Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Year's Celebration

As much as I love tradition, our family doesn't really have any traditions for New Year's Eve. For a few years while we were dating, my husband and I went to Pasadena for the Rose Parade.  For a few years, we went to a friend's house for a huge dinner with several families.  For Y2K, we planned to be at my mom's house in Missouri and ended up at my brother-in-law's house in California due to a family emergency.  Last year, we started what we expected to be an annual tradition - a big dinner at our house with family and friends.  On December 31, 2010, we had no idea that God would turn our world upside down like He is so good at doing and exactly one year later we would find ourselves in Taipei, Taiwan picking up our newly-adopted son on New Year's Eve.

Our adoption would not be possible without our friends and family, but especially our church family.  Our church has a heart for orphans like I have never experienced.  Several families in our church have adopted, locally and internationally.  Through this desire to help the orphans, our church created Project Nic.  This is more than just a fund for families to use for adoption expenses, though it definitely does serve that purpose.  It is also a network of people who have adopted or just want to help walk families through this oh-so-confusing process.  Because of Project Nic and the people behind it, this little boy was put into our lives in July and we will be bringing him home in a matter of days. 

As you consider your New Year's celebrations, would you consider helping Project Nic give another orphan a home and family to call his own?  So many families like ours would love to bring a child into their home and call him their own, but the cost of the adoption itself is standing in their way.  If we work together, we can bridge that gap.

You can click here to donate or get more information to mail in your donation.  Make sure to designate your donation for Project Nic.  Your donations to Project Nic are tax deductible and greatly appreciated.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Up To Date

We first heard about National Adoption Day two years ago as we sat in church and watched a short video about adoption and our responsibility to care for orphans. What happened next took my breath away. Our pastor invited everyone to stand who had adopted, been adopted, or was in the process of adopting. He also included foster parents in this call. More than half of the 250 or more people in the room stood!

My husband and I began attending this church only three months prior to this event. In the winter of 2009, DH experienced cutbacks at his job in California and we faced some big decisions. Unable to find a comparable job, he accepted a job in Iraq as a contractor using the skills he learned in the army. We felt that God was leading us to take some bold steps. We rented out our house in California and, while DH was in Iraq, I moved our household to the Kansas City, Missouri area where my mom lived and where we felt God calling us to go. After six months in Iraq, DH came to Missouri and quickly found a job. We knew we were where God put us, but it wasn’t clear yet why He put us here.
That Sunday when so many people stood left an impression on us. Here was a body of people that did not hesitate to make a difference in their world. We were also impressed that their world didn't stop at the edges of the small farming community where this church was located. Adoption wasn’t on our hearts, but we knew from that moment that this was where we wanted to be. Little did we know how much this church lived their faith, but we learned quickly. A few months later, our church put on “Love Out Loud” where we went into the community over the course of a weekend and loved hundreds of people by visiting nursing homes, babysitting children so single moms could have a day off, and performing all sorts of home improvement projects. Our family had the pleasure of going to a senior apartment complex to repaint the recreation room and remove some debris from their basement. It was a great day and again we were blown away by this church body and how they lived their faith.

As we got more involved in the church, we became friends with many of the families who were involved in adoptions in various ways. Our two older daughters began to feel a desire to adopt, but DH and I did not. We encouraged the girls to pray about it and we began to do the same because we always want to be open to where God is leading us. Two major factors that held us back were DH’s crazy work schedule and the small duplex that we called home.
In March of this year, our church announced the dates for the annual mission trip to Taiwan. DH eager to use his passport again and travel, signed up for the trip. We also decided to sign up our 11-year-old daughter. This trip was for the purpose of helping two churches put on an evangelistic play that our church does every year.  Our daughter has been integral in this play for the two years we have been in Missouri and we felt that it would be beneficial for her to participate. So the planning began, or so we thought.
On June 30th, I received an email from one of the ladies at church saying that there was a little boy at Harmony Home, Taiwan that needed to be adopted. Her husband is on the Board of Directors for this children’s home and they had adopted from there earlier this year. When they heard of this 6-year-old boy, they thought of our family and how well he would fit in.  DH and I discussed it at length and talked to other friends who would add valuable insight. We decided to wait until the end of July when my husband went to Taiwan to make a decision.

As time progressed, one of the churches in Taiwan chose not to follow through with the program and that left a week of unscheduled time in Taiwan. Our church chose to fill that time with a camp for the children at Harmony Home.  DH was asked to be one of the leaders and so he and Annie spent an entire week with this boy whom we had been asked about. Within a day of meeting each other, the boy called my husband Papa and melted his heart. While in Taiwan, DH felt the concerns of his heart lifted as he continued to pray over the decision. By day three, my husband texted me and said he wanted to start the paperwork.
We knew that there were still obstacles to overcome, but if this was God's will, it would all work according to His plan. My husband was offered a new job at his company which allowed him to be home every evening. Somehow, we passed the home study even though we thought our home was too small. Also, God has provided the necessary funds at just the right time for each step in the process.
All the way through this we have prayed for God’s will and things have moved at an incredible pace. Our home study took only two weeks, my passport came in less than three weeks, our son’s Visa was approved in a few short weeks, and our judge has chosen to cut in half the wait time after the judgment is issued. It is progressing so fast that we are speechless at times, but we can clearly see God’s hands in all of this.

At this point, we are excited to put together a bedroom and toys for our little boy and prepare for the addition to our family. We expect to hear from our attorney in Taiwan any day telling us that we can come and get our son. We aren’t always sure how we will make this all work, but we know that we look forward to celebrating National Adoption Day in 2012 with a whole different perspective than we could have imagined when we first celebrated in 2009 with our newly-adopted church family.

If you'd like to find out what's going on with our adoption, you can go to Thank you for taking a few minutes to read our story. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Grandma

When I count my blessings, my grandma always makes my top ten list. When I was born, my mother was ill and unable to care for me.  My grandparents stepped in and helped raise me. My grandmother was patience, love, kindness and everything good wrapped into one person. She was always available for anyone who needed her or when a person just needed someone to listen.  After I left home, we would sometimes spend hours talking on the phone, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying and sometimes just saying nothing important at all.  No matter who was talking to her, she made them feel like they were the most important person to her.  She made me feel that way until I had kids.  It was at that point that I realized they stole my place in her heart.  I know that's not true, really her heart just got bigger whenever she added another person to it.  Most importantly, she loved the Lord and lived for Him daily. 
Grandma's High School Senior Picture
In 2009, she was diagnosed with cancer and succombed very quickly despite her excellent health.  This Wednesday is our second year to celebrate her birthday and the blessing that she was to us without being able to hug her. We miss her so much but keep her alive in our hearts and the way my husband and I raise our children.
Grandma and my middle daughter the year before Grandma died
The card below is inspired by my grandma's 18th birthday picture. I used the Sonoma papers and Sweet Moments stamp set from Close to my Heart - I also used the Art Philosophy cricut cartridge from Close to my Heart to cut the shapes before stamping.

Thank you for allowing me to share!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Visas, Court Dates and Christmas...Oh My!

