Thursday, December 29, 2011

The beauty of a child's joy

Yesterday I was doing some chores in the house while my kids played in the backyard.  My daughter came running up to the door, full of excitement.  "Mommy, mommy!  I have something for you!  Look, I got you a weed!"

It struck me as very funny that she referred to her beautiful gift as a weed.  But in no way did that diminish her enthusiasm and sincerity in offering that gift to me.  A lovely and heartfelt gift, it was accepted with great pleasure and gratitude.  The tiny weed is now situated in a very small glass jar on my kitchen counter.

I look at it and smile.  I see a weed, yes, but I also see beauty, joy, and love.

A little way to make a big difference

The school age children who used to live at Save the Children Orphanage are in need of funding for their school fees for the next term of school.  You can do something small to make a big difference in their lives!  To learn more about the needs and how you can help read this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some great ideas

Christmas is a hard time of year for me.  I love the fun traditions like decorating the tree, baking and decorating cookies with my kids, going to see Christmas lights, going to "Jungle Bells" at the zoo with my family, candlelight services at church, etc.  But the commercialism of Christmas drives me absolutely crazy:  spending money for so much stuff that we don't need, when we could use our resources to help others who have real needs.  December comes and I just want to hide under a rock until it is all over.

My husband and I do a pretty good job of keeping Christmas gifts to a minimum, keeping things simple, not spending money that we don't have.  I must admit though, I am not always intentional about how I go about teaching the true meaning of Christmas to my kids.  We talk about Jesus' birth of course.  We read the Christmas story and I tell them that Christmas is not about getting more stuff, but about Jesus, the greatest gift we can ever receive.  I talk to them about these things, but I feel powerless to combat the messages of our culture.

I read a blog post today by my friend Stacie.  I really love her great ideas!  You can read her ideas here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fleeting thought

I was in the kitchen, greasing a large glass pan with butter, thinking to myself, "Hmm, a little too much butter.  That can't be good for us."  You know what I was getting ready to put in the pan?  Fudge.  Yep, fudge.  And for a few fleeting seconds, I was worried about the teaspoon of butter that will keep it from sticking to the pan. Never mind the half cup of butter, or ridiculous quantities of sugar, that were already mixed into the fudge.  Sometimes my thoughts just don't make any sense.  Makes them more amusing I suppose.

On that note... sugar is not good for us.  I know it.  But I keep eating it.  Why do I do that?  I'm going to share a recipe with you.  Whatever you do, don't make it!  Don't eat fudge; it is very bad for you!  Go eat some vegetables instead.

Million Dollar Fudge

Combine and bring to a boil:

4 1/2 cups sugar
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 pinch of salt

Boil for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add:

1 7 oz jar of marshmallow creme
1 8 oz bar Hershey milk chocolate (I used two 4 oz bars)
1 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of butter
2 cups of nuts, if desired (chopped almonds are good)

Stir until everything is completely melted and mixed together.  Spread mixture in a greased pan (9x13 inch works well).  Cool the fudge in the refrigerator.

There you go.  But don't make this recipe, and certainly don't eat it or feed it to anyone you love.  If you do make this fudge, please be sure to watch how much butter you use while greasing the pan.  I wouldn't want you to make it any less healthy, you know.

On a more serious note, at the beginning of 2012 I will begin my second annual "No Sugar January." Hopefully it will extend into February as well.  Care to join me?  It is a great post-holiday detox.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


A little perspective is a very helpful thing!

My sweet and darling 4 year old son has been "a bit" challenging as of late.  He has been throwing huge screaming fits, breaking everything in his path, pulling his curtains off the wall by hanging from them, biting us (Ouch!), throwing rocks and metal objects at his friends.  The list could go on for quite a while, but I think you get the idea.  Some days he is kind and caring, thoughtful and obedient.  And some days you'd think I had succeeded in raising a horrible monster.

My daughter did many of these same things when she was 3 and 4 years old.  Although, I never found her hanging from the curtains.  I do remember lots of biting.  I remember thinking how my daughter was way too old to be biting.  Kids should know better by that age!  I remember thinking I had seriously failed as a parent.  I remember reading piles of books on parenting and discipline.  I remember my mother-in-law telling me,  "Don't worry, they all go through this phase, but it should end around age 3 and 3/4."  Really?  There is an end in sight?  You mean I haven't failed as a parent?  Maybe there is hope for my wayward child?  Truth be told, she was no better at age 3 and 3/4; but by the time she reached 5, she seemed like a pretty decent kid.

A little perspective is a very helpful thing!

This time around I am not viewing myself as a failure.  I am not reading all the parenting books.  I don't think my son will remain a dreadful monster and grow up to be a threat to society.  I'm thinking, "This too shall pass."  I am trying to stay at a safe distance from his teeth!  I'm trying to be super consistent, patient, and calm when my son is not.  I don't always succeed in these things, but I keep trying and I keep asking God for His help.

I'll never forget the nearly sleepless nights of infancy and toddler-hood, my baby who would never take a bottle or my other baby who absolutely refused to breast feed, my baby who never napped,  my baby who wouldn't eat, the toddler who refused to be potty trained, and all the other challenges that seemed like mountains at the time.  I'm learning to remind myself, "This too shall pass."  Kids go through various stages.  Some of them are very strange stages, some of them are frightening, some of them are embarrassing.  Some of them seem to last way too long.  But eventually they end.  I've found most of them end more quickly the less I interfere.

If you are going through a tough phase with your kids, take a step back and remind yourself, "This too shall pass!"  And then, to help yourself feel even better, you can think to yourself, "At least my kid isn't biting people and hanging from the curtains like Shauna's son!"  Or maybe your kid is doing that too?  In that case, just stick with, "This too shall pass!"

