Thursday, October 31, 2013

Let's Talk Meatloaf


The quest to expand my cooking horizons continues. Ya'll can come along for the ride, if only just for laughs at the novice cook.

On day one I made garlic cheddar chicken, on day two I made crockpot taco soup, and last night we had meatloaf.

My son Peter, who lives to eat though he's slim, loved the garlic cheddar chicken and said, "Can we have this more often?"

Peter and my husband, who also lives to eat though he's slim (how do they get away with that?), thought the taco soup was too fiery. Secretly, I loved the fire.

Already in my arsenal I had a wonderful upside-down meatloaf recipe that included oatmeal along with the usual suspects, baked on top of a tomato sauce/brown sugar base. After baking, I would flip it right side up to reveal the tangy, sweet topping, just like the pineapple upside-down cake phenomena. It was delicious and one of my favorite meals.

But alas, the oatmeal texture made my son Paul gag, literally. He's got a texture problem that really puts a damper on things, but I'm choosing to ignore it for now, hoping it goes away. He'll be ten this Sunday and it's time for him to brave uncharted culinary waters.

Anyway, for a couple years I stopped making meatloaf.

Enter a new recipe and a new generation of meatloaf lovers. All four kids looked at it doubtfully (meatloaf ain't the prettiest beast, after all), but in spite of themselves, they liked it. 

The thing is, this recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat and 4 eggs! I kept taking it out of the oven, expecting it to done, but still, it seemed too moist inside.

I enlisted my husband's help in deciding if the beast was actually done or not. He looked at it, tasted it, and commented, "I've tasted some dried out meatloaf in my time. Believe me, moisture in a meatloaf is a positive thing."

My own opinion is this: Extra moisture in a meatloaf is a positive thing when you're warming it for lunch the next day. Otherwise, cut some of those eggs, for heaven's sake! I did a search and found that overwhelmingly, the standard rule is 1 egg per pound of meat.

I will write this out with all the eggs, but you make your own decision as to cutting them. I'm going to make it again with three eggs, and then two eggs, and decide which combination works best.

Overall, a very tasty meatloaf with no offending textures to bother the kids.

Egg-Loaded Meatloaf (not the real title of course)


2 pounds ground meat (Combinations of meat give the best flavor. I prefer a lean loaf, so I use 93/7 ground turkey and/or beef)

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (make your own breadcrumbs for a more homemade flavor)

1/4 of a large onion, or 2 T onion flakes

2-3 cloves garlic, or 1 T garlic powder, or 2 1/2 to 3 tsp. jarred garlic

1 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T steak sauce

1 cup ketchup (or 8 oz. tomato sauce for less sugar, salt, and a more homemade flavor)

1 tsp. salt (I suggest leaving this out because of the salt content in the steak sauce and Worcestershire)

1-2 tsp. black pepper

1-2 tsp. dry mustard

In a 9 x 15 baking dish, combine all ingredients to form a loaf. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 - 60 minutes, or until juices run clear. Top will be slightly crispy but the inside will be moist.

Should you already have a similar recipe and want something new, here is my recipe for Upside-Down Meatloaf, from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely.

Upside-Down Meatloaf


1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

1 1/4 pounds extra-lean ground beef

1 3/4 cups oats

3/4 cups buttermilk (or 3/4 cup whole milk)

2 eggs

1 tsp. salt

1 onion, chopped

1/4 tsp. ginger


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 5 x 9 inch loaf pan.

On the bottom of the pan, press brown sugar, then spread ketchup over the sugar.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Make a loaf out of the mixture and place it carefully on top of the sugar/ketchup mixture in the loaf pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until juices run clear. Turn meatloaf over onto a platter and serve.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Crockpot Taco Soup

image credit

I'm taking ya'll with me as I seek to expand our regular menu selections. Last time it was Garlic Cheddar Chicken, which my husband declared a restaurant-quality meal.

Last night we tried Taco Soup, which I loved and even had for lunch today. But let me warn's mighty spicy! Try decreasing the cumin to make it more child-friendly.

There are a couple packaged-food items included in this, but below the recipe I'll give you whole-food friendly substitutions for those.

Crockpot Taco Soup


1 pound ground turkey (93/7 lean; or ground beef)

1 packet ranch dressing mix (I will substitute for you below)

1 packet of taco seasoning (substitution below)

1 can corn (I used a whole bag of steamed corn)

1 can of diced tomatoes, not drained

1 can of tomato sauce

1 can of Rotel (a salsa-like tomato and onion mixture found in the mexican section)

1 can of water

2 cans of beans, not drained (I used 1 can black beans, 1 can pinto beans)

1 T cumin

2 tsp. minced garlic


1. Brown the meat a little, and then add the garlic and cumin to blend the flavors.

2. Dump meat mixture in the crockpot with all the other ingredients and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or simmer in soup pot for one hour). It will look like chili to you, but really, it comes out as a unique soup.

Yeah, it's that easy!

I had never used Rotel and it took time for me to find it in the store, but Walmart did have it. I don't know if that made it so fiery, or the cumin, but if you find it too spicy, you can reduce one or the other.

I served with grated cheese to cut the spiciness, and with honey cornbread. You could serve with cheese quesadillas, or homemade bread, or tortilla chips.

I suggest vanilla ice cream with berries on top for dessert, to wash away the spiciness, too.

Okay, now for the substitutions:

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix (Store it and use for every recipe calling for taco seasoning mix. Use 2 T per 1 pound of meat. I usually triple the batch for greater convenience, but these measurements are for a single batch.)

2 T chili powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. paprika

1 T cumin

2 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. pepper

Ranch Dressing Mix (Makes 1 T; use for recipes calling for 1 packet of Ranch dressing mix)

1 tsp. dried parsley

3/4 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. dried thyme

Honey Wheat Cornbread (the wheat and honey make this delicious)


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup white sugar

1 T baking powder

1 cup milk (I use the kids' 2% milk, but I've seen similar recipes written with 1 cup heavy cream instead of milk)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs, lightly beaten


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.

2. In large bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, and baking powder. Make a well in the center, and add the milk, oil, honey, and eggs; stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

* Image credit given above is for a good picture of taco soup, and shows ideal garnishes, but I didn't get this recipe at that sight. The recipe shown at that sight sounds equally good, though, and is for a larger batch.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Garlic Cheddar Chicken

I'm not a good cook.

I was single for far too long, and back then I would just as soon eat a bowl of cereal and read a good book, then make a full dinner.

Having admitted that, let me add that three years ago I decided to start cooking from scratch, for both health and financial reasons.

I don't know what the term scratch means to you, but to me it means buying no boxed foods or spice packs or anything containing suspicious chemicals. I purchase whole foods and prepare them myself; I want to know where our food comes from.

This doesn't mean I always bake my own bread, make my own yogurt, sprout grains, and buy steel-cut oats, for heaven's sake.

I don't even know what a steel-cut oat is, to be honest.

I also don't can produce. For one thing, I still lack the equipment, and secondly, I'd feel better watching someone do it first. My mother wasn't domestic and only did the minimum in the kitchen, though she wasn't a bad cook, just basic.

About now I'm looking for a domestic-goddess role model with time on her hands.

Though I don't can, I do check labels carefully on canned tomato products, and I only use canned beans when there's no time to soak beans overnight.

