Saturday, July 31, 2010

Papaws are good for...

Little Bear stories...

"Pit Pat Pit Pat...What was that??"

Fresh-baked blueberry muffins, topped with butter and cinnamon & sugar.
MmmmmCroquet-playing in his big backyardSee the garden behind NatureMan? Want a closer look?

Amazing, huh? Papaw planted late in the year,

and is having amazing results with his raised beds!

More croquet-playing...

Ladybug catching...

Apple-pie baking, and sharing...

And so many other things.
I'm so thankful to have Papaw living here. So thankful that my kids can grow up seeing him every day. So thankful for the memories we have, and the ones we are making.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Do-It-Yourself Frame

We gathered hundreds of shells when we were at the beach on vacation. I put some around the living room, a few on the nature shelf, and some in a vase with the sand we brought home (yes, we transported sand, on purpose.)
I bought this blank cardboard-ish frame at Hobby Lobby. You could also get a cheap one at Dollar Tree or a yard sale, for the same purpose.
See it now, hot glued with sea shells?When those dry completely, I'll add tiny shells to cover up all of the cardboard. Maybe even some sand. I have spray adhesive, and I think sand would be as easy to apply as glitter. :-)
The photo is of the day that we gathered most of our shells, right after the storm surge of Hurricane Alex.

Horse-themed pre-teen party

Did you see that title? PRE-TEEN. Yes, it's an official description for my daughter now. She is 11...but not going on 18. My precious girl is sweet, innocent... still naive and natural. She doesn't have any interest in the latest bands or fashion trends. She couldn't care any less about make-up or jewelry. She has never been interested in baby dolls or Barbies. Her one true passion-- horses-- has retained its hold since she was old enough to say "hosie."

I let her plan this party herself, choose the colors, invite the kids she plays with. She didn't want to dress up. Okay. That's fine. She wanted to draw the horse for the pin-the-tail game. Great! She wanted to decorate with her own collection of Breyers, horse books, signs. Sounds perfect. She wanted to play Pony-opoly, have a horse quiz, have time to use the Playroom upstairs, and eat cake. Love it.

It was a small, sweet party. She invited 7 kids.

Love, love, love this girl! And she has the sweetest little friends!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Father's World kindergarten and preschool

This year I am using My Father's World curriculum for Dash and Little Lad, kindergarten and preschool. These little boys learn differently than their older siblings, and I'm excited about trying something new. This curriculum lines up completely with our Charlotte Mason education philosophy, emphasizing narration, art, hands-on work, "living books" and Bible. They also incorporate a lot of Montessori-style work. And it will be fabulous to teach both little boys at the same time.
The reading lesson section starts with the letter S. What does an S sound like? Sssssssss
What does an S look like? A snake. Can you write an S by yourself? This is where my kids have trouble. At 5-years old, Dash still has difficulty gripping the pencil correctly. We work on it, but always take a break before his frustration rises. And Little Lad, being 3-years old, can grip it correctly, but has difficulty forming the letters with the pencil. So we're starting by using our fingers to "draw" the letters in sand. And then to write them with chalk on the driveway.
With my help, Dash made his S poster, and drew pictures of everything he could think of that starts with the letter.
My boy still holds the pencil like an artist does. It works for him, for now.
"Smile, snot, sad face, sunflower, sun, sparkles, snake, shark, snowman...."
We had spaghetti for lunch, and formed S's with our noodles. Then the little boys named items in the kitchen that started with S. Of course, snot came up again, even though neither of them has a runny nose.
Go figure.
School doesn't officially start for us until next week, but I've been trying to get the kids into a more structured routine, with more activities, for the past few weeks. I like to ease into the year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nature Notebook

With school about to start again, I'm in "nesting and gathering" phase. Our playroom/schoolroom got the purge-and-clean treatment, new books and supplies have been purchased, and I've been using free time to write lesson plans.

We're Charlotte Mason lovers around here, so "living books," art and nature study are a big deal to us. A friend and I were recently discussing our plans for Nature Notebook times. It has proved difficult to find a suitable nature art journal. It needs to have blank pages, be large enough to draw and paint pictures, and add observations, and be spiral bound, so it can be laid flat. Spiral bound ones are hard to come by. I've decided to go back to using a binder for this purpose. It might work better for the kiddos to remove pages while they draw or paint. Watercolor often warps paper (especially when little ones use too much water!), but if you wait until it dries, and then press it between the pages of a large book, it becomes sturdy and flat again, and you can add it back into the binder.