Friday, December 9, 2011

Absolutely worth reading!

I love this blog, and this post in particular.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Highs and lows

Today's high:  Celebrating my husband's birthday with him.  I realized that this is the 9th birthday I've been blessed to spend with him.  Joel's a great guy!  Plus, it gave the kids and I a wonderful excuse to bake brownies.  Dinner involved homemade lasagna, Caesar salad, garlic bread, and fruit.  Yum!  I look forward to eating the leftovers.

Today's low:  My son was throwing Legos, and the Lego bin, at my daughter's head.  I picked him up and took him to his room.  He bit my arm hard and then repeatedly yelled at the top of his lungs, "You are not my mommy anymore!"  and  "No one is ever nice to me!"  He got to spend an hour of quiet time in his room and came out with a much better attitude.  While eating the lasagna at dinner, he leaned over, hugged my arm and said "Now you are my mommy again!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts on self-worth

Today, I did some much needed cleaning.  Stuff that really needed to be done about 2 weeks ago.  Chores that I've been avoiding while I happily bake, read, work in the yard, and teach my kids.  Since I cleaned the bathrooms and the floors today, I really feel much better about myself.  And that is kind of sad.  Why do I feel better about myself if my house is clean, um, cleaner (and degrade myself if it isn't)?  Why do I evaluate my self-worth by what I have accomplished?

I don't base my opinion of my husband or my kids on what they have or have not accomplished.  My opinions of my friends don't change based on whether their houses are clean or dirty when I go to visit.  I just love them because of who they are.  So, why do I do it to myself?

Do you have a tendency to determine your self-worth based on your accomplishments?  Stop it!  You are amazing just because you are you!  Messy house?  That is okay.  Besides, it will help me feel better about mine... 

I don't plan to stop cleaning my house, but I sure don't want something so meaningless to impact how I think about myself.  I'm going to try to focus on what I like about myself.  Real qualities that come from the heart.  Care to join me?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Things they need to know

The kids and I planted the second half of the garden today.  We planted broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, peas, onions, and bok choy.  My daughter and I both came in from outside with terrible headaches due to allergies.  It was time to get clean and wash away the pollen.  After getting the kids clean and dressed, I settled them in with a snack and a video so I could shower.  As always, I said to them, "Never open the door when I am not with you.  No matter who is there, keep the door closed and locked."  "Okay, Mommy."  I thought it might be good to check their understanding.  "What if it is President Obama at the door?  Should you open the door for him?"  "Umm.... I think we should."  "No, don't open the door for anyone!  Not even the president.  If you think it is someone I would want to let in, just come and get me."  I think we need to review this a few more times!

This conversation made me think.  What other things do I need to make sure my kids know and understand?  Do they know what to do in an emergency?  Do they remember how to call 911?  Do they remember what I told them to do if they ever get lost or separated from me?  Do they know to tell me right away if anyone ever tries to hurt them?  What other things do they need to know? 

Do they know how much I love them?  That nothing can change that love.  Have I taken the time today to remind them how much they are loved?  Do they know how much Jesus loves them?  Have I taken the time to pray with them and read the Bible to them today?  I can't teach them everything, but I better not forget the most important things.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tidbits from our "farm"

We finally got around to starting our fall planting in the vegetable garden.  Things were put on hold in October because I had a few weeks of severe anxiety/depression, complicated by a reaction to medication.  Ugh.  I am so thankful to be doing better!

On Saturday, we put up a fence around the garden to keep the chickens out.  They weren't too happy about that.  After creating the chicken boundary, we planted seeds for beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, parsnips, and a few herbs.  Today the kids and I went to the garden center and got seeds for peas and kale.  We also got broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, onion, and brussel sprouts plants.  Lots of things we've never grown before.  I'm curious how our fall gardening venture will turn out.  The kids insist that they will eat everything that we grow in our own garden.  I hope they do!

The chickens are doing well and supplying us with lots of eggs.  They are a funny group of ladies, very entertaining to watch.

We've been getting some rain and it is so wonderful to see our lawn (um, weed patch) turning green again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A house is not a home...

I love cats and books.  I always have.  If I wasn't married with kids, I imagine I'd be an old spinster with oodles of cats and piles of books.  I suppose I would work in a library.  You can picture it right?

But since I have been blessed with an amazing husband and darling children, I spend hours every day reading to my kids.  Funny thing, they love books too!  We snuggle on the couch and read great books.  I'm learning an awful lot about history and science.  From time to time I get kicked in the head by my four year old son who doesn't exactly "sit" and listen.  And I am reminded to laugh.  When my voice gets tired I hand the book to my six year old daughter and she does the reading.  We cuddle up, we learn, we laugh, we love.  Life is good.

When I was about fourteen, I desperately wanted a cat.  I had unsuccessfully asked my parents if I could have a cat.  Then I figured it out, my house didn't feel like a home without a cat.  And I said so, "Mom, a house really isn't a home without a cat."  Who knew that simple heartfelt statement would work?  It wasn't long before I got to bring Milo home.  Milo, my friend with long, orange fur.

I've been thinking about this lately.  When my kids go to bed, I snuggle up on the couch with more great books, a cup of tea, and my two black cats.  I feel very much at home.  But it isn't the cats, or the books, that make me feel at home.  It is the love that fills our house.  It is knowing that my husband is in the room with me, that my kids are tucked safely in their beds, and that we tucked them in with words of love.

