Monday, December 24, 2012

Full and Overflowing

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.” 
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.
Psalm 126:1-3

How can I express in words the joy that is welling up in my heart, has welled up in my heart, in the past few days?

To see family, friends, so dear.
Hearing the word of God preached, so faithfully, from a dear and godly pastor.
Joining in worship the company of the saints.
Old friends with new babies.
Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, embracing and laughing and rejoicing.
Watching hearts knit together, memories made.
Trying to capture it all in a moment, in a snapshot,
Freezing time for the days to come.

Christmas is truly, a magical time.

Rejoice! A King is born!

Merry Christmas, all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Unspeakable Tragedy

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."
Matthew 2:18

Lord, have mercy.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Thoughts

From my Advent reading today:

Jesus observed, 'Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Yet we act, for the most part, as though without us God can do nothing. We think we have to make Christmas come, whic is to say we think we have to bring about the redemption of the universe on our own. When all God needs is a willing womb, a place of safety, nourishment, and love.

"Oh, but nothing will get done," you say. "If I don't do it, Christmas won't happen." And we crowd out Christ with our fretful fears.

God asks us to give away everything of ourselves. The gift of greatest efficacy and power that we can offer God and creation is not our skills, gifts, abilities and possessions. The wise men had their gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Paul and Peter had their preaching. Mary offered only space, love, belief.

What is it that delivers Christ into the world - preaching, art, writing, scholarship, social justice? Those are all gifts well worth sharing. But preachers lose their charisma, scholarship grows pedantic, social justice alone cannot save us. In the end, when all other human gifts have met their inevitable limitation, it is the recollected one, the bold virgin with a heart in love with God who makes a sanctuary of her life, who delivers Christ who then delivers us.

- from the essay, "To Be Virgin" by Loretta Ross-Gotta

Printed in the wonderful Advent devotional, Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. 

With many thanks to my two special students, Salem & Tess, who gave this to me as a gift!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankful Doesn't Even Touch This One. . . .

Starting January 7th, my wonderful, patient, talented husband will be employed.



With benefits.

Teaching music.

It's been 5 1/2 years since he's been a full-time teacher.  Our youngest daughter doesn't even remember a time when Daddy taught school.

To say we are grateful to the Lord doesn't even scratch the surface.

There's more - so much more - but for now.

Praise be to God!!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Inspiration for the Day: Lost and Found

Avoiding the election results tonight (I'll deal with it in the morning!) - I stumbled across this beautiful piece:

Faith is this unwavering trust in the heart of God in the hurt of here. Unwavering trust all the time though I don't understand all the time.

Beautiful, inspiring, convicting writing. Read more at 

And enjoy your day, trusting in the good providence of God.

Monday, October 29, 2012

If Only I Had Made This Up

I can't believe this is actually happening to me.

I'm sitting here in a McDonald's, waiting for The Boy to be done with Scouts.

Conversation at the table next to me, two late teens:

"I know this girl, she know how to work the government."
"Yeah. She got her checks, she gets them to pay for her gas, and she ends up with money at the end and she don't even have to work."

Have. Mercy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Sentiments: Help Thou My Unbelief

And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.  And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  Mark 9:20-24 (ESV)
We're in the middle of dealing with a situation that needs much prayer. And involves waiting on a reply from a third party.

And while everything in me pleads, "Believe! Believe when you pray! Know that God is going to do a good thing!" there is this unbelief that rears its ugly head. "You've been down this road before. God has said No before, surely it will be no this time. Don't get your hopes up."

This is my struggle. And so yesterday, in the quiet hours of the morning,  I turned to a passage that - strangely - gives me great comfort. When the desperate father brings his son for healing, he cries out to Jesus: "I believe; help my unbelief!" The passion of a father for a child, seeking answers, but feeling weak in his flesh.

Consider this encouraging word from Jerry Bridges:

It’s true, however, that oftentimes the situation at hand looms larger in our minds than the promises of God. We then find it difficult to believe the promises. In those times, I find the words of the father of a demon-possessed son encouraging: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). There is a vast difference between stubborn unbelief such as was demonstrated by the people of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth (see Mark 6:5-6), and the struggling faith of the son’s father. God honors our struggles, and the Holy Spirit will help us. The important issue is that we seek to honor God through our faith, even though weak and faltering, rather than dishonoring Him through rank unbelief.”
Standing on the promises this Sunday, and praying God to help me in my unbelief.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

(almost) Wordless Wednesday: You have GOT to be kidding me

Name that item!

Only in Alabama, folks, only in Alabama.

(Sorry for the bad quality: it's a camera-phone picture!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Sentiments: His Eye is on the Sparrow. . . . . and on Craigslist!

"Consider the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

4 years or so ago, we put our house on the market. That's a story for another place and time (and definitely another blog post!), but part of the process involved looking for more updated appliances for our kitchen.

So I started looking.  "Craigslist!" exclaimed my very enthusiastic, thrifty friend.

And since her house looks like something directly out of a magazine - for literally pennies - I was inclined to listen to her advice.

As I was searching, I happened to come across a wall oven to replace our outdated model. It was a very odd size, and rather small. But the mysterious owner promised that it worked well, and was indeed the correct size. Once we got past the "generic Craigslist email" service, this nice woman and I started conversing.

And then we realized - we had a TON of friends in common! Her husband worked at an inner-city school sponsored by our church, and his college roommate was a friend of my husband's.

