What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Monday, November 22, 2010


I am technically 28 minutes into Tuesday, which means I am 28 minutes late for Gratitude Monday (so now you know Matt is out of town for the night). In my defense, I have been TRYING to work on this post for two days now but my computer is acting like the dinosaur it is (either that, or with only .2% free space left on the hard drive, squeaking in the cracks between the gazillions of photos I take but never print, it is giving up on me.) I have a ton of photos that I would like to add to this post, but hey. I am about sick to death of trying to convince this thing to upload photos at all, let alone QUICKLY.

My oven died over the weekend. I churned out two loaves of bread, two pizzas and later finished the dough to make shortbread with cheesecake filling when it conked out. The pigs ended up getting the shortbread dough. Not a good time, just days before Thanksgiving, for a stove to conk out on me-for the record. Maybe having our first "own" Thanksgiving will have to wait until next year? *sniff* I always liked you, stove. Now? Not so much.

I was counting up change from the change jar, expecting a call from the billing department at the hospital after playing phone tag all morning long. Judah was crying. Andrew was talking to me, making me lose count over and over on those beastly pennies, so I started to count really loud and obnoxiously so as to say-"Get it? Trying to concentrate, Panda. Shut 'yer yap for a minute!" The phone rings-but no worries- they can just leave a message.

Only wait---the answering machine never came on....

and Adele? She is being quiet. TOO quiet. After a few minutes I turn around and what do you know? She answered the phone for me. The caller got to hear my impatient counting, Andrew yacking, Judah crying, and the heavy breathing of a toddler for who knows how many minutes. I was so mortified, I just hung up. So-if that was you on the phone-sorry. Oh wait-is that Social Services knocking on my door!?

Oh and that billing department? They told me that last bill was just for the midwife appointments, but THIS huge, gigantic, swallow-your-tongue it's so outrageous bill is for the actual DELIVERY. (That, may I remind you, only lasted SEVEN MINUTES after arriving at the hospital and which had NO midwives/doctors PRESENT) Oh-wonderful. Thank you SO very much.

Just one of those days.

Not the worst, but barely making it to mediocre. I say-the perfect time to count your blessings. A few more (with too few photos) just in time.

Even though Matt is gone, I am thankful it is only for one blessed night.

Even though my computer is filled right up to not-working-well status, I am thankful for all the cuteness it holds.

Even though I was embarrassed by who-knows-who hearing who-knows-what, I am thankful I was/am able to be HOME, experiencing every moment (even the unpleasant ones) with my children.

Even though another bill is just what I wanted!!!! and we had to wipe out our savings to pay it, I am thankful we've saved enough to pay it in full and so, we got a $750.00 discount for paying up front. I miss that little nest egg already, but the chick we got out of it was worth it.

Even though my oven broke right before I had to put a turkey in it, I am thankful we can crash the Thanksgiving parties of nearby relatives.

It's all good.

And a few more, because it is easy to get on a roll once the gratitude comes:

~ knit afghans

~ for this expression: HIS, not mine.

~ carrots and ranch dressing

~ friends who bring bread by

~ homemade toothpaste

~ book recommendations

~ a blanket of well wishes. (Thank you, Thank you! We love it! And you *will* be getting a card that says so sometime this century!)

~smothering love and a patient brother

~ polka dot sheets

~piles of quarters, all lined up

~ the satisfaction of a good yawn.

Speaking of which, good night.

holy experience

# 690-705 gifts spoken.

In which he asks:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Q & A: Homeschool Edition

When I opened the floor to questions last week, I never anticipated the reaction I got. I was hoping at least one person would ask something so I didn't look like a fool. Instead, I got *MORE* than enough questions to keep me busy while Matt was gone (and , in fact, kept me busy even after he returned! hehehe) The first post was full of fun and sundry questions that were lighthearted and a snap to answer.

There were quite a few others (these) that were not at all lighthearted and actually, pretty weighty, on matters of religion and faith and our education views. Naturally, I wanted to take time to consider my answers carefully and wisely and gave myself more time to do so than I did the flippant, fun ones of last week. Forgive me for using that as license to take FOREVER.

In an effort to get these published more quickly, and move on to my normally shallow every day goings-on blog posts (SOOO much to catch up on!), I decided to split the questions up once again. One more installment next week should do the trick. Until then~

On Education:

how you manage to integrate Adele into homeschooling? or how she amuses herself while you teach?

Adele is not quite two at this point so I don't integrate her into schooling just yet. Honestly, I have my hands full with the other two right now and am struggling to accomplish everything I must with them. Adele' does not amuse herself very well; she doesn't like to play alone, rarely looks at books by herself and always wants to be doing right alongside the other two. So I give her markers (I could kiss the inventor of washable markers), or crayons or pencils and let her have at it while the other two are sitting at the table working. I give her puzzles and playdoh or let her sit on my lap. I let her play with glue. (yes, yes I do.) One of her most favorite things to do is to play/sort/scatter the jar of coins I use for teaching money. That keeps her going for quite some time. Basically, I just try to keep those little hands busy-and if she learns things in the meantime (which she does, quite by accident), HU-RAH. ;-)


I, too, would like to know more about your homeschool. Curriculum choices and methods would be great.


I would love to know if/what curriculum you use and why you decided on it. It seems you offer a wide range of projects, subjects, and culture to your children. I would love to know more... how you order your day... anything...!!


what do you use for an art program?

Home educating, for us, is about way more than a set of grades. In fact, what I aim to do has not a speck of commonality with my public school counterparts, and will (Lord willing) produce far different outcomes. Primarily, we want a God-centered education and we realize that no education, anywhere, is ever neutral. But a good Christian school can cover that. It is natural to assume, then, that there are other reasons I am drawn to homeschooling...and indeed there are! I am "Classically Charlotte", if you will- following a classical curriculum while still recognizing the great advantages of children being children and giving plenty of time for them to explore and do and guide their own interests and learning as well. It is a dance between freedom and structure, but one that I don't find at all contradictory.

