Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A New Chapter is Unfolding

Well, 2011 is upon us, and a new world is opening up for the Smith household. We finally did it. We sold our house on December 23rd. It was a process that lasted several months and was by no means forced along by either of us. We put it in God's hands, and things just kind of happened. Isn't it cool when you get to experience something like that? I love the feel of God at work. It's so freeing!

We sold our house on a short sale to an investor. In my perspective it was a true work of God. We were not behind on our mortgage or in any type of financial trouble. Our main objective was to have the freedom to be able to move. I consider it a miracle that we were approved. It's awesome the way things worked out. We could not have asked for a better deal. Due to the fact that the purchaser was an investor we have been afforded the opportunity to stay put and rent our home, saving $500 per month, while we look for our new home. Also, since our financial situation was a good one, and our credit score was good, we will not have to wait any length of time to be able to purchase another home. Can you say, AWESOME!?

I don't believe I have ever felt such peace in the middle of such change. It was a little anxiety inducing right at the end, but knowing everything is in God's hands just smoothed it all away for me. It also doesn't hurt knowing that we are one giant step closer to landing our much desired country home. It is so exciting to know that within the next year or so we will be looking out our window peeking in on God's wilderness. It is down right miraculous!

My prayers include things like praying that God finds the perfect family to be blessed by our home when we are ready to leave it, praying that we are put in a new situation that will better position us to be a blessing to others, and that God will open the rest of the doors in much the same way as he did for the sale of our home. It really is my desire for others to be blessed by the decisions we make and the positions God puts us in. Is there really any other reason so worth living than to be the love of Christ to others? I can think of none.

January will mark many milestones for me. The first begins a new year. The eighth is my 40th birthday. The 21st will see the birth of our eighth grandchild. The 26th will mark Avery's first year on this earth. Also, in January I will begin simplifying our home. We will begin to purge the things that brought us through the end of 2010 to make room for the blessings of things to come in and beyond 2011. I am so excited to be ridding our home of any and all unnecessary possessions. We've done it before, and I plan to be even more radical this time. Seems odd to think that the time when moving boxes, packing tape, and permanent markers will consume our days is just around the corner...closer than ever before.

When it finally is time to pack up and go we will be leaving behind the childhood home of our children. A few of them remember calling nowhere else home. It will be sad and exciting all in the same moment. Change is good. It induces growth and gratitude. I look forward to the experience despite the things I will miss. There will be more than just memories to leave behind. Our life has been here for around 15 years. (For my husband, close to 20.) We will be leaving all that is familiar to embark on a journey of discovery. School, church, the library, home school groups, neighbors, and the comforting sense of the familiar will become a thing of the past.

It is my prayer that I will keep my heart and mind open to God's leading and prompting always seeing the blessings in every experience, both good and bad. I wait in anticipation, without fear, for my God is with me.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sprouting Soles Giveaway!

I L-O-V-E Sprouting Soles baby shoes! My daughter and I have both been fortunate to have each won a pair of her lovingly made shoes for our little ones. Avery likes his so much that they are in the washing machine right now. Here's a picture of the little guy sporting his new soles:

Here's the information on the contest:

Let the fun begin! Here's your chance to get a FREE pair of Sprouting Soles infant/toddler shoes AND a FREE reusable sandwich bag!!!! Your choice of shoes, any size, any of the below 5 shoes.

ATTENTION to ANYONE who has an infant or toddler OR perhaps your neighbor just had a baby, a lady at your church has a crawler, your neice, granddaughter, or best friend. If this is you - REGISTER!

This registration will consist of several chances to get your name entered multiple times (up to 5 entries per person):

1.) Fan my Facebook & heart my Etsy store. Heart your favorite item in my shop! Return to my Sprouting Soles Facebook site & list your first name, email address, & what item you hearted. This will get you your FIRST entry into the give away (Melissa=Versailles=melmarbrown@gmail.com).

2.) Paste link (below) on your Facebook & come back posting a link. This will get you

your SECOND entry into the drawing. (don't forget to tell me who you are)


3) Mention this give away & link (above) on your Tweet & come back posting a link. This will get you a THRID entry.

4.) Mention this give away & link (above) on your Blog or on someone elses blog & come back posting a link. This will get you a FOURTH entry.

5.) Mention this give away & post the link (above) on a friend's page & come back posting the link to their page. This will get you a FIFTH entry.

Obviously the more you do the more chances you have of winning! Good luck to all!

