Sunday, October 31, 2010

30 Days of Thanks

It's not that I don't like Halloween, though it's not my favorite holiday.  But lately I've felt that the other fall holiday has been unceremoniously pushed aside.  Ornaments next to costumes.  Candy buckets on the same aisle as tree stands.  Thanksgiving has somehow been relegated to one day of gluttony and sports.

Last year, in an attempt to put more focus on thankfulness, the kids and I made a paper chain and leaf banner for the breakfast nook and tied the words of Psalm 100:4--"Give thanks to Him and praise His name"--to it with twine.  Very cute.  We did a tree craft with foamy leaves and card stock and wrote things we were thankful for on each of the leaves. I wanted the changing seasonal decor to be intentional.

 This year, after browsing through the PBKids catalog, I recreated their Tree of Thanks calendar (maybe not quite as fancy, but definitely cheaper--if I don't count man-hours).  And with help from my co-conspirator in all things kids & crafty, Kellye, we focused the activity on praising and thanking the One who gives all things.  Each day, the kids will pull a card from the pocket, read the Scripture or prompt, and respond by writing their answers on the cards. My hope is that we can begin a tradition and, more importantly, foster a mindset of thankfulness.  Even if you don't have a tree, maybe you can start a tradition of 30 days of thanks in your home.  Leave a comment and tell me about a Thanksgiving tradition you have found helpful!

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."


Here's what we'll be reflecting on:

THIRTY Days of THANKS: Thanksgiving 2010



1. 1 Chronicles 16:34, I’m thankful to God because…
2. Thank you God for my family because…
3. Thank you God for providing…
4. Thank you God for answering my prayer for…
5. 2 Corinthians 1:3, Thank you God for comforting me when…
6. Thank you God for my siblings because…
7. Thank you God for showing me kindness when…
8. Luke 1:68, Thank you God for…
9. 1 Corinthians 15:57, I praise you Lord for…
10. 2 Corinthians 9:15, I’m thankful for grace because…
11. Thank you Father for being our provider! I love our house because…
12. I praise you Lord for using me to show your love to…
13. My favorite toy is… Thank you for good gifts & fun things!
14. Thank you for painting our world with color! My favorite color is…
15. I love my friends! I praise you for…
16. Thank you for the gift of my mommy. I love her because…
17. Thank you for the gift of my father. I love him because…
18. I praise you for creating me and knowing all of me. My favorite thing about myself is…
19. Psalm 119:105, I praise you for the Bible because…
20. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Thank you for being with me when I feel…
21. 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Thank you for peace when…
22. Psalm 121, I praise you Lord for…
23. Thank you God for my church because…
24. Zephaniah 3:17, I praise you oh Lord my God for…
25. John 1:14, Thank you for Jesus because…
26. Psalm 105: 1-4, God, I’m thankful for your wonderful act of….
27. Thank you for the cross because…
28. John 1:16, Thank you for grace because…
29. Hebrews 12:28, I’m thankful for heaven because…
30. Psalm 100, Thank you Lord for…

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

School so far

We're just about at that point, six weeks in.  The point where "they" say things should be settling in, you should be figuring things out, things should be running smoother.

And, well, they are.  I'm happy to report that the kindergartner and the preschooler love school, we have routines, we have tricks that get us through the week, we've made adjustments, figured out what works and what doesn't.

Not that everything always runs smoothly as this morning's rush to the minivan, shoes in hand, proves. But we arrived, on time, calmed down by Indelible Grace music and a bit of prayer.

Things I like: a four-day school week, homework that is over by 10 AM so we can go to the children's museum, uniforms, doing science experiments in our kitchen, having mommy school with Ben (right now he's made rockets out of the pattern blocks we created), having one-to-one or one-to-two ratios, not having to create lesson plans, getting to expand on lessons and challenge R as needed, seeing Rebekah smile as she comes out to afternoon car line, hearing good reports from teachers (Rebekah is sweet and a good friend; Ben is smart and answers questions!), having great teachers that love my kids.

