Monday, June 20, 2011

The Great Coupon Experiment

Have you ever seen something on television that changed your life? I mean really changed your life...takes your whole view of the world and turns it upside down and inside out. Like the start of MTV (back when they actually showed music videos) or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Well, that happened to me two night ago. And it's all my husband's fault. We were sitting in the family room, my hubby had control of the remote and I was working on my computer. When he suddenly switched the channel and lo and's TLC's Extreme Couponing.

Have you heard of this show? It's the craziest thing I've ever seen. These people are so coupon competent that they can ring up $2000 worth of groceries and ending up paying like $10. I'm not kidding. It blew my mind. Major Dad and I sat there with our jaws on the floor, blinking like owls and muttering incomplete sentences that sounded like "How....what....huh?"

Now I'm a coupon kind of girl. As I've said before, I don't believe in paying retail. I love bargains, I love saving money, but compared to these Mozarts of money saving my coupon skills are pretty much the equivalent of a monkey banging on a broken bucket. And my hubby knows it now...he looked at me after one episode and said, "we need to be doing that."

And so begins The Great Coupon Experiment. My goal is to get our weekly grocery spending down to less than $50 a week. Which I know is not even close to the pros on Extreme Couponing, but I don't have to be extreme. I'm shooting more for slightly radical. Right now I'd even take above average!

My first step...I now have a binder to organize all my coupons. No more little box with dividers on my kitchen counter. I'm joining the big leagues now. We even bought 9 pocket baseball card sleeves to slip the coupons in so I can see all of my little money savers. Last night I clipped, sorted and organized and I still feel completely inadequate. My little binder is so empty.

Next step, locating more coupons. That's what I'm working on now. Trying to find extra copies of coupons, printable coupons, digital coupons. Pretty much anything that starts with c and ends with on.

Of course I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm doing it with gusto! So any comments, suggestions or helpful resources that you have would be greatly appreciated!

Welcome Hoppers! I hope you'll come back again!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's Not About Us

Last week was rough. It was one of those weeks when it felt like the hits just kept on coming. Nothing earth shattering, nothing tragic, nothing major. But it was a build up of small annoyances, unexpected issues and trying circumstances that had me ready to break something by week's end.

Then as I was grumbling and muttering and sighing repeatedly in long suffering fashion, I stumbled upon a verse in my devotions that changed my perspective. "His [God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."

How's that for perspective...what goes on in our lives has ramifications in heavenly realms. There are things that happen in our lives: trials, challenges, joys, sufferings that have a very real impact on us. These experiences shape and form how we live, what we say, what kind of attitude we have. They have massive power in our spiritual lives. How do we view God? How do we pray when we're in the midst of something painful? These experiences influence our friends and families and people around us. People see how we persevere (or fail to persevere) through the valley we find ourselves in or how we praise (or fail to praise) when we're blessed and that can change (for good or for bad) how they see God and the church.

And all of that is important and a part of our witness. But this verse in Ephesians reminds us that our actions, our lives and our attitudes also echo in the heavens. It is God's plan, His desire that through the actions and reactions of the church, and those of us in the church, that His wisdom will be demonstrated to the unseen forces that fill the heavenly realms.

Doesn't that give you goosebumps? Well, maybe not goosebumps, but it should give us a reason to stop and reconsider our place in God's plan. It's not just about us. God of course cares passionately and deeply about each one of us. He loves us in a personal way and with a depth we cannot possibly begin to understand. And He loves us so much that He allows us to face trials and tribulations so that we can know Him better, rely on Him more and become more like Him. But not only does He use the cares and challenges of this life to shape and mold and refine us, He uses those same cares and challenges to demonstrate something powerful to those who dwell in eternity. Isn't that amazing? Not only that He loves us (which is pretty amazing by itself if you stop to think about it), but that He entrusts us with a ministry of witnessing to angels.

Our life isn't just about us. It isn't just about how well we walk our spiritual path or how much we grow and mature in our walk with the Lord. It's not even just about how our life can influence people around us. We have a role in an eternal ministry. We have a part of play in the unfolding of God's plan for heavenly realms that we can't yet see. Our lives are manifestations of God's wisdom.

Wow. Lord, I know I'm not worthy of that call, but I want to be.

PS. Welcome Hoppers! Please come back again!
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Road Rage and Dead Greek Philosophers

So here's my quote for the day:

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato

And why, you may be asking, have I chosen to bring that little gem of quotable wisdom to your attention? Why, out of all the witty, quip-able and inspiring collections of famous stuff that other people have said, am I focused on that one today. The answer my friends is fairly simple...I got cut off by crazy driver. Whoa, deep, right? Ok, maybe not deep, maybe more like a big puddle, but still...whoa, right?

So here's what happened. The kiddies and I were driving back from Ella's skating lesson and, as I have casually mentioned earlier, thanks to a blizzard and a weak roof we have to drive an hour to the nearest still standing rink. Which means I also have to drive an hour back (that's physics for ya). So we're about 30 minutes into the drive home, the kids are jabbering and there's a Barbie movie playing on the car dvd player, when I notice a car coming up rather quickly behind me. Now, I'm a safe, but not annoyingly safe, driver. Which means I generally stay within 5 miles per hour above the speed limit, I use my blinker and if there's road construction coming up I change lanes early rather than waiting until the last minute and forcing everyone else to screech to a halt to accommodate me (but that's another story).

Anyway, I notice the rapidly moving vehicle continuing to gain on me and I start to wonder if he plans on slowing down or just running over me. Now bear in mind, there are three lanes moving this direction and I'm in the middle lane. As I continue to watch my impending doom grow larger in the rear view mirror, I start getting a little (ahem, a lot) annoyed. Finally, the obviously in a hurry car gets as close as he can get to my bumper without doing mechanical work and I had a fleeting thought of slowing down just to make him mad. But I refrained. Score one for maturity.

Then, Mr. "Can't You Tell I Have Somewhere To Be", dashes over to the right lane, accelerates and then promptly cuts me off in what can only be interpreted as a deliberate "that'll teach you little Ms. Minivan" move. So I slow down just enough so he can see me in his side view mirrors and give him the universal hand waving in the air sign, the one that looks a lot like an Italian grandmother telling the rotten neighborhood kids to get off her lawn. I believe it is roughly translated as "Hey, jerk, where'd you learn to drive?" Hmmm, lose one maturity point. On the plus side I didn't actually call him the names that were running through my head.

Then, a few hours later I thought of Plato's quote. You never know what battle someone is fighting, but it's a good bet that they are fighting something. It's possible this guy was just a thoughtless, inconsiderate and relatively unsafe driver. But it is also possible that there was something else going on. Maybe his wife was in labor and he really wanted to be there. Or maybe he had his sick dog in the car and he had to get to the vet. Or maybe he was a spy being chased by ninjas (that I couldn't see know...they're ninjas) and he had to get the governments most secret secrets away from DC as fast as possible. I don't know and I'll never know, but Plato's quote is a good reminder that everyone has a battle to fight and they probably don't need us adding our rudeness or criticism to whatever burden they are already carrying.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Four Year Old Commando

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on the woes of washing disposable pull-ups, let me share with you the joys of explaining to a 4 year old the concept of going commando.

So, if you didn't read yesterday's post, I'll wait here while you scroll down a bit to catch up. Don't worry, we'll wait. (La di da, hum di ho) All finished? Did you like the Hippy-Hippy Shake line? I was especially proud of that. Anyway, what you need to remember to properly enjoy today's post is that Jack's laundry, including all of his underwear, ended up soaking wet and covered in diaper goo. So the next morning, when it was time to get dressed Jack rather innocently asked "where's my underwear?"