I don't buy organic produce unless it's fairly cheap, and although pesticides scare me, I only have so much money to spend on food, and by golly, the Lord is just going to have to protect us.

I tend to cook the same things week after week, unfortunately, because when I do start hunting for new recipes, I find ingredients lists that are full of spice packets and canned soups and the like.

It's discouraging and I give up too soon, instead of hunting for ways to modify the recipes. Time is never on my side.

But. I prayed and the Lord is helping! Recently I've had better luck hunting for whole-foods recipes, so our menus will find variety in the coming weeks, and as I use the oven more I'll stop shivering, thank goodness.

Today I have an easy, tasty recipe to share, which everyone liked and some of us really loved.

Garlic Cheddar Chicken Recipe
photo credit

Garlic Cheddar Chicken Breasts


1/2 cup butter

4 cloves garlic

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs* (Italian style or plain)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese ( I used colby jack successfully)

1/4 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp salt

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts


Melt butter over low heat, then cook garlic until tender, about 5 minutes.

In shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano, pepper and salt.

Dip chicken breasts in the garlic butter to coat, then press into the bread crumb mixture. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in a 9 X 13 baking dish. Top with remaining bread crumb mixture.

Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees in preheated oven, or until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink.

*Making your own bread crumbs: Place whole pieces of bread, or torn bread, on a cookie sheet, single-layered. Bake at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Let dried bread cool, and then place in plastic bag. Crush with rolling pin (kids can crush them for you). 4 slices of bread make about 1 cup of crumbs. Boxed versions are salty, have chemicals, and taste processed.

Recipe originally found here. It says to pour the remaining melted butter/garlic over the chicken breasts before baking. I skipped that step to lower the fat grams and calories, and just discarded the butter mixture.

The recipe also calls for thin breasts. Mine were rather thick in parts but they were fully done and deliciously juicy at 30 minutes.

I served with plain brown rice and steamed veggies. Enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bright Spot in our Homeschooling Today

Today in our Writing With Ease Level 4 resource, I read a passage from The Siege of Washington, D.C., by Captain E. Colburn Adams. This is a very old book, not readily available, but the writing is superb and exactly what I want my children to emulate. Susan Wise Bauer chose only the best as she penned this resource, and I'm indebted to her.

Following the reading (just a passage, not the whole book), the boys were required to narrate orally why the Civil War started, using 3 or 4 sentences. Specifically, what did the South want, what did the North and West do to provoke the South, and what was the result?

After they narrated and we discussed it together, the boys began writing their narration. I have them write all their narrations after we discuss the passage, which is a modified use of the resource. In Level 4, I'm supposed to write down my student's narration as they speak, and then they are to memorize the first two sentences only, and then write just those down. My boys are capable of more, since this resource is for grades 4-5.

I always say, boss the curriculum, don't let it boss you. Modify it to work for your child.

Shortly I will probably purchase Writing With Skill, the next resource in the series, and move the boys into that.

I am so proud of my Peter!

Regular, long-time readers might remember that he has always struggled with spelling, and that organizing his thoughts on paper was difficult too. He has a little dysgraphia, which is difficulty with handwriting, spelling, and organizing thoughts on paper. You would be shocked at his handwriting, which is large for his age, though neat enough as long as he uses 2nd-grade lined paper. He's no where near ready for college-ruled paper, for example, which is very unusual for a sixth grader. And cursive is very difficult for him.

But his spelling and writing organization! They are so much improved, and no tears or fits! I was so excited at his work today!

Peter, age 11 (first draft, with his spelling and punctuation)

The people of the south wanted 3 things: slavery, a president who agreed with them, and independence. The people of the north and west offended the south by electing Abraham Lincoln as president. Becasue of this the Civil War started.

What shining spot did you experience in your school today?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Oct. 25

In my life this week…

Some day I hope to sit down here on a Thursday night or Friday afternoon and write that it was an uneventful, routine week.

But not this time.

On Thursday I developed a migraine headache that landed me in bed for most of the school day. About 14 days a month I get migraines, though not all land me in bed, depending on how fast I take a med. They used to be daily rebound migraine headaches, but I ended that cycle last spring, and now it's just a hormonally-fueled problem mixed with stress.

Imitrex is available to me now, but I'm only approved for 9 pills a month, and since I can get up to 14 headaches a month, Imitrex is not the best remedy because it definitely causes rebound headaches. I decided not to take anything this morning, hoping the headache wouldn't progress.

I went to the doctor last month for a daily preventative medicine, so that over-the-counter medicines and Imitrex would not land me back in the daily rebound headache cycle. I was given Elavil, which is an older antidepressant given off-label for migraines and chronic insomnia. While very effective for migraines, it can cause weight gain (not a good side effect for a 47-year-old woman whose metabolism is slowing anyway). If you must come off it, you may have to learn how to sleep again, which frightened me.

I took it for one day and hated the way it made me feel...tired and like a zombie emotionally, for the next two days. I gave up on it after that first dose. Of course I should have given it more time, but the sleep thing, again, frightened me. I researched the med and so many users commented that they had a horrible time getting to sleep and staying asleep after stopping this drug. If my headaches stop after menopause, which may be about 3-4 years away, I want to be able to stop this drug without problems.

If you have any experience with Elavil (amitriptyline), please share how it has helped you? Thank you! I still have it in the medicine cabinet and I'm praying about trying it again.

My ADHD son needs routine and this headache episode caused stressful behavior problems for the rest of the day. Still, the boys are old enough to resume several subjects without me, which is a blessing. I didn't teach my 6 year old a single lesson, so it felt like a totally wasted day, leaving me more stressed and behind on laundry and school.

If you homeschool with a chronic medical problem, my heart goes out to you. Give the word and I'll pray for you.

What finally worked was when my 4yo came to see me in my bed for the tenth time. She doesn't like it when Mommy is down, so she seeks my attention frequently. I told her I was still unavailable, and could she please pray for Mommy?

I heard her pray as she left the room and walked down the hall. About 20 minutes later, I felt improvement and was up after another hour!

In Our Homeschool This Week...

I read Torches of Joy this week, previewing it before the boys started it as part of our Sonlight Core F curriculum. I was amazed at God's miracles amidst these Stone Age tribes in New Guinea. It reminded me of Bruchko, which I read last semester, and of the Book of Acts. God moved in miraculous ways to further the Gospel: miracle healings such as Jesus performed, and husband and wife Dani tribe members sent as missionaries to other unreached people, equipped with faith that moved mountains. You must read this book. It's that powerful.

Torches Of Joy   -     
        By: John Dekker

In the first world we don't often do brave things for the Lord. We get saved, only to keep the joy to ourselves. We forget we were saved for a purpose...a purpose larger than us. As soon as the Dani people came to Christ, they wanted to help others know the same joy. Where is that fire in our hearts, that gratitude, here in the western world? 

When I read missionary books, I'm reminded that we don't see God's full and miraculous power because we're too comfortable relying on ourselves. Would we have the faith to take off into an unreached area, risking our lives and that of our children, for the sake of the Gospel? Some missionaries die at the hands of unreached tribes, and yet their wives say "You called us here, God, and we obeyed. This is hard, but I trust you. I love you. We knew this might happen, and we were ready."

They said the same when their children died in the field.

They lived boldly like the Apostle live is Christ, to die is gain.

I compare their experiences to my own, in my neighborhood, and I'm ashamed. In January of 2013 we started a neighborhood Bible study for children, hoping to reach the children for the Gospel, and through them, the adults. It's been hard, but nothing like the Dani missionaries experienced.

