Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lessons in Obedience

A week ago I felt God leading me to do a modified Daniel Fast while praying intentionally for my husband.  I had a few things on my list of things to pray for at the time , but nothing major.

The next day during my prayer time, I prayed specifically that I would grow even more in trusting God no matter what.  Two hours later Hubby called me from work saying that he needed to talk to me about something but it would have to wait until he was home for lunch.  I asked if it was about work.  He said yes.  I asked if it was good or bad news.  He said it wasn't terrible.  I asked if he was being fired or getting a pay cut.  He said no.  We left it with that.

I hung up the phone and immediately started worrying--was he in trouble?  Was he being asked to transfer somewhere that would require a move?  The list went on.  Mid worry, I stopped myself.  I had JUST prayed to grow in trust.  I knew this was a test.  I immediately prayed telling God that I trusted him.  No matter what it was about, He would get us through it and we would be fine.  Then I let it go and moved on with my morning.

Hubby was just being a stinker.  It was GOOD news.  He was asked to interview for a different position within his company doing work that he likes a lot better than his current job of computer coding.  He found out yesterday that he got the position and will start at the end of April after he finishes up his current project.

I'm pretty sure that Hubby would have been offered the job transfer whether I had obeyed God or not, but the timing of it all was faith building.  Sometimes we pray and don't see immediate results.  While the job transfer did happen, one of the things I was praying about has not.  But I know that God heard my prayers and will answer them in His time, not mine.  Jeremiah 29:12-13 promises: "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Day in the Life of my Homeschool

Today is Tuesday which means Joy has preschool while the rest of us go to a botany co-op class.  The morning starts with dropping Joy off at my dad's so he can take Joy to school because it meets in the same building where my dad works.  Then I take Lizzy and David to botany class.

Today they learned about dandelions and weeds.  The class of first-forth graders were divided on whether dandelions are a weed or a plant we should want to grow, though no one was brave enough to try a sampling of dandelion greens to prove they would make a tasty treat.

After an hour of science, we came home and did the next lesson of Adventures in My Father's World which covers Bible, History, Science, Art, Music, and literature.  Today we learned about Samuel Morse.  We all wrote a message in morse code and then passed it to the next person to translate.  David wrote: Mom has a big head with morse code.  Lizzy wrote: Hi mom have a nice day.  I wrote: I love you David and Lizzy.

David's message as translated by Lizzy

Math time comes next.  David is currently on Saxon 65 using the DIVE cds to explain his lessons-he likes it better when Mom doesn't teach him math.  Lizzy is using Singapore Math 1b and working on learning her math facts.  Eventually she will switch over to Saxon, but she's not quite ready for math without pretty pictures.

After math comes reading time.  Lizzy is working her way through the Thornton W. Burgess animal books series and is busy reading The Adventures of Grandfather Frog.  David is reading the Mysterious Benedict Society and is in the middle of The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoners Dilemma.

This afternoon we will tackle Spelling, Grammar, and gym.  By gym I mean I will kick the kids outside and make them ride their bikes, play in the yard, or do yard work while I get some work done around the house.  (I have a "choose-your-own-adventure" project to tackle this week and I think I am going to try to tackle the dungeon otherwise known as my basement storage room.)

Twice a week I have the kids write one page of either copywork or an original story and practice typing using Dance Mat Typing.  Not every day is like today.  Some days we accomplish everything, other days we don't.  But this is a pretty typical look into our homeschool life.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

They're Growing Up

Lizzy's Blankie named Coldy

The girls were looking through the Toys R Us sale ad from the newspaper today.  I think they wanted everything in the circular.  They obviously did not like my response that they couldn't have anything out of it.  So Lizzy got creative.

"Mom, I'm going to pick out a toy for you to buy me after I stop sucking my thumb."  I looked at her like, "Who says I'm buying you a toy for that?"  She must have read the skepticism on my face because she added, "You know, just like Great Grandma bought you a toy so you would stop sucking your thumb."  My Grandma bought my sister and I original, stand in long lines, fight to the death, cabbage patch dolls.  My sister got hers immediately.  My mom put mine on a shelf in the closet and wouldn't let me have it until I stopped sucking my thumb.

