Category Archives: Homeschool

The slow letting go…

Today it happens. That first child I carried, the child I’ve practiced my parenting skills on the longest, is moving away. Not permanently. “Just” for 8 weeks, to live with her aunt and uncle and fulfill her dream of acting in a community theater company. It’s the first semester of her gap year–this first half is about working to save money for her second semester trip to Ukraine with YWAM to work with orphans and other outreaches for five months. So this is the short goodbye so her mama can practice.


On the trail 14 years ago…

This letting go has been in stages. You relinquish the hold first when they are born-other people can now hold them. Then as more independence comes, there is more relinquishing: letting go of her fingers when she started lurching around the room walking; letting go of the handlebars when she learned to ride her bike; watching her drive away in the van by herself the first time. Going on an international mission trip without us. Waving as she boarded a train to visit a friend last year. Graduation from high school in our backyard.

Last night, I was running over the list of things-we-should-teach-before-you-move-out. Don’t leave your drink unattended at a party or your luggage unattended at the airport: check.  How to potty in the woods: check. How to balance a checkbook: check. Remember who you are, sweet daughter of the King: check. Parallel parking: ummm…missed that one. My friend reminded me a couple of weeks ago that we’ve equipped her to learn what we’ve missed or fell through the cracks or we just didn’t think of. And I reminded myself of the words I spoke to Emily at her graduation–true words that I needed to hear as much as she did:

“Your father and I have not been able to give you what we wanted you to have, but God has given you the life you need to prepare you for the future. You are a treasured daughter of the king: brave and caring and persistent…

Character grows stronger in the face of challenge and you’ve seen more than your fair share of challenges in our family. As you have grown up in our home, you’ve watched job loss, job gain, parent going back to school, more job loss, depression, and starting up a small business. You’ve learned that life doesn’t always look like you think or hope it will. I hope you’ve learned that what looks like failure in the eyes of the world—losing a job, financial difficulties when starting out new businesses, and financial sacrifices aren’t failure, they’re part of life, and they are an opportunity to stretch your faith and reliance of Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides. While we have not relied perfectly on Him, and I will admit, there has been more of the grumbling Israelite in the wilderness in me than I wish to say, I hope you have learned that though life can be hard, God is good. All the time. And while He won’t always give you what you want, somehow, you will have what you need.


Rounding the bend in the trail this July…

So here she goes…all packed and so excited with the same spirit of fun and adventure she’s always had…ready to try new things and meet new people…and while I will miss her with every breath, I am content to continue to let her go, the way she should go.



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These small beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10

A terrifying thing, a blank page, to one who hasn’t written in so long. But the tide of misty darkness, the fog of depression has lifted enough for me to want to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, for the first time in a long time. Years, perhaps.


So write I shall, or attempt to at least, to regain that catharsis that often used to occur when this was a regular occurrence. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” translated onto a computer screen in the pre-dawn darkness.

Ann’s word come back, the reminder of gratitude for the One gave even the dark days that I now barely remember, not because everything is wonderful, more like waking from a dream and only having seconds of that state remain in your consciousness. And there was gratitude in that place of darkness, sometimes. Often, really. There often wasn’t enough energy within me to write it or record it, but I would look for the moments, desperately, for the seconds of grace filled-gifts that I could see, even dimly and recognize in my state.

Much of what I have left of those moments were captured on camera cards, to look back on now. Many others are lost to me now, but the value of them at the time (and in the present) is incalculable and stays with me—the reminder that in the darkest moments of isolated and sometimes unrecognized despair, that despite my feelings of abandonment, He was there, whispering my name, blowing in the wind. “You are not forgotten. You are known. You are loved. I am with you.”

So, to begin again, this blog about my never-picture perfect life. Still never picture perfect. Ever. That’s OK. Here are some things for which I am thankful. Many are part of what I’d call The Little  Things. Tiny things, easily missed in the busyness of life, but such sweet gifts. And sometimes, when the whole of life is too big or overwhelming, this is all I can understand or comprehend, little gifts, small moments scattered through the day or week to serve as a reminder to “Be still and know I AM.”

