"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Crayon Delight

Wanted to share with you a pretty simple sewing project that has been received well. Sewing has been a great source of relaxation and satisfaction in recent years, although I've had my moments of frustration. : ) I'm thankful my mom taught me the basics of sewing as a young girl and thankful for a friend rekindling my interest in making simple sewing projects. (And thankful she's been willing to be my sewing mentor over the past 6+ years!)  I don't have a "sewing brain," but I like to follow directions and you would be amazed by the MANY simple sewing tutorials out on the web.

I found this tutorial for a crayon roll and think the directions are pretty easy to follow.  Here are a few I made for my nieces.
My eldest son loves cars, trucks, rescue vehicles and signs. I made him this one below. I made it larger to accommodate the crayola twist up crayons, but it still works for the standard size crayon. 
My middle son loves animals . . . particularly doggies. Here is the one I made for him. Although I  initially gave it to him when he was too young. He proceeded to break all the crayons into many pieces. The crayon roll went into hiding for a while until he was ready. Glad it's back out again! : )
My youngest son has yet to receive the crayon roll I intended to make for his birthday in July. Here's hoping I finish it before Christmas! This is the fabric I picked out. He loves sports.

For a beginner sewer, I think this project could be completed in about an hour or less once you have your supplies. I highly recommend grabbing some fat quarters and making one soon. Now if I could only keep my hands off the crayon rolls once they are made . It drives me crazy when the crayons aren't in rainbow order. I'm obsessive that way. : )

Happy Sewing!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Motorcycle Man

Conversation with my three year old . . .

A: Mommy, when will I die?
M: Not for a long time. Only God knows when.
A: When I get old?
M: Probably.
A: When I get fat?
M: Hopefully not.
A: (with certainty) When I get fat and grumpy, then I will die.

You never know what is going on in that little brain!

Here he is "riding his motorcycle." 
He is very responsibly wearing his motorcycle helmet and goggles. 
I'll have to remind him next time that bikers wear shirts.  :) 

Sunday, August 28, 2011


We do a lot of talking in our house. Being together all the time allows us many opportunities to communicate. Some of that communication is good and useful, but sadly some of it is unnecessary and harmful.

The boys are at an age where they have developed the bad habit of calling one another names. This usually occurs when they've been hurt physically or emotionally by one another and they want to even the score. My husband and I are working at breaking this habit in the boys by getting to the heart of the matter and trying to train them to speak kindly towards one another. It is hard!

I've been thinking and praying about this a good bit and so have gone to the best source of wisdom on the subject. Funny thing is that as I read what God has to say about communication in the Bible, I am convicted by my own sin in this area. To quote our pastor Steve Shelby, "Words build or destroy relationships. Words matter." We all have a responsibility in how we communicate. Am I responsibly communicating?

Here are some of the scripture I've been reading about our tongues and our communication. (There are too many to post here -- so obviously since God has so much to say on this matter, I'm not alone in my struggle.)

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is good for building up, as fits the occassion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29

"He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." Proverbs 21:23

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

"The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who are truthful." Proverbs 12:22

"A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

"Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies." Psalm 34:13

God is calling me to speak to my husband, children, family, friends, neighbors, etc. in a way that builds them up - all the time. He is calling me to guard my words (think more, talk less) - all the time. He is calling me to use "pleasant" words that are carefully thought out -- not in response to anger - all the time. He is calling me to tell the truth in love - all the time. He is calling me to be soft and gentle in how I speak - all the time.  sigh! To quote Paul David Tripp in "What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage." : "Wholesome communication is other focused and other-directed. [It] leaves others hopeful, encouraged, feeling loved." It's not about me!

Wow. This feels like a really tall order. I can keep myself together for stretches of time, but how do I do this all the time? Especially when things don't go as I planned, or when someone else hurts my feelings? I'm tempted at times to throw up my hands in defeat and say it's impossible. And it is... in my own strength.

The boys and I have been studying Susan Hunt's "My ABC Bible Verses" for the past two years (lots to chew on). We recently reviewed Philippians 2:14, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." When I first learned this verse as a new Christian, I applied it to all sorts of things. But as I studied this with the boys, my thinking has changed. I think that verse means that with the help of the Holy Spirit I can do all things that God wants me to do. And, He wants me to guard my tongue, to speak gentle words, to be edifying to others. As I struggle to obey His commands, I can cry out to the Lord for help. I can pray that the Lord would help me to be slow to speak when I tempted otherwise. I can confess and repent when I fail.

