Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Character Name Acronym

Well, that title's a mouthful, isn't it?  We followed the challenge put forth from the "Teaching Good Things" e-newsletter and blog.  And spent several minutes this New Year's Eve making an acronym for our last name.  We used desirable character traits to spell out our last name:  L-Y-D-E-L-L


This year, when we need to improve our attitudes we will say, "Are you being a LYDELL?"  We first listed all the character traits we could name for each letter.  Then came the really difficult part.  We had to narrow each letter down to ONE character trait!  This took much discussion and voting.  I'm glad we only have two boys, because I couldn't imagine having to agree among a much larger family!


Here are the results.  This is what being a Lydell means to this little family:


Y-yare (it means ready, prepared, brisk, active, and quick)


E-excellent  (This is a character trait we instruct regularly.  We are not looking for perfection, we are looking for excellence, the best you can accomplish with your skill-set.)




To accept the challenge, visit the Teaching Good Things blog and start your own character-trait acronym.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning-2008

This was one of the better Christmases in memory.  We don't do Christmas "big."  Each of the boys get three presents.  Jesus got three gifts from the wise men, so do the boys.  This Christmas, we bought the boys bikes.  These are their first-ever "new" bikes.  Their bikes were always hand-me-downs.  When they came down the 5:20 AM...their reaction was priceless.  I'm grateful for two grateful boys.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Another, "Overheard in Newport, PA"

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas with my brothers, sister and parents.  T-bone got a book he has wanted for a year, "The Dangerous Book for Boys." 


As the boys were pouring over the pages of this book and making plans for their summer, Big Mac was telling T-Bone about the treehouse they would build.  The new book shows a picture and plans for the tree house they want to make.  Big Mac told Walker T. that once the tree house is built they will live there for the rest of the summer.  He told T-bone of their plans for several minutes.  "We will need to lay into some supplies for our meals."  Big Mac concluded.


Suddenly my little justice-boy, T-Bone, found his voice once again, "Oh no!  Mommy is going to make us breakfast-lunch-and-supper just like always!"


It's good to know that I'm needed for SOMETHING!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Humorous Parenting

My husband has a plan.  When the boys are old enough to be out with friends or *gasp* on a date, we will give them a curfew.  When The Big Dog gives them a curfew, he's going to show them a picture them as a baby in the bath tub.  He wil tell them that if they are not home by the appointed time, this picture is going on the internet with emails to all their friends. 


Some call it creative parenting...I call it humorous parenting.


Now, here's the rest of the story.  Although at work, Big Dog is the go to guy.  He helps his staff and others with computer problems all the time.  At home, he needs help to turn on our PC.  This morning, his likeness, Big Mac, said, "Mommy, you know how Daddy says he's going to put our bath tub picture on the internet if we come home late when we're teenagers?  Well, I'm not too worried about it because Daddy doesn't even know how to get on the internet!"


My reply, "Yes, but Mommy will be helping him!"


That silenced him immediately.  Threat resolved...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our Advent Calendar

Several years ago I made an advent calendar for the boys to count down the days until Christmas.  I used a large piece of felt to make a banner and then glued 25 pockets onto the banner.  I put the numbers 1-25 on the pockets.  From December 1st to the 25th I would put a little toy into the pocket for them to retrieve.  Each day they took a star book mark that says, "Wise Men Follow the Star!"  and moved it to the next day to count down the days to Christmas.

This year we are doing the Advent Calendar a little differently.  Instead of receiving a little toy, the boys are getting two one-dollar bills.  In addition to the money, they will have a sheet of paper describing a different mission or charity.  At the end of the month, they boys get to keep half the money they collected.  The other half must be donated to the charity of their choice. 


They are actually looking forward to learning about different missions and charities.  Some of the charities involve people we know.  We have friends who are going to be part of a short-term trip to Haitii.  Some of the charities are conducted in other countries.  We have learned about Voice of the Martyrs involvement in India and China.  Some of the charities occur here in the US and even in Pennsylvania!


Today, they boys asked when they were going to get another charity.  They didn't ask for the money or a prize.  I think they're really enjoying this.  I know I am!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recipe Found

Over a year ago I lost a recipe.  This was a recipe given to me at a restaurant that is no longer in business in Lancaster County PA.  I was preparing to make it as part of my bi-weekly menu planning.  I had pulled the recipe out of my card file.  And was gone!  I couldn't find it anywhere!  Since then I have been searching for that recipe.  I looked on-line to no avail.  I called relatives. (I thought my mom and sister were with me when I got this recipe)  They didn't remember this recipe at all.


Today, I tackled one of the items on my four-page to do list.  I cleaned out the desk apprentice.  We have a wonderful organizer for paper and school supplies called the "Desk Apprentice."  It sits in an honored place in the corner of the kitchen right by the table where we do most of our work.  But, as most things in our kitchen, it became a dumping ground.  My organizer was in desperate need of organizing.  So I completely emptied it onto the kitchen table.  As I got to the bottom of the organizer guess what I found?  MY RECIPE!  Yippee!  Praise God!


Now, in order that I never lose this recipe again.  I am going to record it here for all posterity.  Please try it.  It is the most delicious soup.  And now, if I lose my card again...I can find it in my blog!


Chicken Corn Soup

from The Family Style Restaurant

Lancaster, PA


1 lb chicken breast

1 quart water

4 chicken bouillon

1/2 C diced celery

1/2 C. diced onions

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. celery seed

1-16 oz can whole kernel corn

2-16 oz cans creamed corn

1-103/4 oz can cream of celery soup


Dough Balls:

1 C flour

1 egg

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder


In large pot, place chicken, 4 bouillon cubes and 1 qt of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer 1 hour or till chicken is done.  Remove chicken from pot, pick chicken from the bone and discard bones and skin.  Dice the meat and return it to the pot.


Add remaining soup ingredients and simmer approximately 15 minutes till celery and onions are tneder.


Mix dough balls by combining flour, egg, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  Sift the mixture through your hand into the soup and continue to stir.  Simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.  now your soup is ready to serve.


Makes approximately 3 quarts or 12 cups.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Thing I Can't Live Without: Trays

Continuing in my series of "Things I can't live without", I would like to tell you about our trays.  I used to collect trays.  In our apartment I had a display of them hanging on the wall of our dining room.  After we began homeschooling, my husband went to the cafeteria located in the building where he works and purchased some plastic trays.  He brought home a stack of 6-8 plastic trays.


I use these trays weekly.  We use them for art projects.  T-Bone loves to add glitter to cards and pictures.  I have him make his creations on the tray.  When he is finished, I can pick up the tray and place it on the kitchen counter, or on top of the refrigerator out of the way.  When the project dries, I can tip the tray and put all the excess glitter back into the bottle, or throw it away.  I have even written the boys names on each of two trays so that I can give them "their" tray on which to put an art project.  A few of the trays have paint marks on them because they can paint outside the lines and off the paper.  If a tray has a paint mark on it I am not upset.  If our kitchen table has a big blue paint mark, I may be a bit more distressed.


Right now, for our Pilgrim/Thanksgiving study, we are building log cabins out of Lincoln Logs.  I have the boys build them on trays so that we can easily move the cabins off the table in order to eat our supper.


When we have multiple projects, like Christmas cards, I can place 2 or three cards on a tray at a time to dry.  By stacking one tray across another they can stack up without pressing down on the artwork beneath them.  This is how we allow paintings to dry also.


Of course, we have other trays.  There is a decorative inlaid-wooden tray on our table right now.  It is filled with leaves, a pumpkin, candles, an apple and our pilgrim salt and pepper shakers.  This is our holiday centerpiece.  The boys have added to it when they find something seasonal that reminds them of harvest-time and Thanksgiving.


We also have TV trays.  These are wooden trays with legs on them.  We use those to eat supper in the living room on cold nights when it's just nicer to be by the fire then to be in the kitchen.  Those trays come in handy when the boys want to color or write while watching TV, or if we want to have our lessons in the living room.


