Photo Thursday

Today we took a break and headed north.  We played with baby goats and grown up ones, ate outside on a perfectly beautiful day, and enjoyed the company of friends.  Just the therapy we all needed after an emotional week.

I took photos of all the girls, but there was something about the lighting and Chandler’s hair and her all calm and still (a rare thing indeed)….I love these shots from this morning.

What’s Cooking Wednesday

So tonight I’m starting a new series here called….wait for it….What’s Cooking Wednesday!  🙂

I really need to give you some back ground on this topic, but that will have to wait.  Instead, because it’s getting late and I still have school to check, I will jump right in with what we had tonight and I’ll get to the back story of our food issues another time.

Tonight’s dinner was a new recipe and a huge hit.  Go ahead and give it a try!

Slow Cooker Spinach Lasagne

This is immediately after assembly. It baked up warm and gooey and wonderful. 🙂

This recipe was quick and delicious.  Click on over to Crock Pot Girls and check it out!

The Back to School Post (After Everyone’s Already Gone Back to School)

*I’m going to do a short “Time and Balance” series on productivity.  I’m starting with our back to school planning just as a jumping off point.  I know everyone is already back in the groove, but maybe this will be helpful to someone down the road.

So a while back I had a few people ask me what it looks like around here as we go back to school.  Well, we’re six weeks into the semester and I’m finally getting around to writing this process down.  I am not an expert at this and there are countless women who are far more experienced and gifted in some of these things than I am.  Also, I’m typing this while under the influence of a serious ragweed allergy and feel like I just downed about half a bottle of Nyquil (even though I haven’t had any), so take this with for what it’s worth.  🙂

Our “back to school” process truly begins early in the second semester of the previous year.  As we work our way through the year, I see things that aren’t working, or need to change or be improved upon or added in or whatever, and so I start my list of curriculum or skills or activities for the coming year.  Some years I will go to a home school conference to look at curricula and get ideas, other years it’s just more cost-effective to order on-line all that I need.  I typically like to have everything in hand by early July.

This year, at the end of July, the three older girls were all participating in an all-day day camp.  So, in an effort to help Ellie have a more fun week without her sisters and provide myself time to do some data-entry, I farmed her out two of the days (one day with each grandmother) and hunkered down with the girls’ school books and my laptop and entered all of our assignments for the year in Home School Tracker.  Typically I would encourage someone to only enter a couple of weeks, or maybe a month, to make sure what you are doing is going to work.  I was pretty confident, though, about what we were using and how I wanted to break it down throughout the year, so I went ahead and did it all.  Also, I knew I wouldn’t get those two full days again and I wanted to use them for all they were worth.

We started school on August 2.  I almost always start back to school after any kind of extended break on a Tuesday.  I do this because I have found that Mondays are naturally hard anyway, what with catching up from the weekend and everyone typically being tired.  Also, it’s nice, that first week back, to have it be a short week.  Starting the school year on a Tuesday works really well for us.

Each of the girls has a clipboard on which she keeps her assignment chart and a copy of our daily schedule.  The schedule was new this year.  I’ve tried a systematic schedule before but have never been able to make one work.  But, with the girls being older this year and knowing that a couple of them need real help staying on task, I spent a considerable amount of time creating one and then continually revising it until about two weeks ago when I think we finally came up with one that works.

I also have a clipboard with another copy of all of their assignment charts for the week.  (These charts are printed directly out of HST.)  Yes, we go through a lot of paper and I should probably be recycling it.  Someday.  On my chart, I keep track of points on graded work and mark off what has been completed.  At the end of the week, I go in to HST and enter points earned, mark work completed, make necessary changes to the schedule, and then print out the assignment calendar for the next week.  I will typically spend an hour and a half or so over the weekend updating HST, typing out questions for Grace’s work, and copying tests and non-consumable pages, but then I’m good for the week.

That’s kind of the nuts and bolts of my back to school and weekly planning.  Soon I’ll post on what we’re using this year.

~  Sara

Looking for God

“If I see God in everything, He will calm and color everything I see!  Perhaps the circumstances causing my sorrows will not be removed and my situation will remain the same, but if Christ is brought into my grief and gloom as my Lord and master, He will ‘surround me with songs of deliverance’ (Psalm 32:7).  To see Him and be sure that His wisdom and power never fail and His love never changes, to know that even His most distressing dealings with me are for my deepest spiritual gain, is to be able to say in the midst of bereavement, sorrow, pain, and loss, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’ (Job 1:21).

