Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jesse Tree

 What's a Jesse Tree you ask?  We thought the same thing when our church announced it was going to help families do these this year.  I had never heard of it, but now it's popping up everywhere (kind of like when you choose a baby name thinking it's all original and then you realize it's everywhere you just weren't paying attention before!!).

  So a Jesse Tree is an Advent tree used to teach the story of God's salvation plan all the way from the beginning of creation through the coming of Christ.  Each day you add an ornament or do an activity that helps keep you focused on "the reason for the season".  The name comes from Isaiah 11:1"Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit."  I don't know if they all teach this way but our church has the kids thinking about "the root, the shoot and the fruit" as we go.

  It seems I've always wanted to find a way to keep our focus pure each year but Christmas cookies, presents and parties quickly take over.  I'm really looking forward to giving this a try.  Yesterday was our first day and our job was simply to find or make our tree.  I found this branch out back and thought it'd work and is kind of cool looking on our table.  This year we'll be making ornaments (our church provided some wooden discs and pictures to cut and glue) but I'm assuming if we like it we can just re-use them every year and the kids will know the story better and better.  Kind of like using Resurrection Eggs at Easter.  I'll let you know how it goes!

  If your interested in doing a Jesse Tree of your own, I Googled it before posting and a bazillion places  popped up with ideas for making your own ornaments and even free devotionals all ready to go. Check it out and join us!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Routines and Wishes

I sit here this morning with children in bed waaay too late, a scratchy throat, a runny nose 1yo and a grey dreary sky.  Happy Monday! After a fun and busy, but somehow still relaxing holiday week I am ready to play catch-up with all our school work and yet again try to tweak our schedule to fit it "all" in.  It seems I am often sitting making up schedules and routines and looking with jealousy at school teachers who run their days like clock work.  I'd love to run my home like that... I'd love to see them run like that with a 1yo!!  Every few weeks or months the schedule needs to change because WE change.  It drives me crazy but I'm starting to realize (12 years later) that this is life with littles.

For example, life with a nursing baby is one crazy schedule.  Life with a 3 month old is suddenly new again because that baby woke up and wants to be around people.  Then you have a crawling 6 month old, in our house a walking 10 month old, then a 1yo who spends 3-6 months outgrowing but at times still needing a morning nap.  Add to that activities that are ever changing.  Football, dance and Legos, basketball, softball- the list is endless and we don't do near as much as others!  There are days I'd like to lock us inside our house and yard and be invisible to the rest of the world.  Probably sounds strange from someone who is with her family ALL the time but there are times I long to just be, not do.

But anyone who knows me knows I don't like to "be" for long!  I'm part of the ever changing routine and schedule because I want to DO more!  Not more running (at least not right now) but be more intentional with how we spend our days.  With the holidays approaching I know starting a new routine is pretty much not worth my time or energy but, I figure it gives me a nice long window to reevaluate what we want to do and how to do it come the new year.

My thoughts, wishes and goals-
#1 Continue to stay on track with our core curriculum (so far so good)
#2 Figure out how to consistently fit in our Grammar work (nobody here including me loves grammar)
#3 Find time to get outside with the kids everyday (Addison really wants OUT and I think if I get out the fresh air will do me good and I can spend time playing with my kids which doesnt' happen that often)
#4 Fit in Quiet Time (a consistent hour or even two where everyone is quiet and I am ALONE)
#5 Find a wake-up time for everyone that is not too late and not too early (there are shows to watch or games to play in the evening with Daddy but also work to be done and places to go in the morning)
#6 Try to make a simple outline of our day with spaces to play with so it doesn't need to be completely changed every few months
#7 Find time for offering hospitality more often in our home or a prayer group or outreach to others
#8 Be so routine (and boring) that I don't have to tell them what's next, they already know

 Yes, I said boring.  I get really bored on routines.  I am the one you can call last minute and say, "Want to go to_____?" and I will be ready in 20 minutes or less!  BUT I'm told that if we have a good routine we can still blow it at times without everything falling apart and being behind at home... so I'm told. And as much as they bore me I also know we get so much more done when on a schedule/routine.

  I recently read about a family that puts there kids to bed quite early, like 7:00.  They are a large family with 10 children (baby up to 13yo). All the kids crash early (or read and talk to their siblings they share a room with) while mom and dad have time to spend together, go to bed early or invite people in without messing up the home schedule.  I think they do a mens and womens ministry once a week at 7:30 so no need for a sitter or shoving kids to bed before they are use to. Of course they wake up at the crack of dawn! But something to think about, especially since we have 3 boys in a room who see each other ALL day long and still have enough to talk about that they are hollered at every night to quiet down two hours after they've been tucked in!  AND they're still sleeping at 9am this morning because they chit chatted so long last night! Hmmmm, so much to think about.

