Monday, November 29, 2010

Sale Alert! Adorable Stocking Stuffers!

Well, that's what I get for trying to be good by staying away from the computer today. My friend, Dawn, announced she's having a Cyber Monday Sale. She recently debuted her homemade line of soaps, and they are so darling. My favorite are the cupcake soaps.

Won't those be perfect in the girls' stockings? (Edited to add: We don't actually have stockings, but we have wooden shoes we fill instead). I'm sorry I didn't give you much notice for the sale, but there's still time! You can see all her cute soaps here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

painting & meditating

You were all partly right in your guesses on my current project.

Kim guessed new cabinets.

Actually, old cabinets; new look.

Dawn guessed something to do with the basement.

The basement project is on life support (sorry for the lack of activity over at that blog, maybe this weekend I can give a recap). But because my basement is completely torn up, it has been a perfect place to paint the cabinet doors.

Heather didn't guess, but said, "Oooh... I hope it's something wonderfully fun!!"

Well, I think so, but I'm pretty sure most people will think I'm crazy. My kids love it though, and Marc says he loves it (I think he's mostly glad it's almost done). We're the ones who have to live here, so as long as we're happy with the color it's okay.

Here is where I'm supposed to show you the before and after photos, but it's not done yet. Yep, I'm cutting it close. We have family arriving tomorrow.

I do, however, have something wonderful to share. Instead of spending all that painting time worrying about all the things that need to be done, I have been listening to a great sermon series on Deuteronomy. The preacher is Colin Smith, the pastor of the church we attended the last time we lived in the Chicago area. He started this series this fall to coincide with a major change in their church's life -- the opening of two new church campuses -- but the series is applicable to any believer. I've been making or been planning to make several changes in my life lately, so I've been especially blessed through Pastor Smith's amazing preaching. I'm listing the sermon titles and links for anyone who might be interested. Perhaps during an evening of Thanksgiving baking or wrapping presents you can be blessed too.

Take Two: The Power of a Fresh Start, sermon series by Colin Smith

Make a New Beginning, September 5, 2010

Change the Future by Owning the Past, September 12, 2010

Cultivate the Right Kind of Fear, September 19, 2010

Love God With All Your Heart, September 26, 2010

Tell Your Children Why, October 3, 2010

Beware the Subtle Test of Success, October 10, 2010

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, October 17, 2010

Celebrate All That is Yours in Christ, October 24, 2010

Exercise Leadership by Learning to Follow, October 31, 2010

Act on What You Know: Leave the Rest to God, November 7, 2010

There are two more sermons in the series, so I will update this post as they become available. And if you like this series, you really should listen to another series he did when we lived there, "Be Yourself: Discovering Your New Identity in Christ." Marc and I still talk about that sermon series often.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some painting and meditating to do.

Blessed is the one . . . who meditates on his law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This is not the week . . .

. . . that my kids will get caught up on their school work.

. . . that I will make homemade nutritious meals every night.

Thanks, Dawn, for some helpful ideas for healthier fast food.

. . . that I will get 8 hours of sleep each night.

. . . that I will be a good blogger or blog reader.

. . . that I give up caffeine.

Have you heard about the 2-for-1 deal at Starbucks?

. . . that I win any fashion or beauty awards.

. . . that I read any interesting books.

. . . that the laundry gets done.

Any ideas why? I'll give you a little hint.

Casey, you're not allowed to give away the answer. : )

For the record, some many most of the things in the above list would not happen any other week either, but a girl can always dream!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

swim/catechism training {huh?}

If we're not home, there's a good chance we're at the pool. This year is the first year we have all three kids on year-round swim team. Previously, Anna was the only year-round swimmer, while Grace and Ryne swam only on a summer team. But this year we thought the timing was right for the younger two to swim year-round. Our neighbor, who years ago gave our kids private swim lessons in her backyard, was returning as the beginner group's coach, after having taken a year off. Ryne loves her, and she works so well with him. We would never have dared tried swim team with Ryne if it hadn't been for her support and encouragement. The other major factor was that Anna moved up a level for practice groups, making scheduling all three kids easier. They often have practices at the same time, whereas if we had done this last year they would have been on alternating nights.

Since it seemed like things would work out logistically, we decided to give year-round swimming for all three kids a try and so far it's going well. I feel good that Ryne and Grace are getting regular exercise, doing something they love. For now, we haven't signed Ryne up for any meets. We might try one in December, but for the most part we're just focusing on improving skills with him right now.

