Family Photo Friday


 The end of August has arrived. Can you believe it?! Good-bye, Summer! Welcome, Fall!

Here are a few photos from the last week or so.

Family Game Night. Jenga. Fun.

My son, opposed to playing Jenga but very interested in building his own block tower!

Here was my daughter doing some reading for school. The garden is just off to the right in this picture. She grabbed a cucumber and started munching on it while reading. Love her.

My daughter had her friend Kat over one day. They played outside almost all day - riding bikes, catching bugs in a jar, spraying each other with the hose. 

Here's my daughter with another friend, Britney, who spent a day with us. Britney was fascinated by two things - our pet bird and our dress-up clothes. She spent A LOT of time trying to get Weezy used to her, able to sit on her finger, etc. And she spent HOURS wearing the dress-upIndian garb, insisting that she keep it on during supper ("we'll pretend that I'm an Indian joining you white men for the Thanksgiving feast") and also while she was outside playing. I did put my foot down when we made a trip to the grocery store... but she went back to it as soon as we returned home. Silly kids.

Happy Friday to you!

Garden Update


We continue to get a good harvest from our garden. 

Here's my daughter with one day's worth of harvest last week. Lots of cherry tomatoes are ripe now. The green beans are still producing, though nearing the end. We've had a few more green bell peppers ready to pick. And cucumbers... do we ever have the cucumbers! I picked 20 in one day last week. 

And I found this ENORMOUS cucumber hiding in the garden, who was obviously overlooked for quite some time.

My husband had fun turning him into Larry the Cucumber, from Veggie Tales.

We harvested all of our corn last weekend, cutting down all of the stalks. That half of the garden now looks mighty bare. We bought some corn at the local farmer's market to supplement what we grew and then spent a day processing all of the corn.

Two pots boiling.

Then the cold water bath and set to dry. 
Then cut it all off the cob.
Then into quart-size freezer bags it goes.
And now we can enjoy sweet corn all winter long! 

I've been processing the green beans little by little throughout the summer, so we will also have green beans to enjoy this winter. 

With all of the cucumbers, I decided to try some quick recipes for making pickles. They turned out ok but I will need to do some research before next summer - if we grow this many cucumbers again, I will definitely learn to make pickles. But it's been nice this year to have enough to give away to neighbors and friends and even sell a few at the veggie stand we've set up in the yard a few times.   

Happy gardening!


What to do With Disappointments?


What do you do with your disappointments?

I've been thinking a lot about disappointment lately. 
I'm wondering what is a biblical response to feeling disappointed? 

I feel disappointed. On a small scale, sometimes I'm disappointed with my kids and the silly, foolish or wrong choices they make. On a bigger scale, sometimes I feel disappointed when I consider the losses I've experienced in life. 

I've experienced infertility and miscarriage. I'm disappointed in some ways at how my life has turned out, as it relates to those areas. 

Then I think of other people I know. 
I consider the disappointment that people feel when they are divorced, especially when it was not their fault. Or I consider my friend Michele who is a leg amputee. What disappointment she must feel at how her life has turned out and what doors are now closed to her. 

Is it ok to feel disappointed? 

I read somewhere that disappointment is what we feel when we consider the gap between what we hope for and the reality of what is. I liked that definition. 

I think the answer to disappointment is two-fold: perspective and gratitude.

Perspective. Realizing that there are a million other people on this planet who would trade places in life with you in a heartbeat. Perspective reminds me that although I am disappointed with an area of life, there is more to life than that area. Perspective reminds me that this life isn't all there is anyway. Eternity will last far longer and be far better than the best earth has to offer. I can wait for that!

Gratitude. Gratitude reminds me to give thanks for what I have. Yes, I've lost children to miscarriage, but I've also birthed 2 healthy children and have the privilege of raising them. Though my family isn't the way I dreamed it would turn out, it is blessed nonetheless. I can move my eyes from the few disappointments to the millions of blessings, changing my focus from what I don't have to all that I do have. 

