Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekly Highlights

Our week started off with us getting back to our old schedule... only to find that I don't really like our old schedule. It's un-motivating. It's overly ambitious. It's a task master and it's crampin' our school time! So, back to the drawing board to tweak our routine and schedule!

Both boys started their new geography curriculum this week and it was a hit, especially for Jake! Jake is working through the Trail Guide to U.S. Geography" curriculum. He LOVES it! We put together his Geography notebook and got to work.

The first region we are working through is the New England region. So, we jumped right in learning about the state of Maine this week!

Did you know that Maine is where chewing gum and chalkboards come from?? (We didn't either).

In his notebook, Jake has to record the typical information such as state capitol, state bird, insect and flower (Maine's is the Chickadee, Honeybee, and Pine cone with tassel - in that order). He also recorded information about the prominent industries, climate, highest point, national monuments and parks and other fun information. Jake created his own maps, complete with having to mark where the capitol (Augusta), major rivers, national parks and the Appalachian trail are located. Pretty fun stuff! We LOVE Trail Guide to Geography!

I added Highlight's Which Way USA puzzle book and map of Maine to this lesson! It was the icing on the cake and helped reinforce what we were learning through fun puzzles, word searches and other games! This is a monthly subscription we've gotten for the past year or so and I've been waiting for the perfect time to use them! I think I've found it!

Josh worked through his World History books and is reading a historical novel - "Theras and His Town".

Josh is working through the "Trail Guide to World Geography" curriculum to coincide with World History this year. History and Geography go together like Yin and Yang; Laurel and Hardy; pancakes and syrup; peanut butter and chocolate... like... ok, you get the idea. An amazing history professor drove home the point that one must have a working knowledge of geography to fully understand history.. and I have to say, I agree!
I would have pictures but my 12 year old ducked and dodged most of my picture taking. Ah, boys! Ah, pre-teen boys! I'm thankful for the ones I got for this post! The first two weeks of the curriculum have him creating a notebook, mapping out the continents, oceans, reviewing latitude and longitude and giving a nice overview of the world, in general, prior to delving into specific countries. I'm sure I'll have more pictures to post on this awesome curriculum as we get deeper into it. Said pictures may or may not include my 12 year old. :)
This week also brought us a fun Field trip day to the Crocker Art Museum! They hold monthly homeschool days and this one happened to have a performance to go with it! The 'theme' for this month was Baroque Art and being that this genre of art began in Florence, Italy and started a renaissance in the arts there, it seemed fitting to have the Sacramento Opera come and perform and teach about the history of Opera. Very cool presentation!

Someone may be a smidge done with the picture taking...

Old Crocker museum that belonged to the Crocker family and was used as their home in the 1800s (even has a bowling alley and skating rink down in the basement!).

Old museum attaches to the new museum - pretty cool!

We found ourselves out and about a lot more than usual this week but we still kept up with our math, Shurley English assignments, Anatomy, Piano practice and Bible.

Whoa! Might want to slow down on the pretzel sticks!

I was excited to get in the mail our new Bible study curriculum this week. I'll have to post details next week. I liked what we were using but a friend recommended this, so I borrowed the manual and ordered the posters and workbooks. Our other curriculum, God's Great Covenant, is great! I really love how it thoroughly and chronologically walks us through the Bible, so I'm using that still, in addition to this new one, just at a slower pace.

All in all, a great week in school! Those were our highlights, what were yours?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursdays Link-up: Thankful for the lessons...

I'm linking up to Three Thinking Mothers today for Thankful Thursdays!

Thankfulness isn't something that comes easily to the human heart. It is difficult to seek out what we can be thankful for in a situation when you're in the middle of it. Yet, God wants us to be thankful "always". Not just for a season or when things are going well. No, we are to give thanks in the middle of pain, in the trauma, in the exhaustion. He calls us to give thanks during the strife, the frustration, the tears and the loss. He calls us to thanksgiving... no matter what.

This year has been a year of painful lessons God is taking me through in succession. They haven't been fun. They haven't been pleasant. Many of the situations left me hurt and angry and opened the door for the roots of bitterness and resentment to grow. God had to grab me and shake me a bit to embrace the truth that I so often quote to others but wasn't applying to my life. "God is in control". That very saying that I so often reminded others of, I myself was not living out. It didn't feel as though God were in control. In fact, it felt out of control.