At which point, I looked at Major Dad and said, "this is a Daddy moment."

After giving it some thought, he took Jack's hand and said, "time to go commando, buddy." I tried really hard not to giggle as I listened to my husband explain to my son that it was very important that to be extra careful when zipping up his pants. Hysterical! But it gets even better.

Later that night we took the kids to Burger King for dinner so we could use their free wi-fi to catch up on some projects. (Remember the lightening fried modem? You can scroll down for that adventure too). Anyway, as the kids were finishing dinner, there were two other little girls wearing dresses running around the play set. Now this play set is two stories high and these girls were wearing dresses. Yeah, not a good combination. So there's Jack casually sipping his lemonade when he suddenly (and loudly) announced "I know those girls aren't going commando because I can see their underwear."

Yep, that was my son.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why Disposable Diapers Are Meant To Be Disposed Of

So, you'd think that getting our office equipment zapped by a random bolt of weather generated electricity would be enough to fulfill our mechanical drama quota for the week. But dear friends, you would be mistaken. In addition to losing our modem and printer, I almost lost the washing machine.

We recently bought a new (used) high efficiency washer and dryer from friends of ours that were moving. I still haven't figured out how to use all the buttons and gizmos on these super sized laundry beasts, but I like them. They're big, and pretty and quiet. Plus I can stuff an entire king sized comforter in the washer without having to worry about the machine doing some demon-possessed version of the Hippy-Hippy Shake in my laundry room.

Well, after the lightening strike and my ensuing banishment from the internet, I had plenty of time to catch up on housework. One night as Jack was getting ready for bed said, "Mommy, my underwear is gone." Which translates to, "Dear Mother, I seem to be out of clean undergarments. Would you please launder them for me?" So after getting him tucked in, I brought his laundry downstairs and tossed it in my monster size washing machine.

Then, when the big machine buzzed, I popped open the door and found...something that definitely doesn't belong in a washing machine. There was this strange squishy gel stuff all over the machine and all over the clothes. Thinking perhaps I had committed the High Efficiency Felony of using regular laundry soap instead of the special HE stuff, I rinsed out the "put detergent here" cup and ran the wash again.

And no joy. The strange, translucent squishy stuff is still there. So Major Dad and I pull out all the clothes in an attempt to find the source of the problem. And what do we discover? A nighttime pull-up that had gone through the wash and spit it's special super absorbent gel filling all over the washing machine. Lovely. And guess what's really, really hard to clean out of a washing machine...the super absorbent squishy gel they stuff inside of pull-ups.

It's not that I don't appreciate Jack being a big boy and putting his clothes in the laundry hamper by himself, but I've been finding pull-ups in some mighty odd places. Of course after picking tiny bits of wet and squishy diaper goo out of every nook and cranny in the washing machine, I won't be nearly as upset about the next pull-up I find in the bookcase.

Welcome Hip Hoppers! I hope you'll come back again!

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Monday, June 6, 2011

This Time It Wasn't My Fault

Really! I was all fired up to be back at the blog, I had a bunch of first drafts of future posts, I was feeling inspired and then...lightening struck. No, seriously lightening. I'm not being metaphorical this time. We had a big thunderstorm about two weeks ago and BOOM! We got hit by lightening. Not me personally, that would be an entirely different kind of post, but our house. I could Google the odds of your house getting struck by lightening, but I'm pretty sure it's some ridiculous derivative of pi multiplied by a whole bunch of zeroes and divided by the number of things you really want to get done online.

Anyway, here's the story. Major Dad was home and it was kidlet bath time. He had Jack in the shower (because Major Dad doesn't do baths) and there was a nasty thunderstorm raging outside. Now, I actually like thunderstorms so I was enjoying the sound effects. Then there was a loud thunder clap followed by a really, and I mean REALLY, loud crack. Major Dad and I looked at each other with expressions that silently said, "Uh-oh." And then we promptly told the kids that everything was fine.

Since Major Dad had his hands full of soapy child, I put on my shoes and went to investigate. I didn't see anything smoking or on fire so I went back inside. Maybe not a thorough investigation but hey, it was raining. Later that night we discovered that the electronics in our office were dead. It was an mechanical massacre. The surge protector had been completely overloaded, the breaker blew, our dsl modem was toasted and the laser printer was fried. Praise the Lord that no one was hurt and our house is fine. And I am beyond happy that we had rearranged the basement and that my brand new computer was in a different room and on a different plug.

So after almost two weeks of living off the grid...foraging for information nuts and berries in the wilderness of a no-internet wasteland, we got our new modem and are back online. Unfortunately the printer is still dead. Major Dad has taken it apart (it kind of looks like an autopsy on R2D2) and is trying valiantly to fix it.

See, not my fault...this time.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When Fractions Backfire

Ella has been doing a great job on her math recently. You may recall, or if not I'll fill you in, Ella was way behind in math when we started homeschooling. And she was not a fan of math. She dreaded seeing her math book come out. But now, (prepare for a happy dance) she's totally caught up. It's still not her first choice for fun, but at least she doesn't drop her head on the desk in a pitiful show of defeat when it's math time.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was teaching her about equivalent fractions. Part of the lesson involved choosing the larger of two fractions. When Ella looked at a problem that asked if 1/3 or 1/4 was larger, she chose 1/4 as the larger fraction because 4 is bigger than 3. And while I appreciated her logic, I had to explain to her why 1/3 is actually bigger than 1/4.

I started with straight mathematical reasoning...and as I watched her eyes glaze over, I was pretty sure I could hear my voice becoming the Charlie Brown teacher drone, whaa, whaa, whaa, in her little head. So I switched tactics and went for cake. Not real cake...mathematical cake. Which is way more interesting than mathematical reasoning, even if it's not as tasty. Here's how the conversation went:

"Ella, imagine you had a big cake."


"Now, imagine that you had to share that cake with two friends. And everyone had to get the same size piece."

"Got it."

"Now, imagine that another friend showed up. Now there are four people and everyone still has to get the same size piece. So because there are more people sharing the cake, each piece will have to be smaller, right?"


"But if there were only three people sharing the cake they could all have a bigger piece, right?"


"So, Ella would you rather share your cake with two friends or with three friends?"

Scrunching her face and thinking for a minute "I'd rather share with three friends that way I could have more people over to play."

Uhhhh, kinda hard to argue with that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Emotional Complexities of eBay

We're finishing up this homeschool year and Ella is counting down the days until summer break. She's suddenly gotten a massive second wind now that the finish line is in sight and she's starting to ask to do extra lessons every day so she can hurry up and be done. We have a few more weeks to go, but the end is in sight.

Well, it's in Ella's sight. I'm already plotting, planning and preparing for next year. And, as I have mentioned earlier, I am philosophically opposed to paying full price for curriculum. So I have been busy stalking used curriculum websites and eBay in an attempt to find a good deal on the books I plan on using in the fall.

Ah, eBay. The worlds largest, and most diverse, yard sale. And I'm not bashing eBay. I'm a fan! I love eBay. I have a whole system for eBay bargain hunting. I'm a sniper. That's right, I'm that sneaky person who swoops in with only 10 seconds left and outbids all those unsuspecting suckers....uh, bidders. Nice bidders. Forgiving bidders who will continue to read my blog. (Sweet smile)

Anyway, I have learned that eBay is not the best place for people with competitive natures. It's far too easy for those of us who have been gifted with a strong inner drive for success (ie. I would trip my Grandma in a three legged race) to lose sight of the bargain hunting aspect of eBay and start taking things personally. If anyone else has the nerve to bid against us we see it as a personal attack and must retaliate by clicking that bid button. And then it just escalates into some Butter Battle bidding war over a chipped kitty statue that inevitably ends with someone screaming "No!" at their slow loading computer and someone else overpaying for shipping.

