Friday, August 30, 2013

Lessons from Death and Dying

As I reflected on the completion of my first decade of marriage, one thing stood out very starkly - the fact that although DH and I have dealt with plenty of challenges and hardships, we have not had to deal with a lot of deaths in our family. We have plenty of family (or at least DH does - mine is rather sparse), but aside from the death of one grandparent (and one much-loved canine friend!), our first decade has been remarkably free from such things.

The conclusion, of course, was that our second decade of marriage will more likely hold much more in that line, just by sheer probability - though we certainly hope that such is not the case, of course!

The funny thing is that in our first month out (of our second decade of marriage, that is) we have already experienced three family deaths - or rather, two family deaths plus the death of a beloved kitty (who, having been a resident of our home for our entire marriage, was very like family!).

Not unexpectedly, the death of our pussy cat hit us the hardest - we were the most involved in her care, and that was a really tough two months. Additionally, the two family members who died were not close family.

But of the two family members who died, each circumstance taught me something quite poignantly and significantly.

The first family member who died was someone who died with horrible regrets. She had chosen a lifestyle of decisions which led only to brokenness and fragmentation - she abandoned her children to be raised by grandparents so that she could continue her party lifestyle, and her life was filled with waste and broken relationships. When she received a terminal diagnosis, she had a horrible time with the realization that this was it. There was no going back to undo, or make up for, the life-decisions she had made. She lived her last days racked with guilt, shame, and regret.

That's a horrible way to die.

I'm not writing this to point fingers - "She was a horrible person!" Actually, I didn't even know her. (She was a relative of DH's.) What I am trying to say is simply that she felt that she had utterly wasted her life and died full of regret - and that is not how I want to die. Whenever my time comes, I want to look back and be able to say, "By the grace of God, I have fought the good fight, and I am ready to meet my Lord and Savior."

The lesson: I want to live so that I can die joyfully and without regrets.

Our other family member who died was given much less notice of his approaching death - he went into the hospital on Monday to deal with fluid build-up, and was dead by Thursday. In the middle of the week he consented to a two-day sedation for a treatment procedure, but by the time they tried to bring him out of the sedation, he had developed a high fever (105-107F) and died without ever regaining consciousness.

Here, the lesson is once again obvious: I want to live so that I am ready to go at any time.

None of has a guarantee that he will receive "notice" of death. Sometimes there is a "you have two weeks, etc.", but often death is sudden and/or unannounced. There are no guarantees.

Was this relative ready to go? We believe so. And I want to be the same way - that I have given my heart and soul to the Lord and am spiritually ready to meet Him at any time.

Two deaths, two lessons. It's amazing how often death points us to lessons for living, if we will pay attention and take it to heart.

Thoughts, dear readers?
"It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gluten-Free Flour-Replacement Mix Recipe

I finally got around to trying this recipe yesterday (in banana bread), and it was great! No one in the family could tell the difference. I looked up weight measurements so that I could measure by weight, and off we went.

All materials were purchased from Azure Standard, which is where I have found the best prices. It also comes out to be much cheaper than my beloved Pamela's Bread Mix, which is my standard gluten-free go-to replacement flour.

It has become strikingly obvious that our family needs to severely limit our gluten intake, because both my husband and our 7yo have exhibited wheat sensitivities in the form of stomach upsets and headaches. A little wheat can be okay, but when they attempt to live the standard American wheat-based diet (i.e. loads of wheat in every meal), then we're really in trouble.

As a matter of fact, the reason that I am currently blogging at 9:30 a.m. instead of doing lessons is because our 7yo is sacked out on the couch, sleeping off a miserable two-day "wheat headache" that he got as a result of a severe wheat overdose this past weekend.

Of course, "gluten-free" foods often aren't very healthy, because they are made up of high-glycemic-index starches that can wreak havoc on both weight and gut health when consumed at high levels. This mix is just for those "I just need some flour!" moments - but not meant to be used as a dietary staple.

Random pictures! Don't you love it? 
Two other options that I am looking into at the moment are:

(1) Sourdough - A lot of the health problems with modern grains can be eliminated or minimized by soaking, sprouting or lacto-fermenting. I hope to give sourdough baking a try very soon!

(2) Einkorn wheat - This is the ancestral (biblical!) version of wheat, before modern wheat was developed. I would like to try this form of wheat, combined with the soaking/sprouting/lacto-fermentation processes to see if our family can handle it better.

