Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent and the Christmas Season

This week we have started Advent.  Well, technically, since I did not have my candles Sunday, we are starting it tonight, but that is okay!  I am not using the traditional colors of pink and purple - I just like white and red, and the meaning is still the same.  Tonight, and then for the next three Sundays before Christmas we will do Bible readings and light the next candle, as we await the birth of the Messiah.
We will be using the book Advent Foretold for our devotions this year.  There are 25 devotions, starting on December 1, pertaining to the prophecies of the coming Messiah.  I have had this for a few years, but it was over the younger boys' heads.  I think it will work well for us this year.  You can find a link to this book on my Shelfari bookshelf (look to your right).
We are doing old and some new traditions this year.  The last few years I have set up the nativity scene before the rest of the decorations - I don't like to put up our tree until mid-December.  I set the stable and the animals in one place, the shepherds nearby but in another room, Mary and Joseph far away, the angel and the Christ Child are hidden, and the Wise Men are a long way off.  Then, each Sunday, everyone gets a little closer, until Christmas Eve after everyone is in bed I put them all in the stable.  The Wise Men don't show up until Epiphany (January 6).  I think this helps to illustrate the waiting period and lead to more anticipation.  I plan to bake a cake for Epiphany this year.  I did one a few years ago, in the traditional gold, green and purple.  The boys are finally getting old enough that we can learn about these things and have them have some meaning, beyond how much fun it is to eat green, gold and purple icing. 
This year I am also planning to celebrate St. Nicholas Day (December 6).  We don't "do" Santa Claus.  The boys know who the character of Santa is, of course, but we have just treated him like a cartoon figure - they don't think of the Jolly Elf as any more real than Thomas the Tank Engine.  They have always known where their gifts really came from.  However, St. Nicholas was a real person, who lived in the 4th century and was well-known for his love and generosity.  The boys have heard this true story from the time they were little.  I have no problem teaching them about and celebrating St. Nicholas Day, just as I would teach them about Washington and Lincoln on President's Day (and maybe have a cherry pie then!).  This year I am going to set up my St. Nicholas decorations (and maybe buy a few more) on December 5, before I set out anything else beside the Advent wreath.  I am also going to hang their stockings,  Then, on December 6 they will have some traditional treats (gold coins, gingerbread, etc.) in their stocking, and we will read the story of St. Nicholas and remember this Christian man. 
And you can log that as "history", for you homeschoolers out there!
I am considering St. Lucia Day, a Swedish tradition, but I am not quite sure how to do a wreath with candles on my head and not having my AquaNet go up like a fireball, so that one may have to wait until next year....

Monday, November 29, 2010


This devotion is from John Piper's book Life As A Vapor.  I think we all deal with anger at some point - I was very convicted of this not only in how I should deal with those who make me angy, but in looking at those things that I may be (am!) doing to cause anger in others.  So often I think it is easy for us as Christians to hear these verses, and then turn our focus on to that "sandpaper" person who rubs us the wrong way.  But oftentimes we can forget (or choose to ignore) that we are ourselves sandpaper to someone else.

In marriage, anger rivals lust as a killer. My guess is that anger is a worse enemy than lust. It also destroys other kinds of camaraderie. Some people have more anger than they think, because it has disguises. When willpower hinders rage, anger smolders beneath the surface, and the teeth of the soul grind with frustration.

It can come out in tears that look more like hurt. But the heart has learned that this may be the only way to hurt back. It may come out as silence because we have resolved not to fight. It may show up in picky criticism and relentless correction. It may strike out at persons that have nothing to do with its origin. It will often feel warranted by how wrongly it has been treated. After all, Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5) and Paul says, Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).
However, good anger among fallen people is rare. That’s why James says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God require” (James 1:19-20). And Paul says, “Men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Timothy 2:8). “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31).

Therefore, one of the greatest battles of life is the battle to “put away anger,” not just control its expressions. In invite you to join me in this battle by adding these nine biblical weapons to your arsenal.

1. Ponder the right of Christ to be angry, by how He endured the cross, as an example of long-suffering. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you. Leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Pet. 2:21).

2. ponder how much you have been forgiven, and how much mercy you have been shown. “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (E[h 4:32).

3. Ponder your own sinfulness and take the beam out of your own eye. “Why do you see the speck that is in your bother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:3-5).

4. Ponder how harbored anger gives place to the devil. You do not want to make room for him or invite him into your life, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph 4:26-27).

5. Ponder the folly of your own self-immolation, that is, the numerous de4trimental effects of anger to the one who is angry- some spiritual, some mental, some physical, and some relations. “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD , and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Prov 3:7-8).

6. Confess your sin of anger to some trusted friend, and if possible, to the offender. This is a great healing act. “therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

7. Let you anger be the key to unlock the dungeons of pride and self-pity in your heart and replace them with love. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy of boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7).

