Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Merry Thanksbirthsary Menu

If you read my post "Merry Thanksbirthsary," you know that our Thanksgiving is serving triple duty this year. We will celebrate Michael's parents 40th wedding anniversary and the boys' birthdays as well as give thanks. I have prepared the menu and wanted to share.

Spinach and cream cheese pastry puffs

Chicken Pot Pie

Side Dishes
Thanksgiving Medley
Roasted Garlic Corn- recipe below
Green Beans a la Dawn- recipe below
Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffins

Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake - a red cake for the "Ruby" anniversary!

Roasted Garlic Corn
1. Soften 1/2 cup sweet cream butter and blend in 4 cloves of garlic, minced.
2. Spread 1 tbsp. of butter mix on 1 ear of corn. Salt and pepper.
3. Wrap in aluminum foil. Place in slow cooker.
4. Repeat until desired number of ears of corn are complete.
5. Cover crock pot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Green Beans a la Dawn
1. Place two large cans or 4 small cans of green beans with shellies in a slow cooker. I prefer Italian beans with shellies.
2. Cover with water. Add 2-3 tbsp. chicken boullion granules and mix until granules dissolve.
3. Add 2 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion salt and sage. Stir. Cover. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Concession

Over the past two weeks, there was Never a Dull Moment from Inside My Homeschool House. The Homeschool Blog Awards turned our life into an Unschooling Adventure. My Thr33 Sons and I watched as my blog went from second to first!

To second. :-(

To first! :-)

Then down and then UP! And then down again, only to land in 4th.

There were many Ramblings from the Crazy House, and though my Kids Love Learning, Momma couldn't be Bug(ged) as she watched her Blog. Maybe it was Onlyme, but I considered enrolling my children in BE Academy ,or maybe CMS Academy, so I could keep track of my status in the competition.

Our Homeschool Creations suffered these two weeks, and we did not live up to the standards of Homemade Homeschoolers. My heart sank as I watched the winner travel 10 Million Miles to the top of the list. Not wanting to admit defeat, I considered hiring Mommy Lawyer to appeal the outcome.

However, after Seeking His Face… in Everything, I have decided to walk The Narrow Path. So as this new day of Home School(ing) Dawn(s), I offer my congratulations to the winner. May you enjoy a Lifetime (of) Books and Gifts.

Congratulations to all the Best New Homeschool Blog Award nominees and our winner, Never a Dull Moment!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thank You

Have you ever experienced a time in life when you aimed for something, a worthy goal, only to reach an entirely different end... one that came from out-of-the-blue and left you speechless? That is what happened to me this week as a result of the Homeschool Blog Awards.

When I learned I had received the nomination for Best New Homeschool Blog, I had my eyes on the prizes and on increasing my readership. I didn't get the goods, but my readership did increase. Thank you to everyone at the Homeschool Post for your hard work in bringing this competition together. All of us gained from the two-week experience, and I appreciate it.

However, the best outcome of this event was something I never expected. Friends from all over the country, rather all over the world, united to vote for me. I received e-mails and phone calls of support. I watched as my site meter showed hits from four different continents. How cool it was to experience friends old and new, near and far, rallying for my sake. Thank you all so much. You have made my day... no, week... no, YEAR!!!

So, the prize for me has been knowing that I have some of the best friends in the world, bloggy and real life. Thank you for sending those compliments and for taking the time to cast your vote for me. I am humbled by your love and support.

Know that my commitment to write, to homeschool and to be a keeper at home flows from a grateful heart. Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, paid the highest price for my sake. I write, teach and live with the assurance that I have "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Eph 1:7

I pray that as you read and keep up with the happenings of this bloggy friend that you will experience "this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Rom 5:2

Thank you, friends. I love you all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas

Thrifty Thursday

I don't know how I would homeschool without a slow cooker. The holiday rush is on, and today was filled with school, projects and cleaning. It was nice to put this in the crock at lunch, turn on the cooker and have dinner waiting for me at 5:30 p.m.


1 lb. cooked, cubed chicken (if I find it on sale, I buy the Tyson pre-cooked fajita strips)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 can enchilada sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can sliced black olives
1 can mexicorn
1 16 oz can black beans
1 8 oz pack shredded cheese (I use colby-jack or mexican.)
1 package large flour tortillas


1. Warm a large skillet over med heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Saute for about 1 min.

2. Add chicken to the skillet. Cook just long enough to brown. Add enchilada and tomato sauces and stir.

3. Place olives, corn and black beans in a colander, rinse, mix together and drain well.

4. Add olive, corn and bean mix to skillet. Cook until mix bubbles. Stir frequently.

5. Remove skillet from heat. Spray crock pot with Pam and line with 1 tortilla. Spoon 1/4 of mixture over the tortilla, sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese and place another tortilla on top.

