Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for November 17th

Hello, everyone! I hope that you're having a wonderful week! Around here we are just good and... sick. After a week and a half, I am the last one standing while the bug circulates through our house. We're clearing our schedule and camping out at home while we wait for everyone to feel better, and in the meantime, here are a few fun things for you all! 

God's Not Really That Holy, I'm Not Really That Bad - "If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you, too, have known people like this. Over time it became clear that their faith had been a mirage. They had deceived the people around them, but they had first deceived themselves. And any time I see these people fall away I am left asking, What would have marked them as true believers? How could I have known that they really got the gospel? How could they have known that they really got the gospel?" (Challies.com)

Secondhand Christmas Gifts: Money-Smart or Scrooge at Heart? - See, I'm not the only one! (The Humbled Homemaker)

(Actually, I love receiving second-hand gifts. They feel like they have a history, and like they've been specially selected. Anyone else feel this way?)

How Long Do Homeschool Lessons Really Take? - This is truly the down-and-dirty, minute-by-minute per subject, per grade level. Pure gold here. (Raising Arrows)

What Keeps Moms From Getting Enough Rest? - Excellent points from several mamas. I agree - it's always over-commitment and lack of planning that gets me. (Jess Connell)

Shutting Down the Homeschool Fight (Before It Even Starts) - One of the best (and funniest) articles I've ever read on the subject of answering questions and challenges posed to home educating families. (Simple Homeschooling)

Remember, everyone....

If you're putting together an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, collection week began this past Monday, November 16th, and lasts through Sunday.

This is our first year making an OCC shoebox in a very long time. It was fun!

I have to admit the sorry truth. I didn't start this project with truly philanthropic motives. I really just wanted to have an antidote to the me-me-me attitude that some people's children (certainly not mine) may or may not exhibit around Christmas.

But as we progressed, we all got interested in the project, and it was a lovely time of others-focused ministry. The children had a wonderful time, and we are planning to repeat this every year.

Packing an Operation Christmas Child box can be pricey - or not! Here are some of the ways we saved money to it a bit more economical:

  • I stocked up on school supplies during July, when they're on sale here in Arizona. (Pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers).
  • I shopped at Goodwill. Items need to be like new, but that's easy to find! (Stuffed animals, hat, ball, matchbox cars).
  • I let the children add some like-new toys of their own. (LEGOs)
  • I filled in loose ends at the dollar store. (Pencil sharpeners, paper pad, candy.)


From the Recipe Box

Radishes! Radishes! Did you know that cooked radishes are a great substitute for potatoes in low-carb cooking? Yes!
I used radishes in a low-carb beef stew, and also in this wonderful hash browns recipe. I used bacon grease instead of cooking oil, and cooked them for about 20 minutes before browning. Once you get past the pink color (I just thought of them as mini red potatoes), they were delicious!

Four bunches of radishes, quartered.



From the Bookshelf

I originally thought that this book was a summary book of "sugar and health." It is, but it also has a specialty area - diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a condition about which I knew very little before reading this book. 

And now I know a lot!

This was a fun book. Easy to read, lots of great information. A great read for those of us who read obsessively on health, or, for the rest of the normal population, a great book for those who want to learn more about diabetes management and the treatment, reversal, and prevention of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. 

I came to this book reluctantly, as I didn't care for the title (and still don't). But it was recommended by a friend, so I decided to give it a go.

And was I glad that I did!

This was an amazing book, full of awesome food chemistry and food history. It contains a thorough review of all of the modern concerns in the "health vs. food industry" wars - fats, sugars, food additives, etc. - and the handling is both in-depth and user-friendly.

If you want to learn about food (and to avoid the myriad of problems caused by modern fake foods), this is an awesome resource.

George Washington's Spy

The basic plot: Children travel back in time to the Revolutionary War, where after getting separated, some shelter with Tory Loyalists and some join the Patriots.

This is my current reading book for our daily history reading time. It's a fascinating book that I am greatly enjoying, and am finding (so far) much better than the Magic Tree House books. I love the balanced approach of showing the good (and bad) sides of both Whig/Patriot and Tory/Loyalist forces.

This book does provide some fairly detailed less-than-pleasant historical details, including: public hangings, tar and feathering, chamber pots, medical bleeding, death, etc. - so make sure that any child to whom you give this book isn't too young or sensitive to handle the material.

This book is actually the sequel to the original "George Washington's Socks," which our library unfortunately doesn't have. I hope to find a copy of it some day!

