Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Back From Hiatus

I have taken a bit of a hiatus from my blog this fall. I can't say that I've been busier than ever; just a different kind of busy. I have one child that I'm still homeschooling and we've both been adjusting to a high school schedule with more outside classes and more expectations. My recent college graduate has a good job as a computer IT guy with Glass House and is living at home for the time being, along with one of his friends who has been calling our house home for the past several months. The house isn't as empty as I thought it would be when both daughters left in August, one for a new job with Samaritan's Purse in Boone and the other to start college at ECU.  The boys do appreciate my homecooking, so I am spending more time on meals and keeping food in the house. And the girls do make an appearance every once in a while, sometimes bringing friends home with them. It's funny; I once really wanted to pursue adoption but it became evident that our family was not called to that.  But now I feel like surrogate mom to a whole bunch of young adults, which I really love. Just a different kind of season.

Anyway, I put the blog aside for a brief time, partly because I still struggle with what this is - a diary, an encouragement to homeschoolers, a family scrapbook.  I am drawn back to it though, because right now it is still all those things. I like looking back through the record of our family activities, I like to have a place to brain-dump occasionally about whatever is going on around me, and I pretty regularly get comments about my homeschooling posts and the encouragement that they bring.   So I guess I should carry on as is for now.

Back to my Thanksgiving preparations.  My two oldest arrive tomorrow and all 7 of us will be here for Thanksgiving weekend. Hallelujah!  I have a couple of cupcake orders for tomorrow, and I have pies, dinner rolls, casseroles, dips, stuffing, etc to prepare, as well as some more cleaning to do. GAH!  I love it.



Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Award or a Kick in the Pants

It seems to me that if a friend nominates your blog for an Award, you should actually write something more than once every couple of months!! I think this is the longest I have let this blog go... it was not entirely intentional, but the more I didn't write, the more I didn't know how to start up again. You know? There comes a time when you really can't "catch up", so you just have to cut the losses and start where you are. So here I go.

So where am I? Well, summer is over. ( what? how? but I didn't.... ) We are "back in school". J's schedule kicks in full-gear this week with the commencement of Spanish and Guitar. That is in addition to
  • Tapestry of Grace ( Year 2 ) for history/geography/literature
  • Adv. Winston Grammar
  • Public Speaking
  • Write Shop
  • Teaching Textbooks Algebra I
  • Apologia Physical Science 
  • basketball 
Amanda is a freshman at ECU ( Eastern Carolina University ).  She isn't having fun yet.

Alex is back in the USA; finishing up his last week of Army "work" before he starts terminal leave leading up to his exit from the US Army in November.  He is still in TX and will begin job-hunting from there.

Eric started an IT job with Glass House Technologies in Cary. He is living at home for the time being, so he and J have gotten in some good "brother bonding"  over video games, lifting weights, and playing basketball lately.

Sarah has just arrived back home after her summer stint as Production Editor at Spring Hill Camps in Evart, MI.  She is "in between employment" again, and spending lots of time on the computer searching job sites and filling out applications.

I have decided that unmarried adult children require just as much energy as young kids, however it is emotional energy instead of physical energy.

We took our annual trip to Massachusetts at the end of July, to visit with family, and everyone but Eric was able to make the trip. That was Won.Der.Ful!!  We took an overnight  jaunt up to  Freeport, ME with my parents and siblings. And attended our 35th year high school reunion ( Mark and I graduated in the same H.S. class - and we were class of '78, but joined the class in front of us for the reunion - small school )

Mark and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in Asheville, NC last weekend, and had a wonderful time exploring the Biltmore Estate and downtown Asheville shops.   I could definitely live in the mountains.  Definitely.

Here are few pics from the summer.  And about that Award? That will be my next post.

getting Lobster Rolls in Maine

 Seesters!  at Grammy & Grampa's house

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Counselor and CIT at New Life Camp

at Victoria Station Cafe, Putnam, CT 

Banana Split Cupcakes

Friday, July 20, 2012

Babies Don't Keep

I do calligraphy, and made this many years ago as a reminder. It sits on the hutch in my kitchen and is still a reminder, but now of my lack of regret over time spent with my babies as they grew up.


Saturday, July 7, 2012


If you are a new homeschooler, one thing you’ll soon realize is that homeschool parents learn as much, if not more, than their kids do! This is new territory for most of us, and in addition to brushing up on grammar rules, the Magna Carta, and photosynthesis, we find ourselves searching out information on learning styles, organizational methods, parenting skills, discipleship, and family health. Added to the titles of Mom/Dad, Teacher, Counselor, Coach, Chauffeur, Nurse, Cook, Wife/Husband is the title of… Student!

