Thursday, April 19, 2012

Twinkle Toes

Our oldest daughter turned 11 last month.  She is artistic, creative, and loves a good project!  She is such a help and joy to me.  She has been planting flowers in our front flower beds and also put together an attractive pot for our front porch.  Yesterday we found out that Twinkle Toes won second place in the entire state of Texas piano composition contest for her age category.  (I'm actually surprised someone beat her, her song is that good.)  She won a cash prize, but we haven't heard how much, yet.  I think she's spent it already : ).  And I think her song will be published.  We are very proud of Twinkle Toes and thankful to God for giving her this musical gift.  We are also thankful to my mom and dad who have paid for all her piano lessons, and my mom even takes her and practices with her!  And her piano teacher really worked with her, teaching her how to compose a piece of music- putting the parts together, etc.  We are very blessed!

In other news, Twinkle Toes has been wanting to go to school.  We told her if she got into the private college preparatory school near our home that we'd let her go.  (Her older brother is also going there next year.)  She took the Iowa Basic Skills Test as part of the admissions process and I'm happy to report she was above grade level on everything!  She is finishing up 5th grade right now, so they were looking to make sure she scored above 5.8 on all subjects.  Her language arts score was 6.5, indicating mid-sixth grade level (I absolutely hate teaching LAs and have worried that my kids were lagging behind.  This was a huge relief to me.)  Her math score was 7.7, so a little beyond mid-seventh grade level, and her reading comprehension score was 9.6!  Yeah!!!  I didn't mess my kids up by homeschooling them!  Seriously, this was such a huge relief to know that my two oldest children, who have been homeschooled 6 and 4 years, respectively, are above grade level on everything!  I have enjoyed my time homeschooling them and it wasn't an academically motivated decision, but I am SO GRATEFUL that they are beyond where they need to be.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Christian Philosophy of Food Giveaway on In a Shoe


I have not read The Christian Philosophy of Food by Peter Bringe, but I would like to.  I'm trying to win it over at In a Shoe and you can enter to win, too.  Just go to In a Shoe and follow the rules to enter for a chance to win this interesting sounding book.

You know I've been on a food book binge of late and I think this would be the perfect addition to my food library!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monk's standardized testing results

I don't know about you, but one of my biggest fears as a homeschooling mom is whether my kids are on grade level for each subject.  I guess the fear isn't THAT great since I never give them standardized tests, but it has been a concern.  Monk is going to a private school for 8th grade next year and they gave him a standardized test Tuesday to make sure he's on grade level.  I was surprised by the results.  Here are some interesting facts I learned.

1.  Monk is slow.  I guess I knew that since he's often still finishing school at 5 pm or later.  He's very bright, but takes his time.  He needs to work on his speed before taking the SAT in a few years.

2.  I thought Monk was a math genius since he's 2-3 grades ahead in math.  He did score one year ahead on the math exam, but the test didn't cover anything beyond arithmetic so the grade level was based on percent accuracy, I suppose.  Still, I was happy that his score put him on 9th grade level (he's finishing 7th now).  He'll take the Algebra I and II finals before starting next year since he'll be skipping those classes.  His grade on each final will go on his transcript as his grade for the respective class.  This way he'll be able to skip to Geometry.  I'm a little nervous about these exams so we'll be preparing for those in future weeks.

3.  Monk and I were both worried about the language arts portion of the exam, mainly because I HATE teaching grammar and have largely neglected it.  He did fine, scoring right at 8th grade level.

4.  Sonlight has lived up to its promise of making Monk an avid reader.  His reading comprehension score was at 12th grade level.  They were blown away by this.

This school is happy to have our Monk for next year and I'm so relieved that I didn't mess him up for life by homeschooling him for the last 6 years!  I know that homeschooling isn't about academics.  I know that our first priorities for homeschooling have to do with wanting to be with our kids, instilling character, fostering close family ties, etc.  But I have always been afraid that I was doing them a disservice academically and it feels really good to know they're on track.

Do you test your kids to see if they're on grade level?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The spiritual death, burial, and resurrection of Saul

The conversion of Saul is spectacular, to be sure.  We all know the story of his being blinded by God on the road to Damascus.  My conversion was nothing like his, it's quite boring in comparison.  I was struck today with how symbolic his conversion is of what happens with all of us when we experience spiritual rebirth.

"Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.  So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus."  Acts 8:8

This is a fulfillment of what God spoke through the prophets and Jesus reiterated.

"Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see!  Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send?  Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord?  He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear."  Isaiah 42:18-20

"Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.  Do you not fear me? declares the Lord.  Do you not tremble before me?" Jeremiah 5:21 & 22a

Jesus speaking to His disciples:  "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that, 'they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.'"  Mark 4:12

As a pharisee and zealous persecutor of the church, Saul was one of many who were blind to God.  But God had promised that it would not always be that way.  There would come a day when God in His grace would give sight to the blind.

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;"  Isaiah 35:5

While Saul became physically blinded on the road to Damascus, his eyes were figuratively opened by God to the truth of the gospel.  He "saw Christ" for the first time, but could see nothing else.

What happens next is equally interesting.

"And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank."  Acts 8:9 (emphasis mine)

Jesus was in the grave for 3 days.  Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days.

In fact, Jesus tells the scribes and pharisees that they are evil in seeking signs from Him and that no sign will be given them, except the sign of Jonah.  "For just as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."  Mathew 12:40  This shows that Jonah being in the belly of the fish three days, though literal, was also a type of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Interestingly, when God tells Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to Him on Mount Moriah, it's on the third day that Abraham arrives there and that the Lord provides the ram caught in the thicket. (Genesis 22:4)  It was also on the third day after Joseph put his brothers in custody that he gave his brothers back their lives (Genesis 42:18).