Well off to wiping noses, a late breakfast and lots of thinking about routines.  Crazy, but I love it!

Do you have a good routine in place? Would it make life easier??

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hamburger Cookies

This weekend we made one of our favorite holiday cookies.  They are super cute, the kids love them and I don't (I don't like chocolate and mint... I know, weird) so I don't eat them- perfect!  I like to take them to get togethers because people can't resist and there is no cooking involved at all!!

Here's your ingredients

A box of Nilla Wafers, a can of vanilla frosting, shredded coconut, Keebler Grasshopper cookies, sesame seeds, 1 egg white and food coloring (red, yellow and green).

Split the frosting into two bowls and add red coloring to one (ketchup) and yellow to the other (mustard).  In a third bowl add a few drops of green food coloring to the coconut (lettuce).
Put each frosting color into a Ziploc type baggie and snip a small corner off.
Crack an egg and put just the white in a bowl. This is to brush the top of a wafer with and then sprinkle on the sesame seeds to look like the top of a hamburger bun.

Now if you're lucky to have lots of hands around, start an assembly line!
One person takes a wafer and squirts a thick penny size dollop of "ketchup" on the flat side and tops it with a grasshopper cookie (burger).  Pass it to the next who puts the same size dollop of "mustard".  Next sprinkle some "lettuce" on top.  While that's happening someone is brushing all the tops with egg white and sprinkling the sesame seeds.  The lettuce sprinkler sits by the person doing the tops and he/she gets to finish the assembly by smooshing the top on just enough to let the frosting peek out the sides.  And just like that you have hamburger cookies!

I told the kids I use to make this way back before they were born and it would take me what seemed like forever to do all the steps alone.  This day they whipped out 40 in under 15 minutes!  The baby got the leftover wafers and the assemblers got the leftover frosting... perfect!

Next time you need to bring a dessert to pass give these a try.  Quick, cute and no cooking... can't get better than that!

Friday, November 26, 2010

School Room Makeover Pt. 2

Sooooo, I'm sitting in my "new" school room/playroom!  The boys did great assembling the bookshelves without any help (except Mom reminding them that there IS a front and back to the shelves).  It's sturdy and doing exactly what a bookshelf should!  Good job guys!  I spent most the day yesterday organizing this room and putting up Christmas decorations.  Our Thanksgiving is today because Daddy had to work all day yesterday (he ended up getting out early and surprising us all! Yay!!).  So I am typing to you while Christmas music plays and the turkey is cooking.  We'll have around 17 people over in our little house today and I LOVE it!  It's getting easier each year as  a routine takes hold but I still did quite a bit of hollering at people today.  Next year I may kick them all downstairs and threaten their lives if they come in my kitchen or mess up the upstairs!  Not sure that's the attitude I'm suppose to be sporting though!

Anyways!! Back to our makeover here.  My Dad did find a great counter top for us and he and Caleb attached some pipes they painted black for legs and it's perfect.  I found an old picture that use to be in my eating area that fits above it and looks nice.  I had just enough space for everything really.  Want to see??

Not too bad huh?  We are keeping just one chair in here for schoolwork but if the kids want to do a puzzle or craft together we can easily fit two.  Under the counter are puzzles and some computer "stuff".  Crafts, paper, board puzzles and markers all fit nicely on the black bookshelf and the wood one stayed about the same with books.  In the future my Mom gave me the idea to make a long shelf across the top of the two bookshelves and maybe even one more over that if needed.  The drawers you see to the left now house the kids school books and papers and a drawer for Daddy holds all of the bills, envelopes, stamps and such.  The drawers use to hold some of the boys clothes. I used the dresser that was in here instead and freed up 6 tall drawers instead of that huuuuge dresser that filled almost the whole wall.

The girls side did basically stay the same except I closed up their Rose Petal Cottage.  If I leave it open it takes up a ton of space and they hardly ever use it.  Now when we open it it's a big deal and they play and play and then we put it away again.

I really like it.  It feels like a great place to be instead of coming in and feeling overwhelmed.  We'll see next week when we kick back into school if we use it much or not.  Even if we don't use it for school I like that we now have a home for the laptop that usually is floating around the house and a place for crafts and coloring without Addison eating the crayons or finished art project!

What do ya think?

