Friday, December 21, 2007

See Ya Next Year!

I'm going to sign off for a while to focus on celebrating the wonder of the Savior's birth with my family. Before I go, here's a summary of the year at our house:
2007 by the Numbers
7 states driven to (or through) on several trips to visit family and the beach
4 Build-A-Bears M. now owns, lovingly caring for each of them
56 (minimum) diapers per week before A. was potty trained
28 diapers per week after A. was potty trained
100 approx. milk gallons consumed
322 est. hours my Sweetie spent in Atlanta traffic (and he works from home 2 days per week!)
20 books on CD he listened to while in the car
11 weeks spent coping with a 2-year-old in a cast after A. broke his leg in February
90 unforgettable minutes it took for the pain to subside after S. was stung by a stingray on his 13th birthday - minor surgery removed the barb embedded in his big toe and he remains a lover of marine animals
3 grades learning in our home school this year, 7th, 5th, and 3rd
?thousands? of legos scattered all over our house!
5 (and counting) ways C. can jump off a swing (any
guesses who will have the next broken bone...?)
15 (and counting) understandable (to us, anyway) words
K. can speak - our favorite is "pitt-tee" (pretty)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sisters are Great!

I love my sister! We've been close all our lives and I often think of how blessed I am to have her in my life. God was so good to give me a sister. She is a friend, confidante, and spiritual advisor.

Do you know what my sweet sister did this weekend? In the midst of her own pre-Christmas busy-ness, she drove 275 miles for a surprise visit! She knew that M. would be thrilled to have Aunt Michelle at her ballet recital, so she packed herself (who is 20 weeks pregnant, by the way) and her 23-month-old daughter and made the trek. We had so much fun at the recital, hanging out, and shopping together. Thanks, Sis, for such a selfless gift!

What I'm really moved by as I ponder the gift of a sister is this: not only do I have a great sister, but my daughters will have each other - and so will Michelle's ... she just found out last week that baby #2 is a girl!

Tiny Talk Tuesday

Though there is always someone (or a several someones!) talking around here, my tired brain can only call to mind a couple of moments to share.

(while driving around the parking lot of the grocery store) A (3 yo) says to Mom, "Is today Christmas?"
Mom (paying more attention to finding a parking spot than a conversation) "No, it's not."
A "Why not?"
Mom (still circling) "Uhh...."
A "Because it's grocery day?"
Mom "Yes, A, because it's grocery day!"
___________________________________

One day S (13 yo) was making pancakes for the family breakfast. He patiently stood there cooking all the pancakes, while others began to eat. When he had the last batch off the griddle, he sat down to eat and proclaimed, "Now I can have the fruits of my labor!"
___________________________________

M (8 yo) had her Christmas ballet recital last Friday night. Little K (19 months) stood on my lap to see the dancers. Apparently she's added a new word to her vocabulary, because every time a new set of dancers came out and a song began, she bounced in my lap, pointed, and exclaimed, "Wook!" (tr. "look")

Head over to Mary's place for more Tiny Talk!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Jesus Was Never Busy"

Those words are the title of an essay in Elisabeth Elliot's book The Music of His Promises. I've been feeling overwhelmed lately with the busy-ness of December - in spite of all my efforts to keep it un-busy. This entry I read during my quiet time really struck me. Elisabeth says...
To be busy is to be engaged in an occupation which makes it inconvenient to be disturbed. [Jesus] was at the disposal of His Father at all times and therefore at the disposal of all whom the Father sent to Him. There was never a sign of moodiness, selfishness, offense, boredom, or busyness...We can learn to see every minute of our day as His, not ours...Knowing where we come from and to Whom we are going relieves us of the anxiety that makes us so fussy and so hard to live with.
(The Music of His Promises (2000 edition), pp 158-159)
I have been very fussy and hard to live with these last few days. My mind is full of all the things I have to do to prepare for Christmas. Mind you, nearly all the things I have to do are for my family. And yet, I fell put out if any of those same family members interrupt me! I feel the pressure of trying to do all the shopping, baking, cleaning, and hosting (not to mention applying the proper spiritual emphasis or attending recitals, pageants, etc.) while managing the studies of three students and training two very intense toddlers. Sometimes it feels like my whole day is nothing but a string of interruptions!
I heard another great comment recently by Dr. Richard Swenson, author of the book, Margin. He said that you never see Jesus rushing in the Bible. He always had time for the people around him. He was never "busy." December is such an easy time to lose the "margin" in our time, energy, and emotional reserves.
Lord forgive me for not submitting every minute of my day to You, as belonging to You. Forgive me for placing my own agenda each day above Yours. Help me to place my own plans aside, even if it means my "to do list" doesn't get done. Help me to rest in the knowledge that whatever interruptions come, "This is the day that the Lord has made."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Memorial

Eleven years ago today my youngest brother, Andy, went home to Heaven. He was 16 years old. The week before his death he had shared in chapel that his only real ambition in life was to go to Heaven. The day before his death he was sharing the gospel in the ice cream store where he worked.