The third day was also significant when God met with His people to give them the law.

 "On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.  Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain."  Exodus 19:16-17

After God commissioned Joshua, it was on the third day that He led them into the Promised Land.  "Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess."  Joshua 1:11

And when Hezekiah lay on his deathbed and prayed to God for healing, it was on the third day that God healed him.  "Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father:  I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears.  Behold, I will heal you.  On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life.  I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake."  2 Kings 20:5-6

And I love this passage in Hosea.  "Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.  After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him."  Hosea 6:1-2

As a brief recap- Isaac, the son of promise, is granted life on the third day; Joseph gives his brothers, and essentially the future nation of Israel, freedom on the third day; God meets with His people at Mt Moriah on the third day; God delivers His people out of the wilderness and miraculously across the Jordan into the Promised Land on the third day; Jonah is freed from the belly of the great fish on the third day;  Hezekiah is healed and Jerusalem saved from Assyria on the third day; and in Hosea God's people will be raised up on the third day.

So it seems that the third day is a salvation motif used over and over again in the Scriptures.  I believe that in the Old Testament this is to point us to Christ's ultimate act of salvation when He conquered sin and death in His resurrection on the third day.  In the New Testament, like with Saul's conversion, I believe it points back to and serves as a beautiful reminder of the salvation Christ granted for His people on the third day.

While my conversion experience pales in comparison to Saul's, I was blind to Christ until the Father opened my eyes and I was dead in my sins until God made me alive to Him.  By grace through faith via a work of the Spirit, all believers share in the resurrection of Christ (Philippians 3:10).  Saul's conversion is reminiscent of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and at the same time is a picture of the miraculous conversion of every believer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Bikers

I think both Measle and Twinkle Toes learned to ride bikes over Spring Break, so we're continuing with an established tradition this year.  Prince learned to ride without training wheels in about 5 minutes- a new family record!  He will be 6 next month, so maybe we're teaching them later and later!

Lucie has been wanting a bike for a while and we couldn't find the starter bike her sisters used.  I finally broke down a bought her a new one this morning.  Actually, she picked it out- another first.  Usually kids get bikes for birthdays, which means they're a surprise.  Lucie had a great time picking out her pink princess bike.  She's riding like a champ!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Progress for Calvin

Calvin will be 17 months on Saturday and no, he still isn't walking or talking, at least he isn't saying anything we recognize, yet.  But, Calvin is making progress.  He's finally getting into everything.  He's been fascinated with doors for a long time, but now he's able to open all the cabinet doors and take everything out.  Sometimes he even goes in.

I have now seen Calvin pull up to his feet once.  Only once.  He pulls up to his knees lots and is so proud that he can see over the top of his crib.  Can you see the pride?


He even gets his foot in there, but won't pull all the way up.  He's starting to babble more and more, which is good.    He just laughs at me when I say, "Mama".  Sometimes he says, "Da da da da da".  And sometimes even, "Bu bu bu bu".  I think he's toying with me.  He tries to wave now by sticking his arm straight out.  Hey, it's progress.  Calvin is operating on his own timetable.  I'm just going to enjoy each accomplishment.  He does.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On turning 39, mid-life crises, and being thankful

I turned 39 last week.  I'm not okay with that, but what are my options, right?  I don't feel 39.  In fact, I feel better than I did in high school and college (now I only swim 2,000 yards a day which is much easier on the shoulders : ).  I had my vision checked last summer and it was better than 20/20.  I didn't even know that was possible!  Unfortunately, that means I can clearly see all the grey hairs coming in.  And then there are the wrinkles.  Who came up with "laugh lines"?  That's a euphemism if ever I heard one!  I promised my husband when we were newly married and 15 years seemed like an eternity that I would start wearing make-up when I turned 40.  Now I only have one more year until I have to start wearing make-up unless I can find a loop-hole in our contract.  Why didn't I make the deal that I'd start wearing make-up if he took up running or something like that?  Then I'd be safe for life!  Hindsight.

Anyway, I told my husband that I'm going to have a mid-life crisis.  Why should men get to have all the fun?  He said I might as well make it a big one, then.  I'm thinking.  Seriously, I have nothing.  Any suggestions?

Then my friend Roan at Joyful Always, Insanity graduate who runs marathons, is a conscientious cook, and has nursed 5 children, found out she has breast cancer and is having a double mastectomy today.  Maybe I don't need a mid-life crisis, after all.  Maybe I should just be thankful that 39 has only brought me a few wrinkles and grey hairs.  Ok, I know I should just be thankful.  Please join me in praying for Roan as she has her surgery today.

On homeschool sabbaticals, being home, and keeping busy

When I asked my husband 4 years ago if I could quit my job and stay home to homeschool our kids, he basically said, "Sure, do what you want."  I thought he would respond in a similar manner when I asked him recently if I could take a homeschool sabbatical next year and send the kids to school.  I have several reasons I'm wanting to do this, but mainly it has to do with my little ones.  When my big kids were little we went to the park and worked puzzles and went to the library and read books.  Now that I'm homeschooling the big kids, my little kids have to entertain themselves a lot, and get shushed all day, and don't have nearly as many books read to them (seeing as how I read to the big kids an hour and a half each day!).  Calvin is developmentally delayed and I wanted more time to spend with him.  I'm painfully aware that these are probably my last children and I want to savor their little years.  Anyway, my husband did not respond the way I thought he would.  He asked if I was going back to work full-time.  I was really surprised by that since we have a 3 and 1 year old.  We had a big fight, which we never do, and I wrote him a lengthy email on my value as a mother in addition to the homeschooling bit.  You know, paying bills, grocery shopping, and all that other glamorous stuff.