Crazy, no?


And in God's wonderful Providence, who shows up at our Sunday School class today?

This. Same. Couple.

At a time when I was - honestly - needing a little encouragement myself, in walks The Oven Owner, the Oven Owner's Husband, and their two kids.

What a joy to tell her that I pray for her when I cook on that wonderful, fabulous, slightly-dirty (sorry, Mom!), perfectly functioning, well-used oven!

Turns out, she's in need of a little encouragement herself. I love how God does that.  I'm hoping we can meet up for coffee or something soon. . . . . . . .

All because God has His eye on the sparrow. . . . . . .

And on Craigslist!

(P.S. What song was presented as the offertory this morning? Yup. You guessed it: His Eye is On the Sparrow. Love. It.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I quit facebook for THIS??!!!

Yup. It's true.

I gave up facebook for a while, because I was wasting too much time.

So what have I done for most of the day?


Watched a giraffe in South Carolina prepare to give birth.

But it's not wasting time, it's educational!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

When Mrs. Fix-It Can't

Sometimes, Mom can't fix everything, even when she wants to.

I have a running joke with friends of mine, fellow moms walking the path of parenting young adults; "Wasn't it easier when we could just feed them a cracker, wipe their bottoms, and put them in bed?"

And it was.

Kind of.

Although we didn't think so at the time.

So now we listen. And watch, And pray.

We pray for wisdom, for when to speak up and when to remain silent.

We pray for patience, to let our mighty God work in the lives of these precious ones, these "not-a-childs" who wear the mask of adulthood, but so easily slide into the heart-places, where crackers and  warm blankies make it all better.

We pray for grace, to extend to them and to ourselves.

And we pray with hearts broken and arms open, wrestling with the Lord on their behalf, interceding when there is nothing else to do.

But watch.

And wait.

And trust.

That the God of all comfort will indeed comfort them in their afflictions, no matter how large or how trivial, and that their hearts will continue to be captured and tuned to sing His Marvelous praise.

Resting in Him tonight, and resting in the promise that He will work all things together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

And that is the best fix-it plan of all.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Land

7 years ago, our family had just moved south from New England. A kind-hearted woman brought over a casserole. She was "on her way to the game", and wanted to drop it by before she headed out of town.

"What game?" I asked, honestly curious.

Incredulous stare. Disbelief.

I didn't get it, clearly. And in some respects, I still don't.

It's football season here in Alabama. The time of year when people's lives revolve around The Game. Friday night high school games and Saturday college games, there are parties, tailgating, Homecoming dances, bands, parades, cheerleaders, pep rallies, and who-knows-what-all.

Look. I was drum major of my high school marching band (and marched WITH a broken heel, thankyouverymuch). I understand how the game is played. It's fun. It can be exciting. I get that. But what I don't get - and may never get - is how the game of football becomes part of the warp and woof of a life, how you schedule an entire season around what 2 teams do to a little brown pigskin.

During the fall, I feel most alone. Not depressingly so, but keenly aware that 95% of the culture shares something that I simply don't understand. I'll go to the local homecoming game to watch our friends' sons play, and watch and cheer. But all the while, deep inside, I feel like I'm pretending. It's hard to explain, but I always leave football games pretty melancholy.

And - mostly - I'm ok with that.  Soon enough, the world will right itself again. I'll rejoin the conversation, rejoin the social scene, and find myself more in step with those around me.

For now, I just need to be content with my lot. Those of you who are native to the South most likely don't get why this even warrants a blog post. Those of you from the North can't imagine that there even exists a culture so permeated by 4 quarters of offense and defense that they put rally flags out their windows and tiger tails on their cars. (I'm NOT making this up, northern friends. Really.)

But maybe -just maybe - there is someone reading who can relate.

And maybe- just maybe - my friends who are believers in Jesus can relate to this feeling in a whole different way. Being a part of the world, but not really of it any longer, we long for Jesus, we long for heaven, we long for a world made right and new and whole.

Where everyone is united in worship of that which is Right and True and Good. . . .  . .

. . . . . and it's not football. 

It's Jesus. 

And the longing in my heart to belong, to truly feel at home, reminds me
that I was meant for more than this world.

So when the melancholy starts, when the loneliness sets in, it is my prayer that God would use it to turn my heart more towards Him, and to set my mind on things above. Anyone want to join me?

This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fabulous Field Trips and Final Freebie!

Here it is. . . the last in the series of giveaway posts!  Congratulations to Ann Moore,  the winner of the On-The-Go planner.    Read to the end of this post; there's a GREAT giveaway this week as well!

This week's topic: Fabulous Field Trips.

Now I admit, being a homeschooler, you really can take some fabulous field trips! The grocery store, the office supply center, the discount store. . . . . . .

Oh, wait. Not THOSE field trips you say?

Alright, time for a confession. Most field trips organized for homeschoolers leave me, well, like this:
Except my hair's not red. And I rarely wear lipstick. But you get the picture.

I have field trip issues. All too often, the field trips I've been on have featured some, er, problems.

So with that in mind I give you:

Heather's Handy Hints for Happy Homeschool Happenings  
(aka field trips, but I've got the whole alliteration thing going and didn't want to mess it up. Work with me, people.)

1. Be Like Horton the Elephant

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant; an Elephant's faithful, one-hundred percent!"

