Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Jesus Story - Part 2

My mother announced on Christmas morning she was leaving. In my mind's eye, I can see this day just like it was yesterday. We were unwrapping gifts in front of the Christmas tree. She moved out on New Year's Day.

This is my story, not my mother's story. I will say that I believe with all my heart that my mother and father raised me with the best intentions. But I was not raised in a Christian home. Jesus knew that.

I was 18 years old when my mother left. My youngest brother had turned 11 that summer. My older sister had graduated from high school early and had moved out of state. I cannot even remember where my other brother was. He would have been almost 15 at the time. I think he just disappeared. I was working full-time at a law firm. In an instant, my life had changed. I went from being a carefree teenager to taking on the role of a full-time housewife, and a self-imposed mother to my youngest brother.

My father was devastated. I watched a man who had been a tower of strength collapse inside himself. I would imagine that when a wife leaves her husband, for whatever reason, it does something to the inner man. I became his shoulder to cry on.

As a self-imposed mother to my little brother, I did what any loving big sister would do. I tried to do everything for him my mother couldn't do. I made sure he had new clothes. I kept the house clean. The laundry was always kept up. I made sure supper was on the table. I tucked him in at night and always kissed him and told him I loved him. We became best friends. I fondly remember him coming into my bedroom and telling me about a girl he liked at school. And so this became my life for the next five years. I was happy to do it.

Over those five years, I became hardened. I had seen so much weeping and sorrow that I didn't care if I ever saw another person cry again. Something in me had changed. I could no longer cry.

After five years of being a pretend housewife and mother, I finally came to the point in my life where I had had enough. I felt like my life had been placed on hold. Many of my friends had gotten married and had babies. I had a great job and was making a lot of money. So I moved out and was finally able to live my life the way I wanted. I was 23 years old. Unfortunately, my unwritten goals were centered around making money, spending money, and meeting men. I worked around people where all of those things became easy. In order to save money, I moved back home a year later.

And so it was one day, as I was sitting in a business meeting, the secretary walked in and interrupted the meeting. I was called away to a phone where I was told my little brother, now 19, had been in a car accident. Actually, that day happened 22 years ago today. An older woman driving on a busy four-lane road, thought she had enough time and clearance and turned in front of him. He swerved to miss her and hit a steel telephone pole head-on. The force of the impact melted his corduroy pants where his knees hit the dashboard. His head hit the steering wheel. His neck was broken.

I remember going to the hospital, but I don't really remember any of the details of that day. I just remember what happened when I got home late that night.

I didn't know what to do. Somehow in the recesses of my mind, I remembered that one Bible verse I had memorized at Vacation Bible School so many years before.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

So I got down on my knees next to my bed and I started bartering with God. My brother was my best friend and I was willing to do anything, anything at all, if God would just keep my brother from dying. My prayer went something like this: God, if you will just keep my brother safe, I will do anything. I will read my Bible every day, even though I don't understand any of it. And I will pray every day, even though I don't need anything.

You see, I had never really heard anyone pray. Well, you know, pray pray. I thought the only time you prayed was when you needed something. I made those two promises and I kept them. I read my Bible every single day. And I prayed every single day. When I prayed it would start with something like, "Hi. It's me again." It was a funny thing, reading my Bible. After about a month of reading it every day, the eyes of my heart started to open. The words became alive to me. I didn't know a thing about reading the Bible. I'm sure I started in Genesis, but I can't remember. But you know, God was so faithful to me. In time, He spoke to my heart and began to show Himself to me.

Please know that I did not promise to do anything else. I didn't promise to go to church. I didn't promise to change my ways. I was still the same old girl I used to be.

My brother was in traction for weeks. I remember being at the hospital and cleaning the wounds where metal rods were drilled in his skull. He was scheduled for surgery. We were told he was the only spinal injury on the floor that wasn't paralyzed. There was a chance the surgery would leave him paralyzed. He had metal rods and screws placed in his neck. His surgery was a success. He wasn't paralyzed. He got to come home. I was so thankful.

I kept reading my Bible. I kept praying.

One year and three days later, I received another phone call. This time it was concerning my other brother. He had been in an accident. His neck was broken.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Jesus Story - Part 1

Twenty-two years ago this week, I met a man. His name is Jesus. My life was changed and it's never been the same.

