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Friday, December 6, 2013

Adding a touch of homemade to this Christmas... with the help of cranberries.

A rainy day in December is a perfect day for some memory making fun with my sweet kiddos! Today was pretty much all about cranberries...and how many ways we can find to use them! Every year, right after Thanksgiving, you can find fresh cranberries for next to nothing. This year I found some for .25 cents a bag!! This is the time to stock up, people! Last year I bought so many that I canned enough cranberry sauce for last year's holidays...and this year's as well. Perhaps I am a food hoarder?? ;-)

Well, since I was stocked in the canned cranberry department, we decided to look for other ways to utilize this underused fruit. It is a fruit isn't it?

How about White Chocolate Cranberry Blondies??  That sounded pretty yummy! I had already dehydrated some of the cranberries, so that made this even easier! I doubled the recipe, because one batch just isn't enough of anything that tastes delicious!

While the blondies were in the oven we made popcorn and cranberry garlands to decorate our tree.
This craft is messy! I'm pretty sure I will be finding bits and pieces of popcorn for quite awhile!
But it was a lot of fun!

As soon as the rain lets up we are heading out to the woods for some evergreen limbs. We will put them in glass vases that are filled with water and floating cranberries...but first I need to find that vacuum. There is popcorn scattered all over my house!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rescue pony update

It's hard for me to believe we have only had the girls' little rescue pony a little over two months. He is fitting in very! It was a rough start as first. Anytime you add a new critter it messes up the whole pecking order. And when those 'critters' are very large, it makes it even more difficult.

At first my mare just loved this little guy. Until she realized he was a gelding...not what she was looking for in a pasture mate, I guess. Thankfully we have several different pastures, some of which share a fence line. After a week or so of meeting each other over the fence, I tried putting them together. Did not go well. Tippy pretty much tried to kill the frail little pony, which in turn tried to kill me for putting him in such a precarious situation. We got out of that whole scene with only one broken gate, and a bruised shoulder for me...I loved that bruised shoulder...ya know, it could have been my face! :-o

After that scene I wouldn't let the girls mess with the horses at all...which was a total bummer for me...and for them, they are my barn helpers. But little girls, and horses trying to establish who is in charge, don't go together. Two months into this and things have finally settled down in the barnyard. You know what's super funny? That frail, starved little pony is top horse around here now. He decides where he wants to eat in the pasture and everyone else follows his lead. I never saw that one coming! When treats are brought out, he has to get the first bite. The other three horses have come to that understanding as well, and actually back away until it's their turn. Don't ya just love horses with manners!?

We haven't been riding Spirit a whole lot. I wanted to let the horses get comfortable with this new addition to the family, and I wanted him to just focus on eating. He looks remarkably better, but still has a ways to go! He is the most gentle pony and  has yet to spook at anything. That makes a pretty good kid's pony in my book!
Everyone's checking out the new pony in this picture. 
The dog doesn't bother this guy at long as he has something to eat! ;-)
 In case you forgot...this is how he looked when we brought him home. :-( So sad and pitiful!
I think he thought he died and went to heaven. If horses could smile, I do believe he would! My mare loves, but it took several months for her to decide I was worth it. She came from a good home and was very well fed, and I really think she thought she didn't need me. We have won her affection over time though.  This guy knew from the start he needed us. After a couple days of the same routine of feeding, grazing time, and feeding again...he started talking to us. :-) As soon as he hears us up in the morning, he lets us know he's ready to eat. ;-)
I can see the girls having a lot of fun on this little guy, and I am very happy we can give him a home that makes him happy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

It won't be a perfect Christmas!

How in the world is it already December?? I’ve heard several different people say they have already finished Christmas shopping, menu planning, and even sent Christmas cards out!! Well, if you’re like me you just dragged in the Easter decorations from out of the yard…and I think it’s safe to say our Christmas cards probably aren’t going to happen….again. But hey, we did put our $3 yard sale “find” Christmas tree up. The kids think it’s the most beautiful tree ever…all 4 limbs of it! Aren’t kids awesome!

This is such a wonderful time of year…it can also be a stressful time of year, too. I wanted to share a poem that I came across the other day, it is an adaptation of I Corinthians 13, and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family – it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not focus on Christ –
I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated
Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return,
but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
and endures all things.

Love never fails.
Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure. (Sharon Jaynes)
I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking for that “perfect Christmas”!
I’m looking for one filled with love, laughter, friends and family!

Monday, October 7, 2013

We have Spirit!

I got a phone call the other day asking if we would adopt a little rescue pony. My first response? NO!!! I have been trying to simplify, and adding another pony just doesn't fit in with that. Right now we have three. Three seems like a pretty good number. In fact, it feels like it's our number. Three kids, three dogs, three works for us! Besides, rescue pony means expensive!

After hearing his story though, Sweet Man and I decided we would go have a look at him and see if we would be a good fit for each other. I hate sad stories!!