So, in an attempt to show great maturity and restraint, I have set a spending limit on my curriculum searches. And so far I have managed to keep my trigger finger off the sniper bidding button. But consider yourself warned...especially if you're looking for Sonlight books. Dun, dun, dun duuuuuuuunnnn.

PS. You get bonus points if you got the Dr. Seuss reference.

Raising Rebels (in a good way)

Confession time....I don't need anything other than a book to make history fun. I'm one of those people who thinks history is a hoot and a half. Give me a big ol' book on the ups and downs of the British monarchy or a massive encyclopedia of everything that has ever happened anywhere in the world and I'll curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and read until my eyes fall out. But sometimes you need a little help to make stuff that happened 200 years ago fun for an 8 year old. Ella is studying the Revolutionary War right now and she's really getting into it. When we read together, she cheers the minutemen and boos the British which is downright amusing.

So, when in the course of preparing a lesson on the Declaration on Independence (how's that for a reference) I found something really cool. The website for the National Archives in Washington, DC has a fun activity here where you can sign your name on the Declaration of Independence. Not the real one of course, I'm pretty sure you'd go to jail for that, but you can sign a copy and print it out. Come on...that's cool!

So yesterday we went online and Ella got to choose her quill (aka, font style), type her name and then she got to print out her own copy of the Declaration with her signature on it. She's right under George Walton. They even have an "are you sure you want to sign this?" warning telling potential signers that if they lived during 1776 they would be branded a rebel and a traitor by the King of England for signing the Declaration.

Now Ella has her own copy of the Declaration of Independence hanging by her desk. It's a little too small to actually read most of the text, but it's got a pretty nifty parchment look and Ella loves seeing her name on it. See...making history fun! Right? Right? Please tell me I'm right...

And welcome Hoppers! I hope you'll come back again!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in a Name?

A few years ago I read a devotional book called "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkinson. I have long since given away my copy of the book, but the prayer has remained with me. I actually have it taped Rocky-style to my bathroom mirror for encouragement. The Scripture reads:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez,saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

As I studied this Scripture, I was struck by the connection between Jabez's name and the cry of his heart. Jabez means pain. Consider that for a moment, his very name means pain. For whatever reason, his birth was surrounded by pain. It could have been the physical pain his mother endured or it could have had another meaning. Perhaps his father died before his birth and his mother was speaking of that loss. We don't know, and the Bible doesn't say. But we can see in his prayer, the only mention of this man in Scripture, that his name deeply affected him.

In verse 10, Jabez asks God to keep him from causing pain. That vocabulary is not a coincidence. Jabez knows the meaning of his name. He knows he was birthed in pain and he has carried that legacy through his entire life. As he cries out to God, he asks the Lord to help him rise above his name. He wants to be more than he has been told he can be.

Haven't all of us been there? We've been labeled, categorized, told what we're capable of or what we can be. The world wants to name us, to force an expectation (or lack of one) upon us, to tell us that the circumstances of our birth...our background, our income, our education, our job or any one of a thousand other external realities...will forever dictate who we are, and who we can be.

But that isn't how God sees us. God has a new name for us, a name that He Himself will give us. "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." Revelation 2:17

Jabez cried out to God and asked Him to change the identity the world had given him. His heart cried, "My name means pain, all my life that's who I've been known as, someone who caused pain. I don't want that. I don't want to live according to this name. I want something different."

We don't have to remain in the box the world says we belong in. We don't have to bend under the weight of the pressures the world lays on us. We are not limited, defined or relegated to the names the world gives us. Man, woman, stay at home mom, single father, abused child, convict, addict, victim, rich, poor...none of that matters. God Himself knows who we really are. He knows who we can become with the strength of His love and power operating in our lives.

If we cry out with a heart like Jabez, a heart that seeks something more, God will hear us and just as He did for Jabez, He will grant us our request.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mom Fashion

First, let me say I have never been a super trendy kind of girl. I have some vague idea of style and current fashion, but I don't pay much attention to it. Never have. Even back in those high stress fashion times of high school, I was never exactly fashion conscious. Oh I had my pegged Guess jeans, big hair, blue mascara and Swatch watch (did you figure out this was the 80's yet?), but that was the extent of my fashion obsession.

And once I hit college, it was pretty much the same thing...I mean the lack of trend stalking craziness, not the big hair and blue mascara, I got over that phase. Now that I'm older and (somewhat) wiser, I'm still a little off the fashion radar. I'm a fan of snazzy shoes, cute purses and jewelery, but I'm usually trying to match those accessories with jeans and a black shirt. Not exactly runway material, but it works for me.

So, given my relatively easy going fashion ways, you'd think it would be pretty hard to offend my sense of fashion rightness. Well, I'm here to tell you that it can be done. Just last week I had a fashion emergency that would have made Tyra Banks run for the hills in her stiletto heels. And there was nothing I could do about it.

See, I have recently become involved with a new organization. I'm in leadership with this organization and as such I am obligated to wear their official shirt when representing the group. Which was no big deal...until I put the thing on. Holy Crocs, Batman! It's soccer mom style gone bad. I love this group and I love being a part of it, but when I threw on the over-sized, shapeless, bedouin tent-like official polo shirt with the required khaki pants, I nearly kicked myself off the runway. I kid you not, I looked like a tacky cruise director...or the annoyingly perky girl who sells gym memberships. It was bad. I may not know fashion forward, but I sure can identify fashion backward when its staring at me in the mirror.

I tried to salvage my dignity with some funky silver earrings, cute sandals (even though it was raining), and a big bracelet, but there was no hope for this uber-mom outfit. It was so scary that when I walked into the living room even my darling husband laughed and promptly took a picture of me.

And yet, because I love this group and the ministry it does, I grabbed my purse and walked out the door with my head held high (and eyes frantically scanning the street for people who know me). But I spent most of the day plotting the sparkly eyeshadow and bright nail polish colors I would wear the next time I had to put on this outfit...which by the way is tomorrow.

Computers and Swimsuits

Yep, I'm in trouble...again. I sure have some loyal, and slightly frightening, readers. And they know where I live. (See Shelly, I'm typing, I'm typing!) So let's skip the mea culpa and get right to my latest adventure.

This past month my adorable pink laptop started acting up. I love my pink laptop. I love everything about it, so I felt a deep sense of betrayal when it started to freeze, shut down and send me nasty error messages. I was good to this laptop...unlike it's predecessor where I actually divotted the keyboard with my fingernail driven typing style. Personally, I think it was a wimpy keyboard, but that's beside the point. I treated Pinkie the laptop well and this is how she repaid me.

So when Major Dad came home for a weekend visit, I mentioned that my computer was acting up. Now this phrase is the computer geek equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a perpetually irritated bull, so he scooped Pinkie up faster than my kids grab candy and got to work. Not five minutes later Pinkie sputtered her last breath and gave him the blue screen of death.

And because I am a kind and supportive wife I immediately said, "What did you do?"

So the next day we packed up the kidlets and went computer shopping. Sigh. I detest, despise and dread computer shopping. It's right up there with swimsuit shopping. Both make me feel like a clumsy hippo in a ballet class. No fun at all. Major Dad however, as a professional computer dude, loves it. Best Buy is like Disneyland for him. So as I'm dragging my feet across the parking lot and asking questions like "Is Pinkie really, REALLY dead or just mostly dead?", Major Dad is skipping happily toward the big blue Best Buy building (in a manly, Marine Corps way of course).

