For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and glory - honor, splendor and heavenly bliss! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11

Friday, December 2, 2011

This Week in Preschool

This week was pretty mellow. We've been taking turns being sick for nearly a month now. First it was colds, then stomach flu, then colds again. Yesterday Little Z was diagnosed with the croup. Hurray. So between, "Mommy, I don't talk so good." and me and Hubs taking turns on the porcelain throne (sorry, TMI) we haven't done a whole lot.

We did have a window of wellness this last weekend though, thank goodness, because I was going insane.

So we went to the Festival of Lights at the Grotto. For those who haven't been, I highly recommend it. Back in the day, my high school choir did an appearance there each year. Most nights here in Portland you can expect wind, cold, sideways down-pouring rain, and generally horribly cold, wet, weather. We happened to pick a night that was DRY and without wind! It was a Christmas miracle!

There are lots of things I like about the Festival, but this year was the first year I took the girls so each thing that we saw made me think, "Wow, this is an excellent learning opportunity." When you walk in, there are stations of lights depicting scenes from the Nativity story with audio narration. You walk a bit more, there's another spot with lights and story. The lights are impressive, but the story is amazing and chokes me up.

And then there are the choirs. The Festival hosts the largest gathering of choral groups during the Christmas season. I'm not sure how many choirs will perform during the course of the Festival, but it's a lot. Looking at the program there are 5-8 choirs that perform nightly and the festival will go on until Christmas Day. It was a great opportunity for little ones to see and experience live music! I know personally, that we probably wouldn't pay for the kids to see a concert that we most likely would have to leave after 20 minutes, but we can certainly sit for 20 minutes and leave a performance if we need to in a venue like this. To round things out, there was also a petting zoo, a display of Nativities from around the world, and a puppet show. We really enjoyed it and I think the girls learned a lot. It was a great intro to the Christmas season!

Our other preschool activities this week were pretty basic. We learned about the letters C and D. We did some letter tracing and name writing practice. We talked about things that start with each letter, and what kind of sounds they make. I checked out a phonics DVD from the library and we watched that. We also watched a Nature episode "My Life as a Turkey". Ziva liked it so much that she's requested to watch it twice - so we watched it again. We spread out some uncooked rice on a cookie sheet and used it to practice writing their names as well as the letters C and D. The girls LOVE "rice time".

We've also got our Advent wreath set up and we're going through a book called Getting Ready for Christmas: A Daily Advent Prayer & Activity Book for the Family. Each page is very colorful, and it has a brief scripture verse along with a prayer and an activity. The activity is usually something open ended like, "Make an angel ornament for the Christmas tree." I'm usually able to take the suggestions and then look online for something simple to do. So far we have printed out a small angel coloring page, colored it, glued it to construction paper with a loop of ribbon between. It took us about 15 minutes. Today the activity was "Make a sheep ornament or draw/color a sheep." I printed out a cute shepherd/sheep coloring page and we colored it. Easy peasy. But it gave us the opportunity to talk about how a shepherd takes care of his sheep and that God is like our Good Shepherd who provides for all of our needs.

My plan for next week:

I printed out the local school district's Preschool Packet. The packet is supposed to supply enough things to do for a month, but we usually find that it will only last that long if we add in a bunch of other stuff! The packet this week goes over the letters E and F, so we'll focus on those letters. We'll continue to do the activities suggested in the Getting Ready for Christmas book. I have about 20 Christmas books checked out from the library, so we'll do a bunch of reading. I also bought everything we need to make birdseed ornaments to use as gifts from the girls to the family members for Christmas. I'm sure we'll also do some baking. Lots of cookies need to be made this month for gifts!

I linked this post to Homeschool Creations Moments to Remember!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Too Much Stimuli

As Americans, it's part of our culture to be busy. It's our national virtue. We work more hours than any other culture in the world. We are taught at a very early age that it's our job to be productive. We fill up most of our life with tasks that need to be accomplished. We give our kids chore charts, we make lists, we carry planners, and when we have conversations with people and they ask what we've been up to lately we lament, "Oh, I've been SO busy!"

