Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 Posts of 2012

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}

Here are the Top 10 Super-Great Posts of 2012:

10. Of Seeing Eyes, Hearing Ears, and Scrubbing Hands 

9. Random Highlights 

8. Of Cupcakes, Concerts, and Crackers 

7. A Whole New Year 

6. Routines,Margins, Soup & Trees 

5. Super Great Ice Pop Recipes 

4. My babies’ marbles, and seizing the day 

3. Handpainted Tile Trivets 

2. Easy Homemade Custom Etched Drinking Glasses 

1. Printable Obedience Poster

Moments Caught Monday ~ 12/31/2012

a post by Bird

Yesterday one of our chickens laid their first egg! We cracked it open right away. Mom had to crack it on the side of the bowl about five times before the egg would crack open because the shell was so hard. The yolk was as plump as a ball, and a nice orange color. We each had a bite once it was cooked, and it was very good. So far today, two more eggs have been laid! We're very excited about having our own free-range eggs -- and about our business at the farmer's market that we'll be telling you more about soon.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Random Highlights {Weekly Wrap-up 12-21-2012}

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}

(I'm part of this week's Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird UnsocializedHomeschoolers! Click over to check out all the other posts, full of tips and tidbits that work in real life.)

We had some really good, full school days this week! You know, the kind of day in which everything goes smoothly - all schoolwork done, all meals fixed, all appointments kept. The kind of day in which attitudes are all sweet. The kind of day that makes you feel like you’re doing everything right (at least for a few moments). I really enjoy the couple times of year this sort of day occurs ;)

This week each of the boys also experienced breakthroughs with long-term struggles they’ve each had. Times Tales saved the day again - it helped Bo back in the day, and Rooster found it to be a helpful tool when he was learning multiplication as well. I had tried to use the program with Bird when he was first learning multiplication, but the memory trigger stories just confused him. We found since then that despite the last couple years of various math drills, he still hadn’t memorized his multiplication facts, and that was really slowing him down in his math work. So we revisited Times Tales, really focused on it the last two weeks, and this time it clicked! He’s now drilling though the multiplication and division flashcards like it’s nothing! Praise God!! Bird is really encouraged to have passed this milestone, and to be able to tackle the math he’s in more quickly and easily since he’s not spending so much time trying to do the simple multiplication involved. Definite win!

Last week my wonderful husband installed more shelving in the study, so we no longer have stacks of books on the floor, waiting to be knocked over! The study here in our new house is definitely set up for function, not looks. It’s basically a big closet (small bedroom) crammed with books. But it keeps our school stuff organized, which keeps our school days smoothly functional (and non-school days, when the stuff all actually has a place to be put away!), which makes everybody a lot happier. I’ve found that everything just goes better when everything has a home - even when too much is taken out and you’ve got a mess on your hands, at least you have a designated home to put everything back in! 

On Monday the boys and I braved the threat of rain to take a short hike and while it was overcast, it turned out to be such a pleasant outing! Mondays we do P.E. outdoors if possible. We either take our run outdoors, or we go on a bike ride or hike, or we play games in the yard. Where we currently live, I enjoy the outdoors so much more from late fall through early spring than I do during the warmer months. It’s not as pretty, but much more pleasant in my opinion! One of my fondest memories is a hike my father took me and my best friend on for my birthday one February -- in the snow. There were gorgeous icicles and sunlight reflecting off the snow. It was just beautiful! I prefer to bundle up a bit over sweating like crazy, and there are exponentially less insects out to bother us when the weather is cold. Plus, there’s no conflict with gardening or other outdoor work. You’ll definitely find me outdoors a lot more this time of year. :)

I made water kefir for the first time this week, and it’s much better than I expected. I’ve been so happy with all the starter cultures we’ve used from Cultures for Health. So far with the water kefir we’ve made Water Kefir Lemonade by adding lemon juice to the finished kefir. The culture makes 2 quarts of kefir per batch (every 24-48 hours), so we plan to expand and try other flavors as well. I think tonight we’ll flavor it with cranberry juice, for a holiday twist.

I got a lot of cleaning done this week. Even though we’re not going anywhere for Christmas, and we’re not having anyone over, I’m trying to clean as if company were coming or as if we were leaving for vacation so that next week I can just relax and do “fun stuff” with the family.

We’re planning some fun school-ish and non-school-ish stuff for the days following Christmas. Bird and I hope to spend some time completing a photography course on I want to “interview” each of the boys (I had wanted to do this annually, but I haven’t followed through). The family plans to watch a DVD apologetics course we bought recently. We’ll probably take at least one hike, play some games, and have at least one campfire (our family activity staples). I also want to hop on to Picaboo and prepare our family yearbooks for 2011 and 2012. (I’m a year behind! Good thing there’s digital scrapbooking - I wouldn’t do it at all if I had to really scrapbook.)

