Monday, May 30, 2011


...once again, I wish I had a page full of pictures...

It's a holiday weekend... and a cousin weekend.  When I was a kid, my favorite place was my Uncle Dave and Aunt Sally's farm... my children's favorite place is their Uncle Dave and Aunt Gabe's home.  As we drove into Wisconsin, Emme informed us that we should call this state "Wis-cousin" and I think I agree.   Wis-cousin is my children's favorite state in the Union.  

Wisconsin is a lovely state but to us, it simply means cousins... Drew, Jake, Leslie, Annie and Lydia.  It means a big house and a huge backyard.  It means jumping on the trampoline and making volcanoes in the sandbox.  Wis-cousin means creating a mammoth water slide and late night sleep togethers.  

It seems each year something new is added to the Wis-cousin memory bank.  This year we added the other 3 cousins... Jenna, Truman and Audrey to the Wis-cousin weekend.  We also added a 3 day backpacking trip that the boys are on with their Uncle Steve and Aunt Susy.  Three days of wilderness in southern Wisconsin... packin' it in and packin' it out... sleeping in a 3 sided shelter and learning to lead the way.  Today is day 3.  Tomorrow morning we pick them up at the end of their trail.  I can not wait to hear all about it!

Today, I'm joining the gratitude community at Ann's again... grateful for these and much MUCH more on this Memorial Day Multitude Monday...

... for those who have given their life for my freedom
... for the freedom to worship and praise my Savior
... for the freedom to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD
... for the freedom to come and go and to travel
... for the freedom to be together

... for Wis-cousin
... for life long memories made in the living together for a few days
... for life long best friends named cousins
... for late night giggles
... and for early morning breakfasts

... for a family that loves one another
... for brother in laws who accommodate 
... for sisters
... for team work
... for conversation on the deck

... for sweet baby snuggles
... for funny 2 year old conversations
... for group hugs
... for learning how to work things out
... for a weekend of finishing projects

Friday, May 27, 2011

Read for the Heart... the last TOS review

Over the years of homeschooling, I have fallen in love with Apologia Science.  I think it is due, in part, through the strong influence of my science teacher friend, Debbie.  Debbie taught science in the public school, had babies and opted to stay home and teach homeschool science, and now is back teaching science in our local Christian school.  Debbie and I have spent many hours discussing homeschooling, curriculum and Apologia Science.  She loves using Apologia and has convinced me to do the same!

However, did you know that Apologia has much more than just science curriculum?  I didn't!  I was blown away when I opened their website and looked at all of the options.  Even more fun than that was receiving a copy of Read for the Heart to review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine!  

After reading through Read for the Heart, I like Apologia even more!  Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson is a compilation of over 1,000 terrific titles to read aloud to your children.  This book reads as a guide and directs you to finding quality literature for at home reading.  It's like having your own personal librarian!

Reading aloud has been foundational in our homeschool.  Years ago, a wise woman told me I could do nothing better for my children than to teach them about Jesus and to read aloud to them every single day.  We have gone on many adventures together from the comfort of our living room.  We've giggling through Mr. Popper's Penguins and Junie B. Jones.  We've journeyed through the prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder and under the sea with Jules Verne.  All of these and more are fond memories for all of us.

Apologia offers Read for the Heart for $17.00 and in my opinion, regardless of where your children go to school, no Mom should be without this book.  This book is just another example of the excellence of Apologia Curriculum.

Click here to see what my other TOS Crew mates had to say.

... this will be my last review for the TOS Crew.  Thanks to Crew leaders, Heidi and Brenda, and my mini-crew leader, Heather, for a fabulous year!

**disclaimer... I was given a free copy of this book for my honest review.  I received no other compensation.   

Thursday, May 26, 2011

ads? or no ads?

My man sometimes tells me I read too much... there may be some truth to that statement!  

I spent last weekend reading about how to make money blogging.  If you're looking for a great story, there are lots of them out there!  Not sure how many are true but they read like a "happily ever after" story.  

...and then I decided to put my reading into action...

Please bear in mind, that I am a 100% self-taught blogger.  EVERYthing I have done, I have learned by trial and error... mostly error, I'm afraid.  So, with some fear and trepidation I added Google adsense and Amazon associates to my blog to see if I can generate a little extra spending money.

Honestly, I think the only person who noticed my ads was my cousin... at least, I hope she was the only one who noticed because today I saw the Amazon ad...

 ...Lady Gaga...   

Ummm.. I don't think so.  Not in my neck of the blogging woods does Lady Gaga need to appear.  

So, for 5 days I ran ads on my blog.  After Gaga appeared, the ads disappeared.  

