October 30, 2012

A Yummy Side Dish Recipe

Happy Tummy Tempting Tuesday!!!  Before I share the recipe, I must tell you I have been trying FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH to decide between watching what I eat so that I do not need to exercise or exercising so that I do not need to watch what I eat!  Anyone else there?  And "how's that workin' for ya?"  Mkay...same here!   I must do better in November because the holidays are coming, and we all know what happens once Thanksgiving arrives!  Any shred of self-discipline I had to begin  with concerning my sweet tooth completely vanishes!  Ahhhh.....On that note, here is the recipe for this Tuesday, and I am off to bake a pan of brownies for tonight (because it isn't November yet!)!  :)

(Growing up, this was one of my most favorite side dishes my Mom cooked)

2 cans Mexicorn (I have also substituted frozen sweet corn.)
1 bag Saffron rice
1 stick of butter
1 can cream of celery soup
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (We use mild!)

Cook rice. Add butter, corn, soup and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cheese.  Mix well.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350*.

Don't forget to check out yesterday's Joyful Mom Monday post.  You can link up all week long.  We'd love to read your thoughts!


October 29, 2012

Joyful Mom Monday - Family Fun Nights

Counting God's Little Blessings

What does your family do together that helps you appreciate one another and enjoy each others company? Our family enjoys Family Fun Nights.  During the summer, the kids would usually rather be outside riding bikes and 4 wheelers and going on "an adventure" (which is really only taking a 10 minute hike through our 11 acres, but they prepare as though they may be gone for months!).  For that reason, we usually turn our Sunday afternoons into Family Days where we will go to a park or go out for ice cream.  As the evenings have begun to close in more quickly, my oldest two have already asked when we will have our Family Fun Nights again.  For this Joyful Mom Monday, I thought I would share some of the fun things we have done in the past, and I'm hoping you will link up below and give me some amazing ideas to try this fall and winter!

Some things we have done in the past are:
       *Silly night!  The kids loved this one because...well, because my kids love being silly, and they REALLY LOVED seeing Mom and Dad be silly!  Everyone had to come to supper dressed silly.  They still talk about my famous toilet paper on the rolls necklace!  I rocked it! :)  We also had dessert first and then supper.  Everyone also was required to bring a joke or act out a silly skit.  My kiddos had no problem in this area whatsoever! 
         *Tent night!  We built a huge tent in the living room and had supper inside it.  
         *Swimming!  One of the very few family activities we have close to us is an indoor natural hot springs pool. We love going there every once in awhile.  We usually go on a week night and have most of the pool completely to ourselves.
          *Surprise night! We got the kids ready for bed...pj's on, teeth brushed, even did our nightly reading and then, instead of telling them to go to bed, we told them to go to the car!  They were really confused!!!  We took them to Dairy Queen in their pajamas.  I must admit, I thought I would be considered Awesome Mom for this one, but I think going after bedtime was not good.  This may work better for older kids!
          *When all else fails, there is a movie and popcorn.  I try to only do this once a month, but it is a favorite and a great stand by when other plans fall through.  

Having a regular Family Fun Night takes planning and preparation, but I have found that setting aside that special time once a week makes me a happier, more joyful mom.  It bring me great joy to delight and surprise my children and even my Mr.  It is fun to watch them enjoy something I have created or dreamed up just for them.  It is also a great way to make sure that my kids remember me having fun with them - not just me sending them out to have fun.  

What about you?  What makes you a Joyful Mom?  Remember, you do not need to have a Family Fun Night topic to link up.  You can share anything that has helped you become more joyful as you take this journey through motherhood.  I hope you all have an amazing week sharing the joy that God has given you with those around you!

Next week's topic (for me, anyway) will be Scripture Verses that have made me a Joyful Mom!

October 26, 2012

Homeschool Journal - 10/26

In my life this week...
I have enjoyed settling in.  Nothing big has happened here, and I have enjoyed the calm.  The Mr. will be busy for the next few weeks getting his work winter-ready.  The kids and I are spending more time reading.  I am hoping to catch up on some of the extra household chores tomorrow so that we can spend the beginning of next week getting costumes ready for our church's Fall Fun Fest on Wednesday.  Coming up with five amazing costumes is quite the challenge for this brain of thankful for the internet with all of its ideas!

In our homeschool this week...
We are working away and have finished week 9 this week!  I sat down this week and finished up the lesson plans for our schooling through Thanksgiving.  It was a chore but provided much motivation!  We began taking a winter break from Thanksgiving Day through New Year's Day a couple of years ago and love it!  We will continue reading for the older two, and I will try to review blends with the little two so that we don't forget all of it, but other than that, we are going to enjoy our winter vacation!
I can't say enough good about our Right Start math!  We switched over to it this year, and of all the changes we made, this was the one I was most nervous about (because it was the most expensive change)! :)  My kids love this math and all the games that are used in it.  I like the way it teaches math with patterns and encourages different ways to find an answer to a problem.  It has helped me as I have been teaching the kids!  It does require that I be present and teaching the entire lesson, but I enjoy playing the games too, so it's usually not a problem!

Helpful homeschooling advice or tips to share...
I have been reminding myself these last few weeks that showing my children a personal relationship with God, encouraging them in their relationship with God, and building excellent character are the main focus and reasons for homeschooling in our family.  Yes, academics are important, and we cannot let them slide too much, but if our priorities are the three above, there will be moments, sometimes days, that all the school may not be accomplished.  However, prayerfully, I will have five children who have learned more about God's love for them and how to serve others unselfishly.  In light of eternity, there really isn't anything more important.
I'm reading...
I have almost finished A Charlotte Mason's Companion by Karen Andreola.  I am working on Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson and A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus by Elizabeth George.  They are both fairly easy reads but have been practical and encouraging and are helping me to grow as a Christian wife and mom.

I'm praying for...
This week, I am especially praying for our country.  I have been praying that we, the people of America, would wake up in time to save ourselves from this deadly path we've chosen.  I have been praying for the leaders of our country - that they would right the wrongs that have been made and speak the truth.  I have been praying that truth be revealed and that God would be glorified.  I have been praying that our country would once again become a Christian nation whose heart follows God's heart.  

