Friday, December 20, 2013

ode to snow




The snow falls sideways, blowing from rooftops in billowy sheaths. 
 
My windchime sounds a muted song, metal chilled by snow.
 
The dogs are wary to venture outside, paw prints staying close to the house.
 
When I dared to go out, hoping to capture a few pictures I was met with disdain from a hummingbird perched in the cherry tree.  I cleared snow off of his feeder and hurried back inside, not even looking back to see if he cared.


I cannot now seem to draw my eyes from the snowglobe out my window.  It is a beauty we rarely see.
 

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

soul talking

Pumpkin spice tea and a big chocolaty brownie....it was a rough day so I pulled out the big guns.  The even bigger gun was pajama pants which I put on as soon as I got home. 

I'd be lying if I said this whole month has not been a rough one for me.  Some nonsense about missing my family and feeling isolated.

My heart of hearts wants to sit with my sister and drink coffee and chat about life.  I want to go camping and hiking with my brothers.  I want to have lunch with my mom and my mother and father-in-law.  I want to window shop with my sisters-in-law.  I want to paint nails with my nieces.  My heart aches in the absence of these things.  Family is so important and that is not more evident than when you haven't seen your family in a year. 

It hurts in my soul.

Brownies make it feel better a little.

Monday, December 16, 2013

the weekend with some recipes

I wish every weekend could be like this last one.  Where we roll out of bed just whenever on Saturday morning.  We make breakfast together, him on coffee, me on pancake batter.  We sit around the table, the four of us, enjoying bacon and buttery pancakes dripping with syrup, fresh cut fruit, and glasses of cold orange juice.  We do a few things around the house during the day, just slow and easy.

That evening we left the boys with a pizza and took off for the company Christmas party.  It was at an upscale restaurant, definitely out of our price range.  But things were beautiful, the light was soft, and the food prepared with attention to detail.  It was a special treat.

We spent Sunday where we spend all our Sundays, with our church family.  We sing together, make food together, clean up together, laugh together, and hopefully there's some encouragement, some sharpening that happens amid the day.  Sundays we get home usually around 4:30 in the afternoon.  Since it is football season, the guys spend the evening watching whatever football game together and I sit with them with the laptop and headphones and watch a girlie movie.  We eat Sunday night sandwiches, our tradition for almost 5 years now.

Monday closed our long weekend.  Austin had to get up to go to class but the rest of us slept in again.  Aaron spent the morning at the dentist and I spent the morning correcting quizzes and cleaning the house.  We did a little Christmas shopping this afternoon and took the boys to Wendy's for a late lunch.

Now everyone is gone at wrestling practice.  There is a yummy stew in the oven, bread dough rising on the stove, and dogs snoozing lazily.

About the stew:  I've discovered that baking stew in an enamel pot on a low temperature for an extended time produces delicious results.  The recipe I'm using today...
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Saute in oil in a large pot: 1 chopped shallot, 1 peeled and cubed sweet potato, 2 small cubed red potatoes, 1 sliced carrot, and minced garlic.
  • Add to pot: 1 pound cubed pork. Stir and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  • Coat meat and vegetables with 3 T. of flour, stirring well.
  • Add 1 T. Thyme, 1 t. pepper, 1 1/2 c. chicken broth, 1/2 c. white wine (or more broth with a splash of white wine vinegar).
  • Move your lidded pot to the 300 degree oven and bake for 2 hours or so, stirring once midway through.
  • Let stew sit for 15 minutes before serving.
About the bread:  this recipe comes from a friend whose very spirit evokes love in my heart.  She is a kindred soul.  The first time I tasted this bread I swooned.  It is airy and crusty and simple in it's elements.
  • Dissolve 2 1/2 t. yeast in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Dissolve 1 T. salt in 2 cups of warm water.
  • Measure 7-8 cups of flour into large bowl and add yeast and salt mixtures.  Mix together then knead the whole thing until smooth and elastic.
  • Place in a large greased bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.
  • Shape as desired (2 or 3 loaves) and bake at 375 for approximately 40 minutes.
I have learned that bread dough doesn't have to be babied too much.  It can rise for more than an hour.  You can punch it down and let it rise again, and again.  Maybe there are some picky dough recipes.  But for a simple bread, don't let it rule your life.  Work it around your schedule.  Another trick that works for me (when making just 1 or 2 loaves of bread) is to knead it right in my big mixing bowl.  Most of the mess stays in the bowl and then I hold the dough ball in my left hand while oiling the messy bowl with my right hand, put the ball in oiled bowl, then turn the dough over so it's oiled bottom is now it's top and set it aside to rise.  My lazy self loves this method and it's never proven to be a bad way to go.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

iron skillet

Last night when my boys got home from wrestling practice they were greeted by a yummy iron skillet deep dish pizza.  It was so good that I just had to talk about it and share it and encourage others to try it.  So...do.

I am not very good at using my heavy iron skillet, still learning the in's and out's of it.  I like that every iron skillet develops it's own personality and I hope that with good care and lots of use mine will serve me well for a long time.

On to the recipe...

This is not my picture.
 
 
 
1.  Make a pizza dough using your favorite dough recipe.  Press dough into and up the sides of a greased iron skillet and let rise for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425.
 