I thought it might be best to break my Jesus story into smaller pieces. Some people who meet Jesus have more dramatic stories to tell. I am one of them. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's my thing. It's my story. And I am thankful for it.

Some background...

I grew-up in the country. I lived at the same address all of my growing-up years. I lived in a modest home on a large wooded piece of property. I loved horses and most any creature that found its way to our home. Stray dogs and cats were always welcomed. I always thought I lived the life of a girl in a fairy tale.

My father often worked two to three jobs to make ends meet and to put food on the table. My mother stayed home until my youngest brother went to school. There were four kids. I have an older sister and two younger brothers. We fought like cats and dogs and mostly hated each other. Seriously.

I didn't know it until much later, but my mother was addicted to prescription drugs for most of my middle to high school years. I suppose back then nobody knew or talked about such things. Doctors gave out medicine like it was candy, kinda like they do today, except most people today know the side-effects. Valium was my mother's escape. I don't say that to be disrespectful or to make light of the situation. The truth is, she cared for her mother (my Grandma Meme) after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died at our home. I think her doctor thought he was doing my mother a big favor when he prescribed her Valium. Maybe he thought it would help her cope with the gravity of my grandmother's death. Honestly, I don't know. I could never figure out why the house was always a mess and why my mother was always asleep on the sofa.

I always looked to my father like he was a knight in shining armor, riding on the beautiful white horse, coming to my rescue. I knew he was there to protect me and provide for me. My father always seemed to be happy (when he and my mother weren't fighting), but when he got mad, buddy did we ever know it. He never had to raise his voice. His blue eyes would dance and his jaw would tighten and move back and forth. My father had a paddle he made out of piece of maple. It had holes drilled in it so it could swing quickly. He kept it on top of the refrigerator. When he reached for it, you knew you were in a big world of hurt.

When it came to "religion" we got to experience just about everything. My mother grew-up Catholic. I can remember going to church with my grandmother. She would kneel on a little bench to pray. My grandmother accepted Jesus as her savior three days before she died. I remember being at the wake and having the priest scorn me in front of everyone for attempting to take part in communion. I didn't know any better. I was only ten years old. I wasn't Catholic. I wasn't anything. We were introduced to Jehovah's Witnesses and went to a Bible study at someone's house. We were also involved with Mormonism for a while. We also went to a Bible believing church for a short time. None of it made any sense to me. Nothing fit together.

My father's mother sang in the church choir. She went to church just down the street. It was a little country church with stained glass windows and a tall steeple topped with a cross. I remember going to church with her. I would often hold her hand which always seemed to be covered with a soft leather glove. She would sing songs that were so pretty. Songs like The Old Rugged Cross and In the Garden. I learned those songs as a child and never forgot them.

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Hard work usually paid off. I started working when I was ten. I got a paper route. I started paying rent to live at home when I was a sophomore in high school. I also bought all of my own school clothes and anything I needed personally (from laundry soap to shampoo). I bought my own senior pictures too. These were hard lessons to learn, but I learned from them. And looking back, I am thankful. A little bit of hard work never hurt anyone.

I'll pick back-up tomorrow where my mother announced on Christmas morning she was leaving.

Go back up there and read the words to the last refrain. And He tells me I am His own. Do you see those words? Then don't feel sad. Jesus is drawing near to this very messed-up young girl. She just didn't know it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mama's Classic Beef Stew

The weather has finally cooled off. This afternoon I stopped by a local farm to buy a few things. I bought a few tomatoes that look and smell like real tomatoes. These are the big beefsteak tomatoes that weigh a pound a piece and make for awesome tomato sandwiches (yes, I'm a hillbilly at heart). They had "candy onions" which I suppose are so sweet one could mistake them for, well, candy. But what they are known for is their sweet corn, picked fresh each morning. I casually asked, "So, how long do you think the corn season's going to last?" I was taken aback when she answered, "We'll be done next weekend. With the summer being so hot for so long, all of the corn decided to ripen at the same time." Talk about a shock! We usually get corn well into September. I suppose all good things must come to an end.

With the change in weather, we've been enjoying a little bit of fall food this week. Yes, it's comfort food. There's nothing a piping hot bowl of good soup can't fix.

