Saturday, August 25, 2012

beginning of school time capsules

Since we formally started homeschooling, I have taken beginning of school pictures to capture that special moment in time. After seeing this survey from Monica at The Homespun Heart last year, I thought it would be fun to add to our beginning of school routine.

I tweaked her survey to fit our family and had the kiddos complete them on the first day of school last year (Letter C, below). They then rolled them up and put them inside toilet paper tube "time capsules", along with pieces of yarn cut to the length of respective heights (A) as well as a print-out of their first day pictures (B).

Each child decorated a piece of paper to wrap the tube with. Once they were all sealed, I tucked them away on a high shelf in our living room--not to be opened until next school year.

Finally it was our much-awaited first day of school, 2012 edition! :) Before we opened our 2011 time capsules, the kiddos filled out their 2012 surveys and took new measurements and pictures. Then it was time to rip open the old capsules and take a bit of a trip back in time. It was interesting to see how much (or how little, in the case of one of my children) their opinions had changed from last year to this one. From a mom/teacher's perspective, it was also great to see progress in each child's writing and thinking abilities.

Once we were done comparing we prepared our new surveys, pictures, and height strings (using nylon string this year--yarn was way too stretchy and inaccurate) to be put away for next year. They were once again wrapped in decorative papers and put away until next year. I stapled the 2011 capsule contents together and filed them away so that we can revisit them on the first day of school in future years.

I'm including a link to my version of the Time Capsule Survey to give an idea of the sort of questions the children answered:  Printable PDF here  If my version isn't what you are looking for, you can easily recreate a similar document with questions that hold special meaning for your family. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

unpause is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature’s changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
~"Summer" by Amy Lowell

This summer has had its share of 'life at its full' for our family--traveling (Chicago, Boston, Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee), playing (hockey, hockey, and more hockey!), working (home reno's still in progress), celebrating (3 birthdays and an anniversary in less than 2 months).

Inspiration and feeling were abandoned in favor of going and doing and experiencing. A new season is on its way, though, and I'm preparing for the challenge of the 'efforts yet to come'. The biggest effort is our new school year, which we will be starting on Monday. My older two are 4th and 5th grade, so we are transitioning to more rigorous school work. We are studying American History this year. If our experience in Boston over Independence Day is any indication, we are going to have a lot of fun learning about our country's beginnings. We are incorporating more writing, which I'm sure my kiddos will moan and groan about, but as a former middle school Language Arts teacher I will love it! My husband and I will also be teaching two levels of homeschool Spanish classes at our local community center.

Another welcome effort is joining Mom's Toolbox for another round of reading the Bible in 90 days. I've read through using this program before, as well as served as a mentor. It's a fabulous way to experience God's Word and appreciate how beautiful, complex, and truly perfect it is. I'm excited to 'meet' my B90days group led by Candace at His Mercy is New and am definitely looking forward to the motivation and support the entire B90Days community provides.

In line with my sometimes neglected but not forgotten focus words for this year, my husband and I are planning on joining a Bible study at church starting in September. It sounds minor but is a good step for us. We have been slowly but surely been trying to follow God as He has led us toward a new-to-us church at which we can put down roots.

As I unpause from the carefree summer mentality, I do worry if I can keep all of the proverbial plates spinning. Yet I rest easy in knowing that even if (or better yet, when) I lack what it takes, I serve a mighty and powerful God through whom I am strengthened.

Friday, May 11, 2012

the breakfast club

I've never been much of a morning person, nor a breakfast eater. Back in my school days, my teachers used to extol the virtues of eating a good breakfast, especially before standardized testing. I felt like such a rebel when I would slide into my desk, pencil sharpened but stomach empty. I did great on those tests, so I figured either I was a freak or the whole breakfast deal was a conspiracy dreamed up by the evil triumvirate of Aunt Jemima, Jimmy Dean, and Tony the Tiger.

Now that my status has changed to married with children, I still don't like breakfast but I live with a house full of people who do. I've found that if I try to plan breakfast on the fly, we end up eating cold cereal every day. In the name of variety, nutrition, and happy campers, I came up with a breakfast rotation like this:

Monday: Muffins or quick breads, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs
Tuesday: Hot cereal (ricemeal, oatmeal, cornmeal, farina)
Wednesday: Pancakes, waffles, or crepes
Thursday: Bacon or sausage, eggs, toast
Friday: Cold cereal
Saturday & Sunday: Eggs, bagels, donuts (bad mom! bad mom!) - sometimes pancakes if the begging gets too intense.

