Family Photo Friday


It's Friday. At my house, it's rainy and dreary - not a fun Friday!

About a week ago we had warm temps and were in shorts. Most of this week we've been back to "normal" for Spring - with cold mornings but warmer afternoons. My daughter (here with her American Girl doll, in their matching shirts) is still so excited about last week's trip to Chicago.

Happy Friday!

This Life and the Next


Here's another wonderful Francis Chan video. It's only 4 minutes but it makes a point that I think about every day, especially after losing my 2 babies through miscarriage. Heaven is my comfort, knowing that this life - the little red part on the rope - is so miniscule by comparison to heaven, eternity, timeless living forever and ever.

We are like grass. We wither and die. Life is fleeting. Life is short. Even if we live to be 100, it's a vapor, a breath, and we're gone. Whatever trials and troubles we face here are momentary, temporary, and light when seen in their proper perspective.

How I long for that world to come! How I long for my faith to be made sight! How I am challenged to live each day that I have here on earth to the fullest - not for my comfort, not for myself, but for God, for His glory, for His will in my life. I certainly don't do it perfectly but I strive for what He has for me, both in this life and in the next.

None of us are promised tomorrow. Are you ready to meet the Lord when you cross that line, from the red part to the rest of eternity forever and ever? You don't have to be afraid. You can have peace and you can rest in God's goodness. Unsure? Read the Bible for yourself and discover the love He has for you and His desire to spend eternity with you.

Trip to Chicago


Last Friday I took my two children to Chicago, to fulfill the promise I made to my daughter last September that she could earn a trip to the American Girl store in Chicago when she read through all of the historical American Girl books.

The train ride and Chicago visit were more "firsts" that happened last week. My husband wasn't able to go with us, so I can say it was a first for me too - first trip to the big city with two young children. Besides being very tired at the end of the day, it went very well.

My kids were so very excited for the train ride. It was 2 and 1/2 hours one way, so it was a LOT of time to be on the train. Thankfully they both spent most of the time looking out the window at the scenery. However, when we left it was still dark, so that was a rather boring hour!

It was a foggy day in Chicago. It rained later in the day but not when we were walking from the train station to the mall. Here are the kids on the bridge over the Chicago River.

While we were walking, we stumbled upon this 26 foot statue of Marilyn Monroe. That definitely wasn't there 10 years ago when I lived in Chicago!

My daughter in front of the display case with the historical girls. Cecile is her favorite historical girl (the one in blue, seen above my daughter's head in this picture).
My daughter posing with "McKenna" - the 2012 Girl of the Year. My daughter isn't very familiar with the modern "Girls of the Year" - as our focus has been on the historical girls rather than the modern-day books.

My daughter had a budget of $35 to spend at the American Girl store. She already owned (second-hand) a doll, who accompanied us. My daughter settled on buying a shirt for herself and a matching shirt for her doll. That's as far as $35 will go at the American Girl store (which we knew ahead of time so we anticipated not getting much there).

My 4-year-old son went with us. He was most excited about the train ride and visiting the Lego store (which is right-next-door to the American Girl store at the mall in Chicago). So here are a few pictures from our visit to the Lego store.

The kids posing with Woody, made out of Legos. My rambunctious boy nearly knocked him over. Yah, that's my son.

We loved the fact that the Lego store has Legos out for kids to play with. This was a great outlet for the kids, after spending hours on the train and visiting the American Girl store where you can't really play with anything.

One of the "must do" items the kids had come up with was a taxi ride. So after our time at the mall, we took a taxi back to the train station. No picture of that, but my daughter says it was a crazy adventure that involved lots of honking. [Having lived in Chicago for a few years, I thought it was tame. Perspective changes everything.]

First train ride.
First walk in downtown Chicago.
First time at the American Girl store.
First time at the Lego store.
First taxi ride.

A promise fulfilled.

A good day!

Wordless Wednesday

A Week of Firsts


It's been a week of firsts around here.

It's the first day of Spring. Our daffodils are enjoying the sunshine and we are enjoying them! The sight of spring flowers just makes my heart glad!

First visit to the dentist for my 4-year-old son. No cavities. Just a big bright smile from this brave boy! His nighttime prayers included "Thank you, God, for the dentist."

First time rollerskating for both the kids, at a birthday party last weekend. Very proud of both of them, finding the courage to try something new.

First time this year enjoying a picnic lunch outside.

Happy First Day of Spring to you!

Family Photo Friday


It's Family Photo Friday! Who can believe March is half over already?! Where I live, spring has already sprung and we couldn't be happier about that! My wonderful husband giving my son a piggyback ride to bed.
Sure do love these guys!
My son with his blocks. He loves building with his blocks. He also loves construction sites. He is overjoyed that we drive past 2 new houses being constructed as we drive into town from our neighborhood. We always check the progress and notice any big trucks/diggers that are working. Here my daughter and I are posing with a map of the USA on which my daughter wrote all of the names of the states. Her spelling is atrocious but her geography is wonderful! She is learning her states and next will come the capitals. Notice that she is winking for this picture. So cute.