6. Repeat layering until all of the chicken mixture and cheese is used. Place one tortilla on top. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Higher Order Thinking Skills

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Looking for ways to give your school that little something extra? Consider incorporating higher order thinking by developing or finding activities that make your children work beyond skill and drill. I have found knowing and applying the theories of Benjamin Bloom helpful in this regard.

Benjamin Bloom suggested that learning is hierarchical, meaning as children study a particular topic in school, they must master skills by moving from lower order processes to higher ones. He proposed a taxonomy that orders the levels of learning through which students must progress.

To demonstrate how I incorporate this theory in my teaching, I will give an example unit on the story "The Three Little Pigs" citing examples of activities to match each level of the taxonomy.

The lowest level of learning proposed by Bloom is the knowledge level. This is the "Just-the-Facts-Ma'am" level. Memorizing and recalling are the goals. At this stage, mom reads the story and then asks questions like, "Who were the characters?" and "What did the Big Bad Wolf do?"

Next, a child needs to progress to the comprehension stage. This is when he demonstrates that he understands what he has memorized. He can explain, give directions or answer questions. In this stage, the child should be able to retell a story, or restate learning in his own words. He might create his own "Three Little Pigs" book or simply summarize the story to mom.

Most education programs stop there, especially in elementary school. However, Bloom suggested that in order for children to digest what they are learning, they must move upward to higher stages of his proposed "taxonomy." He believed that lower level learning is in large part forgotten over time, but advancing to higher levels of learning helps the material to "stick with" a student.

Application follows comprehension. In this stage, learners find ways to use what they have learned. Solving word problems or preparing a demonstration are examples of application. Now, the student could create a dramatization of "The Three Little Pigs."

In the next stage, analysis, students pick apart what they have learned. How is one thing similar to or different from another? Debating, experimenting, and categorizing fit into this level. Students could debate the value of building with bricks verses the ease of building with sticks. They could attempt to build a model of a sturdy, wolf-proof house.

In synthesis, students combine skills they have learned and propose new ideas. Students arrange, construct and predict outcomes. Now the learners should propose real-life situations in which a house can be blown down. They should seek out solutions to the real world problems, propose ideas of their own and perform experiments.

Finally, students are to evaluate. In this stage, students assess and revise projects or other work. They form opinions and learn to articulate them. Students should determine what they learned from their experiment. Are certain building materials better than others? What building methods withstand high winds the best?

It is impossible to take every concept through every level of learning, but I have found that the more attention I give to higher order thinking, the more curious and zealous my boys become. The more I allow them to explore, the more they want to know. I find that they really do remember better when given the opportunities to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate.

For more information on Bloom's taxonomy, see this article. The levels are explained in a little more detail, and there is a list of learning cues for each level. I often use these to brainstorm activities for units.

Happy Teaching!

A Quirky Crew

This week's Heart of the Matter meme is "Things That Make Our Family Unique." Here are the top ten things about my family and me.

10. We like soda way too much. My husband's students actually buy him 12-packs of Coke for Christmas.

9. I have Restless Leg Syndrome. I know you've laughed at those commercials! I have to take meds for it or I dance all night and kick poor Michael.

8. My boys are 13 months apart. This was almost to the day, but I went into labor with Bruster four days before my scheduled induction. I used to get a lot of strange looks when they were babies.

7. I have had the following nicknames: Boofer (I had really big hair in high school), Dawnwoman (long story), and Queen LaTeacha (from teaching in the inner city).

6. My favorite nickname is the one Michael gave me while we were courting, Aurora Carina. That's pronounced Uh-roar-uh Car-een-ya. It's Latin/Spanish for my full name.

5. I really don't like my name. It's Dawn Cherie. That's pronounced "Cher (like Sonny and Cher)-ee. I won't get into to the many pronunciations of "Dawn."

4. I got my name because my dad was a big Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons fan. I was named after two of their songs, "Dawn" and "Sherry." He gave Sherry a French twist.

3. I speak French, sort of. I wanted to learn from age 4 because of Pepe Le Pew cartoons.

2. Michael's nickname is Spike. I call him Roget because he has a huge vocabulary.

1. I was a crazy New Kids on the Block fan in high school. I still find myself singing "Hanging Tough" from time to time and was secretly a little excited about their recent reunion.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cleaning Rooms

Milestone Monday

This room looks like a tornado hit it!