There is so much to say about our adoption much that I can barely wrap my head around everything!  I decided it would be best to simply update our status and get to the rest another time.  On the American side, we are waiting for the I600A to come back.  This is the preliminary application for the visa.  As part of this application, we must be fingerprinted again and all of our documentation up to now will be reviewed.  I'm not so sure how long this takes, but we have friends who are about a week ahead of us in this process so we watch them closely to know what's coming next.  On the Taiwan side, we just received a court date.  It isn't until December 2nd, which is later than we hoped.  Apparently a home study must be done on our son and his birth mother, which takes 45 days.  Our attorney is working to get this portion of the process hurried, but we don't know know if this will happen.  If the court date is December 2nd, we can loosely plan to bring home our son in early January, a month sooner than we had been told at the beginning of the process.

As much as we would like to have our son home for Christmas, January is good too.  Our calendar is packed through 2011 and there would be some serious logistical issues if we go to Taiwan before January (though we would joyfully make it work).  January will be a calmer time when we can devote more attention to a new family member and help him to adjust to our way of life.  From what I am told by several people (including my husband and daughter), our son is shy and slow to warm to new things.  Christmas in our home would quite possibly overwhelm him, though we have already made plans for a simpler celebration this year.  Chinese New Year is in January and that would be fun for all of us to celebrate together every year as a remembrance of our new son coming to our home.  As with the rest of the process, it will all happen in God's perfect timing.  Until then, we will be preparing our home for the arrival of a little boy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pricey Paper

The number of documents requested when doing an international adoption is amazing!  For our home study, we had to submit local background checks, birth certificates for all of our children, our marriage license, employer references, personal references, medical statements from our doctor, and financial statements.

Now the Taiwan court wants everything above, plus the adoption agreement, a copy of the Missouri adoption law, and copies of our passports.  To submit these documents, we have to jump through a series of hoops.

1. Collect all forms/documents (obviously).
2. Have the signature notarized.  If there is no signature to notarize, the notary must sign an affidavit verifying that the document is an original or exact copy of the original.  If there is a signature on the document, the person who signed the original document must also sign the affidavit. If the document is an official document from the county or state, you can skip this step.
3. Take all documents and affidavits to the Secretary of State.  They will authenticate the notary and attach a document with the state seal on the document.  Some states offer a discounted price for multiple documents authenticated at once.  We have moved a few times, so we had to mail one birth certificate to Kansas ($7.50 plus the cost of postage) and our marriage license and two other birth certificates to California ($20 per document plus postage).  Everything else can be done in Missouri ($10 per document with a maximum of $100).
4. Take all documents to the Taiwan Embassy (TECO) to be TECO stamped.  They charge per $15 per document, per translation.
5. Mail documents to attorney in Taiwan to be submitted to court.

That's some pricey paper!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Home Study

So much changes through the adoption process that it makes my head spin!  One day I think I have it all figured out and then the next day everything is different than what I thought.  One almost-constant aspect was the home study.  The big change was that we do not need to complete it for Taiwan as originally expected.  I'm not exactly sure why we don't need it, but I'm told it has something to do with our little boy's age.  In any case, I wasn't really sure what to expect and I would like to share our experience to help those behind us in the process.

We chose a social worker based on the recommendation of friends.  She has done several home studies for other church members and they went well, so we decided that she would meet our needs.  After contacting her, she emailed the following forms to complete:
  • Employment References

  • Educational References (which we didn't need because our kids are homeschooled)

  • Medical Evaluations (for every member of the home)

  • Income/Expense/Financial Worksheets

  • An autobiography written by each of us addressing our upbringing, hobbies, lifestyle, etc.

In addition, we had to provide the following documents:
  • Marriage Certificate

  • Birth Certificates for every child currently in the home

  • Criminal Record (fingerprinting by local law enforcement)

  • Last 3 pay stubs from each of us

During the interview, she asked many questions.  She asked about our parenting styles, our marriage and relationship, how we handle disagreements, and how we would handle any special needs our child may have.  She then asked each of the girls about themselves and what they thought of us adopting.  After that, the social worker took a quick walk around the house and asked how we will accommodate our new family member.  She spent about 1 1/2 hours at the house and then asked us to complete a form for a child abuse background check.  With that complete, she left and let me know that we would hear back from her in a couple of weeks.

I was very relieved to have that part out of the way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moving Forward Inch By Inch

Well, our autobiographies weren't written as fast as we would have liked, but they are now complete.  Also, two of the five references are in the mail.  Today, two more items were added to our checklist.  We need to get a Power of Attorney for our lawyer in Taiwan and physicals for everyone in our family.  The good news is that two of our five family members already had appointments for annual check ups, one of which is tomorrow.  I am so grateful for our friends who are about five steps ahead of us in this process.  They have helped greatly in guiding and encouraging us along. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome Home Daddy

Our daddy and biggest sister arrived home at 1 am this morning from Taiwan.  They brought small gifts home for the rest of us which they gave us before we all went to bed.  They weren't tired as it was 2 m in Taiwan, but the rest of us needed sleep so we all went to bed.  This morning we looked at some of their pictures before heading to an office to be fingerprinted.  This is the first of two times we will be fingerprinted.  We also looked through some pictures of our little boy as a baby which his mother sent home with my husband.  Tonight we will be working on requesting references from a few friends and writing our autobiographies, all for the home study.  No time for jet lag, there's a boy to bring home!

Friday, August 5, 2011

What's in a Name?

Because of some events in our lives, we had a girl's name chosen before we were even married. During my first pregnancy, we never had an ultrasound, so knowing the baby's gender wasn't an option. We struggled with coming up with a boy's name and ended up deciding that the baby would be a junior if it was a boy.  Well, it was a girl.  With my second pregnancy, we had ultrasounds but chose not to know the baby's gender.  Again, we easily came up with a girl's name but no boy's name.  Our daughter is as lovely as her name.  With my third pregnancy, we were told throughout the pregnancy that it was a boy but we never settled on a name that we loved.  That was OK because it was another girl (the doctor admitted he may have been incorrect about a month before she was born). 

