Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Year Ramblings

How was everyone's Christmas? Ours was good. Busy - as always, but good. This is our year to travel and be with all of my side of the family. So we celebrated our faux Christmas Morning with our children on the 24th, then headed to Tennessee for a Christmas bash that included 12 adults and 11 children! It really is a blessing to gather that many family members to celebrate and fellowship, even if it is what my Mom calls "happy chaos."

We also took the opportunity to get a portrait done of the entire family. I can't wait to see the results and post the picture. It was actually much easier - and faster - than I thought it would be to get a good shot of so many people, five of whom are age 4 and under!

Now it is New Year's Eve and I sit here in the midst of a mess of presents, luggage, and packaging - evidence that we left in a rush - and I'm struggling to get it all put away and tidied up. I titled my blog Doing the Next Thing, because that seems to be what I spend so much of my time doing! The kids still need the basics of being fed, clothed, cleaned, and disciplined; and yet I have so many other things on my list to do! Sometimes I'm tired of just Doing the Next Thing! Sometimes, I'd like to actually get a project done --- like finding a home for the two new bookshelves we adopted from My Sweetie's office. I'm thrilled to have them, but they've spent the last month sitting in my ever-cluttered dining room, waiting, like everything else in this house, for my attention.

I don't mean to bum anybody out, but I'm just trying to keep it real, ya'll! I'm guessing I'm not the only person who feels the tension between how much fun it is to plan and celebrate Christmas and how much work it is, too. I've mentioned Nancy Wilson here before, and she has another post that I found helpful in bringing my attitude out of the dumps. Read about "lifting our hearts" here.

Now for some New Year's thoughts:
My beautiful daily schedule - the one I labored over for hours back in August - isn't really working for us. I've got to try to find some time over the next few days to tweak it. The Big 3 still end up wasting a good bit of time waiting for me when they need my help and I'm busy with The Littles. We just can't do ALL our school work at naptime - gotta find a better solution.

I'm also rethinking - again - they layout and function of our basement. We do need lots of storage for our school stuff, but we are using the "study" less and less for actual studying. Everyone tends to go find their own quiet spot to work - or work at the kitchen table when they need regular input/supervision from me. I'm seriously thinking about turning the "study" (the smaller room in my basement) into a "teen playroom." The larger room is where our bookshelves and school posters are, but it is really the "playroom" where the big toys for preschoolers (and our zillion legos) live. Let that encourage all of you who homeschool and don't have a "school room" - you don't really need one! Just a place to keep all the stuff.

I'm hoping to begin working out - again. I signed up for a 5K last fall, hoping that having a goal and some accountability with friends would motivate me to exercise regularly and start getting fit. It did...until I got a stress fracture in my ankle. So now I'm finally out of the aircast and, thanks to a YMCA membership that was a gift, hoping to start slowly on the stationary bike and find my motivation again.

Lastly, though perhaps most importantly, I'm striving to be more faithful about daily time with the Lord. Why does this show up on our lists every single year? It's such a simple thing. It's our life-blood -- and yet, spending time with the Lord seems to be so difficult for us. I'm praying that this year, I will finally see some growth and maturity.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading my lengthy, meandering post!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Random Thoughts

--Be careful with your camera's memory card! I had an SD card disaster this week and lost a bunch of pictures. Lessons learned: 1. don't delete pics from the card using Windows - do it on the camera; 2. get some prints once in a while and back the dern thing up before you have 500 pics piled up!

--In other "tech" news: our kids truly are more tech savvy than we. A (4), in a wise-in-his-own-eyes attempt to turn on a Sp*der-M*an cartoon, ordered Fre*d Cla*us on demand for $4.99! Not my first choice for movie night w/ my Sweetie, but we weren't going to let 5 bucks go to waste.

--Christmas decor and baking ... am I the only one who struggles with frustration at the huge mess being festive makes? I love doing Christmas-y things with the family, but it takes motivation to stay jolly while working overtime. ;-)

--Check out the Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog . We're letting our kids choose one item from the catalog to earn money for by doing extra chores. It's a great way to be charitable and get the kids involved - and give them a heart for the nations.

--A great quote: "The Son of God became a man so that men could become sons of God."C.S. Lewis. (Thanks to my dear friend, Wendy, for supplying the quote.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Overheard

"Better known as Soon-Dead and Gonna Bite-It" 12 C., renaming Eli's 2 wicked sons, after reading in I Samuel where God says they will die for their sins.

"I'm not making a mess - I'm making art!" 4yo A., when I told him to be careful with glue, paper, scissors, and a hole punch.

"Mom, when I have a job and I'm earning my own money... if the family budget is still tight, I'll give you some." 14yo S, showing a little bit of maturity. Awww.

"When I get up in the morning, I'm gonna make a mocha." S again. Somebody tell that boy to stop growing up!

"I be careful -- I be careful, Daddy." 2yo K's announcement as she walked into the room carrying the empty silverware basket. Such a helpful girl.

"And I thought your eggs weren't going to be good!" 9yo M, pleasantly surprised that the breakfast she made me was actually quite delicious. That girl loves to cook and is happiest in the kitchen. It's fun to watch her countenance lift whenever cooking is involved. :)

"Mommy, sit nexa ME!" 2yo K's exclamation at nearly every meal. So sweet. She then continued to chant "nexa me, nexa me, nexa me..." ♫

For more fun Tiny Talk, go visit Not Before 7!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My little corner of the world

What's been going on, you ask? Well... on the one hand, it feels like a whole lotta nuthin! On the other hand, I've been incredibly busy with daily life. You know the drill, the kind of busy where everyone gets fed, clothed, cleaned, and tutored each day and you fall into bed at night - only to get up and do it all over again. The weeks fly by, and poof! It's Thanksgiving before you know it!

That's ok, though. We've laughed, loved, learned, and served. K (2) continues to keep us in stitches with the funny things she says and does. The latest is her announcement that "I go bafroom you" each time I say I have to go to the bath*room. She runs in, lifts the lid, and stands ready to assist me in any way. Future attendant at a 5-star hotel? The Big 3 have enjoyed their enrichment classes, culminating in a medieval feast for M (9) and some pretty amazing President projects for S (14) and C (12). A's (4) obsession with the human body has been replaced with Spider-Man. Oh, well. Guess medical school will have to wait.