What were you, raised in a barn?!!

Clean this pig sty up!

These are among the list of many things I knew I would never say to my kids. Then, I had some. LOL!

While teaching in the public schools, I attended a workshop on keeping classrooms organized. The speaker had some great ideas… color coding, gluing pictures on storage bins so little ones know what goes inside, taping the outline of an object to the place where it belongs on a shelf, etc. I used many of these in my classroom with success.

I decided that since this worked so well at school, I would use these techniques at home with my boys while they were toddlers. Supposedly, this would teach them organization and build a routine in which they would clean behind themselves without prompting from a parent.

What's that sound? Do I hear giggling coming through my computer?

Yeah, that's what I thought then. But what I know now is that the cleanliness of my house depends on my management of it. I am the keeper of my home, given the charge of its care. Things don't just magically happen. This has been a milestone for me recently… coming to terms with the fact that I must constantly stay on top of cleaning routines.

These are my best suggestions to date:

1. I highly recommend Bedroom Cleaning for Kids: Clean N Flip by von Eggers. It contains a six-step procedure for cleaning a room, written and illustrated so that children can follow it with little supervision. Though I still have to say, "It's clean-up time," I don't have to stand over them to ensure the job gets done right.

2. I room check frequently, at least 4 nights per week, before bedtime. When I inspect, I look for toys in their proper places, for dirty clothes in the hamper, and for neatly (not perfectly) made beds. I always inspect under furniture. My kids' toys have a tendency to migrate there. I place a sticker on the chart pictured above each night the room is clean. This chart helps us determine how much allowance they earn in a given week. I confiscate toys not put away, and they go into a "mom store" from which the boys must repurchase them before they can spend their allowance on anything else. OUCH!! It hurts but works.

3. At the end of each week, we pay our boys an allowance based on how well they performed their chores. Some say don't pay for chores because every member of the house is to contribute without being paid. Michael and I, on the other hand, want our boys to earn money so that we can teach them how to manage it. Chores are the best means for accomplishing this in our house. We require them to tithe, save and invest portions of their money before being allowed to spend. See this post by Counter-cultural School for good advice on teaching money management. Keep in mind that I only mention this tip as something that works for us and would not advise any mom to do anything that contradicts her conscience or her husband.

4. I have a designated "toy area" in each main room of my house. I used to keep all toys in one room. Now, I keep Lego's in the breakfast nook. Board games are stored on a shelf in the living room. Educational games and puzzles are kept in the classroom. This has helped to contain messes, making them easier to clean up.

Play Areas around Our House

Feel free to leave comments with any tips you have.
I am always open to suggestions.

Also, check out Coach Mom Says.
Her sense of humor is great and so are her cleaning tips.

Happy Cleaning!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Conestoga Wagons

Farewell Friday

This week our Social Studies focused on 19th Century travel. We read about Conestoga wagons and the preparation that the pioneers made before beginning their five-month trek across the plains, mountains and deserts. I thought about those brave dads and moms who labored to make months worth of food and supplies, having to think and prepare and pack for everything. I thought about our upcoming holiday trips. What if it took five months to get there? And there were no McDonald's along the way??!!!

The boys completed an activity in which they compared and contrasted travel then to travel now. In our discussion, we noted that the pioneers had no roads,but since the advent of the airplane, we do not need roads. They had sketchy maps and markings carved into bones left along the trail by those who came before them, and we have interstates, amber alerts, GPS and OnStar.

Then, the boys made this very simple model of a Conestoga. I cut two small milk cartons in half and taped the top flap so that it stuck out to make the jokey box. Then, we taped a piece of card stock paper cut to the width of the milk carton to each side to form the canvas covering. The final step was to tape bottle caps to the sides as wheels. Very simple and the boys loved it.

It was interesting to reflect on what life was like just a little over one hundred years ago while my blog's hit counter was ticking like mad due to the Homeschool Blog Awards. Just this week, this blog had visitors from all over the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Some of you live along the trail those pioneers struggled to forge. Some of you live in places a girl from my part of the world would never have dreamed of seeing in the 19th Century. Yet we made it to each other's homes with the click of a button this week.

It truly is the world wide web. How great a blessing we have to be able to connect and to encourage one another. Welcome, friends.

Book Giveaway!

Christy @ Mercy Every Morning is giving away a Salem Ridge Press book!

Christy writes, "Salem Ridge Press, founded by a homeschooled graduate in 2005, has dedicated itself to republishing books from the 1800's and early 1900's that are wholesome, exciting and well-written."

