Gratituesday: Early Christmas and the Need for Ear Plugs

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Our travel plans this holiday season brought on the need for our family to celebrate Christmas a few days early.  I think once you see what our big gift was for this year, you’ll understand why transporting gifts on the road was not a good option…

drum set

You remember how I shared that three of our boys are taking music lessons this year – one piano, one guitar, and one drums.  A drum set (which we got for a fantastic deal online) was the perfect gift for our “band of boys.”  Out came the guitar, synthesizer, and microphone to join the drums – and it’s been one very loud jam session ever since.

This has been incredibly fun to experience.  It has also been incredibly…loud.  We expected nothing less, but WOW.  Today’s project has been to clean out and rearrange our upstairs “game room” so that we can transfer all instruments far away from mom’s office.  :)

We’ve had some great down time and oodles of fun with our new instrument and board games.  Now, we’re working to get ready for a huge road trip.  Praise God for all the fun and family time that Christmas brings!

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share!

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Gratituesday: Science Lessons and Exercise During a Busy Season

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Of all the school subjects we try to cover in a day, science is often the one that can get shoved to the bottom – and sometimes off the list entirely.  Don’t even talk to me about science experiments.  They always sound like such good ideas while the lesson plan is being made.  But when it comes to executing it, somehow the act of coming up with vinegar, twist ties, or a bar of soap seems like a daunting task.

I don’t think this is just my family.  I’ve heard this is struggle from others too.  And it’s not just a home school thing.  When I taught at a public elementary school many years ago before our boys were born, we focused on reading, writing, and math – trying to squeeze science in as we could.

The good news is that now that three out of four of our boys are old enough to read and study many subjects on their own, it is getting easier to be consistent with all subjects, including science!  This is largely the result of handing them all good ol’ assignment sheets that have to be completed each day before they “have any fun.”  We still don’t get around to doing all of the experiments, but as assigned, they complete an entire science curriculum each year.  (Our older boys use Apologia Science books.)

So what about that fourth out of four boys?  That one’s going on 10 (happy birthday this week!), and still needs quite a bit of our guidance and instruction throughout his school day.  This is fine, and between Matt and me, along with occasional help from older brothers, he gets his work done.  But science?  It gets shoved to the bottom if no one has time to spend working on it with him.  Now that it’s Christmas season?  Have mercy.

Well, I’m excited to share a little idea I tried that is working marvelously.  Three words for you:  Magic. School. Bus.

We have several Magic School Bus books that we’ve read throughout the years with the boys, and Malachi really loves them.  But right now, we’re pulling out our Magic School Bus videos - watching one episode each day.  Talk about a fun way to learn science!  And guess what else?  About the time we ran out of our own videos to watch, we discovered that there are episodes on Netflix.  Malachi gets it set up by himself, and we’ve got a 25 minute science lesson right on the screen.

magic school bus

What else can often get shoved to the bottom of the list during a busy day?  Exercise.  So what have I been doing while we’re watching a Magic School House episode?  I’m on my rebounder getting my heart pumping and working up a sweat while Ms. Frizzle takes us on an adventure through the solar system or digestive tract.  It’s been perfect.

Afterward, I do some yoga poses while Malachi and I discuss what we learned.  (Ever done downward dog while asking your kid, “Tell me about echolocation…”)

I’m so excited and thankful that this has been working for us as a way to accomplish these tricky-to-work-in daily tasks.  It’s been great for conversation, as these videos bring up quite a few lessons that are applicable to everyday life.

As for getting dressed at a reasonable hour?  I’ll have to continue to wait until after science/exercise time each day.  It just makes sense, and really, who cares if it’s almost noon before I’m out of my pj’s?  :)

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share!

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Gratituesday: Music Lessons and Malachi’s First Piano Recital

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This is a year of music lessons for our family.  I wish we’d started earlier – particularly for our oldest who has much musical talent but no spare time now that he’s a senior.  But, there’s no point in having regrets.  We’re thankful we were able to work in music lessons for our three younger boys this year.  (Asa’s sure to pick up on bits of what his brothers are learning, right?)