When we contemplated adopting our little boy, we went back and forth about changing his name.  We learned that what we thought was his name is, in fact, only a nickname.  His Chinese name sort of translates into a very common American name, but he doesn't go by either name.  He is only known by his nickname.  Although his American name isn't a top choice for my husband or myself, we decided to use his American name as his first name and his nickname as his middle name.  We chose this for a couple of reasons.  We wanted him to have an American name to represent his new home, but a Chinese name to retain his culture.  We also wanted him to feel connected to his old life but have an option when he is older.  By giving him the American derivative of his real name and the nickname he has always known, we are addressing all of these desires.  Of course, now we are second-guessing that choice. long do we have to decide? I'm afraid it won't be long enough!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unexpected Blessings

I always wanted to be a wife and mommy.  Not long after my husband and I were married, we were told that we would have difficulties getting pregnant.  For that reason, I stopped taking oral contraceptives (which had been prescribed for medical reasons) and expected to wait for a baby.  The wait didn't last long because we were surprised with a pregnancy the same month.  I went back on the medication after our daughter was born, but stopped a year later hoping for another pregnancy.  This one didn't happen as quickly.  It took long enough in fact that we looked into foster parenting and adoption.  Before we got far enough to do paperwork, we found out that I was again pregnant with another girl.  This pregnancy was difficult but we were thrilled to be blessed with another girl.  By the time she was just over a year old, we decided that I would talk to the doctor about making some changes so I could stop taking the medication.  At my appointment, the doctor found that I was again blessed with a pregnancy!  We were speechless!  Honestly, I figured that two children would be good for us and it took me some time to get used to having another.  Over the past six years, we have enjoyed watching our three girls grow into lovely young ladies.  Although we have occassionally pondered the "what if's" of another child, it has not been a burning desire of ours.  Several of our fellow church members have recently adopted and we have been very happy for them, but my husband and I have also enjoyed our family as it is.  Our daughters, on the other hand, have been praying for months about adopting a brother or sister.  In June, a church member contacted us about a little boy needing a home.  He lives at a children's home in Taiwan and must either be adopted or moved into foster care due to his age (six years old).  Coincidentally, my husband and oldest daughter (now 11) were planning a trip to Taiwan with our church to help out two other churches there.  After much prayer, we decided to hold off on a decision until my husband made a side trip to meet the little boy.  We were leaning towards a yes by this time, but wanted to know how the boy felt about being adopted.  By the time the group left for Taiwan, plans changed with one of the churches and they had a week to fill.  Of all things, the leaders chose to put on a summer camp at the home where this little boy lives.  The day my husband met him, he sent me a text message saying, "start the paperwork."  I know of many families who have a surprise baby, but not many have four.  I am so thankful for each of my blessings!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Flowers for a Family

For those of you who heard the rumors, they are true. Somewhat. Yes, we are expecting a boy. No, I am not pregnant. We are adopting a not-so-little (6-year-old) boy from Taiwan. I plan to tell the story at over the next few months because we are only a month into this process and it has already been an amazing journey. This post is not to tell the story, but to ask for your prayers and love. This little boy needs a home and family and we would love to welcome him into ours. To raise funds to cover the many costs associated with his adoption, my daughters and I are making paper flowers like the one below. We can make these 3" beauties into lapel pins or hair clips and the colors are limitless. If you can bless us by praying, ordering flowers, or sending this along to your friends, we would be so grateful!  You can place your order at Thanks so much!

Flowers for a Family

For those of you who heard the rumors, they are true.  Somewhat.  Yes, we are expecting a boy.  No, I am not pregnant.  We are adopting a not-so-little (6-year-old) boy from Taiwan.  I plan to tell the story on my blog over the next few months because we are only a month into this process and it has already been an amazing journey.  This post is not to tell the story, but to ask for your prayers and love.  This little boy needs a home and family and we would love to welcome him into ours.  To raise funds to cover the many costs associated with his adoption, my daughters and I are making paper flowers like the one below.  We can make these 3" beauties into lapel pins or hair clips and the colors are limitless.  If you can bless us by praying, ordering flowers, or sending this along to your friends, we would be so grateful!  You can place your order at Thanks so much!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gearing Up for Year 1 of Tapestry of Grace

In the midst of summer travel and fun, I am gearing up for our family's first year of Tapestry of Grace.  The upcoming school year will be completely different from previous years, and not just because of Tapestry of Grace (that's another conversation).  In some ways I'm sure I have gone beyond necessity, but I am an organizer who has gone too long without organizing.  This has been my list of things to accomplish this summer:
Set up record keeping system: I found Homeschool Tracker to keep track of grades, attendance, and other school related information.  It's simple to use and free.  That's a great combination!  
Sort books: I went through all of our school books and divided them into three categories: use this year, use in the future and sell/give away.  While doing this, I also listed all of the books for this year in Homeschool Tracker.
Order books: After reviewing our library, I ordered books that we needed for our upcoming year.  In addition to the Tapestry of Grace curriculum, I ordered math and supplemental language arts materials.
Learn Tapestry of Grace (my favorite step!): I spent a couple of days perusing my new materials and becoming familiar with how the system works.  I wrote out lesson plans and made folders for each week and put the necessary materials in each week for each child.
Assemble supplies: My girls and I made a list of everything they wanted/needed in terms of supplies.  We sorted through what we already had and then went shopping for everything else.  Each child assembled her binders and put the supplies away in her drawer.
Order books (part 2): Today I ordered all of the literature we will use for the first few weeks of TOG.  I had three browsers open - my local library, my almost local library and Amazon.  I searched the libraries first, then ordered the book at Amazon if neither library had it.
Wait: Now that I have everything together, I will enjoy a week off before we start.  We are all eager to begin!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Women of Faith Over the Top

I just found out that I have the priviledge of attending Women of Faith's Over the Top event in Kansas City!  Here's a little preview of what we will experience November 4th and 5th:

Wouldn't you love to join me at the Sprint Center for an amazing weekend full of laughter, tears and everything in between?  We will be seeing Patsy Clairmont, Sandi Patty and Marilyn Meberg, three of my favorite regulars from prior Women of Faith conferences, Lisa Whelchel, one of my favorite TV personalities from my childhood, and Amy Grant, the artist of the first cassette tape I ever owned.  I look forward to hearing from Deborah Joy Winans, Andy Andrews Brenda Warner and Mandisa also.  With a lineup like that, a great time is guaranteed!  Click on the banner below for more information!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's {Not} a Man Thing

I should know the routine by now.  My husband, in the middle of working on our 1970 Chevy Pickup, asks me to go to the parts store.  I strongly dislike making trips to the parts store for a multitude of reasons. I like working on projects with my family and I want to keep working.  I also like fixing and building things.  As a matter of fact, our girls are often there helping or observing too. Oh, and I DO NOT like the blatant disrespect shown towards women at parts stores and home improvement stores.  Here's how it often goes: I walk in, ask for the needed part, and some dumb comment comes out of the mouth of the store employee.  The other day it went something like this:

I walked into a home improvement store looking for an overflow hose for the radiator.  I went there because the part store didn't have it and suggested this home improvement store.  I pulled the hose out of the bag and showed it to the guy at the store and explained that I needed the same length hose for the truck. 

Him: We have a latex hose. (as he pulls out a hose that looked as sturdy as latex gloves)
Me: Will that hold up under the heat?
Him: Don't you have a latex oven mitt? {offense number 1}
Me: No, I don't have an oven mitt.
Him: You should go to the parts store.
Me: I did. They sent me here.
Him: This hose will work, but why don't you call your husband and ask him if what he thinks? {offense number 2}
Me: Because I pulled the hose off and I need to know that I can trust what I put in it's place. {not exactly the truth, but close enough for this guy} 

In a funny coincidence, my husband gave me this power screwdriver and bit set yesterday. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Affection for Twitter

When I first opened a Twitter account, I didn't really know what to do with it and I did very little with it for quite some time... until I realized what a wealth of information was available to me.  Now I use Twitter to my advantage for several purposes.