And Major Dad drags me straight to the Mac section and starts showing off all the cool Apples goodies with an annoying twinkle in his eye. Meanwhile I'm fussing and grumbling and generally being a big baby about it. I didn't like the Mac Books because of the keyboard set up (the keys are too far way for my little elf hands) and the sharp edges on the casings. Yes, that was my reason. When I tried to explain that to Major Dad he blinked in stunned disbelief a few times and then told me I could get any computer I wanted...even if it was a PC (though I'm pretty sure he nearly choked on the words).

Well, no luck that day. So we went home and had a long talk that night about what I want and need a computer to do (not die would be a good start) and we went back the All Things Electronic haven the following day.

So now, my friends, I am mostly happy to say that I am typing on my brand new....iMac. Not a laptop, but it has an awesome monitor and a cool new track pad. And hubby says if I divot this keyboard it will be easy to replace. Of course getting a desktop computer meant rearranging three rooms in the basement, moving a desk and emptying, relocating and refilling four bookcases in order to get it in the right place. And guess who did the heavy lifting? It wasn't intentional revenge, but it did make me feel better.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Know It's Going to be One of Those Days When....

You misspell your own name. Twice.

I feel like I could just leave the post like that and move on with my life, but you, my dear and faithful readers probably deserve more of an explanation than that. Otherwise you might really start to worry about me.

So I sat down today at my trusty pink laptop (yes, it is pink) and prepared to dutifully write a post filled with encouragement and inspiring faith-filled...uh...words. Right, lots of awesomely strung together words. I typed all my super-secret info into my Blogger log-in page, my mind whirling with the many possibilities of the aforementioned awesome words, when I was suddenly confronted with Blogger's "Nope, wrong answer" message.

It's actually a much more professional message, something along the lines of "We're sorry, your username and/or password are incorrect so you will not be allowed to enter this highly sensitive world of tossing random opinions into the universe under the cover of anonymity until you remember who you are and/or locate the coffee stained napkin you scrawled your password on." You know, something like that.

So with a grumble and a sigh I looked at my username, which happens to be my email address, and realized that I spelled my name wrong. My own name. Fabulous. So after a furious click-clacking of the backspace button, I re-entered my info and was was promptly denied. Again.

"We're sorry, you're still wrong. Clearly the burden of remembering one more username and password is too much for you. May we suggest that you legally change your name to log-in and begin tattooing passwords on your arms so you no longer have to rely on a memory that is slowly being eroded away, even though we're pretty sure you still remember most of the lyrics to The Facts of Life theme song. Feel free to try again, but we're pretty sure you're going to embarrass yourself again."

Anyway, after that little pep talk, I looked again at what I had typed and realized I had misspelled my name. Again. My real name. Sigh.

This time I typed like a little old lady drives...with my head hunkered down over the keyboard, watching each finger type the keys.

And voila, success. And now all of you get to laugh at my expense. Although in fairness to me and my melting brain, it was my last name. Which I got from my husband, I mean I've only had for like 11 years. It's not like I forgot how to spell my first name or anything.

PS...Is The Facts of Life theme song stuck in your head now? Sorry.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Potter's Work

I recently finished a devotional series that talked about Jeremiah 18. This passage of Scripture tells the story of Jeremiah visiting a potter's house and receiving a word from the Lord while he watched the potter work clay on his wheel.

"So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him." Jer. 18:3-4

I've read this passage many times and in the past I often focused on a relatively positive theme that we are the clay in the Lord's hands and He is shaping us according to His will. But this time, as I read this passage I was struck by verse 4. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. The potter was attempting to fashion the clay into something, but the clay resisted and the potter had to abandon his original purpose for the clay and make it into something else.

How eye opening that should be for each for us. God has a purpose for us, He has a design in mind for us and He is constantly shaping and molding us into that design. But if we resist His crafting hands, if we refuse to submit to His shaping, if we remain hard and stubborn, attempting in our own way to force the potter to shape us into what we think we should be, He may have to abandon His plan for us and allow us to be something less than we could have been.

We all instantly get the message when we hear something like, "can the clay tell the potter what to create?" And we think we get it. But how often do we resist the refining and shaping hands of God in our lives? How often do we question His techniques when the shaping becomes uncomfortable, even painful? Perhaps, we never come out and question His right to be the potter, but we certainly question His techniques.

But we are only the clay. We can't see beyond the spinning wheel we're sitting on. We may think the potter's hands are too hard, too demanding, asking too much of us. But the hands that shape and mold us, are the same hands that keep us from falling. God has a design for us, He has a purpose for His clay and if we submit to His shaping, then we will one day become something glorious for Him.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Life Changing Moments

So during these past two months of radio silence, in addition to painting my nails a wide variety of occasionally questionable colors, I also got to introduce my young and impressionable children to the greatest of all great films...the Mt. Everest of movies, the epitome of entertainment, the dark chocolate of the dessert world...that's right folks, my kids have now seen Star Wars. And not just the original Star Wars, but the entire series (with the exception of a few parentally edited moments in Episode III). Can I get a woot, woot from my fellow Star Wars fans? After you finish chiding me for allowing my daughter to go 8 whole years without seeing the wonder that is Star Wars, of course.

See, we had a rainy week and Major Dad was gone and I was desperate for a distraction. When it suddenly dawned on me...aha! Star Wars. And sure enough, these kids must be genetically related to me because they were both hooked after the first scrolling words drifted across the screen. So we spent an entire weekend sitting in a darkened living room, living on popcorn (with movie theatre butter of course) indulging in a Star Wars marathon. So much fun! But here's the best part...

Picture this...Ella and Jack sitting spellbound watching The Empire Strikes Back, a bowl of popcorn between them, light sabers flashing as Luke bravely battles the evil Darth Vader when suddenly Vader says in that haunting James Earl Jones voice, "I am your father."

"Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" That was Ella squealing at the top of her lungs. "No way! Mommy, Mommy, MOMMMMMMMMMMYYYYY! Did you hear that?"

I of course was laughing like a fool. That was my favorite part of the movie, just watching Ella's reaction to the big news. And it cracked me up, it was like watching someone's entire world view change. Like that one bit of iconic information, that one massive movie twist totally changed her perspective on life.

Now, I started typing and then deleted several sentences on the deep meaning behind these life changing moments, about their rarity, about the way we receive them, or not, and what we choose to do with them, about how easy it is to let them slip away or how we can relegate them to a youthful memory and forget the brief moment of passion and clarity we suddenly felt. But I think I'll just leave it there.

And I could go on and on about the philosophical subtext of Star Wars, but I won't. I will add that my second favorite part of our Star Wars marathon was when my kids decided that of all the characters, I'm Yoda. Hummm, happy am I.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As Honest As It Gets

So once again I have apparently abdicated my heavy blogging responsibilities. And once again I have been stalked, harassed, badgered, cajoled and teased for not posting. And yes, once again I'm very, very sorry. Bad blogger (smacking my hand). So what's my excuse? Don't have one. I honestly couldn't think of anything to say. Which is weird, I know, since there are people who actually pay me to write stuff. Go figure.