8. Remember that God is going to work all your frustrating circumstances for your good as you trust in His future grace. Your offender is even doing you good, if you will respond with love. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

9. Remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell, or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be either double jeopardy or an offense the cross. (emphasis added by Paula). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting (his cause) to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

Father, I love Your patience toward me. I love it when You describe Yourself as slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Oh, to be more like You!
Have mercy on my easily angered heart!
Forgive my many peeves and murmuring.
Grant that I would be saturated with grace, and let me show it to others as I desperately need it for myself.
Because of Jesus,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prudence Crandall, Woman of Courage

If you look directly to your right, you will see my Shelfari.com bookshelf.  I have started putting the books I've read, or plan to read, on it.  It is a little bare, as those are all from the last month or so.  You can look through it, and click on a book cover to get a review, ratings, my review if I wrote one (I usually don't, I save that for my own monthly round-up), etc. 

If you go to the "next" page on the bookshelf, you will find Prudence Crandall, Woman of Courage, by Elizabeth Yates.  I have had this on my shelf for a few years, since I saw it recommended by David Albert (homeschool author of And the Skylark Sings With Me , my all-time favorite homeschooling book).  Finally got around to reading it - and what an incredible blessing it was.

Prudence is a Quaker woman running a school for girls in Connecticut in 1833.  She admits an African-American woman as a student, and the town turns against her.  She is told that the white students will be removed from the school.  So, Prudence closes her school, and re-opens it as a school for African-American young ladies.  The townspeople begin a violent persecution, including damaging the home, stopping Prudence from acquiring food, medical services and supplies, and legal charges which lead to imprisonment.  Through it all, Prudence shows a quiet, simple strength and dignity, and dependence on God. 

I highly recommend this book - it is what I would consider a "junior biography" - the writing level would be junior high, but some of the themes are stirring even for an adult.  It also opened my eyes to the "Colonization" movement which was going on in the North before the Civil War.  All Northerner were not abolitionists, by any means.  This powerful group had as its' goal the rounding up of African-Americans and sending them to Africa to colonize and "Christianize" the continent.  The fact that many of these people had never seen Africa, and had family in America for over 100 years didn't seem to cross their minds.

All in all, a story that makes you grieve for the evil prejudice that lies in so many hearts, but also causes you to rejoice at the brave souls who made a difference where they were.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giving Facebook one.more.try!

I am going to give Facebook one more try - but if it turns into a problem again, I will delete my account.  This time I just deactivated it, which leaves everything "as is" but invisible.  If it takes over my time/life, though, it will have to go for good. 

After a month, though, why come back?  Well, the easiest and most obvious answer is that I miss people.  I do manage to stay in touch with most of my friends pretty regularly, but I was missing some of the social interaction.  We'll just have to see, though.  If it gets stressful, we'll know the experiment failed.

I have been enjoying keeping this blog updated, so hopefully that will continue. 

It was interesting (at least to me) that the day I decided to go back to Facebook (Thursday) was also the day our Hughesnet satellite went out.  It took me a day to accept it, and then get the dial up set back up.  So, for now (at least until Monday, according to the helpful Hughesnet rep!) I am back on dial up.  Which means it takes so long for anything to load that I can get my laundry folded while I wait! 

Today, besides playing on the computer, I am attempting to clean out the toy area in our family room.  A major disaster, and probably a poor choice of way to spend my day!  But, it needs to be done, and no time like the present. 

So, break is over - back to work!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Harvest is Plentiful

And in more ways than one this year.  This past year has been one of incredible growth for our family.  We've made changes in our church fellowship, began cementing long-thought-out ideas about what we believe, how God is leading us, what our family should be doing to learn and to serve God.  There have been some hard times, but mostly it has just been a trip through "What has God got in store for us now!" every day. 

I will delve more deeply into spiritual matters at some point, but for today, the harvest I am referring to is.....venison!  Yummy, lean, organic, venison.  You can't get any healthier meat than that which you harvested, cleaned and processed yourself.  This week we had another family over to process.  Nevin and our friend Dakota each got an 8 point buck last Friday.  After hanging for a few days, the meat was ready to processed, packed up and frozen, to await the day it becomes dinner!

It turned into a family shindig, with Dakota's mom and sister, and our boys participating in the fun.  We had some workers, quite a few watchers....and a successful evening.

If you freak out on seeing a butcher at work, don't look at the pictures.  If however, you get excited to see a family working together to provide for themselves, take a gander!

Nevin has this down to a science. He cuts all the meat to "custom order" for the chef (that's me!) - he does a wonderful job on hand-cutting some beautiful steaks for the grill.

Ben is in training here - first time to actually do any butchering.  He got his first deer two years ago.  And remember, I can log this as homeschooling!  Science or home ec????

Ben, Dakota and Nevin cutting up the pieces to be ground into burger.  We grind our own, and mix it with some ground pork.  Venison is so lean that the ground meat doesn't hold together well for burgers or meatloaf, so the pork really helps.

