Tuesday, December 28, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Last week, I announced the 400th project pack of Hands of a Child. And, I announced that I was giving away a FREE copy of one of those project packs, compliments of Hands of a Child, to one of you! I have had so much fun reading all of your wish lists! It is exciting to see the different topics you would like to do with your children! Some of those project packs are ones that I would have picked as well.

Well, today was the big day! It was time to have our drawing for the first ever give-away on my blog! YAY! (That right there was exciting to me!!) In order to insure that we held a fair and honest random drawing, we used a highly sophisticated method for picking our winner. It's called "I wrote down everyone's name on a piece of paper, folded them, put them in a cereal bowl, and let Britches draw a name." How much more honest and sophisticated can you get, I would just like to know?!

Congratulations go out to Ms. Jennifer Wallace, who is my first ever winner of anything on my blog!! YAY Jennifer!! The project pack will be sent out sometime next week, and I just can't wait to hear all about how Jennifer is using it and enjoying it with her kids!

Thank you to all of you great girls who entered my give-away contest!

And don't forget, Hand's of a Child's 400th Project Pack sale will be early next year and will included great discounts as well as 3 completely free 1 year super memberships ($225value), a FREE custom ordered project pack (you tell them the topic and grade level and they do all the work, a $75 value), as well as a FREE Lifetime Super Membership ($275 value)! Be sure to read up on the features of all these giveaways by visiting their site.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In The Hands of a Child's 400th Project Pack Celebration

Several years ago, I was introduced to a great homeschool resource, In the Hands of a Child. At the time, I didn't know very much about them. But the more I looked at their web site and saw the unit studies that they offered, I was certain that this was something I wanted to make use of! And since we homeschool using unit studies, this was a perfect fit for us.

Since that time, I have used several of their project packs to teach my children, including Chocolate, Mary Cassatt (a famous artist), Amelia Earhart, Ecosystems, and Galaxies. These packs include all the information you need to teach the subject, and all the templates needed to finish out your unit with a great lapbook. We have really enjoyed using HOAC project packs!

I am so excited to tell you about Hands of a Child's exciting news! They are getting ready to release their 400th project pack!! WOW! That is quite an accomplishment! This certainly calls for a celebration! And Hands of a Child is certainly celebrating! They are offering YOU a chance to win a FREE 400th project pack bundle!

I am so excited, because this will be the first time I have ever had the chance to give away something on my blog!! And believe me, you are really going to want this! Here's what you need to do. Check out their web site to see what they offer. Make out your "wish list" of five of your favorite project pack titles that you just can't live without! Post a comment on my blog telling me your "wish list". On Tuesday, December 28th, after the holidays and after you have some time to post your "wish list", I will draw a name at random to win the project pack give-away! Hands of a Child will mail the winner a free bundle pack, with everything being covered by them - including shipping! You just can't lose with a deal like that, now can you?!

**Free bundle packs include a printed Project Pack, Kit Pack, and Answer Key (when available) which will be mailed to the winner once the drawing is completed. This is a $40 value with EVERYTHING needed being covered by Hands of a Child, including shipping!
Their 400th Project Pack sale will be early next year and will included great discounts as well as 3 completely free 1 year super memberships ($225value), a FREE custom ordered project pack (you tell them the topic and grade level and they do all the work, a $75 value), as well as a FREE Lifetime Super Membership ($275 value)! Be sure to read up on the features of all these giveaways here. 

Every six months, Hands of a Child offers a FREE project pack that you can download! It is a complete unit to use with your children, so be sure to check it out and take advantage of it!

So head on over to the Hands of a Child web site to see what project packs they offer, and start making that wish list. If you'd like, you can download their free 2010 catalog for an easy look at all they offer. Don't forget to check back on their site over the next few weeks to see more information from them about the 400th project pack CELEBRATION!!

After I draw a winning name (at random, of course!) on the 28th, I'll announce the winner on my blog! Be looking for it!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Back in October, Brient and I took the kids to two different pumpkin patches. It was LOADS of fun! The kids all had a blast, and they each came home with a pumpkin from each patch. Also, at the last patch, Brient and I got a pumpkin! So all together, we had ten lovely pumpkins. We don't celebrate Halloween, but I do let the kids decorate their pumpkins. They paint them or use markers to decorate them. And they made lovely decorations for our Thanksgiving celebration!

After Thanksgiving was over, I was ready to begin decorating for Christmas. But I had all these pumpkins all over the place! I just couldn't throw out good pumpkins, so I did what I do every year - we cut them open, roasted the seeds, and cooked and canned the pumpkin. Even though I can buy a can of Libby's pumpkin for about a dollar, I just really enjoy preserving foods. I do the same thing each year, and I end up with lots of jars of pumpkin to use throughout the year.

I had several friends question how to cook pumpkin, and, after you do all that work, what in the world do you do with all that pumpkin! So I wanted to share my canning directions, and several of the yummy recipes that we enjoy that use pumpkin.

I have a 1974 Ball Blue Book of Canning and Freezing that I go by for canning pumpkin. Here is how I cook my pumpkin and what the directions in the book say for the actual canning.

For Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Wash firm, fully ripe pumpkin/squash. Cut in half, and scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting later). Place each pumpkin half face down in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees until you can poke a fork in it.
Scoop out the pulp, and pour hot into hot Ball jars, leaving 1" head space. Add 1 tsp. salt to each quart, and 1/2 tsp. salt for each pint. Wipe rims of jars. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 1 hour 5 minutes, and quarts 1 hour 20 minutes, at 10 pounds of pressure. (You have to use a pressure canner for pumpkin.) When you take them out of the canner, put them in a spot and leave them for 24 hours, to be sure the lid seals.