The Littles- Lucie 3 and Calvin 1

So this week I'm home alone with my three youngest children, ages 5, 3, and 1.  My parents have taken my big kids skiing and my husband is gone all week, too.  We've been to the doctor's office and had two run-ins with the police (Prince Charming dialed 911 and hung-up while I was napping with the sick kids and the next day a neighbor called them to report my parents' garage door had been up for two days!)  Yes, we've taken walks and read books, which has been fun.  The house is immaculate (I now have proof that it's the big kids who trash the place, not the little ones who usually end up getting blamed for it.)  I've also cleaned out my closet, all my bathroom drawers, the kitchen drawers, and now on day three I think I'm ready to go back to work.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  In fact, I now remember that I went back to school/work when my two oldest were 3 and 1.  Hmmm.   Funny how I'd managed to forget that little bit of information.

Maybe my husband knows me better than I thought.  Maybe he wasn't saying I'm lazy, but that I'm just the opposite.  Maybe he knew that I'd go stir crazy without more to keep me occupied at home.  We have some decisions to make for next year.  It's looking like we may send our two oldest to a local private school and homeschool our soon-to-be 1st and 4th graders.  While I do have the itch to go back to school again, that will probably pass.  And I definitely don't want to go back to work full-time, yet.  I've been there and done that and know the stress.  So for now the sabbatical's off and homeschooling is on.  What do you do when you get the itch for a change?  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Future Cloud

Have you ever read something in the Bible and thought, "What?  Where did that come from?"  Then you start checking other translations thinking, surely I would have noticed this if it really is saying what I think it's saying.  This is my sixth time in two years to read through the Bible and I read something yesterday that I have somehow managed to miss the previous five times.  I know you're just dying to know, so I'll share it with you.

This is in Isaiah chapter 4.  The context is the future glorification of Israel.  I believe that Christians will share in this as per Romans 11.  (Paul must have had Isaiah 4 in mind when he wrote Romans 11 because he uses the same language of branch and remnant to refer to true Israel.)

"Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy.  There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain."  Isaiah 4:5-6

When we were in Kazakhstan about 5 years ago, we heard rumors that the president was planning the construction of a giant dome to cover their climate-challenged capital, Astana (temperatures reach minus 40 in winter).  The newly constructed pleasure dome allows for a climate-controlled 1.5 million cubic yard enclosure.  It cost over $100 million to construct.  Somehow I think there's more to it than this in Isaiah 4.  The "cloud by day and fire by night" immediately bring to mind the visible way in which God manifested Himself to Israel in the wilderness as He guided them from place to place.

The cloud also seems to be associated not just with the presence of God, but with the glory of the Lord.

"As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal."  Ezekiel 1:4

"Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house, when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court.  And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord."  Ezekiel 10:3-4

"[Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.'  When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified."  Mathew 17:5-6 on the Transfiguration of Jesus.

"And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight."  Acts 1:9 on the Ascension of Jesus.

"Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand.... So He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped."  Revelation 14:14, 16 on the future harvest of the earth.
I think I get why God revealed Himself to Israel in a cloud.  No one could look on God and live, right?  This makes sense.  His glory had to be shrouded somewhat.  So why will God also reveal Himself to us in the future in a cloud?  Won't we behold Him face to face then?  Maybe it has less to do with His presence, since we know He is present with us even now in Spirit.  Maybe it has to do with the covering aspect of the cloud.

"Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.  I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you."  Isaiah 44:21-22, emphasis mine.

Atonement is the act of covering our sins.  The mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, where God said He would meet with His people, was between the cherubim, just over or "covering" the tablet of the law of God which resided inside the ark.  (The law which His people had broken.)  So, perhaps as His presence on the mercy seat atoned for or "covered" Israel's sins, the cloud of His presence also covered or blotted out their sins.  Maybe this should be the emphasis, not on the form of His presence in the future glorification of His people, but the act of His "covering us" which is what allows for our glorification in the first place.  

Isaiah is a difficult book for me.  There are the chapters on judgment, the prophecies upon prophecies, once in a while a bit of historical narrative I can understand, then more confusing stuff.  But there are some wonderful gems in Isaiah.  Redemption is a theme woven throughout the book.  We all know and love Isaiah 53 which pictures the coming Christ who would suffer on our behalf.  Isaiah 27:19 speaks of the future resurrection.  And many other verses sprinkled throughout proclaim His great and everlasting salvation.  It seems reasonable to me, though I'm no Bible scholar, to interpret the future cloud that will cover Zion in this redemptive way.  Because He will create a cloud to cover us by day (Is. 4:5), and because He has blotted out our transgressions like a cloud (Is. 44:22a), we can return to Him for He has redeemed us (Is. 44:22b).  I'll close with my favorite passage in Isaiah.

"Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you.  I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save."  Isaiah 46:3-4

Friday, February 24, 2012

Playing Catch-up

There's an Indigo Girl song that says something about losing one day and a life-time slips away.  I feel like that's what's happened to me.  I can't even pinpoint the day it all started, but somehow I've ended up behind.  Calvin was really sick for over 3 weeks, so maybe it started then.  I was out of town 3 days last week which didn't help.   I'm not sure how many days behind in 90 day Bible I am now.  I think I was 5 or 6 days behind and I think I'm now just 2 or 3 days behind.  I hadn't taken any grace days yet, so it's really not that bad.  I'm also trying to catch-up on read-aloud with my kids.  We're actually ahead in one book, but behind in others (the ones I'm not as crazy about.)  My husband suggested I have Monk and Twinkle Toes catch-up without me in one book, which I think is a great idea.

I'm also behind in blogging.  There are several posts I'd like to write and I'm hoping to have time this weekend.  I also need to catch-up on reading blogs.  My blogging has really suffered since I began getting up at 4:30.  I guess my main blogging time came during afternoon nap and in the evenings after the kids went to bed.  Now I'm either sleeping during those times or trying to get to sleep!  I love my morning routine, though, and will not be giving it up.  I get started on my Bible reading while sitting in the parking lot of the gym where I swim.  Then I swim about 45 minutes.  Afterwards I drive through Starbucks where I get a tall vanilla latte (my new drink- it has half the calories and sugar of a grande white mocha, my old drink) and read the Bible a few more minutes while destroying the evidence drinking my drink.  Then I come home, shower, make breakfast and get the kids up between 6:15 and 6:30.

I think the main culprit in my getting behind with the kids is running errands during read-aloud time.  I've changed the way I shop.  I used to go to the grocery store once a week and buy everything we needed.  Now I go to Natural Grocers, which is closer to our house, 3 or 4 times a week.  I'm not sure why I can't manage to stock-up, but it seems like every other day we need more fruit and vegetables, etc.  Spring has also been showing its face around here and the temptation to sneak out for a quick walk has been too strong to resist on several occasions.  The kids have been so great about staying on their schedules, I just need to get  better about keeping to mine!

What do you do to catch-up when you get behind?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TOS Review of See-N-Spell

If you're looking for an easy-to-use spelling reference, check out See-N-Spell, a new spelling and vocabulary quick reference guide by the makers of See-N-Read.  See-N-Spell helps writers to easily find the correct spelling to over 300 commonly used American English words.  See-N-Spell also helps you to easily differentiate homophones by listing them together.

Let me first say what See-N-Spell is not.  It's not your typical Spelling curriculum with lists of unrelated words and tests at the end of each section.  Rather, See-N-Spell is a handy tool that can make writing so much easier, no matter what Spelling curriculum you're using, if any.  I'm one of those people who sits with a dictionary at her elbow.  My spelling isn't atrocious, but I read a lot of British detective novels and always manage to muddle the English and American spellings in my mind.  I also have a knack for stumbling over words with multiple correct spellings like canceled (or is it cancelled?) and worshiped (or worshipped).  Which begs the question of why we have a rule that says we're supposed to double the ending consonant before adding a suffix, when it isn't always followed!  The joys of learning English!  Anyway, if you don't enjoy thumbing through the dictionary as much as I do, See-N-Spell's 40 page compact reference guide will be a big help to you.  The word lists are organized alphabetically by parts of speech followed by a section on homophones for each letter.  For instance, if you're having trouble with a word beginning with H, you simply turn to the H page and can see at a glance irregular verbs such as hide/hid/hidden and the different meanings of hangar and hanger.  It would be truly embarrassing (included in the commonly misspelled words list, by the way), to write about parking your airplane in its hanger!

I have to say my favorite section is the commonly misspelled words listed alphabetically at the back of the guide.  If the word I'm having trouble with is one that others struggle to remember, too, it's faster for me to use See-N-Spell than my dictionary or Google.  If the word I'm looking for isn't listed in See-N-Spell, then I just wasted about 15 seconds, not too bad.  And while I'm pretty quick with a dictionary, my 10 and 12 year olds save a lot of time using See-N-Spell.  The best part is you can purchase See-N-Spell for only $9.99!


Please check out other TOS reviews of See-N-Spell.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of See-N-Spell in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 10, 2012

TOS Review of Math Rider

Are you looking for a fun and intelligent math facts game?  Math Rider helps your elementary school children learn their math facts while playing an adventure style game.  Noble quests which exemplify positive family values such as caring and honesty, help your kids learn their math facts while having fun.  The game's artificial intelligence rehearses the math facts your child needs most at a rate custom tailored for each player.  This leads to mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts (0-12) in record time.

Here's a screenshot from a Math Rider quest.

You can purchase Math Rider on sale for $37 (normally $47) only until February 15, 2012.  It's an instant download and please be sure to check system requirements.  I tried to download this to my PC about 20 times and had problems with Adobe Air which is required for Math Rider to run.  I kept getting an error message about a problem with installing Adobe Air on my computer that told me to contact the administrator.  I'm not terribly computer savvy, but this is the first time I've encountered this problem.  I would make sure you can get Adobe Air successfully installed on your system before purchasing Math Rider.  I was really disappointed that I couldn't get this game to work on our computer.  


Please check out the other TOS crew reviews of Math Rider.

Disclaimer:  I received a link to download Math Rider in exchange for an honest review, but unfortunately I was never able to get it installed on my PC.  I got my information about Math Rider from their website and a webinar they conducted for reviewers.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Calvin's in training

So Calvin is 16 months and not walking.  My big girls didn't walk until they were 16 months, but they were really spoiled and carried everywhere.  Calvin has lots of floor time and he isn't even close to walking.  So, I've got him in training.  I make him push his walker every day back and forth across our living room rug and he doesn't like it one bit.  I told him, "No pain, no gain".

