Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress Audios

If you've never read John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, you need to.  If you have a hard time concentrating on the old language, here is the next best alternative, The Pilgrim's Progess on audio CD. We have owned this fun dramatized set for some time, and we never tire of listening to it!  As a matter of fact, the girls were listening again this very day.  (Soon they will have their actor's accents perfected and all the lines memorized.)  I have a link to this classic set for $29.99 on my sidebar, but today I got a better sales ad from LES (Library and Ed Services). You can own this epic 6-CD audio dramatization of Christian's journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, featuring 77 actors, sound effects, and professional music, for ONLY $14.95, yes ladies and gentlemen, you heard me, only $14.95 (plus shipping and handling)!  This price is only good for seven days, so order before midnight  tonight!

Think I could get a job in sales? 

P.S. LES membership is free, and they won't sell your email address. We get ads from them about once a week with discounts up to 80% on books and other media.  I recently bought most of the Moody science videos from LES for only $2.00 each!  And no, I'm not an affiliate.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Can Yu Reed This?

Okay, maybe I need to change the name of this blog to something like "Showing off Emily"; she is getting way too much attention here, and my other kids are probably feeling left out.  But I had to post this.  My sweet friend, PlainJane, has been graciously and patiently emailing my four-year-old.  Emily sits here and composes her own responses.  PlainJane wrote first in purple, them Em responded in black. See if you can decipher her phonetic spelling, lol! (It can't be any worse than "whole language" method, can it?)

dear plainjane

Hi Emily,


How are you?  I hope you are having a good day! i am stil sic and i hav spots


It is very cold here, so we are all staying inside, even ourCat and  Dog 5.  What are you doing today?  l am  loocing at sum picshurs.



I thought I would give you a meme just like your mom & sisters do, so here it goes...


What is your favorite color?  green



What is your favorite food? putaato soop



What is your favorite book? go dog go



What is your favorite thing to play? ciyu



Have a good day dear!




Much Love to You and Your Family,    


For those of you who need tranlastion, "ciyu" is Caillou.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Still On a Quest for Knowledge...

More four-year-old queries out of the blue:

How do you shrug?
What's a planet?
What does "mediocre" mean?
What things aren't precious? Are scissors precious?
What is a bond servant?
What does "injured" mean?
What is moisture?
What would we do if Amy got bitten by an alligator on her leg? Would we take her to the doctor? What would she use? A cane?
Why do some spoons have holes in them?
I know what "round" means, but what's a merry-go?? LOL!

I was answering all of these questions twice, until I discovered this child has the annoying habit of saying, "WHAT?"    Now, instead of repeating myself, I ask her, "What did I just say?" And she can always repeat the answer word for word. We'll soon be rid of that bad habit!   (Now we just need to work on some of mine...)

New Ideas for Old Dress

Do any of you crafty ladies know what I can do with my old wedding dress, besides donate it?  Mom and Dad aren't willing to store it any more, and I don't really want it around here. Somewhere I saw a christening gowns made out of wedding dresses, but I'm not doing that... a pillow? LOL.  Arghh.  I can't just throw it away, and it's not worth selling; no one would want to pay what it's worth to me monetarily.  And no, my girls aren't going to wear it.  Anybody else have this predicament??

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lauren? Are You Out There??

Once upon a time, long, long ago, my family moved to LeHavre, France, having been transfered by the company my dad worked for. At the time, I was merely four years old.  Mom and Dad met another American family there, and as it would happen in a foreign land, the two families being far from home and having their homeland and language in common, the parents became fast friends.  While the dads worked at the office and struggled to communicate engineering in a foreign language, the two moms and all the little kids traveled all over the place in a little red square-back Volkswagon. While my own mother was a bit timid about striking out on her own in unknown territory, the other mother had no fear. She was an assertive and independent woman, and together the two ladies made their way to some beautiful and obscure French sites with six or seven kids in tow. (Obviously those were the days before car seat laws!)