I will announce the winner Friday, November 5th via email & on Facebook.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday's the Potluck Club

Adrian and I tried a new recipe the other day, and we both loved it! Adrian is my soon to be 17 year old. (How does that happen?) He likes to cook and joins me in the kitchen on occasion. We had some leftover, baked mac and cheese. I have seen them fry it before on Food Network, so we decided to give it a try. It turned out pretty darned good, if I don't say so myself.

A note about the leftover mac:

The mac and cheese I used was just one of those where you throw together what looks good. So, it had a couple kinds of cheese in it along with some homemade salsa thrown it. It was the first time I tried that, and it really jazzed it up. You should give it a try sometime if you haven't done so already. It was a couple days old and baked. That part is essential. It must be baked, and it must be at least refrigerated overnight.

I took a peek at Alton Brown's recipe for Next Day Mac and Cheese "Toast" to get an idea of the process. I was SO excited to see that he used panko bread crumbs. These are one of my new favorite things. It's a total texture experience, and they work perfectly with this recipe.

Here's what you need:

Leftover baked macaroni and cheese, refrigerated for at least overnight

1 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne (Adrian said it could have had more. I thought it was spot on.)

2 eggs beaten with 3 ounces water

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Oil for deep frying, preheated 375 degrees


Cut refrigerated mac and cheese into 3"x3" squares (what we did) or bite size pieces.

Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne to the flour.

Dredge each piece through the flour, tapping off excess.

Dip dredged mac into the egg wash, then coat with the bread crumbs.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes. (This is an important step.)

Very carefully drop into the oil and fry until golden brown. (I used a special metal spatula that I have to place them into the oil as well as lift them out. It worked fabulously...no burns!)

Remove to a baking sheet fitted with a rack and rest for two minutes before serving.

I hope you get to give this a try. It's super simple, and a really quick dinner. Just add a side salad and some fruit, and dinner is done! (I'd advance prep any other element of dinner first. The mac fries up so quickly that you want them to be the last step in getting dinner on the table.) Enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Farmgirls - Canning

I finally got around to doing some canning a couple weekends ago. I was going to post about it last Friday, but I came down with an upper respiratory cold. Avery got it as well, but he wasn't as bad as myself and seems to be over it already. I, on the other hand, am still feeling under the weather, but I do seem a bit improved.

Anyhow, while the hubby was off bagging his first deer of the season, I spent the day canning applesauce and salsa with my oldest granddaughter, Harmony. She turned five this summer and started kindergarten in the fall. Harmony has been sitting on the counter helping "Nana" cook since everyone else thought she was too little and that I was crazy for having her up there next to the stove.

Cooking has to be one of the best ways to spend time with children...in my humble opinion. It's a universal language. You don't have to say much if you don't want to, but you can have fun together nonetheless. Each year I have the grands over to make chocolate bark. No matter their skill level or experience in the kitchen there is a task they can master or be in charge of, and it makes them feel so special. (Pictures of this year's gathering will be shared in December.)

I always enjoy a connection with the past when I am cooking. My most prized possession in my kitchen is my Great Grandma Sheldon's pepper grinder. So, borrowing my Grandma Sheldon's old sieve from my mom for the applesauce made the experience all the more special. Here I was sharing the old art of food preservation with my granddaughter while using my grandmother's old kitchen tool. Awesome!

Oh, I almost forgot! We also roasted tomatoes. Harmony is pretty proud when she gets to use a real, bona-fide, sharp knife, and "Nana" let her bask in the lime light that day. If you have never tried roasting tomatoes you just have to. It is SUPER simple, and they taste so amazing. We've plucked ours right off the pan and eaten them like candy, put them on sandwiches, and added them to spaghetti sauce and salsa. There are so many uses for them, and you can just throw them in the freezer. Here's the recipe if you'd like to give them a try:

A bunch of tomatoes, any variety
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
a bunch of garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 325

Arrange cut tomatoes in a single layer, skins down, on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Mince garlic and sprinkle over tomatoes being careful to let most of it drop directly on the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place in oven and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. It usually takes about 3 for romas that are halved. If you quarter them they'll get done a little faster. Keep an eye on them after about 2 -2 1/2 hours. Take a peek through the window. The juices will have dried up, and some of the tomatoes will start to get dark around the edges.

*Each time I roasted tomatoes I used Roma tomatoes cut in half.

I hope you enjoy making these tomatoes and getting creative with ways to incorporate them in your cooking. They freeze well and keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator. Maybe you'll even find a little helper to share in the fun and make some of your own memories.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Farm Girl: Putting Up Food

I thought I had this summer all figured out. My big plans, you ask? Visiting the local farmer's market, loading up on local wares, and putting them up. Sounds easy, right? Well, apparently not. If the last several summers have taught me anything it is to not make plans for my "free time" in the summer. No matter how simple I think my intentions might be they become monumental when the time approaches. Apparently I forgot to read the memo reminding me of just how much work it is having a baby around, especially when they go through the phase of their world revolving around everything mommy. Need I remind you that I am mommy in this scenario, and it's been about 16 years since I've been so doted upon by a little one? Needless to say, I forgot just how much work it really is.

