Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Week of Creativity

Inspired by a pin I saw on Pinterest (you HAVE lingered there, right?!), I made this wall hanging as a gift for a friend who is having her first baby:

The fabric and ribbon are new, but most of the buttons are "vintage."

....and I made a card to go with it:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thankfulness Journal

We've begun a new unit on Miracles in our Sunday School class, and it motivated me to follow through on something I've been meaning to do for a couple years:  create a Thankfulness Journal.

I had one years ago when I first started working - it was a confidence booster at the time, where I wrote things people said that (what to me at the time) seemed to validate my work, my competency, etc.  I needed it when I was feeling unsure of myself.

Other times I've written lists of things for which I am thankful, but those were impermanent and I couldn't put my finger on them now if I had to.  Therefore, I'm going to dedicate one of the many hard-backed, blank, lined journals I pick up here and there to a Thankfulness Journal.

What does Thankfulness have to with miracles?  Well, for me, I am SUPREMELY thankful when I see God play an active part - even in small ways** - in my daily life ~ some people call them "God Sightings" or "God Winks," but neither of those phrases really grab me, so until I find a new way to describe them, I'll just refer to them as things for which I am thankful and write them in my journal.  Personally, I think they are "Mini Miracles," because, I mean, hey, isn't it a MIRACLE that the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE cares about little ole' me?

I see God alive and at work in my life in the smallest ways.  I mean, VERY SMALL.  An atheist or agnostic might dismiss things that I notice as coincidence, I take it as evidence that God cares about every part of me and is involved in the mundane day to day activity in my life.

FOR EXAMPLE, and here is a Homeschooling Moment:

This morning we began our school day as we always do - with our Bible lesson and memory verse of the week.  This week's verse is
Matthew 5:16:  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

(OF COURSE, we sang This Little Light of Mine)

But to put our verse in context, I backed up some....
Matthew 5:13:  You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how [e]can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

We had a lovely discussion about salt losing its saltiness ~ (background:  If the four year old finds a salt shaker on the table and pours it out on said table, licks it....licks it...licks it.... she throws up.  She doesn't say why she is retching, however, but Mama's detective skills are improving.  We Have Learned That Too Much Salt Is Not Good For Our Bodies And They Reject It.) ~ which has been a pertinent issue in our home at least twice.  They know about salt.

Anyways, we moved on to History.

We are using Mystery of History as our backbone curriculum and (more on that in another post) this morning we began to look at cultures outside of the middle east, specifically, China.  We did the lesson, learned about the first couple dynasties and, as a surprise, I took the girls to "Chinese" for lunch.  We compared the characters of the Chinese alphabet on the back of our chopsticks packages to hieroglyphics and cuneiform writing, talked about the differences in food and the different gods (idols) they worshiped ~ Chinese restaurants aren't complete without a Buddha! 

Lovin' us some homeschooling!

So then it was Fortune Cookie Time.

Now daggone it if I didn't lose my 'fortune,' but it said something about filling someone's head with knowledge vs. teaching them to learn for themselves.  I "just happen"** (see above) to be reading to be reading a book about Classical Education vs. Outcome-Based Education.  Right on target!  Hannah's fortune was: Keep negative comments to yourself, avoid any disputes.  Eh?  Maybe not.  Nice, but not necessarily words to live by.

But what I thought was REALLY NEATO was that on the back her "Learn Chinese" word was, SALT.


Yes, really.

Its going in the journal.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Do U See Math?