Don't get me wrong, he was aslo a real stinker! The baby of four kids, Andy was a little spoiled and sometimes a lot annoying! But he had a heart of gold and loved my kids (just two tiny boys at the time) - he was so proud to be an uncle!

So today we especially thank the Lord for the gift of the Incarnation, for without it we would have no Son of God made Man; no perfect sacrifice; no Atonement; no eternal life with the Father for those who believe. Therefore we have confidence that Andy is enjoying his Eternal Rest. Yes, losing a loved one at Christmas sometimes makes it a difficult time, but it also makes the Truth of what we celebrate all the richer! Glory to God in the Highest!

You can also read about him (and see a funny picture) here at my Dad's blog.

Pitiful

Here's what happens when you're baby #5, sick, and your Mommy is busy addressing Christmas cards......you fall asleep on the floor, listening to "Baby Santa's Music Box" while waiting for Mommy to come put you in the bed for a nap! Poor thing!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

St. Nicholas Day

Today is the day to remember the man who inspired the Santa myth. The real St. Nicholas was a 4th century bishop who was known for his compassion and zeal for the gospel. Dr. George Grant (a good friend of my father) illuminates the history of this great man here.

In our house we put chocolate coins in the kids' shoes before they got up, and also gave them a new Veggie Tales Christmas video -just for fun. We have a great book on St. Nicholas we'll read at our lunchtime devotions - I want my kids to know the real "St. Nick," who is way more interesting than the jolly dude in the furry suit!


Monday, December 3, 2007

The Story of Us

We put up our tree this weekend and I was struck by how the whole process has evolved through the years. In the beginning it was a quietly joyful ritual performed by a young newly married couple, madly in love, looking forward to growing a family and establishing their own traditions. Fast forward 15 years and five kids. The scene now seems like chaos at first glance. Yet there is the same couple, still madly in love, with their growing children all around, following the family traditions.

As "A Very Veggie Christmas" plays in the background, we open the boxes of ornaments that tell our story. We sing along with the corny songs, laugh, drink hot chocolate, and share memories attached to all our favorite ornaments...

"Oh! That was the year we went to DisneyWorld! Do you remember how excited M. was when she finally got to meet Belle?!"

"When Mommy and I first got married, we couldn't afford Christmas ornaments. So we bought a few red ribbons at KMart to make our tree pretty. We've always saved this one to remember...""Mom, look! Here's the one from when I was a baby!"
There were dozens of such moments. Remembering Daddy's favorite team...

...or the time S. was so into Nascar and J*ff G*rdon.

We laughed and reflected as we took out each ornament and placed it on the tree. One for each new baby through the years, one for commemorating M's first year of ballet lessons, one to remind us of the ups and downs of raising the "BLT" (Busy Little Toddler - A's former nickname.) Look at that mischievous little face!

The last ornament put on the tree was one of the newest: a gilded Aspen leaf from our recent anniversary trip to Colorado. A symbol of our union as a couple; 15 fruitful and blessed years; and Lord-willing many more years to come.
As I look at the finished tree in all its splendor, I again notice how it has changed through the years. From a simple tree with elegant white lights...to a hodge podge with childlike color - and boughs decked by a 1- and 3-year-old that look like this:
But it is our tree - our story - and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Now, if I can only get motivated to take all of this...
...and make the rest of the house just as festive!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thought for the Day

"Real trust yields utterly to the one trusted. All desire is turned over to that one, believing his ability to manage, control, and finally accomplish what is best. When we pray, we should beware lest we line ourselves up with the mockers of Jesus -- "If You do such and such, then I will trust You!" We need to learn rather to let God rescue us in His own way. Lord, teach me this trust." --Elisabeth Elliot, The Music of His Promises, p. 9

I see this trust in the heart of my own little girl (whose middle name is Elisabeth, after my hero in the faith.) Though she will have chronic medical issues her whole life, she knows that God is good no matter what He does. May we all have faith like a child!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Bing Crosby had it right! Honestly, I love a little chill in the air this time of year. And what better way to take the chill off than a steaming bowl of hearty soup? This particular recipe is a family favorite and one that I often take to new mommies. (In fact, it will be on its way to one in a couple of days! Guess that's why it's on my mind today.) Get your spoons ready for a yummy soup to warm you inside and out! **Note: this soup is especially delicious when you add the secret ingredient... good fellowship!
Corn and Sausage Chowder
1 pkg. smoked sausage, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
2 cups water
1 17oz can cream style corn
1 16 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
1 12 oz can evap. milk

Saute onion and sausage just until onions are clear. Into a large pot, put the sausage, onions, potatoes, spices, and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 min. Stir in corn and evaporated milk. Cover and heat thoroughly.