Things I don't like: William's lack of regular napping, being in the car a lot, keeping up with paperwork, cranky or overly silly homework times, early alarm clocks, neglecting William (poor third kid), not being all together all the time, finding time for everything.

All in all, I'm happy with this school model.  Sometimes I feel like she doesn't get to do as much fun stuff at school, but that also means I get to do the fun stuff with her. Which also means I need to create fun stuff for us to do and not get caught up in running errands or housecleaning, though at times this is important too.  (Finish math work and then dust!)  And we'll have a class play date this week--how great is that?

I'm trying to claim Fridays as family days, which is hard.  Stuff just gets in the way and I can get so lazy.  This Friday I hope to play at the park as the weather is just gorgeous and do an activity for our current fruit of the Spirit lesson--LOVE.

In pictures:



home school--clothing optional

Learning the color spectrum with Crews' Freight Train book

Ben's first day of preschool--still has black eye


At the Houston Aquarium for R's b-day with Nana and Granddad (this is the shark train)


The girl wanted lasagna and cookie cake for Birthday #6 (that's a homemade cookie cake by the way--yum, yum)

Working on our flat-kids for a Fruit of the Spirit lesson (see impressyourkids.org)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

end of summer

Today, I made these:


And I got to use this (happy birthday to me),
which makes this much easier (as does my dough whisk--best kitchen tool ever!),

because Monday morning, we will be here:
Well, the girl's school looks nothing like that, but she will be at her first day of kindergarten at Legacy Preparatory Christian Academy.  LPCA is a university-model school. Students go to school two to three days a week for instruction and do the rest of their school work, review, practice, pre-reading, projects, at home.

Which means on Tuesday and Thursday we will be here:

Our school room is ready. Map, calendar, magnet board hung up. Supplies in the cute little caddy (I love Lakeshore!! I could get in lots of budget trouble there.) Rebekah's work for the week is clipped together (if you can see the purple glittery flower clip) and hung on the magnet board. The teacher posts the week's assignments on RenWeb for parents to download.  This week we have projects for writing the letter T and doing T sounds, a texture collage to make, some art and some math. Right now, sounds very do-able.  Ben is ready for more this year so I thought we would work on a few sight words at a time which I also have on the magnet board.  I know he and I have more than a few letters to review and do some fun stuff with. 

Plus, I have this:
What is this, you ask? An alphabet box.  Each drawer of this box (available at Lowe's) has tiny objects that begin with that letter.  Here's "T" (so far): treasure, television, table, tiger, ticket, and turtle.
I was pressured--;) just kidding!--into this project by the alpha-crazed Kellye--she of three boys and infinite energy (you can read their alphabet summer adventures, more about the alphabet box, and raising Christ-centered kids whose roots run deep here). There are several games to play like I Spy and Common Bond. I'm interested in building Ben's ear for phonics and these small manipulatives are great for his fine-motor skills, especially once I find the kind of tongs I'd like for him  to use in this and other activities.  I'm still searching for many objects for the less common letters.  Trips to Michaels and Hobby Lobby are like treasure hunts--stickers, buttons, erasers. And I've made some objects--a puffy paint web, an apron from fabric and ribbon scraps.  I'm ready to really get going on it and incorporating it into our mommy school.  I may need to have a Dead Poets moment for myself and rip out the remaining worksheets from Ben's workbook....nah! Bring on the seat work!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

art

wordy

hand-made
Ben's art in the gameroom



meaningful

Monday, August 2, 2010

counting stars

Warning: Do not attempt to listen to this CD when your significant other is out of town, you are bone-dead tired from a week of teaching VBS, and you are driving in the rain with three sweet and silent babes--you just may turn into a puddle of weepy mess (also not very good for driving in said rain.)