I want my children to be disciplined to do work that might not be all that intriguing but at the same time, it is very important to me that they have moments of self-discovery. Not having me tell them what to love but to discover those things out themselves. Then, to allow ample time to pursue with a vengeance things those things that they are passionate about. I want to show them how much fun learning is so that they might strive to learn something every day-not because they must but because they can.

But on the flip side:
As valuable as free time is for children, I consistently struggled with my own lack of self discipline in teaching. Homeschoolers are very capable of rationalizing "educational experiences" so far into every day life that their children end up baking bread but being completely lost on logic. It is very important to me that real learning is ACTUALLY taking place and we aren't just slicing pizza or planting seeds and calling it an education.


I can't take credit for this idea, I stole it from a brilliant friend, but I can say it has totally changed our days for the better. I will never go back to the way I was tackling the day to day. I created a weekly schedule and blocked off time to accomplish everything I hoped to cover on that particular day. Corynn has her work in pink, Andrew's is in blue and the activities both are involved in are red. I then laminated the schedule and as we complete a task/lesson, we cross it off. At the end of the week, we start fresh.

Last year, I felt I could offer the children so much more-but never got around to it. Corynn was ready for school to be over after Math (one stinkin' subject) and I was just disappointed at all the things I wanted to cover but never did. NOW-so much more is accomplished and Corynn is EXCITED to cross them off the list and move on.

We don't start at a particular time every morning and we don't use a buzzer between subjects. In fact, I purposely try to keep time out of it for the most part simply because I enjoy having freedom from clock-watching. (The same reason I don't wear a watch...) I wrote time approximations when I made the schedule to be sure it wasn't TOO much time devoted for schooling and not enough time for real-life and real-fun, but we never follow those intervals. If Math takes less time-awesome. If reading takes three times as long because we are into a good book, fine by me. If the day has been a long one and we don't finish all the tasks, we circle the task we didn't get to and, if there is free time throughout the week we can make it up. Or not. I don't get bent out of shape if we miss a history project or science experiment, because having a Godly education is our primary goal. That said, being given gifts from God, like a brain, means we have a specific obligation to USE that brain well, so we Christians ought not to be raising imbeciles. If we raise children to love God and to find passion in LEARNING, we will have succeeded.

One way that I do this is to surround them with books, whole books--all the time. Learning doesn't just happen "within school hours" but can and should happen at any hour of the day. Books are the door into those new worlds of discovery. If I can help my children develop a passion for books, they will develop a passion for learning. I give them books that are too young for them, too old for them, and suited to their age group. They love them all. I read baby stories to the babies and the big kids snuggle in. We read mature chapter books in the evening, and the babies listen while playing. No one is exluded and anyone can glean anything they want in the amount that they want from whatever books they can. I keep animal encyclopedias out on the coffee table, or artist biographies (grown up books) and they scour the pictures and paintings. We go to the library once a week and I request particular books throughout the week that would interest them/pertain to what we are learning. There are books in every room of this house, not just in bookcases, but in baskets and piles too.

As for curricula~

The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer is an incredible resource (nearly all the books she recommends, up to second grade, we own or borrow repeatedly from the library.) We also follow (more loosely) their suggestions for educating: like creating notebooks, etc. I love this book-and it has been a LIFESAVER for this girl who was completely unprepared for homeschooling.

For history~ The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. We love this. Whole-heartedly. This is one curriculum that I don't bat an eye to recommend. While the Activity book is pretty hefty in price, I will never go without it. It makes history come alive and offers so many extra resources that it well makes up for the price. You *MUST* check this out.

For Science~We don't use a formal curriculum at this point. Rather, I make lessons pertaining to the things the children are exploring or interested in. Animals, plants and the human body is what I hope to cover this year. We have covered rabbits early (thanks to Sassafras and Blossom having litters) and will do most plant work throughout the summer. For animals, I made an "observation page" based on The Well Trained Mind book that asks questions about the species to aid in observation. All these pages go in an Observation notebook.

If the children are interested in space or dinosaurs, I make up lessons and get loads of books on the subject. When they get a hunkering for experiments, I get out a few science experiment books and pick one. Science is pretty unorganized right now, but classically taught kids usually aren't taught any science at all until much later, so I figure we are doing just fine.

"Hey LOOK! Mama!! This is the spider we read about yesterday!" the boy shouts as he peruses a new animal book. Don't you just *LOVE* that?!?!

For Math~
we use Saxon, which is excellent but (in my opinion) offers far too much busy-work. We usually do HALF the work they offer in each lesson (two pages a day instead of four) and that is plenty sufficient. PLUS-that means that the OTHER half left undone will be Andrew's workbook when the time comes! Two for the price of one! Wa-hoo.

Spelling and Grammar-I can't recommend anything because we are hanging on by the skin of our teeth on these things. I haven't really found anything I get excited about....any suggestions?

Art~ I don't have a particular art program. I make projects up out of my head. I keep famous paintings where they can reach them. I keep a variety of markers, papers, scissors, paints, colored pencils, stickers, etc. around for whenever their fancy strikes. We look at paintings and make our own versions of them. We cut out magazine pictures and imitate them. We explore famous paintings, we read about artists, and we try and make our own art. There are so many great resources out there. So many. I could do an entirely separate post on this subject alone. Maybe I will. Someday. One thing I find extremely helpful in getting children into art and really trying their best at it, is to do it beside them. If they are watercoloring, you watercolor. If they are painting birds, you paint birds. And always, ALWAYS refer to them as artists. Because they are.