So, on this day, I am thankful. Thankful for the lessons. Whispers of thanks fall from my lips and heart as God revealed truth and gave love so freely to me. Tears of gratitude well up when I think of that day. To have encountered God in a tangible way, asking me to give Him the hurt and frustration. Asking me to rest and let go. My heart sings with thankfulness when I remember that day He freed me from my own prison. He rescued me from myself. He showed me that it is not about others' actions but about my own heart. He unchained my shackles of anger and frustration and hurt and led me down the path of peace and leaning on Him. For that, I. AM. THANKFUL.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

REVIEW: Create a Story board game

A few weeks ago, Sacramento had a pretty rainy day sandwiched between some warm weather in October. The boys and I decided to scrap our regularly scheduled school day to embark on a "Game Day". Who says learning has to come in the form of textbooks and worksheets??

Among the math, earth science, anatomy, and history games we played that day, we discovered a little gem that had been sitting in our closet for far too long. This board game is called "Create a Story; The Creative Writing Game". We had not played it up to this point, sadly.

(Forgive the pictures. They are not the best quality. Remember, it was a dark and stormy day).

Setting up the board is a cinch! The board is the medium in which each person's story is structured. It is through random chance of drawing cards which determine the Setting, Description, Characters, Resolution and even the topic sentence of your story. With plenty of cards to choose, based on the roll of the die, the variety of story lines are endless!

Once you and the other players have moved through the board and arrived at the end, the real fun begins! Everyone flips over the cards they have and fills out this Outline sheet with the information on the cards. This is where the deeper thinking skills kick in as each player must choose the cards that would make the most coherent story. Notice I said 'coherent'. This does not exclude goofy, ridiculous, outlandish and off the wall!

From this completed Outline sheet, everyone then begins to write their creative writing story on a piece of binder paper. As a way to help guide them, there is a scoring grid that lets them know where they can earn points.

(sorry, I can't get the picture to turn despite trying several times)

Once everyone was finished, we each read our story out loud and critiqued it based on this scoring pad.

Create a Story board game is a lot of fun, even for "non-writers", which I would classify at least one of my two boys. At first he was uncomfortable and slightly overwhelmed but by the time it came to writing out his story, and he saw that all the components of his story were ready and waiting to be written down, he loosened up and had fun!
The game doesn't dictate the story to you, instead it helps facilitate the player in writing the details and developing a story based on the various cards you draw.

This game really tapped into our imaginations, taught proper structure for writing a story and did so in a fun, non-intimidating way! Both of my boys walked away from this game feeling more confident in their writing abilities.

The one drawback is the PRICE! Yikes! It sells for around $45-$50 but looking around that is a typical price nowadays for a board game. If you can splurge and get this item for your schooling, I would recommend doing so!

*I was not paid or even given this game for free in return for my honest review. I just decided to review it. ;)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

8 ways to deal with a chronically ill friend...

One of the surprising elements to come out of my recent Lupus flare is people's response to my health. Friends and acquaintances have shared their thoughts and, interestingly enough, their expectations on how my flare would play out. Many people shared that they have been surprised at how long I have been sick (some even casting suspicion on if that is even possible). I've had a few friends genuinely share that they thought I would be feeling better and back to my old self within a few weeks, a month at the most. Others have expressed frustration in how long and frequently I was ill. Still others were sympathetic but had no idea how to help or what was needed. It has been touching to see a friend's genuine love and care in a crisis.

While each chronic illness has it's own unique conditions and I can only speak based on my experience, I thought I would put together a list of how to respond to a chronically ill friend.

**Disclaimer: Please do not hear me say that a flare or chronic illness is an excuse for poor behavior, complaining, whining, or the platform to garner attention and sympathy. It shouldn't be used as an excuse for any of those behaviors. I hope this list provides some helpful insight into interacting with a person with a chronic illness.

So, here we go!

1) Pray. Pray for your friend. God hears 'em and can work out the health issue according to His will. Never underestimate the power of prayer.

2) Extend flexibility. Even if you don't understand how a specific chronic illness works, be flexible in what your friend or family member can do. Believe me, those experiencing a chronic illness do not want to 'flake' at the last minute on a planned event or commitment. Nor do they want to 'check out' of their normal activities. They don't want to miss out on the fun yet there are seasons when the illness and health takes priority. In my case, a Lupus flare is the time when the disease is in hyper-drive, causing internal (sometimes permanent) damage. If I don't slow down and yield to the disease, I can exasperate it, making the damage done worse. Often, a chronic illness requires day by day living as how I feel today doesn't predict how I'll feel tomorrow.

