Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Fall Y'all

See this litte guy right here? He wanted to wish y'all a happy fall. Isn't he just precious? And he is wearing his signature color, orange, to be fitting for the season. What a guy. He is super stylish like that.

There. Now that you have officially been offered a "Happy Fall Y'all" from our little guy, please allow me to officially welcome you to our home. Our home that has been decorated for fall. Can I just share that I LOVE decorating for seasons and holidays? I do, I do. There is just something so special and festive to me to be in a home that is decorated especially for important seasons and holidays. And I love seeing the excitement in the children's eyes when they walk into our home and it is bursting with color and decorations for the season. So without further ado, a tour in pictures of our home. Take a look around!

Thanks for stopping by! And, Happy Fall Y'all!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Whew! It has been a long three days! However, the days have been pretty delicious, as far as days go. On Sunday night I stayed up w-A-y too late looking on Etsy at baby clothes and hats. It makes me want to have dozens of children so I can dress them all in those tiny, precious hats. Delicious. And, I have no doubt that if I were a millionaire I would give some of my money to charity and the rest of it would go to Etsy. Just sayin'. But alas, I am not a millionaire. But I do have a wonderful friend that sews! I have already requested that she make me some of those delicious little boy onesies with the ties appliqued on. I am envisioning a photo shoot with Mister Man wearing his little onesie featuring a tie with fall colors on it, sitting on my delicious orange bench in the middle of the lane. Pure deliciousness! Okay, enough about Etsy and delicious baby hats and clothes.

On Monday my parents took all of the littles to ballet lessons for the day so that I could have a delicious few hours to myself. It was much needed! First on my agenda? An hour nap in my new king sized bed. Delicious. There is just something special about getting to close your eyes in the middle of the day. Next up? A delicious bubble bath. After that I went out to run errands and got my first hot drink from Starbucks for the season. Caramel Apple Spice. Delicious. Then I went to Target. My favorite store on the planet. I could seriously go there every. single. day and never get tired of walking the aisles. I bought my children matching outfits for pictures in the pumpkin patch this fall season. They will look sweet, and adorable, and delicious, I have no doubt. Then I came home to delicious hugs and kisses from my littles. And that night for supper? Boss made his super yummo chili. Our first pot of the season. While some do not care for this dish (he makes it with more of a sweet/tangy/barbeque sauce) in our home it is a family favorite. Add some cheese, sour cream, and fritos and you have a bowl of pure deliciousness. It was a deliciouss day to be sure.

Yesterday, however, was not so delicious. We got a call late Monday night that Boss's dad, our Papaw, had had a heart attack and was not doing well. So yesterday we loaded up the sheep (our she jeep) and drove to spend the day at the hospital. Papaw had a procedure today, and it seems to be helping. He now has a stint in all four of his arteries, I believe. We hope he gets better soon. So while yesterday could have been long and tiresome, and we all could have been cranky, we decided to focus on the delicious aspects of the day, instead. For one, we got to make the drive to Boss's parents town an hour away. With the leaves starting to change, it is one of my most favorite drives. It is deliciously beautiful, and with all of the tickle bumps (that's what my little girls call the hills) thrown in it was just about perfect. Another delicious detail? Because of Papaw's surgery, Boss got an unexpected day off from work, and we spent the entire day together as a family of five. That is always delicious to me. And then Emma and I finished the day with our Tuesday night delicious Duggar Date.

And today is turning out to be just as delicious! I actually had to turn the heat on (just for a tiny bit this morning) to take the chill out of the main level of the house so that we could school. The first heat of the season is delicious to me. Then we schooled at the table and snacked on bagels and apple butter for lunch. Homeschooling and apple butter are incredibly delicious. And baby boy has been napping for over three hours now. That is delicious with a capitol D. Happy Wednesday, friends. Determine to make today delicious.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Chosen Path

Do you ever wonder which path God is going to lead you down next in life? This is something that I think about often, as thus far He has taken me on a pretty wild ride. Never in a million years did I think that I would be a married mother of three and a therapeutic foster parent to over 35 teenagers at the ripe old age of 28. Okay, that's not all true. I prayed with all of my heart that I would be married young with a house full of babies to raise and love, but the teenager part? Sometimes I wonder. How the heck did I get here? Why me? What makes Him think I am cut out for this? Particularly on the rough days. But then God gently reminds me that it is by His grace that I am here. His leading. His plans for my life, which far surpass anything that I could have ever dreamed up on my own. It is easier to see the big picture when looking backwards. Now that I am here, it can be pretty cool to look back at how I got here. But the getting here was tough. I won't lie. And sometimes it's still tough.

There are days when I question His chosen path for my life. Days when it seems like I am only traveling through dense forests, and there is not enough sunlight shining down on my path. Days when I long to raise my family in our own home, keeping our own schedules instead of planning our weekends around everyone elses, creating our own memories and traditions, and just being together any which way we want at any time we choose. Days when everyone elses paths look a whole lot better than mine. I dream of the easy life of our simple family of five, fully knowing that even if we were not on this path or in this work that life would not be "easy". These are just the lies that Satan tries to get me to believe. If we were in any other place in life he would just use something else to distract me. To try to get me to leave this chosen path. To draw me to his path. Because his path looks all glittery and sparkly. It promises that life will be full of roses and rainbows, without any of that nonsense of thorns or rain. It says, choose this path where I will qive you the quick fix! The easy way out! And sadly, I have seen many people fall for his lies. They leave God's path for something that looks better, or easier, and while things might be good for awhile, in the end they get burned.