We do a composer of the month, an artist of the month, and we learn a new psalm to sing every month. We are continuously changing out the family read-aloud and I included several different genre for Corynn to read outloud for her reading time throughout the week, so as to expand her horizons. Poetry, Nature Reader, library book and her choice. Of course, those are just the books she reads to me. She always has her nose in a book. All the reading things I added to the schedule only to convey how much fun schooling is-because the way to my childrens' hearts is through books. :-)

Quiet time is after lunch, and is two hours where the babies sleep, Andrew reads (and sometimes falls asleep much to his chagrin) and Corynn reads/draws or plays quietly. After this, the afternoons are free for them to do anything their little hearts desire.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just Hangin' Out

Just popping on to let you all know that I haven't forgotten about you, OR about answering your questions.

Just seems to be taking a lot longer this time around....

In the meantime, stay warm and Be cool. ;-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mulititude Monday, Ruby edition

After a week of being away, I was ready to see my husband again. I was tired of staying up until all hours of the night, and feeling afraid that I would be murdered in my bed as soon as the lights turned out.

It was Thursday night and the week was NEARLY over. I was talking to Matt on the phone and he sounded as exhausted as I felt. After a while, he said "Well, I am fading fast. I better get myself to a hotel. I just can't decide if I ought to get on the other side of Boston before I stop." Boston....too far away from me, but at least he was on his way home.

We hung up the phone and I got to work in my craft room making some Judah outfits out of Mattie sweaters (you'll see...) It was quiet, it was dark, and my eyes were dry. A week worth of being a nightowl was catching up on me, so around midnight I forced myself to hit the sack so I wouldn't crash and burn when Matt finally *DID* get home. I took off my clothes, took out my contacts and turned off the last light in the house. And as usual, the moment the light shut off-I started thinking about murderers, rapists and thieves. I laid down in bed, praying for one more nights safety (for Matt and I both) when all of the sudden I heard a creak.

Could it be? Yes, it was definitely a soft, slow creak coming from the front door. My brain told me it was probably just my overactive imagination, but my heart started pounding just the same.

Then, quiet footprints. Was one of the children going to the bathroom? I listened harder-no. Those were workboots. Big ones, though they were trying to be quiet....

My heart was now thumping wildly. I was blind as a bat, naked as a jaybird, I don't OWN a baseball bat, and the gun was downstairs where the footprints were. I tiptoed down the stairs in my bathrobe, not sure what to do other than to politely ask the mass murderer to leave, praying it was all just my imagination. The bathroom light was on. Had I left it on?

But there was a man's figure in the doorway.

Since you are reading this now, you must know that I did not die that night, nor my family. Matt had LIED to me (and the man is too good a liar for his own good-or mine) and had driven straight through, from Maine to Pennsylvania, over 10 hours.

My worst nightmare turned into a dream come true, because when I went to bed that night, it wasn't empty and lonely and cold.

There is MUCH to be thankful for this week.

  • not being murdered in my bed
  • the family surviving another week, not whole
  • a 20 hour car trip, safely overwith
  • a most wonderful, kind, encouraging comment from my mom, just out the blue
  • a fresh haircut for a Newman waif
  • a freezer full of chicken
  • 5 bushels of apples for storing-at a super duper price
  • too many books, what a wonderful problem to have
  • getting to the last blue skein in the afghan
  • a new PUPPY, free for the taking, named RUBY
  • said puppy, who keeps you company while doing chores-no leash required.
  • roasted vegetables
  • a handed down stairstepper, that is hideous to look at but really, really helpful
  • a bushel of potatoes, given (along with the puppy)
  • a girl who sings gibberish during church, but who sings heartfelt just the same
  • a stretch of warm days
  • a new batch of bunnies
  • belting out tunes while you work
  • eyes opened to my own weaknesses; it is painful, oh yes, but necessary if I want to become better

#671- #689 reasons why I can be thankful even BEFORE Thanksgiving.

holy experience

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Question and Answer Post

I was amazed at all the questions I got last week. Thanks for helping to keep me preoccupied! I don't think there is a single thing left to KNOW about me, after answering them all. (and to think: I wondered if I would get any questions at all!) In fact, I got SO many questions I split them up into two different posts. The Question & Answer Post (this one) and the Q&A: Family Edition (this one will cover all home educating and religious questions) still to come.

One thing is perfectly clear though---I need to clear up a major preconceived notion...

I wish I were, truly. But I am not. Just to make that clear,though I wasn't asked,I am going to tell you 10 things I hate about myself. Volunteering the information, if you will.

#10. I hate how impatient I am.

#9. I hate that I spend time on the computer when I could be doing more productive things.

#8. I hate that sometimes I don't start thinking about supper until about 40 minutes before time, and then complain about there being nothing to fix. (Even though the cupboards are full of things that will take too long.)

#7. I hate that I spend more time judging other people than I do judging myself.

#6. I hate that I sometimes catch myself giving my children dirty looks when they are misbehaving, instead of training them with a kind face.

#5. I hate that I grumble about my life, even inwardly, when I have it so good.

#4. I hate that I can be selfish.

#3. I hate that I sometimes interrupt people when they are talking because I am so excited to talk to them.

#2. I hate that I struggle with self-discipline.

#1. I hate that I get mad at Matt for not giving me lovenotes and flowers, when he does things like hold my hand and tell me he loves me without me asking.

But I *DO* do all those things. (And it was hard to admit them...) And a whole lot of other very ugly things. No, I am not perfect. I can't do it all. I don't have it all together.

I am just trying to make it through each day a wee bit better than I did the day before.

There. That is said. Now-on to the questions.


  • I have read your blog for a long time now and I respect your opinions very much. I am then very curious to know what your opinion is on Halloween. I'll be honest, I was a bit surprised to see you busy with costumes for All Hallows Eve, assuming that you would not "celebrate" this type of event.