Now I'm turning my attention to Thanksgiving fun. We're reading our favorite Thanksgiving books (see the sidebar on the left), and planning our movable feast. We're heading back to the north GA mountains again this year and there is much to do ahead of time. But I'm looking forward to a fun holiday and some sweet "unplugged" family times.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dinner on a Thursday

I am so not a decorator! I post these pictures only to show you that it is possible to have beauty (i.e. Hidden Art) in your home with no talent and no money! Yesterday was a rough one around here and I was feeling a little blue come dinnertime. I decided a pretty table would make our plain ole weeknight fish-and-broccoli dinner a little more festive. The flowers are summer's last blast from my neglected yard; the napkins are cut from a fabric remnant I keep meaning to do something with; the aspen wood vase was last year's anniversary present from My Sweetie. In about 15 min, the table - and my attitude - got a makeover.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
Psalm 116:7

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Scaling Back

In the description at the top of my blog, I have these words:
"Thoughts on the joys and struggles of one Mom's journey..."

Well, here is a bit on a struggle I'm having at the moment - the computer. I know from reading other blogs that many of you share this struggle. I've posted about it before. But I was convicted, once again, that too much of my time was being spent here. You may have noticed I'm posting less. If you have your own blog, I'm sure you've noticed that I have been visiting less.

As Dr. Richard Swenson, author of the book Margin, says, "Progress means more and more of everything, faster and faster." Computers, cell phones, blogs, networks, email, voicemail... all fabulous tools, but also all time-suckers. And each new thing competes with the rest of our life for the same 24hrs. In a radio broadcast Swenson did on Focus on the Family, he recommends unplugging as a way of simplifying, allowing us to maintain balance and margin in our time and emotional energy. He says to look at how much time you spend watching tv or using the computer, and see if you can simplify your life (and thus add margin) by cutting back.

So that's what I'm doing. Swenson also says, "Everything I own, owns me." You have to maintain and keep up with your stuff - even "stuff" like google reader, email, blogs, and networks. I think the Lord is showing me that I can't be faithful to His calling to nurture & educate my children, manage my home, and love my husband plus spend so much time in front of a laptop - even if I'm doing good things there. That's the hard part of finding margin - saying "no" to good things.

I think we're all in the same boat, really - don't you? We've all got a thousand things to juggle, and we all have the same 24 hour day. Computer-networking is a fun outlet for a busy mom who may find it difficult to catch up with old friends by phone or in person. You can email or blog in the middle of the night! But there has to be a limit, and I think I've reached mine ... at least for now.

I may not post or visit very often, but I'll be around from time to time. And those of you I've gotten to know better will for sure be in my prayers. God bless!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Imagination

I just had to share a glimpse of recess today at the Next Thing house. I went out to check on the kiddos and here's what I found:
-M (9) with a plastic knife and cup, cutting of sprigs of boxwood, pretending they are herbs for her "soup"
-C (12) hammering an old piece of crumbling concrete, just because. He said, "Mom, can I just keep hammering? It's fun."
-K (2) taking great delight in running in an out of the bushes - Laughing at herself when no one is looking
-S (14) watching over things and using sticks to make speed bumps for A (4),
who is racing down the grassy hill on his tricycle like Evil Kenevil
--and then... S taking his turn going over the speed bumps on A's little bike

It doesn't always look this happy, but I love it when they are all using their imaginations, enjoying each other's company, and (for the big boys) ignoring the world's notion that they're too old to "play."

Thank you, Lord, for this sweet vision of their childlike hearts!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Story of Ketchup

As narrated by A, 4 years old:

Ketchup is tomatoes. They open the top of the tomato. They get the liquid out. They stir the liquid up and mix it, too. And then they put flour in and pour it into the ketchup bottle and then it's done. That's how ketchup goes.

Didn't you always wonder?
For more Tiny Talk, go visit Mary's place!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy 12th Birthday!

You were the wiggliest of all babies when you were in my tummy. You were the tallest newborn we had, measuring 21 long inches when you were born. Your precious hair was so fine and white, it was almost invisible. You were loaded with personality from the very beginning.
It warms my heart to see you growing into a compassionate, generous, curious young man.
So happy birthday to my Creative, Observant, Loving, Intelligent, and Noble son of my heart!
I love you!
--Mom


Saturday, September 20, 2008

2008-2009 Curriculum Plan, part 1

For those who are interested, I'm going to post my curriculum plans in several stages, to make it easier on both the writer and the reader. If you are not interested in curriculum in the least, I won't be offended if you skip this post altogether!

I'm still ironing out much of this and expect a few things will change (other than math & science) through the year. Budget has been a big issue in planning this year, so I'm hoping to add some things second semester that I just couldn't afford right now.

First up, Big Brother, S (almost 14):

8th Grade

Bible - finishing Old Testament Survey from Logos School Materials

Catechism - memorizing Shorter Catechism

Spelling - Apples 2

Grammar - S is still finishing some random lessons we missed in A Beka's Grammar and Comp. I from 7th grade. He's doing this because 1. I want him to focus more on writing than grammar this semester; and 2. I'm still thinking about/saving $$ for grammar for him. I'm considering A Beka G & C II and also Mother Tongue.

Writing - Writing Strands, Write Source 2000, and Imitation in Writing Poetry Primer
These are resources we're using, but I'm really making it up as I go along. He's a reluctant writer and I'm focusing on improving his work ethic along with his writing skills. :)
I've just this week heard about a writing program from Peace Hill Press (thanks, Kate!) and I'm VERY interested in that. The middle grades book is not out until next year, but I may explore the Year Four exercises in the first book for some fine-tuning...we'll see.

Vocabulary - Vocabulary from Classical Roots

Literature - various, incl. Fellowship of the Ring, The Once and Future King by T.H.White (or another version of King Arthur), and Beowulf.

Math - Saxon Algebra I

History - Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation - Veritas Press History Cards, Story of the World vol. 2, Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and lots of library books; narrations; essays; outlines.

Government - Electoral Process - outside class based on a Konos unit. Great class discussions, research project on a President, and participation in national mock election

Science - Apologia Physical Science - * I purchased daily lesson plans for this from Rainbow Resource. We don't do science every single day, but the plans help know how much of each module to do per lesson.

Nature Study - various books, field guides, internet and lots and lots and lots of observation and journaling.

Latin & Logic - I own Prima Latina, but have never used it. Even though it's way below his level, I'm hoping to work through it with all 3 kids. Something is better than nothing! For Logic, I hope to use various things like the Ridgewood Analogies and Fallacy Detective until I can afford a formal logic text. (When I do, I'm seriously considering Introductory Logic.)

