Sunday, January 30, 2011


For many months I have enjoyed Ann Voskamp's blog, She is a holy, profound, poetic writer. She is a kindred spirit, a homeschooling mom on the Christian journey. I had heard some good things about her newly published book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, so I decided to add it to a recent Amazon order.

I have read 48 pages and I am absolutely, profoundly changed. I am savoring every word, pondering so many amazing insights, re-reading, praying. It has been many years since I've read anything that has touched me so deeply. I am at once affirmed and challenged. Her words are truly grace-filled. I am hearing God's voice through hers.

Her main point thus far is: by giving thanks in and for everything, we come to experience the fullness of salvation in Christ and the fullness of joy that comes with it. Voskamp, a non-denominational Christian, focuses on the term eucharisteo. She uses Scripture passages and personal experiences to highlight true thanks-giving as the gateway to joy and peace.

I want to devour this book in one night, yet I know it needs to be taken slowly. I am already planning to read it through once and then immediately start over again to digest it more fully.

So - without reading even half of it - I'm giving this book my highest recommendation. I hope you'll get your hands on a copy and we can talk about it together soon!

Blessings for a holy and happy week!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lessons Out the Window

We were a bit sluggish this morning. As I was trying to herd the boys to the school table for some lessons, we heard a rumbling outside. As soon as we looked out the window the boys ran to get chairs and this is where they stayed for quite a while ----

What was so interesting?

Heavy equipment. Backhoe. Various plumbing trucks. Pump. Workers.
VERY exciting stuff!

Ray narrated the whole process. He spoke with such confidence about how to operate the backhoe and what the workers were doing and why. The boys went upstairs and looked out of other windows to get alternate views.

I should have taken more pictures later in the day. As it turns out, the neighbors' sewer line broke. The workers dug an eleven foot deep hole and are replacing 30 feet of pipe! They had to cut down a beautiful tree. There is a HUGE pile of dirt. The workers just left for the night, but all the equipment is there for more work tomorrow. Yikes! The project is providing lots of entertainment and sparking much discussion in our homeschool though.

When I finally got the boys to sit down at the school table, we looked out the window to the back yard and found a different kind of action. A few weeks ago we had hung out some dried apples and some bagels with peanut butter and bird seed. They've been pretty much untouched. This morning, however, we watched and giggled as a squirrel figured out -- after several funny failed attempts -- how to get to the dried apples (which were on the green string you can see in the picture below). He nibbled away at one apple and then dragged the whole string of apples away with him for later.

So, just by looking out the windows we had a few science lessons before we even opened a book. We did get some good schoolwork done today. We also went to the rec center for Adam's art and gymnastics classes while Ray went to his Lego club. And the boys FINALLY got some long-overdue haircuts.

Time to pull the drapes and head up for baths and stories and bedtime! I'm sure there will be more adventures tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Our Recent Art Endeavors

As I mentioned in the last post, we are focusing on art and music in our homeschool this month. Here are a few of our recent art activities.

The boys have been spending big chunks of time mixing colors. Adam especially enjoys making rows and rows of different hues using watercolors and a medicine dropper. It's so great that they are finally at an age where they can do this kind of activity relatively independently without making a huge mess.

I was really disappointed that the boys were sick and had to miss last week's co-op class. The focus for the class was sacred art and music. My mom watched my boys long enough for me to go and get my class organized and hand things off to another mom. Basically, we talked about the important role of monasteries in the development of such great treasures of sacred art and music. We listened to Gregorian chant and looked at beautiful icons. Then the children had the opportunity to paint their own icons. The whole experience was rooted in prayer and I heard that they made beautiful icons.

I brought the icon materials home for my boys to do here. Unfortunately, they were not very interested in my explanations of icons. Adam just could not wait to use the gold paint. He proceeded to paint his entire plaque gold... I think he did about 7 coats of gold. I could not persuade him to paint even a cross on top of that shiny gold paint. He insisted that it is perfect and holy and shiny just as it is. Now, a few days later, it is displayed on our prayer table and I am beginning to think he is right.

Ray did get a bit more into the process. He painted Jesus sitting on a stool holding a pink Bible. He told me that it's Jesus teaching the little children. He then painted a big (BACKWARDS) J on the icon so everyone would know that it's Jesus. I was proud of him and I gave him a second plaque so he could paint a train. (Adam was still painting layers of gold on his!)

The most memorable part of the icon activity was the clean-up. I sent Adam into the bathroom to wash the gold paint off his hands. Ray helped me clean up the table. When I got to the bathroom I found water flowing over the edge of the counter and TWO FEET (I'm not exaggerating!) of soap bubbles rising up out of the sink. Adam laughed an "I'm sorry" at me. The triumph of the day for me was that I calmly told him, "For your safety, you need to go up to your room right now" and I cleaned it up. I really heard God chuckling at me. I knew I had been pushing an agenda .... wanting the boys to draw beautiful holy images exactly the way I invisioned. And I knew God was reminding me to see Him in soap bubbles and mischievious boys. It really was sacred art. (But so much for them being able to do art without making big messes.)

