Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Break for the Homeschooling Mama

'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the abode
Lay gift wrap and boxes -- it was quite a load.
New toys were scattered all over the place,
The children had smiles glued on each face.
Their dreams had come true -- there were Legos galore,
And new toys and games now covered the floor.
But despite all this mess and confusion and clutter,
Mom isn't moaning, not even a mutter.
In fact, she is smiling and singing a song!
Why?  Christmas break lasts another week long!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas is Coming...

Winter is gently spreading its soft white blanket over our town.  The forecast says it will only be a sheet, but I'm hoping for a big, thick, heavy comforter's worth!  Then again, I don't have to drive anywhere in it.

Christmas break is almost here -- five more school days!  I do enjoy teaching my kids -- really, I do! -- but we're all so looking forward to this break.  We'll have completed 19 weeks of school in 20 weeks once break arrives, which explains our eagerness!

But do y'all know what else this means?  It means Grandpa and Grandma haven't been visiting (giving us an excuse to take days off) in far too long.  Tsk, tsk.

It also means we'll only have 16 required weeks of school left in the new year!  Wah-hoo!  

The snow is still dancing merrily down and we're at "sheet" depth... with no sign yet of stopping.  Yea!  It may be a white Christmas yet.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Book Joy

Because I'm stretching two years of history/geography/literature curriculum over three school years, I had the joy of ordering another year's supply of books this week, right in the middle of a school year -- and they arrived today!  Yea!

I feel a little silly expressing how extremely giddy I was opening up the cardboard flaps, inhaling deeply of the newly printed paper smell, caressing the glossy covers and reading the back of almost every one of the 40-plus books.  It was the highlight of my day.

Many of the titles are ones I'll read aloud to the boys, but there are plenty they'll read on their own, and as I perused them, I kept thinking, "I hope this is one I get to read, too!"  Some familiar titles were "Caddie Woodlawn," "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," "Gone Away Lake," "Old Yeller" and "Freedom Train: Harriet Tubman."

Some of the intriguing titles and covers I'm looking forward to are "The Great Turkey Walk," "Miracles on Maple Hill," "The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs," "Thimble Summer" and "Sing Down the Moon."  Don't those sound riveting?

I admit, I am one to get carried away by the title or cover of a book.  I know, never judge a book... but titles are like a glimpse through an old house's blinds -- not enough to show you anything clearly, but plenty to set your imagination roaming.  I remember playing the card game Authors as a kid, and being enchanted by titles like "The House of Seven Gables," "The Song of Hiawatha," "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Kidnapped."  

I got around to reading very few of those classic tales, but thanks to the "mandatory" reading that goes with homeschooling, I'm logging lots of fabulous titles anyway!  And who knows but that some of those other titles might not show up in another fabulous box of books in the future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ten Thoughts

It's 10:21 p.m., Wednesday, and I haven't forgotten my goal of writing something on Wednesdays, even if only to get the creative juices flowing for another day.  I must admit, not much is flowing right now, so I'm resorting to a blog technique I've seen others do and that seems to fit my not-much-to-say-on-any-one-thing dilemma.  Top ten thoughts -- go:

1 -- We are having such a great school year.  I'm not trying to brag or gloat, but this has been our best school year thus far.  I attribute part of it to having gotten our science text completed during the summer, thus lightening the load for the rest of the school year a little bit; and part of it to having all my students literate!  Work goes much more quickly when even the youngest can read the directions on his math worksheet without help!

2 -- I met my first nephew last week and he is... I can't even come up with a word delectable enough to describe him.  Precious, beautiful, kissable, sweet, hilarious (love the faces babies make!), and oh-so-sweet smelling.  I wanted to take him home, but alas, he would have missed mommy before we got very far down the road!

3 -- On a related note, we're still eagerly awaiting the chance to hug and kiss and snuggle and love on our first niece, who is halfway across the world and awaiting a visa so she can travel here (and back... I think it's the "and back" part that's actually causing the hang-up).  Hopefully soon!

4 -- Wow, did I really say top ten?  I may have to reduce that number.

5 -- Since I missed writing anything on the day before Thanksgiving, my belated thankful list:  Wade!  He takes such good care of me and our boys.  He's my rock and my pillow and he makes me smile every time I see him.

6 -- Our boys!  They are such a joy.

7 -- Family: immediate, extended, near, far, biological, foster and honorary.  I have been so blessed.

8 -- Our church family at Holland Center who bless us, accept us, put up with us and teach us and for some odd reason really seem to like us.

9 -- Friendships new and old:  the women I didn't know my heart needed until we moved here, and the ones I miss so much now that we aren't in Washington.  

10 -- Ten!  I made it!  Hope it wasn't cheating to go make number 5 spill over into 6, 7, 8 and 9.  

Hope you all have a lovely night and a blessed week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not This Time

Quick update here (sorry, I hope to be in bed in ten minutes, so you're all getting gypped if you were counting on a full ten minutes of Wednesday writing): the foster family of the little girl we were being considered for decided to adopt her themselves, so she won't be joining us.  It was a little disappointing to get the news, but now we know that this wasn't God's plan for us or her.  We just wish we did know what his plan is!  Thanks for all your prayers.

Monday, November 12, 2012


The middle three rapscallions were learning about personification today, and some of the examples they came up with were too good to not share!

The road kept me company until I turned onto his brother, the alley-way.  But the road said I'd be back, as though he knew my trip was long.

"I scan the ocean in the night, like a miner looking for his lost shovel." ~ a lighthouse

The ocean roared to the other waves, "Come on!  Cowabunga!  The water's nice!"