Lizzy convinced Joy that she needed to pick out a toy and stop sucking her thumb as well.  First Lizzy wanted a bouncy house (all $350 of it) but I squashed that idea.  Then she and Joy picked out much more reasonable toys which I had them tape up to their closet door as a reminder.  Lizzy pulled out her calendar and circled the day one month from now since I said they had to go a whole month.

What Joy Wants 
Lizzy then got to thinking.  "Mom, remember that night when I couldn't find Coldy (what she named her blanket) and so I went the whole night without sucking my thumb?  I think you need to put Coldy some place where I can't find her and then I won't suck my thumb."  She brought me her blanket that she's slept with since birth and told me to hide it.

I admit that I have conflicting emotions about today's episode.  On the one hand, I am really glad that Lizzy came to this decision because she's starting to get adult teeth and I'd like to avoid braces if possible.  On the other, it means she's growing up--giving me her blankie, determined to stop sucking her thumb.  I'm pretty sure Joy is just along for the ride and won't actually get her toy this time around, but Lizzy is serious.  Lizzy is definitely growing up.  Sniff, sniff.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cleaning the Closets--Oh My!

I seriously considered not participating in Project Simplify Week 3-Closets, Counter Tops or Drawers.  The only drawers that needed attention I addressed in Week 2 when we were in the kitchen.  The only counter tops in my house are in the kitchen which I also addressed in Week 2.  Which left me with the great black hole that I like to call my hall closets.  I did NOT want to even think about cleaning out my hall closets.  They are complete disaster magnets.  

Linens, Toiletries, First Aid, Etc
Games, Craft Supplies, Etc
Every time I organize them, someone (kids, Hubby) decides they need to get something out of the closet and leaves a trail of chaos behind them.  I was lamenting the futility of tackling my closets to my mom when I was outside keeping an eye on the kids who were busy splashing in the woods.  She gave me some very sage advice--make it easier to put it back than it is to take it out.  Now I don't know if I accomplished that goal, but I did my best.  

I purged a TON out of what I would have considered pretty purged already closets.  While they may be the black hole of the house, I do tackle the closets on a semi-annual basis tossing anything I don't think we need.  This time I decided to be a bit more cut-throat.  I tossed excess sheets, towels, table clothes (I use table clothes maybe once a year, so why do I need four???), rags, toiletries that we will never use because our tastes have changed (or the girls now have hair that requires "real" hair products, not kiddie stuff), the list goes on.  

Purge pile from the linen closet

I'm sure that within a week the closets will look like a tornado came through them, but for now, I can enjoy the fruits of my labor--two purged and organized closets. 

Linen Closet Cleaned Up
Games and Crafts Closet Cleaned Up

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ladybug Farms is Growing!

Chives--8 years and still growing

It's been a crazy start to the spring here in Michigan.  We're having record breaking temps with sunny skies.  The trees are starting the leaf out, the robins have returned, the flowers are blooming, and my some of my seeds have already sprouted.  Meaning--all those plans Hubby and I had for expanding our garden have suddenly been pushed up.

We've added a few things so far and have plans for more.  Hubby was a dear and went out and bought me 2 compost bins (we had been piling our compost into a pile on the edge of the woods).  I think this is the addition that has the kids the most excited.  They now fight over we gets to take the daily compost out to the bin.

Compost bins-One for now, one for later

Hubby has also been busy pulling out our current landscape of bushes and ground ivy to clear space for new raised garden beds.  Yesterday we went to Menards and bought enough cement bricks and concrete to build one raised planter with plans to go back and buy another load for planter #2.  (All those bricks are HEAVY and we weren't sure if our van could haul much more)

New bricks waiting to be turned into a planter

We also have seeds that have sprouted!  I usually start my seeds using trays and keep the plants in the sunroom.  This year I learned about a new technique that I am trying.  I read about it over at A Garden For The House.  It's called Winter Sowing.  You use old milk jugs and turn them into mini greenhouses.  I have wanted a green house for a long time now, but the cost and lack of space have ruled that out.  I was very excited when I learned about this method and had to try it.  So far I'm pretty happy with the results.