Lastly, today we looked at some artwork by Wassily Kandinsky. We talked about abstract art and we decided to make our own art inspired by this Kandinsky painting:

We had a great time with this. We drew the circles with oil pastels and then painted over each square with a different shade of watercolor. I was especially impressed by the thought and focus that Ray put into his. Of course both boys put their own twist into their pieces. I think they turned out really nice. We are going to enter them into next week's Art and Music Showcase with our co-op.

Ray's Masterpiece -

Adam's Masterpiece -

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Field Trip to the Art Museum

Our co-op class has been studying art and music during the month of January. Today we met up with a few other homeschool families to explore the newly-renovated Columbus Museum of Art. My sister Reenie and niece Ava also joined us. Amazingly, admission is free on Sundays! We were very impressed with the art galleries and especially with all of the hands-on activities for the children. We had a wonderful time!

Check out Ray's awesome Chihuly hat!

This piece got our vote for "weirdest, but very awesome" artwork:

(I'm sorry I didn't get a good shot of the name of the piece or the artist. This is made out of some kind of plastic and real hair. It looked SO real!)
We participated in an art challenge by putting together a 4x4 piece puzzle of an art piece. In this shot Reenie is looking at the original artwork and trying to figure out the puzzle.

We had the most fun in the interactive children's area.

A magnetic face made by Ray:

Adam, the living sculpture -

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've lived in Columbus all my life and this was only my second visit to the museum. We had so much fun today that we're considering purchasing a family membership.

As part of our art studies, we've really enjoyed reading the "Katie" books by James Mayhew. They are all about a little girl named Katie who visits the art museum with her grandmother. She climbs in and out of the pictures and interacts with the people in them. The paintings in the stories are all famous paintings. We have read them over and over again and have had great conversations about some of the world's best and most famous paintings. They are fun stories! I highly recommend them.

More about our recent art masterpieces later this week....

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Just for fun today... a few of my favorite things. I hope this doesn't make me seem materialistic. Obviously my heart belongs to God and to my family. I live a fairly simple life. I was just thinking about some of the simple, everyday things that make me happy or make life easier.

First of all, of course, the elixir of life... Diet Coke. It's my biggest vice at this point and I am trying to wean myself off of it. But I love it.

And, here's a better look at my new boots! As I said, they just make me smile.

My friend Susan got me these awesome warm socks!

Almost everyone who comes into my house comments on our wire line in the school room. It's from Ikea. We display our best schoolwork and artwork on it. At Christmas we hang all of our cards.

A housekeeping splurge that I can no longer do without -

My sisters, mom, and I all got these cool cups from Meijer. They're hard plastic, BPA free. They just make you feel like you're drinking from a take-out cup, which for some reason we all love.

And then there's my backyard Mary statue. I had seen one just like it in our neighborhood and could never find one to buy. A few years ago Jon worked with my sister-in-law Nancy to get one from Michigan. It's perfect and I love looking out my kitchen window and seeing it. Mary's pretty cold today, covered in a blanket of snow. I'm hoping to plant a garden around her this summer.

My other great love is books. is a very dangerous site for me. I love reading all kinds of books --- novels, nonfiction, homeschool, parenting, children's books, inspirational,... so little time, so many books!

So, what are your favorite things? Post a comment and share!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Sophisticated" Palates?

After a few days of general "punkiness" around here, we're all feeling much better. However, now we're socked in with a snow storm. We've been catching up on some school work and house work.

Last night I tried a new recipe and cooked a very yummy turkey and spinach lasagna. It was delicious! Both boys looked at it and declared it "disgusting." Getting them to eat just a few bites was like engaging in a war of wills. Tonight I made scalloped potatoes and ham. Again, quite tasty. Again, absolute war! They declared their disgust as soon as they came to the table. They were a united front in their disdain.

What is this? My boys have always been good eaters. They like a variety of foods. I've never been one to cook multiple meals to please everyone. I refuse to become a short-order cook. Apparently we've entered a new phase. Their palates have become resistant to my cooking.

Ray would eat mac and cheese at every meal if I let him. Adam is always thrilled with peanut butter and jelly. Why is it that they would prefer cereal, chicken nuggets, or grilled cheese to a good home-cooked meal?

I'm not sure how to handle the fact that these little people who eat snow, snot, and crumbs off the floor turn up their noses at my cooking!

Nothing can truly prepare a woman for the vocation of motherhood. It requires daily herculean feats of endurance, humility, and cleverness.

Tomorrow.... leftovers from the fridge, PB+J, whatever! I'm going out with friends! Yahoo!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Gray Haze of January

Here in Columbus the months of January and February always seem to be draped in a gray haze. Literally. It's just gray here. It's not hard for my mind and heart to begin to match the climate. Thankfully, so far, it's not too bad. I've been happy about getting some projects done around here and getting into some more intense (and fun) schoolwork with the boys. It's nice to have time at home without so many activities.