"I strain my eyes for ships at night, calling for them."  ~ a lighthouse

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I Am An American

I pledge allegiance to President Barak Obama, who, though not by my vote, won a free and non-violent election by free and honorable citizens of a free and glorious republic, and who thus deserves my honor and respect.  

Although I have freedom of speech to say what ever I want about him, I pledge to speak the truth in love, even when I disagree with him.  

Although I have the right to print whatever I like about him, I pledge to show respect to him as a child of God, even when I stand against his policies.  

Although I have freedom to practice my religion however I like -- even to pray for his removal from office -- I pledge to pray for good for his health, wisdom, heart and soul.

Although I wanted another man to have his job, I pledge to do what I can to work with him to make America better, healthier and more noble.

I am an American, and Barak Obama is my president.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Like Cards and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Ya know, it's hard to write with Adventures in Odyssey playing in the background.  The boys listen to them at bedtime, and I think I enjoy them as much now as I did when I was their age.  Such great stories!  Such distracting stories.

I once gave a boy a Valentine that said, "Valentine, I like you a lot.  In fact I'm head over heals in like with you!"  and on the inside whatever cute little animal was on the cover, was upside down.  There aren't a lot of options for "like" cards.  There should be more, because people throw around the word "love" far too carelessly.  Perhaps I should break into this niche market, creating Valentines and other general "I like you" cards for those wanting to express their true feelings -- not an exaggeration of their feelings.  File that thought for someday after someone else has already become rich off of it.

Anyway, that's what Odyssey brought to mind this evening.

On an entirely different train of thought, I'm so enjoying "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" by Alexander McCall Smith!  I capered happily through the first eleven books in his "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series a little over two years ago, and thought I had come to the end of the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, but -- oh joy! -- I recently discovered there are two more books!

Here, one of the amusing passages that typify the series:
     In his view... women... wanted machines to work, but they did not necessarily want to understand why they worked or, more important, why they went wrong.  Love was usually quite enough to stop people going wrong, but would not always work with machinery.  One of his clients had just demonstrated that.  She had brought in her car, which was behaving erratically.  "I love it," she said.  "I am kind to it.  And now it has decided to turn against me.  What have I done, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, to deserve this?" 
     "It is not love," he had said.  "It is oil."
     That is what Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni thought about how women treated cars.
One last thought:  I thought "bemuse" meant basically the same thing as "amuse," but to a lesser or more curious degree. It doesn't.  It means to befuddle, confuse, confound, mystify.  Good thing I looked it up before describing the previous passage as bemusing.  Amusing.  That's what it is.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Four Years and Counting

It's only Tuesday but I've got a few minutes on my hands and some thoughts on my heart.  As y'all may already know, Wade and I started pursuing adopting a child four years ago (seriously, four years?!?).  Because of a variety of hold-ups, we didn't get our foster license for almost a year and a half, and then we were on a wait list with AASK, a branch of the foster care system that deals with placing kids needing permanent homes.

In the two years since we finally got on board with all the necessary entities, there have been two times when we were seriously considered for a child or sibling group needing a permanent home.  Both times the case workers narrowed their search down to two families (one of which was us), agonized over which to choose, and opted to place the children with the other family.

I am convinced that God lead them to their choices, and so it was good that they didn't choose us, but it was also very emotionally draining both times we were told, "You may have a child very soon," and then were told, "Not this time."

I bring this up because once again we're being considered for a placement.  At this point the case workers are still recruiting families, and there will likely be lots since the child is young and healthy -- a truly blessed condition, we've come to realize!  

Having been "so close" twice before, I'm trying to not get my hopes up, while at the same time having at least the beginnings of a plan in place should we get her (her!).  It's hard to stop the mental checklist once it starts -- Do we still have a car seat that size?  What bedding will we need?  How would we shuffle the boys to open up a bedroom?

Anywho, all that to say, please pray.  Pray for this little girl, her current foster family, her biological family, the social workers making choices about her future, and her permanent family, whoever that may be.  I'll keep you all posted if any news comes up to post!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ten Minutes -- A Rant

Today's ten-minute contribution may go a little over the allotted ten minutes, because it's a rant, which is precisely why I'll try not to go too far beyond ten minutes.  Because who really wants to hear someone rant for ten minutes?  

Okay, here I go.

I despise Halloween!  Casually referred to as "the Devil's holiday," it encourages goriness, gluttony and greed.  I feel like this is one area where Christians should definitely be misfits, counter-cultural, a set-apart people -- you know, like Jesus was.

On the other hand, there is nothing devilish about dressing up in appropriate costumes, celebrating a feast (in moderation), and sharing our own bounty with others.

I wonder whether this is one of those areas where the apostle Paul would advise: follow your conscience.  Those whose faith allows them to eat meat offered to idols (or observing Halloween) should feel no qualms about doing so; but for those whose faith is weak and are bothered by eating meat offered to idols (or observing Halloween), it is sin to do so.

The problem I see with the conclusion of this argument, however, is that those with stronger faith are the ones who could observe Halloween!  This seems backwards to me.  Maybe because my faith is weak.

Anyway, the occasion is approaching and I'm dreading it.  I think I'll conveniently become bedridden-ly sick and let my husband and kids -- who are not in the least bothered by the holiday (as if it could even be called a "holy" day -- sheesh) -- observe it without me.

Okay.  I feel better now.  Sort of.  Thanks for listening, if you're still out there.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Talking to Myself in the Past

I recently read something in which the narrator said, "If my 11-year-old self could see me now..." and I thought, "You do that TOO?  I thought I was the only one!"

I like to mentally go back and tell my younger self that it's going to be okay, that things I worried about then -- no one's ever going to want to marry me, I'll never get over being painfully shy, I'll never be able to handle the responsibilities of being an adult -- are going to turn out okay.

