'd like to be done with.  Then I try to accommodate their requests.  That just sounded like too much work this year, so I ended up assigning chores based on abilities and what would generally be most helpful.)  Here's our system for the year, inspired by a pin I saw on someone's Pinterest board:


(All you need is some cute washi tape, some craft sticks, a sharpie marker, and some jars.  :))

I assigned a color to each child, and then wrote their chores on their sticks.  After each meal it's chore time at our house.  Ella (12) generally gets down the appropriate jar, pulls out the sticks, and when they're completed, they go back into the jar.  (Our first thought was to turn the sticks upside down (colors down) when accomplished, but they always end up pulling all the sticks out to read their chores so this is now what we're doing and it's working great.)

{ morning chores }
Just to give you an idea of what each child is doing each day, here's a breakdown:

Audra (age 5), is responsible for getting herself dressed, putting away the silverware, wiping the kitchen table after each meal, helping to fold laundry each day, and brushing her teeth.

Adelia (age 6), is responsible for clearing the kitchen table after each meal, putting any books back onto the bookshelves, setting the table for dinner (with Isaac), helping to fold the laundry each day, and brushing her teeth.

Isaias (age 9), is responsible for emptying the dishwasher, picking up 5 things in the living room (2x/day), making lunch every day (with Ella), taking the garbage and compost out, cleaning the kitchen in the evenings, carrying the hampers upstairs, helping to fold the laundry each day, and brushing his teeth.

Isaac (age 10), is responsible for refilling the wood/kinding boxes OR (when it's not cold enough out to light a fire) cleaning the back porch.  He's also responsible for picking up 5 things in the living room (2x/day), sweeping the kitchen floor, taking dirty laundry downstairs, setting the table for dinner (with Adelia), cleaning the bathroom, helping to fold the laundry each day, and brushing his teeth.

Ella (age 12), is responsible for the chickens, picking up 5 things in the living room (2x/day), sweeping the kitchen floor, making lunch every day (with Isaias), flex chore (see below for details), cleaning the kitchen in the evenings, helping to fold the laundry each day, and brushing her teeth. 

~whew!~  I think I remembered them all!

New to us this year: 
-LAUNDRY:  I am doing all the laundry, except the folding and the putting away.  Ella is really my best laundry helper, but I'm giving her a break this year.  Isaac was my additional helper last year, but he usually likes to run a load of towels and fold them, thereby choosing only the easiest loads.  ;)  It was also challenging for him to figure out how many clothes to do per load, so often we had either WAY too large a load (and our clothes were not getting clean), or way too light of a load (why bother?)  So everyone is on folding duty in the evenings while daddy reads aloud, then they'll put clothes away before bed.

-LUNCHES: Ella and Isaias are making every single lunch.  Lunch is my least-favorite meal of the day, and they are loving the freedom to make what they want.  So thankful that God plopped this idea into my head.  :)

-FLEX CHORE:  Ella's flex chore came about because I couldn't narrow down what I wanted her to do each afternoon for her chore.  I realized that I wanted to have the freedom to change it up, as per our household needs on any particular given day.  So she reports to me and asks me what to do, and I wing it based on what is most needed at that moment.  She's done all sorts of different things: wash the eggs, make a quick batch of granola bars, puree fruit and get it on the dehydrator for fruit leather, wash dishes, etc.  I love this flexible chore.

My Plan vs Reality

Hello, friends~

I am trying to be disciplined about blogging twice a week- on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So I'm stopping in to get a post up for Tuesday even though I posted about marriage yesterday.

We started school really late this morning.  I was really tired.  One of the girls had been up (and in our room) multiple times during the night and I have a really hard time falling back to sleep which meant that I got very little sleep.  So Mark kindly set the alarm an hour LATER than usual to wake me, and then I tried to get all my stuff done and allowed the kids to sleep in.  A good choice.  I think we all needed the extra sleep.

So our day today turned out a little like this:


See all those blue numbers in the margins?  A little different from my plan.  Sometimes things don't go according to my neat plan for our day, but I've learned over the years (thank you, God!) to be flexible.  We completed most of what we had scheduled- everything was just bumped a little later and I skipped copywork/cursive. 

The schedule above is what we're currently operating from- but I will likely tweak it as we work out the kinks during these first few weeks.  (I've already re-copied it once.)  It's housed in a sheet protector so that I can happily check things off as we go, wipe it clean the following day and start over again.  I keep it on a clipboard and have it with me or in a central spot during the day.

