Monday, August 25, 2014

First day of school

We had our first day of school today!  We had latkes and applesauce to celebrate.

We did Bible time together.  The kids chose what Bible book they want to write for handwriting.

Isaac: Proverbs  
Melody: Esther   
Grace: Exodus   
Charity: Genesis
Mom: Philippians

We began memorizing Isaiah 40:28-31, thinking it was a good verse to use when we get discouraged or school gets hard to do.

We sang a few hymns together, choosing "Across the Lands" as our song of the week.

For missions, we found Alaska on the map and talked a little about what life is like for the McGee family.

Then we did a few oral math problems to warm up with.

That was the end of Isaac's schoolwork for today, since he isn't really starting until next week.  We're giving him a week off now that he is done teaching clubs.  He was away from home for seven weeks this summer, so he needs a few days to get back into the routine of home life before school starts.

Melody found her last pace for math from last year and started working on it.  Grace and Charity and I began level B of Rightstart Math.

Lunch was CSA veggies and pickle/cream cheese/natural lunch meat wraps.

I found a unit study that I bought many years ago about scrapbooking and we are going to start the year with that.  We did the first lesson, introducing the spelling list and making a map of our favorite places to put in our scrapbooks.  The girls also wrote a verse for handwriting that they will use in their scrapbooks.  Because this unit study includes copywork for each day, we probably won't begin writing our book of the Bible until after the next four weeks.

Grace and Charity reviewed a little music by playing the organ.  Melody explored some of the games on the Music Learning Community website that I bought a membership with.

Isaac and I did his back-to-school shopping after Bruce got home.  Then we had a pork roast, homemade french fries, and a yellow squash casserole for dinner.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Are you in the box?

We have had our puppy for two days.  At Gabby's first home, she lived in a cardboard box like a lot of puppy litters.  She and her siblings had mastered the art of escape a few days before we brought her home.

I am home alone tonight, and I wanted to wash dishes while keeping Gabby close to me.  I brought in a large piece of cardboard to separate the kitchen from the living room, so she had to stay with me in the kitchen.  I put it in the doorway and walked across the room to wash the dishes.  Gabby saw the cardboard and didn't pay any more attention to me.  She immediately started trying to climb over. Again and again, she tried to climb over the box, only to slide to the bottom and begin anew.  Finally, she gave up, sat down, and cried the most pitiful cry.  I stood across the room from her, washing dishes.  I sang to her; I talked to her; I scolded her.  She cried.

At last, I walked across the room and stood by her.  "Gabby! You're OK.  You don't need anything over there!"

Those puppy eyes looked up at me.  She stopped crying, and her whole body wagged with joy.  I walked across the room to continue washing the dishes with her little body weaving between my feet.  She curled up on my feet, warm and soft.  Within moments, she gave a little shudder and fell fast asleep.

Gabby saw the box and thought she had to get out, not realizing she was free and could be with me whenever she wanted to.  I think that so often I see the box I'm in, not realizing that God has already gotten me out of it.  I live in bondage when He has given me my freedom.  I cry and feel alone, and all the while He is there beside me if I would only get my eyes off the box and look at Him.

Are you in the box?

New puppy!

We got our puppy yesterday!  Three years ago, my son said, "Mom, I really like Cocoa (a friend's dog).  If she ever has puppies, could we get one?"  Knowing that puppies were not in my friend's plans, I said, "Sure."  Three years later, Cocoa had puppies.  Five sweet little furry bundles.  Yesterday, we brought Gabby (short for Gabriel) home.  

We've read a couple books on puppy training and have decided on a style that is almost like attachment parenting, but with a dog.  We keep her on a leash connected to our belt, taking turns having her with us all the time.  If we can't be corded to her, we put her in her crate.  She did well yesterday, having just one small accident in the house.  She cries when we put her in the crate, but she started settling down a little bit.  I'm afraid my son didn't get a lot of sleep last night, but she kept the crate clean for seven hours!

She is a sweet little girl and so much fun!

Gabby and Isaac

Friday, August 1, 2014

Grocery Store Math

My three daughters and I walked into the grocery store with $30 and a mission.  We needed to pack a picnic lunch for two different days, one for four and one for six people.  It had to be easily portable and fun to eat, as well as gluten-free.