As a teenager I felt like I was in a house that wasn't quite a home, not because the people weren't loving, but because my parents were often gone.  It is easy to realize how much young kids need their parents to be home, how much they need their parents' time and attention.  Little kids tell you, they make their needs known.  No matter what they say, or don't say, I believe that bigger kids need their parents to be available just as much as the little ones do.  As my little kids get bigger, I plan to still be here.  I plan to keep on reading to them.  Even if I drive them crazy and they wish I'd go away.  I hope that my presence and love will continue to make our house a home.  And if I'm mistaken on this point?  Don't worry, we've got the cats.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Healthy" Brownies

I made these brownies today.  They were super good and about as healthy as brownies can get.  It has been a rainy day, perfect for staying inside, playing board games with the kids, baking and eating warm, gooey brownies.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Have you ever been there?

Have you ever been there?  See this blog post.

I know I have...  I've felt or heard that "still, small voice" asking me to do something.  Telling me to get involved or make a difference.  Sometimes I've said no.  And it haunts me.  But sometimes I've said yes, and I'm so glad I did.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Last year I was able to go to Save the Children orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The kids, the orphanage, the country, they are all close to my heart.  A sponsorship program has been established to support the little ones at the orphanage, and we have the opportunity to take part in making a huge difference in the lives of these children!  Just 5 more babies are in need of sponsors.  You can read more about it in this post.

Today, my family and I hosted a garage sale to raise some extra money for the orphanage.  I so appreciate the donations we received to add to our pile of things to sell.  Thank you friends!  We were able to raise enough money to feed 2 babies for one month.  I always wish I could do more than I am able to, but that won't stop me from doing what I can do.  Would you be able to sponsor a child?  Or help us spread the word?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

He welcomed them

"When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done.  Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him.  He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing."  Luke 9: 10-11

I can imagine Jesus and his disciples being tired, exhausted, in need of a break.  Jesus is God, but during his ministry on earth he was also human.  He often sought time and solitude for talking to his Father.  He often had crowds of thousands following him, seeking understanding, seeking healing, seeking love.  And I can imagine him exhausted, but full of spiritual energy, welcoming and teaching and healing.

I don't have crowds of thousands following me.  Most days I just have a crowd of two (or eight) following me.  Two busy, talkative kids.  (Plus two cats and four chickens.)  But I'm human, and some days that is quite enough to exhaust me and leave me in need of a break.

This past week I sat down on the kitchen floor to read the newspaper.  Kind of strange, I know, but it was quiet in there and the counter kept me hidden.  And sometimes that is what this super introverted mom needs.  After a few minutes, I heard my daughter say calmly to my son, "We have a big problem.  I can't find Mommy."

Jesus "welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing."  When I withdraw to a quiet place, do I welcome my children when they follow me?  Do I use those opportunities to speak to them about the kingdom of God?  Do I take the opportunity to speak words of encouragement and healing to their sensitive hearts?  Well, sometimes I do, but sometimes I don't.

This week I'm going to focus on welcoming my little followers.  And I'm going to focus on being Jesus' follower.  He always welcomes me, he speaks to me, and he heals me.  Want to join me in this pursuit?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My holey sheets

A year or two ago, my husband and I were working together to make our bed.  We looked closely at our sheets, sheets that used to be green flannel.  We noticed that after 3 or so years of using only that one set of sheets, they were becoming extremely thin and discolored.  We mentioned that maybe we should purchase some new sheets.  When I consider buying something, I tend to think in terms of what that amount of money could accomplish at Save the Children Orphanage.  I could have new flannel sheets or I could help provide almost a month's worth of formula for a baby.  New sheets?  Or provide a month's salary for an extra "mama" to care for the kids?

We're still using those sheets.  Every time my husband and I make the bed we look at our sheets and laugh.  They are full of small holes, the elastic on the bottom sheet is gone, and this week Joel asked me what color they used to be.  Those holey sheets remind me to be thankful for what I have, and thankful for what I don't have.  I love my old sheets and the laughter they bring.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Encouraging my young artists

My kids are very interested in art.  They love to study art and artists.  They spend hours creating masterpieces.  They plan to be artists when they grow up.  My daughter says, "I'm going to be an artist, a house builder, and a mommy.  I'll be very busy!"  And my son says, "I'm going to be an artist and a super hero!"

Did your parents ever discourage you from doing what you truly wanted to do?  Stories of parents directing their kids away from certain careers, especially those in the arts, are certainly common.  I vividly remember stating some of my aspirations as a child and instantly being told why such and such was not a good career choice, or not a good idea for me to attempt.  I'm trying not to do that with my kids.  I'd rather help them explore various careers and gain further information and skills.  Whether they become professional artists, enjoy art as a hobby, or leave it behind as they get older, I plan to cheer them on.

At the moment, we are enjoying learning about various famous artists.  We learn about their history, the country they came from, their style of art, etc.  I think it is pretty neat that my kids are able to recognize the works of a number of artists.  And I love how our studies lead to fun art projects.

These paintings were inspired as we read the book "Math-terpieces"  by Greg Tang.  (A great book, by the way.)  My daughter's favorite painting in the book was by Georges Seurat.  We learned about Pointillism and how Seurat's ideas as an artist were based on science.  We tried it out.  Such fun!  And the concepts we learned are now firmly imprinted in our minds.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scratch and sniff paint

It is tough to keep up with my kids' requests for art and craft projects.  But I try!  We borrowed a book, "The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions" by John E. and Danita Thomas, from our local library.  This is a great book with lots of easy to make paints, playdoh, etc.  You know, the type of stuff that kids adore ... and parents fear.