2.  In a separate pan brown 1 lb. of ground beef.  Add 1/2 cup chopped onion, and clove or two of chopped garlic, continue cooking.
 
3.  Add to meat in pan whatever Italian herbs you like (I used basil, thyme, oregano).  Add a 6 oz can of tomato paste and 6 oz of water.  Cook and stir.
 
4.   Spread the meat and sauce mixture over your risen dough.  Top with one chopped tomato. 
 
5.   Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes.  Top with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes longer.  Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes.  REALLY, let it sit.
 
6.  The whole thing should slide easily out of the pan onto a cutting board for ease of cutting.
 
Served with a salad this is an amazing meal.  Definitely a hungry family pleaser!!
 
 

Monday, December 9, 2013

distraction

 
My eyes have been drawn to the windows, gazing for long periods of time, searching the air for movement.  Here and there a tiny little snowflake floats gently, silently.  The others are so few and far between that you would only see them if you were watching for them.  It happens so rarely here that it is still magical, that first snowfall.  And I have found myself highly distracted by the possibility.

As much as I'd like to see it snow, making the most of the winter while it is here, my heart of hearts will always long for the spring to come.  My gaze looking beyond the snowflakes to the first shoots of green springing from the frozen ground, the first sight of new growth on a tree. 

This upcoming spring offers some new adventures that I am looking forward to.  Come March and April I will be hard at work digging up the ground and starting a garden.  There is just nothing like watching a garden come to life! 

AND, I am pleased that my husband agreed to keeping chickens.  Our city even recently lifted the ordinance against chickens.  We will all at once learn animal husbandry, teach our boys the same, and provide ourselves with a food source.  New adventures!
Fresh Eggs
 
For now we are in the throes of December along with everyone else.  Watching for snow, bundling up, drinking all sorts of warm beverages.  I love the activity of the birds this time of year.  I know that they are hungry and it thrills me to be able to offer them some respite.
 
Just today:  thirteen little tails in the air, thirteen little beaks, all descended at once!
 
 
 
 
What's the hullabaloo out the window?
 
 

 
A peek into my home:
 
The shelf in the dining room...full of things that make me smile.
 





It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

 - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, December 7, 2013

sunny Saturday reflections

I have found a warm sunny spot here in my red chair.  The December sun is streaming through the window and I am content to sit right here and soak it up.

We ventured out in the chill this morning, not-so-bright-and early, my boys and I.  We took in coffee and toasted bagels at Starbuck's.  We traded in our old books and found new at the library, each of us weighed down with promising reads as we left.  We picked up some necessities and groceries, even daring to enter WalMart on a Saturday (will I NEVER learn?).

Back home now and one boy is reading his new books, the other is working on his schoolwork.  The house is still and quiet.  The rest of my day will be spent baking, cooking, and putting away laundry and maybe, just maybe, stealing away some time curled under a blanket with my pups reading my new books!

Tomorrow after church services we are having a themed lunch.  The theme this week is "Mom's (or Grandma's Recipe".  I don't have any of my grandmother's recipes.  My paternal grandmother died long before I was born and my maternal grandmother passed when I was very young so I never knew either of them.  My mom does say that her mother was quite the hostess, loving to entertain (just like my sister!).  I didn't get that gene. 

Some things my mom made frequently while I was growing up were: spaghetti, roast beef with potatoes and carrots, and French dip sandwiches.  I have decided to take French dip sandwiches to share for lunch.  Another thing my mom made that I always thought was so fancy was a little salad, served up on individual plates.  Each salad was a half of a pear (from a can) on an iceberg lettuce leaf.  Each pear had a dollop of mayonnaise and a sprinkling of paprika on top.  As a kid I thought this was gourmet eating!


Outside my window...  sunshine, birds, frosty patches

I am thinking...  about stages.  Having an almost 15 year old and an almost 13 year old is not dull.  Each boy is going through so many changes that every moment with them is an adventure, sometimes a fun adventure, sometimes a dreadful adventure.

I am thankful...  for my sweet sister.  I miss her like crazy.  And I'm thankful for a Christian employer.  And heaters in my house.  And Christmas decorations from my childhood.  And music in my heart.

In the kitchen...  the scent of pumpkin coffee cake will soon be drifting from the oven

I am wearing...  dark skinny jeans, my favorite black boots
from ModCloth,  navy blue sweater, gray and black scarf, gray hat, and pigtail braids in my hair.

I am reading...  my checkout list form the today's library trip:


  • A Little House Reader: A Collection of Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder  A Little House Reader: A Collection of Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life - LifeWay Reader What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life by Georgia Varozza
  • The Book of Tomorrow  The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

 
 
A favorite quote for today... 
 
Little by little
the time flies by
Short if we laugh through it
Long if we sigh.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder
 
A peek into my day...  my day began with a little fluffy Charlie dog, curled up next to me under the covers.  He is ONLY allowed in my bed when my husband is gone for the day so it's an extra special treat.
 
 
 
The sun has moved on and my cozy spot is now chilly.  I must get on with my day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday

The big chocolate lab lays just inside the front door, letting out a little whimper now and again.  The boys took little Charlie out for a walk and left him behind.  So he pouts.  It's rather pitiful.

Christmas has descended on our house.  The boys decorated the tree last night (it still looks forlorn and sad).  I found myself  tucking a lot of the décor back into the tote, to come back to next year maybe.  My heart cries for simplicity, so simplicity is my goal.