Especially for Locals

Getting Started Homeschooling
Saturday, January 16, 2016, 10 AM - 1:30 PM

If you’re new to homeschooling or thinking about this exciting education option for your family, be sure to join us for this 3-hour seminar. AFHE board members will present three workshops including Getting Started Homeschooling, Curriculum Approaches, and Ideas for Lesson Planning and Scheduling. Lunch is included.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT: Desert Foothills Library, 480-488-2286
More information here.

This event includes some of my favorite local home education speakers. If you're new to home education or are considering it, this will be an awesome event! 


Dear readers, have a wonderful week! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for November 7th

From the same site, an exciting new series: Supporting Women When a VBAC Doesn't Happen.

Pride and Destruction - How pedophiles use the church. (The Common Room)

Choice and Freedom: You Didn't Get Them From Feminism - Excellent material here. (Growing Home)

Seven Homemaking Rules to Break (And Three to Keep) - Good stuff here. My favorites are nos. 2, 6, and 7. (Pint-Sized Treasures)

Activism, Apathy, or Affliction? - So much good material in this post. I think that the author's conclusions are very valid. Check it out! (Gentle Reformation, hat tip to challies.com)

Study finds improved self-regulation in kindergartners who wait a year to enroll - "A new study on the mental health effects of kindergarten enrollment ages found strong evidence that a one-year delay dramatically improves a child’s self-regulation abilities even into later childhood." (Stanford News Center, hat tip to Contentment Acres)
"According to the study co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas Dee, children who started kindergarten a year later showed significantly lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity, which are jointly considered a key indicator of self regulation. The beneficial result was found to persist even at age 11."
Why Our Children Will Not Have Cell Phones - "Yes. In many ways, smart phones are easier. But to me? What is lost is far greater than what is gained." (The Humbled Homemaker)
From the same site: 10 Ways to Prepare for Cold and Flu Season - Great stuff here. Too bad I'll probably forget to do any of it till it's too late.

A Godly Woman - Sober and Self-Controlled - "Isn’t it easy to just forget that Scripture actually defines what character qualities we should be cultivating?  And not just for ourselves, but what we should be teaching the younger women and our daughters?  I think it’s so interesting to compare the culture’s definition of a strong woman to the biblical one.  How often are we bent on indulging our flaws under the culturally accepted guise of “this is who I am, like it or leave it“?" (Generation Cedar)

From the Bookshelf

I'd heard this one recommended in several places, so I finally picked it up.

And then I put it down.

I'm sure this book has great material. But I didn't want to wade through King's word choices to find it.

I'm sure it's a good book. It just wasn't for me. 

I saw the movie in elementary school, and now, twenty-five years later, am ready to tackle the book. I can't wait! The first few pages have been superb. 
We are two weeks away from diving into our study of the American Revolution, and both the 9yo and I are champing at the bit. We just finished reading Toliver's Secret (excellent, and a great read-aloud!) and I've just maxed out our library cards requesting every last book in the library on the Revolution. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration.)

American Liberty, here we come!

The Recipe Corner

I plan to try these pumpkin bars soon, probably for our weekly church potluck. They look great! (The Modest Mom)
From the same site, I'm looking forward to working through 10 Simple Homemade Granola Bar Recipes

This week the family had Mexican Mess while I had Low Carb Taco Soup. Both were great!

 For Guy Fawkes Day ("Remember, remember, the fifth of November...") we had English parkin - a sticky oatmeal gingerbread that is delicious with whipped cream.

We used the recipe from Story of the World Year 3, but here is one that looks good.

We memorized this poem a few months ago when we covered Guy Fawkes in our history course. The 9yo likes to recite it with a faux-dramatic voice that is really quite killing.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot. 

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow; 

By God's providence he was catch'd (or by God's mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

If you ignore the finer historical details (ugh!), it's a fun holiday. We also had a bonfire (an alternate name for the holiday is "Bonfire Night"), proving an important fact about bonfires - that we don't know how to make one. We kept it going for 20 minutes by pouring an almost continuous stream of lighter fluid on it, and then gave up for the night.

Maybe next year.

Dear readers, have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Around Here Lately, November 2015

Remember about how I was worrying about not having enough homeschool field trips over the summer?

Mwa ha ha ha ha!

As usual, as soon as September hit, we were overwhelmed with field trip opportunities - so many that we've had to turn down quite a few just to keep from absolute overload.