After you have your pumpkin canned, store it in your cabinet just like you would any of your other canned foods. You can use it all year!

One of our absolute favorite recipes is pumpkin spice bread. I can't remember where I found this recipe. It probably came off of the Libby's can or something. This recipe is one that I make every year around this time. We use it for breakfast or just a good snack. And this year for Christmas, I am giving these to many of the people in my church.

Pumpkin Spice Bread
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin, packed
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix all of these ingredients together with a blender. Add:

3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Mix all of this well. Add:

1 1/2 cups nuts (I use pecans.)

Fold in the nuts. Divide between 3 loaf pans, and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
I also make this recipe into muffins, and we like them that way for breakfast. It takes less time to cook if you put the batter in muffin cups - about 20 minutes. 

After looking online at lots of pumpkin recipes, I found a soup recipe that turned out DELICIOUS! 

Creamed Pumpkin Curry Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

-Saute these for 3-5 minutes, until aromatic. Add:

1 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken broth

-Simmer 10-15 minutes. Add:

15 ounces cooked pumpkin
1 cup half and half (or other milk or non-dairy substitute)

-Simmer 5 minutes.

Puree in a blender, and serve warm. This can be frozen for up to two months.

There are so many different ways that pumpkin can be used, from appetizers to main courses to desserts. You can make breads, muffins, pudding, salad, soup, stew, cookies, cheesecake, gingerbread, waffles, pancakes, and so much more. Pumpkin goes WAY beyond the pumpkin pie! Check out Better Homes and Gardens web site that shows 36 different yummy pumpkin recipes!

And now, I'm off to pull out my third batch of pumpkin spice bread from the oven. It is making my house smell so good right now! And after looking at all those 36 different recipes, I'm thinking about making up a batch of pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake bars. They are calling my name! I hope you enjoy these recipes that our family loves so much! 

Just remember, you don't have to throw away your fall decorations. Try preserving them. Unless, of course, you're like my friend and go shoot them up after lunch on Thanksgiving Day.

Hunger Knows No Season

I've been wracking my brain over something for the last several weeks. Every since the Thanksgiving holidays arrived, and on into the Christmas season, everywhere I turn there is someone raising money or collecting food to help a needy family "during the holidays." There are food boxes to be filled at local banks and grocery stores, and most churches have adopted a family to help. And then there are the yearly Salvation Army bell ringers at the door to nearly every business in town doing their part to collect any spare change you may have to "help the needy at Christmas." There are even places in town who offer a free hot meal to those without food "on Thanksgiving Day" or "on Christmas Day." I just cannot understand all of this.

Don't get me wrong. I am not, in any way, against giving food and clothes to those in need. In fact, my husband and I have often given a month's worth of groceries to a family experiencing hard times due to lack of work or whatever - and we have never regretted it. There have been many occasions when we have chosen to give money to a family who really, really needed help. I LOVE being able to help others, and I love even more that Brient and I try our best to do it anonymously. I get great satisfaction knowing that we were a blessing to some family, and, since they don't know who did the "good deed", there is no chance they can ever think about paying it back! LOVE that feeling!

What I don't understand is why everyone feels the need to do their "helping" only during the holidays. In truth, there are many people who are going hungry and need clothes to keep warm during this time of the year. But why give only one month out of the year, or, in the case of the hot meal, one day of the year. People are in need every day of every year, and it is a shame that so many people are only willing to give when the holidays roll around.

After thinking about this for awhile, I think I have come to at least one reason that may contribute to societies "do-good" mentality for this one time each year. During the holidays, most people seem to be more considerate, compassionate, and sensitive to others around them. We all seem to have more of that "holiday spirit" that just puts us in a giving mood. Also, that same "holiday spirit" seems to cause most people to shop and buy many things that they don't need with money that they don't have. It seems to me that, when people are out buying and spending all that money and coming home with loads of packages to put under their trees, they begin to feel a tad bit guilty. People begin to feel guilty that they "have" and others "do not have." They feel guilty that they just spent a few months worth of paychecks on "things", and there are other "less fortunate people" out there who won't be doing the same. I think (and this is entirely my own opinion on this) that people, after feeling guilty over their "holiday spirit", begin to want to somehow justify all of their "money well spent", and, in turn, decide to help "those less fortunate" than themselves.

And that's where our giving comes in. People decide to "help" all those poor, hungry people out there with food or money or clothing or whatever. They give to all the causes, they donate food and toys to all the boxes, and they may even feel the need to go and help at one of the outreaches. Many see to it that every family has the traditional holiday meals and lots of gifts to open on the big day. And, after that is all done, their conscience is eased, they have done their part to help lower class America, and they can go back to enjoying their own holidays.

In truth, all the help that comes in this way is certainly needed and appreciated. What bothers me is that most people, during the rest of the year, are too busy, too broke, too whatever to help anyone. Hunger and lack of clothing is not limited only to the holidays. There are 364 other days in each year that people go without. There are 11 more months in each year that people are in need of basic living essentials.

Now, I realize that many of you reading this are probably thinking, "Wait a minute. I give because I really love giving to people, and I give all year." Good job. I'm not referring to you. Check your motives this holiday season. Why are you giving to "the less fortunate"? If your motives are pure, FANTASTIC! But if you are doing it to ease your conscience because of your way of life, you may need to step back and rethink some things.