The apple pie I baked yesterday afternoon was gone by 9 a.m. this morning.  We had it a la mode last night and warmed up for breakfast this morning.  Nothing better.

Aaron got the new baseboard heater installed in our bedroom last evening.  We turned it real low and it sure took the chill out of the air!  It makes it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning when that chill doesn't loom over a body.

I'm going to fire up the ol' oven and bake some cookies this afternoon.  I haven't decided on peanut butter or oatmeal raisin.  Either way, the kitchen will be warm and my family will feel my love.  Now if I could just kick this headache!  My eyes are watering from the pressure and pain.

Happy weekending friends!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

this is life

Do you know the feeling where you have so much to get done yet your body just will not cooperate?  The feet are heavy, the legs are weak, the mind is wore down.  Yes, that's where I am.

This month is full, as Decembers are.

We are beginning our new year of homeschooling this week.  Strange timing, I know.  Do you love how curriculum is expensive?  I do.  It's my favorite.  Maybe that's why I'm so adamant about using every resource we can through the public school because our taxes are paying for it anyway, we might as well get some use out of it.

Some people get exciting things delivered to their homes.  Today UPS brought us a baseboard heater.  Yesterday we got an Algebra book.  This is life right now: taking care of our home and educating our children.

It's literally freezing in our neck of the woods.  I bring the hummingbird feeder inside at night so it won't freeze.  This morning I took it outside then went back in to get some more bird seed.  When I went out to the patio to spread some seed I notice a hummingbird completely absorbed in eating at the feeder.  It let me get within 3 feet and never once stopped swallowing.  Poor baby was cold and hungry!  Lots and lots of Juncos came to the yard and mixed in among them was one sparrow but I don't think any of them minded.

I should probably get on with my afternoon.  Laundry to wash, schoolwork to correct, apple pie to bake, and maybe some Christmas decorating.

Monday, December 2, 2013

day in the snow


We found a winter wonderland.  Driving up into the mountains with boys and dogs and sled and guns and Cheez-its, we drove till the ground was white and then a little further.  The boys were all about the sledding.  Aaron and I were all about picking out the perfect imperfect Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dogs ran amuck, sniffing snow, marking the territory.  Charlie got a little overwhelmed with all the snow (it's rough being a little dog) so I did have to "baby" him a little and carried him around while he thawed.  Silas was happy as a dog can be.  By the end of the day he was tired and stiff and I had to give him a couple extra glucosamine.
 
 
 
 
 
My camera is temperamental as of late so I've not been taking many pictures.  I really wasn't able to capture the beauty of this place we were in:
 
     the stream that ran, fed by snow, down the ravine
 
     the deep green of the trees next to the pure white of the snow
 
     the cold red cheeks of a boy that has waited all year for snow
 
     the tree that stood alone on the hillside that we chose to be ours.
 
 

 

 


By the time we chose the tree (truth be told Silas pointed it out to us) the sledders were frozen, the dogs were exhausted, and it was high time to get to lower ground.  We drove below the white, into rain.  Austin had his hopes set on getting some shooting in though and his dad, frozen himself, made the time to shoot...in the rain.  Blake and I suffered in the warm Jeep with the pups and ate Cheez-its while listening to Christmas music (it wasn't so bad).

The tree now sits in the garage in a bucket of water.  We haven't had time to get it put up and decorated.  It's kind of bare, a little thin in the branches.  It won't take long to decorate this one but it will be imperfectly perfect and we will enjoy it.  It does smell divine!

Friday, November 29, 2013

how Thanksgiving was

Turkey carcass simmering on the stove.  We are having turkey vegetable soup and dumplings this evening.  Our Thanksgiving holiday was simple and easy.  We had a co-worker and her husband over with a friend of theirs', a friend of mine that used to be my co-worker, and our friend from church.  So, there were nine of us.

The Menu:

~Turkey
~Mashed Potatoes
~Gravy
~Sweet Potato Casserole
~Corn Bread Stuffing
~Green Beans
~Rolls
~Cranberry Sauce
~Vegetable Tray
~Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream Pie
~Pumpkin Pie
~Spiced Apple Cider

All the food turned out beautifully.  After everyone left Aaron and I took the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood.  We smelled lots of Thanksgiving meals, saw lots of full houses, and had a nice time alone.  The rest of the evening was spent in a coma, or as near to it as possible.

I worked the day before the holiday and we were ever so very busy.  I also worked today (Black Friday) and we were again ever so very busy.  As the schedule has it I also work Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.  But, I'm thankful to have a job, a way to help out my family even though it's hard, and sometimes I have to drag myself out of the house to get to work because all I want to do is be home and be June Cleaver.



Monday, November 25, 2013

read

....and Scrabble           ....and books

One of my favorite things to do is create reading lists for myself.  It is easy to get in a rut, not knowing what to read, not knowing where to start looking.  So, why bother reading at all?  That's when I'll settle for a magazine (not good literature) or even worse, lull my mind with videos on Netflix.  Now, I'm not one to pass up a good episode of I Love Lucy (I find these on YouTube) but there is something so magical about reading a great book. 

I wholeheartedly believe in the power books possess.  Finding a book that is so good I can't put it down is like finding THE perfect pair of shoes in the store that are my size, my style, my price and the last ones on the shelf.  Like kismet.  Destiny.