From now on, I am going to remember that summer is our "slow season" with regard to field trips - and that's okay. It will help balance against the insanity of September through December.

Here are a few of our recent outings:

Our field trip to a local Mexican restaurant. The children colored, learned words in Spanish, got a tour of the back of the house operations, and enjoyed some burritos that they rolled themselves.

In one of our homeschool groups, each member is responsible for planning one field trip per year. This year I planned a field trip to one of our local airports. It was fun (though nervewracking - I do not like being in charge of an event) and went well.

Speaking of home education, I am thrilled that I have figured out our curriculum choices for next year!

And I kept those choices for a whole 24 hours before changing them!

Seriously, I'm pretty sure that our decisions are made (as far as they can be). Believe it or not, curriculum ordering time is only a few short months away - and I'm thankful that (most of) the angst is over.

That is, until I throw everything to the winds and decide to start from scratch.

Stay tuned for that.

This year we almost missed the pumpkin patch, but thankfully remembered before it was too late. The children always love this one!

Our church took a day this past month to visit Canyon Lake. The children had a wonderful time! They spent almost the entire day in the water at the shoreline, and also had a chance to go boating and tubing for the first time.

My husband also got to try wakeboarding, which he found much more challenging than waterskiing! He didn't quite make it up on the board, but he hopes to try again some time. We didn't get any pictures of that adventure.

When we got home, we were so tired that we fell asleep, each and every one of us, by 8:30 p.m.

We hope to go back soon!

We also attended our local library's annual "Star Wars Day" - the 9yo had a marvelous time.

And finally....

Yes! Merry Christmas!

Apparently our idea of letting the boys decorate early for Christmas last year set a standard, because they're never going to let us forget it.

It's okay by me. Maybe this way we could put our Christmas decorations away in January, as opposed to, say, April. (Once we actually got to May.)

The one thing that I didn't like was having such a short time with our fall decorations. Fall is my favorite season, and by the time I remembered to put up my two fall decorations, it was only three weeks till Christmas decorating day!

Next year, autumn starts on September 1st - even if it is still 110F outside!

Ending with a few random pictures!

Our little lady is pulling to stand and doing a bit of cruising. Now she's to the "let go and go boom" stage. Walking is just around the corner, as is her first birthday!

The 3yo goofing for the camera - he is a complete ham.

One of his nicknames is "Accessory Man" - he has not yet seen a costume, boot, hat, glove, etc. that he didn't immediately love. Combine that with his other nickname, "Worker Man," and you've got a child who spends his life piling on the extras, clothing-wise.

As a final note, I am happy to report that our family survived the Great Phoenix Earthquake. This earthquake was so strong that it almost woke me up. Boy, howdy. These desert earthquakes are really somethin'.
(This was actually the first earthquake that any member of our family has actually felt since moving to Arizona from California thirteen years ago. Ahhh. It felt just like home. :)
Dear readers, I hope that each of you is having a wonderful week! Love to you all!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How We Teach Homeschool History

As long-time readers know, finding a history curriculum for our home education program has been one of the most difficult, intimidating, mind-twisting problems that has yet beset my addled brain.

Thankfully we are now at a good place with history, and I'm really excited to let you all know where we are and how we ended up there!

Let's get started.

Choosing a curriculum for any subject is challenging, but I think that history poses a special challenge. There are just so many choices! Additionally, there are many, many different styles of teaching homeschool history: literature-based, textbook, unit-study, Classical, Charlotte Mason, four-year rotation, six-year rotation, linear, non-linear geographical, and more.

(I'm getting nervous just thinking about it.)

For the past two years, we used Galloping the Globe, a geography-based country unit study program geared for K-8. We have had a great time with it - see my review here. This past year, we moved to its sister program, Cantering the Country, which focuses on individual states in the U.S. It likewise has been great (I will post a review later this year).

I knew that we also needed something a bit more linear (i.e. studying history in a chronological fashion) - but I was stumped.

On the one hand, I love literature-based studies and unit studies and all of that fun stuff. On the other hand, home education while raising a family is a crazy-busy, exhausting life, and the last thing I wanted was another huge chunk of to-do items on my already overcrowded list. Thus, textbooks were also extremely appealing.

The literature-based studies that I found most appealing were those outlined in Susan Bauer's "The Well-Trained Mind." But there's one big problem with "The Well-Trained Mind," namely that reading it for more than five minutes at a time usually causes my brain to explode in a mess of overwhelmed despair. It's just too much awesomeness per square inch for my mind to handle. Each time I tried to wade through it, I would retire from the scene, thoroughly worsted and more determined than ever to ditch it and use textbooks.