My kids had a wonderful time making, and painting with, scratch and sniff paints.  We got several packages of Kool-aid powdered drink mix.  In the separate compartments of a muffin pan, we mixed the contents of each packet with about half a tablespoon of water.  We had one packet each of red, blue, and yellow Kool-aid, which we mixed to make all the colors of the rainbow.  I just had to include a little science in our painting fun!

P.S.  I am counting on you to ignore the mess on my floors and the fact that my kids are still in their pajamas     = )

Friday, September 16, 2011

When subjects blend

Recently we were reading about Ancient China and the Yellow River Valley.  Which led to re-reading "The Story of Ping" (which takes place on the Yangtze River in China).  Which inspired us to attempt to copy the style of the illustrations in the book.  History, Literature, and Art flowed seamlessly together.

We ended up with a fun art project that helped us remember the information we were studying.

by Anna, age 6

by Arik, age 4
I was compelled to test my art skills as well.

Exploring in the garden

Most of our spring/summer garden is done for the season.  That means it is time for me to dig and weed the garden in preparation for fall planting.

The kids and I have been working out there.  The kids say they are going to turn the whole garden into a swimming pool.  I must admit I have other plans for it, like growing edible things.  In the meantime, they have made a pretty large hole.  And they certainly have been coming in the house with very dirty hands, feet, and clothing.

While the young ones dig, wistfully dreaming of a swimming pool, I've been cutting down the tomato jungle.  We have seen two mice darting in and out amidst the zucchini and spaghetti squash plants.  No pictures; they are fast little critters.

Yesterday Arik said, "Mom, what is that?  It's something alive."  I glanced and told him it was just a leaf.  He poked it and showed me that it was indeed a living creature.

An albino praying mantis?

It turned out to be a pink praying mantis.  Pink?  I thought they are supposed to be green or brown.  I briefly researched it online and came across a bunch of differing opinions as to whether a praying mantis could be considered albino.

Last week the kids had their annual doctor's visits.  I thought they looked pretty cute in the little gowns.

These two get their fair share of colds and other viruses each year, but in general they are extremely healthy.  This was the first doctor visit for either of them in an entire year.  I am so extremely thankful for the blessing of their good health.  I am so thankful that they are able to dig in the dirt, investigate bugs, and climb trees.  I am thankful for the 20 times each day that I remind my son to not hug the chickens quite so hard.  And for the 10 times every day that I ask my kids to take a break from wrestling with each other before someone gets hurt.  Each day with my loved ones is such a precious gift.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning with Eric Carle

I think this is at least the third time I've mentioned reading books by Eric Carle.  Quite simply, the kids and I like his books and illustrations.  They are fun for all ages.  We've been making use of them for reading practice, learning Spanish, and some great art experiences.  A lot of his books contain simple science or math ideas as well.

Some of the books by Eric Carle that we have borrowed from the library.  I've attempted to locate each one in English and Spanish.  We read each one several times to become more familiar with the Spanish vocabulary.
The illustrations are made by painting tissue paper, cutting or tearing pieces from the tissue paper, and gluing the pieces to the background material.  I decided this would be a fun craft for us to try.  I thought it might be a bit too challenging for my little one to paint tissue paper without tearing it, so we painted regular white paper and then cut it and glued the pieces onto sheets of thicker white paper.

Arik (age 4) asked for some help cutting out the shapes he wanted.

Anna (age 6) illustrated a book and wrote a story all on her own.  I was impressed by her skill in cutting out cats and other shapes.
For more details on the art process Eric Carle uses, and other ideas for using Eric Carle's books, you can look here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What she said.

Because a piece of my heart is there.  Because my thoughts are often there.  But sometimes I just don't know how to put it all into words.  I read the thoughts of another and think, "That's it.  What she said!"  This is one of those times.  I encourage you to read this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My little Nubians

The kids and I have been having so much fun learning at home.  We have been studying Ancient History, and recently read a book titled "Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors" by Marian Broida.  This book includes many creative activities. 

Honestly, I am often tempted to turn the activity pages as quickly as I can before the kids have a chance to see the projects and ask to do them.  Sometimes it just seems like a whole lot of work.  But fairly often, I slow down, stop worrying about the mess involved, and dive into a project with the kids.  The results are wonderful and memorable.

Anna loves to sew and often asks for opportunities to do so.

Arik and Anna both designed and sewed their own hats.

Anna and Arik helped sew their very own "Nubian Clothes" from an old sheet that I had on hand.  Nubia was a kingdom to the South of Egypt.  It was located along the Nile in what is now the Southern portion of Egypt and the Northern part of Sudan.

They seem to be quite pleased with the end results!
After sewing their Nubian outfits, they decorated them with puffy paint.  And yes, some of that paint is now adding color to our very light tan carpet.  But these smiles, and the hours they have spent wearing their costumes around the house and yard, are worth the inconvenience of stained carpet and the time and effort it took me to help them with this project.  Maybe those green stains (and the purple, blue, black, and orange ones from previous crafts) are meant to remind me to cherish these times with my kids, to not worry about the mess and just enjoy the moments I have with my sweet treasures.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer days in the Sunflower House

Near the beginning of the summer, the kids and I planted a Sunflower House.  I wrote a little about it in this post.

Arik and Anna in the Sunflower House in July.

The sunflowers grew fast.  They grew huge. 

Anna near the sunflowers in August.

Anna and Arik spent many happy hours playing in their Sunflower House.  We read stories in the shelter of huge blossoms. 