In addition to the main rotation, each day we usually have fruit and either juice or milk (chocolate on pancake days). Well, the normal family members do while I skulk over in the corner and nibble quietly on cold leftovers.

yes, I is a breakfast hater

My hatred of breakfast notwithstanding, this plan has worked fabulously for almost two years. I guess you could say it's grrrrrrreat!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

goalie 02/28/12
amazing jump by lightning goalie mathieu garon

Goals are great for focus. My boys both play hockey. My older guy is best at offensive positions, so he's trying to get the puck in the goal. My little guy is a goalie, so he's trying to keep the puck out. If there wasn't a goal, there wouldn't be anything for either offense or defense to strive toward = fruitless (my opinion) and booooorrrrrring! (sons' opinions).

It's the same in my game of life. Without concrete goals, I tend to drift off into the warm waters of procrastination and laziness. Which can be relaxing until the sharks attack family needs food and I run out of fresh water clean underwear. So, to totally beat this dead-horse of a metaphor, I'm going to stake my claim in the terra firma of setting goals in a few key areas: home, school, Bible, and blogging.

Meal planning
Follow daily schedule
Fold and put away laundry the day it is washed/dried

Follow schedule
Organize school supplies
Cull books / sell or give away what is not needed

Read daily
Continue copying Psalm 119
Read a different book related to prayer each month

Comment on at least three other blogs each week (starting small!)
Post at least twice weekly--but if life gets in the way, I'll let it! Offline life always comes first.
Link blog posts on Twitter

Exercise -- My husband has asked me a few times to do Insanity or P90X with him. Obviously, the Insanity program has gone to his head if he thinks I could or would do either of those! :) We now have Chalean Extreme, so guess what he wants me to try now? I'm considering it. Maybe the Insanity got to me as well? :)

Will I accomplish all of that? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I have some wide open nets ready for action.

Friday, May 4, 2012

purpose & cake

I was so excited (and intimidated) about the possibility of attending the 2:1 conference, especially since I felt God was drawing me in that direction. As it turned out, though, God had another purpose for me. Well, that or the airlines are conspiring against my desire to share my journey as a Christian home educator. Okay, probably not the latter. :) 

I ended up having to cancel at the last minute because I just could not get an available flight in or out of Dulles at the right times for the conference. I even looked into flying into BWI (Baltimore) or DCA (Reagan) but that was going to involve renting a car or trying to map out an overly complicated public transit route. I love using our airline benefits; that is, until flights are full and I'm potentially bumped off every flight. 

At first, when I realized that the flights weren't going to work out I was confused and sad. Why would I be given this opportunity, only to have it not work out in the end? I realize, though, that God knows what he is doing. Even when I don't understand, I will trust in his purpose. And even though I wasn't able to be in the midst of some of the best Christian homeschool bloggers around, I was living out God's plans for me. 

Since I stayed home: 
  • My husband and I had a great discussion about which church we felt we belong in (a much needed conversation since we've been searching for awhile). 
  • I gave all three children a lesson how to properly clean their bathrooms, including scrubbing the toilet which they all loved. Yes, loved
  • I washed, dryed, folded, and put away 7 loads of laundry in one day. Possibly a new record for me. Woot!
Okay, so God's purpose for me right now is pretty mundane. Chats, bathrooms, laundry...hardly revolutionary. But I think of it like baking a cake. You take some pretty ordinary ingredients--flour, sugar, eggs, butter (okay I must say, butter's extraordinary) -- and turn it into something so special it can be found at almost every celebration. I like to think that God will similarly take these seemingly ordinary, small tasks and use them for his glorious purpose. Even more glorious than cake! Do you think there's cake in heaven? :)

Friday, April 6, 2012


I love how, in times of indecision or discouragement, God will give me little nudges. When I last wrote, I was feeling unsure of where I stand as a writer and blogger. It would be so very easy to delete it all and move on. But I haven't. I feel the nudges, the small push to come back and share. God has laid it on my heart that this is the year that I need to work on relationships and reliance on Him. What better way to practice that than to continue down the path that feels winding and precarious, having no idea where I'll end up but remaining secure in God's guidance and goodness.

Recently, I entered to win a ticket to the 2:1 Conference. I'm a hesitant blogger with a shy heart, so attempting to find a way to a blogging conference seems a bit silly. But I felt the nudging, the gentle prompting toward the unknown path, and knew I had to go for it. 

I didn't win the contest I entered. A disappointment, perhaps, but God knows exactly what I need and it seemed it wasn't this conference.

Except it is this conference. In an unexpected turn of events, an anonymous sponsor offered additional ticket opportunities, and I am one of the recipients. I am going to 2:1. Of course that means that I am excited, but also that I am nervous about being an inexperienced (and self-proclaimed terrible) blogger. Am afraid that my wallflower tendencies will prevail. Am intimidated at sitting among writers whom I admire and make it all look so easy.