Thankfully, a church friend (whose eminent sensibility far exceeds my capacity for common sense) took me in hand and showed me how to use Story of the World (the curriculum authored by Bauer and described in "The Well-Trained Mind") in an easy and fun way. We've used it for the first half of this year, and it's been a grand success.

What is Story of the World?
(And how do I use it?)

Story of the World is a four-year history program, working through a chronological rotation from the Ancients through modern times. American history is incorporated into this, rather than being taught separately.
  • Year 1 = Ancients to 400 A.D.
  • Year 2 = 400 to 1600 A.D.
  • Year 3 = 1600 to 1850 A.D.
  • Year 4 = 1850 to Present
It is expected that a child will start with Year 1 in first grade, and cycle through the curriculum three times during their 1st-12th grade education. (Really, you can start in any year for any grade.) Subsequent children can jump in with the rest of the family as they begin school.

(If you choose to use this curriculum for high school, additional supplemental materials will be necessary. See "The Well-Trained Mind" for more details. Many families use this curriculum only for their 1st through 8th grade students, and then choose a separate curriculum for their high schoolers.)

We chose to start with Year 3, which is where we would be had we used this curriculum from first grade.

For any year that you choose, you will need a textbook and a student activity book. (Purchase at Peace Hill Press.)

That's it, really!

(Though a good library card helps.)

The SOTW textbook provides the read-aloud text, divided up into chapters (one chapter per week) with usually two sections per chapter.

The SOTW activity guide provides sample narrations, review questions and answers, map work directions, supplemental reading lists, activity ideas (crafts, recipes, games), and the student pages for copying or printing (maps, coloring sheets, activity pages).

* I recommend purchasing the PDF of the student pages as well (the student pages are part of the activity book), so that you can print from the student pages rather than having to mangle your book (and lose your temper) trying to copy them.

Story of the World does contain more material than is needed for a 36-week year. For example, in the Year 3 book, there are 42 chapters - six more weeks of material than are needed. Families have a couple of options: skipping chapters that you find less interesting, doubling up chapters (two per week), reading through extra chapters without doing the accompanying work, or taking longer than one year per book.

How We Use Story of the World

Here's a sample week of Story of the World history the way we use it:
  • Monday - Read one textbook section, answer review questions orally.
  • Tuesday - Read one textbook section, answer review questions orally, and narrate.
    • (Narration is when a child "tells back" the story that has been read aloud. Usually this requires prompting! Right now I write down the third-grader's narration for him to copy.)
  • Wednesday - Map work. (Takes ten minutes, max.)
  • Thursday - Coloring page.
  • Friday - Activity.
Map work (maps and instructions), coloring pages, and activities are all included in the student activity guide.

This schedule varies greatly by week. Though there are generally two sections to read per week, occasionally there are up to three or only one. When there is more than one activity that we wish to do, I'll double up the map work and coloring page onto one day so that we free up a day for the extra activity.

We also do 30 minutes of "history reading time" on most days - everyone grabs a library book and reads until the timer goes off. (Is this a challenge with a 3yo around? Why, yes. Yes it is.)

How's it working for us?

Story of the World has been a resounding success for us. I love that it is well-organized without burying me in details and "extras." I love that it is simple, easy to use, and does not require the purchase of a million-and-one supplies and curriculum supplements to make it work.

Also, SOTW history doesn't take a lot of time in our day. Anywhere from fifteen minutes to however long we want. I tailor it day by day according to how much time we have!

Additionally, I love that almost all of the extra supplies for the projects (should I chose to do them; they're not mandatory) are things found in one's home, not requiring days of running around town looking for insanely difficult-to-find items. Rarely do I have to buy extra items. (And when I do.... we usually just skip the project. Simple enough.)

Year 3 of SOTW has been wonderful. It's especially well-suited for boys, with lots of adventure, seafaring, pirates, wars, kings, and adventure literature like Robinson Crusoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Sign of the Beaver.

(I'm still dreading Year 1, as I simply cannot make myself interested in ancient history. If Bauer succeeds in making ancient history interesting - as opposed to finding myself in a near-death state from total boredom - she will indeed be a mastermind.)

But wait! What happened to Galloping the Globe?

I'm glad you asked!