Pop over to Multi-Tasking Moms for more warm & tasty soup ideas!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thankful


Thanksgiving

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
-I Thessalonians 5:18

I'm a little late with a "Thanksgiving" post, but I wanted to pause before Advent begins and reflect on the Lord's bountiful goodness to us. The poem above sums it up - we had each of those things in abundance: days the Lord made for us to enjoy and glorify Him; shelter in the form of my Mom's house in Tennessee; good health and good food (yum!); the love of over 20 family members gathered into one big noisy, joyful bunch - "blessings all mine with ten thousand beside. Great is Thy Faithfulness!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Overheard

Here are some quotes flying around here these days:

"I gotta get me some of these!" 13yo S, discovering Dad's cool sunglasses on the drive to Target yesterday. Where did my baby boy go?

M (8yo) recently had dental work done. Now the family game is "play dentist." M.(in the role of receptionist) says, "Who is next to see the dentist?" A (3) replies, wearing plastic Halloween teeth, "Me... I have purple teeth!" yep - that can be a problem.

(Before A. turned the corner on potty training) After nap one day, Mom asks, "A, do you have poopie in your pants?" A replies, "Yes, but I rolled over so it wouldn't get smooshed!" Gee...thanks?

A. is also working on a new memory verse, Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning God created Genesis One" Well, yes, I guess He did! ;)

Sweet little KL (18months) recently discovered her sister's dress-up beads. They're her favorite new toy, bringing on a new word: "itt-teee!" (tr. "pretty"-You really have to hear it to appreciate the cute factor.)

Last, but definitely not least, my little man whose joyeux de vive always puts a smile on my face: "I can imagine this is how the Boxcar Children must have felt!" 11yo C., after thinking he was "lost" in our little 3/4 acre of woods! Love that imagination!

Now head over to Mary's place for some more Tiny Talk!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Paper Chase

Perhaps it's my own fault...a self-fulfilling prophecy. I knew before I ever became a mother that I would hate potty training! Somehow I managed to survive the first three. It wasn't easy and they each had their own particular issues - but I survived. I thought I might despair while training #4, but recently - magically - we achieved success.

Now we face a new challenge - paper control! Let's just say he's not worried about saving trees. Episode #1 of The Paper Chase: Wipes. I noticed A. was in the bathroom - "Don't flush until Mommy comes to help you," I said as I went to deal with another issue. I returned and peeked in on him a couple of minutes later. He was standing by the potty, with his hand on the "flusher." I looked in the bowl and to my horror saw two huge stacks of flushable wipes - basically the whole box - floating around! "Don't flush yet!!" I yelled as I ran for a pair of rubber gloves and a plastic bag. I rounded the corner - armed - when I heard it ... the distinct sound of ... Flushing! "NOOOOOO!!!!!" I screamed as I dashed in (can't you just see it in slo-mo?), put the gloves on, thrust my hand in the swirling water, and yanked the chunks of soggy paper from the bowl just before they caused an expensive visit from the plumber. Whew! That was close. The good news - now we were out of wipes. I gave another lecture on waiting for Mommy's help and not using too many wipes. Then I tried to recover what was left of our morning.

"Just be thankful he's using the potty at all..." I kept telling myself, "Just 'do the next thing...'"

Last night we experienced Episode 2 of The Paper Chase: Qulted Northern. A. was in the upstairs potty this time (the cute fishy kids' bathroom.) I didn't even know he was in there. I was walking up the stairs when I heard the handle of the toilet begin to jiggle. "Wait, A.!" I shouted (taking the steps two at a time now.) Once again I found him standing over the toilet, sans pants. He had a blue medical glove on one hand (souvenier from the last trip to the doctor) and a wad of dripping toilet paper in his hand. Piles of soaking toilet paper were in (and mostly out) of the trash can. I can just see the wheels turning in that little brain: "Ok, Mom is nuts, but I guess this is the way we do it now!" I let out a shriek, told him to "freeze!" and ran downstairs for my cell phone. No WAY was I dealing with this on my own again - it was Daddy's turn. (My only real phobia -- wet paper! Crazy, I know. Makes the whole situation just so.much.more.funny, huh? Laugh it up!)

So I get Daddy on the phone. He's on his way home, but too far away. (Or maybe not. This can wait, right? A. can just stand there, frozen, no pants, dripping TP in hand - for 3o minutes or so? No? Really? Ok, I can handle this.) I take a deep breath and go get my gloves, a plastic bag, some paper towels, and windex. Little K., who had witnessed my earlier shriek, keeps coming to the door and giving her own little mock shriek. I put A. in the shower (mostly to play and keep him out of my hair) and dive in. Once I get all the wet, nasty, slimy TP in the bag, I proceed to clean the bathroom - floor to ceiling. Check that off the old To Do List. (gotta find the silver lining, folks!) I finish up my work, get the little stinker (pun intended) out of the shower, and wrestle the yucky glove out of K's hand (we all washed our hands - and the gloves - I promise.) Who do you think should walk in the door at that very moment? That's right - Daddy! Laughing his head off, to boot! This guy has impeccable timing, let me tell ya.

Don't worry though, I fear our journey on the Paper Chase is not done. He'll get his turn! Stay tuned for the next episode...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Random Thoughts



Our church had the privilege last night of hosting Matthew Smith in concert. Matthew is part of a community of musicians in Nashville, TN called "Indelible Grace." They take the lyrics to old, solid hymns and put them to new music. I have all four of their CDs and love them! This song is one of Matthew's originals, on his solo album. Good stuff.

