"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

Friday, August 31, 2012



Ethan: (with a glimmer in his eye) "Maybe you should get confetti and have a remote control and when I get a 100 on my math test tomorrow you could press the button and make confetti shoot out everywhere."

Aaron: "Yeah! And then make ice cream shoot out everywhere!"

He did it!! He got a 100 on his first math test. I love his confidence.
Oh how I wish I had a confetti machine! He was delighted. :)


The boys are getting ready for their very first sleepover at Grammy and Poppy's.

Aaron: (with a worried look on his face) "But what if I wake up in the night with a bad dream?"

Ethan: (with a very sweet voice) "Don't worry Aaron. Just roll over and wake me up. I'll say a prayer for you."

Melt my heart!!! Oh the sweet moments I need to remember!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To the TOP!

Last Friday, we joined some friends at a local climbing wall for an open house. We're considering joining a homeschool climbing club this semester and wanted to find out the details. We had a GREAT time! I arrived at the open house thinking this was just climbing time for the boys, but was encouraged to join the other moms climbing too. oh my!!

 A friend grabbed my camera and took a picture after my first climb. 
My expression is priceless. My heart was racing!!! I couldn't believe I did it. :)
Luke didn't think twice about climbing. He said he wasn't nervous at all. 

Ethan was also fearless. He easily and quickly made it to the top of the 
50 foot wall on the right. When I was attempting this climb I got about 90%
up the wall and then thought about quitting. Then I looked down and saw 
three little boys smiling at me and I made it to the top!! SO EXCITING!!!

Aaron had NO interest in even putting on the harness. 
He sat on the sidelines happily playing with the rocks. 
He even made the letter "f" - our letter of the week! 

He changed his mind towards the end and did some free climbing on the boulders.

All in all a great experience!!! Now to decide whether to commit to three months of climbing ???
It's a super great deal, but a long commitment. hmmm....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Building Craze

Have I mentioned how much I love Kapla blocks? They are awesome! We got a set one year for Luke's birthday from family. Who knew that 200 uniformly shaped blocks could be so entertaining?

Ethan has been enjoying them. Whenever he has free time, he is eager to build a new creation. And he asked me to take pictures and put them on my blog! ha! So... Ethan, this is for you! :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

We started school a week ago today. I have to say it was probably one of the best first weeks of school we have had. Maybe it was because my expectations were more realistic? Maybe because they are maturing? Maybe because we kept up a school schedule over the summer? Maybe a little bit of all those things. I think it was mostly because of God's graciousness and kindness that we got off to a great start. Oh... we had some bumps, but I expected them this time around. ;)

Here are some pictures from our first day. 
 Homemade cinnamon, raisin rolls without the ooey-gooey filling. 
The boys enjoyed these with sausage, fruit and oatmeal on our first day!
 My big third grader! He decided that all the boys should wear their "Smith Academy" shirts that I made last year. He filled up his back pack and was ready waiting in the kitchen for breakfast!

 I didn't make these cute signs. Found them online, but can't remember where to give credit. 

 Luke is assigned to "teach" Aaron for one of his workboxes every day. He is taking this job very seriously and Aaron is loving it. Here he is working on shapes with Aaron. Makes my heart happy!
Working on grammar.

 Handwriting review
He finished his school work and relocated to the family room to play. 

Do me a favor? Remind me of how God blessed us greatly our first week, 
when January rolls around and I'm weary. Please?! :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

School Room 2012-2013

I wasn't planning to make any changes to our school room and then... I had some time alone. Amazing how much easier it is to think in a quiet house. ;p  Darin was gracious to take the boys out on an adventure this past weekend and I had three hours alone in the house. Hooray!!

I quickly got my tunes cranking and took everything out of the school room. I vacuumed, scrubbed floors, and scrubbed walls. Here's how it looked when I was finished. Wish I thought to take a photo while I was in process... I was just too busy cleaning and singing.

I rearranged the wall hangings a bit and added this world map and white table. The listening corner is to the left of the white table. There is a cd player on the built in bookcases.
Aaron's desk was moved to Luke's old spot. 

Here is a close up of Aaron's desk and workboxes. He needs the calendar lessons 
the most, so this is a perfect spot for him. His desk has a few first day surprises. :)

The reading corner for book basket time and all our other calendar activities. 
Ethan's desk is to the right.

A close up of Ethan's desk with first day goodies. He'll be adding the numbers to the number line each day and there is plenty of wall space to display artwork. This wall is magnetic. 

 After I finished setting up the room, I hung this old sheet from the inside so it would be a surprise until the first day of school. You'll see we still have our My Father's World time line above the windows in the far right of the picture. It was so mysterious and they were very excited and curious.