Art - Picture studies for Middle Ages artists; using books from library to fine-tuning drawing and sketching skills

Music - composer study; beginning piano with Mom; beginning group guitar class

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Random Thought #452: Our obsession with "More"

What is the deal with the modern American obsession with more? I give you, as evidence, the Milky Way bar. I'm not a big candy person. I'm not a big chocolate lover. But I do occasionally enjoy a good Milky Way. Today, however, I noticed that it wasn't as good as usual. Hard to eat, even. I looked at the package and knew instantly what the problem was:
"more caramel in every bite!"
Why more? The original had the perfect ratio of chocolate, nougat, and caramel. Now -- it's a sticky, overly sugared mess. (Don't even get me started on how hard it is to find a regular sized bar, rather than "king size!") Thanks a lot, Mars! Thanks for ruining a small island of happiness in a busy mother's day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What she said...

A childhood friend of mine has a blog about her homeschool. She recently posted her reasons for homeschooling and they summed up my own heart so well, I just had to link to the post. Go visit her here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Overheard

"When I grow up, I want to be a Barbarian!" - 4yo A. announced one day at dinner. We all laughed and told him he pretty much already is.

"Mom, I want to know all the things about electricity and wires. Can you tell me about wires?" - A showing his insatiable curiosity about the world around him

"oh, no! wah happen?" (tr. what happened?) a favorite exclamation of 2yo K, heard many times a day.

"No Dahdoo!" another phrase uttered many times a day by little K, screaming her brother's name in her own wild animal voice

"kugga kugga KYOO KYOO!" (tr. chugga chugga choo choo)- 2yo K, playing with the Thomas Trains.


"That sure is one pretty governor!" - not-quite-12 yo C, while watching Sarah Palin at the RNC.

"Yes, I am a fairy princess." 9yo M, adorned in gossamer wings and a cape, while playing with The Littles -with just enough pre-teen irony in her voice to be sure no one thought she was enjoying it too much.

"Mom, I sent you a piece of flair." almost-14 yo S, while on his page of a social networking site - further proof that I am, indeed, the parent of a teenager

That's what was overheard at the Next Thing house. Go visit Not Before 7 for some more Tiny Talk.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Somebody stop me, I'm on a roll!

I promise this is not turning into a book blog! But I do love books and I want to post about things I love, so...

Bear with me as I share another book discovery. I've been taking the Littles to weekly preschool storytime at the library. Last week, the librarian read a funny book entitled Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! I liked the simple illustrations that had an almost retro feel. I liked how author used speech balloons to convey the plucky pigeon's personality. It made an amusing read-aloud, since every page presented the children in the audience an opportunity to shout, "No!" (when the pigeon begs and pleads to drive.) I admit to laughing out loud during storytime and enjoying the book as much as the 4-year-olds!

I had seen the book at the bookstore (on date night, of course!) and noticed there were others in the series. But when I went to the library the other night (to pick up school books I had put on hold,) I couldn't for the life of me remember the author's last name. The library was closing, and I didn't have time to look it up, so I decided to research it at home for a later visit.

Here's what I found out:

-the author's name is Mo Willems and he has a fun website, too! guess that's what all good children's authors do these days
-yes, there are more Pigeon books - four, actually. The latest of which is The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!
-in addition to the Pigeon books, Willems has authored several other children's titles
-Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! was a 2004 Caldecott Honor Book
-Mo Willems was head writer for the first four seasons of the cartoon Codename: Kids Next Door--one of our family's all time favorite kids' shows! Cool!

I'm hoping at least one of the Pigeon books is on the shelf next time we visit. We always love a good laugh around here!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Because every rocketeer needs a jetpack...

...why not use a grocery bag? A (4) came up with this one all on his own.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another book surprise

Well, I just can't contain myself. I have to tell you about another serendipitous find at the local library. As I was browsing last week for "B" books, I saw Bats at the Library by Brian Lies. Bat starts with B. We love libraries. Illustrations look cute. Let's check it out.

Turns out I picked another winner. Before we even had a chance to read it, My Sweetie and I spotted it on a display at a bookstore on our date night. I thought to myself, "hmmm...maybe it's actually a decent book."

When I finally sat down to read it to the kids we had a blast. The story is a funny one about some mischievous bats who discover an open window at the library and let themselves in. They make all kinds of silly fun, such as photocopying themselves and "swimming" in the water fountain. What captivated the Big 3, however, were the scenes of the little bats imagining themselves in all the stories they read. Mr. Lies puts a clever twist on many classic stories - like a literary inside joke. There is Alice talking to the Cheshire Bat; a familiar scene from McClosky's Make Way for Bat-lings, and many more. If you look carefully, you might even spot a Hobbit hole!

To top it all off, the paintings are done in chiaroscuro style (sharply contrasting light and dark,) which is a good tie-in to some Renaissance art we'll study later this year.

I tend to know more about older children's books - I own children's bibliographies like The Book Tree and Honey for a Child's Heart. It's harder for me sometimes to determine if a more recently published book is one we want to spend our time on. But with Bats at the Library, I think we found a keeper.

Apparently our batty friends have had a previous adventure in Bats at the Beach. We'll have to track that one down and check it out. You can discover both books for yourself at the author's website. Happy Reading!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A is for Awesome

I wasn't planning to compose anything today, simply to post the book reviews I wrote over the weekend. (scroll down or click here to find those) But I just had to tell ya'll about this book.

It's called simply Apples and it's written by Jacqueline Farmer. It was a random find at the library last week. For my little pre-K "program" with A (4) I am doing a "Letter of the Week" theme. We're on our 3rd official week of school, but we're still doing fun "A" things, because I keep finding fun things to study and do! (Plus it's the first letter of his name and therefore kind of a pet.)

Naturally this book caught my eye as it lay on the shelf, discarded by some previous library visitor. Apples not only start with "A," but are a fun topic for this time of year. I liked the cover art; I picked it up and thumbed through a couple of pages. Looks good - let's get it.

We finally got around to reading it today and I have to say it is a very good example of what Charlotte Mason would call a "living book." The illustrations are excellent and beautiful. It is written by one author who loves - or at least has thoroughly researched - her subject. It is very narrative in its writing style, making it a good read aloud for all ages. Best of all - it is very detailed in its information, but presents that information in a very accessible way for children.

The surest way to know a book has impacted its readers is the discussion that follows. All of us - from myself to an almost 14-year-old boy to the Littles - have been chatting about the amazing things we learned from one simple reading of this book. Here are some of our favorites (as narrated to Daddy at dinnertime):
-M (9) learned that apples were given as part of a marriage proposal in ancient Greece - if the girl caught the apple, the answer was "yes!"
-C (11) was impressed to learn that 50% of an apple's vitamin C is contained just under the skin. He was also proud to remind all of us that he eats the discarded peel when I make apples for the Little ones.
-S (13) took an interest in the propagation of apple trees by grafting - not seeds.
-A (4) kept telling Daddy that the farmer picks the good apples before they fall off the tree.
-Mommy learned several things, but perhaps the most interesting was that planting an apple orchard was required by law when homesteading.