Because really, there is only one Path. And that is God's path. The path He carefully selects for each of us, crafting it with His plans for our life in mind. And then He gently sets it before us. The trick is that it is our choice whether we will follow His path or not. God doesn't promise us that it will be easy. In fact, He promises that it will not. But he also promises that He will not leave us or forsake us, as we travel this path that He has laid out for us. And in the end, the reward will be great. Far greater than even roses or rainbows.

So I remind myself of this when the going gets tough. I remind myself that to serve others I am actually serving God. When I am tired of tantrums and back talk? I remind myself that I throw tantrums and give back talk to God All. The. Time. And He forgives me. When I get anxiety over filth being brought into my home by dirty people who have not been cared for? When I want to run for the hills or lock all of my doors and windows to keep the dirty parts of life out? I remind myself that if it wasn't for my Savior that I would be dirty too. And on the days where I can't seem to find anything good at all? I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, praying, and trusting that soon there will come a bend in the path and then He will lead me in a new direction. Yes, it's been a wild ride. And I know there will be rough traveling days ahead. But I am determined to stay on this path. Trusting Him with one day at a time.

A Challenge for This Week: Ask God to show you this week what path He would have your life to be on for this season. Are you on it? If not, how will you get there to better align your plans for your life with His will for your life? What lie is Satan using to try and distract you to lead you away from God's chosen path? I am praying these thoughts for myself this week!

P.S. That picture up there? Yeah, I live there. It's okay to be jealous :). Maybe my path is not so bad afterall!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Apple Fest

(The Mama and her Children)

Today was a super Saturday! It finally feels like fall. The sun was shining but the air had a cool crispness to it. We started off our Saturday by heading to the local Apple Festival! It was crowded, but their was excitement in the air. And the smells were completely wonderful. Festivals are one of Ohio's many charms.

After the festival, Boss played some golf with his buddies on their golf course, and then the teenagers and I headed to town for our weekly errands. We rode in the jeep with the top off and let the wind blow through our hair. The store was wonderful without any littles begging for this or that (they stayed home to keep Boss company). One teenager did throw a fit complete with foot stomping in the frozen food section, but what can I say? Our day wouldn't be complete without a little drama. The scene quickly passed and we were on our way.

Once home my two little helpers and I made caramel apples with the apples we got from the festival. Delicious! There are no other words to describe them. The recipe was really simple. Mix one bag of individually wrapped caramels with two tablespoons of milk and melt in the microwave, stirring in between. Once melted, roll apples (that have had their stems removed and a wooden craft stick stuck in the center) in
the caramels. Let them harden on a cookie sheet that is greased with butter. See? Easy as pie. Although pie is not really easy to make, so I am not sure who came up with that expression. But caramel apples? Those are easy to make. And did I mention they were delicious?

And just because he is cute as pie, here is a picture of my youngest sporting his overalls courtesy of Ms. Judy. Your welcome.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

I am a fairly neat and orderly person. Unless we are talking about putting my laundry away, the inside of my van, or organizing my bathroom. But right now we aren't talking about those things. Because in most everything else in life, I like things to be tidy. Looking good. Clutter free. A place for everything and everything in it's place. If the main level of the house is a mess, I cannot seem to relax. However, this has not always been true about me. Growing up, my room was a disaster. I could have put a million holes in the walls of my bedroom while hanging up pictures from Teen Magazine (and was quite often irritated that my Dad would not let me. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, anyone?) and it would not have bothered me at all. But something strange happened when I began to grow up and start having to pay for some of my own things. All of a sudden, nothing could get dirty. Everything needed to stay looking nice and shiny and new. A few examples.

When I was seventeen, my parents bought me my first car. She was a 1999 maroon Mitsubishi Gallant. She had a sunroof and she rocked. I put the "S" in somebody when I drove her. I named her Ruby and she was with me until 2005 when Boss and I both traded in our "cool" cars for our first family vehicle (We keep cars like we keep dogs around here. Not for very long at all). Ruby was a very pretty car. The only trouble was that she had tan cloth interior. Even on the insides of the door, all the way up to where the windows began. This caused me some trouble. You see, I like to drive with my left elbow resting right up there on the door where the siding meets the window. And after time, the indention of my elbow began to wear a nice little spot into the siding of my car. The fabric began to look all squishy and worn. And after awhile, the spot was all I could see when I got inside of my car. It drove me crazy. When someone else would ask to borrow my car I would say, sure! But put your elbow on my worn spot and make it worse, and you die. I was kidding of course. But not really. The worn spot drove me bonkers. The inside of my car now looked like a "mess".

Another example. When Boss and I were first married we used part of our wedding gift money to buy new bedding. Our first "we are a married couple who now get to sleep together" bedding. It was important to me. I took my time picking it out and finally decided on a fluffy green and tan comforter set from Target. Looking back I cannot believe that I selected that bedding, but hey! I was young and in love and everything looked beautiful to me at that time :). Anyway, I loved our bed. I loved our bed for many newlywed reasons (ha!), but I especially loved my new comforter. We had not had it for very long, when one day I came home to our very tiny apartment in Charleston to find a huge, fat, navy blue ink spot, smack in the middle of my new comforter. Turns out Boss had left a broken ink pen in his Champs work wind shorts, and when he took them off and tossed them on the bed after work, the ink bled through onto my comforter. I was a sad, sad wife. That was the first day that I learned that love is a choice and not always a feeling :). My beautiful bed no longer looked pretty. It was stained and ruined and all my eyes could see when I was in the room was a navy blue ink stain "mess".