A photo to share...
My sweet porch decorations lasted an entire half a day.  You will notice half of one straw bale has been strewn all over the porch.  I owe a big thank you to our outside dog, Bell, for that one.  Apparently, he thinks he needs a straw bed to lay on!  SPOILED DOG!!! :)

Not much new here really, but that's our week!  We will be linking up here on Monday again with Joyful Mom Monday!  This Monday, I am going to share a few of our Family Fun Night ideas, and I would love to hear some of yours!  Because summer nights in our family are usually spent outside, we haven't had an official Family Fun Night in awhile.  Now, that the days are shorter, we will be getting back to them, and I need some fresh ideas!  Until Monday, I hope you all enjoy a wonderful fall weekend!   

October 23, 2012

Encouraging Thoughts and A Recipe for Your Slow Cooker!

I am going to be real honest right here for just a minute.  This month I have been struggling with discouragement - especially as a mom.  Some of it has been because my expectations and goals have not been met the way I had planned for them to be.  Some of it has been because of just plain tiredness - everything seems so much worse when you are tired!  Some of it has been because other people's opinions and criticisms hurt.  I think I have questioned my role as a mom more this month than I have in a long, long time.

I'm saying that because this morning, God encouraged me with some amazing thoughts that have helped me put my doubts away (for now at least) and have given me a renewed vision for God's plan for my life.  It doesn't matter if you are a mom or not, these thoughts apply to everyone, and I am hoping they will encourage you as much as they did me.

First of all, I was reminded that confidence comes from trust in something or someone.  Who/what am I trusting in to make me the person or the mom I want to be?  If I am trusting that what I do will make me a better person, then I am putting my confidence on some pretty shaky ground!  My confidence needs to come from knowing that I am God's child, remembering that He values me far more than anyone else does and therefore has my best interests in mind in every situation, and not forgetting that I have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to change me and make me the person God wants me to be.  WOW!!!  That's a lot of good stuff in one sentence, and it's so true!!! 

I can have confidence in my role as a mom - not because of anything good that I do - but because I know God has given me these five beautiful children - not by accident but for many wonderful reasons.  The first reason being to draw me closer to Him!  I will not be a perfect mom, and I am reminded of that daily, but I also need to remember that God knows my heart, and He sees my efforts.  He loves me unconditionally, and He is not going to decide my children's fate based solely on what I have or have not accomplished as a mom! 

Do I need to have goals and expectations?  Absolutely!  But when I fall short or my children fall short in those expectations, do I need to continually bang us over the head with failure?  No!  That's when I need to go back to the Source of my confidence and trust and remind myself that I know I am doing God's will because I know I am doing what God want me to do.  Then, I need to place even more trust in my Source and ask Him for His wisdom and His power so that I can accomplish all that He has planned for me.  I also need to remember that as long as I am doing my job with faith in God and His wisdom and power, I do not need and will not be able to please everyone around me.  It may be that what someone says is true, and I may need to thank them for their words of wisdom, but it may also be that I need to remember that God may have a different plan for me than that person does, and I need to trust Him for the next step.

Those were the thoughts I found this morning in only about 20 minutes!!! It's amazing what can be accomplished when no one else is around to interrupt the thought process!  I know it's Tummy Tempting Tuesday, and I am leaving a recipe, but I really felt like I needed to share this with all of you, and I also wanted to write it down so that I have something to come back to when I become discouraged again!  Happy Tuesday to all of you!  I hope you enjoy the thoughts and the recipe!

(What's for dinner at our house tonight!) :)
1 can of golden mushroom soup
1 can of French onion soup
Stew meat
Cooked rice
Cut the stew meat into bite size pieces.  Place in slow cooker.  Add the two cans of soup and simmer for 4-6 hours on low heat.  Serve over cooked rice. 
How easy is that?  And very yummy too...I promise!

October 22, 2012

Joyful Mom Monday - Organize! Organize! Organize!

Counting God's Little Blessings

For today's Joyful Mom Monday, I am going to carefully approach the topic of organization!  I say carefully because if you know me, you know organization is NOT one of my strong points.  However, having 4 children in 4 1/2 years definitely got my attention in the organization department! :)  I can honestly say that the most "non-spiritual" (cannot think of another word) change that has helped me become a more joyful mom has been to become more organized.  I have found that the more organized I become, the more I enjoy being organized.  (I'm saying that because I know what all you unorganized people are thinking right now...organization ties you down and binds you to the rules!)  

Yes, organization does tie you down a little more, but I have found that being more organized allows me to have time for the things I enjoy.  For me, it has allowed me to keep my house in fairly decent order so that I do not feel guilty when I sit down and play or read with my kiddos.  So, how can you become more organized?  This, is where I'm really hoping some of you will link up because I am still learning myself, and I am definitely not a pro.  

There are a few things I've learned...some a little late, but hey...better late than never!

1.  Make a chore list.  There have been a variety of methods I have used to clean my house, and all of them have worked, but they don't all work all the time.  When my kiddos were all small, I found it necessary to do one chore a day.  I just never found a huge chunk of time laying around so that I could clean the entire house at once.  Now that they are older, and we spend most of our day homeschooling, I find it necessary to clean my house on Saturday. The point is...figure out what works for you...and then (here's the tricky part!) do it!  Make a list of daily chores (quick wipe down of bathrooms, 1 load of laundry, quick vacuum, etc.) and set aside a specific time to do them each day.  Make a list of weekly chores (mop, vacuum, deep clean bathrooms, dust, etc.) and schedule in when you want to accomplish these. 