When he realized it was a photo shoot, he did his best to smile through the pain.  I love this kid!

Calvin doesn't talk either and this is unusual for our kids.  We usually have uncoordinated kids who talk our arms off from a very early age.  He doesn't even say Mama, which makes me sad.  Sometimes it looks like he's about to say something, like it's on the tip of his tongue, but he never does.  We think Calvin is perfectly wonderful and know that God has a plan for his life.  Hopefully we'll be able to look back soon and laugh about how we worried about Calvin's development.   I tell you there's going to be a big celebration at this house when Calvin takes his first steps and speaks his first words!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Best Playmates

Do you have sets of best friends at your house?  Our big girls have their share of disagreements, but they're inseparable.  That's how it is with Prince (5) and Queen (3).  They are the BEST of friends!  

Building castles!

Check out my old Star Wars figures!  This girl cracks me up!

Lucie loves her brother so much!
My husband took our oldest 3 kids skiing today.  After Prince went to school, I was home with just Lucie and Calvin.  Lucie and I had a lot of one on one time.  We made playdough and cookies and had a great time.  I asked Lucie if she wished that she were an only child and she said no.  She said she'd miss her kids, as she calls them.  I think that's pretty cool.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

90 day Bible Challenge- Week 5 Resources and Check-in if you're reading.

We've covered much of Israel's history this week.  It's hard not to miss the forest for the trees sometimes when reading through all the kings of Israel and Judah.  I wrote a post a couple of years ago on a woman's influence in the home that I based on observations of the good and bad kings according to whether their mothers were God-fearing or not.  Even the history books of the Bible are applicable to us today!

Then this morning I was reading in 1 Chronicles and was reminded again of the rebellion and redemption of Korah.  At the time I wrote that post, I didn't realize that Psalm 42 is also a Psalm of the sons of Korah.  That is so cool and knowing the backstory definitely helps me appreciate the cry of the Psalmists heart!

What is the Lord showing you as you commit to reading His Word daily?

Don't forget to checkout Ted Cooper's You are Here in the Bible and Amy's daily SOAPs at Momstoolbox.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My new routine and my husband's weight loss

This has nothing to do with my new routine, except that I've been very sleepy.  Aren't they cute?  Lucie sleeps in a crib next to her sister's bed, when she isn't in our bed.  I'm not sure whose idea this was, but it made for a great photo op.

My new routine has me up at 4:30 so I can swim at 5.  This is great for getting an early start on my day, but I'm worthless at the end of the day.  I haven't had the energy to blog or even to hang out with my family.  They all watched a movie last night and I went to bed early.  I'm going to aim for swimming 3-4 times a week, but the funny thing is, even when I do wake up late (6 instead of 4:30) I'm still wanting to go to bed early!  And it doesn't matter if I get a nap, I'm still tired out by 10.  I guess I have a new bedtime.  My new schedule has allowed me to stay on top of laundry, get my 90 day Bible reading done early, and made it easier to start our school days on time, but my "free time" in the evenings has been completely eaten up.  I guess that's a good thing, but I've made very little progress on the books I'm reading.

In more exciting news, my husband is losing weight and feeling better than he has in a long time.  After reading Why We Get Fat... by Gary Taubes we decided he would go on the new Atkins diet.  He loves it because he doesn't feel hungry all the time, he gets to eat real food like meat and eggs and the weight is coming off.  Better than that, his blood pressure is in the normal range for his age in the first time since I've known him.  Seriously, he had high blood pressure when we married.  I'm anxious for him to go to the doctor and get a lipid profile done.  I can't wait to see his triglyceride number.  I think he's lost 15 pounds so far and it's been about a month.

For those of you who have tried Atkins before, the main difference is you're now allowed unlimited leafy green vegetables from the beginning.  Actually, there are lots of veggies he can have, just not starchy ones.  My husband is still in the inductive phase and wants to stay there until he loses another 10 lbs or so.  The kids and I have been trying to get him to workout.  We may wear him down eventually.  I have a feeling he's going to come back from this ski trip with the kids wanting to get in shape.

I've been really missing blogging, but I guess I'm in a new phase : )!  It probably won't last long.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Night School

We've had some doctor's appointments lately and my husband and the kids have been talking about going skiing.  In order to free up my time to take kids to the doctor and make sure they don't get behind in the event of a last minute day trip with dad, we've been doing some night school.  I've loved reading ahead in our Sonlight read-alouds with the kids.   There's something so liberating about starting a day of school knowing that you've already accomplished something!  This also gives the kids an extra 30-40 minutes in their school day, which they are loving.  I'm sure there will be evenings when we don't get all our reading done at night, but I like trying to get a jump on our day and the kids do, too.

Do you do school at night?

Monday, January 23, 2012

My 1.5 Million Dollar pair of new running shoes!

You know how you can't wait to get outside and break in a new pair of running shoes?  I always walk with an extra spring in my step when I'm wearing new running shoes.  In fact, when I've struggled to stay consistent with running, investing in a new pair of shoes guarantees I'll get back on track.  I'm speaking metaphorically in my title.  I did not buy a 1.5 million dollar pair of running shoes.  Our local health club just finished remodeling its swimming pools and they are NICE!  I haven't been swimming in forever, but  now I'm at it at 5 am in the mornings!

I actually woke up ten minutes before my alarm went off this morning at 4:35 am!  I pulled into the parking lot at 4:52 am and I was like the 8th car.  Who knew there were so many crazy people in Amarillo?!