See, Major Dad was gone for a month on a training exercise, and it the kids and I were stuck inside and I just felt overwhelmed in general. So my pet blogging project got shuffled repeatedly to the bottom of my to do list. And honestly the bottom of my to do list is the equivalent of chore Siberia. But, because I currently fear for my blogger safety (I'm looking at you, Shelly!) and because my darling hubby won't stop teasing me about being a I am, ready once again to bring laughter and wisdom and adorable anecdotes to the blogosphere., let's see. Well, there was this time, uh....hmmm...oh, I found this great site, wait no I didn't. Nope, I got nothing. You know what I've been doing these past 2 months? Painting my nails and making chocolate desserts. That's right, life in the fast lane, people.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

No Damsels in Distress Here

One of the joys of having kids is that you just never know what awesome observations on life they're going to make...and you never know when it's going to strike. I live in a constant state of "hilarity preparedness." I can see the wheels turning in the minds of my little ones and every so often one of them comes up with a ridiculously insightful quip that just cracks me up.

Such was the case just last night. As we were winding down and trying to relax before bedtime, I popped a Scooby-Doo dvd into the trusty dvd player and sat down to chill with the kiddies. As often happens in the dramatic masterpiece that is the Scooby-Doo franchise, there was a dastardly fiend on the loose and a damsel in distress. In this particular instance there was something heavy falling from the ceiling and the aforementioned damsel in distress was standing helplessly directly under the also aforementioned heavy, falling object. At the last second, Freddie made a superhuman leap from across the room and grabbed the helpless damsel and pushed her out of the way. Heavy, falling object landed with a thunderous crash and surely would have squished the poor girl if not for Freddie's heroic heroism.

At which point my darling 8 year old girl looked at me and said (quite matter of factly) "Mommy, what's the matter with cartoon girls? If something is about to fall on you, you should just get out of the way."

So of course I cracked up and agreed wholeheartedly.

Then she added, "Maybe they're just waiting for the boy to save them."

My reply, "That might be true."

Ella, after giving it some thought, "Well, if something's about to fall on me, I'm not going to wait around for some boy to save me, I'm just going to move."

That's my girl!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stalking the Wild M&M

Last week, we finished our first science lesson of the semester. It was an introductory lesson on zoology and Ella loved it. She loves animals so she couldn't wait to start this new curriculum. In fact, I was waiting to start it until she finished her science report on Sea Urchins from last semester. The day she finished the report she asked to start the next book. Yay for science!

At the end of the lesson we got to do an experiment on camouflage. It was fun, educational and didn't require a huge shopping list. Plus it involved I'm in. I got this experiment out of Apologia's Land Animals of the Sixth Day: Exploring Creation with Zoology 3 textbook.

So if you're looking for a fun activity for your science days, here's an idea:

1) Dump out a bunch of M&M's (I went with dark chocolate flavored because, um, I'm the mom and I get to pick) and then sort them into color groups. You need to have the same number of M&M's in each group.

2) Create a wild M&M habitat. You'll need a laundry basket or other habitat container and construction paper in three M&M matching colors. We went with brown, green and orange. Yep, we pretty much set those blue M&M's up for failure. Tear the construction paper into strips and then crumple up the strips and toss them into the basket.

3) Mix up the color sorted M&M's and gently scatter them in the habitat. I say gently because if you just dump them in they will all sink to the bottom.

4) Turn your M&M stalker loose to search for as many M&M's as he/she can find in 2 minutes.

5) Count how many of each color M&M was found. Theoretically, your M&M hunter will have located more of the M&M's that didn't have matching construction paper for camouflage, thus demonstrating the important of camouflage for animals in the wild. Theoretically.

We actually had to do this experiment twice because the first time Ella didn't see this as an opportunity for scientific learning as much as she saw it as "Candy, candy, candy!" So the first time she just shoved the paper out of the way and scooped up all the M&M's that fell to the bottom of the basket. But, after a bit more explaining of the purpose of the experiment, and an assurance that she would in fact get to eat some of the captured M&M's, we did it a second time and lo and behold the numbers worked out.

The only downside...the sugar rush that followed. Note to self, Jack should not be given M&M's unless he's outside and has a very long distance to run.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Don't Believe in Paying Retail

One of the big benefits for us when we decided to homeschool was the fact that we would be saving a bundle of money in tuition bills. Ella was in a private Christian school before we started homeschooling and it was a good size bill every month. Money wasn't the biggest factor in our decision to homeschool, but it was definitely an x in the equation.

However, once we decided to jump in to the homeschooling pool, I quickly discovered that you can spend a lot of money on homeschool stuff. A lot. The good news with the growing homeschool movement is that there is a huge choice of homeschooling resources available. In a whole range of prices. So, being the cheap...uh, I mean...budget-conscious mom that I am, I immediately started looking for discounts, freebies and ways to save money on homeschool curriculum, resources and manipulatives.

These are some of the sites that I have found to be very helpful. There are certainly many, many more thrifty resources out there, so feel free to send some suggestions in the comments.

Christian Book Distributors I love this site. Their prices are usually the lowest to be found for new books, curriculum or dvd's. And they carry a lot of things doesn't carry. Their shipping can be pricey so it's worth it to sign up for their catalog because they will occasionally include free shipping coupons in the catalogs.

Homeschool Classifieds Love, love, LOVE this site. Did I mention that I love it? Cause I do. This is a site where homeschoolers can post new or used curriculum or supplies for sale. They have an excellent search feature so you can easily find just what you need. The prices for used items are usually really good, but some of the new items can be found cheaper at Christian Book Distributors so you want to compare prices. And most of the sellers include shipping in their prices so that's a bonus. I've bought numerous used books and curriculum through sellers listed here and every transaction has been great. I've even sold some used items and that was great too.

ABC Teach has a ridiculous amount of resources for just about anything you can think of. This is a paid site so you have to become a member to get access to everything.

There are a ton of free resource websites too. I get a lot of Ella's math worksheets from The Teacher's Cafe. They have a large selection of free games, resources, worksheets and more in a wide range of subjects from Preschool all the way to High School.

So that's just a snippet of money saving options. Please, please, please send me your best money saving tips and resources in the comments.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Guy in the Bread Aisle

So two days ago I packed up the kids and headed off to Giant. Grocery shopping with my kids is always an adventure filled with Indiana Jones-like dodging and weaving and an endless string of "'no, we're not getting that.' 'Stop touching things.' & 'Stay next to me.'" Good times.

Anyway, we were facing a drastic shortage of milk and Cheerios (and possibly cheese) so we bundled up and headed out to Giant. Now, I didn't think this was going to be a big deal since it was morning, on a weekday and we weren't anticipating snow or nasty weather. I have discovered in my almost 9 years of mothering that it's best to hit the grocery store during the week when a lot of people are working or taking their kids to school. Fewer people = faster shopping trip = happy mommy.

Little did I know this was not going to work on this particular shopping trip. That's right, unbeknownst to me, I had just entered....the Superbowl zone. Dun, dun, dun.

Yep. Apparently there is a big ol' sporting event happening this weekend. And also apparently it can only be celebrated correctly with copious amounts of chips, salsa, frozen pizza and cheese. And further apparently men do not trust their wives to purchase the correct quantity and quality of Superbowl snackage. So, this one week of the year men descend upon grocery stores like hungry bears preparing for winter.

Which I would find really, really humorous...if they weren't all in Giant at one time and if they understood the basic etiquette of grocery shopping. That's right, boys, there are rules to grocery shopping. For example, a grocery aisle is like a road. You drive your cart down one side of the aisle...not down the middle. And when you get to the end of the aisle you must stop and look both ways before don't push your cart full of Cheetos and Budweiser right into the path of oncoming cart traffic. And you don't chit chat (or whatever the appropriate male term for chit chat is) on your cell phone all through the store. Distracted shopping isn't cool, dude.

So, all of that is neatly presented to my friend, The Bread Aisle Guy. The guy who parked his cart on one side of the aisle, then stood in the middle of the aisle, chatting away on his cell phone while he bent over, thus taking up the other side of the aisle as well, to study a box of muffins like it held the answer to life on Mars.