Besides tasting fabulous, the one thing that's guaranteed with this recipe is a home filled with the wonderful aroma of autumn. I think it's the pinch of ground cloves that does it. Oh! Oh! Oh! If you like beef stew, you will love this recipe. If you don't like beef stew, make this recipe just so your house can smell yummy!

Mama's Classic Beef Stew

What you will need:

2 pounds fat-trimmed boned beef chuck (or other cut suitable for stewing)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 sweet onion (about a cup) peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 (14.5 oz) cans beef broth
1 pound thin-skinned new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
3 stalks celery, rinsed and thinly sliced
8 ounces small boiling onions (buy frozen to save time)

1. Cut beef into 1 1/2 - to 2-inch chunks. Put flour in paper bag. Add beef and shake to coat with flour.

2. Pour 3 tablespoons oil into 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add half the meat; turn pieces as necessary until well browned on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a bowl. If pan is dry, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons oil. Add remaining beef and any extra flour in bag; repeat to brown pieces on all sides. Return all meat and juices to pan.

3. Add small amount of beef broth to bottom of pan, scraping up browned bits. Add remaining beef broth (all 3 cans) then add sliced onion, minced garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, sugar, paprika, pepper and ground cloves to pan. Bring mixture to a simmer. Cover pan tightly, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, one and a half to two hours.

4. Increase heat to high and add potatoes, carrots, celery, and boiling onions to pan. Once the mixture comes to a low boil, reduce heat to low and continue cooking, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes longer.

Note: I let the veggies cook about an hour since we like them very tender. For leftovers, serve over cooked white rice. Thanks for the idea, sister-in-love, Mildred!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gone Fishin'

I thought that sounded better than Gone Firin'

The weather finally cooled off enough that we made a fire on the patio. Mr. Wonderful made it so our toes were kept quite toasty. Actually, Caleb thought he might have melted the bottom of his flip flops! It was too dark, so I couldn't tell. I'm sure they'll be all right. I came in because I was actually getting a little chilly. Such is life as a woman. One minute too hot, the next minute too cold.

It's nights like this that makes me so happy our kids love hangin' with us. We all sat back there around the fire together for several hours, just talking, reminiscing, hearing camp stories. Rachel asked us if she had a lisp. What? "One of the girls at camp told me I had a lisp. Then she asked another girl if she thought I had a lisp and she said yea." No, Rachel, you do not have a lisp. That's just how girls are sometimes. Mean. I am so thankful that was their worst.

The windows are open. Should make for a great night of sleeping.

Night night, all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mama's Got the Magic!

A lot of people have asked about the white pillow case that was sent to camp with Caleb (his choice, not mine!). Remember this post? Well, I took a few pictures of him holding the pillow after he got back home, but for some reason, the dirt didn't show-up. The pillowcase actually looked clean! Here's a picture I took with a little hankie I tucked inside his sleeping bag as a surprise. Even though he had an extra pillowcase to use, he chose not to. I guess that's what happens when you sleep in a tipi filled with Indians!

Because I'm one of those mothers, I spritzed my perfume on this little hankie (you know, to remind him of home), put it in a baggie with a love note, then hid it in the bottom of his sleeping bag. I know. I know. Probably a bad idea...I don't think he'll ever forget it though. He said he kept thinking there was a tag inside the sleeping bag that kept sticking to his leg. It annoyed him so much he finally reached down inside and found the baggie with my note and the hankie. It must have been OK for him to find my little surprise. He tucked the hankie inside his pillowcase where it stayed the entire time he was at camp. Unlike the coffee container, I don't think he shared this with his friends.

These are Rachel's favorite PJ bottoms. She wore these when the girls slept on the beach one night. They had to go around the island looking for firewood. The color of the soil is quite lovely. Rich black dirt. Not such a good thing to get ground into the hems of baby pink polyester fluff.


Mama's got the magic!

And this is the collection of filthy socks. No, they weren't walking around outside without shoes on (mostly). Remember, Caleb's tipi had a dirt floor. He said he tried to balance himself while putting his shoes on so his clean socks wouldn't touch the ground, but it didn't always work out that way. Then the inside of his shoes got dirty which just ground the dirt in the bottom of the socks all the more. Even though Rachel was inside a cabin with wooden floors, the girls would bring dirt in on the bottoms of their shoes and, of course, the dirt found its way onto the bottom of their socks too. Rachel was known as Cinderella. It was her job to sweep the floor of the cabin every day.