Did I mention that we had changed our math curriculum?
Based on outstanding reviews from friends, we switched to Math U See this year.  It has three components: a DVD lesson, a teacher's guide and a student workbook.  Oh, there's the manipulatives, too - base 10 blocks I guess you could call them - interlocking from the bottoms and used heavily in the lessons.
The program is geared toward various learning styles, and we've really enjoyed it so far....Han is in the second book, "Beta," and will finish that book (30 lessons) by the end of next week.  We'll move into the "Gamma" book directly afterward.  It is largely self-paced - and that is the point.  They want to ensure that each concept is nailed and learned solidly before the next one is introduced.  Much of the "Beta" work is review from our program of last year, which is another reason she's flying through it.
I haven't mentioned that a Very Good Friend shared her teacher's manuals and DVD's with us.  What a money-saver....almost $200 worth!  Wow.  She even shipped them out here from Oklahoma!  OK!  Thank you Lesly!
But wait, there's MORE!
In order to begin the program we had to order the student workbooks.  We needed the Primer (for A) and the Beta for H (we skipped the Alpha, the basic math facts).  We also needed the manipulative blocks.
So I went to the Math U See website and placed the order.  Rats.  They were out of the blocks, pictured here.  "Temporarily Out of Stock" the note said.  Nonetheless, we wanted to get started right away so I placed my order for the books.
The next day I went back to the website to check and see if the blocks were available....they were!  Now, to try and stop my order from shipping, I contacted the customer service "help chat" and told the Nice Lady my story.
This Very Helpful Person said she would try and stop my order before it left the warehouse so that the blocks could be added to the box to save me a second round of shipping costs (almost $12!).  I told her that if it couldn't be done, I understood, as I probably should have waited to place my order.  She said she'd get back to me the next day.
Alas, my order shipped separately as I was informed by email.  No big deal.  After all, the Instruction Manuals and DVDs were Free To Me so it was a pretty good deal to begin with.  We were still in our school budget for the program.  And as it turned out, shipping was much quicker than the 5 days suggested on the website.

(((time passes)))

A couple weeks later Andy asked me if I expecting a rebate check from Math U See.
"No, lemme see it!"
After a lively discussion of "its mine,"
"NO its MINE" etc.
ensured, I emerged victorious and was able to see the amount.
THIS NICE COMPANY refunded the cost of shipping my second package!  Without even being asked!  And loooong after the whole incident was pushed far from my mind.  Really?  They did that for US?
So, not only am I impressed with the quality of their teaching, but the company itself is devoted to its customers as well.
The money refunded will be turned around again next week and used to purchase the next book in the series, but isn't that a great story?  They really did the right thing.  And now, I'm going to try and reciprocate by passing along my experience to you!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blogging - And Why I Haven't Been

I've been Living the Life!  I think about something almost daily to write about, but when it comes time...there IS none!  I've mentioned before how my computer time is usually in the evenings when Andy is asleep or trying to drift off.  My 'clicking' over here would be MUCH too distracting for him, so I try to do more 'mouse clicks' than keyboard clicks. (There should be a clever way to phrase that, but I can't come up with it now)....

The girls have made friends with a little girl who, along with her parents and older brother, moved in with her grandparents across the street.  She comes over 3-4 afternoons a week and my girls are thrilled.  They have never had a child live so close by that they could just show up, unannounced, without hitching a ride from a parent.  I love it, too ~ it reminds me of when Amy and I used to play with our friend, Diana, who lived down the street.  They're pretty content to play on the swingset, in the creek, in the carport and under the pine trees, AKA the Tearoom.  She's over here now, which is why I can sneak a few minutes on the computer!

All the same, I am eager for our house to sell so that we can move closer to Roanoke and more homeschooling families, events and activities.  I want the girls to get involved in 4H and ballet (Abigail), but I don't want to start here and have to change mid-year.  Of course, only the Lord knows the plans He has for us, and we could very well be here for another year.  I hope not,  because I don't like the idea of Andy driving 76 miles each way in the wintertime with snow and ice in the forecast.  Its hard to be patient... and yet, 1 Corinthians 13:1 lists patient as the first descriptor of love.  Hmmmmm....could my having patience about a move be a testimony to my love for God?  There's a lesson in there somewhere....

We've enjoyed being outdoors a lot this early Fall.  We've taken a couple quick family walks in the woods and two nice long bike rides down the (Rails To Trails) Jackson River Trail.  I hooked the "Wee Ride / Co-Pilot" tandem bike to mine and Hannah rides a new bike our neighbor gave her last year, and we trek away.  I hope to get over to the Greenbrier River Trail, too, pretty soon to take advantage of that as well.  Here in Callaghan there are few areas to really ride....its 45MPH in front of our house and that's the low end of the scale for the speedies who fly by.