2.  Use your children!  Yes, my children sometimes accuse me of using them as a slave! ;)  It is true, though, that children who have a regular part in house work feel more a part of the family...not to mention, they are learning valuable life lessons such as how to clean the toilet! :)  From the time my kiddos are 2 years old, they have regular chores to do.  We are approaching a new season in our family.  As my kiddos have "aged," they have begun to use the "that's not on my chore chart" excuse.  To help get rid of that, we have abandoned chore charts, and they must help for 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon doing anything that may be asked of them.  They are also responsible for their rooms and bathroom in the morning and before bed. I have found we have accomplished much more and have had much better attitudes because everyone is working together as a team.

3.  Make small goals.  When I first began trying to organize my home, it was a struggle.  Let me say, my house was never nasty dirty, but we do live in quite a small little space, and it had just become cluttered with both necessary and unnecessary things.  I have had to become creative in where and how to store things so that they are both accessible and "beautiful."  Start small - one room at a time, one closet at a time, one drawer at a time.  I also would dangle a reward in front of myself if I had a particularly daunting task ahead.  For instance, my kiddos' bedrooms took close to two months to completely reorganize and rearrange.  It was SLOW work!  I looked online and found a set of toy bins that were reasonably priced and looked like the perfect organizer for the kids' small toys. I asked the Mr. for permission to order this IF I first organized the rooms and prepared them for this neat set of bins.  He gave me permission, and I couldn't wait to get everything finished so that I could order my bins!  It was a mental thing, I know, but it worked!

4.  Enjoy the results.  I would find myself laying in the middle of the bedroom floor staring dreamily at the closet I had just reorganized.  Okay...maybe that was TMI!  Now, you KNOW I'm really weird!  This organizing thing is a ton of work, but the results are wonderful.  Even if you finish a drawer a week, take the time to enjoy the drawer.  Start with the place you use the most.  That way, you can enjoy your accomplishments more, and it will motivate you to tackle the next project. 

5.  Once you have organized something, stay on top of it.  Don't let it fall back into its old state of disarray!  It takes much less time to tidy things once a week than to reorganize it entirely once a year.  I keep a running list of the extra things in each room that I would like to get done such as wiping down baseboards, cleaning windows, straightening closets, etc.  At this point in my life, I try to do a few extra things in one room each week.  I have 5 little munchkins who are very good at UNorganizing things for me, and so I find that in order to stay on top of things to my liking, I need to focus on a few extra things each week.  I try not to let any one chore remain on the list for more than a month.   

These are a few things that have helped me.  I would LOVE to hear from you now!  Remember, you do not have to use the topic of organization to link up, but we would love to hear what makes you a joyful mom!  I have decided that this week is an organization week for me.  I am going to try to do a few things in one room each day!  We'll see how that goes....Happy Monday, everyone!  Praying that you are able to be all that God wants you to be this week!
The "rules" (because everyone else's blog has rules) are simple:
1.  Share anything that will encourage other moms to be joyful in their journey.  This can be a fun craft idea, a recipe to cook with your kiddos, a post from your heart, a Bible verse, a picture, a fun memory, a family night idea...anything that we moms can look at and say, "I should try that!" or "That's the way I want my kids to remember me!"
2.  Please link directly to your Monday URL post - not to your blog - so that we can look directly at your post in future days.
3. Please acknowledge the link to Joyful Mom Mondays in some way - either with the button or through a text link so that others can stop by and see all the ideas we have posted.
4.  Enjoy the journey with other moms.  Stop by the other blogs and leave a sweet note of encouragement.

This mothering thing is tough sometimes....way harder than I ever thought it would be, but it can be about so much more than merely surviving if we can draw encouragement from one another. 

October 19, 2012

Homeschooling Journal - 10/19


In my life this week...
I have been happy to find that despite all of our busyness during the last two weeks with the fundraisers we have been helping out with,  my house never completely fell apart!   I still need to dig in and do some laundry, but other than that, I feel like I've stayed on top of things...which is good, because the newbie has had a terrible cough and is cutting teeth as well.  This has made for several long and sleepless nights and not a whole lot of energy to spare during the day!  I will be very thankful when he is feeling better again!
In our homeschool this week...
I have let the two kindergarteners have a break this week.  Although, the house stayed put together during the last two weeks, the homeschooling....not so much.  We were able to accomplish a little, but I wanted to catch up this week with the older two.  We have also not done any of our extras such as art, poetry, sign language and discussion topics.  The two older ones have enjoyed more one on one time with me in school, but we are all looking forward to getting back into our full routine next week. 
Places we're going and people we're seeing...
We have actually been quite thrilled just to stay at home this week.  We do have Grandma and Grandpa coming over to spend the evening with us in just a couple of hours.  They live close by during the summer but head south when the cold arrives.  We'll miss them lots when they leave next week!

My favorite thing this week was...
hearing Mr. A read from his Bible during quiet time!!!  I almost had to grab a kleenex! It reminded me that, many years ago, the one and only reason any parent ever had for teaching his children to read was so that they could read the "Good Book."  To know that my little man can do that fills me with so much joy!

Things I'm working on...
I am trying to focus for the next little while on remembering to die to myself.  There are many things I do every day that I would really rather not do.  I do them anyway, but many times, my heart is selfish and focused on what I would rather be doing.  I am going to work on serving my family in particular with a servant's heart - trying my best to remember that everything I do is an opportunity to bring glory to God and not to myself.
I'm cooking...
For the first time this fall season, I am preparing my vegetable soup for tonight's supper.  I love fixing this soup in hugeamongous batches and then freezing it.  It is actually one of those very few meals that I can prepare without a recipe.  I always throw in a little of this spice, a little of that spice, a little of this vegetable and that one until I reach yummy perfection! :)  I think I might also try a pecan pie soon, but I need to find some pecans first!
I'm grateful for...
This week, I am grateful for many things!  I'm grateful for my health that I so often take for granted.  I'm grateful for my nice home!  I was just telling the Mr. last night how much I love my living room with its cozy look. I am grateful for my older kiddos who help me out so much with the younger kiddos.  I am grateful for the way God continues to work in my heart - changing things little by little.  I am grateful for the new desires He has given the Mr. and me as we travel together through life.  I am grateful for this fall season and for the Mr. allowing me to decorate the front porch with straw bales and pumpkins even though no one ever drives by our little place!  My list could go on and on because God has given me far more than I deserve.  Great is His faithfulness to little me! 
I'm praying for...
This week I am praying for more consistency in my prayer life!  The more I observe others parenting, the more convinced I am that the most important and useful tool I have as a mom is that of prayer.  I am praying that God will grow my desire to pray and that I will be more self-disciplined in this area.  I am also praying that I will find a method...rythym...flow...not really sure what to call it...that will help me be consistent and organized so that I can enjoy my prayer time more.  I'd love to hear what you use to help you in your prayer life!
We've had a few more link-ups over at Joyful Mom Mondays.  Please take the time to read and encourage other moms as well as share your own ideas.  Next Mondays link-up will be about organization.  Does organization make you a more Joyful Mom?  I'd love to hear how!