“Seeing God in everything is the only thing that will make me loving and patient with people who annoy and trouble me.  Then I will see others as the instruments God uses to accomplish His tender and wise purpose for me, and I will even find myself inwardly thanking them for the blessing they have become to me.  Nothing but seeing God will completely put an end to all complaining and thoughts of rebellion.” ~ Hannah Whitall Smith, Streams in the Desert, September 17

Looking for God the past couple of weeks…

1362.  thirty for 30

1363.  a whole week of good running

1364.  generous girls learning to give good gifts

1365.  a quiet, happy birthday

1366.  home church above the city

1367.  a Monday made in heaven

1368. new running shoes

1369.  working through pain and discouragement

1370.  Kung Fu Panda II – who would have guessed?!

1371.  ice cream reward for James I memorized

1372.  a Sunday morning that keeps my heart bowed in prayer

Our God is a very present God.  He is with us in our troubles and our victories.  May you see God in everything this week.

By His Grace ~

~ Sara

Reviewing the Week – Kind Of

Sitting here tonight, drinking some Theraflu, hoping to feel like a new person in the morning, and reflecting a bit on the week.

The week was a good one overall.  Uneventful and productive in the school department.  Today we had home school swimming at the “Y”.  Or the “U”.  Or the “W”.  Ellie referred to it as both of the latter today.  🙂

Yesterday marks one month to the Waddell and Reed half marathon in Kansas City.  My good friend Nikki and I have been training for it and I have been really excited about it up until this past week.  We did eleven miles last Saturday, and they felt great, but I had a variety of pains as they day went on.  Ran five on Monday and my legs felt like a couple of dried out old rubber bands – no flex at all.  Got new shoes that night because I’ve been feeling like it was that time again and was hoping they would fix my problems.  Ran Wednesday morning and still had pain (but that could have been residual from Saturday) and decided to rest Thursday and today.  Anyway….I’ve just been discouraged because I’ve been pain free until this week but now I can feel my knee all the time and it’s really bummed me out.  I’m hoping tomorrow’s run is good for both Nikki and me (and that I don’t regret the Theraflu I’m drinking right now when it’s time to get up).

Matt and I have been trying to do our Thirty for 30 commitment.  We started last Tuesday night by going to the park.  Wednesday night we played a game as a family.  Thursday night Matt took the girls out shopping for birthday presents for me (that counts, right?).  Friday afternoon I took them all to the zoo, then two of them had a birthday party and the other two went out to dinner with Matt and me.  Saturday was a bit of a bust…I ran that eleven and then came home and immediately started getting ready to go over to Kansas City for the afternoon/evening with Matt for my birthday, so we didn’t do anything really as a family.  Sunday we did something….but I can remember what.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights we played games.  Last night we had a ministry meeting at our house, so we weren’t able to do anything.  Tonight I kind of watched Kit Kittredge with them, though I confess I was in and out of the room.  So, we’ve not been perfect, but we’re making an honest effort.  I don’t know that I’m seeing any major behavior or attitude changes from the girls, but I have noticed myself being disappointed on the nights when we haven’t been able to do something together, so that’s something.

Anyway, I think that’s it for me tonight.  Going to go fall into my cold-medicine coma.  Have a blessed weekend, all!

~ Sara

Thirty For 30

We’ve never been very good at playing with our kids.  Matt and I are both pretty task-oriented and both always manage to have quite a bit going on.  We love our kids and enjoy being around them, especially as they have gotten older and we can have actual conversations with them.  But to sit down and play games or with toys….not so much.

We have discussed this shortcoming of ours many times over the years.  We have gone in spurts of doing well.  But our default is to retire to the computer…or the smart phone….or the television….or a book…and live parallel lives rather than integrated lives.

So this weekend, after another discussion of this nature, I was praying about this and felt like the Lord gave me an idea: Thirty For 30 – thirty minutes of interactive, fun play a day for 30 days…to see what it does to our relationships, our hearts, our home.

It’s a simple plan but a huge one.  We started last night with a trip to the park where Matt played tag with the big girls and I pushed small chicks on swings.  Tonight it was a tearful game of Skip Bo (who knew that was possible?!).  I look forward to what the Lord will do in the next thirty days.  I’m praying it will be something great for our family.

What about you?  What do you do to make family fun a priority in this crazy world of raising kids?

 

A simple list on a Tuesday night….

….because I can’t keep up with all His endless gifts….

1341.  a quiet Monday morning

1342.  momentary grace

1343.  leftovers again

1344.  an at-home copier

1345.  home study completed!