Happy Friday to you!

Children's Reading List: American Girl Julie and Lapbook


Well, my daughter has done it! She's finished reading ALL of the American Girl historical books!

Julie's books were the last to be read. Julie lived in California in 1974. I admit I was more leery about these books than the others. I wondered how the hippie, free-love movement would play into these books. There is a book that deals specifically with gender equality as well and I wondered how this would be presented. Julie's parents are divorced, which was another factor that played into my unease. [Part of my concern is related to American Girl's website, which, in my opinion, takes the feminist agenda beyond gender equality and into the realm of gender superiority]

I did not preview the books before my daughter read them. I did, however, talk with my daughter about my concerns. I asked her to be on the look-out as she read for anything that bothered her and to talk with me about it. And I asked more questions about the books as she read each one. Some good discussions were born out of these talks and my concerns, so I am glad we could talk about it together. Part of growing up is realizing that other people have different views - we don't all think alike and that is fine - and yet we should know where we stand on things.

We discussed President Nixon and Watergate, as well as laws about gender equality in schools and sports. We talked about families and how divorce used to be uncommon. We made the connection between women going to work during WWII while their husbands were off fighting in the war (something we talked about when reading Molly's books) and women wanting to continue to work outside the home after WWII, creating 2-income families as well as the need for daycare.

As we have done with all of the other American Girls, we made a lapbook for Julie. A lapbook is like a fancy character study. All of the templates we used can be found here, for free.

Here's my daughter with the cover of the lapbook - a drawing of Julie.

This is page one of the lapbook, with tabs detailing Who is Julie, Mother, Father, Nutmeg (Julie's pet bunny rabbit), Changes in Julie's Life, and 4 fun facts about life in 1974.

Here my daughter is showing page 2 of the lapbook, with tabs describing Julie's Favorite Things, styles of Housing in Julie's day, Conflict that Julie experienced with others, some facts about the world in 1974, and a map showing where Julie lived (San Francisco).

My daughter began reading the American Girl books in September and now has finished all of them.
My favorite part - the fact that my daughter is learning about American history but she thinks she's just reading for fun!

I'm so proud of her! She has earned a trip to Chicago to the American Girl store. We are planning that trip right now and will surely post some pictures afterwards.

Miscarriage: Grief the Second Time Around


It's been almost 3 weeks since miscarriage #2. I haven't been blogging much, but I know people are wondering how I'm doing.

To my surprise, I'm actually coping better than I expected to be.

When I miscarriage last summer, it was devastating at many levels. The grief was worsened by post-partum depression and it took many months to feel like I was out of that pit of despair. This time I haven't experienced the post-partum depression symptoms I had with my other 3 pregnancies. I'm thanking God for that!

I also feel as though I have come to grips with losing a child, so in that way I am not as caught off guard this time around. I knew from the moment the pregnancy test was positive that miscarriage was a very real possibility. My heart immediately began thinking through the "what if it happened again" scenario. My tears of joy were mixed with prayers for protection, for God's will, and for thanks for this new life, no matter what the outcome.

Another reason my grief is different now is perspective. It took 6 months after my last miscarriage for God to change my perspective on death and heaven and eternity, through much wrestling and struggling. I can truly rejoice that my babies are there in heaven, with Him, living in joy and peace and all good things. I have treasures in heaven waiting for me - they are my children! As much as I long for them and wish I had them here on earth to hold, time passes so very quickly. It really won't be long until I can be with them for all eternity. So I can wait patiently until that reunion happens.

I have also seen God's hand of mercy and love on our family. Many friends stepped forward to bring us meals or watch our kids for a few hours as ways of showing their support for us during our grief. This meant more than they could know. The first week after this miscarriage, I was more exhausted and drained than I have ever felt in my life (even after "real" childbirth, believe it or not). My husband was also sick during this time. Having meals brought in was a huge relief and allowed us all to get the extra rest we needed. I thank God for providing people to support us and stand with us in our sorrows.

I do ask that you continue to pray for our family. Grief is a difficult road to travel and it takes many turns. I've mentioned before that grief comes in waves. While I may not be overwhelmed at this moment, the next wave could come at any time. Your prayers for us as we process through our loss are much appreciated.

For now, we trust in God's goodness. We rest in His grace and mercy and love for us. We still have hope. And we look forward all the more to the wonders and joys that await us in His heavenly Kingdom!

My Boy Starts School!


My boy is 4 and won't be 5 until next winter. He's a ways from being ready for Kindergarten, but he is old enough to want to "do school" with his big sister.