But in the meantime, when you just need a bit of flour - and that flour needs to be gluten-free - try this version and let me know what you think!

Gluten-Free All-Purpose "Flour" Mix

1 cup brown rice flour (4 1/2 oz.)
1/2 cup tapioca starch (2 oz.)
1/2 cup potato starch (2 3/4 oz.)
1 tsp. xanthan (or guar) gum

Mix and use as for all-purpose flour! (I would measure this flour by volume, rather than by weight, for recipes.)            

Sitting in a bucket of water - his favorite summer-night activity! 
Have a great night, everyone!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Homeschool Update: Finished With the First Ten Weeks!

Or rather, the first eleven weeks - that's what procrastination does for ya.

I can't believe that we're ten weeks into the school year! It has flown by. I am enjoying this year much more than last year, and though I still don't really know what I'm doing, I am at the point where I feel the hope dawning that some day I shall know what I'm doing. That's a big improvement!

And so.... notes on the first ten weeks of first grade!

- As I get more into home education, I am more and more in favor of late starts, especially for boys. I have seen more and more skills emerge more easily as our son ages - not because of my teaching skills, but because the skills are simply emerging naturally. I can either torture him into skills that he's not ready for (examples: reading skills, writing, etc.), or just wait for them to show up and then take credit for them. (Heh, heh, heh.) Considering that I've tried the torture route, I think I'll just wait!

(It's the difference between snoozing on the deck of a cruise ship or swimming alongside the ship. Same time to the destination, but a lot easier - and more pleasant for all parties - to choose the deck chair.)

Of course, it's also a matter of when a child is personally ready for academics. But if we combine a willingness to wait for a child's readiness and a willingness to give up our society's ever-lowering age of academics (preschool for six-month-olds, anyone? - no, not joking, we have it here), then that is a productive and positive combination.

- Picture study has been awesome. A pleasant surprise, and a ton of fun!

- Another big hit has been our Map Skills book. A sweet friend told me that Map Skills was her boys' favorite subject, and I have found the same to be true at our house! It's just one short lesson per week (or less, as there aren't enough lessons for each week in the year), and our 7yo always wants to do more - an honor that he does not bestow upon any subject except poetry reading!

- Right now we're doing a 4-day week, and that's working for us - but I think that at some point in the future we will have to switch to a 5-day week. Why? Because while I love 4-day weeks, it does not leave us enough vacation time for me to feel truly rested. Our 4-week summer was not nearly enough time - I still felt burned out when we started up again, and only going to a 5-day week will solve that. Maybe next year!

- As mentioned before, skills are coming much more easily for our 7yo than they did last year. He still doesn't care to write, but the little bit that he's doing is much better than last year. In reading, he has simply leaped ahead by leaps and bounds - far beyond what I have actually taught him. He is now reading independently and only needs a bit of help. Though we have a phonics program, we're not actually using it much any more - we're just spending time reading out loud together from whatever book we pull off of the shelf.

- I did finally decide against formal Language Arts for first grade. Instead, we are learning Language Arts informally through Charlotte Mason-style copywork. How does that look? Basically, I copy out passages from the books we read (I just pick any book that he enjoys), and he copies and then illustrates it. It's obvious that our son will never be an artist (keep your day job, kid), but copywork has worked beautifully. I hope to do a post on it soon! Some Charlotte Mason aficionados use copywork (along with dictation and narration) to form a complete Language Arts program for K-12.

- Right now school takes a maximum of an hour and a half, possibly two hours (rarely). If we (1) didn't have a toddler around wreaking havoc, and (2) the 7yo would buckle down and work without needing to be reminded to keep his mind on his tasks, it would be a lot shorter. Of course I'm not counting our science/history/literature time in the afternoons in that total (that's too fun to count as work!), just our family time (Bible, catechism, poetry, safety, picture study, etc.) and seat work (phonics, math, handwriting, copywork).

- The bad news: We're already a bit behind in handwriting and math. This is not because we've been slacking, but simply because, as a newbie, I didn't know to count the "extras" that take more time - like review math assignments that aren't covered in the lesson count total. The good news: I think we can catch up (especially since have more school days than assignments)... but even if we don't, we can always continue our books into next year (though hopefully not).