We ended up with Greek yogurt, rice crackers, and melon for a fruit salad and spent $28.  Is that a lot of money for two meals?  Yes!  Way more than I usually spend per meal with a monthly budget of $500 for groceries and bulk foods for my family of six.    (For you math people, that comes out to about $1 per person per meal.)  On the other hand, it is less than we would spend if we went out to dinner?  Oh yeah.  It comes out to $2.80 per person per meal.   It is hard to go out to a fast food place for that price.

So how did we go about shopping?  I told the girls when we went in that we had $30 to spend.  I suggested that we look for fruit for $1 lb. or less.  After wandering the produce section for a while, my oldest spotted melon on sale for $.66 per lb.  Bingo!  We chose a honeydew, a cantaloupe, and half a watermelon.  Moving on to the dairy section, we decided Greek yogurt would  be a healthy and filling choice, but we didn't want fat-free.  It was a challenge to find full-fat yogurt, but we finally did.  It was $1.39 per cup.  But let's see: if we buy a four-pack, the price goes down to $1 a cup.  For 25% savings, we can all eat the same flavor.  So for $4, we got three four packs.  Some gluten-free crackers would go great with that!  Oh, wow!  Instead of $3.49 like usual, the rice crackers were on sale for $1.99.  We picked out six boxes.  Oh, oh.  We'd better go weigh the melon.  The cantaloupe and honeydew were 6 lbs. or $4 each.  The watermelon half was 4.5 lbs. or about $3  Our total in the cart was $36 dollars.  Oops!  Something had to go back.  Not the yogurt; it was the main dish.  We really like the crackers, but here, hold $4 worth of crackers, now hold $4 worth of melon.  Which do you think will be more filling?  OK, let's put back three boxes of crackers.  When we went through the checkout, we spent $28.

Mission accomplished!  Not only that, but we will have a box of crackers left over.  We should also have enough melon salad for another meal and two extra yogurt cups.

Math in the grocery store: homeschooling and life skills merging beautifully.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rummage Sale

We made it through our rummage sale!

What craziness!  What busyness!

I made $75 at our rummage sale, and my mom and grandma each made some money as well.  That wasn't as much as I wanted to make, but I was able to order Blessed Assurance with the money that I earned.  I'm looking forward to using that curriculum this year with all four children.  I love unit studies that we can all do together.  It not only makes planning and executing my school day easier, but it also helps us to bond so much better as a family when we are working on something with a common goal.  Of course, everyone gets different assignments based on their abilities.

We sold about 5 two foot long boxes of books, along with several puzzles and games and a couple of desk chairs.  It was a good weekend.

We really enjoyed the firefighters parades and games.  Our community hosted the annual firefighters games for our state this year and the activities coordinated with the community rummage sale.  Unfortunately, that meant that I missed out on watching the games, but my dad brought the girls down to watch.  They enjoyed the games, but the highlight of the weekend by far was splashing in the puddles made by the firemen's hoses!

A pile of uniforms after one of the games

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What do my daughters know?

I'm planning the new school year.  I thought I had it all planned out.  It looked good on paper, but I just didn't feel at peace about my plan.  Have you ever been there?

I prayed about it.  Prayed a lot.  And I still didn't feel comfortable with my very good school plan.  Then the Lord brought to my remembrance a curriculum that I used four years ago with my oldest (and the younger ones as they were able).  It is called Prepare and Pray, and it teaches many survival and homesteading skills while going through Swiss Family Robinson as a unit study. 

I enjoyed doing it with my son and planned on doing it again as the girls grew up.  But I wasn't planning on it this year.  It requires a lot of teacher involvement (read big time commitment) and the willingness to make messes and go out of my comfort zone sometimes.  I wanted an easy school year this year.  

But such is not to be.  And I'm OK with that, because I can look at my plan for the year and smile and know it will be good this year.  We will have fun.  We will learn.  

I don't know if I'm going to follow the book exactly; my plan right now is to pick skills to work on along with the Bible memory and studies in Prepare and Pray.  I'll do some of the writing and science as well.  I hope to continue to work on US History as we got almost to the Revolutionary War last year.  

I thought that a good plan before deciding what skills to work on would be to list what the girls already know.  Since Isaac already went through this, I am going to tailor it more for the girls, though he will be joining us as well.  I'll probably pick a few skills for him to work on independently.  

