Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Word for 2012

Last year I heard people on K-Love radio station talking about picking a word for the year Here's how they explained it:

From K-Love's website:  "It's not a "New Year Resolution" - it's One Word that you use to cast a vision of the person you want to be in 2011.  Pastor Mike Ashcraft of Port City Church in Wilmington, NC, developed the idea years ago to help him and his church get past the disappointment of broken resolutions, but instead choose one word that focuses on your character and creates a vision for your future."

For 2011
I picked "glorify" so that it would help me think about my actions and point me in the direction of glorifying God in everything.  It really helped me as I taught my kids and even just talked with them.

This year
my word is, "rely."  I want to fully rely on God.  I don't want to do the possibleI want to do the impossible and give the credit and glory to God.

If you decide(d) to pick a word for 2012 leave me a comment or send me an email and let me know.  It may change your life in a big way.

On a totally different note...
I had some free time (WAHOO!) this week and I made some flower pens just because I think they are cool. 

Happy New Year!!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

How to respond to, "What grade are your kids in?"

When moms meet they often ask each other, "What grade are your kids in?"  Not grammatically correct, but it's popular vernacular.  Anyway...often homeschoolers aren't in one particular grade for all subjects.  They are in their appropriate grade in each subject based on their individual needs.  So, an 8 year old may be in 3rd grade spelling, 5th grade math, 4th grade English, you get the idea.  This makes the, "What grade are your kids in?" a potentially challenging question.

To stream-line my answer, and not to appear too weird, I answer with whatever grade they would be in if they went to a public school.  For example, I say that my 15 year old is in 10th grade.  He is scheduled to start earning college credits this semester, so he could actually go from high school to transferring into a 4 year college, rather than having to apply as a freshman.  We'll see how it goes! 

My 13 year old could be considered 8th or 9th grade, but I just say 8th.  Depending on what he wants to do in the future, he could graduate from high school early.  I don't have to know that yet, so I'm just plugging along with his curriculum.  He likes to get his work done each week in a just few days and then sort of chill for a few days, pretending he's working.  If he finds something he'd like to spend more time doing during the day, he has the time to pursue it.  He spent a few hours shooting his new bow the other day.  He just put it in a duffel bag and rode his bike to the Outdoor Recreation Center on post where they have an indoor archery range. 

I've met homeschooled kids who don't know what grade they are in when asked.  They aren't even sure how to answer.   Sometimes they say they don't know, they have to ask their mom.  While I understand the concept, I think it's just a little easier to have some type of answer other than, "I don't know".  It could be that the child says they are in different grade for different subjects. 

 A great child's fiction book, Understood Betsy, tells the story of girl who was educated in a one-room-school-house type of school and then she moves to a city.  She is asked what grade she is in and explains that she is in one grade for English, another for math, etc.  You get the idea.  It's a great read.

My brilliant friend of few words, who I mentioned previously, said that spelling is for people who can't spell.  So some kids don't even to be "in a grade" for spelling.  They've graduated.  Or, they never needed it in the first place.

Winston Churchill generally did poorly in school.  He never attended college.  I've heard that he once said he didn't like tests because they tried to find out what the student didn't know.  He wanted someone to ask him what he did know.

“My education was interrupted only 

by my schooling.”   -Winston Churchill


Q:  "What grade are your kids in?" 

A:  "In what subject?" 



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Completed an entire 2011 photo album in a few hours! Time to start next year's school planning.

I've used Snapfish for years, but I think they recently updated their website to make creating photo books even quicker and easier.  It only took me a few hours to make a photo book of the entire year (I used two 8x11 size books with about 111 pages in each book)!

That is very exciting to me because I love having pictures in albums, but I don't like actually putting the pictures in the albums. 

So now I have pictures on my blog and in albums.  Overkill? 

I wonder if the blog will still be available when my kids are older and may want to look back on growing up.   I hope Snapfish is still around for them too. 