Red-headed Lauren was the only girl in the other family, and she was a year older than I.  I don't think we went to the same school, but we did everything else together. (I hope I am remembering this right.  Probably not -- I can't even remember to take meat out of the freezer for supper!) She lived in a big old three-story house with a dungeon beneath it.  Seems to me it had long ago been the home of some Gaulic military captain or something.  The top floor was a big playroom, a wide open space where noisy children were stowed away while parents visited beneath somewhere. I remember rollerskates up there, maybe bikes?  A chin-up bar in the doorway?  And three loud, boisterous, scary older brothers of Lauren's. There was a stone wall that ran along the road in front of their home, and Lauren and Todd (my little brother) and I played "hide from the bad guys" by jumping down and hiding behind it whenever a car drove by. And the dungeon.  This family hosted a Halloween party one year (maybe it was Mardi-Gras?), in the dungeon, which was the perfect setting, at least good enough to scare a four-year-old girl out of her wits. It was dark and damp, and one had to be careful not to fall into the cistern.  I remember so little about those years...maybe I dreamed all this except for the part about my friend, Lauren.

After a couple of years, the other family moved back to the USA, to one of the southern states.  Soon after, we also returned to the US and visited our friends before making our way to the west coast. And then? Almost no contact. All these years.  I think I saw Lauren's high school graduation photo, and I heard she married a Frenchman. She has two boys and soon to be two adopted little girls from China.

Well, once in a great while our moms still exchange a note.  And guess what I just found out?  My old buddy Lauren is an avid HOMESCHOOLER!  I can't help wondering if she is out there in HomeschoolBlogger-Land somewhere...

So Lauren, if you are out there, please leave me a comment and say hello -- "Bonjour" -- I remember that much, but you'd better write the rest in English, lol!  And tell me if I am nuts or what.  Do you remember it like I do??

Dutch Baby (Pannekoeken?)

In a post which I was writing yesterday I mentioned my inability to remember to take meat out of the freezer for supper, as well as other points about my poor memory. (I forgot to post the entry, and it is in my drafts, lol. No, not really, I didn't forget. It is waiting for a photo.) Well, no surprise, last night I had to improvise the evening meal.  DH said he would be happy to eat pancakes, but Emily, who is a very particular eater, voted for Dutch Baby. She does not care for pancakes.  Normally I would not make something special just for her, but last night I relented. This light, over-sized pancake is quite impressive when it comes out of the oven, and the kids love it.   And, it is VERY EASY to do.  Problem is, the size I can make won't feed the whole family. (For us it's a better lunch choice.) So the kids ate Dutch Baby, while Mom and Dad ate pancakes.  You can top this with powdered sugar and lemon juice, pancake syrup, jam, fruit and whipped cream,  hot pie filling, or even stir-fry!  Or serve with sausages and a green salad.

You'll need a large container -- a wide overproof frying pan or roasting pan, even a foil one will do, just so it isn't too deep, not much over three inches. To make the Dutch Baby, place butter in pan (see chart below) and set pan in 425° F oven until the butter is melted and foamy.  Meanwhile, quickly mix the batter.  Put the eggs in the blender and blend on high speed for 60 seconds.  With motor running, gradually add the milk, and then the flour, and blend for 30 more seconds. (Or do it in a bowl with a whisk. Fast!) Carefully remove pan from oven and pour in batter.  Return pan to oven for 20-25 minutes, or until pancake is puffy and well-browned. Serve immediately. For a sweet pancake, dust with nutmeg and serve with topping.  Makes 3-6 servings. Enjoy!

Pan Size Butter Eggs Milk & Flour
2-3 qt 1/4 cup 3 3/4 cup ea
3-4 qt 1/3 cup 4 1 cup ea
4-4 1/2 qt 1/2 cup 5 1 1/4 cups ea
4 1/2 - 5 qt 1/2 cup 6 1 1/2 cups ea

Recipe from Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes II

Friday, January 25, 2008

Music Practice

Strains of lovely music (and some not so lovely) fill our house daily.  We are all enduring the rigors of violin and piano practices, which are often accompanies by dissonant notes, harsh screeches (made by either student OR instrument), and cries of frustration.  Mistakes can be discouraging, but they are a part of learning!  If you never make any mistakes, it means you are learning nothing new.  If you are an expert at everything you do, you are not growing at all. Are you stumbling in your Christian life, discouraged by a lack of progress?  Are you laboring over Bible reading, joy, time in prayer, forgiveness?  Keep practicing!  Don't be discouraged by those "dissonant notes", those failures to be expert.  Trust the Lord Jesus to grow you in his time.  The Bible gives us this conditional promise (Galatians 6:9):

"Be not weary in well doing,
for in due season we shall reap,
IF we faint not."

For all their hard work, my aspiring musicians are reaping well-executed difficult pieces, the delight of achievement, and the joy of moving beyond past lessons.  Keep practicing, don't give up! And you, too, will reap the joy of getting better and better at what Jesus wants you to be.  Don't be weary!