This is great for impromptu Nature Notebooking, also. When we're out hiking, I always have my handy pack with me, with extra paper and pens, binoculars, camera, etc. If the kids decide to sketch and label, I can just punch holes when we get home and add it into the Nature Notebook, to save and study.

A shell found at South Padre.

I'm curious what others have used for this purpose. Any other ideas?

Does the idea interest you?

The first time I read Charlotte Mason's biography, I knew it was the way for us. With so many options and curriculum choices now, it's a huge burden off of me to have this path laid out.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cooking Club: Greek theme

I know I've mentioned cutting down on social calls and activities... however, I'm not ready to give up Cooking Club. Not only do I enjoy cooking, but it benefits my family when I gain extra experience.

Lamb gyros with tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves, bread with dip (oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs), tomatoes, Greek dressing with bread, Greek salad, two kinds of wine, and baklava!

I discovered a wonderful little meat market in the next town over, on the way to my sister's house. Lo and behold, they had lamb! Better yet, I got it for $6/lb, which is not at all bad for great lamb meat.

I followed this recipe, which really took me most of the day. Plus, I decided to make baked Italian salmon and fried potatoes and onions for the Man and kids. Doesn't seem right to make a huge, delicious meal and then cart it off, leaving my family to fend for themselves. So, my day was spent almost entirely in the kitchen, aided by various "helpers." Thankfully, my kids actually enjoy peeling potatoes, washing herbs, and using the mixer. (I know the day may come when it loses it's "specialness" for them, so I'm trying to savor this.)

If you're interested, start your own Cooking Club! The one we have going has 7 people. The line-up rotates: main dish, appetizer, drinks, alternate, fruit or veggie side dish, bread, dessert. If someone drops out or moves away, then we decide who to initiate into the group. The person who has main dish that month, is the hostess and picks the theme. I was hostess this month, and chose a Greek theme. It's a lot of fun, and helps us branch out, and try new things.

Brittany, Megan, me, and Tracy

And, from the other side: Tracy, Rochelle, Julie, Brittany (with Ramsey), and Megan

Hope yours was a fun weekend!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Divorce of a Christian

I'll be upfront. I have a bone to pick.

One of my dear, dear friends is in a bad situation, and has been for nearly 10 years. She's been ignored, emotionally abused, insulted. She was abandoned for over a year-- and I mean abandonment in the full sense of the word. Her husband left. Moved out. Provided zero financial assistance, and very little correspondence. There were vague promises to return "sometime soon." For me, that would have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Gosh, no, who am I kidding? The second, third, fiftieth time that her husband left on a Friday and failed to return for days, or even call... I would have changed the locks.
Just being honest.
Love does not mistreat and abuse. Love does not intentionally cause pain. That is not love.

Like me, my friend is a Christian. Unfortunately, she is married to a man who has never professed any kind of faith. He holds himself to no "rules" or morals. And, c'mon, even unbelievers can hold themselves to standards and be good spouses. Unbelief should not be used as an excuse for rotten behaviour. And I do hear that argument quite often, "oh, well, he's unsaved, so how can we expect anything different?" Hogwash. I've known many non-Christians who were intelligent, respectable people.

My bone is that supposedly well-meaning Christian friends comment in passing that they will pray for her... that she should stay "because that's what the Bible says," and then they carry on their way. They don't see the damage, the destruction, the aftermath of the storms. They didn't see a woman sobbing for days, weeks, years. They didn't watch this woman crying out in labor, whose husband had just left to catch a plane for a party (YES, while she was in LABOR.) They don't see the children who are growing up fatherless...but emotionally abused when he is actually in the picture.

Here's the kicker. He says he doesn't want a family anymore. He's not "in love" anymore. He wants to leave.