Do I sound bitter? I'm not bitter. Honestly, if I had been kid-free I would have immensely enjoyed the slightly dazed look on the faces of all the men who, when they said they were going to get supplies for "the Game," were unexpectedly handed an additional shopping list from wives and know, "since you're going anyway."

So consider this a friendly warning about Superbowl week. Treat it like a blizzard...stock up before the testosterone driven chip frenzy strikes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Excuses, Excuses....

So I wasn't deliberately hiding from you guys. Honest. We got hit with the cold/flu/sneezing/coughing/feeling rotten/wish we lived someplace warmer/why haven't they invented the cure for the common cold/who ate all the chicken soup kind of bug. Yeah...not a pretty picture.

So I thought about blogging. I even tried a few times. But somewhere between the pile of tissues and the NyQuil and the drippy, sneezy kids, I just gave up. The only thing I wanted to write about was the perfect proportion of bubble bath to hot water. Actually that's what I really wanted to research...extensively. But again, two sick kids doesn't always equal quality bubble bath time.

I'd like to say we're all back to our cheerfully chipper and healthy selves, but I just spent over an hour at the pediatrician's office waiting for eye drops for Ella's brand new case of pink both eyes. Woohoo, let's hear for conjunctivitis. On the bright side, Ella's response to pink eye (after tearfully asking if she had to have surgery) was to say, "well, at least pink is my favorite color." Gotta love my silver lining girl.

So now I'm trying my best to keep Thing One and Thing Two (aka Ella and Jack) from playing with the same toys in order to hopefully keep Jack from catching pink eye too. But of course the only toys they want to play with are whatever toys the other sibling is currently enjoying. Ah, the joys of infectious diseases.

Anyway, with the exception of engaging in some tactical germ warfare, I'm better and hopefully back. I have some wonderful tidbits to share about working from home and men in grocery stores. Guess which one is more frustrating.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why is That Fish in a Tree?

I recently stumbled upon this quote and instantly loved it. Ready? Because you need to get ready for this quote...cuz it's awesome. Here it is:

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
— Albert Einstein

Now if that's not something to print out and tape to your forehead, then I don't know what is. And of course my first instinct was to apply it to my kids. Isn't that one of the big positives of homeschooling? That the kids avoid being pigeon-holed and labeled if they don't fit into the "right" mold? Absolutely.

But the more I thought about it, I started to realize that this quote applies to all of us grown-ups as well. How many times have we beaten ourselves up, or judged ourselves harshly because we thought we weren't as good as someone else? Because our house isn't as clean as hers. Or we're not as patient as she is with her kids. Or our hips aren't as thin.

Each one of us has gifts and talents that make us a genius. Precious qualities that God chose just for us. Something that equals greatness if we will only develop and use it. But how often do we neglect to use (or even fail to prayerfully discover) that which makes us a genius because we're too busy dwelling on the things we can't do... all the things we think we should be able to do, or should do better, or wish we could do. We get so caught up in fitting into, or more often failing to fit into, a mold the world has created to be seen as "successful," we forget that the only standard of success that matters is God's. And He has given us exactly what we need to meet it.

We see other people climbing trees, so we think we have to climb a tree. Those successful or pretty or smart or admired people are all in trees so we tell ourselves "I have to climb a tree too if I want to be successful or pretty or smart or admired." Never mind that God gave you fins and flippers for a reason. Maybe God didn't choose you to be a tree climber...maybe He wants you to swim through His glorious oceans. Maybe He chose you to fly. Maybe He destined you walk the highest mountain peaks.

If you have fins, don't waste them on trees...dive into the water God created for you. Stop trying to be the person the world tells you to be, and be the person God wants you to be.

Hmmmm...has the metaphor run it's course? Yep, I think so. But you get my point.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't Look for Miracles...Look for God

Our family is in a season of waiting, hoping and praying. We seem to be surrounded by uncertainty and we really don't know what life will look like in the coming months. And for me, being slightly organizationally and pre-planning obsessed, the uncertainty has the potential to throw me into a a state of panic. But it hasn't, and here's why...

Because I have decided to believe that God is in control. Even when it doesn't look like anyone is in control, I am choosing to believe that God is fully sovereign and fully in charge of everything that is going on around us.

I've spent more time than I should in my life saying I believed God was in control and then doing a lot of things that showed that deep down I really thought it was all up to me. But this year, as part of my resoluteness non-resolution I've decided to really let God be God in my life.

And part of that decision, for me, is to make a daily decision to seek God above all things. I still pray for our family's needs and the needs of others, but I'm not looking for miracles or answered prayers...I'm looking for God. I'm trusting God for miracles and believing Him for answered prayers, but that's not what I'm after right now. I'm after God. I'm after more of Him. A deeper knowledge of Him. A closer walk with Him. I'm still trusting God for miracles and believing Him for answered prayers, but that's not what I'm seeking...I'm seeking Him.

It's all too easy for us in our prayers and in our faith life to take our focus off who God is and wants to be in our lives and put our focus instead on what God can do for us. We all need to ask I seeking a miracle or am I seeking the One who works the miracle? We may think that we really need the miracle, or the breakthrough or the answered prayer. But what we really need is God. To desire what God can do for us more than we desire God Himself is nothing less than idolatry. We end up giving our devotion to something God can do instead of to God, which is the same as worshipping a creation instead of the Creator.

Matthew 6:31-33 says, "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

There's nothing wrong with bringing our needs to God, but there is nothing we need more than God. And once we get that right, everything else will follow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm Not Crazy

I'm beginning to think I've either completely lost my mind (hey, you don't have to agree so quickly) or there's a massive conspiracy among children's bedroom furniture manufacturers to make me think I've lost my mind. Yep, definitely the second option. And I'm not falling for it! I'm on to you, you sneaky furniture makers.

Ok, let me back up a smidge. About 6 months ago Major Dad and I saw the coolest kid's bed ever. Seriously, EVER. I saw it in an ad from the base exchange (which is like the big department store on a military base) and I immediately decided Jack would love it. Ready? Ok, it's a twin bed with...wait for it...a treehouse on top. A treehouse! It's awesome. There's even a little ladder to climb up. It's so cute, I can't help myself, I must squeal with delight...eeeeeee!!

Major Dad agreed that it's the perfect bed for our little monkey, but we didn't get it because it was out of our budget. So now, months later...well, its still out of our budget but I thought I'd see if I could find it somewhere else a little cheaper. And guess what (dun, dun, dunnnnn) the bed is gone.

Not just sold out or out of stock. I mean erased from history. There is no evidence that our monkey's treehouse bed ever existed. I don't even want to tell you how much time I have spent online trying to find that bed. Google was my best friend yesterday and I still couldn't find it. And I know it's out there. I saw it. Really. I did! My husband will back me up on this. But, poof, it's vanished.

Of course now I really want it. Still can't afford it, but that's not the point. It's the principle of the thing. You understand, right?

Sooooooo, loyal and trustworthy readers, if you happen to see a treehouse bed anywhere, would you 1) drop me a little note and 2) make sure you document your find with at least two witnesses and take photographic evidence of your discovery...because locating the elusive treehouse bed is a apparently a major find.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's One of Those Days...