...and in those 5 days, I made a whoppin' 45 cents.  Definitely not a "happily ever after" story!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eagles Wings... a TOS Review

During this year of doing reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I've gotten a few products that excite me.  This is one of them!

Considering God's Creation is a natural science curriculum from Eagles Wings Educational Materials that includes the studies on the following... the universe, stars, solar system, earth, light, sound, wind, weather, clouds, rocks, plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, amphibians, food chains, reproduction and genetics, human, animal anatomy, and physiology.

Authors, Susan Mortimer and Betty Smith, have written a gigantic, 272 page science book that is adaptable for students from 2nd grade to 7th grade.  The authors graciously allow reproduction of the workbook pages for families.  

When my copy of Considering God's Creation came, my girls were thrilled!  They were quick to pick it up and thumb through it begging to do all the workbook pages at once.  

We poured through this book "oohing" and "aahing" over the pages.  The thrill for the girls was that 2nd grade, Ellen, could do the same pages that 6th grade, Emily, can do... though Emily has more to do than Ellen.   The thrill for me... a science curriculum for both girls that costs $29.95!!

Since we received this curriculum at the end of the school year this year, we've decided to not go any further in it but to save the rest of it for our science next year.  The girls are excited to work on it together!

You can click here to see what other TOS Crew members had to say about Considering God's Creation by Eagles Wings.

**disclaimer... I received this product for my honest review.  I received no other compensation.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

how to make him happy...

I've heard it said that it's the little things in life that bring great joy.  The older I get, the more I find the wisdom in that...

all I had to do was shave his head and he hasn't stopped smiling.  

I'm so glad something that simple could make him so happy!  

Who knew?!?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

thanks LORD

Dear LORD,

Thank You!  I often complain about the weather, my circumstances, others or even You, LORD.  I'm sorry.  I hate that I do the same things over and over and over again.

This morning is stunning, Jehovah!  Thank You for this gift... these gifts.  Thank You for Your creation... for the sunrise that nudges me out of bed... for the songs that the birds sing... for the cool breeze that blows in open windows.  Thank You for a sweet dog at my feet and for a warm vanilla latte in my hands.  Thank You for senses... the ability to see, hear, touch, taste and smell all of these gifts and more this morning.  

Thank You for the prayers of friends and family yesterday.  I don't often realize the ways that You love me through others.  Open my heart to see You more in the people You have put around me.

Thank You for mercies that are new every morning and stirring my heart this morning to You.  I want to love You more, serve You more, know You more.  You alone are God and I am in awe of You!  

In Jesus' name

Friday, May 20, 2011

the other side of today...

It's been nine years today.  Nine years of celebrating the loving, laughing, living life of Emily.  Nine years of gratitude for who she is and Whose she is.  Nine years of remembering back to the day of her 3rd birthday.

Nine years ago, today, celebrating at Chuck E. Cheese's.  She played.  I prayed.  I knew something wasn't right.  I rubbed my belly hoping for a nudge in response.  While I smiled and watched, she and her very "bestest friend", Taylor, hopped and skipped from one thing to the next. I prayed with few words... just, "please God."

The morning started out bright and beautiful.  I woke to feel his little nudges where he was being knit together in the quiet and dark.  Seen only by his Creator and yet loved by me.  My heart was sure the little bumps meant he was saying "Hi Mom!"

A day that started out bright and beautiful ended with heartache and sorrow.  My little unseen man's heart had stopped.  No warning.  No explanation.  Only empty words... "I'm sorry but your baby's heart has stopped beating.  There is nothing we can do."

On that day nine years ago today, my Matthew met Jesus.  My Matthew that I had carried deep within me left this earth before he took his first breath.  No hurts, no pain, no tears... no sin, no shame, no sorrow.  

The other side of today is what this Mommy's heart ponders... how one heart can celebrate and mourn at the same time... on the same day.

a dozen years ago...

She came into the world
without a lot of fuss

at 10 lbs 10 ozs
and almost 24 inches
she was almost half grown

She's brought us much joy
and many laughs

she's taught me much
about how to love Jesus
and others

and I can't even begin
to imagine life
without her

a dozen years ago
we were blessed
to be given the gift
of her.

Happy 12th birthday Emily Grace!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To Have and To Hold... A Gabby Review

dun dun ta dun... dun dun ta dun... 

It's that time of year again... wedding season!  It seems like every week there is another wedding invitation in the mail.  I love it!  I love the joy of young brides.  I love seeing their plans come together and the thrill of their big day.  