One of the reasons I love homeschooling is that we can follow rabbit trails and depart from our curriculum for a spell to study something that interests us. At the moment, that is sailing! No, we didn't just purchase a new boat (not much water left to sail on here in Georgia!) We're reading Swallows and Amazons for our read-aloud right now. It has nothing to do with our cur current history or science topics, but that's ok. The story has a lot of sailing jargon we didn't know, so we spent Friday defining sailing terms and sketching diagrams of catboats. Here are the results:(the pics are kind of washed out - click to enlarge and you can see them better.)



Tomorrow we're going to study England's Lake District, where the book takes place. We're going to look it up in our Atlas, mark it on our wall map, and talk about old-fashioned customs of taking a "holiday" in this pretty region. I may even be able to tie in some Jane Austen - broaden their horizons! (A field trip would be a nice touch, but you can't have everything, eh?)

We are going to keep our study of Old Testament History and Egypt tabled for the time being and turn to Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays because of all the rich history - both of our country and our faith. We're going to read Stories of the Pilgrims, as well as several of our favorite picture books on pilgrims and Plymouth: Three Young Pilgrims, Sara Morton's Day, and Samuel Eaton's Day. I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Mellow Monday and a Good Book

I made a personal "rule" several years ago to stay home on Mondays. It simply gets our week off on the right foot if we can regroup after the weekend and be busy at home. This Monday we had the added issue of sick little ones to nurse. While I comforted them and tried to get some housework accomplished, the "Big 3" did their morning chores and some independent schoolwork.
By the time the little ones went down for their naps, I was exhausted. When we finally got our late lunch cleaned up, I decided to spend some time chilling out and reading Leepike Ridge to the kids. We started the book weeks ago, but had only read a few chapters. We kept putting it aside to read our science or history books. We picked it back up over the weekend and were quickly hooked. On Monday, we ended up reading together the entire nap time and finished the book! We just couldn't stop until we found out how it ended.

I was originally inspired to buy the book after reading what Laurie Detweiler (of Veritas Press) had to say about it. She said, "Be prepared to leave the laundry in a pile, the dirty dishes in the sink, because once you start reading this you will not stop until you hit the last page. And please don’t punish your children if they stay up past their bed time." Well, that sold me.

The story takes a few chapters to warm up. (That's why we were able to set it aside for a few weeks.) But by the middle of the book, the suspense builds and it becomes a serious page-turner. It is the story of Tom Hammond, an eleven-year-old boy who floats down a creek on a piece of packing foam from a refrigerator box. He gets swept into a cave and that's when the real adventure begins. N.D. Wilson includes all the essentials for an adventure story: treasure, survival, intrigue, courage, and a good dog! It is has elements from works like The Odyssey, Tom Sawyer, King Solomon's Mines, and Robinson Crusoe. (Fair warning: it is a bit scary at times. Even the big boys admitted to being a little shaken up when we read at bedtime on Sunday night.)

Once we were finished with the book, the kids used the remaining daylight on that crisp fall day to go on their own adventure in our woods. They, too, had the essentials: flashlight, metal detector, sharp stick for digging. They ended up finding a turtle which we kept in a box for 24 hrs to observe. Not bad for a homeschool day with sick little ones. In addition to the math they did in the a.m., we covered history (an element from the story,) science (lots of neat cave info, plus the turtle experience,) and literature (Wilson has a good writing style and we talked about how he paints vivid pictures with the words he chooses.) Though Monday was not a typical homeschool day, I think it fits in with my overall philosophy of inspiring a love of learning rather than just filling their heads with information.






Thursday, November 1, 2007

For All the Saints

Inspired by Janice's comment yesterday, I decided to also commemorate All Saints Day, when we remember those believers who have entered their Heavenly Rest - especially those who died for their faith. So we praise Jesus for His faithfulness to them, and look forward to the time when our Pilgrim Days are finished and we, too cross over Jordan into our Rest.

For All the Saints
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou in the darkness drear, their one true light. Alleluia, Alleluia!
O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win with them the victor's crown of gold. Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine. Alleluia, Alleluia!
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, Alleluia!

And as a bonus... here are a couple of pics from last night. We had a peasant from Wittenburg, ca 1517, the Pharaoh Menes (unifier of Upper and Lower Egypt), American Girl Kaya, Robin Hood, and Piglet.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Just Shall Live by Faith

On this date in 1517 Martin Luther posted his "Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" (otherwise known as the 95 Theses) on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. Though there were some who came before him - such as Wycliffe and Hus - who began to re-open the doors to justification by faith alone, it is Luther that we consider the Father of the Reformation. And so began a rich spiritual heritage and today we celebrate Reformation Day.

One of my favorite of Luther's works is his Commentary on Galatians. He wrote it to encourage Christians to hold fast to the newly rediscovered "doctrine of faith" and keep from slipping back into the "doctrine of works and men's traditions." Here's a quote: "For in the righteousness of faith we work nothing, we render nothing unto God, but we only receive, and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God."

