"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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sheep to Shawl

This past weekend we attended an event at a local historic landmark. We've been in years past and it's been interesting, but this year I was more interested then ever! It's called "From Sheep to Shawl" and it takes place at a family farm. The farm depicted the 1860's with men sheering sheep, metal forging demo's, music, spinning wheels, looms, etc. 

We recently finished studying the United States in the 1860's in Luke's homeschool curriculum (Adventure's in My Father's World). We studied Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War (briefly- not in much depth), the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and much more. Such perfect timing!

It was so cool to make the connection between what we were seeing and what we have studied. We just finished reading Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates, which details the life of a shepherd family in the mid 1800's. We read about the sheep shearing season from the eyes of a young boy. We read about how they take the wool from the sheep and make it into clothing for Peter. How cool to see real life examples so soon after finishing our book. 

Even though we have been to this estate many times, we've never been on a tour of the family house. However, on Saturday we got to walk through the house and hear about how the family lived in that time period. It was so interesting to me to walk through this house built in 1810. The house I grew up in in New Jersey was built in 1820 and there were lots of similarities that I was able to appreciate in a new way. Can you tell I'm excited? This is definitely one part about homeschooling that I have enjoyed. I have learned a lot this year and honestly, Darin was so surprised by my enthusiasm for the history at this event. (I am NOT a history buff.) I am hoping my enthusiasm is contagious for my little learners. 

I am thankful for this fun outing with the boys!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The Lord is so quick to encourage my heart! wow! The problem is not "fixed," but I am so encouraged to fix my eyes on Jesus and not my problems. Wanted to share an excerpt from my devotions this morning and some scripture the Lord led me to this morning. I hope it encourages you as it has me.

The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure. ~ Sarah Young (as if Jesus was speaking to us)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. 
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - 
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8-12

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


We have only 16 full days of our school year left and I confess that I am counting down the days. Lord, please help me to survive to the end! If you are new to homeschooling this is probably a post you don't want to read. I'm not sure it will inspire you, but it will share some real life struggles. And if you prefer the light and fluffy posts... you may want to stop reading now too! :)

I have to say that this has been the hardest school year yet. We have certainly had some smooth days (which of course I love!), but... oh my, there have been more difficult days then I'd like to admit. The difficulty seems to be centered on attitudes and issues of the heart. Theirs and mine! Are the boys going to choose to joyfully do their school work because that is what God has called them to do? Or, are they going to defiantly refuse to complete their work? Am I going to exercise self-control and gently and determinedly train my children to obey or am I going to shout and yell at them when I run out of patience? The right choice is obvious but it is a day to day struggle.

Are my expectations too high? Is it unrealistic to want eager learners delighting in the work I've prepared? If you homeschool and have eager learners, I confess that I'm jealous. Will you share your secret? Lord, am I being ungrateful for the lot which I have been dealt? How can I faithfully face the challenge of daily resistance to school work? Lord, will you make our schooling path clear? Are you calling us to make changes and explore other schooling options for next year? I confess that I'm so confused. 

As a believer in Jesus, I know that this is how I should react to challenging circumstances:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:4-7
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

I confess that today I am not rejoicing and not feeling joyful. I am struggling to offer grace and forgiveness. I am very weak and pitiful and full of self-condemnation. And yet, I am not alone -- even though I feel that way. God loves me and forgives me. He wants me to lean on him.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." 1Peter 5:7 
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Lord, help me to believe that You will give me strength. Lord, please change my bad attitude. Help me to love and serve my family in a way that gives You glory. 

I saw this somewhere recently and I'm not sure how to give credit. It's not my own. 
"Out of our weakness, He gives us more strength then we can fathom." 
Oh how I need His strength!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lego Fair

Last Thursday, we participated in our first lego fair with a local homeschool group. The challenge was to create a lego display without using a pre-made set and directions. I signed up right away, but boy was Luke nervous and reluctant. He loves building with legos, but was a bit crippled by "wanting to win first prize."Oh why did I mention the contest part?? I should have known better! :)
getting it set up at the fair
Though we talked about the fair often, it wasn't until Wednesday morning that Luke even began creating. Do I have a procrastinator on my hands?? I loved his finished product (a set of townhouses with a city street), but it certainly was not as complicated as some things he has built with directions. 

The judges for the event were two high school students who are members of the First Lego League Robotics (FLL) team, as well as their teacher. Here they are introducing themselves and explaining what FLL is all about.

 The judges then made their way around to each child's lego display and allowed them to explain their creation.  It was a really big deal for him to talk with these judges. He is super shy, especially around adults whom he doesn't know. I was so proud of him! 
I was concerned how he would react to not winning any prize or ribbon. I was pleasantly surprised by his maturity. On the way home we talked about it and he said, "Once I saw everyone else's creations, I knew I wouldn't win. Now I have new ideas for building things for the next time."
On Saturday morning, we went to the Science Museum to see a Junior First Lego League Expo. (for ages 6-9 years old) We're thinking this is something we really want to explore. It would be great for teamwork skills and creativity. In the lobby we got to see some high school students lego robots. 