3) Offer encouragement. Battling a chronic illness is exhausting,frustrating and typically sends one into depression. The chronically ill person has to hand over reins to their life, at times, to the disease, and that is no fun. Be an encourager. Let the person know sunny days are just around the corner and the dark clouds will dissipate with proper rest and care.

4) Ask questions. I, for one, am open about my disease. It is not my identity, it is not something I want to focus on, especially when I'm feeling well but I am happy to answer questions. If you're unsure, please ask. I have been so surprised by how many assumed my flare would last as though it were just a common cold. The truth is flares are unpredictable and devastating. According to, "Flares and remissions can occur abruptly, unexpectedly, and without clear cause. There is no way to predict when a flare will happen, how bad it will be, or how long it will last. When you have a lupus flare, you may have new symptoms in addition to those you have had in the past." I was surprised to experience frustration from someone who assumed I would be all better in a couple of weeks. Ask questions to prevent wrong assumptions and misunderstandings.

5) Lend a helping hand. Chronically ill patients have one thing in common - severe fatigue. Regardless of the disease, extreme fatigue is the common link. The body is extending all of its energy to fighting off the illness, leaving the body depleted of energy unable to do what we'd consider 'normal' acts. At one point over the summer I couldn't walk from the kitchen to the living room without being out of breath and needing to lay down. I'll be honest here - this bugs me and tweaks anger in me. I know it's silly but it's embarrassing that I couldn't walk across the room without having to sit down. I don't want to feel incapable or weak. I don't want to be seen as that way either (yeah, I know... pride issues). I want to do normal stuff. Cook dinner for my family. Walk to the park and play with my kids. Take a bike ride. Do laundry (don't WANT to do it but need to). Clean my house. Go on a walk. Try new adventures without having to consider pain level and how and when my joints will lock and stop working. Yet, when I'm in a flare, it is difficult to do these things. It is difficult to get out of bed. Literally. Putting aside the severe, heavy, debilitating fatigue that presses on the body like a boulder, most mornings my joints didn't get the memo that I want to move. Walking is something people take for granted. This combo - fatigue, pain and pride - make it difficult to ask for help. Go ahead and offer it. It is truly appreciated in a great time of need.

6) (Ok, this is going to get blunt here but..) Don't dismiss the knowledge. Yeah, I had to go here. I know people mean well but don't dismiss or second guess the one who suffers with a chronic illness. I know the intentions are good and, embarrassingly enough, I've done it too. But consider this... the person living with the illness is not only living it first hand but has most likely done a lot of reading on the subject (not to mention had lots and lots of doctor appointments). For me, Lupus (and the other auto-immune diseases I have because of it) is what it is. It looks different for different people. I know your aunt's cousin's niece only had one flare her entire life and to that I say your aunt's cousin's niece is lucky... and may not have Lupus (key word - MAY). While you may know someone with similar disease or circumstance doesn't make it so for all. To imply that only makes the person feel worse as though they are freaks.. or worse, hypochondriacs. What I know about Lupus comes from what I've experienced with Lupus. Everyone has different rates at which the disease presents itself and to what extent. The most consistent thing about Lupus (and all chronic illnesses, I imagine) is that it is entirely inconsistent. Allow the person to express their unique experience with the illness without dismissing it.

7) Respect boundaries. Understand that your friend or family member, if they know what's good for their health, will need to put boundaries in place. Perhaps it is avoiding certain foods or cutting back on activities once enjoyed by you both. You may not see as much of your friend during seasons when the illness is active. Please don't take this personally. It is not a reflection of the value of friendship or activity. It is, simply, a necessary step to take to regain optimum health. Sure, you may be able to eat what you want without consequence, require only 5 hours of sleep each night, and be active with groups and activities every night of the week but understand these things may not be possible for one with a chronic illness. Also, in order for health to continue to improve and avoid going back in a flare, boundaries most likely need to stay in place to maintain good health after the crisis has gone away. As of right now, I'm not completely out of my flare. Don't get me wrong, I feel immensely better BUT I am still battling fevers, fatigue and pain. I'm not totally out of the woods yet and the boundaries I've created in my life (and even went lax on the past few weeks) need to stay in place to regain my health. Unfortunately, that means I may not be able to volunteer in the same groups, activities or participate in all opportunities that come my way.

8) Recognize that your friend is still your same, 'ol friend deep down inside. Know that your friend is still your friend and diminished health doesn't change that. For me, I had little social interaction this summer, as a way to get more rest and turn my health around. It was a necessary step in order to regain my health and prevent permanent organ damage. When in a flare, anything and everything makes a flare worse. Know that your friendship is strong enough to weather a temporary health setback. Love each other and embrace each other..regardless of circumstances.