Trays are something I definitely cannot live without.  I get so much use from them.  Find a school or restaurant in your area that might allow you to purchase a few and you will find them indespensable!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Making Dice

I love games.  For the past couple years I've been intrigued with making my own games.  I'm part of a yahoo group that revolves around making educational games for homeschool and school-school.  About a year ago I made a game from a suggestion by one of the mom's on that group.  The game is called "Extinction."  On the dice, 5 of the six sides are normal with dots representing numbers.  One side has a dinosaur instead of a number or dot.  Rules: First player rolls the 3 dice. The highest number is set aside and he rolls the remaining two dice. The highest of that roll is set aside and he rolls the remaining die (only 1 die is set aside from each roll.) Player's score is determined by adding up the 3 dice. EXTINCTION happens when a player rolls either 3 dinos in the first roll, 2 dinos on the second roll, or 1 dino on the third roll. At that time the score is reduced to zero and the player starts again. First player to reach a score of 100 wins.

When I read about this game I knew I wanted to make it.  The original person who suggested the game simply put a dinosaur sticker over the 1 dot on a regular set of dice.  Me being an overachiever and all, I had to make a set of dice.  So I bought a package of wooden cubes at the craft store (very inexpensive) and started by painting them with acrylic paint.  I put a few coats, allowing them to dry for several hours.  Then I used a contrasting color of paint and painted the dots onto five of the six sides of the cube.  I had a set of small dinosaur stickers and I used three different dinosaurs on the blank sides of the three dice.  When the number spots had dried completely, I got out some clear acrylic sealer and painted a few coats onto the dice.  These dice have stayed beautiful for more than a year.  So I would consider it a success.


Last week, I made two new dice.  Each die is unique to its own use.  One is the chores dice.  Every Monday, the boys roll for the chores that they will have for the following week.  Each boys has three daily chores and since we have two boys, it lends itself nicely to dice.  So, once again, I got out the acrylic paint and painted a few coats.  This time I used light blue.  Then, when the paint was dry, I wrote the chores using permanent black marker onto each side of the dice.  Then I painted several coats of clear acrylic sealer, allowing it to dry between coats.


The other die was painted yellow and on the sides we have written:  Mommy, Daddy, Big Mac, T Bone, You Choose, and You Choose.  This die will be used for a new game we are developing called, "Family Favorites."  I read about this game in the October "Highlights" magazine.  We will be making a list of everyone favorites in the family.  Then we will make a deck of cards that say, "Favorite Food", "Favorite Movie", "Favorite Book", etc...  The way the game will be played is that one person will roll the die to see for whom he has to guess a favorite.  Then he will pick a card and try to guess that persons favorite based on the card.  If he gets it right, he gets a point.


I like to make dice.  And I love to play games.  I especially love games that teach.  Extinction teaches math.  The chores dice teaches responsibility and Family Favorites will teach us more about each other.  You can't get any better than that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

First "Laying Down" Snow

Today was our first snow fall that laid down on the ground.  The boys were outside within 30 minutes of their waking.  Big Mac found this leaf frozen in the ice and took a picture.  It's quite beautiful.  Good job, God!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Overheard in Newport, PA

This afternoon my sons and I were hanging out by the fireplace in the living room and our youngest son, T-Bone, who is 10 years old said, "You know what they should make?  Bubble wrap clothing.  Because then when you fall off of something it wouldn't hurt!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Use What You've Got

We are reading Margaret Pumphrey's "Pilgrim Stories" in these days leading up to Thanksgiving.  It is a wonderful book we downloaded last week at  If you ever have a chance to read this to your children, do it!

In today's reading the Pilgrims had escaped religious persecution in England by going to Holland.  The chapters we read explained about life in Holland with much detail.  It was a mini-geography lesson.  As I was reading I was reminded of a story-book I picked up at a library sale years ago.  When finishing the chapter, there was a footnote about reading a poem to your students about the child who put his hand in a hole in the dyke holding back the sea in order to save his community.  So, even though we weren't finished with our reading of Pilgrim Stories, I skipped over to the PC to find the poem in question.  It's called, "The Leak in the Dike" by Phoebe Cary and you can find it here:

Then I ran upstairs to the bookshelf in the boys' room where we keep the picture books and found our old and worn copy of "The Wheel on the Chimney" by Margaret Wise Brown.  Yes, this is the author of "Goodnight Moon."  The book we read was all about storks.  Although it was a picture book, the information given really gave us a knowledge of storks and how they live.

So, we had science, geography AND history (language arts, too, by just reading) and all we had done was read!  Of course, our Thanksgiving lessons included much more than this, but I was so thrilled with how this morning progressed.  I love homeschooling because I can see what needs to be done and do it.  There are no pre-submitted lesson plans to which I need to stick.  I can spontaneously use whatever materials are at my hand and it turns into a great day.

Grocery Bonanza

I just had the greatest time at the grocery store today!  Last Spring I attended Cindy Rushton's Ultimate Homeschool Seminar.  One of the seminars was on saving money at the grocery store.  It was given by Crystal Paine.  Since then, I have frequented her website/blog to learn more about using coupons wisely.  I've also learned how to CVS.  Yep, it's a verb.  I enjoy CVSing!  But that's for another entry.


Today, I went to a local grocery store with coupons in hand.  I spend Sunday afternoon clipping most of the coupons out of the Sunday paper.  We buy two papers on Sunday.  Then I go through the sale papers for the two major supermarkets in our area.  I list the items on sale that week at each particular store and then I pull out my coupons and figure out the price of the items after sale and coupons.  I don't buy everything that's on sale and for which I have a coupon.  I try to stick to the bargains.  I have a little notebook for all of my shopping lists.  I have a page for each store and I write my grocery list by writing the items I wish to buy per store.


Well, today I had a discount I could use at one local grocery store.  I had accumulated enough points through prior purchases to receive 10% off my total order.  Also, for this store, there was a coupon on the front of the paper for $5 off a purchase of $50.  One other reason I was shopping at this store was that I could get a turkey for 37 cents a pound if I made a $25 purchase.  So, with all of that being's what I got for $51.71.  I think I did pretty great!!!


Want the list?  For $51.71 I got:  1 large bottle of extra virgin olive oil, 1 sm. bottle of reg. olive oil, 1 dozen eggs, 2 boxes soft pretzels filled with mozz. cheese, 2 containers of cool whip, 1 spreadable butter, 1 bag frozen corn with butter sauce, 2 tubes of crescent rolls, 1 bag decaf coffee, 1 large bag of rice, 1 tub of buttery spread, 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 1 22-pound turkey, 4 bags of salad croutons, 2 gallons of skim milk, 1 bag frozen vegetables in cheese sauce, 4 rolls of toilet paper, 6 boxes of pudding, 4 cans tropical fruit salad! 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving for Free

I decided late last week to spend the rest of our lesson's days doing Thanksgiving activities.  For the past few weeks I have been receiving free downloads from various sources.  I saved them in a "Thanksgiving" folder on my PC.  So, on Friday, I printed out my favorite lessons plans pages and began writing out plans for the eight lessons days leading up to Thanksgiving.  I have a lot of lessons and activities for the boys and myself and I've downloaded all of them for free!

It may be too late for you to download some of these resources, but if you make yourself aware of them, you will have an abundance of downloads in the future.  Christmas is right around the corner!.

First, here is the link to those planner pages I told you I love.  They can be found at Hold That Thought's website:  I love these free forms that Hold That Thought offers.  They also have a really great Father's Day card on their "extras" page, but I digress.

Of course, I've gotten many resources from  We are currently reading Margaret Pumphrey's Pilgrim Stories which we downloaded last week at homeschoolfreebie.  We will also read An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott which was a download at homeschool freebie last week.

We are doing a three-day Thanksgiving unit study from Brandenburg which we received from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's "Teaching Toolbox" ezine.  They send a themed ezine monthly with a terrific download, usually a unit study or a lapbook.  Last month's was the Thanksgiving ezine.  This is a free online feature for subscribers to The Old Schoolhouse magazine.