Grace, however, competed in meets the last two weeks. She is having an absolute ball! It is so funny to see how different she is from her big sister. Take the pre-race routine, for example. Anna is so expressionless when she's behind the blocks, while Grace is dancing, chatting, giggling, fidgeting, etc. See for yourself the difference . . .

Grace does eventually get focused enough to compete, but even then she has a faint grin on her face.

To Anna's credit, she does smile every once in a while.

But mostly Anna is all business at the pool. She has goals to meet.

Anna is known by her coaches and teammates for being an extremely hard worker. I can count on one hand how many practices she missed last year. It is not uncommon for her to be the only one from her practice group at a 5:15 a.m. practice (yes, you read that time right). She is great about setting challenging goals and keeping focused on those goals.

Yet, for all that hard work and motivation, she has had a lot of disappointment. She continually sees kids younger than her getting faster times (some of whom seem to not work very hard in practice) and she can't break into that top group of swimmers. Her main goal for the last year has been to get an "A" time in her breaststroke events. This summer she missed it by one stinkin' second in the 200 meter breaststroke. It was heartbreaking. I just held her as we both cried. Everyone wanted her to get that time. But she pulled herself back together and said she was going to do it in the fall for short course season. She turns 13 in January, and will have new time standards, so her goal was to get her "A" times in the 50 yard breast and the 100 breast before two big championship meets in December.

All fall she's been getting closer and closer. Two weeks ago was her last chance on the 50 breaststroke before the championship meets. She was seeded in the fastest heat, so we knew she was going to have some great competition. It was a beautiful race -- she had a great start, her turn was awesome, and she finished in 6th place behind some amazing swimmers. And her time?

She missed it by .01 seconds.

The smallest margin possible.

Surprisingly, she didn't cry this time. She didn't even look that upset. She knew she swam a great race, but this time the clock won.

The tears did come a few days later and she even talked briefly of wanting to quit. I did my best to be encouraging, but frankly I didn't know what to say. I was having trouble answering her biggest question: Why?

But after a few days of prayer and contemplation, she and I had a mini catechism lesson. I asked her to tell me the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Q: What is my only comfort in life and in death?

A: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ . . .

We then discussed that swimming is just a sport. Our comfort is not in an "A" time, but in Christ.

And then we discussed the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

So we talked about how we are to glorify God in everything we do -- even swimming -- and listed specific ways she could do that. We talked about how it is right to be thankful and to praise God in all circumstances, and that God often uses trials to teach us valuable lessons. I think our catechism lesson helped us both to get our priorities straightened out. : )

And that brings us to Saturday. Her last chance in the 100 breaststroke. Again, she was seeded in the fastest heat. She wrote the time she needed on her leg, and repeated it to herself as she waited to swim.


Just like the previous week she had a beautiful race, this time finishing 5th.

But I'm telling you, that clock took


to post her time.


Finally, her time flashed on the scoreboard.

1:22.19 -- exactly!

I made Marc tell me it was the right time at least three times. Anna just sat in the water with her hand over her mouth in complete amazement.

Now the danger of a post like this is that we start thinking that God rewarded us for promising to be thankful no matter the outcome. This race had a happy ending, but it could have easily gone the other way. So we will have more discussions in the coming days. The thought did cross my mind that perhaps God gave her the exact time she needed (not a fraction of a second more) to keep us humble. She will be seeded last at the Level 1 championship meet, because anyone with a slower time didn't qualify for the meet and can only compete at Level 2's. Whatever God's reasons, we are thankful for the outcome and even more thankful for the reminder that without Christ, everything in life is meaningless.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thank you!!!

When I posted our apple study yesterday, I was surprised to receive a couple of lovely comments congratulating me for being nominated for the Home School Blog Awards! Thank you, Heather, for nominating me for Best Nature Blog! It is humbling to even be on the same list as my nature study hero, Barb, whose Outdoor Hour Challenges are the topic of most my nature posts. We've only been doing formal nature study for a little over a year, and I'm certainly not very knowledgeable about most of our topics, but our nature walks really are the highlight of our week.

Blogging about our nature study is especially beneficial to me, because it encourages me to learn more. As I look through my pictures I find a number of things to google:

What kind of snake is that?

Why did all those fish die?

What's the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool?

What are those bumpy things hanging off the tree?