On a Thursday evening, I drove by our mailbox before attempting a bookstore and dinner date with my lovelies (at our favorite chicken establishment, of course).  D was out of town and we were approaching the end of a tiring but highly enjoyable week of VBS and the end of a tiring and emotionally draining month in general.  To my delight, a padded envelope bearing a Rabbit Room mailing label awaited us--the new release from Andrew Peterson, Counting Stars. I put the CD in, handed the liner notes to the girl (she is so my daughter!), and enjoyed words and music washing over our car as the rain fell softly and the children quieted down. 

This is maybe AP's most family-oriented album with songs for and about his wife, children, their home--The Warren, and his ancestors.  The album's title is an allusion to God asking Abraham if he can count the stars and the legacy one man can have.  "Dancing in the Minefields" was the first song that got me all mushy, especially as D and I approach our tenth anniversary.   We married young too (22 and 21) and have been sailing in the storms through it all: "And it was harder than we dreamed but I believe that's what the promise is for." You can also watch a music video here--see You Tube is good for something. 

And while several songs are about his own family, there are words to our extended family in Christ: to plant trees that will live on after we are gone, to remember we are priests and princes in the Kingdom of God, and to not let go because there is hope in the night.

This is a raw, honest, and mature album. Every song is true, poignant, and lovingly crafted.  I can't wait to see some of these songs performed at the Behold the Lamb of God concert this winter (December 17th for you Houstonians!). I will be bringing tissues for sure.

Monday, July 12, 2010

cure for the stressful day

When you have a potentially stressful day, the kind of day filled with every day stresses and craziness and chaos...and when you are channeling your inner Maggie Moore creating hippos and crocodiles coming to the watering hole and pillars and Sphinxes (okay, just one Sphinx, but a really big one), and your dinner turns into spaghetti sauce out of a jar and salad out of a bag,

it helps to have made baguettes in the morning (when you are up at 6 AM because you smell something really funky in the kitchen garbage and you can't sleep another minute). 
And to let a precocious one year-old play with anything that won't kill him.  That usually  means the plasticware cabinet...and apparently shoes.
And to make a chocolate cake that starts with a mix (to which you add sour cream, pudding, chocolate chips, and pecans among other things) and becomes a warm, gooey, moist yumminess which your precious daughter will pronounce the best cake she's ever eaten.
And you eat said cake dreaming of a machine that folds laundry while giving you a pedicure and rubbing your shoulders.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

eating locally
















Tomatoes: This is the first year I've actually gotten tomatoes from plants planted in my yard. (I have two Romas, one grape, one patio, and one beefsteak). There are few things more satisfying than picking a sun-warmed tomato from the backyard and eating it (drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt, cracked pepper, and torn basil) within minutes. Ben has declared that he likes tomatoes from our garden. I just have to convince him that all tomatoes come from some garden, some where.
Blackberries: Truthfully, I didn't even like blackberries that much. Until. This year the kids and I picked blackberries from a "farm" a stone's throw from our neighborhood. Baked into a cobbler the next day and topped with Brenham's own Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla--I'm a believer. WOW!

Blueberries: The kids enthusiasm quickly wilted in the morning sun (it was only 80 at 9:00!); we managed to pick a paltry pound of blueberries before William's cries for a nap sent us home. They did perk up for blueberry pancakes for lunch!

Cookies: Okay, no local ingredients but aren't they adorable! I baked them for William's birthday this past weekend along with a Texas sheet cake for the adults.

Not-so-local: As I write this, I'm sucking the last dregs of my Cheerwine float, made with the last can of imported North Carolina soda. If I could just get that on home delivery and a Publix on the corner....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

road trip



I'm sure just about everyone reading this knows the state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet. And that Lady Bird Johnson sowed the seeds of wildflowers throughout the state, along highways and byways, and everywhere in between. But until you see them in person, in solid blue patches that look like pools of water or covering a field for as far as you can see, you just have no idea how breathtakingly beautiful the bluebonnet is.



Our weekend road trip was supposed to take us ultimately to Kerrville, home of Great-Aunt Ruth. Kerrville is out in the Hill Country about an hour west of San Antonio and about 4 hours away from home. However, Aunt Ruth had a suspected case of shingles this week (yikes!) so we had to alter our plans.

