Friday, February 27, 2009

wisdom from earthly sources.

tonight we were watching a show that intrigues me - full of interesting scientific proposals and social innuendos. the show is called eleventh hour.

one of the characters said this (forgive my lack of exact quote - i should've written it down right away!), and it spoke of wisdom:

"one of the best things about nature is its ability to put our self-importance into perspective."

as i've been finding myself drawn into Papa's vast creation outdoors, i find this to be extremely true, and one of the pleasant side-effects of putting aside all the "need-to-do's" in favor of "dancing with my Father" outdoors. becoming engrossed in the variety of colorations on ladybugs' backs has a way of taking the focus off me and putting me in the place of "the one thing that is needed..." sitting at His feet.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

pizza night

friday night is taco night at our house. my studly husband cooks up the meat and preps all the toppings and actually prefers to serve each of our family members individually. sometime i'll post so you can enjoy with us!

in the mean-time, saturday night was pizza night. we did a pesto/artichoke/grilled chicken/ricotta, an alfredo chicken, a barbecue sausage, and classic pepperoni. (can you guess my favorite?)

anna "decorates" with ricotta.

we love to kiss and hear the kids go, "eeeeeeeewwwww!" pizza kisses aren't bad.

worth the wait.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: Molly's Money-Saving Digest

It's on the news, it's in conversation, and it's peppering many of my friends' and family's conversations. Even for those who are not feeling the "pinch" in our economy, the idea of being responsible with the resources God's given us is not new. There is, however, a new monthly e-book called Molly's Money-Saving Digest that addresses the concerns on everyone's mind!

The e-book (if you're new to this concept, this is a book that's published digitally; you download it to your computer to read) is like a magazine, chock-full of tips and encouraging helps in the money-saving journey.

This issue brings me right back to my days of sitting in the Dave Ramsey classes - it introduces and encourages the concept of paying down debt by using a "snowball" principle and creating an emergency fund. It also features an interesting interview with famed unit study author Amanda Bennett, on the topic of "Parenting that Pays." This is parenting with the goal to "encourage resourcefulness in our kids, and inspire an entrepreneurial spirit." Amanda shares her own testimony of raising kids who went on to build their own businesses and become very successful at them, along with worthy ideas on encouraging our own children to do so.

The digest also offers articles on repurposing (a crafty and artsy bulletin board project) and Making Money From Home (this was of interest to me as I've recently begun building my own photography business!). Included are features on women who have developed successful business opportunities from home.

Other regular articles include Reader Writer-In and Goal-Setter Spotlight, with highlights an inspirational success story from someone who has set, and achieved, a major financial goal.

At $4.95 per downloadable issue, it's probably more than I'd spend personally, but for someone who's looking for some great tips, helpful web links, and encouraging articles, Molly's Money-Saving Digest is a good read.

Molly's Money-Saving Digest can be purchased through The Old Schoolhouse Store here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

nice-to-meet-you tuesday!

One of my absolute favorite things about blogging is that I have made friends online - heart sisters I am sure I would otherwise never have "met." I am amazed at how God will use even the "www" to connect like-minded brothers and sisters together in an ever-more-fractured world!

I'd like to introduce you to a friend i've made who shares so much of my heart for Papa, for our families, and for our homes. She's featured my posts a couple times on an e-zine she writes for, Mentoring Moments (be sure to click to check it out!!) and we've "met" again in the homeschool group Our Lifestyle of Learning, as well. I decided to do an interview so you could get to know her, and I'm glad I did - I discovered all kinds of neat things about her - I can't wait for you to get to, also! (I am so pleased to know I have another email-checking, coffee-drinking, Greek yogurt loving, chocolate-addicted soul sister in the world!) Meet Molly!
(p.s. - Please read through to the end, as she has some real insight to share on wisdom and accountability in the blogging world. And take the time to click through to her links. I promise, you'll have a new "must read" for your list.)

