Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter S'Mores

Who doesn't love s'mores?  I recently came across this great idea to make s'mores for our Christmas cookie platters.  I love them for two reasons: they're easy to make and they are so cute!

Here's what you need:
graham crackers
mini marshmallows
chocolate (for melting)

Break each graham crackers into four pieces.  Place 1/2 of your pieces on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  The other 1/2 of the crackers will be used later.  Place three mini marshmallows on each piece.  You can add mini chocolate chips if you'd like, but we didn't.  Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.  While they are baking, melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute.  Stir it up to get the chunks out.  If needed, microwave for another 30 seconds, but be careful not to burn the chocolate.  As soon as the crackers are done, top each cracker with another cracker that was set aside earlier.  Dip each s'more into the melted chocolate and top with sprinkles.  We placed ours on plastic plates, but you can also put them on parchment paper.  As you finish a plate, put it in the freezer for 5 minutes so everything will set quicker.  Voila!  Winter s'mores!

Friday, December 14, 2012

This Christmas

Our family has loved this song from the first time we heard it, but we never imagined how personal it would become.  This Christmas will be our first with our son.  I remember a particular day last year, the Sunday before Christmas, when we were shopping with our girls.  They kept picking items they wanted to get for their new brother.  My husband and I would remind them that we didn't yet know when we would be going to Taiwan to get Alex, so we wanted to hold off on buying anything.   The very next day we got the email telling us we could come and get him!  It was a frantic mess around our house over the next week, wrapping gifts, packing, getting the final documents together, and preparing our home for a new family member.   We had two Christmas celebrations, one on Christmas Day with our girls and another in January when we brought Alex home.  It was a joyous occassion, but not a real Christmas.

This Christmas will be different for our little boy.  Last week, Alex was able to help decorate the tree and our house.  He is enjoying to choose gifts for his sisters.  He is looking forward to our traditional family celebration with church on Christmas Eve, stockings, pajamas, games and a big family meal. Most importantly, he knows the love of Jesus and the real meaning behind Christmas.

This Christmas is also different for my husband, our girls and me.  We didn't stop at enjoying a song.  When God put a little boy in our path and left a door standing wide open, we walked through in obedience.  Something that seemed impossible has become a reality for our family, simply because we said yes.  Often our family want to do something and we're told no, because the kids are too young or the timing isn't right or a multitude of other reasons.  Often the no comes from within our family because we are scared or lack the energy or another multitude of reasons.  Occassionally, we take a small step, like saying yes, and God rocks our world with the giant leap he can make out of our small step.  Through this experience, we witnessed a body of believers pull together in a way many people don't get close enough to see.  These people are willing to go to amazing lengths to build families and we felt that first hand.  God showed Himself in a big way to our family and our faith exploded because of the evidence of His love and faithfulness. 

This Christmas can also be different for your family.  With over a week until Christmas, there is time to purchase a gift for a needy child, adopt a local family, serve dinner at a shelter, send Christmas cards and share a little bit of love.  God will multiply your gift, so do not be afraid that it isn't enough.  Share your joy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christ-Centered Christmas Book Review

While we love the music, gifts, and decorations, my husband and I have always felt that it is most important to keep our family focused on Christ throughout the Christmas season.  Some years have been easier than others, but we have definitely been more successful this year with help from the eBook Christ-Centered Christmas by Hal and Melanie Young. 
Full of recipes, carols, stories and activities, this book has given us more ideas than we could possibly incorporate into our celebrations this year.  It has been the jumping off point for several conversations in our family this week and I'm sure this will continue to be true as our kids grow.  I expect that we will return to this resource year after year for great ideas.  Who can go wrong with a book that includes a shopping list for your Christmas baking?
If I had to choose one thing I really love about the Youngs' latest release, it would be the style in which it is written.  I feel as if I'm sitting down with an old friend, talking about how we celebrate the season.  As she sips her tea, she tells me all about her family traditions and activities.  Hmmm, I think it's time to brew some tea for myself before I get back to reading.  I would recommend that you get your own copy and join the conversation soon while this 80-page eBook is still available to download for only $6, 60% off the regular price of $15.
** I received a complimentary copy of Christ-Centered Christmas in exchange for my honest opinions.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why are you Crying?