- Some things that are really working for us: 

  • I still love-love-love Handwriting Without Tears. This curriculum has won a permanent place in our home.
  • Making weekly checklists for work. Of course I can't turn the first-grader loose with his own checklist yet, but it's a great practice that really keeps me on track - and it also gives me a concrete list for telling the 7yo, "Here are the three things you need to do. When you're done, you can get up. You can choose to take ten minutes or three hours, so here you go."
  • Notebooking by Copywork - Per my Charlotte Mason reading, I have stopped trying to do free-composition-type notebooking. For now, copywork is my notebooking, and I'll add back free-composition (or rather, book narration) into our notebooking project in a couple of years. This was a big relief for me, as notebooking was fun but somewhat tortuous. 
  • Map Skills series by Modern Curriculum Press - Easy, fun, wonderful!
  • Poetry reading, picture study, and map skills have been the biggest hits of this year. 
- A major challenge during this time has been dealing with the dreaded transition between (1) having a toddler who takes a morning nap, and (2) having a toddler who now disdains such frivolity. Considering that my main modus operandi was to cram all formal work into said nap time, this has been quite an adjustment! But we're managing, and we're learning each day. I have the feeling that a mode of constant learning will be in place for as long as we are home educating, because it's never stagnant!

- I may have said it once or twice before, but I love living books education. It is truly a passion - and a passion that's still growing daily!

- We are tentatively (and very informally) starting our history/science/geography curriculum, Galloping the Globe. I'll let you all know how it goes!

And there you have it! Questions, dear readers? Bring 'em on!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Would Someone Please SAY SOMETHING?

Sometimes you don't realize how far you've come. And then sometimes you do! Today was one of those big self-realization moments in which I realized how much I have changed, and how far I've come!

This weekend, we had a family funeral eight hours north of our home to attend. We considered going as a family, but just couldn't work it financially. Thus, it ended up that DH took our eldest to go to the funeral, carpooling with DH's parents in order to save money and make it workable. I stayed home with the babies.

And you know what? Despite my constant thoughts that "if everyone would just leave, I could get something DONE," this weekend has not been particularly productive. And why?

Because the silence is driving me nuts! Would somebody please just say something? Anything? Anyone?

And that totally cracks me up!

Know why?

Because when I was a new parent, two things nearly drove me insane. The first thing was never being alone and losing all of my private time, and the second thing was - once our toddler started talking - having to deal with constant never-ever-ending conversation. Being a quiet person and also an only child (in both my nuclear and extended families) with quiet parents, it really was a very tough adjustment!

But apparently I've adjusted - because the lack of conversation around here for the past 36 hours has been very unnerving! I still don't have a ton of free time, being that there are two babies around to take care of, but the lack of that constant TALKING that originally drove me mad..... is now itself making me a wee bit batty.

Isn't it funny how we truly can adapt to new realities when we need to?

Right now I'm having to adjust to the reality that used to be my norm. Thankfully it will be over in another 24 hours, and I'll have my chatty never-ever-ever quiet household back.

In the meantime.... Somebody say something! 

When this one learns to talk, I'll have a whole new level of noise to get used to! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's Time to Throw a Big, Big, Really-Really-Big Party! (Sort of.)

Well, dear readers! TODAY is THE DAY!

Yes, it's that day we've all been waiting for! Let there be rejoicing in the streets, merriment in the town square, and reckless festivities in every home! The day has finally come! 

(Puzzled Reader: "Um, what day is that?")

Well, for the forgetful among us.... Today marks one ENTIRE YEAR that I have been on the very-low-carb diet! Yes, truly! One whole year! One whole year of no sugar, no grains, no carbohydrates of any kind. I can hardly believe it's been a whole year!

That being said, let the party begin!

* Insert sounds of merriment, frolicking, dancing, etc. *

Of course, there's only one small problem to the "one whole year" bit, and that is.... I am ashamed to admit....

I cheated. 

Yes, yes, I cheated! (*Hangs head in shame.*) Indeed I did, so it's a good thing that I didn't have any money bet on this business (though if I had, I wouldn't have cheated!).

And when did this shameless indiscretion occur?

Last week. Last Friday, to be precise.

Yup, in the last week before meeting the one-year marker, I cheated.... and can anyone guess what temptation caused me to cave? It was...


Yes, blackberries. Last week we went blackberrying in northern Arizona (fools that we were, it took us TEN YEARS to discover that there are blackberries in Arizona... ten long, wasted years! *sob*), and if there is one thing in the world that I cannot do, it is to go blackberrying without eating every second berry. And of course, after that came....


... which is truly the food of the gods (which is fitting, since I consider blackberrying to be one of earth's closest ties to heaven on earth!). And I didn't say no to that either! Truly, it was a day of indulgence.

