Monday, August 31, 2009

The Cost of Memories

Plane tickets to Indiana for the weekend: $253
Flour, Yeast, Eggs, and Butter: $7.68

Making yeast rolls with my 90-year old Grandmother: priceless.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday's Sentiments

"You must know that the special honor which God has from His creatures in this world is the manifestation of the graces of His Spirit. It is true that God gets a great deal of honor when a man is in a public place, and so is able to do a great deal of good, to countenance godliness, and discountenance sin, but the main thing is in our showing forth the virtues of Him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. . . . That is the work that God calls me to now, and I must consider God to be most honored when I do the work that he calls me to; he set me to work in my prosperous estate to honor him at that time in that condition, and now he sets me to work to honor him at this time in this condition. God is most honored when I can turn from one condition to another, according as he calls me to it."

~Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, italics mine
The question is, can I honor God in whatever circumstance He places me?

To paraphrase a modern author:
"So I will praise Him in a box,
And I will praise Him with a fox,
And I will praise Him in a house,
And I will praise Him with a mouse,
And I will praise Him here and there,
Say! I will praise Him anywhere!"

~ Theodore Geisel, Green Eggs and Ham, adapted. Obviously!

or, as the Apostle Paul puts it:
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and huger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phillipians 4:11-13)
Thoughts for my own heart, this week.

(And hey! What other blogger quotes Dr. Seuss and the Puritans!?)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Faculty Meeting, Homeschool Style

I've been to my share of faculty meetings, back-in-the-day.

You know the drill - after school, the teachers are exhausted and want to get home, principal's going through an agenda that seems to have nothing to do with day-to-day teaching (if you're reading this, sorry, Mom!), and if you're lucky, someone brought a goodie to share.

Well, I attended a great faculty meeting today.

(hand raising from the back row of blogdom)

"Um, excuse me? Don't you. . . um. . . .homeschool?"

Heh. My principal (read: Yurii) gave me the entire day to hang out here:

Coffee-o-logy, the uber-cool coffee shop in the world's best public library.

OK, that last part's debatable. But the coffee shop is uber-cool. If only I drank coffee. (The pannini was amazing.)

Four lovely hours, no interruptions (other than lunch and starting Jane Eyre), and a pretty decent wireless connection. Finished planning schedules, and was able to organize and input about 3 months worth of assignments.


May I recommend a back-to-school faculty meeting to all my friends?

(and getting called into the principal's office isn't so bad, either! Thanks honey - I love you!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not On Your Life

Imagine my double-take when I sat down to teach a grammar lesson, and saw this:
No, it wasn't coffee. It was water. But apparently, Hannah thought it tasted better out of a Starbucks travel mug.

If any of my children do NOT need caffeine, it would be her.

Think Hammy the squirrel from Over the Hedge.

You get the picture.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the Brink

Today, I become the mother of another teenager young adult.

I can't say I'm all that sad about it - there's something wonderful and wacky and wild about the way these older ones need me.

It's certainly not as simple as these days:

When a bowl of pretzels, a dinosaur party, and a romp in the yard made for one happy boy.

It's more challenging, full of paths unknown and less traveled, but with rewards as sweet as a dripping wet man-child hug after a high-speed tube ride on the lake.

Now I look in the face of this amazing young man - poised on the brink of becoming an adult, a bright arrow in the quiver Yurii and I steward with fear and trembling - and pray. . .

That the Lord will guard his heart,
keep him as tender and sweet towards his future wife and children . . .

as he is towards his sisters.

Most of the time!
That he would always use his talents - in music, film-making and the like - to bring glory to the Lord, and not to himself.

And, most of all, that he would never stop being the blue in the midst of our pink, the tender heart in the midst of a sinful world, the nonstop talker, movie-maker, joke teller, joy-bringer, Jesus-lover that he is today.

We love you, Nathaniel. Happy 13th Birthday!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Few Recipes - Baked Oatmeal

Can you tell we like oatmeal around here?

A) It's cheap.

B) My kids all like it.

C) It's good for you.

D) It's cheap. (oh, wait, I said that. Well, it deserves to be counted twice.)

Recipe #2 - Baked Oatmeal
(with thanks to Jean over on the WTM boards)

In a large bowl, mix the following:

1/2 c. applesauce or vegetable oil
3/4 c. sweetener of your choice (we use brown sugar)
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
3 c. regular oats
1/2 c. raisins or dried sweetened cranberries (omit if serving Hannah)

Mix in the order listed, wet ingredients first. Pour into a lightly greased pie pan.

Sprinkle with 1 T. brown sugar and some cinnamon. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven until firm, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Makes yummy leftovers, too! This is our absolute favorite Sunday morning breakfast. We double it for our family, and it's even good when you make it and bake it the same day, without the overnight soak.