For the most part, I think my childhood self would be pleased with my adult self.  She would be thrilled with my marriage, with my ability to talk to adults comfortably, with my still-tight bond with childhood friends, that eventually I outgrew acne, and that I'm proficient in the kitchen.  She would wonder where the rest of my kids were (I was planning on at least seven, you know), how I could possibly be such a dork in front of my husband, and what in the world am I doing living in North Dakota.

If I could really go back and tell myself things and have it actually make a difference in my past, I'd tell myself not to buy into teenage drama (not that I did that much, but there was more than enough of it); that there's no point in dating until I'm ready to look for a spouse (which I think Dad and Mom did tell me, but I didn't really believe them -- would I believe myself?); that when given the opportunity to show love, seize the moment;  to spend more time with my grandparents while I have the chance.

It makes me wonder, these reflective thoughts, what my future self would someday like to go back and tell my here-and-now self.  Don't worry as much about how the kids are doing in math as how they're doing in integrity.  Take every opportunity to do something fun with Wade.  Don't make a big deal out of spilled milk -- the price and inconvenience are nothing compared to the cost of grumbling at your sons.  Wear more sunscreen.  I don't really know, but these are my guesses.

So what would you say?  What would you tell your childhood self?  What advice would you give your ten, twenty, thirty-years-ago self?  I'd like to know!  Maybe I can't send myself messages from the future, but I can take the wise words of others and listen to them now.  So share -- what would you tell yourself?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Four Days Ago

Four days ago, the woodvine was a riot of red and the grass a sea of brightest green.

Four days ago, bumblebees spelunked in hollyhocks for late season stores of nectar.

Four days ago, the heady aroma of pastel sweet peas wafted through the sun-warmed air.

Today, the picnic table planter of zinnias is being dusted white.

Half summer, half winter -- this is fall.

Friday, September 28, 2012

"to make the house a more pleasant place..."

Studying the Constitution, baby.  This kid could have been a founding Father.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Something shiny, something new...

Our new dishwasher is in!  Wade, hero that he is, ordered it unbeknownst to me.  It hobbled along on its last leg for quite awhile before it started gimping along on its last toe.  Wade had mercy on it and me, put us both out of our misery, and ordered a new one.  And it's shiny.  And it gets my dishes CLEAN!  And it doesn't leak.  And it's shiny.  And it doesn't sound like a generator running in my kitchen.  And it doesn't cause weird odors to waft from my kitchen drains every time it runs.  And it's shiny.  And it uses much less detergent than the old one.  Ahhhhh.  I would have made a terrible pioneer.  I don't think they had much shiny in their lives.  Or clean.  Or pleasantly scented. 

Did I mention it's shiny?  It is.  Very!  When it first arrived, it made my other appliances look bad.  Dirty.  Smudgy.  Like they live in a house with a bunch of grimy boys.  Oh wait, they do.  Now I'm not a fabulous interior designer, but I recognized that there was a terrible mis-match going on in the kitchen.  I know I could have just smeared the new appliance with peanut butter, potato chip residue, chocolate milk splatters, cooking oil and sticky fingers -- and that would have been simpler and quicker -- but I opted to make all my appliances match the hard way.  I cleaned them all!  And for ten minutes all was spotless and shiny in my kitchen!  It was a wonder to behold!  I had to shield my eyes!  And then the troops stormed in, hungry and dirty, and I fed them, and everything is back to normal.  Except I have a dishwasher that works!  And I love it even if it is already losing its shiny.

Thanks, Wade!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Contribution in a Timely Manner

Here's my ten-minute blog contribution for this Wednesday.

I'm trying a new "convince myself to be more tidy" strategy.  When I see something that should be done but am tempted to walk right by it, I tell myself, "You'll love yourself for it later."

There are paper odds and ends sitting on the counter.  "Put them in the trash now.  You'll love yourself for it later."

The compost bucket is so full it barely closes.  "Quickly run it out to the garden.  You'll love yourself for it later."

There's a sticky spot on the floor.  "Wipe it up now.  You'll love yourself for it later."

I find I'm telling myself a lot of lies lately.  Because seriously, it's not like I'm going to notice later on that there's not a sticky spot on the floor -- because it's not there!  I should be telling myself, "You'll not be miffed at yourself later" instead.

Re-reading through this I hope I'm not coming across as lazy or a slob.  I'm really not.  I'm fastidious about washing, drying, folding and delivering laundry to the appropriate bedroom every Tuesday (although it usually sits clean and folded in the basket until... sometime before the next Tuesday when I need the basket to carry the dirty stuff to the laundry room again).  Dinner is chronically on the table by 6 p.m. (except tonight, of course, as I sit here and try to list my timely attributes).  Four afternoons out of five, the school work counter gets cleared of all papers, books, pencils and tooth-marked erasers.

So there, I'm not lazy.  Or a slob.  I just need a little motivation to make sure I don't become that way.  And thus I'm writing this now at 7:54 p.m. rather than at 10:54 p.m. -- I'll love myself for it later!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stimulating Conversations with Boys

We had some fabulously interesting dinner table conversation today.  Perhaps I'm easily impressed since so much of our mealtime conversation revolves around Harry Potter and Legos and me trying to squelch conversations that have anything to do with bodily noises.  So today's topics were a real treat!

At lunch the boys and I debated what would happen if a person were able to be in a bubble in the center of the earth.  Would he hover in mid-bubble, since the gravity-creating mass would be distributed evenly all around him?  Would he explode as the gravity-creating mass all around him pulled him in every direction at once?  Would he implode because of the intense air pressure at the center of the earth (you know, if there were a bubble of air there, theoretically speaking)?  The only solid answer I came away with was that something would definitely happen to him -- not her -- since only a boy would be found in some place as dangerous and exciting as the center of the earth.