My challenge to you is this. I challenge you to not only give during the holidays, but to remember and to commit to give all year long. Don't forget that, every time you sit down to a meal with your family any time this year, there is another family somewhere who is going without. Purpose to seek out one family each month this year to help. Find a family and give to them in secret. We don't give to the local food bank, even though I know they are a large organization who helps a lot of needy people. Instead, we look for individual families that we can help personally and KNOW that we made a difference in their lives. Remember, the saying is very true - "Hunger knows no season."

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Christmas Time

Last week, I finally gave in and let the kids pull out the Christmas tree. I was waiting as late as possible, because I knew Baby Girl was going to LOVE the ornaments and be taking them off the tree constantly. So I was trying to postpone that as long as possible. But the kids couldn't wait any longer! So out it came.

Britches and Little Man set up the tree, while Little Sister and I made a batch of no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies! We decided that we would need a reward cookie when we finished decorating the tree! The two older ones were just finishing up as Little Sister and I dropped the last of the cookies. Now it was time for the fun part!

I pulled out my box of ornaments, and began to hand them out. Britches, Little Man, and Little Sister all went straight to work. But Baby Girl just sort of watched for awhile.

After watching for a while, Baby Girl finally realized that there was something in that box, so she started checking it out.

And she started putting on some of the ornaments, just like her big brother and sisters. 

Each time she put an ornament on the tree, she would turn to her daddy and say, "Clap, daddy. YAY!" and start clapping and cheering for herself! 

Baby Girl picked two limbs to hang all of her ornaments on. Those two limbs looked very beautiful when she was finished!

Both of my little ones had such a good time decorating the tree! If you notice, Baby Girl's shirt is on backwards. She dressed herself. My two year old thinks she is just as big as the rest of them! 

When the tree was done, Britches got in some snuggle time with daddy! Then we all went to try out those cookies that Little Sister and I made! We needed a reward for all that hard work decorating our tree. 

Here is the recipe, in case you need to make your own no-bake reward cookies! 


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
Combine sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in a saucepan. On medium heat, bring to a boil for one full minute.Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter (optional), vanilla and oatmeal.
Drop by spoonful onto wax paper. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.

I hope you have had a chance to put up your tree and get festive. Here in the Deep South, it's a little hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it's still warm outside on most days. But decorating the house, playing some Christmas music, and making some yummy cookies sure does get you headed in the right direction! Merry Christmas to you all!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Great Gift!

This time of year, we are all busy, busy looking for that perfect gift for each and every person on our list. It can get a little crazy with all the shopping!

If you have a homeschool friend or loved one, consider this as a gift for them. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, the LEADING homeschool magazine in the country, is offering a special for the holidays. For a very limited time, you can purchase a one year subscription to their magazine for $7.95!! This is a HUGE savings, because usually, each issue is this price. So it's like buying one magazine and getting three FREE! YAY!

To be perfectly honest, this is how I first started receiving this great magazine. My wonderful mother bought me a subscription two years ago, and has paid for it each year. She knew that, since I am a homeschooling mom of 4, I have times that I just need some encouragement. She thought about it, and decided this would be really beneficial for me. And she was right. Every time I get my magazine, I expect great articles telling me all sorts of helpful things about homeschooling, biblical advice regarding child raising, many tips on running a household, and so much more! I am so thankful that she thought to bless me with this gift for Christmas! And I am even more thankful that she KEEPS paying for my subscription. I can't imagine a better gift.

 If you buy now, you will be in time to get the winter edition in January, which, by the by, has MY ARTICLE IN IT!! YAY! (Just had to put a plug in there for myself! :0)

So if you have someone in your life that you would love to bless (of if you just want it yourself - and who wouldn't??), consider purchasing a one year subscription for them to this AMAZING magazine. If you want more, they also have other great deals that include a subscription, a tote bag (which is REALLY CUTE!), and homeschool planners. Check out all the deals, and see which one fits best for you. You won't be sorry! I promise!!

Google Ads Coming Soon

For the past year or so, I have been writing for my blog just for the fun of it. It has been a way to put my thoughts into writing, and get all that jumbled up "mess" out of my head! It has been nothing more than a way to improve my writing while encouraging and sharing with all of you great people.

But I've decided to add to my blog a way to earn some money while doing what I love. In the next few days, you'll see new Google ads pop up in the sidebar of my blog. Every time you click on those to see what that advertiser is offering, I get paid. So please be sure to check out the ads after you read my blog post!

And please, if you notice ANY questionable ads being shown, TELL ME! I can't keep a check on this thing all day every day, so I really will not know which ads are placed on the page, even though they tell me it will definitely be of interest to my readers.

Thanks to all of you who have read my blog over the last year! I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from each of you! And I would greatly appreciate it if you would check out the new ads that you'll be seeing soon on my blog!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homemade Holiday Crescent Rolls

The holidays are here, and many of you will be having parties at your homes, or maybe going to other parties. One food that is always sure to please is a nice, hot batch of crescent rolls! I decided to try my hand at making some homemade crescent rolls today, and they were a HIT!

I started out with this recipe.

1Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 C warm water
1 Tbsp. honey
1 C butter, melted
1/2 C sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
5 C flour

In a cereal bowl, mix the yeast, water, and honey. Let this sit while you mix up everything else. Melt the butter, and add the sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add the salt and half of the flour. Pour in the bubbly yeast mixture and mix well. Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time. When this is all mixed together well, pour a little oil in the bottom of the bowl and roll your dough around in it. This keeps it from sticking to the bowl. Cover it with a cloth, and let it rise until double. Punch down the dough, and let it rise again until double. 