Story of the World and Galloping the Globe/Cantering the Country actually make a great macro-micro combination for history. Story of the World covers the "big stuff" of history - kings and queens, wars and armies, the movements of nations and eras. For example, in Year 3 we have learned about:
  • The execution of Charles I, Cromwell, and the Restoration of the throne to Charles II
  • The Jamestown Colonists, the New France Colonists, the New Amsterdam colonists (and various sequelae thereof)
  • The Black Plague and the Great Fire of London

Galloping the Globe (GTG) and Cantering the Country (CTC) cover the smaller details of history - the things that are important (and fascinating), but which might not make it into the big-time history books simply due to lack of space. For example, in our Cantering the Country state studies this year, here are some of the topics we have studied (these studies also include some science topics):

  • CALIFORNIA - Death Valley, desert animals, Hollywood, San Francisco, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Ishi, Mt. Whitney, goats, redwood trees, John Muir, Yosemite, the Gold Rush and the forty-niners
  • ALABAMA - George Washington Carver, Jesse Owen, cotton farming and textile production, the boll weevil, slavery, Jim Crow laws, plantation life, Rosa Parks

This combination works beautifully in providing both the large scope of history and the small details. For now, we're sticking with this duo, and we love it.

You're doing TWO history curricula at once? Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

But don't be too impressed. (Or wait, maybe I should just let you be impressed.)

While we do the full program for Story of the World, we don't do a full program (activities, crafts, maps, etc.) for Galloping the Globe/Cantering the Country. We mainly use it as a source of read-alouds, with the occasional map, lap-book, or recipe thrown in. This provides us an excellent source of good-quality read-alouds while learning about states and countries, and we save the more intense work (maps and projects) for Story of the World.

Additionally, we use a more relaxed pace for GTG/CTC studies. For our schedule, I am doing one SOTW history book per year. With GTG/CTC, we work at a "however long it takes" pace. We check all of the books out from the library on the subjects under a particular country or state, and when we finish them, we move on to another country/state. This is taking anywhere from two weeks to two months, depending on the amount of material available. (1)


One great side-effect of our history program is that I myself am finally getting a decent history education. I no longer have to wonder who Cromwell was, or what "Restoration England" meant. I've learned about things I'd never heard of before - like the Thirty Years' War - and I've learned about great figures of history who were never mentioned in my history classes (Peter the Great, etc.).

My history education (in an institution that shall remain nameless) was less than stellar. Very little of any value was taught. It was dumbed down, politically correct, and wasted a lot of time on irrelevancies. I am thrilled finally to be getting an education in history through the education of my children, and I'm so excited that they too are learning so much good, solid history. (2)

So that's what we're doing for history this year! While we will doubtless make changes in the future, this is working beautifully for us for now.

Thanks to all the curriculum authors (Loree Petit and Susan Wise Bauer, in this case) who make these wonderful resources available to home educating families!


(1) A friend of mine who also uses the combination of SOTW and GTG/CTC has developed a ten-year rotation using each resource separately: 6 years of SOTW, 2 years of GTG, and 2 years of CTC. See more about her plan here.

(2) Despite this, I did have a couple of exceptionally excellent teachers. Mrs. Marshall and Mr. Tuttle, I'm talking to you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for October 27th

Hello, dear readers!

I apologize for not blogging more often! My life right now is fuller than full, and there is just no time for serious blogging. These little "Tidbits and Snippets" posts are written a line at a time over several weeks, so I can handle these - but that's about it. I do have some longer blog posts going (slowly!), but they are of the type that takes forever to refine, so again - blogging is slow going around here.

In the meantime, enjoy!

Finding Beauty in Homeschooling Through the Seasons - (TAN Homeschooling, guest post by Jen of Wildflowers and Marbles)

"As a wife, mother, and homeschooler I’ve been through my share of seasonal changes. Some years bring seasons that have been overwhelming, other seasons were painful and full of pruning, and there have been seasons full of great joy. Homeschooling through these seasons can be daunting, especially if we don’t gently adjust our homeschool plans with due consideration for the season God has gifted us. Because, while these seasons may seem to be an interruption of our normal life, and we may angst and seek to get back to whatever we consider “normal,” I suggest that there is far more value in the season God has gifted us in the supernatural sense than any spelling lesson, math quiz, or syllabus checklist we may have to let go. These seasons, many of which are painful and full of God’s tender pruning in our lives, bring growth in virtue and allow our children the opportunity to walk with us as we carry the cross. Seasons build saints."