If you commit to a field trip, attend. If you promise to pay for a field trip, pay. Simple as that. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances - like hospital stays, delivering babies, and death. "My week has been too busy" is NOT, repeat, NOT an extenuating circumstance. It's life.

Scripture tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no (Matt. 5:37). Let's model that for our kids - and for the watching world - by honoring our commitments.

2. Do NOT be like the White Rabbit

"I'm late, I'm late. . .for a very important date!"

Or as my dear husband says. . ."To be early is to be on time!" Figure out how long it will take you to drive, arrive, park, and walk to the meeting location. Then add 15 minutes. For traffic, diaper blow-outs, and unexpected, "Oh my! How DID that gas gauge get to empty?" moments.

Be respectful of other people's time. Another handy hint: make sure you have a cell phone number for the trip coordinator, so you can let her know if you're running late.

3. Steer Clear of Dr. McPhee from Night at the Museum

"Do you know what 'museum' means? It-- It does not mean, 'Ooh, Daddy, it's a big 
tyrannosaurus thing! Can I touch its leg?' No! Control your young!"

It's 11 o'clock on the field trip. . .do you know where your children are? Are they running through the exhibits? Torturing the tortoises? Driving the docents delirious?  

Like it or not, people who offer field trips will look at our homeschool groups with a critical eye. An out-of-control, undisciplined, disruptive group will likely ruin any potential future trips for other homeschoolers. If your child misbehaves (and face it! they all do at some time or another!), pull them quietly aside and remind them what is expected.

More importantly - for many of us, we represent not only homeschoolers, but the body of Christ. Let's be good ambassadors.

4. Avoid the Ladies' Dance Committee (Music Man)

"Pick a little-talk a little
Pick a little-talk a little
Cheep cheep cheep! 
Talk a lot, pick a little more!"
This one's for me. Yes, mommas, I know we're all excited about seeing our friends. But the field trip is NOT our social outing! Make plans to visit after the field trip at a park or Starbucks, but PLEASE don't visit and chat during a presentation.

Because there's nothing more embarrassing than a docent asking the group to be quiet - and it's the moms who are talking. Ask me how I know.

5. Let your kids be Horshack, not you
"Ooh! Ooh! Mr. Kotter! Mr. Kotter!"
(yes, I know - I'm a child of the 70s. deal with it)

Y'all. I know it's crazy cool that we're learning all this stuff as moms that we'd forgotten. I know you have a million interesting questions, and you actually KNOW the answers because you read the book. But seriously? You already DID 3rd grade science. Let your kids answer and ask the questions.

It's their field trip.

6. Always remember to say. . . . . . .

Want to make a good impression?  Say "Thank you" at the end of the trip. . . not only to the place who hosted your group, but to the homeschool mom who likely coordinated it! Bonus tip: writing a thank you note qualifies as handwriting AND English, so what do you have to lose?

Besides, if you express enough appreciation, follow some basic rules of courtesy, and invite her out to Starbucks - she may even coordinate another Fabulous Field Trip for you!

Alright. You've read to the end, and here's your prize:

Yeah, quit drooling. You know you want it. The fabulous, amazing, Well-Planned Day Planner!  If you don't know about this, you should. If you don't have it, you need it. It's awesome. It's amazing.

And it can be yours if I pick your comment! Simply leave a comment here on the blog, and PLEASE leave a way for me to reach you. If I pick your name via, you WIN! Woo hoo!!!!!

So, what say you? Do you have your OWN hint for making field trips wonderful? Do tell!

And if you want to hear MORE about fabulous field trips, hop on over to some of my friends' blogs. Tell 'em I sent you. Enjoy! And, as always, the fine print: (read in monotone announcer's voice): Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site. All prizes must be claimed within 8 weeks.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Homeschooling Outside the [Curriculum] Box

Thanks for stopping by the Home Educating Family blog hop! And congratulations to Jen K. - she was the winner, chosen by, of the Well-Planned Day Wall Calendar!

This week, we tackle the topic, "Homeschooling Outside the [Curriculum] Box". What image does this bring up for you?

Now, if I were a good homeschooling mother*, thinking outside the box might mean the following. . .
  • tailoring my studies to fit my student's interest, spending hours and hours on creative, interesting lesson plans that I came up with myself
  • using real life events to teach valuable life lessons; grocery store math, cooking, child care, and the like
  • letting each child design their own course of study, acting as coach or mentor rather than teacher
  • never using a pre-packaged curriculum or
  • pulling together the "best of the best" by researching and spending HOURS agonizing over what resources to use with my kids 

For me?  In my house, Homeschooling Outside the Box really means. . . . . .
  • I refuse to let others put me and my family in a box and define my success
  • If part of my curriculum isn't working for one of my kids, I tweak it, but usually don't throw the whole thing out
  • Daily dying to the enemy of all homeschooling mothers: Comparison
  • Not trying to make my home school look like "School At Home"
  • Being flexible, and listening to the Lord and my husband when I have decisions to make or
  • Being true to our family's own unique gifts, talents, needs, and perspectives when approaching not just our school days, but our LIFE!
And if I was a good homeschooling mother*, this blog post would be a lot longer!

But as it is, you'll have to settle for a good, old-fashioned GIVEAWAY!  And it's a good one!

The good folks at Home Educating Family are giving away - are you ready for it? - a Well-Planned Day "On the Go" planner!  Sweet!