*****IMPORTANT WARNING!!!! Do not, repeat, do NOT neglect to sprinkle on the topping the night before. There is a good chance that you will wake up bleary eyed, grab a spice that resembles cinnamon, sprinkle it on top, serve your children, and have them ask, "Mom, why does the oatmeal taste like chili?" You might never live it down. Not that I have any experience in this area. It's just a public service announcement. Really. *****************************

A Few Recipes - Oatmeal Bars

This is one of those boring, not-so-profound blog posts.

Ok, not that any of them are actually profound, but you know what I mean.

Here are three recipes requested by various cousins and friends. You know who you are. Enjoy!

Recipe #1 - Fruit-Filled Oatmeal Bars
(aka, GBD-NIH Bars*)

1 cup flour
1 cup oats
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Mix all these together in a bowl.

Cut in 1/2 c. margarine or butter, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Remember to get the pastry cutter out of the Play-doh box, where your children took it, and wash the Play-doh out of it before using. I'm just sayin'.

Save about 3/4 c. of this mixture. Press the rest into a square 8-inch baking dish. Find some jam of some sort - you know, the kind your kids won't touch? Apricot or raspberry are great - and spread it over the oatmeal mixture. Sprinkle the extra mixture on top of the jam.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Once it's cool, cut into bars. Take to your women's meeting. Insist it's not a big deal to make this recipe. Offer to share it. Post it on your blog, staying up way too late to do said posting.

Except that your dog was throwing up, so you're up late anyways.

Never mind. Enjoy the bars!!!

*GottaBringDessert-NothingIntheHouse Bars*

Reasons I'm Glad I'm Married - Episode #635

The dog threw up tonight.

A lot.

Yurii is really, really good at cleaning carpets.

And did I mention he's working at home tomorrow?

Ah, the small blessings of life.

Apparently, God thinks I can handle this one ;)

Sunday's Sentiments - What Exactly Can I Handle?

Saw this posted on facebook today:

"Whoever said, 'God will never give you more than you can handle' was an idiot."

And you know what? They were - if not an idiot - sadly mistaken.

The "idiot" in question is probably Mother Teresa*, who is quoted as saying,

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much."

That "proverb" is a mistranslation of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which reads: "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." Note that the word is "temptation", not "trial".

What if God did give us only that which we could "handle". What would that look like? What would that mean?

I'll tell you what it would mean in my life. Woeful, inept, sinful self-sufficiency. Arrogance. Complacency. An affront to the very God who made me and holds every breath of my life in His omniscient, omnipotent, most holy hands.

In the words of one blogger:

Over and over again in the Bible, we see men and women who are given far more than they can handle. . . .God is making it clear that we are not self-sufficient. We cannot just hunker down and power through every situation. And we cannot white-knuckle our way to holiness. We need Him. (taken from Blogging Theologically. Check it out!)

So, what exactly can I handle?

Apparently, God knows. And He will push and push me until I can't handle it anymore, until I run out of myself and run into the arms of Jesus, until I see the marvelous all-sufficiency of Christ.

Out of His great love for me. . . .

I am so grateful.

*note to my faithful blog readers - both of you - no, I am NOT calling Mother Teresa an idiot.

I greatly admire her work among the slums of Calcutta, sacrificing herself for those that Jesus called "the least of these". I'm just making a point. 'Kay?*

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Putting the Pieces Together

Ever wonder how a mom of 5 plans her school schedule?

(you didn't? you're kidding me. I wonder about it all. the. time.)

Well, wonder no more! Here you are folks. . . a step-by-step look at the insanity that is. . . .


Step One: Pray! and then Pray! some more!

Let's face it, homeschooling a large-ish family is not for the feint of heart, or the feint of spirit. So I spend a chunk of time praying, both on the day and the week prior, that the Lord would grant me insight and guide my steps.

(never let it be said that the reason I spend so much time praying is because I'm just too chicken to actually start. I figure, if you have to procrastinate on a task, you might as well procrastinate by praying about the task, kwim???)

Step Two: Map Your Week

Yes, this is our schedule. Here is the white board downstairs, divided into days of the week. I made note of when we have to stop school in order to be ready to leave for afternoon activities, and who might be available for school work due to "wait time".

Step Three: Evaluating the Work Load

Next up: figuring out what subjects the kids have, and who needs me for what, and for how long! Each child has half a yellow pad, divided into "with Mom" and "on your own".

Here's Nathaniel's sheet (8th grade): I was able to decide that he would need to meet with me 4x per week to discuss Latin and Logic, and that he would have his History discussion on Thursdays with Kathryn & Emily, and his Literature discussion on Friday with Emily.