Mama's got the magic!

Somehow I didn't take a picture of the pristine white pillowcase after it had been laundered, but trust me, it turned out sparkling white.

Recipe for Mama's Got the Magic

What you will need:

Washing machine filled with very hot water and:

1 cap full of Liquid Cheer
1 scoop of Biz
1 cup of Clorox Bleach

For extra dirty white clothes (like the socks above), I reset the agitator on the washing machine to run through three times. The water was brown just before it went to the rinse cycle. As you can see, even the dirtiest socks came out clean. I have washed grass green socks this way and even they come out clean.

For Rachel's PJ bottoms, I sprayed them with Shout! then sprinkled Biz directly on the hems. I then sprinkled the Biz with a little bit of water, then let the PJs sit in the sink for an hour or so. I scrubbed them by hand and then rinsed them out. Then I just washed them with Liquid Cheer and Biz (no Clorox) with similar clothes. Even I was surprised by how clean they came out. And Rachel was very, very happy!

And just for the record, no, I don't usually take pictures of our dirty laundry. I knew this would make for a great blog post and a valuable recipe for someone out there stuck with dirty white socks!

Yours Truly,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Caleb at Long Lake

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Psalm 24:1

Something I'm thinking about today,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Moose Munch Madness

The kids are home from camp! I won't bombard everyone with daily camp stories, but I do intend on sprinkling them throughout my blog posts in the coming weeks. I probably have enough to keep me writing for a year!

While I'm waiting to get all of the pictures uploaded from both kids' cameras, I thought I'd share a funny story Caleb shared with us while he was unpacking.

See that container? I pulled that out of my cupboard and gave it to Caleb to store the digital camera he was taking to camp. I figured it was the only way I could be sure the camera stayed dry if everything else got soaked by rain or a flip of a canoe.

This is one of several containers I have used to store coffee in for a number of years. This one in particular had the least amount of coffee in it, that's why it was chosen. The coffee was Moose Munch by Harry and David. Moose Munch happens to be the biggest seller at Harry and David's. And for a good reason...dark and nutty, with notes of caramel and chocolate.

Plastic has this way of holding smells, don't you think? That can be good and bad. In this case, it was good. Before packing the container in his duffel bag, I had Caleb put his nose in it. He sniffed and immediately agreed the smell was fabulous.

After arriving at camp, Caleb pulls out this container to get to the camera. After taking the camera out, he sniffs the container and tells his tribe they have to smell it too. The first guy steps up, puts his nose in and takes a big sniff followed by a very loud "Ahhhhggg!" This reaction prompts the other guys to get in line and put their noses in the container. If that isn't funny enough, Caleb said every single time he got the container out, one of the guys would ask, "Can I take a sniff?" Then everyone would line up and take their turn!

I don't know what it was about the smell of that container that evoked such a reaction in these guys. Was it the caramel? Was it the chocolate? Was it the reminder of their mother at home making a pot of coffee? I don't know. It was something though. Maybe it was nothing more than having an opportunity to smell something that didn't smell like sweat or dirt or the Waldorf!

After hearing Caleb's story, we all sniffed the container and agreed it didn't smell much like Moose Munch anymore. There was just a faint reminder that it once held coffee of some sort. I think all of the yummy smelly particles had been sniffed away!

Who knew a plastic container would have such a hold on a tipi full of Indians! And I can't help but wonder if any of them will retell the story of the container that smelled a little like home. I hope so!

No nose knows better than Yours Truly!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mama's Granola

I don't know what got me to thinking about granola this afternoon. Maybe it's because school is fast approaching or because fall is just around the corner. This is one of those fabulous recipes I came across a number of years ago. I've tweaked a little here and there and so can you.

I don't know. Don't you think some mini chocolate chips added to the batch after everything has cooled might be yummy?

Mama's Granola

What you will need:

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup craisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto two sheet pans. Cook for one hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a large bowl. Add craisins and mix until evenly distributed.

And just so you know, I always double this whenever I make it.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Learning and Growing and Serving

It's kinda hard to believe I took this photo of the big white dry erase board at the end of the school year minutes before Rachel erased it. Rules for negative numbers. Yikes! And here we are once again, school is just around the corner.

We have a tradition of heading outside to a maple tree in the front yard where the kids stand in front of it and have their first day of school pictures taken. It's been amazing to see how the kids have grown and how the tree has grown since 2000!