She is offering an opportunity for four entries per blogger and has included a link to the Christmas Wishlist Giveaway currently held by Salem Ridge Press.

Read her post "Salem Ridge Press Book Giveaway!" for all the details.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Gift Basket Themes

Thrifty Thursday
Last week's post, Christmas Gift Baskets, received a few responses with some great ideas. Here are some of the ideas that were shared with me and my thoughts on a few more themes for giving your extended family or friends a gift that will save you time and money and create opportunities for them to make lasting memories. I have included as many ideas as possible under each topic so if you want, you can pick and choose what fits your style and budget.

Family Game Night
Create a collection of games that the receiving family will enjoy. You can find Bible versions of classic games at Amazon. Add a deck of cards and the book 101 Best Family Card Games by Alfred Sheinwold. The card games we grew up playing, such as Old Maid and Go Fish, would make a great addition to this basket. For a finishing touch add popcorn, candy, or a gift certificate for their favorite pizzeria. Thanks to Christy @ Mercy Every Morning for this idea!

Puzzles Galore
A variety of puzzles can be bought at local discount stores. Be sure to add in educational puzzles and large-piece puzzles for the little hands in the family, or a floor puzzle for the classroom. You can find a variety here. Finishing touches include puzzle glue, a puzzle mat, and some snacks to enjoy while working. Thanks to Dawn @ A Home in the Country for sharing this idea!

Super Sundae
Ice cream would melt, but fill a basket with syrups, sprinkles, or other sundae toppings, and the receiver's heart will melt instead. Include gift certificates to your local ice cream shop, ice cream bowls, spoons, and a scoop. Add goodies like this ice cream shaped candle for extra fun. The book, A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti, would thrill any dessert lover. Thanks to FLMom @ The Narrow Path for such a fun treat!

Crafting Fun
Fill a sewing basket with crayons, markers, paint, brushes, scissors, stickers, craft sticks, modeling clay, pom-poms… you name it. Discount School Supply offers a great selection of craft supplies at good prices. Print craft ideas and include to inspire the budding artists.

Bird Watcher's Delight
Have bird watchers in the family? If so, they will love this avian basket. Trust me, I would. Include a couple of inexpensive feeders. I have found them at Big Lots in the $3-5 range. Add some bags of seed. A variety can be purchased from your local grocer or from Wild Birds Unlimited. Birding kids love Audubon plush toy birds available from Ship the Web, and Identiflyer cards (if they have the device that plays them already). A field guide makes a nice finishing touch.

A Colonial Christmas
I put this gift basket together a couple years ago while my boys were studying the time period in school. Press flowers from your garden and glue them to blank note cards. Make authentic quill pens and homemade ink. Include a few batches of homemade Play Doh in different colors (and scents). Sew nosegays or include crosstitch wall hangings and make corn husk dolls for the girls. Create aromatic pomanders. Boys enjoy Colonial games from Colonial Williamsburg, or jacks and checkers, favorites of the time period. For a finishing touch, add a box of homemade gingerbread and a jar of homemade wassail.

The Sporting Family
For the athletic branch of your family tree, buy an assortment of inexpensive outdoor games and equipment. A soccer ball and cones, a football and colored handkerchiefs for flag-football, a nerf set, or horseshoes... just for starters. Make family pennants by cutting the triangular pennant shape from felt. Use glitter glue, fabric paint, or felt letters in a complementary color to add the family name. Add bottles of Gatorade and protein bars for an energy boost.

Computer Whiz
Include goodies such as pc games (our Dollar Tree offers a series based on The Beginner's Bible and Wal Mart offers a good selection in the $10 range), printer paper, software, ink cartridges, mouse pad, or memory stick. A lot of stores offer these items as doorprizes or at a great price on Black Friday. Check your local paper for deals available in your area.

Treasure Hunt
Wrap candy bars in gold wrapping paper. Add a copy of Stewardship Street from Doorposts. Make your own treasure map of where you have hidden a special treasure like a board game, a box of homemade goodies, or a Pouch of Ancient Roman Coins from Vision Forum. Is your budget really tight? Hide small gifts throughout the house. These could be inexpensive toys, craft materials, or whatever the intended family would enjoy. Create a series of clues that will lead the family from treasure to treasure. This will add the value of fun to gifts that might not be as exciting to unwrap.

Tea Party
This one is definitely for the girls in your family. Include a new tea set, tea bags, a recipe for your favorite cookies and the ingredients to make them, note cards for making invitations, and maybe even a guest… a new doll! Also include How to Be a Lady by Harvey Newcomb.