We gave them each a choice.  Because they all have musical ability but different interests, the three boys chose three different instruments.  Justus chose guitar, Elias chose drums, and Malachi chose piano.  Who knows?  Maybe someday they’ll have their own band!

Juggling in all the lessons and practices has been a good discipline for the boys.  Is our house even louder now than it was before?  Oh yeah!  But we love hearing them practice.  It’s been wonderful to hear them develop their talents.

This Sunday, Malachi had his first piano recital.  He had practiced his songs so many times he could play them in his sleep.  He wore his favorite shirt and tie for the occasion, and played his first song without a mistake.  He acted like he wasn’t nervous at all!

malachi recital 1

And then there was me.  See, I had agreed to play a simple duet with Malachi that he and I had had so much fun with at home.  It was an appropriate song for this Christmas recital, and he wanted us to play it there together.

This mama only plays the piano just a tiny bit, and I never – never – play for people.  But because playing with Malachi has brought so much joy, I said yes to joining him for his second recital piece.  Phew, I got nervous.  I believe I only messed up three times, so we’ll count it as a success.  ;)

malachi recital 2

Bless my friend Jenny for getting pictures!  (My older boys had tried but hadn’t been successful in getting good ones.)

I can’t wait to see where my boys take what they are learning with their music.  They are off to a great start, and we’re so thankful God has provided such wonderful, godly teachers for them!

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Please leave a comment to share.  I’m always so encouraged to hear how God is working in your life!

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Gratituesday: One-On-One Christmas Shopping

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One of my favorite family traditions is one the boys and I started several years ago.  I take each of them shopping, one at a time, so that they can pick out and purchase Christmas gifts for their brothers.  Having this rare one-on-one time with each boy has been beyond wonderful.

boys mugs

You may remember me sharing the fun story of these mugs that Malachi picked for his brothers (and himself!) last year.  :)

I used to do this shopping marathon with they boys all in one day.  Four trips back and forth to the store, four tours around all the aisles – all in about a 6-hour time frame.  That was fine (said the crazy lady), although my brain and energy were fried by the end of the day (you think?).

This year, we’ve broken it up a little bit.  Asa and I were at the mall last week since we had to go out of town for doctor appointments.  He got his shopping done there.  Elias had items in mind that could all be purchased online.  He got his shopping done in his pj’s while sitting by me at the computer a few days ago.

Today, Malachi and I headed out and had a great time picking out gifts his brothers wanted/needed.  Later this week, Justus will take his turn.  Then, we’ll have a little more one-on-one as they hide out with me and wrap their gifts.

It’s probably best if I don’t mention the fact that traditions are all the more special to me this year since our oldest is a senior in high school.  Yeah, I won’t mention that.  It’s been fun to see our family traditions develop through the years.

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Check out this gem from 2007 I found a few days ago!
Who are those little-bitty boys, anyway?

I’m so grateful for this holiday season, and all the fun and joy that comes with it.  Praise God for the fun traditions he’s created in our family!

What are you grateful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to let us know!

 

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Gratituesday: The Big Purchase

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You know how exciting it is when your baby first get a tooth, takes a first step, and says his/her first word?  I have to tell you, this past week has ranked right up there as one of the most exciting “firsts” for our family, particular for oldest son, Asa.  Allow me to introduce to you the newest member of our family:

asa car

Yes indeed, our 17 year old has purchased his first car.

It’s been quite the event.  My dad, Asa’s “Papa,” called a few weeks ago to let us know he may have found a good car if Asa was interested.  My dad is an auctioneer, so he frequently comes across items of interest.  The car isn’t new, and it isn’t fancy, but if Asa wanted something reliable, this could be perfect.  It had been owned by an older person who hadn’t driven it much and had taken good care of it.

We did a lot of research, loving that although the car is old (1994), it has low mileage and a good reputation.  Asa decided on a price to bid for the car, and left it in Papa’s hands since the auction was in Kansas.  Our family went on to play in a Basketball Triangular all day Saturday while my dad carried on with his auction at the same time.  As we were heading home after a long day on the basketball court, the text from my dad came in, “Asa owns a car.”