  • gratitude felt, and recorded on film, though unwrittenIMG_5534 DSC_0203DSC_0376                                              IMG_5742                   12112035_1280294798662883_9148772873613132558_n-2
  • Warm days of sunshine after dreary days of rain
  • Fog on the the fall colored hills
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    Finding beauty in the remains of summer flowers and the seeds that remain to feed the birds

  • A tiny, tiny Black-Eyed Susan discovered amongst the dead12189840_1286712651354431_2331890523772693044_n


Filed under Homeschool

October-November Gratitude

  • Two different families loading up me and the kids in their vehicles to get us to church Wednesday night
  • hugs and conversations around the bonfire
  • flannel sheets
  • getting the garden “put to bed” for winter
  • working with the most amazing group of staff that are always there to help you out when things get rough, as they often do
  • the change of seasons–so, so happy I get to live in a place that experiences all four seasons
  • a crock pot of soup on a chilly day
  • a game of Clue around the table
  • a week of quiet routine at home–hmmm…so this is what normal feels like 🙂
  • a job my daughter really enjoys
  • a report from the harvest-fields that has my heart singing!
  • pumpkin scones, hot from the oven


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Help Princess Rania!

Hey everyone, it’s Happy Girl again.

For the past couple years, I’ve been involved in the Christmas Angel Tree program from Reece’s Rainbow. You can click the links to learn more, but basically the Angel Tree program is a fundraiser, a bit similar to the Kroger version.

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 Every year, orphaned children with Down Syndrome aged 2 years and younger and other children are assigned to different people. From November 1st to December 31st, it is the goal of these people to $1,000 for their child. 

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I have done this for 3 years now, and this year part of my fundraising is through my parents’ blogs. Let me introduce to you to my child this year, Princess Rania.

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Adoption in general is expensive. Adopting an overseas child with Down Syndrome is even more expensive, and it is hard for a family to commit. But as an older child with Down Syndrome, Rania’s chances to get adopted are especially slim. That’s what the Angel Tree program does: it lowers the daunting expenses and makes it easier for families to adopt. In addition, most children often find their families during the fundraising period.

In this next month of thanksgiving, I’m helping to make it easier for Rania’s future family. If you want to help too, you can click this link and donate via Paypal. Even if you can’t donate a lot, every dollar helps. Thanks for helping!

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Monochromatic leaf “mosaic” art project

We went camping last week and the leaves were gorgeous! It’s just enough cooler and a higher elevation at Fall Creek Falls, so their leaves were ahead of the leaves around here. So many of the leaves were in the process of changing color. I walked around all week oohing and aaahing over the leaves on the ground and the trees.








As you can see, I was a bit partial to the red leaves :).

I really wanted to do an art project that would reflect this beauty, but be in keeping with our study of color. While browsing for projects, I came across this idea over at mer mag and loved it. Since February is four months away and I of course didn’t want to wait, my friend Beth and I tweaked her idea.

Instead of an entire page of a color, we wondered, what if we made it in a leaf shape? I quickly searched online and easily found leaf templates for free. I found several very nice templates here. I enlarged them 140% to fit on my watercolor paper. Beth and I drew very light grids with pencil on all the leaves. Looking back, we’d just print out one template, mark a grid on it, then copy the leaves onto watercolor paper.IMG_2213

I rummaged through all my acrylic paints, both in tubes and the crafting type in bottles and came up with several reds, then used an orange to make a pop of color, and mixed even more reds using yellows and even raw sienna to change the coloring.

Leaf in progress

Leaf in progress


This was one of the younger students. She got tired of filling in each square separately and filled in several at a time.