That's our week here!  It's been a blessed one, and I'm thankful for each new day and each new experience God blesses me with!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  I'm off to clean some bathrooms and carve some pumpkins...two separate occasions, I promise....although I'm fairly certain the kids would think it completely awesome to carve pumpkins in the bathtub! :)

October 17, 2012

Love Notes to God

God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.   ~ E.M.Bounds Purpose in Prayer

Have you ever thought about the fact that our prayers outlive our lives?  Won't it be wonderful when this earth is over, and God takes the time to show us each prayer we prayed and how and when it was answered? I believe that will happen.  I believe that will be part of our faith becoming sight.  I think that we will not fully realize until then how powerful a tool we possess with prayer.  God has been working on my heart all summer and now into fall about having a more consistent prayer life.  It is hard, and I still do not feel like I am anywhere close to where I should be in that area of my Christian walk.  This quote inspired me to continue my pursuit of a close prayer relationship with God.  I may never see some of my prayers answered, or my prayers may not be answered my way, but I do know that God hears my prayers, and He treasures them like I treasure the little notes from my sweet children.  One day my faith will become sight, and I will see what God did with all my love notes to Him.


October 16, 2012

Caramel Popcorn - A Perfect Reading Snack

All week long, I've been telling myself that I need to find a super yummy main dish to share with all of you because my last few recipes have been super yummy desserts!  However, once again, the top dish at the house for this week (which is what I usually share with all of you) has been a sweet treat!  Now, that the nights are longer, and the Mr. and kiddos are coming in from the outdoors earlier, our reading times have begun to stretch out longer.  I love our reading times, and they are times that I hope my kiddos will remember their entire lives.  I have found that despite the extra mess it sometimes brings to the living room, reading times are much more enjoyable when you have a snack to share.  So, I'll leave you today with one of our favorite winter snacks.  It is also a great "let's get our school work done early" incentive because it does take a little preparation and cook time.  I hope your family will enjoy it as much as ours does!  Have fun making memories with your family today!  

Caramel Popcorn

1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
5 quarts popped popcorn (I have used plain microwave popcorn with this recipe, but we definitely prefer the air popped popcorn)

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  After the butter is melted, add corn syrup, brown sugar and salt.  Bring to a FULL boil stirring constantly.  Let mixture boil for 4 minutes with NO stirring.  Remove from heat and add baking soda and vanilla.  Stir the popcorn into the mixture.  Spread in baking pans and place in the oven at 250* for 1 hr. stirring several times while baking.  Let popcorn cool completely before serving.

P.S.  It's not too late to link up with our Joyful Mom Mondays if you would still like to.  The link will be open until Sunday evening!  

October 15, 2012

Joyful Mom Monday - Thankfulness

Happy Monday to you!  It's a Joyful Mom Monday! I love new beginnings, and I try very hard each Monday to look forward to the prospects of all that can happen in seven short days!  This week, I want to focus on being a Joyful Mom by being more thankful.   Negativity seems to suck the life right out a situation and even out of people.  This week, I want to allow my family to flourish by being thankful - in my heart as well as with my actions and words.  This week I want to do my best to find the good in every situation - no matter how bad it may look.  I want to express to my Mr. and children how thankful I am for them and be very careful not to make my service to them come across as a burden to me.  I also want to pass on that thankfulness to other family and friends around me.  Every person grows stronger knowing that who they are and what they are doing is appreciated, and every person cannot help but become more joyful as they express thankfulness in every situation.   It's a win-win deal!  You know what this means, don't you?  It means that this week, right after I mop the floor, one of my kiddos is going to spill a huge glass of juice!  It means that I will sit down for a moment of peace and quiet, and someone will interrupt it.  It means that I will have many chances to confront my selfishness and put it away with thankfulness, and if I can do that, it means that I will be a  more Joyful Mom this week!

 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
I Thessalonians 5:18

What about you?  How will you be a Joyful Mom this week?  I'd love to hear your ideas so please link up below.   You do not need to link up with the topic of Thankfulness.  You can discuss anything that has helped you become a Joyful Mom.  Next week's topic is Organization.  I would really LOVE to hear some ways that organizing your life has helped you become a more Joyful Mom.  Let's encourage each other today....and don't forget to be thankful.  

P.S. My 4 year old just woke up to "join" me for my quiet time!  I told you!!! :)

The "rules" (because everyone else's blog has rules) are simple:
1.  Share anything that will encourage other moms to be joyful in their journey.  This can be a fun craft idea, a recipe to cook with your kiddos, a post from your heart, a Bible verse, a picture, a fun memory, a family night idea...anything that we moms can look at and say, "I should try that!" or "That's the way I want my kids to remember me!"
2.  Please link directly to your Monday URL post - not to your blog - so that we can look directly at your post in future days.
3. Please acknowledge the link to Joyful Mom Mondays in some way - either with the button or through a text link so that others can stop by and see all the ideas we have posted.
4.  Enjoy the journey with other moms.  Stop by the other blogs and leave a sweet note of encouragement.

This mothering thing is tough sometimes....way harder than I ever thought it would be, but it can be about so much more than merely surviving if we can draw encouragement from one another. 