And my most googled nature topic:

What kind of bird is that?

Once I've found the answer, I share what I've learned with the kids. And that's the beauty of nature study -- we don't have to be experts! Just go pick one of Barb's challenges and get started. Our family is blessed to live on an almost two acre wooded lot, but you can do nature study anywhere. We even did one of our nature studies on the highway exit near our home! You can see all my nature study posts here, but I encourage you to visit some of the other bloggers participating in the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I am continually amazed at the things I learn from them.

Okay, now about that other nomination. I didn't even see that one until later in the day -- it was even more unexpected! Whoever nominated me for Best Homeschool Mom Blog needs to email me her phone number right away. I must put you on speed dial for the times when I feel like the Worst Homeschool Mom Ever -- then I can just call you for a pep talk. Don't worry, I only feel that way about twice a day. Three times on Mondays. Seriously, thank you for thinking of me and making my day.

I have one more thank you. For two years I have been begging the people at the blog awards to add a category for blogs about special needs homeschooling, and this year they finally did it!!! I love getting to know other moms of special needs kids through their blogs and have been so blessed by hearing their stories and seeing their day to day lives. I was excited to see several of my favorites nominated and can't wait to visit all the other nominees. Thank you, HSBA!

Being nominated is a little like having unexpected guests show up at your door. I'm so happy to have new visitors, but I'm painfully aware of all the dust in my sidebar, and I feel a sense of urgency to get caught up on my blogging. I still have a nature post from two weeks ago to finish, my October monthly review, and (if we're really keeping track) an autism series from the summer that never made it past the first post! So if you'll forgive my unpreparedness, I'd love to get to know you!

Oh! And don't forget to vote! I'd love it if you'd vote for two of my bloggy friends, Dawn of Olive Plants (nominated for Best Encourager) and Ruthanne of Eclectic Whatnot (nominated for Best Homeschool Mom and Best Photos and Artistic Content). There are so many other great blogs too, but I haven't even had a chance to look at all the categories yet!

Monday, November 8, 2010

OHC: Apples

Join us as we study nature using The Outdoor Hour Challenges. This year Ryne and Grace are joining with friends Cameron and Avery to explore this beautiful world God made. Moms, Kellie and Casey, are enjoying the adventure as much as the kids.

I'm a couple of weeks behind in posting our nature studies, but on October 22 the kids had an indoor nature study on apples. I bought 10 different varieties of apples for them to examine, compare, sketch, and taste. It's amazing how different apples can be!
I thought the kids did a great job noticing some subtle differences and really brought out those differences in their sketches. Everyone was fascinated by the bumpy texture of the Sweet Tango.

They each picked two apples to focus on for their notebook pages. Ryne chose the Gala and the Sweet Tango. Cameron chose the Granny Smith and the Honey Crisp. Avery chose the Jonathan and Red Delicious. Grace chose the Granny Smith and the Cortland.

And then it was time for the best part -- tasting the apples!
Ryne had one of the best lines of the day when describing the Sweet Tango: "Sour, with a touch of tang on the finish."

Because it was such a beautiful day (we've been blessed with wonderful weather for Friday School days so far), we decided to talk a walk in the woods.
Overall, nature study is going well this fall. We're all out of order on Barb's challenges and we've had to skip a few, but isn't flexibility one of the best things about homeschooling? It can sometimes be difficult keeping the attention of four kids and I often wish I could be a better guide, but I am encouraged by the observations I see them all making and the fun they are having.

Monday, November 1, 2010

eight 8 eight 8 eight 8 eight 8 eight

When I see Grace wear a hand-me-down outfit from Anna, I automatically compare how Grace is now to how Anna was back then. At eight Anna seemed so big and grown up. But eight on Grace still seems cute and little girlish. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. I'm not ready to have my little pumpkin grow up. I'm still trying to work up the courage to put away the board books she chewed on as a baby, while she's already abandoning the nice picture books for chapter books.

Okay, this started out as a sweet little happy birthday post, but I'm seriously getting too choked up to finish writing.

As I tucked her into bed tonight and we talked about what a wonderful birthday it had been, she suddenly gasped and said she left Bunny downstairs. She jumped out of bed to fetch her faded and worn best friend, while I just smiled. Maybe I do still have a little bit of time before she completely grows up. But I better treasure every moment, because she's not going to be eight forever.

Happy birthday, my sweet baby.