I recently went back and listened to a sermon by our pastor Steve Shelby on Speech and Communication. (March 13, 2011)  In the sermon, Pastor Shelby says that our speech can be healed. Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34 So the things I spout angrily and selfishly are a mirror into what is in my heart. But Jesus can heal my heart and he has taken the first most important step. He died for me because He loves me! He paid for my sins on the cross. When I fully believe what He has done for me and that I'm loved, I will be changed. And I think this is something I need to battle to believe every day. "The healing of my heart will lead to the healing of my tongue."- Steve Shelby

So, to wrap up this incredibly long post which has helped me probably more then it has helped you...
When I am training the boys and getting at the heart of their sin in speaking unkind words to one another, the best thing I can do is to bring them back to Jesus. Remind them of who they are in Him and that He loves them. To not downplay their feelings when they've been hurt by others.  Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I need to model wholesome and encouraging talk as I interact with them and others. I need to repent quickly when I fail. I know this has only scratched the surface... but God is gracious with me. Teaching me little bits at a time. I still have so much more to learn.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not by might . . .

I have this song spinning through my head non stop today. I can't remember where I heard it. Maybe church, radio?? I've searched online to try to find it and can't find the exact lyrics. If you know what it is from, please leave a comment and let me know. The important thing is the words in the song. Great words to meditate on today as I struggle with training little boys. Oh how I need the power of the Holy Spirit to give me strength! So glad for these words of hope . . . I don't have to do it alone!

"Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.
Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.

That you may know that I am God, and I am seated on the throne.
That you may know that I am God, and you can't do it alone."

(I did find reference to Zechariah 4:6. I need to do some reading to understand the context of this scripture.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First day of school

Today was our first day of school and I'm feeling two things. . . thankful and tired! Overall we had a great day. We accomplished our goals and had fun too. I need to remember to get extra sleep and pray for patience because it will take a little while to train everyone how to work in the same space (both independently and one-on-one). I felt a little like a ping pong ball, but that's okay. I know it will take a little time. :)
This is what the boys saw when they came downstairs. 
We had our Bible time and prayer time during breakfast at 7:30 and 
then began our 1st day of school photo shoot at 8:30. :) 
Not sure what is in their backpacks, but it excited them so that was fine with me.
Sporting their new "Smith Academy" t-shirts. 
We wore them today, but I think we'll save them for field trips. 
And yes, their teacher and principal have one too!
 Then we moved into the school room for the pledge to the flag and Bible. 
 The last few photos are just glimpses of the boys in action 
working on their workboxes. 
 Book basket time
 Sorting bears with tongs
And lastly, at the listening center. 

We're ready for what God has planned for us tomorrow! 

School Room

I cannot even begin to tell you the extreme excitement and gratitude I experienced when I first saw pictures of what would someday be our school room. We sold our house a year ago last March and were searching for a new house that would accommodate our family and provide a good space for school. In the last month before we needed to be out of our old house we were busy looking for rental properties. We had some very specific criteria that we were looking for and had not found anything to fit the bill. We had settled on the fact that we would likely live somewhere temporarily until the right house came on the market. But God had a plan and He blessed us greatly! Early May a house popped on the market only 2 miles from our old house and I believe that God orchestrated all the details that put us in that house one month later.

So, I share these photos of our schoolroom from a place of gratitude and thanksgiving. I am daily thankful for this space and how God knows me and knows how much I would truly enjoy it. It's these little blessings and provisions that I need to remember all the time!
View from the corner of the room. L to R: listening center on cushions, 
A's workboxes and desk, calendar station, L's desk and workboxes in the far right. 
A close up of our calendar station. I got most of this from Homeschool Creations and some from Confessions of a Homeschooler. (Two homeschool blogs I follow.)
L's desk and workboxes. Don't worry. We have some projects in the first week 
that will be hung above his desk and make the space look more inviting!
From L to R: School job chart and schedule with reading corner and book basket below, E's desk and workboxes. Near the ceiling is the time line we created last year in our My Father's World 1st grade curriculum. We'll be adding to it this year with our Adventure's in My Father's World 2nd grade curriculum. The really cool thing about this wall is that it is magnetic (done by the previous owners). 
I keep magnetic clips on the wall and display the boys artwork. 
A close up of our reading corner. 
And lastly, the floor to ceiling bookshelves that you see when you walk in the door. 
We've lived in this house for a year and I'm still so thankful for this space!


Yesterday was orientation at Smith Academy. What is home school orientation you might wonder? For us, orientation is all about learning the new routine: going over the schedule, learning the new theme song for the school year (This is My Father's World), learning our school "jobs," practicing the pledge to the flag and to the Bible, practicing our calendar board routines and making a poster to display our classroom rules. Here is our finished school rules poster:
As you can see somewhere between the start of orientation and working on the poster, a certain boy, who will remain nameless, got "hot." One of the advantages of home schooling I suppose...  It was a bit ironic that while the boys were coloring in the letters for the word "respectful" there was a whole lot of pushing, arguing and disrespectful behavior. We're going to have to work on that!