School Room Makeover Pt. 1

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

School Room Makeover

So we have a "school room"... kind of!  We actually do most of our schooling in the front room or around our kitchen table but we have an extra room that is a playroom/school room.  It basically holds lots of "stuff"- arts and crafts, puzzles, books, paper, markers, books, books and more books.  It's kind of a mess most of the time!

See what I mean?  The dresser is piled high and the stuff on the floor is simply because there is no other place for it.  The 3 stack bin holds the boy's school work but it is always over flowing.  We need to rethink and reorganize.  As I mentioned this doubles as a playroom for the girls.  They don't play in here a ton but I'd like them to.  It's not much fun playing in a mess.

This is the girl's side of the room

This part probably won't change a lot.  The green top is an old toy box full of dress-up clothes.

The goal, make it neater, cleaner, easier to get at things and maybe even some room to do quiet schoolwork or arts and crafts in here away from toddler fingers.  So I'm hatching a two part plan...

New shelves provided by Grandma and Grandpa to Mommy for my birthday (yes I really do like to organize so much I asked for shelves for my birthday and was thrilled!).  The two older boys (12 and 10) are putting it together as I type.  Here's hoping it holds things and is one solid piece when they're done!

My Dad always has odds and ends lying around from some sale or auction he's been at.  You never know the treasures you'll find in Papa's garage!  I'm hoping he can find something to make into a desk or work counter for us.

I know it won't look like a magazine.  The bookshelf already in there is a wood finish and the new one is black and who knows what color the work counter will be!  But hopefully somehow we can make it into a space to enjoy instead of a make shift storage room!

I'll post our "new" room soon... hopefully!

School Room Makeover Pt. 2

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Thanksgiving Favorite

With Thanksgiving almost here I thought I'd share one of our favorite recipes.  We've been making this for a good 5-6 years.  I found it in a magazine and loved the idea I could make it ahead of all the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving Day.  The best part is you can make rolls for dinner but use some of the dough to make cinnamon rolls or sticky buns for breakfast that morning.  For a smaller family you may want to cut the recipe in half.

Sweet Potato Refrigerator Rolls
makes 4-5 dozen (2 1/2 inch) rolls
You can make this dough up to 3 days in advance and store in the refrigerator with plastic wrap. 

3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup milk
3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 tsp salt, divided
2 (1/4 oz) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 large eggs
2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (2 small or 1 large)
1/2 cup cold water
7 cups all purpose flour

1. Heat 3/4 cup butter and milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat to just below boiling point.  Add 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp salt and stir until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Combine yeast, 1tsp sugar and 1/2 cup warm water; let stand 5 minutes.

3. Beat eggs, potatoes, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and well blended; beat in 1/2 cup cold water.

4. Stir together cooled milk mixture, egg mixture and yeast mixture in a large bowl.  Gradually add 3 cups flour and continue beating with mixer (you may have to beat the rest of the flour with a wooden spoon).  Stir in 3 1/2 to 4 cups more flour or enough to form a soft dough, scraping down sides of bowl several times. (Dough will be very sticky.)  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl; cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.

To make rolls punch down dough and roll out a portion to 3/8-1/2" thick; cut with a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter (I use a coffee cup) and place on a grease cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.  Brush rolls with melted butter.  The recipe tells you to fold them in half and press gently at the center... not sure why but I just leave them as is.  Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 30-40 mins).  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.... yummy!

If you want to make cinnamon rolls simply roll out some dough in a big rectangle about 1/2" thick.  Spread with melted butter and cinnamon and sugar.  Roll width wise so you have a long log and then slice into circles (It's easiest to "cut" using dental floss- take a long piece, slide it under the dough and come up where you want to cut. Simply make an x and pull tight and it will nicely slice a circle without squashing your dough.)  Place on a greased cookie sheet or in a greased pie pan.  Let it rise a bit and then bake at 350-375 degrees for 10-20 minutes until golden.  This isn't a "recipe"  I just make it so I don't know the exact time!  I just bake it until it's done.  Top with icing of your choice.  Cream cheese frosting or powdered sugar with a bit of melted butter, a few drops of milk and a splash of vanilla extract is good.

You can also use the dough in your favorite sticky bun recipe.  It's very versatile.  It's a sweet dough but does NOT taste like sweet potatoes.

Check out this blog Raising Olives for other peoples favorite Thanksgiving recipes and some fun traditions.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fridays at Our House

Fridays at our house run on a whole different routine and schedule.  Each little thing happened one at a time and now it's full of traditions that make the day relaxing, fun and get us prepared for the weekend ahead. 

