Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tag! You're It!

My friend Carrie from Live, Learn and Love Together "got me" the other day in a bloggy game of tag.  She gave me 8 questions to answer, and after I answer them, I make up some of my own and then tag 8 other bloggers. 

Sounds like fun, huh?

So here are the 8 questions Carrie asked me, along with my answers:

1. What is your favorite Bible verse? How did it become your favorite? (If you don’t have a single favorite, please share one of your faves.)
One of my all-time favorite passages is Psalm 103:8-10:  "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." 

I memorized this passage in BSF several years ago.  I loved focusing on these attributes of God and meditating on his unconditional love, so Greg and I kind of adopted it as our marriage verse.  (Jennifer is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  She will not always accuse, nor will she harbor her anger forever; she does not treat Greg as his sins deserve or repay him according to his iniquities.")  Not that either Greg or I are capable of loving with the perfect love that God alone lavishes on us, but it has still served us well as a reminder of what that love looks like when it is perfect, as a goal to work toward.

2. What is currently on your nightstand? Are you reading a good book? Are you into Sudoku or crosswords? Do tell!
Hmmm . . . can I cheat a little and tell you about a book that's usually on my nightstand but is not there right now because a friend is borrowing it?  It's Heart of Wisdom by Robin Sampson, which is hands-down the best homeschool resource I've found!  What you will find on my nightstand right now is a well-used copy of Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman and a stack of Homeschool Enrichment magazines.  And would you believe I've never done a Sudoku puzzle in my life???  And honestly—dare I even say it—it doesn't even look fun to me.  Too much brainpower going into a chunk of time that could be better filled with a nap! 

3. If you have a Saturday where there is nothing on the calendar (Yeah, I know you’re laughing right now!!), how would you most like to spend the day? Are you a homebody? Are you a compulsive cleaner? Would you go shopping? Meet a friend for lunch?
Oooh, that's a tough one!  I would want to spend the day being productive at home!  I'd like to think I would clean the kids' bathroom closet, reformat my hard drive and reinstall all the software I need, catch up on the year that's missing from my blog.  (Like all of that could be done in a day!)  Realistically, though, I'm pretty sure if I had a day, I could find the end of the Internet.  :)

4. I’ve recently finished Dr. Kevin Leman’s book The Firstborn Advantage. Do you think there is anything to “Birth Order?” Do you see any birth order characteristics in you, your hubs, and/or your kids?
I think there's some truth to it, but I also think a lot of it is God-given personality.  I definitely see lots of the firstborn traits in Hannah (my firstborn), but I also see lots of middle child traits in my peacemaker hubby, yet he's the baby.

5. Do you plan to grow old gracefully or fight it every step of the way (within reason – i.e. age-fighting moisturizers, covering gray hair, etc.)?
Again, a tough one.  If you had asked me this when I was 16, I would have said I want to grow old gracefully.  But now that a small colony of gray hairs has decided to camp out on my head, I'm rethinking that!  When I'm having a day where my focus is on who I am in the flesh, I want to fight it.  But when I'm having a day where my focus is on who I am in Christ, I'm actually honored to be "maturing" (how's what word?!) because it means more years I've spent walking with the Lord.

6. Do you like Starbucks? And are you a fan of their seasonal coffees?
Puh-leez!  Starbucks is for cool people, and that is so not me!  In my world, it's all about a cup of Great Value coffee in the morning.  And if I really feel like treating myself, I'll get a caramel flavored Frappe from McDonald's.  (Oh my goodness gracious, they're good!)

7. How do you decorate and/or prepare for fall?
I've always wanted to decorate my house for fall, but this is the first year I've actually done it!  I love the colors, the smells . . . it's actually going to be hard for me to take this stuff down and put the Christmas decorations up!  I'm not a decorator by any stretch of the imagination (see #6 above—I'm as uncool as they come!), but here are some pictures of what we did:

Fall leaves, cornucopia, and pumpkins on the mantle, along with fall pictures of the girls.

Fall wreath with a ginormous candle on the coffee table.  (It's ridiculous how good this candle smells!)
Fall centerpiece from Kirkland's on the kitchen table.