So, without further adieu, 

Skills my daughters possess in survival, homesteading and homemaking:
  • how to pick mint and make tea with it straight from the garden
  • how to identify several herbs by sight and smell in the garden and what they are good for (other than eating directly from the plant while standing barefoot in the middle of the garden)
  • why we prefer goat milk
  • the delights of shopping at Farmer's Market
  • how to fearlessly gather eggs from under a broody hen and where the favorite hiding places for the eggs are
  • how to pull weeds so you get the root and not just the top
  • how to wash and dry dishes
  • how to clean the bathroom
  • what foods normally have gluten in them 
  • how to catch a Houdini chicken (Isaac's quote: "Mom, our chickens are the Albert Einsteins of the Houdini world."  Translation:  They escape their pen.  Often.) 
  • how to clean and bandage a scrape 
  • how to make a great salad, including washing the greens
  • what to do if they get lost in the woods
  • at least two easy to find and identify edible wild plants in our area
  • how to safely hike with a buddy
  • how to make homemade popsicles and smoothies
  • how to climb trees (I'm not sure if this counts in this list, but they sure are good at it!)
  • how to make maple syrup and how much sap and work go into just a quart of syrup
  • what part of the plant common vegetables come from and what they look like in the garden: roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds...
  • how to pick, clean, slice and freeze strawberries
To some people, this may seem like very simple and basic knowledge.  Others might think these skills are complicated and unnecessary.  But this is where we are at on our journey of learning homesteading and related skills.  Their are other skills, but I'll not bore you with a complete list now.  There may be another list coming soon.  In the meantime, we'll be trying to learn more skills to use on our homestead in town.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting Ready for our Rummage Sale

I mentioned in a previous post that we are trying to declutter by preparing to have a rummage sale.  I'm working with my mom in doing this, as we are having the sale at her house.  Today, we worked all day to organize the books that we want to sell.

ALERT: Homeschoolers accumulate a LOT of books!

My dad is a retired schoolteacher.  My mom homeschooled me through from 3rd grade through high school.  I homeschool my four children.  We have a lot of books!  Mom and I both decided that we have too many books, so we have been going through them to pick out some to eliminate from our collection.  Here is where it gets interesting: last year we moved my Grandma (former schoolteacher) to an assisted living room.  In the process, we packed up hundreds of her books.  She will not be reading them, so we are adding them to our sale as well.  Three generations of books to organize for this rummage sale.

We are seriously considering changing it from a rummage sale to a book sale.  I'll keep you posted on what we decide to do.  Right now, I need to go organize some books! See you later!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Weeding Rhythm

I'm getting into a weeding rhythm.  Almost every evening, I've been going out to the garden at 8:00 or so and weeding for 20-30 minutes.  The air is cooling off in the twilight and the garden is peaceful and quiet after a busy day.  It is a nice time to relax and pray.  I don't like weeding very well, but I think the main reason for that is that I've always tried to weed the whole garden all at once and spent several hours doing it.  It is much more enjoyable if I know that I can quit after a short time instead of trying to get every weed.

I haven't come anywhere near conquering the weeds, but there are parts of the garden that are getting neat and orderly looking.  Unfortunately, my beets, carrots, and onions don't seem to be doing much.  Maybe they just need a few more days.

I'm hoping to pick up some straw in the next few days to mulch the garden as I weed; when a section is well-weeded, I'll mulch that part to try to keep the weed growth down.  It will be interesting to see how well that will work.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July!  This is a day to celebrate our freedoms in our country, but let's also remember the freedom that we have in Christ!  That freedom goes beyond any earthly freedom.  We are free from sin's power and condemnation.  Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life."  He also said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."  If you know Jesus, you can know true freedom.

Have a safe and special Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tooth Fairy Gift

Does the tooth fairy come to your house when your child loses a tooth?  Though all of our children know that Daddy is the tooth fairy, they still eagerly look forward to what he brings.  At our house, we have rarely left money.  We prefer to leave a small gift that we know that child would enjoy.

Last Saturday, our nine year old lost a tooth.  Sometimes the tooth fairy is late coming to our house.  Does that happen to anyone else?  Anyhow, yesterday,
Grace left this note by Dad's crossword puzzle area.  Needless to say, the tooth fairy finally remembered to come last night.  

