Showing posts from June, 2010

Behavior bootcamp

I find when I have had a stretch of being preoccupied that it's as if I wake up one morning and realize that my children have become hooligans.  Because of my preoccupation, this time with getting M. off to her mission trip and B. leaving for scout camp and then figuring out how life is going to work without these two very capable people, I don't parent quite as actively as I should and our home life starts to look a bit like Lord of the flies.  This is particularly true with the younger boys.  In the past few days the incidences of whining, complaining, blaming, and general unpleasantness has escalated significantly. 

As a result, we have to go back to basics, starting with first-time obedience.  There are two boys in the house, who over the next few days, are going to have a boat load of opportunities to practice this skill.  I also predict that my house is going to be very, very clean by the end of it.  This is because in order to practice obedience there needs to be some …

Sometimes I wish my house were bigger

I'll just pause here for a moment so that those of you who have seen my house can clean-up the coffee you just spewed all over you computer.  Perhaps I should have said, "I wish my house had more usable space."  Is that better?  Marginally?  For those of you who haven't been to my house, it is big.  Really big.  Embarrassingly big.  But we really only use a fraction of the space.  What I wish is that we had the resources to turn much of the unused/unusable space into something useful.  We have an entire third floor which could be turned into bedrooms, both for some of our children and for use as guest rooms.  Right now, it is three rooms and a bathroom, all of which are completely unusable, and an over-sized play room.  Yes, I know having the huge playroom up there is nice, but does it really need to be this big?  It just invites monster-sized messes. And then there is the attic above that...

Anyway, why am I thinking about this?  I have started having that dream aga…

Book discovery and other things

I have found a new book that I am loving so much, I want to share it with you even though I'm not done with it yet.  It is Keeping House: the litany of everyday life by Margaret Kim Peterson.  Here is a little excerpt:

     "Although my husband and I hardly had two nickels to rub together, we agreed that I would not seek paid employment for those few months and would instead devote my time to getting us packed and moved.  I would in other words, be "just a housewife."

     Around that time my friend Donna gave birth to her second child.  Lily turned out to be severely affected by Down syndrome.  She spent the three months of her brief life in a pediatric intensive-care nursery, and for those three months Donna practically lived at the hospital with her.  I sat and visited with them for a couple of hours two or three days a week, sharing with them in that searing experience of love and loss.  Lilly died just a week after we moved; we had been gone from church only on…

Plinkety, Plinkety, Plinkety, Plink*

That's the happy sound of canning lids sealing.  A sound one wants to hear after having spent a good portion of the day in the kitchen making and canning jam.

Our house guest and her daughter went to Michigan yesterday to pick cherries.  And pick cherries they did... to the tune of nearly 100 pounds of cherries; half sweet and half sour.  When you've spent that much time driving and picking, you don't want the cherries to go bad.  We needed to do something with them. Today.  And to add to the fun, (and because I'm a tad bit compulsive) I went to the farmer's market this morning hoping to find the last of the strawberries and brought home 6 quarts.  I really do think they were the last; they were very sweet and very ripe.  Waiting to do something with them was not an option either.

As you can see in the picture above, we ended up with 6 1/2 pints of sour cherry jam.  (This was new for me and I have to say I'm pretty proud of how it turned out.  It is way yummy.…

So, do you stop for the summer?

This has been the question dujour recently.  I know everyone means do we stop doing "school", but each time I am sorely tempted to ask, "Stop doing what?  Living?'  At the root of these two questions lies the fundamental difference between those of us who teach our children at home and traditional schooling.  At this point in our homeschooling journey, I find it nearly impossible to separate what is just "life" and what is "school"; there is very little difference between the two. 

We may take a break from doing intense grammar lessons in the summer (sentence diagramming and stuff), but we certainly do not take a break from reading, or discussing what we've read, or talking about how words work, or writing stories, or... It's just a part of how we live.  We do not take a break from working on math books, because to do so causes such distress (on the part of both parent and child) when it comes time to resume that it isn't worth it.  …

Leaving on a jet plane, or sitting around O'Hare...

it just depends on your perspective. 

