December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

In 2010 I wasn't an avid blogger, mainly because I had other things to keep the kids and myself hopping. Our favorites:

In May I found a new calling in life: teaching violin. I've always loved music and played the violin through college. I was a closet musician for the past 15 years and only dusted it off to play for my kids or teach them how to play themselves. I'm still very shy about playing in public, but I'm delighted to play with my students!

The twins donated 10" of their hair.



My little twirler preformed in the children's talent show at church during the fall festival. She twirled to "Surfing USA" and made her own hula skirt from plastic table coverings.

Mabry and Kenna decided not to twirl since they wanted to sing "Sisters" from White Christmas. You would have thought that this song was written just for them.

Micah became our first child to visit the urgent care needed staples after falling from the kitchen table. (Sorry no ER pictures...a little to much blood. But enjoy a cute one from his first time with the preschool choir.)

The girls started harp lessons.

We, along with some great friends, made pillowcase dresses for girls in Botswana.

We've taken our music on the road to play and sing for our church's homebound members. Here are the girls with Mrs. Mary Rogerson, a sweet, sweet lady!

We discovered delicious and flavorful loose leaf Amanzi Tea. Strawberry Magic is my favorite and so is Citrus Splash. (Raspberry Vanilla is good, too, as well as Winter Romance.) This is my favorite pot, but I also like this one too. I've significantly cut my coffee consumption. Haven't quite given up Dr Pepper, though.

Our new favorite handicrat: hand embroidery. Still love and prefer my quilling, but have found embroidery is a great car craft for when I'm waiting on the girls to finish harp lessons. I made this for Matthew for Christmas, featuring the kids' handprints and Psalm 40:5:

Here's what Cayli embroidered for my mom for Christmas:

The girls and I have lots planned for 2011 from pursuing musical abilities to perfecting more crafts to ministering to others with our talents.

Micah's goal is simple: to find out how many licks it take to get to the center of, not just one tootsie pop, but two...

Happy New Year!

August 31, 2010

Perfect Harmony

to listen to these two practice together:

Mabry and Kenna have only been playing their instruments for a few weeks (thanks to some of our church's most talented musicians), and they are loving playing together.

This was even an unprompted practice session since they took the initiative to play together.

I always knew this day would come. They were born with some musical talent!

August 1, 2010

Botswana Bound

The dresses--not the girls (though we'd love to go to Botswana!).

Two years ago, Kenna decided that she was destined to live in Botswana after reading an article in a National Geographic. Since she has been very persistent in her Botswana pursuit, I learned as much as I could about the country.

Botswana is the country right above South Africa. Diamonds are actively mined there. If you're into safari photography, Botswana doesn't disappoint. Sadly, the average life expectancy is 35 years as AIDS takes many lives.

So, for our family, Botswana became more a prayer project than a fascinating place filled with exotic cheetahs and expensive stones.

Still we really didn't know what to do. Until 2 months ago, when a lady from our church gave my girls some black yarn and asked if they would like to make hair for rag dolls that are sent all over the world to missionaries working with children.

The coordinator of the doll project called me and humbly asked if they could make 50 pieces of hair for a missionary in Botswana.

Botswana? Seriously? I was totally surprised. Of all the countries she was sending dolls to, Botswana topped the list. I told her how we loved the country, though we have no ties to it.

So my girls have been busy making hair to go on the rag dolls that the ladies sew and clothe.

Then two weeks ago, the coordinator called me and asked if I had ever heard of a pillowcase dress. Honestly I'd known about them for a long time, but only recently did I make one. A group of women from our church had purposed making these dresses for the Botswana children, as the children there only have their ragged school uniforms to wear.

I'm all for sewing for kids, so yesterday I made these for my girls to wear to model for our church as the pastor talked about this new ministry at the church.

We'll be donating the dresses the girls wore and the matching doll dresses that Cayli sewed to the Botswana project.