As a Student of Homeschooling, you have some homework to do. The more time and effort you put into this, the better your “grade” will be.

 1. First of all, spend time with God, in prayer and in His Word, every day. Keep a notebook close by, and jot down praises and petitions, scripture, and any special insight that comes to you during this time. This is your anchor, your firm foundation - whether your day is calm or chaotic. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Pray for physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Count your blessings. Homeschooling parents should have callouses on their knees!

2. Be a learner! Always be reading at least one book on homeschooling or parenting or Christian life – even just a few pages a day. The public library has lots to choose from. Go to homeschool workshops and seminars. There are hundreds of homeschool websites, articles, and blogs online – enough to give you fresh ideas and insight and inspiration every day of the year!

3. Find Titus 2 women. These are the more experienced homeschoolers in your support group, church, family –learn from them. Don’t be a Lone Ranger ! Attend support group meetings and workshops. Join a mentor group. Visit online homeschooling forums. You’ll find that there really isn’t anything new under the sun … The encouragement and support of others will be invaluable to you in this endeavor, and nobody can really understand like another homeschooler. Not only will God bring people into your life to bless and encourage you, but you will be able to bless and encourage others as well! This is the power of community.

4. Become a student of your children! Learn about each of them – their strengths, their weaknesses, their dreams, their fears, their likes, their dislikes. Homeschooling is not just about teaching academics, but also about helping your child develop godly character, grow strong and healthy in body and mind, and nurture his or her unique talents and abilities. Write out goals for each child in the areas of academic, spiritual, emotional, and physical growth.

5. Make your home a child-friendly learning environment! Take an honest look around. Is your home a cluttered, disorganized mess? Is it so neat and “perfect” that it could be featured in a magazine, but not really welcome exploration, discovery and creativity by a 10-year-old? It is not necessary to turn your home into a “school” – you are, after all, a family. But there are some things you can do to make your home a COOL place to learn. If you need to declutter and organize your home, check out FlyLady.net or OrganizedHome.com for help. Your kids will need a comfortable place to curl up with books, and a table or desk at which to write or color or do a puzzle or science project. Baskets, plastic crates, or cloth bins can hold a child’s school materials and supplies. Dedicate a wall, bulletin board or the refrigerator as a display place for your children’s special work. Hang up a time line or a white board. A little at a time, invest in things like bookshelves; computers; art supplies; a globe; good resource books like a dictionary, thesaurus, world atlas, field guides and writing handbook; good children’s magazines like Discover or Cricket or Nature Friend; educational games and DVDs ; maps; a copy machine; a magnifying glass, binoculars, telescope, microscope ; musical instruments ….

Whatever will encourage your children to explore the world, stretch their imaginations, dig deeper, develop their talents, and become lifelong learners! Put limits on “fluff entertainment” like tv shows,  movies, , computer games so that your children will learn to use their imaginations and explore the world beyond the “screen”.

6. LAUGH. Enjoy your children and the time you have with them. Delight in their accomplishments and antics. Join in their games and activities. Develop a sense of humor, tell jokes, be silly. There is a time to be serious, but also a time to be lighthearted. This will do wonders to knit your family together and create treasured memories.


7. Make your spouse and your marriage a top priority. There is a danger in homeschooling families for things to get out of balance and become totally child-centered. As much as we love our children and are dedicated to providing everything we can for them, we must not forget that they also NEED a mom and dad who love each other and are a strong team. This takes work. Be creative. Make a commitment to spend time alone together every week, talking about and enjoying life TOGETHER. Invest in your relationship and build a stronger family because of it. Family Life and Focus on the Family are two great Christian organizations that offer a variety of resources for this.


Mommy Help : The Weekly "Captain"

Life with 5 children is .... well, lively! My kids squabbled about typical things like who gets to sit in which seat of the van, who gets to bring in the mail, who gets to set the table ( okay, not so much that one ). I don't remember if I read it in a magazine or heard it from a friend, but a brilliant solution to this was assigning a weekly "Captain". Starting with the oldest child and working our way down, each Monday began a new week for the "Captain", and that child got certain privileges ( choosing their seat in the van - usually the front, bringing in the mail, picking the movie to watch ) and certain responsibilities ( setting the dinner table, feeding the dog ). Additional ranks, with their own perks and assignments, can be assigned to siblings, moving down the birth order. Once established, my kids never questioned the rights of the "captain", since they knew that their turn was coming.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Long Marriages - A Counter-Cultural Legacy

Mark and I will celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary this summer. Since I got married on my 22nd birthday, I have spent a significantly larger portion of my life married to this man than not.