Last example. Shortly after we were married, Boss and I discovered that we were pregnant with our first baby girl. After we discovered we were now three, we decided to move back home to my family. Because we were in the process of moving and building a home while pregnant, we postponed buying baby nursery furniture. When the house was finally completed, Emma was 10 weeks old, and I went to town decorating her room with the tiny budget that I had. Her walls were painted pale purple and I selected a crib to match the rocking chair I had gotten from my mother. Her room was very sweet. But then our baby girl grew and grew, and one day she began getting teeth. Little teeth that liked to gnaw on the side of the crib and leave little teeth marks all over it. I had planned to use this crib for many more Z babies, and now in my eyes it was ruined. No longer perfect. To me, it now looked like a "mess". I am ashamed to say that I was actually frustrated with my tiny baby girl and her naughty teeth gnawing ways.

Looking back I can see that it was crazy for me to be so uptight about "things". After all, many cars have come and gone since Ruby. It was so not worth wasting my time on an indention in the side of my car's fabric. The same is true with comforters and cribs. After all, they are just "things". And while I began to loosen up a bit the more I grew and the more I mothered children, I still found that my insane need to control things and keep them neat and tidy remained. What would start out as a mother/daughter baking day would turn into a mother baking day, because I did not want the children making a "mess". What could have been a really fun memory of fort building in the living room, I would say no to, because I did not want the "mess". So many things I have missed out on because I was afraid of getting dirty. Afraid of the "mess". But then I read something one day that changed the way that I view "messes".

If you have not read the story of Kate Mcrae, you should. She is a little girl who is fighting brain cancer in Arizona. I first heard of her story over a year ago, around the time she was diagnosed. I think I was drawn to her because not only was she right in between my daughter's ages, but she shared my youngest daughter's name. Kate. And if that had not been enough to keep me reading and praying, looking at the photo of her piercing blue eyes on the Internet did me on. For a year now I have read her mom Holly's blog as she has journaled this road they are traveling with Kate. Several weeks ago she shared something so profound, that I will forever be changed when I think of things that make a "mess".

Kate's mommy shared that she had a shiny, white laptop that she used for her blogging. One day Kate decided to use the laptop as a surface for drawing her picture. Evidently she put her little paper on the laptop and began to draw a beautiful picture....with a green permanent marker. That bled threw and left green permanent marks all over the shiny white laptop. Kate's mommy shared that a year before she would have been upset over such a thing. Much as I was upset over a stained comforter and a gnawed on crib. But now she shared she is just thankful. To her, those green marks represent that Kate was well enough to be coloring. They are a forever, permanent mark to show that her daughter is alive and living. They are a reminder that she is here. And should anything ever happen to sweet Kate (and I pray daily for complete healing), I have no doubt that those green marks will be all the more cherished. To Kate's mommy those green marks are not a mess. They are beautiful.

As I began to think about the concept of a beautiful mess, I began to change the way that I thought about "things". That indention in my car? A permanent mark to show that I was there. Young, single, driving back and forth from home to college. It is proof that many hours were spent in Ruby. Some hours laughing with friends. Some drives spent praying and crying and wondering what God's plans were for my life. Would I get married? Would I be a mommy? And the stain on the comforter? If I still had it, I would no longer find it a mess. I would use that blanket to one day share with my daughters when they are newlyweds (and perhaps their husbands have irritated them) that love is more than a feeling, it is a choice. A choice to love even when they irritated. A choice to love through all of life's messes. And the baby crib? Oh, how I now wish I had saved the bar to that crib with my sweet baby girl's teeth marks on it. Showing that she was there. That she was growing. That she was my baby. Now, those teeth marks would be beautiful to me. A beautiful mess.

As I have reflected on these thoughts I have seen that I am not only leery of "messes" when it comes to things. I am also leery of "messes", when it comes to me, too. I can be a complete "mess" on the inside. Bitter thoughts towards my husband. Grumpiness towards my children. Luke warm in my relationship with God. But I slap a smile on my face for others to see. Why? Because I don't want them to see my "mess". I am afraid that if I show them my stains, or my indentions, or my gnawed on marks, that that is all they will see when they look at me. All they will see is a mess. But the more I think on this, the less afraid I become of showing others the "mess" that I am. Because you know what? My "mess" represents that I am alive. It shouts to the world, hey! I'm human! And it also shows a beautiful need for my Savior. I no longer feel the need to show the world that I am a shiny, white laptop in perfect condition. I am beginning to be okay with showing my permanent green marks as well. Because in God's eyes I am not just a "mess'. I am a work in progress. A beautiful mess. I am beginning to try and live differently. In the way that I view my earthly posessions. In the way that I mother. In my relationships with other people. I am trying to be more comfortable when it comes to getting messy. Because life is messy. And that's okay. Because it's a beautiful mess.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Random Thoughts

This is the post in which I share with you all of my random thoughts from today. In no particular order. You're welcome.

Boss and I decided to buy a king sized bed. It's awesome and it was majorly on sale, so I was also able to get some new bedding and we are looking in to used golf carts. We might end up getting the best of both worlds. I love my new bed. It is high up off of the ground and you have to climb up into it. It is a Sealy Posturpedic and it has a pillow top. It is bliss. When I went to get bedding, Boss said I could pick out whatever I wanted. He might be sorry that he said that now. He thinks one of the decorative pillows that I selected looks like a creature from Star Wars. I love my new bedding. I got sheets with orange trim (are you really surprised?), fluffy white bedding that already looks splendid with black cat hair, and throw pillows with various fall colors on them. My favorites are the yellows and oranges. It all makes me want to "fall" into bed. Get it? Ha! But seriously, it does.