"My Kids Don't Listen to Me" - Oh, my goodness. So many awesome parenting resources and links here! I am just starting to wade through this wonderful material. (Jess Connell)

Green Juice and Morning Sickness - More great material on health links to severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. (Vital Health Journey)

Laity Should Act When Clergy Won't - Judging from the vehemence of the comment section, many conservative Catholics join the author in her criticism of the current papacy. (Crisis Magazine)

"Let’s face it: The 2015 Synod on the Family is a mess. I was one who gave Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt. I now have my doubts about him. And I have no doubt at all that some of the men surrounding him are either heretics or lunatics or both."

Oral Contraceptives, Epigenetics, and Autism - Just in case you needed another reason not to take birth control pills. (Hormones Matter, hat tip to Contentment Acres)

Do You Feel Sorry for Children Helping Their Siblings? - "We gravely handicap our children when we insinuate they 'shouldn’t have to' help take care of their younger siblings in need. And when you hear an older child whining about such service, stop yourself from feeling pity until you have weighed the complaint against Scripture’s standard of love."  (Generation Cedar)

The Predator Next Door and How to Protect Your Children - Excellent and pertinent information for all parents. (The Long Way to Go)

Upcoming "Created to Be His Helpmeet" Study - I'm really excited about this! Join us! (Always Learning)

Recipe Corner

I very much enjoyed this low-carb Basic Coconut Flour Crust. Not only is it much easier to make than regular pie crust (it is patted out rather than rolled out), but it's also delicious raw. Yum, yum. And some of it actually made it into the pan, and it made a lovely pie crust. (A bit dryer than regular wheat crust, but completely workable.)

From the same website, Ultra-Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream. YUM. This is next on my to-do list.

I made my favorite No-Fail Applesauce Spice Cake recently, splitting it into two 8x8 pans (one for church, one for a picnic). Love this cake. I reduced the sugar slightly, and for simplicity's sake used a regular buttercream frosting. (I usually do a cream cheese frosting, but used buttercream in order to be able to freeze the cake.)

From the Bookshelf

Daughter of Empire: My Life as a Mountbatten

I have no idea how I ended up with this book (sometimes I request the most random things!), but I am very much enjoying this autobiography of one of the lesser known British royals. It's a wonderful portrait of English aristocracy of the 20th century, as well as a terrific behind-the-scenes tour of World War II, the work toward Indian Independence, the insight into the life of my favorite British royal, Elizabeth II - and more.

I found it helpful to have read Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch before tackling this book, so that I had at least a hazy knowledge of the characters and events of 1900s British royalty. Also helpful was one of my favorite books, Agatha Christie's An Autobiography. Though Christie and Lady Pamela were born 35 years apart, a great deal of British culture was in common.

I'm enjoying this book very much.

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

I picked this book up a bit randomly, probably when I was searching "decluttering" in our library system. While I wasn't too interested in the topic, I expected that it would be a good introduction to the topic of hoarding. (I have never watched any of the "hoarders" shows.)

This book has, so far, greatly exceeded my expectations, and I'm really enjoying it.

Besides providing a thorough overview of the traits and patterns inherit in the development of the hoarding vice, the authors provide an enlightening look into the different ways that people view "stuff." This has allowed me to admit that my way is not the only way to look at stuff (*sob*).

For example, my mother and I look at stuff in completely different way. Her way is "Don't get rid of it; you might need it some day." My approach is more along the lines of "Priceless family heirloom? Great, the trash can is over there."

You can probably guess that this brings us into frequent conflict! But this book taught me to give some grace and allow others to have different viewpoints on material goods.

This book also hit close to home in another way.

I have found the portraits of the hoarders described in this book to be rather repulsive. Over time, their impulses (toward keeping things, or toward compulsive shopping) have gained more and more power over these individuals until the people themselves were unable to escape their impulses - even those that wanted to. I found it to be very animalistic, and very saddening. Why couldn't they just pull themselves together and control themselves? Do they like living like this?

But then I had to pull myself together and admit that I have some areas of my life in which my impulses are often in control of my actions, rather than my own will. Prime example is in eating carbohydrates, which are verboten in my current diet. Do I want to eat them? No! But do I give in to my impulses, and thus let my impulses control me? Yes, I do - and more frequently than I'd like to admit.