Some of my milk jug greenhouses

I have been planting as I get more containers, so about 4 at a time.  So far I've planted lettuce, cilantro, oregano, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, and a few varieties of flowers that the girls picked out.  Still to be planted is corn (David picked that out), peppers, strawberries, and whatever else we decide we can't live without.  We have chives, oregano, and green onions that have come back up and are ready to use.

After these projects are complete, we have plans to develop this wasteland left over from when we got rid of the above ground pool our house came with when we moved in-Hubby is debating between building a deck or landscaping it with wood chips, more planters, and a brick fire place.  The straw bales are the remnant of my attempt at straw bale gardening.  They will be recycled this year into mulch and as a base for the planters so we don't have to buy as much dirt all in one year.

Ladybug Farms is growing and I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Heart Searches Restlessly

My heart searches restlessly 
and finds no rest till it rests in thee.
O Seeker, you sought for me,
your love has found me;
I am taken by thee.

I learned this song at a prayer meeting this past Sunday called Prayer of Augustine by Ed Conlin.  St. Augustine wrote this prayer after having a conversion experience.  I wish I'd learned it back in the fall when I was wrestling with myself because the chorus so aptly describes what I was feeling.

When we try to do things our own way, our hearts will be restless.  I knew that I had no peace at all in my soul when I was wrestling with myself in the fall.  I craved peace.  Day after day I wrote in my prayer journal that I just wanted peace in my soul.  I tried to create peace by changing my environment--I purged my house, I cleaned and restored order.  I took on new projects.  I made sure to get my exercise in.  Yet, it wasn't enough.  I was still extremely restless.

Out of the Ashes
I didn't find the peace I craved until I figured out that the only place to find rest is in Christ.  When we let go of our own will, when we release our death grip on our lives, He is there to catch us.  He is there to flood us with peace.

Hubby says that I am a little OCD when it comes to my routine.  If my routine gets messed up, I become anxious and stressed.  From day one of homeschooling in January, my routine has been non-existent.  The only thing consistent about my life from week to week is that it's not going to be the same as the week before.  In the past, I would be a complete wreck.  I would be grumpy, snappy, and a bear to live with.

None of these things have happened.  I'm not stressed.  I'm not anxious.  I'm nice and happy.  When I let go of my own will and trusted God, he flooded me with peace in areas I didn't even know needed flooding.  

O Seeker, you sought for me,
your love has found me;
I am taken by thee.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Let Em Play

I took Lizzy and David to their homeschool botany class this morning and overheard a few of the kids discussing the toads and tadpoles they had collected from their pond.  The spring peepers have been going crazy around here, so I decided I was going to do something extremely uncharacteristic for me.  I was going to let my kids go slopping around in the swampy area behind my mom's house and look for frogs.

I do not like messes.  I do not like it when my kids get muddy.  I do not like it when my kids get wet.  Yet I knew they would love to look for frogs, so I let them go anyway.  My mom was working in her yard so I sent the kids down there to by themselves while I stayed home to work on my cleaning out my closet (my mom lives 5 doors down from me).  After about an hour, I went down to see if they'd found anything.

They found a couple tadpoles but no frogs.  And they were covered in muck and mud.  But the smiles on their faces was priceless.  They spend almost 3 hours splashing around in the water, getting as dirty as possible.  They came out of the woods every so often to dump the water out of their boots and then went right back out to play.

When I first got there and realized just how dirty they were getting, I was so tempted to call a halt to their fun, to tell them to be careful and not get too dirty.  I stopped myself instead and thought, "Let em play.  They're having fun.  It's nothing a little soap and water can't handle."  So I sat down and had a good chat with my mom and did my best to not cringe when I heard them jumping and splashing in the water.  It's going to take me a while, and it's probably not going to be easy, but I am doing my best to be a mom who just lets my kids play.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Project Simplify--Kitchen is Done!