I could not sleep at all last night even though I have this nice new bed. I put Jack in a real baby bed for the first time last night, instead of in his usual sleeper chair by my bed. He was getting too big for that thing, evidenced by his feet hanging off of the end. I kept waking up to check on him and make sure he was still breathing. He kept waking up so that I could put his paci back in to his mouth. I think he just missed being close to me and wanted to spend time together. He rocks like that. It felt like the longest night ever.

Speaking of feet hanging off of the end, Jack had his six month well child check today and he is huge. But short. And it is official. He has a big head, just like his sister Kate did. He weighed right under 18 pounds which put him in the 56th percentile for weight, yet he was only 25 and 3/4 inches long which came out to being in the 22nd percentile for height. Poor, poor baby. I think he might have my genes. This is not good. So not good. He definitely gets the big head from his dad, though. I can't take all the blame. Good thing he is so stinkin' cute.

I have been feeling very stressed in my "job" lately. Maybe just with life in general. I feel like I am struggling with trying to be all things to all people. I know my first earthly priority is to be a good wife to Boss and a good mama to our children (by the way, I love saying "children". It sounds very classy and old fashioned. Much better than calling them "kids".) I will always strive to put them first. Some days I feel like I have nothing left to give to the teenagers, and they need oh, so very much. I don't feel like I am giving everyone what they need and it puts such a strain on my heart. My biggest fear in life is having regrets when it is all said and done. I feel like these teenagers are my mission. I love them. I take seriously my charge to care for them. But lately I do not feel like I am having the time for my own children like I want. Something is always coming up (meetings, doctors appointments for the teenagers, someplace they need to be driven, etc). It is so frustrating. It is hard work finding balance. I feel like something needs to give, and it will never be boss or the kids (even though I don't like the word kids. I like the word children, but it was sounding redundant). I just want to be the best I can be to everyone and it is wearing me out.

I have been trying to eat more natural, organic foods lately. Today I tried natural peanut butter. It was very sticky. Much stickier than "normal" peanut butter. But I felt much healthier when I was done eating it. Or not.

Emma turned down bike riding with me tonight to play with some friends. It made me kind of sad. Why can't I always be the coolest person in her world? She gets allowance now. Not for chores. She does those just because she is an active member of this household. It is her job to make her bed every morning, feed and water the cat each day, and to buckle her sister in her car seat when we go somewhere. She gets a quarter taken away each time she gets in trouble beyond a warning. She has already lost fifty cents. She has been struggling with selfishness and negativity this week. It is hard work raising another human being. But we had our Tuesday Duggar Date and we snuggled. Things ended well with her today. She ate a ding dong. I did not. They are not natural. They are unnatural.

There. I now think I am out of random thoughts for today. Once again, you're welcome.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

No Words

Today has been a very long day. I have no words of my own to share. Only the words from this simple song are on my heart.

Lord my desire,
Is to be like you.
To say the things you say,
And do the things you do.
Let me hear your still voice,
Through all the other noise.
So that I can be,
Just what you want me to be.

This is my prayer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Date With Boss

Today I got to spend almost the entire day with Boss. Sans children. It was wonderful. We did all sorts of crazy things like shop for fall clothes for our children, drive around town with the Jeep stripped down, and try out king sized beds. Okay, we didn't actually "try" them out, because that would be inappropriate. But we did recline on them (one at a time) to see which ones were more comfortable. Boss kept doing really romantic things like buying me soda on ice and twizzlers. After eight and a half years together, this man knows the way to my heart. When we were in the Jeep we turned the country music up really loud and we let the wind blow our hair. We looked at all of the fall colors beginning to pop up on the trees and we kept sneaking glances at one another as we drove. Boss is very cute. Some even say he is super hot. Our friend/neighbor to be exact. (What can I say? We are all very close out here.) Boss is the very best man that I know. He still tells me I am pretty every single day. He does all of the laundry and folds it too. He wakes up with our little fellow at six thirty every morning. He lives in a home that houses seven females and he hardly ever complains. He is an excellent father. He raises teenagers that are not his own, and I have truly seen growth and development in his wisdom and patience with these kids over the past three years. He is a good manager, planner, and organizer. He is a good steward of our finances. He loves God and leads our family to the best of his ability. To put it simply, he rocks. It hasn't always been easy, this marriage of ours, but it has always been worth the work. Boss is my best friend and he makes all of my earthly dreams come true. Literally. I love spending the day with him.

P.S. He can still make my heart go pitter patter. I know. It's crazy.

P.P.S I asked Kate tonight if she could have any wish what would it be? She thought and thought and then said she would wish for a car full of chocolate. Completely random and not related, but worthy of noting. Out of all of the wishes in the world she wanted chocolate. Boss and I make really awesome children.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Family Fun

We have respite from the teenagers this weekend, so we dubbed today 'Friday Family Fun' day. And fun we had! In the morning Kate went to mini school and Boss went golfing, while Emma and I did a bit of school. Jack did his usual thing of lounging around. No life in the fast lane for him, I tell you what. Before it was time to pick up Kate from school, Boss and I took Emma to lunch at Panera Bread. We had her special "you are now a first grader, and thus more responsible" lunch, where we told her about how allowance was going to work in our home, and her new list of daily expected chores. Good times. After lunch we picked up our middle girl (she had a great day!) and we headed to the zoo to enjoy this awesome autumn weather. We try and take the children to the zoo at least once a year, always around the time school picks back up. It was a great day to go! The weather was AWESOME, hardly no one was there, and all of the animals were up and moving. It was pretty cool to watch Mr. Polar Bear swim laps! Once the zoo closed we came home and played Frisbee in the yard and then Boss started us a nice toasty fire in the fire pit. We roasted marshmallows and hot dogs and made S'Mores. I sang campfire songs, but no one would sing with me. Then two of our most favorite friends popped over from across the street and we had an impromptu porch time. It was a perfect end to a really great Friday Family Fun day. As I type, the girls are snuggled up asleep on a pallet (or a padlet, as they call it) on the floor of our room, and Jack is snoozing away in his corner of the room. Tonight we are all rooming in. Sometimes we just need to be together.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's On Your Back to School Shelf?