I also downloaded a free resource from  If you're not checking out their free downloads on Mondays, you need to add that you your list of weekly to do's.  One of the freebies you can take advantage of now is the free Thanksgiving notebooking pages.  Just hit the word "Free" on the left side of the screen and you will find it there.

Vision Forum has several cute Thanksgiving crafts as well as recipes and other activities here:

If you follow the happenings at The Old Schoolhouse Store's Spotlight blog they sometimes offer great discounts and even freebies.  I subscribed to this blog so that I get an email every time there is a new posting.  Last week, they offered a free activity pak from Hands of a Child.  Although this Fall/Harvest activity pack is a little young for my guys, I know I can adapt it to their age.  You can find this blog here:

So, we're having a free Thanksgiving unit study.  And it's of great quality.  I just love the homeschooling community on the internet.  I get some great resources, many for free, but when I do buy something, I'm helping another homeschooling mother and therefore perpetuating our calling!  Go Homeschool Mom!

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Special Day

Today was Halloween.  My boys begin talking about their costumes in the Summer.  They have always loved to dress-up in costumes.  For many years we had a costume box and our youngest, T-bone, was someone different every day.  I used to say that I knew who he was by who he called me.  If he called me, "Wois" (Lois Lane) then he was Superman.  If he called me, "Vicki" (Vicki Vale) then he was Batman.  "Mary Jane" meant he was spider man and "Jessie" meant he was Buzz Lightyear.  One year we were visiting my sister's church.  Our T-bone stayed in the nursery during the worship service.  Partly through the service, one of the nursery workers found me and said, "Your son, Buzz Lightyear, needs his diaper changed.  He won't let anyone do it."  He also would only let the nursery workers call him Buzz!

Halloween is not my favorite day of the year.  I understand the aversion many Christians have to this holiday.  Our boys have read all of the tracts against Halloween and they understand its origins.  We know that God knows our hearts and for our boys, it's purely about dressing up in fun costumes...oh...and eatting candy, lots and lots of candy.  

Today, I took a cue from and made a few special treats in honor of the day for our lunch and supper.  It made the day a little more fun than your average Friday and the boys enjoyed it.

For lunch we had coffin sandwiches and carrot fingers:

For supper, we had mummy hotdogs and tomato soup with bats in it:

Our oldest son, Big Mac, took the left over cheese pieces from the bats that floated in our soup and made this very creative scene:

We finished the evening trick or treating in a small town a few minutes from our country home.  We can cover the entire town in about 30 minutes and several families from our church live there.  It was a warm evening and many of the people were sitting outside on their porches to greet the trick or treaters.

When it comes to candy, I've borrowed my parenting philosophy from my sister.  I let them eat it until it's gone.  The first night the boys hit the candy pretty hard, but they quickly lose interest and I will throw away what's left in a few days.  No one is ever the wiser.

So now, my guys are in the bathtub after another day's adventure.  This time, they're treating themselves to a few treats while they soak.  Soon they're off to bed to gear up for another adventure tomorrow.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homeschooling boys? Try war games!

We use Saxon Math.  My oldest son, Big Mac, is finishing up Saxon 7/6 from last year.  Periodically in this book we have "Investigations."  We do these all together, including my youngest son, T-bone, who is finishing Saxon 6/5.  It gives T-bone a break from the usual and we all work together and enjoy these investigations.


Today's investigation was called "Sign Wars."  It was a game where you make cards with + and - signs.  A + cancels a -.  You keep marking off the signs that cancel each other until you are left with all one sign or just one sign.  That is the sign that "wins."  Level 1 was just + and - signs on the card.  We did four of these.  Level 2 had numbers with the + or - signs.  So the boys had to figure out the math as well as the sign.  Level 3 had "disguises."  Sometimes the numbers had no sign, so they had to know that that meant it was positive.  Sometimes there were two negative signs in front of a number and they had to know that a negative and a negative equals a positive.  There were also parentheses in this level, so it made the math more complicated.


The boys, however, rose to the occasion on every level and really enjoyed this activity.  After we did twelve of these cards, four for each level.  I gave them several practice problems from the book that just showed the numbers on one line, not randomly placed on a card.  These were regular math problems using 4-6 numbers all with varying positive and negative signs.  Again, because it was all a game, they loved doing these problems.


While working the practice problems at the end, Big Mac said to T-bone, "Who are you for?"  T-bone replied, "The positives."  "Me too."


It was math, but to them it was WAR.  And war meant choosing a side.  And they were rooting for the positives, the plus signs!


Being a girl, raising boys can be a mystery to me.  I am grateful for the return of my manly-husband in the evening to give me some insight to how these boys think.  But today, God gave me a glimpse of what happens in those mini-manly hearts and minds.  If you want to make the lessons a little more enjoyable...turn it into a war!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Things I Can't Live Without: my label maker

As I think of things, I'm going to blog about some things I can't live without.  Some of these things will be home related, some home school related.  This first one works in both places.  It is my label maker and I love it!


I actually asked for a label maker a few Christmases ago.  It was given to me by my husband, The Big Dog, and our two boys, Big Mac and T-Bone.  I use it around the house in many ways.  I use it to label files in my filing cabinet.  I used it recently to make tabs for my new organizer.  I received an empty organizer and I made my own calendar inserts as well as other sections that fit my life.  A purchased organizer would never have fit my life, but this one does.  Once I had all the papers into my new organizer, I needed to make dividers so that I could easily find the sections.  I used some old file folders and cut them so that they would be staggered dividers in my book.  Then I printed the titles for each divider using my label maker and pasted them to the dividers.  It is neat and, excuse the pun, organized!


I used my label maker to mark the boys' drawers.  One says, "Underwear", one "Socks", etc...  And we, Big Dog and I have labels on the plastic bins that hold our unmentionables in our closets, too.  I have labels on the boxes and crates that house our craft supplies. 


We have even used our label-maker to make labels for our timeline books!  When we studied history a few years ago, the boys were too little for a lot of writing, so I would print a label and let them stick it in the correct year spaces.


I love my label maker.  We use it at least once a week around this house.  Although I could probably print labels on the PC or hand-write some stickers, my label maker is portable and neat.  The printed labels make everythiing look orderly, even when, sometimes, things are DEFINITELY not orderly!


Here endenth my first installment of "Things I Can't Live Without."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


About two weeks ago I began a monstrous "To Do" list.  One of my mentors is Cindy Rushton.  (,,  On her writer's nook web site, she said that you can really make a change in your life by writing everything down.  She advised to get a little book and carry it with you.  Everytime you think of something you want to do, you should write it down.  I began doing that.  I'm on page 6!  I have written things I want to do around the house; things I want to do with our little homeschool; projects I want to knit and crochet; and things I want to do for others.  Eventually I will take this giant list, when I feel like my brain has really been dumped, and organize it into specific projects.  I will sort the line items by their categories, such as crafts, homeschool, home repair, etc...   But I am beginning to cross off some of these things with a highlighter even before they are sorted into categories.  I love working from this list.   I am more focused about what I am doing.  I have a few spare minutes in my day and I think, "What can I do to cross something off my list?"  It has made my already-productive days more productive.


Another great dividend of making this list is that as the mundane chore-type projects were dumped onto the list, my mind was freed to dream about the things I really want to do.  The big dreams made their way to my list after a few days of listing chores and home repair.  I can feel the change in my life already by just beginning to dream dreams.  By putting those dreams on paper, I'm really feeling for the first time like they might actually happen!  It's given me a hopeful bublly feeling deep inside.


This week, the items on my list that seem to be glaring at me are the "declutter" items.  I need to clean out/reorganize my closet.  I need to do a purge in the basement.  I need to de-clutter the book shelves and the craft hutch...the list goes on and on.  I began Monday by working in Big Dog's study and clearing books.  I then moved into my bookshelf in our bedroom and got it cleaned and organized.  Each day, as I plan to tackle another area, I pray and ask My Father if this is something He would want me to do.  So, it will come as no surprise what Cindy Rushton's current article is about on her website?  Decluttering!  This morning, I woke up and started my daily to do list.  I added a declutter area to my list and asked My Father if that is what He would want me to do?  Then I checked my email and "The Homeschool Minute" was in my in-box.  Guess what it was about?  Yep, decluttering!!!