Raising this new little one in my current familial situation puts me in a position to stand in awe of my grandmother. How on earth did farm moms ever do it? Call me crazy, I'd still have rather lived then. Sure it was hard work, but they were home; plain and simple. They were not chauffeurs. They were not caregivers to their grandchildren. Their role was well defined, and they were integral to the family unit. The harder I work to put myself in that position the more impossible it seems at times.

Even though I am donning the new hat of "new mother", I have also managed to shed myself of a few. I no longer sport "homeschooling mom" or "reviewer for TOS Homeschool Crew". The two hats kind of went hand in hand. Though I am saddened to see these doors close, I am excited about the options that lay before me. You wouldn't believe how often I have to slap my own hand from grabbing up more hats to fill their place. Am I crazy? If it's the slow-paced, focused lifestyle of days gone by I am seeking, why on earth do I keep trying to fill up all of my time? I am beginning to think that being overbooked, stressed out, and taken for granted is the plight of the modern mom. I am fighting it kicking and screaming, and I have to kick myself now and again just to stay on track.

Life has handed us a lot lately. We are steadily moving toward selling our home. I really believe this a true gift of God. There are times when this deal should have fell to certain demise, but it just keeps moving forward. As each day goes by it becomes more and more possible that the time will come for us to seek out a small plot of country land to call our own. Oh, what a dream come true that would be.

It is my prayer that country living will remove some of the burden from my husband as well. As some of you likely know, we own a local transmission repair facility, and my husband is a workaholic. He is definitely "old school" when it comes to his work ethic. If he got nothing else from his father he got that. This man pushes himself so much. Well, last week we had a little scare. Despite our lack of health insurance and my husband's machismo, I rushed him to the ER with severe chest pain. Praise God he is okay and did not require a heart catheterization. However, we do believe that he did suffer a mild heart attack. This was a big wake-up call for both of us, and he is now trying to restructure the business taking some burden off of himself. How rejuvenating would it be to have a leisurely drive home each night and pull into a land full of trees and free of traffic noise? We are taking things one step at a time and moving as we feel led. Even though things are not for sure it is difficult to not get at least a little bit excited.

We are also adjusting to not finding ourselves in the ranks of homeschooling families any longer. My last school age son enrolled in a local arts academy about three weeks ago. He loves it, and I am so happy for him. Just two more years, and we will no longer have any kids in high school. Our next oldest is 18 and is in the local community college. He is taking a small handful of classes while he decides if the Navy is right for him. Lately he has been exploring the idea of becoming a pastor. Who knew? We just never know where our children may be led. What fun it is traveling this leg of their life journey with them. After the 16 year old graduates we will have a nice break with no one in grade school. AMEN!

Well, even though I do not have neat rows of pickles, beets, applesauce, and pears lining my shelves, I did manage to get some food put up in the freezer. I even made a little bit of food specifically for the baby.

So, as you can see life has had it's twists and turns for us over the summer months. The good thing is that we are still moving forward. Things are in progress, and life doesn't look like we planned it, but that is very okay with me. I am so glad to not be the one in control. One can only wonder what next summer may bring. Where will we be living? Who will be doing what? Will there be any beautiful rows of canned goods on my shelves? What shelves will they be?

To learn more about Friday Farm Girl visit: Illinois Lori

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Chronicles of Peleg

As a mother of three boys and grandparent to eight children five years and younger I am very excited about this book. I have fond memories of reading fiction novels with the two older boys as they were growing up. Even some of our five girls were into works of fantasy. What a blessing it would have been to have a book of this caliber to read together and discuss. A work like this is long overdue. Matthew Harding has filled a much needed gap in children's literature.

Foundlings, book one of The Peleg Chronicles is Historical Fiction that takes place in the time period of Peleg, soon after the tower of Babel dispersion. In its pages we meet dragons, giants, false priests, the death hunt, an under-city of the Dwarven Brotherhood (note: dwarves are depicted as human beings, who just happen to be short, and who were driven into slavery), and many memorable characters.

The story begins with Lord McDougal and his faithful shield-bearer, Fergus Leatherhead, departing their lands with giants at their backs, while before them lie in wait denizens of the bog-land and forest.