And then at dinner we dreamed of having an enormous, interactive time-lapse globe that would let us watch the entire history of the earth condensed down to ten minutes.  Or one hour.  Or an entire day.  The shifting of mountains, dividing of continents, carving of canyons, spread of civilization and slide of glaciers all in fast-forward.  How cool would that be?  And what if you could zoom in on smaller sections of the earth and tell it to play just the years within a certain timeframe -- we could watch the flood, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the growth of Wizard Island, the crumbling of Pangea, the building of the pyramids or the Great Wall of China or the tower of Babel or the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings.  We could see the chorus of angels that sang at Jesus' birth.

"Do you think we'll be able to see all that when we get to heaven?" one of the boys asked.

It sure would be cool, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ten Minutes

Mrs. Testosterhome is embarking on a weekly (optimistically) ten-minute writing assignment -- no rules other than "write for ten minutes one day a week."

So, since I've been slacking severely in the blogging department, I'm giving it a try.  I endeavor to write ten minutes every Wednesday!  That said, I'm not committing to putting what I write each week up here for all to read.  But, I'm hoping that just the process of writing will cause the inspiration to flow and hopefully generate something blog-worthy.  Because I'm cocky and like other people to read what I've written, you know?  

So, with just a few minutes to fill... the boys and I have been observing the coolest moth feeding from the petunias on our deck around dinner time.  At first we thought it was a hummingbird because it's body is that big and it's wings are an uninterrupted blur of speed and it hovers like it's swimming in mid-air.  But it has antennae!  And a proboscis!  It's really cool!  I finally looked it up on-line tonight (what would we do without the Internet?) and it's called -- guess it -- a hummingbird moth!  It's beautiful with a zebra-striped body and flecks of orange on its wings.  It's also impossible to catch on film because it comes out at dusk and moves like a... hummingbird, only more sporadically.  Well, it's impossible for me to catch on film, but if you google it you'll see lots of pictures other people have taken of it.

And there you go, my ten minutes for this week.  If I stopped re-reading my writing so much I'd get a lot more written.  Oh well.  Y'all have a great week!

Monday, September 03, 2012

In Short

After working on summarizing skills in school today, Luke offered, "Maybe they call it summarizing because it's like summer -- too short."

Monday, August 20, 2012

When the mom's away...

This is what Wade does when I'm gone for a few days.

This is what Nick does when I'm gone for a few days.

This is what the green beans do when I'm gone for a few days.

I think I should go away more often!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Crumbs of Summer

Summer -- the school break, not the weather -- is nearing its end, and I am savoring it like the last bites of a sliver of cherry cheesecake -- so sweet, so satisfying, so excruciatingly small, disappearing so very rapidly.

It's been a good summer.  Relaxing and productive and entertaining.  Camping, gardening, visiting, even a little bit of schooling.  Evening games of hide-and-seek in the yard and gooey s'mores around the campfire.  Good reads with the boys and on my own.  A quickly filling pantry.

But I admit, I'm getting full -- not uncomfortably full, contentedly full.  The break from routine is delightful, but without a routine to break from, what novelty is the break?  So as I revel in these last bites, weeks, days, I'm not entirely sad that it'll soon be gone.  Wistful, perhaps, but not sad.  But oh, how I'm enjoying these last remaining crumbs!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Garden Hideaways

I am...
... trunk to trunk with a lilac, hind end rooted to the ground, decked in thick green foliage.
... one with the woodvine, wrapped in its vining tendrils, hidden in its embrace.
... laid down upon a bed where corn and tomatoes grow, a blanket of leaves covering me.
... playing hide-and-seek in the yard with my big and little menfolk.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Good Reads Follow Up

Thanks for all the great book suggestions many of you posted a a couple weeks back!  My "to read" list is now much longer (which is a good thing, since our library is rather limited, and only every fifth book I search for is actually in the database).

I read and fell in love with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society between Hettinger and Missoula.  A ten-hour drive was the perfect time to read a book that would have been very hard to put down, had I been reading at home!  However, it did make the delight of a novel pass far too quickly.  What, the story's already finished and we're not even there yet?

I also read The House at Riverton on the trip, but wasn't real impressed.  It kept getting better as I read, so I had high hopes of it actually getting "good" by the end, but I was left unsatisfied.  I realized during this book that authors truly should stick to writing what they know about.  This one described the sound of snowflakes hitting the windows, and I thought, you've never actually experienced a snowfall, have you?

I tried A is for Alibi after we got home, but put it down after four chapters.  After the letdown of the previous book I just wasn't feeling up to investing much time in something that didn't grip me from the start.

A scant hour into Sam's Letters to Jennifer, however, I know this is a book I will finish.  I love letter-type books.  It feels sneaky, like snooping around someone else's house.  Not that I do that.  Although given the chance....  Better lock your doors -- I might sneak in and take your books!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


It's been nearly five years since we packed up our clothes, furniture and monster picnic table and moved from the lushness of western Washington State to the rolling fieldlands of North Dakota.  

As we emptied our house, one question kept haunting me:  How can we possibly leave all this behind?  As we attended our church one last Sunday:  How can we possibly leave all this behind?  As we hosted our last "Wade & Ker's":  How can we possibly leave all this behind?  As we cried goodbye to family and friends:  How can we possibly leave all this behind?  In the first lonely months in our new home:  How could we possibly have left all that behind?

It's been nearly five years since we moved, and The Question rarely rears its head anymore.  We've made friends.  We've found a church family who is truly a gift from God.  We've learned that though God takes away, He also gives so much more than we ask or deserve.