October 11, 2012

Choosing Books to Read with Your Kids

Within the last year, I have developed a new interest in children's literature.  I have always loved to read and have always read a great number of books to my kiddos beginning before they could even sit up!  I always made sure the books were appropriate and did not contain objectionable material, but outside of that, I read just about anything that was on the shelf for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  While researching my homeschooling options this last year, though, I began to realize that there is much more that should be involved in choosing reading material for my kiddos.  I thought I would share a few things that I have learned, and I will also give you a few excellent books that our family has particularly enjoyed!

1.  Choose books that contain excellent illustrations.  Before children begin to read a story with words, they can read the story in a picture.  Find picture books that are detailed and exquisite in their illustrations.  Books that capture the attention of your little listener through its artistry prepare the way for excellent readers in the future.

2.  Choose books that have wonderful stories - stories that encourage adventure, excitement, imagination; stories that make you tingle with delight; stories that make your children ask you to read more or read it again. Choose books that connect you and your children emotionally to the characters within.

3.  Choose books that are well written.  Find books that have a natural flow and contain many descriptions.  Do not settle for books because they appear easy to read or understand.  A child's mind can take in much more than we adults can begin to fathom.  There is nothing that encourages me more as a "teacher/mom" than to hear my 4 and 5 year old using a big word they heard in our read aloud book.

4.  Choose books that are inspiring.  Books that encourage excellent character and noble ideas are just what you want your children to hear!  Read to them stories that show good conquering evil, stories that will inspire your children to make right choices even if they may not have any one else stand beside them.  Read stories that will encourage them to pursue excellence and honor and purity.

5.  Choose books that are for all ages.  You know you have found a wonderful book if the 4 year old and Daddy are both enjoying it!  This may sound impossible, but it really isn't.  Our family reads aloud almost every night before bed, and all of us enjoy the books.  Because we read a chapter or two each night, I allow our 4 and 5 year old to color or build blocks quietly, but they are always listening, and I am continually amazed by the questions they ask or how well they retell the story when we are finished reading.

6. Choose books that are classic - books that have been passed down from generation to generation.  Books that focus on quickly passing cultural trends are not usually books that will last or that contain the inspiration our children need.  Again, our children's minds are capable of so much more than we think.  Let's fill them with excellent material not just average.

What books does our family read?  I'll list some of them below. I get many of my book ideas from home schooling magazines (Sonlight and Veritas Press).  Even if you do not homeschool, you can go online and look at the many books they suggest for the different age levels.  I also use a book Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt which basically contains a book list for children from baby through teenager. It groups the books by recommended age.  Then, I also use the six steps above for choosing books from the library, consignment stores, thrift stores and book stores.  We have an unlimited supply of excellent literature out there.  Let's make sure we fill our children's minds with books of excellence...not just average!

Books our family has enjoyed:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
Big Trucks, Little Trucks by Peter Spier
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Henny Penny, The Little Red Hen, Three Little Pigs, The Gingerbread Boy, Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (There are over 20 of these sweet animal books written by Beatrix Potter.  I haven't found one my kiddos do not enjoy yet!)
Curious George by Hans A. Rey
Drummer Boy by Ann Turner
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Frog and Toad Are Friends (And many other books about Frog and Toad) by Arnold Lobel
Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower by Peggy Parish
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Black Beauty by Anna Sewall
Heidi by Johanna H. Spyri
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Dangerous Journey by Paul Bunyan (edited by Oliver Hunkin)
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
The Story of Sir Lancelot and His Companions by Howard Pyle
Christian Heroes: Then and Now Series by Janet and Geoff Benge
Childhood of Famous Americans Series

This is only the beginning!  We have read many, many more and have even more on our "To Be Read" list!  Maybe these titles can give you a wonderful start in the beginning of a beautiful tradition of reading together!


October 8, 2012

Joyful Mom Monday ~ Being a Purposeful Mom

Hi there!  Welcome to our Joyful Mom Monday link-up!  I am excited to share with you more of my passion for being a joyful mom, and I can't wait to hear how all of you are doing the same.   Shortly after I began to realize that my original idea of motherhood was not working, I read somewhere (I can't remember where) about how we wives and moms should write out a statement of purpose and intention.  This statement should include our long-term goals and how we want to accomplish them.  I thought I would share my statement of purpose today.

Philippians 3:10a & 14 -  That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection...I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

My purpose in life is to be a content, wise and godly woman.  I will accomplish these three things in my life 1) by living purposefully - loving God more each day; loving and inspiring my husband; loving, teaching and training my children; exampling to my family and friends the love and power of God; 2) by living faithfully - believing that God can do in my family's life what I could never accomplish on my own; 3) by living creatively - bringing fun, laughter and joy to my home and those I meet; 4) by living paradoxically - being willing to be different from the world,  being the opposite of my selfish nature and  giving more than I feel like giving.

God, help me to accomplish these purposes - not for my pride but for Your glory!

If you have never done anything like this before, I would encourage to take a few minutes this week to do this.  I keep mine in my Bible and in my Quiet Time Box, and on rough days, it is helpful to pull it out and remind myself of why I am doing what I am doing.  There are many things we can do to help us become more joyful moms, but one of the best ways to begin is by recognizing our purpose for doing what we do day in and day out and by being intentional as we carry out that purpose.

Make sure you link up below because I can't wait to hear your ideas on being a Joyful Mom!  Let's be joyful moms with purpose and intention this week!  Happy Monday!

Today, when you link up, you will need to use a text link.  I'm still working on the button.'s been a little crazy around here this last week!  I will post a button as soon as I finish figuring it out! :)

The "rules" (because everyone else's blog has rules) are simple:

1.  Share anything that will encourage other moms to be joyful in their journey.  This can be a fun craft idea, a recipe to cook with your kiddos, a post from your heart, a Bible verse, a picture, a fun memory, a family night idea...anything that we moms can look at and say, "I should try that!" or "That's the way I want my kids to remember me!"

2.  Please link directly to your Monday URL post - not to your blog - so that we can look directly at your post in future days.

