Saturday, November 30, 2013

And then there were none...

A recent picture of Aunt Edie by my cousin Tanya
Last week my Great-Aunt Edith died. She was the last living sibling of the ten children of my Great-Grandparents Homer and Gertrude Smith. My Grandma Lucile was the oldest, Aunt Edie was number 7. Each of my Grandma's brothers and sisters played an important part in my life. They each taught me something valuable about life and family. I miss them all, but I am making an effort to remember the things they taught me, and teach them to our children.

Aunt Edie - Circa 1940?

There are 4 lasting lessons I learned from Aunt Edie:

1- Be comfortable as yourself. No one else is you. So why try to be someone else? Find out who you are and be yourself.

2- A smile is your best accessory. Your smile can brighten someone's day. A smile makes anyone beautiful.

3- Good manners DO matter. How long has it been since you heard someone say "Thank You!"?  I think it is time we get back to using good manners and teaching them to our children.

4- Love is never-ending! Leave a legacy behind you, one that speaks volumes of love.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday- 11/28/13 Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are able to spend time today with your family and friends. May you have good fellowship and delicious food! We are looking forward to dinner with family. We are thankful for the many blessings God has given us this past year. What a wild ride it has been.

Now get off your computer and go be thankful for time with your family!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Do you like the new look?

I just updated the look of the blog... well, the background anyway. 

What do you think? I still like the idea of a dark background with light words. I guess it's just the artist in me. 

Look around, read (or reread) a few posts, then leave a comment and let me know if you like the new color scheme.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What's with all the labels?!

Please let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Doctor, or a nurse, or a psychologist. I am a Mom, and a wife, and a friend. These are just thoughts that have been circling in my head and I need to get them out.

I know and appreciate that God has made us all unique. Each of us comes with our own personality and foibles. I understand that. I'm sure there have been many a day when my friends and family wondered what was wrong with me. 

But please, let's ditch the labels.

Let's appreciate the people in our lives for who they are.

Here is an example: the other day I saw a picture on my Facebook feed that said something like "10 pictures that will bring out your OCD."

There are people in this world who struggle with OCD. Real people with real challenges. I think we belittle them when we off-handly say "Oh she's a little OCD" or "That's just the OCD in my personality." The pictures on Facebook are just of one or two things mis-aligned, like a pencil turned the opposite way. That's NOT OCD. That might be your personal neatness tendency coming out, but it's not OCD.

Here is the definition of OCD from WebMDObsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a type of anxiety disorder, is a potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors. People with OCD are plagued by recurring and distressing thoughts, fears, or images (obsessions) they cannot control. The anxiety (nervousness) produced by these thoughts leads to an urgent need to perform certain rituals or routines (compulsions). The compulsive rituals are performed in an attempt to prevent the obsessive thoughts or make them go away.

This is not a bunch of mis-matched pencils, or a mistake in the pattern of your bathroom tile-work. OCD is scary, and often life-debilitating.

Please do me a favor, stop using this label. If you're upset by things being out of line, call yourself a perfectionist if you must, but stop 'labeling' yourself OCD.

I think at times we use labels that don't really apply to us as an excuse to sin.

That's right - sin.

We are ALL sinners in need of a Savior- Jesus.

If you REALLY TRULY have a disorder like OCD, call it what it is. (And please, let me know, I would be privileged to pray for you!) 

If you're just looking for an excuse to sin, whether in your own behavior or your judgement of other people, call your sin, sin, and confess it.

I sin. I don't want to. I want to live a Godly life. As Paul wrote in Romans 7, 'the good I want to do is not what I do.' Yet, I know that when I draw near to God, He comforts me, He directs me, He heals me.

I have friends with children with AD/HD. They struggle mightily some days because their children are just not wired like everyone else. This shows me the effects of the Curse. I pray for those sweet families & their children. Each day can be a roller-coaster.

Yet, I see them cringe just a little when someone excuses a child's lack of self-control as "he's just a little ADD" or sorry, "she's got some ADHD." Some children REALLY do have this disorder. I am in NO WAY saying anything against calling it what it is. I'm trying to get us ALL to realize the power our words have, and our actions. If you or your child are lacking in self-control - ask God for help. Then take the help He gives and apply it!