Let's face it. It's hard and even awkward to be around a chronically ill person. It's hard to relate or understand, especially if you've been blessed with good health. Trust me when I say that I wish I didn't have this. I hate the inconsistency it brings in my life.. not to mention the pain and diminished health. Some seasons of my life, I'm full of energy and ready to conquer the world and in others, I'm lucky to make it down the stairs. I hope that as my friend, you can rejoice with me in times of good health in my life and mourn with me in times of poor health.. as I hope to extend to you. Journeying down the road of chronic illness with supportive friends makes such a difference!

hello? Remember me?? and my summer journey...

Man, it's been awhile! Sorry about that! When I took the summer "off", I REALLY checked out! The time off to heal was a blessing and a great help. It helped physically, spiritually and emotionally. We chose activities outside (and inside) the home carefully and found ourselves with more free time and at home more often. But even with more intentional resting and little responsibility, my body was not responding. I was worried. The level of pain wasn't diminishing. In fact, it was growing worse. This was not how I wanted to start our new school year or another co-op year. I knew drastic times called for drastic measures and with the news of my husband's worsening heart condition, we changed our diet. Drastically. I am and have always been convinced in the direct link between the food we eat and the health we display. I have experienced first-hand health improvements when I eat real, fresh food. Specifically, fruits and vegetables.

So, we embarked on a 2 week homemade smoothie diet. Chris and I drank our 3 meals a day and each smoothie contained 5-10 servings of fruit and veggies. In using Nutrition therapy, Chris' heart symptoms diminished and was able to stop taking his newly acquired blood pressure medicine. I saw an immediate disappearance of the joint pain that had me taking WAY too much motrin and in tears each day. We both gained a wonderful amount of energy. We felt alive and healthy! At the end of the two weeks, it was hard to believe that my body had been fighting with a Lupus flare for 9 months! It was amazing to experience what 'good health' feels like for the first time in years!

Well, we slowly allowed food (you know, the kind you chew) back into our diet and became less discriminating on what we ate. BIG. MISTAKE. Our symptoms have slowly been coming back - one at a time - with each passing week. So, tomorrow we embark on round 2 of our green smoothie detox in the hopes of diminishing or even curing chronic illness, feeling healthy and GREAT again, and re-training our taste buds to be discriminating to God-made food!

Have you tried making green smoothies? If so, what is your favorite recipe? If not, why not? :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

I am the face of Lupus...

and you can't really tell, can you? That's because there are rarely outward signs of Lupus, and many other auto-immune diseases. It is a disease that lurks within attacking all those areas in my body it so chooses. Normally, the body creates antibodies when a threat appears to the body. With auto-immune diseases, the body creates Anti-Nuclear Antibodies (ANA) that attacks the GOOD antibodies AND anything else that is helpful (organs, blood, bones, vitamins, nutrients, babies... yeah, all that good stuff).

There is no cure and not a promising future. Lupus, as with many auto-immune diseases, shortens one's life. The dangling thread of hope is that the disease goes into remission. For a long time. Unfortunately, remission isn't a formulaic procedure. if I follow these steps and this treatment, then it gets under control. I wish it were so simple. In fact, remission is so dependent on a variety of possibilities and, even then, a patient could be doing everything right; have all pieces of the puzzle in place and the disease still roar out of control.

So, I'm in a flare. Trust me, it's not as exotic as it seems. In fact, it's frustrating, painful, inconvenient, exhausting and dangerous. Not necessarily in that order. A flare means the disease is not only actively destroying parts of my body but is overactive; so it's in hyper drive. This is dangerous because it can cause the same damage (or even death) at a faster rate than it is normally doing damage to organs. And I'm not just talking AN organ. It's got the entire buffet to choose from - kidneys, liver, skin, brain, heart, lungs, pancreas, connective tissue, muscles, skeletal system, etc. My body is in such a hyper active mode right now that the onset of my period (sorry for going there) puts my immune system into attack mode - with fever, body chills, etc. So bizarre!

I am concerned about the damage that could be occurring but no one can stop. I am concerned that when it's waging its war against my body, what permanent damage will I be left with. Yet, this.. this is the most troublesome component of having Lupus: how it effects our home life.