You know the drill.  Leave a comment (even if you just say: "Girl! I need that planner!") and I'll pick a winner on Thursday night, October 4th.  Open to US residents only, and ya gotta claim it in a timely manner. There ya go.

And while you're at it, don't forget to "hop" around to my Review Team Buddies and see what's going on on their blogs!

*Note:  the phrase, "Good Homeschooling Mother" is a play off a joke between my mother and myself. But since she doesn't read my blog - much - no one will get aforementioned joke. I'll have to blog about it someday!

Friday, September 14, 2012

One Glass, Two Views

It's been a day. Quite a day. Let me share. (Long, but bear with me!)

Friday, Take One:
 Woke up late, and had to quickly throw a lunch together for hubby, who headed out for a 12-hour day. Spent the morning trying to catch up with school. Had to deal with a dawdling student, again.  Sigh.

Headed out to piano lessons.  Dropped 2 kids, headed out to run some quick errands. First stop, Target. Ended up making about 5 trips across the store, because I kept forgetting things. Great. Then the line at Starbucks was too long, so I had to punt on that idea. Next stop, my dr.'s office to pick up a prescription. When I got there, they couldn't find my prescription, but had it filed under the wrong name. Just my luck. In the meantime, I'm waiting for the pediatrician's office to call about the little one's puncture wound in her foot.

Back to piano, and I'm waiting in the driveway for the kids to be done. Finally, the pedi's office calls me back. They want me to bring her in at 4:15.  Super.  That's going to put a huge kink in getting the kids out to camp this afternoon.  We race home, I have 5 minutes to bark instructions, drop off kids, and run out the door. Traffic is horrible, and I have to find an alternate route.

Checked in at the pedi's office. Find out that Amy has an infection in her wound.  Nice.  Now we run to the pharmacy, fighting rush hour traffic. After picking up her antibiotic and a few other things, now it's treatment time. In the parking lot. Yes, I'm soaking the kid's foot in bleach, then treating it, bandaids, medicine, the whole thing.  The car full of the 4 olders meets me in the parking lot, and after Amy's treated, I send them on their way.

I've had enough of this day. Decide to head to Panera Bread for a quick sandwich. Alone. Since hubby's working late, again. So much for date night. The line at Panera is hugely long. Of course. As is the traffic line going home, as I drive past not one but TWO high school football games. I get home and collapse on my chair. What a day.

Friday, Take Two:
Slept in enough to feel refreshed, and was able to send hubby off with a great lunch for his long day. Was actually home all morning, and we got a lot done.  One of the kids had a tough morning, but we ended up with a great history discussion.  Making progress!

Headed out to piano lessons.  Dropped 2 kids, headed out to run some quick errands. First stop, Target. Found just what I needed for not one, but two birthdays. Great! Then the line at Starbucks was too long, so I had to punt on that idea. Next stop, my dr.'s office to pick up a prescription. When I got there, they couldn't find my prescription, but had it filed under "Yurii's Wife". It was hysterical! I texted Yurii, and we both got a big laugh over it.

Back to piano, and I'm waiting in the driveway for the kids to be done. I've been waiting for the pediatrician's office to call me back about a wound in Amy's foot, and they finally call me back. They want me to bring her in at 4:15.  Super!  I'm actually going to be able to get the older kids home from piano and get to the office in time. We race home, I have time to give everyone instructions, and out we go. Traffic is horrible, but I remember a short cut and make it in time for the appt.

Checked in at the pedi's office. Find out that Amy has an infection in her wound.  I'm SO glad I called and had this checked! Dr. thinks she can make it to camp, with a little fancy footwork.  We run to the pharmacy, fighting rush hour traffic. After picking up her free antibiotic (yay!) and a few other things, now it's treatment time. In the parking lot. Can you believe I'm soaking her foot in the parking lot! This is going to make a great story! I'm so thankful to live in a country where something like this can be treated. My mind goes to children in other countries, where a minor wound can lead to gangrene - and worse - and I am so thankful.

The car full of the 4 olders meets me in the parking lot, and after Amy's treated, I send them on their way. They are really understanding, and willing to be late for camp, even when I have to run back in the store to get marshmallows for camp!

It's been a long day - and not just for me, but for Yurii, so I decide to head to Panera Bread for a quick sandwich. I grab him a sandwich, too, and have a nice quiet moment while waiting for them to make my food. Traffic going home is heavy, but moving. I get home and settle in for a few episodes of Bones, and wait to surprise Yurii with his yummy sandwich.  Tired, but thankful.

One Day. Two Perspectives.

Which way would YOU like to live? 

Making My School Unique: Blog Hop and Giveaway

Congratulations to the Caywoods!  They won a 1-year subscription to Home Educating Family magazine! Thanks for commenting and joining this month's Blog Hop. Remember, you can read all the ways the Home Educating Family bloggers make their school unique by visiting the blog hop here:

This week's topic: Making My School Unique. Which of course, because I am my father's daughter, leads me to this gem of a joke:
How do you catch a Unique Homeschooler?
You 'neak up on him!
(Cue laughter. From at least one of you.)

Enough comedy. Or enough semi-comedy. Or enough "trying-to-be-funny-but-not-really" comedy.

How do I make my homeschool unique? Easy. I look at these faces. . . . . . .

and remember wise words a friend told me when I first started homeschooling.