Actually, I could get used to this.  I love getting so much accomplished in the mornings.  I had a load of laundry done, my 90 day Bible reading almost finished, breakfast served, I was dressed and had dried and straightened my hair, and family devotions completed by 7:30 am.  By 9 I had done the grocery shopping and taken my husbands shirts to the cleaners.  The downside is by 1 pm I was toast.  As in, people in my family were strongly encouraging me to take a nap.  I have never gotten up in the 4s before and can't imagine that this new routine will hold up for long, but who knows.  It must be my new phase!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

90 Day Bible Challenge- Week 4 Resources and Check-in if you're reading

Yes, I know it's 2012!

If you started the 90 day Bible challenge on January 1st with me, you should be on day 22 today.  We're now 24.4% of the way through the entire Bible!!

I was reminded this week about how David is a type of Christ (Part I: Humble beginnings, anointing, and obedience and Part II:  From suffering to exaltation ).  I know I sound like a broken record, but it's just so cool to see God's redemptive plan unfold in the pages of the Old Testament.

What is the Lord showing you as you delve into His Word daily?  Check-in below if you're reading.  I need accountability, too!  The only thing more fun than reading the Bible in 90 days is reading it with a friend!

Check out Mom's Toolbox for Ted Cooper's You Are Here in the Bible this week and don't miss Amy's daily SOAPs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I have a confession to make...

Remember that whole going green phase I went through?  Well, it was just that.  A phase.  Here's what happened with my various endeavors:

Cloth diapers- turns out Calvin is allergic to them.  Seriously.  His stomach looks way better when I put him in disposable diapers.  How sad that it took me 15 months to come to terms with that.  And how messed up is it that when I figured it out, it was still hard for me to make the switch. 

Junk mail- I paid my $41 to and months later I'm still getting tons of mail.  Let's put it this way.  We're on very close terms with our mail carrier who has to hand deliver our mountain of junk mail that comes daily.  I'm thinking we're getting more like 250 lbs per year, not 41.  I filled out all the forms and have no idea why we're still getting the junk.  C'est la vie.

Homemade, environmentally friendly fabric softener-  Like this was going to go over well.  I tried, I really did.  My family revolted.  A friend of mine gave my son some clothes recently and he kept inhaling them over and over.  I finally asked him what the heck he was doing and he said, "Cole's clothes just smell so good!"  My housekeeper also rebelled.  I told her no fabric softener and the other day after she left I found a dryer sheet in the dryer.  I can't believe she went to the store and bought dryer sheets for my laundry behind my back.  Ok, so the baking soda and vinegar recipe didn't exactly smell like spring breeze, whatever that is.  Now we're back to the chemical-laden Downy.  And everyone is the happier for it.

Ditching paper towels-  My husband put his foot down on this one.  He said he could maybe put up with the house smelling like vinegar, but he had to have paper towels.  I tried just buying one roll for him, but I was too tempted and ended up using his paper towels.  Pretty soon I was buying the big econo-size package again.

Now, I realize these were all very small changes; paltry, really.  It made me feel good to make healthy changes for our family and for the environment.  Like I was contributing somehow to a greater good.  But since reading Folks, This Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin, I realize that I had no idea what going green really looks like.   And I have to admit, I don't want to go green on the big things.  I don't want to live in a bunker built into the side of a hill with a hoophouse instead of a roof.  I like having a roof.  And while I think it's really neat in theory to heat your home with natural resources on your property, I kind of like having a gas line that comes right into our home and that little thermostat thingy that allows me to adjust the temperature just so.  And while a part of me wouldn't mind being "off the grid", I'm just not willing to add a solarium onto the side of my house.  (I'm sure the neighbors would just love that!)

What I've discovered about myself is that I'm not green at all.  I don't know why this should come as a surprise to me.  I drive a gas-guzzling 4wd SUV and I love it.  (We were separated for a week once and I can attest that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.)  My husband has a motorcycle, but rarely rides it.  He also drives a 4wd SUV (though it's more fuel efficient than mine) and our other car is a motorhome.  A few years ago my husband came up with a bumper sticker idea while on a road trip.  "Prius, tastes like chicken."  We like big vehicles.  And I drive mine all over town multiple times a day.  Swim practice has been a 40 minute round trip for the last few months and I make the drive twice on some days!  I'm basically, single-handedly responsible for building big oil.

If you've known me very long, you may have noticed that I go through phases where I obsess about certain things.  Right now it's food.  You should hear my poor mom explain to me what we're eating and why on Sundays since my little obsession began.  I used to just eat it and enjoy.  Now I have to know where it came from.  And remember my sewing phase?  Then there was the soap making, the Insanity workout, and what else?  I went through a running phase a few years ago.  And my family will never forget my ebay phase.  It got so bad that my kids had to start hiding their prized possessions from me.  Really getting my doctorate was a phase and so was teaching.  Frankly, considering my track record I'm a little surprised I'm still happily married after 14 years!  It's probably because my husband is so laid back and lets me do my thing, even when my thing is a little crazy.

So there you have it.  The ugly truth.  I wanted to go green.  I tried to go green, and failed. 

I feel much better now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My first attempt at rendering lard.

Ok, so the new news is that animal fats are good and most vegetable fats are bad (unless cold pressed olive oil and virgin coconut oil- think unprocessed).  Unfortunately, however the lard you purchase in the grocery store has been partially hydrogenated (like margarine) to make it more solid for transportation and shelf-life.  Man-made trans fats are bad, so I decided to take the plunge and try rendering my own lard from a big bag of pork fat I purchased from the local farm where we buy our meat.

