Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31, 1926

That is when my mother-in-law was born. Life must have been so different when she was a little girl!!!

We celebrated her 83rd birthday yesterday with a special dinner (served on the red "You are Special" plate) and pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.

It's always fun to be the "birthday girl" -- no matter what your age! :)

Matthew and Bethany helped Mum Mum open her presents.

Happy Birthday Mum Mum!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Article

oh. my. word.

That was all I could say when I saw the newspaper this morning and discovered that our article was on the front page!!!

We thought it was going to be safely tucked away in the Lifestyles section!!! Not on the Front Page of our city's newspaper. What a shocker!

I felt like I was in an elevator that lurched and dropped ten floors in half as many seconds.

However, after reading the article, most of my fears where calmed. The reporter did a fantastic job with the article, and presented our family in a very positive light. He also included some pictures taken by the staff photographer, plus some pictures that were taken a couple years ago by a creative local photographer, Tammi Nowack.

(By the way, when the reporter came back out to interview Alan and the boys on Saturday, I remembered to snap his picture! So, here it is!)

However, I still feel a little . . . vulnerable, I guess. We shared transparently about our family and our convictions about children and our beliefs about education. Certainly, not everyone who reads the article will agree with our convictions or our choices. But that is OK. We only have to please One.

However, I would ask you to pray for us, if you feel led to do so. My husband wisely reminded me that Satan hates children. He hates families. He hates those who have a good testimony or a good name in the community. He wants to destroy families and godly men and women and capture the hearts and minds of our children. It seems that each day brings a new story of one who has fallen. Please pray that we would be on guard in the days ahead. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." -- 1 Corinthians 10:12.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Government Can

Are you old enough to remember the song, "The Candy Man Can?" If so, you will really appreciate this hilarious (but ultimately sobering) video by comedian, Tim Hawkins!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Interview

Have you ever been interviewed for a newspaper article?

Yesterday afternoon a reporter from the local newspaper interviewed me and the children for an article he is writing about our family. I was a little nervous about it, but he was so nice and personable that he quickly put us all at ease. We enjoyed talking to him and answering his questions for over an hour and a half. Then, before he left, we served him a piece of whole wheat bread that Josh had made earlier in the day.

I'm not sure he has ever met anyone like us before! I guess we are a bit of an "oddity" in our modern day society! :) I think he was intrigued by the idea of having such a large family! Just like I might be intrigued by what life is like for the Duggar Family, who has almost twice as many children as we do!

I meant to take a picture of him talking to the children or furiously jotting down notes, but I totally forgot to. So, I post anyway. Without a picture . . .

Now we wait for the article to come out. What slant will he take? Will we be pleased with the article? Will there be things we wish we hadn't said? Or things printed that we are confident we actually did not say?? I guess we will find out on Sunday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Of Pigskin and The Swine Flu

One of the Fun things about Fall is Football!

There is definitely something exciting about those Friday night lights!

We will be sitting in the stands a lot this year, since Taylor is playing football for the LaGrange Panthers and Joseph is playing for the Sherwood Eagles! As a freshman, Taylor may not actually see much playing time this year, but who knows? He is a pretty massive offensive tackle! :) Joe is a sophomore, and should see a good bit of playing time as tight end/defensive end. He actually started and played a lot at the Scrimmage Game last Friday night, so we are hopeful of seeing #80 on the field quite a bit.

Alan and I were really looking forward to going to Sherwood's first game of the season this Friday night, even though we weren't looking forward to the 3-hour drive to Alabama! However, we just learned that the game has been cancelled! Apparently, half of the other team has come down with the Swine Flu!!!! Can you believe it?!