It's a good example to me to examine myself and ask if there is any place in my life that is controlled by vice or by my fleshly desires, rather than being self-disciplined and under the control of the Holy Spirit. Any sin left uncorrected will grow and flourish until the sin itself is in control (pornography, eating, hoarding), and the person is then at the mercy of his own sin. Not a good place to be.

I'm enjoying this book very much.

Journal of the Plague Year

Having just finished At the Sign of the Sugared Plum (a fictionalized account of the London plague), I am now diving into a primary historical source on the infamous Plague Year of London (1665 A.D.). Though I've just begun reading, I find this a fascinating book and can't wait to read more. I can only imagine the horrors of living in London during the plague.

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love

I was so thrilled to find this at the library! (Typically, the public library does not carry good quality Christian books, which is very unfortunate.) This is my first Clarkson, and I'm enjoying this to the max (I've wanted to read her books for years).

This book perfectly fits my needs at the moment, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Yes! Buy It Now!

I'm so excited about Albert Mohler's new book, We Cannot Be Silent. It's being released today, so snag a copy! Trust Mohler to tell hard truths in a way like no other.

"We are now witnesses to a revolution that is sweeping away a sexual morality and a definition of marriage that has existed for thousands of years. This is the morality and understanding of marriage that has been central to societies shaped by biblical witness and the influence of both Judaism and Christianity. But, it is important to note that marriage has been understood throughout human history – in virtually all civilizations – as the union of a man and a woman. 
"We Cannot Be Silent is a book about that revolution, how it happened and what it means for us, for our churches, and for our children. It is important to trace the revolution, and understand that the most heated controversies of our day did not emerge from a vacuum onto the daily headlines. Every revolution has a story, and the story of this revolution is one that we can now trace. To put the truth plainly, this revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there.
"The revolution that is centered on transforming sexual morality and redefining marriage has succeeded faster than its most eager advocates had even imagined, as they themselves now admit. But this revolution could not have achieved such a velocity if the ground had not been cleared by developments that came long before same-sex marriage. We will look at what came before same-sex marriage, and we will look into the future to what will come after."
Read the rest of the release announcement here! 

Dear readers, have a wonderful week!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thinking of You, Dear Mamas

Two winters ago, a sweet friend learned that one of her precious twins had succumbed to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome at twenty weeks.

A year ago this month, another friend got to hold her baby girl, born extremely prematurely, for an hour, singing to her and cuddling her, before her sweet daughter passed into eternity.

Another friend lost two babies via unsuccessful embryo adoption transfer.

This past spring, another friend grieved a stillborn baby boy.

Another friend lost a baby in an ectopic pregnancy.

Numerous other friends have experienced miscarriage and loss of all kinds.

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. For all of you out there who have known this unspeakable grief of losing a child during pregnancy or infancy, my thoughts today are of you.

Psalm 6:6-9
"I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of grief, it grows weak because of all my foes.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil; for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.  The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayers."

Psalm 23:4
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me."

Psalm 34:18
"The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit."

Psalm 116:15
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

{Thanks to Better than Eden for the above Scripture quotations. See her post for more.}

{Some more good thoughts on pregnancy/infant loss here.}


Monday, October 12, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for October 12th

Making Your Home a Haven: 6th Annual Fall Challenge - I have done this for many years and always enjoy it. (Women Living Well)

What You May Not Know About Raising Boys - It's all true! (Raising Arrows)
"A friend of mine who is raising a house full of boys recently told me how her friend with only girls could not relate to her life in the least.  We laughed about how it was nice to be in the company of another “boy mom” who understood the zoo we live in."

Also from Raising Arrows, it's that time of year again - time for our annual Caramel Apple Party! Next year I am going to actually decorate for fall, and we're going to combine the two events on the same day. (This year I'm handicapped by having no fall decorations, but I plan to spend the year collecting some!)

And Here It Comes- The Cultural Celebration of Pedophilia Is the Next Goal - If you don't know this, please inform yourself. It's coming. And if the recent history of this country is any predictor, it will be resoundingly successful. (The Common Room)

If that wasn't depressing enough, here's some more: Gay Agenda Permeates Public Schools With Children's Books - "Explicitly X-rated, pornographic descriptions of sex acts between children as young as preschool age are peppered throughout academic curricula... And now, there’s a new book out that – thanks to Common Core and Planned Parenthood - might just show up in your child’s classroom. It’s Perfectly Normal contains material so sexually explicit that, according to the American Life League, it has been ruled inappropriate for prisoners by a Washington State court." (Deep Roots at Home)