Ever ready to protect and serve others, they gather in tow an assortment of displaced adventurers and find themselves embroiled in a mysterious search for the Foundlings: Orphaned Thiery with his companion Horatio the white wolf, and Suzie who has been deceitfully retained by the thieves Elvodug and Flemup.

Others also seek the Foundlings, and thier purposes are most sinister - Dragon Priests who practice cozen sacrifices, and their leader Count Rosencross who is torn by his God given conscience and his pursuit of personal glory.

Onward toward the city of Hradcanny they travel, meeting with treachery, beast attacks, camaraderie and psalms of praise with an eye toward the gospel. Though their battles are at times fierce and the outcomes uncertain, the author maintains the integrity of these noble characters, who through weakness are made strong by Him in whom they trust.

Foundlings weaves together the Biblical principles of chivalry, truth, courage, duty, faith and love within the framework of Genesis, and a bold adherence to its historicity. It's an exciting page turner that leaves you wanting more, but more importantly it leaves the reader with Godly heroes to think on and emulate, and a young earth creationist view of history that conforms to the Word of God.

I am very honored and excited to be holding a copy of such a wonderful book in my hands. Reading this to my grandchildren and our newest addition is sure to impart Biblical teaching in an interesting and exciting manner. Of course, I will not be able to wait until they all fall into the ten to twelve age group this book is recommended for to read it. This one has launched itself to the top of my pile of books to read. I will certainly be purchasing Paladins, book two in The Peleg Chronicles. Both books are economically priced at $11.95 each and can be purchased online at the Matthew Christian Harding website where other resources and a wonderful biography of the author are available.

Note: As a review blogger, I am provided a free copy of the book, curriculum or product to test and use in order to write an honest review. I receive no other compensation and the opinions I share are my own and not influenced by the company in question.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vocabulary Cartoons

I first learned of mnemonics years ago when our oldest son was in public school. He struggled in math, and they used this same philosophy to assist him in learning his times tables. It was effective, and I was impressed. So, imagine my excitement when I received Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power to review for my blog.

Mnemonics uses association to assist you in remembering something you are trying to remember using something you already know. Examples would be rhymes, songs, and pictures. With Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power an auditory word association and a humorous cartoon are linked together to create a mnemonic and assist students in retaining the meaning of words longer and easier than they would with traditional, rote memorization.

When my 16 year old, who has a very good vocabulary, spent some time exploring Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power independently he found that he liked the rhymes, but the pictures were not necessary for him. He is more of an audio learner. In his opinion he still found the materials helpful and stated that he would enjoy using the book to assist him in remembering the meaning of some new words that he learned.

On the other hand, Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power is a perfect fit for my 18 year old and his learning style. He is definitely a visual as well as an audio learner. So, this covers all the bases for him. You have the fun cartoon coupled with the silly rhyme thereby enabling him to easily remember the meanings of the words.

Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power is an ideal tool for both junior high and high school aged children that are preparing for college or just looking to expand their vocabulary in a fun, non-intimidating manner. I think it's great for adults, too. Personally, I enjoyed reading through the book and laughing at the cartoons.

Vocabulary Cartoons are available for more than just SAT preparation. There are resources available from elementary level through high school level. Prices start at $12.95, which is the price of Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power, and go up from there. A price break is given after every 10th book allowing teachers to buy in bulk for classroom use. It would also be ideal for a homeschool group to come together and purchase in bulk. Visit Vocabulary Cartoons online or call 1-800-741-1295 for more information about products and pricing.

Note: As a review blogger, I am provided a free copy of the book, curriculum or product to test and use in order to write an honest review. I receive no other compensation and the opinions I share are my own and not influenced by the company in question.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

America's Math Teacher

America's Math Teacher is an online math curriculum designed for use in both schools and homes. The concept is so effective that Rick Fisher, creator of America's Math Teacher, finds that his students are actually able to skip 7th grade math after taking his 6th grade math class.

The program can be used for all levels of math from beginner to advanced. It is especially helpful to those that may struggle with math and its concepts. Students that are behind in math typically will find themselves at level within one year of using America's Math Teacher.

The website is chock full of resources, some of which are even free. Home School Membership is available for $195 per year and can be used by multiple students within the same home. This allows parents to work with all of their students using just one math program while allowing each student to work individually at their own level and pace. If you are curios about the program and would like to explore it before purchase you are able to try it out for free.

The website is broken down into four learning sections: Learning Centers, Exercise Center, Evaluation Center, and Resource Center. In the Learning Center there are hubs for each course where video tutorials, quizzes, exercises, and final exams can be accessed. The Exercise Center is where printed exercises and review problems can be accessed downloaded for reinforcement and further practice. The Evaluation Center is where you will find pre-tests, quizzes, and final exams for each AMT course. At the Resource Center information, glossaries, and math skills games are available and kept current as new resources become available.