Our daughter is not AD/HD. But, she is impulsive. We have worked with her for years on self-control. She is doing much better. I can see the most improvement in her self-control when I have been exercising self-control in my own life.

Ever hear the expression "more is caught than taught."? Our children learn from us. Daily, hourly, minute by minute. Are you modeling a life that puts others first? A life that loves and protects? A life that does NOT try to be like everyone else, but focuses on the unique individual God has made you?

When we, as parents, choose to love, honor, and protect those around us... then we'll drop the labels. When we call sin, sin, when we repent of our own foolishness, or hard hearts, God can work miracles through us. He can heal us. He can grow us into His children. When our words speak love instead of labels, they change the world.

Speak love.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday - 11/21/13 - The Schoolhouse Review Crew

For the past two years we have been blessed to be a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, the reviewing arm of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. We have tried many different curriculums and been given wonderful opportunities to see things first, often as a PDF or galley copy.

Being on the Crew takes time and a lot of hard work. It is worth it! To tell the truth, I'm pretty sure the girls do more of the work than I do. I do a lot more of the reporting. I try to have them write up their impressions of the products we are reviewing, but sometimes they just tell me and I write it into the review. 

I have learned a lot about blogging while on the Crew. This is a wonderful, caring group of about 200-250 Moms who share their thoughts on products, and share their knowledge of blogging with the other members.

The Crew has been a support group to me, and a place to ask honest questions. Locally, I have many friends and acquaintances who homeschool. I am blessed in having those nearby. But sometimes, you just want to ask other people who have a similar teaching style about a particular product. This is where the Crew becomes invaluable to me. When you visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew website, you can click the links to read all of the reviews from the past two years. I like this option because as I read the other members' reviews, I get a feel for how a particular product worked in their home. I can find out if it is geared towards those who like Unit Studies, Classical Education, workbooks, or a Charlotte Mason style of learning.

If you've never read through any reviews but ours, I would encourage you to take some time and really read through reviews you are curious about. Sometimes the Crew reviews for well known vendors, like Math-U-See or Apologia. Sometimes we work with lesser known vendors who carry wonderful products.

Before the Crew, I had not heard of Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns or Science For High School, but they became some of our favorite reviews. If you want to read through any of our Crew reviews from this year, just click the 'TOS Reviews' link on the right side of the blog.

This month a lot of people are focusing on being Thankful. I would like to remind you to be thankful everyday, every month, every year. We are so blessed.

Today I am focusing on being thankful for the Crew. Tomorrow? Who knows, you'll have to check back in then!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankful Thursday 11/14/13- Pumpkin

This week we have been extremely thankful for our friends who provided us with some free pumpkins! We have been baking, and baking, and baking the pumpkins to get them ready to use. Our freezer now has a lot of pumpkin puree!

We now have enough pumpkin for 22 pies, and 14 loaves of pumpkin bread! That is a huge blessing!
Truly, we are thankful for pumpkin! Emily's prayer at dinner ended with "...and thank You God that we are almost done cooking the pumpkin!"

Guess what we'll be taking to the pitch-in next week?!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole - A 'Crew' book review

 photo Franklin_Deal-300x451_zpsb3f59745.jpgFranklin Sanders is a storyteller. Not just any old storyteller, mind you, he is an excellent one! I have been reading (laughing & crying) through Franklin's first book: At Home in Dogwood Mudhole. When the opportunity to review this book for The Schoolhouse Review Crew came along, I had no idea who Franklin Sanders was. But after looking through the website, and seeing the book was recommended by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm...I KNEW I wanted a chance to read it.

A little background on 'why' I wanted to read this.  I grew up in the country. While we did not farm (other than that monstrous garden we tended every summer) many of our neighbors did. We currently have friends that farm (both organically and commercially) and I love hearing their stories. At heart, I am a country girl    . . . which at times vexes my husband. I think he is coming to terms with it though . . . he bought me new ratcheting pruners for my birthday! :)

Franklin Sanders has been writing 'The Moneychanger' newsletter for more than sixteen years. The book, At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume One: Nothing That Eats, is a collection of selections from those newsletters. They tell the reality of life, as Franklin and his wife and children (and eventually grandchildren) move from city dwellers to living an agrarian lifestyle in south middle Tennessee. These stories are both hilarious and humbling, grand and gracious. How may farmers will admit to their mistakes? Most of them, but it takes a great storyteller for the stories to have impact on the lives of others. How their horses trained them will have many of you laughing and crying at the same time!