Discouragement set in right away, as three families we were praying for moved a month before we began. Didn't we hear God right, we wondered?

Other issues arose too, which took the wind from our sails, if only temporarily.

For example, a month ago I decided I had too many children's picture books, especially given that my children prefer library books with their more attractive bindings. Most of my books are paperback, purchased from Scholastic book clubs. The shelves were overstuffed and underused, and it was time to bless someone with them. I considered carefully which child in the neighborhood would most appreciate them, and decided on Anessa, 7 years old, who looks at books every time she comes here. We sent two medium-sized storage boxes full of books.

Fast forward a month. This week Anessa told my daughter that her father burned her books; she has none left. I had no reason to think she would make up such a thing, so I was devastated, angry, and disgusted. I told my husband I thought this man was dangerous, and perhaps we'd better write the family off (and just pray)?

This father lost his job about a year ago, and judging by the missing teeth, he probably has a drug background. Still, a Baptist church near us goes through this neighborhood asking if anyone wants a ride to their church. This family began going to the church, and evidently the parents got baptized a few weeks ago, which is why the daughter's admission was so disheartening. Is theirs a cult-like church? Was he a poor reader and felt jealous of his daughter's new reading skill? The books weren't controversial in the least, so I don't know what to think. But this man disgusts me, I'll say that.

Many times the Dani missionaries were disgusted by the people they went to live among and evangelize. Some were cannibals and most were dirty, not paying attention to where they left their excrement. Some were completely naked.

The Dekkers, John and Helen, were at first disgusted by the Dani people, with whom they spent 21 years.

It was as though God had me open this book at precisely the right time. I learned that I can't write this neighborhood family off. I can't let my disgust discourage my attempts to reach out and behave like Jesus would. Wasn't Jesus himself disgusted by our behavior, before he died for us?

In my wildest dreams, I'd like to be a missionary and share my joy and faith without bounds. I'd like to feel and witness the Lord's might and power as I work for his glory. I'd like to fall in love with Jesus, over and over again, with each miracle.

Maybe, just maybe, I can do it here in my neighborhood first, if I will only trust God more and get over myself? Maybe I can truly learn how to love?

We've been low-income since I quit working in 2005, and often I've wondered if I'm being forced to give up comfort for a reason, beyond just my own spiritual advancement. Yes, I'm growing spiritually by not living like everyone else. Where is this leading? Will it serve me in a mission field someday, where they certainly give up comforts for the sake of the Gospel?

Lord, build my faith and my husband's faith. Take us to greater heights of obedience to your Word. Equip us to serve you bravely.

Learning update for the children: Mary enjoyed learning about volcanoes and typhoons in her Sonlight A science curriculum. The boys are enjoying Torches of Joy, Silkworms, Born in the Year of Courage (Sonlight Core F, Eastern Hemisphere), and the final chapters of Jenny Wren. They still love their Sonlight F science curriculum, learning in depth about the human body, and this week they add in Food and Nutrition for Every Kid. I keep a tight reign on their nutrition, and I appreciate them learning precisely why it's so important.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
Pray, pray, and pray again, everyday. Amen.

It's easy to homeschool when you have a quick learner working ahead of other kids. I have one of those, so I know how it feels. There's a variety here in my home, so I know what the other side feels like too. When you run into a child the same age as yours who can do more, it's easy to feel envious or insecure about your methods or your skill as a teacher.


Recognize that God created each child unique, and ease of learning is part of their uniqueness. You didn't do anything wrong. Don't beat yourself up or begrudge your child for the slower pace. Learning pace has nothing to do with how well a person serves the Lord, and isn't that our ultimate goal? Raising children who will make serving Him and loving Him their reason for living? 

My favorite thing this week was…
I'm teaching from the Book of Matthew right now at morning devotions, and the children are learning much, along with me. The Gospels never get old and something entirely new jumps out for every believer.

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
 ..seeing a hint of snow on Thursday morning. I heard that some parts of Ohio received nearly a foot. It seems fall, my favorite season, was here for a week, and now winter. Don't you love it when the seasons behave?

The leaves are still beautiful though, so praise God!

Things I’m working on…

Getting crockpot recipes printed out so I can make shopping lists for them.

Greater and greater obedience. Less and less of me, more and more of Him.

I’m cooking…

baked ziti, crockpot beef stew, turkey burgers, crockpot navy bean soup with ham, bowtie pasta with sausage marinara, cheesy eggs, cafe potatoes and fruit, and for the 7th thing...I don't know yet.

I’m grateful for…

~ fascinating curriculum

~ being spurred on in the faith by missionaries who relied on God for their very lives

~ children who will pray for me

~ the Word of God

~ spending all day with my children, never losing an opportunity to disciple

~ full days at home

~ serving the Lord

~ hot cocoa

~ working water heater, furnace, and washer and dryer

~ children who pray readily for our Compassion children, thinking of them as adopted siblings

~ a loving husband

~ fun time picking apples and riding a haywagon last week

A quote to share...

Luke 22:27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
Thank you for reading. How was your week?
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Does God Like Princesses?

"Does God like princesses?"

That's what she asked as we rocked together, cuddling a Sunday afternoon away. She wants to know all about God, this one. I don't remember the others trying so hard at the tender age of 4, to figure God out.

She wants to know where he is, if he's really and truly real, where exactly he is in her heart, where heaven is located, and does he like girls to play with their dollies all day?

She begins her prayers like this: "I love God and he's always with me. I love my dollies. Please God, help my dollies to be good. I love my family and they love me and we're always together."

She changes the rest, but this beginning stands, day after day, and we don't try to change it.

I'm so grateful she's interested. I'm so grateful she already knows this: He's always with me.

But like the rest of us, my four year old has much to learn.

We tend to focus on our performance, more than on who God is and what he's done.

Does he like princesses? Or does he prefer down-to-earth types? Does he like how much I'm giving to the church? Does he like the books I read, and the movies I borrow? What does he think of my daily schedule?

See, these are concerns about us.

Instead of wondering to what extent we're pleasing God, we need to marvel at who He is.

We need to wake up every morning and gaze at Him, not at ourselves.

It's when we get quiet and gaze at Him that we feel the full beauty and miracle of the Gospel. We feel the full weight of His love, and we love him right back...because being in His presence is the best.

The very best.

Our lives, our hearts, are His work, not ours. We're in the way, aren't we, when we look inward instead of at Him?

Let it be about relationship, not about performance.

And as parents trying to train and correct children, let's make sure grace is prevailing in our home. We want to be like Jesus to them...but sometimes we're more like performance evaluators, instead?

Their hearts need the same message: It's not about what you've done, but who He is.

Let's really feast on this verse today:

Ephesians 3:16-21 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen


Friday, October 18, 2013

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Oct. 18

In my life this week…

It was a mixed week, some high highs and some lows. I guess most homeschool moms would say the same about a typical week?
I wrote out my testimony this week and ended up in tears many times, contemplating the richness of God's grace. Saved at age 31, I represent a small percentage of born-again Christians, as shown below:

Another survey -- by the International Bible Society -- indicated that 83% of all Christians make their commitment to Jesus between the ages of 4 and 14, that is, when they are children or early youth. The Barna Research Group surveys demonstrate that American children ages 5 to 13 have a 32% probability of accepting Christ, but youth or teens aged 14 to 18 have only a 4% probability of doing so. Adults age 19 and over have just a 6% probability of becoming Christians.
This data illustrates the importance of influencing children to consider making a decision to follow Christ.
Because the 4-14 period slice of the pie is so large, many have started referring to the "4-14 Window." Many people serving as career cross-cultural missionaries have testified that they first felt God calling them to missionary service during that 4-14 age period.