I'll leave you with some pictures of the girls' adventures....
Keepin' on keepin' on!

A funny face after a long ride

"Wading" in the Jackson River at Petticoat Junction

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hot Weather Inside Activity

Han asked today if I'd make "edible sand," something she saw in a magazine.  I didn't have the ingredients for it, so I made edible play dough instead.  They are having a blast, and I have time to take a break get my work done!

Edible Play Dough

1 box cake mix that you bought for a recipe then decided not to make
1/2 stick of butter @ room temp/soft
1/3 of cream cheese block left out since breakfast, so its at room temp

Mix all together for about 3-4 minutes in (preferably) a stand mixer.  It should start to really clump together. 

Use trays to keep clean, washed hands and kitchen tools to play!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

VBS Season

Its VBS week again, and this year, instead of the usual 9-12 time slot, we're meeting from 6-8:30 in the evening.  I'm also teaching the 3-5-year-olds instead of just doing crafts.  Its a big difference! 
Now, you know I love VBS.  I do it every year and actually look forward to it.  But I also like to gripe.  So lets get right to it!
Whose idea is it to jack up a hundred kids on junk food at 8PM, play loud music with lots of action and moves and send them home with a message that "Jesus loves everyone"?  Yes.  He does.  But we as parents are imperfect reflections of God, and at 11:30 PM when the 4 year old is still spinning, I'm having a hard time reflecting the Love Of Christ when I am whacking on her for the THIRD TIME and she is still wound tight as as a top. 
These are the nights when I am tempted to put some Benadryl in the baby bottle.... no, not really, but come ON!  And then she was up at 8AM?  Really?  Doesn't this kid need sleep?  More importantly, do I get any time to myself??  Sigh....
The Big One went right to bed after a bit of an emotional upheaval ~ Daddy pulled out her remaining front tooth after several unsuccessful tries on her part to do the same.  She went to bed after tears of joy, sadness, and with heady expectation that her tooth fairy would reward her with a shiny coin and a smooth paper dollar.
Alas, her joy upon awakening was dashed as she reached under her pillow and felt neither. 
When she opened one round eye at me at 8AM as I tiptoed in to replace the tiny fang with money, she whispered,
"Butterfly didn't come last night."
(Butterfly is the name of her tooth fairy.)
Ding, dang, dong.
"Well," I told her, "I have a feeling she tried to get here but your sister scared her away being up so late and wailing until the wee hours of the morning" inadvertently fueling sibling rivalry in a piteous attempt to shift the blame from my forgetfulness.
So tonight is the second night of what I fear will be a long, long week of VBS.  Not at all because of the children in my class, who are precious lambs of Jesus.  Really!  Those little loves are the easy part. 
And I have GOT to remember to play Butterfly.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I shouldn't have even looked!

Has it really been since May since I posted last?  I'm sorry!  But here is something blog-worthy to break the long dry spell.  Its typical for me.

I drink day old coffee.  Yes, yes, some will say its so gauche, or gross or what have you, but I don't mind ~ I usually mix it with new coffee to heat it back up so I can drink it right away. 

Ever have that niggling feeling that, "I should...." but then ignore it? 
Don't ignore it.

Last night I poured the last of yesterday's coffee into a coffee cup and left it on the stove, refilled the stove top percolator and set it on the burner and went to bed.

This morning I turned on the burner, perked the coffee and, when it was finished, topped it off with the fresh coffee.

I just finished drinking it and, reaching the bottom, felt something against my lip.

It wasn't coffee grounds.

It was an EARWIG!!


Someone I know who reads this will be ESPECIALLY GROSSED out. 

Don't remember what an earwig looks like?