What is everyone else planning to do for fun next week?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up 12/15/2012

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}
(I'm part of this week's Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers! Click over to check out all the other posts, full of tips and tidbits that work in real life.)

Somehow, in light of yesterday’s shooting, the events our little family experienced this week seem unimportant. On my personal blog I posted a few thoughts yesterday. My prayers are with the families affected, and my hope is that each will find true Comfort, Peace, and Hope in Christ through this tragic, heart-wrenching situation.

Tomorrow, I’ll take another one of my babies’ marbles from their jars. (If you’re not familiar with our marble tradition, read this old post.) I’ll thank God again for the precious moments I have shared with each of them this week. I’ll thank God that I was able to hug them in the morning, and didn’t have aching, empty arms and a jar of weeks that "could have been" like the parents of those killed at Sandy Hook. I’ll also beg God to help me treasure my children more, and mother them better. I’ll praise Him for restoring the years the locusts ate, and lifting me from past regrets. I’ll ask Him to continue to make me more like Christ, to continue to give me wisdom and guidance, and strength, and to guard me in His grace from making new regrets. To be a good steward of all the blessings He’s showered upon me - including my precious sons. I can never know how long I'll have them with me - or how long they'll have me with them. 


God give us homes!

Homes where the Bible is honored and taught;

Homes with the Spirit of Christ in their thought;

Homes that a likeness to heaven have caught.

          God give us homes!

          God give us homes!

Homes with the father in priest-like employ;

Homes that are bright with a far-reaching joy;

Homes where no world-stain shall come to annoy.

          God give us homes!

          God give us homes!

Homes there the mother is queen-like in love;

Ruled in the fear of the Savior above;

Homes that to youth most inspiring shall prove.

          God give us homes!

          God give us homes!

Homes with the children to brighten the hours;

Budding and blooming like beautiful flowers;

Places of sunshine - sweet, sanctified bowers.

          God give us homes!

{By J.R. Clements}

Taken from p. 21-22 of Verses of Virtue, compiled and edited by Elizabeth Beall Phillips

Thursday, December 13, 2012

No Place For Boys

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}
As a mother of three boys, I really appreciate prose and poetry about the gender. Each one of our sons is completely different from the others, yet all three share some distinct male characteristics in their personalities and thought processes. I enjoy being a mother of boys so, so much! Even though they're (sometimes inappropriately!) louder and more full of (sometimes annoying!) energy than most girls I know. Even though they present unique challenges in education, and try my patience in deeply sanctifying ways. Yes, I love having boys!

The following poem really resonated with me. I grew up with brothers, and I'm watching my sons grow. I'm watching the sons of friends grow as well. Let's take care that we make and keep a place for our boys. :)

No Place For Boys
(author unknown)

"What can a boy do, and where can a boy stay,
If he is always told to get out of the way?"

"He cannot sit here, and he must not stand there.
The cushions that cover the overstuffed chair
Were put there, of course, to be seen and admired;
A boy has no business to ever feel tired.
The beautiful roses and flowers that bloom
On the floor of the darkened and delicate room
Were not made to walk on - at least not by boys.
The house is no place, anyway, for their noise.

"Yet boys must walk somewhere and what if their feet,
Sent our of our houses, sent into the street,
Should step round the corner, and pause at the door
Where other boys' feet have paused often before?
Should pass through the gateway of glittering light
Where jokes that are merry and songs that are bright
Ring our a warm welcome with flattering voice,
And temptingly say, 'Here's a place for you boys!'

"Ah, what if they should? What if your boy or mine
Should cross o'er the threshold which marks out the line
'Twixt virtue and vice, 'twixt pureness and sin,
And leave all his innocent boyhood within?
O! what if they should, because you and I,
While the days and the months and the years hurry by,
Are too busy with cares and with life's fleeting joys
To make 'round our hearthstone a place for the boys?

"There's a place for the boys; they'll find it somewhere,
And if our own homes are too daintily fair
For the touch of their fingers, or the tread of their feet,
They'll find it, and find it alas, in the street
'Mid the gildings of sin and the glitter of vice.
For the getting of gain that our lifetime employs,
If we fail to provide a good place for the boys."