What does the Bible say about this? Well-meaning Christian sites, like Got Questions, quote 1 Cor 7, to back up their Stay Married Advice:

"12To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not
a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13And
if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with
her, she must not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified
through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her
believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they
are holy. "

Ah, yes.
But the next verse has been conveniently left off:

"15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing
man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in

Her husband wants to leave. For crying out loud people, give the woman sound advice: LET THE MAN LEAVE. Give her no guilt trips. No superficial comments. Offer good advice or no advice at all. Never guilt someone into staying in a bad relationship, if you can't possibly know the devastation of the family.

Though by no means God's desire "from the beginning," it will likely be best for all concerned if he does leave. Scripture gives room for this. God's heart is for us. For our protection.

We can't be legalists with the law. How biased and prejudiced can people get?

Some people will believe and push anything but the text, and "a text without a context is a pretext."

My heart breaks for this woman and her children. And my blood boils when I hear others encouraging her to stay, endure, and "do the right thing." Doesn't she deserve a chance at a normal life? Should she worry every day about whether her husband is even coming home? And if he'll be sober when he does? Does she need the credit card debt piling up on her, when she has been the only breadwinner for years, sometimes working 2 or 3 jobs to pay the bills? Should she try to make a man stay, who says that he wants to leave?

Now, really stop and pray for her. For the kids. My prayer is that the man will either shape up or ship out. God is in the business of performing miracles... but He doesn't change people without their willingness. Saul had a rude awakening and some convincing signs, but ultimately he had to open his heart, before God would work that metamorphosis in his life.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Family Week

I've been having a difficult time lately, deciding what to blog about. By the time I make up my mind and actually sit down, while the kids are occupied, a thousand other things have happened, and my previous motivation for the topic has waned. I blame the heat.

Sooo, I suppose I'll resort to my quick recaps again, rather than the topical post I was planning to write.

I told you about our awesome, amazing, burned-forever-in-my-mind vacation. This was a BIG deal for our family. Seeing as how we're below the poverty line, and we waited 13 years to take a family vacation, we're just thrilled about how long and perfect it was. More later on how all of that was possible for us.

San Antonio River Walk

Yesterday was my eldest's birthday. The Artist is now 11-years old. Seems impossible. She was born 7.17.99 at 1:46pm, 6 days after her due date, and weighed in at 6lb 4oz. I was in labor for two miserable days with that girl, but it was worth every second. She was a difficult, demanding baby, probably because we made her that way, being anxious first-time parents. As soon as the child could walk, at 10-months, she became happy-round-the-clock.

My Artist uses all of her free time to write stories, draw pictures, and research horses. She is extremely self-motivated and helpful. Great for me that she is the oldest child!

The girl requested a cookie cake, rather than a traditional cake. And she asked that it be served alongside chocolate chip fudge brownies. Oh me, oh my. Chocolate overload. She is her Daddy's girl.

This was just a family celebration. Her little friend party will be in a week or so.

Little brothers worked diligently, without being reminded, and made their sister cards. My Nature Boy even saved his piece of candy, from the day before, to put inside of her birthday card. It's moments like that that melt my heart.

After the little party, Mom and Dad came over to play with the kids, so Fred and I could go to their house and have a game night with my sisters and their hubs. Amy and Vu brought Ransom along. We brought The Artist with us, so she could play some games before bed.

Then today, after church, we went to Papaw's house for lunch. Papaw is something of a protege in the kitchen. Mimi trained him well, and he has taken over the task with an enthusiastic diligence that she would be proud of. His Summer Garden Pasta was fabulous today (served with fresh sour dough bread, and pineapple bran muffins for dessert.)

Artist Girl helps Papaw grate the cheddar
Nature Boy grates the Parmesan
...and shows Dash how to do it, too.
Summer Garden Pasta

And then we came home & filled up the little pool in the front yard. Seeing as how there are heat advisories here for temps up to 105-110 degrees, I'm only letting the kids outside if they are in water. After a day of being mostly cooped up, this was welcome relief.

How many kids can you fit in a little kiddie pool?

Staying hydrated

Our playdates lately have been in the morning, before heat hits hard, or indoors.

I love this picture.
My Artist Girl and her sweet friend help Oli cross the monkey bars. Aww

I'm on a School-Prep kick, and a Paper Doll kick. Will show you plans soon.