Joel and the kids camped in the backyard, right next to the Sunflower House of course.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Going gluten-free

I've been feeling really lousy the past 6 weeks or so.  Depressed, anxious, almost constant headaches and migraines.  Not good.  This is not uncommon for me.  Challenging times.  In the past, I've considered trying a gluten-free diet to see if it helped at all.  But change takes more motivation than I typically have when I am feeling so poorly. 

My lovely mother-in-law encouraged me to see what happens if I avoid gluten for a while.  Just the motivation I've been needing!  To top it off, she ordered a bunch of gluten-free products for me from this company.  Have I ever mentioned that I have the most loving and thoughtful mother-in-law ever?  Well I do!

My shipment of gluten-free products arrived yesterday.  The kids and I made some cookies from one of the mixes today.  I was curious how they would turn out.  I almost always bake from scratch.  Plus most gluten-free flour I've tasted is not great.  But these?  Yum!  After a healthy and gluten-free dinner, I baked a dozen of the cookies.  My husband, daughter, and son each had two cookies.  I had two cookies, too.  Interestingly, all twelve cookies are gone... and I am hoping that your math skills are worse than mine.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The way things are

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is hope...  amazing courage, amazing beauty.  And there is a lot of hard stuff.  Well really, not just hard, that is putting it too mildly.

Take a look at this blog post.

"After nearly 20 years of state failure and conflict, the Democratic Republic of Congo has become a difficult place in which to be healthy. Life expectancy is only in the early 40s for both men and women; 1 in 13 women dies in childbirth; and 1 in 5 children does not survive to its fifth birthday."

As a citizen of the United States, it is hard to fathom living with these realities.  I have to put my imagination to work; attempt to picture myself walking in very different shoes.  My two kids are 4 and 6.  They are both alive and healthy.  I am always extremely thankful for their health and vitality, but I don't think of it as a matter of defying the odds.  If I was Congolese, chances are strong that I would be mourning the loss of one or more children.  I would certainly have many friends and family members whose young children had died.

When I was pregnant, I didn't worry about whether or not I would live through childbirth.  I am so excited for my loved ones when they are expecting babies.  I don't stop and wonder if they will die in the process.  A baby; a miracle!  Could I have the same joy if I was faced with these odds?  So many women dying in childbirth.  So many children never making it to their fifth birthday.

I'm in my early thirties.  I'm likely to live for many more decades.  Chances are strong that I'll get to see my kids grow up, I'll get to spend time with my grandchildren, and even meet my great- grandchildren.  If I was Congolese, I would be expecting to die at some point in the next decade.  I'd be wondering how my children would manage without my husband and I.

Can you imagine?  This is the way things are.  But there is hope!  What a blessing that we can be a small part of that hope.  Please remember daily to pray for DR Congo.  You can also sponsor a child from the Save the Children Orphanage in Congo.  To do so (or to learn more about it) please follow this link:

I've got to get it right

Dear God,

I tend to worry.  Am I doing everything all wrong?  Am I getting anything right?  Am I at least doing okay on the things that really matter?  Am I going about life in the wrong way?

Please help me to change those thoughts.  I want to be daily asking simply this:  "Am I doing things Your way?"

Minute by minute, I need your guidance and your help.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Language learning

Long before my kids were born, I had plans to teach them more than one language.  I mentioned that desire, and how well my initial attempts went, in this post.

So I was off to a later start than I anticipated, but not willing to give up my efforts.  I heard from multiple sources that Rosetta Stone was a great program to use for acquiring a second language.  Last year I taught my daughter at home, but with assistance from a county funded charter school.  The charter school provided us with free access for using Rosetta Stone.  I was so excited!  And then so disappointed to discover that it didn't fit with my daughter's learning style (at least at this age).

Hmm... what to do?  I don't expect my kids to become fluent in another language at this age.  But I do want to expose their minds and ears to other languages and make it easier for them to learn when they are old enough to value the benefits of knowing a second (or third, or fourth...) language.

Then it dawned on me.  I taught my kids how to speak English!  I didn't purchase an expensive curriculum to assist in my efforts.  They speak English very fluently (in fact they rarely stop using their language skills).  In just a few short years, they have been quite successful at largely mastering English.  So what did I do?  I talked to my kids, I played with them, and I read books to them.  They still like it when I talk to them, play with them, and read to them.  Can I teach them Spanish in much the same way?

I'll give it a try!  I took about 3 years of Spanish in high school and college.   My knowledge base and pronunciation of the language leave a little (well quite a bit) to be desired.  We purchased a children's Spanish dictionary.  Other than that we have been relying on the library to aid in our learning journey.  We have been checking out duplicate copies of children's picture books, one in Spanish and one in English, and reading them side by side.  I have found books by Eric Carle to be especially useful for this.  His books have fun illustrations, a fairly simple storyline, and lots of repetition.  We've also been borrowing CDs in Spanish, both stories and music.  I figure that will help us with pronunciation, even if we are not able to understand all that we hear.

We have been playing games to help the kids remember what they are learning.  For example, when learning colors, the kids ran to an object that was the color I said.  I have also been trying to mix some Spanish words into my everyday conversations with the kids.  "Can you please bring me the shirt de rojo?"  So far everyone is having fun learning a new language!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

First day of school

Tomorrow is the day I had planned to begin the new school year.  But somehow we just finished up our third full week of school.  I couldn't resist my daughter's pleas for school to start.  We've had three fun weeks of learning!