(taken from the book Soul Sculpture by E. F. & L. Harvey)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Moments Caught Monday ~ 12/10/2012

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}
While on our recent field trip to Fredericksburg, I snapped this photo of Bird while he was taking a photo. I thought the coloring at that particular time of day was beautiful, as well as the huge tree with the white bark among the other darker trees. The size of the tree dwarfs Bird! I also like this shot because it captures him taking his photos -- I love catching the boys doing what they love. :)


Friday, December 7, 2012

of Birthday celebrations, sweet Brethren, and peanut Butter Balls {Weekly Wrap-Up 12/7/2012}

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}

(I'm part of this week's Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers! Click over to check out all the other posts, full of tips and tidbits that work in real life.)

What a nice week! The weather has been beautiful, the family has been healthy, and the routine has gone relatively smoothly. I feel very, very blessed.

Birthday celebrations

Today is Rooster’s 12th birthday! Our family birthday tradition is to allow the birthday boy or girl to select what we’ll eat for dinner and to have a large amount of say in the sort of family activity or get together with friends he or she would like. Of course, in true American fashion, we also have cake and ice cream and a few gifts. :)

Rooster’s activity request this year was to go to the Civil War battlefields in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area. He would have loved to have gone to the reenactment of the Battle of Fredericksburg this weekend, but we couldn’t make it this time. However, we did take a day trip up to the Fredericksburg area on Monday - and it worked out beautifully! The weather was gorgeous, and it was one of those field trips in which the children light up with excitement and soak it all in (which seriously increases the enjoyment factor for all involved - including Mom & Dad!).  

The Fredericksburg area is a great field trip location for those studying the Civil War era or the era of American Independence. Its strategic port location made it an important hub for many years, and it proudly boasts of many famous residents including the Washington family.

At the Battle of Wilderness historic site (Gordon Flank Attack Trail) Rooster gave his brothers and I a guided tour (he’d been there earlier this year with Daddy). This site is especially interesting as the trenches and earthworks from the battle are still there, and the area is very much preserved. In about an hour you are able to walk up the Confederate line, cross over to and walk back down the Union line. This was one of the bloodiest battles in the war. A good portion of it was in thick, overgrown woods, which only added to the challenges these men already faced. The site is well worth a visit. 

Super cool bonus: as we emerged from the woods towards the end of the trail, a truck pulled up and the driver, a man who helps maintain the park, stopped to speak to us. He was checking to see if we’d noticed any blocked pathways or other problems in the woods. After chatting with us a bit, he asked if we’d like more information on the area. Thinking he meant the National Park brochures which we hadn’t picked up yet, we said yes. Well, he pulled out an entire packet in a report cover full of detailed map printouts of the whole region and explanations, and a CD full of pdf files! He said the Park Service had told him it was too detailed to hand out at the reenactment this weekend - but he disagreed and had prepared a bunch to hand out! What a great addition to our unit study and to Roosters growing files of Civil War information!

From Wilderness, we hopped on up to downtown Fredericksburg for lunch, and then stopped in the Civil War Visitor’s Center and toured the surrounding area. In this area is the Sunken Road, where battle was ongoing and cannons dominated the high hills of Marye's Heights above. Below, just near the road where the fighting persisted, was a small cottage whose lady occupant (Martha Stevens, I think?) refused to leave during the war. She even made dangerous trips out to her well during active battle, and heroic efforts to help the wounded! 

Loosely carrying on the theme for his birthday today, Rooster’s cake depicted The Monitor - one of the two ironclad ships that engaged in the famous ocean duel. The account of this battle and the construction of these ships is one of his favorite. (No cake pics yet - sorry! I'll post them as soon as I can!)

sweet Brethren

The innate connection between children of God is just delightful! Tuesday evening our family had sweet fellowship with a group of brothers and sisters, both young and old, and it was a nice time of refreshment. I was particularly touched by my chat with one of the women there - she’s in her eighties, and her love for Christ and her understanding of the truths of Scripture is so apparent. I’ve been saddened in the past to speak with older folks who’ve grown up in church but know very little beyond “Jesus saves”. Listening to her share about a lifetime of mortifying the flesh and clinging to Christ through all sorts of adversity was a real encouragement.

Last night I had the privilege of joining an interdenominational group of ladies for their monthly dinner. I had met a couple of the ladies before, though I don’t know them well, and the rest I was meeting for the first time. Again, it is so precious to have that immediate bond with other believers! When we speak of our Savior and worship him together, it’s as if we’re sisters bonded from long relationships together. This month they invited Shelley from His Image Ministries to speak to us. Shelley gave an encouraging and moving message and exhortation. I love her heart for directing women always back to Christ, the Word of God, and a mind set on eternity. Those truly are the key!

peanut Butter Balls

My mother hasn’t always been able to do the holiday baking she’d like to do. Her last several years, especially, have been filled with full time work or full time schooling. That in mind, I was surprised and ecstatic to receive a box of her peanut butter balls in the mail this week! She even went all out and dipped them in different coatings and rolled them in peanuts, coconut, dried banana, or candy toppings. This is exciting to me because:
a. It's not often that my Mom has the chance to do this type of thing
b. She made enough to mail out!
c. Peanut butter balls are one of my favorite treats ever!