The conclusion I've come to is this: it's ok to feel disappointment. It's normal and it's part of grieving when it's a major loss. What's not ok is to continue to live in that valley of disappointment. To camp out there, to set up home there and decide that disappointment is what defines me. 

I feel disappointed. Some days, more so than others. Yet, I will simply walk through that valley and walk back out. I will not choose to live there permanently. Perspective and gratitude urge me onward. 

Have you experienced disappointment in your life? I'd welcome your thoughts on how to deal with it.

Baby Reflections


It's been one of those weeks when I've been reminded of life and death at every turn. 

A friend from church had a baby last week, for which I rejoice. Welcome to the world, baby Carter! 

Another friend miscarried her baby at 17 weeks along last week, for which I weep. God, keep baby Hope in Your hands. 

We had plans to get together with another couple a few days ago. They cancelled because she was feeling too emotional, as the date approached when her baby would've been due. The baby was miscarried last January and yet the pain is right there, so real, as the due date approaches. God, hold baby Lucinda close and heal her mother's heart.

I agreed to take part in a Children's Resale next month - it's basically a big garage sale with the focus on children's items. I decided that I am getting rid of most of my baby stuff. Despite the fact that I've lost 2 babies to miscarriage in the last 14 months, my oldest earthly child is almost 5 years old. How long do I hold onto the baby stuff? How long is reasonable? How long is too long? 

I guess I'm at a phase of just wanting to purge things we're not using. So I'm passing on the changing table and baby toys and most of the maternity clothes. As you can imagine, there is a lot of emotion tied to sorting through baby things. Emotions. Memories. And questions.
Two of my babies used these items. 
Two others weren't given the chance to. 
Will there be other babies? 
Am I a fool to let these items go? 
Or is there wisdom in accepting the reality of what is and trusting that God will provide "the baby stuff" we need if the time comes to need them again?

Life. Death. 
Babies are born. Others are miscarried. 
Life and death are all around. 

Life and breath come from God's hand. I have to cling to that and trust that He is still good, that He is in control. There is no other explanation for the fact that some are given life and breath while others are denied them.

Ecclesiastes 3 comes to mind.
"For everything these is a season, 
A time for everything under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest...
A time to cry and a time to laugh,
A time to grieve and a time to dance. 

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. 
He has planted eternity in the human heart." 

Life. Death. Both in God's hands. 
Though I don't always understand His purposes or His timing, He is trustworthy to make ALL things beautiful in time. Bring beauty from the ashes, Lord!

Growing Up and Hair Cuts


My daughter is growing up. She turned 9 a few weeks ago. Since then we've set some goals of things she should learn this year or be doing more independently. One of those things is taking care of her own hair. She doesn't enjoy washing her long hair or combing it out afterwards. It is a daily battle for her to brush out the tangles. So, you guessed it. She got her hair cut shorter this week, hoping that it will be easier to care for on her own.

I remember going through this when I was her age. That was the only time in my life that my hair was cut so short. Ever since I've wanted it long and I learned to take are of longer hair. Maybe it will be the same for my girl. Or maybe she'll like it short. Either way, she's old enough to make the decision for herself. 

Welcome to 9 years old, my short-haired girl!

Field Trip: Fish Hatchery



We recently went on a field trip to the Bodine State Fish Hatchery, which is part of Indiana's Department of Nature Resources. They produce hundreds of thousands of fish to put into the local St Joseph River and Lake Michigan. They deal with only 2 species of fish, though - the Coho Salmon and the Skamania Steelhead Trout. The goal is for these fish to eat a type of fish in Lake Michigan that has become extremely overpopulated. 

Inside the fish hatchery, we saw models of what the fish eggs and baby fish look like. We saw the areas where the fish are moved to as they progress from egg to baby to toddler stages. The hatchery gets the fish eggs between November and January, so there were no fish at those early stages to see during our visit.