But who made us busy? Did we somehow allow everyone around us to decide for us how to spend our time? Maybe sometimes that's the case, but most of us make that decision for ourselves. For most of us, the first question we ask ourselves when we finish a task is "What's next?"

The problem with this culture of busyness is that it doesn't allow for down time. It values a person for how much they can get done in one day instead of how much time we spend with our loved ones or how much time we spend on reflection.

Here at our house, we have been sick for nearly a week. Each family member has taken turns with the stomach flu. It was terrible, except for one thing. We had lots of time. We could easily say no to outside interference, and say yes to doing nothing. It gave me a lot of time to think and read.

I made it through two books about home schooling: Christian Unschooling by Teri J. Brown and School Starts at Home by Cheri Fuller. Both emphasize a need to "unplug" from electronic stimuli AND a strict busy schedule in order for natural learning opportunities to occur. Children have less motivation to turn to reading, pretend play, or educational activities if they are constantly being entertained by television, computers, electronic toys, OR extracurricular activities.

Having grown up in a house with a mother who HATED television, this concept is nothing new to me. But what struck me as "new" while reading these books is that it's not just the kids who can be effected by too much stimulation, I am just as vulnerable. I am just as likely to turn to Facebook or browsing the internet during a down moment rather than doing something that would be more nourishing to my mind and spirit. Instead of writing on my blog, which is an excellent outlet for me because it requires thought and contemplation, I play Sims. Instead of spending time in prayer, or doing personal devotions, I watch TV. Instead of reading a book, I... well, you get the point. I expend so much head space on things that have no value, and avoid the things that do with the thought, "I'll do that when I have more time." When exactly will that happen?

In one part of "Christian Unschooling" a mom struggling with scheduling commented on praying over her day planner. Specifically, she prayed that God would lead them throughout the day and that He would guide her children to whatever He wanted them to learn that day. I thought that was such a beautiful thought, because ultimately we as parent's control only a tiny amount of what our children need to learn. Praying, and recognizing, that God is the one who controls these things helps put our anxieties at ease. It allows us as parents to share the burden of raising our children with God, rather than try to carry that yoke on our own (and it's a very heavy yoke at that!). It's something that I need to do more of. As always: a little more You, and a little less me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New to home preschool? Me too.

I'm half way through my third week of home preschool'ing my kids.

And check it out, I'm still alive!

Some amazing stuff has happened during these short few weeks. I've learned a lot about my kids. I've learned a lot about different home school philosophies. I've developed a routine that seems to work for us, although I'm sure it will improve.

Four year olds are amazing. All you have to do is open your mouth, and they respond with questions. They're so eager to know everything, and so ready to jump in when they think they already know. This age seems to be all about learning and absorbing, so teaching them isn't hard. The hard part seems to be getting them to slow down for three seconds! As soon as we finish an activity or project the first question is usually, "What's next, Mommy?"

Ummmmmm..... uhhh.... I guess we better think about that for a minute.

There are a few things that have helped on this brief foray into the unknown, and since I spent so much time grasping at straws I figure I'd outline those things in case anyone else out there could use a hand. Keep in mind, I am NOT an expert, I'm a blundering first-time mom/first-time homeschooler.

- Don't freak out, it's just preschool. This was the wisest bit of info that a friend told me and she was absolutely right. There is no failure here, it's not even required for kids to go to preschool, you really can't mess this up. So relax!

- Check out the Library. They have amazing resources both for you and for your kids. Kids learn a lot just from reading. So even if they just pick out a bunch of books and take them home they'll learn a lot from that. I've made it our goal to read at least 2 new books a day. So we go once a week and check out about 10-14 books. When we get home, I put all but 2 of them away so that we can have something new to read each day. This seems to help keep their interest level high when each day we can read something "new". The Library also has plenty of books on home schooling. I check out one a week and try to read it.

- Check your local school district's website. My school district has printable preschool packets that have a full curiculum that's seasonally appropriate for each month. It includes activities, worksheets, and book lists. If your district doesn't offer one then feel free to click here.