This situation actually raises quite a few questions and concerns. I've always felt the uproar over the Swine Flu was media-generated, perhaps to set the stage for Obama's push for his national health care system. If enough fear could be created, many Americans would want the government to come to the rescue and take care of them. I don't think the Swine Flu is nearly as serious as Americans were led to believe -- however, it does seem to be quite contagious and also dangerous for certain individuals who are high risk. I'm a bit concerned that one of my sons who are in school settings might contract the flu, bring it home and share it with the rest of the family, which might result in my MIL getting the flu. Due to her age and respiratory problems, she would definitely be in the high risk category. So, what precautions should I take? Any suggestions?? I'd really like to hear some feedback on this from others who want to protect the health of their families, but perhaps not in the "politically correct" ways! ;)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Beef and Spinach Pitas

I'm eager to share a delicious new recipe that I made for dinner tonight. Not only was it very satisfying, it was quick and easy to make, inexpensive, and nutritious, too! This "keeper" came from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. Of course, if you've been following my blog for any length of time, you will know that I can't make a recipe without tweaking it a bit! :) So, here is my version of Beef and Spinach Pitas:

1 pound lean ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano

1 bag baby spinach

1/2 teaspoon thyme

salt and pepper to taste

6 whole-wheat pitas

grated Mexican 4-cheese (optional)

sour cream (optional)

Note: This serves six, so I doubled all ingredients for my family.

1. In a large skillet, brown ground beef, breaking up into little pieces.

2. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and cook until vegetables are tender. Drain.

3. Add can diced tomatoes, seasonings, and spinach.

4. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes or until spinach wilts.

5. Cut pitas in half.

6. Spoon mixture into pitas (using a slotted spoon) and top with a little grated cheese or sour cream, if desired.

7. Serve with carrot sticks.

Per serving:

394 calories

16 g. fat

23 g. protein

42 g. carbohydrates

6 g. dietary fiber

(Note: if you only eat 1/2 pita, which was enough for me, you can cut the numbers above in half!)


First Taste of Fall

In Southwest Georgia, fall is still a long way off, but we got a tantalizing taste of Autumn this morning. I opened the back door and when I felt the refreshing, cool, non-humid air rush in, I eagerly stepped outside to breathe in my first taste of fall. I was surprised to see that the mercury had dropped down to 62 degrees!

There is just something about the crisp air and bright blue skies of Autumn that energizes me! Fall has always been my favorite season. I'm not sure if it was because I always enjoyed going back to school in the fall, or if it was because my birthday was in September, but for as long as I can remember, I have loved the Fall!

I love the colorful fall leaves, crackling bonfires, apple picking, sipping hot chocolate, pulling sweaters out of the back of the closet, baking bread and smelling soup simmering on the stove. There is defintely something delicious about fall!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

Seven-year-old Matthew came up to me and said, "Mom, I need new church shoes. These are so tight that I can't even wag my toes!!" :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Rocker

Recently, when reading my friend, Karen's, wonderfully unique blog, I read this post . Karen encouraged her readers to share a story of how God had provided a treasure that they had been wanting or searching for. Immediately, I thought of the rocker. Now, this is really Tiffany's story, not mine, but since she's too busy to blog about it right now, I'm going to share it!

Tiffany had a vision for a cozy little reading corner in her fifth grade classroom, where she could make reading more comfortable and inviting for her students. (She's feeling a little stifled with the mundane, rote, ABeka curriculum that her school uses, and is looking for little ways to make learning more fun and exciting and memorable for her students!) So, she really wanted a rocking chair for her classroom. When I told her how much one would likely cost, she was discouraged. So, I urged her to check out the Classifieds and see if she could find a used one.

Tiffany reluctantly scanned the classified section, not really believing that she would find anything. You have to understand that we live in a small area, and the classified section in the newspaper is very small, especially during the week. Suddenly, she spotted the lone ad for a rocker for $75! She was excited, but still reluctant to call, thinking it would likely be on the other side of town, or in a bad section of town. However, she made the call and discovered that the rocker was in a home just a couple miles from our house! We did not have to worry about getting directions to an unfamiliar place or going into a part of town that made us uneasy!