However, I immediately reformed and repented, and I am back to orthodoxy and orthopraxy (though admittedly somewhat tired of both).


And so, dear readers, what are my conclusions after being on the VLC diet for one year?

Well, primarily, not much. As you all know, this is an ongoing experiment to see if the VLC diet can prevent severe morning sickness (hyperemesis, or HG). The last time through pregnancy, I got very mixed results because I cheated (see above link for the full story). This time through, I have determined not to cheat so that our outcome will not be adulterated. However, as of this point there is no outcome, because we're not pregnant! So the jury is still out.

Here are a few things I've learned this past year:

It is only by the grace of God that I have completed this year - My dietary self-control is near zero, so the fact that I have abstained from grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, sugar, etc. for an entire year is truly a godsend. All the credit is His!

Creativity is a must - On this diet, it's very easy to get into a serious rut, because there is so little in the standard American diet that one can eat. It's very easy to have an entire houseful of food, and not be able to eat any of it! Or to get into the rut of eating the same thing every day and get intensely tired of it all. Planning ahead and switching things up are important! (Or else you will end up doing what I did a few months ago - eating nothing but omelettes for two straight days. Not that I'm complaining - it's a first-world problem. But my goodness, one can get tired of omelettes.)

The VLC diet is a challenge with kids - Why? Because high-carb foods are almost always an easy sell to kids. Low-carb items (vegetables, etc.) are a much harder battle. I find that I need to add side dishes (beans, rice, cornbread) to meals to make them child- and husband-friendly. However, I do my best to cook primarily the same main dish, because it is otherwise an easy road to insanity (especially when I'm cooking yet another dish for the baby with texture issues).

The health benefits have been awesome - Is a very low carb diet natural? Probably not... but there have been clear and distinct benefits! Here are just some of them:

  • My skin has cleared up - no more constant adult acne!
  • My skin quality has also improved - I no longer use any skin care products whatsoever, and my skin feels better than it ever has. 
  • I've lost the baby weight.
  • I feel better and have more energy than I've ever had - and this is a huge one, as energy problems have been a life-long issue for me. 
  • 90% of my pesky residual pregnancy nausea cleared up within 12 hours of starting the diet - and this last time, it was really a problem. (I've recently also cleared up that last 10%, but that, my friends, is a secret to reveal on another day!)

Brown-bagging is a given - Wherever I go, I bring my own food. Why? Because besides a vegetable tray at a potluck, almost every food at a public event is going to be high-carb. I'm used to it now, and it's just a way of life.

At some point we're going to have to tell the extended family - We have not shared what I am doing with our respective families. Why? Because I do not like to discuss health issues with family, especially when it has been made quite clear that they think we should have stopped with one child and were/are insane to even consider any after that. I've just been "going low carb." However, things are a bit awkward when visiting family, because I don't cheat even at family dinners (I would if it was for weight loss, but since it's a serious medical issue, I don't), so we're going to have to mention what I'm doing so that we don't end up alienated from family. *Sigh*.

However, all in all it's been an awesome year! I've learned a lot about nutrition (plus more that I hope to share soon!!), have learned a whole new way of cooking and eating, and have really enjoyed the journey. If there are ever any *results* to share, I will of course share them here!

In the meantime.... Feel free to leave any questions, and I would be glad to answer them!

Happy Zero-Carb Day!!*

* I should say that this diet is not "zero carb," because a zero-carb diet consists of only meat and oils (fun!). This is instead a very-low-carb diet, which also includes low-carb dairy (heavy cream and cheese) and low-carb vegetables and nuts.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Adding Science Experiments to the Home Education Mix!

In my infant experience with home education (and parenting, and family life in general), I have found that there are three parts to starting something new in our family culture:

(1) FINDING the new idea,

(2) FIGURING OUT how to do it well, 

and, most difficult of all...

(3) IMPLEMENTING the idea

That is, figuring out how to make it a regular, remembered, and successful part of our day or week. In my experience, I find that many wonderful and awesome ideas fall by the wayside simply because I cannot remember to do them consistently or because I never figure out how to work them successfully into our daily or weekly routine.

An especial problem in this area is that of non-daily academics - all of those things which are done only weekly rather than daily. Examples include Map Skills, Picture Study, Crafts, Science Experiments, etc. - all the things that we do only once per week.