After a few skits demonstrating respectful and disrespectful behavior, we concluded our orientation with a special visit from the Principal of Smith Academy. (Daddy, of course!) It was very special to me to spend time praying together as a family for the start to our school year. And now the year begins... relying on God every step of the way because I certainly cannot pull this off on my own!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Tomorrow is a new beginning for us. We'll officially have a 2nd grader, Kindergartner, and a preschooler reporting for orientation in the school room. Then Thursday begins our first full day of school. So today was cause for celebration! We celebrated the end of lazy summer days,  the beginning of new routines and fun learning adventures.

It was a PERFECT day (80 degrees, low humidity) to pack a picnic lunch and head out to Pony Pasture on the James River. It was a first for the boys! Here are some pictures that capture how much fun we had.
Of course the boys needed walking sticks!

 It was all about adventure for this guy. 
The more jumping and running the better. 
 Thankful for one cautious boy who was happy to pretend fish. 

So happy to be outside exploring!
 Two little monkeys.

So glad I packed extra clothes... I had a feeling this would happen. 

Definitely need to make this a back to school tradition!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Makes my heart happy . . .

We have quite a bit of shenanigans around here, some of which is childishness and some of which is foolishness. I have quite a few stories to tell... :)

However, today I'm choosing to recall those little things that make my heart happy.
Here we go:

1) Driving in the van and hearing three little voices singing boldly and sweetly to whatever music is being played.

2) Watching my eldest son focus and concentrate on a 300 piece jigsaw puzzle for a long stretch of time... until he satisfactorily puts in the last piece.

3) Observing the three boys engaged in pretend play with their Legos without conflict. I love their imaginations... especially when they are gracious and respectful of each other's different ideas. (I need to remember that this is possible!)

4) Seeing my VERY active middle son sit still and color beautiful pictures of horses with a very serious look on his face.

5) Hearing my youngest son's deep belly laugh. SO contagious!

6) Getting hugs from all of them.

7) Every time they cheerfully do their family service without a single grumble.

8) Quote from middle son: "Mommy, I still love you when you sin." phew!

9) Listening to their honest prayers.

10) Finding my eldest son tucked away in his tent reading for pleasure.

God is good. All the time.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I received a very precious gift yesterday.

My husband took the boys to Maymont for the day so I could work on school preparations. They left here at 11:30am with a picnic lunch and didn't return until 5:30pm. I was alone in our house for six whole hours! I'm quite certain that is the longest I've been home alone during the daytime in at least 4 years. I had a wonderful time making lesson plans, organizing the school room, singing to non-kid music, and getting my head on straight for the start of our school year.

I'm thankful for the special time the boys had with their Daddy making memories.
Thank you Jesus for my husband serving me in this way!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I wouldn't consider myself a runner.  In high school, the only time I enjoyed running was when I was chasing after the field hockey ball. In college, I preferred swimming or biking or nothing at all. As a college graduate and high school teacher, I found enjoyment in aerobics classes and biking.

When my first child was born I was very generously given a single jog stroller. At first I was motivated to jog as a means of getting back in shape post baby. And then, it happened. I suddenly found great joy in running in the outdoors pushing this sweet little bundle. To smell the air and feel the sun shining down on me while pushing my little guy was a wonderful escape from the challenges of new motherhood. That coupled with the endorphin rush kept me running...
and running...
and running...
and running.
So many thanks to my kind friends who chipped in to buy me a double jogger as a baby shower gift that allowed me to run when the second and third child were born. 

When we started home schooling in 2009, I changed my running routine to a mom only event in the wee hours of the morning. Running in the dark with a friend became a new way to enjoy running. It doesn't matter if it's below freezing, raining, or snowing, I love to be outside running.

And now with butterflies in my stomach, I signed up for the 1/2 marathon in November. I'm so excited and scared, but with my eyes on Jesus I will have a fabulous time. 

Friday, August 19, 2011


Chewing on this today...

Psalm 103: 2-5
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

Psalm 103:8-12
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal
with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love
toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Proactive Grocery Shopping

I must confess that grocery shopping with the three boys has been a challenge for me. Since I'm home schooling, I can either choose to go with the boys or go in the evenings alone. I'm very blessed that when I was pregnant with our third child, my husband took the grocery list and our older two boys every Saturday morning and did the shopping. Then over the last couple years, I'm grateful that he has been very willing to do the grocery shopping every other week in the evenings. Yeah Daddy!