We were able to see numerous pools of "teenage" fish. There were about 15,000 fish in each round pool. We had an opportunity to throw a fist-full of fish food in and watch the fish clamor and jump to the surface to eat.

There were large pools of adult fish, which were each about 2-3 feet long. These were separated by gender, so that eggs could be harvested from the female fish and then hatched in the hatchery for next year's crop.

At the end of our tour, we watched a brief video and had a Q&A time with the tour guide. 

This field trip was organized by the homeschool co-op we are a part of this fall. They have put together many excellent field trip opportunities for the homeschool group. Today's field trip had over 40 participants and there were another 40+ people who wanted to participate, who will go on a second identical field trip next week!  

Field trips provide such a neat opportunity to learn about something we otherwise could only read about. To see, touch, feel and experience first-hand makes learning fun!

CVS Freebies


It's been a long time since I've shared any CVS freebies or deals. The reason? Because I haven't taken advantage of any CVS freebies or deals lately. Other things have taken priority and couponing has been pushed to the back burner. 

And I'm ok with that. I know there are seasons of life when priorities shift and less important things are put on hold. Couponing is definitely not a top priority and can easily be set aside. 
However, this week I made a trip to CVS and walked away with 6 items for 40 cents total. I had coupons that when paired with this week's sales made for free or almost free items. 

Here's what I got: 4 cans of Bumblebee tuna, 
1 box of Pop Tarts 
(on clearance, because of the Olympics packaging), 
1 bottle of Herbal Essence conditioner.

Total before coupons = $8.63
Total after coupons = $0.40
I had a coupon for a free Herbal Essence product, a $2 off CVS coupon good for any product, 2 coupons for $1 off 2 Bumblebee products. The tuna was on sale for $1 per can, so after coupons it was 50 cents per can. I also had $1 in Extra Care Bucks (like a gift card to use only at CVS). After all of that, my total was 40 cents out of pocket. That's less than 7 cents each for those 6 products. 

Thank you, CVS!

Garden Update


Our garden continues to produce. Every day or two we harvest a good amount of green beans and more cucumbers than we know what to do with. Note to self: add "canning supplies" to Christmas list with intentions of making pickles from next year's cucumbers. 

Our sweet corn was ready to harvest this week. We have been eating a few ears off and on, but this week we picked the rest of the corn. One day I blanched 36 ears, which produced 6 bags of approximately 3 cups of corn in each bag. Those are in the freezer for enjoying this winter. Then last night I did another 20 smaller ears that produced 3 more bags. The corn is very sweet and tastes delicious! 

We also have been eating cantaloupe from the garden this week. Fresh from the garden is WAY better than store-bought!

We have a lot of cherry tomatoes which are slowly turning from green to red. They are a great snack while I'm working in the garden. :-) And every now and then we have a few green bell peppers ready to pick. 

Our green beans seem to be almost done producing. They've done really well, giving us a dozen or more bags for the freezer in addition to fresh beans to eat at many meals in the last month.

Family Photo Friday


Friday is here again. Yahoo! 

Friday means posting family photos, so here are a few shots from our week. 

One day this week my son and I were reading a book together on the couch. I heard a loud truck coming down the street, we looked out the window just in time to watch an oversize-load semi truck SMASH our mailbox! 
(Ours is on the left in the picture) 
My son started crying, while I raced into action. I caught the company name from the side of the truck and immediately called their headquarters. I grabbed a few photos of the mailbox. I walked down the block to the neighbors who are having a new driveway poured and I sought out a company representative to explain this situation to. Within 24 hours, they had replaced it with a brand new mailbox. Way to go, Rieth Riley!

Here's my son being a big helper again. He loves to work with Dad on anything and everything. He also loves to work outside, so when Dad heads out to work on the compost pile in the backyard, my son gladly follows. I love my son's (and husband's) work ethic and desire to jump in and help get things done!

