Thankful Thursday

It's Thurday. I am thankful.

After my grandmother's funeral last weekend, I am reminded again of how thankful I am for my family.

I have known all four of my grandparents, living near all of them for the first 18 years of my life. Not until I was in my 20s did we bury my first grandfather. Within this past year another grandfather and grandmother have passed on, leaving just one grandmother living. How thankful I am to have known them and loved them, to have wonderful memories and pictures to cherish.

Family. It's a beautiful thing. Created by God. For our good.

Psalm 68:6 "God sets the lonely in families." For this I thank Him today.

A Tribute to Grandma Nellie


My dear grandmother, Grandma Nellie, passed away yesterday.
She was 90 years old. She was such a gracious, humble lady. She provided a wonderful example of service to God, family and community. I could only wish to be such a wonderful mother and grandmother some day.

This is one of my favorite photos of me with my maternal grandparents (taken in 1998). Grandpa passed away just a few months before I got married in 2000.

Here is Grandma holding my son, in 2008.

I love the pictures I have of Grandma holding my babies. Here she is holding my baby girl, back in 2003.

Here she is with her 5 children. This picture was taken last summer, on her 90th birthday. I'm so glad they were all together with her to celebrate her last birthday on earth.

When she turned 89, we had a surprise birthday party for her. What a wonderful day that was! As many of her children and grandchildren and friends as could be there were there to celebrate her life. What a special day it was! Grandma was so humble - she couldn't believe that all of these people had gathered together just for her sake. We enjoyed poems written by various family members, a video slide show of pictures from Grandma's life and many tables full of Grandma's homemade items - from doll clothes to quilts, hand-written correspondences to embroidered dish towels.

Grandma's hands were always busy and productive... that is one thing I will never forget about her. Right to the end, she was busy making something to bless someone else. She had made over 10,000 quilts in her lifetime, donating almost all of them to world relief efforts through her church. She also stitched baby layettes to send overseas to needy countries. All of this done by a humble servant, in her basement sewing room, using donated rags and fabric. I cannot imagine the line of thousands of people who will greet her in heaven to say "Thank you" and "You made a difference to me, though I lived halfway across the world."

My grandma had only 1 daughter (who is my mother). My mother had only 1 daughter (me). And I have only 1 daughter (so far anyway). We had a special bond. We had this picture taken in 2009 showing all 4 of our hands together - Grandma, Mother, Myself and Daughter. Go here to read the story behind the picture.

Life is but a vapor. Here one moment and gone the next. Only what is done in light of eternity will matter at all in the end.

Thank you, Lord, for my dear Grandma Nellie. My life is much fuller and richer because of her. May I be such a servant, with a giving heart, doing the little bit I can do to show love and kindness in this world. Thank you, Father, for Grandma's life and testimony. In Jesus' name, Amen.

I will close with this poem - Only One Life - written by C. T. Studd.

Only One Life

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say ‘twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

poem written by C.T. Studd – missionary

Works for Me Wednesday - 4H Projects for Kids


With spring just arriving on the scene, it's hard to think ahead to the dog days of summer and the local 4H County Fair. But now is the time to be thinking of it, if you want your kids to participate. Both my kids are too young to be full-fledged 4Hers, but that doesn't mean they can't participate.

"Clover Buds" is for children age 3 to 5. To sign your child up costs very little ($2 is the price here in Indiana) and they are then able to choose a 4H project from a short list of very simple ideas (painted rocks, coloring a picture, etc). This will be my son's first year submitting a project, as a Clover Bud. He's 3.

"Mini 4H" is for children in Kindergarten through 2nd Grade. Again, the cost is minimal and the children are able to choose from a longer list of projects that are geared to this age group (collections, model car or airplane kits, other hobby projects). This will be my daughter's 4th year submitting a project, even though she's only in 2nd grade.

Not only is your child able to submit a project (and earn a ribbon), but you will receive free passes to get into the 4H County Fair.

To get in on this, most 4H chapters require registration within the next few weeks. Here is the link to find your local 4H chapter's contact information.

Lots of fun. Good for the kids. Easy on the pocketbook. It works for me!

My related posts:

To see my post about 2010's 4H project, go here.
For my post about 2009's 4H experience, go here.
To see my daughter's first 4H project from 2007, go here.