Today was a difficult day in our family, full of frustration and bad choices. At the end of the day, my husband called a family meeting in the hallway between the kids' bedrooms. We talked about the problems that occurred during the day and reminded the kids of their punishments and reasoning behind them. Then my husband praised the good choices the kids had made in the past few days and reminded them of why our expectations are what they are. My husband pulled all of the kids to himself and prayed over each of us. After we prayed, I looked over to our adopted 7-year-old son and saw huge tears running down his face. I sent the girls to bed and pulled him into my lap. After several minutes of me asking why he was crying and what he was thinking about, he simply said, "God." "Thinking of God usually makes me happy. Why does it make you cry?" I asked. He answered, "God put me in this family." Fearing the worst, I asked, "Does that make you sad to think about God putting you in our family?" "No," he replied. "It makes me happy." With that he gave me a HUGE hug, indicating the conversation was over. Isn't that like God to knock me off my feet through a sweet little boy who calls me mama?

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Birthday to Remember

We have two daughters with August birthdays.  They usually celebrate together because they have learned that they can celebrate in a much bigger way if they combine their $100 birthday budgets.  One of their dream birthday ideas has been to go to Great Wolf Lodge, but that has always been out of their price range.
Last spring we received a homeschool magazine that quickly caught their attention.  In it was a full-page ad from Great Wolf Lodge with a discount code for homeschoolers.  Even better, it applied to our family size of 6 (which really isn't all that common for a discount).  The girls were overcome with excitement because this discount brought the destination within their budget.  We tucked away the ad for the time when we would need the code. 
As it always does, life happened in the four months between the time we got the magazine and when I needed to book the room and the ad was nowhere to be found.  I emailed the company with all of the info I could remember and, lo and behold, I was emailed back within a day with the discount code.  I promptly booked our room and marked our calendar. 
Our kids have been counting down for over four weeks now and the date is nearly upon us.  I have been pleasantly surprised to find that our family isn't alone in planning for our celebration.  Since making the reservation, I have been contacted by staff from Great Wolf Lodge on three occasions via phone and email.  Of course, I received the normal confirmation email, but it was full of helpful details.  A couple of weeks ago, a sweet lady called to let me know about the hours of the water park so we can plan our stay accordingly.  She also answered several questions of mine and helped me better plan for our stay.  This week I received another email.  Because we are going for the homeschool week, this email listed several extra activities planned during our stay.  I told my husband that I can't see how we will possibly have time to do all of the things we want to do.  That's just the way I like a family outing because no one has time to get bored and they leave with happy memories of a fun-packed adventure.
To be fair, I have to add that there was a small problem when I booked our reservation.  The price was higher than what I was first told (and was advertised).  I booked it anyway and promptly emailed the hotel.  Within two days, the additional cost was refunded to my credit card.
If this is the service we get before we've even arrived, I am expecting a wonderful time during our stay.  I'll share those memories when we get back!

Monday, August 6, 2012

What I'd Say

I don't have those days too often anymore, but today was one of them.  I had an overwhelming urge to call my grandma today and tell her all about my day.  I didn't expect to have those days two years after she left this world, but it still happens sometimes.  If I could call her, there's so much I'd say.

Today we went back to school.  We didn't plan to take a summer break, but we ended up with four weeks off due to summer camp, Vacation Bible School, and visitors from Taiwan.  So today was our official first day of school. 