J. just called me and told me that M. is safely on the plane.  So she is off on her big adventure.  Now, the alert reader is asking herself, why did J. have to call E. to tell her that?  Wasn't she at the airport, too?  In fact, I was at the airport.  I was at the airport for several hours.  But when we were checking in, we assumed that we would both be able to get security passes to go to the gate.  We assumed wrong.  We could have one. 

I decided to let J. go to the gate since he is a bit more emotionally stable than I am at times.  I said I would go wait at the coffee kiosk until J. saw M. onto the plane.  So far, so good.  I ordered a coffee and sat and alternately people-watched and prayed.  And then my cell phone rings at about the time the plane was supposed to be loading.  I think it must be J. telling me he's seen her off.  I was half right; it was J.  But he was telling me that though her flight was supposed to be boarding, the…

19 years

Today is our 19th anniversary.  I am so blessed to be married to my best friend; a man who is a wonderful husband and father.  The past 19 years have been a fantastic adventure and we have done things we never dreamed of when we first married.  (For instance, we both thought that having four children sounded just about right.)  God has continued to work in our lives and I am excited to see what the future brings.

Though, currently, the future is taking our oldest daughter on an airplane in the morning.  And while I am dreading her being gone, I am also very excited for her to have this experience.  I'll be okay.  Really.  For times such as these, one of the pluses of having many children is that there isn't a lot of down time to obsess.  I know the seven weeks will fly by and everyone will be home again.  I will be hovering around the mailbox on the lookout for letters.
The past few days have been a flurry of last minute packing details.  There are just a few more left to take…

Fresh strawberry pie

Four birthdays down and one to go.  When I made D.'s strawberry birthday pie yesterday, I was reminded how much I love this recipe.  So, I thought I would share it with you.  This is a recipe from my mother-in-law, who got it from a college friend of hers, who got it from her mother, who took it out of 1956 issue of  a Ladies' Home Journal.  (As a complete aside, I love family recipes that include a story...who it was from, who loved it, when it was always made.  I try to make notes in my cookbooks and recipes to help preserve family memories for my children.)

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Prepare and bake a 9" pie shell.  Cool.  Wash and hull 1 1/2 quarts of fresh strawberries.  Reserve best looking half; mash the rest.  To mashed strawberries, add 1 c. sugar and 3 TBSP cornstarch.  Mix well and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly, until thick and clear.  Stir in 2 TBSP lemon juice.  Cool.  Add remaining berries, saving 4 or 5 as garnish.  Pour into pastry shell.  Chill.  B…

My inner sheepdog is happy,

at least for the next five days.  A. and P. came home from camp today.  They are happy and tired and we're glad to have them home.  We will now spend the next five days celebrating five birthdays, one anniversary, and one send-off.  Whew, it makes me tired just thinking about it.

Speaking of tired, it's hard to transition from napping to not napping.  Just when you're are having fun playing with your cars,

you get so tired that you just have to fall asleep:

And instead of your mother whisking you off to bed, she gets out the camera instead.


A bre*st infection is no fun.  The babies love all the extra nursing, though.

Lots of links

(Added one more link at the bottom.)

I've come across some interesting posts at various blogs I read and thought I would share them with you.  First, my friend at His Hands His Feet Today has an interesting list of the benefits of large adoptive families.

Next, there are the latest doings of The Manns who adopted triplet boys from K.s orphanage.  These posts are so funny. I would just read all the entries... but be careful about drinking anything while you read, your computer may be damaged.

Generation Cedar has had a series on living on one income.  Here is Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Do any of you have children who like to make things?  Then Ikat Bag will be an inspiration, especially what she does with cardboard.  How about hats?  Or a mailbox or boat?  I can spend hours at this blog marvelling at her creativity.

And finally, homeschoolers, did you know that there is a weekly Carnival of Homeschooling that moves from blog to blog and lists interesting posts about various homesch…


I've been reading The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.  (I've also enjoyed his book, Blink.)  I find them interesting for what he has to tell us about how humans work... ideas about how we make decisions, know things, interact with one another.  (I feel the need to add a disclaimer here.  The books are written from a purely secular viewpoint and there is no room for God in Mr. Gladwell's worldview.  While what he has to say is interesting, believers need to filter the books through the lens of Scripture.)  I just finished reading a section where the author recounts a study that was done called "The Good Samaritan study".  I've read about this experiment before, but was more struck by it this time for some reason.