3. Please acknowledge the link to Joyful Mom Mondays in some way - either with the button or through a text link so that others can stop by and see all the ideas we have posted.  (I will have a button made by Monday!)

4.  Enjoy the journey with other moms.  Stop by the other blogs and leave a sweet note of encouragement.

October 6, 2012

Homeschool Journal - 10/5


In my life this week...
Our family has been busy helping out at a huge fundraiser.  We do this each year, and even though it makes the days a little busier, it is always more than worth it!  The fundraiser covers two weekends.  The first weekend, we organize a yard sale with items from many, many families.  The second weekend, we host a dinner and auction.  Our family enjoys the time we have to be with our friends, and we get a small break from school! :)
In our homeschool this week...
We have actually only had two days of school this week and next week we will only have three!  But, that's OK because we started a week before most everyone else.  We did accomplish much in our two days.  We are reading the book The True Story of Noah's Ark written by Tom Dooley.  This book is amazing!!!  My kids are completely enthralled as we read it.  I love that it uses such big words too!  I have heard the kids using a few of them this week! :)  The illustrations are beautiful and help readers to picture how magnificent the ark must have been!
Mr. A (7) is reading Frog and Toad Together and enjoying every minute of it!  I love to hear him laugh out loud as he is reading.   Miss E (9) has begun reading Misty of Chincoteague.  We had to look up that pronunciation and practice it several times before we could even begin the book!  Mr. G and Miss M (5 and 4) read WORDS this week!!!  A big step for them!  Overall, it was a short but successful week!

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
Whoops!  I think I covered this already! :)
Things I'm working on...
I am excited about a link up called Joyful Mom Mondays that I am going to begin this Monday.  This is new territory for me, and I have had to spend quite a bit of time researching on how to do this, but it's been fun!  If you're interested in the details for the link-up, you can see more here.

I'm cooking...
Even though we have been busy this week, I have been trying to make sure a good meal is put on the table each night.  Our favorite meal this week was BBQ Pork Ribs (which I had found on a great sale!).  The best thing about this main dish is how easy it is to prepare.  I buy McCormick's BBQ Pulled Pork Seasoning Mix, follow the directions on the back which involve an entire THREE ingredients, put it all in the slow cooker and leave it until supper time!  It's always a hit!

I'm grateful for...
This week I am most grateful for wonderful friends who make the load lighter and the work filled with laughter.  I'm so blessed to be surrounded by friends who have the same heart and focus. I am thankful for the encouragers God has placed in my life.

I'm praying for...
My burden this week has been for other moms.  Every mom faces different challenges everyday, but I know of a few who are particularly struggling.  I am praying that God will work in their lives in a special way this week.

So, that's what's been happening here!  I hope you all have had a wonderful Saturday!  I am looking forward to a great night's rest (I hope my newbie agrees with me!) and a beautiful day of worship tomorrow!


October 4, 2012

Why I Am Extraordinarily Thrilled to Be a Wife and Mom

Today, I am extraordinarily thrilled to be a wife and mom!  I feel so blessed to be called by God to this small nucleus of people.  There are some times when I feel as though I have put aside or need to put aside many important things in order to "only be a mom."  There are a few times when I feel like no one recognizes that I am a person too who would like to do other things every now and then.  There are many times when it hits me in the face that no one really cares that I just swept the floor for the 10th time today or just wiped off the table for the 20th!  (Please don't tell me I'm the only mom who feels this way!  The truth be told, this is not exclusive to moms.  Most jobs bring these feeling along at some time!)

Here is why I am thrilled to be a wife and mom, though!  It is because of the many things I am learning along this journey.   One thing I have learned (and learned the hard way) is that the best place for any mom to be is at home with her man and her kiddos, but it's also the place Satan wants you at the least.  I have heard many people talk of why the world is the way it is today.  Some people say it began to make its downward spiral when prayer left the schools or when people began buying votes instead of earning them or perhaps when churches began to  emulate the world in an effort to gain bigger crowds.  I contend that our downward spiral began when the lady of the house left the home.  What we as wives and moms do, day in and day out, with very little recognition or appreciation is - when looking at the big picture - extremely vital to our society - and even more so to our personal little family!

I am learning that, in many ways, the wife and mom of the home truly does set the direction of the family.  Our actions speak volumes, and our little ones are watching us constantly.  We have been given this amazing opportunity to be God's hands to our children.  We can show them God's love in a way that no teacher or friend can, but we have to be there to be able to do that!  If you are a mom struggling with finding the contentment of being at home, I want to tell you first of all, I understand.  I was there 6 years ago.  I almost consented to teach 1st and 2nd grade full time so that I could escape the struggles I was facing at home.  (Ironic - I know.  Leave my home with 4 kiddos (at that time) to go spend the day with 20!)  I want to encourage you not to give up!  That's what Satan wants you to do, and he is feeding your soul full of lies!  Here are a few things that have helped me push through those days (or sometimes weeks) when I want to give up and pursue my own agenda. 

1. Pray daily - sometimes minute by minute - that God will help you find joy in being the wife and mommy He has called you to be.  

2.  Become consumed with God's Word and discover all the many ways you can show your family the love of Jesus.  There are many, many principles from God's Word that you can pass on to your family by being an intricate part of their daily life and by making God an everyday topic in your home.

3. Make yourself indispensable to your family.  I realize that my Mr. and kiddos really do not care if their laundry is folded neatly in the drawers or if the bathroom is free of dirt and grime, but I do know that they miss my presence when I am only away for a few hours!  Make your home fun and full of laughter.  Make your home the place your family wants to be more than anywhere else.  

4. Surround yourself with women who have the same goals as a wife and mom.  This is extremely important because we moms sometimes think we have to do this all alone. We are afraid that if we tell anyone our shortcomings, they will forever see us as an unfit mom. The truth is we need the support. Just as people who work a job have co-workers who can relate to situations and stress of the job, we need other moms who can relate to our daily struggles. We need to see other women who are fighting for their families.  We need to know we are not "in the trenches" alone. It is difficult to find wives and moms who share the passion of staying at home and ministering to their families.  If you don't have another mom close by who shares your same passion, I would encourage you to go to Sally Clarkson's blog I also highly recommend her books The Mission of Motherhood and  The Ministry of Motherhood.  