I know there has been a movement for many years to get back to an agrarian lifestyle, or to at least know where our food comes from and who raises it. I get that. I have never had the personal desire to raise chickens ... but some of our friends do, and I'm thankful for the fresh eggs! I still garden, some years are grand, others deplorable, yet I carry on. 

There are stories in here of planning for Y2K. Remember those days? The way they use their 'extra' supplies will leave you rolling in laughter. I remember those days. We were the beneficiaries of some of our friends' extra supplies, and this reminded my of that. Remember, this is a collection of stories from 'The Moneychanger' newsletters, not a re-editing of life. He tells the good and the bad.

In his stories Franklin shares the joys and struggles of farming. The subtitle "Nothing That Eats" is the Sanders family code for 'we're NOT buying anymore animals!' This fails time and time again as they encounter all sorts of challenges raising chickens. Yet, they continue to dust themselves off and try again. Franklin shares his faith in an honest, often gut-wrenching way. Animals die, people get sick, yet the Sanders family continues to turn to God for comfort and strength. Oh, that all of us Christians would come face to face with the reality that ALL we have is a gift from God.

Whether you grew up on a farm, or have lived in the city your whole life, I highly recommend you get this book! The stories of life, day by day, the good,  the bad, the ugly, the dirty, and the holy will have you laughing and crying alongside the ever expanding Sanders family.

This 380+ page book is available in paperback for $22.95 or various E-book formats for $16.95. I found myself reveling in daily life, knowing that some of the same pitfalls had befallen our friends as had the Sanders family. My all-time favorite laugh came from the section "Kroger-Backed Currency" on page 90! (I'm not going to tell you . . . you'll have to read it yourself!)

Franklin Sanders humbly shares life lessons. On page 110, he shares his thoughts about motherhood. "...of course, a single woman or a woman without children can just as well serve God fruitfully, but motherhood gives us a unique example of Christian service. By submitting to motherhood completely, a woman is completed. She faces the terrors of death itself in childbirth, and afterward demands so great they seem utterly impossible, but God gives her grace upon grace as she needs it. The greater her burdens, the greater his grace, and the greater her completion."

While this book was written for adults, some of your High School aged children may enjoy it too. Franklin Sanders is  Southerner, a Father, a Grandfather, and a thinker. He challenged some of my notions (being from the north) when he shared how his family participates in 'War between the States' reenactments. Up here we call it the Civil War, although I know there was nothing 'civil' - 'civil' meaning polite, not 'civil' meaning between people - about it. He has taught his sons about local heroes, many who gave their lives in support of the life they wanted for their families. That alternative perspective gave me pause to consider how I teach. Am I being honest with our girls about the causes of the war? Can we accurately portray the thoughts and ideals of others even when we don't agree with them? I talked about this with one of our family friends who has been a Civil War reenactor for some time. We agreed that learning history includes learning from both perspectives. Knowledge does not need to lead to prejudice. Grace abounds, give it freely.

I really, really enjoyed this book. At the end, I was only reading one small section at a time to stretch it out. As I turned the last page, I sighed. But then, I checked online....huzzah! Volume Two will be available this Friday!!! I think I'll put it on my Christmas list!

What has living on the farm taught Franklin and his family? A lot! I'll end this review with a couple excerpts from the Chapter One Disaster At A Time.   'My friend Charlie Ritch called Monday after that terrible Saturday. "On a farm," he said, "you are around life and death daily." Death is not sanitized, not clinical, but personal. When something dies, you must dig the hole and put it away, just as our forbears did with their own family, on their own property. On a farm, you can't hide from death. And to say that you can't hide from death is to say you can't hide from God, for every time you face death, you face God.' . . . 'So you climb out of the bubble. You open yourself to love. And with love comes not only the possibility of pain, but also the certainty. You open yourself to the unrestrained mercy of God - for unrestrained blessing.'