Now I don't mean to trivialize books.  They are so much more than a pair of shoes.  Words can take you further than shoes.  They are more comfortable, more inviting, more rewarding.  I love me a good pair of shoes but I love me a good book even more.

Things I gravitate toward:

*  mostly non-fiction, real recounts of events in time (present or past)
*  fiction by female authors
*  pretty covers (vain, I know)
*  cookbooks that are more conversational memoirs than books of recipes
*  Elisabeth Elliot
*  The Cat Who... mysteries
*  true adventures
*  Ralph Waldo Emerson
*  books about good books (so I can feed my hunger of good books)

A great tool that I own is this book by Nancy Pearl a librarian from the Seattle area.

9781570613814
 
 
Other great tools for finding good reads:
 
1.  the library website - there are usually librarian recommendations, recommendations for different genres, and links to outside sources all designed to unite a book with a reader
2.  pinterest - there are lots of boards related to books and reading, if you can find a board that lines up with your interests it could be a goldmine
3.  goodreads.com - meet your next favorite book
4.  what should i read next? - a tool that asks you what you read last and recommends books similar
5.  book reviews in your favorite magazine
6.  browse the shelves at the library if you have a free hour, touch the spines with your fingertips, go slowly, read titles, take time with any title that piques your fancy
 
I find plenty of lemons, reading just one or two pages and knowing it is a relationship that was never meant to be.  And that's ok.  For every five books I try, one is a gem.  But a gem is worth the time.
 
My current reading list:
 
 
 
Grand Ambition by Lisa Michaels
 
1531573
 
 
 
Nothing Remains The Same by Wendy Lesser
 
681878
 
 
 
More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
 
164405
 
 
 
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
 
113148
 


There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books, a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but never really a stranger.
-Anna Quindlen
 
 
More lovely quotes about books:
 
"She reads books as one would breathe the air, to fill up and live." -Annie Dillard
 
"No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance." -Confucius
 
"In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you." -Mortimer Adler
 
"Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction." -David Ulin
 
 
 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

vantage point

From my vantage point here at the dining room table I can see my 14 year old son.  His body sunk down in the couch, feet up on the coffee table, dog curled up on his lap and another dog laying on the floor in front of him.  The picture of contentment as he plays a video game.

Also from my vantage point I can see into the kitchen where there is a beautiful, big turkey, baked golden brown and juicy, cooling on the stove.  He's our bird for Thanksgiving dinner at church tomorrow.  Next to him is a nice pot of perfect gravy.  Across the way on the counter is my favorite sweet potato casserole, also for church dinner.

Blake is off at Caleb's house today.  They have goats and chickens and cats and a dog and a really big house and it is just so much fun there!  Caleb is a good friend for my Blake.  And his family is pretty special too.

We went to see Catching Fire last night.  I think that was the first time I've ever been to a movie on opening day and it was packed!  I've only ever seen a theatre that packed when we went to the movies in San Diego with my sister.  Beth, do you remember how everyone applauded at the end of that movie?  At the end of the movie last night it was mostly groaning because it left you hanging for the third movie.  After all three of them are out I'm going to buy or rent them all and have a Hunger Games marathon, watching from beginning to end in one sitting.  It's already decided.

And for this Saturday that is all I have to say.  I shall continue to drink my venti Starbuck's Americano and finish my to-do list.

*EDIT- apparently the creators of the Hunger Games movies decided to torment us even more and break the third book into 2 movies!!  Next November will be part 1 and the November of 2015 will be part 2.  Sigh.

Friday, November 22, 2013

finally Friday

Outside my window...  The cherry tree is bald.  We've had a couple of frosty mornings recently.  One morning the hummingbird feeder was frozen but it hasn't kept the hummingbirds from stopping in. 

 I am thinking...  my mind is still in work mode.  I had mostly pleasant customers today, with a rude one thrown in.  Those rude people always shake me up because I'm just not used to being treated that way and I certainly don't treat others like that.


In the kitchen...  I'm going to make an oven stew this evening.  It's very simple and baked slowly in the oven it brings out all the best flavors.

 I am wearing...  Still sporting my work clothes with a hoodie thrown over.  I smell like other people's food. 


I am going...  to a bluegrass jam session, with my violin.  If I stay brave and actually go I'm sure I'll share the details.

I am reading...  I'm working on a lighthearted mystery The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.  I just love the main character Jim Qwilleran in these books and there is never anything vulgar.


I am looking forward to...  going to the movies.  We've been saving up to go see "Catching Fire" as a family.  The boys and I have read all the books.  We've had an envelope up on the frig that I've been putting tip money in and the boys added a bit here and there.  Now we have plenty for tickets and popcorn.


Around the house...  I've been working all week so we are sporting the "lived in" look.  Putting away the clean laundry is always last on my list of priorities during the week.


 A favorite quote for today...
 
Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.  -Mark Twain
 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

a good solid plan


After a difficult couple of weeks awhile back there was talk of turning our student over to public school.  It is something we've never ruled out of the realm of possibilities as we always want to be open to God's leading.  We just keep that possibility in the back of our minds and agree to discuss if the time ever arose.  The time arose not too long ago while in deep discussion with our eldest. 

