Tuesday, March 31, 2015


When I was a teenager I babysat kids to make a little extra money.  I have vivid memories of the hours between when the kids were in bed and when the parents came home.  The house was quiet.  It would be dark outside and the house would be dark, except for the dim light of a lamp or two and maybe the light above the oven or kitchen sink.

I'd sit on the couch, watching a TV show, and my eyes would grow so heavy.  I'd try my hardest to stay awake, but as the clock crept closer toward midnight, most of the time my eyes would doze.  I couldn't help it.  The later it got the more sleepy I'd get.  It was like the painful sleepy if you know what I mean.

I remember always feeling terribly guilty if I nodded off because I was the one in charge of watching the kids.  Even though they were in bed peacefully sleeping, no matter how late it was, I felt it was my job to stay awake.  And then, every once in awhile, I'd nod off on the couch.

He who keeps you will not slumber.

He doesn't sleep and He doesn't slumber.

We all get in bed at night and go to sleep.  We also all occasionally slumber.  To slumber is also to sleep, but more specifically it is to sleep lightly or doze. 

He who keeps you will neither slumber or sleep.

The Lord is your keeper.

You have a keeper and a helper and He is always watching and ready to help.

Psalm 121

Friday, March 13, 2015

Date Night

Our neck of the woods has been so dreary.

The weather has been gloomy for weeks.  Along with the cloudy days, my crew has had one sickness after another.  I've been joking that we're running a hospital out of our home.  I have missed three Sundays of church and Home Church because of my nursing duties.

Several years ago we had a run of sickness like this and it felt like it might never end.

Tonight we had planned on having a date night and by golly, we're keeping to it.  Normally Friday nights are for couch bed night.  This morning we told the boys couch bed is being moved to Sunday and tonight is Date Night.

We are feeding the boys frozen pizza and they are so excited.  They love party pizzas.  We are putting them all to bed early and then it is Date Night at the Casa.  I'm thinking we'll get Tacos and bring it home.  We are so addicted to that place.  And the cheese dip, oh the cheese dip, come to Mama.

The next part of our date is pretty random but maybe not that random.  I blame Little House.  We've been stuck in the house for weeks so we've been watching our fair share of Little House On The Prairie.  Ever since Ma offered Doc Baker a piece of fresh blueberry pie and a glass of milk I can't get my mind off of a fruit pie.  My Mamaw taught me to brush melted butter over the top of the pie crust before I bake it and to sprinkle it with sugar.  I'll promise you right now that nothing smells better than a fruit pie baking away in the oven.  We've been eating healthier but shoot.  Tonight I'm having pie.  Pie and Tacos.  Yes-sir-ee, we are bringing some sunshine up into this place.

The boys were sad about having to reschedule couch bed night.  I don't know though, I think it's so good for them to see us prioritizing spending time together, especially in the midst of weeks like this when life has just been so, so hard.

Sometimes creating the beauty and the happy places can be tough, but we're creating the good even in the midst of the imperfect.

Well, my afternoon coffee is ready.  I'm off to finish fluffing the house so that everything is just so so that I can enjoy my little at home date.

Don't forget to light your candles and turn on your lamps and do something nice for yourself this weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Our Curriculum

Recently I've had a couple people ask about what we are doing, so today I thought I'd share what we've been up to in the school room.

From the beginning, I have been drawn to the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling.  I have found that there is no "right" way to educate your children at home.  All of my friends and I do different things.  Sometimes it takes some trial and error, but in the end, I suggest a lot of prayer over the matter, and you'll land in a place that fits you, your children, and your lifestyle.

I like Charlotte Mason because it allows for plenty of time to play and be children.  Our boys have plenty of time to play Lego's, build things, and play outside.  I also like the emphasis on short lessons.  Especially with boys, their attention spans are short, so it is good for all of us to know that we will sit, focus, give our good effort, and be done in 20 minutes with the writing lesson (or whatever lesson we are working on).  With the older boys, we use narration as a way for them to assimilate the lessons.  I believe that when we can verbalize ourselves what we have heard, then the information is ours.  This means that I read our history/science/geography books out loud and the boys tell me back what they heard.  Again, it is a simple and natural way of learning that is very effective.

Starting in third grade my boys begin Teaching Textbooks for math.  Their entire teaching/worksheets/grading is all done on the computer and we all love it.  I also like Teaching Textbooks because I can reuse the teaching DVD's with the younger children.