The weather report is predicting tomorrow to once again be nearing 100 degrees here at home.  The beaches will be largely empty since all the other kids have started back to school.  Do you see where I am going with this?  It seems our "first day of school" is destined to be spent enjoying sunshine mixed with waves and sand.  Just one more thing I love about educating my kids "at home."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dictionary in hand

I'm reading, with a dictionary nearby.  I had mentioned in this post that I was hoping to start reading some classic literature.  When I stopped to think about it, I was quite amazed to realize just how few classic books I've read.  I've always loved reading.  But quite often I read pretty mindless books as a method of relaxation.  Or parenting books with the hope of finding some miraculous bit of wisdom.

It seems I had a mental block regarding "classic" literature.  Maybe it had something to do with Cliffsnotes?  Obviously, if you need a book to explain a book, it must be pretty boring or challenging to read, right?  That mental block is now gone.

The first book I chose in my new venture was Uncle Tom's Cabin.  No dictionary was needed.  It was interesting to read, heartbreaking, and inspiring.  I am now reading Pride and Prejudice.  I have benefited from the use of my dictionary for finding the definitions of words like filial, asperity, and obsequiousness.  But for the most part, it is simple to understand and a very amusing read.  Both are great books that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The grass is greener

Did you hear me whining?  I'm sure sorry if you did.  The grass really did look greener on the other side of the fence.

My husband, Joel, worked a bunch of overtime in June and July.  That wouldn't be too bad if he got paid extra.  Or if the kids had been able to see him a bit more.  For Father's Day, my 6 year old daughter made him a card and showed it to me.  "See those four hearts, Mom?  Those are so Daddy doesn't forget that we have four people in our family."

But, the part I was whining about?  We are a one car family.  We share a car; which leaves me without a car most days.  Nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I was the one who chose to go without my own car in order to save money.  Usually we can take Joel to work on occasion and the kids and I can spend the day driving where we please.  It just doesn't work too well when he works super long days and gets home after the kids' bedtime.

Sheepishly, I must admit to you, my whining sounded something like this:  "I feel so stuck at home.  I had hoped to get out of the house a couple times a week this summer and go places with the kids.  Oh, poor me, I live such a hard life..."  You get the idea, right?  I'll leave it at that so I don't drive you crazy.

The grass simply looked a whole lot brighter over there. 

Now my darling is back to a normal work schedule.  The kids get to see their daddy; they know that they are not forgotten.  We are able to drive Joel to work and roam freely about the county doing as we please.  And what do I want to do?  Well, I just want to stay home of course!  The kids and I are having a blast here!  Who would want to go anywhere else?  Yes, our lawn is full of dry grass, weeds, and chicken manure.  But home is looking mighty green and bright to me.  It was just my attitude that needed a little weeding and watering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mommy Brain

I've felt significantly less intelligent since becoming a mom.  I assume (or maybe I hope) that I'm not the only parent who has experienced this.  I wonder about my ability to hold a decent conversation with other adults.

What happened to the knowledge and abilities that I used to have?  Maybe I was over-confident in what I thought I knew!  Parenting is quite effective at showing me lots of things that I need to learn and skills that I need to develop.  Maybe most of my brain cells were destroyed from years of nearly sleepless nights.  Or from years of communicating mostly with small children.

Or maybe I'm just preoccupied with different things.  I do know pretty much all of my children's likes, dislikes, and personality quirks.  I am able to tell them where almost all of their "missing" possessions are located.  I am able to figure out what to feed my family.  I do manage to keep everyone bathed and wearing clean clothes.  I do happen to have a full school year, plans for a bunch of different subjects, mapped out in my mind.

For now, I'm strangely okay with this, my mommy brain.  If anyone would like to have an interesting, adult conversation with me, I should be able to manage that in about 10 years or so.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Not much to say...

Some days I just don't have much of importance to say.  Thankfully other people do!  Here is a great blog post to read.

What if?

Please pray for the sweet kids at Save the Children Orphanage.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pictures added

I finally got around to adding pictures to my last few posts!  Thought you might like to take a look.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

So I was told...

Babies love to listen to their parents' voices, so I was told.  With little babies, they say, you can read anything and your sweet little one will just be thrilled because it is mom or dad's voice they are hearing.  Perfect!  That left me with lots of great ideas.  I could read Spanish to my daughter and teach her two languages from infancy.  I could read my Bible aloud to her.  She'd be hearing scripture while I fit in my Bible study time.  My husband, a student at the time, could read his text books to her.  Learning, study time, and bonding all rolled into one.  I was very excited to begin.

Cousin Haleigh "reading" to Anna.

I read some of her baby books to her.  Yep, my sweet baby girl loved having me read to her.  I started reading to her in Spanish.  She cried, she screamed.  That little baby, at about 2 months old, was downright mad!  I had met a lady from a trilingual family who said her child would get upset if mom or dad spoke in the "wrong" language.  (Mom spoke to her in one language, dad in another, and they used a third language to communicate with each other.)  Okay, that must be the problem, she just expects me to speak English.

I picked up my Bible and started to read to her.  She was ticked!  Hmm, maybe she is just tired or hungry at the moment?  A tiny baby couldn't really care yet what I read to her, could she?  I tried again on other days.  Same response.  My little darling only wanted me to read to her from children's books.  I gave up, but tried again when she was one.  Same response, except by then she had words to express her dislike.  "No Mommy!"  I tried again when she was two.  Same response, but with a larger vocabulary.  "No Mommy, you don't talk like that!"

Then my son was born.  Another chance!  My daughter was one picky little baby.  Maybe my son will listen if I read the Bible to him and speak to him in Spanish!  I gave it a try when he was just a couple months old.  He screamed too.  So much for that theory.