First off, Friday is a lighter day of school for us.  The older boys have math tests on Friday and no language arts.  We pull out the blank world map and they try their hand at mapping the places we've been learning about that week (Africa right now).  This week Caleb impressed me by mapping Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Cabinda, Republic of Congo, Democratic Rebublic of Congo, Canary Islands, Western Sahara and a few others.  I was very impressed.  Elijah still heads to South America everytime he looks for Africa!  We're working on it!  We review our memory box and practice any longer memory work- right now they are each memorizing a poem.  We finish up our core work from Sonlight and then I try to find something funny or interesting to read about.  Today we read some funny and inspirational stories out of Readers Digest and for some reason Caleb asked if there were any countries with kings and queens still.  I'm not sure how, but it ended up with a youtube search and watching people make the guards at the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace laugh!  As much as I'd love to blame the boys it's usually me coming up with some weird completely off subject idea... oh well!  We also play catch-up on Fridays.  Whether school or chores, we try to have things tidy and complete for the weekend. Notice I say TRY!  Doesn't always happen, but it's the goal. 

No shopping or cooking ahead this week.  Daddy is working.  Carter still cleaned out the fridge though and found a carrot in the back that could've been science for the day, but after showing it off we chose to dump it and pretend it didn't happen.

According to the kids, the best part of Friday is the evening.  Anyone who knows us, knows our boys love Star Wars.  Well for the past year or so Cartoon Network has a Star Wars the Clone Wars cartoon series.  Every Friday there is a new 30 minute episode and they won't miss it for the world.  We pop popcorn, invite friends and gather around tv and  put up with enjoy the cartoon together.  Since Daddy had to work it was straight to bed after Star Wars. But MY favorite part of Fridays, it leads to...

Pop-tart Saturday!!  Woo Hoo!  Friday nights the kids grab the pop-tarts from the "store" room and put them up on the counter.  We started this tradtion before Addie was born and Paul and I anxiously await when we can enjoy the full tradition again.  The deal is, wake up when you want but DON'T WAKE UP MOM AND DAD!  Help a sibling if they need it.  Get pop-tarts for breakfast and stay super quiet!  It was a wonderful sleep-in morning... then we had a baby again ;0)  Obviously we bargain/beg agree to take turns getting up with Addison.  Over the years the guilt of pop-tarts got to me and we replaced them with an organic brand made with real ingredients but still very sweet and full of unneccessary calories.

All in all, these little traditions have made our Fridays (and Saturday mornings) a day to look forward to! What are your weekly "traditions"?

Our Funny Story

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Day Homeschooling

Ever wonder what a day homeschooling looks like?  Here it is in pictures!

Lots of reading... and if you're lucky you can find a quiet spot.

Phonics at the kitchen table.

Math help from Dad.

And of course very scholarly toddlers.

A day in our life :0)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cooking Ahead

I'm sure you've heard of people cooking meals for a month or two and freezing them. I've often thought it was a great idea EXCEPT I have no where to put it!  We have a big family and a little freezer. But at the same time I know how often we were falling back on sandwiches or cereal when mama was exhausted and I looked up and realized it was 6:00 with nothing planned.  So after talking to several friends I came up with a plan that has worked very well for us.

  I cook 2 weeks in advance and I don't put it all in tin pans, I make kits!  My girlfriend Sena shared that after her daughter had some major food allergy issues she was so bummed that she could no longer buy those quick freezer kits like fajitas or stir fry so she started making her own.  For some reason this just was a light bulb moment for me.  We always shop for 2 weeks at a time so now when grocery shopping is done I start cooking right away. I can generally get 10 meals cooked and in the freezer in 2-3 hours (and that's with 5 kids and a husband under foot "sampling").  I decided on 10 meals because in theory I could use one every week day when were dealing with school and craziness but also because I do like to cook and somedays I just have to make a big pot of soup because it's grey and rainy and cold.  I should add that every two weeks I'm only choosing 5 meals and I'm doubling them.  That helps keep us in budget and once we started we don't always use all 10 before our next shopping time so over the weeks we have a larger variety.  I pull out today's meal the night before or in the morning and let it thaw in the refrigerator until dinner.  In general I warm them on the stove top or in a 9x13 pan covered with foil for 20-30 mins at 350.