Can You Tell I Have Writer's Block?

Yes, this is still a NO TAG zone!  I just wanted to post an entry.

4 Jobs I've Had:
1.  Pharmacy Tech
2.  Grant Writer
3.  Lifeguard
4.  Substitute Teacher

4 Movies Watched Over and Over:
In recent memory, none.

In the old days:

1. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

2. The Wizard of Oz

3. ??

4. ??

That was SO long ago!

4 Places I've Lived:

Only FOUR?? Okay...

1.  Kansas
2.  Minnesota
3.  Alberta
4.  France

4 TV Shows I Watch:

4 Places I've Been:
1.  Jamaica
2.  Pompeii
3.  Tunisia
4.  England

4 People Who E-mail Me Regularly:
1.  Mom
2.  PlainJane
3.  Passionforpurple
4.  Momtofive

4 Favorite Things to Eat:
1.  Chocolate anything
2.  Spinach salad
3.  Grilled Chicken
4.  Ice cream

4 Places I'd Rather Be:
1.  Someplace green.
2.  With trees.
3.  And no bugs.
4.  Or snow.

4 Things I Look Forward to This Year:
1.  The Rapture, please.
2.  Our wedding anniversary.
3.  Finishing the school year!
4.  Losing weight.  ??

4 People to Tag:
1. Anyone who actually
2. read all of this
3. and wants to
4. do it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Terrestria Chronicles

Once in a while you see a really generous gesture made by one of your kids, that makes you proud and happy with their growth of character.  This happened in our home this week when Booklover bought her big sister, Alizona, books 4-8 of the Terrestria Chronicles, for no reason other than because she knew Alizona would love to have them! 

The girls have been eating these up. We currently are using book one, The Sword, The Ring, and The Parchment in our family devotions, and it is great!
(You can even get a study guide for discussion!) I have not read any of the series myself yet, but I am going to soon because I told the author, Ed Dunlop, that I would write a review for Amazon and Christianbook, both of which have just accepted these books for distribution.

Here's the really neat part.  You can get a free sample of Ed Dunlop's writing by going to his website, Towards the bottom of the page there is a download link for another of his books with more tales of Terrestria,  The Quest for Thunder Mountain. While the advantages of ebooks over hard copy can be debated, this is a great opportunity to see what the excitement is all about.  And PS.  While you're there, check out Dunlop's other books for kids!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Inquiring Four Year Old Wants to Know

Why does my skin get wrinkles in the bathtub?
What does Sabbath mean?

Why do restaurants have the name of the restaurant all over the place inside them?

Can I go outside and play in the rain?
What does dramatic mean?
What does hover mean?
What's a yoke?
How do you glance?
What is comfort?
Why do the sun and the stars and the moon give us light? (This led to a scientifically accurate discussion.)
How do we touch the sky if it is way up there?

Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?
Can I get on the computer?

Cleaning 101

The other day (no, a little while ago now -- this has been sitting in my drafts for some time!) I was inspired by Carrie to do some real cleaning.  You have to understand that when I clean, I only do the noticeable stuff:  clean the toilet, wipe off the counters, vacuum, pick up clutter, sweep the floor.  Done. I will wipe off the milk shelf in the fridge occasionally.  Once I even did windows, just the really dirty ones.  I just never learned how to clean, to do it right, to do it consistently, to do it cheerfully, to do it in some sort of routine, and to keep it that way. Except for maybe a swipe through the hall and kitchen with the dust mop, Mom cleaned while I was at school.  I was responsible for my own room (which never stayed picked up -- I could have gotten lost in there) and the bathroom.  I think I remember washing or drying dishes, too. 

Here I am, as I told Carrie, with a 44 year old bad habit that really needs to change before we marry our girls off to some poor guys who are going to expect their sweet wives to be better homemakers.  It would be embarrassing.  I can see it now.  Our son-in-law will come over and ask to speak with me privately.  He will say, "Mom, I was just wondering... didn't you teach my dear wife how to wash the dishes after each meal? Wash baseboards? Vacuum the dust out of the vents? Clean under the stove?" And I will hang my head with shame. Before I can even teach my future brides this stuff, I have to learn it myself!

