October 30, 2007

Children of the World

This weekend, our church hosted the Children of the World Choir. Beginning their 8th year, the Children of the World International Children’s Choir is currently on an exciting 10 month tour across the United States. These 47 precious boys and girls (split into three traveling choirs) come from several different countries and speak many different languages. They represent millions of children around the world, just like them, who need help and hope for a brighter future. These children are on a mission to share Christ's love and encourage others to become a Voice of Hope. They are a ministry of World Help. Click on the picture above and you can hear a few songs they do. They were fantastic! I would encourage all of you to learn more and schedule them at your church!

We were privileged to host three of the boys in our home for the weekend. We hosted Isaac, an 11 year old from Uganda, Mark, a 7 year old from the Philippines and Gaidon, a 7 year old from India. I've never hosted people from visiting groups like this before, but always thought it would be neat. And we certainly have the space for now! So, we had them from Friday evening until Sunday morning. We had a great time! Jacob was really excited because it was his first official sleepover!

The boys have been in America for a couple of months now, so it's not all so brand new to them. They were a delight to have around! They were very mature boys, and I'd imagine because of their lives. They loved our toys, loved playing with our kids, loved the remote control Ford F250, loved Thomas the tank Engine, loved hot sauce and ketchup, and loved ChickFilA! We took them to a Corn Maze and they really enjoyed that too.

Thankfully we had Robert...otherwise we would have been lost forever!

Mattie hangin' in her new mackdaddy backpack from Tante Jeni!

The boys on the enormous pumpkins!!

And enjoying the bounce house.

This is Isaac.

And Isaac loved Mattie!

This is Gaidon. (Guy dun)

Mattie with her heavy pumpkin!

And all the kiddos!

At bedtime, I sat on the bed with all the boys and we read books. They really enjoyed this. I read three or four long stories each night and they were riveted!

And the hardest part was telling them good night. It just broke my heart that they didn't have a mommy and daddy telling them good night every night, and would probably never have them. Oh! The heartache these children have been through, and children like them every day! These boys were so brave, staying in homes with American strangers every night for a year, but it's so much better than their alternative! They asked to pray each night and wanted good night hugs. They were so welcoming of hugs and roughness and we were very sad when it was time to say good-bye. Jacob and I fought tears and he said, "I wish those boys were ours." That about sums it up. Can't they just all move in??

October 29, 2007

We are so spoiled!

I was cleaning my bathrooms the other day and realized I was out of my Scrubbing Bubbles disposable toilet cleaning thingies. Grrrr... Here's my next 30 seconds of thought: So, think, how did I clean my toilets before this?? Oh yeah! A toilet brush and Lysol...um, no toilet brushes in this house! So, going back to 1930 or something like that (no exaggeration there at all), how did they clean toilets??? (Um, did they have toilets in 1930??) Oh no! I have to use a rag?? And my bare hands? (I have no rubber gloves!) No way!
It's been five days now (and one house showing) and I'm cleaning toilets today, because Robert went to WalMart and re-stocked my supply! I actually left the bowls of them dirty rather than clean them with my hands. I know, I'm a total weenie! I am so spoiled!

October 24, 2007

I spoke too soon...

I'm reneging one of my book recommendations. Well, I suppose I wasn't recommending, just saying I was looking forward to them. Anyway, The Thanksgiving Wish is not a book we'll be spending a week on. It's a nice story, but not what I was hoping for. So anyway, I thought I'd post an update!

October 21, 2007

What can I do better for Jacob

Jacob is a handful of a kid in his own ways. Generally, he is very obedient, sensitive, loving, protective of Mattie, happy, silly and funny.

On the flip-side, he is argumentative (for NO reason!), genuinely forgetful, anxious, very often quite negative, chatterbox-ish (to say the least!), and almost a control freak.

I've been struggling lately in feeling like I bring the worst out in him. Now, I know our kids are always better with other caregivers, but I feel like I (not Robert and I) bring the worst out in Jacob...not that he's just better with others. I also notice that he and Robert have some fun things they do as traditions, for lack of a better word... Robert telling train stories, digging in the dirt with the track-hoe at work, and wrestling on the living room floor. I don't have anything like that with Jacob, except reading books. (And I suppose to not count myself short, reading is one of his top three favorite things to do.)

Anyway, I've been praying for a couple of months for wisdom on how I can better parent Jacob. The Lord has always been faithful to answer my prayers for wisdom (usually quickly), and typically when I follow the wisdom He's given me, the situations work out well! So, I've been praying this for Jacob for a couple of months now without much of an answer. (Maybe He's been screaming and I've just not been hearing, but I've been trying to listen!) Anyway, in praying tonight about several major things, I asked again for wisdom to parent Jacob in a way that brings the best out of him. Aaaaah, and I believe the Lord answered me!