Punch down the dough, and divide the dough in half. Roll out each lump of dough into a large circle, and, using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles. Roll up each triangle from the large side down, and put it on a greased baking pan with the smallest end on the under side. This is what mine looked like.

 Some I made in the traditional shape, but some I pulled in the ends to make more like a roll. I was planning to make homemade frozen breakfast sandwiches for my honey with these, so I needed them more round. 

After they are all on a baking pan, let them rise until double in size. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and bake the rolls until they are nice and brown on top. That takes about 20-25 min. Be sure to watch them, because it would be terrible to go to all that work and then burn them! YUCK!

Looks pretty yummy, doesn't it?! (It was!!)

As I said, I had planned to use these to make homemade frozen breakfast sandwiches for Brient, because he often is running out the door and needs something quick. This will keep me from buying pre-made frozen breakfasts, which are quite expensive, and it keeps him out of an unhealthy and expensive drive-through. 

I made several kinds, so he would have a variety. I made sausage, egg, and cheese. 

I made ham, egg, and cheese.

This one is just ham and cheese.

And this one is egg and cheese.

When I finished, I wrapped them in foil and popped them in the freezer. When he gets ready for them, he can pull one out of the freezer, open it up, and put it in the toaster oven or microwave. (Personally, I think the toaster oven works best, because you can open up the sandwich and it warms it without making everything inside mushy!)

So that was my reason for making the crescent rolls today. But you could very easily make these to take with you to any party for the holidays. Or you could make them for you own holiday meal. 

This was a BIG hit with all my family! The kids wanted to taste them right out of the over, and who wouldn't! I'm sure all of your gang will love them, as well. They were easy and turned out delicious. Even if you're not a bread maker, this recipe is worth the effort. You will be glad you tried it - as will all the hungry little ones around you smelling them!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 25

Today is Thanksgiving! This year, we decided to have Brient's parents and my parents come to our house for lunch, instead of the six of us trying to run back and forth seeing each family. It was such a wonderfully relaxing day, for which I am most thankful.

Simply put, today I am thankful for family and for the wonderful day we had to spend with them. We never know where we will all be at this time next year. So we enjoyed today for what it was - a time to just be with each other.

I am so thankful, and have been so blessed by God.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 24

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Our house, for the past three days, has been non-stop cleaning, cooking, or decorating for the big day. (When I say "decorating," I really mean letting Little Sister do some turkey crafts and color sheets to hang on the wall!) I'm sure for most of you, things have been pretty much the same at your house. My kids are so excited about having family over tomorrow to celebrate and give thanks for all that God Almighty has blessed us with so abundantly. And I must say, I am pretty excited myself.

Today, I am thankful for peace within my spirit. The last few years have been full of worry and anxious thoughts, both of which I know are not of God. But all throughout this day, as we were making crafts and talking about what we were thankful for, I just felt God's peace all around me, like He was wrapping His big arms around me and holding on tight. It is a peace unlike any I have ever felt. God helped me to realize today that, no matter where He leads us, He is always there and nothing is too hard for Him.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

Today, for the first time in a LONG time, I didn't worry about anything. I have been praying, but I have still been worrying. But not today! And, oh, to experience God's peace in such a way. It truly did exceed anything I could understand. I know it could only come from God. And I am so thankful for His peace.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 23

This morning, I woke up a little extra early, because I wanted to spend a little quiet time alone with my God and my Bible. It's been over a week since I've had a chance to do some Bible reading, and I wanted to catch up a little. I've been trying not to rush through my reading, but instead, to look at each verse individually to see what it says to me. I picked up where I left off, in the book of Genesis, chapters 15 and 16.

Genesis 15 recounts God's covenant promise to Abram. A "covenant promise" is a PERMANENT promise. That means, God will not change His mind of forget. God made big promises of great blessings to Abram. He said through a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great."

But Abram still had something troubling him. He asked God, "O Sovereign Lord, what good are all Your blessings when I don't even have a son? Since You've given me no children,... a servant in my household will inherit all my wealth."

But the Lord God took Abram outside, looked up in the sky with him, and said, "Count the stars if you can. That's how many descendants you will have!"

WOW! What that said to me was this. I serve a God who is willing to listen to my doubts and questions, and still loves me anyway. When I have something troubling me, I, like Abram, can go to The Sovereign Lord and present my problems, and He will not get angry with me or think me silly or unreasonable. He will listen to me, and then, just as He did with Abram, will reassure me that He is still in control and I have nothing to fear. Thank you, Jesus, for that promise!

"And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith." When God reminds me that He is still in control, all I have to do is believe Him and His word, and trust that, whatever happens, it is in His hands.

Chapter 16 begins with Sarai, Abram's wife, attempting to do what we women often like to do - fix things. Sarai knew the covenant that God had made with Abram. But she also knew her age (very old!) and knew that she had been barren for her entire life. She had never birthed any children, and she could not see just how God was planning to bring about all these descendants that He promised. So she decided to "help" God along with His plan.

She told Abram to take her maidservant, Hagar, as a wife, and have a child by her. She said that child would surely fulfill the promise. But what that showed was her lack of faith in God and her impatience with Him to bring about His promise. Because of this, she caused all kinds of problems in their family, including mistreating her maidservant to the point of Hagar running away.

"The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, 'Hagar, Sarai's servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?...The Lord has heard your cry of distress.' She said, 'You are the God who sees me. Have I truly seen the One who sees me?'"