News - I want to know what's going on in the world and I don't want to sit through a newscast to get my information.  Instead, I subscribe to local and national news feeds such as Fox News.  Then I simply click on the headlines I'm interested in and read the story.  Short and sweet. I also get traffic information which is VERY helpful!

Business - Of course I promote my blogs and business on Twitter, but I also follow others related to my business.  What better way to get ideas and see what's going on? 

Family - I have connected to many blogs and websites to help me in homeschooling and being a parent of a special needs child.  I also stay up to date about what's happening in our neighborhood for families.

Bonuses - My favorite part about Twitter is everything else.  In the past year, I won event tickets, books, and DVDs from contests on Twitter.  I find all sorts of great deals and information from the tweets I receive and Bible verses are delivered to my phone on a regular basis.  What more could I want out of a social networking site?

I'd love to meet you there too!  Follow me at!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Goals

Forget New Year's Resolutions!  Our family sets summer goals.  These are usually short-term goals that we can easily accomplish in 3 months or less.  They are sometimes things that we don't work into our schedule throughout the year but work into our summer activities.  My husband's goal is to get our 1970 Chevy Pickup running again.  It's not a huge goal because of the truck - only the radiator needs to be replaced.  It's a big goal because of my husband's limited time. It's also a goal that my husband will enjoy accomplishing (with the help of his many apprentice mechanics).  Our oldest daughter's goal is to memorize the books of the Bible.  She is also planning to work with our middle daughter to switch bedrooms until Christmas (saving that story for an upcoming post).  Our middle and youngest daughters have chosen a couple of workbooks they want to complete to improve their academic skills.  As for my goal, it's not so small.  I've tried once to read the Bible in 90 days and did not succeed.  This time, I know I can get it done.  I have a trick up my sleeve with two six hour flights in my near future, as well as a week without my children.  These blocks of time will give me an amazing head start!  Here's to some big check marks on our lists of goals at the end of summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Father's Day Blessing

Our life has been crazy lately.  I say that as if there has been a time when it hasn't been crazy.  Recently, my husband has been putting in long hours at work, the kids have been going stir crazy trying to get their school work complete, and we are gearing up for a busy summer.  We stepped out in faith a few months back and committed my husband and our oldest daughter to going on a mission trip to Taiwan, feeling led to do so but uncertain about having the funds.  In an attempt to grow my home-based business, I also registered for a convention that I have always wanted to attend but never been able to squeeze in.  As with most of what we do (we can always do better), we have been prayerful and sought to do God's will in these two matters specifically.  

This past week was especially busy, adding Vacation Bible School to our schedule.  We may have had all of about five hours together as a family in the entire week.  Yesterday, the kids and I made a special breakfast for my husband and we got ready for church as usual.  As we were getting ready to leave, I pulled my husband aside and told him we could stay home and do Bible study.  He looked so worn down and this was a rare Sunday when we had no obligations at church.  We each took our shoes off and went into the living room to talk to the kids.  When the girls saw us, they immediately asked what was going on and pleaded to go to church.  We looked at each other, put our shoes back on and headed out the door.  How could we say no?  Because my husband was on call, he drove his truck to church and the kids and I went in our car.

The sermon was inspiring as always.  Teaching from Acts 5, it was a somber message about the apostles who were so bold in their faith that they preached constantly in spite of being threatened, imprisoned, and beaten.  My husband and I pray for that boldness in our daily lives.  Something that our pastor said during the sermon was that we should not feel guilty when we are blessed.  We should feel responsible, just as the apostles did.  I liked that enough to jot it in my sermon notes.  There are so many areas of our lives where we are blessed, but one delicate area is our finances.  While we are feeling the strain of my husband's long work hours, we are also feeling the blessing of a couple of slightly larger pay checks and want to be responsible with that little extra.  It is helpful because he works on commission and we have some large bills to pay at the moment in addition to some smaller paychecks in our near future when my husband goes on the mission trip.

We left service and met up again at a restaurant to have a Father's Day lunch with my parents.  When my husband arrived, he handed me an envelope that someone had placed on his truck during church. Our names were written on the outside and inside was a letter with 2 gift cards.  The letter said:

Your Heavenly Father listens and hears your prayers.  HE has given you these Visa gift cards to be used.  HE will continue to hear your prayers and HE wants you to know HE passionately loves you beyond your comprehension.  Continue to listen to HIM for guidance in how HE wants to work through you both to further HIS kingdom.

I just about fell over.  The amount in the envelope was an odd amount - exactly enough to pay some specific bills that we had been discussing a few days earlier!  For a moment, my mind wandered to the others in our church who needed money for various reasons.  Then I remembered the note I had written during service: When you are blessed, don't feel guilty.  Feel responsible.  We are currently praying through how to spend this money responsibly.  Although it matches the amount we needed, we want to verify that we are acting according to God's will. 

We are thankful for our daily blessings from God, and we are especially thankful for this amazing Father's Day blessing.  We give all of the glory to God and pray that our testimony will grow the faith of others.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads and father figures!  I am blessed to have an amazing Grandpa who took me under his wing when I needed a dad and a wonderful husband who is the best daddy to our daughters!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our Tornado Drill

My husband and I grew up in California and remember several big earthquakes.  Two years ago we moved to Missouri, smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley.  In all of our years (even for the Y2K scare) we have never assembled a disaster survival kit.  That changed a few weeks back when Joplin was hit with a tornado.  I helped our oldest daughter pull up FEMA's website where we found a list of supplies to get us started.  She read the list to my husband.  He then told our other girls where to find the items and they got everything for our box.  If we didn't have something, I wrote it on a shopping list.  After putting our box together, we chose to place it at the back of our daughters' closet under the stairs.  As we placed it there, we prayed that we would never need it.

A week later, my girls and I were sitting at the table doing school work like any other day as the tornado siren began to sound.  I knew we would be fine because we just went over this with the kids AND we had all of our supplies in the closet.  The older girls and I quickly gathered school work, cell phones, chargers, my purse, food, shoes and jackets as we ran downstairs.  We scrambled to get the pets and my youngest daughter down with us.  On the way down, I called my husband and mom to tell them where we were.  Once we got down there and took a few moments to calm everyone, I called our property manager.  She urged us to come to the community storm shelter where our neighbors were gathering.  Once again, we gathered our belongings, put the pets in the basement bathroom, and left our house on foot.  On the short walk, I called my husband and told him we were going elsewhere.  My youngest daughter began panicking and I carried her the rest of the way with my other two running ahead of us.