I, Beth, take you, Mark, to be my husband, ....

It hasn't always been easy.  Does this surprise anyone out there who is actually married?  The idea of marriage is romantic and wonderful and exciting and fulfilling, and the reality of marriage is that it is those things due to extremely HARD WORK.  But what worthwhile thing is not the result of hard work?  To quote one of my husband's favorite movie lines from "A League of Their Own",
 "It's supposed to be hard. 
If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it.
The hard... is what makes it great. "

...to have and to hold from this day forward,...

 One of the speakers at this year's NCHE Homeschool Conference did two sessions on marriage, and the importance of making this relationship a priority, for both our and our children's sakes!  The speaker, Heidi St. John, shared how her extended family was full of a legacy of divorce -  parents, siblings, cousins. I realized that my family's legacy is very different than that.

... for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer,...

My extended family is full of long marriages.  So is Mark's.  My parents have been married for 53 years. Mark's dad passed away almost 10 years ago, still in love with the wife of his youth.  Mark's siblings have all been married for more than 20 years.  My siblings waited longer to get married, but my sister and brother have both been married for over 10 years, and my youngest brother gave up bachelorhood just a year ago and is now happily esconced in wedded life. All of my aunts and uncles have had long marriages to one life-partner, and all but one of my cousins.
I don't think we realize what an amazing thing this is.

...in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,...

The actual statistics related to marriage and divorce rates in this country are murky, but it is undeniable that the statistics are pretty dismal and that broken marriages and families are all around us. Divorce is in the church and in the homeschool community just like everywhere else.  Statistics aren't so murky in pointing out the effects of divorce on children and on communities. We are surrounded by brokenness and bitterness and resentment and loneliness and fatalism.  The institution of marriage is often attacked and berated as society grapples with the fall-out of generations that didn't honor their word or put others first, or more importantly, respect God's Word. 

My prayer is that my children appreciate and embrace this counter-cultural legacy, and realize what a treasure they have there.  It won't make their own marriages any easier, but hopefully will give them a vision for what it means to make a commitment to somebody for the rest of your life. You take the good with the bad, the ups with the downs, and you fight and work for what is worthwhile.  The wedding vows we made were a promise, our word before God and family and friends. And thirty years down the road, they still hold us together.

...from this day forward, until death do us part.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Back from Deployment and Getting Out

He's back. My son is back from his 2nd and last deployment with the Army. He spent the last year in Iraq and then Kuwait, and this week he returned to Fort Hood, TX. In a few short months, he will be done with the Army, having finished his 4 year commitment, serving his country bravely and proudly. His mama couldn't be more proud and yes, relieved. Now he will be looking for a civilian job and I'm praying for something closer to home.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Two Hundred Cupcakes

I just did my biggest cupcake order yet, when I baked cupcakes for the wedding of the daughter of a friend of a friend. :-)    It was fun, but a little stressful, as I felt a lot of responsibility for providing this part of someone's Big Day! The cake is a big part of the wedding celebration, and I wanted them to be pretty as well as delicious.  I haven't done a whole lot of decorating yet, but I've been experimenting a little bit with fondant and candy melt. For these, I made homemade marshmallow fondant, colored half a pretty teal color, and used a small cookie cutter to cut out teal and white flowers.  These set out for 3 days to dry before I made the actual cupcakes.

I borrowed an extra KitchenAid mixer from a friend, and gave myself two days to bake and frost 100 regular cupcakes and 100 Jumbo-sized cupcakes. J was at camp last week, so I was alone during the day for my baking marathon, and I let Eric and Mark know that they were on their own for dinner when they got home from work.  I had had the bride, groom, bride's mother, and bride's sister over one evening back in April for a "tasting", where they sampled several flavors of cake and frosting, and they chose Chocolate Oreo (chocolate cake with vanilla Oreo buttercream),  Milk Chocolate (chocolate cake with milk chocolate buttercream), and Coconut Almond (white almond cake with coconut cream cheese frosting).  The decorations were simple - coarse sugar and candy pearls, Oreo halves, in addition to the fondant flowers.

