Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

for my brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews
in Abuja, Nigeria

We miss you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review and Giveaway - Kabul24

I'll admit it.  I had no idea about the actual history behind this story when I picked it up.  Honestly, my interest stemmed from the fact that my brother and his wife lived in Kabul for quite some time, after 9-11, so we had a first-hand glimpse of life in Afghanistan after the Taliban left.  Would you believe I even have a burkha in my garage??

Kabul24 is the gripping account of the arrest and imprisonment of 24 workers from the organization Shelter Now International.  The workers were arrested in August 2001, and released 105 days later in November of that same year.   The chapters follow the 8 foreign aid workers and their 16 Muslim associates through their arrests and imprisonments by the Taliban, their enduring the bombing of Kabul post-9/11, to their miraculous release by the U.S. Special forces.

The names Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry may be familiar to many evangelical readers; their book, Prisoners of Hope, was published in 2002 and rode the wave of interest in all things Afghani following the events of the fall of 2001.  Less well known in the U.S. are the other 6 international worker held captive, and hidden even further from our eyes is the plight of the 16 Muslims who were accused of converting to Christianity.

The strength of Kabul24 lies in its detailed descriptions of the conditions of the prisons and the interrogations, the insights it gives into the risks many ordinary Afghanis took to help these foreigners, the means the captives used to maintain their sanity and serve God in the midst of persecution, and the tracing of the sovereign hand of God in their rescue.  A terrific, mesmerizing read that puts a personal face and context onto recent history.

This book is actually a manuscript version of the movie, Kabul24, which I am very much hoping to see at some point.

And now. . . .the giveaway!

This really is an excellent read, and a great account of life inside the dark days of the Taliban's rule.  If you'd like to be entered to win a copy, just post a comment!  I'll let one of my kids draw your name out of a hat, and the book will be on its way to you.

Thanks for reading!

Edited: hscarol, you win the draw!  If you can email me at, I can ship the book to you.  Enjoy!

Tuesday Tips - Beans and the Budget

Why didn't I think of this before?

In an interest of stre-e-e-tch-ing our food budget, I've gotten more interested in cooking with beans.  Dried beans, to be exact.  Beans and rice and rice and beans (to quote Dave Ramsey) is the staple around here. 

The problem comes when someone (who shall remain nameless) forgets to soak the beans overnight.  The cooking becomes slightly more tricky, dinner plans are scrapped, budget goes out the window, and you begin to curse the day you vowed to cook with dried beans to save money.

Not that I know from personal experience.  Because all my cooking adventures turn out perfectly.  Well, almost always.

But I digress.

Here's the tip of the day:  next time you buy dried beans from the grocery, as soon as you get home from the store, put them in a large pot of water, and soak overnight.  The next morning, place 1 cup servings into ziploc baggies, label, and freeze.  Then, when you're ready to use them - voila!  Cooking time is significantly shortened.

(Full disclosure:  this great tip brought to you by Saving Dinner.  I'm on their email list - check it out!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend in Review

(Warning!  This post is light on content and long on pictures.  You know - a Grandparent's Dream!)

So, how did we fare this birthday weekend?

First, there was Amy's party. . . . . with the requested meerkat cake. . . . .

and a Puppy Party with her little friend, Art.

Next was the Sibling Showdown - we were thrilled that the previously recalcitrant Amy did finally admit that yes, it was Hannah's birthday too.
(for those new to my blog - yes, we somehow managed to have two children born four years apart on the same day.  Go figure!)

Moving on to Saturday.  Hannah's party, complete with a production of The Enchanted Garden, a play/ballet written especially for her by Kathryn.

(sorry, no pix of the play itself.  The dvd is available, however!)

Onward and upward to a surprisingly quiet Sunday.  Hannah & I were home from church - Hannah popped a sore throat this morning - and then our evening Choir commitment was cancelled.

Kathryn and Nathaniel celebrated by being insanely creative.

Below is Amy wearing the CUTE hooded sweater Kat crocheted for her.  Sheesh.  The girl's amazing.

(oh, and Linda you would have loved it!  Kathryn gave the unfinished sweater to Amy in a box, with a note saying she would finish it soon.  Sound familiar!?)

Nathaniel for some odd reason has decided to construct scenes from the movie National Treasure.

Entirely out of Legos.

I'm not kidding.

This is a shot of the heroes putting lemon juice on the Declaration of Independence. 
See that guy over on the left?  That's the "father" watching tv.