Ah yes, Halloween. I recognize that this holiday gets most Christians feathers all rustled and talons at the ready than any other holiday. Ever. So I must tread carefully and duck quickly. Our view of Halloween is this, in a very small nutshell. Christ has conquered sin and death and the world; the Son of Man has dealt the blow to the head of the snake. It is our job as Christians, to live our lives in recognition to this fact and to rejoice in it always (and again I say, REJOICE!). This means, that whatever REASON pagans use for celebrating a day (whatever the day may be)---the day is God's and always will be, whether they like it or not. So, as Christians, we can REJOICE and CELEBRATE and have all sorts of fun because we are on the winning team! This is no less true on Halloween. Frankly, perhaps it is MORE true. As Christians, perhaps, we can declare Christ the Conquerer more loudly to those around us by taking back a pagan holiday and joyously roaming the streets or eating s'mores over bonfires in costume than we can by hiding behind dark porch lights. Why let heathens have all the fun? What is more Christian than acknowledging that death is overcome, and celebrating it by having a grand 'ole time? God is not a God of stoicism.

We love candy around here. We don't ever need excuses for playing dress-up. And we LOVE ourselves some caramel apples and bonfires. God has not declared these things wicked, so neither shall I. Our family does not do evil costumes (putting on the uniform of the "other team") and our family recognizes the importance of keeping the Lords' Day his own, so we wouldn't go trick or treating on the Sabbath. That said, we know Christians who flatout refuse to acknowledge the day and those who throw parties for it. We know Christians who go trick or treating regardless of whether it falls on the Sabbath and we know Christians who will only acknowledge the day by dressing up like John Calvin or biblical characters. I love them all. The important thing in my mind, is not for us Christians to lose the unity, by our own personal convictions on the matter, that we have been given by the great Unifier. Christians need to love one another, be gracious, and forgive one another, even when they disagree, because we don't want any chinks in our armour.

If you are interested in reading a bit more on the topic, and said more eloquently to boot, check this out and this out. And this.

  • On Apples~I heard that most of the orchards around here had a bad crop...where did you get yours?

I have an inside source that a friend uses (but won't share with me) and she takes my orders and I pick them up after she has picked them up from the secret place. It sounds all very shady, but it's just apples people. A whole lotta Amish apparently found out about this place and are ordering all the excess, and I think that is why all the secrecy is called for. Because they may not be available if too many people know about it.

  • One more thing....lol....I started canning this year! I was so excited to start. I have wanted to learn how for the last few years and I finally just did it. Now I am addicted. :o) I would love to know what things you can. I know you have posted that you have done the grapes and peaches. What else? Thanks a million!

I have been HORRIBLE about blogging my canning list, though I have kept track on a piece of paper. I just updated the sidebar on my blog, so take a gander over there -----> to see what I have put up so far. (And good for you for starting!)

  • Were you planning to make grape jam or jelly eventually? I've considered making juice and freezing it, then pulling it out when the house is very cold to process in to jam. A friend of mine had done that and she said it makes for a wonderful January activity. :0)
I am not making any jelly this year but I do the very same thing, when I am able. I have peach skins in the freezer to made into honey as we speak and I *may* make some peach jam if a morning is particularly chilly. :-)
  • Canning meat? Did you get a pressure canner?!?
Aye. I was gifted one. Thank goodness, too, because when Jed (our cow) is butchered, I will be canning meat like a madwoman.

  • A request for zucchini recipes WAY back from summertime (for shame), now posted
  • A request for peanut butter popcorn (balls), now posted.
  • First, How did you learn to write so well?
Pshaw. Several times daily I cursemy ineloquence. The fact that I *like* to write, likely comes from my Opa who was storyteller extraordinaire and a published author.

  • Second, how do you take such nice pictures?
I haven't taken a nice picture in AGES and several times daily I lament not being better at it. (Likely due to all those professional photography blogs I read...) For some very basic tips though, check here.

  • Third, how did you get your blogger buzz going? :)
I have NO idea what blogger buzz even is. (hides head in shame) Do you mean why do people visit me? I have NO idea. (But I love that they do.)

  • If you could do anything and get paid for it (that whole do what you love...love what you do) what would it be?
I would write books. I would narrate for audiobooks. I would be a labor/delivery/newborn photographer. ((Still hoping someday these come true.))

  • What are 3 of your pet peeves?

1. Televisions used as babysitters or to "get those pesky kids to shut up".
2. People who talk with food in their mouths (nobody wants to see that, people!)
that every wall in this house is a weird shade of super pale something (the WORST is the almost green school room). Hideous. WHAT IS WRONG WITH WHITE?!? It matches EVERYTHING.

  • Name something quirky about yourself....
I hate tractor-trailer trucks. Whenever I pass them, I envision their wheels flying off and hitting our car and killing us all. Or them veering into our lane and ramming us to death. Or flipping over on us. When I pass them, I punch the gas and FLY past them, then return to normal speed once we are "safe" again.

  • I'd love to know how you manage to get so much done with four little ones to look after! I am in awe! Plenty of people asked me this.
Short answer?

Long Answer:
I give myself attainable goals (to-do lists) and make sure I get the most important things done first. School must be a priority. Food must be a priority. Clothes, a priority. If it takes me a week to spiff up the bathroom sink, so be it~ if the important things get done, I am happy. I never go to bed with every single thing checked off my list. So I always go to bed thanking God for tomorrow and another chance.

  • I'd also love to know if you sew/craft when your children are resting or are you able to do any of it when they are up? My mum tells me she always used to knit and sew with me nearby right from when I was a baby. She says that is why my sister and I are so keen on crafts ourselves because we would always see her doing it. Sounds reasonable, but I can't seem to manage it when my littles are up!
Both. I get the most accomplished when I am in my craft room during rest time or after the children are in bed for the night. This is because, whenever my children see me crafting (especially Corynn) she asks to start a project too andsince she still needs so much oversight, it turns into HER project not mine that is what is being worked on. For small things, or to finish up projects, or when I crochet, I do it during the day when they are around. But mostly, it is when I am alone.