I am leaning into the nudges, choosing the unsafe so that I may relish the goodness to follow.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I'm terrible at this blogging thing. There, I said it.

I'm trying to decide whether I have anything to say that isn't already being said. To decide if my reasons to write--capturing, creating, expressing, relating--are worth the time and energy expended. To decide if I will ever have an audience, or better yet, decide if I even desire an audience.

If I was good at this, I'd know. There would be no decisions. It would be a given, a force pulsing through me.

Yet, here I am. Still writing, about to hit publish.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

just keep praying

"The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying... The prayer of the feeblest saint on earth who keeps right with God paralyzes the darkness--that's why he tries to keep our minds fussy in active work until we cannot think in prayer."
~Oswald Chambers, as quoted in A Busy Woman's Guide to Prayer by Cheri Fuller

Thursday, January 5, 2012

word(s) - 2012

As much as I love new beginnings, I have to admit I've been a bit slow at setting my goals and intentions for 2012. Last year was my first year to put my goals in writing and my first time to choose one word that summed up where I felt God was leading me. To be completely honest, my vision of 2011 being a time of travel, dedication, and action was nowhere near how the year shaped up.

In a way it is disappointing, to set up a plan only to have it go awry a few months into the year. But in other ways, it is interesting to examine where God led me to other paths. And get-real-confession time: it's painful yet eye-opening to reflect upon how my lack of discipline and faithfulness in some areas led me to dead ends and extreme frustration.

Yet, here it is a new year and here I am again, choosing words (yes, more than one this year!), setting goals, and saying prayers for God to do what He will with these feeble plans of mine. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. ~Proverbs 16:9

Words :

Develop consistent Bible study habits
Dig into prayer through reading and practice
Find and get involved in a church family (prayerfully, in cooperation with my husband)

I'm still working on goals in other areas, such as housekeeping, homeschooling, travel, and personal growth (including blogging), but these spiritual goals are really the most important to me and ones I know God is pushing me toward. They are also foundational goals that I know will be key in helping me achieve success in those other areas of my life. In the coming days, I hope to share more of my specific plans on how I can work toward each of these goals.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hearty Minestrone

I'm one of those nerds who reads almost anything for fun--cookbooks included. An oldie but goodie is one I borrowed (permanently--oops!) from my mom. I can never recall its title or who published it without looking, so it is perpetually known as the "Purple Cookbook". As in, my mom will call me to ask "Do you still have my Purple Cookbook that you took 11 years ago?" (once again--oops!)

The Purple Cookbook is a compilation, similar to one you might find being sold as a church or community fundraiser. While the recipes aren't gourmet, what sets Purple apart is the variety. You won't find 50 versions of ye olde Jell-o salad/cream-of-something casserole/Velveeta cheese dips; instead there are recipes like the inspiration for tonight's dinner: Hearty Minestrone.

As a newlywed, I made this soup exactly as written in the Purple Cookbook. As I became a more experienced cook, I tweaked the recipe to our tastes and penciled my adjustments in the book. It has evolved into what is entirely my own creation, the version below. This minestrone is fabulous served with cornbread or grilled cheese sandwiches, and it tastes great (maybe better?) after a couple of days in the fridge so make ahead or save some for later.

Hearty Minestrone
from Pure & Simple Beta Sigma Phi
(otherwise lovingly known as "Purple Cookbook)
1 T Olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz. chicken broth
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (with or without basil--Muir Glen is by far my favorite brand)
1 - 19 oz. can cannellini beans, including liquid
1 t. dried basil (can use fresh--just use more and add toward end of cooking time)
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. each dried thyme & Italian seasoning
8 oz. small shell pasta
1 1/2 c. frozen mixed vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic; cook for about 1 minute (careful not to let garlic burn).
2.  Add the broth, tomatoes, seasonings, and beans. Bring to a fast simmer.
3.  Meanwhile, cook pasta to slightly firmer than al dente. Turn off the heat and add the frozen vegetables. Stir and let sit for a couple of minutes to help thaw the veggies.
4.  Drain water from pasta/veggies, then add them to simmering soup. Cook at medium-low heat to heat through. Check that pasta is tender and the vegetables are hot.
***Note: You can cut out steps 3 and 4 and just throw the uncooked pasta and frozen vegetables right in with the other ingredients. I don't like the starchy flavor and texture of the soup like that, so I go through the additional cooking/draining steps unless I'm extremely pressed for time.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

I'm back!

It's a new year! Even though turning the page on the calendar doesn't actually change much, I'm so thankful for the related feelings of new beginnings and freshness. I like to view this time of year as a reminder of the new life that we are offered through Christ. It brings to mind this passage, which I have burned on my brain (haha--in a pleasant way, of course) from years of singing it (much like this) at church camp:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." ~Lamentations 3:22-24