Thankfully, my kids will now happily listen as I read to them from the Bible.  They are also interested in learning Spanish and other languages.  I can make plans for my kids lives all day long, but when it comes down to it, I am not in control.  But God has got it all figured out.  I'll do my best to guide my children's stubborn hearts, but only God can truly direct their paths.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bits of life

Anna lost her first tooth this week!  The tooth fairy came to visit and left money and a letter.  Anna's tooth fell out while she was brushing her teeth, getting ready to go have pictures taken at a portrait studio.  So fun that her 6 year old picture session happened to be that day.

A hawk had been circling around our yard, hungrily watching our chickens.  It even landed on their coop and stared at them for a while one day.  For their protection, the chickens have been restricted from their normal free-range days.  Yesterday, I felt bad for them and let them out with hopes that the hawk had given up on a chicken dinner.  I went back outside to check on the feathered ladies and could only find 3 of them.  "Cheepy, where are you?!"  I looked all over; searched all the usual hiding spots.  No Cheepy.  Finally, I looked closely in the nesting boxes.  There she was!  Later, the kids and I went out to inspect her progress and found 4 eggs.  We hadn't been expecting any eggs yet since the chickens are just 4 1/2 months old.  Today she laid another egg.

Arik has been saying, "God knows everything.  But I know almost everything!"  I can't convince him that there really is an awful lot he doesn't know.  "My brain is special.  It is never wrong."  He keeps telling me this, and it is quite obvious that he believes it.  Hmm... we could be in trouble with this kid.

Tonight I made spaghetti sauce with homegrown tomatoes and zucchini.  Yum!  I would be particularly impressed if I had also grown the onion, garlic, and herbs.  Maybe next year.  I've started making all our bread, thanks to the help of my bread machine.  I absolutely love knowing exactly what ingredients are going into the food we eat.  I'm wondering what frequently store-purchased product I'll make at home next.

Planning for the rapidly approaching school year is in process.  The list of subjects I want to teach the kids is long.  Can I fit it all in?  I keep having to remind myself that I don't have to do it all this year.  I'm thinking we will start with the basics and add in one extra subject each week until our schedule feels right.  The kids are especially excited about science and history.

Anna kept begging for more school today.  "Mom, can we have school today?"  We started with Bible, then did reading, then math.  "Mom, can we do more school?  I'm ready to have school every day again."  History lessons and projects followed this statement.  We went outside.  "Mom, can we do more school?"  "Yes, but only if you go in and pick up the toys first."  "Arik, hurry, lets pick up the toys so we can have more school time!"  They went inside and cleaned up.  We had a science lesson.  "Mom, what else can we learn?"  So, there you have it.  Like so many people say, homeschooled kids are weird.  But I'll take this kind of weird any day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Home sweet home!

After 2800 miles on the road, we are back home!  My kids are awesome travelers.  They endured all that driving without complaints.  We didn't even show them any movies.  They were entertained by coloring and listening to books on CD (thanks to the library).

A whole lot of cousins!

We had a great time visiting with family and friends in Oregon, and even some in California.  It is always so wonderful to come home (except for the hot house due to our air conditioning being broken again).  I also discovered that it is a bad idea for a gardener to be away from the garden for 2 weeks in July.  I've got lots of catching up to do.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Road trip

We leave soon for our long drive to the northwest.  It is time to visit with family and friends!  My kids get to play with their cousins; two they have never even met.  One big family reunion.

Not sure if I'll get a chance to blog while I'm gone.  But don't worry,  I'll be back eventually!  Please pray for me as I drive back home with kids, but no husband.  He is flying back early due to work.

Summer school?

The school year officially ended for us near the beginning of June.  But learning is not just a school thing, it is a lifestyle.  Or at least it can be.  I hope I pass that attitude on to my kids.  I use very few rewards for their academic pursuits and accomplishments.  Affirmation and praise?  Yes!  Time to relax and play after the work is done?  Absolutely.  A prize box or treats?  Not so much.  Learning is the reward!

The results?  "Mom, can we do math today?  Can we have a whole day of school, please!?"  Who can say no to such a request?  I'm not really prepared, haven't planned anything, but I pull out some books and the kids learn.  And they have fun!

I figure I better do a little planning.  During the school year, we tend to focus on what big sister is learning.  Little brother tags along and picks up on all the science and history, but he can't keep up with all the math that Anna can do and especially not with the reading and writing.  Now is a good time to tailor the learning to him and make it fun for her, too.

Arik is reviewing letter sounds.  He is practicing saying the sound of each letter, tracing the letters, and recognizing upper and lower case letters.  Dried beans, glue, and shaving cream turned these tasks into bunches of fun.  I traced sentences into the shaving cream for Anna to read to me.  (Thank you to my friend Stacie for these ideas!)  You can check out other activities she writes about at

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A sunflower house

Last fall, the kids and I discovered this book:  Sunflower House by Eve Bunting.  They wanted to read it many times.  And then, they wanted to plant their very own Sunflower House.

They patiently waited for the arrival of summer, sunflower time.  Repeatedly, they reminded me "Don't forget about the Sunflower House!  Don't forget to buy seeds."  In June, I dug up the soil for the sunflower seeds and the kids joyfully planted.

The sunflowers are growing quickly.  We are curious when the blossoms will appear.  Anna decided she could be the blossom for now.  "Look, Mom, I'm a sunflower!"  "Why yes, you are my darling girl!  Keep on growing and blooming.  I'll try to provide enough water and nutrients.  Let Jesus be your sunshine!"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Anna, my chickadee

Six years ago (in April), my daughter Anna was born.  I went into labor at 4:00 am on April 22nd.  I spent the first 11 hours of labor either pacing back and forth in our tiny apartment or walking around the city of Portland.  As Joel and I rode the elevator of our apartment building and walked through the city, people kept asking me when my baby was due.  I would respond, "Yesterday."  And they would look a bit worried.  Imagine if I had told them that I was in labor as we spoke!