Can you believe Annie is in 7th grade?  Time just flies!  I remember being in 7th grade and how hard the first day was.  Not for Annie; she's doing just fine.  She's so smart and loves to learn.  And read!  She will read the most boring textbook and can't wait to tell me all about it.  Now if I could just get her to get her other work done.  Usually she gets distracted by all of the wonderful thoughts in her head - things like donating magazines to the hospitals and collecting toys to take to the orphanage.  By the way, you wouldn't believe how tall she is - almost as tall as me.  Whenever she asks to borrow something, I think of all of the times I borrowed something from you.  It's a strange feeling having my daughter looking through my things, wanting to wear them!

Did I tell you about Cece's haircut?  For her ninth birthday she wanted to surprise AJ with a new haircut.  The only problem was that she ended up HATING the haircut so much that she cried Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.  We think it's cute, but you know how it is when you don't like your haircut.  Oh, and if the bad haircut wasn't enough to ruin her birthday weekend, she discovered on Sunday that her salamander died.  She didn't even tell us until I saw that she was sitting at the kitchen table crying.  She rebounded though.  This morning she was up bright and early to tell AJ goodbye before he went to work.  The happiness was gone when we started school work, but we did some of it together and she enjoyed that.  She has some great ideas but wants perfection when her pen touches the paper.  Rather than have mistakes, she just doesn't write.  We compromised and I typed while she dictated.  She is looking forward to biology - we are studying flying creatures this year.  Anyway, when we finished her work, she went outside to use the roller blades she got for her birthday.  That girl can already fall with grace and always gets right up and tries again!  I love her spirit!

Alex is the same as always.  He was frustrated today because his work was more challenging than what he had last year.  He got used to things being easy and didn't like that he couldn't do it perfectly today without some effort (yes, another perfectionist in the family).  I think second grade will stretch him more than he expected.  Everyone comments at how well he is doing for only being in the United States for seven months.  Last night at dinner, he told us about the night he called his mother and told her that he wanted to come to America.  I couldn't imagine making a decision like that at such a young age. He seems to have adjusted well to life with us, even homeschooling.  He reads and writes very well and his math skills are impressive.  We are still working on things like contentment and patience, things that most any seven-year-old boy is probably learning.

Miss Corina is super-excited that her birthday is coming up.  She can't wait to be seven like her brother.  She could do without the school work of second grade.  She asked tonight if she could take her baby dolls when we go to work tomorrow instead of her school books.  That girl drives me nuts, not wanting to do her school work.  The crazy thing is that when she sits down to do it, she knows it.  I often wonder when she learns it, but she knows it.  She has also really stepped up about doing her chores without being told, especially since she got that kitten a couple of weeks ago.  Today she was the first one done with her work.  That doesn't happen often, so she was happy when she got to go ride her bike before anyone else.

I have so much more to tell you, but I know you need to go.  Later I'll have to tell you about my crazy day at work and the house we're moving to (I still can't believe it).  I love you and wish I could give you a hug.  Remember that night a couple of years ago and I called you to chat?  You had no idea that I was near the end of my 2 day drive to your house while we were talking and you jokingly told me to bring the kids for a visit any time.  The look on your face the next morning when we rang your doorbell was priceless!  If I had only known that would be the last time I could give you a hug... I'd do it all over again the same way.  I'm so glad I stayed an extra day with you for that visit.  And I'm glad I took all of those pictures of you and Grandpa with the girls.  OK, I can't end this conversation crying.  That's no good for anyone.  Here's a happy thought for you before I say good-bye.  Annie is researching what kinds of flowers to plant in the backyard of our new house so we can attract hummingbirds just like in your garden.  We want it to be a peaceful place where we can be reminded of you in the beauty of the flowers and the animals.  You know, we think of you often anyway but this is just an excuse to share stories about you with our guests so they can know you too. <3

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Price of Freedom

My family loves celebrating the Fourth of July.  The grilling, watermelon, swimming, and staying up ate are all great. Some members of our family even like the fireworks.  Our youngest daughter has never really enjoyed the noise, but sometimes stops hiding long enough to marvel at the colors in the sky.  My husband used to love fireworks, but the past two years haven't been the same.  What's changed?  He paid a price for freedom that no one warned us about.