We usually start school the day after Labor Day, but this year we'll be starting on the following Monday instead. I thought it might be nice to extend summer just a little bit longer! Besides, that's the same week our homeschool co-op begins. This is the first time we'll be attending a co-op. It's almost an hour and a half away from home, but when we sat in on the classes at the end of the year, the kids absolutely loved it. They will be taking classes for apologetics, speech, debate, and art.

This year we'll tackle Omnibus II by Veritas Press, Apologia Physical Science, Teaching Textbooks Algebra, French II, Wordly Wise 8, and IEW's writing program.

We always start our school day by gathering at the kitchen table and praying together and reading scripture. And I am absolutely convinced this is why the past nine years of homeschooling have been absolutely wonderful.

I cannot believe we are about to begin our 10th year of homeschooling! Oh God, that you would go before us once again and bless our time of learning and growing and serving.

Closing with those famous words of the old preacher man I loved dearly, Bob Cook, "Walk with the King today, and be a blessing!"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Super Heroes

A number of years ago my Auntie Lou gave me a huge homemade chest filled with yards and yards of old polyester and cotton fabrics in just about every color you could imagine. Over the years the kids have created more costumes than I can even remember. Here's a tribute to my Super Heroes!

They're looking pretty serious here...

There's that famous smile!

Off to rescue someone in trouble!

Rachel saves the day...

The girl's fashion sense is remarkable. Even the earrings match!

Save yourself a lot of money buying the latest fad toys that will be broken or forgotten in a week. Go buy some cheap fabric on clearance in an array of different colors (or find yourself an auntie that's got a box stuffed just for you!). Place the fabric in a cool box along with a pair of kid-friendly scissors.

Ta da!

Guaranteed hours and hours of play time. A lifetime of memories.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Girl and the Island of Joy

This past weekend we delivered our little girl to her Island of Joy. That's what the Indian translation means. I like that. This all girls Christian camp is located on an absolutely gorgeous island in the middle of a huge lake surrounded by mountains. And so Rachel is officially at camp for the next week. Did you notice I didn't say we "dumped" her?

Rachel created this as a surprise she meant for us to find when we returned home to an empty house. But it got the best of her and she decided to present it to us instead. How do you like the new hair? I think it's just adorable!

We arrived at camp after driving for almost ten hours. It was raining and about 62 degrees. Notice the smile never disappears from her face.

This is the ferry coming to pick us up at the beach. The island is in the background. Yes, it is pouring rain!

This is home for the next week. Did you notice there are walls? And there's a real floor too. This made Mama very happy. So far, no tears. And yes, there was a love letter tucked inside the pocket of the quilt I made for her. See the beach towel? That's because she's headed out to the lake to take her swimming test...in the rain and cool 62 degree weather. Actually, we found out it's the first significant rain they've had all summer. So the lake water was very pleasant for swimming. This week's forecast is sunny and 80. Perfect for sailing and wake-boarding and water skiing and hiking and rock climbing and sleeping on the beach under the stars for one night.

This is the goodbye shot I took after I hugged her and told her I loved her three times. How do I know? Because with a huge smile on her face she said, "Mama, you've hugged me and told me that you love me three times already!" I guess that was my queue to go. So far, no tears. See her face? She's still happy!

This is the picture I took while standing on the dock waiting for the ferry to come and pick us up. I forgot to mention that when we arrived at the island, a crowd of girls had gathered at the shore and welcomed us with the island's theme song!

This picture was taken while standing on the dock, looking out over the lake to the closest shore where beautiful private homes are built. I can certainly understand why someone would want to live here. It's peaceful and beautiful and certainly fills hearts with joy.

Though a little soggy, we made it back to our hotel (the one without any amenities) and I was so proud of myself. I didn't shed a single tear! I was so happy because I knew she was happy and very comfortable. And because her cabin had walls and a floor. I have come to realize this is a huge factor for me.

The next day we drove all the way back home to find Jesse puppy anxiously awaiting our return. I was just fine until about 10 o'clock last night when I took a walk outside. Everything was quiet except the gentle hum of a thousand crickets. Then I looked up at the crystal clear sky and saw all our familiar stars. I can always find them in the very same spot. They never move. They are the same ones we watched a few nights ago as we lay on the driveway at 3 o'clock in the morning during the Perseid meteor shower. Rachel saw her very first shooting stars. It was a thrill for me to hear her excitement as she watched them shoot across the sky. As I stood there looking at my friend, the Big Dipper, it was then I realized both of my children were almost 600 miles away from home. And the tears came.