The dilemma when the mailbox is full of wedding invitations is .... THE GIFT.  It doesn't seem to matter how many places the Bride and Groom are registered, the gift I inevitably choose to purchase is either more expensive than I was thinking of spending or it is no longer available.   Until now...

Thanks to Eternal Encouragement and Mrs. Lorrie Flem the wedding gift dilemma has been solved... Marriage: To Have & To Hold ebundle.

Marriage: To Have & To Hold is a bundle of wisdom and knowledge for marriage life after the big day.  Lorrie Flem has compiled a downloaded electronic bundle of audio sessions...
                5R's Session 2 - Rekindle
                One Life to Live, One Man to Love 
and ebooks...
               Loving Your Knight in Shining Armor Even When He Doesn't Shine 
               Roadmap to a Marvelous Marriage 
               Marriage Tidbits to Treasure 
               Quotes Not Quibbles 
               Marriage Report 
               31 Daily Biblical Prayers for Wives to Pray for Their Husbands 
               Encouragement Report 
               Don't Settle 
              What God Says about Marriage 
              75 Inexpensive Romantic Rut 
              It Happened One Afternoon 
             2001 Summer Issue TEACH Magazine "Loving Your Husband" 
            2009 Spring Issue TEACH Magazine "Marriages Made Marvelous"  

Within these titles is sage wisdom that I wish someone would have shared with me 17 years ago.  As a wife, mother, and homeschool teacher I found much in this bundle that applied to me now and more that I would have loved to have as a young bride.  My favorites include the "31 Daily Biblical Prayers for Wives to Pray for their Husbands" which I've printed and placed in my Bible as a reminder to be praying specifically for Chad and "Quotes not Quibbles" which includes...

Love is what you've been through with somebody.
James Thurber


A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.

 Mignon McLaughlin

An electronic bundle like this makes gift giving so simple... no last minute shopping, fumbling with paper and tape and no more crushed bows on the way to the ceremony!  And, instead of wedding gifts that may get lost or broken through the years, you have a gift that will continue to encourage the Bride and Groom to a life long commitment.

Eternal Encouragement has wrapped this entire package up with an super shiny bow!  This $100 value is available at for $39.95.

Disclaimer... Through my affiliation with Gabby Moms I was given a copy of  Marriage: To Have and To Hold for my honest review.  I received no other compensation.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

boundaries, grace giving and denying myself...

Years ago, while standing in her barn watching my kids' riding lesson, I was given words of great wisdom from my friend, Candy.... "you need to develop some boundaries!  Have you read Townsend and Cloud's book?"

I think that conversation took place 6 or 7 years ago and I still haven't read Townsend and Cloud's book.  Well, at least not the original.  I'm currently working my way through Boundaries with Kids and Boundaries for Teens.  And, I still need to work on developing good boundaries for myself.

I'm one of those individuals, that for whatever reason, needs a wide span of personal space... both physically and emotionally.  I'm not big on standing close, touching or hugging nor I am thrilled with people who find me to be their only friend and want to be together 24/7.   For some people, this is as foreign to them as if I were green with pink polka dots and I find myself avoiding these types of people because it's easier than explaining myself to them over and over again.  The flip side, though, is that I enjoy being around people and have been blessed abundantly with incredible friendships.  Thus, my personal space issue is a hard one to regulate....

The question I've posed to the LORD lately is this... is there a way that personal boundaries (both physical and emotional) can coexist with grace giving?  In other words, can I be a grace giver without sacrificing my need for physical and emotional space? 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, 
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must 
deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, 
but whoever loses their life for me will find it."
Matthew 16:24-15

When it's all said and done, it's the "deny yourself" part that I struggle with the most....

Monday, May 16, 2011

eucharisteo from the muddy soul...

I've moved to the shadows... the sunrise was gorgeous this morning and now so bright it's hard to read the screen on my computer.  I moved over just enough to protect my eyes but to allow my soul to drink in the light... the warmth... the joy of sunshine.

To say it's been rainy here in Northern Indiana would be akin to saying it's hot in the Sahara.  We have had a VERY wet spring and the current forecast promises more rain.  For today, though, the air is cool, the breeze is refreshing and the coffee is hot while I sit and soak up some of this blessed sunshine.

I feel as if my soul has experienced a rainy spring as well.  I've experienced God's grace poured down upon my life but haven't always opened my soul to soak it in.  I've been sporadic in my time in the Word... some days hurried, some days not at all.  So, instead of my soul blooming and flowering from His rain, it feels muddy... grimy... gritty.  

On this Multitude Monday, I'm counting His gifts of grace with the grace community at Ann's.  I'm slowly learning that when I count the gifts of grace He showers down, I open my soul wider and wider to receive. And, an open soul blooms and flowers... 