We feel very blessed to be a part of this project. I'm in awe of how a young girl's fascination for a foreign country has brought about an incredible opportunity for my family!

July 20, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Been preparing for the upcoming school year...even though we started 3 weeks ago.

This year:

  • Cayli is in 5th grade
  • Kenna and Mabry are in 4th grade
  • Micah is into making messes
This year, however, we have no textbooks. Not even for math. *gasp*

Our library is filled with math books that teach concepts in such an engaging way. Math will no longer be a subject to "do," it will be a part of life to experience. This summer reading/doing around here:

Sure, we'll have a few worksheets here and there for drill, especially since all the girls can use some extra practice with multiplication and division. But we'll also use other books along the way:

We're 3 weeks into our new school year and every day one of the girls asked when we can do math. That's never happened before since math was a subject to be dreaded. But with a little extra planning and some creativity, my girls have come to love real-life math.

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July 2, 2010

Planning for next year?

Just wanted to share with you... notebooking pages are ideal for letting your kids write about history and Bible topics.

My girls don't mind writing on these pages because they have a set border so they don't feel like they will have to write forever. I like that I can hand them a page and now that the topic will be covered with a little research. It sure beats plain notebook paper any day!

After hearing about them for awhile, I've specifically ordered the Bible ones and I'll let you know how the kids like them.

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April 18, 2010

First Baton Competition

My twirlie girlies went to their first baton competition this past weekend. They only participated in the marching portion of the contest, but enjoyed watching other girls perform in the other events. Honestly they were bored watching, so next year they plan to twirl in every event.

The only downside to having three twirlers in one family is that they will constantly compete against each other. But they all have talent, so they should do well individually. Besides, twirling is just good sisterly fun for them right now.

Caitie, the graduating feature twirler (talk about talent! She's amazing!) for the University of South Carolina, has coached them for the past 6 months. She also dressed them for this competition--she looked through her stash from her younger years and let the girls borrow them. We are so thankful for Caitie and her Christian influence in the girls' lives.

Never thought I'd be parenting three twirlers, but I find the sport fascinating and my girls make it look so easy! :D

April 5, 2010

Recent Events

Recent events--like the fact that my kids are growing up--have prompted me to limit my computer time, thus almost eliminating my blog time. Having a 4th grader who likes to research and write, 2 3rd graders who live in Webkinz World and a toddler who thinks Thomas the Train and author Frank Asch are online just for him, leaves me little time to connect to rest of the world.

So here's a quick recap of our lives:

Yesterday was a beautiful Easter day. I love this holiday for it's significance and also for the fact that it hasn't been totally ruined by commercialism. I made the girls' dresses this year and it was probably the biggest sewing undertaking yet as it was my first time with lining a dress and adding a zipper. What a blessing to make something so bright and beautiful for my little ladies!

My kids are also proving themselves crafty.

Both Cayli and Mabry made coverings to send to an overseas orphanage for special needs children via Reece's Rainbow.

Cayli cut squares into every piece of fabric she could find and sewed them together for a quilt. She put together the entire piece by herself, inspired by all the times she has watched her Granny quilt.

Mabry loves to crochet and was the first kid to jump on the opportunity to use what she does best to benefit another child. She picked bright colors to crochet together.

It's a blessing to see my girls use their hands to brighten someone else's day!

Another thing we recently started is Kids Cook Friday. Every Friday one of the girls gets some much-needed mommy time in the kitchen. Typically, at day's hectic end, I send the girls outside to play while I prepare dinner. I get somewhat of a breather being by myself, but it doesn't serve the girls well. I realized they had very limited kitchen skills. So I use Fridays as the day for one child to help in the kitchen. I get one-on-one time and she gets a fun Friday of culinary experiences.

Each child prepares a menu from the main dish to dessert, makes a grocery list, gathers the ingredients at the store and then tells me what to do to help cook. I simply assist in the kitchen and allow each girl a chance to grow in responsibility. This has probably been one of the best things we've ever done as a family!