Thursday, May 12, 2011


A quick testimony of how God is at work in my life:

Homeschool moms can relate to the stress related to choosing a curriculum that will suit their children, their schedule, their teaching style.  It might only be a minor stressor, but the decision is an  important one.  My friend Kay, after providing a recommendation for a curriculum she enjoys with her children, admonished me to "first, pray and allow God to show you His plan."  What great advice! 
Sometimes, regarding school curriculums or any other decision, large or small, I forget to "pray first and seek God's will."  I don't think I'm being willfull or rebellious, but rather not thinking or not allowing the habit to develop in my life.
I took Kay's advice, and prayed over curriculum choices.  I thought I had the answers on most of them, but Math was a sticky wicket (a timely phrase!).  I want to change from our present curriculum series to another, more rigorous one.  I'd made a decision, but since math is not my strong suit and I want Hannah to have the best possible foundation in the subject, I was a little unsure.
Week before last we went saleing.  YARD sale-ing, that is.  I found a "Hooked on Math" box for $1 over on Douthat Road.  I was excited only because of the name.  I figured it was a sister program to "Hooked on Phonics."  Not that I know anything about the program, but it was marketing, baby, pure marketing, that sold me.
When we got home, I saw that it was missing much of the contents.  Oh, well, for a dollar, what did I expect?  I put it aside.
I revisited a couple math curriculum websites and tentatively made a switch.  I gave Hannah a pretest in the program and saw where she should begin.  Even though she passed the pretest, however, she wasn't strong in the basic skills.  I would put her where she would be according to her testing level, but I was a little unsure because the program stresses that the student be strong and proficient in each previous level before advancing.  This is the key to success in this particular program, as it is designed slightly differently than other approaches.
Cleaning off our homeschool bookcase, I opened the Hooked on Math box to see if I could toss the bulky box and keep the insides.  Upon closer inspection.....
(and this is the whole point of the post, GIA - GOD IN ACTION)
I saw that what was included in this program -
what was not discarded by the previous owner -
was the BASIC reviews of the first level of the new math program I'd tentatively selected for next trimester!!
In other words, it is the review, the preparation, the foundation for Hannah's math program that she'll begin in the fall!
Now, is that a "GOD THING" (I dislike that phrase, but it fits!), or WHAT?!
It is exactly what we need to prep her for this new curriculum.  The flash cards, the prompts, the games, etc., ALL of it is what I need to develop her confidence for our next roud of math!
And I'm giving God the Praise for it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blooming where you're planted

How can God use me, a stay-at-home-mom with a limited social circle and interaction with strangers?  In the grocery store, in lines at the pharmacy and over a couple racks of heirloom tomatoes at the local market:
After a conversation of how good that first summer tomato sandwich will taste, how Jackson River Road used to be called Cedar Creek and on why he chooses yellow 'maters over red, and "would you guess that I'll be 80 years old next month?" I asked him bluntly - 'where will you go when you die?'
Yup.  I threw it out there and didn't even flush.  I said it like the "how to witness" books tell you to, how the Sunday School lessons suggest, how I've heard of others doing it.
"In the ground, I guess."
'No, you know what I'm talking about, after y- - - '
"I don't believe in any of that mess.  Now, look, I can go through that Bible and show you where its wrong and there's nothing in it ~ for starters (holding up a bony finger), how can ONE being, ONE thing create all of this (waving his hand over the tomato patch and at the mountain behind us) in six days?  What about the fish in the ocean?  And the universe, too?  There's just no way that ~ why, we've even PROVED it that dinosaurs was here for millions of years and the Bible expects us to believe the earth is only 7,000 years old?  And people coming back from the dead after all that ~ they's just no way they was dead in the first place...now, I was baptized way back in the, the, I was born in '31, ya know; I was baptized and I used to believe all that but then I got to thinkin' how there was just no way the Bible could be true, what they tell you young people, its all wrong...."
"You've obviously given this a lot of thought, but see hear those two kids squallin in the car over there?  They're mine, and I'll have to get them home.  I'd been wondering if I'd be seeing you in eternity."
"There's no such thing.  When I go in the ground I'm staying there.  Now, I can see I"m making you mad with all this, but you just have got to know that you're wrong about all this.  There's no such thing as all that, you'll find that out for yourself one day ~ that Bible is, well, its just all wrong you know..."
"I'm not mad at all, in fact I am feeling pretty good right now, but my girls are getting louder, can't you hear them?"
"I know I made you mad, I make a lotta folks mad about this, but I know I'm right about it, you're mad..."
"No sir, I just have to get my girls home.  I don't get mad!  If anything I feel sorry for you because I know what I believe and I wish you the best yourself, have a nice day!"
"Waaal, I knowed I made you mad..."