One problem that we have recently solved is that of adding science experiments to our routine, which is a very exciting development! We have done so by partnering it with our Father-Son Monday Project Night, an already-established institution in our house in which DH works on some sort of project (LEGO, construction, etc.) with our 7yo. With our new arrangement, I have the science experiment prepared and ready for them, and they do the experiment before heading off for Project Night.

This week's experiment - Flame Tests! 

It works beautifully! DH gets to help with a small part of our home education, and they have a lot of fun together. And, very importantly, we now have an easy-to-remember way to work a weekly science experiment into our regular routine.

Now to find a similar way to incorporate crafts into our week!

Any tips to share, dear readers?

* The above experiment is from this awesome science website, referred to me by a wonderful friend!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Introducing... Charlotte Mason Picture Study!

This year we have started doing Charlotte Mason-style picture study!

This has been another surprising experience for me. I was rather afraid to try it - afraid that it would be another bit of drudgery to force upon our unwilling 7yo, but to my surprise (like poetry!) - he and I have both greatly enjoyed it!

I have been careful not to make it too formal - "Come, children, let us sit down for our weekly art lesson!" - instead making it more fun and informal - "Hey, let's sit down so I can show you a picture I really like!" I really haven't met much resistance, and it's been a fun (and quick!) weekly adventure into the world of classic art.

We are using the Ambleside Online 2013-2014 Art Schedule, so this year's first artist of study is John Singleton Copley, whose work I have quickly come to love (I'm a huge fan of Colonial American history!). Though I have never been passionately fond of classical art, I am discovering a previously untapped vein of interest in a completely new subject, and I have found myself often sitting for quite some time reading the text of the art book we borrowed, and finding it (the history of John Copley and his artwork) absolutely fascinating!

Here are the first two pictures we have studied:

"Paul Revere"

"The Copley Family"

For each study time, we simply look at the picture together for a minute, then turn the picture over and talk about the things we remember about it. Then we look at it again and repeat. It's quick - less than ten minutes - but it's a great way to introduce great artists and great works of art.

Picture study can, of course, be made as complex as one wishes. You can read an artist biography, discuss the history of the time, tie period artists into your history unit studies, or even provide art supplies for your students to try painting in the same style or with the same medium. The sky's the limit! For us, we're starting slowly, but you can take it as far as you want.

For each year, three artists are studied, and six pictures per artists are studied, for a total of 18 paintings per year. If done for 12 years, this means that a student will study a minimum of 216 paintings - not bad!

It's fun to move into a new area of home education, especially one that is unexpectedly successful, and also very low-maintenance and easy to implement.

As for our 7yo, he has now received more art appreciation than I received in seventeen years in the public school system. Not bad for one ten-minute lesson!

Here is one very thorough article about teaching picture study that I very much enjoyed.

For those of you who do picture study, please feel free to drop me details about how you implement it in your family!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Starting a New Project!

We're starting a new project around here! Can you guess what it is?

Okay, now you have a tiny clue. Care to guess again?

That's right! As of two days ago (Sunday), our family is - at least temporarily - TV-free. 

I am so excited about this!

DH and I have been slowly approaching this decision for months (years), but this past weekend we were finally ready to give it a go. The TV was turned off on Sunday, and has not been on since then. It's wonderful!

Of course, the 7yo doesn't think so. (The 4yo and the 1yo don't care.) There has been quite a bit in the way of complaining around here, but we are forging ahead and doing our best to let him know that this is non-negotiable.

It would have been much easier had we made this decision years ago, of course, but we'll just have to deal with the fall-out.

We actually didn't watch a ton of TV around here anyway - half an hour a day for the 7yo, about 15 minutes per night for DH and myself during our night-time alone time, and a family movie night. That's it.

But unfortunately, we have - for years upon years - noticed that TV has had an obvious negative affect on our eldest's behavior, and that is the main reason behind this decision. Something had to give.

It started when I was pregnant (and very sick) with our second-born - the TV was our rescue agent. At that time it was mainly "Thomas the Tank Engine," and I immediately noticed negative attitudes and behaviors stemming from that.

As a side note, I am still convinced that "Thomas the Tank Engine" is sheer evil (speaking somewhat humorously - no hate mail, please!). I know it's a beloved children's classic, and I'm actually quite fond of it, but in five years of children's television, I have not met its match for teaching bad attitudes and unkind language. I recently snuck all of our Thomas DVD's into the Goodwill box, and they will never enter this home again. (Unless they're broken into tiny pieces and we're making mosaics with them.)