Week two of Project Simplify is a success.  I picked away at it all week, but my kitchen is finally done.  While the original challenge was to clean out the pantry and fridge of unhealthy food, I skipped that part because we already eat pretty healthy and there wasn't really anything to get rid of.  So instead I cleaned out every drawer and cupboard.  I cleaned up the counter.  I even went to the store to find a few storage solutions.

Organized and bought a stick on hook for the dust pan that's always in the way

Bought Dividers for the utensils in both drawers

It took longer than I thought it would thanks to the nice weather and my kids begging to go on walks, to the park, anything but stay cooped up inside.  But I'm done and am pretty happy with the way my kitchen turned out.

Whole Kitchen Before

Whole Kitchen After

 My only regret is that I have yet to find a better solution for my "hot spot" on the counter.  But I will.  I am going to scour the internet until I find what I am looking for (it would be helpful if I even knew what I was looking for).

Hot Spot Before
Hot Spot After

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Setting Their Own Pace

Lizzy learned how to ride a two wheel bike today.  She'll be 7 in June.  I tried to teach her many times last summer and she just wasn't getting it.  This year I promised her a new bike if she learned how to ride a two wheeler (her current bike has been taken over by Joy).  She didn't seem in any hurry to learn and told me that she would just stick with her scooter.  I secretly wondered if she would ever learn to ride a bike.

We were out in the driveway this afternoon planting seeds for our garden in milk jugs when Lizzy looked across the street and saw her friend learning to ride a bike.  She saw Julia go up and down the street with her dad running behind her and then she saw Julia riding on her own.  She said, "Look, mom.  Julia learned how to ride her bike."

Lizzy put her helmet on, got her bike out and asked if I'd take the training wheels off because she wanted to try it.  She had one little wobble and then she took off.  I told her that she was going too fast and I couldn't keep up with her so she'd better come back when she was ready to stop since I hadn't taught her that skill yet. She figured it out on her own.  She figured out how to restart herself on her own.  In the space of 2 minutes, Lizzy could ride her bike all on her own.  I didn't even break a sweat.

I learned a valuable lesson this afternoon.  Children will set their own pace.  I can fight it by pushing them, cajoling them, trying to make them learn a skill before they are ready, but it is a whole lot easier when I just take a breath, step back, and let them set the pace.  And when they finally are ready to accomplish a skill, be there to cheer for them and tell them how proud I am of them for persevering.  The smile on Lizzy's face when she realized she could now ride a bike was priceless.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Letting Go--Our Schooling Journey--Part 2

I used to be a helicopter mom.  While I let my kids play outside by themselves, I had to check on them every few minutes.  If I couldn't see them, I worried.  I made them stop if they were doing something that would get them dirty, wet, or could maybe hurt them.  If I heard yelling, I immediately stepped in to fix the situation rather than making them deal with it on their own.  I would only let them go within sight of the house in the woods behind our house.

I knew that I was parenting out of fear--fear that they would get hurt, kidnapped, lost in the woods, messy, etc.  I knew that parenting out of fear wasn't a good thing to do.  Yet I just could not let go.  I had to be in control of where they were, what they were doing, at all times.

This past fall I was at a women's retreat.  I was having a personal prayer time and I felt God telling me that I needed to let go.  I needed to release my children into His hands and to stop hoovering.  I told Him that I would.  I prayed that I would.  Then I went home and kept on holding on.

I shared yesterday about our schooling journey and how we came to be homeschooling.  What I left out is the part that had to do with me.  I spent the entire fall clinging to my children.  Yes, they were physically going to school, but I could not accept it.  I fought it every step of the way.  Outwardly, I had released my children to the public school system, but inside me I was not even close to truly letting them go.