"The 4-14 Window: Child Ministries and Evangelism Strategies" by Dan Brewster
I'm tearfully grateful this week, is all I can say. It's important for all of us to revisit our testimony from time to time.

Though the above statistics are sobering, I believe educating our children at home maximizes their probability of accepting Christ, and developing a truly personal relationship with Him--one that will always be there for them.

The lows this week had to do with 4yo Beth's juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She's got a bad cold which triggered more joint swelling, and her NSAID, meloxicam in suspension, was backordered until the 22nd. Checking other pharmacies only revealed how scarce it is in suspension form. Only 1 in 1000 kids get juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, so most medications for RA are in pill form for adults.

What the rheumatologist finally had to do was change her prescription and order naproxen in pill form, having the pharmacy cut the pills in half for me to crush and put in a spoon of applesauce. Naproxen was discontinued in suspension form several months ago, for some reason, and that was the beginning of our medication problems.

As I researched the various NSAIDs, I panicked at all the possible reactions and side effects, some of them fatal. Whenever a child has to be on medication, it's heartbreaking to read the pamphlets and wonder...what if? Especially when a low-dose chemo drug is in the mix as well. She's been on NSAIDs everyday for over 2 years already, and the risk for serious side effects increases with prolonged use.

Still, this disease used to put kids in wheelchairs and some went blind from the eye involvement, so medicine has come a long way. I have much to be grateful for, despite not knowing what the future holds for Beth's case.

My Counselor, the Holy Spirit, taught me, once again, that there are only a few things God holds me accountable for--such as reading the Bible, praying, and raising my children for the Lord. All the things I have no control over, such as diseases, disorders, and the strength of the economy? They are the Lord's, not mine, to carry. Peace and joy are robbed from us when we carry what isn't ours.

So on this Friday, I'm feeling lighter about the whole thing. Thank the Lord for my Counselor and Comforter!

ln our homeschool this week…

The boys are reading a hodgepodge this week, along with the regularly scheduled Sonlight F programming. I finally found the sequels for Henry Reed, Inc. in good condition, so they've been sailing through those the past couple weeks and enjoying every minute, giggling at Henry's antics and marveling at his zany intelligence.

They're also reading Jenny Wren by Dawn Watkins, published by Bob Jones University Press. ($7.49 at

Jenny Wren   -     
        By: Dawn L. Watkins

It's a heartwarming, beautiful story about a welfare child, Jenny Wren, who gets passed from one foster home to another, developing attachment disorder, before coming to an elderly Christian couple who live alone on a farm, their children grown and gone. The welfare department regards the couple as too old, but God intervenes to give Jenny what her soul aches for.

At first Jenny hates it when they read from the Bible and pray at every meal, but finally, she realizes they know something about her heart that she doesn't. She falls in love with the rhythm of the farm, the wholesome food and family meals, the trees and the animals, and she not only grows to trust and love the couple, but she receives the greatest gift of all too. I won't tell you what it is, but can you guess?

I picked this up at a thrift store a couple years ago and finally pre-read it early this week, telling the boys, "You've got to read this story right away. It'll stay with you forever."

Both boys tell me daily how much they like it, and both asked me if they should take in foster kids some day. Their compassion toward Jenny warms my heart. I told them, again, that God expects a response from us regarding orphans and the poor. We're not to turn our hearts from their plight, and even if we only give money, it's something. Doing nothing is not an option.

When the boys were younger I bought used Bob Jones reading texts for two years, and I do miss those Christian stories for supplementing library reading. I've since sold those readers, but after reading this decidedly Christian story, I've decided to buy the texts again for the girls. The used copies are so inexpensive anyway. This same author, Dawn Watkins, writes short stories for the Bob Jones readers. I find her a wonderful story teller and a solid writer.

I have four Social Studies-themed picture books to share this week:

The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco is a companion book to The Keeping Quilt. In this book, Patricia tells about Great-Grandmother Anna's life before being forced to leave Russia in the early 1900's, along with all Jews. This brought tears to my eyes, about the riches of family, tradition, and love. Children don't always realize what a gift their family is to them, and this book will certainly change that, as well as teach a powerful history lesson about freedom and oppression (they end up in America).

Papa's Mark by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert is about the black vote in America.

Papa's Mark

While it was guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, it was many years before literacy rates for Southern Blacks made it possible to vote. Many southern whites weren't happy about the black vote, and violence was always a threat.

In this powerful story, a boy watches his father painstakingly learn to write this name, finally succeeding with the help of his young son, who stood by his father proudly, despite the threat of violence on election day. Other town blacks, afraid to go to the polls, are influenced by Papa, who becomes a symbol of courage and honor. I read this first in the library, and so many tears flowed that I had to turn away and hide from the librarians.

It's been a week of tears with books and other things---all good ones though!

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story about Edna Lewis by Robbin Gourley, is about the glorious gift of homegrown food, from orchard and garden right to the table--something that's gotten lost in our culture. This book is a mesmerizing eye-opener for many, and not just children!


Publisher synopsis: Long before the natural-food movement gained popularity, before greenmarkets sprouted across the United States, Edna Lewis championed purity of ingredients, regional cuisine, and the importance of bringing food directly from the farm to the table. She was a chef when female chefs---let alone African American female chefs---were few and far between, and she received many awards for her work. With lyrical text and glorious watercolor illustrations, author/illustrator Robbin Gourley lovingly traces the childhood roots of Edna's appreciation for the bounties of nature. The story follows Edna from early spring through the growing season to a family dinner celebrating a successful harvest. Folk rhymes, sayings, and songs about food are sprinkled throughout the text, and five kid-friendly recipes and an author's note about Edna's life are included at the end.


The Book Boat's In by Cynthia Cotten is about floating libraries bringing literacy and learning to isolated groups during the westward expansion of the 1800's. Young Jesse's work ethic and love for books will charm many. Again, tears at the library as I read this.

The Book Boat's In

Publisher Synopsis: Jesse has waited for months for the arrival of the book boat. There he finds a used copy of The Swiss Family Robinson that he desperately wants, but at twenty cents the book costs too much. After working hard, Jesse is deeply disappointed: he has only seventeen and a half cents. But his luck changes when he learns that there's another copy, which the owner will sell for just fourteen cents. This nostalgic picture book is based on the 1800s book boat that traveled along the Erie Canal. Colorful folk art-style paintings complement this book about the love of reading and the merits of hard work.

While I check out picture books for the girls' curriculum mostly (ages 4 and 6), I do require my boys (9 and 11) to listen in most of the time, as they learn much from these high-quality, powerful books, too.

Mary, age 6, is moving right along in reading, picking up more sight words and enjoying her Sing, Spell, Read & Write readers. She still struggles to distinguish b and d while sounding out words, but as with her brother Peter before her, I've learned that this takes time for some kids, despite whatever tricks we employ.

