"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Monday, January 31, 2011

Gotta Love Skype :)

Sure makes it easier to keep in touch. But the problem is that the two year old thinks the 20 year old lives in the computer :)

Why I Love Books

Our family loves books. We can't get enough of them. It's a serious addiction. Even when we go on vacation, like we did between Christmas and New Year's, an overwhelming amount of our time is spent with books. This is a picture of my 6 year old, who has just learned to read fairly proficiently, doing what he begged us to do several times each day we were gone ... sitting in Barnes and Noble, reading every book in sight. We must have gone there at least once each day we were on vacation (we are a long 3 hours from the nearest one here), and some days it was 2-3 times. It helps that they have a Starbucks built in, but still, our primary interest was in the books.

I love this picture because it shows me that we are doing something right in homeschool. He did spend a little time at their toy table, playing with the trains, but for the most part, this is what I would find him doing. I have always believed a love of reading was the key to success in life and all my kids love books. Everyone has their own favorites, but we just can't get enough of them. Even our 2-year-old can't get enough of them, and will carry book after book to us and demand "Read it!," then start climbing onto our laps. My 20 year old has a Nook, which is a good thing for someone in the military like he is, who travels a lot and doesn't want to have to move books or store them constantly. But I can't get into the thought of using one. I want my books right there in front of me. I love the feel of a real book in my hands, and I love the feel of being surrounded by them, so I'll stick to my hard copies, thank you very much. The biggest problem I have right now is that I don't have a space where ALL of my books can be together in the same place. So we have books on nightstands, on top of dressers, on shelves in every room, lining the top shelf of a closet, in a built in bookshelf I made last year, flooding the garage, and covering my kitchen table and living room chairs. I usually have to move books for someone to be able to sit down :) I even have a separate shelf for daycare books - mostly board books I pick up at the thrift store so the little people can enjoy them without me stressing over torn pages and broken spines. After all, every child should be taught to love books.

So, I'm dreaming big. When our house gets out here, I have plans of building wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves across on very large wall in our living room. (I think it must be about 28 feet wide, but since it's not here yet, I can't measure it.) I thought about putting the books into their own room - a sort of formal home library, but I want them to be a part of our daily life, right there in your face, calling out to you to read them. What better education could I give my kids than a well-stocked library filled with great books. We're (ahem, I'm) always buying and expecting more books in the mail ... nearly on a daily basis, definitely on a weekly basis. We've added some treasures to our shelves (or should I say future shelves) lately and have many waiting to be read, especially books published by Lamplighter Publishing. These are our current read-aloud books for the family.

One of these days I'm going to get brave and count all the books we own. But that probably isn't practical until we can get them all in one place, so maybe as they go on the shelves at the new house, I'll finally get to count them. I also plan to create a computerized card catalog then. I can't wait!

Another Great Book, and Going to the Dogs

(Please pardon the picture quality in this post and several of the next ones, I'm sure. My camera completely died, so all my pictures are from my phone, which surprisingly does a fairly decent job. I'm hoping to get a really fancy camera, so it might be awhile. I may have to buy a cheap one for the mean time though. We'll see.)

Since the beginning of the year, our family has been enjoying evening reading aloud together. We used to do this when our older kids (now 18 and 20) were young, but had gotten away from it. We try to pick books that will be spiritually encouraging, and we found a treasure in this book. The book is called Ten P's in a Pod, by Arnold Pent III, and we purchased it from Vision Forum.

The story is about a family that had 8 children and traveled around the country in evangelism. The impressive thing was the amount of time they spent in reading the Bible. They would all have personal devotions for 30-60 minutes before breakfast (depending on age). Then after each meal, they would read the Bible aloud for about 30 minutes, with each person reading or quoting a chapter of the Bible. This happened after EVERY meal. Very impressive. The father believed the spirit needed to be fed as much as the body, and made sure that his family lived according to that belief. Because of this practice, most of the kids could quote whole chapters or books of the Bible, and one even was able to quote the entire New Testament. They used that skill in their evangelistic meetings as a way to teach people how important constant Bible reading in the home is. The book is full of anecdotes about family life and adventures in their travels. It is a wonderful, very well written book, and I highly recommend it.

Today was also the big sled dog race that comes through here every year. We drove out to watch the dogs in action, but didn't bother with going to the starting line. This year they started the race next to the new elementary school, so I'm sure it was flooded with people, and would have been difficult to see anything anyway. Besides, most of my daycare kids are too little to care, and would have been difficult to hang onto if we had unloaded everyone in a crowd of people. Since I knew we would have to stay in the car anyway, we waited until all the sleds were on the trail, then drove up the road that followed the race path so the kids could see the dogs. They seemed to enjoy it just as much as they would have if we had stood out in the wind, and I didn't have to freeze or chase little people ;) I call that no-stress dog sled watching!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Well Digging

We've finally had some progress on the house move. I got an email from a friend in NC who says the brick has been removed from under the house. That's a start anyway. I'm not sure if anything else has been done, and won't get any news for awhile as her father passed away this week and they are out of town for awhile.