God has uniquely gifted me with these children, these specific children, with all their hopes and dreams and gifts and challenges. More than that, He has equipped me to be the best mother for them.  And when it comes to homeschooling? I'm the expert. This doesn't mean I teach them everything, nor does it mean I never ask for help when needed. But this does mean that no one, absolutely no one, knows my children better.

And even more importantly? I have access to a loving heavenly Father who can grant insight and wisdom into their lives, and enables me to pray specifically for them and for strategies to meet their unique needs.

Sounds great. But what does it look like in real life?

• When one of the crowd reads at 7 instead of 5, I don't compare them to the others. We work on rhyming, I read aloud to this one, and take the pressure off. One day, this child starts reading up a storm. And hasn't stopped since!

• When our son became involved and found his passion in Boy Scouts, not football (that's an Alabama reference for those of you who live where football is NOT an idol), we supported him and tweaked his high school plan to take advantage of those opportunities. P.E. credit for canoeing and backpacking? Works for him!

• When our eldest needed another year to be ready for college, we allowed her to intern in a children's ministry program at church. She gained valuable outside-the-home-experience, and the extra year for our late-birthday girl gave her the time she needed to have a successful college launch.

• One of ours loves to talk about math. So we talk! And talk and talk and talk - and she has terrific scores on her math work.

Get the picture? If I spent my days comparing my kids to other kids, or my family to other families, I'd be sunk. I've already written about the dangers of comparison, but one danger I didn't mention? Missing out on the unique qualities of your family.

Enjoy the unique way that God has created your family! Celebrate it and use it for His glory!

Ready for a giveaway? This week, the folks at Home Educating Family are providing a fabulous wall calendar for one reader of my blog! It's got huge writing space for a uniquely busy family - like mine!

Want one? Leave a comment, and you're automatically entered! Tell us how you make your school unique, tell us your favorite terrible joke, or just say, "I want that calendar!" I'll choose a winner next Thursday using (Note: make sure I have a way to reach you in your comment!)

I'm also supposed to say the following (read in monotone announcer's voice): Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site. All prizes must be claimed within 8 weeks.

See you next week for "Outside the (Curriculum) Box!"

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Homeschool Story: Blog Hop and Giveaway!

This week, the First Homeschool Guinea Pig turns 20. And let me tell you. . . .  it's really throwing me for a loop.

Either that, or it's the drugs I'm on for my bronchitis.

Let's just stick with the first scenario, shall we?

I've spent some time this past week thinking about the past 20 years and all the changes we've been through.  And like I do every September, I've also started reflecting on not only my parenting journey, but our family's homeschooling journey and what got us started down this crazy road.  To that end, I'm joining a great team of writers from Home Educating Family and participating in my first ever "Blog Hop"!  So stay tuned, enjoy my story, and read on to the end to join the Blog Hop and enter to win a fantastic giveaway!

How did we get from this . . . .

to this????

I'm from a family of public school teachers, trained to be a teacher, and married a teacher.  When our oldest was was born, I was teaching music in an elementary school in Connecticut.  It never occurred to me that she wouldn't join the ranks of Kindergarteners some day.  But even as early as our first year of parenting, I can see the Lord's hand in preparing our hearts for our homeschool journey.

•  When Kathryn was a mere 7 weeks old, my husband and I began attending a Bible study at the home of a family who homeschooled their children, all teens.  Honestly, I didn't know what to make of these kids.  They were polite, interesting, spoke to us intelligently, and were a general pleasure to be around.  (At the time, I thought they were strange. Little did I know I'd be raising the same kind of teens in a very few years!)

•  As I taught school, I loved those little kindergarteners. They came in every year, bright-eyed and eager.  But as the year went on, I noticed a change. They got. . . . . hard. Jaded. I didn't like the changes I saw in those kids. And didn't want to see the same changes in my kids.

•  The most important factor, however, was that I recommitted myself to my faith, and my dear husband became a Christian. We desired more than anything else to teach our children the truths we held to be so important.

So when I first became a full-time stay-at-home mom, when Nathaniel was born (yes, the cute guy in the pictures above!), I prepared to send Kathryn to preschool. After all, she was 4, right? And she needed a break from me, right? With baby brother in tow, I dropped her off at the local Christian preschool 2 mornings a week.

Imagine my surprise when she came home, about 3 weeks later, saying, "Pow Pow! You're DEAD, Mommy!" and shooting me with her imaginary gun.  Um.  Really?

When I went in for her Parent Conference, the teacher explained that they had three goals.  First, to help the children recognize their letters.  Second, to help the children separate from their parents.  And third, to help the children follow directions from another adult.   

"OK," thinks a much younger version of myself, "She's already reading. She's fine with being away from me. And she follows directions.  What am I spending $90 a month on?"  With that, hubby and I decided to homeschool her.  JUST for preschool.  Then we'd see what happened. . . .

The rest, as they say, is history.

Somewhere in those early years, we found that homeschooling was a wonderful blessing to our family.  We loved learning together, being together for the "A-Ha!" moments, and getting to know each other.  We loved watching our kids develop close relationships with each other.  And we loved being able to spend intense time with them, mentoring them and teaching them about Jesus.

Our journey became about what we were heading TOWARD, not what we were running FROM.

Just had to add another picture of my kids.  Cuz they're awesome.  That's all.

So how about you?  What got YOU started on your homeschool journey?  Do tell! 