I find that The Lord affirms me in many ways.  Sometimes, I don't recognize His affirmation until later.  I want to be so aware of His presence in my life that I see His affirmations as they happen.  As I seek His will for my life, I can see His hand in guiding me.


Last week, He used my email inbox to affirm our parenting choices.  Someone encouraged me to send our boys to a week-long summer camp.  My husband and I have made a decision for our family that we don't want the boys spending long periods of time away from us and certainly not sleep-away periods of time.  We want to be their peer group.  We don't know how we could follow the command in Deuteronomy to teach them "all along the way" when they are not with us.  So we do not send them to sleep-away camps.  As this person encouraged us to send the boys away, I fervrently prayed that The Lord would change my heart if I was wrong in my way of thinking.  I just want to be in the center of His will and if His will is summer camp, then He must change my heart.  A few short days after this summer-camp discussion, I got my copy of Lorri Flemm's ezine in my in-box.  Can you guess what one of her articles was concerning?  Her rule that she doesn't send her children on sleep-away excursions!


Affirmations.  I wrote once, a long time ago, about how My Father continually affirms our little home school.  When I decided, years ago, to study the ocean, a free ocean's unit study landed in my in-box.  When I began reading the book "The Secret Garden" to the boys last Spring, the Monday freebie at was a time-tags project for that book.  He affirms our home school.  He affirms our parenting.  He affirms my to do list! 


When I am really seeking His ways and to be in the center of His will, My Father puts His hand on my back and says, "Walk this way."  I've listed just a few examples of how He's done this recently.  It's exciting to look at these things and give the credit where it is due.  The Father in Heaven is an Affirming God.  I am a grateful girl.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Time Passages

Saturday was a cool Autumn day and we were at one of the boys' last flag-football games for this season.  The man who was the referee for this game was our assistant coach last year.  During the game, he leaned over to us on the sidelines and said, "How old are your boys now?"  We told him that they were 10 and 11.  He said, "My baby's down there on the sidelines today. She's 21."  We all commented about how quicly time passes.

I can't believe that my first born will be 12 in two weeks.  I'm sure I gave birth to him yesterday.  In quiet-panicked moments I think, "Did I treasure it enough?  Have I savored his childhood?"  He's growing so quickly and, now, I can look him in the eye without stooping.

Later that same day, we were shopping in a grocery store.  One light  bulb in the boys' room needed to be replaced and the boys were anxious to replace it with a flourescent bulb.  We have never used these in our house.  The boys have watched the many commercials and news spots about "going green" and they wanted to begin using flourescents in our home.  So, we began to read the packaging and pick our lightbulb.  The bulb we picked had a large endorsement written on the front.  It said, "Guaranteed to work for Nine years!"  Our oldest, Big Mac, picked up the package and said, "When this dies I'll be..."  As he was figuring out the age, a large number 20 flashed in my brain and tears sprung into my eyes.  Right in the middle of the grocery store, I grabbed my boy in a big bear-hug.  He would be 20 when I had to replace that lightbulb.  20 is a man.  20 is not the beautiful dark-eyed, pleasant, loving boy standing before me, although I am confident that he will be all those things and more as a man. 

Time passes to quickly.  This weekend we celebrated our 16th anniversary.  I don't know how 16 years pass so quickly.  My mother turned 75 in September and she often comments on how quickly her life has passed.

So this week, my focus will be on focusing.  I want to be in the moment.  I want to focus on today and enjoy my boys before the flourescent bulb has to be replaced.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Never Read to Your Children

As most homeschool families, we've always got at least one read-aloud going, usually two.  Right now we're reading Tom Sawyer and In His Steps.  I am loving both books and so are my boys.  One morning they woke up and announced that for the entire day they would not be making a decision without asking themselves, "What would Jesus do?"  Inside I was rejoicing!  This is what I want our read alouds to do, inspire the boys.


But then there's Tom Sawyer...last week, after reading the chapter where Tom, Huck, and Joe head across the Mississippi on a raft, our boys spent the entire afternoon building a boat out of scrap wood in the driveway.  They worked until it was too dark to see the nails. 


Then the weekend arrived.  I was away with my mom and sister on a shopping trip.  I came home to two make-shift forts made out of poles and tarps.  And it did not end there!  Last night they were fishing!  Fishing I tell you!  When will this madness end?  Every afternoon the boys race out the back door saying, "I'm Tom!"  "I'm Huck!"


It's like that great children's book, "If you give a Mouse a Cookie."  In that picture book the reader is told that if you give a mouse a cookie it will snow ball and so much more will happen.  (i.e. if you give a mouse a cookie he'll want a glass of milk to go with it.)  Well, let me tell you, if you read a boy "Tom Sawyer" he will want to build a boat.  If you let him build the boat, he will need a fort to go with it.  If he builds the fort, he will want to have a fire pit to cook his supper.  If he has a fire pit, he will want to get his fishing pole out of the basement.  If he gets his fishing pole out of the basement, he will want to go to the creek and catch a fish.  If he goes to the creek and catches a fish, he will want to eat it for breakfast like Tom Sawyer did.  If he eats the fish for breakfast, he will want you to read another chapter of Tom Sawyer while he's eatting.


Yes, this essay is dripping with sarcasm.  How great is it that my 11 year old is not too jaded to imagine himself as Tom Sawyer?  How great is it that a piece of classic fiction can inspire two boys so thoroughly?  How great is it that God has allowed me to be at home with my precious, precious boys to experience this week of Tom Sawyer?  So, yes, I will always be reading to my children.  But I'm definitely not choosing any pirate adventures!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Apple Cobbler Oatmeal

Well, it's not Wednesday (Wednesday is oatmeal day at our house), but I've got another oatmeal recipe for you!  I wrote in another post that oatmeal is NOT my youngest son's favorite breakfast.  But, in the interest of frugal feedings, we have oatmeal every Wednesday morning.


I've tried several things.  We had an oatmeal bar one Wednesday.  A few weeks ago I made a delicious peanutbutter cookie oatmeal that we all loved.  That recipe is still my favorite to date.


But last Wednesday I also made a really good one.  The recipe is simple.  Instead of using water to cook the oatmeal, use apple juice.  We were given a bottle of natural apple juice that the boys don't really enjoy drinking.  So, I used it to make oatmeal.  I added brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract and it tasted like apple cobbler!


Try'll like it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Overheard in Williamsburg

We are home from our mini-vacation to Williamsburg.  I learned SO much and had such a great time.  Big Dog says that this will definitely be an annual event.  It was well worth the money spent, but like I said in a previous post, we really kept the price reasonable for our budget by packing food and staying at an inexpensive hotel.


I wanted to share two things we heard in Williamsburg.  We took a tour of the Capitol Building and had a fantastic tour guide.  She spoke mostly to the students in the room.  At one point she was speaking to our son, Big Mac, about how the men argued in the room we were touring.  She said, "Everyone argues.  Even your tongue and your teeth disagree every now and then, because you bite your tongue sometimes."  I think that's brilliant!  I sometimes live my life with such a goal to keep everyone in my presence happy.  I want to avoid conflict at all costs.  But do you know what?  Even your tongue and your teeth disagree sometimes!


When we toured the Capitol and the Governor's Palace the tour-guides ushered us "above stairs."  I don't know if anyone uses the term, "above stairs" in other states or regions, but we always say "upstairs."  When I heard the term being used by the tour guides I made a mental note to start saying, "above stairs."  I just loved this new term.   Late Sunday afternoon, we arrived home from Virginia and began unpacking the van.  Big Dog was helping to unload and instructing the boys where to deliver bags, parcels and packages while I unpacked what had been deposited in the kitchen.  I nearly fell over when I heard him say to our sons, "Take your briefcases above stairs and unpack them."  I turned to him and said, "Above stairs?"  He said, "Yeah, that's what they said in Williamsburg.  I like it.  I think I'm going to start using it!"  Great minds think alike!