As the meat is cut up, all of us ladies take it in to rinse it off and wrap it and label it for the freezer.  So nice to have packages perfectly portioned out for our family meals!  While we were working we took breaks to eat chicken and dumplings and just enjoy each others' company and the pleasure of the harvest.

The freezer is filling up - such a satisfying feeling!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Benefits of Being Flexible

I am flexible - call me Elastic Girl!  The Incredibles is one of my favorite movies, and Elastic Girl is my secret alter-ego.

It is probably a really big secret, since I most known for my scheduling/planning obsessions.  But deep down inside, when danger calls....I can become Elastic Girl!

This weekend, for example.  Every plan for the last few days has been turned upside down.  BUT - I managed to get my schedule and school plans (and even meals!) done for the rest of the month. 

I even got all the school books in the bag, loaded and ready to go to Grandma's house today.  I had great plans to go to the shop and all the bookkeeping done for the week.  Then to the grocery store and get everything we need for the next week (including Wednesday night fellowship and Thanksgiving).  Dash back to Grandma's, get the boys, head home and get everything ready for deer processing this afternoon.

But - Joe is still sick.  Much better, but pretty droopy.  He could use another day on our couch, as opposed to being transported to Grandma's couch.  So.....call Grandma - switch my work day to Tuesday.  Stay home today and unpack the books - we can do today's school at home and do a few of the things I was going to do tomorrow today.  We will have to make do with the groceries on hand.  Great opportunity to clean out refrigerator and pantry today (which I didn't get to this weekend)!  That way I will be sure and ONLY buy what we need tomorrow.  Also - since I am going to be home all day, I have time to make a pot of chicken and dumplings, so that we don't have to eat "snacks" tonight - we'll have a nice dinner ready for whoever has time to eat during the deer processing.

And remember - Elastic Girl could not do what she does if it weren't for Mr. Incredible - being helpmeet to a superhero has its' definite advantages!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Planning, revisited....

So, we planned our whole weekend around Thanksgiving fellowship dinner at our church Sunday afternoon. 

Nevin took off from work at the shop Friday and hunted Friday and Saturday, instead of the usual Saturday and Sunday.  He wanted to get home Saturday night to be able to attend church and go to the big family dinner.

I spent Saturday evening making sweet potato casserole, maple sausage dressing and pumpkin bread.

All was ready, packaged to travel.  All I had left to do was make the streusel topping for the sweet potatoes.

At 4:30 this morning, I hear someone throwing up.

At 7:00 this morning, same guy is throwing up.

At other various intervals this morning, same guy is throwing up. 

Now that poor guy is curled up in a chair watching Cars.  The other guys are all off to church, bearing food.  But they are coming home for lunch, so we can spend the rest of the day together. 

So, all this planning, for a meal we are not going to get to eat.  But, that is how it is, especially with a house full of little people.  You plan, but each day (sometimes each hour) holds surprises and you have to be very flexible. 

I did keep a little of the food back so that we can have it with our supper tonight - they didn't need ALL those sweet potatoes!

Praying that no one else gets sick, as we are hosting Thanksgiving at our house this week!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Planning, planning, planning

Today I have a "day off" - sort of!  We cleaned the house yesterday for Game Day, so all I really need to do today is laundry.  But I am going to do something I have been neglecting...

I am a planner.  I like lists.  I have a menu plan for the month.  I make lists each day.  Or let's put it this way - on the days that I DO make lists I get a lot done - on the days that I don't, I tend to wander about the house, doing little bits of stuff, accomplishing...not much.

I used to do all my weeks' school planning on Sunday evenings, but the last few years we've had AWANA.  Then I started doing it on Sunday afternoons, but this summer we started with fellowships after church, and by the time we get home there are only a few hours between that and AWANA, and I really don't feel like doing it then. 

So - today I am going to plan out our school from this Monday through Christmas break.  That way, there is a plan, and we can follow it.  We won't follow it exactly, but we can check things off as we go and adapt a little here and there.  But I need to at least have a framework.

So, as soon as I finish breakfast, I am going to sit at the computer with my Homeschool Tracker (a wonderful tool if you are logging more than two kids!) and a pile of books and get that huge stress off my back!

Friday, November 19, 2010

And the Hunter Does It Again!

Actually, today TWO hunters did our group proud!  Nevin got an 8 point buck this morning, and right after lunch Dakota (whose blog appears on the sidebar of mine - A Look At Life From A Treestand) got another buck (not sure of the points from the picture they texted me, but it looks pretty big!).  A truly glorious day for two families - fresh venison!  Everyone at our Game Day was looking at the pictures and cheering for the guys. 

Another Game Day is in the history books

Today we hosted Board Game Day for our homeschool group.  As usual, the boys were all outside playing, the older girls did a board game, the moms did a board game, and the little kids dumped out all the tubs of toys.  Oh well, I am not changing the name!  It is basically our version of a late-autumn Park Day - only we get to stay inside and be warm!  We had around 40 people, lots of snacks, and a good time was had by all!