When the Lupus is active, it changes how I am as a wife and mom. I cannot do the same things I can when I'm not under attack. I do not have the same energy, attention or quality of care as I do when Lupus is in its cage. I am not me when it flares... and I can't STAND that! To see the quality of my home life, the interactions with my husband and children suffer at the hands of this dumb disease, truly breaks my heart because since I was in Kindergarten, all I've ever wanted to do was be a stay at home wife and mom ( I had a few other dreams here and there but this was my heart's desire). It makes me so sad to not be able to do the normal, everyday things I should/could/would do if I didn't have this limitation!

However, despite my frustration, I know I'm held in the palm of my Creator's hand. The Bible is very clear that we have bodies that are imperfect and will deteriorate and fade away. I actually discovered a blessing in my last flare-up some years ago. Instead of seeing it as the enemy (which is sometimes hard NOT to do), Lupus, or any disease, can be God's way of prompting us to change the pace of our life. It can be a friend who is forcing us to take it easy. It can be a wonderful way to remind us to slow down and spend more time taking care of ourselves and our loved ones. It is a wonderful way of creating healthy boundaries in one's life. I know that He is in control, not the Lupus. My temporary panic of learning I'm in a flare is being overcome with the reality to rest easy in His arms and listen to the promptings to let go and let God, once again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Let go and Let God...

It's been awhile since my last post but you can see from it that I love to plan! I love planning events, routines, schedules, shopping trips, vacations, home school schedules... it's endless, really, all the things I can plan!

This week, Good Morning Girls kicked off their summer reading program which gets women all of the world into God's word daily. Next week we also begin reading through the WONDERFUL book, "Ministry of Motherhood" by Sally Clarkson. Why do I tell you this? Well, it's not too late to jump in and join us, for starters! There is still room for you so head on over to Good Morning Girls and join an accountability group and meet some wonderful women! I have and am enjoying getting to know these women better as we journey this road together.

My other reason for bringing this up is to share with you what God has shared with me today. With my propensity to plan, it's easy to get ahead of God. It's easy to have my week, month, year all planned out. Logically, I KNOW that my plans won't all come to be, yet, I gain comfort from planning it anyway. Strange, huh? A good clue as to where I place my trust and faith - not His plans but my own. Ugh.

In Matthew 6:33 we read, "and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the kingdom of God your primary concern." This is a powerful IF/THEN statement that spoke to me this morning. My focus needs to be wholeheartedly, first and foremost, on Him and His ways. Yet, that is difficult when my mind is wandering to next week's dinner with friends or the camping trip in a month or what my kids will learn next school year. While those things aren't "bad" to focus on and plan out, they occupy too much of my focus in the day to day that I run the risk of MISSING today because I'm not HERE!

Now, this seems like such a simple "DUH, Sheri" moment. Perhaps this isn't a struggle for you but, boy, did I need to be reminded of this! My faith and trust shouldn't lie in MY plans but in the One that holds my future. This verse is SO clear - It is day to day that God provides all of my needs WHEN I'm focused on Him and His ways. I mean, The One who created all things and was there in the beginning and knows the end, He, even He, provides not a month's worth of needs, not a week's worth but day to day. If the Creator of the universe can focus on the day to day, surely I can take captive my thoughts and focus and bring them down to TODAY. In doing so, I become a better wife and mom because my focus is on my time with them - today.

It's easy for us to focus on the good part of this verse (He will provide ALL our needs day to day...) yet this verse requires action from us. He promises to take care of ALL of our needs, day to day, IF (yes, this is where you and I come in) I live for Him and make His ways my "primary concern". For me, this action is taking my thoughts and focus captive and behaving in a way that shows my faith and trust in Him - not my plans. For the reality is, I can make all the plans in the world and it gives me warm fuzzies to do so BUT I'm not in charge. I'm not in control of those plans or the REAL plans that He has for me. I need to lessen my faith in my own way and let His way in. "Let go and Let God" as the saying goes. That is what I needed to hear today.

I don't think making plan is 'bad', it is how tightly we grip those plans that is a problem. It is when we put our faith and trust in the plans and not the One who REALLY is in charge.

Let go of whatever you are holding onto today and Let God. Let God move in your life. Let God lay a better plan than you could ever have imagined.

This post is linked up to Women in the Word Wednesdays over at GoodMorningGirls

Friday, April 8, 2011

Schedules, routines, and lists... oh my!

I happened upon this blog, A bowl full of lemons that challenges its readers to weekly organizing challenges and, before I got sick, had planned on joining in! Well, I'm resting on the couch and decided to make use of this time by better organizing my weeks.

Part of having a meaningful home life is routines. If chaos rules your home, it makes it much more difficult to carve out time for meaningful moments, let alone let them happen spontaneously, because you're too busy playing 'catch up' in all that has fallen behind. I'm all about having a meaningful home life and the best way to achieve that is a little organization!