But as we left Washington last week, after a week-long visit with my parents, a visit to my aging grandma, a girls' night with childhood friends, camping with my family at my favoritest place in the whole world, pinochle and other games with my family, Boggling with my Mom, seeing my sons going on half-day-long fishing trips with my Dad, The Question rushed back with all the force it had five years ago:  How could we possibly have left all this behind?

It's been five days since we came back home to North Dakota, but The Question is still haunting me.

To Tithe or Not to Tithe

I have a love/hate relationship with understanding Biblical truths.  I love coming to a better understanding of God's will; I hate discovering that I may have been wrongly understanding (and purporting!) God's will.

I was taught at church and by my parents (who were taught the same at church, I'm sure) to tithe to your local church and, if able, to give love and thank offerings above the tithe to other worthy causes.

Now this has always been easy for me -- not always financially easy, but mentally easy.  If I was giving ten percent, I was giving enough.

But I recently read "Tithing Today," a free, short, downloadable book by Gary Arnold (find it here:, and am considering that what I understood as the rule isn't quite the principle that Jesus taught.  Mr. Arnold describes in (great) detail the rules and regulations of the Old Testament tithe, which was an obligatory payment, and contrasts those with Jesus' New Testament teaching to give generously and "not under compulsion" -- in other words, a freely bestowed gift rather than a mandatory payment.  

It's been very eye-opening, and as of yet I still haven't quite figured out if/how this is going to affect the way Wade and I give (he's in the midst of reading the booklet right now, so we'll have some discussion later on).

One last thought here, a quote from Mr. Arnold's book that struck me as poignant and frighteningly convicting:

"I believe that God is more concerned with how much we keep for ourselves than He is with how much we give."  

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on tithing and giving, especially if you choose to read the booklet and have comments on that as well!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Searching for a Great Read

I've got a five-volume-high stack of books, fresh from the library, ready to go on a 2500-mile-round-trip road trip.  I know I won't get through all of them.  Likely, I won't get through half of them.  But I thought it best to pack them all in case one or two are duds.

At the top of the list is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, a recommendation by my mom who gave it glowing reviews.  And Mom doesn't give glowing reviews to just any book.  So this oughta be good!

A is for Alibi was a recommendation of a librarian friend.  I'm not sure I would have otherwise picked this one off the shelf, but I'm in search of a new series to love and am giving this one a chance to be it.

The Time Traveler's Wife, "now a major motion picture," must not be half bad or it wouldn't have been made into a movie, right?  I know nothing about this book or the movie, but like I said, I'm searching.

I grabbed Sam's Letters to Jennifer because I just finished Sundays at Tiffany's by the same author and thought it was adorable.  I'll give James Patterson another chance to impress me.

And finally sits The House at Riverton.  I was looking for Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, but this was her only book on the shelf, so now it's on mine.

There are quite a few titles on my "to read" list that aren't available at our local library.  I love our little library, and the fact that's it's only a block away.  But the selection is rather limited.  So to expand my options today I searched for a few of my favorite books on Amazon and perused the "others who purchased this book also enjoyed..." list.

I'm not terribly optimistic though, except about The Guernsey... one.  I've read a few exceptionally enjoyable books lately, which is fantastic, except that it makes books that would otherwise be pretty good seem only so-so in comparison.

Anyone out there have some great suggestions?  I'm open to all genres, love fine-worded authors who can skillfully twist a phrase, and prefer to keep the content to a PG-13 rating.

Here's hoping my stack gets me through the vastness of Montana and back, and that there's a great list of devour-able titles here when I get back!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Feeling Wonderfully Blessed

This gift from my boys makes me swoon.  
They may never get these lego pieces back!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Lots of exciting stuff has happened in the past couple weeks.  In pictures, some of the noteworthy events of late:

The last day of school workbook-throwing celebration;

 Luke's birthday;

 And Levi's, too;

A visit to Dad and Mom in Washington and a day trip to Fort Casey...

 ... A very dangerous place!

And some other weird stuff, too.

Yup, that pretty much sums up life in this house full of boys -- throwing things, food (sometimes throwing food!), weapons and danger, and a little weirdness.  Gotta love life with boys!  

The Summer Non-Schedule

It's 10:30 a.m. and breakfast has not been served.  The boys are upstairs playing happily (or should I say adventurously, violently, save-the-universe-from-bad-guys-edly?) and I'm using the excuse to do computer stuff.  I've been trying to spend less time in front of the computer when they are watching me (perhaps a post on that in the future).

Anyway, back to the "It's 10:30 a.m. and breakfast has not been served" thought.  I love summer vacation!

This is an unusual "vacation" since we are doing some school this summer (started yesterday), but when it's only an hour a day, it's pretty easy to squeeze in just about any time and doesn't need to be immediately after a right-on-time breakfast.

During the school year, I try to stick to a pretty tight morning and afternoon routine: breakfast, school, lunch (late, usually around 2:30), chores.  During summer, I let it all fly out the window.  Chores will still get done, but the only stipulation is that they're done before Daddy gets home from work.  Meals will still be eaten, sometime.  School will still get done, also preferably before Daddy gets home from work.  Boys will be kicked out of the house to play at some not-too-hot point during the day (seriously, some days they'd sit in the Lego pile all day long!).  Swimming lessons and appointments will be scheduled, obviously.  But if we feel like doing school before breakfast, great!  If chores don't happen until 4:45, that's cool.  If we don't get hungry until 11 a.m., we'll do brunch.

Speaking of which, it's nearing brunch time now, so I think I'll get that ready.  Hope you're loving summer as much as I am!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Another Great Essay

I want to share Isaac's essay here, too.  Can you tell we're a camping family?  Levi opted to do dictation today instead of writing an essay, so you won't see one coming from him (I don't want y'all thinking his essay wasn't up to snuff -- there just wasn't one from him to share).