Here's an example of five meals I make and how I store them:

Tacos- YUP! Tacos.  I brown and season the meat and put it in a zipper bag.  Then I put cheese in a small baggie and grab a bag of tortillas.  In a large zipper bag I'll put the tortillas, bagged burger and cheese, squeeze the air out and done.  I thaw it during the day and then I can warm the meat on the stove top with just a little water if needed while I chop tomatoes and onion.  I know it seems like just as much work to brown the meat as it is to warm it but somehow it's not.  No grease to deal with and I guess just no brain needed at all.

Sloppy Joes- I just brown meat and make up the sauce (I usually add lentils to ours to stretch our meat too).  I put it in a zipper bag and freeze flat.  The day I use it I throw it in the crock-pot on low in the afternoon and it's warm by dinner.

French Bread Pizzas- I'll make a few loaves of french bread and freeze along with a baggie full of cheese and pepperoni.  To make we just slice the loaves into four and top with spaghetti sauce, cheese and pepperoni and throw it under the broiler till melted and brown (5-10 mins).  You could easily buy a loaf of french bread too.

Fried Rice- (this one was from Sena) Make up white rice and at the same time scramble up eggs in a little sesame oil (I use a dozen eggs and no meat in this recipe).  In separate baggies put chopped onion, minced garlic and the eggs.  Mix a cup or two of mixed veggies in with the rice and put that in a large baggie.  Add those little baggies right in and then again freeze flat.  To make saute the onion in a little oil, add the garlic for the last minute or two so it doesn't burn then dump in the rice and eggs and "stir fry" until warm.  I add a bit of salt and soy sauce as it's cooking and even a dash of sesame oil for flavor.

Black beans and sausage- I make this one if I have dried beans in the house before shopping day. I cook them in the crock-pot the night before so there ready when we are home from groceries.  Make a batch of rice (white or brown your choice). To the black beans I add salt and whatever spices I think of.  Usually cumin, garlic/onion powder, I've even used steak seasoning before.  Then I take smoked sausage (the thicker kind that comes in two long links and use one link per recipe) and cut it like you cut a hot dog for a toddler- in half lengthwise twice so then when you slice you get 4 pieces per slice.  Throw that in with the beans in a bag and freeze flat. Put the rice in a separate bag and freeze.  When it's dinner time put the rice in a 9x13 pan and top with the beans, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20-30 mins.  Top individual servings with sour cream, shredded cheese, tomato and onion... YUM!

Other meals that freeze well are chili, spaghetti noodles (yup, freeze them and then you can dump the spaghetti sauce over top in a 9x13 and top with mozzarella cheese and you have a spaghetti bake), homemade chicken nuggets... the list is endless.  There are also several once a month cooking type cookbooks you can try but just do it in shorter periods.  I can stack all 10 meals on one shelf in our upstairs side by side freezer.  We have a small freezer downstairs that basically holds bread and veggies for us but because it's in baggies frozen flat we can squeeze some meals in there too.

The best part of this whole thing is Daddy or the big kids can "cook" if mom is gone or busy.  The other day Carter (12) dumped the tuna fettuccine in a 9x13, covered it with foil and baked it while I was picking up and chasing the 1yo.  All I need to add is our choice of veggie/applesauce and maybe cornbread or rolls depending on the meal.

Cooking ahead works for me!

Monday, November 15, 2010


So what can a cute 5yo sister convince you to do if you are a 7yo brother with a huge heart?  Well, the possibilities are endless!

You could convince him that painting your nails is fun!

Or you could convince him he is a prince and should dress up with you and take you dancing at the Royal Ball!!

With  a brother like this... a girl could rule the WORLD!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

State Bound Baby... WOOOO HOOOO!!!!

So if a picture speaks a thousand words, here ya go...
The boys FLL (First Lego League) regional competition was today in Zeeland... alllllll day long! Their team is the BRICKHEADS (Builders Rooted In Christ's Kingdom). Carter stayed over at his coaches house last night and they worked on the robot until 2am!  Carter ran the robot program along with help from the Jr. Coach. They had to do a 5 minute presentation on their innovative solution, research, robot run, a community presentation, and interviews with Dr.s and PA's.  They were  judged on team work, programing, robot design, presentation... on and on it goes.

So the results...  trophies in programming, team spirit, 2nd over all (which covers ALL the judging categories!!!!), they finished 3rd in the Robot Final 8 challenge and an invitation to compete at the State competition!  Woooo Hooo!  Through all the praying and last minute tweaking, all the glory truly goes to God!! We are very proud of the boys and their team and thankful for the time their coaches put into it all.


Why Memorize Scripture

I thought after the Scripture Memory post I'd share WHY we work on memorizing God's Word.  Well there are a million reasons why but there are four at the top for me. 