Quite a hobby.  You should see the model of the Charlotte!

Yurii and I spent time doing the following:

Yup.  On our laptops.

We ended the weekend with Game Night. 

Anybody recognize that?  It's Family Fun, or as we called it several times tonight,
Family Not-So-Fun.

That's me, vainly trying to flip the little green frogs through Emily's playdough loop.

What twisted mind thinks this stuff up?

At any rate, we made so much noise we woke up . . . .  . .

Who took a FIVE HOUR nap after romping in the yard with us this afternoon.  It was her first day out and being frisky after her spay surgery.  Sure wore her out!

In the picture, Amy is hugging Faith and saying, "Aw, Faith. . . you can be on MY team!"

So - there you have it.  It was one of the most fun, relaxing, refreshing weekends we've had in a long time.

Signing off, and going to bed with a happy heart.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Overheard In My House

Today's latest:

Amy was in the middle of a project - setting up her Playmobil for a "movie".  We had to leave for her ballet class, and the following occurred:

Me:  "Amy, it's time to get dressed for ballet."

Amy:  "But I don't wanna go!  I wanna finish my movie!"

Me:  "I'm sorry, but we have to get ready.  You can finish your movie later."

Amy:  "Mom. . . . . I'm all out of laters!"

Yep.  Me too, kiddo!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

And Then. . . . I Blinked


You told me it felt "strange" to be turning seventeen.
Honey, you have no idea.

I remember when you were born, gloating to myself that when you were seventeen,
I'd only be forty.

It seemed so far away.

Then I blinked.

Now, here you stand before me.

A woman.  Nearly.

Oh, you still have a ways to go.

But there are days when you appear before me,

discussing Beowolf and Jane Austen,
preparing to teach the Scriptures to your class,
confidently walking down the hall to teach ballet,
cracking jokes over the antics of your siblings,
playing beautiful hymns on the piano,
smoothing the hurt and the strife,
bringing joy and peace into our home,

And God graciously gives me a glimpse of the woman you are becoming,
that you in many ways have become in the last year.

And I am so grateful.

So very grateful that He has allowed me on this wonderful journey,
and allowed me to watch Him shape you and mold you and transform you
and redeem you and summon you by name.

You are His.

Happy Birthday, Beautiful One.

I love you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday's Surprise - Fried Okra!

Ingredients at the ready: 
oil, cornmeal, and fresh okra from our neighbor's garden

Slice okra, soak in one beaten egg

Mix soaked okra in cornmeal

Fry in oil until golden brown

Feed to unsuspecting Yankees.

There.  Now if my toenail polish matched my sandals, my t-shirt, and my earrings,
I'd really fit in down here.

Happy cooking, y'all!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

First things First

These words ring true to me:

May 7.  The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord.  The first concern is not how much I might serve the Lord, but how my inner man might be nourished.  I may share the truth with the unconverted; I may try to encourage believers; I may relieve the distressed;{editor's note: I may teach my children} or I may, in other ways, seek to behave as a child of God; yet, not being happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, may result in this work being done in a wrong spirit.
Taken from The Autobiography of George Mueller.

Good reminder for me, this Martha-inclined, type-A, perfectionistic soul that I am.

What is my primary business?  To fellowship with the Lord.  To taste and see that the Lord is good.  To sit at His feet, soaking in His word, basking in His marvellous grace and love and mercy.

To glorify God and enjoy Him forever, to quote the Westminster divines.

Oh, and if you have never read about George Mueller - you should.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Hair-Raising Experience

We've been promising it for days.

A hair cut.

Now, please understand that Amy's hair was more than halfway down her back. . . . due in part to the following: a Mommy who just can't seem to fit in a trip to the shop, a child who really HATES going to get a haircut, and a budget that needs stretching.

Kathryn has expressed an interest in cutting hair - mainly for the fun of it, but also with an eye to saving some money. So with a new pair of good cutting shears. . . . . she got the honors! She had quite the audience - Emily & Hannah were in on the act with advice and distraction and encouragement for Amy.

If you really want to know how long it's been, you can just look at the pile of hair.

And Amy's reaction?

(said upon looking in the mirror)

"I look different!" (big pause, quizzical look on face) "Less hair."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Mommy Moment

My mommy heart is beating happily right now. . . . .