The Cemetery


Pastor and author Max Lucado once wrote: make all important life decisions in a cemetery.

Indeed, it will help keep things in perspective.

Not to make any huge life decisions, but just for the experience we visited a cemetery last weekend. Kids come up with interesting questions in a cemetery. My daughter was fascinated... especially because we were at a cemetery with distant relatives buried there.

My son. Well, he was just wanting to stand by the tombstones and notice that he was the same size as many of them. :-)

Homeschool: Sugar Camp Days


Last weekend we headed to Sugar Camp Days, being held at a local county park. We are fortunate to live in a part of America where sugar maple trees are abundant. This county park walked us through the process, from collecting sap to boiling it into syrup.

This is a tree tap with a pail to collect the sap.

This man was explaining the boiling process. Did you know it takes 40 gallons of sap to boil down to 1 gallon of maple syrup? The sap is mostly water, so that has to be evaporated away to get the syrup.
There was much more to see than only the syrup process, including ice carvings like this moose...
and blacksmiths...and horse-drawn wagon rides. This was my 3-year-old's favorite part of the day.
And to top it off, there was a playground for the kids to enjoy before we headed home.

This was great timing, as we are in the process of reading the Little House on the Prairie series. In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, there is a chapter on how the pioneers made maple syrup. So this field trip helped us better understand the process... and made us thankful for the syrup we can enjoy today!

Educational and fun.

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday! This was a week that flew by, because we kept very busy. We had a surprise overnight house guest one night. We watched our little buddy Eli for 3 days this week (only 1 of which was pre-planned) and watched a 10-year-old neighbor boy one day while he was off of school. It was a week full of hospitality!

As is my Friday custom, I will share a few photos from our week.
Here is my daughter, reading to Eli. He's very much on the go, but he did stop for a few minutes to look at a touch-and-feel book with her.

This is my son sitting with our neighbor Sarah. He loves books... and he loves Sarah!
Here's my boy with a proud smile, after folding all of the dishrags laid in a row behind him. I taught him how to do it and he finished all 7 of them. Already at age 3, he's picked up a number of chores that my daughter does. I've had to come up with new ones for her!

A rare shot of me cuddling with my kids. Precious moments indeed.

March is half through... how have you spent the time you've been given? Wisely, I hope. Invest your time in someone else today!

Happy Friday to you!

Thankful Thursday

To cultivate an ongoing spirit of thankfulness, I'm thinking through the things - both big and small - that I want to thank the Lord for sending into my life.

Last week my daughter and I were focusing on "Being a Thankful Woman" in our Bible study that we do together. We came across this challenging thought - What if God took away from you everything you've never thanked Him for giving you? Like a waiter taking back your food because you were ungrateful or like a grandparent taking back a birthday gift because you showed no appreciation for it... what would be taken away from you if God saw your lack of thanks-giving as a true lack of appreciation for the gifts He's given?

I am certainly not saying that God will do that. Or even that He is keeping a tally of things we thank Him for and things we don't.

I am suggesting that He has given us THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of blessings, gifts, relationships, and joys. We should not be lacking in finding something new each day to focus on and say "Thank You, Father!"

I am reminded of the 10 lepers who were healed by Christ in Luke 17. Only one took the time to return to Christ and express his gratitude. The rest went on with life. I'm sure they were rejoicing, probably ecstatic to return to their families after being outcasts. Even though they had so much to be thankful for, they failed to give thanks to the One who healed them and caused them so much joy.

So today, I am thankful for the Bible. I am thankful for the Word of God that is still living and active and powerful and speaking to our lives this very day. How lost we would be without God's Word to guide us through this life and lead us to Him!

Let him who has eyes to see see what the Father has bestowed... and give Him thanks!

What are you most thankful for today?

Works for Me Wednesday - Cutting Onions Without Tears


Cutting onions. I hate it. I cry every time.

Recently I came across this tip: cut the onion in your sink while running a slow stream of water over it. The water will wash away the vapors, instead of them being released into the air and bombarding your eyes!

I tried it. It worked. I will never again be brought to tears over an onion! :-)

I've also heard - but not tried or verified - that putting the onion in the freezer for 15 minutes before you cut it will tame the vapors.

