Favorite books of 2016: Non-fiction

In no particular order, here are three of my favorite (non-fiction) books I read this year:

Mere Motherhood | Cindy Rollins

If you're a homeschooling mother, this will be your new favorite book.  I think I read this book in one day, and I LOVED it.  Cindy Rollins chronicles her homeschooling adventures in a warm, personal, authentic and sometimes hilarious style.  Though this is not a homeschooling how-to book, it is packed with wisdom and practical ideas, and you will find refreshment and encouragement within these pages.

 Just Mercy | Bryan Stevenson

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer whose passion and life's work is to defend the poor and the most desperate in our society.  Stevenson gives the reader not only an analysis of court rulings, cases, and injustices within our court system, but he invites us to come along with him as he meets with the men and women whom he's defending.  He doggedly and compassionately reveals the person behind each case detailed in this book.  

These men and women's stories stayed with me long after I put this book down.  It was at times difficult to read.  It was infuriating, shocking, and often heart-wrenching, but it was hopeful, too.  Stevenson is truly a modern-day hero, and this book is a powerful book and important book.  

George Müller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith | A.T. Pierson

This isn't the first biography I've read on George Müller, and it likely won't be the last.  George Müller is one of my heroes.  His faith and dependence upon God and his life of prayer have inspired me from the first time I heard of him.

For anyone unfamiliar with George Müller, he cared for thousands of orphans in England in the mid-1800's.  Perhaps the most stunning part of his ministry is that he never ONCE asked for financial assistance from anyone but God.

Müller's position before God was this (in his own words): "By the help of God, this shall be my argument before Him, respecting the orphans, in the hour of need.  He is their Father, and therefore has pledged Himself, as it were, to provide for them; and I have only to remind Him of the need of these poor children in order to have it supplied."

When people would wonder how one man could possibly carry the needs of so many orphans (thousands upon thousands, over the course of his life) he would say, "By the grace of God, this is no cause of anxiety to me.  These children I have years ago cast upon the Lord.  The whole work is His, and it becomes me to be without carefulness.  In whatever points I am lacking, in this point I am able by the grace of God to roll the burden upon my heavenly Father."

What an incredible testimony of God's loving faithfulness and provision, that He met every single need that was spoken only in His presence.  The (unsolicited) funds poured in or trickled in, but God faithfully provided for His own, and strengthened the faith of Müller and so many more as they saw Him daily providing for the needs that only He knew of. 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, friends!

And just for you?  Some of the outtakes:

We have been enjoying this month off, (well, the kids and I have had it off.  Mark, on the other hand, has been working a lot of overtime.  But he has had this whole week off, so we are loving that!) God has blessed us with more snow than usual, so my kids are beside themselves with enthusiasm about that. 

We have played so many games this month: Nerts, Ticket to Ride, Settlers, Dominion, Risk, Battleship, Sorry, and probably others I'm forgetting. And we finished our read-aloud (Watership Down; loved it.)  Our favorite cookies this month are Soft Molasses Cookies and these peanut butter cookies with the Hershey's Kisses on top.  Because, YUM.

We are gearing up for the next few days of very-busy-ness and fun with extended families and are looking forward to that.  I am all done with shopping (thank you, Lord) and nearly done with wrapping and I've spent most of today in the kitchen, baking and prepping food for the next two days' gatherings.

Blessings to you and yours!

Merry Christmas to you all,
~Stacy for Mark, Ella, Isaac, Isaias, Adelia and Audra

December happenings and some recommendations!

Hello sweet friends,

A few days ago Audra was wandering about, wondering what she could do, because "no one wants to play with me."  She really is such a blessed little girl because so often she does have someone who will play with her, but when she doesn't, it's a bit rough for her.

Sometimes all she needs is an idea, though, of the possibilities, so I suggested that she read Christmas books to some of her dollies, and she countered with, "Or I could do school with them!"  And then she was off, cheerily setting up her classroom and prepping her lessons.  I was so delighted when I next walked through the living room that I snapped a few pictures:

This little scene reminded me of how I used to do the very same thing when I was a little girl, except that I had imaginary students (all with names and varying personalities, of course!) and I would just teach away in my little bedroom.  Who would have thought that years later, I would actually be teaching, and no longer with invisible students in my little room, but my own children, in our little home?