To be able to fellowship (socialization!) on a Friday afternoon, and still be home in time to have dinner ready -this is truly a benefit of the flexible lifestyle that comes with homeschooling.  I would not trade it for anything!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

and then it is something more...

Got up sick again today.  Must.take.more.Dayquil.  Just a little cold, but it still seems to suck the life out of me.  Kids are much better, but I feel very fortunate to have gotten a big stack of educational videos and dvds at the library last week.  Lots of stuff for us to learn from, with limited effort from Mom.

Last night we had some fun, though.  We had another family come over and spend the evening while we processed the three deer Nevin got last weekend.  It was sort of like an old-fashioned bee, the kids off playing, the men in the garage where the cutting was going on, ladies washing and wrapping the meat inside.  Nevin explained to the kids how you cut the deer apart, all the different parts, etc.  Fun and you can log that as science, too!  Just like a field trip. 

Amazingly enough, after watching us cut up the deer, our friends did not want to take any packages home with them.  That's okay, they will come over soon and we'll roast a tenderloin and fry up a mess of venison nuggets and everyone will love it.

Tonight, as I am sick (have I mentioned that I don't really feel very well lately?) we are going to stay home and miss our fellowship.  Hate to miss it, but hate to share all the fun I am having, too.  I am going to make us some tasty venison nuggets for dinner, though.  So nice to have fresh meat in the freezer again!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's always something, you know....

Today is simply filled with adventures.  We got up this morning with several of us hacking and coughing, so we decided it was "school by video" day - we watched a dvd on government and part of a science video, then just did some reading and read aloud stuff.  Tomorrow will be better.  I hope!

Joe and Henry were in a turmoil because a couple of the chicks were getting pecked.  For those who are not hip to chicken behavior, occasionally a couple chicks will get pecked on their rears until it draws blood, and then the rest of the flock will jump in on it.  This can really injure, even kill, a chick.  It was recommended that I put axle grease on the wound, so it would taste bad.  I don't think I have any of that.  Vaseline?  No, not that either.  But ......to the rescue, that fabulous product with now a million and ONE MORE uses - Mary Kay Extra Emollient Night Cream!  Washed them off, rubbed it on their little behinds, and no more pecking.

And they smell nice and will have just the softest behinds!

We are now getting ready to process the three deer The Hunter got last weekend.  Some friends are coming by to learn how to process deer, and just to share in the general merriment.

Life around here is something different every single day!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And the Hunter does it again!

Nevin got another doe this morning - that is three for this weekend....so far!  I am so excited - it is going to feel so good having the freezer full again!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Venison recipes

So far the husband has gotten two does - I knew if he drove all the way up there he'd get something!  He usually fills up a couple freezer with deer meat every year, so we are counting on him!

I love venison.  I know a lot of folks don't, but I think it is wonderful - it is so lean and rich, and really good for you.  What could be more organic?  Or free range, whichever it would be! 

We process the meat ourselves, and while that may seem gross to some, there is really a sense of satisfaction when I look at all those white packages in the freezers and know it was a family production.  The Hunter cuts everything to order for me, and as he is cutting I start washing the meat and sorting it into "dinner portion" packages, and then wrapping, labeling and freezing it.  We grind our own venison burger too, and it is much better than a ground beef burger.  I know my bias is showing, but it is just so good. 

I will admit - I am not really picky about food - we try to eat reasonably healthy, not too many snacks, good balanced meals, but I don't worry about organic or anything like that.  But, at the same time, it does feel good knowing that I know EXACTLY where this meat came from, and I had a part in getting it to our table.

Other than frying it up in some gravy, I mean.

And now, since I know you are asking, here are a few of my favorite venison recipes:


Brown a venison roast in dutch oven with a little oil and salt and pepper. Personally, I think venison is always better if it is cooked with a little bacon grease. Then put dutch oven in oven with a couple cups of water and cook at 325 for a few hours. Check ever so often to make sure it is not getting dry, add more water, occasionally beef broth. Cook until it is tender enough to shred. Cut/shred into bite-size pieces. Put back in the broth.

Cook a package of Reams Frozen Egg Noodles (probably extra wide) per directions. Add the cooked noodles to the meat and broth. Add more broth if necessary. Bake some more, stirring ever so often, until it is all nice and baked up. Should be juicy, but not soupy.


Since this is in the crockpot all day, it could work for putting it on before school and then keeping warm until dinner.

Put one roast (3-4 pounds) in crock pot with a cup of water, salt and pepper. Cook on low all day, until it is tender enough to shred. Shred with two forks. Put back in crockpot with barbecue sauce (we use Mauls Original). Cook until hot and then serve on buns. This also works well with a beef or pork roast.