I had seen an idea on some website for transporting the Jumbo cupcakes, since I can only get the plastic cupcake containers in the regular size. I  bought 3 Rubbermaid shallow underbed storage boxes, and a roll of rubber mesh shelf liner.  Each box held about 40 of the Jumbo cupcakes, which was perfect.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Back to a Weekly Menu - June 2012

Okay, I've been saying I really need to get back to planning my weekly menu. The other day my hubby made the same suggestion - seems me going to the grocery store most every evening to find something for us to eat is getting old. hmm. Plus, baseball season just killed dinnertime, because we didn't get home until after 7pm two or three nights a week. But now baseball is over and we are entering a much more laid back summer schedule. Mark and I have a high school reunion coming up in August, so it sounds like a good time to try to drop a few pounds too (why do those things go hand in hand?) A plan is definitely needed. Here is a plan for the coming week plus a couple of days. I'll start linking up with Menu Plan Mondays, so you can go there to see other people's menus, if you'd like additional inspiration! 

Homemade Pizza, Spinach dip & veggies


Crockpot BBQ chicken, potato salad, curried cole slaw, carrot sticks


Taco Salad

Chicken-TortelliniSoup, crusty bread


Bourbon Chicken,  brown rice, green bean & carrot stir fry 

Big Salad – lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepper, shredded carrot & cabbage, red onion, hard-boiled egg, turkey, cheese, croutons

 Homemade Pizza, Spinach dip & veggies

Jambalaya , bread, salad

Chicken- Garlic- Farfelle Aldredo,  salad


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keeping Your Teen's Heart

Over the years, I have often been inspired and encouraged by the writing and speaking of Sally Clarkson.    Her book, "Educating the Whole-Hearted Child" resonated with me and had a big influence on how I choose to homeschool my children, and the atmosphere I try to create ( however poorly ) in my home.

I love this post - Keeping Your Child's Heart Through the Teen Years - about creating a family culture that will compete with all the distractions of modern society for the hearts of our children as they grow into the teenage years and beyond. 



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Common Sense #2: Older Kids NEED Their Parents Too!

Our society tries to convince parents of young children that they are not necessary except to provide food and shelter, and that experts are much more capable of caring for and educating their children.  While some of us might boldly reject that way of thinking and firmly hold on to our role as nurturer, protector, educator, and guide,  our confidence withers and fades as our children grow older. Ten years old.  Twelve.  Fifteen!  Seventeen!!


Suddenly we are convinced that we do not know enough, are not smart enough, are not strong enough, can not BE enough to help our children navigate those pre-teen years and young adulthood! We now look to the "experts" - those with specialized degrees that ensure they have the wisdom to keep our children on the path to success. I have seen so many parents who were very involved in their children's lives during the elementary years suddenly back off in middle school and high school, saying things like, "Well, he really doesn't want me around anymore", or  "She will have more fun if I'm not there".

While it is true that parenting changes as children get older, and part of our job is to gradually move them from dependence to independence, I think the "gradually" part has gotten lost in our culture.  Children are being treated as miniature adults at younger and younger ages, and perhaps given choices that they are not yet equipped or mature enough to handle.  I believe that older children NEED their parents just as much as younger ones do.

Again, the parent's role does shift as the child gets older, to more of a facilitator, guide, and trainer.  We need to see our job as preparing them for the adult world by giving them opportunities to learn and grow and experience while still under the watchful eye and protection of someone who loves them and has their best interests at heart.  Their input should be sought and welcomed, but they should know that ultimately, big decisions belong to the parents because we are the ones responsible to God for our children's  well-being until they are old enough to live away from us as adults.

Relationships with our teen-age children should be marked by humor, affection, and caring concern, even when at times we must be tough and stern.  Contrary to the belief of many parents, fueled by the entertainment industry,  it is possible to LIKE your older kids, and for them to like you in return!  Instead of bowing out,  stay involved in your older children's activities, like sports, Scouts, Sunday School, shopping, etc.  Be friendly and a "mom" to their friends - making brownies or ordering pizza when they are at your house, taking them bowling or to the movies, including special friends in family activities .  Play board games, watch movies, go to ballgames, take walks as a family. This is not the same as micromanaging or being a "helicopter" parent. This is being an involved parent and strengthening family bonds already created and nurtured when they were young.