No more tears! It works for me!

Children's Reading List: Little House on the Prairie

We have been reading through the Little House series and are now finishing book two - Little House on the Prairie.

We'd read the first book a few times in recent years, but this one is new to my daughter. I love to read of Laura's life and see those experiences through my daughter's eyes. The history is so rich, lending itself to further study in many areas.

In this book, the Ingalls family leaves the Big Woods of Wisconsin and heads west in their covered wagon. They settle in Indian Territory where they start a new life for themselves - building the house and stable from the ground up. A chapter is devoted to how Pa built the chimney for the house and another for the roof. It is eye-opening to see how much work was put into basic shelter and finding food. We take so much for granted now that they used to have to do by hand.

Indians play a large role in this book and eventually the Ingalls are forced off the land on which they built because the government is giving that specific land to the Indians. These events led to some insightful questions from my daughter about how the early settlers treated the Indians and vice versa.

A favorite chapter told of the family's first Christmas on the prairie. My daughter was amazed at how thrilled the children were with their very simple gifts - a shiny new tin cup, a candy cane, a sugar cookie/cake, and a new penny.

We highly recommend this classic book - Little House on the Prairie!

For those homeschoolers out there: check out the free lapbooking materials available here for this book!

Beauty Within


My 7-year-old daughter is so pretty. She's a girly-girl, who loves to be the princess, all dressed up in dresses and jewelry. Even so, we often remind her that it's more important to be beautiful on the inside than to be beautiful on the outside. One's character is much more important than what they look like on the outside.

1 Samuel 16:7 that says "People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us that "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, but rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." I l
ove this verse as it's so clear about what is of "great worth" in God's sight! No doubt about it (like asking your husband, "Do I look good in this?"). God is clear about what He defines as beauty.

Recently both myself and my daughter have been challenged in how much we really believe these verses.

My daughter has been sick (like the rest of us). In wiping her nose so much, she wiped the tip of her nose completely raw! It is now a big red scab. When she gets sick or stressed, she also develops cold sores. Not small and not just one - these are large and are like a big cluster of cold sores. These showed up to make her nose and lip all the more red and sore. To add to it, one of her teeth is loose and almost out, so she has a crooked tooth and sometimes blood in her mouth.

Here she is, a few days ago, with her dangling loose tooth and all.

So, she is hesitant to go to church or anywhere in public. She knows she doesn't look good. She is naturally shy and doesn't want to attract attention. That is a bit impossible with the big red scab on her nose! So she is being pushed a bit out of her comfort zone. And she is being challenged - Can she be confident when she doesn't look good? Can she consider herself beautiful because of what's inside regardless of what is outside?

And as her mother, I am challenged too. I want to protect my little girl from the stares, the gasps, all of the "Whoa! What happened to you?!" questions we've had recently. Can I feel the concern behind the statements? Can I focus on my girl's inward beauty, to model for her the lesser importance of the external? Can I walk with her through her suffering, through feeling like the ugly duckling?

There's a lesson to be learned. The truth is that all of us, young and old, will eventually face the day when we're not beautiful on the outside - at least by this world's standards. By then it will be too late to start cultivating that inward beauty that is of great worth to God.

An important lesson - for the 7-year-old and the 33-year-old! :-)

Family Photo Friday


As much as we are longing for spring's arrival, we had snow again this week. Winter just doesn't want to let go! :-(

But it is Friday! And, all 4 of us are feeling better - Thank You, Lord! I didn't take many pictures this week, but here are a few.

We watched our little buddy Eli one day this week. He is about 13 months old now - such a fun, inquisitive stage of life. He sure does love our pet bird Weezy and often he would crawl back to see Weezy throughout the day. My daughter got Weezy out of the cage for Eli to see up close. He just giggled and giggled.

It doesn't happen often, but when it does I am so thankful - my kids, working together, to clean up a mess. My son loves the power of the Dustbuster and my daughter grabbed the broom. The mess was gone in under 3 minutes - the power of teamwork!

Once again, my son is in a laundry basket. I can't explain why, but he loves laundry baskets and can be found inside of one whenever I leave an empty one laying around. He's such a ham!

Happy Friday to one and all!