When the need for a gift was realized, our first response was to run to the store for one.  Then we rethought that.  Grace loves mazes and hasn't had a new maze book for quite a while.  We went online, found 15 free printable mazes that we liked and printed them out in a half page size.  I cut the pages in half, stacked them and bound them with our spiral book binder.  I made covers from cardstock and decorated them.  Bruce put it under her pillow.  

When Grace found it this morning, she was super-excited.  She has already done most of them, but decided to solve them with her finger so she could do them over and over.  Pretty good idea!

I view this as a success, as it would have been super-easy to just make an extra trip to town to buy something.  This project took about as long as a trip to town would have and resulted in spending no money and a very personalized gift for a special young lady.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Isaac is home!

Isaac is home from SMA training.  He had a wonderful week!  It is so good to have him home and hear about the things that he learned and the friends that he made while he was gone.

Before Isaac was born, I prayed for him.  I prayed that he would put his trust in the Lord Jesus as his Savior and Lord.  I prayed that he would love the Lord and serve Him all of his days.

When Isaac made the choice to serve the Lord this summer by teaching 5-Day Clubs, that was an answer to those prayers of the last fifteen years.

Thank you, Father, for allowing me to see my son serving you.  Please give him a heart for You for the rest of his life.  Amen.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Garden is Planted

Finally!  My garden is all planted!  I'm so late this year.  Now we just need a good rain to get everything going well.  Or else I need to water everything.

Here is a list of what I planted:
salsify (new to me, I've never even tasted it!)
red cabbage
regular cabbage
potatoes (not very many)
winter squash
and a whole package of Bountiful Gardens Seeds for Kids.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How shall I dispose of my clothes?

We are blessed with friends who give us their children's clothes when they outgrow them.  I appreciate this so much as I hardly ever have to buy clothes for my daughters, but sometimes there are just too many!  What to do with the excess?  For a while, I hung it on an extra clothes rod in the basement, but there really are only so many extra clothes that one needs to store.  

I've discovered that a couple in town collect used clothing and fabric and pack it up to send to Eastern European countries.  They retired from their business, so now they use the warehouse as storage.  My son and I had the opportunity a few months ago to go help on one of their loading days.  Isaac got to be part of the assembly line passing the filled boxes from one person to the next right up into the truck.  They filled a semi truck with banana boxes full of clothes.  There wasn't room for anything else in that truck when they finished.  While Isaac helped load boxed on the truck, I helped pack more boxes.  The clothing was sorted and packed according to type and size; winter girls, summer boys, adult coats, shoes....and on and on.  They have schools that can use fabric to teach sewing classes, so many boxes are filled with fabric or sheets or lace or whatever.  

It is so nice to be able to take extra clothes that we have and box them up to donate and know that they are going somewhere that they are truly needed and appreciated!  It is easier to give things away knowing that they are being used to help others.  When I think of the people who need things and I think of the excess that I am blessed with, it is so humbling! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Check out the produce list

Every summer, I try to keep track of what I harvest from my yard and garden.  Usually I stop when the produce starts pouring in, but I've started a page on my blog that I update every day or two.  Hopefully, I can be consistent with it even when I'm bring in bucketfuls of tomatoes and zucchini.  It will be fun to see how much produce I actually get from the garden.  Be sure to check on it occasionally and see how my yard is doing!

Friday, June 20, 2014


As our children grow, we seek to do many things in their lives.  One is to help them sink their roots deeply into the love of Christ and our family; another is to give them wings to fly away.  My son flew away this morning.  Not really, but he took a first fledgling swoop out into the great beyond.

He actually will be at training for the next nine days at SMA.  He is training to teach 5-Day Clubs with CEF.  I'm so proud of him.  He has chosen to spend his summer ministering to children and telling them about the love of Jesus.

I'm also kind of sad.  After all, he is my first-born.  He has been my friend for 14 years.  And he is gone for a week and a half.  Last night was a little bit hard.  He came in and said, "Mom, I'm kinda nervous."  I said, "Yeah, that's normal." and we talked for a while.  I was afraid we'd let the roots grow too deep and clipped the wings in the process.  But this morning, he was ready to leave.

And now he is gone.  He will be back in nine days, but he will be gone teaching for most of the summer.  People have told me that I will have so much fun and I should be sure to enjoy this time with the girls while he is gone.  We will enjoy our girl time, to be sure.  But what I'm realizing is that my baby boy has grown up to become a good friend.  I miss him.  But I'm so happy for him to be spending this summer this way.  What a fine young man he is becoming.