A few notes on our writing, and I'll move on. We're still enjoying Writing With Ease Level 4 by Susan Wise Bauer, but I'm supplementing it with Sonlight's dictation passages from the Sonlight Core F Eastern Hemisphere reading list, and with personal narrative journal writing and poetry writing.

The Sonlight passages are longer and more appropriate for the boys' abilities, but we still prefer the narration work given us in Writing With Ease. They come from famous, classic works like Little Women and The Phantom Tollbooth, among others. We never know what piece of literature we're going to deal with on any given day, and we find the variety exciting and intriguing. My husband read The Phantom Tollbooth a couple years ago to our boys, but this week they expressed a desire to read it again, on their own, which is fine with me! Using Writing With Ease has deepened my boys' love of literature, giving them an even greater appetite for the best, and broadening their horizons beyond what I could do on my own.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

This is a hard journey, this homeschooling endeavor. A messy house coupled with three kids needing help at the same time earlier today, and a fourth child, age 4, interrupting everyone's concentration, nearly had me in tears. There will always be those intense, overwhelming moments when you want to send them all outside and lock the door so you can just get some order back to the house. Once in a while I do just that, but more often I remember that it's consistency that makes a successful homeschool (besides lots of prayer).

Clutter drives most of us crazy, yes, but it can wait until the main subjects are out of the way, and you can enlist the children's help at that time. Walk past it and keep your cool in the meantime, maintaining as consistent a schedule as you can.

My favorite thing this week was…

Writing out my testimony and watching Heidi as a family movie last Friday night, and having the privilege of sitting next to my 6 year old as she learned Psalm 23 for AWANA.

The whole thing seemed overwhelming to her on our first practice day, and she whined. I told her the Lord didn't expect her to do it in her own strength. We prayed for His help, and lo and behold, she got it that session. I love, love, love it when the Lord builds my children's faith this way.

Sometimes when I'm really struggling with something and ready to scream, like while unclogging a toilet, I'll go to all the children and ask them to pray, and immediately, the toilet behaves. I know the Lord does this to build my children's faith (and of course, mine too:).

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…

Giggling at the Henry Reed books, feeling successful in their learning endeavors, playing basketball and football, and doing some baking from scratch. Peter made a to-die-for apple crisp (I only prepared the apples and manned the oven). Paul made a chocolate pie, which at first didn't set. We poured out the pudding-like mixture and cooked it some more, and then it set fine.

I’m grateful for…

~ The Lord plucking me out of this world and bringing me to the Throne of Grace, at age 31.

~ The power of the Psalms to soothe and teach.

~ The Lord's power and might and faithful partnership with me as I teach each day.

~ Good literature

~ The comfort a mother's arms can impart.

~ The never-ending power of prayer.

~ That the Lord never expects us to accomplish anything in our own strength.

~ A faithful, affectionate Christian husband.

~ The safety and sanctity of home.

A quote to share...

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;

Thank you for reading! How was your week?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Testimony

My friend Beth from As He Leads is Joy asked about my testimony, so here goes:

I was raised in the Catholic Church during my younger elementary years. My mother grew up in a strict Catholic family. Her parents followed all the rules, including the no-birth-control rule, resulting in 14 total pregnancies for my grandmother, who raised ten children. Four babies passed away either in the womb or shortly after birth, in her mid- to late-forties.

Despite the strict religious upbringing, no one in my mother's family had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, of the ten children, none grew up to become Christians. Whether my grandmother was a Christian or not, I can't say for sure, but my guess is that no, she never truly trusted Jesus for her salvation.

My grandfather died when I was very young and I know very little about him, except that his later years were plagued by a very serious agoraphobia disorder. He was a critical, unloving man, according to my mother. She's never mentioned his spiritual make-up, so I assume it was similar to my grandmother's...all rules, no relationship.

The Catholic faith teaches that Jesus' death on the cross covers only original sin. Personal sins are paid for in Purgatory (place in Roman Catholic doctrine where souls remain until they have expiated their sins and can go to heaven). I consider Catholicism to be one of the good-works religions, in which one has to focus on being a good person, rather than on having a personal relationship with Jesus.

In recent years I read that about 30% of Catholics are truly born again. Perhaps this is the 30% who read the Bible? It's hard to say, but certainly some attend the Catholic Church while not believing everything it teaches. Many don't even understand official Catholic Doctrine, but still attend the church.

My mother began to date my father, a non-religious person whose mother was a Jehovah's Witness, in her late teens. Mom left Ohio at age 19 to move to California, where my father eventually pursued her and proposed. They married, despite a rocky relationship based on guilt.

My father went into the Air Force and when my mother was 22, she had my sister, and at 24, she had me. We were both born in Germany, and then moved to New York briefly, and then on to England when I was 3 and my sister was 5.

The marriage was dysfunctional due to my father's cheating. It lasted 8 years, after which my mother left my father and flew us to San Diego, California, where one of her sisters lived. We saw my father intermittently after the divorce, due to his military travel. When he settled in the High Desert of California, we saw him bimonthly.

My mother took us to the Catholic Church for a few more years, but she was extremely embittered over religion in general. The priest she saw in the confessional (to confess her divorce) told her the only way she could get to heaven would be to never remarry. My mother was 29 years old and had no college education, and she didn't have the gift of singleness. The priest's statement overwhelmed her and embittered her against all religion, and that hasn't changed (she's now 72).

As the years progress, her bitterness gets worse, which is very frightening to me. Scripture says the more times we reject Jesus, the harder our hearts become. Whether that's actually what's happening, I don't know.

It wasn't long after our First Holy Communion that she quit taking us to church, except for Easter and Christmas. She remarried when I was 6 years old, to a Navy man, and we were off again on overseas tours (Guam, Sicily) when we weren't living in San Diego, which was their favorite city. My step-father retired in San Diego, in fact, where I went to high school and college.

I went to the Catholic Church with a Catholic high school friend, intermittently, but it was her parent's religion, definitely not hers. My friend remains today, nonreligious, as do her three siblings. The Catholic Church, again, failed to impart any personal relationship with Jesus to these children, or to their parents. I don't remember that family ever opening the Bible.

I graduated from UCSD with a degree in Political Science and got engaged to a lawyer. After two years I called it off. We brought out the worst in each other, and he was Jewish and I was Catholic (at least in my mind, I was Catholic).

I was engaged to a Catholic man in my later twenties, and in retrospect I can tell you that the same thing was missing in his life--no personal relationship with Jesus Christ, no Bible reading, no real praying.

I broke that off shortly after becoming a teacher; by then, it was a long-distance relationship anyway, and he was taking forever to get through college. I had moved to the High Desert, almost 3 hours from San Diego, to live with my father and continue earning a teaching credential.

My Catholic fiance cared about whether I knelt down on the correct knee before going into a pew, but he never mentioned Jesus Christ, so it was doomed, with neither of us knowing anything about spiritual things, other than rules of conduct.

Rules without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, involving the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, mean nothing but frustration. Even the meaningful rules that Jesus really cared about, couldn't be realized in a life without the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is our Counselor and our Comforter.

I continued to go intermittently to the Catholic Church as a single teacher, but my relationship with "religion" was dominated by frustration. I knew I loved God, but I didn't know how to access Him. I didn't know what I was missing.

My principal and the two office secretaries were all Christians, and a few teachers in my school were as well. They prayed for me, and the main secretary tried witnessing to me, explaining that the Catholic Church did not teach a plan for salvation.