The girls helped me with this one.  I loved the plate, and Hannah and Camille wanted the Pilgrims and Indians since they just studied Plymouth in U.S. history. 

I even added a splash of color in our waaaaay neutral kitchen!

And this is the front door.  The pumpkin on the left reads Give Thanks, and the one of the right reads Welcome.
I would love to do a display in the front yard with bales of hay, mums, a scarecrow, and a bushel basket overflowing with pumpkins, but that will have to wait for another year.

8. What is your favorite fall recipe?
What?!  There's such a thing as a fall recipe?!

Now here are the 8 questions I came up with . . .

1.  What's one thing about your hubby that still makes you weak in the knees?  Is it the same thing that gave you that feeling when you were dating, or has it changed with time?

2.  How have you seen God working in your life lately?

3.  Does your family have any favorite family traditions?

4.  What has one of your kids done lately that has caused you to laugh out loud?

5.  If you could be alone in the car with a CD of your choice, what would it be?

6.  Do you have a hidden talent, even if it's not something practical?  (For example, I can pick up almost anything with my toes!)

7.  If the you of today could go back in time and tell the you of high school one thing, what would it be?

8.  If money wasn't an issue and your schedule was free, what would you spend your days doing?

I'll go ahead and tag 8 people just for the fun of it, but if you read this and want to play along, consider yourself tagged!  Just comment so I know to go to your blog and read your answers.  No blog?  No problem!  Just answer in the Comments area below!  I can't wait to read what you have to say!  :)

My "official" tags are . . .

Monica at Discover Their Gifts

Gator Mommy at Baby Gator University

Hetal at Out of My Hands

Erika at Once Upon a Time . . .

Laura at Mine Ebenezer

Ashley at My Magillah

Shannon at Little Things from Texas

Lainie at Mishmash Maggie

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

A Texas-sized thank-you to Monica from Discover Their Gifts and Jenna from Sugar, Spice, and Monkey Tails for awarding me the One Lovely Blog Award.

Here are the rules for accepting the award:
  1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who granted the award and his or her blog link.
  2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.
  3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they've been chosen.
  4. ***See the note at the end of this post!***
Soooooo . . . without further ado, here are 15 people whose blogs I have enjoyed keeping up with lately!  Some of them are real-life friends, others are "new friends" I've made in the blogosphere, and the rest may not even know that I've been getting a glimpse into their lives!  Hopefully you'll be entertained and enlightened as you read their posts.  And who knows?!  Maybe you'll even walk away with a new friend or two!

1.  Cajunrose at Homeschool Happenings
2.  Helen at Adventures at Rowan Court Academy
3.  Heather at Goggles & Grace
4.  Randie at A Moment in My Father's World
5. Angela at My Classical Homeschool
6. Lissa at Blessings
7. Ashley at My Magillah
8.  Tonia at The Sunny Patch
9.  Amy at Hope is the Word
10. Candace at Growing with the Greniers
11.  Little Sparrow Academy
12. Heather at This Side Up
13. Kimberly at Quiet My Soul
14.  Laura at Mine Ebenezer
15.  Rachel at Rachel's Reflections

***If you don't have time to pass this blog award on (and, really, who has extra time they're just looking to fill?!), please know that a horrible virus will not infect your computer, a beloved family member will not get sick with a terrible disease, and bad luck will not follow you for thirteen days.  You can just accept the award and know that someone out there in bloggy-land enjoys your posts and appreciates the time you take to journal your life and share it with the rest of us!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Show & Tell: Adventures Week 7

Today we finished Week 7 of school, and honestly, it was a little rough.  Was it because of the Plague of Milk that was unleashed against my household?  Grrrr . . . I'm sure that factored into it.  Was it because I was a wee bit hormonal?  No doubt.  Was it because I've been putting off looking over the new Sunday school curriculum that I have to teach this Sunday morning, which only makes the task seem that much more daunting?  Right again!  Or was it because I was stressing over the math class I taught at co-op today, which I volunteered to teach back in May when everything seemed doable?  Oh, I'm sure that had a lot to do with it, as well.  But the truth is, all of those factors together fade in comparison to the biggest reason this week was a struggle, which is simply because this whole homeschool journey—heck, this whole parenting journey, homeschool or otherwise—is just as much about refining me as it is the little ones who have been entrusted to my care.