How long have you been blogging?
I’ve only been blogging a little over a year. I started in January of 2008. When I began my first blog, CounterCultural Mom, my intention was to use it to support my speaking ministry. Often, I would speak and people would ask me for tapes. My husband and I decided that recording podcasts and posting them to a blog would be the easiest way to accommodate that.

I thought that my podcasts might be downloaded a few times a year, by those who had already heard me speak. I had no idea that it would open a new door for my ministry, that I would be asked to join a women’s e-zine staff as a writer and podcaster, that it would lead to me speaking for some national virtual conferences, or that I would start a second blog!

What are your blog(s)?
I have three blogs, actually. Counter-Cultural Mom is my ministry blog. I keep all of my podcasts available there, and I try to write articles about what the Lord is teaching me, things about parenting, devotional thoughts or articles about things that touch me as I read or worship. I started a second blog for homeschooling last summer. I have articles at Counter-Cultural School about planning for school, getting organized, scheduling, hands-on activities, historical feasts, and building a home library.

Again, I started this blog with no dreams of anything big. I wanted to accomplish two things: first, I’m not very organized when it comes to keeping track of papers. I wanted a place where I could archive recipes and directions and book lists for things we had done. Four years from now when we are studying Egypt again, I’ll know right where to find information about what we did this time around! I never lose my computer, LOL. My husband also encouraged me to start this blog to save time. I frequently get emails asking for information about using Tapestry of Grace, curriculum recommendations for Latin or spelling, or wanting directions for one of our projects. He thought this would be a way to write the answer once and then just send out a link!

Neither of us imagined that CC School would take off like it did. We were stunned and humbled when CC School won the Homeschool Blog Awards this year for Best SUPER Homeschooler. I don’t think of myself in that way....I’m just trying to give my all as I educate my children, like any other homeschooler! But I do my best to make the blog informative and encouraging. CC School really reflects my heart to help every homeschooler have an awesome experience in their homeschool. It is a privilege and a joy to serve the homeschool community even in a small way.

How often do you write?
I feel like I am writing a lot these days! I try to keep up with both of my main blogs. I don’t have time to write daily, but I try to write a few times a week on one or both of them. I also write several articles for each issue of Mentoring Moments for Christian Women, and articles for the MMCW blog. Just last month I started writing for the Georgia Home Educator’s Association, as well. And then there is the podcasting...a typical podcast is about 10 to 12 pages of material, and they take awhile to write. When I let my blogs slide for a week or so, it is usually because I am working on a new podcast or finishing a deadline for MMCW. There are many wonderful Christian women writing for Mentoring Moments. I hope your readers will check it out and subscribe to the e-zine! I do most of my writing on Sunday afternoons and late at night.

Do you receive income from your writing?
No, I do not. It is important to me to provide my podcasts free of charge, so that they are accessible to everyone. Everyone on the MMCW staff serves as a volunteer, and we all share the same philosophy of writing as a ministry to women.

What inspires you to write? Is there a particular writer who encourages, inspires, or challenges you?
I find inspiration from many sources. I am always reading, usually several books at once. I find inspiration in my Bible reading, as well, and from Sunday sermons. My children are a great source of inspiration. I think my greatest source of inspiration is my husband. He often says, “I’ve got a topic for your next post!” or “This topic would make a great podcast!” We usually spend several hours a month talking about the CC Mom blog and about future podcasts. Whenever we talk, I keep a notepad nearby, so I can jot down ideas as they come to us. He has been such an encouragement, and feels that this ministry is not just mine, but ours.

I wouldn’t say there is a particular writer that inspires me to want to write...but I am often inspired by ideas. I’ll read a quote or a particular turn of phrase and it will send my thoughts off in one direction or another. I’m also frequently inspired by hymns. Sometimes even a news byte inspires me.

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get back “at it?”
I feel like I often get writers block! It is hard right now, because I’m writing for several different sources, and I don’t always feel creative enough to come up with that much fresh content every month! Usually when I get writer’s block I try to step away from the computer for awhile and do something totally different.