On the home-front, we're also having progress. This week the well-driller plowed all the snow off the front side of the lot and set up his truck. It looks like they are starting to drill. (The yellow house in the background is a neighbor).

This pond in front of the truck appears to be from drilling - not that they are clear down to water, but it's kind of a wet cement-looking mess. We've also had a lot of warm weather, so it could be some runoff too. This is a low spot on the site.

They must be a happy crew. The tank at the rear has happy faces painted on both sides. Kinda makes me want to sing "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands." I for one am happy to see progress. I was actually planning on waiting until we had the house here before we had the well drilled. After all, we aren't even sure it will get here without self-destructing. I figured we'd save the cost if it didn't make it. But the driller called and said his Spring schedule was filling up fast and wondered if he could do ours over the winter whenever he had a chance and the weather cooperated. He has an excellent reputation and has been doing this for years, and a bonus ... he lives about two houses down from our home site, so he knew how deep he would need to drill. He has also given me a lot of good information about what types of trees and plants grow well in our soil. Very helpful!

The Week of Cakes

This is a picture of a cake I made for my daughter's 14th birthday. A friend of hers saw it and told her brother about it. His birthday is today, and they asked my daughter to make them one like it. Coincidentally, it is also for his 14th birthday. I couldn't find my digital copy of this photo, so I apologize for the quality. It's really hard to take a picture of a photograph and have it turn out well.

So here is her version, along with the picture of the original.

We must have used a different bowl for the top because her version is a lot taller. Maybe we just filled the bowl fuller this time. Either way, it turned out cute.

This is a really simple cake to make.

The bottom layer and the "meat" layer are both made from round cake pans. The "meat" section is frosted with chocolate fudge frosting, then dusted with oreo cookie crumbs. After that is done, some of the fudge frosting is mixed with white frosting to get the color for the bun. The tomatoes are oreo cookie pieces - just one piece of the cookie, minus the cream filling, covered in runny red frosting to coat. The pickles - or lettuce (whatever you want to call it) - are smashed green gum drops, or in this case "fruit slices" - you know, like those orange slice gum drops. The mustard is just yellow frosting.
The top bun is sprinkled with sunflower seeds to represent sesame seeds. Voila! Done! See, I told you it was simple.

Remember I said it was the week of cakes? Well, this is one she made for the teen group meeting Thursday. It is a homemade incredibly moist chocolate cake with "seven minute frosting." This is basically a meringue frosting. It is super sticky and very sweet, and at 7,200 ft elevation is more like 40 minute frosting than 7 minute frosting. But anyway, it was yummy! I told my daughter this frosting needed to be beat a little longer, but she wouldn't believe me, so we didn't have the nice full peaks of frosting. But it was good anyway. She didn't care for it, and apparently neither did my husband, so I guess we won't be using it anymore. Oh well. It didn't do well for left-overs either. It all kind of wilted and got runny.

I believe I had this type of sticky frosting on my first birthday cake, in this same shade of soft pink. The first picture is a more accurate color. I'm not sure why this one looks washed out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Me, the Future Master Gardener

So you all remember my miserable failure at gardening last year, don't you? Okay, so it would have been okay if everything hadn't frosted over Labor Day while I was out of town. But, I've never had the great success my parents had in our home garden when we lived in Nebraska when I was a child. I figured a class on gardening, especially one specific to our local climate, soil, temperature and elevation would be a great help.

So I signed up for the Master Gardener class sponsored by our county weed and pest office. At the time I signed up for it, I assumed it would be a "basics of gardening" specific to our local area. It is, and SO much more. As soon as I arrived for the first class last night, I felt overwhelmed. Most of the people there were at least 10-20 years older than me, members of our local garden club, and had been successfully gardening for a number of years - one for over 40 years. I wondered if I ought to leave while my hundred dollar bill was still in my pocket (that was the fee for the class). This class meets every week through March, and according to the syllabus we will be covering some very detailed information concerning soil pH, entomology, determining soil types, botany, etc.

I really felt overwhelmed when the text books were handed out. I put the gluestick in the picture so you can get a sense of how large this 500! page book is.