Homeschool Helper
Fill a canvass bag with school supplies and great educational games or fun learning kits. Some of my favorites are available at The Vision Forum, Lakeshore Learning, Answers in Genesis, The School Box, and Home Science Tools.

Literature Theme Basket
Pick a book you love to read to your family. Purchase a new copy and wrap it up with gifts that correlate to the story's theme. For example, a The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe basket could include a batch of Turkish Delight, a sword, a bow and arrow, a toy shofar, a bottle of perfume (for Lucy's potion), and toy crowns. For Around the World in Eighty Days, include an inflatable globe, a deck of cards and instructions for playing whist, chinese checkers, French pastries, toy elephants from the Indian forest, and a puzzle that pictures an iconic landmark from a country Mr. Fogg traverses. If your budget allows, you could also include a toy train or a DVD of the movie version.

Grandparents' Treasure
The boys and I put together this gift basket for both sets of grandparents one year. Both grandmas cried, btw. I made a t-shirt for the grandpas by using iron-on letters to emboss the tee with their grandpa names. For grandma, we used Print Shop to create an "I Love My Grandma" decal that we printed to iron-on paper. After ironing on the decal, the boys made hand prints on the back with fabric paint. As a part of their school assignments, they wrote and illustrated an original story which I scanned and printed two copies of. I laminated each page and created a published work with binding combs. I bought inexpensive canvases, and they painted a picture for each grandparent. Then I added pictures of the boys from various events during the previous year. These were all taken with my digital camera and printed at home. I placed a couple of the better pictures in frames purchased at the Dollar Tree and included scrapbooking paper and embellishments for the others. As an added bonus for the grandpas, I baked homemade apple turnovers, wrapped them in foil and added a cardstock band around each which the boys had decorated with rubber stamps.

Archeology Adventure
Do you have some adventurous boys in your family? Create an event that they will never forget. Start with a CD from the Jonathan Park Series available from The Vision Forum. Add one of these fossil sets for hours of fun. Include toy dinosaurs, usually available at my local Dollar Tree or Wal Mart. Make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and print and include these instructions for a cookie dig. Consider including tickets for an afternoon of archeology at a local museum that provides hands-on experiences. Finishing touches could include an Indian Jones costume or play set.

A Zoo, Aquarium, or Museum Adventure
Give the family you love tickets or a season pass to their local zoo, aquarium, or museum. Package it with the Zoo Guide, the Aquarium Guide, or the Museum Guide from Answers in Genesis. These guides give families hundreds of facts on commonly found animals or artifacts with a Biblical, creationist perspective. For finishing touches, include plastic toy animals found at your local dollar store or Wal Mart.

Meet the Orchestra
For music lovers, Suzuki offers a large assortment of rhythm instruments which are great for budding musicians. Include a good children's book, and let the kids play their instruments on key words or repeated phrases. Add a top hat and baton to the basket for the "conductor" of the family to wear, and perhaps, include a set of ear plugs for the receiving parents!

The Three Trees

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Most of you have probably heard of the Tale of the Three Trees, a traditional folktale, retold by Angela Elwell Hunt. It is generally thought of as an Easter story, but in our house it is a Christmas tradition to read and discuss this beautifully written and illustrated children's book. A few years ago, I found the set of Christmas trees pictured below at our local Kroger store. (This is the best deal I could find online.) I initially bought them because I wanted to spruce up (pun intended) the fireplace. Every time I looked at them, I knew they reminded me of something, but I just could not pinpoint what it was. I don't remember exactly how I finally made the connection, but something jogged my memory, and I ordered a copy of the book.

Each year, after we finish decorating our home for Christmas, we read the story of how three trees, growing side-by-side on a hill, dream of greatness. One hopes to hold treasure. The second wants to be a great sailing ship, and the third wants to grow tall and point to God. All three find their dreams fulfilled, but in the much humbler form of a manger, a fishing boat, and a cross. Though they are not fashioned to be items of significance, each one plays a significant part in the ministry of Christ.

After reading, we discuss our dreams. Just like the trees, we have to remember that the Lord said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness. " And we must respond as Paul did, "Therefore, I will rather gladly boast in my weakness, that the power of Christ may overshadow me." 2 Cor 12:9 We talk about how our hopes and goals must be grounded in faith and we must not consider anything that the Lord calls us to do insignificant. Instead we remember that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 1)

We also spread all of our Jesse tree ornaments (see this post by Counter-cultural school) across our table and talk about the purpose for decorating our tree this way. We teach that all of the Bible points to Christ, and that He was born to die. He came to earth to secure our salvation. The manger points to the cross, and the cross to the empty tomb. What a cause we have to celebrate!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Time to Vote!