You've read through my ramblings. . .are you ready for a GIVEAWAY?  It's a good one, too!

Since we're celebrating "Not-Back-to-School", the good folks at Home Educating Family have provided a full year subscription to their terrific magazine!

All you have to do is leave a comment, and you're automatically entered!  (And trust me - it's KILLING me that I can't enter this one.  Boo.)  I'll choose a winner next Thursday using  And this spiffy magazine will be on its way to YOUR mailbox!  (Note:  make sure I have a way to reach you in your comment!)

I'm also supposed to say the following (read in monotone announcer's voice):
Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. (Sorry to my Nigerian readers) This giveaway is not tied to any social media site.

And while you're at it, head on over to the Home Educating Blog Hop for more great posts on "My Homeschool Story".  See you next time, when I'll be blogging about "What Makes My Homeschool Unique"!

Friday, August 24, 2012

How NOT to start a school year

And in the category for, "Strangest start to a school year. . . .EVER" - the envelope please. . . . . .

August 2012!!! 

*Speech! Speech!*

"Ahem.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Academy, Fans and Blog Readers Everywhere,

I would like to present you with a quick look at the insanity that has been,

The Start of the School Year.

We head down to Florida to hang with the sister-in-law and The Monkey Nephews.  Cool cats, those two.  Influenced by the Olympics, here's Monkey #1 with Amy, creating their own Hermit Crab Olympics:
Heading back home, I have a slight cough.  No problem, thinks I.  I get something every year, around this time.  I'll fight it off.


We arrive home, and prepare to start school.  Apparently we needed a hands-on study of Noah and the Ark, because that week our basement was SATURATED with water from a huge, southern deluge (think 2 inches of rain in 45 minutes.  Yeah.  Fun.)

Thus, all school books and such move upstairs.  Here's The Boy at my "desk":

No to be daunted, we have our "Orientation Day" (more on that, later), complete with donuts and other sundry festivities:
SO hard to get a decent picture of a teenage boy!
Filling out "First Day Questionnaires"
The sprinkles.  Always the sprinkles.
Ready to start school on Monday, we are.
Yes, they're mine.  Even the dog.
I wake up Monday, still sick.  Force my way through the week - some school at the table, some on the sofa.  Head to the dr., get some drugs, rest and try to get over it.

No such doing. Celebrate the boy's 16th birthday on Sunday, go to the doctor. More drugs.

Bad drug reaction or interaction. Pretty much thought I was going to DIE on Monday.  Pretty glad I didn't.

So - yes.  I've been flat on my back, on the sofa, all week.  Still exhausted, but SO ready to feel better.  I think I "may" be on the mend.  The downstairs is finally - TONIGHT - all dry and ready to be restored to its original state.

Through it all, I've realized a few things:

1.  It really stinks being sick. I have a great appreciation for moms who homeschool - or even function - with a serious, chronic illness.

2.  My parents rock.  They came up on Tuesday, and have stayed the whole week.  Cleaned, helped with kids, fixed things - just amazing.

3.  The Body of Christ is wonderful.  We had calls, emails, meals sent.  And prayers.  What a blessing.

4.  Bones is a really, really cool tv show.  I'm finished with Season 3.  Yes, I've watched all of them.  It's my - ahem - forced resting plan.

5.  My husband is my hero.  He's nursed me, worried about me, taken care of the basement, and worked full-time.  It's been 21 years - I can't believe how much I need him.

 So.  I'm watching Bones resting and getting ready to resume somewhat normal activities next week.

Except that there's a hurricane coming.

Welcome back to school!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grace in Colored Squares

It's a funny thing that's happening, this.

The school year ramps up, and I pull out old charts.  Four kids, two states, and a lifetime of carefree happiness ago.  I pull off colored stickers that say, "Kindergarten with Mom" and prepare to change her sheet to "Pre-Algebra".  One child is off the plan, another added on.  Days that were full of activity boxes and playpens and "roomtime" and reading have suddenly become days full of first jobs, driving lessons, precalculus and high school credits. 

But through it all.

Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

Had you told me - 8 years ago, when I last made this chart - where I would be now, I would never have believed you. The joys, the aches, the unfulfilled longings, the complications and despair and unending prayer for that which we may never see. 

Had you told me - 8 years ago, when I last made this chart - the depths of my need and desire for Jesus, I would never have believed you.  Or thought it possible. Or wished for the heartache that brought me here.

Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

So I wistfully remove the "Arts and Crafts" time, and think and wonder - where will the next 8 years bring me?

Only one child in my homeschool.
Four more on the path to becoming. . . . what Jesus has for them. . . . . .

And I pray and I cry and I plead with the Lord, that He would make me faithful.  Faithful to these souls entrusted to me.  Faithful to help the man I have committed to walk through this life with. Faithful to the God who has called me and cleansed me and bought me with His precious blood.

And the son plays, "Meant to Be" on his iTunes account, at such a time as this.

Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Sentiments: The Bassoonist's Guide to Mothering and Marriage

Well, it's "gig" season dear blog readers. . . . .the time of year when I get to dust off my trusty bassoon and rekindle my love for music by playing for some local churches and orchestras.  It's a good thing, being a bassoonist - see, there are something like a million hundred flute players, but very few who can make a bundle of sticks* sound even remotely musical.  I love the bassoon - it's weird, quirky, and fun.  (Kinda like me!)