When I have deadlines to meet, I just keep working at it until it is done. You know what they say: you eat an elephant one bite at a time. I always want to do my best, but you can’t be a perfectionist about it. When I get obsessed with making an article perfect, that is when I get writer’s block. I also bounce things off my husband and he helps me re-focus. When I feel blocked it usually helps to make an outline. Writing two word phrases about my main points and putting those in order can often get me over the hump. I also have a notebook where I write down ideas when they come to me. Often I’ll have several ideas and no time to write. When I feel blocked, I look back over the notebook for inspiration.

Tell us a little about you – kids, hubby, etc.!
My husband and I got married in college, 17 years ago. We have 4 beautiful sons, ages 4 to 12, whom we’ve always homeschooled. After graduating from college we served as missionaries with Operation Mobilization for several years, first in Hungary and eventually in the home office here in the states. We left full-time ministry in 2000 and my husband has been working in financial services since then.

All of our boys are involved in sports, so many of our evenings and Saturdays are spent at the ball fields. Several of us are avid birdwatchers, and that has become a big hobby for our family. We love to travel to places where we can see new birds, and the kids and I have spent countless hours planting and landscaping our bird garden, which is an area we designed beside our house to provide habitat for a wide variety of birds. Our family is very close knit. We love homeschooling, as it affords us a lot of time together.

What’s your favorite little indulgence?

Definitely coffee! I can’t start the day without it, and I end the day with a couple cups of decaf. My husband makes a big pot after dinner every night. I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I smell it: a wave of peace washes over me, knowing the busy day is almost over and it’s time to relax a bit! My other favorite indulgences would have to be checking email, Oikos Greek yogurt and chocolate.
Any nuggets of wisdom to share?
Doing this interview with you caused me to reflect on how little we typically know about the “Blogger behind the blog”. Anyone can write their thoughts on a blog and gain an audience. As readers, we need to be careful always to test everything against God’s Word. The ministering Blogger has a responsibility, as well, to ensure that her teaching is Scriptural. I’ve written in my post Accountability in the Blogosphere about how I approach this important issue.

Thanks for coming to visit, Molly. I love knowing you're out there in the blogosphere, girlfriend!

Monday, February 23, 2009

nature study

i never get over how when Papa talks to us, he comes at us from several different angles, and often various sources. it seems no matter where i turn lately, He's been calling my heart to get out into His creation and explore. we've made it a goal to join a fellow blogger's nature hour challenge (i'll post a link soon!). how much fun it is to get to know our favorite Artist through all the things He's made. i've discovered that i am drawn to splashes of red and of white painted across Papa's canvas. these little guys make my breath catch in my throat for some reason.

a breaks in her nature journal.
e and his friend k taking it all in.

it is a precious thing to me that i now struggle to decipher which shots brian jr's taken on the camera. this is his.

oh, Papa - continue to whisper our names through the beauty of your creation. train our ears to be sensitive to hear the melody, and our hearts to join the harmony your nature sings!

florida state fair

when our friend carrie offered us student tickets for the state fair, we decided to "run away" for the day. i love the contrast between the earthy, old-fashioned history to be found in the cracker country, to the grungy, greasy fare on the food strip, to the fantastical offerings at the circus. we ate terrible things and came home filthy and tired, but we had oh, so much fun doing it!
i don't even know what you call this, but it takes my breath away. i couldn't stop shooting this beautiful woman!

alex, the funniest clown we've ever seen; we actually had to stay and meet him. yes, we've become circus-clown stalkers. he reminded me so much of our old friend eric koroknay! when the tightrope walker took a little "spill" (and i don't think it was just for show, either; he had to fall into a spin!) i heard anna gasp from 8 rows above me!

the sea lion show.
little lambs for mimi. carrie remarked, "your kids would love to live on a farm, wouldn't they?" maybe someday... and yes, they would!
oh, how we love the historical exhibits!

one very tired little Blue.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

valentine tea

our sweet friends the "L" girls hosted a valentine tea for the girls and their american girl dolls. the dolls had their own table and were served first. miss tami served the "big girls" several courses of scrumptious goodies, along with tea and punch, while all the brothers had crazy boy time in the backyard! no detail was forgotten, down to "friendship" charm necklaces the girls made from shrinky-dinks, and a goodie box for each girl specially created by the hostesses! enjoy the visual feast...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bible Story Songs - Review

Bible Story Songs is a series of CD's created to help kids fill their hearts and minds with God's Word.
We received Matthew, Volume 1, to listen to and enjoy!