It's cold, it's windy and the kids are a little stir crazy. Toss in a mom who didn't get enough sleep last night and who adamently despises being cold and you get a handy recipe for disaster. And that folks is where we are today. *Sigh*

So, seeing that my happy place has a "closed for repairs" sign on the door and the fact that I've already had hasty words escape my mouth (for which I had to apologize to my kids) and I'm just in general doing a pretty good imitation of Oscar the Grouch, I decided I should stay away from the blog. I didn't want to be responsible for spoiling someone's chipper chipper-ness with my "Bah Humbug." Can you even say "Bah Humbug" after Christmas? Is there some no Scrooge after Christmas rule like the whole no white shoes after Labor Day thing? Or is it no tree climbing after Arbor Day?

Anyway, so there I was, sulking and muttering in my pout when I stumbled across this little gem from Heart of Wisdom. Top 20 Advantages to Homeschooling. And it made me giggle, which made me smile, which made me think, "I bet someone else needs to read this today too."

So since I don't know the rules about sharing blog stuff and I don't want to get in trouble with the blog police, I'll leave you with a few of my favorites and let you click your way over to Robin's blog to read the rest. It's worth it.

My favs:

1. Your kids never tell you that you’re a lot dumber than their teacher.

6. You can post the Ten Commandments on your schoolroom wall and won’t get sued.

10. If you get caught talking to yourself, you can claim you’re having a PTA meeting. (Haha!! Love it!)

17. Your child may get called names by a sibling but not a stranger. But you can punish the sibling.

And the one that made me laugh the hardest....

19. If your child claims that the dog ate his homework, you can ask the dog.


Thanks, Robin!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Small Miracles

I know that God answers prayer. And I know that He works miracles, big and small, every day. But sometimes, when I actually come face to face with a real, tangible answer to prayer, it takes my breath away.

That happened to me last week. You may remember reading here, that I was battling my protective mommy instincts because Ella didn't pass her last figure skating test and it broke her little heart. Well, she had two private lessons between the test and the start of the next session and she really nailed the turn that had caused her problems. So I called the rink to see if she could take the test again...wait, wait, that doesn't qualify for banshee mom status. I was soooooo sweet and mellow and all "hey, it's no big deal." But no one was there so I had to leave a super mellow message.

Anyway, I failed to factor my new phone into my grand get-Ella-retested-plan. I thought my voicemail would automatically transfer from my old phone to my new phone. Alas, that is not how phone migration works. So, even though the skating director did return my call, my voicemail wasn't working so she couldn't leave me a message. Drat.

So last week the new class started. Since I hadn't heard from anyone, I figured the retest was a no-go and I told Ella she'd probably have to repeat the class. She understood, but she was still disappointed. Which made me sad. We prayed the night before the class that God would make a way for her to move up. Then the day of the class I prayed the whole way to the rink (oh, it's an hour drive by the I prayed a lot) that God would step in and help Ella take the test again.

Are you getting the feeling that God did something mighty? Well, you're right, He did. When we got to the rink, I looked at the class assignments and guess what...they had moved Ella up! No re-test, no conversation, they just did it. I can't even describe the look of joy on Ella's face when she found out.

Even now I get all misty eyed thinking about it. She was so happy. And God did that for her. Seeing His grace and mercy and love at work in my daughter's life is just incredible. It was such a small prayer request for such an insignificant thing. But friends, there is nothing insignificant to God. He stepped in and worked a miracle in a little girl's life because He loves her so much. Maybe in the history of the world it won't be remembered as a "big" miracle, but it was huge in my daughter's life. And isn't that what God is truly after? Being huge to each of us personally.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Presenting (drum roll).....Our Curriculum

By popular demand (ok, two people asked me) here's the post that reveals all my homeschool secrets. Well, not my secrets so much as the curriculum that we're using this semester. But honestly, I give a lot of credit for the success of our homeschool adventure to the curriculum we use. God gets the glory first, my children next and these books third.

I've done some trial and error in the past year to find the right fit for Ella. Some curriculum didn't make it past the first two lessons. But that's part of what makes homeschooling amazing. You can change what doesn't work as soon as you know it doesn't work.

So, here's what Ella's doing this semester:

Bible: Bob Jones Grade 3

Language: Easy Grammar 3, Daily Grams Grade 3, Horizons Spelling 3. Love the Easy Grammar series & Daily Grams. The spelling is a little on the easy side for Ella but she likes the colorful pages and the activities.

Math: Horizons Math 3. Love it! Seriously, it is awesome...but just so you know, it is spiral (which works great for Ella).

Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Zoology 3, Land Animals of the 6th Day. Great series. The notebooking is at times a little hard for Ella, but the text is fabulous.

Penmanship: Horizons 3. I like that the copywork uses Scripture passages.

Spanish: Switched on Schoolhouse Elementary Spanish. Ella loves being able to work on her own on the computer. She seems to be picking up a lot of vocabulary but there are some of the on-going story elements that bore her.

History: Sonlight Core 3 Intro to American History. This also covers Ella's reading...she has to read everyday and she really likes the books. I have loved this curriculum and we'll be doing it again next year.

Fun stuff: Lifepac Drawing Basics with Thomas Kinkade. It's pretty good. The dvds are very helpful but I think we'll be doing something different for art next year.

And Jack...well, Jack is a little less structured. He's doing pre-k work and these are the best resources I'm using with him:

Leapfrog dvds. He loves them and I'm convinced he learned all his letter sounds from the "Letter Factory."

Teaching Tiles: Math Readiness Center. This one is a little hard to explain. It involves matching, pattern recognition and counting. It has a card with pictures on it and Jack uses the corresponding tiles to either match the card, fill in the pattern or show how many somethings are in the picture.

Backyard Bugs Counters. Don't laugh, he loves to sort, count and stack these little rubber bugs.

Number Puzzle, Board & Pegs. He likes to assemble everything (which he mastered really quickly) and then stack them all like building blocks.

Books. Lots and lots of books. I think if I read Hunches in Bunches one more time...oh, who am I kidding if Jack wants me to read it, I'll read it.

And the best things...a white board and markers. He loves to write his letters, copy simple words and do very basic math. Ella likes to play teacher and give him work assignments.

I have the Hooked on Phonics series, but I haven't cracked the code on how to use it in a way that works for Jack yet. We used the flashcards until he learned all his letter names and sounds, but the books and the transition to reading haven't appealed to him yet.

Later this week (cause I hope you'll come back) I'll share some of my avoid-paying-full-price secrets.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Gonna Get my Independence On"

Ok, here's my new favorite homeschool resource. Liberty's Kids. Seriously, have you seen it? It's a PBS show that was canceled, syndicated out and then canceled again. We get it through Netflix and my kids love it. Like, crazy love it. I mean they hear the theme song and come running like I said it was raining candy. Toys are dropped, all fighting ceases and they sit enraptured for an entire episode and then beg to watch another one.

And I'll admit it, I like it too. It's entertaining and chock full of educational goodness. Although it took some doing for me to get on board with listening to Sylvester Stallone as the voice of Paul Revere. "Yo, Adrienne the British is comin'!" (Ok, that wasn't actually in the show...but it's funny, right?)

So if you haven't seen it, here's the surprisingly catchy theme song complete with Aaron Carter rapping "Gonna get my independence, white & blue don't give up, you represent America!" Don't blame me if your foot starts tapping. But it's ok, I won't tell.

Friday, January 7, 2011

God is.

I've been thinking and praying in this first week of the New Year about how to have a closer walk with the Lord. How to know Him more. How to seek Him first and above all things. And the first thing I've learned is that before you can know who God is, you have to know that He is. Not just an intellectual awareness, but a heart deep certainty that He is.