I thought I had it under control.  I prayed daily that I would get over it.  I SAID that I was.  The first week of December, I had a really bad day.  I was trying to do dishes.  Lizzy was whining and acting like a terror.  David was in a complete panic about a homework assignment.  This was now a daily occurrence in my household since school started, but this day I had just had enough.  I threw the dish in my hand down and yelled "I'm done!"  I walked away and shut myself in my room.  Hubby was in there reading a book (hiding from me more likely) and asked if I was okay.  I couldn't breathe.  I was trying to, but I could. not. breathe.  I was on my knees bent over gasping for breathe.  And then the flood broke open and I cried like I have never in my entire life cried before.

The next day Hubby asked me how I was doing (I think he was worried about me) and it led to a long discussion.  At one point Hubby felt God speaking to him to tell me that I need to trust God and that only after I learn to really trust Him will He give me the sign I need.  That He really loves me a lot.  While I have been a Christian all my life, I have never experienced God speaking directly to me like that.  To say I was moved is an understatement.

I set out to trust God for real this time.  I was a girl on a mission to trust God because I desperately wanted to get myself out of this situation.  I was miserable, I was making my family miserable.  If the only way out was to release my children into His hands, then I was going to do it and fast.  I didn't even care what the outcome was--if they stayed in school, if we brought them back home.  I just needed peace in my spirit (my sign).

I got my sign the moment Hubby agreed we should pull the kids out of school.  Something in me released and I was instantly, completely at peace.  I had learned to trust God, really trust God.  Even if His will was the exact opposite of my will.  Hubby says that I am like a new woman.  I feel like a new woman.  I learned how to let go.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our Schooling Journey--Part 1

Early on in our parenting journey, I remember telling Hubby that there was no way I would ever homeschool my children.  They would be going to school and that's final.  Famous last words.  When it came time for David to start school, I was very hesitant to have him start on time due to his October birthday and Michigan's December 1 cutoff date.  Plus, he was a premie.  I read books on waiting an extra year before kindergarten, received a lot of advice, and we ended up having David do a year called Young 5s, a program designed specifically for children who age wise are ready for kindergarten but could use an extra year for various reasons.  

David had a great year in Young 5s so we had no problem enrolling him again for kindergarten.  One month into his kindergarten year, we knew that it wasn't going to work for him.  David was just too far ahead of the rest of his class and needed a grade skip.  The school wouldn't even consider such a step, so our only choice was to pull him out, homeschool him for a few years, and then put him back into school a grade ahead.  He did two years of homeschooling before we decided it was time to give school a try again.  We signed him, along with Lizzy (first grade), up for third grade this fall, and I had serious concerns that he wouldn't be up to par with the other third graders because of the grade skip.  While I did my best at homeschooling him, does a parent ever really know how well their child stacks up against their public school peers?  

Because David was out of the school system for 2 years, he had to take placement tests to see where he was at.  Imagine my shock/surprise when he tested extremely well with scores justifying another grade skip...or two.  But I was pretty dead set against putting my little 7 year old into a classroom full of 9-11 year olds, so we left him in third grade.  A month into the school year, again, it was pretty clear that school was not going to work for David.  My very gifted child was suddenly freaking out that he would never be good enough, wouldn't do well in school, wouldn't be successful.  He was bored, he was unchallenged, he was in a classroom full of rowdy boys (an all boys classroom) which he had a very hard time with due to his strong drive to follow the rules.  He had things stolen from him and the teacher did nothing about it.  We stuck it out until Christmas break, but it was a daily struggle.  He also experienced some personality changes that were a little less than desirable.  Over Christmas break, Hubby told me to buy what I needed to homeschool starting after break.  

Even though I had successfully homeschooled for two years, I was still a bit fearful that I would mess up my kids, wouldn't be up to the challenge, that my kids would be miserable and socially awkward.  Yet I forged ahead knowing that this was the right thing for our family.  I cannot even begin to express what a change it has been in our house since the day Hubby agreed we should pull the kids out.  My through-the-roof stress level instantly returned to normal.  My very unhappy children were suddenly cheerful and happy.  I no longer hear Lizzy whining that school is boring and that she hates it.  I no longer hear David freak out over being good enough.  Instead of waking up with dread and wanting to crawl back under the covers, I wake up happy and thankful, ready to face the day.  Maybe I had to walk through the storm so I could see just how good it is on the other side.  To cement in my heart that this former anti-homeschooler is now a pro-homeschooler.  Or maybe it was all just a way for me to have a really good threat to hang over my kids when they complain about homeschooling taking too long--do you remember what it was like to have to go to school for 7 1/2 hours every day???  That's what I thought!