Last weekend my daughter enjoyed a day at camp, compliments of Girl Scouts. This was a free day that she earned because she sold 400+ boxes of cookies during the annual cookie sale. Here she is with 2 of the other girls from our troop who were part of "The 400 Club."  They traveled about 2 hours away to this camp, so they also enjoyed eating out on the way and again on the way home. At the camp, they enjoyed a bounce house, a zip line, go karts and many other fun activities - all free for them.

Daddy continues to work on this homemade doll house for my daughter. You can see it's really coming along. Stairs and walls are in. I think some carpeting and paint/wall paper is next.

Here's the whole gang helping clean up supper dishes. I always appreciate their help, as it goes SO much faster than if I do it all myself.  

My husband took this picture to remind us of how my son LOVES to eat waffles for breakfast each morning (or as often as I'll allow him to).  He can now eat 3 full waffles all by himself. He's one hungry guy in the morning!

My daughter had her friend Kat over for a play date. Dress-up is a favorite activity, so she, Kat and my son all got in on that.  

Happy Friday to you! 
Seize the day!

A Gold Medal for My Man


You thought the Olympics were over. Think again! 
My husband just won a gold medal in the all-around competition.

Employee: He's made it to the 5-year mark with his current job. He often goes in a little early or stays a little late, just to finish a task, even though it's not required. He's committed to "a job well done" and his work ethic is commendable. 

Student: Last week he wrapped up his summer classes (working towards his MA in Library Science). Summer classes are tough - the equivalent of a 13-week course packed into 6 weeks of intense study. He took 2 classes this summer and did very well in both of them. Way to go!   

 Daddy: Despite being busy with work and school studies, this man finds time for what really matters! The kids know that when Daddy gets home, he'll have time to talk with them about their day and play with a few toys or read a few books with them. He's active and engaged as a dad. 

Marriage: Speaking of what really matters, he keeps our marriage as a top priority. Emailing and calling throughout the day to stay in touch, leaving time for heart-to-heart talks in the evenings and stepping up to help lighten my load at home whenever he can earns him a 10 out of 10 in this category! 
Handyman: This is an extra category thrown in simply because he wears this hat so well too. He spent a day helping clean out the basement this week. For cleaning window wells, killing spiders and moving heavy furniture, he scored highly. In addition, he recently saved the family thousands by installing new brakes and a catalytic converter on our vehicle by himself. Very, very impressive.

You have earned that gold medal, dear! 
Thanks for being such a stellar guy!

A New School Year Has Begun


Everyone is gearing up for the return to school. Back-to-school sales grab our attention at the stores. The calendar tells us that summer is coming to an end and fall is just around the corner. 

We choose to homeschool year-round. For us, that means that we start a new school year in early summer - May or June. We usually end around April or May the next year, taking 11-12 months to get through the material instead of schooling for 9 months and taking a 3-month break. We take breaks as we need them and generally school 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5. It's just what works best for us. 

So, we're already underway with homeschool, about 30 days in. My daughter is in 4th grade this year. We are using Sonlight  again this year. In fact, it's the second half of their American History curriculum, so we're picking up where we left off with 3rd grade - the Civil War era. Already we've enjoyed excellent literature and are trying to see the issues of slavery and state's rights from all sides. It's a fascinating study. 

In addition to the great history element, she's doing a CD-ROM math program called Teaching Textbooks. She did this last year and it was a great success. I also discovered a website called Xtra Math that is FREE for anyone to use, to focus on drilling basic math facts. In my opinion, Teaching Textbooks is a little lax in the area of drilling those math facts that simply must be memorized (basic addition, multiplication facts 1-10). Xtra Math gives you a few placement tests at the beginning to test your skills, then gives you games and drills to do daily (or a few times a week) to keep drilling those facts into your mind. 

We've added Rosetta Stone Spanish this year, which is also a computerized program. She's enjoying that so far. We are entertaining the idea of going on a mission trip to Costa Rica in 2 years, which led us to want to introduce Spanish at this point in her education.

Sonlight provides the Science curriculum, which focuses on Electricity and Magnetism for 4th grade. There have already been a few experiments with batteries and light bulbs. 