I'm gently starting to plan for next year's school.  Pretty soon online classes will start registration and some will fill up quickly.  I'm going to have Luke take his history and literature with Tapestry of Grace again.  Josh will probably take literature with them again,  and history with me.  Luke is doing all of his chemistry labs, for next year's chemistry class, in a 2 day hands on lab this spring with Landry Academy.    Luke will continue his independent learning German class with Oklahoma State University and Josh will continue Spanish with The Potter's School. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Home visits for the adoption.

There are three times when  we will have people inspecting us and our home during the adoption process.

One is the Fire Inspection.  Since we live in government quarters, the post fire department will inspect our 100 year old house.  They will check to see if we have a fire extinguisher, whether we have overloaded outlets, paint and flammables are out of reach of children, etc.

The second, is a Health Inspection.  A military Community Health Nurse from the post will do that.  They will check to see if the house and yard are clean, that we have running water, functional bathrooms, plumbing, chemicals and medicines are out of reach of children, etc.

And the last is a Home Visit where a case worker will talk to everyone in  the house over 5 years old to get an idea about our family's likes and characteristics.  The case worker will choose which family will get the children based on the information they have about each eligible family and the adoptable children.  The family can say whether they want the kids, but the kids don't get to choose, so the case worker's job is very important. 

We are getting ready for people to come check out us and our home.  We also had to send the agency pictures of every room in our house.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I want my kids to know how to cook a turkey.

The first time I cooked a turkey dinner I was 33 years old.  That wasn't the first time I tried to cook one.  I had tried the year before at Thanksgiving, but the turkey never cooked.  Twelve hours in the oven and it was not fully cooked.  I was so glad we weren't having guests over!  I think we fried enough of the foul to eat dinner that memorable night.  We finally figured out that I used the wrong type of dish to cook it in.  It was a pottery dish, and I guess it just didn't let the bird bake.

I was successful the next year, but for about the next 5 years or more, I was always afraid something would go wrong.  It's actually a pretty easy process, one that I would like my kids to know how do do before they leave home.  Is it a girl thing?  I don't know, don't care.  Even if they never cook a turkey, I want them to know how. 

My plan is to show the oldest one year and then have him/her cook it the next.  That plan already changed and Caroline, the third oldest,  helped me with the Thanksgiving bird and Luke, oldest, helped with the Christmas bird.  Next year, I hope to have them cook it.  Then Josh will be next, etc. 

My good missionary friend once asked me what I want my kids to know before they leave home.  She's good.  I was stupified, which the Urban Dictionary defines as,  "Confused and stupid at the same time. Sometimes involves starring blankly into the abyss."  

Uh, balance a checkbook?  Shoot, I don't even do that. 

Cook a turkey.  Now that's important.  Somehow it's right up there with learn to read, seek God's will and glorify Him in everything you do.  That's my list so far.  I'm not sure if it's too late to get back to her with my answer.  What I really want to do is ask her the same question.  I always wish I would have done that when she asked me, but at the time I was, as I said, stupified.  

Just in case my kids look back on this one day, I'll list what we had for dinner today:
- Turkey, prepared by Luke
- white potatoes
- sweet potatoes
- french rolls (store bought)
- cranberry sauce (from a can)
- gravy, prepared by Luke
- butter
- stuffing, prepared by Luke
- green bean casserole, requested by Caroline
- Taffy Apple Salad.  This was a new item on the Christmas menu and a big hit.  I'll put the recipe at the end of the post and I highly recommend that you take it to the next pot luck type meal you attend.  It tastes like a caramel apple.
- Cherry pie, ice cream, whipped cream for dessert.  Also a first is, gasp, store bought pie, sigh.  Well, it gave me time to make the Christmas cookies yesterday.

Here are a few pics from the day:

Early morning..

First things first.  Keep dog occupied.

Next, keep little guy busy.

Twins?  ( :  Caroline and Sue.

A German style training bike (no pedals).