Even though Sarai made a huge MESS of things when she became impatient with God and His plan, God still kept His covenant promise with Abram. Also, He did not forget Hagar, but heard her cry and had compassion on her. Sarai not only made a mess of her's and Abram's lives and God's plan, but she also succeeded in "helping" to make a mess of Hagar's life. But God loved Hagar and took care of her still.

I am so thankful that I serve a God who can redeem all of my major "messes" that I seem to often make with my life. Why He continues to have compassion on me and love me, I cannot understand. But I am so thankful that He does!

So today, I am thankful for two things, revealed to me through the scriptures. I am very thankful for a God who does not hold it against me when I have doubts or questions or things troubling my spirit, but loves me and reassures me that He is in control. And I am so very, VERY thankful that I serve a God who is big enough to take all of my mess-ups and turn them around for His good.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 22

Today, the kids and I spent a few hours cleaning the school room. Oh my goodness, I did not realize just how bad it was! And unfortunately, I can't blame all of it on the two year old this time. It was a combined effort of all six of us that got that room in the terrible shape it was in.

But today, we buckled down and went to work on that disaster area. And I am proud to say, you can see the floor again!

Thursday, for Thanksgiving, we will have my family and Brient's family over to eat lunch. Also, we have invited a friend from church who may join us. I am so excited that we will have Thanksgiving at our house this year. Usually for holidays, we spend the day running from one house to the next trying to see each of our loved ones, and by the end of the day, we're so worn out it isn't even funny. And generally, we end up with a really fussy baby on our hands, because she missed her nap with all the running. So this year, we will be home where the baby will have her bed, so she can take her nap whenever she is ready. And we can continue visiting with everyone without rushing. I am really excited about that!

So this year, I am thankful to be staying put on Thanksgiving day. I am thankful that my kids pitched in to help clean up the school room (and they'll help me hit the rest of the house tomorrow), so we can have people over and they can actually come in without tripping over baby toys. And I am thankful for a house where we can have friends and family over for fellowship and good food. I am thankful...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 21

This morning in children's church, Brient and I opened up the Big City Mall! THAT, my friends, is a time when Brient and I pull out lots of great items (toys, books, movies, games, and whatever!) that have been donated or bought by some great people, and give the kids a chance to spend all those Big City Bucks they've been earning for the last few months. Big City Bucks are the incentive we use to encourage kids to come, remember to bring their Bibles, and participate in all the fun on Sunday mornings.

Well, this morning's store was SO STINKIN' FUN! We had children there today who have never had the chance to participate in the Big City Store, so it was VERY exciting to them to be able to spend their bucks and go home with some great prizes! I love watching these kids pick out prizes for themselves. But I also LOVE seeing how each one of them thinks about other people they want to buy for, like their sisters or brothers, parents, and friends. It is so encouraging to see them thinking of others. It's also great to see some of them share their Big City bucks with other kids who maybe haven't come to children's church very long and don't have very many bucks. I am so thankful to be able to witness their sweet, giving spirits! It really encourages me!

Also, my friend, Tammy, came back to help with the store and see all the fun. I was thankful she had the opportunity to be there. She had a great time!

We played a new review game, and the kids LOVED it! It was FAST, it was LOUD, and it was FUN! AND, it showed me that they remembered EVERYTHING we taught them over the last 3 months! I am so thankful for that! It does no good whatsoever to teach kids if it is not on their level and if it is not done in a way that they will remember it. I am thankful that we found a program that teaches in such a way.

The game was a very simple set-up, but the kids LOVED it!

And I am very, VERY thankful for all the great people in our church who have donated things to be put in our store. There are people who have gone through some old things, and donated some of their used items that were still in great shape.

All of our items were donated, either by someone cleaning out things not being used in their house (maybe their kids outgrew a toy), or money was donated for us to purchase things. I am SO thankful for each person who gave something for our store! 

These were some AMAZING and REALLY LARGE posters that were made for camp this summer. My friend, Rena, along with several other great artists, painted them. They were still in GREAT shape, and I really didn't want to see them end up in the trash. So Rena said we could sell them in the store. Now I ask you, who WOULDN'T want Optimus Prime or Bumblebee on their wall!?

It was a great morning! I am so thankful for how everything turned out. The store was a great success, the kids had fun, I knew they had learned a LOT over the last quarter, and it was just an all-around GREAT morning. I was SO THANKFUL!!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 20

Today, I am very thankful for my dear friend, Amy. I had the opportunity to spend the day outside visiting with her in the fresh air while we watched the kids play. We don't often have the chance to just sit and enjoy each others company, so today was special.

I went to high school with Amy, and we graduated together. She and I loved many of the same things, like drama and music, and we hung out together sometimes. She and I went places together, and shared many of the same friends.

When we grew up and married, we still kept in touch. And now, we live about 15 minutes apart. Our children enjoy playing with each other. It's just kind of amazing to me how she and I have stayed good friends, and now our children are friends. Pretty cool.

Today, I really needed a good friend to sit and talk with. It was a hard day, and she was there to be that friend. I am so thankful for her!

~Thank you, Amy, for being such a good friend for all these years. I look forward to many, many more years of friendship with you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 19

As many of you know, I am a proud homeschool mom to four great kids. God called me to this "job" when Britches was about 2. I knew that was what He wanted me to do with and for my kids. God asked me to give up having a job outside of the home, and focus my time and efforts on the children he would put in my care.