Not to say, "The Lord said" because I hesitate to put words in His mouth, but I feel like my answer that I need to play with Jacob. I meet his needs, and we read a lot of books (which gives us great snuggle time!), but rarely do I play with him. Jacob has always been a very independent "play-er" from what I hear from other parents (and see from Mattie-Ha!). He has never required any playing with, so I've not done it. But, in doing this, I don't have much time with him that is just fun time...relationship building time...stop what I'm doing and give him my undivided attention time. So, if this is the wisdom the Lord seems to be giving me, than I want to be doing it! In the long run, I want a relationship with Jacob, not just someone who told him what to do for the first 18 years of his life.

Honestly, this will not come easily to me. Play board games? No problem! Read books? All day long! Play imaginary things like trains? Please, No! And unstructured silliness? May it never be! Um, we're talking way out of the comfort zone of this structure and task oriented, serious, self-conscious (Yes, I know he's only 5) mommy. But that's what meeting needs is all about, isn't it?

So, you can be praying for me! Be praying the Lord will give me a desire to do these "fun-to-Jacob" things with him and selflessness when I don't have that desire. And praying for Jacob that his heart would be filled as I meet this need of his that I've been missing. And thank you ahead of time for holding me accountable to this, for Jacob's sake!

PS I'm not "just being hard on myself." I ask the Lord regularly for Him to show me how I can glorify Him more fully, and I believe this is an area He wants me to sacrifice out of my comfort zone. So, not looking for pats on the back like it's not what it seems! :)


I've been meaning to post these recipes for quite awhile now. In an effort to cook as allergy (corn, dairy, egg and wheat) free as possible, that means cooking with no prepared seasoning mixes and using plain old non-preservative ingredients. here are several mix recipes I use regularly (and a couple I haven't used yet). Most of them I've gotten and tweaked to our tastes or allergy issues. All of them are egg, corn and dairy free (if you omit the bouillon in the onion soup mix recipe) and all but the taco seasoning mix are wheat free as well (and that could be altered).

I make them up and store them in tightly sealed containers (jars or big spice containers from Sam's) until I'm ready for them!

The Make a Mix Cookbook has lots of baking mixes as well that I'm beginning to use. She does have seasoning mix recipes, but those are also readily available online.

Italian Dressing Mix
Makes about 4 batches.

1 T garlic salt
1 T onion powder
1 T white sugar
2 T dried oregano
1 t ground black pepper
¼ t dried thyme
1 t dried basil
1 T parsley flakes
¼ t celery salt
2 T salt

To prepare dressing, mix:
¼ c white vinegar
2/3 c canola OR olive oil
2 T water
2 T dry mix

Use as a salad dressing or yummy marinade! Shake well before using.

Lipton Onion Soup Mix
Makes 4 batches.

½ c dry minced onion
1 T + 1 t onion powder
1 t celery salt

At cooking time, mix 3 T seasoning mix with 4 t beef bouillon or bouillon paste and use as you would onion soup mix.
Mix with 2c sour cream for French Onion Dip.
Mix with 4c water for onion soup.

Taco Seasoning Mix

¼ c all purpose flour
½ c dried minced onion
½ t granulated garlic
1c chili powder
2 t dried oregano
2 t ground cumin
4 t salt

Use 1T per 15 oz can of refried beans
Use ¼ c per 1lb ground beef

Buckwheat Pancake Mix
Makes about 6 batches of 16 five inch pancakes

5 c buckwheat flour
5 c brown rice flour
2 T guar gum or xanthan gum (optional)
4 T baking powder
1T + 1t salt
3 1/3 c sugar

For 16 (5 inch) pancakes, mix:
1 ½ c water
½ c unsweetened applesauce
2 2/3 c mix

Cook on lightly greased (350 degree) skillet if preferred.

optional: add 1/3 – ½ c blueberries, nuts or chocolate chips

Chili Seasoning Mix

Makes about five batches.

1/3 c all purpose flour
2/3 c dried minced onion
3 T chili powder
2 T seasoned salt
1 T crushed dried red pepper
1 T instant minced garlic
1 T sugar
1 T ground cumin

1/3 c seasoning mix
1 lb browned ground beef or turkey
2 15 oz cans kidney beans
2 16 oz cans crushed tomatoes

Cook in skillet for 10-15 minutes or on low in slow cooker as long as desired.
Sloppy Joe Seasoning Mix
Makes about five batches.