Big hit!

Josh knows what's inside.

Sophia doesn't know what it is.

Caroline's uber cool purse.

The hoped-for compound bow. 

Table being set.

Luke's first turkey.

Blessed family.

Taffy Apple Salad

4 C. unpeeled apples, cut in chunks
1 small can pineapple juice
1 tsp. cider vinegar
8 oz. cool whip
2 Tbsp. flour
½ C. sugar
Dry roasted peanuts
Mini marshmallows

Pour pineapple juice into saucepan.  Add 1 tsp. cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp. flour and ½ C. sugar.

Heat on low, until it comes to a boil.  Cook until it becomes “custardy” (add more flour if needed).  Stir so it doesn’t clump.  Remove from heat to cool (can put it in freezer for about 10 minutes). 

Put apples in bowl, pour cooled mixture over.  Add peanuts, marshmallows to taste, then fold in Cool Whip.  Refridgerate for awhile before serving.

Merry Christmas 2011 Matthew 1:21 "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Explaining Christmas to a 3 year old.

Levi has been excited that it's going to be Christmas and he's going to get to open presents.  I'm thinking that he needs to know that Christmas is more than getting presents.  Ok.  Teachable moment and I'm on.   "Levi.  Do you what Christmas is?"  No response.  "It's Jesus' birthday."  Nothing.  "It's the day we celebrate Jesus being born." 

Maybe if I mention presents he'll start tracking.  "Jesus gave us the best gift ever."  Silence.  "He gave us life forever."  Maybe he doesn't really know who Jesus is and I need to go backward a little.  "Do you know who Jesus is?"  Waiting.  I say, "He's God's Son."  Something interrupted us.   I can't remember what. 

Then, this evening we went to a candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church.  The highlight for Levi was that he got to hold a lit candle.  Very special night for him.  I'm thinking we're still laying the foundation for him.  What a privilege. 

Levi was so excited that he built a big Lego building with help from Mom. 

It's almost as tall as he is.

Caroline making a gingerbread house and pretending to eat it. 

The cookies/treats I made for Christmas this year are my usual and one new one.

Almond Butter Cutouts (Top)
Pretzel Holiday Treats (3 o'clock- the new one)
Spiced Pecans (5 and 6 o'clock)
Grandmom Reeh's (my mom's mom) Pecan Butter Balls (7 o'clock)
Buckeyes (9 o'clock)

Why do I only make these at Christmas time?!

Caroline and Sophia experienced some technical difficulties, but they enjoyed creating!
Sophia's gingerbread house.

Caroline's gingerbread house.

 Here are some verses that go with yesterday's post about adoption.
In you the orphan finds mercy.
Hosea 14:3
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.
Psalms 68:5-6


Friday, December 23, 2011

Ever wondered about the adoption process?

When I was a freshman in college, I wrote a paper on adoption.  I never really heard anyone talk about adoption before and I was stunned to find out how many kids there were who needed homes.  The kids least likely to be adopted were older (people want babies and toddlers), and were sibling groups.  Since then I've always asked people who I knew had adopted, how they did it.  With one exception, everyone talked about the high cost, $20-30k, the enormous paperwork, the wait and the time it takes to travel to get the child/ren, etc.  Years ago one lady told me that that there were a ton of kids needing a home in Massachusetts, but those adopting had to basically agree to take any child they were given and they often had many disabilities. 

We recently learned something different.  There is an adoption agency in TX where the adoption is free.  The adopted kids receive free college tuition.  The wait is not always long because by the time they get to the agency, the biological parents' parental rights have been terminated (after lengthy attempts to reunite the family).  The kids are local so there is no travel involved.  The adoptive family also gets a monthly stipend of about $400/month per child.  And the paperwork is manageable.

The agency is Family Link and their website is
Our friends are adopting through this agency.   When they told us about Family Link, how wonderful they are, and that the adoptions are free, we decided to start the process of adopting through them.  I've wanted to do this for a long time. 