Just wanted to give you a peek into our imperfect day ;)

Hope you and yours are having a good day!

L'Engle on Marriage


I just finished reading Madeleine L'Engle's book Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage.  I really enjoyed it, mostly because it's about marriage and I love being married to Mark.

Here is just one of the quotes I copied down into my commonplace book:
I loved my children, but I hungered for adult conversation.  One day after a rare evening alone I wrote: I keep thinking about the evening we had together last night, my darling husband, alone by candlelight and firelight, and the way we were able to talk.  We are practically never alone together and this is a bad thing.  No matter how much we love our children there are many things we cannot talk about in front of them, things that we need from time to time say.  Let us try to remember for their sakes as well as ours that every once in awhile for our development we must be alone.
Amen to that.  :)

(This desire for conversation- just the two of us- is why Mark and I stay up so late every night.  Of course, now that our older kids stay up later, Mark and I have to stay up even later than we used to in order to get time together alone.  But it's worth it.) 

Madeleine adjusted her hours to her husband's work schedule.  He was an actor, and theatre hours meant that her husband would get home at 2 am.  She simply adjusted her schedule (and even her kids' schedules, after they had children) so that she would be awake when he arrived home, thereby allowing them to have time together.

It's a good reminder to me that prioritizing our marriage- and specifically, time alone together- doesn't come without sacrifice, but it is so important.   

Our two-week meal plan

Meal plan (week 1 of 2)

I made a two-week meal plan and did all the grocery shopping a couple of days before we started school.  Do not underestimate the value of simply having a plan.  It's a huge thing for me to know what we're eating each day; to already have those decisions "checked off" in my mind.  I am so lazy with meals during the summer, and have been totally out of the routine of this helpful habit, but we're back at it!  We'll all be happier and healthier for it.  :)

On Monday (Mark's day off) I wasn't sure what we were eating for dinner; I just had a bunch of things I wanted to prep:
-make a huge pot of marinara sauce to use for 3 different meals (as pizza sauce one night, with the ziti recipe a few nights later, and I froze some for sauce to go along with mozzarella meatballs for next week).
-bake some bread (4 loaves)
-prep some ground beef for two meals
-make a breakfast casserole for the first day of school

I didn't prep the ground beef but I did everything else.  I'll list what we're having, here, with links to the recipes if applicable.

{ dinners }

Week 1
Monday | we ended up having Salmon, corn on the cob, and applesauce
Tuesday | French-bread pizzas (The kids thought these individualized pizzas were fun!)
Wednesday | Bacon-wrapped chicken, green beans
Thursday | Taco Salad, with amazing creamy-lime dressing that I love so much I could drink it
Friday | Sausages & vegetables, roasted
Saturday | Tara's Ziti
Sunday | Beef & Bean Burritos

Week 2
Monday | Crockpot Honey-Sesame Chicken, rice
Tuesday | date night!  (WOO HOO)!)
Wednesday | Refried beans & cornbread
Thursday | Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Friday | Mozzarella Meatballs, rice
Saturday | Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork, tortillas, avocados
Sunday | no plan- maybe some leftovers???

Oh!  Also noted on that plan-- in pencil, so you may not see it- is our breakfast rotation: 

Mondays | oatmeal
Tuesdays | eggs & meat
Wednesdays | smoothies & muffins (this week I made these)
Thurdsays | oatmeal
Fridays | pancakes
Saturdays | make-your-own
Sundays | cereal

I have assigned Ella (12) and Isaias (9) to be in charge of lunch.  Ella is full of ideas and loves being in charge of this, with an assistant.  And I love not being in charge of one more meal. (Though I do make myself available to help, if needed, for now.)  This is just one of the many great things about having older kids.
If you've tried any great recipes lately, DO SHARE in the comments.  I love meal inspiration!


First day

from L-R (Audra (K), Ella (7th), Adelia (K), Isaias (4th), and Isaac (5th)

We've wrapped up our first day of school and it was great.  I feel so grateful, every single year, for the freedom and privilege to get to do this homeschooling gig.  I love these kids and I'm so thankful for the time with them and the time we get to spend learning alongside of one another.

My prayer this morning was that our day might go God's way, not mine; that His agenda and plans would reign and that I would invite the interruptions He ordained for our day.  I prayed for myself: for patience and calm, graciousness and a kind tone, and I also purposed not to raise my voice. 