Until next time,

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March 5, 2010

Bible Scribe

As of today my kids are beginning a reading and writing journey to discover the life of Jesus. I recently downloaded the Bible Scribe pages from the History Scribe site.

Every day they will have a pre-chosen passage to read, a place to illustrate what they read, another place to write a key verse from the passage and a writing section to summarize their reading. In a month or so, they will have a book of drawings, Bible verses and reflections about the life of Jesus.

Since testing is on the horizon and my rambunctious kids can't sit in a chair, much less be quiet, for half an hour, I set a 30-minute timer for them to practice focusing while they complete their page. I feel silly having them practice the "skill of quietness" but these kids are wired for nonstop activity and silence has a steep learning curve.

Even with the hefty time requirements, the kids enjoy these pages. The end result will be priceless!

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February 15, 2010

What a treat!

Our church hosted a spiritually rich concert last night, featuring Keith and Kristyn Getty.

From Ireland, they are pioneers of modern hymns for the world. They have a passion to express scripture and solid theological truths in music, far surpassing the fluffiness in Christian music that's been floating around for awhile.

When I'm in the car or room, I'll play either one of these CDs for an uplifting praise and worship time. In the busyness of my home, their music supplies a lifeline of encouragement and creates a spiritual focal point solely on God and not the chaotic world around me.

My girls enjoyed hearing them, also. They knew many songs already and the concert--complete with an Irish fiddle and a set of pipes--had them dancing jigs in their sleep.

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February 13, 2010

Blizzard of '10

We received over 8 inches of snow--the largest I have ever seen in my life! And the most our state has received since 1973. It is absolutely beautiful!
"Who's woods these are, I think I know...."
Love my Robert Frost scenery.
You see those few flakes? That's called a blizzard, according to my kids.
Yes, I know it started yesterday, but today was glorious! What a treat for Valentine's!
Mabry had to practice snow angels. Seriously, this is the first she has ever made:
My uncle came by to help unstick Matt's work vehicle that slid into a neighbors gate and stayed there. Micah would have preferred to just ride the tractor.
We did lose power for a few hours last night and got the joy of watching the snow gleam in the moonlight. This snowfall has made all of our Little House on the Prairie readings even more memorable.

We also figured out that a whole lot of snow and a little sweetened condensed milk, along with a handful of chocolate chips, makes for a delicious snow cream!

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February 9, 2010

Toddler Tuesday: Jesse Bear

This morning, Micah woke up early. Most of the time I'm good with early, as long as I have coffee and a plan. Today's plan was Jesse Bear by Nancy Carlstrom.

The girls were still sleeping so I could just read to him. Just him and me--it was nice. Micah was quite envious of Jesse Bear's dumptrucks in the sand and hauled out his collection so as not to be outdone by a cartoon bear. He also loved that Jesse Bear sleeps under a blue blanket, just like he does.

I love watching a child find all these tiny details in the pictures books!

When the girls awoke and settled into their school routine, I gave Micah some coloring pages (click on the pages to print your own):

And the energetic Jesse Bear himself:
Now we're playing Hide N Seek with this Jesse Bear Cutout. One of the girls counts with Micah (great way to learn the order of numbers!) and then another girl hides the bear somewhere where Micah can find it: under the couch pillows, in the library basket, behind the tote of music books, etc. He loves finding and saying, "I found you, Jesse Bear!"

Oh, the be 2-years-old again! :D

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February 4, 2010

Spiral vs Mastery Math

This week has been a great homeschool week, which is a relief since last week was a really, really bad one.

As a matter of fact, I almost gave up on homeschooling twins. Last Wednesday, for the 400 bazillionth time, I had to refocus them to finish their math worksheet. We are using a very simple math for them this year, Saxon 3. We spent 1st and 2nd grade working through Horizons Math, but this year I wanted something simpler to help limit distractions.

It didn't work. And 2/3 the way through their 3rd grade year, they still have not learned anything new (thanks to a very thorough Horizons program).