 This little pony previously had professional training from the same man that trained one of our half-lingers, and he did such a good job! At one time he was a little girls pony, but she wanted something faster. I like a good slow pony for a that sounded nice.
How do you say no to a face like that?!
I rode him first to make sure he was safe and then let the girls take him for a spin. (AKA a super slow walk) We decided we would rescue him and hopefully be his forever home. Our girls put together their money to pay the $100 adoption fee, they wanted it to be their pony.  He needs a visit from the vet, equine dentist and Farrier. We might have to live on peanut butter and white bread for a bit, to give him all the care that he has been neglected of, but I have a feeling he is going to appreciate it!

This sweet guy was never given a name that anyone knew of. He was just called pony. The girls named him Spirit, but he sure doesn't have any right now. The farm that had him was a little over a mile away. It was 9:00 p.m. by the time we decided we would adopt him, so I walked him home in the dark with nothing but a flashlight. We had dogs come out and chase us, things making eerie sounds in the woods, cars driving up right by us to see what in the world we were doing.  He never even seemed to notice. Never spooked or anything...just followed my lead. I'm hoping he still has this calm sweet attitude once he gets to feeling better. ;-)

So, here's to finding out just how much variety you can have with peanut butter and white bread! ;-)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Math makes me cry!!

   Well, here it is October, and by now I am figuring out what DOESN'T work. You would think with this being our ninth year homeschooling I would know what I was doing by now. I don’t. We changed curriculum this year. Oh, I didn't do this lightly. I researched. I read reviews. I looked at samples. I was sure the one we decided on as a family would just be the perfect fit. Like, maybe even teach it for me and then grade and organize the papers afterward. ;-) I was kind of bummed when it didn't do that… For the most part, it is a lovely stack of books that we are enjoying, all except the math part. It brought tears. Lots of tears. Tears from the girls. Tears from the Mom (that’s me) and then lots of texts to my sweet husband saying “I don’t think I can do this anymore!!!” Poor guy, you know he was probably thinking “I thought you wanted those books? You said it had great reviews.” After several weeks of that same scenario, we decided that those beautiful, glossy math books might not be the perfect fit for our family/schedule.  So, we put that overly priced set of books on the shelf for later, knowing full well that it will probably end up as a donation for the free book swap. I’ll be sure and put a disclaimer on the inside cover warning that ‘This set of math books has been known to bring tears. Study at your own risk!’

   Along with learning what doesn't work for us, I have been reminded of what does. Fun stuff! I truly believe that is a very important part of our home school. I don’t ever remember as a child wishing my parents were more scholastically minded. No, I wanted to explore the woods, play games, take picnics, make cookies, and build forts…all that cool stuff that is easily forgotten as an adult. School work is definitely important, and it needs to come first, but don’t forget to plan a little bit of memory making with your children, too! Fall is an awesome time to get outside and enjoy all the beauty this state has to offer.

   So, when the tears are flowing, the phone is ringing, one child has disappeared with the stash of Oreos, and the laundry has soured in the washer, take a deep breath, get finished with the things you have to do, and make time for the things you all WANT to do!

 It is a happy talent to know how to play.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, August 9, 2013

We made it through our first week!!!

Well, today is Friday and we have our first week of school under our belt. I was hoping that all of the planning and organizing that I have done would have paid off in some way. As I looked at other schedules/calendars that some other home school moms have come up, I felt super inadequate. They were all color coded and quite complex. Some even needed a key of some sort to figure out!! Yeah, I’m not doing that. It has to be user friendly for me to even think about sticking with it. In fact, it has to be so simple that my kids can just figure out what is planned for the day and run with it. This is what I came up with.The little stars indicate that it needs to be done that day. 

Nothing fancy, but hey, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” ;-) The girls know to find the day of the week that we are on, and mark it off as they go along. This has helped in the quest for teaching a little more independence. Yes, I like it!! It’s going to be a keeper.

The next issue I wanted to deal with before it became one this year was, “Mom, I don’t know where my math book is!” I can’t tell you how large this house seems when something has gone “missing”. We have wasted good parts of our school day just gathering supplies. So, each girl got their own tote, and all of their school books have to go right back in it after they are graded for the day. So far this has been pretty nice.

I have found that a simple $5 shoe rack from Walmart is perfect for holding all of the creative supplies.

We made a decision this year, as a family, to have the girl's alarms go off around the same time my Sweet Man’s goes off, in the hopes that everyone could see him before he goes off to work. This will hopefully aide in the fact that if we get our school work done early we might actually still have some free time left in the day to do super cool stuff…like sit on the couch and eat cookies. 

So, with all of that planning done ahead of time, was it a good week?