Tonight, I was downstairs fiddling on the computer, when I hear little footsteps and down comes almost-5 year old Amy.

"Amy!" I exclaim, "Get to bed!"

I turn to quit my application. No footsteps are headed upstairs. I hear the faint sounds of scratching on paper. Ready to be annoyed, I turn. . . . . . to find. . . . . .


"Mommy! I wrote, 'Amy go to bed'!"

I don't know if you can see it, but it's clear as a bell to my misty eyes.

AMY H H beb

She is a precious gift to me, indeed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

With Apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

Twas the night before filming, and all through the house
Only Mommy was working; all alone without spouse

The props they were placed through the rooms with great care
In the hopes that the actors would use them with flair

The directors were nestled, all snug in their beds,
While schedules and movie scripts flashed through their heads.

The puppy's in her crate, and I'm in my jammies,
Getting myself ready for weekend calamities.

I'm watching and waiting and praying, my friends,
And realizing this sweet time of movies shall end.

They work and they laugh and they argue a score,
Planning this project's become quite a chore.

But it's music to this momma's ears, that's the truth,
All too soon they'll be living out from under my roof.

So I pray as I sit here and stare at my blog,
With nary a whisper, just the sound of a frog,

And ask that the Lord keep them close to each other
As they plan their adventure.

With love.
A proud mother.

Homeschool SkedTrack- A Review

I'd like to introduce you to my new best friend. . . . Homeschool Skedtrack!

For the past few years, I've been handling all my homeschool records with pen & paper. It was simple, yes, but tedious. Every Sunday night I seemed to find myself staying up until all hours, writing out assignments, planning activities, and starting off my school week tired and cranky. I knew there had to be a better way. . . . .

With the acquisition of a laptop (hooray!!!!!), I decided that Now was The Time to enter the digital age. My heart was set on Homeschool Tracker Plus - a great program, but alas! Out of my reach in terms of finances. (Plus, I just had a revulsion to buying a Windows OS just to run that one program - it felt - dirty. True confessions of a Mac lover, here.)

I wish I could remember how - maybe it was the Well-Trained Mind forum? - but somehow I stumbled upon Homeschool SkedTrack. Eureka! Therefore, I am happy to present. . . . .

The Top Ten Things I Love About HomeschoolSkedTrack

10. Video tutorials. The whole thing looked so - daunting - at first. But I spent an hour or so with the tutorials, and was impressed at how they walked me through setting up my school year. Below is a screen shot of some tutorials available.

9. No more Sunday night panic. Again, I've spent a bit of time entering assignments into each student's courses, so it's all right there! Here's a screen shot of what Emily would see on a given day:

8. It's free! Yes, believe it or not this is a totally free website. They have advertising, and do accept donations, but you can use the entire site for nothing. Nada. Gratis.

7. More consistency for me and my students. The kids have greater accountability, and I am more motivated to follow through with my plan since it's "on paper" so far in advance.

6. I can include activities, like ballet and Boy Scouts, just by adding them as a course. On the left is a list of Emily's activities - if you look closely (or enlarge it, or something!) - you can see that I have Ballet I scheduled as a "course". So every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday it pops up on her list to remind her that class is that day.

5. No more erasing or rewriting. If we don't get to a certain assignment that day, it automatically moves to the next school day. Beautiful!

4. Easy editing of activities. I can pop on the "Edit/Activities" screen, enter dates completed, project what dates the next activity would occur, and so on. I can even set a course so that I can edit or add the activity as we go. . . .like in science, if I'm not sure how far we'll get.

3. My older kids can log in and tick off the activities they've finished for the day. I still have "approve" them before they become final, but this gives them a measure of independence. I'm thrilled that Homeschool SkedTrack can be used for all my students - from Amy (K4) through Kathryn (11th grade).

2. An easy record of days attended, quick look at our school year, transcript capability, grading, weighted grades. . . .there is so much to this website, it's amazing.

1. It's free! (I know, I said that before. . . .but I think it should count twice, don't you?)

and, in the interest of full disclosure. . . .
The Two Things I Don't Like about HST
1. If my internet connection is "wonky", I have a really hard time getting pages to load.
2. Similarly, I can't work on my schedule or planning unless I have a good wifi connection. This isn't a big issue, since I mainly work on it at home or church, but still, it's a consideration.

Hope this gives my readers (all two of you) a good feel for Homeschool SkedTrack. Go check it out, and see if you don't have a New Best Friend!