The real joy of this book is that the facts listed above (plus a lot more) were not tedious to read about. We didn't even realize how much we were learning as we listened to the story of Apples. Among the lovely illustrations were a couple of diagrams that we plan to incorporate into our nature journals. All in all a very good read. I think M summed it up when she proclaimed, "I never knew you could learn so much from a picture book!"

Book Reviews in Six Words or Less

I've been doing a lot of reading, but not a lot of writing about what I'm reading. I keep putting it off and now it's overwhelming. So I decided to play a fun game and see if I can share my thoughts on each book in six words or less. Here goes:Mitford. Bliss. Saved best for last.

********************************

Everyone must read this book. Now.

*********************************

Gut-wrenching story. Beautifully told. Bit graphic.

***********************************


All truth is God's truth. Paideia.

**********************************



Convicting. Enlightening. Biblical. Very useful book.

************************************

Saturday, September 6, 2008

It's just not going to happen...

Ok, so I promised weekly school reports. It's not going to happen. Disappointed? As The Man in Black said to Vizzini in the Princess Bride, "Get used to disappointment." (grin)

In all seriousness, the same issues that troubled me last year when I gave up the reports are still on my mind. Mainly that it's hard to find the time to write the reports. I enjoy blogging and that's not how I want to spend my blog time. I also have a hard time making them interesting to read - I'm just not that good a writer and I don't want to burden the poor readers.

That being the case, there were a couple of folks who said they actually enjoyed the reports. For you, I offer this: I will post an overall 2008-2009 curriculum plan (eventually) and provide a permalink in my sidebar. I will keep the fun stuff - nature walks, history, great book finds - updated in the sidebar as well. And yes, I will occasionally be so excited about something school-related that I write a post about it.

Thanks for understanding. ya'll are the best!

What can you do in 40 years?

- travel to Pluto and back

- if you're a rhinoceros, complete one life cycle

- watch 14,610 sunsets

- blink 168million times

- grow a white oak that is over 40 feet tall

- enjoy several "generations" of Star Trek

- almost build the Temple in Jerusalem

- if you're a glacier, grow by 13 miles

-- build a godly marriage!


Forty years ago today, two young kids got married and started a family. Those "kids" were my parents. They met on a blind date, fell in love, and were both still in college when they wed. Neither of them was a Christian then, but God, who is rich in mercy, drew them both to Himself in the course of time.



Now 40 years, 4 children, and 11 grandchildren later, they continue to build a legacy of faith that will be passed down for generations. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being faithful to each other, faithful to the Lord, and setting a good example for us.



Happy Anniversary, Mimi & Grandpa! We love you!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Another Random Thought

Hmmm... now where is the Winde*x? Oh, I remember - in the fridge next to the milk!
(orange roughy disaster - trust me, you don't want to know!)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sweet September

Things that made today sweet:

-some good finds at the library
-some awesome deals at Good*will: bike $8; boots $3; kids on bike and in boots-priceless
-finding three of these that call our garden home
-fresh air on a pretty day
-ending the day, thanks to a Star Wars cookbook found at the library, with yummy "Darth Malts."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two Kids Enter! One Kid Leaves!

Random Thought of the Day:
Is it wrong to call my basement playroom "Thunderdome" and just close the door, hoping the screams die down on their own?

Monday, September 1, 2008

I am resigned

that there will always be a stack of books on my kitchen table. I've put adorable bamboo magazine files from Ikea on the counter, in the hopes that the books would drift and land there. But alas, my table looks more like a library than a place to serve a meal. Perhaps it is because I tend to read to the kiddos while they're eating breakfast and lunch. Perhaps it is because the kitchen is the heart of the home and books are dear to the hearts of its inhabitants. Whatever the case, we move the pile to a chair, or the piano - a temporary resting place during family meals - and they soon wander back to their adopted home.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Weekend Reading

It's always a fun day when this arrives in the mailbox:
Vist their website here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I made it!

The first week of school is under my belt and I feel pretty good about it. Granted, it was only a 3-day week, but hey...
Weekly report coming soon. For now, I've just got to say that I'm so happy to be organized this year!!!! With new babies and toddlers in the house, we spent a couple years being more relaxed in our daily routine. It worked for a time, but now we're all ready more structure.
The new schedule and clear lesson plans for the Big 3 made for a really smooth week. Not once did we make it through the whole thing on time, but that's okay. We still got all our lessons done and I even had time for a nap 2 of the 3 days! Yay!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm Still Here!

Hello, Internets! I've missed you! I've been absent from the blog world for a while: we've had a couple of birthdays, a trip to Tennessee to visit family, and I've been working like a madwoman getting ready for school. But I'm still here!

Now that school's beginning, I look forward to a more structured routine. I'll be around on a limited basis posting and visiting. I'm going to experiment with a new way of weekly reporting, so come back to see that if you're interested. Meanwhile, check out the fruits of all my hard work last night getting ready for today - our first day... (Notice there are no pics of M's desk - we moved it up to her room and she was still asleep when I took the pictures. I'll add it later, maybe.)



Sunday, August 10, 2008

Not Martha Stewart? Read this!

I wasn't going to post anything today, but I ran across this fabulous article by Nancy Wilson. Made me think of my favorite song by Caedmon's Call, "Sacred," that opens with the line: "This house is a good mess; it's the proof of life."

Here's a tease:
Where do we get this notion that being organized is next to godliness? I’m
pretty sure we get it from magazines and ads in those magazines. And though they
really may be great magazines full of super recipes and ideas that inspire us,
they can also set us up to start laying guilt trips on ourselves. Something like
this: “If I was really together, my closets would look like those featured in
Martha’s Living, where stacks of sheets are tied with color-coded ribbons.” Just
a little reminder here: Martha has fleets of housekeepers who wash and iron
those sheets and keep them tied up with ribbons. You, on the other hand, do
not.

Thanks, Nancy! Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Six Random Facts About Me

A new bloggy friend, Happy Mommy, tagged me for this one.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you (i.e. me)
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write 6 random things about yourself
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them
5. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger (me) know when your entry is posted

Six Random Facts About Me:
1. I used to wear contacts. My old friends in TN remember this and have had to adjust to seeing me in glasses; my new GA friends don't know me any other way. After 17 years of contact lenses invading my corneal space, my eyes rebelled!
2. I'm addicted to chap stick. Must have access to it at all times. There's a tube in the "key bowl" on my kitchen counter; a tube in the car; one in my purse; and one on my bedside table.
3. I hate wet paper. Wait. Let me rephrase that: I'm deathly afraid of wet paper. No clue. Weird, I know. I hate the beverage napkins they put under your water glass at restaurants. Soggy tissues from the laundry make me gag. That trick where you crinkle a straw wrapper and watch it expand with a drop of water - horrifying!
4. Not much on sandwich wraps either. Think it has something to do with fact #3 above - the "fillings" get the wrap all icky.
5. I love snakes. Wish I could have one as a pet, but My Sweetie says no way Bummer. Afraid of wet paper. Enchanted by snakes. Told ya I was weird.
6. I was voted "Most Likely to Make My Kids Eat Broccoli" at my high school banquet. No comment.