Thankful Thursday


I've mentioned more than once that we've been sick lately. The reality is that all 4 of us have been sick off and on for over 3 weeks.

The good news: my son, my daughter and myself are all about 95% healthy these days! Coughs are lingering and my daughter's chapped nose looks terrible, but we are on the road to recovery and we are oh-so thankful for that!

The bad news is that my hold-out husband now has the full-blown version of it. Sinus inflammation, coughs, sneezing, drainage, tired, lack of appetite. He's missed one day of work this week, so far.

So why is this part of a Thankful Thursday post?

Maybe it's just me, but whenever I'm sick I realize how much I take my good health for granted the rest of the time. Most days I get up and do my daily tasks without a second thought about how healthy I am, how blessed I am to be able to do what I do without pain, without any physical issues to slow me down. So even though no one in my family is 100% healthy right now, I am thanking the Lord for health. For the good health we enjoy the rest of the year. For healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy spirits. And I often ask that He would make us more mindful of these things and therefore my likely to give Him thanks and praise.

When was the last time you thanked the Lord for a healthy body? Don't take it for granted - it's truly a gift from God!

I have a friend who is 40 years old and has been close to death in recent months. She was dying of a living disease and her only hope was to receive a new liver. She just got that new liver so we'll see how things progress from here. Each time I pray for her, her husband and her 3 young children, I also thank the Lord for the good health He's given me. I don't want to take it for granted nor do I want Him - the Giver of all good gifts - to think I'm ungrateful.

What are you thankful for today?

Homeschool: Dairy Farm Field Trip


Yesterday we enjoyed a very cool field trip to one of the largest dairy farms in America - Fair Oaks Farms!

Fair Oaks Farms is about a 2-hour drive from where we live, but it was worth the trip! This gigantic farm is nothing like the dairy farm I grew up on in Wisconsin, which at the time (20 years ago) was fairly high-tech and considered to be a large dairy farm, as the home to 130-200 cows.

Fair Oaks is home to 35,000+ cows, divided into 10 different barns and sheds. Cows don't have names, but instead are assigned 5-digit numbers. Each cow has a computer chip collar tag that can track milk production.

Cows are milked on a 70-cow "dairy go round" carousel that you have to see to believe! 40 semi-truck tankers of milk leave Fair Oaks every day!
There is a separate Birthing Barn, where visitors can watch a live birth. With 80 calves born each day, it's easy to see how they can plan this as a regular feature for every visitor to witness.
Those calves are put into calf hutches like this one - very similar to the ones on my family's farm growing up. Taking care of little ones like this one was my job - once in the morning and once at night. I only wish Fair Oaks Farms allowed visitors to be more up-close with the animals, but no touching is allowed (in fact, all visitors are kept behind glass or inside a tour bus when viewing the live animals, so there is no chance of contaminating the herd with outside germs - bio-security, they call it).
The interactive museum part of the tour was excellently done. This included a 3-D movie and numerous exhibits to teach us all more about cows, milk, calcium, and sustainable farming. Much of this was geared towards children, making this a great field trip destination.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Fair Oaks. My 3-year-old said his favorite part was to "see little calf come out of big cow!" I wasn't sure what he or my 7-year-old would think of watching a cow give birth, but they loved the experience.

As much as I hate to see small family farms being replaced by mega-farms, the technology to be able to run a farm on this scale is incredible to see in action.

This 5-minute clip shows more of Fair Oaks Farm - a "dairy adventure" that I highly recommend!

I Won a Book!


It's been a long week, with sickness and some other stressful situations happening at our house. Yesterday, though, there was one big bright spot in my day - I won a book! Peak 313, a blog that I follow, was giving away a few copies of Candace Cameron Bure's book "Reshaping It All" last week. I entered. And I was notified yesterday because I won!

I'm excited about winning this book because:

  • The sitcom that Candace Cameron was a part of (Full House) was my favorite TV show for years. Just to see what she's up to these days will be fun.
  • I have been trying to make lifestyle changes in recent months with the goal of living healthier. So I expect to be challenged and encouraged by this book.
I'll post a review after I've received the book and fully digested it. Right now I'm still giddy about having won something.