Sometimes being a home school mama can feel pretty isolating. I always wonder if I am doing enough or if I am doing things the "right" way. There is no "right" way, mind you (that's the beauty of homeschooling after all. You can do it any way you want!), but I still wonder if I am teaching my children everything that I should be. That is one reason that I love the Internet! It connects me with so many wonderful resources for homeschooling and I love reading blogs by other mamas who home school, too. I love when they post ideas they have and about the curriculum's they have chosen for certain grades. It helps me put together my own plan for how our family will do school, and it greatly encourages and reminds me that I am not alone in this endeavor. So, for your viewing pleasure, I have decided to post the ideas and books we will be using for Emma and Kate this year (the contents of our back to school shelf, if you will). If you have no desire to read about home schooling first grade and preschool, then stop reading right here or you will be bored to tears. No worries! You can't say that I did not warn you :). Here goes:

First Grade

Spelling - A Reason For Spelling
Handwriting - A Reason for Handwriting
Reading - Pathway Readers
Language Arts - Abeka Seat Work Text First Grade
Math - Abeka Arithmetic 1
Science - Abeka Discovering God's World Grade 1
History/Geography - Abeka My America and My World Grade 1
Health Safety and Manners - Abeka Reader 1

I know this seems like a LOT for one little girl, but it really isn't so bad! We really only school for a "full" day (meaning teaching EVERYTHING listed above) two days a week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays). On those days it takes us around three hours to complete all of our work. On Mondays we have dance and on Thursdays I have a staff meeting and lunch, so on those days I assign Emma seat work to do involving Language Arts and math. Fridays we use for finishing everything up for the week. We take our spelling tests then, and we complete any work that we did not finish throughout that week. So that's the curriculum that I have chosen, in a nut shell.

I LOVE our spelling and handwriting books. They are very straightforward and focus on scripture. They go hand and hand with one another, so they provide our memory verse for each week. They might be a bit simple for older grades, but they are perfect for younger kids. Love them. Pathway Readers are new to us, but I love them because they are "whole" fiction. They are Amish schoolhouse readers and the stories are very simple, but Emma is enjoying reading about large families and farm work. The stories are about children her age so she can easily relate. For everything else we are using Abeka. Abeka is very worksheet oriented, but that works well for Emma. She loves (oddly enough) to do worksheets and to chart her progress each day. As far as planning fun, hands on activities, I let the ideas in the books guide me for the most part. For example, yesterday we were learning about how our bodies grow taller, so we created homemade stilts out of baby formula cans, so the girls could see what it felt like to be taller. So fun for them! Another example. Yesterday we were studying how God has made everyone with different fingerprints, so we made fingerprint cards for each of us and studied them under a magnifying glass. Also, if there is a holiday coming up, I am sure to check lots of books out of the library to help us learn about that day. Thank goodness I have children who love to read! So far, first grade is turning out to be much more time consuming than kindergarten, but it is going well. So thankful we have this time together. So thankful Emma has an obedient spirit that loves to learn.


I have already shared that Kate is attending mini school for one day each week. I think it is important for children to learn to respect and be obedient towards other adults from a young age. I also think it is good for them to spend a bit of time away from the nest, to test their wings, if you will. So we do preschool one day a week. Currently, the only thing I am working with Kate on is writing the letters in her name. I make her spend a few minutes each day making her K's, A's, T's, and E's. I also have a few preschool workbooks (Richard Scary's Back to School and Abeka's Letters and Numbers) that we do a few pages in from time to time, but I don't push this. If she wants to do work, Great! if not, then no big deal. The time will come soon enough when she will be forced to comply with learning. I do not like rushing children to grow up too quickly!

So, that's how we roll in the "Z" house. Some days feel crazy, others I feel in complete control. We definitely take it one day at a time. We always make sure to have lots of laughs and praise. Life is good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Six Months Mister Man

(Look who's happy to be celebrating a half birthday!)

Six months ago today, we were holding our new baby boy for the very first time. We were gazing at his tiny, perfect body and his head full of dark hair. We were exhausted, but oh so ecstatic. His new life was such an amazing gift to us that day. It still is to this day. Now, somehow, six months have already past. Our baby is no longer tiny. His little frame has been replaced by deliciously round rolls. His head of hair gone (except in the back in true Zickafoose baby fashion), and in its place a shiny, fairly bald head with new little wisps coming in every day. We love him in every way possible. Now, a letter to my son.

Dear Jack Ryan,

Today you are six months old! Do you know how happy you make us? Daddy thinks you are a cool little dude, Mommy can't stop smooching you, and your sisters are still smitten even after six months. They love to make you smile and laugh and they squeal with delight when you pull their hair. You are the most mellow, happiest, most smiley baby I have ever known. How did we ever get so lucky? Rarely do you fuss. Usually only when you are hungry. At most any other time, all someone has to do is look in your direction and you reward them with one of your fabulous grins! Your grins are the best.