Enter the latest challenge - create a schedule and routine as well as kid's schedules. So, here I am again... ready to tweak my schedules and routines, improve upon my systems and make our home life flow more readily in order to have room and time for meaningful moments!

Of course, routines and schedules are not to lock you in and suffocate. They are to help make use of your time better by providing direction.

Won't you join me and A bowl full of lemons in taking these fun challenges to improve your home life?

Here's my weekly routine:

Monday – Laundry; Home school; Staff meeting; small group bible study
Tuesday – Upstairs cleaning; Home school; Projects (Science or Baking), Scouts
Wednesday – Downstairs – cleaning; Home school; Projects (Art or Movie); Scouts
Thursday – Laundry; Home school; Kaary-appt.; Library day; Piano lessons
Friday – Home school Co-op; Laundry; Family night
Saturday – Family Fun day OR Home day; OR Various activities
Sunday – Church; Rest; Youth group

Here are the boys' daily schedules:
Josh and Jake’s schedule:
7:00 – 7:15 – Wake, make bed, get dressed, turn on Cami’s lights and feed her
7:15 – 7:50 – Morning devos, Breakfast, prayer
7:50 – 8:00 – Morning chores (clean up breakfast table; bring down laundry hampers and sort, etc.)
8:00 – 10:15 – School; Fridays - CHILL
10:15 – 10:30 – Break; Fridays - CHILL
10:30 – 12:00 – School; Fridays - CHILL
12:00 – 12:30 – Lunch; Fridays - CHILL
12:30 – 1:30 – School; Fridays - CHILL
1:30 – 2:00 – Afternoon chores; finish up in remaining school work or projects
2:00 – 4:00 – Free time
4:00 – 4:30 – Scouts study time; help with dinner prep
4:30 – 5:30 – Free reading; help with dinner prep; garden/yard chores
5:30 – 6:00 – Dinner;
6:30 – M- Small group; Tu. – Jake- Scouts; Weds. – Josh – scouts; Thursday – 6p.m. – Piano lessons
7:30 – get ready for bed
8:00 – free reading time for Josh and Jake in bed
8:30 – Bedtime – Jake
8:45 - Bedtime - Josh

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Verse That Speaks A Thousand Words...

Hebrews 12:11-13 - No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

This verse came before my eyes this morning. I'm not sure what stood out and spoke to me more but every word contained a message for me. Every word meant something to me, as though it had been written just for me during this week.

To be perfectly honest (and if you can't be honest on a blog, where can you??), this week has been a difficult one. With the weight of the world on my shoulders, I felt so defeated and discouraged this week. These past few months have brought recurring illnesses for me and my family, discouraging words, sad news, criticisms, complaints - large and small, and it felt overwhelming at times.

God can take any situation, though, and turn it into an opportunity to learn and to grow. That is what he has done with me this week. He has shown me areas of my heart that need discipline. Areas that need 'pruning' and areas where I need to let go.

Self-discipline is hard and discipline from God, well, that can be even harder. It is true what the verse says - discipline can be painful! Yet, we know that, if we are open to it, it DOES provide growth and peace. I don't know about you but those are two things I desperately want in my life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ants in the pants...

I've been censored. At least, for now. I'm unable to post pictures. I'm also unable to describe, in detail, what took place over one weekend in November. I can't describe to you how my kitchen looks now. I'm forbidden to tell you all of the ways my kitchen was changed. How a construction and t.v. crew took my outdated and stagnant kitchen and turned into... well... I can't say.

And quite frankly, it's killing me. How long is a production company gonna make a girl wait, anyhow??

Until our show airs, which the producer said will most likely be the beginning of April, I can't talk about it. I can't even post pictures.

I CAN tell you that we had so much fun with the crew and host! Despite some anxious moments (you'll have to see), we laughed, joked, and tried to enjoy the company of 20+ extra people in our home for 3 days.

I CAN tell you that the host, Josh Temple, is wonderfully talented, funny and touching. Chris and I both had a moment with him where he opened his heart up and spoke some touching words to us that, honestly, blew both of us away. We were humbled and caught off guard by his comments he felt he had to say to us once everyone else had left. Chris and I will never forget those moments or his words.

I CAN tell you that holding a sledge hammer is thrilling! BWAHAHAHA - the power that tool carries!

I CAN tell you that nail guns ROCK! I highly recommend purchasing one. I highly recommend you do NOT point it at the camera man trying to shoot a close up of you using it, though.