6 T instant minced onion
2 T green pepper flakes
2 T salt
2 T starch
1 T instant minced garlic
1 ½ t dry mustard
1 ½ t celery seed
1 ½ t chili powder

7t seasoning mix
1lb ground beef
1 1/4 c water
¼ c tomato paste

October 19, 2007


If you haven't noticed yet, I finally had some time to update tonight! Everyone else went to bed early, so I decided to sit down and do some much-needed picture uploading!

Enjoy! (There are four new posts, three with family pictures.)

Holiday Book List

I'm quite excited about our holiday season coming up! I've found a few books recently that I want to be sure and read with Jacob this year. I'm really excited about focusing on the wonderful blessings the Lord has freely given us. With Jacob being five this year, he has a greater understanding of many things about Christ. I want to capitalize on this opportunity as he's young to shape his understanding of the holidays we choose to celebrate and why we celebrate the way we do. So I've tried to find some books with richness in them on which to base our unit studies this season.

We have quite a few on our list, but here's what's on our plan that I'm really looking forward to:


The Thanksgiving Wish

by Michael Rosen

Unit Study

Give Thanks to the Lord
by Karma Wilson
(I'm going to be working on my own study for this one, but I don't have the book yet, so I'm not sure what it will include.)


Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey

by Susan Wojciechowski

Unit Study

Annika's Secret Wish
by Beverly Lewis
Unit Study

P.S. I will say "wish" is a bit of a pet-peeve word for me, and we'll certainly address that. Actually, Annika's Secret Wish specifically addresses making wishes and pointing the whole concept to Christ.

Our day at Dollywood!

This is the first year in several we did not buy season passes to Dollywood, and I've missed it a lot more than I thought I would! Thankfully, our neighbor (who has been in charge of the steam trains there for many years) gets free passes once a month and shared some with us!

Right now at Dollywood they are having the National Gospel and Harvest Celebration, so we got to see many local craftsmen and harvest decorations. Here is a beekeeper we saw. He gave us a little demonstration and reviewed many of the things we learned during our "bee" unit in August! (And now, combined with the dinosaur movie we watched on the way down, this day has all of a sudden become a field trip!)

Jacob has reached a critical milestone in the theme park world...42" tall. He has been waiting for many months to be able to ride the bumper cars with Daddy, and his day came! I don't know if they were all they were cracked up to be, but he did ride them more than once. Here's his first ride...

And this is the part that really makes me stop and think how big he's getting. Look at what he rode!

These are just not for little people.

Nor are these...definitely not these. (I graciously let Robert accompany Jacob on these. They're just a little high for me. I let him ride the ferris wheel too. I managed that last time, though I spent most of the ride with my eyes closed!)

(I am zoomed as much as I can be to get this close.)
See Jacob's little hand poking out from his side of the rocket, and those feet sticking out straight because his legs are too short to bend? Tell me he's not growing up!

Sigh... Well, on to more little boy-ish things...the new (to us anyway) playground they built up near all the new roller coasters is great. The kids could have stayed here all day!

Here's Mattie intent on getting her music started on her duckie friend. Not long after this, I had to stop letting her ride. She had ridden all the little itty-bitty rides several times each and must have been getting bored. See all those blinking lights on the duck's collar? Well, they match the blinking light inside the duck that keeps the music going! So, of course she had to stand up to touch all of them too! Well, after they did nothing, in her signature Mattie style, she just started climbing out! (highchair memories, anyone??) Yes...while the ride was in motion! And yes, she was buckled! Every other parent is yelling, "Hi! Sweetie! say, 'Hi, Mommy!' "... I'm yelling, "Sit down!!

Well, on to more attention grabbing things...water.

We waited to use these tickets until we had a day where Robert could come along. He has typically not enjoyed Dollywood in the past. He worked there for a couple of summers during his teen years, so I suppose I understand why there is no magic. And crowds of people on hot, sweaty days are soooooo not his idea of fun! Thankfully, he has learned to enjoy things for his family's sake! He and Jacob had a great time today. (And, boy, are theme parks different when a second parent comes along!)

Here they are in front of Mattie and I on the elephant ride.

And having some manly discussion, it appears. (Actually, Mattie is in front of Robert trying her darnedest to get into that water!)

All in all, we had a great day today. The kids could not have been better (we left at 5:00 because Robert and I were pooped!), and we had some much needed, quality family time.
Thanks to Treva and Scott!!

Then we went bowling...