See all the reading I have to do over the next month and a half? My goal was to be able to grow vegetables for my family - and maybe a few fruits too. Anyway, I figured it was worth staying for the first class, and by the end I was sold. What a wealth of information. Last night we covered the basics of vegetable gardening and a great introduction to composting. I gotta say I never thought I would be all that interested in creating a pile of rotting organic material in my yard, but I'm definitely going to try this. (Though I'm grappling with what the difference was between a compost pile and a silage pile, which we had on the farm and used for feeding the cows! Same basic idea, minus the aeration.) I'm excited to learn more.

This chapter on growing vegetables was the one I thought would be most helpful to me, but the material we covered last night proved me wrong. We discussed lawn and tree health last night, and I realized that it was invaluable information given the fact that we have a new home coming in that will need landscaping. There is so much to learn, but instead of feeling overwhelmed, I am excited. Can't wait to try my hand at these new techniques. Oh, and at the end of the class, if I do 40 hours of volunteer work I will get the designation of "Master Gardener." Fun!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My New Dining Room/Preschool

When you run a home daycare, it's a constant battle to provide both family living space and daycare practicality. I'm still struggling with this, and make changes often. This past weekend, we finally did a project that I have been planning and working on for about a year. I think the daycare space won out here, as the family dining table is now crammed into a corner. The original plan would have never combined these two, but since our attempts to separate our daycare from our home has so far been thwarted, this will have to do for now.

Originally I planned to move our daycare into the other half of our duplex. But that didn't work out because the owner's daughter needed a new place to live. The next plan was for us to move into the home we owned in North Carolina, and are in the process (albeit a very slow process) of having it moved out here to Wyoming. We had planned on being in that house before Christmas, and making the duplex into a full daycare. I've given up on waiting "until" (there's always something to wait on) and now have just decided to go for it. So here is the new bulletin board I've been wanting.

This is a very simple, very cheap project (if you are close to a Home Depot or Lowes. We got ripped off because our local lumberyard is a joke). It started with a 4'x8' insulation board - not the styrofoam kind, but more of a pressed cardboard type of stuff. It's super cheap - usually less than $10, and makes a perfect bulletin board. I used the same thing for my front entry project last year. This time, I painted it instead of covering it with fabric. I figured fabric would be too distracting for teaching purposes, and poking thumbtacks through fabric isn't the best if you use the bulletin board a lot. I thought I had some trim boards set aside for this project, but when it came time to make it, all we could find were 1x2's, so my wonderful husband cut a groove in the back side of the boards so that there would be a lip of the trim boards to hold the bulletin board in.

It was fairly easy from there: level the bottom trim board, set the bulletin board inside, and put the rest of the trim up around it.

We hit something solid - either a very solid stud or a nail or something, and one of the screws just squealed and wouldn't go in.

We had an awful lot of help for this project.

More help than we probably needed.

But everyone worked together and had a good time, so we will have good family memories :)

This is the finished project, with a few items already up. We decided to leave the trim boards their natural color because the changing table is also natural wood. I may eventually decide to paint it white, but for now I like it as it is. With this project, my theory was "done is better than perfect" and I'm relieved that it is finally done. I even told my husband not to bother with mitering the corners. I can't believe it's been in the works for nearly a year ... that's when we bought the supplies and painted the board.

So here is what the dining room looks like now. It's a little crowded, and this picture doesn't even show the six foot child-height table and little chairs, which goes from the wall under the bulletin board out toward where my 6 year old is sitting. To the left you see our family table, all squished up against the window. We do fit at it, using only 2 1/2 sides ... for now anyway. (The half side is because of the cabinet). It isn't ideal, but it works. The big black cabinet houses all of the homeschool and preschool supplies we need on a daily basis. On the far right of the picture is our diaper changing station. I invested in a daycare quality changing table and overhead storage unit to match, and it has been well worth the money. The changing table used to sit flush against the wall under the overhead unit, but we had to turn it to have room for the kids' table. It works as a partial wall between our living and dining room, and doesn't stick out as bad as I was afraid it would. It's all functional for now, until we do eventually get our house set up and moved into. I'm really hoping to be all moved into it before our baby comes in July.

I couldn't end this post without sharing the "construction" work my 6 year old did with one of our preschool curriculum supply boxes.

He decorated every side to look like a real NASCAR race car.

In case you can't make out the number on the side, this is the 14 car - Tony Stewart.

And the view from the back. You can't see it in the picture, but it says "NASCAR" on the back. This box has been the highlight of the daycare all week :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Highly Recommend this Bible Study...

It's called Balancing the Sword by Allen B. Wolfe. There are two volumes, but it will take you a year to get through one of them, so you don't have to buy them both at once unless you want to.

The beginning of the book has a section which explains different Biblical measurements and coins. It is very informative. The book comes with a code for software that allows you to customize a reading schedule. You can purchase the book online at their website or buy it from another source. We purchased the two book set from Vision Forum when they were having a great year-end sale, so we got an incredible deal on it. But whatever you pay for it, I promise it is well worth the investment - both of time and money.