Yes, I have been rationing them. And, yes, Mother, I am sharing with the kids :)

Hope you all are having a wonderful December thus far!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Moments Caught Monday ~ 12/3/2012

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}
It was absolutely gorgeous outside today! Our family took a field trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia - both as part of our current unit study, and per request of Rooster, whose birthday is on Friday. Today pretty much could not have gone better - I'll have to share more in the wrap-up on Friday - and this is just one of many great moments I caught on film. Daddy and Bo sat down for a few minutes on a wall along the Sunken Road to look at the free trading cards the boys were given at the Visitor Center. I just thought it was neat to catch them both focused on something. Love these guys! :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Of fitness, fine tuning, and family {Weekly Wrap-up 11/30/2012}

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}
(I'm part of this week's Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers! Click over to check out all the other posts, full of tips and tidbits that work in real life.)

I’ve found that life is very much a cycle of adjustment, balance, and repetitively pulling oneself and one’s family back on track. Can anyone relate?


We made it to two out of three of our scheduled gym days this week, a first after the last few weeks of illness. The boys were thrilled; they’ve been bugging me to go for some time. One of our local fitness centers is wonderfully kid-friendly, and I’m able to take my children (over age 8) with me anywhere on the cardio floor. They have designated wrist bands and equipment that they’re allowed to use. There are many other opportunities available to us there, that I’ll have to share with you sometime (I'd really like to write a review and maybe snap some pics there...we shall see). Anyway, we have a place to get in the habit of regular exercise together, and it’s wonderful! It fits our family’s needs and lifestyle so much better than trying to squeeze in gym time for me plus sports/other physical activities for each child. It also gets the boys into the habit of making the time to keep fit now, which means it will be way easier for them to maintain when they’re grown (most people don't maintain involvement in sports once they finish high school or college - but many do make a habit of regular exercise outdoors or at a gym).

On a personal note - I didn’t regress from our time off!! I only began running for exercise a couple months ago, and I was surprised to improve as much as I have. I was really, really worried that after 3 weeks off and holiday feasting I’d be in a world of hurt this week. But, praise God, today I ran the same interval workout I’d run the last time before our lapse and it went really well! What an encouragement!

fine tuning

One of the activities the boys and I do to help with their auditory processing is a program called Fine Tuning. It includes two types of exercises at levels of increasing difficulty. 

In the first type of exercise a grid of numbers is given to the child, and the teacher reads a series of instructions, one at a time, without repeating them. These instructions direct the child to draw lines between certain numbers, circle certain numbers, etc. Once all the instructions have been completed, a picture is revealed.

The second type of exercise is my boys’ favorite. The child is given a table that looks a lot like a blank multiplication table. Down the left hand column is the alphabet, and across the top row are sequential numerals. Again, directions are given one at a time without being repeated, this time telling the student to write a letter in a certain box (i.e. in square B-4 write an “L”). At the end of the directions, a saying or message is revealed.

It’s sometimes fun to allow one of the children to read the instructions to the others, and this week the boys tried a new twist. They wrote out their own phrase on a blank grid, and then gave their brothers directives in order to reveal their custom phrase.

This, and other activities, have really helped them to pay closer attention to what they’re being told. It’s been nice to include all three boys in the exercise, and not isolate the “one” with the “problem”, if that make sense. Sticking together for “therapy exercises” really helps the boys to view them in a positive light.


Between moving this summer, being sick several times since (welcome to the neighborhood! yeesh…), and being just plain busy, our long standing tradition of Family Night had gotten pretty minimal. Part of it is my own fault - I can kind of justify not spending an entire focused evening with the family when I’m with all or most of the family all the time anyway, and when I have so much work that needs to be done. Not that I skip out altogether, I just sometimes opt out of part of it and catch up dishes or laundry or paperwork instead. Well, “justified” or not, it’s not okay. Non-school focused family time is way more important than those things! 

So Hubbie and I had a talk this week, and decided we need to prioritize Family Night again. There are many driving forces behind our Family Night tradition - one of them is the desire for closeness as a family even after the boys are grown. The Boyer family is one great example of this. Their grown kids who still live nearby bring their families back home for family night! Neither I nor my husband have any such opportunity with our parents, and we’d love to give the gift of closeness to our children. I can’t expect them to take their busy evening to spend with family once a week, if I won’t consistently give mine.