The kids used mainly flat brushes and were encouraged to try to use one stroke per square to try to fill it up, but it was OK if there was some white space. IMG_2209

They didn’t always do that, of course :). Some kids were more interested in having each square perfectly filled in.IMG_2214




This student ran a very light glaze over all to hide all the white spaces. I love to see the creativity in kids!


We’re going to cut them out and mount them either on black or green paper for a contrast. I was very happy with how these came out. I made a yellow and orange one myself, just for fun:)IMG_2304 This was a mixed group of ages–from 7 to 12. For older students, you could make them responsible for mixing the colors, or even choosing colors, including a green with the yellow or red to see how a leaf in the process of turning would look.


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Guest Post by Happy Girl: The Hatching and Flying

(Note: I did have this written before going to my friend’s house last week, but somehow it didn’t get posted during that time…)

Between Center Stage, our church’s theater camp, Fall Creek Falls, and a week going back and forth between houses while Mommy was in Ethiopia, then some busy summer weeks, I haven’t been able to access the computer in awhile.  I have some catching up to do, and decided to combine the last two robin posts. This one is a little long. 🙂

The chicks finally hatched on June 3rd. For over a week we watched and waited, and tried to remember  NOT to open the door…

…and to be careful around the door area so we wouldn’t scare mom or dad.


Then, I noticed on Monday that the dad, named Puss in Boots (the mom is Kitty Softpaws), was standing on the edge of the nest looking in and from time to time pecking on the eggs. We were certain the eggs were hatching. And sure enough, by that evening we had two baby robins!


There were 3 eggs total,  (the 3rd hadn’t been laid when I took the last picture) but one of them didn’t hatch. The dad tried his hardest. He continued to incubate and peck at the egg until about Wednesday, when we assume he took the egg away.


Meanwhile, the 2 surviving robins grew quickly!



The babies were Imelda and Timmy. All the names are from Puss in Boots, except Timmy, which is from the mini movie The Three Diablos.  Although we never could tell the gender of either chick. Honestly, we didn’t know the genders of the baby robins from last time either, but they don’t know about it, so it’s ok. 🙂


It’s a little weird naming birds after cats, but the others really wanted these names so I came up with the excuse that since being named after cats, the real cats wouldn’t bother them. They bought it. And one of them is named after a person, after all.


The chicks grew more and more feathers throughout the week, and on Friday the 8th, they opened their eyes.


On Saturday, the 15th, we noticed that Imelda was gone from the nest, and Timmy looked just about ready to jump. We looked for Imelda all over the yard, but we couldn’t find her. As for Timmy, after being watched constantly almost all day long, we got to see him fly that afternoon! He flopped down to the porch, and stayed there, stunned, for a few hours. He didn’t move from this step the entire time.



We kept Buckeye the Wonder Dog inside, only taking him out on the leash. But somehow he escaped, knew exactly where the baby robin was, and ran towards him. I opened the door and got Timmy to fly about 3 feet away right as Buckeye came bounding up the steps. As I ran to grab him, an adult robin appeared out of nowhere and dived bombed us, swerving upward just in time. I grabbed the dog and dragged him reluctantly inside.

We watched Timmy from a distance, knowing that Puss in Boots or Kitty was nearby standing guard. He moved quite a bit after his fright, knowing now that if you stay in one place a predator will come find you for supper. He did a few hop-flights, but other than that he didn’t actually fly a lot. Eventually it got dark and we went inside, expecting not to see Timmy again.

The next morning though, we spotted him near the square foot garden. Along with a bunny, much to Mommy’s dismay.

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Interestingly enough, we saw one of the parents arrive with food which they gave to him.  Each time the adult came, it stayed farther back and waited until Timmy had advanced nearer to the food.

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We had never seen this before, as we lost track of our 3 babies last year after they flew. That afternoon, though, our grass was cut and the robins left. We didn’t see them after that, although we’ve seen some young robins here and there. All of us hope that Timmy and Imelda are living safely on their own.