The nominations are in, and it is time to vote. Thank you to all of my wonderful bloggy friends who gave me the nominations needed to be considered for the Best New Homeschool Blog award. This is a true honor, and you guys are the best. So, if you still like my blog, click the link above and make your vote count. Once on the ballot page, click the dot beside my blog name, Home School Dawn, and then click the "vote" button below and your vote will be registered. Thanks so much!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Merry Thanksbirthsary

Milestone Monday

This year brings a wonderful milestone for my family. Michael's parents and mine married the same year, 1968, making this their 40th year together as husband and wife. Michael's parents are coming to visit us for Thanksgiving, and we will celebrate their anniversary, the boys' birthdays, and Thanksgiving in one grand feast. My parents were married closse to Christmas, so our Christmas dinner will serve double duty as a party for them. Thus, this brings the birth of a new holiday season in our home, Merry Thanksbirthsary!

The 40th anniversary is the "ruby" anniversary, and so I have planned a table setting and dinner to match this theme. I will post the menu with links to recipes on a Thrifty Thursday and pictures of the decor after the big event. Today, however, I want to share some of the school activities I have planned in which the boys will make gifts for their grandparents.

Papaw and Nohnie on Their Wedding Day
First, I am going to help the boys research the year 1968 and create a presentation to give during our celebration meal. Given the decade of their marriage, we will probably title it "It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times."

I am also going to have them write a "When Papaw Met Nohnie" story and anther similar story for their paternal grandparents. They are going to conduct interviews via e-mail and phone this week to gather the facts about their grandparents' courtships. Then, they will each write a story detailing the events, including illustrations or photographs, quotes from the honorees, and an ending explaining why their marriages mean so much to the boys.

In keeping with the "ruby" theme, I will have each boy paint a "red" picture. Sort of like Picasso when he was in his rose phase, they will paint a picture in which shades of red are the dominant colors. It will make for a good art appreciation lesson, and if the pictures turn out not-so-great, their grandparents will love them anyway.

I look forward to celebrating this milestone with our family and praise the Lord for sustaining their marriage over the years. I also look forward to helping the boys appreciate their heritage and recognizing the blessings that God has given them... their grandparents.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Love Your Blog

Farewell Friday

Molly at Counter-cultural Mom honored me with an "I love your blog" award. How sweet! Thank you, Molly. I love your blog, too.

I decided there could be no better way to end my week in blogging than to pass this award on to seven of my favs. So, here they are in no particular order.

Mercy Every Morning is a wonderful wife, mom, and homeschool teacher. I have been inspired by her and the great co-op of which she is a member.

A Little Loveliness is so creative! Her blog is the one to visit for inspiration on making your home a place of special memories.

Simply Sisler is a special daughter of an incredible mother. Her mom is battling pancreatic cancer with unshakable faith. You will be moved by the love and faith of this Godly family.

Wonderfully Made is open and honest and has a loving spirit. Her blogs are genuine and encouraging. She has also started a prayer group through her blog, a great way to build an online community.

Heather's Blog offers "Great stories… obvious advice… interesting thoughts." She is my college roomy and a great lady of God.

The Homespun Heart always provides great ideas for making your home a haven. In fact, she is planning to dedicate next week to that very topic. I look forward to the encouragement.

My seventh fav is a blog in the works. I have a great friend from college with a passion for true conservatism. She is a Godly woman who is unafraid to speak the truth. I look forward to the launching of her blog. I'm sure it will be worthy of this award and so I am saving it for her.

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do. To my honorees, thanks for taking the time each week to write and to share. You have a special place in my bloggy heart. Now, please, pass this honor on to seven of your favs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Christmas Gift Baskets

Thrifty Thursday

The question of what to get my extended family for Christmas is always a perplexing one to answer. Michael and I have 13 nieces and nephews, all of whom we love dearly. We would give them each their dream gift if we had the money to do so. But alas, we just don't have the money to buy a gift for every member of the family.

We are blessed that all members of the family are Christians and have a proper perspective on the holidays and we have tried to find ways to show our love through giving without breaking the bank.