(For the record: it is so unfair and equally impossible to chose just ONE of most of these things...forgive me if I say more than one)

  • What is your favorite book of the Bible? Proverbs is the book that I am drawn to. It speaks to me so beautifully and so completely and strengthens me through this season of my life.
  • Devotional? I am not a "devotional" type person, but maybe that is because I have never found a good one. The ones I have tried seem to be sappy and rather subjective. I prefer to read the Bible straight and then listen to or read sermons/lectures/expositions on the texts. I do like, very much, Charles Spurgeons MORNING and EVENING though.
  • Hero of the faith? I honestly don't know the answer to that question. Guess that will give me something to seek out....
  • What is your favorite potluck dish? I never bring the same thing twice. I like trying new recipes but I love dishes that can be presented well.
  • Favorite treat or dessert? Cheesecake (though I thought I hated cheesecake up until about 5 years ago.) I generally lean toward the flavored ones like caramel or chocolate (or chocolate caramel), or pumpkin, or mocha. (Oh man...why am I so hungry all of the sudden?)
  • Favorite drink? Hot Pomegranate tea in winter, orange julius in summer, strawberry daquiri with whipped chream just about whenever.
  • Favorite hymn? I grew up singing psalms instead of hymns and am only beginning to learn hymns. I will always prefer the psalms, they hold a very special place in my heart. My favorite psalm (for singing) is Psalm 127A, which was sung at my wedding and my Oma's wedding.I also love 40E and 119E.

Lots of book questions:

  • Favorite novel? I don't really read novels anymore. I used to all the time when I was in my early 20's. I loved Jeneatte Oke, Beverly Lewis and Lori Wick. I remember the first novel I fell in love with was Sophie's Choice by Lori Wick. With those very selective times when I can read for ME, I fill up on all the non-fiction I can get. I am a non-fiction girl all the way.
  • Do you especially enjoy any certain Christian authors? (besides C.S.Lewis, of course) Favourite author? autobiography? memoirs? Besides the ones already listed, I also really enjoy books by Douglas and Nancy Wilson. As far as memoirs/autobiographies, I really enjoy reading memoirs about people who lived during the Great Depression. I am anxiously awaiting the Autobiography of George Mueller to arrive from interlibrary loan. I have a feeling I will love it.
  • who is your hero? Does it make me a bad person not to have one? I truly admire certain things about certain people and aspire to be more like them, but I can't say that I have a particular hero.
  • favorite colour (to wear, decorate, and in general?) I love pink. I am a true girlie girl. I also love bright red. I am in love with the combination of deep red and light robin's egg blue and dream of having an entire coordinated room in that color combination.
  • season? I love them all, though I love winter decidedly less than all the others. I love the comfort foods of fall and baking in the morning to warm up the house. I love the bonfires and golden sunshine and kicking leaves as I walk. I love those quiet moments of curling up with a book and yarn in the winter and warming hands with a steaming cup of cocoa. I love planning the garden in spring and that first drippy day of wearing no coats. I love it when all the grass bursts open and I finally see color, after a season of white, and it seems 100 times more brilliant than ever before. But if I had to choose~ it is the summer that captivates my soul most of all. I love walking barefoot and feeling the sunshine on my skin. I love just heading outside without having to tie shoelaces or button up coats. I love keeping the doors open all day long and sitting in the grass near the garage where Matt is working. I love having cutting flower bouquets for the table every week, and fireflies and fruit smoothies and late bedtimes and every meal eaten outside. Yes, summer would be my favorite.
  • flower? Lilacs and hydrangea.
  • childhood memory? playing in the hayloft of the barn in my PA home. It was a schoolroom, a store, a house, a place to hide the penny candy I bought from the Turkey Hill down the road, and a mysterious Trixie-Beldonish hideaway for me and my girlhood fantasies.
  • Favorite movie? Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, A Mirror has Two Faces, Hello Dolly, the Illusionist.
  • Where would you most like to take your kids on vacation if money were no object? The Grand Canyon and The Creation Museum
  • If money were no object how many kiddos would you have? :) Money IS no object. Not because we are rich (HA!) but because we are trying to be faithful. If ever we feel we can't afford more children, we'll get rid of the internet first! ;-)
  • What Thanksgiving traditions do you have? Matt and I were just talking about this recently. None presently. Up until now, besides one Thanksgiving a few years back, Thanksgiving has been a holiday where we alternate visiting at the in-laws and is pretty much just about hanging out and eating. Which to me is tragic. (The hanging out and eating being the be-all and end-all, not the part about family)
After this year, we are going to have our own home Thanksgiving and begin our own traditions. Especially, making Thanksgiving more about giving thanks and less about eating and football. I would love to invite people to share our Thanksgiving dinner who wouldn't otherwise get one and I would love the dinner conversation to include things we are thankful for (and if that makes me corny, so be it).

  • What recommendations would you give to someone who hasn't cooked a Thanksgiving meal in many years? (and it can't contain any poultry...) Research and plan your menu far in advance. Do as much as you can in advance too. Maybe pork roast with apples and cornbread stuffing?
  • If you could travel...where? why? To Africa---to adopt some Newmans. Unfortunately, this is where money IS an object.
  • I would like to know how you organize your children's clothing? I keep clothing to be passed down from child to child. I keep these bins in the attic. One bin per size per gender. I label them like 12-18m G (for girl). or Newborn-3/6 month B (boy). I have about three bins of 2T-4T girl things (not sure how that happened) so I will be going through those soon and setting the excess aside for a a yardsale in spring. I also keep one bin for boy and one for girl that is for the NEXT size, so when I am yard saling, or after Christmas clearance shopping, I can prepare for Corynn and Andrew to grow out of their clothes and into larger sizes without the necessity to pay full price for things-since they are the first of the bunch to need them.