Three years ago, our family celebrated the holiday as usual while my husband was in Iraq helping others regain their freedom.  He did well adapting back into a normal life when he returned, but had a difficult time hearing some of the whistling fireworks.  They reminded him of the noises he last heard in a desert where life was dangerous to say the least.  All in all, the day went well and he was able to bounce back after those fireworks were finished.

This year was even harder than last.  We spent our holiday at a friends house and drove a short distance to get to a place to see the fireworks display.   On the way there, someone didn't see us driving up and threw a small firecracker into the street near our car.  While waiting for the show, people shot off crazy amounts of firecrackers all around us.  After the show, we drove back through the neighborhood, dodging kids, trash and even more firecrackers.   By the time we made it out of the neighborhood, my husband was lost in his memories.

When I think of freedom, veterans always come to my mind.  Whether they stayed stateside during their enlistment or went overseas, whether they lived to tell their stories or paid the ultimate sacrifice, they give up so much for Americans and those they defend around the world.  I find it ironic that the very way we celebrate our freedom can be harmful and bring back terrible memories for the men and women who helped guarantee that freedom for the rest of us.  Next year when you sit down to enjoy your displays, please remember those people for whom fireworks will never be the same.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Wishing you and your family a safe and fun holiday celebrating our history and our heroes!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Itty Bitty Homes and Great Big Blessings

When my husband and I first married 14 years ago, we moved into an itty bitty house.  It was built during World War II for the soldiers returning home from war.  We loved our little house and were thrilled when our first daughter arrived to share it with us.  We didn't care that the other half of her bedroom was our office and my husband's storage area for his army gear.  We learned to love the house with the washer and dryer in the kitchen.  We didn't need space because we had love.

When he got out of the army, we purchased a slightly bigger house near our family.  The house was on a piece of land and was built in a way that made it easy to dream of adding to the house as our family grew.  It didn't take long for our family to grow, but the house remained the same.  We still spoke of one day when the house was bigger, but after nine years, we moved again with our three daughters.

We are now in a duplex which is larger than any other place we have called home, but it is still itty bitty.  Especially now that we have four children sharing our three bedroom, barely over 1000-square-foot abode.  The funny thing is that we are comfortable and happy in our slightly-cramped sace.  We have learned to count our great big blessings in our itty bitty home.

  • We enjoy lots of family time.  When we all have to share the same space, we find ourselves playing games, having conversations, watching movies, and interacting more than if we each could go to our own corner.
  • When things are tough, we work out the problems because we can't run away from them. There is nowhere to hide.
  • We clean out the closets, cupboards and crannies often.  We have no spare space to become hoarders.
  • We get outside a lot.  When we do feel the need to spread out, we go to the park, play in the yard or go somewhere. 
  • We can still have friends over.  It took me a long time to learn this one.  I kept waiting until we got a bigger house to invite friends over.  Two years ago, I finally decided I couldn't wait any longer and we hosted New Year's Eve dinner for 15 people.  It was tight, but no one cared.  We all had a great time.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a big house, but good things do come in small packages sometimes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Fishing Hole

Father's Day was not what we planned.  This is my life, I shouldn't be surprised, but I'm still working on that.  My husband spent Thursday and Friday in bed with the flu.  Our oldest daughter and I spent Friday in bed with the flu.  I would have stayed there Saturday too, but our middle daughter fell off a curb and landed in the emergency room where she received 7 stitches.  Needless to say, Father's Day festivities were the last things on most of our minds.

I pulled myself together and took three of the children to church while my husband stayed home to spoil our injured daughter who slept very little the night before.  After church, we all piled into the car and went down to the family farm.  Together with my mom and step-dad, we set up our chairs around the fishing hole expecting to have a picnic and possibly take home a fish or two. 

Before we could get set up, one kid caught a fish, and then another and another!  We lost track of all of the fish caught, but we took home 7 fish for dinner.  Each kid (big ones too) was able to catch at least one fish and spend some time with two of their favorite men.