Luther also composed one of my favorite hymns, sung at our wedding: "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." (emphasis mine)

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great
and armed with cruel hate
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.
Happy Reformation Day!

Monday, October 29, 2007

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works" Ephesians 2:10
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19:1

I am not an interior decorator. I am not even particularly artistic. But over the years, I have been convinced by some of my heroes - like Charlotte Mason and Edith Schaeffer - that since we are image-bearers of The Creator, we ourselves have some inborn creativity. God is a God of beauty and we should reflect that in our lives. It's so easy to get tied up in the mundane events of daily life that we push creative efforts - like beautifying our homes - to the back burner.

Several years ago, I was inspired by Edith Schaeffer's book The Hidden Art of Homemaking. She defines "hidden art" as "the art found in the ordinary areas of everyday life." She challenges us to take our own creativity seriously in making our homes beautiful places that reflect our personality and bless those who live in and visit them. Whether we live in a "palace or a tree house, beauty is important." (Hidden Art, p.110)

I have become slack in this area, but lately have been trying to improve. Simple things like cloth napkins at dinner, a new way of arranging pillows on the sofa, finishing some sewing for the home I started ages ago, or cleaning my own bedroom the best to make it a refuge for me and my Sweetie - small things make a big difference in the atmosphere of my home. This weekend I decided to make some more progress in the kids' bathroom. The new paint and accessories look cute, but the walls wanted some art. I have always thought the simple little canvases Pottery Barn sells are cute - but SO overpriced. I can do that on my own, right? So with some good tips from my artist friend, Ginny, I set out to make a couple of pictures for our undersea bathroom. The supplies cost around $10. What do you think? (The close-up of the pictures doesn't show off the pretty color of the walls, but the flash made the metallic blue paint on the "boy fish" look funny.)
Now I challenge you to go find some "hidden art" in your own home!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Looking out over the southern part of Tampa Bay from the De Soto National Monument

Monday, October 22, 2007

She ran with perseverance...

Go give a high five to Wendy at Showered With Grace who just ran a marathon yesterday. I have so enjoyed her posts along the journey -- telling of the hills and valleys of training, with lots of spiritual applications. She's a sister in the Lord and an encourager. Way to go!!

Book Review Time!

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I have a couple of books in my "What I'm Reading" list that have been there quite a while! It's not because I'm not reading, but because I keep getting pulled away from those particular books to read something else - usually for school. I've put Sense and Sensibility aside to catch up to my Sweetie in the Mitford series. (I read the first 5 years ago; he's listening to the audio version and is on book 7!)

I recently finished reading the 6th book, A Common Life. I was somewhat reluctant to get into it, since the story doesn't pick up where book 5 leaves off, but rather goes back to tell the story of Father Tim and Cynthia's wedding. Once I began, however, I couldn't put the book down. When I finished the last chapter, my soul sighed and said, "Ahhhhh."


Jan Karon masterfully weaves great storytelling with spiritual truth. I laughed and I cried. After reading this lovely, short novel, I wanted to love my husband more; I wanted to love my God more. Enjoyable, easy to read, profound.


Don't worry if you haven't read any of the Mitford books before - A Common Life can stand on its own. Ms. Karon works in enough information about the characters and the setting that you never feel lost. I encourage you to find a copy at your library and read it. It will bless your soul!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Life, Psalms, and a Song

Life has been full around here lately. Let me clarify - life is always full around here, but lately it has been more full than usual. On top of the typical activities for a homeschool family of seven, I have prepared for selling in a local consignment sale, attended a women's retreat, and had a visit from my Mom.

Each time I get ready for a consignment sale, I wonder if it's even worth it anymore! The hassle of sorting, ironing, tagging - you know the drill. But this particular sale is low key and I actually enjoy shopping it. I usually find a few essential pieces for each of the 5 kids and make enough money to cover what I spend. So it's a wash - I just think of it as hand-me-downs that I select from perfect strangers. :) Today I actually found coats for 2 kids that desperately need them, an adorable Piglet costume ($2!) for my little one, and some "cool" clothes for my teen and pre-teen boys. I think I can say it was worth the trouble this time.

The womens retreat was last weekend. Any chance for a busy mom like me to have a night away is a treat and this was no exception. "Retreating" from my daily life, even if for a mere 22 hours, nourishes my soul. It was fun to hang out with other women from our church, of all ages, and have "roomies" like I was in college again. The speaker was a godly woman who is a pastor's wife, mother of six boys, and breast cancer survivor. She had so much to say about God growing our faith through suffering and how we can't wait until "life calms down" to start drinking deeply from the Word and serving the Lord with all our heart. It was convicting, challenging, and encouraging all at the same time. The worship services were awesome, too - hearing hundreds of women's voices (there were other churches represented there as well) praising the Lord together - it sent chills up my spine!