I can't say this is always the "job" I wanted to have. There have been, and still are, days that I'd really like to throw my hands up and just put my kids out by the road to wait on that big yellow bus to drive by and pick them up to go to public school. But, because I know that it is God Almighty who has asked this of me, He WILL see my through the hard days.

I have no desire to let a public school teacher spend more time with my children than I. I have no desire to see my kids only in the evenings while doing homework. I have no desire to put them on a freezing cold school bus in the winter to sit for an hour on a bus route before getting to school. (Yeah, I know what I said before!)

But even though my kids don't attend public school, I am still thankful for what goes on there. Today, I am remembering how thankful I am for Christian men and women who go into the school system to make a difference in the lives of children. So many children today come from broken homes, abusive situations, neglect, and any other number of terrible situations that most of us can't even imagine. I am thankful for the teachers who are there to encourage, uplift, and teach these kids. Because, if there weren't good teachers out there, one can never know how those kids from bad home situations would turn out. I am thankful for the cafeteria workers who work hard to feed all those little mouths that, otherwise, may go hungry. I am thankful for a "safe place" for these kids who may not have that "safe place" anywhere else.

Just because you adore your kids and take wonderful care of them doesn't mean that all parents do the same. Not all parents love or even WANT their children. It is a very, VERY sad thing. But I am thankful for the teachers and workers in the schools who care about these kids, and help them to have a better life through education.

Just because I homeschool doesn't mean everyone wants to. Just because I choose to be home with my kids all day every day doesn't mean all parents feel the same. So I am thankful for the people in education who are there for these children.

I am especially thankful for 2 of my favorite teachers, Ms. Hebert and Ms. Oaks, who taught me English and Creative Writing. I would not be where I am today, or where I am headed, with my writing without them taking time with me and encouraging me.

So for any of you out there who feel the need to talk bad about parents who send their kids to public school, about the public school system's failings, or "those teachers", remember this. I take great offense when someone criticizes me for my decision to homeschool my children. We should not be so quick to criticize the ones filling the gaps for children whose parents do not feel the same.

Thank you, teachers, for all you do.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 18

For the last 18 days, I have been taking part in The Gratitude Project, a challenge put out by my friend and pastor, Ray, to be intentionally grateful for the 25 days leading up to Thanksgiving. If you are new to my blog, be sure to check out all the details of The Gratitude Project in my first post of the challenge.

The kids and I spent the day at home. It was the first day in a LONG time that I have simply relaxed. I sent the kids to do a little school work from their 4H books, but other than that, we took some time off from our regular schooling.

I spent some time sitting down and talking with my honey. We brought in my new table that we bought last weekend at a garage sale. He had it out in the shop refinishing it, and it is BEAUTIFUL! I'll post pictures of it after I have a chance to take one!

I did a minimal amount of housework with the kids help. I enjoyed THREE cups of yummy scrummy hummy hot cocoa.

I finally finished the article I have been working on for the last few months, and sent it in to be considered for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

And we rounded out the day by having Brient's parents over for deer burgers (a vegan one for me!), corn on the cob, and chips with Brient's homemade salsa.

The kids watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. And I'm sitting in the bathroom blogging right now, while the 2 little girls are playing in a bubble bath.

It has been a wonderfully slow and relaxing day. I am just not sure how it could have been much better. I am very blessed, and VERY thankful!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 17

Today, I am thankful for several things! The first, and THE MOST IMPORTANT thing I am thankful for are two really sweet ladies. Today at co-op, my friend, Kayla, brought me a HUGE sack full of boy clothes for my Little Man. And my other friend, Tara, brought me 3 sacks full of girl clothes for Little Sister! I am so thankful that both of these ladies thought of me and my children, and were willing to pass down some good outgrown clothes to us!

Over the years, God has always seen to it that my kids were clothed. All throughout my kids lives, I have been given hand-me-downs for each of my kids. If I had to buy enough clothes for each season for all 4 of my kiddos, I would go BROKE! Granted, I have some girl clothes that I keep from one girl to the next. But there was a BIG gap in between Britches and Little Sister, so I had already given away a lot of what I had. So I have always been VERY thankful for the wonderful people God has sent our way to share with us. My kids have never gone without in that area.

And I LOVE being able to hand down clothes that we no longer need to other families. These people have blessed me by giving me clothes for my kids, and I LOVE having the opportunity to be a blessing to someone else and pass on to them for their kids.

Also today, I am thankful that it was a beautiful day so we could sit outside and have a picnic while eating PIZZA! I just LOVE picnics at co-op! I love that I have a standing lunch date with my friend, Linda, for our picnic! I have come to really look forward to it each week.

During third hour, I sit in on study hall and make sure those crazy teenagers stay quiet and actually STUDY! So, while I was sitting, I had an entire 45 minutes to work on an article I have been writing for the past few months. No, it's not that it's just that long or that great. It's just that I haven't had enough quiet time to collect my thoughts and make complete sentences! So this article has been very slow going. But today, I made quite a bit of progress, for which I am really thankful!

I am VERY thankful that today was our last day of co-op for about 2 months! I NEED A BREAK! My kids are very disappointed, but I am quite looking forward to slowing our pace just a bit. Also, I am looking forward to getting my lessons for next semester planned and organized. That way, when we start back, I will not be so rushed. I will greatly miss the aforementioned standing lunch date with my friend, Linda. But I am very grateful for a break from running.

And I am most thankful that God provided me the opportunity today to share truth from His Word with a man whose beliefs are not in line with the Bible. I'm not really sure that I made a difference in his life today. But I do have the promise from God that His Word does NOT return void, AND whatever good work He begins, He will see it through to completion. Thank you, Jesus!