Mister Man, you have gotten so big! You go for your well child check next Tuesday, and I am curious to see what you weigh. I bet you are around 17 pounds! My very favorite feature of yours are your sweat cheeks. They are so perfect for smooching. You still love to eat, and you still want to be fed every three hours, except for through the night. Most mornings now you dine on rice cereal and applesauce or bananas. When I am feeding you, you get your tongue going a mile a minute and I can't spoon it in fast enough! This week we will start you on some veggies. I know. You can't wait.

Jack, you are still a great sleeper. You don't really nap throughout the day, just cat naps here and there, wherever you happen to be. At night you give 8 - 9 hours straight. No complaints from this momma! You are so happy, you are never any trouble.

You have some new tricks! You can now roll, roll, roll. Finally! You also can reach for your toys and bring them to your mouth now for the ultimate taste test. You still must be supported when you sit up, but you are oh so close to sitting independently. It won't be long now. When we started school, Mommy bought you a exersaucer and you love it. We love you.

Jack Ryan, you are my snuggle bug. If you ever get sad, you like me to hold you close to my chest and kiss your sweet head. You look into my eyes and rub my face with your chubby hands. And I fall a little bit more in love with you every single time.

We love you Mister Man. These past six months were wonderful, but they went way too fast. Please slow down. I wouldn't care if you were my baby forever.

Love, Mama

* We got Jack's six months pictures taken a coupe of weeks ago. They turned out precious, but I can't upload them onto here because of copyrights. So imagine with me if you will, a precious round baby boy wearing a chocolate brown and cream Hawaiian print shirt, khaki shorts, and a brown fedora with matching Hawaiian print trim. That's right. He looks like a complete doll in them!

(Whew! This growing thing is hard work!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Nights

I love Tuesday nights. Every Tuesday night Emma and I have a couch date to watch 19 Kids and Counting. Kate would be invited, but she is always asleep. By the time the show starts, the rest of the house is always in bed, so it is always just the two of us, my biggest girl and I. usually we snuggle up on the couch under a comfy blanket. Tonight we drank our first cup of hot cocoa (complete with marshmallows) of the season. Bliss. I like watching the show because I love big families (regardless of the controversy surrounding them). Emma loves watching all of the kids antics. It's our thing. Our Tuesday night couch date. A night we look forward to and plan for every other night of the week. Just wanted to record that memory here.


In other news, I have a question. I know there are several family members (and maybe friends!) that visit this spot every week and never comment. That is completely fine and dandy. But this week all opinions matter.

If you had been given a small (only not that small, but very, very generous!) sum of money, what would you spend it on? We are supposed to put this money towards something fun for our family. It is not to be used on bills or debt. I think we have it narrowed down to two items: a king sized bed or a golf cart. Don't judge. Both of those items are a bit frivolous and are not things that we would ever buy for ourselves under normal circumstances.

On one hand, I want the bed. my favorite part of visiting hotels is the king sized bed. I have wanted one ever since we were married. We are not co sleepers in our family, but we are firm believers in the occasional sleepover and definitely love early morning snuggles that last until the sun comes up. While I value my space and my relationship with my husband (in believing that our room should be our room), we both believe that snuggling children is absolutely high on the list of things we are going to miss once our kids are grown. But lately I have been turning children away from our bed. There is just no room! I foresee many good movie nights, sleepovers, and snuggle fests were we to invest in a larger bed. One of my children casts her vote for the bigger bed. Can you guess which one?! Ha!

On the other hand, a golf cart has been on my list of dream "toys" for a few years now. When I was younger we visited some friends who lived in the country and had a golf cart that we got to drive all over the neighborhood. It was awesome. And once on vacation we rented a golf cart so that we could tour the island we were visiting. So fun! As you know, we live in the country and I think having a golf cart out here would be a blast. One of our neighbors has a work cart that she drives around, and her grandchildren have so much fun riding around in that thing! It is pure joy on their faces while they are in it. If we had a cart I could see us driving all over the lanes on this piece of land we call home. I could see us driving it to have picnics by the lake. Also, Boss and his buddies have built themselves their own little golf course out here, so of course having a cart would be a bonus for them. I can also see Boss teaching our children how to drive it one day. I just think it would create some really special memories for our kids as they grow up out here. My other bigger child votes for the golf cart.

So what do you think? What would you buy? Which of these sounds like a better choice? Or is there something we aren't thinking of that would be even more fun? I realize this post is completely materialistic and pointless, but won't you help a sister out? You will? Great!

Happy Tuesday, friends. Hope your day was blessed!

First Day of First Grade

After three weeks of kindergarten review we finally started first grade today! Look at our big first grader! And check out those two missing bottom teeth. I just love scraggly tooth grins. There's just something about them. Anyway, back to our first day of first grade. Somehow we managed to get everyone up, dressed, and fed by nine am. Quite impressive for Emma and I. We like sleeping in, and waking up before eight in the morning is just painful for us. Emma got herself dressed and brushed her own teeth and hair. She is getting so big and independent. After she was ready, Daddy came home and took her first grade picture in front of the big tree in the yard. Then we were ready to start.

We schooled from nine am until twelve pm. That is a full day of schooling for us. Today we covered Bible time and journals, spelling, handwriting, language arts seat work, reading comprehension, science, history, and math. That sounds like a lot, but it really isn't so bad. Emma is so great at listening and getting all of her work done.