1346.  singing love songs to my Savior as I scrub the kitchen counter

1347.  dossier in the mail!

1348.  surviving the craziest day of the week

1349.  music on the Victrola

1350.  tears on a Friday

1351.  two hours at Mahner Farms

1352.  pregnant goats

1353.  rubber chairs

1354.  talks about Hawaii, chickens, and kids with bad teeth

1355.  run that are hard

1356.  days that just don’t go right

1357.  glorious weather

1358.  Monday morning run that rocked

1359.  dreams that lead us to at least think and pray

1360.  trail hikes, the Kansas River, & catching frogs

1361.  open windows with church bell hymns ringing through

How Great Thou Art

Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

REFRAIN:
Then sings my soul my savior God to thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul my savior God to thee
How great thou art how great thou art

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze (Refrain)

And when I think that God, his Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin (Refrain)

When Christ shall come With shout of acclamation
To take me home What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim my God how great thou art (Refrain)

*photos from the weekend

**song lyrics prompted by church bells today

Week in Review and Some Random Thoughts

Friday night. End of a long week. Not bad. Just long.

On Monday I was feeling an incredible need for a break, a day off from school, something different in our routine. Then it hit me that we are in our fifth week of school, so no wonder I’m feeling it! Thank goodness for Labor Day!

It’s hard dealing with the attitudes that come up. Even now, laying in bed typing while they get ready for bed. The sass. The bickering. It’s exhausting. I don’t know what to do with it.  I keep praying.

I envy my husband’s ability to fall asleep. And makes me somewhat jealous. I’m pretty sure I could stay awake for three days and not fall asleep as quickly as he does.

Activities are pretty well in full swing, except for a few more things that get added in next week. Learning how to most efficiently manage all the dropping off and picking up this year has been a little more challenging. With only two in ballet, two doing other activities, and some new activities thrown in for some….it’s quite the juggling act. And in years past, I’ve always gotten groceries during ballet classes. But this year that just doesn’t look like it’s going to work and that really threw me for a loop. I think we’ve finally got a workable system. The next couple of weeks will be a good test.

One of my big things this year (and I think I’ve already mentioned it) is handing over more of the housekeeping responsibilities to the girls. This is imperative if we’re going to do all the things they want to do/we think are important for them to do and do school and me keep any shred of sanity that I may still have. It’s been a challenge. There are so many things that it would be so much easier to just go do myself, but I keep pushing them to do it and keep doing it until it’s done right because I know it will be worth it in a few months when they get it down. If this plan is successful, maybe next year I’ll be brave enough to hand over the cooking too.

I changed out Emma’s grammar program this week. Which reminds me, I’ve had good intentions of doing a “back to school” post with what planning and prep look like here as well as what we are using this year. I know pretty much everyone is already back to school, but maybe I can do that next week.

Anyway, I have been faithfully devoted to Rod & Staff grammar for as long as Grace has been using it; so, several years. And both of the older girls have struggled through it quite a bit (the younger two not having been in it long enough to really struggle), but it’s simple in concept and very thorough, so I’ve stubbornly stuck with it. But every day is drama and Emma was really, really struggling so I prayed about it and put out a question on Facebook and a request on our home school e-loop and came up with Shurley Grammar for her. We are only one week in, so it’s hard to say, but it seems to be huge improvement. It’s very teacher-directed, which I’m not typically a fan of, but if it works for her, then it’s worth more involvement on my part. As I was praying about switching and trying to figure out what to do, I had an epiphany of sorts. It occurred to me that Emma does much better when something is read aloud to her. I began to think of the subjects she enjoys and does well in, and they are all read aloud. It was an incredible moment for me. I even looked back at her standardized tests and confirmed that she does well with “listening”. Which is a little interesting when you live real life with her, because half the time it doesn’t seem like she’s listening at all, but apparently she is.

We went and visited what we have dubbed “Mahner Farms” today. It was a wonderful, two hour break from life and the only two hours of the day (up until 7:30) when I didn’t feel like crying.

Tonight was date night. Oh, what a glorious gift. Things have been hectic here the past few weeks. Obviously, my life is full with school and stuff for the girls. Matt recently hired a couple more guys and that has drastically changed his role at work (in a good way), but it has applied more pressure to him to sell jobs and use his time a little differently. It’s been an interesting transition period for both of us and it’s affected our communication and such. It was good to sit on the patio tonight and talk about those issues and the other little details of family life that need to be hashed out.

I think that’s it for me. Getting up early to run 7 miles in the morning. We deviated a bit from our running program this week. We both needed a little break.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!
Sara