It has been a great day! The baby didn't scream for the entire day, for which I am VERY, VERY THANKFUL! The sun was shining. The rains came again tonight. My week is officially slowing down, and will continue to do so for the next week or more. My co-op classes went really well today - which isn't something I can say for every week. We all had time to see friends today. I am just really thankful that today went so very well.

And in the morning, I'm going to slow down and make a nice cup of homemade hot cocoa...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 16

It occurred to me that this 25 day journey of intentional gratefulness is more than half-way done. It doesn't seem like the time has passed so quickly, and yet, Thanksgiving is upon us in a little over a week. WOW!

I must admit, there have been a few days that I have had to sit for awhile and FIND something for which to be thankful. I have four children, and the two littlest ones, ages 4 and 2, have been giving me a run for my money lately. I have been just a little, shall we say, STRESSED! So by participating in The Gratitude Project, I have made myself stop and reflect on the things in my life, and not just the "stressful at the time" things, and I realize that I do have MUCH for which to be thankful!

Today, I am simply thankful for this yummy, delicious cup of homemade hot chocolate sitting in front of me waiting to be savored. Back in January, I gave up a BIG addiction to coffee, and that is something I have not regretted. But I have realized that, besides the caffeine addiction, I really just LOVE having a warm cup of ANYTHING in my hands. It is so comforting and soothing. Especially on dreary, rainy days like we have had at my house this past week, a nice, hot cup of something is wonderful! I LOVE a nice cup of hot tea, mainly chai or Earl Grey. And at this time of year, a cup of hot apple cider hits the spot. But what I have really developed a love of is hot cocoa! Homemade hot cocoa, to be exact!

I came up with my own recipe for a delicious, healthy hot cocoa, and I wanted to share it with you. I promise, you will be THANKFUL for this cocoa, too!!

1 C Blue Diamond almond milk (non-dairy, low in calories, low in carbs, and VERY YUMMY!)
1/2 TBSP cocoa powder (very high in antioxidants and a mood booster!)
A dash of cinnamon, to taste (lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, and reduces arthritis pain)
1 TBSP honey (aids stomach and digestion, treats allergies, heals ulcers, and MUCH more!!)

Add everything to a small pot, and use a whisk to mix everything well. I continue to whisk everything until it reaches the temperature I want it, because I don't want it to burn. (Nothing worse than burning a good cup of hot cocoa!) When all the cocoa is dissolved and you get it to the temperature you like, pour it up in a nice, big mug. Take your cup to a nice, quiet place, get a good book or a magazine, and relax while you enjoy your yummy hot cocoa!

I hope you like this recipe as well as I do. It has become one of my favorite afternoon "snack" drinks, and I make a cup nearly every day. I am very, very thankful for my chocolate treat!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 15

This morning, I woke up to the sound of a light rain falling outside my living room window. I woke up early, and everyone else was still in bed asleep. So I laid on the couch, closed my eyes, and just listened to the sound. It was so peaceful, I fell back asleep. But it was such a light sleep, I could still hear the rain drip, drip, dripping off of the house and into my herb garden.

I am so thankful that God sends the rains at just the time when we need it most. Just when my garden is looking very parched and cracked, God sends the water from Heaven to soak into the ground and bring life to everything it touches. My garden bursts forth with color and fruit. 

Sometimes, that is how our lives seem to be. The "things" in life just keep coming, and we just seem to get drier and drier, and we think we can't go on much longer in this drought. But then, at just the right time, God sends a refreshing rain to soak into our souls and bring life back to our spirits. That refreshing rain may come through a word you read in your Bible, it may be something said by the preacher or other minister, or it could even come through a song.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in Romans 8:28. It says, "And we know that, in ALL THINGS, God works together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." What that says to me is that, no matter how badly I screw things up, He can and WILL still turn it around for good! Thank you, Jesus! My other favorite verse is found in Jeremiah 29:11 - "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you a HOPE and a FUTURE.'" WOW! Those are 2 verses that really refresh my spirit!

There are many songs that bring life back to my soul - songs reminding me of God's promises, His love, and His constant presence in my life. This is one of my favorites!

I am so thankful today that God sends the rains, both the literal and the spiritual, at just the right time.Thank you, Jesus, for Your rains.

Ben Franklin

When you hear the name Benjamin Franklin, you probably think of a guy from long ago who had something to do with our country, but aren't really sure what. Hey, it's in the past. What does it matter to me today? What makes this guy so special that HE gets to be on our hundred dollar bill? This week, Britches and Little Man went back in time to meet up with one of the greatest men in our country's history, and to find out just what DOES make this man so special.

To help us on our time travels, I, of course, turned to Download N Go, who has a FANTASTIC Ben Franklin unit. Already prepared for me were great lesson plans, fascinating online links to videos, and really cool templates.

I started out by printing off the pages I wanted to use, and then put together the lapbooks (because I don't want to spend the precious little time I DO have trying to get the kids to cut everything out on their own). DNG provides a book list that you have the option of using during the unit. In truth, there is enough information already included in the unit that you really don't HAVE to use any of these. But since I LOVE the library and using actual physical BOOKS, I did borrow several from the list.

One of the first things we learned about Ben was the fact that he had a large - VERY LARGE - family! We learned about his parents and his siblings, where they lived, and things he enjoyed doing as a kid. Then, after learning a little about Ben's family tree, we made our own. The kids thought that part was pretty cool.