I CAN tell you that, despite the hiccups that our show incurred (I'll have to tell you later), we laughed and joked and poked fun at each other. There is something about wrapping the cameraman up in tape that just sets the mood for the day, you know??

And finally, I CAN tell you that our show SHOULD be airing at the beginning of April (it's already been moved twice, so don't hold me to this). DIY Network. House Crashers. We are Episode 1 of Season 4.

OH! OH! I can ALSO tell you that all of Josh Temple's "house tips" that will be run on DIY for this next year, were filmed at our house!

Whew! Well, I'm glad I got some of that off of my chest! Waiting from November to April sure is asking a lot! I can barely contain myself, short of just completely ignoring the subject altogether... which I find easiest!

Stay tuned and watch for our episode! Let the countdown begin!

Book List for 2011

I moved the start of my annual book read-a-thon to January 1, so that it's a clean cut year. You'd think, though, being two months in to this said read-a-thon I would have already racked up a couple of books, at least, right?? Nope. Not really.
I am half way through a WONDERFUL book called, Feminine Appeal" by Carolyn Mahaney. This is proving to be a challenging book as I'm learning to look at my roles as mom, wife, partner, and child of God a little differently. Some of it is not "new" information but, said in just the right way at the right time, has been powerful, nonetheless.

Please note my disclaimer at the bottom of my list. Sometimes it's best not to plan EVERYTHING!

Reading List for 2011

* Rebecca
* The Good Earth
* This Book Will Save Your Life
* Pillars of the Earth (didn't get to this last year)
* The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
* The Phantom Tollbooth
* Mysterious Benedict Society

* What He Must Be... if He Wants to Marry my Daughter (reading to gain insight for my boys)
* Parenting the Way God Parents
* Raising Kids Who Turn Out Right
* Strong Willed Child
* Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends
* Faith Training
* The Mission of Motherhood
* Say Goodbye to Whining
* Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Kids For the Real World

Family/Marriage books
* The Well-Versed Family
* Amazing Adventures, Creative Connections, Daring Deeds
* The Case for Family Worship
* Five Signs of a Loving Family
* Heaven at Home: Establishing and Enjoying a Peaceful Home
* Feminine Appeal

* The Inflammation Syndrome
* Stop Inflammation Now
* Healthy Heart Miracle
* The Metabolic Plan
* Don't Eat This Book

** Actual books read may change on a whim from this scheduled list due to mood, interest, personal application, etc. ;)

Book List for 2009-2010

These are the books I completed from my birthday, August 8, 2009 to my next birthday, August 8, 2010. Most were great, some... meh. I was just glad to get back into the habit of reading again after a TOO long hiatus!

Homeschooling with TLC
52 Family Time Ideas
One Million Arrows - Julie ?
What's Age Got to Do with It? - Robin McGraw
The Power of Less
Midnight Sun - Stephanie Meyer
The Shack - William Young
Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
Obsessed - Ted Dekker
Three - Ted Dekker
The Penderwick Sisters
Maximize Your Mornings
Good and Angry
Autoimmune Epidemic - Donna Jackson Nakazawa
Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips - Kris Carr
Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture - Mary E. DeMuth
Family Driven Faith - Voddie Baucham
Raising Godly Tomatoes - L. Elizabeth Krueger
The Gift of a Year - Mira Kirshenbaum
The Martyr Song - Ted Dekker
Crazy Love - Francis Chan
Clean - Dr. Alejandro Junger
In The Woods
Already Gone - Ken Ham
Mom Talk - Sally Clarkson
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
Case Histories

Monday, January 24, 2011

Product Review: Sumoku math game

It's very easy to get stuck in a rut when homeschooling. Workbooks, worksheets, texts, while helpful, can be boring over time (even for me - the teacher). So, it's nice to throw in an educational game or hands-on activity to change it up a bit!

Enter Sumoku (pronounced Sum-o-ku), made by the Blue-Orange company! This fun math game challenges you and your kiddos to speedy addition in a Scrabble-like style!

Within this small package, 96 number tiles and instructions for 5 different games reside! We played the Speed Sumoku today. Each player draws 10 tiles from the pile in the middle.

Roll the die to determine the "key number". This key number is what you use to build your sums (or the multiples of that number) in a crossword style puzzle.

This game really helps the kids learn their addition facts (and even multiplication) in a fun way!

This game isn't just for homeschoolers either! What a great family-building activity for any family with grade school kids!

This fun game can be found at

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How do you define success?