She told me one day that I had to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and that his death on the cross covered my sins. Without believing that, I couldn't get to Heaven, she went on to say.

I told her I had always believed both those things. No problem.

They continued praying.

My principal gave me More Than a Carpenter, a book about Jesus, but while I loved to read and would often read until 2 or 3 AM on the weekends, I never opened that particular book, before returning it a few months later. I loved my principal, a godly man, and I didn't want to lose his book, so I returned it.

They continued praying.

I dated a man after that Catholic relationship ended, and a year or so into the relationship, we ended up at a Calvary Chapel, but not near my home, as this was another long-distance relationship (60 minute drive one way). We both said the prayer of salvation in our seats, but nothing changed. No one discipled us or gave us a Bible, and we didn't have a desire to get one on our own; we were unchanged essentially. No hunger for the Word. We didn't understand what just happened, and we didn't know what we were missing.

I broke that relationship off, becoming uncomfortable with the man's recreational drinking, which I wanted no part of. Drinking occurred in my home growing up, and to me it was a recipe for dysfunction and heartbreak.

I returned to the Catholic Church after the break-up.

Finally, I became friends with a fellow first-grade instructor. She was very close to God and her life showed it, which wasn't really the case with the main secretary who tried to turn me away from the Catholic Church.

Being a widow, Phyllis was lonely and needed a friend, and I needed someone who had something spiritual that I was missing--a personal relationship with God that spilled over into every aspect of her life. This woman's faith wasn't just a weekend religious thing. The Lord was her life.

If we really want someone to come to Christ, we have to really love the Lord Jesus Christ and our love for Him must shine.

Phyllis's husband had committed suicide when they resided in Ohio, where she was a housewife and he was an engineer. After that horrific event she sold her home and moved to the California High Desert, to live with her brother and his wife, taking her teen-aged son with her. Her daughter was already in college at the time.

I met her after she had gotten back on her feet, gone back to college to pursue a teaching credential, and even battled ovarian cancer. She could not have her own children, but instead adopted two American infants in her early thirties. Not having children put her at risk for ovarian cancer.

After successfully fighting the cancer, she obtained a job as a first grade teacher at my school, which she did for a few years before becoming a reading resource specialist on our sight.

One day we were in the teacher's lounge, and Phyllis told me that her first grandbaby had contracted meningitis. I was amazed at her calmness...her faith...her peace in the midst of tragedy.

She flew that weekend to Ohio, where her son and his wife resided. The baby had to undergo an amputation, but it looked like he would make it.

Phyllis flew home, and then the baby worsened and passed away. Phyllis flew back for the funeral and was heartbroken, but her peace remained intact. To say I was amazed at this woman's peace was an understatement.

I wanted what she had.

Unfortunately, her son and his wife fell apart and in the next 18 months, divorced.

Neither Phyllis's adopted son or daughter have ever become Christians, partially because Phyllis became one after her marriage and the beginning of motherhood, and it's doubtful that her husband ever became one. Without the support and leading of a Christian father, it's very hard for children to adopt their mother's faith. Statistics show that children more often take their father's lead in spiritual things.

One day months after her grand baby's death, Phyllis went on a day trip to Big Bear Mountain with me, which was just 45 minutes from our High Desert town.

On the windy drive up the mountain, I told her how much I hated being 31 years old and still unmarried. I feared becoming an old maid. Any time I dated, I always found something wrong with the person after a year or so, and called off the relationship. I was discouraged and fearful about the future.

She kept saying, "That's not too big for God."

She listened some more, telling me, "Take that to God."

She said that multiple times, almost like a broken record, but gently spoken.

Never in my life did I pray any prayer that wasn't something like this: "Bless this person, God.  Bless that person, God." Along with your usual Hail Mary's and the Lord's Prayer.

None of my praying meant anything. It was little better than what the pagans do.

Right away, Phyllis knew what I was missing. She grew up in the Presbyterian church and never had a personal relationship with Jesus until adulthood, after she married. She explained what a personal relationship was and encouraged me to talk to God in my own words. She also explained what she was taught in the Presbyterian church: "You're okay. You'll get to heaven as long as you don't hurt anyone or commit horrible sins."

I don't remember being taught that same doctrine per se, but it's what I believed. Phyllis had to explain to me that no one is good enough to get to Heaven. No, not one. Not even Mother Theresa.

That was just the beginning.

I wasn't saved on that day, but it's the day my whole life turned around. I still can't think or write about it without huge tears. Someone had taken the time, finally, after all my years as a frustrated "religious" person/worldly person, to tell me what I was missing.

It seems like such a small thing, but it was huge. The difference between life and death. Peace and angst.

I can't pinpoint, as some can, the exact moment I became a Christian. I only remember that drive up a windy mountain and how it became my salvation, in a sense. No prayer of salvation was uttered, but God was faithful and in the next weeks and months, I changed.

Phyllis invited me and our first-grade aide to her house for a weekly Bible Study. She started us in Romans and it wasn't long before I was on fire for the Lord! I spent hours reading the Bible. Instead of continuing my love of classic literature, and staying up till all hours reading, I devoured the Bible for hours and listened to Christian radio exclusively.

I asked Phyllis tons of questions, day after day, during recesses, weekends, and on the phone. She discipled me for two years.

Phyllis attended an Assemblies of God church, but I could not go there with her for long. It made me very uncomfortable, so with her blessing, I began to attend a non-denominational mega church in the area--the same church my principal went to, as well as the school secretaries and a few other teachers on staff.

I was baptized soon after, and all the Christians on my staff attended. I'm sure they wondered: what took her so long? I began teaching there in 1992, and wasn't saved until 1997.

Two years after becoming a Christian, I met my husband on a singles' hike--an event set up by the singles group at our church. We met in early October and did things in groups for several months, not knowing the other was interested.

We were married the following July. Phyllis was one of my bridesmaids.

Thank you, Dear Father, for your faithfulness. Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice. Thank you, Phyllis, for your time and your obedience.

May we all take the time to explain the reason for our Hope...the reason for our Peace. May we pray for and befriend the unsaved, investing in their hearts and lives, for that's far more effective than anything else in escorting someone to the Throne of Grace.

May we keep reading our Bibles, and conversing with our Father, so that someone sees something in us that they simply must have for themselves.

We don't have to be perfect, just obedient, and the Holy Spirit does the rest.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baby Joy and Giving Thanks

Oh, Joy! Tesha, a blogging friend who visits here, had her baby! Tears of overwhelming joy here and now a gratitude post in honor of her precious bundle, Julian Jonathan, 6 pounds 3 oz, 19 in. She won't be around much now I'm sure, but jump for joy in her honor anyway and praise our Heavenly Father for his faithfulness. Tesha lost a baby boy, Jonathan, in January of 2012, at about 20 weeks.

Julian has 5 brothers and 1 sister, all rejoicing with Mom and Dad right now.

Giving Thanks To God:

~ The best part of my children's ministry coordinator job is that I get to work frequently in the church nursery. Did I ever tell you I wish I'd been saved earlier, marrier earlier, and had 10 babies? I'm so pleased with my four blessings, but more would have been just wonderful. But that wasn't God's plan. Children's ministry is his plan, and it comes with such a bonus for my heart. I'm getting to know these babies (often 7 of them on a Sunday morning) and as they see me more, they're trusting me more and are even happy to see me, too.