After school we had a picnic outside on our front lawn for lunch! We got out our favorite picnic blanket and set up our Hello Kitty dishes. We enjoyed the sunshine and the afternoon breeze and chatted while the girls ate. Jack chilled in his bouncer seat and then rolled around a bit on the blanket. After lunch I read aloud to the girls from Beezus and Ramona. My own mother read all of the Ramona books aloud to me when I was a child, so I have especially enjoyed sharing these books with my own girls. We decided that we would make every Tuesday our official picnic and read aloud day for as long as the weather will last. We definitely read at other times, but Tuesdays is our special picnic date. When the weather will no longer cooperate we will move inside for tea and story time. That sounds pretty heavenly too. After our picnic I rocked Jack on the porch and gave him his bottle and the girls fancied up the front walk with side walk chalk. It was a beautiful, simple day and I feel so thankful to get to spend my days mothering these three.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Going To Town

Most every Saturday, unless we already have set plans, the teenagers and I "go to town". When you live in the country like we do, you can say things like "going to town". (Even if you are less than ten minutes away from civilization, if you are surrounded by nothing but cornfields, you still have the right to say the phrase "going to town".) We usually go to town to get groceries (we are Wal-Mart kind of people. Don't judge. They sell more for less), maybe stop by the bank, and sometimes we even get a treat (think large vanilla coke from Sonic!). I like going to town with the girls because they are usually pleasant company and then I also have help carrying the groceries inside when I return home. They like going to town because then they get to spend their allowance money and pretend they are normal teenagers for the afternoon. You see? It is a win, win situation.

I have fond memories of going to town as a child. My family lived in the suburbs of a very large city, so we could not say things like "going to town". We lived in town. But every summer we would visit my Dad's parents (also known as Dick and Granny), and they lived in the country. In fact, I think my love of living in the country originated from loving visiting them as a child. They had a huge front yard, and it always felt like their house was a very long way from the main road. In reality, it was not very far from the main road at all, but as a child used to suburban life, it sure felt like it. I have many fond memories of visiting Granny's house. Orange plastic drinking glasses filled with sweet tea, homemade tea cakes, playing on their acreage, catching stray cats and begging my parents to let me keep them (they always said no), taking "dog" walks down the lane, eating watermelon in the back of the pick up truck, playing croquet in the front yard, eating Church's chicken after Sunday worship, and last, but certainly not least, "going to town". Every time we would visit, at least once we would go in to town to Wal-Mart. Every single time my Granny would give each of us kids a ten dollar bill to buy a treat. I usually spent mine on everything Barbie. For some reason that memory has stuck with me. "Going to town" for me means so much more than accomplishing the task of getting groceries. It means togetherness. It means wandering the aisles of the store and choosing the treats that you want the very most. It means going back in time to when things were simpler and less rushed.

Our culture is so busy. Not many families make it a priority to stay at home and just be together. There are always social gatherings to attend, lessons and practices to go to, eating out, and running constant errands. We are continuously on the go, and I am guilty of all of these things myself. My family eats fast food way more often than we should. I run to the store whenever I need things, instead of planning one big trip. If my little girls are bored we hop in the car and go to the mall play place instead of creating our own fun at home. Go, go, go. Sometimes our homeschool feels more like "van" school. Things like "going to town" are no longer special, because we literally go into town every single day. It's crazy. So, this winter I plan to make a change in our family. More days spent playing together at home making our own fun. More meals served around our big family table. Less activities being said "yes" to. I want to try and take my family and those that live with us back to a simpler time and way of life. I want "going to town" to hold as special a place in their hearts as it does in mine. It's going to be a new season here in the Zickafoose Zoo. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Mini Schooler

Today I dropped off my littlest girl for her very first day of mini school. She was so excited! She got dressed in one of her new outfits and put on her new tennis shoes. She ate her breakfast in a hurry and then I fixed her hair. Today there was no yelling over tangles. I informed her that mini schoolers are too grown up to yell. We shall see if that lasts. Once we were all ready (on time I might add), Daddy popped home from work to take some first day of school pictures. There was lots of hugs and kisses, Daddy said a prayer for God to watch over Kate as she was away from us for the very first time, and then we were off. Once at the classroom, Kate put her backpack and lunch in her cubby, sat at her desk, let me take one last picture, and then I left her with a smile. (I did my crying yesterday in the produce isle at Meijers. I have no idea why I cried. I did not cry when Emma went to preschool and that was four days a week instead of one!) We left the building and headed to the parking lot and I thought all was well. Then Emma burst into tears. She said she missed Kate already, and couldn't we just turn around and go get her? She was sure Kate was not ready for this big step. I love how much they love each other.

Anyway, I took my biggest girl and my baby boy to breakfast at Panera Bread. That is Emma's favorite, so it was a treat. Then we came home and played board games together and watched Camp Rock Two. I am sure there was school that could have been done, but today was about being together and counting the hours until we could go and get our middle girl. When we finally got to pick her up she was all smiles! Today she learned about the letter A and the shape of the square. She also enjoyed story time, playtime, circle time, and much more I am sure! She said her favorite parts were play time and lunch time because she was starving. This I believe! Ms. Jenny said that Kate did get a bit sad at one point, but she was easily distracted by her friends. Our girl loved mini school and she can't wait to go back next week!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The (Girl) Apples of my Eye

This past spring, Da and Grammy planted two apple trees in their backyard. We were not sure that we would get any quality fruit from them this season, but those little trees surprised us with one shiny red apple that was ready to be picked! The other night at dinner, we cut that tiny apple into pieces and we all had a bite. So yummy! There is just something special about eating home grown food that makes them taste so much better than the store bought variety. A perfect little apple for the (girl) apples of my eye!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review, Review

Today marked the end of a two to three week kindergarten review that I have been doing with Emma each morning.Next week we will officially start first grade! I decided to do a review so that we could wake our sleepy summer brains back up! I also thought it would be a good idea to slowly ease us back into the routine of schooling each day, while allowing new schedules for the rest of the house to fall into place and giving life a chance to calm down a bit before jumping into new material. I bought some addition and subtraction workbooks from the dollar section at Target and we went through those these past couple of weeks. There were also some review sections in her first grade spelling and handwriting books, so we knocked those out of the way, too. Last but not least, we went through the book What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know (it is part of The Core Knowledge Series, and it is awesome!).