Return to your rest, O my soul,

For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.
     -Psalm 116:7-8 (NASB)

That, my friends, is a life worth living!


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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 11/7/13 - Missionaries

Did you notice I'm a little late on this one? Sorry about that. I was busy Thursday talking with my friend who is an overseas missionary.  (Her family is temporally stateside.) I'm thankful for her family, and our other Missionary friends.

Do you know any overseas missionaries? They tell amazing stories of people and places far away. They also tell about God's faithfulness. 

As Christians, we should be missionaries too! We each have stories to tell...of amazing things God has done in OUR lives. Your story may be just what someone needs to hear. Don't be afraid to share God's grace and mercy.

Talking to my friend last Thursday reminded me of great things God has done for us. I want my light to shine for Jesus. I have a story to share with others about God's faithfulness. I pray God will give me opportunities to share about His love and forgiveness.

I'll start right now. I'm thankful that God saved me from myself. He showed me my wretched heart, and when I asked for forgiveness, He graciously lavished it upon me!

That is a amazing story!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics - a Crew Review

Our girls have been busy reviewing Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics by Jeannie Fulbright from Apologia Educational Ministries. This homeschool science curriculum is geared for  elementary students, ages 6-13. I think you will find that your 9-13 year olds really enjoy it, but it might be over the comprehension of some of your younger students. Like other titles in Apologia's 'Young Explorers' series, you can purchase a Notebooking Journal or a Junior Notebooking Journal for your student to record their findings in. I would highly recommend the Junior Notebooking Journal for younger students because they will find the concepts easier to remember if they write, draw, or color about them during each lesson.

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For the review, apologia sent us the Textbook ($39) and two Notebooking Journals ($24 each,) since both girls were going to be doing the experiments. Arlene is 13, so she was the primary target for the book. Emily is 15, so she was the 'extra hands' and sometimes the 'adult supervision' for the experiments. When someone is doing a science experiment around our house, whomever is home usually joins in. Both girls started out using the Notebooking Journals to record what they learned from the book, and to record some of their experiments. The hardcover textbook has over 250 pages of teaching, plus a supply list for each lesson, and an answer key in the back.

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There are a total of 14 lessons in the book. The first 5 lessons focus on Chemistry, the others are about Physics. During the six weeks of the review, our girls managed to get through 4 lessons. I can see the book taking anywhere from a semester to two years to complete depending on how involved you get with each experiment. The Notebooking Journals have a sample schedule in the front that uses two days a week for 28 weeks to finish the book in one year.

Each Lesson has several (5-10) 'Try This' mini experiments as well as a Project or Experiment (or both) at the end of the lesson for review. I found that after a couple of weeks, the girls were so focused on doing all of the experiments that they forgot to use their journals. While I recommend the Junior Notebooking Journal for younger students, I encourage you to evaluate how much your older students are actually going to use their journal before you purchase one. (You can see sample pages on Apologia's website here.) With Arlene being at the upper age for this book, this is the one Apologia title I would probably not buy a journal for. Part of that is because Arlene eagerly shows and tells what she has learned...and she takes lots of pictures of the experiments (even if some of them ARE blurry.) On the other hand, if you're doing this title in preparation for Jr High or High School Chemistry or Physics, the completed journal would make a good reference book for your student to look back through.


During the lessons the girls were working on, they learned about matter, atoms, compounds, mixtures, and had an introduction to the Periodic Table of the Elements. I especially appreciated the section on the Periodic Table, as we never studied it until High School, but somehow our teachers thought we had learned about it in Middle School. It is introduced simply, but led to many discussions around our house, and a library book search, to learn more about it. That is one of the nice parts about the sample schedule only using 2 days a leaves you time for rabbit trails! (For the review, Arlene worked on it 4 days a week.)