While our family reviewed this website it was under construction. America's Math Teacher is working feverishly to work out any remaining glitches in the system. They have a wonderful customer service department that is very prompt and helpful in their response. Had we not recently transitioned from being a homeschooling family America's Math Teacher is a website that we would have extensively explored and considered for my struggling math student.

Note: As a review blogger, I am provided a free copy of the book, curriculum or product to test and use in order to write an honest review. I receive no other compensation and the opinions I share are my own and not influenced by the company in question.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Travel Kits

Well, I did it! I made my first travel kits. They were a hit when I delivered them, but I'm waiting for an after trip report. The kits were made for my good friends and their three grandchildren who headed out yesterday from Michigan to Georgia with their daughter-in-law. It is a special trip to watch their son graduate from something in relation to the National Guard. He started out in the Air Force and is currently working on becoming something to do with Border Patrol...I do believe.

This is a long trip; 20 plus hours with rest-stop breaks and such. The children are in the age range of three to eight, so it's really going to be a long trip. I kept their ages in mind and took the advice to provide similar gifts to children in this age range to prevent issues. You know how kids are. They always want what the other guy has.

Anyway, here are the pictures:

Here are the gift items grouped for each child along with an adult and snack grouping. I labeled the glow bracelets to open after dark. Each child got the same thing just a different color, title, etc. The adult bag included a crossword search, calming aromatherapy, snacks and toys for sharing. (finger puppets, pencils, sharpener, and pinball game)

I used different style wrapping for each child and the adults. Just in case I labeled each gift with their first initial. I did wrap some snacks individually to include in their bag. (slim jims and cracker sandwiches) The grands requested no sugar!

Here are the finished bags. I accidentally purchased two the same, so I just made sure that each child had a different color and gave the matching one to the adults.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travel Kits - A Simple Way to Bless Others

If I had only thought of this when all of my children were young! Could it be that our family camping trips could have been even more enjoyable? (Not to mention our L-O-N-G trip to Maine with three teenagers!) I sure do think so. What a wonderful idea this is! Check it out…

Donna Reese has come up with such a simple way to bring joy to anyone, young or old, embarking on a trip, be it long or short. However, I think those traveling the longest distances have the most to gain from this brilliant idea. There is so much potential here.

What is a Travel Kit you ask? Well, let me tell you. Travel kits are brilliant little packages that you custom design for that someone special that is embarking on a trip no matter the mode of transportation. Kits can be made for anyone traveling by vehicle, bus, airplane, train, boat…I’d venture to say even donkey! The ideas are limited only by the extent of you imagination.

The basic low-down of exactly what a travel kit is can best be said by the author herself, “A travel kit is a collection of items that will entertain and/or delight the passengers (especially the younger passengers), thus making the trip more pleasant for everyone. The items should be chosen, purchased (or baked, rented, checked out of the library, or crafted), and then wrapped individually. The components of your travel kit should be assembled in an appealing, creative, hardy “container” that will easily fit in your vehicle, within easy reach of the passengers (or mom’s reach if you have very young children).”

If you are a lover of detail, Donna set you up, but fret not! If too many details just give you a headache the material is also presented in such a manner that those of us that want to just get down to the brass tacks can do just that. Travel Kits - A Simple Way to Bless Others is presented in such a manner that choosing your project and getting started is super simple. You can soak in as much or as little detail as desired and get started on your project right away.

The only real planning you need to do in advance is a little detective work. It is helpful to know the number of travelers, the length of the trip, and a little about the interests of the recipients. I would also add that if the travel kit were being made as a gift for someone outside of the family, taking a trip that you are not participating in, it would be beneficial to know their destination. After you’ve acquired this information the real fun begins.

Once your planning is complete you will have to make a few decisions. Will these be small gifts to take up little space, or is there room for something a little bigger? What is your budget? How much can you afford to spend on each person, or a group as a whole? Debbie provides many ideas for both large and small budgets.

Plenty of buying tips are included in this e-book as well. This is especially helpful if we are unfamiliar with a certain age group. One useful recommendation is to purchase duplicate gifts if children of similar ages will be traveling together. This provides for an easier shopping trip as well as cuts out the temptation of jealousy between children. Mom will definitely be appreciative of this thoughtful gesture! Travel Kits - A Simple Way to Bless Others is chock full of custom ideas that are sure to make your travel kit a great hit with whoever is the blessed recipient of your thoughtful gift. Your travel kit is sure to be chock full of fun gifts and presented in such an enjoyable fashion that it will bring sure fire enjoyment to your lucky recipient.