My Mom arrived just as I was heading out the door for the retreat and has been here all week. She is a fabulous Grandma and it has been such a blessing to have her around - especially because she likes to play with the little ones and take them outside when I'm doing school with the "Big 3" or trying to get dinner together. We visited a local Pumpkin Patch, where everyone petted Peter Rabbit and his bunny friends; and brought home several pumpkins of all sizes. The kids have had a blast painting the pumpkins with Mimi, who loves anything artistic. We also made a trek to Ikea and enjoyed shopping and eating there. It's been a fun week and I hate to see her go - and not just because she's been doing all the laundry! ha ha! (She did have her own laundry adventure, though, when she accidentally put floor cleaner in the new machine and made bubbles all over the laundry room! A., my 3-year-old said,"Isn't that ah-larious?!")

I've been meditating on Psalm 16 this week. I have found so many applications for its verses in the last few days that I'm considering having us memorize it as a family. I encourage you to go check it out in its entirety, but here are some of my favorite verses:

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places'
Indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." v.5-6

"I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." v.8

"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." v.11

Lastly - I have a new favorite song, thanks to my sister-in-law, Emily. It's called Sacred by Caedmon's Call, off their album Overdressed. (You can find it at iTunes.) It is a song about being a busy mom and how every mundane task we do is "sacred" if we do it for the Lord. My favorite line is "My cup runneth over, and I worry about the stain" Isn't that true? The music is good, too - kind of folksy with some life to it. Check it out!

Have a blessed weekend!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tiny Talk Tuesday

Mary over at Not Before 7 is hosting a "Tiny Talk Tuesday." So even though most of mine are not "tiny," here goes:

"Hey, C.! It's about time for our leaf pile!" - 8yo M. to her brother - the two built "Mini Mt. Everest" out of leaves last year next to the swing set and jumped off the swings into it. And yes, M., it is time - Welcome, Fall!

"Mom, I gonna take all my buddies down to safety." 3yo A., carrying his "buddies" (stuffed animals) down to the landing on the stairs. Safety from what?? Some manly character in my little guy!

"Hey Dad - this coupon is only worth 1/1ooth of a cent!" 11 yo C. discovering that coupons have "cash value." I wonder how many he'll try to stockpile to redeem for cash....

"Uh" Translation: "up" - 17 mo K.'s new word

And the winner of the Split My Sides Laughing Award...
"Please don't use me as a napkin!" 13yo S., sitting next to A. at the table on Italian night!

Now hop over to Not Before 7 for some more Tiny Talk.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Unexpected Adventure

Update Friday 5pm: Today S. had a outpatient surgery to remove the barb. Thankfully, the surgeon was able to easily locate it and get it out. The barb was smaller than I thought, but still a pretty long object to have embedded in the soft part of your big toe! S. was very calm and a good patient, though he was quite a character when he was still loopy from all the medications. He'll spend the next 24 hrs off his feet and then a few days on crutches. What a story he has to tell his friends! Thanks for all your prayers and comments. I'm so glad to have the excitement behind us. Now we can spend the weekend restoring order and peace to our home.

(click on the picture to enlarge it and you can just barely see the serrations ... ouch!)

Update Thursday 4pm: We had a consult with a foot surgeon today and scheduled the surgery for tomorrow (Friday) morning at 11. They will not use general anesthesia, but instead "twilight sleep" plus lots of local anesthetic. Thanks for your prayers! S. is in good spirits and enjoying all the extra attention, I think. :)

Well, the Gulf of Mexico gave S. a birthday present - a stingray sting! It happened Monday afternoon while we were enjoying some especially pleasant weather at the beach. I have never seen one of my children in such excruciating pain! We quickly got him to a life guard station, where we were told to immediately take him home and soak his foot in hot, hot water.

After almost 2 hrs in the hot water, the pain from the toxin subsided. The wound is a puncture, and it bled quite a bit. Since it was swollen and ugly this morning, we took him to a local urgent care center. The ultimate diagnosis was that 2 shards from the barb are lodged in his big toe - one of them is almost 2 inches long! A trip to the operating room will be required, with general anesthesia, so that the foot surgeon can use x-ray technology to locate and remove the barb without tearing his toe to shreds. Crocodile Hunter aside, I was really surprised a stingray sting could be so serious.

Since we're leaving for home anyway, the docs felt having surgery at home was better than staying extra days in a strange town. He's on 2 antibiotics, which will buy us the time to get home and have the surgery. I covet your prayers for safe travel, scheduling, and of course, healing!

We are also counting our blessings: though we hate to see S. suffer, we're very glad it wasn't our 3 year old; we're thankful it happened at the end of the trip - after we all enjoyed many good times; we're thankful to have found, after some searching, a podiatrist who could work us in today and took our insurance; I'm thankful that the Lord gave me an opportunity to see the manly character growing in my son - he was so brave; we're thankful that God is a God in control of the tiniest details and we rest in Him.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Happy Birthday!