Anyway, enough sentiment!  If you were wondering why I haven't blogged lately, the answer is that the last several days have been pretty busy getting him ready to go.  So I'm back again, but not for long.  My daughters are having a tea party, and if you'll excuse, I believe I'll go have a cup of tea.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Old Friends

We had a sweet visit today with old friends, friends of my grandparents from a long time ago.  My grandfather was a missionary with Child Evangelism Fellowship, and he talked his friend into also becoming a CEF missionary.  He went to Finland 50 years ago and up to last year was still traveling the rivers of Russian Siberia to tell village children the good news of salvation through Christ.  He is 88 years old.

Today, we got to enjoy two meals with this special couple and listen to him speak at our church.  Words can't adequately explain how we love visits from this dear godly man.  Our children each consider him a special friend.  He prays for us often.  He writes us letters and sends a package at Christmas.  But to see him and hug him and laugh with him around my dining table--priceless!  And having his wife come along on this trip was extra nice as she hasn't been here for a visit in 12 years.

He doesn't think he'll be traveling this way again.  It is getting to be too hard to travel.  He said he would see us at the great feast in Heaven.  I asked him to save me a seat near him.  I'm sure looking forward to the visiting we'll get to do when we get there!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Young Eagle Flights

Today at the little local airport they were giving Young Eagle Flights.  Have you heard of these?  I think they do them nationwide and if you have children, you should find out when they are offered.  Local small plane personal pilots take children ages 7 to 17 for a 10 minute airplane ride for free!  When I say small planes, I mean they hold one to three people besides the pilot.  They are small privately owned planes, and these pilots do a great job giving the children a wonderful ride.  My oldest three children got to go for a ride, and they were so excited!  My kids saw our house, our church, a couple of lakes, the hospital where daddy works, and lots of trees!  They didn't all recognize each of these geographical markers, but they all had a wonderful time!

Making memories doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and this was a great memory that the children will be talking about for weeks to come.

On the decluttering front: I went through my closet yesterday and eliminated six paper grocery bags full of clothes.  They all fit me, but I just didn't need them all.  I chose mostly plain tops and a mixture of plain and printed skirts that I could make many different combinations with.  I did keep a couple tops that only go with one skirt, but it is one of my most comfortable and lovely skirts.  My closet feels so much cleaner and is easier to find what I want.  I still have all my favorite clothes.  Because I had been considering doing this for quite a while, I had a good idea of what type clothes I wanted to keep and what I was willing to part with, so it took me about 1/2 an hour to go through all of my clothes and get rid of that many items.  That was a pretty rewarding return for a small time investment.

And now that I have gotten started in my bedroom, I'm looking forward to keeping on going.  For some reason, our bedroom is the hardest room for me to declutter.  I think it is because I use it to organize schoolwork, go through paperwork and finances, read books, and hide clutter when visitors come, so EVERYTHING collects there.  I know that shouldn't be the case, but it is nonetheless.  My husband is no less guilty of collecting bedroom clutter than I am, so our room gets full quickly.  Hopefully, I can keep going now that I have some momentum started.

Once A Month Cooking

I am done cooking!  I am not done cleaning, and you don't want to see my kitchen right now, but I am done cooking.  I did the rest of my food prep yesterday, so today I assembled the meals.  I made two or three meals each of Apple Bacon Breakfast Cake, Paleo Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole, Apple Chicken Nuggets, Blueberry Chicken Salad, Cheesy Broccoli Cups, Chicken PotPie Soup, Ground Beef Fried Rice, Kale and Meatball Soup, Sweet Potato Spinach Burgers, Coconut Green Chili Chicken Soup, Paleo Pulled Pork, and Apricot Glazed Pan Seared Chicken.  I have all the ingredients for Cod with Tomatoes and Capers and Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothies, but I decided they were simple enough to throw together on cooking day.

Time to go clean my kitchen!  Talk to you all later!

Update:  I wrote this at about 8:30 last night.  By midnight, my dishes were washed and spread to dry on towels on my counters and table, all the food was in the freezer or refrigerator, and I was ready for bed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Once a Month Grocery Shopping--How much did I spend?