Ross Lake
by Isaac H.

    We're going to Ross Lake in Washington this year!  To me, Ross is paradise!
    The trip can't possibly be fun, but once we get there, we'll be swimming, (or fishing,) roasting marshmallows, hiking and at nigttime, possibly even light-up frisbee!  I can't wait!  I don't know any lake even half as fun as Ross Lake! (and it's true!)  I love Ross Lake!
    Ross Lake is my very favorite lake!


Luke produced this essay as his final writing assignment of the school year.  I love it.  We're so ready for summer!

By Luke A Howard

    Camping is my favorite summer activity
    While camping you can't use electricity.  Just propane powered stuf, like camp grills and lanterns.
    Camp is my favorite because you can go swimming.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sore Knees

Recently there was an incident at church -- not a big deal at all, basically just a lack of tact, I suppose, and not really a sinful act at all.  But the way I reacted to it in my heart spoke volumes more about my sinful nature than the "act" had about the person who was tactless.

When I heard about the incident, I didn't hear who it was, and in that instant two thoughts shot through my mind, mere synapses apart:  "I'm not going to ask 'who was it?'" and "I can't believe she did that!"

Any pride I might have felt for resisting the urge to gossip was immediately decimated by the instant accusation and judgement in my heart -- of course I knew who it was! -- of someone who may not have even been the one who did it!  And even if the one my heart accused was the "guilty" one, I don't know the motivation of their heart.  Yes, it could have been stinginess; or there could be a legitimate reason behind it that was't obvious at first glance.

Arggggg!  I hate when my own judgmentalness points its ugly finger back at my own heart!

So what can I learn from this tragic yet truly unsurprising fall from grace?  The great thing about stumbling, is that it lands me on my knees, right where I should always be before my Lord anyway.  Sometimes my knees get awfully sore though.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Above Average

"215.  That's how many times an average U.S. household runs its dishwasher in a year--more than four cycles a week." ~ Good Housekeeping

I may be below average in many aspects of my life (the cleanliness of my floor, fashion sense, make-up application techniques) but it this area, baby I'm rocking it!  There are times when we run the dishwasher four times in a day!  Okay, it only feels like it, but when you prepare and serve up 19 plates of food per day (21 on weekends) you rack up the dishes.

You know, one would think it would feel invigorating to be above average.  But in this case, invigorating is not the word that comes to mind.  Hmmm.  That really does not motivate me to improve my ratings in the floor, fashion and make-up departments.  Oh well.  Can't rock 'em all.

Happy dishwashing!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Happy Saturday faithful readers (all two of you -- hi moms of mine)!  I was looking through photos this week and plucked out a few to share that I feel truly represent life in this house full of boys.

 Lego ninja chess!
 The book series of choice these days.  Isaac, Luke and Wade are all reading through these, so we've perpetually got three or more volumes checked out from the library. 
Something you will never hear a group of girls say: "Let's all go down the fire pole at once!"
That's all.  Hope your weekend is lovely!

Monday, April 16, 2012

In the past three days...

In the past three days I've...

... planted asparagus,
... planted potatoes,
... pulled weeds,
... smiled over daffodils,
... seen a bumblebee,
... taken out all my strawberry plants, dumped a truck-load of manure into the patch, tilled it all up (okay, actually Wade tilled it) and replanted the strawberry plants,
... pulled the grass from between many (but not nearly all) the bricks around the yard,
... pulled out two of the five overgrown plants I'm getting rid of this year (I know, me, getting rid of plants -- unheard of!)
... seen the tips of hostas peeking through the soil
... gotten grass stains on my jeans,
and nearly worn through the fingertips of my favorite pair of gardening gloves.

It's been a really great few days!  I just love spring!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Paper Airplanes

The art of folding a paper airplane is something every child, particularly every boy, should know in order to grow into a well-adjusted and healthy man.  While they are little, I am perfectly willing to carefully craft their origami flying machines, but come about six years old, they must learn to do it themselves.  And this is a trial for me.  Because I like straight lines and neat folds.  And every time Elijah comes to me with a kittywampus airplane in progress, it takes much inner strength to not press it out flat and start it all over.  But this is part of parenting.  Letting them learn and grow and make mistakes and improve.  And I think it's probably good for me to learn how to let them learn now, while they're young and their biggest struggles are with making straight folds.  The day will come when they will have a task much bigger, more difficult and critical than making paper airplanes.  And I pray that when it arrives we'll both be ready for it -- them to work at it as for the Lord, and me to let them do their best, even if it means crooked lines.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Good Day

Today will be a good day,
And I will make it so–
I cannot make the sun come out;
I cannot make the flowers sprout;
I cannot make the fishes bite,
Nor blow the wind beneath my kite.
But I can wear a friendly smile
And listen to the trees a while
And laugh real loud and run real fast
And make each moment such a blast.
I can sing though skies be gray,
‘Cause I am captain of my day.
by Barbara Vance
from “Suzie Bitner was afraid of the Drain"

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Highlight of the School Year

The boys and I (maybe more I than them) have been enjoying a rockin' fun unit study on national parks.  We spent five weeks on it while we paused our regular science curriculum to wait for bugs and worms to make themselves findable.

We started off with a history of the national parks system and the radical idea of having places in our country that belong to everyone and are protected in their (mostly) natural state for generations to enjoy.  That sounds so normal to us now.  I know I take for granted that the Grand Canyon, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, and the California Redwoods will be around when I want to see them.  But in many countries, people buy up the most scenic and impressive places and make homes or shopping malls out of them.  The US was the first country to preserve uniquely beautiful places for the public delight, and dozens of countries have since followed suit.