First stop, Brenham. About an hour and a half away is the original home of Blue Bell Creameries which has been around since 1907. After passing the retirement home (we made a reservation for Papa), we took the tour of the creamery, watching the ice cream squirt into cartons and wind its way through the freezer and into packaging. It was just long enough for the kids at about 40 minutes and concludes with a scoop of ice cream of your choice. Dutch Chocolate for the girl and Daddy, Cookies n' Cream for the boy, and Blackberry Cobbler for me. I shared a few bites with William who was ecstatic. (Phones and cameras not allowed inside so no pictures!)

Then it was off to Austin through the off-and-on rain but it didn't damper my excitement over seeing the blue bonnets in person. Incredible. Rebekah wanted to walk through them for miles. Ben wanted to pick up rocks from the gravel drive. If I could only get my kids to all look at the camera at the same time we'd be in business! Still, our first annual bluebonnet picture wasn't completely awful and the view was amazing!

The weather prevented us from doing much in Austin but I did enjoy seeing another Texas city and one that is entirely different from Houston or San Antonio. It's very hilly, hippie, and eclectic. I can't wait to go back and explore the trails and the wildflower gardens, the shopping, and all the history and art museums. Our hotel was in the middle of a great shopping area and all I ended up doing was running into Old Navy for 20 minutes while D occupied the kiddos. Still--a dressing room by myself and leaving with a few new shirts and a pair of shorts (for my mom uniform), not too shabby. The kids enjoyed swimming in the indoor pool and seeing the swans and fish in the lobby and I enjoyed W's nap time by reading a great book and watching HGTV in silence!


We picked Austin for our weekend plans because we saw that Randall Goodgame, one half of Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies, was going to be playing in town. It turned out that he was the entertainment for a church's spring festival which meant free inflatables to bounce on, free lunch, and free music. Granted, D and I sang along more than our kids who were either bored or star-struck. R refused to go up and meet Randall after the show (she said she would if it were Jill Phillips) but B got to say Hi to him outside the men's room and tell Randall that "Tractor, Tractor" was his favorite song.


A quiet ride home, sleeping in our own beds at night, and a lazy Sunday topped off by homemade chicken nuggets, cheddar-Parmesan macaroni and cheese, and chocolate dipped strawberries for dinner. Aaaah! What a weekend!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

sowing


He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Psalm 1

It had been a particularly bad week. One of those where I was wondering if you could send kindergarteners to military school. Spring Break and a week of empty days loomed before me. I was not excited about spending a week with my children and I’m pretty sure--had they been asked--they would have said the same. The lack of fruit in anyone’s heart, including my own, discouraged me. Why weren’t my children better behaved? Why were words so harsh, tempers quick, and actions unkind? Why did selfishness and strife reign in our house instead of gratitude and peace?

But God (wonderful verses begin that way) intervened. Gorgeous, sunny weather. Refreshingly cool and breezy air. Everywhere we looked was green and new. Spring in Texas is beautiful and God’s work of regeneration and restoration was on display in His creation and also my heart. All things were indeed being made new.

We spent as much of our days out of doors with dirt, shovels, plants, and seeds. I attacked our weedy, overgrown garden with ferociousness, yanking at stubborn, ingrown plants that produced nothing and did not “add to the beauty,” to borrow a sentiment from Sara Groves. The kids and I ordered the chaos together, planning the patches of herbs and vegetables. We examined each type of seed and marveled at the possibility and potential existing within. What an act of faith to take that tiny seed, bury it, sprinkle some water and then—in expectation, in hope—wait. Wait for growth, for beauty, for fruit.

I carefully took out a few bean plant seeds that I had started with the kids in wet paper towels and plastic sandwich bags. A week ago, they were hard, brown-spotted kernels. Now, their fragile tendrils poked out of the shell. Rebekah and I placed them gingerly in the dirt, me reminding her that the roots grow down and the rest of the plant will start growing up. And it struck me: roots come first. Long before I see any evidence or activity above the surface, roots are reaching out for nourishment. Just because I cannot see anything does not mean the plant is dormant or the seeds are duds.