I have the last frozen meal that I prepared last month in my crockpot right now.  That means it is time to shop and cook and freeze meals for another month.

Since I need the van all week to bring my daughters and their friends to VBS, I am bringing my husband to work every morning.  He starts work shortly after 6:00am this week.  This means I got to go grocery shopping at 6:30 this morning!  Have you ever gone grocery shopping at that time of the morning?  It's great!  You are almost the only person in the store.  The dairy guy, the butcher, the produce man--they are all out there arranging their shelves, stocking things, and best of all, able to answer questions and tell you about the great deals they have that day!

So I did my Once a Month Shopping today, so that over the next three days or so, I can do my Once A Month Cooking.  I used to do this very faithfully, but then I quit when we started eating healthier.  Last month, I found the Once A Month Meals website.  What a great tool!  Amazing!  A member can choose from traditional, whole foods, paleo, diet, vegetarian and other menus with a new menu each month.  Previous months menus are available to choose as well.  With a premium membership, you can swap recipes if there is one your family won't enjoy or that your allergies prohibit you from making.  At $16 a month for a premium membership, I shuddered at first, but I had a free month membership.  Once I tried it, I loved it.  The time saved in planning is worth that money to me right now.  See, once you have your menu planned, you can enter the number of servings you want and print out a shopping list, recipe cards, prep work, cooking day tasks, and a thaw sheet so you know what to do with your meals when you take them out of the freezer.  I print all of these up and put them in a three-ring binder, so after I've done this for a few months, I'll have a nice collection of menus to choose from.

Back to today's shopping.  I went to two stores this morning.  At my main store, I spent $219.37.  I saved $75.64 by shopping the sales and using coupons that I found as I shopped.  (I am not a big couponer, but I use them when I find them next to the item I am using)  At the next store, I spent $23.47.  That is a total of $242.84.  I have things like flour, salt, and such at home, because I buy them in bulk from a co-op.  With what I spent, I will have everything I need for a month of meals.  I don't anticipate going shopping again for a month.  We'll see how that goes!  I did put down that I wanted 8 servings instead of six when I printed my menu, because last month, the meals were just right for a meal.  For many people that would be perfect, but I'm a leftovers kind of gal.  I missed having leftovers to send to work with my hubby and use for the kids and I at home for lunch.  So I increased the servings that I needed for this month to see if I will have enough leftovers.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A day to relax

We had a very busy weekend with a pastoral candidate visiting our church.  One or more members of our family went to 11 different events at our church over the last four days.  Wow!  That makes me tired just writing it.  It was really fun and wasn't too overwhelming in actuality.  We knew the schedule for the weekend in advance and planned to not be able to do anything at home for the weekend.  Going in knowing that made it easier.

Another thing that helped a lot was that I wrote a detailed list for myself of what I had to do each day before and during the visit, and I stuck with that pretty carefully.  Because of that, I found myself very calm and able to relax and enjoy the time.  Which got me to thinking.  Why don't I plan my own time as carefully when I'm "just" working at home with housework and homeschooling?  I've tried, but I don't keep at it very long.  Why not?  I don't have an answer to that yet, but I'm working on it.  I think it might be because I think it will slow my creativity and "cramp" my style.  Maybe?  Or maybe I'm just too lazy to keep with it?  In any case, I'm going to try to do it again and see if I can stick with it.  I'll type up a schedule for the week today.

For the most part, today is going to be a day to relax and catch up from the busy weekend.  It is good to plan some time to relax; then you don't have to feel guilty about not accomplishing very much during that time.  My girls are going to go to a friend's church for VBS this week, and they are excited about it.  Other than our church, this VBS is one they go to almost every year.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Garden Fresh Greens

I went out to my garden early this morning and picked fresh sorrel today.  Winter has been so long!  It was a healing experience just being able to go out to the garden and pick something to eat.  I lightly sauteed these leaves and ate them for breakfast.

Sorrel isn't my favorite veggie, but anything from the garden tastes good this time of year.  Sorrel is sour and lemony, and sauteed with salt and pepper, it is pretty good.  It is high in oxalic acid, so you don't want to eat too much of it at once.  Not usually a problem here, though my daughters really like to go eat it out of the garden so I have to keep an eye on that.  The chickens also like to eat it.  My garden borders the chicken pen, and they keep the sorrel they can reach through the fence well picked.  I threw a couple of handfuls over the fence to them this morning when I picked mine for breakfast.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Birthday Party

My oldest daughter turned 11 toward the end of May.  My next daughter will turn 9 in the middle of June.  My grandmother will turn 94 in the middle of June (don't tell her I told).  We had a group party last Monday.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Here are several thousand worth.