Shortly, the experiment took a group of seminary students and asked them a series of questions and then requested each of them prepare some sort of lecture.  Some students were asked to prepare a lesson …

Happy Birthday, B., G., and L!

G. (on left) and L. turn one year old today,

and B. (here with his cousin) turns 15.
Boy, this past year has gone by quickly.  Or perhaps, it just feels that way since I spent a good part of it significantly sleep deprived.  Either way, my tiny little babies are now crawling, personality-filled, little balls of energy.  They continue to be so much fun and I'm so madly in love with them.  I am in no hurry for them to grow-up and I am relishing their baby-ness.  With my older children I was always looking forward to the next milestone, not fully aware how fast they would each come.  But 15 and 17 come so fast, and I want to enjoy every minute I have with these babies... yes, even the sleepless nights.

Because I will blink and they will be turning 15 just like their older brother, B., whom I am also madly in love with.  He is becoming such a wonderful young man... funny, thoughtful, helpful, a great cook and gardener, and a pleasure to have around.  I can't wait to see what he does…

Home again, home again

L. (on left) and G. (notice the new farm outfits I made for visiting Iowa)
We have returned from a quick weekend trip to Iowa.  My parents own a farm there and occasionally go out to see it.  My brother and his family decided to meet them, so we joined the party as well.  We had a nice time, despite some rain, and the cousins had a great time catching-up.  We saw the Living History Farms and the zoo in Des Moines.  The highlight for many of the children was feeding the koi in the children's section of the zoo.  There were so many koi that they were swimming on top of each other to get to the food that was being offered.  It was such a feeding frenzy that the children discovered you didn't even need food for them.  Just putting your fist into the water would cause many fish to start investigating what was there. 

All the cousins waiting for the tractor to take us to the historical farms.

In the school room

The koi pond

M. and TM at the zoo

K. during lunch
Today we drove home by way …


It's funny that I should have mentioned our nature journals and painting bag the other day, because suddenly everyone became interested in it again.  We discovered a long line of ants moving back and forth across our front porch.  At first I thought they were busy carrying food, so I looked closer wondering where this food was coming from.  (We've had a problem with ants in the kitchen over the past few days.)  When I looked closer I discovered it wasn't food they were carrying, but some sort of larvae.  Evidently they were moving an entire nest... to under our front porch, but we won't dwell on that right now.

Everyone became so interested in the ants that we decided to paint them.  Here are a few pictures from the afternoon:



TM and D.
B., who has my perfectionist tendencies and decided he needed to read a book about watercolor painting before he could begin.


Have I mentioned before that my besetting sin is worry?  (Well, I'm pretty sure pride is up there, too, but that would be another post.)  I am a world-class worrier.  My main mode of operation is to immediately jump to the worst case scenario and worry about it.  And it isn't a vague sort of worry; it's a sick-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach worry.  I am fully aware that this is sin; the Bible tells us that it is.  To worry is to wrest control from God.  To worry is to fundamentally not believe that God knows what is best for us and that God has the power to make that best happen.  It's as if I truly believe that my worrying will change things.  And on some level it does change things.  It steals my joy.  When I am worrying I cannot let myself enjoy what I have in the present.  Instead I am too busy focusing on the 'what ifs' of life.  The perfect example of this is right after P. was born.  She arrived with a very odd looking swollen spot on her face between her eye …

Conference loot

One of the best things about going to a homeschooling conference is the vendor hall.  (But not the best thing for my bank account!)  I was actually pretty restrained this year.  I didn't have any major curriculum purchases, since I use nearly all non-consumable materials.  Consequently I was able to get a few bonus items to use.

My first 'extra' was The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna BotsfordComstock.  This is a huge book which was written about 100 years ago.  It is chock full of information about how to study nature and fits in really well with keeping nature journals.  We have kept nature journals off and on for years.  I have a canvas bag which I keep stocked with watercolors for everyone, water containers, small field guides, and journals which I can grab as we are going out the door.  If I had to collect it all every time, we would never be able to do it.  I have been wanting this book ever since I came across this website.