The words first came out of his mouth and knocked the wind out of me.  "Maybe I should go to public school."  I did not dismiss his idea nor did I show approval.  I let his dad know the conversation and we both separately took that day and a couple more to think/pray. 

Over the following weeks we kept the conversation open, we continued to pray, we continued to monitor our son.  God gave us great peace about keeping our son at home.  Planning for high school ensued and we kept our student in on the discussions, asking for input, giving explanations of what it all means.  We all agreed to continue on in homeschooling while using every available resource from the high school.

It is a renewed purpose.  It will probably be renewed again.  Because there are difficult days.  There are doubts that pick at the very core of me.

But at the heart of matter I must remember that my children are my children before they are my students.  I am their mother before I am their teacher.  And it is their hearts that have been entrusted to me to train and nurture.  Growing up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is not about textbooks and lesson plans and homeschool and public school.

It is a difficult thing to keep in perspective when I am up to my elbows in school on a daily basis.

I recently completed the "Course of Study" four year highschool plan using Donna Young's example shown here.  My husband and I took a couple of evenings to plan our homeschool's credit requirements as well as our graduation requirements.  This was all such a process and I will admit it STRESSED me out!

Breathing easier now with a good solid plan.

These are our four year requirements:

4 credits English/Literature
3 credits Mathematics
4 credits History/Social Studies
2 credits Foreign Language
.5 credit Health
1 credit P.E.
2 credits Fine Arts
1 credit Career/Technical
4 credits Biblical Theology
2 credits Electives

Our students will not be limited to just two electives but only two full credits are required.  I think they can do as many as they have time for.  LOVE the freedom we have here.  We also have it set up in such a way that come Senior year there will be time for a part time job if the opportunity arises.

I'm humbled by the great privilege I have of seeing my children grow before my very eyes.  As we tread these teen years I see time speeding up, changes happening so fast, like I'm caught in a whirlwind. 

It is that very realization that causes me to dig my heels in and pay attention to the moment because it will never happen again.  I grab hold of the details and savor them because I know that so soon they will be the memories I return to.

Monday, November 18, 2013

composing high school



 
 
As I sit here and ponder our strategy for homeschooling through high school I am serenaded by such wonderful composers at Boccherini, whose Cello Concerto No. 9 is colorful and alive, and Rachmaninov, one of my personal favorites for the depth and passion in his pieces.  And I all at once wonder, is it in us to achieve this lofty goal of graduating highschoolers?  We who were public schooled.  We who were not acquainted with the homeschool way.

Our firstborn went straight into kindergarten in a public school.  I joined the PTA.  I assisted in his class every Friday, with my little three year old in tow.  We had playdates at the park with the other moms and their kindergartners.  In February of that school year I pulled him out of the system and began homeschooling.  Meager attempts at times, failures, hiccups, and victories.  I had no idea what I was doing.

Yet here we are, that five year old mister and his three year old brother are in the 9th and 7th grades.  And we are still chugging along with this homeschooling thing.  And now looking at transcripts, graduation requirements, credits, electives.  I know others have navigated this course before us, but we never have. I never have.  I'm thankful for good resources I've found on the internet (my form of support group).

We've gone the way of support groups.  I always felt "sized up".  And I always came away feeling like a failure.  Mostly this was of my own insecurities.  After all, that homeschooling family has 8 children and all their kids excel at foreign language, chemistry, and chess club whilst keeping a farm with chickens, a mule, and goats (whose milk is inevitably turned to cheese by the 6 year old).  And my children, well, they didn't eat glue this week.  The best support we had was at our church years back.  We had co-op classes, field trips, parties.  It was great fun and I certainly miss it. 

So anyway, the internet (my support group) has provided great resources to push me on my way.  Great ideas for electives, forms for transcripts, etc...  A guideline I'm going to use (guideline only) will be our high school's credit requirements.  They are:
  • Credits. . . Subject
  • .50. . . . . . Pacific NW History
  • .50. . . . . . American Government
  • .50. . . . . . Modern World Problems
  • 1.0. . . . . . U.S. History
  • 1.0. . . . . . World History
  • 4.0. . . . . . English
  • 3.0. . . . . . Math
  • 2.0. . . . . . Science
  • 1.5. . . . . . Fitness
  • .50. . . . . . Health
  • 1.0. . . . . . Career/Technical
  • 1.0. . . . . . Fine Arts
  • 6.5/7.0 . . . Electives
  • 23.0 Credits Total 
The school also requires a Senior Presentation as well as a High School and Beyond Plan, and proficiency and course exams.  Our state doesn't have set graduation requirements for homeschoolers written into our law so their is a lot of freedom. I will be taking into account the local school requirements, state law, and guides I have found along the way to piece together a working, flexible plan for us.






Friday, November 15, 2013

that kind of day

It is a cello music on Pandora kind of day.  Cup of coffee, magazine perusing kind of day.  Warm lounge pants, pigtail braids, and sweatshirt kind of day.

I was released from work early because the rain had sent people into hiding.  Stopped at the store and surprised my boys with onion rings and chicken strips for lunch.  We rarely get this treat but when we do it must be eaten with corn.  It is just meant to be that way.  Like grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Like fresh baked cookies and milk.

