I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Today my sweet Eva Grace turns two.

I wanted to write a blog post full of fun pictures of her Strawberry Shortcake party that we will have this evening or a how-to on making the precious banner I made or the recipe of the cake I baked, and maybe I will someday, but first, I wanted to share the very best Eva story of all.

Two and a half years ago, I was not in the best place.  I was struggling with bitterness toward my church family.  I was struggling with my sister getting married and not being around as much.  I was struggling with starting to homeschool one kid while I needed to potty train the other, and Bird had just started a new job that I was less than sure about after being without work for a few stressful months.  It was not the time for me to find out I was pregnant.  At all.

I had been feeling pretty yucky, and I was extra tired, and I realized it could be a real option.  I took a test thinking I was going to ease my mind with a negative, and then there it was.

A big fat positive sign.

I was at my parents' house, and not wanting anyone to know, I walked out to my truck that we had just bought a few months prior that perfectly fit our family of four and I cried.  I had a boy and a girl.  They had their own rooms that I'd painted just for them. The entire picture perfect life I'd worked so hard to cultivate was crashing down around me.  I called my husband and told him, and I was pretty surprised at how happy he was about it.  I honestly felt a little betrayed.  I secretly wanted him to be as upset as I was, but he saw what I wouldn't see for another 7 months.

My body does not handle pregnancy well.  I've never been pregnant and not had some sort of complications.  High blood pressure.  Terrible morning sickness.  Bed rest.  Weird pains in my hips.  Terribly itchy palms and feet.  Every pregnancy got worse.

As I walked through those months, I became angrier and more frustrated.  I began to find myself so upset with God that He would do this to me.  I knew people struggling to get pregnant, and here I was miserable and huge and pregnant with a baby that I had no plan to conceive.  It was such a dark time in my life, and looking back now, I kinda can't believe I wasn't smited down old testament style.

I went through a miserable pregnancy, and after what I'm pretty sure was seventeen years, it was finally time to have this baby.

With my first two labors, I had an epidural, took a nap, and woke up to a couple of quick pushes and bam! baby time.  With Eva, I had two veins blow just trying to put the IV in.  Then my epidural only took on one side, so no naps were enjoyed by me this go round.  As I laid their in that hospital bed fighting the urge to scream every two minutes, I was at the lowest point I can ever remember being.  I was so angry that I was even there, and I could not even really think about this baby that I was going to lose sleep over and have to constantly be feeding and changing and cleaning up after.

Labor took eight very long, very painful hours.  And then there was an Eva.

As the doctor handed her to me, I looked at her sweet, puffy little face, and I melted.  Once we got into our room and settled in, Bird laid down to get some rest, and I just kept thinking about Romans 5:6.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly."

The next few weeks were some of the most content, happiest times of my life as I was continually blessed by the reminder of just how in control of my life God really was.  Just as He sent His son to die at just the right time, He sent me an Eva exactly when He saw fit.  And it didn't matter that she didn't have a nursery for me to decorate.  And it didn't matter that I did some days of school on only a few hours of sleep.  And it didn't matter that bottles were taking up half of the dishwasher every time I needed to wash the piles of dirty dishes in the sink.  And it didn't matter that my life wasn't exactly how I'd planned it.  None of it mattered because even with all of those things, Eva constantly reminded me of the love God had for me when He sent me a savior.  I was weak and needed to be saved, and He sent His son to do exactly that.  Then He called me at just the right time to follow Him, and He gave me a new heart- a heart of flesh- and showed me love.  This was something I quickly forgot when my circumstances became difficult.  What a beautiful way God chose to beckon my heart back to Him!

So today, I do celebrate Eva.  I celebrate her funny, ornery personality and her sweet smile and her curly hair and big brown eyes and her laugh and her cry and her precious spirit.

But more than that, I celebrate the fact that God never lost control of my life- and He never will- even if I can't see that.  Between God and I, Eva only surprised one of us.

So happy birthday to my Eva.  You truly have shown me God's grace.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Habit Training.

**I want to preface this by saying that we use the book I'm writing about today in our homeschool curriculum, but I would absolutely use this with my kids even if we didn't homeschool.  It's that good.  Seriously.

I shared the math curriculum we are using this year with Isaiah a few months ago, and I wanted to share a little bit more about what we are studying in other subjects, too.

By far, the most asked about subject we are doing it Habit Training.

Now, before you roll your eyes and call me a weirdo, let me just say that I would have also thought this was a bit out there a few years ago.  Then after teaching for two years, I realized just how much of what my kids (and even I) do is done out of habit.  It just makes sense that I would train them to replace any bad habits with good, biblical ones at a young age.

We were already using Simply Charlotte Mason for our Bible, Geography, and History curriculum, so using the book "Laying Down the Rails" from there seemed like a great fit for our family.

We actually purchased the two companion books for the breakdown of the lessons.  These books are full of funny stories, sweet poems, and scripture passages to help explain why each habit is important and even necessary in our everyday lives.  There are tons of different topics to choose from, and each one has anywhere from 10 to 14 lessons in it.  The author suggests doing two lessons per week.  This means it will take about an average of 6 weeks to be trained in one habit.

This book will take us around 10 years to actually complete.

Now that you know all about how the book works, let me tell you how it's actually helped us change.

We have finished two topics so far: Cleanliness and Attention.  Oh.  My.  Word.  You guys, my kids are the same sweet, bright, ornery kids that they were 13 weeks ago, but they are much cleaner and much better at paying attention now.

We tackled Cleanliness first.  This one was a hard one for me.  I've never been a tidy person by nature.  (Don't look in my van...eeek...), and my kids certainly inherited that from me.  Their rooms were not only always always a mess, but they didn't really know how to clean when I told them to.  This topic was really great because it broke it down and made it easier to attack our messes in an orderly way.  It showed us how to be diligent, and in the end, our home is much cleaner for it.  Now, don't misread what I've typed there.  Our home is not spotless most of the time, but it does draw us more to pick up our messes when we see the need than we ever were before.  I will say, this was great for the kids, but I was very much trained in this habit as well.

This week, we are wrapping up Attention.  In hindsight, I should've started with this one.

Always start with this one. 

Just kidding.  Start where it fits your family.  (but seriously...start here...)

This one has made such a great impact on my kids, but specifically Isaiah.  We learned how to pay attention and why we pay attention and great tricks to help us pay attention.  No joke, guys, everything else with school and church and general conversations have gotten easier since I was able to start saying, "Today, we need to make sure we are practicing the habit of attention!"

I could go on and on and on all day long about how truly wonderful this series has been, and I'm sure will continue to be for our family.  I would strongly suggest picking this up if anyone in your family has any bad habits that could use a little training.

If you would like to order this book or even take a look at a free sample of it, check it out right here!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Character Parties.

You know who I was before I had kids?  I was that mom who swore my kids were never ever going to wear character clothes.  I thought they were gaudy and tacky and cheap looking.  Nope, not my kids.  My son would wear caps and collared shirts and sweater vests on the regular.

Because I was kind of a pompous jerk.

Fast forward seven years and well, let's just say Isaiah spent about three entire years of his life in shirts with Lighting McQueen on them.  Turns out, if kids really really like something, it makes them really really happy to wear that something on their chest day in and day out.  So I gave in as any loving mother would, and I let him wear his Cars clothes because I liked making him happy more than I liked being the mom with the ever-fashionable kid.

But I still kind of hate character stuff, so I tend to shy away from doing character parties for birthdays because I didn't think I could find a way to do it that would suit both my tastes and be what they wanted.  But guess what, you guys.  It's possible.  And it's precious.  And it's inexpensive.  And it makes my kid really really happy.  It's wins all around.  I'll break down my son's Captain America party for you to see just how I was able to do a super hero party that even I really loved!

I always start with a basic color scheme.  In this case, I obviously went with red, white, and blue.  This helps me avoid cartoon characters on plates that are only covered by cake anyway, and it also cuts down the cost quite a bit.  Captain America plates are $3 for 10.  Blue plates are $1 for 20.  Makes way more economical sense.  Next, I raided my 4th of July decor.  I will admit I got lucky in that Isaiah's birthday is at the end of June, so I found a lot of extra little things at the dollar store, but this idea works well no matter what.  (For example, if your daughter loves Frozen, stock up now on inexpensive Christmas decor that works with that theme!)

Our table cloth was just about 3 yards of fabric from the craft store, and the table runner was simply a blue plastic table cloth I had folded from the dollar store.

Since Isaiah loves Captain America so much, I grabbed some of his own toys to help decorate.  He already had the dress up clothes and helmet, so why not use them?  That's exactly what I did for the precious background.

For our gift area, I just decorated our little rocking chair with some red, white, and blue garland and an American flag.  I also added a new Captain America shield!  This gift totally worked as decor!

I also wrapped all of the gifts in pretty red, white, and blue bags.

We added what really was a 4th of July pinata, and the kids had so much fun with that.

In the end, I think I spent around $50 in all for this party!  (And much of that was on candy...)

I also went ahead and dressed the kids in party-matching attire.  It really added to the whole ambiance.

In the end, I only spent about $50 on this entire party, and a good $20 of that was candy for the pinata.  (Money well spent!)

In the end, I think I love character parties now.  It was so simple to pull together, and it was such a happy birthday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"T" Party.

One of my most favorite things about having little girls is how I finally get to girly things up.  

Don't get me wrong.  I love Mario parties and construction parties and playing super heroes as much as the next guy, but there's something about doting on my girls and making things floral and frilly that is just so much fun for me, and thankfully my girls love it, too! (And even more thankfully, Isaiah has friends he gets to hang out with while we do girly things!)

I also really really love learning, and so when I see an opportunity to incorporate "school" into girly things, well, that's just about as good as it gets for me.

Izzy is in kindergarten this year, and her year is really just revolving around the alphabet.  Every week, we take a different letter and learn how to write it and what sound it makes and words that start with it.  A couple of weeks ago, I sat down to plan out the next few weeks, and I noticed the letter "T" was coming up fairly soon.  This felt like a great opportunity to do something extra special and fun for the sweet little girls we know and love...

So we had a "T" party!

You guys, this was the most precious thing ever.

At the beginning of the week, Izzy and I made invitations.  This was a really great way to introduce the letter to her, and then she helped me deliver them to her friends.

When all the sweet little girls arrived, they had to get ready before we could have our tea.  I set out all the dress-up clothes and shoes and accessories I could find.

We had so many accessories and dresses!

They got to figure out which pretty things they wanted to wear, and some changed multiple times.  (They are girls, after all...)

They got advice from one another about what looked best.

But all of them were such beautiful "fancy girls!"

After about forty-five minutes, they were all ready to go.

Even this one!

Okay...on to the lunch...

We talked a little bit about manners, so the girls walked as daintily as they could to see their table.

They were so excited to sit at a fancy table and use beautiful dishes!

They sat and ate like the sweetest little ladies I've ever seen.  

And all of their manners were minded.

I kept saying, "This has to be the calmest lunch I've ever seen with kids!" They quietly talked and ate and were as prim and proper as you could ever imagine.

And the tea...oh my word it was just too cute.

They ate so well, too, and always asked very politely if they could "please have some more."

Our menu was pretty simple.  We had strawberries and crackers and these adorable sandwiches for lunch.

And dessert was cupcakes, marshmallows, and donuts.

These pearls are candy, and I thought they added just the sweetest little touch.

I added the letter T everywhere I could without going over the top with it.  We talked for a few minutes about how "tea" starts with "t," and we sang "I'm A Little Teapot."

And we ended our party with dancing because every party with little girls should have twirling involved.

We had such a lovely day with some of the lovliest little ladies I could ever imagine.

And I don't think Izzy will ever look at a "T" the same way again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

(Tap, Tap, Tap) Mom! (Tap, Tap, Tap) Mom!

My kids used to tap on my arms all the time.

And I mean all the time.

In the grocery store: tap tap tap, mom!

While I was on the phone: tap tap tap, mom!

In the middle of church: tap tap tap, mom!

I seriously disliked it, and my mom (the first grade/kindergarten teacher) has said that the tapping was the worst part of her job.  

But let's be honest here.  They don't do it to annoy us.  They do it because they really really really want to be heard.  Everything in their little brains is the most important thought anyone has ever had in the world ever, and it's really important that they let us know exactly what those thoughts are.  It's precious, really, and I want my kiddos to feel like they are being heard.  

But the tapping had to quit.

This is the simplest little trick that I picked up from some really smart mom years and years ago, and I thought I'd share it with you.  I started this a few years ago with Isaiah, and it has worked wonders, and I recently just started with Izzy. They don't always remember, but we try to employ this as often as we can.

They know when I'm in the middle of a conversation or busy with something and they have something to tell me, they simply quietly come place their tiny hand on my arm.  This is their way of telling me, "Hey Momma, I have something super important I want to tell you!"

Then, I simply place my hand on top of theirs.  This lets them know that I fully recognize that they have something to tell me and will be ready to listen as soon as I've finished what I'm doing.
They can feel free to continue to hold onto my arm to remind us both that they were going to say something or take the chance I will forget and they can go back and play.  Either way, no tapping.  No constantly saying "Momma!  Momma!" and no mommy guilt for being slightly annoyed at my kids.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Math...As Serious As It Needs To Be.

When I was in school, I hated math.

And I do mean hated math.

I could write a 20 page paper over the societal implications of The Scarlet Letter without hesitation, but my word, once letters entered into my math problems, I was out.

I guess that's why it never offended me that when people found out I was homeschooling our kids, their first response, almost inevitably, was, "Wait...what are you going to do about math...?"

I have sort of bounced around over the last few years about how to tackle this issue.  I didn't want to buy a whole curriculum set every year because, honestly, I needed to either actually understand it myself or have someone else teach it, and those sets tend to contain a workbook and a teacher's edition with little more than a basic overview and the answers.  I spent so many days and nights in tears trying to find something that I could teach but also something the kids would enjoy at an affordable price.

Then I met Fred.  He is a 5 year old math professor.  He is so cute and funny and entertaining.

This is a new and interesting way to approach math that I haven't seen in any of the curriculum packages I've poured through, and honestly, I'm a bit smitten.  Rather than page after page of problems and drills to work through, Life Of Fred teaches children (and their mothers in some cases) math through real-life scenarios that Fred finds himself in in a novel-style story where he encounters the need for math and learns the methods to solve his problems.  Never again will I look at a math problem and think, "Now when would I ever actually use that in real life??" because I can see exactly where it would be useful!

I really love this because even though we use it as our base curriculum, it's great for a supplement.  If you have a kid in school who doesn't seem to "get" math, this is a great set of books to order to help explain the "why" behind the concepts.

We are starting now with the elementary series, but this program runs through some college-level math courses, and even in elementary, we are learning things that we will build on to make middle and high school-levels easier to understand.

We do add a few extra worksheets or games throughout our week to reinforce what we are learning through this series since there are only a few practice problems as the end of each chapter, but with this approach to math, even I, the Hater Of All Things Numerical, am actually understanding it in a way that makes it possible for me to teach it, too.

And bonus!  I hear Isaiah giggle his way through his math lesson every day.  He has even requested to do math on days we aren't even doing school just so he can see what is going to happen next!

I would strongly recommend the Life Of Fred series for anyone who wants to learn not just the "how," but the "why" behind math in a funny and entertaining way!

Click here to check out the website!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Day We Got A Gecko.

If you know me at all, you know I'm not a big critter fan.  They freak me out, and I really would rather not have animals.

I have enough work with my three human animals.

But after many years of being married to a guy named Bird, I grew to love kinda like some animals.

I'd probably quietly cry if something happened to our hyperactive Australian Shepherd, and I loudly cried for many weeks when my favorite cat, Apple, disappeared.

So today, imagine my own surprise when I found myself actually excited to get a gecko.  

We had already decided we were going to get a lizard several weeks ago because it will be a great way for us to study reptiles up close.  I knew we could learn a ton from books and videos, but there's something about watching how one moves and eats and when they sleep and are awake on a daily basis that helps kids learn.

We found a great little independently owned pet shop where we got to ask tons of questions and sat on the floor and held the baby geckos and let them crawl all over us and jump all around, and when we found one we wanted, we brought it home in a little bowl.

We had to be super careful, though, because these little guys jump.

So the lid stayed on.

We got a habitat kit, but we added to it by going outside and finding rocks and sticks that would work well in a lizard habitat.

We had to learn a lot about how these little guys live before we could actually put him in his new home.  We learned he drinks best from dew or condensation, so we had to mist the cage before we put him in.

We have to be really careful in how we handle him because he can drop his tail from stress, so Daddy Bird carefully placed him in his new home.

We are so excited about this fellow, and we are really anticipating learning everything there is to know about crested geckos and cold-blooded creatures!
Welcome to the family, little Zilla!

Monday, June 30, 2014

And Then There Were Two.

Our school year has officially kicked off!

After weeks of prep work and cleaning...oh the cleaning...we were finally ready to get started.  But there are a lot of changes for us this year.

First of all, we are so excited that my mom has retired from her years and years of public school teaching to help us out!  She taught kindergarten, first, second, middle school, and high school throughout her career, so she's going to be a very valuable asset for us.  I am beyond thankful for her help because we also added another little cutie to the mix this year.

Ladies and gentlemen, Izzy is a kindergartener!

I cannot believe it.  It simply doesn't seem possible.  I remember starting school with Isaiah feeling like Izzy was this tiny little thing that would be a tiny little thing forever.  Turns out, nope.  Kids grow.  Even when you aren't excited about it.  Even when you really don't want them to.

We started our year off, as we always do, with a fun little breakfast.  This year, I went with store bought muffins and strawberries.  For the last two years, I've had Isaiah hold a sign or stand in front of a sign that said what grade he was in that year, but I decided to do something different this time.  I found candles that corresponded to their grade levels, and I stuck those in the muffins.  I lit them and let the kids make a little wish for their year.  They got really into it, and it will be a fun reminder of what grades they're going into when I look back on these pictures without the stress of making a pretty little sign.

We have switched up so much of what we are doing this year with curriculum changes, and I'm pretty excited about it.  We will have far less worksheets, way more reading from books that bring subjects to life (no textbooks), and we have added hymn study (where we learn and talk about hymns) and our art will be going through the life of Jesus through art projects (I'm pretty excited to share more about that later!).  I can't wait to get into everything with these guys this year, and I hope to post tons of ideas of things that we are doing!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Family Journaling.

You guys, we are starting back to school tomorrow, and I could not be more excited!

I know what you're probably thinking: But...it's June...

You're right, but we have been out since March, and we are all itching to get back into our routine. Plus, we are going to be taking a couple of weeks off in July or August when my mom has back surgery, so it seemed like a good idea to get a head start now so that we don't get behind later.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this idea that we will be incorporating this year.  I love it so much, and the great thing is that you can do this no matter if you homeschool or not.  This is just a wonderful way just for any kid to practice writing, and there are some pretty great benefits for you, too.

I found this on a blog a while back, and I cannot for the life of me find it again or else I'd share the link...

I am a firm believer that I have a much better shot at having a great, open relationship with my kids as teenagers and adults if I have a great, open relationship with them as kids.  I like to make it a habit of listening to what they have to say no matter how mundane because if they think I will listen now, odds are, they will keep talking when they're 16. The frustrating part for me, however, is I rarely get alone time with any one of my kids, so I never really get to share secrets with them or have conversations with them without another kid interrupting.

So this year, we have adopted the idea of family journaling.  Here's how it works: Every evening after the kids go to bed, I will write something to each kid in their own specific journal (Right now, Isaiah is the only one who can read and write, but I will do this for each child eventually.), and then in the morning, that kid will read what I wrote and respond.  It's that simple.  The rule at our house will be that you're only allowed to read or write in your own journals, so it will be a great place for me to share secrets or tell jokes with only one of my kids.

We've actually already been doing this for a couple of weeks, and so far, we really love it.  It only takes a few minutes each day, and it makes my baby boy feel so special and loved.

And it makes me feel pretty good, too.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I Scream For Ice Cream.

There are two things I grew up loving about summer: swimming and that once or twice a year we got to have homemade ice cream.  My grandma or mom used to ask my grandpa what kind of ice cream he wanted them to make, and he always had the same answer. "Anything as long as it's banana."

So of course, we usually had banana, but I didn't mind because I loved it, too.

Now that I'm all grown up, there are two things I love about summer: swimming and making homemade ice cream.  This summer, I've made far more ice cream that I have in the past, but I think it's because it's so simple.  Plus, it's great because we can make pretty much anything we can think up.  This base is a simple vanilla, but I added Oreos to make cookies and cream or bananas to make banana.  (I'm toying with making peanut butter banana or replacing some of the sugar with brown sugar and adding peach...) The recipe I use as a base has been in my family longer than I have.  My mom actually put it in a recipe box she made in her high school home economics class.  It only has 6 ingredients, so it's a great go-to recipe for us.

I use a counter top electric ice cream maker from Hamilton Beach.  I got it for around $30, and it's totally worth the investment.  (You can get it here!)  It has a canister that is removable that you will freeze for 24 hours or so before you actually start the ice cream, but we leave ours in our freezer so it's always ready to go.  This recipe will fit that ice cream maker (1.5 quarts), but you can easily adapt it for a gallon ice cream maker that uses ice and rock salt.

What you'll need:
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream

What you'll do:
Start with the eggs in a bowl of an electric mixer.  With the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until they are frothy.  This will take a minute or two.

Next, with the mixer running, slowly pour in your sugar.  Let the mixer do its thing for about 5 minutes, and what results is a smooth, thick, creamy pale yellow beautiful thing.

Once you've hit this stage, add in the rest of the ingredients and mix.  In these pictures, I'm just making plain vanilla ice cream, but if I wanted to make something else, I'd add in the extra stuff now.

Refrigerate for a few hours so your mixture is nicely chilled before it goes into the ice cream maker.

During this time, the flavors of anything you add will infuse into the ice cream.

After the base has chilled, put together your ice cream maker and pour in your deliciousness.

See how it's not full?  It needs milk.  I have no idea how much milk I add.  Maybe a cup...?

Turn that sucker on and let it do its thing.

After the machine turns off, it's finished churning, and it needs to be frozen for a few hours to set.

I did learn that when I'm churning the ice cream, the big pieces of extra things, like Oreos, that I added got really broken up, so after I've finished I like to add more just so there's more texture to the final product.

So that's it.  And then you can enjoy the best ice cream ever.