Steaks, cut into bite-sized pieces (however many your family will eat)
Flour and crushed Saltine crackers, enough to cover the amount of nuggets you are making. This is not scientific, just eyeball it.
3 eggs, beaten with ¼ cup water
oil for frying

Dredge nuggets through flour, then dip in egg mixture, then coat in mixtures of flour and crackers. Set all pieces on a wire wrack to dry as they are coated. In a large skillet (I use an electric one) heat ½” or so canola oil to 350 (pops when you flip a drop of water in) and lay the nuggets in, one at a time. Cook until the bottom starts to brown, then turn over individually. Don’t crowd them in the pan, or the coating will come off, cook in batches if needed. Cook until brown all over and crispy (only takes 5-6 minutes) and drain on plate with paper towels. Splash some Frank’s Redhot sauce on them when you serve. Oh, yum!


1 lb package venison stew meat and flour to coat
8 oz sour cream (note – you can use light, but don’t use fat free. It leaves little white grains in the sauce and looks gross)
2 cups beef broth (I just make it with boullion cubes)
1 8 oz package white mushrooms, washed and sliced
½ medium onion, diced
1 tsp. Minced onion (or two cloves minced)

Dredge meat in a little flour, then brown in a few tablespoons of bacon grease, or canola oil. Add in onions and garlic, stir until onion becomes transparent. Add broth, 1 cup at a time, scraping the brown stuff (fond) off the bottom of the pan as you do. Add the other cup of broth if needed. Add mushrooms and cook until they start to get soft, then turn heat to low, spoon in sour cream and stir gently until heated through. Serve with egg noodles.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Blog from My Morning Reading

Read this today too - yes, I do most of my blog reading with my coffee in the morning.

Don't let the title put you off - it is an attention grabber, but it is meant to be.

Puritan Fellowship: Go To Church Or Go To Hell by Conrad Murrell: "People who do not go to church go to hell. Shocking statement? Unquestionably! But can it be proven? Only to those who believe the Bible ..."

Finding Home

In September I attended the True Woman Conference  in Indianapolis, IN.  This was an incredible weekend of worship and learning - plus I got to go with some really fun ladies.  We were having so much fun talking and laughing that first night that the occupants of the room next to us started beating on the wall at 1:30 a.m. for us to be quiet!  You know you are having fun when that happens!  We were properly chastised, though, and meekly said goodnight and turned off our lights for much-needed sleep.

Anyway, since the conference I have been following the True Woman blog and website, and this little gem popped up today, and I thought I'd share it with you.

Finding The Right Church for You

I will second so much of this.  My family left our church home of over 10 years last Spring, for various reasons that had been sort of "gelling" over time.  It was just time, and it was hard, but God has led us the whole way.  So this is a topic that is so much on our hearts right now, and the focus of so much prayer - because you know, it really is easy to see how people can start to feel like they are "shopping" for a church.  Do I like the music, what about the programs, how well did the softball team do last year (you think I'm joking?).  But we are not consumers.  I have a whole lot of deep thoughts on the state of the church in America, and some of the shallowness and worldliness that is out there, and how so often it seems to overwhelm the true work of the Church. 

But I digress.  I always go back to "What is most important" in a church home. 


If the Word is preached and taught, if it is sound, if Christ is worshipped in truth, all else will fall into place.  Whether or not there are puppets and drama (okay, those are NOT selling points for me), how busy-busy-busy the ladies' groups are with fellowships and social activities (again, not a selling point), what kind of snacks are served in childrens' church (don't even get me started) - these should not be the things used to draw members to a church - only the opportunity to hear the Word taught, to spread the Gospel, to learn and worship, to give all glory to Christ alone. 

Exiting my soapbox for this morning.  If you made it this far, thanks for visiting!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meal planning

Today I had the privilege of speaking at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.  I was invited to speak on saving money with meal planning.  In my own small circle, I am somewhat known (!) for being compulsive about lists and scheduling. 

To make it fun, I printed up several of the forms that I have used to sort of "refine" my meal planning strategy, and then took them through and exercise to plan out meals for the rest of November.

First, I had everyone in the group make a list of ten things that their family likes for dinner.  We all shared what we had, got ideas from each other.  Once we had our lists, I handed out calendars.  We marked the days we knew we wouldn't be cooking, days that we had activities and would need a "quick" meal, days we had time to try something new, etc.  Then, from the list of meals we had prepared, we started filling in the blanks.  I suggested they also think about items that they knew they already had on hand, and try to fill in meals utilizing some of those ingredients as well.

Once we had that done, I gave them a basic pre-printed grocery list (I have one I created in Excel) and we made up grocery lists for the meals we were cooking.

And....well, that is all there is to it!  We also talked about different recipes and easy variations (how many ways can you really make grilled chicken leg quarters?  You'd be surprised!), sources for new recipes, where to shop in our town for different ingredients and good deals......all kinds of fun stuff! 