- There are homeschool co-ops out there where homeschooling families get together one or two days a week to do more in depth classes. My local co-op doesn't offer anything for preschoolers, but yours might.

- Parks and Rec usually has some kind of classes that you can sign up your kids for. Mine offers a movement/dance class. I plan to sign them up in January. Check other places like your community center. This is something I need to do more of, but in the little I've heard there's a lot of options.

- Coloring pages! There are a ton of them out there, just google whatever subject matter might be appropriate. I recently found some awesome pages with turkey's and pilgrims by searching "Thanksgiving coloring pages".

Websites that I've found exceedingly helpful:

Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations: She's amazing! I have been using her wonderful thematic preschool printables since day 1. My kids love the activities, and her ideas are terrific. I check her page every day, and I love all of her organizational aids! She really is the one who gave me the courage to even try this.

I Can Teach My Child: An excellent blog with wonderful craft ideas! The thing that strikes me the most about this site is that each activity is meant to point our children to Christ. It's beautifully done!

Kaboose: I love the craft ideas here! I'm so uncrafty, and these ideas are simple and actually look like something you'd want to display in your home rather than immediately chuck in the bin.

If you know of any other great home schooling sites I'm all ears!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recipe: Bierocks

I recently read an article about the beauty of recipes that have been passed down for generations, and how those who know how to make such things NEED to pass on that knowledge whether anyone asks for it or not. It's the duty of the knowledge holders to find someone who wants to learn. Otherwise the knowledge is lost.

Thankfully, my grandmother (who turned 95 this past August) has generously passed down her recipes. A few years ago my sweetheart of an aunt, Aunt Charlotte, started the monumental project of tracing over all of my grandmother's faded pencil written recipes and making photo copies of them, printing them, binding them, and distributing them to all the relatives. Sadly, my aunt passed away before her project was finished. But her husband and some other relatives pressed on and completed it. Thanks to them, we all have a copy of my grandmother's cook book.

The title? Kissin' Don't Last, Cookin' Do.

I've been trying to make a point of making something out of this book for my family each month, and of course I'm starting with the things I remember. And since my Dad specifically requested Bierock's for his birthday it made sense to start with that.

Bierock's are essentially an eastern European version of a savory hand pie. Seems like nearly every culture has their version: empanada's and calzone's come to mind. It's a convenience food. It can be wrapped in a lunch box, eaten on the go, made in a huge batch it freezes well for a quick weeknight meal. Add a salad, and you're in business.

This time around, I took my grandma's recipe and combined it with some other recipes that I found online. And I had one lonely carrot in my crisper, so I threw that in too.

It all starts with 2 lbs of hamburger in a skillet browned with an onion and minced garlic clove. Once that's done, add 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper. Then shred a small head of cabbage and put that in, along with 2 Tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds. Cook until cabbage is wilted. The end result is this:

Then you get out your dough. You can use whatever you like. I know my grandma makes her own, and I've heard that you can also use those refrigerated biscuits from a can. I used two loaves of frozen dough, and then I set it on my counter to thaw/rise according the the package directions. It takes about 4-6 hours depending upon the temperature of your room.

Then I rolled out one loaf at a time and cut it into 6 wedge shapes.

Put 1/4 cup of the filling on each wedge and then fold the corners to the center and press the seams together. It doesn't have to be perfect, remember, this is a peasant dish.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. The result is a heavenly smell in your kitchen and hot yumminess inside of bread.


2 loaves of frozen bread dough, thawed
2 lbs of ground beef
1 yellow onion
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 small head of cabbage
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1. Place bread dough in a greased bowl on the counter and cover with towel for about 4-6 hours before you're planning to cook. If you need to leave it longer than that you can thaw in the fridge overnight.
2. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic. Add salt and lemon pepper. Shred the cabbage and add it once the beef is cooked along with worchestershire sauce and caraway seeds. Drain liquid.
3. Roll out dough 1 loaf at a time on a floured surface. Cut into 6 wedge shapes. Place 1/4 cup meat mixture onto each wedge. Fold each corner to the center and press seams together so that no meat is exposed. Perfection is not part of this recipe. Rustic is a good word for it. :) Place each pastry on a cookie sheet.
4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Preschool Delema

Because we've had a tough couple of years, and because I was working full-time until the end of August, we hadn't even looked at preschool until just a few weeks ago. Did you know that most people start researching preschool when their kids are babies? And that they sign their kids up for it the spring before they want to send their kids there? Who knew!