I drove her over in the van, and we easily found the house, where a young mother with two boys attached to her legs showed us a lovely, wooden rocker that looked brand new! She had used it to rock her sweet, little baby boy, and it was only two years old! Why she no longer wanted it was beyond me, but it was exactly what Tiffany had in mind! Not only that, but she gladly sold it to Tiffany for only $50! What a blessing!

Tiffany told me that she had prayed that morning that God would provide a rocker for her, and I believe He did! He provided a beautiful rocker, in her price range, close to home! Here is a picture of her "new" rocker and the cozy reading corner she created. She has six carpet squares arranged in a semi-circle around her rocker for her students to sit on during reading time!

We survived the First Week!

Whew! Finally a moment to sit down and catch my breath!! It has been a long, exhausting week, but also a productive one!

We have completed our first week of school, and it has been an eventful week for most of our family.

As you know from my last post, Taylor just spent his first week living away from home. He is a freshman at LaGrange College. We have received a few texts from him and know that he is still alive and kicking! He reports that football practices have been long, hot and hard, the food not that good, and his days packed full.

Josh started at the local community college this week, where he is doing dual enrollment. He is truly excited to be spending his senior year getting a head start on college. He has a full schedule of classes on MWF -- English, Economics, World History, Weight Training, and Anatomy and Physiology; then he spends TTh working at the YMCA, lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons. But the icing on the cake for him is this -- he made the college swim team!!! This was totally unexpected, because he has never swum competitively before! He is lapping up this opportunity with great enthusiasm!

Joe is the only boy still at SCA, since his brothers have moved on. He is a sophomore, with a busy school schedule that includes three Honors classes, and a busy after-school schedule, that includes Football, Basketball and Baseball -- each in season, of course, plus some Saturdays working at Chick-Fil-A. He is looking forward to playing tight end/defensive end on the Varsity Football team this season. He started on offense last night for the pre-season scrimmage game, and did very well. It is going to be so much fun watching him play this fall! As I heard someone say at the game last night, there is just something special about Friday nights in the South, where high school football is Big Stuff! :)

Tiffany is also back in the classroom. She completed her first full week "back in the saddle" as a 5th grade teacher and Elementary Music teacher at Byne Christian School. She will also be the Elementary Spanish teacher this year, so she has some very busy days ahead of her, especially when you add in her graduate classes and piano lessons and practice! She is excited about her new little group of students, and feels a bit more confident this year, after making it through her first year as a teacher! She is such an enthusiastic, caring, and creative teacher, that I think her students are Blessed to be in her class!

I love this picture taken the week before school started when I dropped Hannah off to help Tiffany get her classroom ready for Open House. She said she wouldn't have made it without Hannah's help!

This picture shows Tiffany sitting in her new rocking chair in the cozy reading corner she created for her students. Stay tuned for a post on the story of the rocking chair!

With everyone else settled in their classrooms, it was time for us to start our homeschooling year, as well. The biggest challenge for me was that I spent so much time last week helping everyone else get ready to go to college/school, that I didn't have time to complete my own school planning and prep. So, I have been playing catch-up all week; however, I was determined to just be flexible and not get down over the fact that I wasn't totally ready to dive in to our school year! That attitude proved to be a blessing, and we had a good week! Not a perfect week, but a good week! I think that adjusting our expectations to not expect perfection is a key to not becoming discouraged and to having a "successful" school year!

Matthew started 1st grade, and he was very conscientious with his chores and his school work! He has matured a lot since last year, and I am hopeful that Reading will really click for him this year.

Bethany started Kindergarten, and was so Cute! I just Love these pictures of her watching her BJ HomeSat classes!!! They are so engaging, and she really enjoyed actively participating in each class. She is thrilled about being a "big girl" now, who does her own school work!

Bethany and Matt both require a lot of oversight and one on one instruction time, so it was a LONG week for me, but also a rewarding one. They are so cute and enthusiastic about learning, and it is such a privilege to be able to teach them!