Day 1: Everyone woke up bright eyed and ready to face the day. I had prepared a nice healthy breakfast to enjoy while I read the devotion of the day to the girls. We are reading through ‘Talks to Girls’ published by Queen’s home school. School went pretty smoothly with everyone marking off their charts and really liking the fact that I gave them the freedom to pick the order that they were completed in. I have scheduled a break at 10:30, with a light snack and some free time play to get the wiggles out. I also need to still be able to do laundry and dishes.( Doesn't that sound fun?) Grace learned about snails and wanted to teach the other two all about them. I was super excited when I went to look for them and found them observing some snails while Grace went over everything she read. My heart melted. Loved this scene so much! It was a really sweet day…until math! That stuff’s hard...

Day 2: Alarms went off. Girls were not quite so chipper to make it downstairs. I found something really easy for breakfast…toast I think. I completely forgot about that whole break time I planned. Almost didn't make it to lunch without passing out from hunger or having a few meltdowns of sitting too long. Something was mentioned about one’s butt muscles being so sore and fingers cramping up. Sorry girls…

Day 3: Everyone slept through their alarms. EVERYONE! I’m pretty sure I told the girls they needed to put all those books BACK in their totes when they were done. My living room is starting to look like the Parent Teacher Store caught a bad virus and threw up in here. :-o We had to spend the first part of our morning putting the house back together. School work was finished…still loving the schedules!

Day 4: We had some motivation today! As soon as our school work was finished we were going on a picnic with friends! Assignments were finished in record time, house was put in order, lunch packed and we headed out for a fun afternoon of play. I fell asleep that evening on the couch while I was the subject of an art portrait. It’s weird though…my portrait kind of looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I should probably start doing a better job at putting on my make up for the day. ;-)

Day 5: It took the washer/Dryer noise, an alarm, and me to arouse the girls from their slumber. Not even sure what we had for breakfast. Think it might have been a cookie. It had oatmeal and peanut butter in it though…so I guess we can still claim we’re eating healthy?? I chose Fridays to be a little bit lighter on the text book work in hopes that we could really take our time with our art. We just had a little bit of book work to get through…and I couldn't even make it. I feel asleep on the couch sometime between the spelling test and the free time buzzer. Oh yeah, those are quick girls. They aren't going to miss that free time thing anymore. They swear they almost died that day! So, Sadie has decided to elect herself as the clock watcher and make a buzzing sound when 10:30 rolls around. Isn't that lovely...

Was it a success this week? It was hard. It was long. I actually lost weight from forgetting to eat. Hey, I’ll take that!! Man, it was so worth every minute. We found out that snails return to the same place every day. We marked a few with fingernail polish so we can keep track of them. We had a mamma wren successfully hatch 6 eggs on our back porch. We observed, drew and then researched them. Did you know the Male Wren makes several nests and the Mamma gets to pick the one she likes best to lay her eggs in? Yeah, I didn't either. How sweet is that!? This week I was able to see the girls eyes light up with wonder again about the world around them. We were able to talk about God in the most unexpected times. One child would just simply blurt out a question that she had been pondering about the bible. How awesome is that!? I wouldn't give this time up for anything…although, I do believe I am going to need more coffee and perhaps a wide selection of cookies!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's that time of year again!!

  This time of year I get all giddy with excitement. Stores are packed full of school supplies at an unbelievably low price. With prices so low it makes complete sense to buy 24 glue sticks to add to the 24 I bought last year and didn't need. ;-)

  I love the fact that it feels like a clean slate. Another year to ‘work the kinks out’ and try to actually make a schedule that I can follow, and work more individually with each child focusing more on strengths and weaknesses. There are composers that I want to study, canvases to paint, nature to observe, draw and then study, bible passages to memorize and meditate on…oh yeah…math and grammar too. :-o

  As I’m bouncing around the house in my giddy state, I can see a tinge of fear in my girls’ eyes. It’s not that they don’t love school supplies, schedules or learning; it’s the fact that they don’t want to lose their mom and gain a school teacher again. We've had such a fun summer hanging out and just enjoying each other…they don’t want to give that up! Past experiences have led them to understand that something happens to Mom after she sees Facebook posts or hears how awesome someone’s school day has gone, and we have yet to have breakfast or feed the dogs…let alone even look at a school book. Insecurities pop up that I must not be measuring up. I start sending up little distress signal prayers “Lord, are you sure you think I can do this? I mean, I’m still not exactly sure how to do some of those math problems, and if it weren't for Google I could never even answer half of the girls’ questions!” And then the Lord ever so gently reminds me that He has given me this most rewarding job of training little hearts for Him, He won’t leave me to figure it out alone.

  Training children to be a light in this dark and dying world takes time. Time that can’t be scheduled or shopped for. It takes an understanding on my part that when the Holy Spirit is moving in one of my girls, I need to put my schedule/agenda for the day aside and not get in the way of the work the Lord is doing. Wow, that is a hard one for me. I love lists, but I love marking them off even more!

   Moms, go easy on yourself this school year. The days might be long, but the years are short.

So here’s to a year full of glue sticks, unrealistic schedules and a joy that comes from knowing that the Lord doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called!