In Exodus 3 God appears to Moses in the burning bush and commissions him to return to Egypt and free the Israelites. Moses, who is understandably overwhelmed by the task, asks God for His name. Moses is afraid the Israelites won't believe that God sent him and he's looking for a word that will convince them. And God replies with one of the most amazing words ever given. "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.'" Ex. 3:14 (NIV)

And that very statement needs to be the foundation of our faith. God is. There is nothing missing from God. He is in no way incomplete or dependent upon anything else. He is. God is. It's such a simple truth, but if you really think about it, it will shake up your life. God does exist. God is real. God is.

We can't possibly have a lukewarm heart or ho-hum attitude about our faith if we really get a hold of the basic truth that God exists; unchanging, unconquerable and eternal. There's no time, no place, no situation without God. God is whether we acknowledge Him or not, whether we choose to obey His word or not. God doesn't need us to believe in Him. He is whether we accept it or not. But we so need to believe, truly believe, in Him.

When Moses asked the Lord for His name, God gave him much more. God put words to the very essence of His existence. A word of encouragement for times of darkness and doubt. God is. Whatever happens, whatever trials come our way, whatever tasks are put before us...God is.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Daughter the Political Commentator

So yesterday we had to clean up the basement/homeschool room. Don't worry it's a finished basement, carpet and everything. I don't make them work in some dark cellar next to boxes of Christmas decorations and the dust covered treasures we inherited from Great-Grandma's attic (all that stuff is in the storage closet). See, good mommy homeschooler.

Anyway, after we finished schoolwork Hurricane Ella and Tornado Jack collided in a perfect storm of blocks, Legos, dolls and a marathon shopping game which involved Jack running a store and Ella buying pretty much everything in the basement...which is also our family room so there's a bunch of stuff for an 8 year old with a pocket full of play money to splurge on. Now, being the Merciless Mommy that I am, I declared that the room had to be clean before we could have dinner and go to church.

On a side note, it absolutely amazes me that kids can completely destroy a room in mere minutes and then take countless, feet dragging hours to put it back in order. My kids can go from 60-0 mph in the amount of time it takes me to announce, "clean up time!" But I digress...

So, as we're digging out from the toy storm (and I say we because Merciless Mommy isn't heartless...I did help), Ella and I got to work putting the play money away. I bought this really awesome Melissa and Doug play money set last year when Ella was learning how to count and add money and it helped sooooo much. Well, the bills are surprisingly realistic. Not that I'm going to try to pass them off at the grocery store or anything, but the images are really good.

Well, Ella looked at the $10 bill and said, "look, Mommy, it's Thomas Jefferson." And I was pretty impressed. We're studying American history and we've been reading about Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers so the fact that she recognized the guy was fairly high on my cool list. Then she points to the $1 bill and says, "and there's George Washington." Again, Mommy was impressed and feeling pretty good about our history program.

She didn't know the other gentlemen so I named them for her and when we got to the $100 bill I said, "and this is Benjamin Franklin. Did you know he's the only one of these men who wasn't President of the United States?"

And Ella replied, "well, I guess that's why he's worth so much."


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When Your Invisible Friend Doesn't Want to Play

The following in an actual conversation between Ella & Jack...who I may rename Abbott & Costello.

Ella: Ring, ring. (she picks up a toy cell phone) Oh, hello, Emma. Yes, I would love to come over for a slumber party.

Jack: I wanna come!

Ella: You can't come, it's girls only.

Jack: I wanna be a girl.

Ella: Well you can't be a girl. You're a boy.

Jack: I'm not a boy! I'm a man!
(remember, he's 4)

Ella: Fine, you're a man. But you're not a girl. (Back to the toy cell phone...again, it's a TOY...there's no one on the other end) Sorry Emma, that's my bruh-thuuur.

Jack: Tell Emma I wanna come!

Ella: I told you it's just girls! Do you want to get your nails painted and get a makeover and get dressed up?

Jack: Yes.

Ella: Ugh! (
grabbing another toy cell phone) Ring, ring. Jack, it's Tony, he wants you to come over to HIS house.

Jack: Yippee! Mommy, Mommy, Mommy...Tony said I can come over.

Ella: Jack, it's just pretend. Tony didn't really call.

Jack: But Tony's my friend.

Ella: I know. But he's not on the phone.

Jack: But he is.

Ella: No, he's not.

Jack: But you said he is.

Ella: Jack, listen to me. Tony isn't on the phone. It's a toy phone. There's no one on the phone. Because it's not a real phone. We're just playing, see? It's...a...toy!

(with the most pitiful broken-hearted expression you have ever seen). Oh. Now can I come to Emma's with you?

Ella: Mommy!

I of course pretended not to hear her outraged cry of utter frustration. I was too busy laughing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Homeschool-aversary

Well, will you look at's been a year! A year of trying and changing curriculum, a year of being mommy, teacher and principal. A year of fervent, and sometimes desperate, prayer. Yes, friends a year of homeschooling. And I made it! Are you as shocked as I am? :)

See, here's the thing...when we decided to start homeschooling I was terrified. Not just "really-tall-roller-coaster" scared. I was "staring-out-the-open-door-of-a-plane" scared. I knew it was the right decision, but I was worried, anxious & generally freaking out. It wasn't only the academic part of it, though I was a bit concerned that I might actually make my children dumber instead of smarter.

No, my main source of panic was the fact that my kids would be with me all...the...time. Now I love my children. And I love spending time with them. But sometimes I need a big, heapin' dose of quiet or my occasionally questionable sanity stops being questionable and flies right out the window.

This time last year I had quite a few people look at me like I was nuts. Even I thought I was nuts. "Homeschool?" they'd say. But here we are, a year later. Still homeschooling and already planning next year's curriculum. Both my children survived and are officially, as documented by an objective third party test giver person, smarter. And I am absolutely amazed at what happens when you decide to trust God completely and jump in with both feet knowing that He will catch you.

If God brings you to it, He will lead you through it.

So, what's the traditional one year homeschool-aversary gift? Ummmm...chocolate, of course.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Can You Survive the Cockroach Uprising?

Imagine this:

A family enjoying a quiet evening at home. Well groomed and polite children playing Scrabble. Mom knitting a a pair of booties. Dad reading the paper and smoking a pipe. Then suddenly, an eerie sound fills the air. A clicking, a scratching, a tap, tap, tapping on the window. Then suddenly two black, beady eyes and a pair of twitching antenna peer through the glass. Aaaaaaaaahhhhh! It's started! The cockroaches are taking over! What ever will we do?

Ok, so the probability of a worldwide cockroach uprising is slim. I mean seriously how organized can they be? It's not like they can use cell phones, right. Right??? But it's the first of the year and its time to update our emergency preparedness kits...or start one. Hmmmmm? (Raised eyebrows. Yep, I'm looking at you) So I figured the threat of an invasion of germ encrusted, disease carrying, gargantuan size flying cockroaches would get your attention.

Our fun family New Year's tradition is to go through and update our emergency kits. Trust me, it's way more fun than it sounds. But that might be because I get a little too excited about anything that involves organization. You should see me with a label's like a Wild West shootout. Zing, zing, zing! Self-adhesive strips flying everywhere.

Anyway, Major Dad and I just went through both our home and car kits, checked all the expiration dates and made a list of what we don't have or need to replace. That's right, who needs Times Square when you can inventory band-aids and duct tape. Plus I got to play with the Swiss Army knife...that's right, party time.

So, consider this your friendly, blog reminder that in case the cockroaches revolt you want to have a 30 day emergency supply of food, water and survival essentials for your home and a 3 day supply for your car. First aid kit, battery powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries. Seriously, its better to be prepared than to be at the mercy of insects with a grudge and a taste for world domination.

Really seriously this time...for more (though less funny) ideas check out The Red Cross or Quake Kare.