The older boy and I made a trip to the library, venturing out into the rain but we've spent the rest of the day at home.  Schoolwork is done for the week save for one math quiz and spelling tests that we will tackle tomorrow.

Blake had his first experience with Nyquil this week.  We are not much into medications or even pain relievers as a habit but sometimes there just has to be some relief.   So, Nyquil for the boy with the head cold.  The first dose was right before bed so he just slept through the night.  The second dose was mid-afternoon and that boy was downright loopy all evening.  He could not string together thoughts and was very absentminded.  He's Nyquil free now for 24 hours, no twelve step program needed.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

sick day


Being Tuesday after a holiday weekend, it was our first day back at it.  Austin up and at 'em to Rifle Team practice, Aaron off to work, me off to work, and the boys back to the schoolwork grind.  But one member of this family has been laying low today...Blake seems to have picked up a cold bug (if any of us were to fall to something it would be him).  I've been making him hot cups of tea to soothe the throat and break up the stuffy nose.  Charlie's doing his part by cuddling with him under a blanket (good dog!).
 


Now that I'm home from work, and since Charlie is caring for Blake, I will probably sit with a cup of coffee and a pile of schoolwork and get some correcting done. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

freedom

Evening falls on Veteran's Day and I sit here thankful for freedom.  Even more I am thankful for the freedom that Christ afforded me when he died on the cross.  I am free from a life of darkness and bondage.  Free to live in the grace of God. 

In the crockpot waits our dinner.  Honey chicken and baked sweet potatoes, also brussel sprouts.  I made pumpkin spice rice krispie treats that look ever so tempting.

It was a good long weekend for everyone here.  Saturday was full.  Austin spent some time at a nearby cemetery placing flags at the graves of veterans with some of the ROTC kids.  Blake participated in a wrestling tournament.  He wrestled three matches and won all three of them, winning first place for his weight class.  To say that the wins did not come easily would be scratching the surface.  He worked really, really hard for those victories, struggling with fatigue, self-doubts, pain, and a bloody nose.  But he persevered.  It was also nice to have our friend, the boys' Sunday school teacher, there for support.

Anyone who would doubt the value in the things we allow in our boys' lives has never truly seen these things first hand.  Our participation in wrestling continues to be questioned.  Austin's interest in pursuing a military career gets questioned.  And I stand back and just wonder what would cause someone to doubt the value in these things.  Certainly it is an assessment of surface things only and not an assessment that cares to dig into the heart of the matter.  Maybe more on this another time.  For now my eldest son needs a haircut and barber is one of my titles.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

is it Friday yet?

Outside my window...  It's been a windy, windy day with rain showers thrown in for fun.  The cherry tree has almost lost all her leaves.  There's still a hummingbird (or more) coming to the feeder, brave little flyers.  I cleared the back fence of all ivy and cut the vines from off three out of four tree trunks.  It's looking so different!

I am thankful...  beyond thankful for my home and the little family that lives in it, thankful for the ability (and responsibility) to educate my boys and the many tools we have available to do so, thankful for the different people in our lives that help to shape and mold our children.

In the kitchen... After coming home from work I planted myself in the kitchen and baked cookies.  I concocted a variety of oatmeal raisin and they are perfect.  Just what the Dr. ordered.  Some things I did differently:  used a packet of chai flavored oatmeal with another 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats, added 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and about 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips, omitted the white sugar and used less brown sugar, scooped them nice and big and baked till chewy.

I am wearing...  fresh out of the shower and wearing black lounge pants and a grey hoodie, chillin' at the end of the day

I am reading...  Just finished A Life That Says Welcome.  This book was challenging (spiritually) and I'm thankful for the growth it encouraged in me.  Keep your KJV Bible handy as the verses cited in the book are not KJV.
karenehman3smaller.jpg
 
 
Now working on Glimpses of Grace.  I'm not sure that this book fits with the season of life I find myself in at the moment so I may not finish it.  But the cover is awful pretty!
 
Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home



I am praying...  As parents we have a lot of decisions concerning our children.  At times we must show complete control of a situation and at other times we teach and guide the child to make the best decision.  As my eldest son grows we are learning along with him, how to navigate this new terrain.  All the while we are careful to keep an account of his heart.  We do a lot of talking, a lot of listening, and a lot of just being still.  We do even more praying and studying.  This school year has brought about so many changes and opportunities for him.  He's grown by leaps and bounds.  Weaknesses have also been unearthed.  And we press on, tenderly at times, headfirst at times.  All the while trusting that God will show us the way.

From the learning rooms...  Back in April we began a new curriculum.  After working through the summer we are just reaching the end.  It's been a challenge but one that we've each worked really, really hard to meet.  Of course, we will turn right around and begin the next session.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  Saturday I'm taking Austin to the cemetery where he will be placing flags for Veteran's Day.  Blake and Aaron will head to the first wrestling tournament of the season.  I'm hoping to get there (a little late) to cheer on my Blake and the rest of the team.

A peek into my day...  I find my days to be so full.  There is a lot of responsibility to squeeze into those hours, and I want to be sure to treasure living as well.  I've always struggled with keeping my priorities in line, letting things take precedence where they ought not.  But as I grow, as God grows me, I find that things fall into place as they ought.  And even though I have to be disciplined about my schedule, I know that things are right as they should be.