Outside the school room.

WAIT... Where is Luke's desk you ask??? 
Well, he needed a special quiet thinking zone to do his best work. 
A third grade thinking zone!

Luke was relocated to the dining room. I hung this little sign across the door to the dining room and Luke loved it! I'm so glad he thinks things like that are fun!

Here is his space in the dining room. He was excited about his 3rd Grade Work Zone! I wanted to be sure he didn't feel kicked out,  but instead separated because of the important work that 3rd graders need to do. I think it worked. He feels pretty special. You can tell by how hard he has been working. Praise the Lord!

And we're off... on another homeschool journey!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Track Club

This summer we participated in a neighborhood outreach called Track Club. It was geared toward elementary/middle and high school kids living in a community neighboring our church. 

Here's how it worked: Two nights a week, we'd drive to the neighborhood, load up our cars with eager kids and head over to an awesome track at a nearby private school. (They are gracious to let us use their track bi-weekly during the summer months!) Then we'd run like crazy, tire them out, give them popsicles and water and have a gospel presentation. It was awesome!!! 

Our entire family went every Monday night. Sometimes, Aaron stayed behind with a sitter. Once at the track, we usually separated boys and girls. I loved connecting with the middle school girls. What a refreshing change of pace for this mom of boys! It reminded me of my days teaching. I'm totally not cool, but I loved the girls I met and loved getting to know them. My prayer is that these girls, and all the participants walked away with a new understanding of Jesus' love. 

The final night we had a big party. The Track Club Finale!!! 
My dad came along and took some pictures. Here is a small glimpse. 

 Here we are gathering the kids to load up the cars. We had double the leaders since it was the finale.
 Warming up at the track. Notice Aaron in blue at the right of the picture.
 Stretching! Not all the kids are pictured.
 Even though the club was geared towards school aged children, we also had a group of 3 and 4 year olds show up each week. The leaders organized a special "Dress up and run" race on the final night. That's my little Aaron running with the cowboy hat!
 Serious Ethan waiting on the sidelines for the 50 yard dash.
 The 2nd and 3rd graders getting ready for their 50 yard dash. Luke is in orange. 

 Listening to instructions for the baton relay from the head coaches.
 Here I am with the three girls I drove every Monday. 
(the girl a little bit to my right, the girl in pink and the girl in black)
Sweet friends! I will miss seeing them now that track club is over. 
We talked about getting together one evening next week and I can't wait. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Summer Fun!

My visions of a restful and relaxing summer didn't seem to pan out. 
With three active boys there is just too much fun to be had!! 
Someday I'll sit on our hammock, sipping my ice water, reading a book. ;) ha!
Until then, I'll cherish the time spent with my busy boys.

 In Maryland, celebrating cousin B's birthday party and enjoying 
Geo Trax with Uncle Jeffrey and family. 
 Playing ball with Daddy!
 And... one of our favorite locations this summer... the POOL!!! 

They were fearless and had so much fun on the diving board! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A New School Year

It's been almost two weeks since my last post and I've been intentionally resisting so I could focus on family and school prep. Well, now I'm ready to post like crazy and for some reason blogger won't let me upload photos. Wah?!?!

Somehow I'll get it figured out, but in the meantime... we started our school year on Monday! I can't wait to share those first day of school pictures!!! If you've been reading this blog, you know that our school year last year was challenging. I spent a lot of time praying and questioning where God was leading us in regards to school. As I prayed and prayed, I slowly sensed God leading towards homeschooling... at least for another year. Darin agreed. I am confident that this is where God wants us for now, but also fully aware that we will face more challenges. Somehow, I'm okay with that. ;)

Once we committed to homeschooling by sending in our Notice of Intent, I began freaking out internally. I needed to come up with a plan for our school year that would address some of the problems we faced last year. (attitudes, resistance, little boy distractions and the biggest one... allowing space in our schedule for boys to be on the move!!!) I tried to muster up creative ideas on my own and was blank. Our summer was very full and I found myself without energy for much more then daily chores in the evening. Then I read a post on a friends blog that reminded me... why don't I just pray that God would help me? Is anything impossible for the Lord? 

And so I prayed and waited.

Then, He answered. Really! I believe whole heartedly that He was with me as I searched online about boys and school. I read a number of scientific articles about the differences between boys and girls. I read about important nutritional choices and how they affect learning. I read the accounts of numerous women who have homeschooled boys and their experiences (successes and failures). I read and read and read. And while I was reading, I think the Lord was helping me to formulate a plan based on what I know about my children and our family. (And this was only five days before I was planning to start our school year!)