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Breakfast Plan for the School Year

Yum…breakfast sandwiches-scrambled eggs, turkey bacon and cheese on sandwich flats

Well, here in Nashville, public schools are starting early this year, the beginning of August. We almost always start the beginning of August as well, cause it’s too hot to do anything else anyway, so we’re making that our target date too. With that, it’s time for me to start planning my menus. This post is based on last year’s breakfast post, but I’ve added some new recipes as well.

One thing that I find really helpful during the school year especially is to have a standing menu, especially for breakfast and lunch. I choose a weekly menu and stick with it, so I already know what needs to be on my grocery list and freezer and it gives the kids an idea of what to expect. Here’s a link to a previous post with a recipe for breakfast cookies. The dough freezes well, so I’ve already made a quadruple batch and frozen it, so I have Wednesday breakfasts taken care of for the next month. It also shows my weekly breakfast menu.

Here’s a link to a Gingerbread Muffin recipe that’s yummy also. I like muffins because they smell really good and are portable. My friend Anne Elise makes batches of Morning Glory Muffin batter and freezes several batches of it;  then she thaws it overnight, snips the corner of the bag in the morning, squeezed out the batter into the tins, bakes and is done. No bowl to clean up, just throw away the bag. This year, this same friend started skipping the muffin tins and just pouring the mix into a baking dish and baking it to save time on washing the muffin tin. Morning Glory Muffins are great to make right now and freeze because who doesn’t either have zucchini growing in the backyard or a neighbor trying to force you to take some of their over abundant crop? Maybe that’s just a Southern thing:). I have a chocolate chip muffin recipe that’s full of oats and a pumpkin muffin recipe from the Pioneer Woman just to shake things up muffin wise.  No getting bored on muffin mornings in our house.DSCN1940

Something else I’ve discovered you can mix up and freeze ahead of time are scones. One of my recipes calls for the scones to be frozen for at least 30 minutes before baking. I found it really improves the textures of the scones, so now I add that step to all my scone recipes, which means I can make big batches of scone dough, roll it out and freeze. No need to thaw before-hand. Try it with your favorite scone recipes! I like chocolate chip, cinnamon, lemon poppy seed, and pumpkin scones, or did before I went gluten-free. 🙂

I have a recipe for pancake mix that I make and store in the freezer. (Note–for this recipe I decrease the milk to 1 1/2 cups so my pancakes aren’t so thin.) I just scoop out the right amount, add the liquids and start pouring out pancakes.

When my son got braces earlier this month, I started making smoothies and at least some of my kids enjoyed them. You can buy fruit already cut up and ready to make into smoothies, or you can do it yourself and that’s of course cheaper. Mango pineapple and strawberry banana were two hit flavors here. These are quick breakfasts if you’ve already prepped the fruit.

Another new addition for this year is baked oatmeal. I finally found a recipe the kids like. This doesn’t have the typical oatmeal texture that several of my kids hate. It’s got the texture of a cake. I wish I could remember where I found this. Sorry to the creator of this yummy breakfast creation:

Mix 3 c. oats, 3/4 cup brown sugar or sucanat, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 c. butter (melted), 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (you could use nuts or cinnamon chips). Pour into greased 9 inch baking dish at bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and center is set. Many people I know make it the night before and leave it in the fridge til time to bake for breakfast. I mix all the dry ingredients together in a gallon freezer bag and freeze it. Then I pull it out and add the wet ingredients the morning I want to eat it and bake as usual.

Please know that I substitute freshly milled soft-wheat flour and freshly milled oat groats in all these recipes and use sucanat in place of sugar as well to make these healthier. This can also alter the texture somewhat, so if you aren’t using these ingredients, just be aware of this!

It doesn’t really matter what you want to serve for breakfast or lunch, what is helpful is having a plan–what to serve, what to buy on sale or weekly, what to freeze–that will make your mornings run as smooth as possible. If anyone has a favorite breakfast recipe please share a link with the rest of us!

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Filed under Homeschool, Planning, Recipes, Whole Wheat Baking