So, St. Theophan Academy, Confessing Me, Reluc Tant, Tate School, Mostly I'm Tired, and Heritage Academy... you're IT!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The One About the Mer*ry Mai*ds

Ok, so here's the thing - someone had given me a gift card for Mer*ry Mai*ds (henceforth known as MM) two Christmases ago. After the summer craziness and a laid back attitude toward housework, I decided to redeem the gift card in the hopes of at least getting part of my house grime-free and ready for the start of school.

So I called the local chapter and explained what I wanted. I knew that MM was expensive, so I told the lady I wanted whatever cleaning my $100 could buy me, starting with kitchen and bathrooms. She said that I could make an appointment for a consultant to come out and give me a free estimate. I reminded her I just wanted to redeem a gift card. Nevertheless, it seems to be MM policy that their "consultant" come out first. Fine. So I made the appointment for a Thursday afternoon. Day 1 of my schedule being cleared or adjusted for MM.

Of course the kids and I spent Thursday morning frantically tidying up the entire house, so the house cleaning consultant (!) wouldn't think we were overly messy and round up our estimate. That done, I put a new tablecloth on in the kitchen and waited. The lady showed up an hour late, full of apologies. Fine. Let's move on. I gave her a tour of the house and she made a few very stoic remarks about what would be cleaned in each room. We returned to my newly-draped table to write up the estimate.

First she showed me what weekly and bi-weekly cleanings would cost, should I decide to become a regular client. The MM fee schedule is designed to punish their customers for not having them come more often. The less often they clean; the more you pay for a cleaning. The prices she quoted me for merely cleaning the main areas of my house, excluding all bedrooms, basement, and laundry room bordered on ridiculous. But that was never my intention anyway. Now about that gift card....

She did a lot of tapping on her Black*erry calculator (how hard can it be?) Then she gave me a total for getting my kitchen and three bathrooms cleaned, just once: $104. A strange figure, I thought - probably meant to make MM look more professional. No even, round numbers here, that's so amateur! My gift card was for $100, so she said I could just give the cleaners $4 cash when they come. Fine. We set up the appointment for the following Tuesday "afternoon." Meaning literally any time after noon. Day 2 of my schedule being cleared for MM.

So the day of the cleaning arrives and again we go through a ritual of tidying up. Funny how that is, huh? Cleaning for the cleaning ladies? I cleared the kitchen counter of all mail, broken crayons, Pol*y P*cket shoes, and Lego creations. I moved on to the master bath and was working on putting away all the things that make me beautiful when the doorbell rang ... at 11:30 am. Now understand, MM has a "lockout policy" that says you pay $25 or 25% of your bill, whichever is more, should the cleaners arrive and you're not home. What if I had decided to run to the store, planning to return at noon? ugh.

The ladies came in and the actual cleaning part was rather uneventful. My Sweetie, who was working from home that day, took the kiddos to the local bounce house so I wouldn't have to constantly shoo them away from the MMs hard at work. New people in our house, especially those that come with equipment, are like a kid-magnet. A (almost 4) and K (2) follow them around staring and asking questions. Even the Big 3 have trouble containing their curiosity, finding all sorts of reasons to walk through whatever portion of the house someone is working in. Funny.

The ladies come. The ladies clean. The ladies leave about two hours later, with a call from the foyer, "We're leaving!" "okay," I say, caught a little off-guard. After they're gone, I walk around to inspect and find several obvious things they overlooked: the top of the fridge wasn't even dusted, let alone "deep cleaned" like the consultant promised all areas of my kitchen would be. Wooden blinds on the windows - not touched. Ceiling fan - gross. Chair rail - still sporting dried spaghetti sauce in several places. Stove - full of crumbs under the drip pans. Trash - not emptied, but rather full of MM cleaning trash. Kitchen chairs - randomly piled in the hallway. Tabletop - obviously wiped with a wet cloth, but not scrubbed for goo. Trust me, in this house, we have lots of goo. I suddenly remembered they were supposed to let me do a walk-through before they leave. Hello!

Frustrated, I tried to call the number to answer a survey and leave a voicemail. (Found a nice letter on my table after the MMs left telling me to share my experiences. Boy, did I want to share!) But the automated survey line wasn't working so I called the local chapter.

The "quality control" supervisor answered the phone and told me how sorry she was I wasn't satisfied with the experience. And yes, those things should have been done. And absolutely they should have walked me through to inspect their work. When can we come out and make this right? Tomorrow at 8:30? I said that was a bit early and we settled on 9 am. Day 3 of my schedule being adjusted to fit MM and redeem a simple gift card.

The next day arrived. Nine o'clock came and went. Ten o'clock came and went. At 10:15 I called back and the quality control lady said, "oh, I thought you meant anytime after 9am." I think a little steam escaped from my ears at this point while I tried to maintain self-control.
"No," I replied, "I was expecting you here at 9. Are the ladies close by where they can come now?" "no ma'am, I'm sorry, they're not." "I've got company coming in a while and I can't wait anymore."

After going on this way for a couple of minutes, we settled on 9am sharp the next morning for the original two MMs plus the quality control supervisor to come finish the job. Fine. Day 4 of my life put on hold to redeem a simple gift card.

Day 4 dawns and I don't even lift a finger to tidy up before their arrival. When they come to the door, 2 kids are in PJs, 3 kids still asleep, and I'm in the middle of making my breakfast in the kitchen. I make no effort to stay out of the way and respond as politely as I can manage to the supervisor's apologies and remarks. They make it through the list of forgotten items and leave.

I breathe a sigh of relief and remember now why I clean my own house! With the help of the kids, of course. I think about FlyLady and decide that a little housework, poorly done, still blesses my family. Enough of the professionals for me, though it does smell good, and I'm glad to have clean floors. Relieved to have the whole experience behind me, I head upstairs to get the Littles dressed. As I walk past the dining room I see....

...they left their step stool!!!!!!

Score!

Ok, so you know from my previous post how we are all trying to be frugal, right? (Thanks for your comments and ideas, by the way!) Check out my savings today:

Clothes for the kids: retail price total with tax: $358.17
My out-of-pocket: $89.46
Stretching the family dollar as far as it can go: Priceless!