... for a God who deals with muddy hearts
... for the breath of His Spirit that restores
... for the forgiveness bought for me by His Son
... for unlimited grace
... for showers of blessings

... for a new truck after 6 months of searching
... for breakfast with Papa
... for the smile on my man's face all weekend
... for the promise of cousin time in less than 2 weeks!
... for a spontaneous dinner with friends last night

... for a great ending to a fun track season
... for the ability to see the man in the 14 year old body
... for God's timing and knowing it was time to send that man cub to school
... for His direction
... for the occasional glimpses of the child still in that 6' body

... for the girl who will be 12 on Friday
... for the fact that she is more and more a young woman after God's own heart
... for her help around the house
... for her eyes that more and more often see what needs to be done
... for her love for her sister

... for the giggles of the 7 year old
... for the endless songs of her heart
... for my heart that whispers "thank you LORD!" as she reads in a clear voice
... for her prayers for our friend, John, who is not well
... for her snuggles

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

leaving it all on the course

Yesterday, my man-cub became an Ironman... yes, Ironman... as in the famous triathlon.  

His school hosted a mini-triathlon which consisted of 500 meters swimming, 2 miles running and 7 miles biking  (including a couple of steep hills).  The students could either team up with 2 other students and compete in just one event or they could compete as an Ironman... those that do all 3 events consecutively.  

Sixty-five minutes later, Eric was officially an Ironman... complete with a t-shirt and sheer exhaustion for his effort.  

Honestly, I'm beyond proud of my kid.  I think this is the hardest thing he has completed in his 14 years.  He came home and fell into bed and promptly slept for 6 hours!!

What makes me most proud was his attitude.  He was in it just to compete against himself. He told me the night before, "I won't place in the top three, Mom.  I just want to do my best and finish... and not come in last!"  He pushed against himself, completed the race and left it all on the course.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders 
and the sin that so easily entangles. 
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, 
scorning its shame, 
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Often, it is my own children who teach me some of life's greatest lessons.  I want to be like my Ironman and run in such a way that when I reach the finish line I am completely spent and have left it all on the course.

...until then, I am an incredibly proud mom of an amazing young man!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

violet jelly

Because my phone went in the laundry on one particularly bad Saturday morning... and because I still haven't spent the money on a new camera (am using an old phone that takes lousy pictures), I have no pictures of this great idea to show you.  I'm so glad Prairieland Herbs has pretty pictures... just pretend my pictures would have looked just like theirs.

Last week while at a softball game, a few of us moms were talking and one of my friends mentioned that her family had made violet jelly that week.  I thought it sounded intriguing and so I did a little internet searching and found this recipe, complete with directions and pretty pictures...

I couldn't find liquid pectin at our local Kroger store, so I looked a little further and found this recipe at,1723,146174-249197,00.html

By combining the pictures and directions of the first recipe and the ingredients in the second recipe, we were able to make violet jelly yesterday.  It has A LOT of sugar in it and thus, it is very sweet!  And, in Ellen's words "it's delectable on toast!"

It also looks pretty in the little jelly jars that I had left over from years ago.  I'm planning on using it for gifts in the coming year and may even make another batch before the violets all disappear.

Monday, May 09, 2011

gifts from my mom....

All weekend this post has been rattling around in my mind.  Thoughts here... snippets there.  All things that I want, perhaps even need, to say... just couldn't figure out how the puzzle pieces all fit together into something that was lovely... thought provoking... coherent.

Maybe it's from years of writing that I've learned that sometimes it's easier to just ignore those partial thoughts and incomplete ideas. And, instead of struggling through to make sense out of the incomplete, I need to just do things and to be in the moment and hope that maybe later the thoughts will mature into beauty.

Fittingly, for Mother's Day weekend, I wanted to write a poetic post on how incredible my mom is.  Instead, I deleted three attempts... three really, really bad attempts.  After the third try, I claimed my own Mother's Day gift and asked for an hour and half drive to have supper with my mom... being with her and doing supper and dishes with her was infinitely better than any other gift I could have received!  

On this beautiful Multitude Monday, I'm counting the gift of my Mom and all that she has taught me... I've learned the greatest number of life lessons from her.  She is truly amazing and I am blessed to be her daughter!
... life is what you make it
... kindness matters
... if you want a friend you must first be a friend
... finish the job
... friends come and go but family is forever
... stand by your man
... marriage is hard work
... don't look for the easy out
... if you can't resolve an issue in your marriage, don't ignore it.  Get help.
... marriage never gets easy, but it is always worth it
... choose your battles wisely
... pray all the time for your children
... parenting doesn't ever get easy, just different
... your children will have great security if you and your spouse are a united front
... this too shall pass

... always put God first
... pray changes things
... God never fails
... don't just read God's Word, STUDY it
... faith isn't just believing God can, it's knowing He will

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

on being a grace giver

She's known as an incredible woman in a diminutive body.  She seemed ageless... tireless... 