We spent about an hour in the shelter with twenty other people and dogs before heading back home.  In that hour my daughter was able to calm down and I was able to think though all that happened.  Fortunately, the only thing that ever came our way that day was a good practice run.  Here are SOME lessons we learned (or were reminded of):
  • No matter how you feel underneath, stay calm so you can help the kids stay calm.
  • Do a family drill, even if it feels cheesy.  This is the only way to work the bugs out.
  • Pack some plastic bags in case someone's stomach isn't calm.
  • Put your emergency kit somewhere that you can take it with you if needed.  We repacked ours into three backpacks rather than one container.  This way three family members could each grab a bag.  Our kit did nothing for us when we were in the shelter and not one person there had any supplies.  It had the potential to get ugly in there.
  • Pack some fun stuff in the kit to help distract the kids.
  • If possible, have a small supply of prescriptions in the kit.
  • Call someone and tell them your plan as soon as you know something is going on.  We lost cell phone service during the storm and didn't get service back until eight hours after it was over.
  • As soon as you return to normal (or as soon as possible) call that person back and tell them you are OK.  For good measure, call anyone else who may be concerned.  I called my grandpa who would have panicked when he saw the news that evening because several tornadoes did touch down near our town.

These are a few things that come to mind.  Please share any other suggestions with me!

Homeschooling with Netflix

When listing my top 5 resources for homeschooling, I have to include Netflix.  Several times each week, we turn to Netflix for documentaries, educational videos and sometimes simply entertainment.  I use these movies when I want to work with one child and another needs an activity or the kids have worked really hard on something and need a little down time.  One day a week I go to my office and I am blessed to be able to take the kids with me.  On that day, they are allowed to watch a movie in the afternoon when their book work is complete.  We also use Netflix on our family movie nights by rewarding our kids with the opportunity to choose a movie (from our pre-selected list) if they have completed X, Y and Z.  Although we rarely use it, I have been known to pop a movie into our portable DVD player for a long car ride on occasion.  Something that we began using to replace television has become a valuable resource for our homeschool.

Every couple of weeks, I visit the Netflix website and add movies to our queues.  We have two queues, one for instant movies streamed to our computer or wii and the other for DVDs mailed to our home.  We can watch the movies in the instant queue in any order so this one is easy to maintain.  Any movie that offers the choice for instant queue, that is what I choose.  As for the DVD queue, the movies are listed in the order they will be shipped.  I am careful to rotate movies to please everyone in the family, so sometimes I have to adjust the order of these movies.  There are a few types of movies that make their way into our queue.  We watch a lot of documentaries about topics we are discussing, especially in social studies and science (Drive Thru History).    When we have read a book and there is a movie version available, we watch those (most recently The Hiding Place and Chronicles of Narnia).  Our youngest daughter likes to watch the cartoons that have a little lesson in them (her favorite is Sid the Science Kid).  As for entertainment, we use Netflix rather than the theater or most other rental places.  We sometimes wait longer for movies, but we don't mind.  Our recent favorites have been The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and The Ultimate Gift.  We definitely get our money's worth each month.

Tips before adding movies to your queue:

  • Check the source of the movie before showing it to your kids.  You don't want to be caught off guard when a science video states something as fact that is simply theory or a history video promotes a point of view that disagrees with your beliefs.  I'm not saying don't show the video because sometimes these are great discussion starters, just be prepared. 
  • Know that it's OK to only show parts of a movie.  You pay a flat fee for Netflix, regardless of how many movies you watch.  Take advantage of this and share clips with your kids.  There have been several occasions when we have used bits and pieces of movies to emphasize a specific something and known that we never would watch the entire movie.
  • As with anything, take caution in what you introduce. There have been occasions when we have told our kids before watching a show that we are watching a specific portion for a specific purpose and this will not be a regular part of our queue.  This has helped us avoid heartache with some particular series that have a good portion here and there but are not generally on our approved list.
  • This may be a no-brainer, but talk to your kids about what they have watched and train them to be discerning.  We have an on-going dialogue about what is and isn't appropriate for our family.  Our kids (even the young ones) are great critics and have decided without prompting to turn some things off.  This is success to me because I want to raise people who can make responsible decisions for themselves, not just do what I tell them to do.
Disclaimer: In no way do I want to promote an idea that movies replace one-on-one instruction.  We use a variety of teaching methods and tools, primarily hands-on learning supplemented with books and other resources.  This is just one of those other resources.  Also, we are grateful that our children have a deep love for reading.  If this was not the case, I would probably be more reluctant to use movies as much as we do (which isn't much).  I encourage you to use the resources in the best way to meet your family's needs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure

What do you do when one child finishes her work before the others?  Not just on a daily basis but also for the school year?  We have one child who gets up before everyone else and starts immediately on her work and we have another who drags her feet out of bed and works slowly through the day.  It's no surprise that the early riser is also finished with her work for the year and the other is still trudging through.  Our family has scheduled a time in our homeschool day called "Choose Your Own Adventure." During that time, the kids get to choose from a list of activities that changes according to our needs.  For example, two of the girls are in a play and so rehearsal time has been added into CYOA for now.  The list is always posted on the white board.  It is a typed list inside a page protector.  Seasonal activities are added using a dry erase marker so they can be removed when necessary. The kids who need to finish school work do it during the morning CYOA time.  In the afternoon, everyone gets CYOA time.  There are a few guidelines for CYOA.  Because I strictly limit screen time, each child only gets 30 minutes total each day between the wii and computer.  Also, I ask that if they chose a sedentary activity in the morning, the they choose something more active for the afternoon and vice versa.  So far, the kids have been responsible in their choices and greatly enjoyed choosing their own adventures.

Here are some items that have been on our list: card-making, sewing, baking, reading, correspondence, art projects, music, board games, outdoor play, playing on the wii fit, playing educational games on the computer, pottery, scrapbooking, rearranging bedrooms, science experiments, water play, play-dough, dress up, dog training, coloring pages, crafts, foreign language, drama practice, sudoko, word searches, crossword puzzles, and Bible study.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My American Dream

Mansions.  Exotic cars.  Jetting around the world.  That isn’t my American Dream.  If I had a million dollars, none of these things would be on my list.  First, I would move my family out of the small duplex that we currently call home and purchase a modest four-bedroom home where each of my kids could have their own room.   It would also have a garage and driveway where we could park our cars.  Not new cars, but our current rides that would be paid off.  In addition to paying off our cars, we would have the overdue maintenance performed.  Speaking of maintenance, I would purchase health insurance and get medical and dental checkups.  My kids are current on their checkups because they have insurance and my husband goes to the veteran’s hospital, but I am beyond overdue and my body feels it.  The last place where I would put a large chunk of money is my church.  Our food pantry is running low and the shelter we support needs lots of work.  Of course there would be a couple of splurges. I would purchase some homeschool materials that are on my dream shopping list. My selfish item would be a room in the house just for my card-making business that is starting to take off.  I would also love to have my husband’s motorcycle repaired from when a driver pulled out in front of him and the bike was totaled.  Lastly, I would take my family to California for a visit with my grandpa.  He is so lonely since my grandma suddenly died of cancer last June.  The kids and I were able to spend last summer with him and sort through all that needs to be done when someone passes.  Now I would like to make some new, happy memories with him.  The fortune wouldn’t last long, but it would be put to good use in my hands.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Daddy Dates by Greg Wright

Daddy Dates is written to give dads tools to build relationships with their daughters, mainly in the form of dates (thus the title).  Wright outlines the intentions behind the dates, how to implement the dates, and the impact of the dates with his four daughters.  Included at the back of the book are a personality test and a list of suggested dates for the dads who need the extra help in the creativity department.
Having a house full of daughters, I was eager to read Wright’s thoughts on raising girls.  This book offers some insight on parenting from a dad’s point of view and gives dads plenty of advice on how exactly to carry out a “daddy date.” For many, this may be a new idea and Wright starts those dads on the right path.  The inclusion of the personality test and date ideas is a great bonus to the book.  This is an easy read, like a light-hearted conversation with a friend.  From a book that calls itself a “road map for any day to raise a strong and confident daughter,” I would have preferred more depth.  From a Christian publisher, I would have appreciated more emphasis on Godly values.  All in all, it is good material for dads looking to be more involved in their daughters’ life.  Just don’t stop here.