#1 When I am hurt, scared, sad, lonely...
you name it, when I am overcome by emotions it seems the Lord will always bring to mind a verse for comfort.  There are verses I don't even think I know that well that will suddenly come to mind and bring such comfort.  I want my children to have that comfort as well.

#2 Comforting a friend. 
There is nothing like the Word of God to bring comfort to someone who is hurting.  Call me crazy but I don't think it's half as comforting if as a person pours our their heart or sits and sobs I have my face in the Bible flipping madly saying, "Hold on, I know it's in here somewhere... God says something about this, I just know it!"

#3 Teaching my children
Again there's great gains in using Scripture for comfort but also as 1 Timothy 3:16 says... "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness".  When I correct my children I love to be able to have the Word to show them this isn't just mommy's wishes but God's too.  For example, when the kids say something mean or won't stop picking they already know what I'll say!  I'll look them in the eye and ask them to stop what they are doing and ask them if it was being encouraging (obvious answer... NO!!).  Then I'll say the verse with their name in it, "Carter, let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words may be an encouragement to those who hear them." Ephesians 4:29  Again, if you have to look it up it's just not quite as effective. When you find a good one to apply with your kids make it a memory verse in your box or use it for copywork, dictation practice or even discipline.  Caleb memorized 1 Peter 2:17 after a day of interrupting and being disrespectful during school time.  I won't tell you how many times I made him write it (or you'll think I'm really mean!).  Curious what it says, "Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."  If you need help finding good verses for different circumstances check out this book Parenting with Scripture  .  It's a topical guide and has been a huge help for us.  You can look up fighting or cursing or good stuff like encouraging and example and it will give you related Scripture.  Remember to use God's Word to bless them as well. "You are a delight to my soul!" Proverbs 29:17.

#4 Because God says so!!
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
Joshua 1:8 "Keep this book of the law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."

Enough said!

Memorizing Scripture

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Scripture Memory

I LOVE the Word of God.  Although I struggle at times to keep up with the daily reading of it (I'll post on that some other time), lately we are NOT struggling with memorizing it!  Our music and our Memory Box have us memorizing more than I ever imagined.  Let me share...

With our homeschool curriculum this year we got a great CD called God Our Provider that sings the Word.  The voices are of  young children but not the annoying nasal voices you often get on CD's!  It's beautifully done and very catchy.  I woke this morning singing Psalm 24!  The kids easily memorized ALL of Psalm 24 and several others by simply listening to it every morning.  Someday ask Elijah to recite Psalm 24.  There is nothing cuter than a toothless 7yo saying, "and vindication from the God of our salvation."!  I love when God's Word is set to music.  I use to help with our church junior choir and I still, years later, will be reading my Bible and be able to finish verses because of songs we did.  Often I didn't even realize they were Scripture!  Honest, how many of you can sing, "This is the day that the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118:24 my friend.  I think I will use music for memory long after my children are out of the house.

Now our Memory Box is AWESOME.  You can do this for yourself, your kids or your whole family.  I was going to put a link but after searching I see it's everywhere and I have no idea who actually started it!  Basically you get an index card box, blank index cards and dividers.  You need dividers 1-31, Monday-Friday (or Sunday-Saturday if you plan on using the box everyday of the week), and 3 you can mark yourself that say odd, even and daily.  This will sound complicated but I assure you once it's together it is easy peasy.  Put the dividers in front to back in this order: daily, odd, even, Mon-Fri (or Sun-Sat) and then 1-31.  If today is your first day ever and your going to start with say John 3:16, write it on an index card and put it under daily.  Review it everyday until you feel you know it.  Once you got it pretty good, move it back behind odd or even and put a new one in daily.  Everyday you do daily but on odd or even days of the month you'll also review John 3:16.  Now as you add more cards and are confident with them you keep moving them back.  So for awhile you'll practice John 3:16 everyday, then only odd or even days, then you'll move it back to the weekly and only practice it on Mondays.  As you go it will move back behind a number divider and you will only review it once a month.  The whole idea is to not memorize something and then completely forget it three months from now.  It's the easiest system I've ever used.  We sit down at the table and go through it everyday or at least every week day. 
If your kids do Awana or an Upward Sports program you can put their verses right in the box.  Then they're not just memorizing to move on, your helping them retain it. Sometimes we'll have to get jump started by reading it a bit.  Like if it's a verse behind say #31 that we don't even hit every month I may need to get us started with the first word or two but then the memory kicks right in.

Give it a try.  Between music and a Memory Box you'll be amazed at how easy it is!