Right now, I'm smack in the middle of concerts, and I've got a bit of a problem.  My reeds.  If I was a true southern girl, I'd take 'em out back for target practice.  Bassoon reeds are fickle things.  Since they're made of wood (special cane from France, you know!), they respond to a hundred different factors.  Temperature, humidity (helloooooo Alabama), you name it, I've got an issue with it.

And truthfully, one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten came from my bassoon professor in college.  He wasn't one of my favorites - and the feeling was mutual on his end, I believe - but I came away with this beauty:
Don't fall in love with your reed.

Translation:  If you have a reed that's playing great?  Wonderful.  But don't expect it to always be that way.  If you have a reed that's not working?  Eh.  Chalk it up to a bad day, scrape it with your knife, and try again tomorrow.

Oddly enough, that little gem has stuck with me, and worked its way into my perspective on life, greatly impacting the way I look at my marriage and my relationship with my kids.

How so?  Let me 'splain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up:

Marriage.  There are those days when the hubby and I are crazy in love, enjoying each other's company, in complete rapture and happiness.  Great!  But I don't expect it to always be that way.  Then there are those days when every. single. thing. about him drives me crazy! (And who are we kidding??! It's vice versa for sure!)  Eh.  Chalk it up to a bad day,  a tough season. . . . and persevere.

Parenting.  There are those days when the kids are a joy.  Obedient, kind, intelligent, funny, just an absolute joy to be around.  Great!  But I don't expect it to always be that way.  Then there are those days when I'm done. toast. finished. frazzled.  and ready to throw in the mommy-towel! (And who are we kidding?  It's vice versa for sure! ;)  Eh.  Chalk it up to a bad day, lack of naps, a tough season. . . and persevere.

And although my professor didn't know it, he was on to a great truth:

"For I the Lord do not change, therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." (Malachi 3:6)
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."  (Hebrews 13:8)
"The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go, God's love for us does not."  ~C.S. Lewis
 Though my reeds, my marriage, my parenting, my moods, my thoughts may change?

Jesus does not.  He is ever holy, merciful, just, loving, and mighty to save.  On that truth I stake my life, my soul, my all.

Remember the verse from the hymn?

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
All I have needed Thy hands have provided,
Great is Thy faithfulnees, Lord, unto me!

He is faithful.  I will sing it to the end of my days.

Give me a decent reed, and I'll play a few bars, too!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

And I Wouldn't Have it Any Other Way

Today is my 40-somethingth birthday.  Here's how I've spent it:

A little of this:

Celebrating with cupcakes and science safety goggles:

Then I did a little LOT of this:
(I don't look that glamorous at ALL.  But I did spend about an hour+ in the van, going to and from ballet!)

And we'll wrap up with dinner and a lot LITTLE of this:

It's not a quiet retreat in the mountains.  It's not a day at the spa.  It's not lunch with girlfriends, or a getaway with my hubby.

It's life.  Lived in all its messy, busy, crazy, glory.

And this week, after all the lessons the Lord has impressed upon my heart?

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dear Will, Gracy, and Caroline. . . . .

Dear Will, Gracy, and Caroline (and Bill, too. . . . )

When I learned that your mom was perfectly healed last Saturday night, I couldn't sleep.  My tears of grief and joy mingled together, flowing down on my cheeks, and I needed some time to just sit and process.

I went to your mom's CaringBridge page and started reading.  Not her journal entries, but the "Guestbook" comments, and do you know what I found?

"You don't know me, Laura . . . . .but I'm inspired by your story."
"You don't know me, Laura. . . . . but I'm praying for you."
"You don't know me, Laura. . . . .but thank you for pointing me to Jesus."

Over. and over. and over. and over.  The same story.  People who didn't know your Mom personally, had never even met her, but who were changed by her life.

I read somewhere that your mom had over 500,000 visitors to her CaringBridge site.  Her facebook page (now that you're reading this, does Facebook even exist?!) shows over 1700 friends.  That's over half a million people. . . half a MILLION! . . . .that know her story.  That were changed by her story.

I was changed, too.

See, the week that your mom found out that she had cancer, our own family got some incredibly difficult news.  Not like yours, but news that rocked our world and shook my faith in God to its core.  Since then, I've followed your mom's story pretty closely, and known her in a "Let's-have-a-conversation-in-the-hallway-while-we're-waiting-for-ballet-to-be-over" way.  She was one of my 'friends' on facebook, and she and I often traded crazy jokes back and forth.

So I watched. And read. And listened. And learned.

Your mom got one "No" after another from God.  So did we.  And for a while, we put our lives on hold, afraid to venture out, takes risks, take chances. 

Not your mom!  She lived. . .she really, really lived!

Last February, we were visiting in the hallway together.  And there she was, in her gorgeous head scarf (she could really rock a head scarf!), asking me about possibly teaching Civics in a homeschool co-op in the fall.  "Caroline will be starting Kindergarten," she said, "and I'm thinking that would be something I'd love, that would work with my treatment schedule and her school schedule."

{side note:  Will, do you remember that day?  We talked about building a dehydrator, and science stuff, and all sorts of other fun things.  Your mom just loved it that you were always so interested in things like that. . . her face lit up as she watched us talk!}

I walked away that day, and I was never the same again.

Your mom taught me how to live.