Sure, you could come up with some sort of travel kit all on your own. However, the advice, resources and guidance given in Travel Kits - A Simple Way to Bless Others will guarantee the creation of a spectacular gift and quite possibly the beginning of a treasured family tradition. Ever since the first time I read this e-book my gears have been turning. There is so much potential here. I plan to treasure this resource and refer back to it for years to come.

Keep your eyes on The Zoo Crew for pictures of my upcoming creations. I plan to make travel kits for my good friends Bill and Marla who are both in their 60’s. Bless their hearts; they are heading to Georgia with their daughter-in-law and their three grandchildren ages nine, eight, and four via mini-van. This is a 20 hour drive! I am certain that they will be very happy to take along their travel kits.

I also see myself carrying this theme into the holidays with my gift giving. Our grandchildren are still young. We have seven, ages five and under, and we are waiting for number eight who is due in January. Typically, I give them a gift bag full of small gifts. How much more fun would it be for them if I incorporate the travel kit idea of wrapping each gift!

Also, this resource could not have come to me at a better time. With our new little guy life as we knew no longer exists. What a strange phenomenon it will be to travel with just one child. I will definitely be doing this for little Avery as he grows and travels with mom and dad throughout the years.

I highly recommend this e-book. It is certain to fuel your creativity bringing joy to you, your family, and those around you. What potential for fun there is wrapped up in this little electronic storehouse of information!

Travel Kits - A Simple Way to Bless Others is available for $12.95 through The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Look here for a sneak peek of the Table of Contents and a few select pages.

Note: As a review blogger, I am provided a free copy of the book, curriculum or product to test and use in order to write an honest review. I receive no other compensation and the opinions I share are my own and not influenced by the company in question.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where Does the Time Go?

Can you believe it? Avery is already six months old! That is one thing I notice more with him than I did with any of our other children, the passage of time. It really does go by in a blink. Every second that passes cannot be regained. That's just the way life goes. If you don't pay attention, you will miss it all.

I have to agree with the post over at The Art and Science of Parenting. Dad states that, "Sure, you want to have big adventures with your kids sometimes, but what they will really remember about you is if you were there every day for all of their little adventures..." In my opinion there is no greater gift that we can give our children than our time and attention. Kids just want to be with us. They want our undivided attention. It is not important to them to have an elaborate gift or expensive trip. Spending time with us and having fun is all that matters.

The gift that I've received from having Avery in our lives is the realization of just how important time is. We really have such a short period of time here on this earth, and what do we really do with it? What do we spend our time focusing on? Where does our energy go? What is our attitude like? Life really is made up of all the little things. The big things are fleeting, but little things repeat over and over throughout our entire existence. I am quite certain that we can have a lot more fun, find more enjoyment, and bring more delight to others when we learn to shift our focus to the minute moment. Doing so puts us in the here and now; right exactly where we need to be. I can see no other way to be content than to be present, enjoying each moment as it comes.

Don't get me wrong. I still have goals, I still strive to be a more complete individual, I still have desires, but they are not my primary focus anymore. I'm enjoying the slow life. Despite my desire to live in the country, and put myself in an environment that promotes a much slower paced life, I have discovered that one can live in the city and still find that laid back perspective. It's a choice. Our attitude is up to us. It is not determined by our environment. We are in control of how our attitude effects our environment, not the other way around. Talk about an "ah ha moment"!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

It's a Hard Knocks Life

Life can be so strange. So, what's new, right? There have been so many blessings of late. Avery's adoption was final May 7th, and we held his dedication at church on June 5th. Business is good at our transmission shop. We're not getting rich or anything, but God is blessing us with enough to meet and exceed our needs and have some left over to help others. Our family is healthy physically, and the mental stuff isn't really too much to handle. Nothing is really, truly over the top at the current moment.

However, things do have a way of never leveling off. Our normal is just a little too crazy for me. It really can be exhausting. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to adjust to our lifestyle even after 14 years. It's just crazy! All my life I have sought peaceful and stable. Well, I've achieved, at least currently, financial stability, but emotional stability is another story. Things are always so chaotic. There is always such need, and it's me that is always needed. There is not one person in our entire family that divides themselves up the way that I do, and I am exhausted. It really does get to be too much.

I would SO love to just focus on the people living in my home, but I am always needed by those living outside of my home. Every time I think I've arrived, something else comes a long to suck away my time. Then, to top it all off there is continuous strife between the hubby and I. The poor guy takes everything, and I do mean everything, personally. That is exhausting...for the both of us. I honestly do not know how he lives with himself when everything is such a big deal. I seriously could not cope with that intensity of emotion. No thank you!