For every day clothes they are wearing right now, the girls' dresses hang in a closet. Adele uses a small dresser, Corynn has her clothes in those plastic pullout drawer things inside the closet. They each have four small drawers: 1st drawer is tights, socks, undies and pjs. 2nd drawer is shirts. 3rd drawer is pants/skirts. 4th drawer is sweaters. Andrew has a two drawer dresser with an open bottom. 1st drawer is shirts. 2nd drawer is pants. Bottom is pjs, undies, ties and socks. He also has a plastic drawer in the closet to hold sweaters. Judah has the armoire, but it sits 3/4 empty. :-) I sometimes wish I had all the same gender so I could just move things from one drawer to another but as children grow out of things I put them in the upstairs bins and bring down the next size.

  • Also, what does your food budget look like? Matt gets paid twice a month and when he does, I put $85.00 in our grocery envelope. That $85.00 must last us until the next pay period, 2-2.5 weeks later. It is a challenge, especially lately since all my children have gone on a simultaneous growth spurt (six hollow legs are not fun to fill), but it is working.

I also have a "Preparedness" envelope that I allot $65.00 for each pay period. This envelope is for stocking up on food in case of emergencies, buying bulk, or buying things to help with preparedness (purchasing a dehydrator or canning jar lids, for instance). I use this envelope for bulk meat purchases (for example: I am buying a case of chicken breasts for a bit over $1.00 a pound this week which will be $54.00. That will come out of our preparedness envelope, since no way I could take that much out of our grocery budget without starving the whole family.)
Whatever I don't use from our Preparedness envelope gets rolled over to the next pay period. I *never* have leftovers from the grocery envelope.

I am not sure if, given our family size, this is a LOT of money or a little, but for now, it is working for us.

  • Have you ever felted anything? nope.
  • Who taught you how to crochet? This lady. A girl who moved four hours away from everyone she knew found out from the Pastor of her new church that a woman within the congregation not only lived near her, but also loved to make things. So that first Sunday, the girl met the lady. The girl said, "I hear you love to make things. Do you knit or crochet?" And since the lady is the one who ought to have a blog entitled Renaissance Woman, naturally she said yes. Then, the brazen girl said, "I...um....I was...ummmm...wondering. Maybe you could teach me?! I mean, if you have better things to do I understand...but...um...I have always wanted to learn." Of course, this lady, besides being good at pretty much everything, is KIND to boot and agreed. The girl was me. The lady was Nanci. She is now one of my dearest friends. I often wonder, though, what she must have been thinking inside when I asked her that. Because while she is kind and sweet, she is also much more quiet and reserved than I am. I don't know that she EVER would have said no, but I probably caused her all sorts of worry and shock that day.
  • What intimidates you so much about knitting? I learn best when I have an actual person showing me the ropes, not looking at illustrations in books-and I don't have anyone who will teach me here. Dropped stitches intimidate me and those lovely, amazingly beautiful cables both give me goosebumps of joy and cause me to perspire.
  • Have you crocheted anything on a large scale (like adult size)? I am working on a queen-sized afghan right now, that is the largest project I have tackled so far. I have not yet been brave enough to try any adult-sized fitted things (sweaters, cardigans, etc.) But I have a BUNCH queued in my Ravelry account, when I am finally ready. ;-)
  • And as one who is in awe, as are many others, of how much you accomplish in one day, I'd love to know how much sleep you generally get-? And up early to tend to animals solo each day? At dawn?
Dawn is easy to rise to these days (hello?! Winter?!?! Not ready for you!) as it is getting darker later and later in the morning but I have to admit~ I only do animal chores when Matt is out of town or as a favor for him. Granted, he is away from home quite often-but he is the real Farmer of the family. As for sleep: I need sleep. I can't function (in a Christian way) without it. I strive for 7 hours a night, usually don't get it, but I try. On a normal day, I try and get to bed by 9:30/10:00. I am lucky if I get 3 hours a night when Matt is gone, but it eventually catches up with me.I can't take naps during the day, I get migraines, so whatever I get at night is what I am stuck with.
  • how on earth do you take such great photos of yourself? i realize you don't take them all -- but remember that wedding ring quilt photo? How on earth did you manage to lie down and take a straight shot of your feet? And does Mattie take the portrait shots (such as the one above and the 'about me' photo) or do you somehow do it? and, if so, do you have a secret life as a contortionist?
Actually, I *DO* take them all! Two weekends ago, Matt and I went on an overnight together sans the three older children. During that time, he actually picked up my camera-a first since I got it three years ago. He took the photo of me drinking (below) and several more that I haven't posted (those photos will come sometime soon...) during that trip. All other photographs (including my profile one) I take by myself. I am very camera shy. VERY VERY camera shy. So I take photos of myself when no one is watching me and I know I can delete them without anyone ever having seen them if they are bad. I wrote a piece on it here. Mainly, I DO have long arms or I prop the camera up or use a tripod. As for the shot of our feet: I put a small brass hook into the ceiling above our bed (Matt just LOVED that) and I hung the camera (rather precariously) from its strap on that hook, hit the timer and moved into position. I am insane. On SO many levels.

  • If you could do something very out of character and out of the ordinary, WHAT would you do?? :)

This was the hardest question of all for me. Because I would do *lots* of things, but they all seem to be IN my character. I would love to go dancing with Matt. I love dancing. Matt hates it, so even when there is opportunity, I am dancing alone. I guess it would be out of character for MATT, so that counts right? For all those who hoped I would say jump out of an airplane or go bungee-jumping---> I am TERRIFIED of heights. And, of course, terrified of dying. NOT a good combination, then.