       Today as example:
  • 6:30 roll out of bed and spend some quiet time in the Word.  I'm using a book of devotions by Charles Spurgeon right now as a sort of guide along the way but I'm certainly not confined by that.
  • 7:30 hop online to get Blake registered for the upcoming wrestling tournament
  • put away some laundry, tidy up the house, load and start the dishwasher
  • 8:00 brew a pot of coffee and get myself dressed for the day
  • 8:30 sit with Blake and do some Math one on one
  • 9:10 sit with Austin and work through some lessons one on one
  • 9:40 leave for work, today was a busy one!  My tootsie's are tired!
  • 3:00 arrive home from work and bake cookies
  • 3:45 schoolwork corrections
  • 4:15 paperwork, bills, and filing
  • 4:45 shower
  • 5:15 see my boys out the door on their way to wrestling practice
  • rest up there is still dinner to make
  • 7:00 hasn't come yet but I will be making pork chops and potatoes
This is where I am right now.  A homeschooling, waitressing, wife and mom.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

matters both esculent and domestic

We spent an evening at the yacht club.  The occasion was an election dinner in honor of some of the candidates running for city council in our town, one of which is a friend.  We did our best to not stand out as "the ones who obviously don't belong".  It was fun to be there, to see familiar faces from around town, to be a part of something.  Not all the ballots have been counted but the initial count has our friend ahead 51% to 49%...a close race.

I picked up a few books at the library yesterday.  Last night my husband was looking for something to read so I offered this title: The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home: The Happy Luddite's Guide to Domestic Self-Sufficiency.  His response?  "What is a Luddite?  I will just read my Bible." 

The very beginning of the book offers this introduction which made me shiver with literary pleasure as I read it:

A recondite treasury of arcane secrets, wherein are explained mysteries of the kitchen and cupboard, plainly set forth for those who would profit materially and spiritually through self-sufficiency, honest unplugged labor, and diligent application of economic principles derived from our esteemed forebears in matters both esculent and domestic.

My inner "word-nerd" just loves how those letters and syllables were strung together.

As for a Luddite, it seems to mean someone who opposes technology and the advances of such.  The rest of the book was a blur as I skimmed through.  Came across two things I earmarked to go back to: sourdough bread and apple cider donuts.  Oh yeah!


Monday, November 4, 2013

practicing contentment

The sunrise was so colorful this morning, warm oranges and pinks.  This could mean poor weather on the way but for today it looks like it will be beautiful.

I was reading about contentment this morning so that is where my mind keeps resting.  In our weaknesses, trials, shortcomings...this is where God's strength is made perfect.  A battle fought in our own power will not glorify God.  A battle fought leaning solely on His strength, that is a battle won.  So in whatever state we find ourselves, whether a state of weakness, a state of hardships, a state of spiritual warfare it is important that we practice contentment, knowing full well that it is through these things that God can show us His perfect strength.
 
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
II Corinthians 12:9

Contentment.  It seems our contentment can be attacked from all sides if we are not guarding it.  There is something to be said about simplicity, about the basics, about just loving what you have.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  Comparison can lead to envy which can lead to covetousness and before you know it, you're not content anymore.  This is simple contentment, the kind that is content with surface things.  But there is a deeper contentment, one that lives in a soul's walk with God, knowing that He is enough, that He is your all in all.  True, soul contentment that will feed the surface contentment because it is never about having things, it is about the state of your heart.

It is never about having things, it is about the state of your heart.
 

"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Hebrews 13:5
 
"Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."
I Timothy 6:6-7

Friday, November 1, 2013

a ministry

Welcome November!  This month we shall enjoy hot cider and falling leaves.  We shall see frost and warm gloves.  We will give thanks and enjoy home.

We spent the last evening of October safely at home.  I made hoagie roll pizzas which we ate while watching Indiana Jones.  We ate candy and popcorn and candy.

I've been doing some studying and was challenged this morning on the subject of serving my family.  My family is my first ministry, although not my only ministry, and they deserve my best, not my leftovers.  They get to be the first recipients of my love, creativity, and handiwork.  Make sure their needs are met and go beyond that and treat them well.  I was thinking of individual little things to make them feel individually special and loved.  This could be a little gift for no reason, or a favorite meal, or a "date".  It is my privilege to not only nourish their bodies but also their souls.  By my love and service may they see the love of Christ, be called to a higher plane, and be encouraged.

My family is my ministry.  And my family has a ministry.  "Let us beseech Him to give us grace to shine before men to the glory of His name."  (Charles Spurgeon)

I have been encouraged lately by the sight of my eldest son's Bible on the dining room table each morning.  He is out the door before 6 each morning (100% on his own) but not after he's read God's Word.  There is some working there by a Mighty hand in a teen heart as this is done not to please the parents and not by any provocation of the parents but only as an obedience to the leading of the Heavenly Father.

As I step into this first day of November I am thankful for a day at a home.  Thankful for a long list of to-do's to make my home a restful haven for my family.  Thankful for time with my boys.  Thankful for the coffee my husband made me before he left for work this morning.  Thankful for some words of inspiration to glorify Him by loving those around me.  Thankful.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

before dawn

Up before the dawn and the house is already mostly empty.

Aaron was out the door by 5 a.m.  He's on his ferry route today.  He'll spend the day hopping from island to island checking on accounts and doing scheduled stops.  I don't envy the hard work but I do envy the ferry rides and the scenery he gets to take in.