This book was given to me by Booksneeze in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hidden Gems in Polished Cornerstones

I didn't realize that I wanted my daughters to be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace until I came across Doorposts.  They are some awesome people who have a multitude of publications dealing with character to help the rest of us raise our children to honor God inwardly and outwardly.

Polished Cornerstones is the first of their publications that we have implemented in our homeschool curriculum.  We discovered it at a conference and began using it the following Monday.  The book takes the girls (and their mother) through a variety of activities as they study qualities found in a Godly woman.  For each quality, there is a list of Bible verses and suggested activities for younger and older girls.  Families may choose as many activities as they like before moving on to the next section.

Although I have two beginners and one intermediate, I have chosen to do intermediate activities with all of them so far.  We do the discussions and activities together and greatly enjoy doing so.  For example, the girls and I read Proverbs 31 together and then categorized the woman's traits according to a worksheet in the book.  The next week, we read the book of Ruth.  I planned to only read one chapter a day for a week, but the girls were so upset when I closed my Bible on the first day that we finished the story in one day.  A couple of days later we used another worksheet to compare Ruth to the Proverbs 31 woman.  Between activities, we discuss what we read and process through it a little more.  Each evening, the girls are eager to tell their dad about what they learned that day and he asks questions to further their understanding.

Anything that gets my girls excited about becoming a more Godly woman is great with me (and my husband). Polished Cornerstones is a crowd pleaser in our house and I look forward to using more of Doorposts' resources in the future.

By the way, to learn about plants and polished cornerstones, read Psalm 144:12-15.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Mean Mom

The Mean Mom.  I wear the title proudly.  Prouder than Superman wears his "S."  I think I may even have a T-shirt made with that on the front.  It didn't happen overnight, but there have been glimmers of it as long as I have been a mom.  My husband and I agreed early on that our daughters wouldn't wear things as toddlers that we would say no to when they were older.  No tops that show your belly, one-piece swimsuits only, no short shorts, and on and on.  So far it has worked.  We have been consistent with our expectations and the girls have made responsible choices.  Our daughters have chosen to wear shorts over their swimsuits because just a swimsuit wasn't enough for their taste.

The Mean Mom doesn't stop at clothing choices.  Television, movies, activities, how they spend their allowance, and now even friends are subject to scrutiny.  We don't usually just say no.  We ask questions and encourage our children to make choices.  Is that (show/movie/activity/friend) building your character?  Are the characters in that show demonstrating the values you want to have?  Is this really how you want to spend your money knowing that it will take you time to earn more?  Is that friend encouraging you to make good choices or influencing you to make bad choices?  Is this a place where people will be making choices that you want to make or a place that would be better to avoid.  I am happy to say that most of the time, our girls make choices that we are happy with.  Sometimes, we discuss their choices and guide them to a better choice.  This often happens with activities they share with friends.  Occasionally, we let them go down a wrong path and experience the consequences.  Once when we were driving, the girls didn't want to drink the water we had in the car.  Instead they bought sodas at the gas station.  Later, we stopped for ice cream and the girls didn't have money to buy any.  Cruel?  Not really.  Did they drink the free water next time?  Yes, and they had money for ice cream at the end of the trip.  Lesson learned.  You must live within a budget and that means making choices.  I didn't care if they used their money to buy the soda or the ice cream, I just don't want them blindly spending money as if there is no limit.

I recently overheard my oldest daughter telling the younger two that I'm not really a mean mommy.  I love them and I'm teaching them to make good choices.  She also said, "the neighbor's mom is nice, but those girls don't make very good choices because she lets them do things they shouldn't do."  Occasionally, my daughter even tells me that she is glad that I take the time to help her make good choices.  Once she asked me to help her find the perfect husband when she is ready to get married.  I think by then she won't need my help as much as she thinks she does now.  I also think that one day she will earn a T-shirt with "Mean Mom" written across the front.

**For the record, we have amended the dress code.  Who knew that our 10-year-old would have legs so long that the only thing long enough to be modest would be Bermuda shorts?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Our New Curriculum

When we started homeschooling, it was simpler.  I only taught one of our children and we used a program through the local school district so everything was provided.  By year three, we chose to homeschool all three of our girls and new challenges came up.  I chose a thematic curriculum based on the recommendation of friends.  I loved the idea of teaching the same lesson to all of my children and having the science, social studies, Bible, music, and art all connected.  It wasn't until I was knee-deep into this particular curriculum that I realized what I didn't like about it.  My younger girls struggled when I pulled out the main science book which was written over their heads.  Conversely, my older daughter groaned when we did social studies because she knew that she would be receiving a pile of worksheets to complete in addition to what we did as a group.  I knew there had to be something better for us.  In preparing for next year, I came across a curriculum offered by the publishers whom we use for math and language arts.  From the sample I received, it seemed that someone took great pains to make the each lesson appropriate for each grade level.  I just wanted to look at it in a little more depth before committing.  When I arrived at the homeschool conference, I was disappointed that the publisher chose not to bring this program with them.  I wasn't disappointed for long.  Only a couple of booths over, we found something that I ended up liking so much more.  At first I was overwhelmed by Tapestry of Grace.  I thought it would be too much for my young children.  However, the more I looked at it, the more I liked it.  It is based in history, beginning at creation.  The main thread is God's story and the history of the church.  Social studies, history, art, music, and language arts are woven through the curriculum that is taught primarily using literature.  The CDs I mentioned in a prior post, are for the dads to listen to so they can be a part of discussions about lessons and know what is being taught each week.  I liked the idea of an intelligent curriculum that teaches kids to think things through.  I took home a sample of the curriculum and it didn't take long for me to be sold on it.  If you'd like to find out more about Tapestry of Grace, take a look here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our First Homeschool Conference