Britches and Little Man found it amazing how many lives this one man lived! Among some of the amazing things that this guy did, he was an inventor, a printer, a writer, a world traveler, and a statesman. How did that man do so many things in his life? Well, that's just it. He DID THINGS. He didn't just talk about what needed to be done, but he went out and found solutions.

We learned that Ben started a weekly club that met to talk about important matters. So I asked the kids what kind of club they would start, who they would invite, and what they would talk about. Both went straight to work designing their clubs. Here is what they came up with.

Little Man decided that his club was going to be called "Boys Bible Group." WOW! I was pretty impressed. He said he would invite the boys from church, and they would discuss things in the Bible. 

Britches, of course, wanted to start an all girls club. She named it "G.I.A - Girl's Improvement Association." They would meet to discuss things like self improvement, fashion, and whatever other "girl things" they wanted to talk about.

On the day that we learned about Ben's printing press and business, we started the day by watching the video link about how the press actually worked. It was REALLY cool to see the machine that took the place of hand-writing documents! My plans were to go from the video straight to working on our lapbooks. But as soon as the video went off, both kids told me they were off to build a printing press. Well, who am I to stand in the way of creativity?! So they both headed to the recycling bin, pulled out some cardboard, and got to work. Here are their finished products. 


Britches got all her supplies together and started on her printing press.

This is the open printing press, and the paper goes right in the middle.

The cover folds down over the paper. The letter tiles go on the bottom flap, where the "beater" uses an "ink ball" to apply the ink to the tiles. 

The entire press is folded over to press the ink from the tile to the paper.

This is her "ink ball" and she is the "beater."

Little Man began work on his printing press.

It folds over, much like Britches' press, with the "window" opening for the paper to show through and press against the ink.

The cardboard over the "window" represents a piece of paper that would have been in his press. 

Little Man beating ink on his letters.

The finished printing press! Tada! 

One morning, we started out to watch one or maybe two videos of Ben's famous kite experiment, and we ended up spending about an hour and a half watching Youtube videos! What a fun way to learn about how Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightening is really electricity! We began with the video links already provided by DNG, and then just kept watching more! 

There were so many other amazing things we learned during this week of Benjamin Franklin history. I could go on and on telling you about all the amazing things this man said and did, and all the things my kids took away from this lesson. But instead of me telling you, you should get your own copy of Ben Franklin and have some fun with YOUR kids! 

There are many other homeschool mom's using the Ben Franklin unit with their kids. Visit the blog tour to find their blog sites, and go check out the way they used this unit! You will get lots of ideas for when you teach it to your own kiddos!

History is one of my favorite subjects, so it makes it very easy for me to get enthusiastic about teaching it to my kids. We all really, REALLY enjoyed this unit! I am so glad we spent the week traveling back in time to learn about one of the greatest men to ever live.

~I received a free copy of "Ben Franklin" in exchange for my honest review of this product.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 14

I am thankful today for all the amazing kids that I am allowed to work with every Sunday morning who make my day so FUN! It was nearly a packed house this morning. We had three new kids today in Big City Studios, our children's program, which was VERY exciting for us! All the kids had a great time learning about God and playing some fun games. I am so thankful I have the chance to hang out with these kids each week.

I am thankful for my honey, who is the backbone of the whole shindig. I'm the "up front" person, but without him working "behind the scenes", the whole thing would just fall apart!

And I'm thankful that I have some great teenagers that come in to help me each week. I am thankful for Angel, Emily, Maicee, Christian, and Zac who take turns coming in to be motivators, game helpers or leaders, and anything else crazy that I ask them to do. Thanks, Zac, for letting me smoosh cookies to your head! (You just never know what's going to happen in children's church!)

I had pictures somewhere, but I can't seem to put my hands on them. So you'll just have to take my word for it that this is a great looking bunch of kids who know how to have a good time!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Gratitude Project - Day 13

This morning, I looked out my window to see the leaves raining down. One thing I love about living at this house is watching the leaves change colors every fall, and then, with the slightest breeze, get blown to the ground. It is simply a beautiful thing to see, and it's something I look forward to every year.

Besides the leaves, there are many other beautiful fall signs and colors bursting out at every turn. This is my favorite time of year (right next to spring), and I am so thankful that God shows me his beauty in all of His creation.

God promised Noah that there would always be seasons. He keeps His promises. So I know, each year I will be able to sit at my window and see the beauty of the leaves falling.

This morning, I just couldn't stand it, so I went outside and tried to capture some of the beauty in photos. No photo could ever truly show all the beauty of nature. It was so much more beautiful in front of me. But I want to share with you some of what I observed.



This is what my woods look like in the fall. BEAUTIFUL!!


I LOVE the pinecones that are all over my yard right now. 

This is my neighbors tree that I see across from my house each day. I LOVE this time of year when their tree starts turning colors. I have no idea what kind of tree this is, but I'm glad they planted it in their yard!

 My sasanqua tree blooms every year around the end of October or the first of November. It has beautiful pink flowers that last through a lot of the cool weather. It is a beautiful burst of color this time of year.

Every fall, my althea tree's leaves turn light yellow and green. In the spring, it puts out beautiful purple flowers. It is equally beautiful in both seasons.

In the fall, my lemon balm herb turns from a bright green to a beautiful purple and green mix. It is so amazing to see how this plant can change so much during the year.

When I look at all of the beauty around me, it is easy to see why fall is one of my favorite seasons. I am so thankful that God makes His creation so diverse and gorgeous. It takes a BIG GOD to make things so different and all so beautiful.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess