He was Framed…(Finally)

Having a fourth kid brings challenges of a different kind.  I’m not referencing the difficulty of keeping up with a two-year-old at the age of forty.  (40!)
That’s tough.  The specific challenge to which I am referring is rounding out a collection of kids’ pictures.  (You know, you have a set of frames that you love and you need to add another to the set, but those frames were bought many moons ago.)  I have found a possible solution!

The six and 1/2 year gap between my two youngest kids helps explain the predicament I was in with the frame situation.  My baby rounded us out at two girls and two boys.


So…on to the solution!

There was no manufacturer listed on any frame, no store label with pricing or anything that would give me a clue where to look first.  I had searched online using suitable descriptors, to no avail.  Then, I heard about the RedLaser app.


RedLaser is simply a barcode scanner.  On the back of my frames, I found the sticker with the UPC code and that was all I needed to finish the set of frames!  Yay, me!  You only have to use the scanner (in the same way an item is scanned in the store, except you use your phone.)  The listings will then be displayed for you to click and buy.  If you only get a UPC code and no sellers listed, try plugging that in on Amazon.  That’ll work too.  So easy!

This frame is from Home Trends and can be purchased on Amazon (and I share because inquiring minds want to know.)

I was thrilled to finally put little man on the wall with his siblings.  I wanted to hurry before he got old enough to notice his absence.

I hope this helps you!




Making Room to Breathe

I am learning that humans function best with wiggle-room.   I can not remember hearing anyone say, “I hate the fresh air and wide open spaces.” Rather, I take notice when I am outdoors with someone (even if it’s on the porch) and listen to their sighs and hear them articulate a love for space.

That need for air and room and margin (room where there’s nothing to do; there are no deadlines, no goals or agendas) speaks of a deeper need in my life.  Because I tend to define myself by accomplishments, I stay overly busy.  And, I affirm that I am productive and my worth is validated.

Or, so I think.

I’m seeing how very unhealthy that can be.  I have seen my life as a budget spreadsheet, as though I can be cut up into parts, segmented to divide among the many jobs around me.  I have seen myself as a commodity.  Now I  am beginning to see with fresh, new perspective.

The pragmatic part of me (which is most of me) wants to go from Point A to Point B and get it over with.  Don’t waste time and effort.  Just do.  But, I am realizing that life isn’t a checklist.  I don’t really enjoy seeing the items marked off the to-do list as much as I enjoy a peaceful walk pushing my toddler in the stroller though the neighborhood or a drive to the park to stare at the sun glinting on the water.  I long for trees and worn paths where grass doesn’t grow.  That Redwood tree out back begs me to come and see how much it has grown over the last year.

That room to be quiet and still and feel the air gently blow across my face (as opposed to feeling the wind sweeping over me as I run at a breakneck pace) isn’t as wasteful as I have thought.  It’s an investment.  I need it more than I need clean floors.  jphone 063

I am more than a machine that needs oiled and maintenance.  I need time to stop and feel.  Underneath the flesh that gets the job done is a being with feelings and wonderings.  Those take time too.  I propose to leave some empty space – room in my life to breathe in deep and stop to experience peace.

During the Summer months,  it seemed easier to push aside responsibility and play.  Now that I’m back to homeschooling, we are counting the hours.   I want to work hard, but with gentleness.  I’m listening to my oldest daughter talk about making investments toward good mental health by doing the things that she loves and not only what is on the schedule and I’m hearing that echo in my heart.  My, how I learn from that girl.


And, in a timely fashion, I’m reading through Seasons of a Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson and she referenced Ecclesiastes 3:9-15:

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is,already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

The quiet margin in my life might be the time that allows me to ponder on the eternity that God has set in my heart.  Perhaps that is what I need, what I am longing for.  Today’s duties have to be done and I can eat and drink and even take pleasure in the toil.  (Tea time, anyone?)

Let me share this quote from the same book by Mrs. Clarkson.  “So make the choice to celebrate life with your family.  It is so easy to think that life consists of the assorted responsibilities, tasks, and crises that fill up the hours of each homeschooling day.  But it doesn’t.  The parts of life that matter most are the unexpected moments and memories that happen each day – the ones that won’t be forgotten.
Choose to be thankful, and learn to be content.”

And, I’ll add – Don’t forget to breathe!

Learning about Arts Integrated Education

In honor of Independence Day, I decided to do a mini-project.    FUN!

A conversation that my kids were engaged in about the aging process and effects of age on copper led to a discussion of the aging of the Statue of Liberty.  So, I decided to look up some information about the statue and I found this “fun fact” sheet from citypass.com.


Coincidentally, I found this cool mannequin and DVD to accompany it at the local library.


Since I have been studying Arts Integrated Learning recently, I decided that these items are a great pair!  Not only can we learn the facts, we can also practice drawing the Statue of Liberty  with the aid of our borrowed friend.


I’m learning about this “new” idea of Arts Integrated Education, but it’s a new label for something many educators have done for a long time.  Teach history through/with art, teach science through/with art, teach math (even math?) through/with art!!  Isn’t that exciting?  I think it’s exciting for both teachers and students.  Think STEAM instead of STEM.

Let’s see how this turns out.  🙂

Gnarly Running Faces

imageBeginning January 1st, I set a goal to *run an average of 1 mile per day for all of 2015.  That’s 365 miles.  (*Running is defined as anything faster than a walk, says I.)  Some people might scoff at my goal and some might think it a lofty one.  I was surprised at my own tenacity to run when it was hard and inconvenient.  I ran for 160 days.  Then…I quit.  As of today, I am about 15 miles behind schedule.  That feels gross to say, but it isn’t the end of the world.  I ran 160 miles, people.  And, I wasn’t a runner prior to January of this year.

{Pictured above: sweaty people}

My usual pace has been 5 mph.  I’d kick it up a little from time to time.  Near the end of my streak, I started doing interval running – five minutes of running at 5 mph and then one minute at 6 mph.  It was an exciting challenge!

Over the course of six months, I have completed a 5K race.  I ran with my husband and my kids.  It was a commitment (and failure) I don’t regret.  And, I still have time to pick up the commitment again, but I have to get the track fixed on my treadmill – dangit.  It’s wrecked for the time being.  Meanwhile, I’m working a garden, playing in the pool and working around the house.  There’s plenty to keep me busy this Summer.

Did somebody say donuts?


Oh…we were talking about running.  Not donuts.

Somebody please call me a slacker and maybe I’ll be ashamed and start running again.


When Mid-Winter is Bleak

Though snow is magical and wondrous (in small doses), it has the power to shut down life.  I mean…it can stop us in our tracks.  Stop our running.  Stop our normal routine.  So, we need a little inspiration when snow days turn sour and we’re SO OVER IT!


Our homeschool has taken a day or two off over the last two weeks of crazy weather – when public school has been forced to shut down.  But, we’ve mostly carried on.


So, I thought I’d share what we’re doing to ward off the winter blues.  I hope that you’re fighting the darkness too.

We’ve read aloud.  My fourth and second graders have enjoyed the story of Caddie Woodlawn.  At night, my husband has read to us from S.D. Smith’s new book, The Green Ember.

We have had snow cream.  I tried a recipe from Paula Deen that had sweetened condensed milk and that actually got poorer reviews from my little food critics than the simpler recipe I linked to above.  We’ve had snow ice cream FOUR TIMES already.  And, we may have it again.  (Cheap and easy!)

Today, we are making a Repentance/Sorry Box for Lent.  With all these days in the house together, we need to say ‘I’m sorry’ more often!

The kids have enjoyed playing outdoors some.  And, I joined them once with the baby in tow.


We have played games.  Monopoly is a favorite of my eight-year-old.  I like Scrabble and Apples to Apples.  We’ve been working on grammar and Apples to Apples is word-play with nouns and adjectives AND it’s funny.  I also hung up a pretty and educational banner to help reinforce what we’re learning.  I don’t think I’ll mind looking at it for a month or two!

The kids are typing up letters to friends on the typewriters.  Yes, we now have two since we visited an antique shop on a rare day out.

I dared to put Duct Tape on the carpeted floor in the living room to create a hopscotch.  It was fun and gave us something to do for a couple of weeks.  The tape came up with no issue – no residue.  (Thank the Maker.)


I have been running.  During late Fall, before the turn of the new year, I was feeling very BLAH.  I know that diet and exercise make such a difference in my emotional health.  So, I followed my husband’s lead and took on a challenge to run 365 miles in 2015.  So far, I have logged close to 60 miles on the treadmill.  Don’t mistake me for a runner…this is new to me!  But, on March 14th, I’m going to run my first 5K!  That is helping deal with the bleak mid-winter.  It isn’t always easy, but it is just what I need this time of year, when I can’t soak up the vitamin D.

We’ve been listening to music.  Billy Joel, the Beatles, Brooke Fraser, Ellie Holcomb, the Piano Guys, Rend Collective and many others can be heard around here.

We decorated for Valentine’s Day…and left up the decorations.

Valentine's Day banner

We brought the slide in for the baby, to give him something to climb other than chairs, the piano, and end tables!


And, I’ve perused Pinterest for inspiration when I had none.  If you’re home with kids and you’re unaccustomed to lesson plans or learning at home, try doing a study of something you and they LOVE.  Anything.  Birds.  Video games.  Princesses.  Create a new game.  Color a picture or get online and watch a documentary.  You can find almost anything on the world-wide-web.

I hope we’ll all look back at this time at home and remember fun times!  And, remember…Spring is coming!


Homeschooling – the ultimate DIY

There is a turning tide in our culture, it seems.  People are leaving the big chain stores for farmers’ markets.  Soap-making,  raising chickens, breast-feeding and cutting kids’ hair are all evidences that people are doing things, big and small, for themselves.   And, here’s the biggest DIY wave crashing to shore (at least in my neck of the woods): homeschooling.

It seems that one DIY project becomes another and another until there’s a change of lifestyle.  Waves crashing successively.  What’s amazing is that within my homeschooling community, I see this manifested in many different ways.  Some mommas learn to bake their own bread.  Some play musical instruments. Some take a stand against the neglect of drug-riddled lives and extend a HOME to those without one.  (Talk about DIY!)  Some make clothing, grow food, build furniture, work on cars.  And, this is a good thing.