Shouting and high fives and all around.  He had won the bid!  Not only that, he got a lower price for it than we had expected – a blessing for sure!

We are so proud of Asa.  He has been working hard and saving his money for years.  This purchase was a wise one, and very doable for him because of the way he’s handled his money through the years.  He’s even still got a savings cushion (which hurts him on the FAFSA, as we are now learning – don’t even get me started).

He’ll get to bring his car home after our Thanksgiving trip to Kansas, so the timing for this purchase couldn’t be better.  As always, God worked this one out just right.

There’s much to be thankful for, and while it’s especially on our minds this time of year, I’m grateful to celebrate God’s goodness each week here during Gratituesday!  Your turn to share: What are you thankful for?

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Gratituesday: The Extra Room

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When we moved from Colorado to Nebraska 12 years ago, we were so excited to get a really large house for a really good price.  It’s not a new house – as a matter of fact, it’s over 100 years old.  But there’s plenty of room for our boys to run around, invite all their friends to run around, fill up with company, and do all that we love to do with others in our home.

It’s also really hard to heat, has crazy plumbing issues, and gets cob-webby very easily.  We won’t focus on those disadvantages.  No house is perfect.  But God gave us this home, and we love it (while wearing many layers during the winter months).

One of the biggest blessings of owning our big home is the fact that we’ve been able to house extras from time to time.  It’s been so neat to watch God put people in our lives who need a place to stay.  We have an extra bedroom that is perfect for company – but even better for people who need to stay for an extended time.

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That bedroom is tucked away in the “back” of our home, so our extended guests can have a little bit of their own space.  People have stayed in that room for anywhere from six weeks to seven months at a time.  We figure - if they are brave enough to move in with our (loud, crazy, busy) family - they are more than welcome to stay as long as they need.

From college students, to a widow in transition, to a friend in crisis, to guys needing a place to stay before they get married – it’s been so great to see who God moves in.  We’ve lived here 12 years, and God has moved 8 people into that room for one reason or another.  These guys and gals have blessed us so much!

The young man we have living with us now has become like a beloved son to us.  He gets married in December (yay!) so moves out the end of this month (sniff).  For some reason, he and his bride have decided to get a place of their own after their wedding (ha!).  He is a fabulous role model for our sons.  We are so blessed.

God is so good to fill our lives with people to love and serve.  In His constantly perfect way, He makes our service to others an even bigger blessing to us.  I love how He works.

Now your turn to share!  How is God working in your life?  Leave a comment to share your blessings!

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Gratituesday: Girl Time for Me

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I have had a very fun 2 days full of girl stuff.  Yay me!

My household of men is tremendous, fantastic, and wonderful.  It’s just fun to hang out with girls sometimes, you know?

Yesterday, three college girls came for lunch.  Today, I got to go out to lunch with a dear girlfriend I hardly ever see.  (We sat in the restaurant for 2.5 hours.  Awesomeness.)  Later this afternoon, I grabbed two of my young girl friends and headed to a Jamberry nail party.  We did nails, we oohed and aahed over the catalog – it was all very girly.

I came home to two of the boys playing soccer in the living room.  (Don’t worry, they are allowed to kick a small, soft ball in that room.  I don’t have knick-knacks.  I know better.  Plus I hate dusting them.  The knick-knacks, not the soccer balls.  Not that I would ever dust soccer balls.  Anyway…)

School books hadn’t been put away, a light saber was on the couch, a nerf sword on the rug, a journal opened and smashed onto the tile.  This is home.  They don’t see the mess, and they don’t care about details.  I love my boys.

But shucks was it fun to be a little girly today (and yesterday) and to talk to people who speak that language (the one which frequently says, “oh how cute” and uses more words than, “huh”).

God is good, isn’t He? Having a little girl time was super fun.  He knew I needed it.  It even helped me see my boys in a special way when I got home.