Friday, September 12, 2008

How We Take a Trip

Greetings from the Howard Johnson's in Williamsburg Virginia!  That's right.  We got away!  We are taking in historic Williamsburg during the homeschool days.  Williamsburg is one of my favorite places.  When we found out that we could get two-day tickets for a fraction of what they normally cost, we found an inexpensive hotel (with a swimming pool, of course) and made our plans.


Our plans for the long term including saving money.  We did not buy anything "extra" for several weeks in order to prepare for this trip.  I made several pieces for the county fair that won ribbons.  I saved the prize check to pay for our tickets.  I also saved all my babysitting checks for the last 4 weeks of the summer.  I didn't even cash them.  I took the checks and put them into envelopes marked for specifics aspects of the trip.  I had an envelope for gas, an envelope for food (more to follow on that), an envelope for the hotel, an envelope for the tickets into Williamsburg, and envelopes for spending money.  We give the boys an allowance, which we have not allowed them to spend for a month.  This way, they are not asking us for money.  They came to Virginia with packed wallets!  I filled my envelopes keeping track each week of what was put into the envelope.  I wrote on the outside of the envelope the amount needed and how much was in the envelope.  When I had all the money I needed for that envelope, I circled the title.


And now to the food:  We are eatting out twice while in Williamsburg from Friday to Saturday.  I packed cold lunches and plenty of snacks for the room as well as cold//quickie breakfast items. On Thursday I toasted a bagel for each of us and heated up several sausage patties.  Then I scrambled some eggs with onions in them.  I put half the bagel on a square of heavy duty foil and layered the eggs, sausage, and a slice of cheese, and topped it with the other half of the bagel.  I wrapped each bagel-wich individually in foil and put them into the refrigerator.   When we awoke early Friday morning I heated up the oven and threw our foil-wrapped breakfast into the oven.  When we were ready to leave about a half an hour later, I wrapped the bagel-wiches in two tea-towels and we hit the road.  A little over an hour later, we had a warm, toasty, and delicious breakfast on the road.


Another way I prepared, other than the usual packing, was to pack two briefcases.  Several years ago we bought the boys each an old-fashioned briefcase at a thrift-store.  These are the hard cases that men used to carry.  They are great for car trips because they can't be over-stuffed like a backpack.  Because of that, they slide under the car seats with ease.  The hard-back of the cases make great lap desks while travelling.  Into each of the boys briefcases I put a copy of the directions from home to Williamsburg.  I printed these on mapquest.  I also put several pencils, an eraser and a pencil sharpener.  My boys love to draw, so into the briefcases went both of their sketchbooks.  I also found a few treasures from the bookshelves that I don't even think the boys knew we had.  I found a paper airplane book, that went into one briefcase with some extra paper for folding.  I put a joke book in one briefcase.  I put a "how to do magic" book in one and a "101 card games" book into another.  Each boys had a deck of cards in their cases.  I put a stop watch into one and a mini-tape recorder into another.  Then I called to the boys and had them each pick a book to read to put into their cases.  I had one final surprise.  One thing I always like to do before a trip is pick up a magazine.  I love to have some simple reading for a vacation.  So, I took the boys to the market and let them each pick a magazine.  They weren't allowed to look at the magazine until the trip and it went right into the briefcase.  So their cases were stored the night before and the boys had tons of activities to keep them busy for the almost-six-hour trip from home to Williamsburg, VA.


I wanted to make our packed-meals a little more special than just the lunch-meat sandwich variety.  Here's what I did.  Before we left on Friday morning, I put a package of hotdogs on the indoor grill and started some water boiling.  I cooked the hotdogs on the grill.  When the hotdogs were done and the water was boiling, I put the dogs into a wide thermos and poured the water over them.  I put enough water into the thermos so that it came close to the top and tightened the lid.  When we arrived at our hotel, we had still-warm hotdogs for our lunch.  I also picked up some friend chicken at the market before leaving and cooked a meatloaf.  I sliced the meatloaf and tomorrow we will have meatloaf sandwiches for lunch.  For supper tonight we had cold chicken (one of my favorite treats), hard boiled eggs, chees cubes, celery and carrot sticks.


Breakfast is not nearly as creative as I just pulled out some muffins I had stored in the freezer, som sweet quick-breads, and pop tarts, but they'll do the trick!


And so our adventure begins!  Actually at the time of this writing we are already half finished with our mini-vacation.  But we are doing it without breaking the bank or the budget AND we're feeling treated in the process.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Use Your Tools: a Timer

The boys and I were visiting friends for the afternoon.  I wanted to leave by a certain time so that I was home in time to start supper and great the Big Dog when he came through the door.  I knew that when my girlfriend and I started talking I would lose track of all time, so I set the alarm on my watch.  When the time came for me to collect the boys and head home, my little clip on watch began to chime and I said, "Time to go!"  Well, my girlfriend could not get over it!  She made fun of me and was silly about how I set a timer to get out of her house on time.


I wasn't offended by her silliness at all.  I was confident in the fact that I was using the tools available to me.  I use timers all the time.  When the boys are arguing over a toy, the computer, or a video game, we set a timer.  When the timer rings, it's time to switch!


This summer, we watched one of my boys' friends.  This little guy has Juvenille Diabetes.  Because of the JD he had to eat at specific times of the day.  I had to count his carbohydrates at lunch, so preparing the meal was a little time consuming.  I was concerned that I might get lost in an activity and not give myself enough time to plan lunch.  I also needed to give him an afternoon snack at a specific time in order to keep his blood sugars regulated.   We would often take outtings in the afternoon, so I wanted to make sure I could remember his snack-time.  I set two alarms on my cell-phone.  One rang 5 minutes before lunch.  The other rang at snack-time. I now had a twice-daily reminder to keep me on-track with our meals.  On my cell, I can set it to ring even when the phone is off, so I was always assured that my reminder-alarm was ever-ready.


I have a watch that clips to my belt.  Big Mac bought it for me for a present a few years ago.  I love this watch, not only for his thoughtfulness, but also for the watch's usefulness.  Of course, I can tell time with it, but there is also an alarm, and a stop watch.  I use the alarm at various times for different needs. When I was visiting that friend I mentioned earlier I set the alarm on my watch to ring when it was time to go!  When we are at a park and the boys want me see who can run through the jungle-jim faster, I break out the stop watch feature of my watch. 


I began my home-making journey trying to follow the methods of flylady.  ( She was an  avid timer user.  She would set a timer for 15 minutes and work in a room for just that amount of time.  When I have a large task at hand, I use this method and set my timer.  I work for 15 minutes and when the timer goes off, I move on to another task.  On days when I have LOTS to get done, 15 minutes at a time is the way to go!


I remember a  time when one of my boys didn't want to use the timer.  Our T-Bone is a justice boy.  He ran to me complaining that Big Mac was refusing the timer.  In a stellar Mommy-moment I just said, "Find something else to do."  T-Bone looked at me and with deep-pleading in his voice he said, "But Mommy, IT'S OUR TOOL!"  Guess what?  We used the timer.  He was right.  It is a tool.


Our timers (and yes, we have many of them) are one of our useful tools.   They're not just for baking any more!  Settle those sibling arguments, with a timer.  Be sure you leave the house in time, with a timer.  Stay on track during the day, with a timer.  It's a tool that will be immensely useful to you.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Safety Net

Today's sermon was from Luke 5:1-11.  The story of the disciples fishing expedition.  In case you don't remember, the disciples had been fishing all night.  They had not caught any fish and they were tired.  Feeling defeated, they decided to haul in the nets and head for shore.   That is when Jesus said, "Throw your nets onto the other side."  When the disciples did as they were told, they caught more fish than their nets could hold.  The boat was so laden down with fish that it almost sank!

Our preacher today reminded us as one of the points of his sermon that Jesus used people to perform his miracles.  When he changed the water into wine, the waiters first had to fill the jugs.  In order for the lame man to begin walking, he had to pick up his mat.  Each time he performed a miracle, a mere mortal had to do something before the miracle was performed.  In today's story, the disciples had to cast their nets out before they could receive th catch of fish.