Chris and Hannah are in 8th grade, and they watch their classes upstairs in the bonus room/school room. Luke is in 5th grade (but doing some 6th grade classes) and he watches his classes in my room. They would try to beat each other every day in finishing their classes first, and then would converge in the dining room to do their homework! It was certainly a joy to see them sitting there working diligently every day! I love these pictures I snapped of them as they worked on their homework.

If you are a homeschooler who has resumed the school routine, how was your first week back?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Letting Go

My oldest son and third born child left for college today. He won't be home until the football season is over, which I'm thinking means around Thanksgiving.

I felt Sad when he left. But . . .

Honestly, I was ready for him to go. It was time. He is yearning to be independent, to make his own decisions, to do things "His Way." As I shared "war stories" with a dear friend and mother of eight this week, she shared an incredible insight. She revealed how she had always loved being pregnant, and had enjoyed feeling her growing child moving and kicking within her. Yet, she always reached a point where it just got too crowded in her womb, the baby too active, and her body so heavy-laden and miserable that she was ready to go through any amount of labor just to have that baby out!!! She likened that to the process we go through with our young adults. She said that we reach a point when our "baby" just grows too big, and it is too crowded under one roof, and we are just ready to have that "child" Out!

I think she has a valid analogy. It seems that there comes a time when it is natural for our young adults to venture out on their own, and to "try their wings," so to speak. If they do not go forth naturally at the appropriate time, it may eventually require an "induction" or even a "surgical removal" of the overdue fledgling, which is definitely more painful for all concerned!

This is not to say that we love this child of ours any less, but it is time for our relationship to change. It is time for him to learn to breathe on his own, while allowing us to breathe a little easier. Weaning is never easy, but there comes a time when each child must quit turning to his mother's breast for nourishment, but learn to eat solid food, and then eventually learn to feed himself, no matter how messy it may be. A few years down the road, he must learn to not only feed himself, but to prepare his own food, then to procure his own food, and eventually to provide food not only for himself, but also for his family. Just like weaning a nursing baby, this process brings the most satisfaction and the least amount of pain and complication if it is handled gradually, rather than abruptly.

Our son has just taken that first natural step toward independence.

It reminds me of something that Noel from Bloom Where Planted said earlier this week:

"Throughout a parent's time raising children, we must remember one thing - we are raising them to be adults and leave home. Too many parents either aren't raising their kids at all, they just have babies who grow up without guidance and training; or they expect them to stay small forever and are hurt when the young adult breaks free from the training wheels their parents have saddled on them to begin their own lives."

It was a perfect reminder to me that we shouldn't be hurt as parents when our young adults want to "take off the training wheels" and ride on their own. Of course, we know they will fall down a time or two; there will be skinned elbows and knees, and in extreme cases, even a broken arm, but we would be very foolish and short-sighted as parents not to allow our children the opportunity to learn to balance and pedal on their own. It is part of life.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Who is Following You?

If you read my recent post about Bethany's birthday, you may have picked up on the fact that 5-year-old Bethany had a list of special things she wanted to do with Ashlyn while she was home for the weekend. The interesting thing is that most of the activities on that list were things that Ashlyn enjoys doing. Things like taking a walk, going for a run, taking a nap, and riding bikes. Why would Bethany want to do those things??

Obviously, she loves and admires Ashlyn and wants to be just like her, so she wants to do the things that she sees Ashlyn enjoying. That is why she got up and put on her "running shoes" and some shorts and a T-shirt -- she wanted to dress the same way she sees Ashlyn dressed when she goes running. (What a blessing that Ashlyn isn't one of those girls who run down the streets wearing only short spandex shorts and a sports bra!!!)

After running, "they" rode bikes "together."

Later that evening, when Bethany opened her gifts, she was delighted to receive these pajama pants for her birthday. Why? Because she sees the big girls (and boys) wearing pajama pants around the house and she wants to be like them! That is also why she wants to "hang out" with her older brothers and sisters, "text" Joe on her toy cell phone, and sit beside me on my bed typing on her pink "puter."