  • If you could change anything in the past...what would it be?

The first year I was married, I heard through the grapevine that a very dear friend of mine got pregnant out of wedlock and put the baby up for adoption. I wrote her letters and she never responded. I loved her but have never heard from her again. The last time I heard OF her, she had left the church. My biggest regret in life is not going to her the very moment I heard and inviting her to come live with us, and helping her raise her baby. I can't imagine the affect giving her baby up had on her. I love her still to this day and regret not being able (or trying harder) to help her when she needed it most.

  • You seem to have a relatively laid back approach to pregnancy. Any advice for getting through? (shhh...we're trying)

I try very, very hard not to take things for granted. The way I get through is I try not to think about it AT ALL. I try not to yearn and hope for babies (which I fail at miserably about the time my babies turn a year old) and I try not to avoid them when I am newly postpartum, just because I am afraid of having them so close together. I try to let God do His thing without my interference, either way. When I am pregnant, I always think to myself "God is So good.But this may be your last Rebecca~ enjoy it, and if it is your last wee one, God is STILL good."

  • Details on your camera! I want to upgrade for Christmas this year but have no idea where to start! I own a Canon Rebel XT. I am very hard on it but it continues to forgive me. It is beginning to glitch up on me, but I blame myself not it. I get occasional bouts of camera lust, but am always thankful for my Rebel. It's a good camera.
  • Also, what is your favourite meal? Chicken Marsala OR Chicken Alfredo with garden veggies.
  • Favourite way to relax? make something. Fall into Matties' arms. Take pictures. (Not necessarily in that order...) Oh yeah- Get Matt to lip nibble the bridge of my nose...that does it every time.
  • And how do you handle television/movies, etc., with your family? Is there a place for that in your day?
Nope. We don't have television capabilities at all but we do have movie capabilities. There are times when I have a movie in mind for a supplement to our schooling and I think "I'll have the children watch it now" but I see them playing so well, or drawing so well or reading and I don't want to interrupt. It seems like they are always happy doing much more worthwhile things and I can't bring myself to say "Stop doing that productive thing and come here and stare at this box for a while..." So I don't.

Friday Nights are the exception. We watch a movie while eating pizza.

I hate televisions being used to "shut the kids up for a while" (see: pet peeves) so much that I refuse to turn on a movie unless I am willing to watch it with them. We don't watch cartoon movies, but rather borrow/rent movies with real people. That has always been our preference. I can actually *feel* myself losing brain cells when I watch cartoons, so I don't. So our children can sing word for word songs from Hello Dolly and Fiddler on the Roof but don't have a clue what Ice Age or Toy Story is about.

I will say, that when Matt is away we watch movies (or parts of movies) a bit more frequently. This is mainly a diversion for me.

  • And perhaps this is way too nosy, but you've recently mentioned your husband's goal and efforts to achieve it -- I'm so curious about that --
Not too nosy. There is something up his sleeve, for sure, but I really can' t do much more here at Renaissance than give vague conversations that elude and infuriate. Not yet anyway. Lord willing, his plans will be played out in the very near future and then you will all have a front row seat to my absolute giddyness.

  • Oh, before I go, I was wondering if you have any projects picked out for Christmas gifts. I’d love to see a post on your blog about it if you have a chance and/or the inclination.

Quite a few of you asked this question and the answer is an emphatic YES. I have plenty of handmade gifts to make this year and will be posting on them as I finish them. In fact, I just realized I posted many of the gifts I made last year-EXCEPT the one I made for my own children! (oops)
  • You recently mentioned that you are borrowing the farm and could never own it. I'm curious as to why - is it just not for sale and never will be, is it too expensive, is it not in the area where you would like to live, or is there another reason.
We moved here under the verbal agreement we would buy it from the owners but they recanted that offer so they could keep the place for their son. SO we live here and rent until they kick us out or we find a place of our own. The son is in no hurry to move back but I am in a hurry to settle in a place of our own...if ever the Lord opens the door. (Please hurry, Lord!)

  • Curious as to whether your parents and/or in-laws live nearby & how often you and your children see them?
We live about 25 minutes from both sets of parents. Matt's parents are retired and come by about once a week to see the children. My parents are not retired and are raising a second set of young (adopted) children so they are as busy as we are with schooling and caring for a houseful of kiddos so we see them less often. Still, we are able to visit much more regularly than many families. It is very nice.

  • So...I was reading your love story (soooo CUTE, by the way, I love it!), and I was disappointed at where it ended. I want to know more details! =) Like all the way up until the wedding. =) So-you'd like to hear more, eh? I can tell you, it turns into an A+ genuine soap opera right after the point where I left off.
  • How in the world do you find time to blog? You're a mother of four, for pete's sake.
When children sleep, dah-ling. Many times I think to myself of all the things I COULD be doing while blogging (sewing, reading, anything) and feel a bit guilty but then I think about my role as historian for this family and I recognize the value in recording these precious moments for the future, so I think devoting some time to it isn't as outrageous a waste of time as I sometimes feel it is. But mostly, I do it to save my marriage. When I talk, talk, talk on my blog I get most of my talk, talk, talking out before I bombard Matt when he comes home. Just thinking of him, ya know. ;-)

  • When is Foto Friday coming back? I miss it. I heart faces is just too intimidating.
I have been thinking about that a lot lately... (not really an answer, I know.)


  • Anonymous Do you ever get really bummed..you know, just looking at your husband and saying " he just doesn't get it"! He doesn't know the strain I am under with a new baby nursing and caring for a two year old and two others, and I am drained! And I am certainly not in the mood to get on my blog and let everyone know it! Does that ever happen to you?
I would like to meet a woman out there who HASN'T felt that way at one time or another ( and then give her a good slap). haha. But seriously, Matt isn't perfect. He screws up like every other man. But, so do I-just like every other woman.