What a gift.  I am so grateful.

I have also been so tired.  Several weeks ago, -- well, probably beginning right around this post, I was struggling.  And then even when the PMS subsided, I just kept right on struggling, feeling overwhelmed and emotional and just... melancholy; like my usual joyful self was missing.  I tried to define it in an email to some friends: For several weeks now, I have been feeling particularly weary and overwhelmed and sort of like my soul is parched.  I have been asking Jesus to infuse life and breath into my spirit and delight into our school days.  And the words God has put in my mind as I've prayed and talked it over with my husband are to CREATE and RELATE.  I really feel like God is exhorting me to slow down and spend more time creating with the kids and on my own, and to take the time to relate and connect with them, specifically during our school days.

I think that in my efforts to organize and plan a smoothly-running school year for all five kids, from high school down to second grade, there are days where it can feel like all we're doing is checking off the lists of things to do, and the creative side of me feels starved.

Mark and I are still praying and asking God to reveal to us what it is that we could change or tweak in our schedule to make it less overwhelming, but for the past several weeks I have eased up on some of our schooling and have focused on creating and relating, and that has helped tremendously.

And then I've just been counting down the days to December, because we take the whole month of December off from school.  I always have grand plans that we will bake things for all the neighbors and decorate cookies and do a whole month of advent, etc, etc, etc.  But honestly?  With family birthdays this month in addition to the Christmas festivities and events and traditions and all the gifts to purchase and wrap, what we mostly do is rest.

On Monday morning I went to the video store and I rented four movies for the kids to watch, as a way to kick off our Christmas break.  This is huge to our kids because we don't have TV, and they get very little screen time.  So it's a win for them and for me, because it buys me down time and I feel utterly guilt-free about that.  ;)
Last night I did purchase this Advent Study from Stone Soup for Five which you can either purchase from Amazon in book form or as a PDF you can download and print (I did the latter), so today, six days into the month, we began that.  I just reviewed the first six lessons at the breakfast table and we'll do what we can do in the next few weeks.  What I love about it is that there is a coloring page per day, and my kids love coloring, so today we sat in the living room and while I read Christmas books and our current read-aloud, they got out the Prismacolor pencils and colored.

Oh, and I must recommend to you my favorite Christmas CD of the season.  I am actually not a real fan of Christmas music.  After so many years it sort of all sounds the same to me and I just don't love it.  (UNLIKE Mark, who has 1200 Christmas songs on his iPod and announced the other day that he listened to 20 different versions of the same song In one day.  All in a row.  *shudder*  I cannot even.)  But this CD?  I LOVE.  I've been listening to Christy Nockels' music since back in her Watermark days, and for the past couple of months I've been tuning in to her podcast, because I noticed that she was interviewing people like Ellie Holcomb, whom I love with all my heart.  And Christy herself is such an encourager, and a wise woman who loves Jesus deeply, and so I newly love her.  That's where I found out about her new Christmas album, and I ordered it.  And I love it.  You can and should purchase it HERE.  I think you'll love it.

Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Happy December 1st!

We got our Christmas tree last weekend in the pouring down rain.  We were all fairly soaked by the time we found the perfect tree, but it was a fun family adventure nonetheless!  

Christmas-decorating in process, later that day:

When Mark pulls out our Christmas decor bins from the storage room, the kids are always clamoring to locate two things: our nativity, and our Christmas books!  We have quite a collection of Christmas picture books and they only come out one month out of the whole year.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Great Joy | Kate DiCamillo
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey | Susan Wojciechowski
Christmas Day in the Morning | Pearl S. Buck
The Gift of the Magi | O. Henry

Recuperating with crafts

My kids have been sick this past week, and on Sunday morning my sweet Audra (7) was not feeling well enough to go to church, so I got to stay at home with her.  We lit some candles, built a fire in the fireplace, made some tea, and listened to Ellie Holcomb.  I brought out some embroidery hoops, needles, thread and felt, and we sat side by side on the couch, crafting together while everyone else was at church.  It was quite delightful.