~ Today I welcomed a precious new girl, Nicola, who was recently adoped from Poland and is still learning English. She is so sweet and I look forward to praying for her and enjoying her in nursery.

~ There's an autistic boy in my nursery that I find very precious, even though he can't interact with me in the typical sense. I know he wants to. He hasn't been there in about six weeks. I was missing him and found out today it isn't that they changed churches, just that he'd been sick with complicated colds.

~ This morning a 3-month-old baby fell asleep in my arms in the rocker, his fingers wrapped around mine. It was the most peaceful part of my whole week. I praised the Lord for that time!

~ I only have one more ministry position to fill. The church has been so responsive and gracious.

~ Beautiful weather for apple picking on Saturday. A yummy applesauce and more delights coming.

~ A big plush rocker at home to rock my big girls. They still fit in my lap for rocks in "Mommy's office" aka the rocker. Everything looks brighter after a visit to Mommy's office...brighter for me, too.

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Oct 11

In my life this week…

I love, love, love this life. But let me tell you, I'm as busy as 2009 when I had newborn and toddler girls, and 5- and 7-year-old boys. Having a first grader again has changed everything. Mary, age 6, has a full load compared to her kindergarten year. I teach until 5 PM sometimes between her subjects and the boys' writing, spelling, math, and novel discussions.

I try to give my 4yo forty-five minutes of formal learning a day, plus read-alouds, but it's hard to fit it all in. Thankfully my preschooler does well despite my lack of time. She knows her sounds except for a few vowel mix-ups, so she should start blending sounds by early next year.

The tub stopped draining this week and the water softener began to back up into the tub. Things got so bad I had to use a bucket to empty the tub before every shower (there are 6 of us).

So much fun, let me tell you.

As I bucketed each day, I remembered that in the third world many walk five miles a day for clean water. So really, what had I to complain about?

I needed an extra task to keep me out of trouble, I suppose? :)

I have to admit, when the dishwasher went out in late April, I wondered how I would fit doing dishes the long way into my busy life. Now, I can't imagine spending the money on a dishwasher ever again. It does take a chunk of my time each day, but doing dishes is second nature to me now. Women have always adjusted through the ages to whatever housekeeping environment God arranged for them. I can do no less, with his Grace.

It's all part of learning the difference between wants and needs. In the first world we lose sight of that distinction so easily, to our detriment.

And now back to the tub drain....

No, Beth, the word snake, when used in the plumbing world, does not mean a slithering snake gets stuffed down the drain to find your lost toys.

We just had the drain snaked back in February, so this was surely some small toy caught in the drain, and not just your usual hair clog.

No way was another $118 plumbing bill going to fit in the budget, so outside the grace of God, I had another 4 months of bucketing water to look forward. There would be no extra money until late February.

But God is full of grace. And he wants me home with my children, not working so we can afford household repairs.

Someone at husband's work heard him talking about our drain. The man said he had done many favors for a plumber friend of his, and he would call his friend and have him come to our house for free.

Good deed done, as of 3:30 today.

God is so good, and shame on us for ever thinking "there's no way". He doesn't promise to provide all our wants, but our needs? He's faithful to provide those as long as we seek first His Kingdom in our daily living.

In our homeschool this week…

Two good primary social studies books I wanted to share this week are: White Water, by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, and Peppe The Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone.

White Water

Peppe the Lamplighter

White Water depicts a heartbreaking time in our history when blacks and whites had to use separate drinking fountains, separate sections of the bus, and blacks were called on to give up their seats to whites. This tender, poignant book teaches so much without being wordy or complicated. An excellent history choice for primary grades.

Peppe the Lamplighter tells the story of a young boy growing up on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, during a hard economy. He got a job lighting the neighborhood street lamps--a thrilling job for a little boy--and yet his father grows ashamed of him. He imagines his boy becoming a street figure instead of a doctor or lawyer. In the end, he learns to be a proud father. (And Momma, you won't get through it with dry eyes. A very good read!)

A good primary health choice is I Know Why I Brush My Teeth, by Kate Rowan. Your little one just might take dental health seriously after this book.

I Know why I Brush My Teeth

This week we've also enjoyed The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury.

The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury

My boys, ages 9 and 11, via Sonlight, are learning about the Eastern Hemisphere this year. Each country visited includes a non-fiction book, a fiction book, and some research with the World Book DVD ROM. The fiction selection for Australia, Red Sand Blue Sky, got a number of bad reviews from Christian parents, regarding being published by The Feminist Press, and having a Girls First logo on the front. I always preread the Sonlight reviews and Amazon reviews before buying any Sonlight books. Last spring when making selections, I decided not to buy this one.

Red Sand Blue Sky

However, I couldn't find other fiction featuring Australia to take its place (and I imagine Sonlight couldn't either). While not originally so, it's true that it's now published by The Feminist Press, and does have a "Girls First" logo, which I covered with a sticker. I hated having to buy this book, but I've found that fictional accounts lead to greater retention of historical and political information, especially for the elementary set.

Sonlight is an excellent company so please don't let this turn you off. 95% of what they assign is outstanding, exemplary literature--unforgettable literature, in fact. As a parent it's our job to pre-read everything to make sure it's okay for our family, no matter what company we choose. We're still responsible before God for what comes into our home (and into our children's hearts).

Anyhow, the book arrived in the mail on Monday and I finished it by Wednesday. The boys started it today. The writing isn't great but it does discuss complicated problems in Australia's past, as well as the heartbreaking nature of racial prejudice. The female characters, not surprisingly, are stronger than some of the male ones, but all in all it isn't harmful when read with adult guidance, and balanced with excellent literature all around.

The boys are also using Sonlight Science F (Health, Medicine and Human Anatomy), four books of which deal with serious anatomy. One of them includes worksheets on which the boys must label complicated body parts--something I thought might make them groan. However, the boys seem to be enjoying the sheets and never ask if they can skip them. They mispronounce many of the body parts, like the aorta, but I'm helping with that (with a private chuckle or two as they butcher these words). High-school level anatomy will be a breeze when we get there.

Sonlight Science F also comes with a Christian book on puberty called Almost 12, which is excellent and glorifying to God.

Almost 12

It also happens to go wonderfully with what Peter is covering in AWANA this week as well:

1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The AWANA company added their own one-page insight about honoring God with our bodies in the midst of peer pressure, which was excellent.

My favorite thing this week was…

1. God proving to me once again that He is powerful, mighty, full of grace, and he PROVIDES.

2. Peter, age 11, cleaned my outside windows with a long-armed squeegee. He blessed my socks off, even though it's not a professional job by any means.

3. A 69-year-old friend from church brought dinner for us on Wednesday...a delicious pasta dish she cooked all day in the crock pot with yellow squash, zucchini, finely-chopped steak, carrots, etc. It was wonderful and the kids were so excited to see her. Beth said, "Mommy, I know this lady! I've seen her at church." She just wanted to bless me because I work in children's ministry at our church. Cheryl's a fellow migraine sufferer and a prayer partner for that issue, and this weekend is the one-year mark for our friendship. I met her at last year's church fellowship chili cook off, and this weekend brings the church chili cook off again...already! A fast year!

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…

Today Paul, age 9, decided he would be the resident art teacher. He planned and executed a painting lesson, and then added snack time and sports into his class time as well. I listened from afar and it confirmed for me once again that Paul has the gift of teaching. He even gave art prizes for different elements in the paintings.