All of this takes work - and lots of it!  I also know from experience that going from a discouraged, why am I here?, this life really stinks perspective to a joy-filled, thankful, can't wait to see what happens today life takes time and patience.  Remember, we are BUILDING a home, a legacy that will outlast any bank account, any nice house, any certificate of recognition.  It takes time! Just like a builder, every stage of the process shows slow progress and little by little, we can see the results of our effort.  Unlike a builder, we are learning much as we go, and we must have faith that (what I humorously call) this "Grand Experiment" is going to produce the outcome that our hearts' desire.  We are building something that will last forever and carry on and on through generations. We cannot quit!  We cannot give up!

And that is why I am extraordinarily thrilled to be a wife and mom today!  I know that what I do today may not ever be shouted from the rooftops. "Christy just changed another poopy diaper today, folks!!!"  However, what I am giving my family today is what they will give their FAMILIES. I am influencing this world in a dramatic way times FIVE!!!  I want my children to pass on God's love, God's Word, God's desires and God's passion to their FAMILIES!  The fact that God has entrusted me with a wonderful Mr. and five little lives is amazing, and I pray that I do not waste one moment of the precious little time I have to build a legacy that will outlast my lifetime. 

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.
~Proverbs 14:1~ 


October 2, 2012

My Journey As a Mom

Just like most young married girls, I was extremely excited about the prospect of having a baby.  The Mr. and I were married for two years before we began to think about this possibility.  I was teaching 1st and 2nd grade and enjoyed it so much that I decided to teach for two years before having our first baby because, of course, I would do what my mom and the Mr.'s mom had done - stay at home with all my babies!  This was what all good Christian girls do.  Besides that, my mom had my baby brother when I was 18 (yes, I typed that correctly)!  I knew EVERYTHING about babies!!!

Oh my!  Thinking you know everything about something is never a good way to begin anything...especially the journey of motherhood.  Our first baby was my little Miss E, and she was everything that I had NEVER dreamed of - literally!  She cried all the time, and although I say the word cried, I probably should have used the description screamed at the top of her lungs for so long and so loud that no one could stand it for more than 5 minutes! She cried in the car.  She cried in the swing.  She cried when I was holding her.  She cried when she laid down.  While we were still in the hospital, I would have to give her to the Mr. so that he could calm her down so that I could try to nurse her again.  And nursing....well, let's just say that was another problem altogether! 

To put it simply, all my ideals of motherhood were shattered. I never felt as though Miss E and I bonded during the infancy stage.  She was always much sweeter with the Mr.  This left me feeling like a horrid mother who must not be doing anything right because her own child did not want her! There were very few peaceful quiet times of holding my little angel doll and staring at her sweet little face.  Almost every night from 5 PM to 1 AM she would cry non-stop. get the picture. 

Moving on past the crying stage which finally seemed to taper off when she was about 6 months, I had a few short months of mostly enjoyable motherhood...until we got to the mobile stage.  Then, I began facing the battle of the wills.  I was not prepared for my 12 month old to stare me in the face and shout NO at me!  (I did NOT remember my brother doing such as this!)  Looking back now, I realize that Miss E really was not as horrible as I thought she was then.  The true problem was that neither the Mr. nor myself knew what in the world we were doing.  We thought if you feed a baby, keep the baby's diaper clean, play with baby, and spank baby (older baby) when absolutely necessary, it will grow into a good Christian child!  If only it were that easy and if only there were a simple method to parenting!

When Miss E was 22 months old, her brother Mr. A joined the scene.  Mr. A was the total opposite of Miss E - very sweet, loveable, and easy-going.  I do not really remember much of little Mr. A's babyhood though because I was quite consumed with Miss E's toddler years!  Again, I see where much of it was my fault.  I was teaching choir 4 hours each week, directing several small music groups at our church, tending to the duties of being a deacon's wife while our church was without a pastor, singing in almost every service, teaching a Wednesday evening kids' class, teaching junior church on Sundays, and also consulting for a home decorating company.  All of this topped with the fact that anywhere I drove took me at least one hour to get there.  I was spending approximately 12 hours per week in the car and doing all this with a 22 month old and a newborn!  Not very smart - AT ALL!  I was exhausted, always in a hurry, always feeling guilty for not keeping up with the home, but if I happened to be caught up at home, I was always behind in one of my other activities.  This left me with not much patience for my two sweet babies who just needed their mom.

And number THREE!!! My oldest was barely 3 1/2 years old!!!  That was when the melt downs began.  I was sleep deprived, exhausted from keeping up with everything, but I felt extremely guilty for saying no to anyone because, after all, the only thing I did was stay at home.  If anyone should have time to serve, it should have been said the lies of Satan.  I remember one afternoon, I had battled with Miss E over nap time.  I was exhausted but needed to get some things done during nap, and she was not cooperating.  She woke up her brothers a couple of times, and all in all, it was just not working.  After a huge battle, she finally fell into an exhausted sleep at 4 PM, and I knew that would lead to her staying up until midnight that night.  I went and sat down in my rocking chair and cried and cried and finally screamed, "God, I cannot do this for the rest of my life.  I WILL NOT DO THIS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.  And, God, You have to change it because I don't know what I'm doing wrong."  I will remember those words and that afternoon for the rest of my life.   