What I really enjoyed, though, was when they all got talking and asking questions, and started getting animated, sharing ideas with each other.  It was just fun. 

There are some benefits to being on "the other side" of Titus 2!

And they gave me a St. Louis Bread Company gift card as a thank you!  How very cool is that!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Symphony Day!

One of the best things (I realize I think alot of things are "best things" about homeschooling) about homeschooling are the field trip days!  My philosophy of homeschooling is that, "All of life is learning, and most of it you can log."  For those of you who don't get the funny, when you homeschool in Missouri you are required to "log" (record) 1,000 hours of instruction per calendar year, at least 400 in core subjects and the rest in electives.  We do not spend a lot of time sitting at desks filling out workbook pages - most of our learning in history and science comes from reading together, watching videos, and doing stuff.  All our electives do, too (art, music, p.e., Bible study, shop, chess, community service, etc.). 

Anyway, today we go to Powell Symphony Hall to the Young People's Concert to see Appalachian Spring.  We have 24 people attending, and afterwards several of us will hit Cici's Pizza (when eating lunch with a large group of students, cheap+easy is the key!) for lunch.  I realize that I enjoy the program more than my boys do, but that is really beside the point.  Culture is good for them, and I want them to be well-rounded.  We don't focus a whole lot on music and art (they get a lot of p.e. and shop for electives!) but I want them to be exposed to it and understand it.

And hey, there is pizza afterwards!

It is a beautiful day here, and adventure is just right around the corner!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Crew

Since I just got some really nice portraits of the boys done, and since I simply cannot help but brag, I thought I'd share their school pictures for the year.

A comment, though, regarding homeschooling and school pictures.

The whole idea of the "school picture" hit me hard and unexpectedly when my oldest son was in kindergarten.  I remember the picture days (ugh!) of my own elementary years.  But I also remember having the wallet pictures to exchange afterwards, and how important it seemed.  The person who managed to get the most pictures, or had the most people requesting her picture, was the most popular.  And, in that setting, popularity was everything.  I remember the year I had to get mine re-done and then did not have them to exchange when everyone else did.  When I finally got mine, weeks later, the frenzy was over, and no one had any left to exchange. 

So, on one hand, this whole idea of popularity was one of the things I really wanted to avoid by homeschooling.  On the other....maybe they will need them?  Maybe they will feel LEFT OUT if they don't have pictures to take to Sunday School?

I have shown my complete lack of understanding of boys over and over - and especially of boys who live in the country, don't participate in lots of "peer group" activities, and are really a little too masculine to worry about trading pictures of themeselves. 

But yet....when autumn rolls around, I start thinking about school pictures, getting the boys' pictures taken, Christmas cards and pictures for the grandparents.  And it becomes a bit of a frenzy for me (you try to get 4 boys to all stay clean, smile and look in the same direction at the same time - I challenge you!) to get some good pictures, purchase the appropriate number to distribute, etc.

So, I am a little nuts.  I can live with that. 

This year I got some good ones done with others in our group at a local park, but I also wanted some studio  portraits - and I just got them back yesterday, so look at how handsome these guys are getting:

And, for good measure, let us not forget the handsome fellow, from whom they inherited their good looks!

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
whol fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies
in the gate.
Psalm 127:4-5 ESV

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cleaning out the basement

How about I have my very first giveaway - like my friend Anita does!

For starters - I found several sets of "vintage" (think 1970s) wine glasses/goblets in a box in the basement.  I am assuming they were my dad's.  I don't drink, and am not really planning to start, nor do I serve fabulous parfait desserts - so somebody let me know you want them and they are YOURS! 

I also have several copper tins - like jello molds that you hang on your wall.  Some are about 15 years old, but a few others my mother-in-law picked up at a jumble sale in Iowa, and they look pretty old.  I used to have them hanging up in our old house, but haven't had them out of the box since we moved here (8 years ago!).  So, if you like that sort of thing......!

I also have a beautiful, great big hardback Mother Goose book, illustrated by Rosemary Wells (Max and Ruby), that I don't think has ever been opened - it is too heavy to post on paperbackswap, so if anyone has a little child they'd like to give it to, I think it is even in new-gift condition.

That's a start.  I also found a lot of knick-knack type things belonging to my dad and grandma, that I am not going to part with.  Someday I'd like to display them, but for now, space is at a premium.

But just touching that stuff does bring back some memories!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Life in the Country

For those who don't know, we live in the country and have a few animals.  We are not farmers - not even hobby farmers.  Just like to keep some chickens.  There is nothing like a couple of fresh eggs, with some veggies and a bit of cheese for a filling lunch!

These are some of my new girls, who will be leaving their home in our garage and heading out to the freshly-shoveled henhouse soon:
These little ladies are Hardy Concords, and were born on 10/13/10, and arrived via Priority Mail on the 15th.  In a few weeks, they have gone from darling balls of fluff to 6-7" tall birds with some strong opinions! 