Austin was out the door by 5:45 for rifle team practice.  He likes to get there early to help set-up.  He and I are both looking forward to Thursday as I am planning on joining him at practice, as a bystander.  It's awful early, dreadful early that side of the morning but my show of support and interest in his interests trumps the extra sleep.

Last night I took in a wrestling practice.  My Blake gets so intense.  He has a fire inside him just like his dad.  But when the whistle sounds to stop he's out of it that quick.  His practice partner is also his friend and they challenge each other, make each other better.  And my husband as coach, his heart is for those kids.  He gets down on the level of the little 5 year olds and listens to their silly questions about "how far away is Arkansas?" and he doesn't dismiss them, but cares.  That's a good coach.

Do you know the feeling you get when you can feel God working?  The feeling that He has drawn near and is peering into your very heart?  After a time in a spiritual "desert" this is welcome.  But I know that it is not really Him that has drawn near as He never stepped away.  It is I that have turned my face toward His and stepped closer.  A return.  A humbled return.  And I step into His mercy and rejoice in His presence.

My coffee cup is almost empty.  Time for a refill then some schoolwork correcting.  It is my least favorite thing and as a homeschool teacher I get to do it ALL THE TIME.  My students do a lot of work on their own and this is my way to feel the heartbeat, to monitor the strengths or weaknesses, to address any issues.  It is the responsible thing to do when the irresponsible in me wants to bundle up and go for a walk in the early morning chill and watch the leaves fall.

Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

beautiful day and balancing and being rounded

Beautiful Saturday.  I woke to sunshine, warm, golden sunshine.  This gave way to overcast and more fog rolling in again.  But it's still beautiful Saturday. 

I spent the morning grocery shopping in my hoodie and comfy shoes.  Early Saturday grocery shopping is full of elderly folks, cute, white-haired couples that have been doing this for decades.  They make me smile.  But they're not always good with a shopping cart.  Me, I maneuver the aisles expertly with a coffee in one hand and list in the other.  The balancing act reminds of when I could, and would frequently, cook a full meal with a baby on my hip.

It's a different kind of balancing act now.  No babies on the hip.  This past week was a balance of workschoolmeetingpracticeerrandschurchlaundrypaybillschimneysweephuntinggrocerystoregas.  Wrestling practices are in full swing.  Blake loves.  Blake is sore.  Austin has four times a week rifle team practice (out the door by 5:50 a.m. on his own!).  We had a meeting last week with the rifle team and were educated a bit more on what this sport is, and got to know the coach better.  Over the next few months we'll be attending some  wrestling tournaments and some rifle matches. 

I do love supporting my boys.  And I do love the rounded education they are receiving.  Maybe it is my experience in homeschooling or maybe it is just my own mindset but I view everything we allow in our boys' lives as education, as one part of the everything we are instilling in them.  Like today, Austin is hunting with Pastor.  This is not an accident, not a time filler.  He is learning; learning to be a man, learning to hunt, learning independence from his parents.  And while Blake is at a friend's for the day today, he is learning friendship, widening his world a little, seeing how things run in another Christian homeschooling family. 

Homeschooling in not about the books we use, or the amount of hours we spend in instruction, or the tests we take.  This is one part of the whole.  When I take the boys grocery shopping and teach them about how to choose produce or how to read labels or how to get the most for their money this is one part of the whole.  When Blake is sweating on the wrestling mat, one part of the whole.  When Austin is sitting in class under the instruction of a respected Navy Chief, one part.  When the boys are working together at yardwork, one part.  And yes, when we are sitting together late in the evening working through Math, this is one part, or two parts because the child is learning dedication and sacrifice along with Math.  It all works together as part of the whole.

Phew.  I didn't mean to get on a spiel.  <<<I had to look that word up.  I initially spelled it "schpeel".

Anyhoo.

Now that my groceries are mostly put away I'm looking into the second half of Saturday.  Since the rest of the family is gone it is rather quiet.  On my agenda: cooking, baking, yard work, and painting my nails.

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

tales from the inside

Have you ever wondered what a waitress eats whilst serving delicious, well presented food to hungry patrons?  This is what I have learned from being on the inside.

Most times the server tries to eat before coming to work because the affront of scents coming from the kitchen are just too much to handle.  Eat at home, eat something that will sustain for the whole shift because for that whole shift you are going to be staring at food.

If the server has no time or forgets to eat before shift there is always the method of bringing in your own quick eating food.  Yogurt is easy.  Cut up veggies are a good option.  The key is to pick something that will keep you full and satisfied so as not to be distracted by the tantalizing meals you are serving to your guests.

If the server has not eaten at home and has also failed to bring in a safe back-up she (or he) will fall victim to desirous hunger of the eyes and stomach.  In this case she will either a) order a big juicy burger made custom by one of the cooks or b) eat the mistakes of the kitchen (too many fries, messed up salad, etc...).  Either instance is a bad decision.

Sometimes the entire shift will be so busy, so full of serving and running and doing that there is not a moment to even remember food.  In this case the server, worn down from a long hard shift, journeys home, the only place in the world that she can throw off her shoes, swing open the frig to find leftovers, pop said leftovers in the microwave for a bit and enjoy instant home cooking.

This is my story.