Thirteen years ago I had what would appear to outsiders as a very successful career.  Big Dog and I had been married for almost four years.  Although we wanted children right away in our marriage, children hadn't come yet.  I was working and travelling quite often in my job.  And then, we began to feel that God was leading us for me to quit my job.  It made no sense at all.  I was actually making twice as much money as my husband.  We didn't own a home or have a lot of debt, but to give up 2/3 of our income was crazy!  But this idea wouldn't go away.  So, we threw up our hands and said, "OK God, we'll do it!"  I resigned, with no idea of what would come next.  The very next day, I was offered a position as a contractor.  This position was less stress, less hours, and less money, but it was a way for me to slowly wean myself from corporate life and for us to begin to learn how to live on less money.

While working the contract position, I began a small home-based business.  Within a year, we felt that it was time for me to quit the contract position.  On the day I resigned, I got two new clients for my home-based business and learned that I was pregnant with our first child.

You see, sometimes, maybe even most times, we need to take the step in order for God to perform the miracle.  He asks us to do something before He shows his plan and his power.  That's how it has worked for me numerous times in my life.  Just like the story of my career and the beginning of our family.  God required me to take a step, or a leap, before He provided the safety net.  But just when I leaped, that net was there, saving me once again.

When you know that you are centered in His will, you can trust that He will keep you safe as you take any leap of faith He requires.  Did quitting a lucrative career make sense in man's eyes?  Absolutely not!  But had I stuck with the safe route, I would have never seen His glorious hand in my life!  If you are sure that you are in the center of His will, take the leap, God will provide the safety net!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


On Tuesday I was driving our boys to their first football practice of the Fall season.  If you're not familiar with Upward athletic programs, check them out here!  On our way to practice we passed an elementary school.  The school had a sign in front of the building announcing the Kindergarten orientation as well as the first day of school.


Every time I see an announcement for Kindergarten, I think back to our decision to homeschool.  Our oldest, Big Mac, was 4 and although he was a late birthday and we would get an extra year with him, I was really struggling with giving away any time with him.  And I was grieving the thought of sending him to school.  I was so grateful when my husband said, "We're going to homeschool!"


Last weekend, we were having dessert with friends and my girlfriend told me that our local school district is begining a test program this year.  They will be having a half-day kindergarten for 3 and 4 year olds.  Yes, that is not a typo.  Three-year-old babies will be going riding a bus with students of all ages (up to seniors in highschool!) and going to school for 3 hours a day 5 days a week.  Does anyone else find this appalling?!?  ...don't even get me started...


At this time of year, I feel grateful every time I pass a school with their signs stating the first day.  I am grateful that God called me to spend every day with my boys.  I am grateful for their smiles, and that at 11 and 10 they still call me "Mommy."  I am grateful that their Daddy and I are their peer group and they still come to us with everything.  We still have their hearts.  I'm grateful for the gift of time that I have with my boys.  I would not want to be anywhere else with anyone else in the whole wide world.  I'm so grateful.


When I was a girl I loved back-to-school time.  I couldn't wait to be back in the classroom.  I remember being so excited when I was entering the 2nd grade because they got homework!  Now, here I am again at back-to-school time just as excited as ever.  Excited to see how my two guys will grow in knowledge and experience this year.  Excited to see their relationship to Jesus grow.  I'm excited about the books we will read together and the field trips we will take.  I'm excited to be the person who spends the most time with my two growing boys.  I am blessed.  And, yes, I am grateful, so very grateful.


Monday, August 18, 2008


Yesterday the boys found a snapping turtle while swimming in the creek in front of our house.  Big Mac immediately named him "Sheldon."  Although the boys could not keep him, we did let them spend some time with him observing.  He was neat to watch.


Today, we are adding pictures of Sheldon to our sketchbooks and finding Sheldon's Latin name for our books.  Before returning Sheldon to the wild, we took several pictures.  Below are one of each of our boys with their new friend Sheldon.  I love these pictures because of the boys eyes.  When Big Mac was little and someone would ask him for the color of his eyes he would say, "Black!"  Truly, both boys' eyes are so dark you can barely see the pupil.  These pictures really show that.



Big Mac and Sheldon the snapping turtle



T-bone and Sheldon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

The boys and I just started a new book.  We've been reading over our lunch hour almost ever day this summer.  It's a tradition I plan to keep going for the rest of the year.  Right now we are reading:  "From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."


In this book, two children, a brother and a sister, run away to live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The story is written by a woman we have yet to meet, Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler.  In chapter 3, the two children, Claudia and James, begin to work together as a team.  Mrs. Frankweiler describes the moment when this began and then she explains that it is rare that this teamwork feeling occurs at the same time in the same people.  But here is the end of her description of that event that made me break out my highlighter, ".--especially a brother and a sister who had always spent more time with activities than they had with each other."


We don't do a lot of activities in our house.  And we don't do any activities that our boys can't be together.  They play flag football, but are on the same team. We go to a small church so that they are even in the same Sunday school.  They even choose the same classes for Co-Op each season, and that is by their choice!  We don't do summer camp that would separate our boys for a week, let alone separate them from us for a week.  Our boys have had LOTS of time to spend together.  Lots of time to bond as a team and realize that bond. 


When my husband gathers us together, he calls, "OK Team!"  We are a four-person team.  We are a four-chorded strand.  Our activities do not take us away from each other, but instead we choose activities that tighten our chord and maintain our bond.  I remember when our oldest son went with his Daddy to work for Bring Your Child to Work Day.  Our youngest was not old enough to meet Big Dog's work required age, so he stayed home with me.  When our oldest (Big Mac) came home he said, "Mommy, they separated us by age!  Isn't that weird?"  It made me laugh because to a child from the public school it is only natural to be separated by age group.  But for our homeschooling lifestyle, we are with children and adults of all ages at lots of different times.  Being separated is NOT natural for us at all.  And I like it just that way!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Truths from a Children's Movie

Today's summer camp afternoon activity was a trip to the movie theater.  We took in the "cheap" theater which is only $2 per person and saw the movie "Space Chimps."


Here are two line from that movie that made me ponder:


1.  Life's just like a circus, only the tents are bigger.


2.  Do you know what it feels like to live your life in someone's shadow?  Cold.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Camp

Last week ended badly.  At the current time of the month for me, I was a little grumpy if you know what I mean.  We have a boy that we have been watching this summer.  It has been very pleasurable to have an extra little guy around.  He's one of my boys' best friends and the son of one of my best friends, so it's worked out well.  Then, another friend came for a play day, which turned into two play days.  Add into this that I did not have a vehicle because my husband's car was in the shop and he took our van to work each day.  Work is 40 miles away, so it wasn't an option for me to drive him and drop him off.  In other words, I was PMS-ing, with four rambunctious boys in the house, and NO vehicle!  Oh, did I mention it was raining???????


Yeah, my head popped off and rolled across the floor.


Well, in the midst of my crisis, my logical-husband spoke rationally to me.  Sometimes, this is not a good idea when I'm in a state, but his timing was pretty good this time.  We began talking about having more structure in the boys' days.  You see, part of why my head was popping was because I hadn't really planned any activities for the boys on these two days of four-boys-no-car-lots-of-rain-play-date.  I had let them have lots of free play.  We school the boys year-round, but I do give them days off when friends are at the house. 


So, we started to brain storm about how to occupy the boys during these last several weeks of summer vacation.  That's when it hit me...Summer Camp!  I spent one-week a summer at Church Camp from the summer before fourth-grade until I graduated high school.  I know how summer camp works.  Each year we got a little more free time as we grew older.  But most of our time was structured. 