I suppose I don't hold to the traditional definitions of success. I don't define my life by what I do for a living (or what Chris does). Or my clothing size. Or by my accolades. I don't define what I own as success either. After all, they are just things that come and go and, quite frankly, trends are stupid. Trends bug me. They are just other people telling you how to think and behave (uh.. hand over brain ___here___). No, I like to think for myself, thank you very much. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to buy a new sweater or a piece of new furniture but they don't define me or my success.

No, I have a much more simpler way of measuring whether I'm successful or not. For starters, and this is probably the biggest difference in the world's definition, is I don't measure my success by other people's or society's definitions. I don't want to be a prisoner to a definition that others tell me I have to meet. You know, the drill... you *HAVE* to own the latest and greatest (insert item __here__) or your home, your life, your relationships, your educational background *MUST* look like everyone else or your not successful. Simply put, I don't define success by what others say is successful. Life's too short to let another live YOURS for you!

I *DO* define success in the ways that matters most to ME. Have I loved - really shown love - to my children today? Have I lived with a grateful heart today? Did I treat my husband with respect when I could have coped an attitude instead? Does he feel the amount of love that I have for him? Have I had a successful relationship with my husband? With each of my children? Have I taught my boys something that brings them closer to God today? Are my kids displaying grateful hearts? Have I laughed today? Have I been a good example in attitude and behavior for my boys? Have I been a friend that uplifts and encourages today? Have I helped someone that needs it? Have I extended grace that I might otherwise deem undeserving? Have I lived out God's words today, to the best of my ability? Have I been a "good and faithful" servant?
These are some of the many measurements of success in my book. How well I accomplish these (and a few other) definitions is what matters to me. It's liberating to take the focus off of what others say is success and listen to God's definition and make it my own. How well have I loved? How well have I given selflessly? How well have I taken care of my family?

I don't define success by what others think nor do I ever want to. I don't want to chase after material things that rot away or acquire something just to impress someone else. That's no success at all. That's slavery. That's not what I was called to do here with my time on earth. I want to keep at the forefront the successes that matter most.

Full speed ahead...

Full blown school starts around these parts tomorrow. I've readied the room, prepared my lesson plans, put a couple of orders for new supplies in and the kids are brimming with excitement and eagerly awaiting the moment when I wake them up at 7a.m. tomorrow to start breakfast and devotions before getting into school topics at 8:30. (ok, so the last one.. not so much. I can dream, though, right?!?).

I began the school year with one plan and that plan, is still, relatively intact. I've made some tweaks and adjustments and full on abandoned other things altogether.

Here's what's working so far...

*Spelling Power. This program is wonderful, quick and easy to use. It contains the 5,000 most commonly used words in the English language that the kids work through, semi-independently. I say "semi" because I read off the words to them in our daily 5 minute test. I also check for mastery and retention in different phases each day. I opted not to purchase the activity cards in the beginning but have since re-thought that and have made that purchase. We will be implementing that component this week!

*Teaching Textbooks. I REALLY love this math curriculum!! I'm so glad someone recommended it to me last year!! While it doesn't have as much review/repetition as I'd like, that's easily remedied with supplemental worksheets/workbooks.

*Apologia Science - YES! LOVE this curriculum too! I can't wait to do Botany and Anatomy with the boys (they aren't as thrilled about Anatomy as I am. They're a bit squeamish). I highly recommend this curriculum, especially if you're teaching multiple ages in this subject. Great stuff!

*God's Great Covenant, OT - This is an excellent curriculum to provide a foundation for biblical knowledge. Put out by Classical Academic Press, it is very well organized and structured for optimum retention of the facts. This gets a high recommendation from us!

*Charlotte Mason/Unit study approach to History - having attended the unit study workshop in the summer really improved how we approach history (and even science) now. LOVE this structure for this topic! Another high recommend!

What's in the works...

*Mapping the World by Heart - I purchased this curriculum in the summer with the hopes of beginning it in the first semester. Clearly, that didn't happen. This is an intriguing curriculum that I'm excited to incorporate THIS semester. It looks fun, has a hands-on creative approach and seems manageable to incorporate into our school day.

*Spanish for Children - another Classical Academic Press product! I can't wait to get my hands on this!! It comes highly recommended by my mother in law, who checked it out and is fluent in Spanish.

*Shurley English - grammar that's fun?!? As one who holds a degree in English, *I* can't even claim that to be true YET a very good friend has highly recommended it after using it this first semester with her own kids.

I'll keep you posted on how these curriculum choices panned out in our homeschool!

So, here's to a new year and a new semester of school!! Yippee!