Then we spent a week each on four different parks, each of which lent themselves so well to other interesting studies.  Glacier National Park has lots of fascinating history, but along with the park itself, we learned about ecosystems and habitats.  When we studied North Cascades National Park, we also spent a day learning about (and building!) dams, since Ross Lake, a favorite camping spot in that area, is formed by a dam.  In studying Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we tied in lots of interesting information about Teddy Roosevelt himself and conservation, since that was a passion of his life and presidency.  
Turning celery red and blue illustrated the effects of ground pollution on plants -- part of the conservation study.

And finally we wrapped up with a week on Wind Cave National Park, learning about caves in general, and taking a field trip to Wind Cave in South Dakota.

Wade and Isaac held up Isaac's shirt in front of the cave opening to show the intensity of the wind blowing out.  It was almost 20 mph that day, but has been clocked at up to 70 mph!
This incredible formation found almost exclusively in Wind Cave is called boxwork.
I am so taken with the beauty, the nature, the philosophy of a national parks system.  I'd love to spend a whole year or two and actually cover all 58 parks plus some national monuments, forests, seashores and landmarks (although I'd definitely want to find an actual curriculum for that, rather than building my own every week!).  Maybe someday I'll actually create that curriculum... for my grandkids.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You won't believe the new features on this model!

Isaac, as he waited for the microwave to beep:  "Ten seconds to self-destruct!  Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, BEEP!  The food is disintegrated!"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dam Building 101

We recently spent a day learning about dams -- types, purposes, building materials -- and of course then went out and built some!  It was a wonderfully warm and sunny day, perfect for setting the hose in the alley and messing around in the newly created river.

 Here Luke works on his arch dam.  Okay, the piece of wood didn't really arch, but the idea is that a wide piece of material spans the waterway and latches into notches on either side of the "canyon."

Here, Isaac show his embankment or earthen dam to his brothers.  We used straws to allow water to pass through without out overflowing the lake!

Levi's gravity dam -- held in place by the sheer weight of the dam material -- was probably the most impressive.  It created the largest reservoir anyway.

Elijah's buttress dam is kept from washing down river by -- can you guess? -- buttresses!

It was a totally rocking' way to spend part of the afternoon.  With water, mud and sunshine, how could it not be?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Backwards Sermon

Every time I read through Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I am so thankful to live in the time I do and not during the days Jesus walked the earth.  As incredible as it would have been to actually see Jesus and hear these words from his mouth, I think I would have thought he was nuts.

First off, he presents this totally backwards list -- blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the mourning, the persecuted.  If I am being persecuted, I am probably not feeling very blessed!  What is this guy talking about?

Then he makes several claims beginning with "You have heard it said... but I tell you..."  He took the teachings the people had heard all their lives and changed them!  If someone came up to me and told me the things my parents and pastors had told me were wrong, I would walk away shaking my head and thinking they were crazy.  Give to those who are suing you?  Bless those who curse you?  Seriously?

And then he launches into a scathing review of the Pharisees and teachers of the law -- "They are hypocrites who have already received their reward!  Don't be like them!"  What?!?  These guys are the high and mighties!  They are the best of the best!  And he says, "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."  The people must have wondered, how in the world can my righteousness be more than theirs?

And yet, people listened to him.

"And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."

Yeah, Jesus can do that, too.  Amazing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Thing of Beauty

Last night as I headed out the door to Bible study, I actually remembered to grab my camera (and my Bible)!  I don't know whether it's the time of day, the novelty of half an hour of solitude or God preparing my heart to study his word, but every month as I make the 25-mile drive alone down that long two-lane South Dakota highway, something takes my breath away.  A sunset.  A storm.  A pumpkin of a harvest moon rising over the hills. Amber waves of grain.  And every time I wish I had my camera and an extra 10 minutes on me.  And this time I did!

The sun was low but mostly hidden by clouds when I left home.  By the time I reached Lodgepole (home of some of the world's friendliest people), it was illuminating the thin, lowest layers of cloud and splashing orange waves across the plains, and over this little prairie church.

This isn't my church.  In fact, it only gets used every other Sunday.  Its congregation and another nearby church joined forces, and neither wanting their building to fall into dilapidation, arranged to hold services alternately at each one.  

It amazes me how churches of different denominations work together out here where congregations are spread so thinly.  The Christian Reformed Church is staffed by the Wesleyan Church's pastor (don't tell anyone, but he's really Reformed).  A CRC, Wesleyan, Lutheran and two other churches join their voices for hymn-sings several times a year.  The local youth group is a collaboration of Lutheran, Baptist and Catholic churches.  I imagine that God looks down and smiles when he sees his children working together and getting along despite their differences.

Anyway, I got a little off track there.  God's beautiful handiwork.  That's what I was writing about.  Or maybe I didn't get so far off track after all.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Miracle

The sun is shining, the wind ain't blowing, the windows are open, I'm comfortable in a T-shirt and it's an incredible 73 degrees outside!  I think I've died and gone to heaven!  Not only does it feel so good to be warm, it smells so good.  Out goes the stale stuffiness of winter and happiness rolls in on waves of fresh air.  I feel like joining that solitary bird out there who is brave enough to sing in March!

I know, winter is likely not over.  We may get a blizzard -- or two or three -- yet, but this divine intervention of spring into winter's battle arena infuses me with energy and enthusiasm, and I will rejoice in every warm ray of sunshine spilling over the cool, damp earth.  Yea spring!  Welcome back!  

Thursday, March 08, 2012

A Paraphrase

Matthew 7:22-23 rewrite:

Jesus said, "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not gone to church every Sunday, tithed generously, lead Sunday school, attended Bible studies and memorized scripture (and blogged about deep Biblical insights)?' and I will say to them, 'I never knew you.'"