My newest endeavor is to learn how to accept my husband the way he is and how to not react to his intense emotion. Talk about challenging! I seriously do not know how to do that. I have been praying about it, but I still have a long way to go. This is a major "baby step" project that feels like it will take an eternity to accomplish. I so desire it, though!

There is no way that we can raise Avery the way that we desire if we do not get things under control between the two of us. The problem is that I sincerely do not know how to go about it. I can tell you that I have no desire to read ANOTHER relationship book. Counseling is a thing of the past. I doubt I could get him to do that again, and I'm not sure the real benefit other than having an impartial party there to mediate communication. I do miss that aspect of counseling to be sure. Our counselor moved south to work in the prison system. Maybe he was the crazy one.

Maybe I can locate a bible study that would aid me in this department. Any suggestions? I think I may look at the Women of Faith studies. I've done two of them that I really enjoyed. I'd love ideas of you all have any.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do I Have a Couch Spud?

With our new little man I seem to notice things that I didn't with the other ones. Maybe I have more time. Maybe I am more observant. Maybe the experience with kids lends a keener eye. I can't say the reason, but I do seem to notice things in a different light with Avery.

Our house is always hopping, and the television does seem to be on at various times throughout any given day. When Avery was a brand new baby I would turn it on for light during the middle of the night feedings. Not to mention, it helped me keep my eyes open. However, I did notice something a bit strange to me. At just a couple of weeks Avery had already noticed the television and seemed to be watching it. I actually got to where I would position him facing away from the television during his feedings. I would also make a conscious effort to make eye contact with him.

Now, Avery is three months old, and he has viewing preferences! WHAT? This morning I was watching the news. I tend to watch it briefly each morning to catch the local weather. Well, I was distracted. He was in his exersaucer, and he started to "complain". Yes, he was complaining. We have gotten to a point in baby communication that I can clearly recognize that he was indeed complaining. So, I did an experiment. I switched the television to PBS. I turn it on most mornings when we get up. He quit complaining!

Then, just a little while ago I had Dora on for our two year old granddaughter who was visiting. I didn't notice that it had gone to the menu screen. Avery started to complain again. I turned on Backyardigans, and he started watching it! Who knew? Not me!

I took a peek online to see what the "experts" had to say on the subject, and there seem to be some clear opinions and concerns about infants and television viewing. Some say that children under the age of two should not view television at all; that it may even contribute to attention disorders in adolescence. Some say that certain, quality programs that are specially made for babies may actually be good for infants and their parents. This style of programming encourages constructive play and interaction and even teaches parents how to better assist in the development of their babies.

I can't honestly say where I stand on this. I guess I will have to continue to observe Avery and his television viewing as he learns and grows all the while keeping in mind and being conscious of his interactions with others and quality play time. Too much of anything is usually a bad thing, especially when it's generally a bad thing to begin with. I've always thought that television should be used sparingly, and quality programming should be the prime target. Now, that seems more important than ever.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Blooms of Spring

I've been going back and forth and back and forth trying to decide to what level I would like to garden this year. It seems daunting to try to keep up with a vegetable garden with all the demands I have currently. However, I really do love fresh produce, and it never tastes better than when you grow it yourself. Not to mention, I have a load of heirloom seeds left from last year. After the past two years, though, I hate to put a bunch of work into a garden when my time is so limited and get no real return. The garden has been less than successful the last two summers, especially last summer. It was SO disappointing to have seeded all of those heirloom seeds and get no real return from them. Disappointing!

In the meantime, I managed to take a short walk around our yard to see what I was up against. The front looks great. There's not much weeding to be done there. As usual, the back yard needs a lot of attention, and that is where I normally plant my produce. I have such a difficult time keeping weeds and grass out of that garden. I don't get it. It's very frustrating.

I've decided that if nothing else I will be visiting the several farmer's markets that I am fortunate to have in my area. I will buy fruits and vegetables as they are in season and put up as much food as I possibly can. I even purchased covered ice cube trays especially designed for putting up food for Avery. It will be so nice to have fresh, locally farmed food stored up in my freezer and cupboard.

While you're anticipating the coming bounties of spring, summer, and fall you can enjoy the first blooms from my yard.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fun Reviews

I'm trying out a volunteer opportunity to review products as a homeschooling mom for the TOS Homeschool Crew. I hope you find the following information interesting and useful:

Help, Lord, I’m Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler! is an e-book put out by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. The book is a compilation of personal stories written by real home educators. This is a nice, well-rounded collection that encompasses many different styles of homechooling families. Therefore, it has the potential of appealing to a variety of different readers.