It's hard letting go. But it's necessary and it's good.

P.S. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Path of Purposeful Planning

Peace, be still.
“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it."
Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV)

The life of a homeschool mother does not have to be filled with raging winds and tossing waves. Peace comes with fearless prayer and purposeful planning. Jesus is still calming storms.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has done an amazing job creating just what you need to get started along the path to purposeful planning. The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner is not only for managing your homeschool, but for organizing every aspect of your household.

The Schoolhouse Planner contains more than 120 forms and over 600 pages that can be used interactively on-line with hyperlinks or as a traditional paper planner that you can hold in your hands and write on with a pen or pencil. You decide what's best for you.

The Schoolhouse Planner includes:
  • Calendar pages for 2010-2013, and weekly and daily schedule pages
  • 84 recipes, plus grocery and menu planners
  • 24 articles, two for each month, and 24 must-know lists
  • Alphabet writing charts for copywork--print, cursive, and italic
  • Report cards, high school transcript forms, and a high school hours tracking log
  • Multi-age journaling, nature journal pages, and a science lab sheet
  • Co-op planning forms and an extracurricular activities log
  • Assignment and attendance charts, plus twelve-year planning pages
  • Book report forms, including elementary pages
  • Schedules for two, three, four, or five children to a page
  • Party planning form, Christmas card list, and alphabetized address list
  • Website login/password reference sheet, budget records, and home maintenance forms
Take a look for yourself and see a small sampling of the pages of The Schoolhouse Planner. It might be just what you need to get started down the right path for 2010.

I received a free copy of The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner in order to create this ad. Please note that this ad has been submitted as an entry in a contest for a cash prize.

Friday, August 13, 2010

County Fair Funnel Cake

Let sleeping pigs lie... or something like that

I don't know what's happening in your neck of the woods, but here, it's County Fair time! Those two words immediately bring to mind all the wonderful things one can find jam-packed together on one small parcel of land. Here you'll find the very things that cause families to stop and take time for long strolls down dusty roads, where every corner has a vendor selling some yummy confection. It's the only time and place where the smells of sausage sandwiches and vinegar fries and the livestock barn and the black smoke that billows out of large souped-up tractors pulling sleds filled with weights, can all mingle together and be heavenly.

I have fond memories of standing in line waiting to get a white flimsy paper plate topped with my all-time favorite...funnel cake. Of course, it had to be piping hot, right from the deep fryer, and dusted with tons of powdered sugar. Oh, yum!

When we made this recipe, we were surprised to find that it tastes exactly like what you get at the County Fair. And it makes enough funnel cake to tempt you to become a vendor! So invite over all your friends or consider cutting the recipe in half. This is a guaranteed winner...oink!

County Fair Funnel Cake

What you will need:

4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
3 cups canola oil

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a spoon, create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add 2 1/2 cups of milk and 3 eggs and whisk together until smooth. Pour batter into a one gallon Ziploc bag and seal.

Heat 3 cups of oil in a large skillet or cast iron chicken fryer to 350 degrees (maintain a temperature of 350 degrees). Snip a small corner from the batter-filled Ziploc bag. Carefully drizzle batter, criss crossing in all directions, on top the hot oil. Let cook for about two minutes. Carefully flip the cake using tongs and then let cook one minute more on the other side. Using tongs, remove the cake from the hot oil and place on paper towels (or use a white flimsy paper plate!). Dust generously with powdered sugar.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Thursday!

I don't know how many big brothers would appreciate a little sister...

who decided to have her dolls throw a surprise birthday party just for him.

I'm so glad he did.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Today is a Great Day!

Let me introduce you to the Waldorf

It's important to have a good sense of humor, don't you think? Yes, this is the Waldorf. The Waldorf is the latrine used by all the campers. Instead of being scented with the classic Blenheim Bouquet fragrance (a subtle, gender-free melange of citrus, musk and pine...taken right from the Waldorf Astoria's website), I suppose its fragrance was more reminiscent of, well, a great big outhouse. What exactly would you expect in the middle of the nowhere?