One of my biggest fears as a home school mama was that I would not teach my children all that they needed to know. How was I supposed to know what each grade required a student to comprehend before passing them on to the next grade level? It was overwhelming, to say the least. The easiest route, of course, would have been to select an all encompassing curriculum, but I am not really a boxed curriculum kind of gal. I tried that, and it just did not work for our family. I wanted to create my own mini curriculum, but had no idea where to start. Then my friend introduced me to The Core Knowledge Series books. They have a book for every single grade level and when I read it, it made me all warm and tingly inside, because it told me exactly what my daughter needed to know for each grade. (What? A textbook has never made you all warm and tingly?) All I had to do was find a curriculum for each subject that covered the required material. It was awesome. Love at first sight. I read through this book towards the end of the summer and highlighted areas that I wanted to introduce to Emma before moving on to first grade. These past two weeks we have talked about poems, tall tales, common sayings, weather and seasons, authors, the continents, pilgrims, and presidents, just to name a few. I had originally planned to only review for a week, but she was so fascinated that it ended up taking three! That's what I love about learning at home. You can adjust your schedule to meet your child's needs (and even their wants!).

So, that is what we have been up to. Reviewing in the mornings, and playing Just Dance in the afternoons. We have also thrown in some mall time, card time, and Grammy and Da time. On Friday Kate starts mini school, and next week dance classes for the girls pick back up. Fall is officially here, and our school schedules are underway. Life is good.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Kate's Quotes Of The Day

Quote Number 1:

Kate: Mom, your welcome for everything that I've ever done for you.
Me: Um.... thank you?

Think the child is fishing for some praise much? Ha!

Quote Number 2:

Kate: Mommy, you are so pretty. I love your big tummy. It looks like you have another baby in there.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Day At The Dairy Farm

I have always loved farms. Always. When I was in junior high, I wanted to grow up and marry a cowboy, have four sons (who would grow up to be cowboys themselves), and we were going to live on a pig farm. Happily ever after, of course. As you know, my life did not actually turn out that way. Instead of a cowboy, I married a sports loving, school principal. A super hot principal if I do say so myself. Instead of four sons, we have two daughters and one bouncing baby boy, and I can't imagine any other combination of children suiting the two of us any better. And fortunately for me, God knew better than I did, and we do not make our home on a pig farm. Thank goodness! Have you ever smelled a pig farm? They stink! Instead, we live out our days at a children's home where we work with troubled teens (though some of them do tend to stink...). Life is just as it was meant to be, but I still love farms. I love the animals, the smell of straw, and the down home country feel. There is just something about turning off the electronics and the business of this world and stepping back in time, if only for a few hours, to experience the simpler ways of life. It stirs something deep within me when I watch my children feed a goat, pet a baby calf, climb on straw bales, and chase clucking chickens! Good old fashioned fun!

Today was a beautiful day in our part of the mid-west, so we decided to make the most of it! We took all of the children (both big and little) to Young's Dairy Farm for an afternoon of good old fashioned fun. We ate lunch in the cafe, feed the goats, toured the barn, saw cows and chickens, carried around a stray kitten, played in the straw bales, sat on tractors, slid down a giant slide, and played putt-putt at Udders and Putters. Whew! So much fun! It was such a fantastic day. My children wore looks of sheer joy on their faces the entire time that we were there. It makes me want to buy them a calf, or a goat, or at least a rabbit. Thank goodness Boss keeps me level headed, or this home of ours really would turn in to a zoo! Or a farm. Instead, every once in a while, he fills up my need for farm life by taking us to spend the day on an actual farm. And then he brings me home content and thankful that I got to love on all of the farm animals, without actually having to do any of the work that is involved in caring for them. Yes, indeed. A day at the farm is sometimes just what this gal needs. Life is good!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

All In A Day

(The Mama and her Little Ladies)

Thursdays are always busy in the Zickafoose house. I have my staff meeting and staff lunch, which fills up the majority of the school day. I don't teach Emma on Thursdays, but I usually assign her some seat work to do while I am in my meeting. Did you know I have great kids? Each week they are so very well behaved and I am so proud of them! It is a long time for them to be quiet, busy, and sitting in one place, but each week they impress me.


In other news, Emma lost her second tooth today! Well, really her daddy got tired of seeing it dangling there in her mouth and she finally gave him permission to pull it. Isn't her smile just precious?

In honor of another lost tooth, this afternoon she got busy writing her note to leave for the Tooth Fairy. She takes this leaving your tooth in exchange for money business very seriously! Except for the fact that she always wants to keep her teeth.Not quite sure what she wants to do with them? Nevertheless, here is her sweet note. Love how she spells things!


Tonight we enjoyed an evening off with some new friends! We took all of our kiddos to Chuck E Cheese and had so much fun chatting and laughing. The girls won enough tokens to each get a purple ring, a purple bracelet, and a purple plastic fish. All completely wonderful prizes. Totally worth the money. Just kidding. But a good time was had by all. I just love how God continuously fills our life with new friends to walk this journey with! All in all, today was quite a lovely day! Thanks for checking in!