Why Memorize Scripture

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Hannah!!

My first girl!  5 years old.  We went and got her ears pierced today and she was very brave!  Pink of course.  I thought today we'd share some interesting thoughts about the birthday girl...

She has MANY names!  Hannah, Hannie, Hannie Max, Maxi Burger, Hannah Banana, Maxine, Hanners and then of course she is part of "the girls" and "the littles".  Hannah is often heard in the house hollering "BU-OYZZZ" to get "her boys" attention.  She is very bossy, very prissy and the sweetest lady ever! 

Last week she asked me if Jesus was still in her heart.  I told her yes if she wanted Him to be.  Then she wondered if that meant He could be in nobody elses heart and I assured her that was the best part, Jesus could be with anyone who wanted Him!  Her reply... "OH MY GRACIOUS!!  I've GOT to tell Laci and Grace!" (her two best friends).  Well we were in the car driving and she wanted to go to them but we weren't by Grace and Laci lives in Lansing!!  So I told her we could call them, thinking we'd do that when we got home.  NOPE!  She says, "Mama!!  Give me your phone!"  So we called them from the cell where she told them they could have Jesus in their heart too and "your Mom can help you pray if you want."  It was soooo sweet! 

My house has changed so much since bringing her home from the hospital.  I remember the first week walking out to our living room and seeing her pink blanket and wondering who left their blanket at our house!  It was so weird to have pink... now, not so much.  It seems to be taking over and we love it! 

Hannah keeps us laughing for sure and I leave you with my favorite comeback EVER along with a picture with the new earrings. 

Caleb was picking on her and just being a brother and she was trying to pick back so she did the usuals, stinky boy etc and it didn't bother him at all so after a long pause she said very cocky, "Yeah, well Caleb... you don't even know all your letters!"

Can't get much worse than that when your 5!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Not Me! Monday

So I think this started from this blog  here.  She says, "Not Me! Monday was born out of my desire to admit some of my imperfections and reveal a few moments I’d rather forget. You may find it therapeutic to join in and do the same thing!"  So basically you have to admit everything you did but you get to pretend you didn't!  I love it!  So here ya go....
I did NOT decide Saturday was to be a lazy day and never even got out of my pajamas!  I did NOT let me kids eat Halloween candy and pop-tarts (the pop-tarts were organic thank you very much!) for breakfast.  And I certainly did not sit by and laugh as I watched the 1 year old locate the candy and figure out how to unwrap suckers! Nope, not me!  I did not fiddle around on the computer while said 1yo continued to unwrap multiple suckers and leave sticky, drooly trails all over my house. If I did have a lazy Saturday, I would not sooo lose track of time that after dinner during clean-up time I would not question why on earth my husband was calling to chit-chat and then realize he was on his way HOME at 7:30pm!  I surely would not console myself that it was daylight savings that night and so I could really count it as 6:30pm. I did NOT skip the girls baths and halfway consider skipping church the next morning because being lazy was so fun (don't worry I went!).

Let me say, I would NEVER waste away a day like that... nope, NOT ME!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Elderberry Syrup

Recently I was told about the health benefits of Elderberry.  From what I'm finding it's very popular in Europe as a cold treatment and has been used for centuries.  I checked out different brands at the health food store and found great info online, especially here. Click where it says "the Sambucol story" and check out the video at the bottom- great info. Several friends told me it has helped shorten the length of croup and colds in their family and I'm all for shortening both of those! But, I wasn't thrilled with it's price.  Then, my friend Tina told me how to make it myself!  I figured it was worth a try since even at Rite-Aid it's running a good $12.00 a bottle. Well, we gave it a go this week. It was easy and it seemed to work.  I suddenly felt hit by a truck Tuesday afternoon with an out of the blue runny nose, scratchy throat and exhaustion. I started taking it along with vitamin C and was feeling much better by Wednesday. Elijah woke with croup on Tuesday and never had the long barky night or morning that usually follows.  Here's how it looks in the bag from the store and our batch we made...

It was super simple and super cheap!  I found dehydrated Elderberries at the health food store for $3.50 for the bag you see and that's after making a batch.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup
 Put a 1/2 cup dehydrated or 1 cup fresh elderberries in a pot and cover with 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Pour through a strainer and smash the berries (I just used the bottom of a coffee cup).  Add 1 cup of honey to the liquid and store in your refrigerator.  DONE! It says it keeps for a few months.  You can take it as a maintenance or prevenative of 2tsp a day for kids 4-adult, 1tsp 1-3 year olds.  When sick you can take that dose every 2-3 hours. Some places it recommended adding it to hot water for the younger children to kill anything in the honey.