Looking at our children is often very much like looking into a mirror, which can be scary, especially if we do not like what we see! Children will copy everything they observe, down to facial expressions, gestures, attitudes, habits, choices of words, and our likes and dislikes for foods, subjects, and all kinds of activities.

That is why God has instructed us to follow our Heavenly Father in the same way that children naturally imitate their parents: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children." -- Ephesians 5:1 (KJV).

I just wonder if we are confident enough of our example to say as Paul did, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ." -- 1 Corinthians 11:1 (KJV). And then again here: "Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern." Philippians 3:17 (NKJV).

It is very sobering to think of all the eyes that watch us as we live our lives. Our children and eventually our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our neighbors, the youth and young women from our church, even readers of our blogs -- these are some of the folks who observe our habits, our words, our attitudes, our passions . . . and may be following us.

Weight Loss Wednesday -- My Secret Weapon

How can it be Wednesday again already???? Amazing how quickly a week can fly by!

After just posting last week about No More Excuses, would you believe I have been mentally rehearsing all of my excuses for this week??

It all started when I chose to attend a Booster Club Fish Fry last week, and there was NOTHING on my diet to eat, so I ate very small portions of fried fish, fried shrimp and cole slaw, all of which are Diet No No's of course!

Then, I went to LaGrange College with Taylor on Thursday and Friday and ate in the school cafeteria -- and we all know how high fat cafeteria food is!

Follow that with Bethany's birthday this past weekend, when I was pretty careful, but I did eat a sliver of her birthday cake.

Yes, it was definitely not a Good Week to be on a diet! So, it was with great fear and trepidation that I stepped on the scale this morning. Would you believe I actually lost 1 more pound this week?! Wow, what a relief!! :)

I think my secret weapon this week was not having an "all or nothing" mentality. You know, you mess up on your diet, so you figure you might as well indulge in everything you have been missing out on, since you are now officially "off your diet," and then "start over again tomorrow." How many times have I followed that line of reasoning in the past??? It is so easy to rationalize like that! However, this time I took a different approach. I reasoned that sometimes life gets in the way and will prevent me from eating perfectly, but that I would make the best choices I could in the situation, and keep on going without guilt or condemnation.

I could have chosen to skip the Booster Club Fish Fry, knowing that it would not be a low carb or low fat event, and I actually considered that, but I would have missed an incredible blessing!!! The speaker was Siran Stacy, a former football star from the University of Alabama, who shared a powerful message about his faith in God, which had been shaken to its core, after a drunk driver took the lives of his wife and four of his children in a horrific accident in November of 2007. His testimony was so powerful, and 5 or 6 athletes came forward in response to his invitation to give their lives to Christ. It is my prayer that their lives will bring forth fruit that is evidence of true repentance!

Anyway, there will be times when we can't follow our diets perfectly, but life is about more than just eating and drinking, so we just need to do our best, and go on, not letting an "all or nothing" mentality derail our efforts! "For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." -- Romans 14:17

Monday, August 10, 2009

Babe's Big Day

My "baby" turned 5 years old on Sunday! I'm not sure how that happened. She was supposed to stay my baby for a long time!

This week, as I have been doing some school planning, it suddenly dawned on me that in the normal scheme of things, I would be preparing her to leave my home and enter school in the next few days. That was a very shocking thought! She is so sweet, so innocent, so full of life, so happy at home with her Mama and her brothers and sisters -- I really couldn't fathom the idea of putting her on a big yellow school bus and sending her off to school . . . I can't help but shudder at the thought. Fortunately, she gets to be my sweet little girl for a few more years, safely tucked under my wing. I know from experience how quickly little "chicks" outgrow that spot!

Ashlyn, who is Bethany's "special honey" came home for the weekend, to help her celebrate her birthday. Bethany had a list of activities planned for them to do together, including -- eat breakfast, go swimming, take a nap, go for a walk, go for a bike ride, run together, and just "hang out!" Ashlyn tried to do as many of these as possible.