So, that's what I want the rest of our summer to be!  I started my evil plan this morning.  Since it's just our regular charge (plus my two boys) we did have lessons.  Summer lessons are just bare-bones.  We do a page of math (we use Saxon), a page from our language arts/grammar workbook, and a page from our geography (geo-challenge) which only takes a few minutes.  Today, I peppered in one more activity.  We began a writing project using an Evan-Moore book I found that will take us step-by-step through a fiction story-writing project.  Since the boys got a late start, this took us right up to our 11:30 AM lunch-time.  Our charge for the summer has Juvenille Diabetes so we have to eat on his schedule. 


Over lunch, I read aloud to the boys.  We are reading "The Phantom Tollbooth."  After I finished the chapter, the boys worked on a poster each of them is making that maps out the trip our hero from the book takes throughout the book.  And then we cleaned up from lunch and went for a walk.  The road on which we live turns into a dirt-road dead-end.  Walking to the end and back is a little over 1 mile.  We took the dogs on their leashes and hoofed it to the end and back.


Upon returning and getting large glasses of water, each of us picked a book and I set the timer.  We sat in the living room and read for 10 minutes.  When the timer rang, the three boys scattered to the four winds!


So, as I type it's "free-time" at our summer camp.  At 3:30 it's time for a snack and then we may work on a science experiment after that to occupy their time until our charge's mother arrives to take him home.  The idea is to allow some free time but not a free-for-all, which leads to disaster!  At summer camp, we had classes in the morning (i.e. bible, nature, crafts).  We had to clean our rooms, after breakfast.  After lunch, there was quiet time before free time.  After supper, there was vespers, and an evening planned activity.  There was free time, but it was not the majority of our day.  I want our home this summer to be like summer-camp.  Actually, I'm thinking this plan should be carried out for the rest of the year.


I don't want to add to my work-load, so these will not be high-maintenance activities.  But here's my ideas:

-one day a week we should do a hands-on science experiment like the mentos in the soda-bottle or making goo from borax and glue.

-one afternoon a week we will go to the library.  We have been going every Tuesday for summer reading time, so we will keep that tradition going.  I've always utilized the library pretty heavily, but never on a regular day.

-one day a week we will have an outting, maybe someplace local, like the state park, or maybe someplace more grand like the science center in Harrisburg.  This week we're going to the Rennaisance Faire!

-each afternoon we will take a walk or bike-ride after lunch.

-each afternoon we will have at least a 10-minute quiet time to read.

-we will cook together.  My boys love to cook and we do it often during the traditional school year.  I want to add our charge into the mix (pun intended) and give the boys cooking assignements in the afternoon occasionally.

-we will craft together.  I have added some crafts into our days so far this summer, but now I will try to find one a week.  This week, we are going to work on posters for the poster-contest at the county fair.


And so, our summer-camp has begun.  Truthfully, I've "gone off" of the idea of summer camp for my boys, so this is as close to summer camp as they will get.  We do tell them that they don't need summer camp because their LIFE is summer camp!  Now, I'm really trying to make it that way!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


On the one weekday that I cook, the boys love it when I make Popovers.  I had never heard of popovers until I visited Northern Minnesota with my husband.  He was raised there.  On one visit, a friend of my mother-in-law gave me a church cookbook.  I have used that cookbook until the pages are falling out of the book!  If there's a fire in this house, we're saving THAT cookbook!


Popovers are a supper roll, of sorts.  They are very airy almost like a cream puff, but savory, not sweet.  If you do not own a popover pan you can bake these individual custard cups.  I was blessed enough to find a 6-popover pan in a thrift store a few months ago.  And we use it regularly. 


The recipe is quite simple, but you mus follow the directions exactly.  This recipe comes from the "Women's Fellowship of Union Congregational Church Hackensack, MN" cookbook, 1989 second edition.  There are two popover recipes here, but I used "Failproof Popovers" by Barbara Allen.  Enjoy!


Failproof Popovers

1 c. milk

1 c. flour

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

Put all ingredients in a bowl, stir until blended.  Disregard lumps!  Pour into 6 cold, well-greased custard cups.  Place in cold oven.  Set oven at 450 degrees and time for 30 minutes.  Don't peek!  Serve immediately.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Peanutbutter Cookie Oatmeal

Well, today is Wednesday and that means oatmeal.  I have really simplified breakfast in the past few months.  For a few years, I have been cooking a hot breakfast almost every day of the week.  Although we all enjoyed it, it wasn't good for our weight or for my grocery budget.  It gets expensive when you're going through 36 eggs and 4 pound of butter every 2 weeks!  So, I came up with a more simplified plan.  On Monday's I cook, sometimes French toast, or omelets.  We also love popovers for breakfast.  They are easy and inexpensive to make.  The rest of the week days go like this:


Tuesday:  Toast

Wednesday: Oatmeal

Thursday: Yogurt (and granola if we have it)

Friday:  Cold Cereal


Today was oatmeal day and I made the most delicious oatmeal that tasted just like a peanut butter cookie.  I'm going to try and give you the recipe, but I did a lot of dumping, so you may have to play with the measurements to get the taste you like.


Peanutbutter cookie oatmeal

1 C. old-fashioned oatmeal (I actually use 7-grain cereal)

2 C. skim milk (you can use whatever kind of milk your family enjoys, we're skim people)

1/2 C. white sugar (I know I's bad for me, but in this recipe it gets the taste I want)

1/3 C. peanutbutter

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a med. saucepan, heat milk and oatmeal on med-high heat.  Add sugar and peanutbutter before the oatmeal begins to boil.  Stir continually until it gets to a consistancy you like.  I like it thick so I keep it on the heat and I stir it continually for at least 5 min.  I also like the oats really soft, so going this bit of extra time helps in that process too.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.


This was just delicious and tasted just like traditional peanutbutter cookies with oatmeal in them.



Sunday, July 6, 2008

You have GOT to see this!

We were having a relaxing Saturday morning.  We had just finished breakfast, when I noticed that one of the hummingbird feeders we keep outside our "screamin" porch (the boys named our screened-in porch many years ago) was cloudy.  So I asked my husband, Big Dog, if he would go out and get them so that we could rinse and re-stock the feeders.

When he went outside there were a few birds hovering near Big Dog.  He took the feeder off the shepherd's hook and stood perfectly still holding the feeder.  I couldn't believe my eyes as I stood watching from the window at the kitchen sink.  A hummingbird came to the feeder suspended from my husband's finger!!  The amazement on Big Dog's face was remarkable.

He came into the house yelling "Did you SEE that?!?"  We quickly rinsed the feeders and replentished them with new nectar.  I grabbed the camera and snuck onto the screamin' porch while Big Dog stood outside the porch holding the feeders.  Below are the pictures.  They're not great but you can see the hummingbird at the feeder if you look closely.  This was truly amazing!

And here's a tip to keep your feeder's well stocked.  Yesterday, we rinsed and filled the feeders and then I immediately made more nectar and placed it into the regrigerator so that I'm ready for the next time I need to fill the feeders.  The birds like fresh nectar every few days, so I keep the refrigerator stocked.  The nectar is just 1 C. of sugar to 4 C. water.  I boil it a few minutes to dissolve, then let it cool.  Then I pour it into a plastic sealable container and let it chill in the refrigerator until I'm ready to refill.  I don't color it with red food coloring because now that they know where it is, the coloring isn't necessary.  One feeder is red, so that also eliminates the need.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


We stumbled upon archery quite by accident.  My husband is an avid hunter.  He has rifle hunted for deer for as long as I've known him, but a few years ago he started to become interested in archery hunting.  He found a used bow and began shooting at a local indoor archery club to learn how to shoot well.   One Saturday morning, I was off running errands and the Big Dog decided to go over to the archery club to shoot his bow.  He took our two boys and they headed for "the club."  When they arrived, there were 20 or more children of varying ages taking archery instruction.  The instructor called to our boys to pick up a bow and give it a try.  That was the beginning of our first season of archery instruction.

Since that Saturday morning, our boys have taken archery instruction every Saturday from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM in January, February, and March for the past three years.  Our oldest son, Big Mac, received his first bow for his 10th birthday and has shot two state competitions with it as well as numerous local competitions.  Our youngest son does not love it as much as his brother, but he is a good archer and we're hoping to pique his interest with a bow of his own this summer.