I did this for about 30 seconds and decided I didn't have the time for cutting the pork fat into little bitty pieces.

I filled my 8 qt crock pot and cooked on low.

My husband came along later and cut up the fat with scissors.  Why didn't I think of that?

Because I didn't cut the pork into litlte pieces at first, it had to cook too long and you can see some of the pieces getting too brown.

After the first straining. 

They turned out more white than I thought, but I do detect a faint odor and taste.  Not ideal for pie crusts!  Next time I'll have to cut the pork up smaller to begin with.  Next time may be today since I still have more pork fat to render.
All in all it went ok.  Our breakfast of scrambled eggs and biscuits were made with our new lard and the kids ate it up.  Big D did not like the smell, though it didn't bother me.  He said our house was beginning to smell like an Alsups!

Monday, January 16, 2012

90 day Bible Challenge Week 3- Check-in if you're reading, too!

Just pretend that says 2012! 

If you started the challenge on January 1st, like me, then today was day 16 of the 90 day Bible challenge.  We're officially in our third week now and in case you're keeping track, 17.77% of the way through the entire Bible! 

Yesterday when I read in Deuteronomy 33 how the Levites were entrusted with the Urim and Thummim because they were to teach God's Word to the rest of Israel, I was reminded that the Urim and Thummim was not a magic 8 ball! 

Today I was reminded of the importance of memorial stones in our lives so we can remember God's awesome acts on our behalf and share them with our children, as the Lord instructed the Israelites to do.

What have you been most impressed with in your reading lately?

Check out Mom's Toolbox for great 90 day Bible resources for week 3 including her daily SOAPs and Ted Cooper's (founder of 90 day Bible) You are Here in the Bible overviews. 

Welcome to a Day in the Life of our Homeschool- TOS Crew Blogcruise

The homeschool room. 

The cubbies are where the current use texts and workbooks are stored.

It took us a few months to hit our stride this year and find a schedule that was strict enough for me to get everything done that I need to accomplish each day.  Each of my kids has a laminated schedule/checklist to keep them on track throughout the day.  Even their five minute breaks are accounted for.  Of course, there's nothing to stop them from finishing a subject early, in which case they can choose to go on to the next subject or take a break until the official start time for their next subject.  It seems rigid, I know, but it works for us.

Each of my kids has a slightly different schedule since I'm reading aloud two cores this year, Monk and Twinkle Toes share Sonlight readers, and the kids take turns on the computer for Rosetta Stone.  I'll share my 12 yr old son's schedule with mine in parentheses.  This is our typical Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri schedule.  We use Sonlight's 4 day schedule and go to Community Bible Study as a family on Wednesdays from 8-noon.  On those my school kids do math at CBS while I'm in leader's meeting and Monk does science on his own when he gets home.  Monk and Twinkle Toes have piano lessons on Wednesday afternoons, as well.

(6:15 am I have breakfast made and wake up kids.)
6:30-7:00 am     Make bed, get dressed, eat breakfast
7:00-7:30 am     Catechism, character sketches, and prayer with family
7:30-7:55 am     Individual Bible reading and Scripture memory
8:00-8:55 am     Math- TT Algebra II
9:00-9:45 am     Individual Sonlight reading (I'm reading aloud Sonlight Core B to Measle)
9:45-10:20 am   Read-aloud with mom Sonlight Core F Eastern Hemisphere
10:25-11:15 am Science- Apologia Physical Science (I'm making lunch right now.)
11:20-11:55 am Lunch
12:00-12:25 pm Rosetta Stone Mandarin Chinese
12:30-12:55 pm Language Arts
1:00-1:25 pm     Greek 2 pages
1:30-1:55 pm     Computer Science
2:00-3:00 pm     Practice piano
3:00-                  Homework- Complete all unfinished work for the day.

Of course I forgot to include Eastern Hemisphere Explorer in the new schedule so Monk and Twinkle Toes try to squeeze that into their Language Arts and Reading time or as homework at the end of the day.  Monk gets the opportunity to earn an hour of electronics time per day as long as he keeps an A average in math.  He also has swim team every evening.

See, he really does get free time!

TOS Review of We Choose Virtues: Virtue Clue Cards

The goal of We Choose Virtues, created by mom and teacher Heather McMillan, is to inspire character in kids that lasts.  I think all parents want their children to become young men and women of character.  In fact, this is a major reason behind the homeschool movement today.  Yes, I want to be with my kids and I want them to be with one another, but mainly I want their education to be more than just academic.  In our homeschool, our goal is to glorify God above all else.  Since our house is full of people with a sin nature, that can't be accomplished without including character training.  We like to start our days with catechism, character training, and a time of prayer.

The Virtue Clue Cards are creative, cute, and easily taken with you or your child when on the go.  They're geared for kids 3-18, but I've found them helpful, as well.  My 5 and 8 yr olds enjoy assigning them to one another and then swapping them.  You can use the front side (shown above) to help your family memorize Heather's character catchphrases and antonyms.  The back of the cards give a challenge for the day and encouragement from a VirtueVille character such as Piggy Bank Frank (for patience) or Oboe Joe (obedience).

I think the Virtue Clue Cards, available at $5.99 for a limited time, would be a great addition to whatever character training program you're using in your family.  In our home we've chosen to teach character traits in conjunction with the Bible, so we wouldn't utilize the Virtue Clue Cards on their own.  I realize that We Choose Virtues is trying to be helpful to a wider audience than just Christian families so they made these virtue cards without Bible verses.  They do offer faith-based character training programs designed for Christian schools, Sunday schools, and even homeschools.  The faith-based homeschool kit, available for $99.99, includes Scriptures from the NiRV Bible on both the parenting cards and virtue flash cards.  The homeschool kit also includes a teacher's guide, several virtue posters, a personal virtue chart, and virtue user review.  I did not review this kit, but it sounds more in line with the way we do character training in our homeschool.