It's not bad tasting, some people even use it on their pancakes instead of maple syrup.  I can say it's the first time I've had a croupy kid in the morning that didn't end up having a long night to follow in and out of a steamy bathroom.

We may see if we can grow it next year and then freeze or dehydrate the berries.  Sounds like a good homeschool project!

Whether you buy it or make it, definitely worth a try this cold and flu season. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Worthy Mentor

I love reading about Susanna Wesley.  She is the mother of Charles and John Wesley who started the Methodist Church and wrote many well loved hymns including Caleb's favorite O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.  She was very orderly and had the self-discipline I dream of.  She homeschooled her children and held to a very high standard in the midst of illness and being alone as her husband traveled, preached and even was in jail for a time!  I thought of her today as a prayer of hers was in the devotion part of my Bible and I dug through some other info I have on her.  You may of heard the story of a mom who would pull her apron up over her head when she needed to pray and her children knew NOT to mess with Mama when she did that... that was Susanna. This is how a scholar described the Wesley children, "a cluster of bright, vehement, argumentative boys and girls, living by a clean and high code, and on the plainest fare; drilled to soft tones, to pretty formal courtesies; with learning as an ideal, duty as an atmosphere and fear of God as law."  I love that!  She was also clear on teaching obedience and learning self-control from a very young age.  This is something we've tried to do in little steps with our children as they grow.  Today for example, Addison found a lipstick of Hannahs and opened it up, soon as I called her name she knew she was in trouble so she tried to run from Hannah and accidently came right to me.  I asked her to give me the lipstick and she threw it (she's 17 months now) and fell down crying so I stood her back up and handed her the lipstick again asking her to give it to me.  We repeated this and by the third time through she realized Mama meant buisness and put the lipstick in my hand.  I loved her up and told her good job and off she went.  It doesn't seem like a big deal and most people would have just taken it and moved on but we see how those little steps of learning make for much more enjoyable toddlers and preschoolers... and we're quite fond of our elementary and jr. high kids too :0)  It inspires me in my home and in my walk with Christ to look at and learn from women who have suceeded in raising godly children.  In Susanna's case her boys literally changed the world!  Who knows who our children will be or what they'll do in the future.  My goal is to help teach them at a young age to be obedient to God and follow His ways, women like Susanna are showing me how.

This was Susanna's prayer, "Morning and evening I commit my soul to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  Enable me, O God to observe what He says to me: resolutely to obey His precepts and endeavor to follow His example in those things wherein He is exhibitied to us as a pattern for our imitation.  Make plain to me that no circumstance nor time of life can occur but I may find something either spoken by our Lord Himself or by His Spirit in the prophets or apostles that will direct my conduct, if I am but faithful toYou and my own soul. Amen."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time to make the doughnuts!

So the kids have been asking to make homemade doughnuts for several months (I thought they'd forget about it sooner or later but apparently not).  I found a recipe online for Creamy Krispy (get it?) doughnuts and we decided to go for it.  The one issue was the recipe never said how many it made...41 doughnuts later!  No I'm NOT kidding!!!  The mixing we did together and then we let it rise, rolled it out and started cutting and then let them rise again.  I thought that was the long part until I pulled out my little fryer that we never use and realized I could fit 2 doughnuts in at a time... TWO!!  Oh well.  They were delicious!  Nana was here and munched with us. Then we dropped some off to Grandma and Papa, Grandma Joyce and Papa Art across the street and Ms. Mel and Ms. Michelle next door.  Needless to say there are plenty left for breakfast.  It was pretty fun and I'm thinking we could add some festive sprinkles and make it a special holiday treat.  Maybe make them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter etc.  I also made some yummy soup by simply throwing a whole fryer chicken in a pot with celery, carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic.  I covered it all with water and salt and pepper and just let it simmer all day.  When the meat was falling apart I took the whole chicken out and pulled off the skin and cut all the chicken off the bone and tossed it back in the pot.  I chopped it with some food scissors right over the pot and added a little more salt and some thyme. I let it simmer a bit more and wa-lah!  It was very good on a cold rainy day.  Paul says all it was missing was some homemade french bread... can't believe I didn't think of that in the midst of a cold, a 4yo throwing up, 2 boys to take to Lego class, homeschooling, company and a 1yo whose favorite thing to do right now is dance on the tables, throw away her shoes or find stray pencils and write on anything she can find!  Just another day in paradise :0)
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