We use Sequential Spelling for spelling. We found another website - Spelling City - which allows me to enter the entire spelling list and then it gives the spelling test to my daughter. It also does word games with that list of words, if she needs more practice. I've found Spelling City helpful for 2 reasons. First, my daughter likes using the computer for school, so anything that can be done on the computer is automatically more enjoyable for her. Second, she learned basic typing skills last year as part of 3rd grade. Now when she uses Spelling City for spelling, it's like two subjects in one - spelling AND typing. She's learning to spell the words but also getting typing practice. The only down side is that we have 1 computer at home for all of us to share, so as she is using it more and more for school, it's available less and less for any of the rest of us to use. Note to self: look into getting a second computer or laptop.

There's also handwriting and language arts, which seem to be my daughter's least favorite subjects. She remains excited about piano lessons and continues with those. She's getting to the point of being able to play simplified versions of many familiar songs (Yankee Doodle, Jesus Loves Me, Camptown Races, etc), which is great motivation for her to continue on. 

The biggest change in our homeschooling this year is that we've joined a homeschool co-op. This is a group of 50 other homeschooling families in our area who get together each Wednesday morning at a local church to provide supplemental class opportunities for our kids. All the moms help teach/lead/assist different classes. The kids have choices amongst 2-6 different class offering, so they can pick what they will like best. There are 4 class hours, so they will take 4 classes that last for the fall. Then new classes will be offered in the spring. I'm teaching a US Geography class for the elementary students (including my daughter who choose to take the class). She's also taking Ballet, American Girl book study and Space Camp. All the kids are required to take Gym, Ballet or Martial Arts - since sports opportunities are quite limited for homeschooled kids. All children from babies up through high school can attend, so my son will be in a PreSchool class. We're excited about the co-op, which starts in September. We know a few other families/kids in the co-op but anticipate making a lot of new friends through the group, as well as learning new things that otherwise wouldn't be a part of our homeschool.

As far as my son goes, we will continue to work on basic preschool concepts - shapes, patterns, counting above 10, letter recognition and sounds. School for him is much less formal, involving a lot of playing and reading books and works around my daughter's 4th grade schedule. 

Next year will be the biggest adjustment yet - juggling a 5th grader and a Kindergartener. But that's not my concern right now. For now we're enjoying 4th grade and preschool... and love learning together at home. 

Sin and Culture


Ever since the whole Chick-Fil-A, free speech, gay marriage debate blew up a few weeks ago, I've been wanting to post a few thoughts. 

I have strong feelings about the issue, but I don't want to be political. I want to be biblical. 

Sometimes the American church jumps on a bandwagon or a cause so quickly that I wonder if anyone stops to consider the implications of the jump. This may be one of those times. 

The Bible does have a lot to say about homosexuality. The clearest passage on the topic is Romans 1. This passage talks of God "giving people over" to sinful desires, shameful lusts and a depraved mind. Why? Because it's what the people wanted. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." Read the entire passage. It's dark. It's bleak. It could be applied to the world we live in today without much of a stretch. 

This got me thinking about Sodom. Remember Sodom in the Old Testament? Go back to Genesis 19. Two angels - who looked like men - came to Sodom to rescue Lot from the coming destruction. The local men from Sodom nearly bang down Lot's door as they sought the visiting men. Why? Verse 5 tells us, "Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them." As if this isn't bad enough, verse 4 explains further that this mob of men included ALL the men of the city, both YOUNG and OLD! It sounds like homosexuality was a big problem in Sodom. And God did judge Sodom severely for their sin. Was it homosexuality alone that brought down His wrath? Hmmm.

If I were judging Sodom, I might put homosexuality on the top of their list of sins. Somehow this sin seems so much bigger and worse than other sins. 

Isn't it interesting how we tend to rank sins? Some are worse. Others, like a little white lie, aren't so bad. Some deserve judgement while others can be overlooked. Reminds me of a book I taught on last year called "Respectable Sins" which dealt with this very thing - how there are some sins in our culture which have become acceptable or even respectable. 