My husband and I recently attended our first homeschool conference. I don't know what I expected, but this was more than I bargained for.  I planned ahead by preparing a shopping list and marking the schedule with the sessions I wanted to attend.  We did OK the first day with the schedule, but the shopping list didn't fare as well. My husband found many books that he wanted to share with the kids, so we got them.  The curriculum that I was eagerly looking forward to perusing was not available at the conference to my dismay (I could write a whole entry about that disappointment).  The second day was a big day for us.  One of the speakers we listened to on Day 1 spoke of CDs he created for dads.  We went to his booth so we could check out these CDs for my husband who is always looking for something good to listen to while driving. We had no idea what we were in for.  While talking to one of the ladies at the booth, she asked if we had looked at their curriculum.  Not only had we not looked at their curriculum, I crossed all of their sessions off on my schedule.  I had chosen my curriculum, or so I thought.  Since my #1 choice let me down, I decided to take a look at what this program had to offer.  My husband and I spent three hours at this booth, looking through their materials and talking to the people who have used it with their families.  We brought friends over who looked at it with us so we could discuss it with them later. You'll have to read tomorrow about our curriculum choice. Then we encountered surprise #2 of the weekend.  As I walked away from the booth, a woman came over to me.  As soon as I saw her, I realized that she was a friend we hadn't seen for ten years.  She was at the conference with her husband and four children.  It was such a blessing to see this family whom we were so disappointed to lose contact with.  All in all, we were so glad that we attended the conference.  My husband felt reassured about homeschooling, we found an excellent curriculum and our family reunited with old friends.  Who could ask for more?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wishing for a Whiteboard

I have wanted a whiteboard almost as long as we have been homeschooling.  I could never justify getting one because we used other items instead.  The girls have small whiteboards that we would use for lessons and we have a magnetic calendar that we hang on the wall.  Nevertheless, I wanted a whiteboard.  That great expanse of white, begging for words to fill its blank space, called out to me as I passed it in the school supply aisle.  Recently, I decided that I would get a white board to fill the drab beige space on our school wall.  It would go under the alphabet cards and above the magnetic calendar.  To my utter disappointment, the space at the store where my white board once waited patiently for me to claim it was vacant.  Hoping a store employee could locate it, I waited patiently as she scanned the shelf tag.  Her news was beyond disappointing: they were out of stock and would not be in for 2 weeks.  I drug myself to the next aisle, hoping it wsa just a bad dream.  As I looked up, I quickly forgot about the whiteboard because what I saw was breath-taking.  Before me was a Crayola Dry Erase Poster.  It had colorful lines (also begging to be filled with words), was 17 x 24" big and cost half the price of my white board.  I quickly checked out and brought home my newest friend.  We have kept the poster busy with discussions around the poster, all of us taking turns writing on it.  The girls enjoy copying things from it, adding to it, and participating in group activities again.  My wish came true!

The Sugar Wars

Our 7-year-old daughter has complained of headaches for as long as she could say the word headache.  It's no surprise really, because every woman in my family suffers from them also.  I remember that in third grade we kept a bottle of children's tylenol in the school nurse's office for me.  By junior high, my mom had taught me some relaxation techniques, something that was still developing.  My heart breaks for my daughter because she says that she has a headache almost every day.  After several visits to our family doctor and no progress, we began seeing a neurologist.  One of the first recommendations: cut out the sugar as much as possible.  I was absolutely willing to do that, we had already greatly limited sugar in our household. My daughter and I agreed that it would be better to have less sugar and less headaches. Treats don't have to be sugary because they could also be stickers, extra play time, etc.  As we left the doctor's office determined to make this work, the receptionist offered my daughter a snack to eat on the way home.  My daughter eagerly viewed the selection, but the smile quickly turned to a frown.  The choices: fruit gummies, granola bars, and other sugar-loaded yummies.  Ugghhh!  Fast forward two weeks and we are back at the hospital working with the nurse who teaches children biofeedback techniques to deal with their headaches.  At the end of the hour-long session, the nurse praised my little girl for working hard and pointed her to the prize cabinet.  Upon opening the cabinet, my daughter smiled a huge smile.  The cabinet was filled with an assortment of toys, coloring books, and candy.  Weeks one and two were uneventful because she chose a coloring book and a bracelet.  Week three was a little more difficult. My daughter whispered, "Mom...there's nothing I want in here except a piece of candy.  Can I get it?"  Double ugghhh!    Mind you, this nurse also told my daughter that sugar was not good for kids with headaches.  All in all, we are doing better with the sugar wars.  We keep snacks with us so that when we are at sporting events, church, and other activities we can whip out the better snacks and turn down the junk snacks.  I just didn't expect to fight the battle at the doctor's office too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Attentiveness and April Fool's Day

When choosing the character quality to cover this week, I settled on attentiveness.  It didn't take more than a few minutes for me to realize the irony of teaching attentiveness during the week that ends with April Fool's Day. Today we copied Deuteronomy 12:28 and discussed what it means to observe and hear.  These go hand in hand with obedience.  If you are truly observing and hearing, you will naturally make right choices and be obedient.  We have a white board where we normally write the date and character quality.  The rest of the space is usually blank for discussions and notes throughout the day.  Last night I erased everything and wrote a letter to the girls. It said:
Dear family,
Today is Monday, March 28, 2011.  Our character quality this week is attentiveness.  I am excited about the audition today at the theater.  If we get our work finished early, we will go to the museum on the way to the theater.
It didn't take the girls long to realize that the homeschool board was different.  They were excited about the prospect of a special trip.  I warned them to be attentive this week because other surprises will be showing up.  I'm not sure what the surprises will be, but April Fool's Day will definitely be fun this year.

As usual, I referred to The Character Journal for Bible verses, songs, and more.  I also went to Character First! for more activities and ideas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Change

As with most parents, there are certain things we would prefer that our children learn sooner than later.  One of the skills we want our kids to learn young is being responsible with their money.  From the day our kids began getting an allowance (which we now call commission), they were taught how to spend it.  The first portion is for giving (or tithes), the second portion is save and the third portion is spend.  Our middle daughter always puts additional money into her save jar and spends the remainder sparingly.  Our youngest doesn't earn enough to be concerned with yet.  Our oldest always has a plan for spending her money.  Enter Dave Ramsey.  My husband and I recently attended Total Money Makeover Live to revive our passion for living like no one else.  While at the conference, we found a program for young people called Generation Change.  We brought it home to our daughter, not realizing the fire we would light.  After a week of watching the videos and completing the workbook, we had some amazing conversations with our daughter.  She decided that she wanted to invest her money rather than just spend it frivolously, even asking me to check several banks for the best interest rate.  She also signed up for a babysitting class at the community center so she can earn some money this summer.  Our house isn't just making a small change, our girls will be living like no one else.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sweet Shoppe Birthday

We give our oldest daughter a $100 budget for her birthday party each year.  Wanting to stretch her budget, she decided to have a theme that would allow her to shop the clearance sales after Valentine's Day.  The theme she landed on was a sugar-loaded Sweet Shoppe.  She knew that she would save money on the candy that would serve as decorations as well as goody-bag fillers.  The day after Valentine's Day, we hit Wal*Mart and bought lots of candy.  Then we struck gold at Target.  Their Valentine's partyware was pink, red, teal, green, orange and yellow striped.  We got a table cloth, napkins, and plates.  We filled in the gaps with plain cups, balloons, and less-expensive candy.  This is what we did:Activities: Pin the Lolly on the Pop (the girls decorated their lollies before the game), Make Your Own Candy Necklace (Valentine's deal), Decorate a Cupcake (the cupcakes were placed on a stand for later), Guess How Many Gumdrops in the Jar, Sweet Shoppe Bingo (with gummy bear markers)
Goody Bags: Prefilled with bracelets, candy flavored lip balm, toothbrushes, and bouncy balls.  As they left, girls (and moms) could fill their bags with candy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Science, Bargains, and Flowers