This CD reminds me of when the "bigs" were little... and we listened to sweet little tunes all day long. A kids' choir sings scripture set to music reminiscent of every Vacation Bible School I can remember. Lighthearted and upbeat, if you have little ones, it might just be perfect for you!
My only "criticism" is that the songs are awfully repetitive and simplistic in tune... but this might be just what some little ones would enjoy during quiet time or drive time.

The CD's are reasonably priced and are definitely scripture based. Enjoy!


here's a little tip: i had these gorgeous red and yellow peppers from our last produce order... TONS of them. sliced, then placed in a freezer-safe bag... pressed out all the air. froze them.

this morning: sauteed these and some sliced vidalias lightly with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. at the last second, i added a smidge of this awesome chopped herb blend i found in the produce section - cilantro. heavenly.

sliced some sweet roma tomatoes.

topped with two over-medium eggs. oh, heaven.

had to beat the kids away with a stick. a nice mom would've shared more than a bite each.
a nicer mom would've made enough for everyone. (hey, they'd already eaten!)
maybe tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rocket Phonics -TOS Homeschool Product Reciew

Rocket Phonics is a program designed to teach - well - phonics - to your student! We have been using this with our E., who's six. The kit came with a set of review cards for sounds to learn ("Play and Read Cards,"}, along with ideas to use the cards not just for review, but for games. There are also a "treasure hunt," and bonus activities and supplements emailed with receipt of the kit. It also includes the two volumes of books to work through for reading success.

Rocket Phonics is designed by a medical doctor and former English teacher husband-wife team, who are homeschooling parents of a grown daugther, and they created the program "to eliminate confusion in learning to read." The guidebooks contain a step-by-step guide to learning to read, complete with color coded word and sound cues, and full-color pictures on each page. According to their website, Rocket Phonics, in an independent study, outperformed other phonics programs 4-to-1. They also feature an endorsement from John Taylor Gatto.

I think especially for a first-time teaching parent, this program could be a hit. Not having taught reading outside the homeschool-specific programs I have used, there were a couple of word cues I found confusing; I'm not sure if they were different only to what I have used, but may be common in other programs. (For example, the sound card for long-vowel-a pictures an ape and says "ay (ape)" with a picture of an ape, and s-sound as in treasure has a card with "zh (treasure)" with a picture of a chest. To me this is confusing as it creates an alternate spelling the child will now have to process in addition to the real spelling.)

I do appreciate the bright colors, and the books are well made with a spiral binding, and if I were beginning again with my first, this is a program I would research further. Cost would be a factor for us; with substantially valued bonus items, the program is around $160.

Artistic Pursuits

Looooooooooooving this curriculum! Broken down according to grade, Artistic Pursuits is a non-consumable art curriculum which is well-organized, simple to execute, and in-depth.
We received K-3 Book Two, Stories of Artists and Their Art. We also get to explore Junior High Book 1, The Elements of Art and Composition!

Things I love:
It's not only age-designed, but also topical. I was able to take the elementary level book we got and "cherry pick" a topic that pertains to what we're currently studying.
It's full of rich historical detail on the artist and genre studied. Anna and Ethan snuggled and read about the artist they were studying before they did a watercolor painting.
It's easy to execute. Each book begins with a basic list of supplies needed, and which assignment will use them.
It's nonconsumable. We can use this with all our kids!

Things I don't love:
To be honest? I have yet to find anything.

Anna Makes a Carved Apple:

We spun this into a science experiment. We tested how it looked in different types of light, and currently it is "aging" on our kitchen windowsill!

Check out Artistic Pursuits.