So recently, he started school!

Daily we do a few puzzles together. We talk about the alphabet and work on letter sounds and recognition.

I had downloaded Funnix, which teaches pre-reading skills through an interactive computer program. This program was offered free a few months ago, so I got it for nothing and have now pulled it out to start using with my son, once or twice a week.

I also purchased some fun preschool manipulatives for my son, through My Father's World. When these arrived, he had his own "box day" and ooh-ed and aah-ed over everything. I allowed him to open one box of items, with which he promptly built a 5-foot long "shooter." Yes, he is all boy!

One thing he is quite excited about is the music CD that came with his box. Big sister has been memorizing Scripture through music throughout 3rd grade. All 3 of us - big sister, little brother and myself - have memorized about a dozen passages of Scripture so far this year, thanks to the music CD that came as part of her 3rd grade curriculum. So, little brother has naturally assumed that part of school is listening to music and singing along. He is super excited to have his own CD now, to teach him (and all of us) some new songs and verses.
Setting anything to music makes it SO much easier to memorize!

School is in session!

Girl Scouts: World Thinking Day


A few weeks ago the Girl Scouts celebrated World Thinking Day. For the troops in our council, it meant being assigned one country to learn about and prepare a presentation/skit to share in front of the entire council (about 300 other Girl Scouts plus their leaders).
Since our troop is made up of homeschooled girls, this opportunity is especially unique and welcome. Our girls aren't familiar with "all school" programs, like a Christmas program, that involve an entire gymnasium-full of people. World Thinking Day gave them a chance to see their troop as part of a bigger group of Girl Scouts, all enjoying similar things and learning new things from one another.

Our troop was assigned the country of India. Since December, the girls have been studying about the country and spending part of their meeting time creating an India poster presentation, gathering facts about India, cre
ating small cards to share with visitors to the booth, even visiting a local Indian store to learn more about Indian culture. The store owner lent the troop clothes to wear for Thinking Day. The troop's presentation for the big group was an Indian fashion show, highlighting the different ways that Indian women wear their "saris" which is often based on the part of India they come from. After the numerous presentations, the girls walk around, visiting each other country's booth to learn new things about that country and sometimes even sample foods from that country (like Swiss chocolate and Swedish meatballs).

If World Thinking Day is meant to bring about a greater awareness of the world, then I think it was a success. If World Thinking Day was to encourage our girls to try new things (like performing a skit in front of a lot of people or eating new foods), then I think it was a success.

This has nothing to do with World Thinking Day, but it's too cute not to share. My girl decided to make a matching Brownie vest for her doll. I love her creativity.

For numerous reasons, we will not be continuing with Girl Scouts after this school year. However, the year or so that we've participated in Girl Scouts has been a positive experience. Both my daughter and I have made new friends with the fellow Scouts (and moms) and those relationships can certainly continue outside of Girl Scouts. My daughter has also been stretched out of her comfort zone and given opportunities that she wouldn't have otherwise (especially big group things, like World Thinking Day).

So, thank you, Girl Scouts!

Children's Reading List: American Girl Molly and Lapbook


My daughter is zipping through the American Girl books, reading them in historical order. She's now finished Molly's books. Molly lived in 1944 and her father was serving as a medical doctor with the military overseas. WWII was fascinating to my daughter, which surprised me a bit. She learned about victory gardens and recycled scrap metal and other creative ways that all Americans pitched in to help the war effort.

In addition to the 6 "Molly" storybooks, there is a supplemental book we used called
Welcome to Molly's World. This book helped give historical context to Molly's life. It's full of real photographs and brief snippets of life in 1944, with topics such as fashion, employment, the issues at stake in WWII, the role of women on the home front, a map of what a small town may have looked like, a cut-away shot of what a typical American home looked like, who was President at the time, etc. There are other books like this for the other American Girls also and they are a real treasure, if you want to delve more into the historical context of each girl.

As we've done with all the American Girls we've read about, we created a lapbook for Molly. A lapbook is like a fancy and colorful book report / character study. All of the materials we used for the lapbook can be found for free here.

Here is my daughter showing the cover picture of Molly, which she drew. Here she shows page 1 of the lapbook, with lift-the-flap items for Who is Molly, her mother, her father, her best friend, conflict (who does she clash with in the stories), and 4 quick facts about life in 1944. Here is page 2, describing Molly's house, fashion, favorite things, her pet dog, and a map showing where Molly lived in America.

I think Molly was one of my daughter's favorite girls to study. Now, though, she's moved on to the last American Girl - Julie - from 1974. She's already told me "Mom, you should be buying those train tickets to Chicago now!" When she's done with Julie, she will have earned a trip to the American Girl store in Chicago. It won't be long now!

Now, I better put on my thinking cap for what book series she should start on next. Hmmmm. Any ideas would be welcome!