It seems like so many of the lessons we learned this week were life lessons.  Millie learned that continuing to use a bitter voice and bitter words earns you a dose of vinegar.  As soon as it hit her tongue, she tried to spit it out and told me it was awful.  I explained that the words that came out of her mouth sounded just as awful as the vinegar tasted.  She then went around the room saying, "Bitter, badder words!  Bitter, badder words!"  I think it made an impression.

Hannah learned that secrets are rude and hurtful, and it's best not to tell the hostess that she "made the sandwich with the wrong cheese or the wrong mayonnaise or something because it's not very good."  We have been trying to teach her for the past 7 years that things don't always go her way, and she just has to learn to deal with it, but it's a lesson that she has been slow to learn. 

And I had my fair share of lessons this week, too.  I learned that our school day goes much more smoothly if I prepare the week in advance.  When I try to prepare school the morning of, my students wander off to play and are very hard to reign back in.  I also learned that I am going to have to learn to say "no" to good things sometimes to prevent from being overwhelmed with "busyness."  I need to sift out some of the "good" in my life and hang on to the "best."  Easier said than done.  It was reassuring, though, to see God's faithfulness as I reached the end of my stressed-out, frazzled self and found that I was directly in His presence.  He just needed me to get to the end of me so I would see Him.

And yet somehow, our schoolwork was completed and lessons (of the academic kind!) were learned.

In history, we learned about the pioneers who came from France and how much they were helped by the Indians when they got here.  We read another story from American Pioneers and Patriots, which both of the girls enjoyed.  (They love that book!)  We learned that the Indians taught the French settlers to use canoes, so we made paper canoes for a hands-on activity.

We only added Indians to our canoes.  We should probably go back and add a Frenchman in there, too!  :)
Our week ended with a review of the various settlers and the countries they came from.  It's amazing how much we all have learned so far this year.  I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it as long as we homeschool, but I just can't believe how much I learn as I teach the girls.  It's fun for me, and I think it makes it fun for them, too, because they see my excitement and feed off of it.

In Bible, we continued to focus on Jesus as the Bread of Life.  We read the story of the poor widow who gave her last bit of food to Elijah during a famine, and how God was so faithful to provide for her.  (I loved reading this in light of Pastor Mark's series on grace-based giving!)  We also celebrated the Lord's Supper one evening as a family.  I knew the kids would love this because they loved last year's Sabbath celebration so much!  We discussed how yeast often represents sin in the Bible, so I bought Matzos to use instead of bread to represent the body of Christ.  (Plus, it brought back great memories!  I always loved eating it at my grandparents' house when I was a kid!)  We used Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice for the blood, and now both of my milk- and water-loving kids have declared a love for soda! 

Here's Greg filling the girls' cups.  Hannah could probably write a thesis on the Lord's Supper, but Greg did such a great job of making sure to explain everything to Millie as we went along!
Here's Millie passing Hannah the yeastless bread which represents our sinless Savior.
One of the suggested activities for the week was to make a "Bread of Life" napkin holder, but I didn't foresee that getting a lot of use in our house.  We did, however, need a towel for our bread basket, so we ended up designing an iron-on transfer to add to a towel.  I love the way it turned out!  The towels came in a 3-pack, so we made two extras and the girls gave the towels and a loaf of homemade bread to two neighbors as a gift. 

It's hard to see in the picture, but the bottom has John 6:35:  "He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who follows me will never be thirsty."
In science, we continued looking at yeast to go along with our bread study in Bible.  On Tuesday, we made homemade play dough using only flour, salt, oil, and water. 

Here are the girls making a mess homemade playdough.

And on Thursday, we used the same basic ingredients to make bread. The only thing we did differently was add sugar and yeast. It's hard to believe that two small ingredients can make the difference between play dough and bread, but when we put the yeast and sugar in warm water to observe what happened, it definitely helped us "see" the difference!