There are two resources that I HIGHLY recommend for your bookshelf.  They are two resources that I literally refer to all the time.  Honey for A Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt and Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson.  My pages were starting to fall out of Educating the Whole Hearted Child it is so well loved and worn that I had to punch holes in them and stick them in a 3 ring binder.  We follow the model laid out in this book and our children (and myself as the teacher!) are thriving with it.

Just yesterday I got to experience the fruit of this lifestyle of learning.  The baby was down for her morning nap, my 6 year old was playing Lego's, and me and the big boys were all kicked back in the living room reading our books.  It made me smile that they have learned to grab books in their free time.  (this took awhile, and was a slow process, but it is becoming more and more the culture!)

We don't do laborious workbooks for grammar, spelling, etc.  We do copywork.  I write the example on the board and the boys spend 20 minutes copying my example.  This natural way of learning makes so much sense to me.  It is simple and it exposes them to the greatest writers.  They copy Bible, poetry, and all kind of literature.  Sometimes they have creative writing and I give them a prompt and turn them loose.

We have had so much freedom in our homeschooling this year.  I wish I would have known this freedom all five years but I spread the curricular safety net and relied on packaged curriculum for the longest time.  There is nothing wrong with a packaged curriculum, but when every little thing wasn't checked off the lists, it left me feeling like a failure. Many of my friends use boxed curriculums because it fits their personalities so well and their children thrive with the checklists!  When we did My Father's World, I really enjoyed the content.  The thing that bogged me down was when I didn't do all the suggested crafts and such, it left me feeling like I was being a bad and ineffective teacher.  Higher Up Further In is what we've chosen to use this year.  It gives me tracks to run on and there is room for a lot of freedom in adding in the other books that interest my boys.  There really is a fit for every family.

The CM approach is laid back and my children are learning so much.  Last year my oldest son took his first standardized test.  I was a nervous wreck because I thought, "What if we've been failing!"  He exceeded our expectations.  It was so reassuring to see how he was thriving in his school work!

My biggest piece of advice-Pray, pray, pray.  Ask God to lead you and give you and your husband unity on the direction you are to pursue.  God is faithful to gently lead us into all that He has for us.  I have learned (the hard way many times) that going in the direction He is nudging is always the best place.

Give it some time.  You will find what works with your style of teaching and your child's style of learning.

I rely heavily on the assurance that God's grace will fill in the cracks of my mothering.  We believe this is what He has called us to and we lean in on Him for help.

Don't be discouraged if you have to try several things before you find what works for you.  We started out with Abeka DVD's, then moved to My Father's World, and are using Higher Up Further In this year.  Unless something changes, we will be staying with the Higher Up Further In curriculum.  Every book we have read has been so good.  It has kept all of our attention.  That is saying something when I am enjoying the reading as much as my children are. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pretty Table

The boys assured me they did not need to be reminded how to set the table, and that they already knew how.  Turns out, they were right.  This table makes me so happy.  It is nothing fancy, but it is simple and pretty.  Yesterday I mentioned how we like to use candles at the table.  The Dollar Tree sells a 2 pack for a buck.  It is a simple touch that adds a lot to the atmosphere of the dinner table.

Yesterday when I went into the kitchen to begin preparing the meal the house was so loud and chaotic.  I've got one boy laid up on crutches with a sprained ankle, one on the sick bed couch recovering from a sickness, the baby was exploring everywhere and dad was late getting home.
We had a chicken salad dish for dinner that I made up this past fall.  We all love this dinner and the kids actually request it.  One day last fall the weather was exceptionally pretty and so we made an impromptu decision to spend the afternoon at the river.  Normally I would plan the details for a trip like this, but there was no time to plan.  I threw apples, cheddar, a cutting board and knife, bottled waters and a package of Oreos into the cooler and off we went for a day of reading and fishing down by the river.
That evening when we came home we were all really hungry and so I just started pulling stuff from the fridge and freezer.  This dinner comes together in a snap.  I put 4-5 frozen chicken breasts on a plate and defrost them in the microwave.  After cubing them, I sauté them in extra virgin olive oil until nicely browned and season them really well.  Last night I used creole seasoning. 
I add mixed greens to a really big bowl and lightly toss it with just a tiny bit of ranch dressing.  Then I add diced apples, cheddar cheese, bacon bits if I have them, and the diced chicken.  The whole salad gets tossed together and topped with plenty of salt and pepper.  I'm not sure why we love this salad so much.  Maybe it is because we had it on a night when we had spent a super fun day together outside as a family.  Maybe because it is just really that good.  I like it because it is fast to throw together and I have a standard rule that a salad supper like this should always be followed by bowls of ice cream for good measure.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dinner Time

There are parts of our day that we have down solid.  Then there are other parts where we fall apart every single day.  As I've stepped back and evaluated, I've decided that our dinner time routine is next on the list of things to get better at.