Sometimes what I have planned doesn't compare to what God has planned for me.  God's plan always works out better!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Day of Firsts

It's not too often that we celebrate two, completely unrelated firsts on the same day.  Today is one of those days.  Today is one of those days.

This afternoon, our son and I will go on our first date.  My husband has taken the girls on dates for their birthdays for the last ten years and I had gotten used to the idea that I would never get a birthday date (other than on my own birthday).  A few weeks back, my husband pointed out to me that I had a date to plan.  It took me few minutes to realize what he meant.  Now that we have a son, I get to take someone on a birthday date!  I'm not exactly sure what we will do, but I have some ideas.  We could go to the dinosaur exhibit at the local mall, see a movie, or go to the zoo.  The girls have told our son that he should ask to go to the bookstore - their favorite date destination.  Choices...

Tonight will be our other first.  Our oldest daughter will attend her first youth group function at church.  I didn't expect that she would want to attend, so I was a little surprised when she asked to go.  Knowing that most of the attendees are high school aged, we invited another friend to go with our daughter.  Such events are always better with a friend.

I'm looking forward to a memorable day with my favorite kids.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Saxon Math Review

Math is one of my least favorite subjects.  Not because I don't understand it, but because it has been difficult to find a curriculum that works for our family. We have tried textbooks, workbooks, software and websites with little success.  Either my kids get bored or they don't retain the information.  In any case, I am usually frustrated by the end of the year (or sooner) and we go back to square one.  This year we finally found Saxon Math, a curriculum that meets the needs of my child. 
My oldest daughter (the guinea pig) sits down with her textbook every day and reads through the lesson.  If she has questions she asks, but usually she understands the explanation.  After reading the lesson, there are several sets of activities to complete.  Some are to practice the lesson that was just taught, some are problem solving, and some are review from prior lessons.  She also has a facts test every day to review basic skills such as multiplication and division facts, converting measurements and reducing fractions.  If she needs extra practice for a particular lesson, there are extra problems at the back of the book.  A test is offered every five lessons and an investigation activity is offered every ten lessons.
I have found that the number of problems within a lesson is too much for one day.  Generally, my daughter completes the even or odd problems and I grade her work.  If she needs more practice, we review the lesson and she completes a few more problems.  This system serves our needs better than having her complete the entire set of problems for every lesson.  
Taking into consideration our experience with the product this year and the cost to continue it with my other children, I will be switching everyone in our family to Saxon for the upcoming school year.

You might want to know that Saxon offers math curriculum for kindergarten through twelfth grade. 

Saxon Teacher is a component that I was unfamiliar with until this spring when I saw it at the homeschool convention.  This multimedia presentation teaches your child as she goes through the lessons.  When I get to the point that I don't feel comfortable teaching math, we will take advantage of this product.

I did not receive any product or compensation in exchange for this product review, nor did anyone ask for my opinion.  I freely share my opinions with anyone willing to read or listen.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer Reading Program

Barnes & Noble is offering a summer reading program for kids!   Download the reading log for your kids to fill out.  After reading and writing about 8 books, they simply take the log to Barnes & Noble to get a free book.  Check out the details here.

Adoption Update

It's been almost five months since we brought Alex home, so it seems to be time for an update.  When we considered adoption (less than a year ago), one of our biggest concerns was how a six-year-old boy would fit into our family.  It took Alex no time at all to rid us of that concern.  Even with his limited English, he gets our family's sense of humor.  He also loves to do most anything we are doing, whether it's cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, ride bikes, or go farming with Grandpa.  Speaking of English, Alex has a firm grasp of the language with minor grammar issues and a vocabulary just like most other six year-olds.  People who meet him now don't even realize that English is his second language.  Bonding has also been a huge success for us.  Alex gives hugs and kisses all day long, especially to me.  The words "I love you" come almost daily now and we have learned to appreciate that he says it when he means it rather than just because it's the thing to say at that moment.  On Mother's Day, Alex got his piggy bank and asked AJ to take him to the store.  They came back with a cute arrangement of carnations and a card on which Alex wrote "I love you."  I will treasure that forever.