At 3:00 pm, we decided it was time to head to the hospital.  Anna was born just a few minutes before 9:00 pm.  She weighed 8 pounds and 4 ounces.

We had chosen not to find out the gender of our baby during our ultrasound.  For some reason, everyone seemed to think that I was having a boy.  And I had always pictured myself having a boy first.  The doctor said, "It's a girl!"  I was so tired from labor, delivery, and not sleeping the past few nights, that it took a while for that news to sink in.  A girl!  How very exciting!

Anna, our darling baby who would not sleep.  Anna was a very content little girl, as long as she was being held.  She would sleep some during the day, but at night she would cry unless we were holding her.  With me she was happy as long as I was feeding her.  For Joel, she would cry any time he sat down.  We were a couple of tired new parents, taking shifts holding her throughout the night.

Anna did everything really early.  She said her first word at 6 months old and could say dozens of words by 10 months.  At 14 months, she would say things like "hexagon" with perfect clarity and an understanding of what it was.  She crawled at 6 months and walked at 8 1/2 months.  She was a very determined little girl!  She loved all fruits and veggies, and hated meat.  She wouldn't touch any form of dessert.

Anna was two when her baby brother Arik arrived.  She adored him, but was also very jealous.  He took up an awful lot of mom and dad's time!  Anna was used to having every minute of my undivided attention.  They are now great friends and I can't imagine what either of them would do without the other.

We moved to California when Anna was three.  I was surprised by just how hard our move was for her; how much she missed her friends.  It took her a long time to bond with new friends.  She still thinks of her friends in Oregon as her cousins. 

These two were like sisters.
When Anna was four, she asked Jesus to be the Lord of her life!  What a wonderful day!

Anna completed Kindergarten last month.  She is a wonderful student; always eager to learn.  She is a great reader and a creative writer.  She picks up on math very quickly and really enjoys learning about history and science.

Anna plans to be an artist when she grows up, and a mommy, and a house builder.  "I'll be very busy," she says.  She loves spending time doing crafts, gardening, taking care of our pets, reading, and playing with Arik.  Anna is always most content when she has some type of project or activity to focus on.  She absolutely beams when she is given a compliment for something she has done well.  I am so thankful that I am able to be home with my kids, and that I get to teach them.  We have so much fun!

I love you Anna!  I am so glad that you are my daughter!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Arik!

Four years ago, my water broke in the afternoon of July 3rd.  We called the hospital and they told me to come in right away.  I was not happy about being asked to spend most of my time in labor at the hospital.  But we listened to their advice and headed to the hospital.

Arik was three weeks early.  My husband Joel said I was not allowed to give birth on the 3rd; he said the 4th would be a much better birthday for Arik.  Of course I listened to my husband's advice and honored his request!  Arik was born around 5:00 am on the morning of July 4th.  He came out with the umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck.  Everyone sprang into action, but it turned out that he was just fine.  He weighed 7 pounds and 2 ounces.

Right away, Arik had an opinion about everything.  He was very angry that the nurse put a band on his arm, and even more angry that he didn't know how take it off or how to reach what he wanted. 


He would scream every time we put him in his car seat or a baby carrier, and when I attempted to breast feed him.  That little guy got breast milk solely from a bottle for 10 1/2 months.  He refused to drink his bottle unless he was held in my left arm.  He would often only eat for me.  He would only sleep at night if we were holding him.  He would throw a fit if his clothes and blankets were not super soft and completely dry.

He decided at 5 months that he wanted to crawl in order to keep up with Anna and her friends.  He was determined and did not give up his attempts until he figured out how to crawl at 6 months old.  He started crawling at warp speed and hasn't slowed down yet. 

I don't know how many times each day we remind him to slow down so he won't hurt himself.  He earned the nickname Spiderman at about 8 months old, when I found him clinging to the backrest of the couch and walking along it.  He loved to climb stairs, climb on top of the table, run everywhere and climb everything.  Arik loves to listen as I read to him; he is often turning somersaults on the couch beside me as I read, or falling off the end.  He pops back up and says, "I didn't get hurt too bad!"

Arik continues to prefer all his clothes to be super soft.  He sleeps surrounded by fleece blankets.  He says his flannel sheets are "too itchy."  Arik is a very thoughtful, enthusiastic, and charming little boy.  He loves to be around people and have a conversation with anyone who will take the time to talk with him.  He loves giving and receiving hugs.  Arik likes to figure out how things work.  He turns his bike upside down to study the gears.  He uses a screw driver to open up all his toys and see how they are put together.  He loves math, history, and science.  In September of this year, Arik prayed and asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life.  What a wonderful day!

Happy Birthday Arik!  I am so glad that you are my son!

Friday, July 1, 2011


A few weeks ago I was listening to my kids as they played a game together.  My son, Arik, explained a rule he would like to have for the game.  My daughter, Anna, replied, "How about I always choose the rules, the oldest kid always decides.  Say 'Okay,' Arik."

I continued to listen, curious how he would respond.  Arik paused and sat quietly thinking for a moment.  "Okay," he agreed to Anna's role as the dictator.  Is he happy with that rule?  Or was he simply trying to avoid conflict?

As a young child, I too almost always did exactly what my older brother told or asked me to do.  I don't remember being bothered by it.  Sibling relationships and birth order are very interesting to behold.  How have your relationships and interactions with your siblings impacted who you are today?

My brothers (and my niece!) and me.