I guess I was expecting a little bit more.

Because of the very long drive, we made reservations to stay over one night in the area. I quickly discovered that most places were filled with guests. I did find a nearby establishment and when I called to make reservations they told me their facilities were just like a hotel. "Oh, I can handle that," said I. I didn't need anything fancy, but I really had no desire to sleep in a tent nor a tipi for that matter. Imagine our surprise to walk into our hotel room and discover the following amenities missing:

- air conditioning
- television
- radio
- telephone
- coffee machine
- shampoo and blow dryer
- ice bucket

Mr. Wonderful walked down to the lobby to inquire about the air conditioning. The older gentleman working behind the counter half-smiled and snickered at the same time and said, "Sir, you're in the middle of the mountains. There's no air conditioning here." Oh. Thank the Lord, our room did have a bathroom. We did not have to use a latrine! Or should I say, the Waldorf!

Insert drastic subject change here...

Rachel and I went to the post office this morning before heading out to have the kids' school portfolios reviewed. When Rachel walked out smiling and waving an envelope, I knew what she had in her hand. It was a letter from Caleb! We were not expecting to receive anything until at least tomorrow, maybe Friday. What a wonderful surprise! I promised Mr. Wonderful that when the time came and the first letter arrived, I would call him so we could read Caleb's letter together. And so that's exactly what I did.

I'm going to share it here because the letter contained more than two words!

On the front of the card he wrote:

Hi! Boss

Flipping it open, this is what he wrote:

Hi, M and D and R

I'm having a lot of fun, taking pics, and making friends, 5 of um. I'm sleeping well, and the food is amazing. Oh, and Boss at camp means awesome, beak means lame, etc.

Love u guys,

And there you have it. Receiving this letter made my day...maybe even my week! Those three words "fun" and "sleeping well" did this mother's heart much good. Mr. Wonderful's heart was filled too.

Then, this afternoon, I received an e-mail from the camp director (all the camper families receive this). Here's part of what it said:

This session we are studying King David. David is 'da man', but not only for what he did (slaying giants and enemies), but more for who he was. We'll emphasize the importance of being God's man as a pre-requisite to doing God's work. We're memorizing Psalm 119:9-20 for 3000-12. Pray for hearts of campers and staff that they might know Jesus more fully and follow Him without reserve.

I looked up the Bible verses and here's what they're memorizing:

Psalm 119:9-20 (ESV)
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

Our prayers for our son have been that Caleb:

  • Grow in wisdom (with God and men)
  • Strength of character
  • Protection (physically and spiritually)
  • Develop lifelong friendships
  • God’s calling upon his life
  • Patient and attentive spirit
  • Portrays honor, honesty and humility
  • Leadership and courage

Once again, I have freshly discovered that the Lord goes before us and prepares the way of our journey long before we even take that very first step. He sets everything in motion at that perfect moment in time.

Today is a great day and I am so very thankful!

P.S. I think the reference to 3000-12 means 3000 push-ups while memorizing 12 verses!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two Words -- Having Fun!

Come on now. You didn't really think I'd just drop the whole camp thing, did you? I just had to post some of the pictures I took shortly after we arrived.

Dedicated to camp founders , Dad and Mom Kunz. This Christian camp for boys was established in 1930. "Building godly young men in a Christ-centered community through wilderness camping."

This is the view as you turn the corner from the big woods. Everything about this place was simply beautiful.

Caleb had to pass a swimming test minutes after arriving...after sitting in a car for 10 straight hours.

That didn't slow him down. Caleb was bookin' it both ways--the lifeguards were cheering him on. He said the water was great!

Sailing is one of the things Caleb will learn to do while he's away at camp.

I'm hoping another thing he learns to do while he's away at camp is lick envelopes. I prepared a nice little package for him that contained self-addressed, stamped envelopes with a piece of paper tucked inside each one. I presented it to him followed by a very short lecture. I told him all he had to do was write two words across the paper. You know, like, "Having fun!" or "I'm OK!" or "Doing great!" I don't expect a book or even a page filled with sentences, I just want to know that he's OK. He said he would write every day. I think he'll be having too much fun to write every day, but I do expect to have something in my hands by Thursday (if he mailed it on Monday). I had better have something in my hands by Friday. He don't even want to mess with Mama.

As you can tell, I'm feeling much better!