It's birthday season at our house. Today is a milestone ... my firstborn turns 13! Yes, at 3:38am I became the mother of a teenager. S. was not only our first child, but the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Despite all the grandmothers' spoiling, he has remained a very sweet, even-keeled boy. He is a lego-builder, nature-lover, scientist, and friend to all animals. He loves to read, loves to act, and loves computers. He has been my right arm with the arrival of babies #4 and #5. He is not just my son, but quickly becoming ... my friend. Happy Birthday, S!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Birthday!




Today is my #2 son, C.'s 11th birthday! C. made his arrival 3 days before his big brother's 2nd birthday - what a fun birthday present for S. that year! We are on our vacation and are celebrating by eating his favorite breakfast - pancakes - and heading to the beach! For the last 11 years, this boy has made us laugh more times than we can count! He has a hilariously sophisticated sense of humor. He also has very contagious joi de vive and I love him for it! Happy Birthday, Kiddo!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Random Thoughts


Fans: Our family is addicted to fans! I contemplated that fact with some frustration as I began packing for our trip to the beach. If you were to visit our home in the dead of night, you would hear no less than 4 small box fans whirring away as the family sleeps. I'm not sure how it started - perhaps when our oldest was a babe and we had a monster german shepherd that barked at everything. And now - let's face it our house is a noisy place! The pleasant white noise of a fan helps a baby settle down for a nap in the midst of the commotion. Our favorite is this Honeywell version; we've been through many of them over time! And so, as we load up the suburban, we will be taking along our 4 favorite little black Honeywells!

The Lord gives the increase: I have happy news - my dear sister is expecting her second baby in April! After years of waiting on the Lord, she gave birth in Jan. 2006 to the cutest little girl you've ever seen. It has been a joy for me to watch her become the amazing mom I always knew she would be. I know she will be a great mom of 2 as well. Congratulations, Sis! I'm so thrilled for you!! While we're giving out congratulations, pop over and congratulate 50 Toes, who will become 60 toes next spring!

A little holiday: We are scheduled to depart for the beach tomorrow at 5am - a 10 hr drive. I'm gathering every sticker-book, DVD from the library, portable snack I can find to pass the time. We even bought a new noisy electronic thingy at Wal-Mart last night in the hopes that it will keep 16 month old K. quiet for at least part of the journey. These last 2 babies have just not been good car sleepers for some reason. And inevitably, if one falls asleep, the other cries and wakes him/her up! We are really excited, though, and once we arrive we have a whole week of R & R to look forward to before making the trip home. Happy Times!

Inspiration: From the Word... "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

From Amy Carmichael... Amy quotes this nursery poem:

A centipede was happy till
One day, a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg goes after which?"
Which strained his mind to such a pitch
He lay distracted in a ditch,
Considering how to run.
Amy says, "I think there are a good many toads in the world, and sometimes, not in fun at all but very seriously, they manage 'to strain our minds to such a pitch' that instead of going on in simplicity we may very easily find ourselves distracted in a ditch, not running, but only considering how to run. ...and on the race-course -- looking away from toads without and within -- let us run...looking unto Jesus [Heb. 12:1-2]... so shall we run and not be weary and walk and not faint."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Overheard

Quotes flying around our house recently:

"I have natural talent!" - 10 yo C. getting excited because he can play Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing on his recorder. Enthusiasm? Yes. Talent? Time will tell.

"Mama, I so sick. I need to rest because my feelings hurt." - 3 yo. A., who is not sick at all, just trying a new angle on getting to be a couch potato.

"I really got one?!" - 12 yo. S. in disbelief after opening a gift from his uncle - a bonsai tree. Believe it or not, that is what he wanted most for his birthday. (The actual birthday is next week, so I'm calling him 12 as long as I can!)

"Mama" - 16 month old K. - yes she finally said it and her Mama is very happy!

And winner of most convicting comment of the week...
"I wish... Mom, it would be cool if you could be a kid again." - Ouch! 8 yo. M. after I told her I couldn't help her brush her doll's hair right now. Guess who is getting some Mommy time today?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Pet

My son C. (almost 11) caught this katydid in our backyard with our next-door neighbor. His 5th grade science curriculum (with A Beka Academy) encouraged the students to make a "meadow terrarium" so he thought this katydid was a good place to start. They named it "K-man."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Children's Book Review


I love historical fiction! It's probably my favorite literary genre. So when I put God King by Joanne Williamson on my sons' reading list for this school year, I knew I would have as much fun reading it as they would. The last time we were studying ancient history, we read Williamson's Hittite Warrior, set in the biblical time period of the Judges. We fell in love with her vivid characters, readable style, and exciting way of making the action of the Bible come to life. This book was no different.

God King is set in the time of King Hezekiah, when the Assyrians had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and were knocking on Jerusalem's door. True to form, the book was easy to read and action-packed. Taharka, a young Egyptian pharaoh (thus the god king reference) must flee for his life to Judea. Once there, he witnesses first-hand Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem, coming away with a respect for Yahweh, the God of Judah. I came away with a neat discovery about King Hezekiah's "improvements" to the wall of Jerusalem. (Hint: see 2 Kings 18-19.)