Oh, and the variety of Jamberry nails I ordered for myself?  They have basketballs on them.  I enjoyed my girl time, but my boys are my focus and basketball games start up soon.  I’ll be rockin’ my basketball fingernails to next week’s games.  I think my boys will actually notice and like them.  What do you think?

jamberry

Leave a comment – share what you are thankful for this Gratituesday!

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Gratituesday: School on the Road

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Asa, our 17 year old, was 4.5 years old when we were convicted to choose homeschooling for our family.  (There are so many words I could say about that statement, but the fact that my oldest baby is 6’3″ and a senior in high school is not the point of this post.  Just hand me a Kleenex and keep reading.)

Our reasons for homeschooling were mostly about the blessed additional time it would give us with our kids.  Once Asa’s kindergarten year started, we suddenly realized so many extra benefits of schooling from home.  Flexibility with our schedule has been one of the biggest perks to our homeschooling lifestyle.

God showed us this blessing just two months into our homeschool journey when my mom was diagnosed with ALS.  Knowing we had limited time with her on earth, and knowing Dad would need help with her care, we started making frequent four hour trips south to Kansas.  Had Asa been in a public or private school, this would have been so much harder.  But with homeschooling, we could just pack up the school books and travel any day of the week we needed to.  He could do his school work at Grammy and Papa’s table just as easily as he could do it at our table.

Fastforward through 12 years (because seriously, it seems that life moved at that pace) – and here we are with a 12th, 9th, 7th, and 4th grader.  Flexibility has become more and more precious as our boys get older.  Specifically last week, we made a very last minute decision to head to Oklahoma on a college visit for Asa.  Often, if we know we’ll be traveling or having company come to visit, we’ll just cram in extra school work before we leave so we can have a break on the road.  That didn’t work last week since we hadn’t planned ahead.

No problem.  We packed the books and laptops.  English, math, you name it – the boys just worked as we drove.  Matt also picked up some history videos at the library for a fun change of pace, which the boys watched once it got too dark to read.

The boys may tell you differently, but I think this variation from our normal routine can make regular school work more fun.  The spur of the minute road trip with a backpack full of books reminded me once again how grateful I am for our flexibility.  Now that we’re back home, I’m also thankful for routine.  Schooling on the road works and is fun, but it’s also very nice to be back home where our pencils can’t roll under the seat of the van.  :)

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share so that we can celebrate God’s blessings together!

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Gratituesday: One Thing at a Time

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I woke up this morning with a huge to-do list.  What’s new, right?  Right.  Today was a little different though.  On Saturday, we made a decision to use a tiny window of time we have this week to go on a college visit for Asa, our high school senior.  Seeing as we ended soccer season yesterday and basketball season begins next week – this week is pretty much our only option.  :)

So, we’re squeezing in the trip and making lots of last minute plans.  If only it was as simple as packing a bag and gassing up the van.  Nope.  Our Azure Standard food co-op order will be coming in while we’re gone, so I needed to make arrangements for someone else to pick it up.  What about our Tuesday farm-fresh milk pick-up?  Justus desperately needed a hair cut.  I had to update Asa’s high school transcript to take with us.  I have an article due for our local newspaper.  We needed to follow up with family members for sleeping arrangements while we’re traveling.  What about making/packing food for the road?  Writing and scheduling posts to go up while I’m away from the computer?  Switching piano lesson day and time for Malachi?  The list went on forever, and it needed to be completed by tonight.

My brain kicked into high gear the moment my feet hit the floor this morning.  This means that I could have gone from peaceful sleep to freak-out mode in a matter of two minutes, especially when I walked into the kitchen and saw the undone dishes from yesterday (blech).  Thankfully, after years of going about life the hard way, God is teaching me to do better.  Never, ever does it work for me to fly into becoming a crazy mom/wife/blogger/friend/organizer/homemaker.  That’s when I say hurtful words to my husband and kids, leaving God completely out of my day.  So I did what I know to do now: I told my brain to hush.