Lately, with the addition of "adventure"-type films, we've noticed even worse manifestations. Not only can kids not tell fantasy from reality, but any violence that they see is magnified ten times in their behavior and conversation.

Not. Good. At. All. 

And so, of course, the obvious conclusion is this: We're actively pouring things into our children's heads that teach them bad attitudes, bad language, bad behavior, bad habits... and then banging our heads against the wall in frustration over how to get rid of the same.

And enough is enough.

We do not know if this change will be permanent. After our TV-free break, we may or may not add back in tiny amounts of violence-free TV, violence-free computer games, or family movie nights. We really don't know. Right now DH and I are enjoying it so much that we tend to foresee a permanently TV-free future. I hope so. But for now, we're feeling it out and seeing how it goes (and trying to deal with a 7yo who is convinced that we are big meanies).

But it's wonderful, nevertheless.

And we've already noticed positive changes - in our 7yo and in our family culture at large. I can't wait to see what the future holds for us in this new adventure.

Anyone else out there in the same situation? How did it go for you?



Because I do tend to pre-write all of my entries, this entry was actually written about a month ago, so we've been TV-free now for at least four weeks.

Both DH and I have only one thing to say: We wish we'd done this a lot sooner.

And we don't foresee going back.

Of course, we'll reevaluate after more time has passed, but we've seen such positive results in our family and in our children that we can't imagine going back to the way things were before. We are both thrilled with the great results, and we both want to keep going.

Note: This entry is meant to share our adventure, not to make anyone feel judged! Truly! If carefully-controlled television is a part of your family, that's fine. It's up to each family to decide. I'd encourage anyone to try the TV-free life if it is desired, but this article is not meant to make anyone feel badly.

Have a great night, everyone!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt!

This past weekend while we were visiting the grandparents, DH pulled out some old Keith Green tapes and started to play them. Our 7yo was entranced, and thus our house has ever since been filled 'round the clock with the sounds of DH's Keith Green CD collection.

Any other Keith Green fans in the house?

I'm actually only a mild fan of Keith Green's music, which is odd, because he is a man who changed my life - though we never met, and he died when I was an infant.

When I started dating DH, he immediately introduced me to his favorite book - "No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green" -  a posthumous biography written by Keith's wife Melody after Keith died tragically (along with two of his children) in a plane crash at the age of 28. (Read a full bio here.)

This book pretty much blew my mind. Having grown up in what I now term a post-Christian church, I had never really been exposed to Christianity as a passionate, life-changing relationship that affected one to the core of one's being. Keith Green's deep and abiding passion for Jesus and for holy and set-apart living was totally foreign to me, and I read the book over and over again, trying to puzzle through what was to me an unknown way of looking at Jesus.

Over the years, "No Compromise" played a key role in shaping my beliefs and worldview as a baby Christian. The only other Christian who has had such a profound influence on me was Corrie ten Boom, whose work "The Hiding Place" was similarly mind-blowing.

Keith Green Quotes:

“Loving Him is to be our cause. He can take care of a lot of other causes without us, but He can’t make us love Him with all our heart. That’s the work we must do. Anything else is an imitation.” 

 ”I only want to build God’s Kingdom and see it increase, not my own. If someone writes a great poem no one praises the pencil they used, they praise the one who created the poem. Well, I’m just a pencil in the hands of the Lord. Don’t praise me, praise Him!” 

 “The only music minister to whom the Lord will say, 'Well done, thy good and faithful servant,' is the one whose life proves what their lyrics are saying... And to whom music is the least important part of their life. Glorifying the only Worthy One has to be a minister's most important goal!”

Keith Green, 1953 - 1982

If you have a chance to get a copy of "No Compromise," I highly recommend it! Let me know what you think!

Fellow believers, I'd love to know - who has greatly influenced your faith, or your coming to faith? Tell me about them!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Close of an Era, or Why Yesterday Was a Rotten Day!

* In case y'all don't know, I often pre-write my posts several days (or weeks, *ahem*) before I publish them. This article was written over a week ago, which will explain the gap between event and publication! 

Fourteen-odd years ago, during the spring of my senior year in high school, I arrived at my church one evening to play for a Lenten mid-week service. As I walked up to the back door, a young cat strutted out of the bushes and threw herself at my feet, demanding to be petted.