My girls love science.  I love bargains.  We all love flowers.  How could these three be related?  Post-Valentine's Day science experiment!  We happened to be shopping the day after Valentine's Day and popped into a store that had their bouquets marked down 50%.  Having always wanted to try to color flowers with food coloring, we purchased a mostly-white arrangement.  Each of the girls chose two colors and two flowers for each color.  We placed the flowers in cups of water and food coloring.  The results were varied, but overall, we found that the blue was best-absorbed and the carnations absorbed better than the other flowers.  Several of our flowers showed color on one side but not the other.  We plan to try this again with fresher flowers and split the stems so one flower absorbs two colors.  For more tips and the chemistry behind this activity, take a look here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Instant Information

When I woke up, I stared at my phone.  Do I check my e-mail, Facebook, etc. like every other morning or do I give it a day off.  What if it turns out like yesterday that I find out about something going on at work or with a friend that needs my immediate attention?  Then I reminded myself that if someone needs me, they will call or message me, not post it on their Facebook status.  After thoroughly thinking through every possible angle of this quandry for all of 30 seconds, I picked up my phone and started through the routine.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was needed and I wasn't going to get that call or message.  As I read message after message, I realized that my prayers were needed immediately.  Near the top of the page, a friend in Japan posted that he and his family were all safe.  Another friend posted that her son who had just left for his duty station in Japan was accounted for, as well as all other U.S. military personnel.  Then I read about the largest earthquake Japan had ever experienced.  It reminded me of the morning I turned on the morning news like any other morning but what I saw took me to my knees.  9/11.  The biggest difference between the two experiences is the delivery.  Instead of watching the news footage, videos and photos taken by everyday people rolled across the computer.  Isn't technology amazing? I'm so thankful for the ability to choose whether to know at a moment's notice what is going on.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

First thing every morning I grab my phone from the nightstand and check to see what's going on in the world.  E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, I check them all to see what happened while I was getting my beauty sleep.  Sometimes I see that someone commented on a post, but usually I just browse through my group updates and delete lots of e-mail.  Today there was a post on my employer's Facebook page, which is a rarity.  I work on Thursdays at a local municipality, mostly doing their water billing, but performing other tasks as needed (like creating their Facebook page).  The post, entered by a council member at 4:30 this morning, was short and sweet: City water is shut down due to a leak.  Ugghhh...really?  On the one day that I work.  Actually, I worked last Monday to cover for another worker and the water was shut down due to a leak.  It was chaos.  I was the only person in the office and people went crazy.  "I paid my bill, why is my water off?"  "I know I'm late, can you turn my water on? I will pay the bill on Friday." "Why didn't you call and tell me my water was being shut off?  I was getting ready tot ake a shower. By the way, my water bill is high, can someone take a look at my meter today?" "I just moved into town and need my water turned on.  Today." The good thing last week was that I didn't know it was happening until I got to work.  I had a relaxing morning with my family like any other day.  Today, I got to think about it all morning as I rush to get ready and on my way to work.  As a matter of fact, I started my work day at home, calling the media to alert them of the situation and fielding phone calls from the office.  Tomorrow, I'm going to start my day with the Good Book rather than Facebook.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where Did She Get Those Curls?

My youngest daughter has curls.  We're talking Shirley Temple curls.  Ladies stop us on a regular basis to comment about her beautiful hair.  My other two daughters, one who was blessed with wavy and the other straight hair, just smile as they are passed by without a word.  Then the inevitable is always asked,  "where did she get such darling curls?"  We all just smile because the question is expected.  My hair is straighter than straight, but not because I was born that way.  I once had uncontrollable curls springing from my head also.  Curls that drove me nuts because they never stayed in place.  My sanity came in the form of a flat iron.  I liked straight hair and so did my husband.  (He liked long hair too, but I chopped it short when we were just friends, before he was allowed to have an opinion.)  Only when I was running short on time did I allow my hair to go au natural.  Recently, I was blessed with a new cousin (by marriage) who is a stylist.  Her gift to me was a Brazilian Blowout. Here I am, seven months later, and I am beginning to embrace my inner curl for the first time.  The Blowout is now more out than in and I'm OK with that.  My name is Mama Curls and it's a pleasure to meet you.
Me at the age of 4, but it may as well be my baby because she is a carbon copy. 

A Lesson in Humility

Our family recently began formally studying character qualitiesas part of our homeschool day.  When looking for lessons, I had two main criteria:1. I wanted something that all of my children would benefit from
2. I wanted something that went beyond the basics and incorporated scripture.

I started with comprehensive lists of character qualities found at Character First and the Duggar Family's website.  I used these lists to create a list for our family. Here is the entry on our list for humility:
Humility vs. Pride
Recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in
my life
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6
Generally, we begin a new quality on Wednesday.  Each child receives a worksheet and writes the quality at the top of the page.  On Wednesday, we talk about the word, the dictionary definition, its synonyms and antonyms, and the operational definition.  We go through the operational definition word by word, taking it down to simple terms.  Then each child tells me what it means to her.  Lastly, we discuss other character qualities that work with this quality.  On Thursday, we review the meaning of the word and relate it to the Bible.  We discuss several verses relating to the quality.  We then talk about a few key Bible figures who do and do not live this quality.  We also talk about how Jesus shows this quality in his life.  Over the weekend, I look for ways to remind the kids about the quality in every day life.  On Monday, we review what we learned the prior week and move on to the application.  We talk about how we can live out this quality as individuals and as a family.  This is the best part, because the kids make connections to their life choices.  On Tuesday, we again review what we learned over the past few days and the kids draw pictures of themselves displaying this quality.  We wrap up the quality by putting the worksheets in a book the kids are each creating. 
A few tips: I found it works well to begin the quality on Wednesdays for two reasons.  Wednesday is the day that we are most consistently home so I can expect to have a good chunk of time to allocate for this.  Also, it works well to be in the middle of a lesson on the weekend. The kids are still focused on what we are learning rather than in between lessons.  Rather than being a gap, the weekends have become an extension of our learning time.  Secondly, I naturally expect our older children to do more writing and thinking in these lessons that what I expect from our younger children.  As with anything, don't allow your children to burn out.  When I see that my younger ones have had enough, I help with the writing or change gears.  Thirdly,  with all of the language lessons built into these activities, you must count this time for language arts hours or you will be cheating yourself!
To study the character qualities, I pieced several things together for our family.  In addition to the lists I mentioned above, I found a good start at Home Life Ministries.  In their Character Journals, you will find a wealth of information including stories, Bible verses, and my favorite, a list of five "I Wills" for each quality.  We work those into each week. 
Do you have another great resource for character studies?  Please comment and share them here.