Made possible by: 1. sales tax holiday; 2. awesome in-store sales; 3. VISA gift card donated by sweet brother-in-law; and 4. returns and store credit at Chil*ren's Pl*ce.

Not bad for an afternoon!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spare and Earn

"Spare and Earn." I learned that phrase many years ago in a book by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Prentiss. In her novel The Little Preacher, she mentions that so-and-so character was now "old enough to spare and earn" and thus help the family. I often ponder how I, a SAHM, can spare and earn in my own family.
For the "earning" part, I try to remember what Sue Jakes says in Heart of the Home: "What do you have in your house?" (from 2 Kings 4:2, the widow who had nothing except a little oil - great story...go read it!) Anyway, "what do you have in your house?" I have many times in the past participated in consignment sales and sold used books.

But the truth is, as a SAHM who is also homeschooling, it's the "sparing" that I am able to focus on. In the last two years, since the birth of K, our #5, I have become very lax about the budget. Shopping without a list and a plan; takeout when life gets busy. But several things have occurred together that have given us a budget wake-up call:

-gas prices through the roof - our family car is a guzzling tank ... but we can't exactly fit into a camry, now, can we?
-food prices on the rise for various reasons
-one teen boy, and another right on his heels; 4 chicken breast halves used to feed our whole family at dinner - those days are gone!
-K (2) eats nearly the same amount of food at dinner as her older sister. No more getting by on just eating off of Mommy and Daddy's plates

So - it's back to more diligent planning, shopping, and cooking for me! This means taking time to read weekly store ads, stocking up on sale items or things at wholesale clubs, and planning ahead so that there is no 5 o'clock crunch on a busy day that sends us running to a drive-thru. We've also tried to cut back on our use of paper products, relying instead on towels and cloth napkins. (not only frugal, but green) Instead of money, now I'm investing time!

It has made me ponder our grandmothers and how hard they worked to feed their families healthy meals during the depression and WWII rationing. We have become so spoiled!

I found this MSN article very interesting. It's about trying to feed a family of four on $100/week. She mentions the USDA chart guidelines for grocery spending per family. Curious, I looked at the chart and here's what I found:

-for our family of 7 at the "moderate" level - $362.80 per week (yikes! can you imagine?); the "low-cost" plan for our family size was $292.50 per week; the "thrifty" plan was $223.00.

I'm assuming that the chart is food only and doesn't include diapers, paper products, cleaning products, and pet supplies. My budget does. With very careful planning, no eating out, and homemade everything, we struggle to keep it under $225. (Don't even get me started on the high cost of fresh produce, meat and dairy - let alone organic!) This has not been easy, but I feel a little less guilty about the times I've gone a little over when I see what the average family spends on just food.

I used to visit the miserlymoms website several years ago ... maybe it's time I pop back in for some frugal encouragement.

How does your family come in under budget?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Golden Wish List

While at B & N on our date last night, I went batty over this book:

Divine Proportion: Phi in Art, Nature, and Science by Priya Hemenway.

Ahh, the Golden Ratio. Found in the Parthenon, the pyramids, the works of great artists (including Da Vinci,) and all over nature. (C (11) tried his best to use the ratio when building his model Parthenon.) It can be found in the intervals of classic musical masterpieces. It's what makes the lovely spirals in nature so appealing. Consider this fiddle head fern we spotted on a nature hike in the spring:


Before you think I'm going all Da Vinci code on ya... consider this: All truth is God's Truth. God is a God of order and not chaos. Creation is full of examples of the beauty of His order. And we, as image-bearers reflect that with an inclination toward this orderly beauty.

As this book suggests, throughout history people have been drawn to this ratio and consider its proportions beautiful. Since one of my goals in educating my children is to nourish their love of truth, beauty, and goodness, this book is going on my wish list!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Slowly but Surely

I'm trying to gear up for school. Where has the summer gone? I thought I'd have much more accomplished by this point. But who am I kidding??? I have five kids! Two under age 4! Most of my time is spent making sure everyone has 3 square meals (plus snacks - let's not forget the all-important snacks!), wading through piles and piles of laundry, keeping the bathroom floor clean of pee and the kitchen floor clear of cheeto crumbs...

Yes, I do all these same things during the school year, and manage to cram in some school time. I think what happened to summer is that I replaced school with "enrichment." We've visited the library every week, had lots of fun at the pool, gone to free movies, entertained family, and escaped to the mountains. All very wonderful, but I forgot to leave myself any time to clean, organize, and prepare!

So now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty. Today the Big 3 are purging their "cubbies" - the catch all baskets that hold everything from last year's math tests to nature journals to old birthday cards. I'm taking inventory of our school supplies so that I can have a list ready for next week's sales tax holiday. I'm also praying over and planning out the last details of our curriculum for this year. I've been following a hybrid of The Well Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason for years now, but every new school year brings doubt and worry that we're not covering all the bases. (Thus my current books in the sidebar - need that little pep rally to wash away the doubt.)

A (3) is already excited about school. He'll be turning four in August and I plan to do lots of K-4 activities with him this year - he's ready to learn to read and soaks everything up like a sponge. It will be so fun to watch his mind grow this year. Today while we were organizing in the playroom/schoolroom he found his preschool number cards. I couldn't talk him into waiting, so we did some math:I had him help me put the number cards in order. Then he placed the "dot" cards under the proper number. Then he made race car "trains" to equal the numbers on the cards. He had a blast. (Reminds me of those "more bars in more places" cell phone commercials, LOL) He had just as much fun driving the cars over the number line to clean up...

sleepyhead




Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Thought

Thanks to the recommendation of Jon, our Sunday School teacher, I've spent this evening browsing a website called gracegems.org, a collection of Puritan wisdom.

I found a quote on marriage that warmed my heart. One of the things I love about the Mitford books by Jan Karon is the affectionate relationship between Father Tim and his wife, Cynthia. Many times their words and actions, though mere characters in a book, have spurred me to greater affection toward my own husband. When I found this quote, by John Angell James, I thought Father Tim would approve:

The purest happiness of an earthly nature, is that which springs up in a comfortable home, where there is a loving union of hearts between man and wife. The tender sympathies, the delicate affections, the minute attentions, the watchful solicitudes, the ceaseless kindnesses of marital love,--are the sweetest ingredients in the cup of life,and contribute a thousand times more to earthly enjoyment, than all the possessions of wealth, and all the blandishments of rank, station, and fashion.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It was just too quiet...