So I did. As did the assistant pastor, and the rest of the church. We had been adopted! And pretty soon, kitty was being fed and petted by numerous individuals, myself included. I think I got more practice done that spring than any other time, being that I made sure I got to the church every day to feed kitty.

We named kitty "Elsie," a sort of play on the church's denomination, and she took up residence in an abandoned garden shed in back of the church. Her growing plumpness made us wonder if there was something more going on than good feeding, but nevertheless, I ended up adopting her and taking her home a month or so later - after which she promptly took over the second floor of our house and soon after gave birth to four kittens in my bedroom closet.

Kitty came with us when DH and I married, and she has been our only family pet during the ten years of our marriage. Besides the fact that she was a consummate bully to other cats, she has been an awesome cat.

About six months ago or so, we noticed that kitty was "aging." Being that she was about 15 years old, we just accepted that the inevitable was happening. However, when the process accelerated drastically, we realized that something else was going on. Thus began a two-month saga of vet visits and various medications, but to no avail. Though she rallied several times, it was eventually all in vain, and we made the difficult decision to have her put down yesterday.

May I say that I sincerely hope that we never have to make that decision again? It is a miserable experience.

This was both DH's and my first experience with being the responsible adults during a pet's end-of-life decisions. Though we have lost pets before, those have come under the jurisdiction of others (usually our parents during our childhood), and being the ones in charge is infinitely more difficult.

DH especially has been hit very hard by this, as kitty's care during these two months has been almost completely his job, and he was the one to be with her during the euthanasia procedure. It's going to take him (and all of us) a while to get over this.

Both of us are thankful, though, that the Lord's leading was so clear in this situation. Both of us had prayed for either healing or a natural death, and God did not answer that prayer. However, He did lead us both to a peaceful decision on timing. The very morning after we had a serious discussion on how long we should let this situation go, the Lord led a very sweet vet tech to come out and tell DH very calmly and lovingly that she thought it was time for us to consider letting her go. It was the perfect timing, and we made the decision that very day (yesterday). A few weeks earlier, when the subject was first brought up, neither of us was ready to make that decision or go ahead with a situation that we still thought might resolve well.

We never received a final diagnosis for kitty's ailment, so that will forever be a mystery - and we are praying that whatever it was was not contagious, as we have several outdoor kitties about.

Both DH and I are united in not wanting any more pets - a decision of several years' making, not just of the past few months - but I don't know how well that decision will hold up in a house full of children, the eldest of whom is already petitioning for a kitten!

Adult life is interesting, isn't it? It's full of having to learn hard lessons. I remember telling my mother (when I was a child) that I would never ever ever do things like clean up a child's vomit, etc. But being an adult is about growing up and taking on the tough things, regardless of whether we like it or not.

But regardless, I'm glad that this is an experience that only comes one's way a few times in a lifetime.

Some pictures that we took yesterday:

And what arrived from our (incredibly sweet) vet's staff today:

Goodbye, sweet kitty.


Since I did write this article last week, I've had some time to reflect on the events surrounding the above. At the time, I was somewhat irritated with God (sorry to have to admit this). I wanted desperately for our kitty to either be healed or to die naturally. I did not want to have to make the euthanasia decision. Dealing with a pet's death is hard, but being the active agent in that death is twenty times harder.

In other words, I wanted the easy way out. And God did not see fit to grant that prayer. And I was a bit put out!

But God's goal in this life is not to make us happy or to give us the easy way out. It is to lead us through the difficult roads that make us holy, that push us through spiritual growth that we would otherwise not choose. (Hyperemesis, anyone?) Despite my adamant wishes to stay cozy and comfortable, God put us through that difficult time to grow us. Though I never want to experience last week again, I realize that God has used that experience also to grow both DH and myself.

And life continues on.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

An Easy Must-Try Science Activity!

A friend of mine recently told me about the Cornstarch and Water science activity, and last week we tried it. WOW! This definitely goes on my list of fun, easy, inexpensive activities that gives hours of fun for under $1 total cost.

Can it get any better than that? No, I thought not!

Go to the above site for an explanation of the science (basically polymers and pressure), but for the littles, it's just a lot of fun and a great way to learn about the physical world.

Our green batch! 


Cornstarch (we used one box per batch)
Liquid food coloring, optional

Add water until workable, and voila! There you go. (If you add too much water, just wait a bit - it will dry out as you play with it.)

It doesn't get much cheaper than cornstarch... definitely my kind o' craft. 