Step Four: Fitting in the Subjects

Next up - when "might" I get subjects to fit in our schedule? I could pretty easily see that Friday was wide open, and Tuesday was a shorter day, so I would have to plan accordingly. Friday gets literature discussions, special history projects (build a model castle, anyone?) and writing meetings - all pretty time intensive. Tuesday will be our "light" day of one-on-one time with Mom, but most of my middle students will have extra time to read their history assignments.

Step Five: Move 'Em Around!
(tired yet? Don't give up now. . . you're almost there!)

With special appreciation to Managers of Their Homes, the scheduling system I've been using (or sometimes NOT using. ahem.) for years. The concept is you assign each child a color, write each subject or activity in a block to represent the time it takes, and move 'em around until it fits. Or at least, until you think it fits. Above is last year's schedule.

Here is a sample of what my squares looked like after messing with them for a bit. I didn't bother scheduling Kathryn here, but did so on the next step.

The other thing I realized this year is that our schedule is too varied for one schedule to work for each day. Sooooo. . . .this is my basic schedule for M,W,Th. Tuesdays and Fridays things will work differently, but I can use some of the same ideas on those days as well.

Step Six: Handy-Dandy Spreadsheet!

Ta dah! Here it is! The tentative, almost, pretty much final schedule. It's not exactly a spreadsheet - I used a table in Pages application, but I think I may transfer it to Numbers later so that I can use some sort functions for printing. You know, when I have some free time. Whatever.

At any rate, I got a little fancy-schmancy and color-coded everyone! It helps the kids to have a visual for what we're up to. The above is just Monday's schedule: I'll have to finish the other four days later. Tuesday through Thursday shouldn't be too big of a deal. . . Friday's a doozy, but in a good way. I'll just have to go to step five again and see how things fit.

So. Tired yet?

There you have it. The almost official school plan for 2009-2010. This should be my toughest year - next year, I'll pretty much only have 4 kids to schedule. . . .crazy thought!

I'm cautiously optimistic that I've gotten my bases covered, and enough time for every subject planned out. But. . .as always, the proof is in the pudding. We'll see what happens in about 2 weeks, when ballet starts in earnest. Until then, I hope and pray that the Lord will see fit to bless these meager plans.

Because, you know what they say about the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men. . . . don't you?

Yes. You sure do!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Law of Averages

A new math problem for my kids:

If Mommy makes a huge to-do list on Thursday, and accomplishes approximately 12 long-neglected tasks. . . . . . .

And on Friday, she is barely able to get her teeth brushed. . . . . . . . .

What is the average number of tasks completed?

And, given that information, make a prediction: how many items will Mommy be able to cross off her to-do list tomorrow?

Assuming, that is, that Mommy even makes a to-do list.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday's Sentiments - Addicted to Happy Endings

Today's sermon thought: (not word-for-word, but paraphrased heavily by me! Sorry, Rev. Parks!)

In the book Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, authors DeYoung and Kluck come down on modern evangelicals, who are, in their words, addicted to happy endings.

You know, happy endings. The kind we've been sold by Disney?

In modern church-speak, it goes like this: we prayed and (insert one blessing* here) happened and isn't God so wonderful?

*my husband got a job, we sold our house, I found my car keys, my child was healed, etc. etc.*


Except that sometimes your husband stays unemployed, your house goes into foreclosure, you have to have new car keys made because your toddler flushed the old set, your child is not healed, but dies.

Except that sometimes, the happy ending is only in heaven.

And all the time, God wants us to find our happy ending not in what He can do for us, but in who He is.

Psalm 16:2 says, "I say to the LORD, You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."

In the words of my dear friend Cindy -

I just need more Jesus.

May it be ever so.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Last Days of Summer

Just returned from a quick trip to Indiana - primarily to visit with Audra, Bimi, and Mo, in from Nigeria - but also to see Grandma (who's not been well) and enjoy one last bit of summer. Some of my favorite pictures. . . . .

At the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Bimi & Amy just loved the dinosaur area! Bimi (the dinosaur) and Amy (the nonnern, her imaginary creature) growled and growled at each other. Hilarious!

Great Grandmother Dorothy Ward (age 90) meets Atticus "Mo" Geronimo Prewitt, her youngest great-grandchild, 10 months old. We had a cookout at her house Wednesday night - roasted hot dogs & marshmallows over a fire on the farm.

Here's a picture of the whole gang on the farm. Do you know how hard it is to get 7 children to smile at one time? (Pay no attention to the woman behind Bimi! It was the only way we could get him in the picture!)

Of course, nothing says "summer" like swimming in the lake. After last trip, where Amy (age 4.5) would barely get in the water, I nervously agreed to let Bimi (age 3) swim with the kids. Ha! I shouldn't have worried! After about 2 minutes, the boy was jumping in the water like a kamikaze pilot.

Grampy and Mo, Mo and Grampy. What more is there to say? From day one, Mom said that Mo went to Grampy - reached out for him and would cry for him. Cute as the dickens, that little boy.