I think it will take a gentle push for Luke to try out participating in the Junior First Lego League, but I think he would really enjoy it. 

And to explain the beads...NO I don't typically dress my boys in beads! They were passing them out at the door of the Science Museum and they have been driving me crazy ever since. Do you realize how much pain can be inflicted from beads swinging around? :) The beads have now found a new home in a good hiding spot!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ribbon Blanket

I wanted to share with you an easy and great tutorial for a ribbon blanket. I've done a good bit of searching around the web and this one HERE is very detailed for a beginning sewer. Good explanations and pictures! I recently made one for a boy and one for a girl.
 I love choosing the fabric and ribbons. I usually use a minky fabric and a flannel. You have to be careful NOT to iron the minky fabric (has little 3D bumps), or it loses its bumpiness as you can see above. oops!
The only thing I do differently from the tutorial, is that after pinning the ribbons to the fabric I sew them on with my sewing machine. This is BEFORE I pin the two fabrics together. I think it helps me make sure the ribbons are straight and double secures the ribbons -- something really important if a baby is going to be sucking or pulling on the ribbons.

This is a great starter project because it promises somewhat immediate results. Also a great project to set up an assembly line if you have lots of baby gifts to make.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Green Thumb?

I don't necessarily have a green thumb, but I am drawn to planting and gardening. I love being outside. I enjoy pulling weeds and I love freshly grown veggies. I think what I lack is experience, patience and focus. (Funny how my lack of patience seems to affect all areas of my life!) I've had minimal success over the years as I've tried to garden, but I just can't give up YET.

Our garden has been in the works since last year. I got Darin on board with trying out a raised bed vegetable garden using the square foot gardening method. He loves to build so he made me a raised bed and attached a mesh screen to the bottom to keep out the moles and voles. By the time we got the bed made, it seemed too late in the season to really get going with the garden so we put the planting on hold.
Last weekend we finally moved forward with gusto and I'm pretty excited! I'm thankful that Darin is as eager as I am and so willing to join me in this project. Our garden is loosely based on the theories in this book.
I am also thankful that Luke is SO helpful and hard working. He delights in projects like this and he is definitely old enough to be an asset. Looks like he needs a larger wheelbarrow and wagon. Oh my,  he's getting big!
First we leveled out the garden and made sure the screen was attached to keep out the critters.
 Then we mixed 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite.
 We wet the soil and smoothed it out.
We measured out our grid and attached twine. 
Luke helped hammer in the nails after attaching the twine.  
Then we got busy planting! I have a few more squares to plant, but we're off to a good start.  

My expectations are pretty low, but I'm hoping the conditions are right to get at least a little bit of veggies. Then maybe we can learn from our mistakes and have more success each year? We'll see!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All Tied Up

Thankfully, no one is literally tied up over here! :) (At least not today!)

So, I've been conflicted recently about "dressing up" for Easter. It sort of takes the focus off what Easter is really all about. It's certainly not about how cute my kids are or how much money I'm willing to shell out for coordinating outfits. As much as my goal may be to allow the events of Easter to make an impact on every day life, I do think it is important to really set apart Resurrection Day as a special day of celebration and worship. It seems to me that when the boys are dressed more carefully their behavior tends to be more respectful and a little less wild. Still in process here... or perhaps I'm just justifying my urge to dress them up? hmmm...

Anyway, I wanted to dress them intentionally this Easter but didn't want to spend a lot of money. I suddenly had the inspiration to make them ties. I found a great tutorial HERE. (Just to note... our church is not dressy and Darin never wears ties, but the boys had been asking for a tie so I was excited to indulge them.) I was looking for a spring plaid, but settled on the bike fabric below. I think it's pretty cute.

Since I'm not planning to make them dresses, this was a fun boy project. Most of the tie was made without a sewing machine and really all of it could have been hand sewn. I found some great YouTube videos to remind me how to do a slip stitch. There is so much information out there! Definitely a manageable project for a beginner.

Two things I learned: First,  if you can, find a more slippery fabric. It was tricky to tie the cotton quilting fabric I used. Second, it was not expensive, but also not as cheap as I thought. Since the tie is cut on the bias, you need more fabric then you would think. I shortened the pattern for Aaron's tie so it wasn't too long. 

I thought about making Darin a tie that matched, but decided against it. :) 
I think that was a wise decision. I'm sure Darin's glad too. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Patience and Anger

Foolishly, I kept busy until the wee hours of the morning setting up for school, planning meals, clipping coupons, searching for on sale items and making my grocery list. When I finally went to sleep, it was interrupted multiple times by a needy boy with a congested nose. The alarm went off at 6am so I could get to the grocery store and back before breakfast. It was a necessary trip due to our very empty pantry and refrigerator. When I returned at 7:30am with many bags full of groceries, the boys were eager to have their bellies filled. Then the race to get the groceries put away, kitchen tidied and the bell rung for the start of our school day at 9am (30 minutes late!). I hadn't even done anything important yet and I was already short tempered and tired. As I look back, it was all a recipe for a very bumpy morning (which it was).