I was busy giving the Big 3 a "mini-lecture" on taking ownership of their own behavior and responsibility for their chores. I wrapped up my speech and went to find A and K. It was very quiet. A was supposed to be unloading the silverware from the dishwasher, but the kitchen was abandoned, drawers open, silverware basket perched on the counter. Ok, now I was worried. Did he let himself out of the house without permission?


I peeked into the garage, to see if the outside door was open. When I did, I saw this:
Of course I laughed to myself. And being the good blogger that I am, before scolding him for opening a door without permission, I grabbed my camera to capture the moment. He, of course saw me at that point and came running over so I could snap this picture:
He's saying, "mwah-ha-ha-haaa" in a very menacing voice! He and K continued to march around the garage, chanting "ha-ha-haaaa" like some kind of masked pirates. These two are quite a pair - remember when they went tribal? They're always up to something, which is why, on so many, many days like this, I can only "do the next thing." That's all I have time for in between their antics!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Going green - and not in a good way

As I was listening to NPR today, I heard the latest news in the Beijing Olympic saga: an algae bloom that threatens to spoil sailing events. Apparently the tiny little plants have formed quite a forest off the coast of Qingdao, the city where the sailing events are scheduled to take place. Though I'm sure the Chinese government and Olympic officials aren't laughing, it struck me as kind of funny. Click here for a striking photo of the algae-smothered coastline and the full story.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Family Favorite

I read about Nancy Wilson's idea for "jammy rides" several years ago when my Big 3 were the only 3! Since then we have had many memorable surprise outings. Give it a try yourself - you'll be glad you did. Here's a desctiption. While you're at Nancy's blog, poke around. There are some nuggets to be found.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Busy at Home (Titus 2:5)

We're enjoying summer here at the Next Thing house, though I've not been able to take much time to blog about it! Let's face it: with five children running around, trips to the pool, loving my husband, and making home-keeping a priority ... there just isn't much time left for blogging, is there? I've felt convicted about how much the kids were seeing the back of me as I sit at the computer, so I'm still really limiting myself to computer time only when all are sleeping or otherwise engaged!

Though I'm spending my days Doing the Next Thing, I do have some books I want to review and chore ideas to share. So I'll be putting those things up, little by little. Stay tuned....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Record of Wrongs

Psalm 130:3 "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?"
I read this passage yesterday and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The Holy Lord, who has every right to keep a record of sins, does not for those who repent and believe. Yet how many times do I hold on to my children's wrong-doings and forget to extend them the grace I've so undeservedly been given? Lord, help me to "remember their frame" and not expect my children to be more sanctified than I!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

WFMW Thank you!

I occasionally pop over to "Works for Me Wednesday" hosted by Rocks in My Dryer. It's a good place to get tips on just about everything from spot removal on carpet to recipes to parenting. Yesterday I found this awesome idea for grilled pizza. We dubbed it "Pizza Rustica" and, in the words of My Sweetie, it is possibly the best pizza we've ever eaten!

First I made the dough in my breadmaker. It was 1/4 whole wheat and the rest unbleached white flour - more gluten makes better pizza crusts, I've found. I added a dash of Herbes de Provence to the dough. (You could used frozen bread dough, too, if you're not into making your own.)

I divided the dough into six individual pizzas. (As the author of this recipe says, smaller is better on the grill.) Don't worry about shape - it's rustic! We brushed one side of the crust with olive oil, and put on a medium heat grill.
When that side looks done, flip it and top it! We used traditional sauce, pepperoni, and cheese for the kids. For our pizzas, we drizzled more olive oil and topped with more Herbes de Provence, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, and asiago cheese. Yum!
Close the lid and let it grill for a few more minutes, then enjoy. Thanks, Aubrey!

Pictures for the Church Nursery

Someone mentioned they wanted to see the cute art I got to put in the nursing moms' room at church. They were each 50 cents at Good*will. Not bad, huh?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Overheard" Addendum

I didn't have a good quote from M (9) to include in my post yesterday...until now. Overheard just this morning:

"Dad! He used all the pretend jelly!" Expressing her frustration at A (3) during their imaginary picnic. Didn't know imaginary jelly was so sparse! (Thanks, Mary, for the great picnic idea!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Overheard

"Mom, the truth is you can get to the Land of Nod by day, it's just much harder." 11yo C.'s waking words to me one day after recently reading Robert Louis Stevenson's poem about dreams.

"I'm having a great time!" 13 yo S., who helped teach the four-year-olds at Vacation Bible School last week.

"Mom, can you give me the two dollars you owe me for babysitting?" yet another reminder there is a teen in the house.

"Mom, you look lovely!" 3 yo A., upon seeing me in my swimsuit (?!?) It must be the little silver clasp on the top, b/c it certainly wasn't about me...

"I prefer NOT to go fast down this hill and slam on the brakes!" A's comment one day as we were in the car. Never too early to be a backseat driver!

"Aow no" tr. "I don't know" - 2yo (going on 6!) K's newest phrase - learning to plead ignorance when it will benefit her. :)

That's what a fly on the wall at our house would have heard. For more Tiny Talk Tuesday, go visit Not Before 7.

Monday, June 2, 2008

We interrupt this program...

I will not be around in the blogsphere this week. It's VBS week at our church, and I am the director this year. Most of the hard work is behind me and I'm geared up to enjoy the fun and see what the Lord will do in the lives of the children and our community. Even though we'll be enjoying ourselves, the pace of this week will be a harried one. So blogging must wait until after our Faith Expedition! I look forward to posting and visiting later in the month.

Grace and Peace!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A good day at Good*will

I'm trying to find some cute little art to brighten the nursing moms room at our church. So I headed to Good*will, hoping for a bargain and was not disappointed! I found 2 cute prints (cutesy might be the word, but they're better than blank walls!), three brand name shirts for my kids, a vase, and a homeschool book from Christian Liberty Press, one of my favorite publishers. Thanks to 50% off "red tag" items and framed art, Total bill: $5.60. Not bad.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Birthday Pancakes

Sweet little K, the baby of our family, turns 2 today.
Happy Birthday, Little Dear!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Overheard, "BLT" Edition

I have not been very good about writing down quotes from all the kiddos lately, but every 5 minutes something funny comes out of A's mouth. The 3-year-old formerly known as the BLT (Busy Little Toddler) always has a busy mind, busy body, and - happy for you - a busy mouth!

Since I'm worried I'll not remember the cute things he used to say, I thought I would first take a walk down memory lane.