This journey of parenthood, and of my own walk of sanctification, is a walk of faith. I can be confident that “he who began a good work will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I need to be rooted in my Savior who supplies all my needs. I need to weed out the bad, the unproductive, and the ugly from my life. My seedlings need to be rooted in the good soil of Scripture, doctrine, instruction and watered daily. And one day, by God’s good work, I will see a harvest of righteousness.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend

A lovely first Easter weekend in Texas. The weather was cooperative as the rain stayed away and the temperatures were bearable (a DJ on the radio today said tongue-in-cheek, "If you're new to Houston, it's like this all the time.") My parents were in town for the weekend and I managed to put my dad to work installing a beautiful--and non-leaky--kitchen faucet and sink. We took them to dinner at The Waterway (Goose's Acre for macaroni and cheese with scallions, bacon, and tomatoes--sooo good!) where we walked and ran and climbed on everything, fed the ducks, and stared at the bizarrely costumed teenagers wandering around. (We wanted to ask them what was going on but were slightly afraid as well). Isn't R getting so big kid lately? She likes to tell me she looks like a teenager, especially when she pulls her bangs to the side.

We visited our first Texas state park in Huntsville (home of Sam Houston and the four-story white statue of him as well as a huge state prison) on Saturday where cousins were camping, hiking a bit and getting the little dude's feet in the water. Spring in this part of Texas is beautiful: the trees are full, the roadsides blooming, and the bugs haven't appeared yet. Sunday was a little egg hunt at church, worship, and a yummy, yummy dinner in the pretty dining room with my good china, out of its packing pouches for the first time.


My pictures aren't so great as I think I had the flash turned off for some reason and didn't fix until too late. Oh well.



In two weeks we'll visit Aunt Ruth in Kerrville out in the hill country, passing through Brenham, home of Blue Bell ice cream on the way. Should be beautiful!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

lovin'

--The boys' emerging linguistic skills


I could listen to Little Dude's babbling all day. And I'm so glad he's vocally leaps ahead of where his big brother was at this age. Makes me hopeful we won't have quite the delay and a bit tentative of what another talkative person in the house will bring. Right now I'll enjoy it thoroughly.
video

Big Brother's singing is hilarious. Mostly he just repeats a phrase over and over. "Jingle Bells" and "The First Noel" got on my nerves this holiday season as a result. I also laugh at how he head bangs so much as he's singing just about any song that he forgets to sing. When he sings the ABC's he skips four and five letters at a time.
video

B's other funny thing lately is his friend, "Brian." That's "Brian" with quotation marks because that's the name of his Winnie-the-Pooh (not, apparently, "Winnie" or "Pooh," which he adamantly told a lady at a hotel over Christmas vacation). "Brian" has a friend "BJ" who I think is our Kermit the Frog (which is almost as old as I am) and a sister named "Emily" (don't know who she is.) They have all sorts of adventures like going to California for work because they have two meetings. Lately, Brian and BJ have also become alter egos, a way for B to project what he wants to happen. This week Brian and BJ's mom was going to let them have M&M's. They also told their mom "no nap" today, Ben said. That did not happen in B's world.

--The Princess and Skippyjohn Jones


R singing the little songs from our newest literary acquisition--Skippyjohn Jones: Lost in Spice--cracks us up. The book came with the author reading the story as well (which we heard several times on the way home from Florida) and she imitates the voices exactly. I love those books.


--Bread


I'm lovin' experimenting with two new cookbooks including Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I've made three versions so far--herbed boule, a light wheat, and challah. The idea is that you mix up the dough (usually enough for three to four loaves at a time), let it rest on the counter for a few hours, and then put it in the fridge. You can then bake off a loaf or more at a time for about a week, never spending more than about 5 minutes doing something with it. Plus, there are so many things you can make with the basic doughs including cinnamon rolls with the challah dough which we will be doing this weekend. This isn't baby weight; it's bread weight.