Monday, Monday


It's Monday. We are still battling illness at our house. We have plans tomorrow and Wednesday, so I am hoping we are better by then!

Prayers are appreciated. Thank you!

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday. We've had a long week that included many days of sickness. My 3-year-old son is battling a double ear infection, while the rest of us have cold symptoms. It's been a week of very little homeschooling and instead lots of reading and cuddling and resting. Since I feel obligated to post pictures from our week every Friday, here are the best representations I have from this past week.

This is what my daughter looked like most of this week.

And this is what my son looked like most of this week.

I hope you're getting along better than we are!

Happy Friday!

Children's Reading List: Little House in the Big Woods


My daughter and I are starting a new series of books - the Little House on the Prairie series. This week we read the first book - Little House in the Big Woods. This is one of our favorite books. We have read it together at least once before, but we have never continued on with the other books in the series.

One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is that younger children can be a part of the learning process too. My son is only 3 years old, but listened intently as we read most of this book. He especially enjoyed the pages with pictures, but sat through it all. Being read to is so good for him - to expand his vocabulary, to deepen his love for books, to let his imagination soar. This book is a great one for boys as well as girls, since there is plenty of talk about guns and hunting and bears!

Little House in the Big Woods - a timeless classic for all ages!

Some related items:

  • To see my blog post about a field trip to step back into pioneer days, click here.
  • For the blog post I did about the lapbook my daughter did to go along with the Little House in the Big Woods book, go here. The link to the website where I found the FREE lapbook materials is included in the post.
  • To see the pretzel log cabin my daughter made last year when we read this book, click here.

Works for Me Wednesday - Budget Committee Meeting


The thought of having a meeting about a budget may send some folks running for the hills. That'd be my husband. On the other h
and, I am a numbers nerd who actually enjoys balancing income and expenses, creating Excel spreadsheets and knowing exactly where our money will (and does) go. One of my household duties is to track our expenses and to create a budget draft for us to discuss. At the start of each new month, we sit down together and have a Budget Committee Meeting. :-)

My hubby's job is to be a part of the discussion.
He doesn't have to do anything but be present and participate with me in a discussion about how to spend our money. We look over the budget draft I created based on this month's expenses. Although I do the prep work, my husband is a vital part of the discussion. "We" does not mean "me" when it comes to our money. We talk about it. We decide together how much money we could spend this month on any negotiable areas (such as home improvement projects). In the past, we have actually both signed the budget as a way to say "we agree" to carry out the plans we established here on paper.

Here are some benefits of holding a monthly Budget Committee Meeting:
1) Accountability - we both look together at th
e previous month and see where we stayed on track and where we overspent. The numbers speak for themselves - no hiding anything here!
2) Just in Case - since we discuss our financial situation monthly, if anything ever happened to me, my husband would be fairly
current on our financial status. There would be no surprise bills showing up. And he knows where to find our financial documents, just in case.
3) Shared Goals - there is power in working together to make shared dreams a reality. We discuss our goals together and the
n come up with a game plan to baby-step our way to them. When we aim for a goal and reinforce that importance of that goal each month at our meeting, we are both more likely to do our part to curb spending in other areas and to do our part to help accomplish our shared goal.
4) Celebrate Financial Victories - to be on the same page, working together financially, makes each financial victory so muc
h sweeter! To see how far we've come in paying down debt, to celebrate together as a credit card is paid off and cut up, to take a vacation together after saving our pennies for months and months, to save up to give extra to a special missions project... all of these are sweeter because we can celebrate together. We each did our part and can see the fruit of our labors.

It works for me! Visit
"We Are That Family" for other Works-for-Me-Wednesday posts.

Homeschool: Air Zoo Field Trip


We enjoyed a field trip last weekend to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan (thanks to our family's "adopted" grandparents Greg and Ruth)

For us to get to Kalamazoo was just about a 2-hour drive. Then we spent a few hours at the Air Zoo. There were planes, helicopters, hot air balloons and shuttles to see.

The kids enjoyed some rides, while my husband especially enjoyed the military planes and their history. Admission is free, but the rides cost extra. There was more to it than we could see, as one part was closed for remodeling (due to re-open in June). But overall we enjoyed the trip!

Visit the Air Zoo website to learn more or plan your visit!