The best part of homeschooling is that on a really gorgeous March day, instead of being stuck in a classroom, my kids can be outside enjoying moments like this.

The girls put together their own picnic
And rather than having to sit at their desks for reading, they can find a nice comfy spot instead:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Project Simplify, Week 2: the pantry & fridge

It's week two of Project Simplify 2012 over at  This week finds me in the kitchen.  I am pretty good about keeping my kitchen well organized and purged.  I get annoyed with overflowing cupboards so I regularly get rid of things that I don't use.  I am also a stock-piling style shopper, so my pantry is almost always full, organized and rotated.  But since it's officially kitchen week, I decided to go through my kitchen again anyway.

I read somewhere that when tackling a purging project, you should start with the drawers first.  I pulled every drawer out, one by one, and took everything out.  I cleaned the drawers, put back the keepers, and purged or tossed the rest.  After the drawers I started on the cupboards.  I only got through half of them before the kids were done with their quiet time, but it was a good start.

I did manage to find a few random things I decided to part with, but it wasn't much.  I reorganized a few areas, created some better storage options for a few things, but overall there was only one area that really needed my attention--under the kitchen sink which is an area I have avoided for a long time.  From just this one area I managed to accumulate a full bag of trash.  It sure looks a lot better under there.

Tomorrow is another day with plans to finish up the cupboards before moving onto the fridge and freezer.  I reorganized the deep freeze two weeks ago and made up a list of everything I have in there so I don't go to make hamburgers for dinner only to discover there's no ground beef in the freezer.  But my kitchen freezer is another story.  Things have a tendency to fall out on your toes if you're not careful.  I tackled the pantry last month so that won't take long.  My biggest task is to come up with a better storage system for my "hot spot." This would be the spot on my counter that accumulates anything and everything and always looks horrible.  I WILL come up with a system to get rid of this eyesore.  I hope.

Here's the Before of my "Hot Spot."  The After shot will come later.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Project Simplify 2012--Week One: Kids' Stuff

Project Simplify on Simple Mom

Over at, Tsh Oxenreider launched Project Simplify 2012 on Monday.  I am generally pretty good with keeping my house fairly purged and organized when I have a routine going.  When my routine goes out the window, clutter seems to multiply like bunny rabbits.  Translation: When we decided to pull David and Lizzy out of school and start homeschooling them again after Christmas break, my life was disrupted, my routine has yet to stabilize, and the clutter crept in.  The Christmas toys thrown in there didn't help matters any.

When I read about Project Simplify, I knew it was something I needed to do.  I wanted to start in on the purging early, but I made myself wait until yesterday to get going.  I warned my family ahead of time that I would be purging their rooms.  Yesterday after the school work was done, I pulled out the trash bags and tackled the first area: Kids' Stuff.  I purged the girls' room.

My first step was to purge their clothes.  I settled on the number 15.  I saved the best 15 shirts and 15 pants, and the rest were history.  Shorts and t-shirts will come later when I pull them out of storage.  I then tackled the rest of the room.  All told, I ended up with 2 bags to donate, 2 bags of clothes to pass along, and one big bag of trash.  The room is clean and hopefully manageable for the girls.  Tomorrow I tackle David's room.  I'm saving the really horrible project--the playroom--for last.  Here are the before and after pictures.

Closet Before

Closet After

Desk Before

Desk After
Under the Bed Before
Under the Bed After

Time4Learning Review

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for a month in exchange for a candid review. Their online program can be used for homeschool, as an after school tutorial and for summer learning. My opinion will be my own, so come back and read about my experience. You can write your own curriculum review, too!

I'm pretty excited!  I love trying new things for fun learning opportunities.  My kids love to play on the computer, so finding something that both is educational and fun is always a plus.