"Gulley, gulley, gulley" 12 mo. old - the sound A. would make, with paci in mouth, when we were tucking him in at night. We all loved the "gulley gulley."
"ka wass, kie" tr. "car wash - cry" At 18 mo. he was deathly afraid of the carwash and would tell perfect strangers how he cried. Who knew that this phobia would become an obsession?
"If you have a valid wash code, please enter wash code." The phrase uttered hundreds of times, at the peak of his car wash obsession, when he would act out the process with his cozy coupe under the swingset. age 2 1/2 - 3.

Now for the recent chatter...

"Hey Mom! God made the birds!...and the sky!...and everything!...and His glory!"

"Mom, when I eat this, it will go down into my stomach." "Yes, A, it will." "And then it will go down to my reflections!" tr. "intestines" A's current obsession is the human body.

"I want to watch 101 Salvations!" tr. "Dalmatians" - he recently saw the classic animated version for the first time and loved it.

Now head over to Not Before 7 to see what other tots have to say.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Music for a Monday in May

I love Indelible Grace Music! They occupy more space on my iPod than even U2 - and that's saying something. Matthew Smith played an awesome concert at our church last fall and I'm hoping to catch them live in concert somewhere in Georgia this summer. If you want to know more or buy CDs, go to their site and check it out. Good stuff!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Dryer's Mine!

I love that I have kids old enough to do chores and actually be helpful. (Yes, chore post is in the works and coming shortly, I promise.) What a blessing that my son, S, can sort and start my laundry every day! But I learned the hard way that a 13 yo boy just doesn't "get" what can go into the dryer and what can't. (For that matter, even sweet husbands have a hard time discerning that.) Yesterday he asked about a pillowcase and dried my favorite chocolate-brown linen pants without a thought!! ugh!

So -- I'm very proud of my boy for his mastery in the laundry room, but I think from now on, I'll govern the dryer!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two Important Rules

Rules I made for myself. Rules I often ignore. Yet, when I follow these rules, life just works better around here.
Rule No. 1: Stay home on Mondays. I made this rule about 10 years ago and when I abide by it, my whole week just goes better. Saturday's a work/prep for Sabbath day; Sunday's the Sabbath. A quiet Monday at home allows us to catch up without feeling pressured. It takes some discipline and learning to say, "no," but I will have margin in my week!

Rule No. 2: Rest for 30 min each afternoon. Yeah, right! I have 5 kids and I homeschool! Despite that, if I carve out time to relax and refuel in the afternoon, I am a much nicer person in the evening. Without it, I'm a zombie by dinner and too exhausted to enjoy the sweetest time of the day - when the whole family is together. Even working furiously all day, I still don't get everything accomplished, so why not take a short break that will benefit everyone?

What makes your life tick?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prayers for China

My heart is heavy as I listen to news of the earthquake in China - the more time passes, more devastation is uncovered. This, after the horrible cyclone in Myanmar last week. Join me in praying for the victims of these disasters.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Word from Mitford

A quote I just can't seem to get out of my head:

"Love is an act of endless forgiveness." -- Jan Karon, in the book Light from Heaven
(as quoted from the sign of the Wayside Pulpit, which Father Tim passes along the way)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Design Inspiration

Design Inspiration CarnivalMary at Not Before 7 is hosting a Design Inspiration Carnival this weekend. Home decorating is really not my strength. Many of my projects lie unfinished, victims of the tyranny of the urgent that is life as a homeschool mom.

But I enjoy my boys' bedroom. Even though it is not very polished, lacking some finishing touches. But I like what it represents in our family: letting them grow up.

When baby #5 was born, we knew that we'd eventually be bunking up all three of our boys in one room. We shopped extensively for just the right set of bunk beds and found a very flexible set with a trundle that could be placed in a number of configurations and still get 3 beds. They were gorgeous stained wood. They were also very expensive. We resigned ourselves to the cost, and I enjoyed the thought of creating a very traditional boys' room with plaid comfortors, stained wood, and antique toys as accents.
But then... we went to Ikea. And the boys saw a really cool "room" on display. Very high-tech looking. Very modern. Very different from what I envisioned - but they fell in love. After a quick conference with My Sweetie, we decided to go for it. After all, the big boys were almost 11 and 13 and they were entitled to opinions of their own about the space they live in. The room was cute, and the deciding factor: the entire room cost far less than the other bunk beds cost just for the beds.
So now I present our "cool" boys' bedroom:
Three of the walls are painted silver. Yes, silver! We used "Jimmy Neu*tron" gray paint as a base and then sponge-painted over it with a metallic glaze. (We're quite proud - it's the only faux paint finish we've ever done.)
The comforters are from Tar*get. They're reversible and the boys enjoy using opposite colors to personalize their space. They are from the same line as A's quilt, but I thought the stripes would be more flexible for boys-growing-into-young men.
The bunk beds and dresser are, of course from Ikea. Both have turned out to be a very good buy. I don't miss the big, pricey wooden ones at all. (I'd probably be constantly stressing about them getting damaged, anyway!)

We also got this little "rail system" (a kitchen towel bar from Ikea with hanging basket and cup) for each of the Big Boys to keep their precious items du jour and and any books or magazines they read at night. (Using the small, wall-mounted lamps in the picture above, also from guess-where!) This system is a hit with parents and boys alike because they have a place for their stash that can be kept neat.
This is A's little corner. His little toddler bed has the quilt from the Tar*get line that matches the boys comforter. The lion blankie and leaf canopy are both from - you guessed it - Ikea. He has his own little basket of books and a little back-pack of "rest time toys" hangs from the headboard.
The picture doesn't do this cute quilt justice - the bed is simply too small. It's a nine-patch style quilt with a different jungle scene on each block. When A graduates to a big boy bed, it will look really precious.

This is our black "accent wall." You have no idea how hard it was for this traditional southern girl to paint.a.wall.black. Yet, it totally works with this room and gives it that little something extra. We got this inexpensive round chair at a crafts store for under $20. Together with a 99 cent tub from our favorite Sweedish store, it makes a nice reading nook for the boys.

These shelves give the boys a place to display things that are precious to them - like Lego creations that take all day to build, yet could be destroyed in 30 seconds in the hands of one of our BLT's (Busy Little Toddlers.)

Lastly, my favorite thing in the room: the window treatment. I bought this fabric for next to nothing and fell in love with the bright colors. I bought an eyelet-making kit and made all the orange ties. It was a time-consuming and often frustrating task, but I absolutely love the result! Paired with some cocoa-colored bamboo shades and the window is one of the most "dressed" in my house!
So that's it. Even though we copied most of the design from a store showroom, we're happy with the results. Now, keeping the room looking this clean is quite another challenge with three busy boys. Especially when everything they're interested in comes with 1,000 small pieces! Don't expect to drop by my house and see the room looking this neat...
For more Design Inspiration, or to post about your own favorite room, head over to Mary's place.