Your mom helped me to see that Jesus was enough.  He really, really was for her. . . . . and it is my prayer, through all the heartache and anger and grief and doubt and confusion that I know you will experience as you face the coming years. . . . .  . that He will be enough for you.

With love and prayers,
Heather Henriques

This blog post is written as part of Laura's request, that we continue her legacy of letters to her children 
on how her ministry has impacted our life.

If you have been impacted by Laura's story, and would like to write a letter, you may send it to:
P.O. Box 660982
Birmingham, AL 35266

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sunday Sentiments: This Momentary Affliction

  I started this post earlier today, intending to finish it tomorrow.  The Lord had other plans for me - and other plans for Laura, too.
Laura Black is the wife and mother in the photo above.  5 years ago, when expecting her third child, the doctors found cancer.  Breast cancer.  Treatment, chemo, experimental trials, radiation, more chemo - and 5 years later, the day after she entered hospice care, the cancer won out. 
Or did it?   
You see, Laura Black was far more than a cancer patient.  She was a child of God.  Not only that, but a beloved child of God, who was chosen to walk a road that none of us - not ONE of us - would willingly walk.  But walk the cancer road she did - beautifully, courageously, honestly, and with far more grace than I believe I could.
In the words of John Piper, Laura did not waste her cancer.  In the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
Laura used her "light and momentary affliction" to point hundreds - no, more likely thousands - to Jesus.  Go and read her Caring Bridge page - have a box (or two) of tissues handy.  Her writing is beautiful, and will take your breath away.  She writes honestly of her struggles, but she writes beautifully of her Savior.
Laura's affliction - to her now - seems light and momentary.  She is fully healed, and rejoicing in the arms of Jesus. 
Well done, good and faithful servant.  She has indeed entered into her rest.
I leave you with the poem, penned by Laura in 2009.
Find me on my face, Lord
When all the world is right
In the quiet still of life
Have me clinging at Your side

Find me on my face, Lord
When sorrows enter near
Casting out all doubt
The Foe brings in with fear

Find me on my face, Lord
Crying for the souls
Of those who walk in darkness
Beneath dark shadows fold

Find me on my face, Lord
When death cries out my name
Not with bitter pangs of angst
But with joyful songs of praise

Find me on my face, Lord
When I cannot understand
Remind me of Your goodness
And the greatness of Your plan

Find me on my face, Lord
Humbly seeking only this:
“Conform my will to Thine”
Not “Please fill my requests.”

Find me on my face, Lord
Whatever life may bring
Rejoicing in the privilege
To bow before the King.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tapestry of Grace Part Six: Organizing Tapestry and Notebooks

Hi, my name is Heather, and I'm a compulsive organizer.

"Hi, Heather. . . . "

Not really.  I do have a thing about checking off boxes, though.  But I digress.

Finally back on track, and wanting to finish my Tapestry series that I started . . . . um. . . . a long time ago. . . . . . . I thought I'd tackle the organization topic.  Because, you know, I'm so organized that I have tons of free time to blog and stuff.  Heh.  Anywho.

First, and MOST IMPORTANTLY!!!!!  If you somehow you get the idea that my life is wonderful, beautiful, perfect and organized . . . .  I have some pictures of my bathroom floors I can post for you.  SO there.  (Go back and read this post if you need a refresher course on the dangers of comparison.)

Now that's out of the way.  Where was I?

Here is one approach - my approach - to organizing my Tapestry year.  (Remember, I am a DE TOG user, so that impacts how I organize to some extent.)  I confess, I enjoy purchasing the SAP packs from Lampstand Press - these are the Student Activity sheets already printed for me, so I only have to print reading lists and overview pages.  Beautiful!  I haven't splurged on color yet, but would love to if the old budget allows.  Once I have my SAP packs in hand, I file Units 2-4, by week, in a large file box:

At this point, I don't separate them out by student yet.  That comes when they go into this file drawer:
To start the school year, I put the first unit into my file drawer in the school room.  Each of my kids has a color, and I put their pages in their own folder for the week-plan.  If I'm a good Mommy, I sit down and get all the reading assignments and overview pages printed for the unit - these are not included in the SAP  packs.  (Usually, however, I'm not so on top of it by the 2nd or 3rd Unit - and I'm printing away the night before or - gasp! - the day of our set-up meeting!)

You might notice in the file I also have a file for Evaluations - these are the quizzes and unit exams for my Dialectic and Rhetoric students.  

When it's time for our set-up meeting, I bring our handy-dandy colored folders to the table and - ta dah! - the pages are where they are supposed to be.

Now, a quick word about notebooks:

Some of you have noticed that I don't use 3-ring binders.  Instead I use a system that I originally purchased from Levenger - the Circa notebook system.  Happily, this year I noticed our local Staples carrying a similar system - oh, the joys!!

I love these notebooks because the bindings lay flat, I can rearrange pages at will, and my kids can even punch random notecards, drawings, etc and put them in with their regular size papers.  Here's an up close look at one:

My daughter's Upper Grammar notebook
Opened to show the General Information page.  Note the advanced academic note-taking at the bottom. :p
A map page.  This year, though, the kids made a section in the book just for maps.

Example of an Upper Grammar Literature response page.

And this year I apparently got my act together with vocabulary.  Yay, me!
So there you have it!  A look at our notebook system.

As always, feel free to send me questions or your own ideas through the comment section.  I'd love to help!  Next up:  Writing Aids!