So. I got out my handy spray bottle of  Awesome Cleaner ($1 for 32 oz at Family Dollar)  and used it full strength on the kitchen walls, and on my hands and lungs, too.  I un-gooped the dried glue on the wall where the door stopper had slid down.  I vacuumed out the ceiling vent and around the fridge, and cleaned the tile above the sink. I Awesomed the teeny little baseboard trim in our bathroom, scraping off twenty years' accumulation of dust and hairspray, and I wiped the walls (Did you know walls get really filthy? I never noticed until I looked at them on purpose! How does that happen?? ) I used a pumice stick and CLR on the hard water ring on the shower floor. And then I threw all the dirty clothes into the washer.  Furthermore, I washed the windows and sills (some of them), wiped out the fridge, mopped the kitchen and dining room floors, and did some other mundane tasks. 

You know what?  You can't even tell the difference! I am tempted to say it was all for nothing, but I know it wasn't.  The cleaning bug infected Booklover and Carrotlover, who traded a day of school work for cleaning the family room (!!? I'd rather do school work any day than tackle this crazy chaos.)  The two of them organized cabinets, sorted blocks and Legos and K'nex, threw away projects that are no longer "precious" to anyone, wiped inches of dust off of horizontal surfaces, striaightened books, and reduced a mile-high pile of stuff on Booklover's desk to a clean surface.   And then, out of the goodness of her little golden heart, Booklover made sense of the disaster area on my sewing table.  I haven't tried to find anything there yet, but it sure looks good!  Kind of makes me LIKE to come into this room now!

Now to  mark a day on my calendar to do it again, and in the meantime, try to keep it this way.  It's a start, and it wasn't for nothing after all....

Monday, January 14, 2008

Booklover's Birthday

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Booklover,
Happy Birthday to you!

My ten year old just turned eleven.  Why do these years have to go by so quickly?!?!
Amy is a source of energy and hilarity in this house.  What would we do without her? 
We love you, Amy!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Anything Else You Want to Know, Emily?

Why is this called my "jaw"?
What is an abject?
What is whiskey?
Why do people cut stuff?
What does gnash mean?
Why doesn't my spoon sink in my potato soup like it does when I have milk in my bowl?
If we have never been somewhere before, how do we know how to get there?

Anyone want to volunteer to teach this kid in a couple of years?

Monday, January 7, 2008

400 Questions

A few days ago I said that a four-year-old reportedly asks four hundred questions a day.  I began a record of all the questions Emily asked me, but she got sick and wasn't up to her usual curiosity for a few days. So my list below is not a collection of questions asked in one day; instead, it is over, maybe, three days.  You will see that there are only about six questions.  That is because I did not want to type out the remaining three questions one hundred thirty-one times apiece ("Can I get on the computer?","Can I have something to eat?", and "What can I do now?") LOL.

1. What does  "confederate" mean?
2. How come sometimes the clouds are low?
3. Do I have germs on my head?
4. What's a loop, and what's a hoop?
5. How come that ambulance doesn't have its siren on?
6. What does "religion" mean?
and this one which brought a chuckle from her daddy and the answer, "Yes, we sure are,"
7. Are we almost over the hill yet?

There's Snow in Them Thar Hills!

Some time ago Emily began praying for a violin.  She got a violin.  She also prayed for a bunk bed. She got a bunk bed.  And she prayed for snow. Did she get snow! Look real close at that first photo, and you can see a little bit of it way off in the distance. Much to my desert-loving DH's chagrin, he had to make good on his promise that if it ever snowed close enough to home, he would take the girls up the highway a piece to play in it.  Did it matter that our collection of winter gear consists of a  hodge-podge of old mittens and two pair of $5 winter boots?  Did it matter that two of us are sick and one is getting over it? Of course not!  It was Emily's first time ever, but all the girls were thrilled.  So tonight Emily is thanking the Lord for snow, and her parents are thanking the Lord we don't live in it.

See more pics at Alizona's blog.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tired Old Dog

We got this in an email the other day and I thought it was cute. (I can sort of relate!)

An old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard.  I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home.
He followed me into the house, down the hall, and fell asleep in a corner.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.
The next day he was back, resumed his position  in the hall, and slept for an hour.
This continued for several weeks.
Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: 'Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'
The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar:
'He lives in a home with ten children
-- he's trying to catch up on his sleep.
Can I come with him tomorrow?'