Personally, I can often find these types of resources frustrating. It is easy to read books like this and distress over one’s own homeschool not being magically perfect like the ones portrayed in the articles and stories so often published. With the 13 personal stories encompassed in this e-book everyone is sure to find at least one that they can relate to on some level and avoid the intimidation and feelings of inadequacy that can often follow reading about the lives of fellow homeschool families. This collection is effective at avoiding the fairytale feel and invoking more of a shared experience, a sense of been there done that, a passing on of wisdom from one family to another.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to read about so many different approaches to homeschooling high schoolers. Sometimes it can feel as if we’ve already read everything there is to read by the time we reach the part of the process that finds us knee deep in the throws of educating our high school age children. One thing that I did learn from each and every story is that there is certainly room for more prayer in my educational efforts with my children. That is one thing that is a bit different and refreshing is that each and every family highlighted in this collection has a love for the Lord. The stories not only share about homeschooling approaches, learning styles, and challenges. They also share how Christ was incorporated into their educational plan. Sometimes we need a reminder of what is important…on every level.

As a homeschooling mom of four that graduated from public school, one that graduated from homeschool, and two preparing for graduation from our homeschool this year and next, I had thought my homeschooling journey was coming to an end. Well, God had different plans for my life, as he often does for all of us. He has brought another handsome young baby into our family. I now find myself pondering the pros and cons of homeschooling versus a church school education. This old girl is tired, but I find myself looking more to God than ever before for guidance. If it is His will that I homeschool one more child, I know I can surely do just that.

With resources like the ones offered through The Old Schoolhouse Magazine both in print and online and the various e-books available through the magazine, making my final decision may just be a little easier. As homeschoolers one thing we have surely learned is that making an educated decision involves reviewing enough information to be properly informed. There is certainly information a plenty available through The Old Schoolhouse. The end of the book is loaded with helpful links and resources. Most any homeschool family with highschool age children or those that are nearing highschool age could surely gain something useful from this resource, and with the current focus on penny pinching an e-book is a nice bang for the buck. Also, for the environmentally aware and those that prefer digital formatting The Old Schoolhouse Digital Magazine is a steal at $16.95 for an annual subscription. There is surely something that will appeal to all ages.

If I had the time to write a newsletter and publish e-books, this is SO how I would do it. Molly’s Money Saving Digest is awesome. It is chocked full of fun and useful information. If I didn’t have a brand new baby in the home I would have so done everything included in the digest. In my perfect world I did!

I am an absolute organizational freak that lives with a household of family members that are not. This digest speaks directly to my core being. I love the fun cover, the step-by-step pictures, the recipes, the meal planning section with amazing recipes, the financial planning forms, the suggestions, the crafts…it just goes on and on.

Can you believe that I actually want to make a pie from scratch? It really does seem easy with Molly’s In~A~Pinch Pie Crust Recipe. I actually do believe that I am going to have to try her German Chocolate Pie for Father’s Day. That’s right PIE! My husband loves German Chocolate Cake, and I think this might just earn me some brownie points, especially if I am able to pull it off with a newborn in the house. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

As a big time bargain hunter, I really appreciate the shopping tips. In “On Sale This Month” Molly lets you know just what you should think about purchasing that particular month based on what the stores are generally putting on sale and clearancing out at that time. She also provides some useful links, fun dates and information about the month.

The monthly budget forms are well laid out and very useful. However, what I like most in the organizational section is the Family Clothing Inventory forms. Genius! I cannot believe I never thought of it before. What a useful tool! We resale shop for most all of our clothing. Having this form filled out and tucked away in my purse, which is currently a diaper bag, would prove invaluable. I am totally doing this by the end of the summer.

The “interior decorating” crafts are beautiful, fun and super easy. The ideas that she shares can be easily achieved in an afternoon with little financial investment. They would make a great addition to any home as well as wonderful gift ideas.

Being a “foodie”, the menu section is my favorite. The best part? Pictures are included with ALL recipes. That is a BIG plus for me. You eat with your eyes first, right? One thing that is nice about it is that it doesn’t appeal to the typical American diet alone. There are yummy vegetarian and vegan recipes included in the mix. They are not labeled of marketed as such, but they are present none the less. I can’t wait to try some!

The digest goes on to include fun crafts, stories, and resources. This is a wonderful grab bag of fun and information. I’m not one to subscribe to things like this, but I actually find myself considering the $3.95 per month subscription which includes a tremendous selection of FREE e-books. This surely beats the $4.95 price of purchasing the e-books individually, despite their affordable price. In the meantime I did subscribe to the FREE newsletter, A Minute with Molly, and received the FREE Menu Planning E-book. I absolutely love this resource!


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