Another big success for Alex has been his academics.  He does well with his school work, usually completing his work quickly and accurately.  He reads English fairly well, as well as appropriate for a first grader.  His penmanship is beautiful and he enjoys writing stories in his journal.

Two issues came up after we brought Alex home, neither of which were anticipated.  The first was when we took him to his own bedroom the first time.  At the orphanage, all of the boys sleep on the floor in one big room.  For some time, our family gathered in Alex's room at bedtime each night to sing, tell stories and pray until he fell to sleep.  During the night, he woke and came into our room where he slept on the floor.  In the last couple of months, he has progressed to the point that we sometimes gather in the girls room and sometimes in his room.  He is comfortable with getting in his bed alone and waiting for us to tuck him in and he rarely makes it into our room during the night.

The other issue we are still working on is his desire to play.  Looking back on his time in the orphanage, the children spent most of their day at school.  If they weren't at school, then they were on an excursion, watching television or playing video games on the computer.  This has especially been a problem on school days because Alex finishes his school work quickly and has more free time than the girls who take longer on their work.  He is starting to enjoy playing with his cars, drawing and reading for fun. 

Our blessings are abundant and we count Alex as one of those blessings.  He adds so much to our family with his sweet personality and precious laughter.  Dinner is one of my favorite times of the day because we all sit and talk, usually much longer than the food lasts on our plates.  I'm looking forward to many more years with our daughters and son.

Below are some pictures from Alex's birthday party last weekend.  When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he answered, "a Cars party at church with cake."  How can I say no to that?

Singing Happy Birthday

Alex's favorite gift - a skateboard from Grandma & Grandpa

After the party, we went to a nearby park for a train ride.

Not everyone is called to adopt, but we are all called to help orphans.  We couldn't have adopted Alex without help from the Project Nic Fund.  The guidance, support and financial contributions were integral in bringing Alex to our home.  For Alex's birthday, we would love for you to make a contribution of any size to this worthy project.  In addition to helping with adoptions, the Project Nic Fund is supporting a home in China for children whose lives are impacted by AIDS.  When you click on the link, go to the "Give Online" tab.  You will have the opportunity to specify "Project Nic" in your donation.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Alex!

Today our family will celebrate Alex's seventh birthday and his first birthday with us and we couldn't be more excited!  When I asked Alex what he wanted to do for his birthday, he asked for a Cars-themed party at church with his friends.  He also asked for cake and ice cream.  I love easy!  Here are a couple of preview pics:

Alex's cake is a simple sheet cake.  We added a fondant road in the shape of a "7" and 3 characters from the movie.
Goody boxes for Alex's friends filled with candy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fridays Mean War

Our house battles it out every Friday and each member of the family looks forward to the event.  We call it Zone Wars, based loosely on FlyLady's cleaning zones.  My kids spend Monday through Thursday cleaning their personal zones (Monday - bed, Tuesday - floor, Wednesday - dresser, Thursday - school area).  On Friday, we attack the house with Zone Wars.  Here's the battle plan:

1.  I make a list on the white board of all of the tasks that need to be accomplished.  The length of the list is determined by the amount of time we have, what the week has been like, and what is coming up.  For example, if it has been a crazy week or we are expecting company, the list will be more detailed.  If we've done a really good job of keeping up with things through the week, it will be a shorter list.  Another thing I keep in mind is the length of time it will take to complete a task.  I try to break big tasks up into smaller tasks that can be completed quicker.  The ideal task is 3-5 minutes long so rather than writing "clean the living room,"  I will write "pick up books," "dust the living room," and "vacuum the living room."