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Robe

Rather than stay up late last night to greet the new year, I stayed up reading the final pages of the book that had been at the top of the list on my sidebar, The Robe, by Lloyd Douglas.  Thanks, Suzyscribbles, for the review!  The Robe is the fictional story of Legate Marcellus Gallus, the Roman soldier who crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of my ignorance of Roman customs and vocabulary, I had a bit of trouble getting into it at the start . But it wasn't long before I was neglecting my family and my household duties, my eyes glued to the pages of this thick book. (Maybe it was thick because I had the large print version, lol!) 

Reading the Bible has wrecked me for fiction that is supposed to be about Bible events and people -- I have a perfect standard against which to compare the book  I always have to make myself remember that the work of fiction is not necessarily a historical or doctrinal statement!  The Robe wasn't the Bible, but it's a good book. Now I am off to Google Emperor Caligula...

Progress Report

Do you ever have days, those fretful, overwhelming days, when you are worried that your kids won't know anything when they leave the house?  I do. When I started to write this post I was just rambling, more for my own sake than to write a real entry.  Now that I have finished it, I am back in my right mind, knowing I have nothing to worry about. I thank the Lord for his leading and for his working in my girls' lives, and in mine.  It is a wonderful thing that He loves each of us, that He is interested in the details of our lives, and that He is working in and through us.

Our schooling is a combination of workbooks, a bit of Charlotte Mason, and some unschooling. (By "unschooling" I mean nothing official or organized, but learning is still happening.) I am finally learning to school outside the box, which has not been easy for me. The box is easiest for me, but it just wasn't working for my students! Some days we do more unschooling than schooling, but it's been a good change, at least for the early years.  Don't your kids get dreadfully bored with the same workbook problems and the same KIND of workbook problems? Mine sure do!  (I think that is what they call "twaddle".)

Carrotlover spent most of a recent afternoon in the dungeon of despair, moaning over her math.  It wasn't anything she couldn't do, she just didn't want to. Why? Because. It was boring!  Not challenging, not fun. She's tired of being drilled over and over again on the same math facts. When she finally finished her laborious busywork assignment, I asked her if she would like to learn something new.  By her reaction, you would have thought I had offered her a hot fudge sundae! YES!!  So I showed her how to multiply two and three-digit factors, and why it works.  She tried one, then another, got them right, and was super duper delighted!  I don't know when her book introduces this skill, but it doesn't matter. So she's ahead, and she's happy, and now she LIKES math again, as long as there is no twaddle. A lot of days I let her skip the busywork and go on to something new. Some days we do twaddle just because -- life is full of things we don't like to do, but we have to do them anyway. Twaddle is just practice for real life: make the bed, sweep the floor,  pay the bills.  It's not fun, it's not challenging, it has to be done.

Alizona is also skipping way ahead into algebra. It's not that I think my kids are so smart.  It's just that there is no point in waiting to move on, as if thirty other kids need to grasp the concept before we can do that.  I have her do the chapter test first.  If she passes with flying colors we go on to the next chapter test.  If she misses some of the problems, I just have her learn or review the concept that she missed. This keeps math fresh and fun for her. (Well, fun after it is mastered.  The learning part can be frustrating! )  Alizona is also eight chapters into memorizing the book of Proverbs.  There is no philosophy or psychology class on earth that can beat that!

Booklover has fallen in love with the old Landmark history books. We bought several of them on eBay, and I am sure she is going to want to collect them all. This is great! I never could find a way for my girls to learn history in a way that was exciting to both of us.  In addition to that, some of you know that Booklover has become a real hand at HTML. She is having a ball designing templates and offering her free consulting services.  Since we aren't planning to go the college route, I am pleased that she is learning computer skills that may develop into income in her future. HTML is not in our curriculum, but it is teaching her order, logic, and cause-and-effect, and at the same time it is allowing her to use her creativity to do something useful.
Emily (who recently announced that she would like to be called Muddypuddle) is constantly asking me what words mean. "Mom, what does 'idiom' mean?" "How many is a few?" "What does 'famine' mean?"  I should write down all the questions she asks me in one day!  I read somewhere that the average four year old asks four hundred questions a day.  I believe it!  Yeah, I think I will do that.  Starting tomorrow, the instant Emily wakes up, I will write down every question she asks. Then I will post them.   She is reading Bob Books and other level one easy readers, and she is so happy with herself when she figures out a new word. Once a child learns to read, he can learn about anything he is interested in!

So hey, it's going okay here after all. I'm glad we have escaped the proverbial box.  I just had to show myself.  I am my own worst critic, for sure.
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