Next, off to feed the current egg-laying ladies - in this house are some White Leghorns and Black Astralorps:


These girls are in their second year, and egg production has slowed way down - at their peak, they lay an egg a day.  The White Leghorns can be expected to lay 360 eggs in their first full year of laying.

And, who else is waiting for their breakfast but the "barn cats" - Claire and her son, Calvin

And last, but never least, Nugget the Guinea Pig, whose eyes are not really red, but that is how they photograph and I couldn't fix it!

So, time to get off this machine and go fix myself some of those tasty eggs!

Friday, November 5, 2010

School days, school days.....

I have tried being very sctructured.  I have tried being very relaxed.  I think we are finally finding our balance and what works for our family at this stage.

Just make them all go outside.

Okay, that is my first instinct, but it is probably not a real workable plan.

What seems to be working in terms of them actually learning anything, and us enjoying the time together, is to just go with the flow.  For example, this week Tony and Ben looked up King Xerxes and wrote about him.  Today we looked up Ancient Persia and Babylon on maps in the encyclopedia.  Then we read about Esther, up to the point where Mordecai is in mourning over the new law.  So, there you have language arts (looking up and writing) and social studies (geography and history).  I could count it as Bible instead, but we get lots of Bible hours and I always need more "core" (social studies, science, math, language arts) for my logs.

Then we moved onto Thomas Edison.  We have been studying U.S. history chronologically for the last two years.  We are at the Age of Invention.  Last week they read a short bio of Edison.  Today we watched an animated video about him inventing the lightbulb.  Then we looked at a diagram of a light bulb in "How It Works" and compared it to a real light bulb from our home.  More social studies, and science, too.

Then we moved onto Bible (Teaching Hearts, Training Minds, a devotional based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism), grammar, math, handwriting, and our favorite subject - lunch.

See, kids are all the same, no matter where they go to school.  Ask them their favorite subject and the answer you get is "lunch" followed closely by "recess".  I bet teachers like lunch best, too.  I know I sure do!

After lunch...everyone just finishes up their reading and we do chores, and they go play in the yard and I finish up my housework, and I will sit down and record what we did today, and hopefully get everything caught up for the week. Tomorrow I will look at "where we are" in history and plan out some reading for the week - I believe we are in the 1870s-80s, and we will focus on the Plains Indians next week and the conflicts between them and the settlers' westward expansion.

Hopefully, I will get in some time to read before it is time to start dinner.  I have started a self-guided study on baptism that I am enjoying, as well as a new murder mystery that is calling to me.
After dinner tonight we are all watching part 10 in a dvd series entitled "The Sovereignty of God".  I will count that as Bible. 

But for now...it sounds like they are done fixing their lunch and getting ready to eat, so now I can get in the kitchen and make my lunch.  I love having kids old enough to make a basic lunch on their own!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Life after Facebook....

So, I am now on my 8th day of my Facebook fast.  Not that I am counting or anything.  So far, so good.  Actually, so much better!

Why did I deactivate my account, so many have asked over the last week.  Okay, people asked because I sent out an email saying that I was going to deactivate my account, otherwise no one would have noticed!  I have noted (to myself) that I have given different answers to different people.  But after a week of not having it, and thinking it over, it has become much clearer to me why I don't want to do Facebook anymore. 

It was a time-sucker supreme.  Every time I walked past the computer I was checking it.  While sitting at stoplights I was checking it on my phone.  That is wierd, even for me. 

Maybe even especially wierd for me, because I don't particularily like being around a lot of people all the time.  I love my friends, I love to get together with big groups of people, especially my church family and homeschool sisters and their families.  But - after it is over I desperately need some time to be quiet and alone in order to decompress.  And with Facebook, I didn't seem to have that.  It was like there were over 100 people with me all the time.  I would check in and sometimes I'd read a particularily sweet, thoughtful or inspiring post, and that was a great thing to carry with me all day.  Frequently I'd print them out to re-read again after lunch.  But sometimes I'd read posts that were negative and complaining, or critical of others, and then I'd carry that in my head all day, too.  Not too good at letting go, I guess!  I'd squander my quiet time doing housework when I could be meditating on the Word I'd read that morning with thinking over something that had been posted that stuck in my craw. 

And then too, when you reach the point where you are posting your every.single.thought on Facebook, well....just how important ARE you, anyway?  I think Facebook can really bring out the hidden narcissist in some of us.  Okay, maybe some of us don't hide that narcissist as well as we should to start with!  But my gosh, is what I am eating for lunch REALLY that important?  Okay, what I am fixing for dinner is - I stand by that!  But when you find yourself posting pictures of your food at Chik-Fil-A, it begs the question......

One last item - when I have all of you at my fingertips all day - when I know little details (440 characters or less) of your life - why should I bother to take the time to reach out and get the REALLY know you?  That is a rhetorical question.  I think sometimes it can give a surface veneer to getting to really know people, getting to really be involved in their lives, to be able to love and serve them.  At least in my experience it has. 