The book is on an upper-elementary to middle school reading level and would be enjoyed by boys and girls equally. (There is a subplot involving a very pretty Egyptian girl to whom Taharka is betrothed.) It is published by Bethlehem Books, a company known for reprinting excellent, God-honoring historical fiction. Check it out!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Just Do the Next Thing!

One of the reasons I love that poem is that I sometimes feel I never get out of "survival mode." There are so many days that we don't seem to "move the plot along" in our story. We struggle to feed, clothe, and clean up. Projects get postponed - again. Lesson plans don't get made - we just wing it. Our pastor is preaching through the book of Ecclesiastes and I've been thinking recently how tempting it is to feel like day follows day and all is vanity under the sun.

But as Christians, we don't live life under the sun - we live it "under the Son" (borrowed from the title of a Jay Adams book.) That's why I find myself saying, "do the next thing." Do it immediately, do it with prayer; looking to Jesus, ever serener. Instead of wallowing in my frustration, I just "do the next thing" with prayer and more often than not my attitude experiences a change for the better.

This week has been a good example of that. We had an all day doctor's appointment and our laundry piled up as we waited for a repairman to come fix our lovely new washer when it wouldn't drain. Most of the week I felt scattered and frustrated and it trickled down to the family. But by Thursday I was able to turn my attitude around and look at the good things from this week. Here are some highlights:
  • While Mom was distracted, my children's creativity came out. They made little pom-pom creatures, complete with pipe-cleaner limbs. They then proceeded to make "habitats" for their creatures using all of my extra rubbermaid tubs, lots of construction paper, and a few landscape elements from their army men. It was adorable - one had a desert habitat with appropriate vegetation; one had a beach, ocean, and little island, complete with its own pom-pom Robinson Crusoe. And yes, the almost 13 yo. boy participated in this. I'm thinking I can mark this down for art, science, and maybe even literature???
  • I sat down to watch some of R.C. Sproul's Dust to Glory series with son S. (12 going on 13.) He is studying Old Testament history this year and it thrilled my soul to see him grasp not just the stories of Genesis, but some of the theology of it as well. What an age this is: playing pom-poms one day and being so grown up the next! I feel honored to be his Mom.
  • We all got a good laugh out of the washing machine incident. Not only was it precious to watch my 3yo boy stand in awe of the "pear man" as he did his work; but it was hilarious to find out that the culprit was a tiny wooden toothpick that 10 yo. C. had put in his pocket on our last trip to Jason's Deli. I can't tell you how many toothpicks I found in the laundry this week! I guess this was the one that got away. Not sure what he was planning to do with them...
  • I painted the kids' bathroom. It was not a project on our Master To Do List, but it was just plain ugly and I got tired of looking at it. With 3 boys sharing one bathroom, I hated for any females to venture into the "cave!" So I popped into Lowe's on a whim, bought a pretty blue called "Ships Ahoy" and painted the whole thing in an afternoon (while the big 3 were at Master's Academy and the little ones napped.) I added some tropical fish accents from Target and now it's cute. I might actually venture in there myself instead of "holding it" until my bathroom is vacant!
  • Our sweet baby K. (15 months) is trying her best to talk. It is so sweet to hear her toddle through the house calling, "Ba Ba? Ba Ba?" looking for Daddy. Or to hear her say "Hi" when you pop in the room. She's also nodding and shaking her head to answer "yes" or "no" and signing "please." And she can play pat-a-cake without Mommy's help. She's really getting a cute personality and joining in family life!

Thanks be to the Lord for His mercies that really are new every morning. He is so faithful, even when we are not, to bless our most mundane experiences if we fix our eyes on Him!

Monday, September 3, 2007

The BLT Turns 3!

Three years ago, after a break of five and a half years, we had our fourth child, a son. It was with great joy that we reentered the baby phase after such a long break. A. was instantly a hit with our older children and became the "family doll." The Lord's timing was perfect, for this baby would be the last my beloved mother-in-law would hold and his beaming face and charming personality comforted all of us when the Lord took her home.




As A. became mobile, we quickly realized we had a spirited kid on our hands. My #2 son, C., nicknamed him "BLT" - "Busy Little Toddler." The name was perfect and it stuck! He is the most active, rambunctious, and mischievous toddler I have ever had! He conquered every baby gate we put up. He climbed out of the playpen and the crib. He has decorated furniture, carpet, and walls with his marker "art." In short, he runs circles around us!




But the BLT is also one of the most affectionate and compassionate little guys I've ever met. He freely offers hugs and cuddles, spontaneously says, "thank you" and "I love you, Mom." If anyone is hurt or sad, he is all tenderness. Though nearly always on the go, he loves to snuggle and read a big stack of library books. And his smile will melt your heart!
So Happy Birthday, my precious boy! I guess we'll have to retire the name "BLT" since you can no longer be called "toddler!" We love you! "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Prov. 3:5-6

We had a little "car wash party" with family last night. A. is completely obsessed with the car wash. He talks about it constantly and is always pretending his cozy coupe or bike is going to the car wash. This was the first time he's had a chance to use real water to play car wash and they had a blast. (The cute little blond girl with pigtails is my niece.)