Next I found a couple of things at Joyce …


(Edited to add:  I keep thinking of other activities we use, so I will add them as they come to me.)

I have been asked what I use to teach my children to read.  In answering, I realize I have a short answer and a long answer.  The short answer is that I use a combination of the Explode the Code workbooks and Alpha-Phonics.  They are both books that teach straight phonics and I have yet to finish them with any child because we stop when they are actually reading.  I also make a lot of use of easy readers as real books in conjunction with these.  But, I realize, to stop there is not to tell the whole story.  There is so much more that we do to encourage reading.  I thought I would share some of the other non-workbook types of things we do, both to help give others ideas and to remind myself of all the different things I've done for when I get in a rut.  I'm sure this will not be an exhaustive list, but it's a start.

So much of reading is based on knowing how language works a…


I'm still digging out from being gone so much of the weekend.  The conference was good and I'm inspired for next year.  I'm still processing some of the things I heard and learned.  Perhaps I'll write some blog posts about it once I get things all sorted out in my head.  But, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the weekend.  One of the speakers (Marilyn Boyer) who is a mother of 14 was speaking about training children and she mentioned how she has so many able-bodied children now that all the of cooking duties are divided up and she rarely cooks anymore.  A friend told her that her child announced one day that when she grew up she was going to have 14 children.  Because, she explained, Mrs. Boyer has 14 children and she doesn't do anything! 

Maybe I need more children.

We're all mighty tired here

This is the weekend of the Illinois Christian Home Educators conference.  M., B., and I spend all day there while J. spend all day watching many children.  We're all exhausted for varying reasons.  I'll be going back tomorrow while everyone else stays home.  It's a good conference, especially because Dr. VoddieBaucham is one of the keynote speakers.  He was the main reason I took my young adults with me today.  He is an amazing communicator of Biblical truths.  If you're not familiar with him, I strongly suggest you listen to one of his messages or read one of his books.

The conference is also the place where I do all my shopping and planning for next year's schoolwork.  I love a good vendor hall!  Later next week I'll share what I found.  But, for now, I'm off to nurse a couple of cute babies who need their mommy for a bit and get some rest.  Seven in the morning, our departure time, will come all too soon.


I have a love/hate relationship with games.  I've always loved playing games (well, the ones I'm able to win), and I love it when my children play games.  Even games that are just for fun teach so many lessons:  good sportsmanship, taking turns, counting, strategy, and how to stack the deck to make the game of Candy Land finally end.  What I don't love is that they often have so many different little parts to them.  Parts that are evidently very difficult to put back into the box and put away.  At least that is my assumption since so often I walk into a room only to discover half empty game boxes with their contents strewn about the floor.  I then commit the grave parenting error of making threats that my children are well-aware that I have no intention of carrying out.  You know the type:  "If you people can't keep the games organized and all the pieces put away I'm going to throw them all away since we won't be able to play them because they are all miss…

Adding two more

No, don't get all excited, not two more children, but two house guests.  A single-mom friend of ours called a while back asking if we would consider allowing her and one of her daughters to move into our guest room for the summer.  Financially it would help them out considerably.  It will help me out as well.  With M. leaving in 22 (!) days for most of the summer, having two more pairs of able-bodied hands will be a help.  So now we are in preparation mode... cleaning the guest room, clearing space in the pantry so they have room to store their food, getting caught up on the laundry (or at least trying to... this will be my motivation to reform my somewhat slovenly laundry habits), working out plans for how this living arrangement will work, finding clean towels (see laundry note above), and other such things.

We would appreciate your prayers that our summer arrangement would be a positive experience for all and for loving and Godly communication and understanding between all memb…

Moving subjects

I realize that there have been a lot fewer baby pictures recently.  I can explain that. You see, they move.  All the time.  I get the camera out and one of two things happen.  Either they get excited and come crawling toward me as quickly as possible, so all I can do is get a close-up of a face.  Such as Miss G. here:
Or, they find they need to practice their mad stair climbing skills... well, mainly Miss L. sees the need to do this.

All this to say, it is very difficult to get good pictures of these girls these days.  And why I'm showing you the newest baby dresses I made for them on hangers instead of on the actual bodies.