Once again, Jeannie Fulbright has written a quality science book that doesn't require a lot of expensive materials for the experiments. (Save those for High School!) Before the girls began, we went shopping for the supplies they would need for the first three lessons. Because of all the mixing and making, Jeannie recommends using measuring utensils that are NOT being used for food. We went to the dollar store, and a local big-box store and purchased all the supplies we didn't already have for just under $20. Quite reasonable for a Chemistry class. By looking at the other lessons, we will probably need to spend another $20-$25 for supplies to finish the book.

Because so much of understanding Chemistry and Physics comes from doing experiments, this is a very hands-on course. It is not necessary to do EVERY 'Try This,' but expect that your kids will want to do at least MOST of them! (I have found some families have recorded their experiments and placed them on YouTube.)

One excellent thing about this title from Apologia is that it can work well for many ages. So if you have a first grader, a third grader and a sixth grader, they can all do science together! I think this is helpful because most science books I have seen are not heavy on the experiment side until late elementary. Why not have your younger students join in? If your younger students aren't yet ready to learn about Chemistry (or you would like to do the experiments during nap time...) just remember to save the book a spot on your shelf and pull it out again in a few years. Adapt it to how it will work best for YOUR family!

This homeschool science resource would work well either at home or in a small co-op setting. This is hands-on learning, so a larger class might be difficult to manage...especially the cornstarch experiment! While Apologia has titles geared towards seventh and eighth grades, I would say that this title could qualify as Middle School work as well, IF you are having your student actively notebook or make lab sheets for their experiments. It is versatile.

Are you ready to learn about gears, magnets, levers and how Chemicals react? Great! Get the book! For those of you wondering if the book REALLY covers all the scientific stuff well...know that the content was reviewed by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M. from Creation Ministries International. And, like all the other Apologia titles, it points your students back to God the Creator and sustainer of the Universe!

Below I'll share some pictures from the girls' favorite experiments!

The cornstarch/ amorphous solid "Try This!'

Arlene asked to add food coloring to her goo...

The Solid Matter 'Try This!'

Notice by day 2 that Arlene had eaten the frozen jello...

Recording their findings...learning is more important than correct spelling!

Getting ready for the Lava Lamps Experiment

Four hands are better than two!

Shake well

Let's do it again...add more Alka-seltzer tablets

Making Sorbet


Taste Test. Dad said it can count for Science AND Home Ec!


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The Mother

A mother is



filled with joy

fraught with anxiety





a chaser of little people

an encouragement to big people

a butcher

a baker

even sometimes a candlestick maker


each day

God gives her grace

God speaks love to her heart

God tells her to keep running the race

and she falls asleep

knowing that tomorrow

she will do it all again


she loves being a Mother

and she wouldn't trade her job for any other in the world!

Monday, November 4, 2013

A New Book from Elisha Press- Julie: The Redemption of the Backyard Bully

Our friends at Elisha Press have a new book coming out this week. It is a spin-off of the book The Reunion we reviewed last Spring.

Here is the synopsis from Elisha Press:
Fans of The Reunion may remember Julie Greene, the Gladstones' troublesome neighbor who almost drowned in the creek. This new novel - longer and illustrated - tells Julie's story before and after that incident, through the now-aging eyes of "Grandma" Greene. How can a sullen bully learn to be a selfless friend? How can a jealous young lady learn to be grateful and contented no matter what life brings? What does it mean to follow Jesus in the practical work and play of daily life? All this and more is waiting for you within the pages of Julie.

Author Rachael McIntire says that many elements of Julie are based on incidents from her own life. Growing up in the 1960's, she experienced firsthand the challenges of that tumultuous time. Though the sixties are now long gone, the principles of God remain the same eternally. It is her hope that some of these principles may penetrate young hearts and minds through the story of the backyard bully and her redemption.
As part of their launch event, Elisha Press is giving away one autographed copy of Julie every day this week. By entering once, you'll have a chance to win each time. This is a 183-page softcover book with 19 black-and-white illustrations like the example shown here.
The sooner you enter the giveaway, the better chance you have to win - so don't wait! Click here and put in your email address to sign up.

Did you catch that? You only need to enter once, and they'll draw for a copy each day. (You don't have to keep entering each day.) We have enjoyed working with Elisha Press, and we hope you enjoy the updates about their newest selections!

If you enjoyed The Reunion, click on over and register for a chance to win a copy of Julie!