Ironically, the boys and I began a study on love this morning. During breakfast, I read excerpts aloud from a book intended for adults. With a little explanation and simplification, it was so applicable to the environment in our home. (The boys were surprisingly engaged as we brainstormed real scenarios.) Today we talked about love being patient. I've never really thought about the connection between patience and anger, but I'm realizing that it is quite significant. When I am quick to become angry with the boys or my husband, I'm not modeling a patient love. Instead, I'm likely letting my emotions take over in response to my own selfishness and impatience. A patient love instead, "brings an internal calm during an external storm. [Patience] fosters peace and quiet."(Kendrick)

So, as our school day began I couldn't stop thinking about these passages:
"He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." Proverbs 14:29
"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute." Proverbs 15:18
"See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another." 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Today has been full of opportunities to recognize/acknowledge ways we are not loving with a patient love. Whether it is has been settling a dispute between fighting boys "returning evil or evil," or  even a Momma reacting with angry words to continued disobedience, it has been obvious that we need the Lord's help and I'm so thankful that He won't give up on me/us.

"...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phillipians 1:6

So, more sleep is definitely in need. However, even with a full nights sleep I cannot in my own strength love my family the way God intended. I need Him and His strength to resist my sinful nature. And I need to cling to the promises that God is at work, making me new despite my many failings and set-backs. So thankful His mercies are new every morning.

Multiplication Rock

In January, Luke started learning multiplication. For whatever reason, he loves it! Huge "yeah" since math has not been his favorite subject this school year. However, as with any math facts there comes a time when memorization is really important. Sadly, flash cards don't go over well here. In an effort to come up with some creative ways to get him to memorize his facts, I stumbled across "Multiplication Rock"at the public library. We are ALL having a ball listening to this CD. Even Aaron has learned how to count by 2's, 3's and 5's. I guess it's a little like brainwashing, but I'm a fan of any learning set to music.

Here is a YouTube video of the Fives (Here I Come) song:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Break Adventures

We enjoyed several day trips to nearby parks, gardens, etc. for spring break this year. 
It was the first year of home schooling that we've actually taken a full week off. 
It turned out to be perfect timing in light of our family visiting, although it has been a 
little tough to get back into the swing of things this week! So glad it's Friday! :)

Botanical Gardens
 Aaron and cousin R 
So glad we made it past all the water without any of my boys falling/jumping in!
 Aaron, Luke and cousin R in the gorgeous orchid exhibit. (Ethan was not in the mood for photos!)
 sweet little poser
This "stick house" sculpture was amazing!

Beautiful sister-in-law and sweet baby girl

Climbing boys!

Day trip to the beach. This was very hard for the boys to understand. The only time we've ever gone to the beach is for a vacation when it's hot. They were wondering where the beach house was and couldn't understand why I didn't want them to go IN the water. (It was upper 60's and windy.) We had a great time, but there were many moments that tested my pitiful patience. :]

Example of tested patience: Ethan decided to jump in the water and then promptly drop to the ground and roll around until he was fully covered with sand. We had no access to showers or bathrooms and you can be sure that within moments he was shivering from the wind. I was prepared to let him experience discomfort from his poor choice, but lucky for him Grammy came to the rescue and shared her towel to dry him off and change him into warmer clothes. 

Climbing Wall:  This was probably my favorite outing because it made the boys so happy. If you've been reading this blog before you know that Luke and Ethan love climbing. I was thrilled to for them to have this opportunity and even more thrilled that my brother Jonathan and his wife Sarah could be with us. They both have extensive climbing experience. They met long ago at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and have done lots of climbing through the years. They were able to coach the boys and belay them as they climbed to the top. The boys had NO fear and boldly climbed the wall. 
Luke climbing to the top!

At the conclusion of his first climb! Happy boy!

Even 4 year old cousin R did a great job climbing!
We had two on-site sitters so Darin and I could keep our eyes on the climbers. 
Thanks Grammy and Poppy!

Ethan was SO excited!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All Together

The weekend of Palm Sunday, both my brothers and their families and my family gathered at my parents new house to celebrate their new location and to enjoy one another. There were 7 kids and 8 adults. Here are some photos from the weekend. The weather was fabulous for outdoor play. The kids played soccer, rode bikes, played with trucks and tractors and ran around.

cousin B on the tractor

 cousin A ready for our Sunday meal

We discovered a little friend on the wood pile that captured a lot of attention!

Six of the grandkids getting a peak at the wood pile snake from a safe distance.  

dyeing eggs on the deck

Ready for the egg hunt!

Sometimes the shorter kids found the eggs intended for the big kids. :)

 the egg/spoon race

Thankful for this weekend with family. I just wish it didn't go by so quickly!