Our 7yo, who hates to get his hands dirty, had to be gradually persuaded into this craft....
.... but the 1yo needed no such persuasion!

Oh, boy! (He spent the rest of the day coated in cornstarch.)

 When you add pressure by stirring quickly, slapping the top, or squeezing a handful of it, it acts as a solid. When pressure is released (stirring slowly, pressing your hand in gently, or opening your hand after squeezing), it acts as a liquid.

One fun thing to try is squeezing a handful into a ball, and then throwing quickly (before it can turn liquid again) - then as it hits, watching it drip into a mass of goo!

We played with this for something like two hours, and had a great time - especially as we providentially picked one of the two cool days of summer to do it, so we had a lovely time!

This mess cleans up well, but I recommend doing out in the (non-cement) yard if possible, as we are going to have to spray our still-cornstarched cement to get all the residual cornstarch off of our patio.

Just in case you were considering it, DO NOT TRY THIS CRAFT INSIDE! 


Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Supplies Do I Need For Home Education?

Home education can range from nearly-free to ridiculously expensive.... it all depends on the family and the decisions made regarding style and curriculum. But there are lots of tempting books, curricula, games, gadgets, kits, supplies, etc., and it's hard to know what is necessary, what is optional but fun, and what is just clutter and overkill.

A dear friend of mine (who is a successfully-graduated home educator) has reiterated to me on multiple occasions, "The only things that you need for home education are a Bible, a math curriculum, and a library card."

I've had time to ponder this, and over several years I have come to realize how true it is. We need to teach the Bible. We need to teach math. And just about everything else can be accomplished by the reading of good-quality, twaddle-free literature.

Of course, most of us use far more than just that short list - but when one is experiencing a panic attack in a homeschool exhibit hall, it's a good mantra to repeat: "Bible, math, library card. Bible, math, library card. I really can do without all of the expensive gizmos and gadgets!"

In the practical sense, what does one need for home education? Though that answer will vary by family, here are the basics that I have found necessary. (This is only for lower-elementary education - upper level children will have different needs.)

Bible - A Bible curriculum or just a Bible. We use the latter.

Reading Program - Lots of great choices! We use Rocket Phonics.

Math Curriculum - Pick one. We use Singapore.

Handwriting Curriculum - Or you can make your own!

Living Books - This is where the library card comes in, though it's also great to have a good collection of your own. Homeschool curriculum sales and garage sales are great for building one's personal library at a low cost!

Basic School Supplies - Pens, pencils, erasers, mini-whiteboard & pens. You really don't need much! For older children, composition books, binders, loose-leaf paper.

Art & Craft Supplies - Crayons, paints, chalks, crafty stuff. This too will depend on your family's personality. Our family's art supply is pretty basic, but you artsy people out there will want to have a bigger variety of materials to work with.

Useful Websites - I have a huge list of home education blogs in my blog reader, and they are such a blessing! Check my sidebar for a (very incomplete and partial) list, as well as the blog buttons. I would also include useful online forums and Facebook groups.

Local Support Group(s) - These are essential for finding encouragement, friendships, field trips, information, gatherings (Park Days, playdates, etc.), Moms' Nights Out, local information, wise counsel, etc. Make sure you have one of these - or more! I currently am involved in two homeschool support groups, am about to join another, and have several more that I could join if I had the time. They are usually very low-cost (one of my groups costs $15 per year, the other costs $12) and are worth their weight in gold.

And finally....

LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of computer paper and ink cartridges. Did I mention that you'll need LOTS? (And for those of us who love to notebook, the same applies to cardstock.) The other day I actually found myself wondering if we should invest in a professional-style printer/copier so I wouldn't have to change ink cartridges every other week. Stock up.

And that's it! For us, it's really been pretty basic. Besides the extremely-pricey curriculum that I bought our first year, homeschooling really hasn't been that expensive.

I know that for the future, there will be more items that will be required. More supplies, more textbooks, more activities and related items, etc.

But the truth of "a Bible, a math curriculum, and a library card" still holds true as an underlying foundational principle - that home education does not have to be complicated and pricey - and remembering that can help us all keep our sanity when we're bombarded with ads, offers, and "you must have such-and-such to successfully home educate!" propaganda.

Maybe I should make this my mantra before I head into next year's exhibit hall.

What other essentials would you add to the above list?

Our handwriting curriculum for the year - total for both books was $15. Next year I'll skip the teacher's manual (which is sitting next to me right now, unread) and the price will drop to $7. Not bad!