2.  This step varies from week to week.  Here are two of our more common methods:
  • Divide into teams.  Each team chooses one task to complete.  The timer is set for 5 minutes and each team hurries to complte their task.  Points are awarded to each team according to how well each task was completed.
  • Divide into teams that switch after each task.  The timer is set for 5 minutes and each team hurries to complete their task.  Points are awarded individually according to how well each task was completed.
  • Attack the tasks as individuals.  Rather than setting a timer for each task, we set an overall time limit.  As a person completes a task, he/she initials it and chooses another task.  Points are awarded individually according to how well each task was completed.  As needed, teams are formed and both people get points for those tasks.
While the kids work on their tasks, I alternate between cheerleader, coach, and teammate as necessary.  When tasks are completed, I judge the work and award points.

3. After the Zone Wars are over, we go to the score board.  Sometimes everyone gets a prize if they meet a minimum number of points and sometimes there are four prizes awarded in order of the points earned.  It depends on what I think will motivate everyone to participate that day.

We have tried several methods to teaching the children to care for our home and this has worked best.  I appreciate that I am not the only one trying to get it all done.  Our kids love the feeling of accomplishment when they have worked hard and see a clean house.  They also love their prizes (tonight's prize package is movies and ice cream for anyone with 20 points).  My husband loves coming home to a clean house and a happy family.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Midwest Parent Educators Conference

This weekend I have the honor of representing Tapestry of Grace at the Midwest Parent Educators Conference.  If you happen to be there, please stop by and say hello!  If you can't make it, check out the Tapestry of Grace page here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Have you ever prepared for something and it didn't happen?  Or maybe it didn't happen the way you expected.  Did you ever feel that the time spent preparing was in vain?

I spent four long years (almost an eternity, it seemed) going to school for a bachelor's degree in education and child development.  As soon as I graduated, my husband and I moved out of state to his army duty assignment.  The local school district wouldn't even allow me to substitute teach without credentials and I felt that my time in school was wasted.  The following year we had our first daughter and we chose for me to stay home with her. 

For several years I felt that I had wasted all of that time and money attending school to get a degree I wouldn't use.  Then we decided to homeschool, something we had never considered until circumstances caused us to view homeschooling in a  new light.  Finally, I could use my degree!   Really, in hindsight, I had been using my education all along with my children.  I especially used that wealth of knowledge with our second daughter.  Without my training, I don't think I would have recognized as early that she had special needs and I certainly would not have coped as well.  I know that I would have been a good mom and even a good homeschooling mom without formal training, but I can't say that it hasn't helped me (and my kids).

It reminds me of Ephesians 6:10-20, where Paul talks about putting on the armor of God.  If you skip ahead to verse 20, Paul says he is an ambassador for God.  Then go back and read from verse 10 again.  We are to be ambassadors for God, but we are also to be prepared for battle.  At first it would seem silly to put on armor to be an ambassador, but this is a powerful message we carry and there are some who will do anything to stop us.  Never does Paul say to be a soldier or go looking for a battle, just to be prepared to stand firm when the enemy comes our way.

Likewise, I was not meant to be a classroom teacher.  My education was preparing me to be the best mom for my kids.  What preparation have you received that has been used in a completely unexpected way?  Maybe you are still waiting to see its benefits, but God prepares us for His plan and then uses us in ways we would never expect.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tapestry of Grace Review

Tapestry of Grace is a classical curriculum that covers History, Bible, and the humanities. 

Our family is using the hybrid (print and digital edition) version of Tapestry of Grace Year 1 including the Lapbooks, Pop Quiz and Map Aids.  Our children are ages 12, 8 and 6 (times 2).  They fall into the Dialectic, Upper Grammar and Lower Grammar levels.  One of our 6-year-olds was recently adopted into our family and speaks very little English.  He mostly listens to our conversations and read-alouds at this point.

I wanted a curriculum that I could do with all of my children together rather than having each child studying something different for each subject.  With this in mind, I wanted something that challenged all of our kids(especially the older ones) and incorporated our religious beliefs throughout the lessons.  While at a homeschool conference, we ran across the TOG booth and my husband was immediately drawn to this curriculum that offered him the opportunity to be involved in our daily lessons.  I liked it because it met my criteria.