Last year, I experimented and found an approach that made everyone in the family happy.I made a movie-themed family gift basket for each of our siblings to share with their families. I did the bulk of my shopping at the Dollar Tree, our local everything-for-$1 store. I bought a red serving tray to use as the base and shredded paper to line the tray. Our Dollar Tree also sells a variety of animated movies based on classic literature such as A Christmas Carol, The Last of the Mohicans, and Don Quixote. They also sell books on c.d. We have added Wind in the Willows, Call of the Wild, and Anne of Green Gables, just to name a few, to our collection. I bought each family 3 movies and 2 audio books.

I added microwavable popcorn to the basket. I bought one large box and divided the bags so that each basket received an equal number. I also bought traditional movie theater candy like Junior Mints, Skittles, and Twizzlers. I found some of the candy at the Dollar Tree and bought the rest at Walgreens with coupons. If you have a Walgreens in your area, they offer great coupons and deals this time of year. I arranged everything on the tray and wrapped it in holiday-themed cellophane wrap (also bought at the Dollar Tree) and added ribbon and a bow for a finishing touch. I spent less than $20 per basket, well within my budget.

Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of my baskets to share. I wasn't blogging this time last year. I did, however, just hear from my sisters-in-law that they loved the baskets and want to do the same thing this year! They said that their families loved having a great movie night together, and the kids of course loved the candy and popcorn! Yippee!!!! A happy holiday solution!

Now, does anyone have a basket theme suggestion I could use this year?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Strong Tower

Wisdom Wednesday

As with most Americans, September 11, 2001, started as usual for me. The boys were babies, so my mornings began early with diaper changes and feedings. By about 7:30 (CDT), they were settled, playing with toys. Then, I would grab my breakfast and turn on the television to get the weather report and news. I flipped on the Today Show and saw the towers.

By this time, both planes had crashed, and smoke billowed from the gaping holes in the buildings. At first, I wondered what movie was being promoted and thought that the special effects were over the top. I turned up the volume to hear Katie Couric and Matt Lauer explain that this was indeed real. Two hijacked planes had been flown into the World Trade Center.

Over the next few moments, a flurry of emotions swept over me.

First, I felt fear.

Who had done this? Why? What would happen next?

Then, I felt sadness.

My thoughts turned to a school in Tribeca, not far from the towers, where, two years previously, I had observed teachers. Most of the parents of children at that school worked in the Financial District. Were those children watching their parents die?

Next I felt helpless. I yelled at the television, "Those towers are going to fall. Get those people out of there, NOW!!!" I wanted to fly through the TV screen and rescue those who were trapped but could only watch.

Then, the worst happened. The South tower fell. The North followed. Smoke and debris flowed through the streets of lower Manhattan like a tidal wave as New Yorkers ran for their lives. The world stood still. I was paralyzed as this horror unfolded before my eyes. I felt sick and numb with grief. I knew that the United States of America would never be the same.

A few years earlier, two different towers fell.

Near the end of my first year teaching, I learned I was pregnant! Finally!!! We had been praying for a child for two years. After facing month after month of disappointment, we had finally conceived. How great our joy! I finished out the school year and resigned. There was no returning to work for me; I would finally be at home with my little baby.

We bought our first house. It was a beautiful, older home in a neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It had been lovingly cared for and retained its original Victorian charm. There was a wrap-around porch and a gorgeous foyer which led into a cozy library. The library had a fireplace, original light fixtures, and built-in bookshelves and window bench; it was a dream. It was going to be the most beautiful nursery that would later be the most beautiful homeschool classroom ever!

Soon after we moved in, I started experiencing pain in my lower abdomen. I kept calling my doctor and was told it was normal and to take it easy for a few days. Then the spotting started. Once again, I was assured this was common and was told to prop up my feet for a while. After a few days of this, I insisted on being examined and was checked into the hospital. As I lay in the hospital bed, feeling pains that I knew were abnormal, I was still being told that everything was okay. I didn't believe it and was consumed with fear.

About an hour later, I miscarried. I was 12 weeks into the pregnancy, but that was far enough along for me to see a child, my child. He had little arms and legs and blue dots where eyes were forming. He was fully human but seen as no more than a fetus by the hospital staff. Instead of him being carried home to our sweet nursery, he was placed in a Petri dish and carried off to a lab. I had never experienced such sadness.

My doctor encouraged us to try again, and we faced eight disappointing months before conceiving for the second time. This baby, however, only lived to 8 weeks gestation.

Over the next year, there were four more times that a pregnancy test gave a positive result. However, before I could get to the doctor for an exam, I was no longer pregnant. The doctor could not determine if I had miscarried or if those tests had been false positives. I was beginning to feel helpless.