The point God is driving home for me -- again! -- is that I can't save myself by my own works.  All my good deeds, if done in order to earn or prove something, are worthless.  Only when done out of thanksgiving and love for God do my actions behoove me at all.

I can't save myself or even contribute minisculey to my own righteousness.  Only Jesus can do that.  And thank God for that!

Monday, March 05, 2012

No Ordinary List

I'm a list kind of girl.  I like lists.  Find comfort in lists.  Perhaps even depend on lists.  And most of the lists in my life are "to do" lists.  Do these chores.  Remember these groceries.  Pack these things.

But in studying the Sermon on the Mount during Lent, I'm faced every day with an entirely different sort of list -- the Beatitudes.  This is no ordinary "to do" list.  This is a "to be" list!  Be meek, be merciful, be hungry for righteousness, be pure in heart.  It's about motives, not behavior.  And that makes it so hard for me.

I can handle a "to do" list.  I can take on the Ten Commandments.  Like the Pharisees, I can take a great list, add to it to make it even better (if ten commandments are good, 20 are even better!), and then feel mighty proud of myself for my stellar accomplishments.  

But motives, character, the state of my heart -- those are a little harder to control.  Can I force myself to be meek?  Can I cause myself to mourn over sin?  Can I make myself pure in heart? 

But, perhaps, my helplessness is the point.  I can't do it.  I can't save myself.  No matter how many lists I may make to keep myself on track, only Jesus can save me.  More and more as I study this passage I find myself realizing, "Only Jesus can do that."  Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Four years after our first batch of leap day cupcakes, the boys insisted we make them again.
So we did.
Happy Leap Day to you!

The logical answer would be...

Before I assign Isaac a spelling word, I ask him if he already knows how to spell it and if he knows what it means.  If he knows both, we skip it.  This week we came to the word "flamboyant."

"Does it mean 'catches on fire and floats?'"

No, but it sure sounds like it should!

Monday, February 20, 2012

An Interview with God

Do you ever read those interview briefs in Reader's Digest where they list some of the cool things a celebrity is doing and reading and promoting?  Sometimes I do, if it's about someone I find interesting (though often I don't know who the celebrity is -- I'm kinda clueless in the movie and TV stardom field).  

But I think it would be really cool to see an interview with God!  Now there's someone worth reading about!  What would he have to say to a captive audience?  Here are my thoughts about how such an article might read.


Pitching:  "Love.  Love for neighbors.  Love for enemies.  Love for the smelly guy who sits on the street corner.  Practical love.  It's life-changing.  Oh, and my best-selling book.  It's a must-read."  

Listening to: "Prayers.  I'm always, always listening to people pray.  Sometimes people don't think I am listening because I don't always give the answer they want to hear, but I never tune out anyone who takes time to talk to me."

Working on:  "I've got the most amazing mansions going up here!  It's this whole heaven of a neighborhood I'm getting ready for my friends.  I've told them all about it, and when the time is right, they're all gonna come here and live joyfully ever after!"

Collecting:  "I just die for more believers -- literally."

His Reader's Digest version of life:  "Love the Lord your God most of all, and treat your neighbors better than you treat yourself."

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Hence the Name of this Blog

Isaac's school journal entry for Feb. 8, 2012:

Lego Universe is shut down, but that dosen't mean we can't have fun!  We found two other lego games!  One is Lego Harry Potter, jumping and casting through levels.  And Lego Indiana Jones, shooting gunners and driving veicles on ramps.  I realy realy realy like legos!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The River

The river was a magical place.  To passersby, it may have looked muddy, weedy, uninviting.  But to young teenage souls it was adventure and independence.

On foot or by pedal, all summer long we'd turn off the road at Mr. Alderson's farm and follow the dirt road past barns and through fields until we reached the sand and gravel bar.  Tall river grasses waved along the dirt road, and slippery mud caked the embankment down to the water's edge.  A thin strip of silty sand was our beach, but it was as grand as Malibu as we basked in the sunshine and responsibility of being our own lifeguards and chaperones.

Although we all knew how to swim, our parents had warned us sternly about the dangers of currents, undertows and snags.  Swimming in the river was dangerous, and we had better exercise the utmost care and caution or it could be our lives!  Oh, the thrill!

So of course we soon found a way to swim not just near the shore, but across the river.  We trekked upstream a quarter mile or so, began our crossing, and carried gently by the current, landed safely on the rocky shore opposite our lovely beach.  If we didn't start out high enough, or swim fast enough, the river would sweep us past the comfortable exiting spot and we'd be forced to beach amidst blackberry brambles further downstream.

Besides the glory and pride of merely crossing the river, a rope swing dangled tantalizingly from a tree overhanging the opposite shore.  Those strong and brave enough to cross were rewarded with the thrill of a whoosh, splash and the jealous admiration of those left standing on the other side.

Besides the thrill of adventure, the river was also a bulletin board for teenage hearts too shy to say what they desperately wanted to tell.  "I like Jamie."  "MJ+TS"  I'll never forget the tingle of seeing my name in a heart in the sand.  Or how it felt to see the initials I adored linked with another's.

I wandered back to that childhood playground years later.  It was a chilly day, and the ground was muddy and damp, the river grumpy and brown.  Reeds obscured the footpath, and there was no rope swing.  There were no hearts or initials in the sand.  It was just a river bar.

The magic that had been there wasn't actually tied to the land or the river itself -- it was the laughter and horseplay we had brought with us.  It was the smiles and the love, the never-gonna-end friendships, the belief that we would be young and happy forever that gave the river its charm.  

I suppose it could have been a forest.  For some, maybe it was a park.  A fort.  A hiding place.  A ball field where anything could happen and dreams came true.  For one summer, mine was an enchanted river.