We've done most of the paperwork already and met with the agency.  We have two 12 hour days of training and a few other tasks to complete.  We have one training in January and one in February.  The agency makes it clear that they want to place the kids with a family that will be the best fit for everyone.  The people adopting can say no to adopting a child/children if they don't think it will work.  There isn't  pressure to say yes to adopting if the family doesn't think it's best. 

When I was in the Army, there was a saying about a particular Army vehicle that was often used to carry troops.  The truck was nick-named the "deuce and a half" because it's a 2½ ton cargo truck.  The saying began with the question, "How many troops can you fit in a deuce and a half?"  The answer was, "One more."  Soldiers would try to fit as many as possible on the truck.  There were rules, of course, as to how many could ride in different situations, but American soldiers are known for their ingenuity.

I feel like we always have room for one more.   God has always provided the right house for our family and I am confident he will continue to do that. 

Here's to a new journey....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What to feed a large group for dinner.

We visited our wonderful friends Steve and Jana, who we met in Germany, at their new home in the Fort Hood, TX area for the past few days.  Our other friends Mark and Kathy, who we also knew in Germany, were in town from Colorado visiting their parents, and we all spent the day together.  We all homeschooled our kids in Germany.  (It was legal for us because we are affiliated with the American military.)  Jana had everyone over for dinner and Mark's mom, who was also in Germany with us, came too. So, there were 7 adults and 11 kids.

Jana made wonderful pork barbeque sandwiches for everyone.  She added baked macaroni and cheese and some dip and crackers.  She had rolls for everyone to make their own sandwiches. She had some salad greens too.  There was enough for everyone and we even had leftover meat.  Here is a similar recipe that I found online, but not the one Jana used.

Crock-pot Barbeque from
• 1 pork roast (loin, butt, or ends)
• 10 oz. Bessingers barbecue sauce
• 1 T. black pepper
• 1 T. salt
• 4 dashes soy or Worcestershire sauce
• 1 can beer or 12 oz. white wine

Place roast in crock-pot. Cook for 10-12 hours on low. Remove and wipe pot with paper towels. Break meat into small pieces and put back in crock-pot. Add sauce (anything will work if you can’t get Bessingers), and other ingredients. Cook on high for 1 hour. (Use less pepper for small children).

Steve, her husband, did a great job pulling the pork apart and Mark added just the right amount of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.  The meal was delicious and not at all cumbersome.  Well, that's what Jana said!

I put this on here because, I think, people would love to get together, but it seems like just one more thing that don't have time to do, and they don't know how to feed a large group.  I feel like that a lot, but when we actually do it, our family loves getting together with other families.

Years ago a friend of ours had our family over for dinner when our oldest was about 1 year old.  I thought that was awesome.  I hadn't had another family over since we had a child and it seemed overwhelming.  But, I'll never forget what my friend said, "It's not about the food, it's about the fellowship."  Aha!  What a relief.  We had the best fellowship with that family that night.

I also heard someone say around that same time period say that when having others over for dinner don't have a gourmet-type meal.  If you do, the others may think that they can't compete with that type of meal and they won't invite you to their house (not that that's your reason for having them over).   So, have a simple meal and a good time.  It's about the relationships, not about the food.

 Here's our get together!!

Steve, Jana and Mark working well with each other ( :

Just the right mixture.

Kathy, Jana and Sue (all color-coordinated).

Steve, Mark and Steve

Samuel and Jesse

Abby, Katie and Caroline

Sophia and Moyra

Luke, Austin and Josh

Oops.  Levi doesn't want his picture taken.

Zoe (Jana and Steve's) and Darby (Our's)


Luke, Austin and Josh and Darby
Josh, Austin and Luke

Diane and Mark


Sunday, December 18, 2011

I successfully forced my family to see the Nutcracker today!