Here is an example of one of the pages - and this book is huge - 589 pages in volume one. There are questions for you to answer from every chapter of every book of the Bible - Old Testament and New. But the real bonus is the long (sometimes very long) list of references to look up which relate to the passage. Being diligent to look up every reference has really changed how I view the Bible. It's amazing how connected every idea is and how it appears throughout all of God's Word.

We have been using this for our personal devotions - my husband, myself and our 18 year old. We started doing this with the almost 7 year old too, but it was just too long for him. We set up our reading schedule so that we would complete the study by the end of the year, but we were already more than a week into January before we began. We each individually do our reading and study, but then always discuss what we found and the things that really surprised us or stuck out to us. Then once a week, we go through all the answers with the book answer key just to make sure we got what we were supposed to. It takes at least an hour a day, some days more, to do the study effectively. There were a couple of days I'm sure I spent more like 2 hours. But like I said, it's been time well spent and I already have gained so much from it. We've only been doing this for a week, and I know I will continue it because it is so rich. So, get yourself a copy and study! You won't regret it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ice You Can See Through and a New Washer!

Ooh , isn't this exciting? My new washing machine was delivered today!!! The old one had been with us for 15 years and a bunch of moves - maybe 6 houses or so - and had faithfully served us all those years, but it finally gave up the fight and was spewing water all over the floor - gallons, not drips - every time we used it. So last weekend, my sweet husband took me to Home Depot (100 miles away) to pick out a new one. I had done my research online and had my heart set on a front loader, but when we saw this one we loved it. Also, while we were doing our shopping, another couple was in the area, and the wife happened to mention to her husband the problem a friend had experienced with her front loader - the door had somehow been tweaked - either from the kids pulling down on it or from her leaning over it or draping wet clothes on it, and it leaked water. She ended up having to replace the door (which I'm sure couldn't have been cheap). Well, given the fact that we have lots of little laundry "helpers," I figured we would be safer with the top loader.

So here it is in all it's shiny newness. It has a 5.2 cubic foot capacity. We decided it would be well worth the money to invest in a bigger machine so we can wash our king size comforter in it, and just do fewer loads overall. Now, if we could just get a second dryer, we would really be in business, but I won't have room for one of those until our other house gets out here. Then, it's a serious option which I think will be well worth the investment.

I love the see-through lid on this one too. I could have put our two-year-old in here and you would see that his head only would come to about two thirds up the drum - it is VERY deep and wide. But, he had watched a load run and I'm sure he would panic, so I won't do that to him :)

It was the great excitement of the night watching the first load run.

The kids like the see through lid too :) - but you have to be careful. If you watch too closely you'll get sea sick. This washer spins the clothes as it washes them, and the centrifugal force pulls the water up the sides and shoots it back onto the clothes from the top - like a constant spray. It stops, switches directions, sloshes and does all kinds of maneuvers to get the clothes clean with a minimal amount of water. We were all impressed.

It was the evening's entertainment.

This afternoon, while my husband and our six year old spent the day skiing, my daughter, two year old and I went to check out the local lake which has frozen clear. According to the newspaper, this only happens every 10 years, but my mother-in-law said the last time this lake froze clear was when they were first married - which would be much longer ago than that.
It was a little unnerving to be able to see clear to the bottom of the lake. I was a chicken and stayed within 30 feet of shore.

Check this out - these are piles of driftwood, probably about 8 feet under water, and yes, I was stupid enough not to wear snow boots. And by the way, the wind was whipping across all that ice and we nearly froze to death. Definitely should have dressed warmer!

Can you see the rocks ... and the cracks in the ice. The ice was popping all the time we were on it, and it looked like it was only about 5 inches thick. I'm not into ice fishing or walking or driving snowmobiles across the ice because I have a great fear of falling through and never being able to get back out. Not the way I want to die. The first time my husband ever took me ice fishing, I had one leg break through the ice, and that was enough for me. He did convince me to go out a few more times, but for the most part, I stay home where it's warm :)

It was really cool to see the bubbles trapped in the ice. It's like that everywhere across the ice.

This is ice covering a rock on the shore. This must have formed before the lake froze over because the splashing would have capped the rock like that. Very cool mushroomy effect.

My daughter decided to skate on it. She had a great time once she got used to it. The lake is remarkably smooth even with the cracks. She had a hard time not panicking whenever it popped, though.

See the mountains in the distance? They are 12 miles across the lake.

She got comfortable enough on the ice to attempt a few tricks too.

And some spins.

At the end of it all, the two year old decided the best part was getting to eat the ice off the bottom of his shoes :)