Here are some things we are doing this year (some new and some old):
1) Breakfast - I will continue to make big breakfasts for the boys with no refined sugars and a serving of protein! I read lots of studies about this. One of my children is really sensitive to sugar highs and lows (even natural sugars). So, no orange juice, syrup or jelly, etc.. We started this last year and I saw a noticeable difference.

2) Bible Time - The curriculum I purchased includes a Bible component. I have found the best time to read from the Bible and discuss is during breakfast. Their hands are busy and if they engage with what I'm reading they are less likely to toss food across the table or play with their food. (Who knew food could be so entertaining!?) And yes, I have to sneak bites of my breakfast and chew in between pages. Certainly helps me to eat more slowly! :)

3) Prayer Walk - This is a fabulous new change that I found online. Now, it's only been in use 4 days so we'll see how it goes. It may be a flop long term, but for now it's working. After breakfast we brush teeth and do our kitchen jobs. Then, out the door we go. They are eager and excited. We walk for only 10 minutes. During that time we discuss what we are praying for that day and then pray. They skip and jump, but stay close by and listen to my praying out loud. Previously we had morning prayer time in the school room, but they were so wiggly that our prayer time turned into refereeing a wrestling match. You can imagine that I had a hard time not getting a wee bit angry and that was a terrible way to start our day. Praying outside gives them a chance to enjoy the fresh air and move their bodies.

On Monday's we pray for specific missionaries (I have a box with photos of Missionaries we do support or have previously supported that we pray for, as well as our church staff.) On Tuesday's we pray for Teachers -- public school teachers, cbs teachers, coaches, sunday school teachers. Wednesday we pray for Whatever is on our hearts. Thursday we spend time praising God with Thankful hearts. Lastly, on Friday we pray for friends and family. My friend Jo shared this idea with me years ago and I love it!

I'm determined to keep this up year round. They don't care what the weather is and we're keeping a record of the weather conditions for every prayer walk. Of course it will take a little more effort when we have to wear hats and scarves, but I think the fresh air will be worth it!

4) Quiet Time - As soon as we come inside from our prayer walk we gather on the couch. Ethan and Aaron are listening to "The Big Picture Bible Storybook" on CD with headphones. Luke and I are independently working on our CBS lesson. For now, this takes about 10 minutes. I'm hoping to gradually extend this time to 15-20 minutes. As soon as we're done, we quickly move to the school room and our workboxes. This quiet time has really helped in calming them and focusing them for our school day! (and me too!)

5) Breaks - We are incorporating more breaks in our schedule this year. Kind of a no-brainer, but it has taken me a couple of years to fully understand how important this is. I am very task oriented and focused. My attitude can often be "let's just get it done." However, they are children and they are boys and they need little mental breaks here and there. Of course we are doing fun hands on activities, but there is also a required amount of work that needs to be accomplished. SO... after every three boxes complete (We use a modified Sue Patrick's workbox system) the boys have a mental break.  There is a method and plan to this break. They are given a physical activity to complete: skip around the house three times, ten jumping jacks, 5 push ups, run up and down the steps two times, five cartwheels in the front yard, slide down slide three times, etc. The logistics of how this works would be better described with a picture. As soon as I figure out whats wrong with bloggers upload system I'll post some pictures.

We're off to a great start and I'm very thankful. It's not because of anything I've done but because of the Lord being gracious and kind to help me know how to implement new things. Praise be to Him!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Map Room

We have a terrific room in our house that is unused. Since the boys are happy sharing a room, we use the "map room" as our guest bedroom. With minimal overnight guests, it has occurred to me to take advantage of the full wall map for our upcoming unit exploring countries and cultures. I am very excited to have a vision for this room. (There will still be space for guests... don't worry!)

You'll see in the pictures below that there is a lot of work to do. Lots of patching, sanding, 
priming and painting. Again, work for Darin and work for me to be patient. I'm willing to help, 
but it's better for both of us if I watch the transformation from the sidelines. 
(He's the painting perfectionist and I'm the "hurry, let's get it done" girl.)
 Isn't this a great map! Darin is going to add picture molding around the edges of the map. 
We're going to change the wall color. I don't care for the gold. Any ideas? 
I welcome all suggestions. Anyone want to come over and be our color consultant? :)
Darin's almost done with all the patching and priming. He's getting ready to paint the ceiling, moldings and prime the walls before he does the top coat. I'm thankful for my hard working hubby. 

Can't wait to show you the final results! Don't forget to share your color suggestions.