Here's the breakdown of our day, for anyone interested in every detail:

My goals for myself prior to 8 o'clock were these:
-wake by 6:30
-spend time with Jesus
-exercise (treadmill, 20 min)
-start a load of laundry
-breakfast prep (I had a breakfast casserole in the fridge that I'd made the night before that I just had to put in the oven)
-make Mark breakfast, coffee, and pack him a lunch

By 8:00 I'd done everything on the above list except for the load of laundry.  We officially started our day with devotions (during which time I was able to shower and throw in a load of laundry).  I decided that having headphones & CD players in the devotion bin was a brilliant idea because the younger girls chose those and were quiet for a solid twenty-five minutes.  As in, utterly quiet.  The house was really peaceful as I showered, got dressed, made our bed, did a load of laundry and set the table for breakfast.  It was quite nice.

We ate breakfast at 8:30- potato/bacon/egg casserole (link above) and yogurt- and did Bible time (we're reading through Proverbs this year), followed by memory work (we're currently memorizing Psalm 19- we've already been working on it for a few months and we're almost done!).  Then I introduced our new chore system/assignments (photos & details coming soon to a post here on the blog), and we cleared the table.  I showed them their new binders (another post, coming up).  Then we did a drawn narration from our Bible reading and we listened to classical music while we colored (Composer Study... check!)  While they were coloring I loaded the dishwasher from breakfast.

After chores, Isaac practiced piano for 30 minutes while I did Kindergarten with the girls.  Adelia zipped through everything and did the bare minimum while Audra was careful and tedious and wanted all the time in the world, and then more time, and more work to do.  *grin*   I love them both so much.  Ella and Isaias looked at their new assigned reading lists, chose a book, and headed outside to read.

After Kindergarten time, we read some picture books, and then I planned to start our new read-aloud while the kids played quietly on the floor (Audra: duplos, the older three: LEGOs, and Adelia: on the move.)  But there was an argument over a bin of toys and some tears and so we got a late start, but ended up reading one chapter.  Then I read the introduction from Kingsley's The Heroes to kick off our history for the year, while the kids either finished playing or colored.

Then the older three did math at the table for 20 minutes (give or take) while the younger girls played outside (and in, then out, then in, then out), and when they were finished with math it was about 12:30 and since that's all I had planned for our first day, we decided to go on a bike ride.  Actually, Audra and I walked while the older four rode, and then we headed back home for lunch by 2:00 (which Ella and Isaias prepped).  Now we're having quiet times and Ella is going to practice piano soon.

I plan to do Kindergarten on M-W-F, so we wouldn't usually do it on Tuesdays, but since the girls had been anticipating it and our first day landed on a Tuesday, I went ahead and did it for today.  On our schedule I also have cursive (older three) and spelling (Isaias) happening on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in addition to what we did today, but I skipped those for today, knowing it was our first day back into routine.

Mark will be home sometime after 4 and I have a meal planned for tonight (and for the next two weeks.)  I find it so helpful to start the year organized in the meal-planning department.  (I'll post my meal plan on Thursday.)

How was your day?

Devotions basket

For the past couple of years, I have been trying to create a habit for our kids of beginning their day with Jesus.  In the mornings I'll set the timer for 20 minutes and call out, "devotion time!" and the older kids will pray or read their Bibles or sing, and the little girls will usually draw pictures or look through a Bible story book.

One of the things I'm going to introduce to the kids *this* school year is a "Devotions basket":


What's in the basket:
-missionary biographies
-one of the Truth &  Grace Memory books
-Operation World
-some favorite Bible story books (The Child's Story Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible)
-My ABC Bible Verses and others by Susan Hunt (Big Truths for Little Kids & Discovering Jesus in Genesis & Exodus)
-The Brother-Offended checklist, Go-to-the-Ant chart, and the "If-Then" charts from Doorposts.
-a gratitude journal (orange Moleskine), to list things we're thankful for
-memory verses on index cards  (ones we've memorized before; for review)
-a bucket with blank index cards & markers- for drawing stories from the Bible
-(2) CD players with headphones & kids worship CDs
-our jar of prayer sticks (popsicle sticks with family/friends' names written on them, for the kids to pick out a stick and pray for that person/family)
I have a list of everything that's in the basket with spaces next to it for the kids to initial as they "check out" an item.  They're going to love this.