Of course, I didn't really KNOW her... just knew of her.  Saw her picture occasionally.  Read stories about her.  Saw highlights of her life on the evening news... a tiny woman caring for the poor in Calcutta, India.

Referred to as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta by Catholics and known as Mother Teresa to most of the world, she was a grace giver... giving grace to those who had nothing left to give.

Several years ago, my sisters went together and bought me a beautiful wall plaque for Christmas.  It hangs on my living room wall. Often I over look it. Other times I ponder the words inscribed.  I quote this often and live it seldom.  Regardless, I want to be this kind of grace giver... 

... because giving grace is really about my relationship with Grace anyway.

People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For in the end, it is between you and God.
It never was between you and them anyway.
~Mother Teresa

Monday, May 02, 2011

Guatemala... through her eyes...

... Emme wrote this essay as a school assignment the week she returned from her Guatemala trip... I'm just slow posting it...

My Trip to Guatemala
by Emily... April 2011

      My trip to Guatemala started Saturday, April 9, 2011 around midnight.  We got on a plane at 7:35 a.m. and landed in Miami, Florida.  We boarded another plane there to get to Guatemala.  Thankfully, we did not have any delays.
      In the airport, a group of about 15 people proudly sang us a song to welcome us into Guatemala.  On the bus we met our first translator, Christian.
      In Guatemala City, we picked up 2 more translators, Estoban and Alfonzo.  We slowly drove 3 1/2 hours to Panajachel where we stayed in our hotel.  We got there around 7 p.m. We found our rooms and put our bags away and went down for dinner.  It was a buffet that night.  Soon after dinner was a short meeting about the next day.
      Sunday we woke up around 6:30 a.m. and had some breakfast.  It was about a 45 minute drive to the clinic.  Dr. A. and Dr. H. looked at about 40-50 people who wanted surgery.   I got to pass out tons of toys to the little kids.  It was awesome to see the smiles on their faces.  Their smiles surely made me joyful inside.  When you make a difference in someone else, you also make a difference in you too.
      That night we got to the hotel around 6:30 p.m.  At 7:00 p.m. we went to have dinner.  It was off the menu this time.  I am  not sure what I had but I know it was surprisingly good.  We had another meeting that night just about how the day went.  The meeting went well and the day was awesome.  Monday and Tuesday kinda went the same.  We did about 8 surgeries a day.   Wednesday went just as well.  I was able to watch the last surgery which was a breast biopsy.
     Thursday, I sadly did not feel well but I felt better by the end of the day.  Friday, we cleaned the clinic and drove to Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala.  We picked our bags up and found our rooms.  Right outside our room was a pool.  Before dinner we walked around town and found a market.  Dinner was a buffet again.  It was absolutely wonderful.  Saturday we walked some more.  We found a jade shop which is the famous stone of Guatemala.  After a while we found a market and walked around there for a while.  We found a few things for my cousins and some other stuff.
     Sunday, around 5 a.m., we left for the airport.  We had no problems checking in at the airport.  The first plane ride was awesome.  We rode Business Class.  When we got to Dallas/Fort Worth we took a sky link to our next place.  We rode First Class on that flight.  When we got to Chicago our bags came through first and we did not have to wait.  We happily got through O'Hare in 15 minutes.  Our bus to take us home was a party bus and we stopped at McDonald's for supper.  Around 10 p.m. we arrived home.
      I had a very great time.  To everyone who supported us with prayers and gifts, thank you!

Giving thanks...

Giving thanks... seeking out the gifts of grace when sickness plagues and my body is weary.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 
for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  
Matthew 11:28-30

My list with the gratitude community at Ann's continues on this Multitude Monday...

... a few days of sunshine
... warm air
... the flowers that the April showers have brought
... family fun in the evening light
... family bike ride to see new friends

... a personal nurse
... a man who takes over when I'm down for the count
... a doctor who sees me on short notice
... a strong body
... blessed sleep

... health because I'm seldom grateful for it until I don't have it
... quality insurance
... healthy children
... limited medical bills
... the funds to pay for medical help

... a God who sees and who knows
... a friend in CA editing a Bible study for me
... peace and joy in the journey
... gifts of grace
... learning to be a grace giver