My OBGYN suggested it was time to begin testing. She sat with me in her office and explained the possibilities; she wanted me to be fully informed before I began the process. It was her best guess that things didn't look good for me. She wanted me to be prepared to find out that Michael and I would never be able to have biological children.

That's when they fell… those two towers I mentioned earlier. They were the towers of my hopes and my dreams. Disappointment flooded me like a tidal wave. My world stood still, and I was paralyzed by the thoughts that I would not have what I had wanted for so long. I felt sick and numb with grief and worried that I would never be the same again.

But as I looked through the dust and debris of my fallen towers, I saw that "The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." Prov 18: 10 This does not mean that I will never experience injury, insult, or heartache, but I am forever safe. Jesus is my strong tower, and His Kingdom will endure forever.

Furthermore, Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I had to come to terms with the fact that the hope and future that Jeremiah wrote about is not wish fulfillment. My hope and my future is Jesus. And I am to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

The true prosperity of which Jeremiah wrote is that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 8:38-39 Our Sovereign Lord reigns, and by His grace alone I am forever His. Nothing can destroy that.

So whether we face national disaster or personal pain, may we run to Christ alone. May our faith not waiver in the face of trials. But may we instead, by God's grace, persevere and proclaim , "The LORD giveth, and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thar's Gold in Them-Thar Hills!

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Last week I completed two activities with the boys to help them understand concepts related to the California Gold Rush.

First, I scattered bite-sized pieces of candy around the office and living room. In certain places, I hid a single piece but hid a stack of 5-6 pieces in other places. I saved the largest portion of candy (about 20 pieces) for a hard-to-find spot. Before I allowed the boys to enter the living room, I explained to them that they were going to be prospectors just like the "49ers" only they had to find candy instead of gold.

As I had hoped, they were civil at first. Each boy happily took a piece from here or there, not paying much attention to what his brother was doing. Then, Bruster found a larger stash. Immediately, BT made a run for the spot where his brother was collecting. They jumped from spot-to-spot trying to get in on the best finds until finally, BT found the largest stash. Then the race for who could get the most in his bag was on. This led to a great discussion about what motivated prospectors, claim jumping, and the need for laws and government in the west. This discussion was rooted in Pro 16:8. "Better is a little with righteousness than great increase without right."

The next morning, I had them read Chapter 12 of The History of US: Liberty for All? by Joy Hakim. This chapter described in detail the California Gold Rush. After each boy completed the reading, I asked him questions from the text and paid him in play money for correct or well-thought out responses. Some of the questions were factual and some were essay-style. All were asked and answered orally, and the amount I paid them varied according to the difficulty of the question and the thoroughness of the response.

Later that day, I held an auction to demonstrate the effects of the law of supply and demand on the economy of the west. They used the play money earned from the Q & A session to pay for the items they won. First, I offered a piece of styrofoam. The opening bid was $1, and there were no takers. Other failed items were a used fabric softener sheet, a bottle of saline nose spray, and a dried-up glue stick. The high demand items were a Rice Krispies treat, some MnM's, and a new box of crayons. The demand was high, and the supply was low, and so the bidding was furious. The surprising items were a pencil and one green paper clip. The starting bid for both items was really high, $5, and no one was willing to bid. So, I continued to lower the opening bid until I reached $1. Both times, one boy decided that the pencil or the paper clip was useful enough to spend one dollar on it and bid. Then, the other brother decided that he wanted in on the action, creating a bidding war. The pencil eventually sold for $7, and the green paper clip sold for $6.

After the auction, we discussed how supplies were low in the west. As the number of prospectors grew, so did the demand for food, clothes, and mining supplies. The boys understood how merchants profited and made more money than most prospectors.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Book Giveaway!

Christy at Mercy Every Morning is giving away one copy of The Missing Link: Found--the first book in the Truth Seekers Mystery Series by Christina and Felice Gerwitz.

Christy says of The Missing Link: Found that it is"easy to get into, and filled with mysterious adventures, this book immediately reminded me of my love of Nancy Drew mysteries as a child, but quickly proved a little more 'meaty' than Carolyn Keene's series. The main characters are a homeschooled brother and sister, who in the midst of their adventures at an archaeological dig learn to defend their faith in the Biblical account of creation."

It sounds like a great read and a great giveaway! Visit Mercy Every Morning for details on how to enter.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Bruster!

Posted by PicasaMy Little Surprise
You are the greatest surprise of my life,
and how I praise the Lord for you.
It is a joy to be your mom.
Have a terrific birthday.
I love you, my baby.