My brain put up a bit of a fight, but prayer, my Bible, and a cup (okay fine, 2 cups) of coffee (with cream) won the battle.  We got the boys started on their school work and kitchen clean-up, then started tackling all the phone calls and work that needed to be done.  One thing at a time, tasks were checked off the to-do list.

By lunchtime, I was amazed at how much had come together even if (don’t tell) I still hadn’t made it back upstairs to get out of my pajamas yet.  My work-from-home, school-from-home life is glamorous, no doubt.

I decided to make One-Hour Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls for travel sandwiches (easiest rolls ever!).  Didn’t they turn out pretty?

one hour rolls for trip

I’m grateful for how details of our week came together.  We’ll now be one more step closer to helping Asa find out God’s plan for him next year.  And I didn’t even have to freak out to make it happen.  God’s way is best – every single time.

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share!

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Gratituesday: God is Stronger Than a Hail Storm

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In early June, our garden looked like this:

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Full of plants protected by buckets looked like this:

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A few days later, a hail storm came through, and our garden looked like this:

hail garden 1

It seemed as if we had lost everything.  Our rows and rows of green bean plants had no leaves left.  Our pepper and tomato plants were completely broken down.  It looked like nothing had survived.  We decided to replant a few green bean seeds, and consider the rest of the garden to be a loss.  It would be a small garden this year, and we would just make do.

hail garden 2

But guess what?  God is bigger than any of our gardening efforts, and He is most certainly bigger than a hail storm!!   We left our broken, leafless plants alone.  Within a few weeks, they had turned back into thriving plants again.  Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!

Not only that, we had a lot of rain this summer and fall – so much so that our garden and all the fruit trees around this area have been kicking out the produce like I’ve never seen before.  So now, our garden looks like this:

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So many beautiful peppers!

Our green bean plants have provided bucket after bucket of green beans.  We’ve eaten them to our heart’s content – 4 months of fresh-from-the-garden green beans!!!  And we’ve frozen many gallon-sized bags of beans too.  We’ll be enjoying them all winter!

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Our tomato plants are still giving us many tomatoes every day.  Plus we’re picking spaghetti squash and honey dew melon.

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An orchard nearby has had the best “apple year” I’ve ever seen.  These bags keep making their way into my kitchen (and the kitchens of my friends).  We’re eating all we can hold, and making jar after jar of Homemade Applesauce.

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All this to say - we thought we’d be done enjoying garden produce by June after the hail storm was so destructive.   The joke’s on us.  We started canning and freezing produce in July.  Here it is the end of October and we are still going strong.  I usually have my canning supplies packed away by now.  Not this year.  There’s still applesauce to make and green beans to pick.  I am amazed!  I shouldn’t be though.  Isn’t it just like God to show us in such mighty ways of His love and care for us?

Here’s a fun peek into our pantry and freezers.  We have over 50 jars of applesauce, and I’ll be making more this week and next.  This batch turned out so pink, it looks like I added food coloring!  Nope, just straight empire apples.  So pretty!

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Some friends gave us cucumbers, so I made about 40 jars of dill pickles.  It was a fun experiment and they turned out great!

dill pickles

We bought sweet corn at a road-side stand in August, and froze about a dozen quart-sized bags.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to defrost my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

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I’ve stuffed bags of green beans in our freezers as I’ve found room.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to re-organize my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

produce 150

Our peach tree did pretty well this year, so we canned about a dozen quarts, and froze several bags of sliced peaches for smoothies.

produce 142

Next you see a mixture of Sweet Pickle Relish (from the cucumbers our friends shared with us), Homemade Salsa, and more Applesauce.

produce 143

As you can see from the above picture, I’m no longer organizing the jars as I fit them into my pantry.  I’m at a point of simply trying to find room for it all.  Dozens and dozens of full jars of produce!  It is so exciting!!

I’m so grateful for the bounty and for God’s sense of humor.  There may have been a hail storm, but that didn’t stop God from giving us one of our best garden years ever!  Go God!

What are you celebrating this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share what you’re grateful for!

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