(Ok, for those of you who are cranky that your picture is not here - hint, hint - I've got to head out for the morning and Blogger is uploading slowly. I'll add more later, I promise!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How I Spent my Summer Vacation, Part Two

My famous last words. . . . ."Honey, let's just do the master bathroom, too!"

I'm glad we did it, but maybe I should have chosen another time other than Sunday morning to make that pronouncement. Especially when Yurii had to leave for TN in less than 24 hours.

At any rate. . . . .

I don't have any "before" pictures, but picture it dark green. Very. Dark. Green.

The picture directly above is our "tub room". Other than the new beige paint, we laid the nice vinyl tiles over the ugly yellow vinyl. It really did brighten it up and make it larger.

The "Sink Room" was another story all together. Once I painted the walls beige - well - WOW! was that vanity suddenly G-R-E-E-N! I had to get some creative staging going. . . once I got a curtain at Old Time Pottery ($4.99 thank-you-very-much), I was on my way. The best part - and I'm afraid you can't see it all that well - was when I took down our silver/brass light fixture and spray-painted it textured white. Now THAT was fun! Add a smaller (free!!!) mirror from the Speers family (thanks, guys!) and a frame from Hobby Lobby (50% off), and that's about all the mileage I could get out of it.

To really do it right, we really needed to rip out the vanity, install a new one, and then rip up the carpet and extend the vinyl into the "sink room". . . .

But my kids gotta eat. And we have to start school next week. Details, details.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sunday's Sentiments: Of Mice, Men, and Jonah

You know what they say, "The best laid plans of mice and men. . . . "

You don't?

Well, actually, I didn't either. Turns out, the phrase is from a poem by Robert Burns, entitled, "To a Mouse", and the line goes something like this:

The best laid plans o' mice an' men
gang aft agley,

Huh? Maybe this time in English. . . .

The best laid plans of mice and men
go often askew.

(Turns out, the entire poem is a Scots poem, depicting the English persecution of the Scottish farmers. There are many others who can flesh that out more than I . . .but it seems lately, everything has to do with Scottish History! Just a bizarre theme in my life, methinks. Or maybe it's an end result of being in a PCA church! You know, the one that drags out bagpipes on Reformation Sunday?)

Or, as Scripture would state:

In his heart, a man plans his course
but the LORD determines his steps.

My course was planned. Prep the house for a showing, go to evening service at church, come home and pack, get up early, head for Indiana. No problem, right?


Turns out, we have a little thing called a stomach bug here. Amy complained her stomach was hurting, walked in the door, turned into the bathroom, and threw up all over the floor.

The LORD determining my steps, indeed.

During the sermon tonight, on Jonah chapter 2, Pastor Stallings stated the following: "Now, I know that none of you are called to go to Nineveh and preach the gospel in the near future, but consider what the Lord would have you do that you need to lay before Him; what have you vowed that you need to make good?" (I'm paraphrasing here: no note-taking tonight)

It was rather fun to tell him afterwards that, actually I was driving to Nineveh (Indiana) in the morning, and I was indeed hoping to share the gospel, and furthermore, I would be considerably near a body of water. To which he laughed heartily!

I neglected to add those famous words, "If it is the Lord's will".. . . . . . .

I've been meditating through James lately, small bits at a time, trying to let the richness of the Word sink in deeply. Maybe it's the unsettled season we've been living through, maybe it's turning 40 and thinking over the brevity of life, but this scripture has been resonating lately:

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
James 3:13-15, ESV

I used to think I had it all planned out. When in reality, it's all an illusion. Think about it. One phone call, one car accident, one diagnosis, one word from a loved one, and the course of your life is altered forever.

And truthfully, I'm not sure I would want to be allowed to truly, really, absolutely plan my own future. It's a frightening thought. Paralyzing, almost, to think about the decisions I would make, and the impact those decisions would have not only on my life, but on a thousand unintended ways on the lives of those I know and even those I don't know.

I'd much rather - no, I'd far rather - place my life in the hands of One who knows the beginning and the end, the most holy omniscient God, who is constantly weaving my tapestry of His grace, and conforming me more and more to the likeness of His own dear Son.

Because, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. . . . .

And actually, now you do!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Homeschooling Find of the Day!

I started planning in earnest for our homeschool year today - and tops on the list is analyzing Kathryn's courses to date, and finalizing plans for her last two years of high school.

Look what I was able to do!

And all this for free, through a nifty website called Teascript!

Sure, I could upgrade to the fancy-schmancy version, but look how nicely the free one turned out. And truthfully, I just wanted to be able to run a sample transcript to print up for our records. Teascript allows you to sort the transcript by subject (as I did above) or by grade level. I love the GPA calculator, and the ability to add activities.

Oh, and did I mention it's free?