The Reality of Homeschooling With Multiple Children - "I realize that I have SO much to learn as a parent and as a home educator, but I can see how God is purifying me and refining me through this process. I also can look back and see how much progress my children have made right alongside me." (My Joy-Filled Life)

Two pieces that I especially loved from Like Mother, Like Daughter's Bits and Pieces post:

10 Essential Self-Care Habits for Moms - Great post! I can't wait to explore the rest of this fun blog as well. (Jess Connell)

Top 5 Areas I Am Simplifying My Life - I have also really enjoyed reading all the posts in this wonderful blog! (Not My Own)

Craft of the Week

We loved this Easy Paper Pumpkin Craft from Pint-Sized Treasures! Fast, inexpensive, and easy. That's my kind of craft.

To save money (and time running to the store), we painted white cardstock (instead of buying orange), and skipped the pipe cleaners.

The children loved these.

Recipe Corner
We included this spice cake as part of the birthday celebrations for daddy, and it was lovely! Okay, it was more than lovely. It was crazy-insanely-wonderful-MORE-NOW-please!, and only the fact that I am *supposed* to be being good kept me to eating only one piece! Wow, this was good. I used a traditional creaming method instead of the method listed in the recipe.
From the Bookshelf

I picked this one up randomly to read for fun, and it is excellent! So many times we parents don't realize that some of our children's health issues can be addressed with diet changes, and this is a wonderful text to learn more about this subject.
This subject would have been particularly appropriate for my childhood. As a child, I suffered from non-stop ear infections (a not uncommon ailment), and ended up undergoing surgery for ear tubes three times. My mom had none of the information now available about how diet changes (like going dairy-free) and other health changes (like chiropractic care) could possibly have helped us at the time. Instead, they were forced to put their child under the health risks of hospitalization and general anaesthesia three times (plus the long-term ear damage that I suffered as a result).
I am so glad that excellent information like this is available to parents today.

I really thought that this book would let me off easily. After all, I don't have a smart phone, and I just deleted my Facebook account. I'm already hands-free, right? Right?
Okay, well, not really.
While I don't walk around staring at a phone, I found myself so, so convicted in other areas. My tendency to rush our family through routines in a "hurry, hurry, HURRY UP NOW!" frenzy. My over-zealous dedication to my to-do list. My frequent refrain of, "Not now, son, I'm busy - maybe in a minute."
Oh, she got me on so many fronts.
But this book is delightful, though convicting, and I am learning so much from it. I would love to own a copy so that I could re-read it often.
Two quick negatives:
(1) Each chapter has a small section that is black background with white font. I have found these sections so incredibly difficult to read that I've given up on them. I'm sure they're great, but I can't handle the colors.
(2) I would have preferred a more solid Christian grounding in the author's writing. I suppose that her audience is wider without a more biblical base, but I prefer Christian books to be openly Christian, rather than nearly unidentifiable as Christian at all.
(I'm assuming that this book is Christian because it was published by Zondervan. Isn't Zondervan a Christian publisher?)
But beside those two small complaints, I loved this book and highly recommend it. And, as a society, I think that we desperately need this kind of cry in the wilderness to wake up, put down the phone, and start paying attention to what really matters.
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum
Historical fiction (for older children and adults) set at the time of the Great Plague Year in London, a subject that we studied recently in our history text. While not flawless (and certainly not for young or easily upset children), the story (particularly the end) is gripping, and it is an excellent text for learning both historical terminology (comfits, anyone?) and the history of the Great Plague of London.
Just after reading this book, I went to the market and found myself unconsciously steering clear of people and holding my breath to avoid contagion. I'd really internalized the plague-fear that gripped London during that time! A fun exercise in learning history.
Highly recommended.

Product Recommendation

We have previously used - and loved! - Pamela's Gluten-Free Bread Mix (which we use for all gluten-free baking), and this week we tried Pamela's Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix. It was beyond awesome. Our family devoured every crumb of the two pizzas that I made, and we all loved the flavor and texture. And with no kneading involved, it was actually faster and easier to make than regular wheat pizza dough! I rolled (patted) it out on parchment for super-easy transfer to our pizza stone, and it was just a joy to use. Highly recommended.

(No affiliate links, just wanted to recommend a great product.)

Just for Fun

I have been trying to get back into some barre exercises, and this video has been a great review for me! I love the instructor's sweet and encouraging attitude and helpful hints.

Have a blessed week, dear readers!