We had the party in the backyard of the assisted living home that my grandmother resides in.  It was a beautiful sunny day when we started.  Our first activity was to draw outlines of the girls on the patio; then the girls colored themselves in.  This picture was taken after the rain made a short surprise visit to the party.

We played a game with a hula hoop where the players stood in a circle and held hands.  A hula hoop was put around one person's arm.  Then the hula had to passed around the circle without anyone letting go of hands.  We put short people between taller people to up the difficulty and the laughter.

For dessert, we enjoyed dirt cake.  I made a gluten-free chocolate cake and chocolate avocado pudding and combined them for the cake.  I put it into a new washed sand bucket from the dollar store and stuck some pretty fake black-eyes susans into it.  Then I served it with the shovel that came with the bucket.  Once I convinced everyone it was actually edible, it was a huge success!
The birthday girls

Donkeys live next door to the assisted living home.  They came over to check out the party!

Isaac gave all the girls Touchable Bubbles for gifts.  They were a big hit!

More Touchable Bubbles


I bought plants for the garden.  20 tomato plants and 7 herb plants.  The tomato plants are 11 different varieties of heirloom plants.  I was surprised and pleased to find so much variety at my local greenhouse.  I got Tiny Tim, Black Cherry, Orange Strawberry, Garden Delight, Yellow Pear, Brandywine, Black Krim, Jubilee, Bloody Butcher, Sausage, and Maremmeno.  I paid $1.00 per plant.  That's a lot more than it would have cost to start them from seed, but it was a pretty good deal for such nice plants.  The herbs were a little more expensive, but we'll use all the basil and parsley we can grow.  I tried a pineapple sage this year too, just for the fun of it.  It smelled so good as I brushed my hand over it.  If it grows, I'll have to look up some recipes and figure out what to do with it.

Now I have to get them into the garden.  I have, unfortunately, a lot of weeds growing in my garden right now.  Little, teeny-tiny weeds.  The ones that grow about 2,000 per square foot.  My dad usually comes over and tills up the garden for me, but I've been reading about how that actually turns up the weed seeds and helps them grow, so I'm considering planting without tilling this year.  How to take care of the little weeds is a problem.  The big ones I'm going out to pull right now.

Favorite Quote of the Day

My 14 year old son came up to me yesterday and said, "Hey, Mom,  I think our chickens are the Albert Einsteins of the Houdini world!"  I love it!

In case you're wondering what he was talking about, our chickens have a special talent for escaping their pen.  Doesn't seem to matter what we do to stop them, they can find a way under, over, or through whatever we add to keep them in.

Here is a picture of them actually inside the fence.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Confession is good for the soul.  Here goes.

I.  Am.  Buying.  Unneeded.  Stuff.  Mostly.  Food.

There it is in black and white.

Now that the confession is done, let me explain the reasons.  First, I have my husband's blessing.  Second, we have a pastoral candidate coming to our church this weekend.  We will be very busy.  I am helping with many meals.

I have things in my freezer and pantry I could use to cook from scratch, but I'm not going to.  I want to use my time elsewhere, so I'm buying food for the potluck, for the brunch, for the youth activity, and for the committee dinner.  I'm also buying food for us to eat at home while we're in between meetings.  And I bought food for a date night last night with my husband.

Speaking of date nights, day before yesterday, while I brought hubby to work, he suggested we have a date night last night as we have been so busy and haven't enjoyed being with one another much lately.  So we sent all the kiddos to their rooms early last night, enjoyed a quiet dinner for two, took a walk around the neighborhood (our oldest watched the others), and played a favorite board game.  It was an almost free night and it was so refreshing and relaxing to just enjoy one another's company without thinking about the work that needs to get done or the decisions to be made.

Pretty special idea my sweetheart had!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Thrift store finds

I didn't quite follow my rules on this shopping trip, but I did fairly well.  I passed up a figurine of Kristen (American Girl) that I normally would have thought seriously about buying.