Immediately after the sugar and yeast were mixed together.15 minutes later.  The sugar fed the yeast, which released carbon dioxide bubbles.  This is what makes the bread rise, whereas the yeastless play dough does not.

In Tot School, the letter of the week was "T."

Here's Millie sorting her "T" words into a "T" pile and her "M" words into an "M" pile.  Every time she adds to a pile, she traces the letter and says, for example, "Motorcycle starts with /m/."

And here she is singing her alphabet song.  She loves this—it's the highlight of her week!
Millie does calendar time every day at the beginning of her school, and she has been counting down the days until fall.  Honestly, I think she was expecting the leaves to change color and fall off the trees overnight!  Not in Texas!  But we did head to the mall to get some fall decorations so we could celebrate the first day of fall.  While we were there, the girls spent some of their money to play.

No doubt there were some fun moments during the week, but I'm definitely looking forward to Monday when we get to start fresh!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

About Thiiiis Close to Crying over Spilt Milk!

It all started last Thurday night when, gourmet chef that I am, I decided to make Hamburger Helper for dinner.  The recipe (can I really call it a "recipe" when it's Hamburger Helper?!) called for milk, so I reached into the fridge to get some out.  I could see that there was a gallon of water in the way, so I slid it over to make a clear path for the milk.  What I couldn't see, however, was that Hannah had put an unfinished cup of milk in the fridge behind the gallon of water, so as soon as I slid it over—splash!  The cup of milk spilled all over the inside of the fridge.  Grrrrr!

I called both kids into the kitchen so they could see how miserable I was having to clean up this mess and instantly declared a new rule in the house:  You are not allowed to leave the dinner table if you have milk in your cup.  In fact, you're not even allowed to ask permission to leave the dinner table if you still have milk in your cup.  Then I went back to cooking our meal. 

Now, this paragraph doesn't have anything to do with milk, except that it involves beef, and they both come from cows.  Still, I'm including it for sympathy points. :)  So there I was, cooking our lovely Hamburger Helper meal.  When I brown ground beef, I stick the beef in a colander and put the colander in a bowl and cook it in the microwave so the grease drains away from the meat.  So I had two pounds of meat cooking away.  "No need to sit here and stare at it the whole time," I told myself, so I walked away and did something with eternal significance:  checked to see if my blog followers had made it to the double-digits yet.  While I was doing this, unbeknownst to me, the bowl tipped over, spilling two pounds' worth of ground beef grease all over the bottom of my microwave.  Now, you don't have to look at me long to know I'm not the kind of girl who buys lean ground beef, so there was a lot of grease to clean up!  "Lovely!" I thought to myself.  "'Cause I've been needing something to clean up today!"  Oooooh, if only I had known . . .

So I cleaned up the microwave mess and finished dinner.  I dished the girls' plates (Greg was still at work), put their cups of milk on the table (can you guess what's going to happen yet?), and told them to wash their hands for dinner.  While I was dishing my plate, I heard splash! followed by "Uh-oh."  Millie had spilled her entire cup of milk on the table.  It went down the crack in the middle where it opens up for the butterfly leaf, so the entire thing had to be pulled apart and the butterfly leaf had to be set up to get to all the milk.  Blood pressure slowly rising.

I finally got all of that mess cleaned up and went to throw away the paper towels and rinse out the dish cloth, when (you're never gonna believe this) I heard another splash! followed by Hannah's voice saying, "I'm—I'm sorry, Mama."  I think every muscle in my body tensed up.  I turned around and looked at her and saw this little face that said, "Are you about to blow up, or am I safe here?"  I couldn't imagine how crazy I must have looked to cause that expression, so I intentionally started laughing, which, I confess, did make me feel a little better.  After all, we very rarely have spills these days, and here we'd had four within 45 minutes.  Surely I was done cleaning up spills for, like, the next month or so!  Yeah, right!