Here they are after their torture

Actually, some of them enjoyed it!  Steve said it was the best one he's seen.  Levi (3 yo) talked almost the whole time asking if the soldier was coming back, what happened to the Mouse King, etc.  He remembered much of the story either from last year, or from reading the book.  Next year I think I'll skip it, or just take volunteers.  

We are really taking off school for 2 weeks!!  It feels like summer vacation!!  I need to order a some curriculum for the new semester and I really should grade the writing assignments that are sitting on my desk...We'll have some slight changes next semester:  Luke is done his Exercise Physiology class and Caroline finished her German class.

I'm hoping to start our independent study Latin course, but we'll see.  I signed everyone up through Memoria Press.  I have the classes on DVD, the website keeps track of their work and they can complete it at their own pace. 

Also, Luke will begin CollegePlus.  The plan is for him to earn 12 college credits this spring by taking CLEP tests on subjects that he is already taking this year.  In the high school junior and senior year, students normally take even more credits each semester.  We'll see what happens.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We "took Friday off" and we're making it up this weekend.

I think of school as more than academics.  For the younger kids its about character development and for all of them it's about learning about God's character and about Him.  Uh huh.  R. C. Sproul, Jr. says that if all kids do is study the Bible, that's enough.   He uses 2 Tim 3:16 for his reasoning:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..."  That's it. That's all you need.  If you want to read more about this I highly recommend reading his book, When You Rise Up.  You can buy it fairly cheap on Amazon.
So, anyway, we had "off" yesterday.  Even so, Luke did a math lesson. I am still regretting my decision last year to change is math from Teaching Textbooks (TT) which had been working very well for him.  I changed to a different curriculum for Geometry and it did not go well, so after a few months he switched back to TT  for Geometry which put him "behind" for the year and he finished geometry this school year.  So he started Algebra 2 "late" and he's trying to catch up so he can start a new level of math at the beginning of the school year next year rather than partially through like he did this year.   I don't think he's "behind" or started "late".  I've realized that the kids just need to keep doing math and it's not about what level they actually complete in high school- just keep progressing.

Why did I change the curriculum for Luke's algebra 2?  That's the million dollar question.  I had some feedback that TT alg 2 was lacking in some areas.  Not being a mathematician I didn't even know what they were talking about when I questioned "what areas specifically"?  So I changed.  After much more research I decided that most/all math curriculum will miss something at some time.  It's best to use the one that works for your child, stick with it and they'll eventually get what they need from it.  I found there were many college graduates who used TT in high school and even majored in areas such as engineering.  I also rationalized that there are many kids who move around when attending public schools and these schools don't all use the same curriculum, so those kids probably end up "lacking" in something too and they do fine in high school and college math. 

Years ago I was going to change a spelling curriculum for one of my kids.  One of my homeschooling friends asked, "Why?"  I didn't have a great answer because I wasn't really just wasn't  "perfect" I guess.  She gave a characteristically short, smart answer, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."  She is one of the most brilliant people I know. 

Back to our day off:  Our "make-up" days for yesterday's school are today and tomorrow.  Today our family helped with our church's Christmas Care.  That's when a bunch of people pack and deliver boxes of food to families near the church who need food.  We did it last year.  This year we were asked to lead one of the three teams delivering food, so we got a group of our friends to join us!  Fifty people.  Some from our church and some from our neighborhood.  So, school today was hospitality, compassion, relationships, navigation, etc.

Here are pictures of packing boxes of food at our church.  

Each station has a certain food and the person at the station places it in the box.

This is pre-packing, getting ready to pack.


Teens working.

Some standing around-and-waiting time.

Caroline and Aislyn.

Here are some of the finished boxes just before delivery.

Tomorrow  we have tickets to see the Nutcracker.  So tomorrow's school is "Fine Arts".  Nobody really likes going, but I LOVE it so we try to go every year.  Hey, if they are going to go to counseling it might as well be about, "My mom made us go to the Nutcracker every year"....