I bought 6 dress shirts for Isaac, 1 skirt for Melody, 4 pairs of shorts for the girls, 1 pair of dress shoes for Isaac, and 1 top for me (that wasn't on my list) for $31.  That wasn't too bad.

Isaac bought himself two games at the Norway thrift store.  The girls found birthday gifts for each other.

We went to the Dollar Tree and I bought a couple of things not on the list.  I spent $4 for things for the girls birthday party on Monday.  I was going to try to not buy anything extra for the party, but I'm not too upset about $4.

I didn't buy any groceries that weren't on my list, which was quite remarkable.

I'll write more about the birthday party on Monday after we have the party.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Switching the seasonal clothes

The warm weather is finally here to stay!  It is so nice to be outside after the long, cold winter that we have had this year.  

I have started switching the winter and summer clothes out.  My son has grown so much that none of the shorts that I set aside for him last fall will fit again this year (maybe 1 pair does).  I am able to get rid of all the clothes that my youngest daughter has outgrown.  This is an easy way to pare down and eliminate things!

However, Isaac needs dress shoes (size 13), shorts (see note above), and dress shirts (several for doing Summer Missionary Assistant work with CEF).  So I'm off to the thrift stores today with all four children.  They are also hoping to buy birthday presents for one another and great-grandma.  The girls could use some shorts to wear under their skirts as well (good way for active girls to stay modest while on the swingset behind the church or up in the top of the apple tree).  

It will be a challenge to stick to the "Only buy it if you need it" rule.  Especially at thrift stores.  Especially with four kids.  When you can get something cute and fun for a dollar, it is easy to justify it.  I'm not going to. I'm going to buy what is on my list.  

While I'm in town, I'm going to check out the greenhouses for heirloom or open-pollinated tomatoes and peppers.  With the late spring, maple syrup season started when it usually ends.  I plant my tomatoes when I get done syruping, which means they are about two inches tall right now.  I didn't even plant peppers this year.   So I'll go to several local greenhouses and see what I can find.  I know the prices at Slagle's Greenhouse, but they are 20 miles out of town.  However, they are very competitive prices and they offer organic, open-pollinated plants.  So we'll see what I can find in town and there may be a trip to the country planned in a few days.  I hear they have chickens, pigs, and other critters, so it might be a fun field trip for the kids.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Oops! Spending without thinking

I just spent money without considering that I don't need what I bought!  It is too easy to spend money on Amazon.  Now I didn't spend a lot, only $.99 for an e-book that won't take up room in my house.  Therefore, I didn't put enough thought into it.  It looked like an interesting book that I could learn something from, so I bought it.  Then I went to YNAB to record my purchase and thought, "I didn't need this book.  It is not essential that I have it.  I was not supposed to buy it!"

I'm going to have to be very careful about looking at Kindle books on Amazon.  I have my number in the system, so one click buys my books.  If that continues to be a temptation, I may have to temporarily close that account.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What about Homeschooling?

What about spending money on homeschooling curriculum and supplies?  Do they count as essentials or non-essentials?  

I have been homeschooling for nine years.  I have a lot of books and resources.  My dad is a retired teacher.  He lives nearby and has a lot of resources that are available to me to use.  We have the internet with its tools and videos and printables and research materials.  

On the other hand, I've never had a high-schooler before.  I need to have a good curriculum for my son to use.  I will need to research and see what I have available before I make this decision.  

So, I want to homeschool without spending any money.  BUT I will not do anything that will jeopardize my children's education.  So, I'm not ready to make this decision yet.  

I'll keep you up-to-date as I think about this.  

Why am I starting this blog?

I have made a conscious decision to simplify my days.  I have more than I need, and I spend too much time taking care of what I have.  I am a wife, a mother.  I want to enjoy my family, not take care of my stuff.  Because of this, I am setting two goals. 

  1. I am going to get rid of things that I don't need (my things, not my husband's or children's, though I'm hoping that will follow).  
  2. I am not going to buy anything for the rest of this year that is not really necessary. (This means I'll pay the bills and buy gifts for holidays and birthdays, though I'll try to keep them small and creative)
I am starting this blog as a way of keeping myself accountable this year and recording the journey.  I've been working on getting rid of things for a while now.  I'm collecting things for a rummage sale and bringing them to my parent's house to store until our sale.  

In this blog, I am going to record my triumphs and my defeats.  Hopefully, my life will be simpler when the journey is over.