I have a dear friend, Jennifer, who lives in Tennessee.  We have never met in real life, but I consider her one of my closest friends.  For the last several years we have written each other long emails every few days, talking about kids and family, debating doctrine, discussing theology, books, our churches - you name it!  I feel like I have gotten to be right there with her when her mom has had illnesses, when her husband was out of work, when her son gets to perform in his choir, when her daughter was saved.  But, in the year or so I've been on Facebook, those letters dwindled to a handful.  She knew what I was doing.  She knew what I was having for lunch, but she no longer knew what was going on in my heart as we left our church of ten years.  That somehow seems wrong.  But I was on Facebook all the time, who has time to write letters!  This is changing.

Since getting off Facebook I have been out to lunch twice with girlfriends, had one friend and her daughter drop in for a cup of tea, been on two homeschool field trips, and had emails, texts and phone calls from other friends and family. 

And none of them asked what I had for lunch. 

So, them's my reasons, in a nutshell.  For others, these reasons are not at all valid (that is why I call them MY reasons).  I am not saying I will never be back - I think I can pretty much assume I will, someday, because that is just how the world operates now.  But I need to learn some discipline before I do!  So, someday if you see me venturing a toe in the Facebook water, don't be surprised. 

But don't expect it to be soon!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Taco Casserole and Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

Here are a couple very easy recipes, that kids like and are filling.  Add some veggies on the side and you've got a filling dinner!


1 pound ground beef
1 cup salsa
½ cup mayonnaise (or salad dressing)
2 tsp. Chili powder
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
1 cup (4 oz) shredded Colby
1 cup (4 oz) shredded Monterey Jack
1 medium tomato
2 cups shredded lettuce.

Brown beef in skillet, drain. Add salsa, mayo and chili powder; mix well. In an ungreased 2 qt. Baking dish layer half the meat mixture, chip and cheeses. Repeat layers. Bake uncovered at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. Just before serving top with tomato and lettuce. I also serve it with sour cream for topping and refried beans on the side. Makes 6 servings.


This is one of my familys’ very favorites.

8 oz uncooked tube (penne) pasta
1 pound ground beef
6 slices of bacon, diced
1 can (10 ¾ oz) condensed tomato soup, undiluted
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese.

Cook pasta according to directions, to al dente. Meanwhile, in skillet brown the meat; drain and set aside. In the same skillet, cook the bacon until crisp (note – don’t cook burger and bacon together to save time – the bacon will not get crispy, I’ve tried it) – drain bacon on paper towels. Discard drippings. Drain pasta, add to skillet. Add the beef, bacon and soup (straight from the can, it will not look like enough but it is). Heat through. Sprinkle cheese over top (I am sure I use more cheese than the recipe calls for); cover and heat on low until cheese is melted. 4-6 servings.

Seen at the Fall Festival.....

Okay, I just couldn't help it.  Have you EVER seen such a cool-looking Indiana Jones in your life?
He came up with the whole costume on his own - Dad made the whip and I did the 5 o'clock shadow, but the rest was all by himself. 

October Reading List

A real mixed bag this month - several "5's - nice change! 

80. Death of a Hussy: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 3.75 – M.C. Beaton – not as good as some of the others – didn’t really care about any of the characters.

81. Death of a Snob: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 3.75 – M.C. Beaton – pretty good – didn’t jump out and grab me, but they are fast-paced and interesting.

82. Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother – 5 – Carolyn Mahaney – excellent book, based on Titus 2. Definitely one of the better books I’ve read on this subject. Good for both new and mature Christian women.

83. Death of a Prankster: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 4 – more adventures with Hamish. He is starting to grow on me.

84. Family Centered Faith – 5 – Voddie Baucham – directions for living a family and faith centered life.

85.  Busy Body: An Agatha Raisin Mystery – 5 – M.C. Beaton – Agatha is back and better than ever! Now, to wait a year or so for the next one!

86. Who Do I Lean On? A House of Hope Novel – 5 – Neta Jackson - 3rd of a four-book series. Enjoyable Christian “chick” literature, with dreams of a “House of Hope” apartment building for the single mothers at the Manna House shelter coming to fruition. Lots of loose ends left, with the final book not coming until March of 2011. A fast, enjoyable and pleasant read. I always wish I could be a Yada Yada sister when I read one of these books.

87. Tallgrass – 5- Sandra Dallas – excellent novel! Tallgrass is the name of a Japanese internment camp in WWII. The story is told from the perspective of Rennie, whose family are beet farmers in small-town Ellis, Colorado. An internment camp for Japanese-Americans is built near their town during WWII. The townspeople are divided in their reactions from the beginning, but when a horrific crime is committed and goes unsolved the lives of everyone there will never be the same. It reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird, especially in the child/woman voice of Rennie.