Shortly after that day, my sister and her family moved and found an amazing family centered church to attend.  She was struggling with the newness of motherhood as well, but here, at this church, she found women who mentored her and taught her about the idea of training and discipling your children.  (Just to make this abundantly clear, the Mr. and I were both raised by wonderful and godly parents.  I really believe we were both oblivious to the way we were raised and just assumed that it all happened with very little effort.  Since changing our ways of parenting, we both appreciate our parents' sacrifices made to instill the character and training in us that we received.)  My sister began to teach me what she was learning through many LONG phone calls we had together.  At first, I thought she was CRAZY.  None of this sounded anything I expected.  Training and disciplining were two different things?  Practice with your children the things you want them to do properly in public?  Withhold things from your children for the purpose of instilling self-control?  The big one...say no to ministry opportunities so that you can be at home with your children? My conclusion...this was work!  However, my sister and I also used to watch Dr. Phil.  And our favorite phrase from his show was, "And how's that workin' for ya?"  We would tell each other about something we had tried and how miserably we had failed, and we would laugh as we asked each other that question.  I realized that nothing I was doing was working, and so I began trying the things my sister was telling me about.

The very first step I took was cutting back.  I quit my consulting job.  I discontinued much of my music ministry at the church.  I also stepped down from Junior Church.  The only things I continued were teaching choir and teaching my Wednesday evening class and occasionally singing in church.  This left me with an amazing amount of time at home.  Then, I began to work on organizing my home - making it a relaxing, comfortable place to be.  That took awhile!  Oh, who am I kidding? I am still working on it...although it has come a LONG way, and I do feel like I enjoy my home most evenings! 

In all honesty, it took a good four years before I could  say I loved being a stay at home mom more than anything else.  During those first years of rearranging life, I enjoyed it, but it was a long journey before I realized this is what I loved and began to grasp the important responsibility I had been given.  It was awhile before I realized that many things I viewed as interruptions were actually teaching moments for both me and my sweet little ones.  Do I have it all together now? No.  There are still days when I go out in the back yard and scream at the chickens (at least that's what my kids think I'm doing)!  There are days when I go to the bathroom and turn the water on and have a good hard cry because I feel so lonely or incapable.  Thankfully, though, those days are much fewer than they used to be.  

There is not a day that goes by that I do not remember the kind of mom I used to be, and thank God for His grace and miraculous change in my heart.  Do you remember my words that afternoon?  "God, You have to change it because I don't know what I'm doing wrong!"  God has changed me! Psalm 37:4 has been accomplished in my life!

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

It was not until I began searching for God and trying to find His way for my life that He began to change my heart.  He did not give me what I thought I wanted - a career as a music teacher AND the chance to be a great mom.  Instead, He gave me more than I ever dreamed of.  He gave me HIS DESIRE for me.  He gave me a second chance to be the mom He made me to be - the mom He intended me to be.  I no longer wrestle with the guilt of who needs me most - a job or my family.  I know, without a doubt, God made my family to need me, and I am made to serve them.  And I am so deeply, deeply thankful for this second chance.  I pray that I will not waste one bit of it on my selfish desires.  Each day, I want to show my children Jesus in me.  What could be more important than that?  I'll tell you....absolutely nothing!

I have opened up my heart here and shared some things that I am really not one bit proud of.  I am doing this so that you can see that I am not perfect.  I struggled desperately hard with this mommy thing, and I still struggle today.  It hurts when I see my children doing things that I know I could have and should have prevented them from allowing to become habits in the early years.  I wish I could go back and start over.  Then, God graciously reminds me of how far He has brought me and of how much He has worked in both mine and my children's lives. I tell you all of this so that you can see that it isn't too late.  If you are struggling with finding contentment in motherhood, remember God sees you and He cares - He cares more deeply than you do.  Remember this is the plan He gave us in His Word, and even though the job is tough and lonely, He has promised to never leave us.   He has also promised to provide a way through everything.  In tomorrow's post, I will share a few things that helped me tremendously as a struggling mom, and I pray they will help some other mom too!  It is never too late for God to change anyone!

An Exciting New Thing and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

There is something that I have wanted to do for quite some time, and today, I decided I'm just gonna do it!  I'm gonna take the plunge and see what happens!  If you have stopped by here much at all, you have probably picked up on my passion for motherhood.  I love being wife to the Mr., and I love pleasing him and serving him, too.  He is, after all, the one who will be here with me long after our kiddos have begun their own separate journeys.  However, I am surrounded 24/7 by my (most of the time) sweet kiddos, and they are my focus all day long.  I have always loved children, and it hurts my heart so much to see little ones who are neglected by the people who brought them into this world and who should love them the most.  There are so many women with children who are not mothers.  A mother nurtures, protects, sacrifices, teaches, loves and so much more. Am I the perfect mom?  Absolutely not.  I already have many regrets in the nine short years of my parenting.   Am I growing and changing and learning?  Praise God, I am!  (Tomorrow, I am going to share my journey as a mom because I want you to know where I am coming from.)

So, where was I going with this?  There is a point...I promise!!!  All of that above was to share with you the passion I have for being a joy-filled, nurturing, memory-making mom and for helping other moms be that too!  Beginning next Monday, October 8, I am going to feature Joyful Mom Mondays.  This will be an opportunity for me to share ways that we as moms can have indescribable joy as we go through such mundane days!  The best part is, I will be adding a link so that if you have a blog, you can also share your Joyful Mom ideas!  We can all learn from each other!  It may be small to start with.  Shucks!  I'll be happy if only one person links.  To me, it's not about the numbers.  It's about encouraging each other to reach for excellence.  Jesus promised in John 10:10b, "I am come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."  That's what I want - an abundant, excellent, no longer mundane but life-changing life, and I want to learn with you!  Whether you are a mom of littles or not so littles or even completely grown and gone kiddos, I'd love to hear what you are doing or have done to make your journey through motherhood a joyful one! If you are interested and ready to put some ideas together, I have posted a link here so that you can read more about this opportunity and what we are looking for in your post!  I am so looking forward to this and hope that you will join me! to our regularly scheduled Tummy Tempting Tuesday....

I know I have put up several desserts lately, but it is my specialty (in both the ability to prepare and the ability to eat)!  Today, I am posting a link to Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins.  My sister introduced these addictive things to me, and I assure you, you DO NOT want to pass up this recipe.  They are very close to Starbuck's famed Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins.  (I know this because I ate one of Starbuck's muffins just last week so that I could make this statement with complete accuracy!)  So, here it is...