I wasn't mad.  I was praying!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Recipe: Rice and Beans with Andouille Sausage

This was such a great put-together recipe that I wanted to share it with you.  Its another one of those recipes for which the ingredients are pretty standard pantry fare, except for the sausage ~ but if you find it on sale, you'll have a healthy and delicious supper in no time.  My girls loved it, although Hannah didn't eat the sausage, and Abigail didn't eat the beans.  Go figure.  The flavors all blend together very nicely.  You could also substitute chicken for the sausage, but the little bit of 'kick' provided by the spicy anduille sausage would be lost.  In that case, add a 1/2 a cup of salsa OR some adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles.

Beans & Sausage

2 links of andouille sausage (or chorizo... the andouille links were about as long as my hand)
1 cup frozen (or 1 can) corn
1-2 cups rehydrated black beans (or 1 can, rinsed well)
1 small can (8 oz) tomato sauce
(optional: 1 small onion)

(If onion is used, saute in canola oil first unitl soft, remove from pan and proceed. )  Cut sausage into 'coins' then into quarters.  Cook in skillet over medium heat until cooked through and it begins to brown or crisp on the sides.  Add corn, beans and tomato sauce.  Fill tomato sauce can with water and add it to the mixture.  Cook rice separately and serve under beans and sausage mixture. 

Let me know if you make it and how it went over with your family!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Beauties

Happy Easter! 


DaddyO and little ladies on the church lawn
 A birthday present for another spring beauty....

Sundress with matching hair clips

Oh, wait...how'd that get in there?!
(Abigail in costume for live crucifixion scene at church)

Friday, April 22, 2011

I can't stop sewing!

(This post is for Carol Ann and Loretta :)

I've been sewing lately and have really been enjoying it!  Mostly I sit at my machine in the evenings after the girls go to bed ~ its great for insomnia, because the concentration needed makes me tired after a shorter while than would just laying in bed lamenting my lack of sleep. 

My style of sewing (and life?) is pattern-less.  Last night I worked for 2 hours on a pattern for an Easter dress for Hannah, and fully half of that time was spent ripping out seams where I'd sewed them incorrectly.  I finally gave up when I got to the point where she'd have to try it on so I could make some adjustments.  When I slipped the bodice over her head in the morning, she could hardly breathe it was so tight across her chest.  I'm going to pitch it. 

Below are examples of the "patternless" sewing I enjoy.  The easiest is the skirt-to-t-shirt sewing technique that is described in a couple places on the Internet: http://www.kids-sewing-projects.com/shirt-into-a-dress.html and  http://www.mormonchic.com/crafty/patriotic-apparel.asp (good crafts, modest dressing, theology - notsomuch). 

The other is the peasant-dress, which is also found on the Internet: http://www.prudentbaby.com/2010/11/long-sleeve-peasant-dress-tutorial.html

I made this one to use the last of some 'ballerina' fabric I had that Abbo liked, and I trimmed it out with purple polkadots.

This dress is also super-easy and fun to make.  I added a ruffle on the bottom with a cool new sewing tool I bought - paid for with "survey money" that I earned from doing surveys online! - it attaches to where my presser foot would go on my machine and gathers in one of three styles as I sew. 

Here is a dress I made for Abbo last year - I 'invented' it myself.  Its basically an elastic skirt pattern but instead of putting the elastic at the top of the 'waist tube,' I sewed a tube lower for the elastic to go in, giving it a ruffle along the top edge.  I also used a wide elastic.

I crisscrossed the straps to avoid them falling down.  To make the straps, I just eyeballed the length and placement. 