Even though we wouldn't use the Virtue Clue Cards on their own, we have found them to be very helpful in reinforcing the definitions of the character traits.  The virtue cards help make an abstract concept like being content more concrete.  For example, the virtue catchphrase for "content" is "have my 'wanter' under control".  The antonym for "content" given in italics is "I am NOT... bored, greedy, always wanting more, and I don't beg or whine!"  This has been helpful because our children don't necessarily realize that being bored means they're not being content, or that whining means they have a complaining attitude, which means they're not being content.  The challenges on the backs of the cards are great, too, because as we try to keep them, they show us our failures!  All of this can be discouraging apart from assuring our children that God is at work in us to will and to do for His good pleasure and that when we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us.

If you're looking for a fun way to reinforce the character traits of gentleness, self-control, kindness, forgiveness, diligence, contentment, perseverance, patience, obedience, helpfulness, honesty, and attentiveness then these Virtue Clue Cards will be a great addition to your home.  They will help make the virtues come to life for your kids and this can lead to further teaching opportunities.  


Please check out the other TOS crew reviews of We Choose Virtues Virtue Clue Cards.

Disclaimer:  I received a free pack of the Virtue Clue Cards in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why we get fat... according to Gary Taubes

I had the book Why We Get Fat:  And What to do About It recommended to me, so I read it over the holiday.  Frankly, if left to my own devices, I wouldn't have bought a book called Why We Get Fat because it's always seemed pretty simple to me.  According to Gary Taubes, it's not nearly as simple as we've been led to believe.  He's not a doctor or a scientist, but a scientific journalist.  I enjoyed his book, agreed with much of it, and disagreed with some, too.  It may be a bit premature for me to respond to his more recent book without first reading his previous and larger book, Good Calories, Bad Calories about much the same thing.   I'm anxious to read Good Calories, Bad Calories, but I'm also in the middle of a 90 day Bible challenge, homeschooling, etc. and don't know when I'll finish it.  So, since I have time now to respond to Why We Get Fat, I want to do so.  I can come back later and react to Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Taubes sketches the last 200 years of obesity research and concludes that what used to be common knowledge, that carbohydrates make us fat, is basically right.  He also goes to some trouble to argue that the lipid hypothesis which states that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat cause heart disease and atherosclerosis, is probably not true (except for the trans fats popularized ironically because of the lipid hypothesis, aka margarine as a substitue for butter).   He has to present this dual argument because one can be true, but not both.  Either carbohydrates are good and fats are bad (as we've been taught for the last 40+ years) or fats are good and carbohydrates are bad (as Taubes suggests).  Yes, this is a bit of an oversimplification, but it's basically what he argues. 

This is the food pyramid we all grew up with.  Is it backed by more scientific evidence or political pressure?
As you can see from the food pyramid above, if you're anywhere near my age, you were taught in school that the majority of your calories each day should be grains.  I took health in school, then I took physiology and chemistry and nutrition in college, then I took more physiology and biochemistry in graduate school, then I taught exercise physiology and sports nutrition in college.  So I don't take it lightly when I question whether this ideal that was taught to us, which I then taught to others, was backed by indisputable scientific evidence or whether it was more a product of political pressure and the industrialization of our food system (where big corn has more clout than say Joe dairy farmer).

Taubes is very persuasive, though it's obvious what he's trying to sell and to whom he's selling it.  He uses lots of case studies and anecdotal evidence, but it's not easy to go back more than 50 years and have a wealth of controlled studies to choose from.  For example, he argues that between 1910 and 1970 consumption of animal fats (butter, tallow, and lard) fell drastically while consumption of vegetable oils (corn oil, etc. including margarine) rose greatly.  Between 1910 and 1970 heart disease rose right along with consumption of vegetable oils.  As I said, Taubes is persuasive, so much so that I'm spending the weekend rendering lard from a 10 lb bag of clean pork fat I purchased from a local farmer, but still this argument wouldn't last 10 seconds in an academic setting.  The problem of course is there were many other changes in our lifestyle between 1910 and 1970.  I mean, that's practically like comparing the families of Little House on the Prairie with  the one in All in the Family.  Life changed in those 60 years, and most of us would probably argue that it wasn't for the better (the fat guy in the easy chair in front of the tv in All in the Family comes to mind)!  Taubes had already dismissed exercise as a factor in weight (something I'll dispute later), so I guess he thought he had his bases covered.  But, there could be a plethora of variables that could have contributed to the increase in heart disease from 1910 to 1970.  What about the mothers leaving home and joining the workforce, for example?  I'm sure this had a huge effect on our diet and other aspects of health during those 60 years. 

Taubes does cite lots of well-controlled experiments, too, but general sweeping arguments like the one above that are rooted in very little scientific evidence is what got us into this mess in the first place (if indeed we're in a mess, nutritionally).  It's hard for me to tell how much of his simplistic approach is because he wants his book to be readable and easy to follow or because he wants to sell us on the idea that fats are good and carbohydrates are bad.  (The title of his previous book makes me lean toward the latter.)

I can tell it's going to take me several more blog posts to sum up where I agree with Taubes and where I disagree with him and why.  Is this something anyone else is interested in? 


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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.