However, I have found that it pays to be proactive when grocery shopping if I MUST bring them with me. I'm still trying to figure out appropriate expectations for three active boys in the grocery store when I have a handful of coupons and a long list. I wish they would just walk calmly and quietly beside me while I concentrate on saving money! :) However, despite my determined efforts to train them that has not been our regular history. So, I needed a plan... First of all, we do pray every time we enter a grocery store. We also discuss and review pleasing behavior vs. displeasing behavior, peacemaking behavior vs. trouble making behavior and what it looks like to be obedient in the grocery store. Then, I pull out the props. I love to make things on the computer -- it's all quite primitive because I don't have any fancy equipment or the time to spend. So, I made these four grocery activities.
1st: Grocery Alphabet Scavenger Hunt
2nd: Grocery Bingo
3rd: I spy shapes
4th: Scavenger Hunt (I couldn't get this image turned...sorry!)
I would love to share these word documents with you if you think it might help. I recommend laminating them for lots of re-use. I will say that I am definitely not computer savvy and have no idea how to attach a document to this blog post. So, if you want a copy, email me or leave a comment with your email address and I'll happily share. I just ask that if you make it better, share your improvements with me! (* I haven't actually used these in a while and the boys have done great... but a friend recommended that I share them on this blog. Maybe it's time to pull out our copies and use them again!)
Happy Shopping!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Thing

I spent this week studying Psalm 27 and then just finished discussing it with a group of lovely women this evening. I've been privileged to use West End Presbyterian Church's Wellspring Women's Bible Study this summer entitled, "The Psalms: A Hospitable House." So here is what I am processing from this evening...

"One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. " Psalm 27:4

In the verses leading up to this verse, David is recounting all the opposition he is facing and yet he is still focused on ONE THING... to dwell in the house of the Lord so that he may gaze on the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple. Wow! He's not asking the Lord to free him from his opposition or make life easy.  He desires to be inactively active in gazing at the Lord's face.  "You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, "Your face, Lord do I seek." Psalm 27:8

We also listened to a lecture/discussion on Psalm 27 led by Kim Greene, so these words and thoughts are not all mine... but they are truly stirring my heart.  Oh how I desire to be gazing at the Lord all the days of my life. How much would that transform me? To be in that position of lowering myself and exalting the Lord in His glory day by day, moment by moment... even when things don't go how I plan, even when I am facing opposition. How much will it change how I am able to love my husband and children if I daily seek the Lord? Bringing me to repentance quickly...

God is pursuing me. He is asking me to seek His face. How refreshing!

This song popped into my head by a favorite Christian artist. It is referencing Psalm 73, but I think it applies here too. I'll share a few of the lyrics.

"My One Thing" by Rich Mullins
Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is 
They need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think
They got it coming
Well I know that I don't deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You
More and more
You're my one thing

Save me from those things 
That might distract me
Please take them away
and purify my heart
I don't want to lose the eternal for
The things that are passing
Cause what will I have
When the world is gone
If it isn't for the love
That goes on and on with

My one thing, You're my one thing
And the pure in heart shall see God
You're my one thing
You're my one thing
And the pure in heart shall see God


We have this great little weather station in our school room. We use it to chart monthly temperatures, tell digital time, and it even helps the boys know how to dress. It came in handy all winter long. If the little boy in the screen was wearing a hat and scarf, they were very agreeable to also wear a hat and scarf. No complaints and no arguments.
As the weather warmed up, they would check out the weather station and again were very agreeable to dress accordingly. If the boy was wearing pants and short sleeves...they wore pants and short sleeves. 
I had no idea how much I was in for trouble this summer... How do you think they wanted to dress when it was above 80 degrees?
That's right... if the boy was wearing only "undies", then they wanted to wear only undies!! Oh my! :)

Monday, August 15, 2011


I have wanted to start a blog for quite some time for many reasons. First, God has made me a verbal processor. In order to understand all that God is teaching me, I need to talk or write it out. As a home schooling mom, I am finding that the opportunities for processing with other adults are limited. I'm excited for this new adventure! Secondly, I'd love to share some of the joys and successes of home schooling with family and friends. I certainly know that there will also be many struggles and failures (and I might share those too), but I want a record of the positive experiences as a testimony to God being at work. It's only by His grace that we survive day by day in this wild house of boys!  It is my desire that as I share my stories on this blog that I would bring glory to my Creator. That it would be all about what He is doing in me and for me and not about any success that I pass off as my own. So... let the journey begin!