However, it seems that the gray haze always carries with it lots of cruddy germs. It seems that everyone we know has been sick and now it's our turn I guess. We've had a round of basic colds, but yesterday the boys started running low grade fevers and feeling punky. After taking some cold medicine last night, Adam was wired and basically stayed up until 2:00am. Of course Ray was up at 5:00am as usual. We laid low today... took long baths, read books, played games, watched TV. This afternoon all three of us fell asleep for THREE AND A HALF HOURS! So, we'll see how the sleeping goes tonight. My head has begun to hurt and I'm achy. So I guess it's my turn. Please pray that none of this develops into full-blown illness AND that Jon doesn't get it. Tax season is here and he has lots and lots of work to do. For now he'll sleep on the futon in the office, drink lots of OJ, and try to stay healthy.

Fortunately, I was able to accomplish a big chore today.... packing up the Christmas stuff and storing it under the basement steps. It had been thrown into the basement storeroom and was driving me crazy. I conquered that battle and began sorting and organizing a bunch of other basement-dwelling detritus, mostly art supplies. So, even though we have taken a few sick days from school, some things are getting done. Hopefully we'll be back to our learning routine tomorrow.

For now I'm trying to take it all in stride and accept this illness-imposed "retreat." Every once in a while God slows us down so we can know His presence and hear His voice. He reminds me of the folly of so much of my busy-ness. He holds me close and lets me know that it's ok to just stop, sleep, rest, and be loved.

Take some vitamin C today and try to stay healthy. If you live somewhere sunny, soak some up for me!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fabulous Friday Night Out!

Last night I got to "run away" for a fun evening out with two of my favorite people... my mom and my dear friend Karen. We had a great time! We went out to dinner --- NO KIDS MENU! --- and truly enjoyed talking and laughing... and drinking cocktails and eating delicious food.

Then, things got really girly when we ducked into a store next to the restaurant. (I wouldn't let them take me home until after the boys were in bed!) We had a fabulous time trying on some "killer heels" and doing our best Heidi Klum impressions. We're really just lucky no one broke an ankle! Aren't the black socks so chic? When I tried to explain that I needed the silver pair for my job, another shopper looked intrigued... but then my mom ratted me out as a homeschool mom. I guess I'll stick with the fuzzy slippers.

However, I did make a rather exciting footwear purchase.

Although you can't really appreciate their exquisite beauty and wild quirkiness in this cell phone picture, these are my FABULOUS new peacock feather rain boots! Yep, size 10. I spotted them from across the store and HAD to have them. So, if you see me wearing them even when it isn't rainy or muddy or snowy, just know that they make me happy. Yes, I know they are wild and weird looking. But I love them! A girl just has to make a statement with her feet!

Thank God for Friday nights out with Fabulous Friends and Fantastic Footwear!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our Resident Engineer

We've got a "train man" in this house. Ever since he discovered Thomas the Tank Engine, when he was about 17 months old, Ray has been crazy about trains. We've spent hours and hours learning about trains, reading about trains, playing with toy trains, drawing trains, building various track set-ups, watching videos about trains, visiting train displays, riding on real trains, talking about trains..... trains, trains, trains. I never knew (or wanted to know) so much about trains. He loves them. He dressed up as Thomas the Train for THREE Halloweens and had THREE Thomas/train themed birthday parties. He wants to be an engineer.

I am very happy that Ray has such a strong interest in something. It wears on me though. So, I was more than thrilled when Jon volunteered to take him to a big train show that came to our convention center last weekend. They had a wonderful time.... as evidenced by the 20+ pictures Jon took of Ray looking at trains. Ray can stand for hours just studying model railroad layouts and trains.
I wish I had my camera when they pulled into the driveway and Ray hopped out of the car with a big blue bag. The look of pride and excitement on his face was priceless. My first remark - to Jon - "What did you do?" Apparently Ray took his Christmas/birthday money to the train show so that he could buy a "souvenir." With Ray's $30.00 and $25.00 from Jon, they purchased Ray's first ELECTRIC train. We've moved from wooden Thomas trains to plastic Geo Trax to a real "model" train. And, according to Ray, this is just the beginning of his collection.
Jon and Ray spent the evening setting up the tracks and learning how to run the train.After Ray went to bed, Jon stayed up coloring the signs and "tinkering" with the set. I think he's as excited as Ray.

And for the past several days all I've heard from Ray is "When are we going to get more parts for my model train?" and "We need to buy a board and some chicken wire and build a giant layout." I think this really needs to be a father/son hobby. I've made a point of not touching the train and showing no aptitude or understanding of how it works. I think we may soon need to seek out a "train mentor" for this young enthusiast. Any recommendations? Are there clubs out there for kids? For now I am providing a corner in the living room and secretly plotting a way to move the giant train collection to a shed or something. Come on over if you[re up for an afternoon of railroad adventures!