I menu plan, grocery shop, and try to make healthy meals for my family.  My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to is that the few minutes leading up to dinner would be less chaotic.  Here's how it usually goes down. Each night I go into the kitchen to begin preparing the meal.  Then, about 5 minutes before it's ready, I call the boys in to set the table and fill the water glasses.  That may not sound chaotic, but I can assure you, it is usually not an orderly peaceful time in our day.  We sit down and everyone has their colorful plastic cup they've been drinking from throughout the day.  The table usually never looks pretty.  It usually looks thrown together.

As I was thinking through this, I thought how easy it would be to create some order to our dinner routine.  Here is what I want for our dinner to be like in the evening.

Sit down as a family to a beautifully set table, where everyone eats off of a real glass plate, drinks out of a real glass, and has a napkin with silverware at their place setting.  We do candles (I'm out right now, but a trip to the Dollar Tree to replenish my stock is in my near future), so the candles of course will be lit.
Yesterday as I was thinking through the current, hodge-podge dinner time routine we have, I realized how simple of a thing it would be to change.  We eat at 5pm most days.  As I thought through this, it made so much sense that at 4:30, the boys could come in and set the table.
I think we'll call it Table Chores.  It will include putting out the plates, glasses, napkins, silverware, water pitcher, water glasses filled with ice water, and the salt and pepper shaker in the center of the table by the tapers.
I'll fess up to some more bad table habits we have.  People start leaving the table and dispersing before the meal is done.  This is something else I'm ready to tackle.  Everyone staying at the table until the meal is over.
The chaotic breakdown continues after the meal.  Every night the table needs to be cleared, the floor swept, food put away, dishes washed, counters wiped down.  We restore the order for the next meal.  It's never a smooth sailing machine, so we're going to work toward some better habits in this area.
I'm spelling it out, starting tonight.
I'm about to head into the kitchen now to show the boys what setting the table means. 
Sometimes I wander if we're the only family who hasn't figured out an orderly dinner time!  I suppose it is just part of the process of having a home with small children.  Everything is a process.  It sure doesn't have to be perfect.  We have not arrived where we are doing everything perfectly. That isn't even my goal.  What we do have a lot of love between us and little by little we try to grow and get better.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pinto Beans

You may have heard me speak of my bean phobia.  I've attempted cooking them twice in my cooking career of nearly 15 years and both batches were so awful that we tossed them.

Sometimes my ideas to do something just come out of nowhere.  Like when I was at Kroger last week and tossed another bag into my buggy which I assumed would sit in my pantry until Thanksgiving when I attempted some gosh awful hard Martha Stewart pie recipe that called for pie weights.

But oh no.  Last night, out of nowhere, I got up from the couch and marched straight toward the pantry to pull the beans out.  Then the fear set in again which led me to watching about 30 minutes of You Tube videos on how to soak a cotton picking bean overnight.

I was so stressed about it.  In the end, I rinsed the beans and put them in a cheap old plastic bowl.  I covered the beans with water and went to bed.

This morning when I got up I drained off the soaking water and put the beans in a pot and covered them with water.  I let them simmer all morning and I gave them an occasional stir when I passed through the kitchen.

I was feeling like the Christian Wife Woman Of The Year when they started looking right!

After 2 hours, I added 2 teaspoons of garlic powder and 2-3 teaspoons of salt and let them simmer a bit more. 

Would you look at that?  It is like bean magic.  With the good amount of seasoning I added (just the garlic and salt) these bad boys tasted so good.

I put some in a bowl topped with a little grated cheddar for lunch.  Tonight I'm going to serve these with fajitas.

In the old days, women would make beans on Monday which was laundry day.  It was an easy dinner to throw on and just give a quick stir every time you passed through the kitchen.

The good amount of seasoning is what made these a winner in my book.