On Sunday, our archery season ended with the state indoor archery competition.  My husband and oldest son competed in this two-day archery tournament with nearly 500 other shooters of all ages.   The first day was quite a challenge for us as Big Mac had been sick all week with the flu.  He was still not feeling well as he stepped to the line to fire his first arrow.  After shooting the first few rounds, he came to me, put his head on my shoulder and said, "I want to go home."  We encouraged him to continue shooting and rest between rounds.  It warmed my heart to see he and his daddy walk back from the target holding hands.  Even at 11 years old, he's not too old to hold his daddy's hand.  Big Mac learned a lesson in perseverance that day and his brother, T-Bone, learned about the power of prayer as he prayed for his brother to be encouraged and uplifted.

On Sunday, he was feeling better and finishing each round was not as much of a struggle.  When we got to the arena Sunday morning, Big Mac checked the scores from yesterday.  Even after feeling ill and not shooting his level-best, he had finished the day in first place for his age group and shooting level.  At his age, the group is called Cadet.  The Cadet shooters are aged 11 and under, so this is Big Mac's last year in this group.  The shooters are broken down into two classes.  Class A cadets shoot lower numbers than class AA.  After shooting last year, Big Mac was placed in the AA class of cadets.  So, on Sunday morning, he was leading the pack of aged 11 and under shooters in the better class.  This did not help him focus on his shots, which is another lesson learned from archery:  focus, focus, focus.


Sunday was a long day with the first arrow being shot at 12:00 Noon and the archers coming off the line at 3:30 PM.  They each shot 60 arrows and scored them accordingly.  We packed up the equipment and waited for results.  I know that I could never be one of those stage mothers pushing their child to attain greatness.  Just waiting to see how Big Mac and his daddy finished in their respective classes was excruciating!  Finally, shortly after 5:00 PM the results were announced and medals awarded.  Our Big Mac won the first-place gold medal for cadet shooters in class AA.  He won his division by 10 points.  The next boy behind him won second place by 1 point, so the competition was quite close at his level.  To our surprise, Daddy Big Dog won 3rd place in the men's class A shooters.  So, Daddy has a bronze medal and Big Mac a gold.


And so another season of indoor competition archery is over and we are quite pleased with the results.  Recently I have taken up shooting and find it terribly relaxing.  Next year, our youngest might be able to shoot competition and his brother will move from a Cadet to a Junior.  Who knows?  Maybe there will be four of us on that line shooting a state competition next year!

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Family Vernacular

Even though I have been blogging for years on this particular blog, I realized that I've never introduced you to my family.  Now, most people will advise that children should not use their Christian names on the internet, so I will be introducing you to my clan using their nicknames.  And so, without further's my family!

First and foremost, you must meet the Big Dog.  This is my husband.  

In this picture he's napping with our 1-year-old kitten, "M."  We got M right around my 40th birthday.  He was part of a litter from a neighboring farm.  His name is M because the fur above his eyes makes an M.  Daddy is named Big Dog because he is 6'3" tall.  (I am 5'2", so there's quite a disparity of inches between us.)  Big Dog loves to hunt and sho0t his bow.  He's a great fisherman but gets frustrated fishing in Pennsylvania because the fish are not as abundant as they were in Northern Minnesota where he was born and lived until the age of 20.  He also loves to read, which I love about him.

 Second, please meet my first born, Big Mac.

He is is father's son.  I always say that I would not miss my husband if he were gone because I've got a carbon copy of my husband in Big Mac!  He is a champion archer (literally, he won the state archery competition for youth aged 11 and under this year), avid reader of Geronimo Stilton, and all-around good guy.

Third, is our T-Bone.  He is another of his father's sons.  He is an ardent laugher, animal-lover, and video game expert.  He has installed all of our computer software since he was 4 years old.  If it were up to T-bone, this house would be filled with animals, both the live and the stuffed-toy variety.

And now you've met them.  When I speak of Big Dog, Big Mac, and T-Bone, you will be able to put a face to a name as well as having this brief glimpse into their personalities.

And, I guess, there's me.  I love my family and thoroughly enjoy homeschooling.   You'll find me most nights knitting or crocheting but I also love a good book.  I play piano and am currently the worship leader in our small country church.


We live in a little green cottage in Central Pennsylvania that we call Galleon's Lap.  One day I will list the passage from Winnie The Pooh that led us to name our house "Galleon's Lap."  We call our little homeschool "Galleon's Lap Academy."

So, that's us!  We'd love to meet you.   Please leave a comment and introduce yourself!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

OK, I'm a little late in posting.  And actually I haven't posted ina while, so this is LONG overdue.  I wanted to share with you our Valentine's Day celebration.


In our house, Valentine's Day is a family celebration, not just a romantic celebration for my husband and I.  So, just like at Christmas time, we work together to create a family celebration.  For our lessons on Thursday, February 14, 2008 the boys made a pineapple upside down cake, their daddy's favorite.  They also made homemade cards for me and and for their dad.  They wrote lovely sentiments in the cards and decorated them especially for each of us.


By evening, our Valentine's table was set with the best dishes and linens.  There were presents at each place, most of them homemade, along with our homemade cards. 




The surprises I had for everyone were:

-handmade/crocheted stuffed animals for each of the boys.




-a gift card for each of the boys to Blockbuster so that they can rent a game or movie.

-homemade cards.

-a coupon book.  The book had coupons such as "good for one day off of chores"; "you pick what we have for supper", "good for one night to sleep in the living room"; etc...


I was gratified to see that the boys were more excited about the handmade gifts than the gift card.  Their stuffed animals were immediately named and given personalities as they altered their voices to represent the voice of the animal.  And they were so excited to receive and use their coupon books!  My oldest, Big Mac, said he would like a coupon book for "Easter, April Fools, Memorial Day,...Mommy, what other holidays are there?"  My heart was swelling as they exclaimed over these homemade gifts.


At my husband's place we put a pair of new "Crocs."  He has an old pair of slippers that he wears to take the dogs outside at night.  These slippers are true to their name and he has slipped on the ice coming back into the house many evenings.  SO, he thought a pair of the rubber "crocs" would work better for him.  The boys and I took a quick trip into the city to get this special Valentine's day parcel just for Daddy.  We were all excited to share our secret with him.   I also gave him a coupon book--for Daddy's eyes only.


Our supper was very special.  I made stuffed loin of venison wrapped in bacon, fettucine alfraedo, and snow peas with crescent rolls.  But most special was dessert.  The boys knew about Daddy's pineapple upside down cake because they helped to make it.  What they didn't know was that I made each of them a special dessert as well. For my oldest I made an apple pie, for my youngest a blueberry pie.  Their eyes were huge as I set an entire dessert in front of them at the end of our meal and told them that it was just for them.


It's fun to celebrate these special days as a family.  I'm sure in 10 years the boys will not be as excited to spend their Valentine's night with Mommy and Daddy, so I'm trying very hard to savor these celebrations while they are young and enthusiastic.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Oh no! I've Been Tagged!

I was tagged by Little Eblings Academy!

Here are the rules:

(1) Link to the person that tagged you.

(2) Post the rules on your blog.

(3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.

(4) Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.

(5) Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

My list of six non-important things/habits/quirks:

1.  I like even numbers.  I don't know why but to me even numbers (especially in dates) are more peaceful.

2.  If I put a knife, spoon or fork on the table and no one uses it, I still have to wash it.

3.  I sort my M&M's by color and then eat the colors from the greatest to the least in number.

4.  When I eat a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup I have to eat all the chocolate edge off first before eatting

5.  I can't throw away yarn, even if it's just a few yards.  I have a large rubbermaid tub with yarn and yarn scraps sorted into zip loc bags.

6.  I've read the last chapter of almost every book I've ever read after reading a few of the beginning chapters.  I have to know that everything will work out ok in the end!

My six random tags go to:

1.  Teaching Diligently

2.  Jillybean

3.  Mom on a Journey

4.  Homeschooling with a family business

5.  Longhorn Academy

6.  Communication FUNdamentals