The siblings enjoyed their time together, and even though 4yo Beth kept interrupting, Paul managed well and I was tickled.

Things I’m working on…

...Fitting in a classic novel read-aloud for my first grader. She still enjoys picture books and I still use them a lot for history and science, but she really needs a daily dose of classic big-kid literature as well. So far we've gone through Little House novels, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggles and a few others, but there's so much more on my shelf I want to share with her! With God's grace I'll find enough hours in the day for all best practices...reading classic literature aloud is a definite best practice. The boys have enjoyed novels with us for years.

I’m cooking…

baked whole chicken
homemade chicken noodle soup ( a family favorite)
navy bean soup with ham
pumpkin pancakes (my personal favorite dinner...or breakfast :)

And we're baking this week: baked oatmeal, homemade cinnamon rolls

Need a bit of advice on my broth: I make homemade broth from chicken bones, adding enough water to cover the bones, and letting it simmer in a stock pot overnight, or in the crockpot overnight. The next morning I put it in the fridge to let the fat collect on top. That night I skim the fat and make chicken noodle soup with the broth and leftover baked chicken pieces.

My question the broth considered concentrated, and can I put some in the fridge or freezer for another kind of soup, and water down the rest of the broth for my chicken soup? Thank you in advance for your broth wisdom!

I usually use the broth full strength and always end up wishing I had some available for other soups.

I’m grateful for…

~ a houseful of kids

~ good literature

~ the blessing of knowledge

~ consistent morning devotions (consistency has taken us some years, but we're finally there)

~ my four year old's sweet prayers

~ bedside, on-your-knees prayers with little ones

~ the major cyclone set to strike India won't hit our Compassion correspondent child's area

~ pumpkin-based foods

~ staying caught up on the clothes folding this week

~ steadfast husband

~ steady school progress

~ limiting neighbor children's visits has worked wonders for my stress level the past 3 days

A quote to share...

Proverbs 14:26 He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.

Thank you for reading here today. And how was your week?

Bless you in your secure fortress, my friends!

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In Which I Share My Worst Parenting Day

I don't know how to begin this post except to say: parenting is shockingly hard.

Bedtime's been a nightmare around here the past few months. The boys have always shared a room peacefully, but lately they play off each other in waves of mischief, sometimes lasting an hour.

Silliness at teeth brushing, scaring each other after lights out, throwing clothes, giggling. A whole slew of consequences haven't changed a thing, with Peter being the instigator most of the time, and Paul allowing himself to be led astray.

Just when Mom and Dad are feeling the most spent, comes the worst part of the day. These boys are old enough to be more sensitive to their parents' exhaustion.

Last night, after problems with neighbor kids just hours before, I was so. done. with. child. rearing. So beyond exasperated. Peter got the rare spanking, which he's really two years too old for. I didn't do it, I confess, because I thought it was the answer, but because in my exhaustion and exasperation, I wanted to punish him for the stress he causes night after night.

Whenever a spanking is given to punish, either consciously or subconsciously, it's never good parenting. It's broken parenting. Our aim as Christian parents is to shepherd, not punish. Punishing--outside of a civic, societal function--is about getting back at someone, not redirecting them toward righteousness.

A calmly-given spanking can be part of good parenting, I do believe, but I wasn't calm (don't worry though--there's not a mark on him).

After all were asleep, I was heartbroken and empty. I wanted real answers, not just grace. I knew if I sat down and recited the 23rd Psalm and prayed, and quietly let the Holy Spirit minister to me, I would recover.

But I wanted more than recovery...I wanted all the trouble to disappear. I wanted beautiful nights of parenting, executed as gracefully as an expert ballet performance. A true art form.

My husband is gone 12 hours a day Monday through Friday, and 6 hours on Saturday, which leaves me with a full-to-the-brim load. The lower your income is the more hours you need to work (and sometimes the higher your income and responsibility, the more you need to work).

With the homeschooling, the chores, the various disorders represented here, and the neighbors who congregate here by the threes after 3:30 PM, while I'm trying to put school supplies away, switch laundry, do dishes, and make dinner...well, it's too much.

My kids behave better when they play with just each other, so in the healing time last night, as I asked for real answers, it came to me that it was quite reasonable to limit the neighbor childrens' visits to just the weekend, when my husband is available to watch everyone outside. He loves the outdoors anyway, and with perimenopausal upheaval happening to me when I least expect it, I simply can't pack my days as full as before, and maintain the same level of sanity.

Being in the middle of this, I'd say it's probably easier to go through menopause when your kids are young, verses when they're teens and in upheaval themselves. One of the blessings to having kids later in life?

I suspect so.

My boys tend to rush through their afternoon school to be done in time for the neighbor children's inevitable knocks. Yesterday I had Lexie insist she wanted to hang around our yard while we finished school. She even went into our shed, making herself at home with Peter's pet snake, and later staring into our window, checking on our progress. I felt so invaded and the kids couldn't concentrate; the boys made terrible spelling errors.

We had an ADHD/OCD pediatrician appointment, and a library stop, both of which slowed us down and made school go later.

Lexie went on to entice my six year old into a tree that was way too large for her to handle, prompting me to send all the kids home. It took me telling Lexie four times before she would leave the yard. I was terribly exasperated, but I also had compassion on her mom, because if she's this bad over here, she's far worse at home.

It occurred to me, too, that as a parent I would never send my children to the same house day after day, expecting the mom there to watch her own kids as well as mine. That's just rude and yet these parents have done it for over a year, never checking on their own kids or asking if I mind the nearly-daily invasion.

I don't allow my children to visit neighbors' yards or houses, in fact, because I think a parent-extended invitation is important, and because there are no Christian parents on this street anyway.

The Holy Spirit brought other solutions to my mind, too, such as putting one boy in the master bedroom until both are asleep, and the one can be carried back to his own bed. It's not ideal, but it should help. Also, Peter will be given time to read in bed to help him relax and stay out of mischief, and he'll be allowed to sleep later in the morning to compensate.

Today has gone far better so far, even with speech appointments interrupting us again.

During morning devotions I read aloud some commentary on our Matthew passage:

Commentary from Life Application Study Bible on Matthew 13:8, pg 1674:

This parable should encourage spiritual "sowers"-- those who teach, preach, and lead others. The farmer sowed good seed, but not all the seed sprouted, and even the plants that grew had varying yields. Don't be discouraged if you do not always see results as you faithfully teach the Word. Belief cannot be forced to follow a mathematical formula (i.e., a 4:1 ratio of seeds planted to seeds sprouted). Rather, it is a miracle of God's Holy Spirit as he uses your words to lead others to him.
I choked up reading this, on the morning after my hardest day. Children, in other words, will not necessarily show fruit in direct proportion to our evangelism and discipleship efforts--neither our own children or the neighbor children. But our words do matter. Our obedience matters.

It may seem to me that my boys should be more sensitive to Mom's and Dad's feelings at their ages, but God is working through the Word, and through our discipleship, nevertheless. Our home may not be spilling with spiritual fruit right now, but I believe every passage we read, everything we teach, everything we model (yikes!), will shape their hearts for life.

So often with parenting, the rewards come later. So often as Christians, in fact, the rewards come later. It's hard to labor day after day, knowing the rewards are far removed.

But in the meantime there is grace. There's wisdom freely given to the prayer warrior.

There's a quiet Savior whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, who quiets me by his love.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, how was your parenting day?