Miss Sassypants walking away from her modeling session - I made this dress last year so its getting a little short.  I'll make another one later. 

And, inspired by Loretta (!), I also made a potholder out of some scraps of calico and an old pair of blue jeans I had in my fabric stash!

Now, its off to work -again- on those Easter dresses.  More pictures to come!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Garden Party

A garden party where NO ONE is invited.  In fact, stay completely away from the area!

Why?  Because of the VIPs....or is it - VIMs.....

Well, hello there!  Always nice to have you!

And its ever-so-nice to see you, too!  I've waited an entire YEAR for your visit!

Why, yes!  Do, DO come and stay for awhile!

Yes, the morels are back.  And they paid us a visit in our own back yard!  So I carefully arranged the chairs and table to protect them from any stray children - and, hopefully it will work - deer/turkeys/bear...

The rest of the guests? 

Um...well...well, they're enjoying the entertainment that accompanies a heavy rainfall. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


SOMEone just had a birthday. 

We celebrated by taking him fishing just below the dam at Lake Moomaw.  Although we didn't catch any fish, we had a lovely time baiting hooks and throwing them out and speculating about 'who' lived in the caves across the Jackson River. 
That red sign reads, "DANGER - When you hear the siren, make your way immediately to shore...." (as water is going to be released from below the dam and the water level in the river will rise significantly and rapidly!)  This is the parking area, the picnic area and Gathright Dam.

There's lots of rocks in the water and Andy was re-stringing his line again...

Ahhhhh, fishin'

Ahhhhhh, fishin'

Uh-oh.  Here comes the Spoiler.  See the stick she's holding?  She was using it to "fish" and beat at the water.  BabyRot.

She won the fight for the pink fishing pole, you see.

Got it back again....

After awhile it was time to head home and enjoy kid-decorated birthday cake....notice the swiped area in front about the size of two 3-year old fingers.

On to the best part...just waiting for Daddyo to blow them out so we could DIG IN!

Happy Birthday, Andy!!!  We love you!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Schooling at home

One of the most rewarding things so far about schooling at home is watching Hannah as she has progressed from a non-reader/non-writer to a beginning reader/writer.  She is left-handed and often has trouble with left/right writing and letter or number formation. 

Much of this is developmental and she'll grow out of it.  She needs to keep practicing to train her brain and her hand to work together to form characters correctly.  I've read and seen that drawing "figure 8's" is one way to reinforce this eye-hand-brain coordination.  Occasionally I've set up the big dry erase board so she can full-arm these motions.  The other day I had her doing it while I was washing dishes.  I sensed somehow (Mommy 6th sense) that those figure 8s weren't forthcoming and I turned around to see this:

"What are you doing?  You're supposed to be drawing your figure 8s."
"I'm making a figure 8 person.  Its you, mama!"

"Han, draw your 8s please!"
"OK!  OK!  I'll have to ruin this picture of you, though!"

I mentioned, too, a few posts back that we had been reading through the Old Testament according to Penny Gardner's timeline I found via Ambleside Online.  Using some leftover clay and toothpicks I wanted them to build the Tower of Babel, using this kid's model as a guide:

Here's what we got:

And then, as I think you're supposed to do when studying geography - we made a salt map of the United States.  Actually I  made the salt map and Han labeled it with our "important" points of reference.  (How's Texas lookin atcha?)  Pretty good, right?!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

You know, all I wanted to do was just get them out of the house so I could get a little work done. The temperature was hovering around 60 and I figured that a little fresh air would help.

But then I heard an Indian War Whoop and went to the carport to find this:

"Watch THIS, mama, I'm doing a RAIN DANCE!" 

"And I painting the table, mama!"

(Sigh.)  Time to fire up the washing machine....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Metal detecting at an unnamed location.  We netted $.87!

The girls occupy themselves while daddy detects and mama scoops at another top secret location.

Some girls get more into their building projects than others.  Note the air cast on her left ankle...she only had days left worth of wearing it.

After a tough day of walking the beach, it was time for a little R&R!