Audra embroidered her name and some flowers, and then she decided she wanted to make a pillow, so she whipped out a kitty on another piece of felt and sewed the pieces together, turned it inside out and stuffed it and then sewed it on up.  Cutie.  (It reminded me of learning to embroider with my Ella, years and years ago.) 

Apparently crafting is something we do when we're recovering from sickness, because it was when we were recovering from the stomach flu that we learned to finger-knit.

When the other kids got home from church, they wanted to try it, too (with the exception of Isaac).  I'm always amazed at how much time the kids will spend doing such handwork.  (I just had to stay somewhat nearby to thread needles and knot ends!)

This is what I came up with during our crafting session:


Update on life around these parts....

Hello, sweet friends~

Can you believe it's November?  Me neither.

Last week, with some of her free time, Ella raked up all the leaves in our yard just to get a big pile that she could jump in, and invite the other kids to jump in with her.  I love it.  It's one thing I appreciate so much about my kids-- they are easily impressed and they love the simple joys of life.

The last time I posted here it was all about how much I was struggling, and after that tough week, Mark encouraged me to take the following week off.  We did, and it was a good week.  We all went to the library and brought home stacks and stacks of new books and Mark and I even got to go on a date.  (We ended up running errands most of the time, but we did stop to have dinner and I love any time with just this guy.)

a goofy photo we took
We celebrated Isaac's 13th birthday with his yearly-requested homemade donuts, which everyone is always thrilled about.

And then I got sick :(.  (Sinus infection, achy, feverish, lots of sinus pressure.  It's been going on for over a week and I can't seem to shake it.)  Whenever we're sick, I figure God is sort of enforcing rest, and so I try to embrace it the best I can.  So this week has been a mellow week, too.  I've been trying to sleep in in the mornings (if I'm able) and have been leaving the kids to sort of fend for themselves for the first couple hours of each day, and we've done a light week of school.  I have been making meals but honestly, that's about it.

I'm going to close out this post with a list of snippets from my journal of things I'm thankful for.  I'm still working through that thousand-gifts list that I began so many years ago (thank you, Ann Voskamp) and even though I'm up into the six thousands by now, I don't think I'll ever stop.... 

6528 | date night
6530 | read-alouds
6531 | kind, helpful, attentive kids
6534 | our home
6536 | Adelia, this morning, thanking me for reminding her to set the table (which is her morning chore. And which she often forgets.)
6537 | Isaac, doing extra in the kitchen this morning
6542 | our fireplace
6550 | elderberry syrup
6555 | Mark playing a loooong game of Risk with the kids, which Audra (!) won after three hours.  (Three hours is a long time for a seven-year-old to be invested in a game!)
6560 | family movie night (We watched the Water Horse, after reading the book this week.  The movie was nothing like the book but the kids enjoyed both.)
6562 | Audra's sensitive spirit

Love to you all, 

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.  


Hello, sweet friends~

We're doing this thing.  School is back in session and- you know what?  I love it so much.

Am I tired?  Um, yes.

Did I forget how often it is that every single child seems to need me right now, and all at once?  Yes.

Did I forget how difficult it is to juggle the dishes, the laundry, the meals, AND school?  Uh, yeah.

Have we been behind my schedule every single day thus far?  YES.

And yet, we are here together, getting up early, cracking open the Bible at the table, singing, praying, talking, puzzling together over challenging math problems, cozying up under blankets to read good books, growing in patience and love for one another, learning to serve each other, and sharing it all with daddy when he gets home.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  These are sweet, sweet years and I understand that even in the craziness of them.  I am so blessed.  I love my kids and the time I get with them.. 

Another highlight:  Last night Ella made dinner for the whole family.  She was amazing.  She had to thaw and then cook the meat and roast sweet potatoes earlier in the day and then layer it all in the slow cooker for dinner, hours before we ate.  She's on for Wednesday dinners for the rest of the year and I don't quite know what to do with myself as she takes command in my kitchen.  She kept saying, "I've got this, mommy.  You're hovering."  :)  And I was.  The kitchen is sort of my domain.  She's done all sorts of baking and assisting and has been in charge of breakfasts and lunches, but has never been solely responsible for the evening meal.  She made a delicious meal for us and we were all so blessed.