We have been wanting to take the kids (well, Jacob) bowling for awhile now, so we bit the bullet last weekend. Pigeon Forge has a bowling alley in the community center which is incredibly clean and delightfully family friendly (read: they don't cringe when your 5 year old launches the bowling ball 4 or 5 feet down the lane...)! It wasn't the cheapest of our family outings (2 and under was not free), but we did have a good time.

Here's Robert getting the boys (Jacob and Micah, our nephew) started. Though neither of them have ever bowled, they both said, "I know how to do it."

Jacob in action!

Mattie watching expectantly...

and applauding herself immediately after!

(And she even looks cute in those shoes!)

The Pumpkin Patch

We went on our annual pumpkin patch field trip a couple of weeks ago, and I failed to put pictures up! I actually didn't realize I never did this until I uploaded them today with many others I'd forgotten about!

We went to a different pumpkin patch this year, and this one was really geared toward the kids. It was really fun! They had a hay "trampoline," rain gutter rubber duck races, cow milking, corn de-kerneling, cattle roping, a petting zoo, a tractor to climb on, and a corn maze! Not to mention the hay ride and pumpkin patch! The kids had a fantastic time! (I will say, the pumpkin patch was a bit lacking, as it was quite obvious they transplanted a palette of pumpkins and dropped them in a field. Thankfully, no child noticed!) This field trip was a bit different as Robert got to join us...that always makes a field trip more fun!

Here are some pictures of our day...probably a lot more than you want, frankly!

Jacob "milking" the cow,

de-kerneling some corn for the petting zoo animals,

feeding the animals,

and beating Daddy's duck down the rain gutter (with quite a head start, I believe).

Mattie liked the hay trampoline!

But not nearly as much as the petting zoo! She started out a little timid,

but was quickly feeding them out of her little chubby hand!

She continued to feed them - one kernel at a time! - for more than half an hour!

My pumpkins! (Yes, cheesy pun.)

The crew enjoying the hayride.

I got one!

Cheese! (If only, "Cheese" really looked like a smile, I'd be set!)

October 11, 2007

Need a minute to slow down

Well, I have had several things I've intended to write about over the last 12 days, I just haven't had the time!

I have been reclaiming my house to get it back on the market. This was good, as it required some much-needed de-cluttering and reorganization. Since then, I'm not quite sure what I've done, but I've done a lot of it!

I've committed to teach Algebra II to a local homeschool student. It has been fun and I've enjoyed the challenge, though I've had to go back 14 years in my brain!!! We're trading for service hours, so I've gotten some babysitting and house help lately too!

Robert and I have begun weight watchers...and before anyone heckles me, I just want to fit into my jeans from the Spring. It has been good for both of us, and given me a previously lacking awareness of how bad for me pizza really is...especially my beloved pepperoni! I had no idea how many things I could have that are equivalent to one slice of pepperoni pizza (and I usually eat three slices)... 2 1/2c of Breyer's Chocolate ice cream... 15 delicious pumpkin muffins... three 20 oz Pepsis... 1/3c of my wonderful organic chocolate chips... 4 Tall Mochas from Starbucks (latte or frappuccino)... you get the idea. So, it has been very good for me! And no, I'm not saying I'll never have pepperoni pizza again, but I'll never enjoy it as much!

We took the kids bowling last weekend. That was a very fun family outing! I have some pics I've been meaning to upload, but I don't know where the camera is at the moment... somewhere in the luggage I need to unpack!

We went to Clarksville, TN to see Robert this week. That's where the work is for now, so he's there for 4 days each week. Jacob's really having a hard time with him being gone, so we went over to see him for two days.

We've had a couple of fun schooling weeks. We've done a week of fall leaves, which did not get completed. I just could not bring myself to do fall activities while it was still 94 degrees one day! Leaf hunting is not supposed to be done while sweating in shorts and a short sleeved shirt! But alas, it was only 62 today...perfect for leaf hunting! So we'll finish that "week" soon now that it really feels like fall!

And this week we've read Katy No-Pocket and learned about marsupials. I say "we've" learned, and I certainly have as well! I knew that marsupials had a pouch and that was the extent of it. We're finishing up with a fun day with the cousins tomorrow.

I have had a wonderful time with my Beth Moore Bible Study lately. I always feel compelled to share the kernels of truth I carry away from the Tuesday morning videos, but know that it's hard to communicate with value the impact on my heart, so I just don't share... maybe I should try and trust the Lord do the encouraging! This study (A Woman's Heart) has been fantastic, and the Lord has brought it to me at a perfect time in my life. Of course, He knew that all along!

So, I'll try to get the bowling pictures up tomorrow. And I'm sure I have some others of my cute kids I could find to share. :)