The consumerism that has characterized our culture seems to be turning into productivity.  It’s a movement of empowerment.  Permission.  From whom do we seek permission?  Usually the first answer is: self.  The biggest hurdle I had to climb was the limitations in my own mind.  Can I do this for myself?

Empowerment wasn’t what drew me to homeschool.  I wasn’t looking for purpose.  But, the Lord led us here, into this place of great vulnerability.  It’s risky to do things yourself that others always have.  As my Father-in-law once said, “You’ll never make mistakes if you do nothing.  But, the person who does anything will fail.”  Or, something quite close to that.  It was a statement that rocked my perfectionistic world.  In a good way.   You can be perfect, until you set your hand to a task.  Any task.  Then, you’ll find that you need practice, like everyone else.

I’m so glad to be apart of a community that celebrates the notion that we are enabled to BE and to DO, for ourselves.  That doesn’t cut me off from the need of people.  If anything, it makes me need people more.  I don’t get all my needs met by a clerk at the chain store or on a website.  I need my Mom to teach me the tricks to garden.  I need teachers to teach me.  And then, perhaps, I’ll teach another.  I’m more connected because I am doing these things for myself.  And, those things that I won’t do for myself – because I do end somewhere – I can reach out to the friend or neighbor I know that does that task well.  I may get to pay him to do it.  Or her.  It’s great to live in that purposeful community.

This year, I’m learning to garden.  And, it’s exciting!   It’s empowering.  What are you doing today that you couldn’t do five years ago?  Last year?  What are you determined to do for yourself that you aren’t doing now?  Because, you can.  Give yourself permission.


Homeschooling – my Beginning

Recently I have had much occasion to think about the beginnings of homeschooling for me.  Homeschooling begs the question: WHY?  (Why on earth?!  Why take that on?)  So…let me share with you the WHY behind this journey.

I love a good back story.  Do you?  I am going to share what I believe is a very unique back story and it’s mine!  That’s exciting to me because most things I do look very vanilla.

In the year 2000, my husband and I had an adventure.  This adventure began, in a sense, much earlier.  After experiencing an inexplicable connection and drawing to the satellite church that had linked to our home church in Beckley, Jason and I sought out counsel and we fasted and prayed about the possibility of moving there.  That inexplicable connection began with my husband experiencing a feeling as a ‘leaping within’ at the mention of the name of a little town in TN – Hohenwald.  This feeling must have been much like the feeling that is described as John lept in Elizabeth’s womb.  This is the way he told it to me.  We thought this over and prayed on and off for months.  After much confirmation (which is a long story that deserves told, but will not be told now), we decided that we were indeed going to move to Hohenwald, TN to work among a people we did not know.  So, the two of us packed our meager belongings to go and live in a strange place, among strangers in what would be a pivotal point in our lives.  For only 11 months, we met with five other families as a home church.  We met in one house or another, sharing meals and lives.  Our first Passover Seder was experienced there.  Our first child was conceived while we lived there.  Our marriage flourished because we had no crutches, excepting God Himself.  Our lives were being transformed.

Now…you must be wondering when I’ll begin to share about homeschooling.  I’m getting there, I promise.

Jason and I both took jobs with a family in the church there who owned their own mum farm.   The name of that family-run farm was Fernwood.  (They grew and housed ferns also, hence the name.)   We were taking a pay cut, but we were ‘in ministry’ so it didn’t matter.  It was all part of the experience…no questions asked really.  That family was generous to us.  They took on two people who knew nothing about farming and let us into their lives.  The Everetts.  I love them dearly.  Jason ran a road-side stand in a nearby town, selling flowers and plants.  I stayed on the farm and drove the tractor around and helped with farm chores.  I also was given the opportunity to come inside the home and share in their homeschooling.  My assistance was minimal, but it lit a fire in me.  I saw something that seemed so foreign and fascinating.  They had a table that seated 8 or 10…it was huge…and that was where the schooling took place, mostly.  I shared my very minimal knowledge of Spanish with the kids and we played vocabulary games to help them learn a foreign language.  I watched them do something I didn’t know was possible.  School at home.  I had no idea.

The truth is: I usually follow the rules.  I wasn’t one to think outside the box.  There wasn’t a need to…the box was fine, after all.  I thought so.  But, this was a picture into an amazingly different life.  And, Jason and I fell in love with the idea before our firstborn ever entered the world.

At the end of that short 11 months, we came back to Southern WV to find that many people were homeschooling all around us.  But, God took us to a mum farm in *Hohenwald, TN to discover this amazing adventure that He had for us.

Once we had returned to Beckley, I joined the local Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group.  There I met a few friends that became my homeschooling companions, who led me into the bigger support group of REACH.  So much time and so many stories.  But, that sums up the beginnings and that was what I proposed to do.

A little post-script:

*(I’m certain that you will want to know that Hohenwald is German for “high forest”.  And, the town is home to an elephant sanctuary, which we sadly never saw.)