It took me longer than I expected to fully own this curriculum. At first I wasn't as overwhelmed as I expected to be, but that was partly because I didn’t realize all that was available to me.  I simply copied the student pages, printed the maps, assigned the reading and discussed the materials with my kids throughout the week.   After a few weeks, I began to dig and find a plethora of resources available on the loom and through the Tapestry of Grace Yahoo groups.  This wealth of information did overwhelm me and it took me another few weeks to remember the first rule of teaching: you don’t have to do it all and you and your children will go crazy if you try. 

Now that we are near the end of the third unit, I am thoroughly enjoying teaching with Tapestry of Grace.  Our entire family is learning a great deal of history and putting pieces together to connect the random knowledge we have learned until now.  I would also say that more learning is taking place with this curriculum compared to others we have used because it presents material chronologically and information is woven through the disciplines.  My kids love being able to connect their art project with their literature and writing assignments.

I have learned a few tidbits along the way (probably enough worthy of another post).  Every Friday, I set aside some time to place holds on library books for our studies 2 weeks out.  This gives our library enough time to get the books from other branches if needed and I can go in the following Friday to pick up the books.  I also use Netflix and supplement with movies (very good for our English learner).

I have taken advantage of the material offered in this curriculum to develop other skills in my children.  My oldest daughter likes to act and my middle daughter has speech problems. Often, they work through the Pageant of Philosophy (the rhetoric level philospohy component) and perform it for the younger two.  To improve our culinary skills, we often prepare a meal appropriate for that week’s lessons.  In addition, my oldest daughter teaches one of the art activities each week to her siblings. 
My kids enjoy the history and appreciate that they learn from literature and a variety of sources rather than a textbook.  They also enjoy the ability to do their assignments together. Although they didn’t mention this when asked, I often overhear the older kids yelling such things as “Hey did you know….” or “Wow, this is cool!” as they read their assignments.  That speaks volumes. 

My husband thoroughly enjoys listening to the Pop Quiz and sharing the teaching with me.  However, he listens to the CDs in the car and often has to go back to listen again so he can write down Scripture references.  He would like a resource that offers notes to coordinate with the Pop Quiz information.  Also, there are weeks when I take the lessons in one direction the Pop Quiz takes him in a completely different direction.  He would like for me to know, in general, what he will be hearing on the Pop Quiz so the kids can be better prepared for their discussions with him.

Tapestry of Grace is one of the few curriculums I have used that I am eager about continuing into a second year.  This is a curriculum that meets the needs of our family and everyone enjoys it.  In my dream world, they would add science and character supplements (hint, hint).

Just last week, the two older kids finished their 4-week writing project: writing and performing a play. They poured their hearts into this play, complete with costumes, light effects, props and their two younger siblings acting.
Check it out for yourself at

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Home At Last

In our adoption preparations, I read many books and spoke to even more people about how to prepare for our homecoming.  We were prepared for things like nightmares, defiance, temper tantrums, problems eating, and all sorts of scenarios when we picked up our son and especially when we brought him to our home.  I did not expect love or affection or even smiles from this boy because I did not want to set myself up for disappointment.  We were not prepared at all for what actually happened.  Tears are running down my face as I type this.  In the week we have been home, we have seen huge smiles, experienced belly-ache laughter, and listened to this boy joke with his sisters and new friends.  We have a boy who eagerly completes his English lessons and asks for more.  Today he played his first basketball game after one practice and scored!  Then he got a haircut with his daddy.  Often he cuddles up with us or gives us hugs at random moments.  He proudly shows us things he has created and completes his schoolwork quickly and accurately.  And, he told me he loves me at bedtime a few nights ago. 

I'm not blind, I know there will be troubles as with any child.  However, I do appreciate the gift we have in our son and the expected hurdles we didn't have to face.  I am thankful for the blessings that God continues to pour on our family.  I am also thankful for your prayers.