And learning nothing new just bores them. And boredom breeds distractions. And distractions demand a simple black and white program. And simple means they learn nothing. And the cycle continues...

until the lightbulb burst in my brain.:

I have set my darling twins up for failure, requiring from them what they aren't wired to do.

Horizons and Saxon math programs, though well-recommended, are spiral approaches to math mastery. This means that every lesson presents some new information and then reviews all previous material until the kids know how to do math. So over the course of many years, they will practice a little bit of age-appropriate addition, all while practicing a little bit of subtraction, measurement, fractions, etc. until they finally know everything there is to know about these skills.

For some kids (such as my oldest) this approach is perfect. Cayli prefers variety in her math and likes to do a little of this and little of that all while mastering each stage.

The other method of learning math is simply the mastery method. Students focus on one skill for an extended period in order to know it inside and out before moving unto another skill. Some review is given so that all previously acquired skills stay fresh, but for the most part the student only focuses on addition (from single digits to 4-5 digit numbers) before moving on to subtraction or multiplication or division, etc. Sure a little measurement (linear and liquid), telling time and geometry is thrown in the mix, but the focus is on a single concept.

That is precisely how Kenna and Mabry think. Their brains just don't transition between addition and line graphs and fractions and centimeters over the course of a single page of problems. But give them a sheet of 4 digit subtraction problems with regrouping/borrowing and they are set. Allow them a day of review each week of previously mastered concepts and they prove to be some of the smartest kids around.

It's all in the approach.

Mastery math would be curricula by MathUSee or Singapore (and a few others; the names have left me, though). We tried MathUSee early in our homeschool, when Cayli was in 1st grade. She hated working with a single concept. She didn't want to have to prove what she already knew and she didn't want to have to work on a single skill that she thought was difficult over and over. She thrives on variety, not repetition. So spiral math (Saxon) really does work for her.

Mabry and Kenna need the repetition, not variety, to function properly. Transitions are tough for them. Even day-to-day activites require great prep time from me. Once they start on something they don't want to stop even if it's going from a playdate to dance--both are their favorite things to do--but going from one to the other is torture for this weary mom. They need to simply focus on one thing at a time, whether it's time for free play or fraction practice.

There are pros and cons to each way of teaching, but for our family, I'm all for teaching the way they need to succeed.

And math time is more focused for everyone.

Which then frees up some time for me to work with Micah, reading Truckery Rhymes, the best book ever for every toddler/preschool boy:

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January 23, 2010


On the 4th Friday night of every month, Cayli makes brownies.

Because on the 4th Saturday morning of every month, Cayli and her sisters and a few other church members serve them to the homeless men and women in our capital city.

Cayli has a passion for helping feed those who are hungry. She's the motivation behind our family's involvement with our church's outreach to the local homeless people. She's normally shy and quiet, but in the serving line, her face brightens as she talks to these people who are so thankful to have the grilled hamburgers, chips and homemade brownies.

We have discovered that "homeless" can mean 3 different things:

  • People who just prefer living on the streets. It may be hard and cold during the winter, but they find their friends and acceptance in this street culture.
  • People who really just need a little help. They are willing to work for a living but have recently lost a job or a home. Some of these families are living in a car because car insurance is more affordable than a house payment.
  • People who abuse drugs and/or alcohol and the addiction has cost them everything. Their drug-induced highs are the only "hope" they feel.
We also know that all of these people--no matter why they are homeless--need food, clothing and a glimpse of the all-encompassing love of God.

So every month, Cayli does exactly what God has placed in her heart to do: She makes and serves homemade brownies.

Here's her recipe:

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease and flour a 9 by 13 inch pan.
Microwave the butter in a microwave safe bowl for until melted. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cocoa; beat well until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder and salt; beat well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from the pan sides.

Though it's not a lot, and we wish we could do more, it's what she can offer now. And she eagerly serves, talks to and prays for these people.

And I love seeing how God is shaping her heart. :)

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