So this could be the end of the lesson and unfortunately for many, this is where it ends. Homosexuality is wrong and sinful. I can be thankful I'm not gay. I can point the finger at all those sinful folks and be glad I'm not one of them. End of story.

Well, there's a little chapter tucked away in the little-known book of Ezekiel that blew my judgmental soap box apart. Read Ezekiel 16, especially verses 43-63. Did you notice verse 49? It clearly states: "This was the sin of your sister Sodom - she and her daughters were ARROGANT, OVERFED and UNCONCERNED; they did not help the poor and needy." Whoa! Of all the sin that was taking place in Sodom - including homosexual behavior - God is listing these 3 as their primary issues?! 

Do you find this convicting? I sure do! 

I live in America. If any nation on earth could be described as ARROGANT, OVERFED and UNCONCERNED... it is us! 

And to our shame, the American church is holding the culture's hand on this. The American church is in many ways ARROGANT. The American church in many ways is OVERFED. The American church in many ways is UNCONCERNED.

And to bring it home even more, I admit that I am in many ways ARROGANT, OVERFED and UNCONCERNED. 

Lord, we ask for your mercy on us as a nation, as a church, and as individuals. We do not deserve blessing. We deserve wrath. We walk in arrogance. We are overfed. We are unconcerned about the poor, the needy, or frankly anybody besides ourselves. Forgive us, Lord. We are no better than any other sinners. The only hope for them or us... is You! Jesus, you are the only hope of rescue from sin, rescue from ourselves, rescue from eternal wrath and destruction. Thank You for loving us despite our sin. Thank you for demonstrating Your love for us even when we were still sinners, still lost. You poured out love on us. Thank You for that love and grace. Enable us to then show such love and grace for others, who remain lost in their sin. May they one day come to Your Kingdom because they have experienced Your great love, shown through others... and maybe even shown through me. Amen.

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday once again. August is off and running! 

As is my Friday custom, I have a few photos to share.

My son likes to help with yard work. When our neighbor was out with her weed-eater, my son found a hose extension that he pretended was a weed-eater. He's a creative helper!

Here's a close up shot of my son. Lots of folks are commenting on how tall he is getting. He is really growing, as children do.

As much as my boy is growing, he still likes to cuddle with me now and then. I cherish these moments, as I know that they won't last much longer.

One of my daughter's birthday gifts was a matching outfit for her and her American Girl doll.

My daughter had her friend Regan over one day this week. Regan was fascinated with our bird Weezy and was ecstatic when Weezy trusted her enough to hop on her finger for a ride. 

My birthday was on Tuesday. One of the things I promised my mom was that I'd wear this small birthday balloon in my hair for the day. And I did.

I hope your week was great. Maybe next week will be even better! If you've still got items on your summer bucket-list - like I do - now is the time to get them scheduled and done. Summer will be over before we know it!

Weekend Visit


Last weekend my mother and my niece Isabelle came to visit. Isabelle hadn't visited since we moved to our current home 3+ years ago. We had a nice weekend - with the Birthday Party, making homemade pizza together, running errands, going to church, eating brunch at a restaurant, and just hanging out at home. 

Me and my mom - any resemblance?

Smiling mom.

Isabelle really liked playing with our parakeet Weezy.

Here's my daughter and Isabelle rolling out pizza dough.

And the kids working their veggie stand in the front yard, selling peppers and cucumbers from the garden. 
They made $16! 

The girls wanted to be twins for church on Sunday morning - pink dresses, matching nail polish, matching hair styles. They may be cousins but they don't look much alike!

And the 4 of us - mom, me, Isabelle and my daughter - making deviled eggs for the birthday party.

My son was left out of some of the weekend fun. He loved it when Isabelle would sit down and read to him. 

My mom has now made the trip down here from Wisconsin TWICE this year, while we haven't made it up there even once yet. We have a trip planned for a long weekend up that way soon!