Due to life, we didn't even know whether we'd be able to afford such a thing until Hubs went back to work. And by then nearly every place I called was "full for the year, but I can put you on our waiting list." The ones that weren't full? Well, let's just say that we don't have an extra $1200/mo sitting around. I kid you not. Will I spend more than our mortgage payment to send our kids to preschool? Hmm... let me think about that for a minute... NO!

I did find one school that offered this amazing "needs based" scholarship opportunity. It was an amazing school. Montessori and everything. But we didn't get the scholarship, apparently we aren't needy enough. *sigh* Now, maybe if I left my husband and went back to school I'd qualify, but since I'm not doing either of those things, no preschool for us.

I was sad, but life goes on.

Next option? Ugh... I don't even want to say it... home school. Don't get me wrong, I have friends who have done it and survived, but most of them are a lot more "with the program" than I am. I am what some might call a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. Planning? Not my forte. Organization? What's that? I think I'm ok as far as intelligence goes, but I barely scraped myself through school, am I really the right person to be leading two little minds down that path? Well, let's not get overly dramatic here, this is preschool after all. If I screw up this year, there's always kindergarten next year and hopefully I won't be teaching that too.

Thankfully there are some pretty great resources out there. Our local library offered me a ton of books on the subject (as if I'll have time to read, but I now have them on my shelf) and a flyer with classes I could sign them up for through our parks & rec department. And our local school district gives us these excellent monthly "preschool packets" which include a list of seasonally appropriate activities, books, songs, and worksheets. But the one thing that really inspired me to give this a shot is Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations. She has these amazing themed preschool units that you can print out for free along with ideas on how to use them. They're colorful, and cheery, and just plain fun! Plus she has tons of ideas for parents on how to get organized, and I will most certainly be making use of her "to do lists" and "preschool planning sheets".

So after learning all of what's available to home schooling parents, I'm starting to think that maybe I really can do this. And hopefully when this spring comes around, I'll actually sign my kids up for things and I won't have to do it again!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lead Foot

They say I inherited my father's left foot.

My dad was infamous for his many speeding tickets and horrible driving record. I remember riding in the car with him as a kid. His ADD takes over and his eyes go this way and that noticing everything from the color of the leaves to the antique car going by. The car gradually goes from the right to the left side of the lane, and back again. Amazingly, I don't recall any accidents either with or without us kids in the car.

I don't swerve within my lane like Dad. Instead I'm hyper vigilant. I get nervous as a passenger because I'm never quite certain that the person driving is paying as much attention as I would. I was in two car accidents as a teenager, neither of them my fault, and so other drivers on the road make me nervous. I'm absolutely certain that they're all going to run into me. That I'm somehow a magnet for stupid people.

So to compensate for the stupid drivers of this world I try my hardest to pass them. I'm convinced that if I get out in front of them rather than driving along with them that I'll be safe.

Well, obviously this idea has backfired, because although I have not been in an accident since college (totally not my fault!) I have recently gotten my very first speeding ticket.

But at least the cop was nice. As he handed me my ticket he said, "I hope your day improves." Yeah, me too...

No longer can I brag about my perfect driving record. Eleven MPH too fast and $144 later I am now just as unlucky as the rest of those stupid drivers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gettin' in the Groove

Since I've officially been off work for 2 weeks I've had a lot to catch up on. Apparently there is a lot that doesn't get done with Mom working and Dad home with the kids... such as clearing the kitchen counters with the accumulated clutter and *shock!* wiping them down. Plus all the projects that I've meant to attend to but up until recently haven't had the time/energy to even think about it.