When my feathers get rustled about something he does or does not do, I *try* (try, being the operative word) to flip the coin and show him grace. Because, while men often don't understand the strains that women are under, we women sometimes forget about the strains our men are under.

He doesn't know what it is like to be puked on five times in the night, or what it is like to cook supper, then watch everyone else eat it while you are stuck nursing the baby, then do the dishes after an already exhausting day-when all you want to do is collapse into bed. But neither do we really "get" what it is like to wake up early every morning and leave home for 10 hours~away from the people that you love and the work that you love to do. We don't feel the pressure of earning money enough to support an entire family, we don't have bosses breathing down our necks, and we can't know what it is like to have a to-do list for home as soon as the to-do list from work is over. Basically, whenever your husband drives you nuts-remember, you can drive him nuts too. And then thank God that you both are forgiving. ;-)

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Quite a few unanswered questions have piled up here at Renaissance and I am beginning to feel mighty ashamed about it. So sorry for those of you askers.

I just found out that Matt is going to be away (again) all next week (I don't want to talk about it...) so I figure a question/answer post might be just the ticket for a day of diversion....

So-if anyone has been dying to ask me what my favorite dinner dish is or how much I weigh (um-don't you DARE) or anything at all (except that) and actually WANT an answer, do so before Tuesday of next week and you will get your ANSWER! (Except about the weight thing.)

And if no one has any questions, make some up, because I will be needing all the diversions I can get. ;-) winky wink

(In all truth~ I don't know how I am going to make it through next week....uuuuuugggggggggghhhhhhhhh)

Question/Answer post by Wednesday. ;-)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


On the morning of All Hallow's Eve, Mother would put on her apron and as soon as breakfast dishes were done, would get right down to kitchen business. The popcorn would pop, batch after batch being dumped into a large brown paper bag while the peanut butter caramel warmed on the stove. Then with a shake, shake shake and buttered hands, the children would gather to make popcorn balls.

Next would be the taffy apples. Sister took great pains to chose only the shiniest apples.

Soon it was time for carving pumpkin moonshines in faces many; some frightful, some quaint, some downright silly. The children would giggle at the slimy innerds and Mama would set some seeds aside for roasting, some for planting more pumpkins next year, and the rest went to the pigs who grunted a merry thanks at evening choretime.

When the sun began to set, children excitedly donned their handmade costumes and began gallant knights and long ago Princesses. Mama, meanwhile, secretly stole off to the woods....

Soon, visitors would arrive and all the children would tumble into the rickety rackety old trailer for a tractor ride.

Papa shared in the celebration....

A wagon full of children-no-longer, giggles mingled with the rattle of the tractor as we made our way into the forest...

...paths lit by candles in mason jars hanging from the naked and bony fingers of the trees.

Paths led to a spot in the woods with pumpkins and cobwebs and a bonfire, already lit. And there, on a table alight with fire smiles, were the goodies we had all made that morning along with apple cider and cinnamon sugar donuts and pizza. This is the spot that Mama had stolen off to, but for the children, it all seemed as if goblins might very well have set the whole thing up.

And there were snakes to color and spiders to stretch and glowing bracelets to wave and throw into the darkness.

It seemed to take just a moment for the dusk to turn into night but the chill in the air and the darkness of evening were no match for Papa's growing bonfire. We sat, maybe a bit too close, and watched as he put more wood on, and more.

And then it was time for stories, the kind that trail from one person to another to another. The kind that start with evil dragons turning good and forest elves and love stories and poison marshmellows that defeat the wicked king.

And only then, did the spooks begin to show.......

This story sounds like it is right out of one of Tasha Tudors books to me, but in fact, it was a story lived just this past weekend, right here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Costumes

Corynn was an Egyptian Princess. (We are studying Egypt right now-so it was fitting!) The crown was made using scrap wire and sculpey clay, then spray painted and glued with sparkles and snake eyes. The dress I made using an silk throw that was driving me SO nuts (by scattering broken tassels all over the floor. every. single. day.) that I was going to throw it away. I made it into a tunic because I wanted any children. no matter their size, to be able to use it when they are visiting (and for Corynn to not grow out of it). I used some scrap ribbon I just happened to have on hand for embellishment, some scrap elastic ribbon for shoulder straps, and just a smidgen of velcro for the belt. The only thing purchased for the costume was the wig: $6.00 (which could have been done without, if you ask me.)

Andrew was a Knight. His outfit, too, was a blanket throw whose cording and ribbon trim were coming undone. That too, was headed for the garbage but I couldn't bring myself to throw it away because it was so pretty. His, too, was made into a tunic. I used felt for the cross in front and a belt for the scabbard. Matt built the sword from scrap lumber. The cost of his costume was $5.00---for the silver and gold spraypaint.

Adele was a Monarch Butterfly. We raided her drawers for the tights and shirt, the dressup bin for the black leotard, and the headband drawer for the antennae. I glued black felt over the headband and then wrapped with pipecleaners (again, on hand). I freehanded a half-wing monarch butterfly pattern on a sheet of snewspaper, traced it, then flipped it over and did the same on the other side because butterflies are SYMMETRICAL (see how many school lessons costumes can illicit?). Painted and glued glitter onto black foam board. Scrap elastic was hotglued onto the board for the armbands. Cost of her costume: $2.97 using 40% off coupons for the foam board and glitter. I had a BOATLOAD of orange glitter left, too.


Welp. Rest time is officially over so I guess the pictures of the non-trick or treating will have to wait until tomorrow....

Pumpkin Farming

Before I post the photos of Halloween costumes and festivities, I had to record our annual pumpkin farm visit. And you know, the traditional Grow Chart shot....

...and okay, a (very) few more. I could post more but frankly, I am done with Halloween and ready to move on. ;-)