Fast forward to Friday morning.  We had plans to go to The Museum of Natural Science with some friends.  We were running late leaving the house (shocking, I know), so we went to Southern Maid to get some donuts and milk to eat in the car.  The lady asked me if I wanted a cup with a lid for the milk.  I thought for about a second and said, "No, they'll be fine."  (People, learn from me . . . please!)  They were fine for as long as it took me to get the key into the ignition, then I heard another splash! followed by Hannah's voice saying, "Oh, no!  I'm sorry, Mom!"  I turned around to see if it could be salvaged, but I immedately saw that it couldn't have possibly landed more upside-down, nor could it have possibly landed more on top of a month's worth of toys and co-op papers that never got taken into the house and trash that never got thrown away.  I didn't have time to clean it out until Saturday morning, and you can just imagine how "ripe" it smelled by that time!  But on the bright side, my 11-year-old car was thoroughly cleaned on Saturday—seats and floors shampooed and vacuumed, windows wiped, inside dusted, outside washed.  It looked pretty nice.  Looked.  Until today.

Today we went grocery shopping, and one of the things on our list was milk.  (Because I am apparently a slow learner.)  So after we finished shopping, I put all of the groceries, including the milk in the trunk because that's where groceries belong after you go shopping.  When I got home and started unloading the bags, I felt something wet.  You guessed it!  One of the gallons of milk had leaked out all over my trunk!

God, if you want me to be dairy-free, can you please give me a sign?  'Cause I can't tell for sure . . .

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Indians and Dinosaurs and Bugs—Oh My!

Today the girls and I went with friends to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  Since we just finished a unit on Indians a couple of weeks ago, our main purpose for going was to check out the Native American exhibit.  The exhibit was fantastic, but photography wasn't allowed!  :(  So here's the only Native American picture I have from the entire trip. 
As soon as we unloaded, the kids grabbed some Magnolia leaves and pretended they were feathers.  Glad we at least got this Indian picture!

Eating our picnic lunch before heading into the museum.

The kids loved these geodes!  And I loved Yvette's comparison of them to people:  We might not look like anything special on the outside, but God makes our insides beautiful when we make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
Dinosaur Exhibit

Wooly Mammoth—one of the few pics of the dinosaurs that wasn't too dark to see!

Millie and Cyrus are checking out the plesiosaurus.  This is one of the dinosaurs we sculpted and illustrated in Hannah's kindergarten, so it was fun to see its skeleton in person!
This is the same exhibit from the upstairs looking down.  The smaller one shows what it might have looked like with skin.  It was a sea dinosaur, hence the flippers.

Africa Exhibit

Run, zebra, run!  Look at Millie taking it all in!
This is what happens to slowpokes in Africa!

What do you get when you cross Tammy Faye Bakker with a monkey?  Actually, I thought this creature was amazing—evidence of God's creative genius!

 Entomology Exhibit

The kids at the entrance to the exhibit.

How would you like to find these babies in your cupboards?  You can't really tell from the picture, but they were each about 3 inches long!  Blech!!

Can you believe these are all beetles?  The quote was the best part of the display.  It says, "When asked what his studies of the natural world had taught him about the Creator, Scottish geneticist J.B.S. Haldane replied:

The girls loved looking at the chrysalides. We even got to see one butterfly emerging! It was shocking to see how many different kinds there were and how each one was unique—more evidence of God's creative genius!

These looked metallic.

These were a rainbow of colors and spiral shaped to boot!  And what a gorgeous butterfly!!!
And these were mint green with a thin band of metallic gold around them.  Simply beautiful.

Butterfly Pavillion

This time we made sure to grab a butterfly identification chart before we went in.  Hannah and Rachel had a blast determining which type of butterfly they were looking at.

Notice how big this butterfly is?  (Look at the person in the background for a comparison.)  He was enormous!  (Well, for a butterfly, anyway.)  I'm sure he was every bit of 8 inches.
Here are several of the big ones resting on a tree trunk.  I thought they were decorations when I first saw them!
I'm sure this guy loved all the humidity!
Yep, they look like a pile of leaves, don't they?  Still more evidence of God's creative genius!
One last picture by the fountain on the way out!
I'd say we wore 'em out!