The first week I was off I focused on canning. My sister-in-law was visiting, so my mom came over and we canned batch after batch after BATCH of peaches. Thankfully with so many hands to help it went pretty quickly and in no time we had a ton of peaches in jars. Next up was pickles. My cucumbers decided to produce a mighty crop this year, so my sister-in-law encouraged me to can them up into bread and butter pickles. I think we now have enough pickles to last us until the end of time. Then after everyone left I decided to take the last few peaches and make peach salsa and a couple batches of peach jam.

My kitchen is sticky. I've cleaned it a few times, but it's still sticky.

I went to my chiropractor a crippled mess. She said, "What did you do??" I said, "You know, just did a bit of canning." "Well, you need to stop!" "I can't! It's berry season next!"

Then I went and bought a half flat of raspberries and 2 flats of blackberries. But I tried to be reasonable, I washed and froze them for my sister-in-law's next visit in October. What can I say, I couldn't leave her out of the fun!

And then just as I was going through catalogs and sign up forms for fall activities we all came down with a cold.


I'm still trying to get used to this whole stay-at-home mom gig. It's been a year, and I feel rusty and unsure of what to do with my time. I went to church, and picked up their fall calendar. We considered sending the girls to preschool, but the only one that had availability was out of our budget and 30 minutes away. We're on a waiting list for a coop preschool in town, so hopefully we'll get called for that. In the meantime I figure we'll do stuff with our church and the library and call it good. I'm still trying to work it all out in my brain.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Great Switcheroo

So the great day has finally arrived.

As of August 31st, I have officially been laid off from my job. For those of you who know me, you'll know that THIS IS GREAT NEWS! It means that I can get back to my real passion: staying home with my kids.

This news is made even more exciting by the fact that my husband was called back to work just 3 days after I got the news of my lay off. I don't believe in coincidence, I believe in God's plan, and this is obviously His hand at work in our lives.

I thank all of you who have been praying for us during this extremely tough year. I know I haven't posted much at all, but hopefully I will be able to remedy that soon now that I have more time on my hands.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

U2 and Me too!

Hubs and I have a very exciting weekend planned...


We're packing the car, we're leaving the kids and dogs behind, and we're escaping to Seattle so that I can meet my new boyfriend, Bono. Oops! I mean, so we can scream and go crazy and have a great time together. :)

I love U2. I know they're not the greatest musicians in the whole world. I know they're not the greatest song writers or greatest lyricists on the planet. To all you haters out there, I know. I do. Really.

But here's the thing about U2, they have a lead singer who can sell it.

Plus, Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree were pretty much the sound track of my college years. Which, is kind of funny considering I'm really not THAT old. But obviously, I'm old enough for U2.

In addition to Bono, we'll be enjoying a swank hotel room within walking distance of the concert venu AND I'm hoping to convince Hubs to take me to the glass museum. U2, and glass. Love it!

All brought to yours truly thanks to Dear Husband who bought me the tickets as a surprise birthday present not last December, but the one before that. I tell ya, the man's a keeper!

And just in case you're wondering, here's my favorite U2 song:

Monday, May 30, 2011

What's up?

Obviously, blogging hasn't been my forte lately.

Mostly I'm just trying to make it through each day, and when I'm done I fall into a heap in front of the tv. No time for writing, or communicating with the outside world in any way. Well, except maybe Facebook but that's a different story.

Our life is still complicated, but I'm beginning to think that it just always is. For the past two years I've lived with an injured husband and twins to care for. It's been a marathon of sorts. But we have seen major progress. Hubs got his shoulder surgery... FINALLY! He's still the stay-at-home parent, there's probably going to be some issues with his employer letting him come back and under what conditions. Again, it's complicated. We're not sure when that will all come about, but we're not stressing about it either. At this point, whatever is going to happen will happen.

I'm still enjoying my job, but I'm getting tired. I'm trying to slow down and take time for myself when I can. Relax when I can. But it's hard to do that.

My girls will be 4 years old in just a couple weeks. I can hardly believe it. It seems like just yesterday I held them for the first time. And now they're not babies any more, they're big girls. Or so they keep reminding me. How did that happen?

Anyway, I'm still here. I'm still doing ok. Life is hard, but it's getting better, there's more reason to be hopeful.
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