Bethany requested "chicken bones" (drumsticks!) and macaroni and cheese for her special meal.

Here is the big pile of chicken leg quarters that Josh smoked on the grill. You should have smelled them cooking! He has really learned the secret to success, as the chicken was so Moist and Delicious and just about melted in our mouths! Soon the pile of leg quarters was reduced to a pile of bones!

After dinner was eaten and cleaned up, Bethany was presented with her big pile of gifts to open! (There are some advantages to being the baby of the family!) Matt took the job of picking out which present she would open next and handing it to her.

Matt was most excited about this gift -- because he picked it out for her, and if truth were to be told, I think he imagined playing with it himself! :)

Ashlyn bought Bethany a pile of clothes from a consignment sale, so she acquired quite a few new outfits.

Ashlyn also gave Bethany and Matt these cute little ice cream cups and spoons!

And here is her cake -- per her request, it said, "Happy Birthday Babe!"

You can tell how pleased she was when she blew out all the candles!

Happy Birthday Bethany!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eggs by the Dozen

This morning for breakfast I made a new recipe that I have been eager to try. I knew this one was going to be perfect for a large family, when I discovered it on my friend Debbie's blog -- Cheaper by the Baker's Dozen. She knows how to serve some delicious food at her house!

Debbie did not let me down! This was a real hit with my family, and I think it is going to make a perfect school day breakfast! Quick, easy, inexpensive, and a good way to get some protein into every one before they all head their separate ways, I am really "eggcited" about making these "Egg o' muffins" a few times a week!

Here are the directions:

1. Spray a muffin tin with some cooking spray, such as Pam.

2. Crack an egg directly into each muffin cup.

3. Spoon one teaspoon of half and half over top of each egg.

4. Sprinkle each egg with some grated cheddar cheese.

5. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

6. Pop eggs out of muffin tins onto plates. I plopped them on top of a piece of Canadian Bacon, for a Delicious, high protein breakfast!


EDITED:  I have started baking these at 400 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes.  I prefer the lower cooking temperature for my eggs.  At about 12 minutes, the yolk is just softly cooked and the white is  set.  Bake 15 minutes if you want them cooked a bit harder.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The College Parent 101

I'm feeling a bit like a college student at the moment (except for the fact that I got up at 4 am!), after a day of finding my way around a college campus, eating in a cafeteria, and taking notes while listening to professors and administrators talk about registering for classes, getting along with roommates, the ins and outs of dorm life, campus safety, financial aid, The Honor Code, Cornerstone classes, community service opportunities, etc. Fortunately, I didn't have to take out a blank sheet of paper and number from one to ten . . .

Taylor and I left home at 6 am this morning, arriving at LaGrange College at 8:30 for Freshman Orientation. The orientation staff scheduled a full day of informative sessions, for both parents and students. While Taylor took placement tests, set up his college email account, got a picture ID, and obtained his first taste of college life, I listened to advice on how to support and encourage my college student, including when to parent and when to step back, and was reassured (along with many other parents) that my son would learn to manage his time and be responsible for getting things done on his own. However, we parents were warned not to be surprised if our sons didn't wash their sheets all semester . . . (Gross, I know!)

Tomorrow morning Taylor will register for his classes, and then we will head for home. But, in just a little over a week, he will be back to stay . . .

While a bit apprehensive about sending Taylor off to college, I'm also excited about what I've seen at LaGrange and feel like it is going to be a good fit for him. I have been very impressed with every encounter we have had with the LaGrange staff. They seem to do everything with excellence and professionalism and top it off with a good dose of southern hospitality that makes you feel very welcome and "at home." I was also encouraged to hear about the extra accountability that will come from being a part of the football team. Apparently, the coaches keep close tabs on the player's grades, class attendance, and overall attitude and behavior, holding the athletes to a high standard. I'm all for that!! :)

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