My husband coaches sports teams and was involved in the Boy Scout troop the whole time my sons were involved.  We plan and chaperone the Prom.  I teach my son in our Co-op.  My teens also participate in activities that don't involve us, but my kids know that their parents are likely to be involved in whatever they are doing, and they are fine with that.  When we go on vacation, they all want to come, even though jobs and classes sometimes get in the way.  Family activities take priority over friend activities.  They really have never known anything different.

Enjoy your children - of all ages - and invest yourself in their lives. Too soon, they will be grown and these years of opportunity will be over.  And then we will reap what we have sown during the years of their growing up.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

NCHE Homeschool Conference 2012

I just got back from my annual weekend at the NCHE Homeschool Conference and Book Fair in Winston-Salem. I have attended every year since we made the decision to begin homeschooling our children 19 years ago!  Some years the whole family has gone, some years it has been just Mark and me, and some years I have gone solo and hung out with my girlfriends. This was one of those years, and my friend, Becky, and I shared a hotel room and hung out for the weekend, browsing the vendor hall, listening to speakers, eating out, and staying up half the night talking!

We started off the weekend by attending the support group leaders luncheon, and hearing Carol Barnier,  Heidi St. John, and Dr. Chena Flood speak to leaders from across the state. For the rest of the weekend I alternated between attending workshops, browsing the book fair, and chatting with my homeschooling friends.

In my earlier years of homeschooling, I spent a LOT of time in the vendor hall looking at curriculum, talking to vendors, comparing materials, deciding on purchases for the coming year. This year, I was much more casual, looking around for enrichment items for the most part, and purchasing a board game,some story CDs, a grammar workbook, and a book for me. I went to workshops on support group leadership, romance in marriage, homeschooling high schoolers (even though I've done it 4 times, I'm starting high school with the last one this fall) and discovering God's plan for your life.

Why do I still go to the Homeschool Conference? My husband tells me that after homeschooling for 18 years and graduating 4 of our 5 children, I cannot possibly need to buy any more books! (he's so wrong!) Over the years, I have heard dozens of homeschool speakers talk on every topic under the sun and read even more books, blogs, and websites. So what it there left to learn? I go to Conference for the same reason I still am active in our homeschool support group, and that is ENCOURAGEMENT. Homeschool moms, no matter how long they have been doing this or how old their children, need encouragement. We need affirmation and inspiration and motivation. Every child is different, every stage of life is different, every year is different. I always come away from Conference with a "nugget" - some information or exhortation that is just for me where I am right now.  This year, the nuggets mostly had to do with marriage, and the need to purposefully take care of that very important relationship and not let homeschooling or anything else drive a wedge between husband and wife. Heidi St. John is my new favorite homeschool speaker, and her workshops titled "The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance" and "Ten Marriage Myths That Will Steal Your Joy" were funny, informative, and yes, convicting.

Here are Heidi's Top Ten Myths:

#1  My homeschooling wife doesn't care if  I help or not.
#2  Myspouse understands my non-verbal cues.
#3  Being a parent should come first.
#4  We are okay living parallel lives.
#5  If we just "keep love alive", our marriage relationship will take care of itself.
#6  Date night means dinner and a movie.
#7  Joy is a product of my circumstances.
#8  My spouse can/should  make me truly happy.
#9  My marriage is immune to the possibility of divorce.
#10 My  marriage isn't all that important.

I'll expand on this topic more in another post......

For more information about the North Carolina Homeschool Conference and Book Fair, go to www.conference.nche.com


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cupcakes - Kindergarten Graduation

I had fun playing around with decorations for the cupcakes for our homeschool group's Kindergarten Graduation last weekend. I made 7 1/2 dozen cupcakes - Cookies N Cream, Banana Puddin', Strawberry Cream, and Vanilla White Chocolate.

 These are the Cookies 'n' Cream cupcakes ( white cake studded with chunks of Oreo cookies, topped with vanilla bean buttercream )
To make the topper, I used red, blue, and yellow candy melts.  Each color was placed in a plastic icing bag and microwaved for about 20 seconds, kneaded, then about 20 seconds more and kneaded until smooth..  Snip off tip of bag and squeeze out letters onto a sheet of waxed paper. Do one color, let harden for about 10 minutes, then do next color. 

Vanilla cupcake filled with marshmallow filling, topped with white chocolate buttercream.. The graduation cap topper is made from a mini Reese's peanut butter cup, and chocolate covered saltine cracker, and fruit roll-up for the tassle. I used some melted chocolate chips to "glue" it all together.

Banana cupcake filled with banana pastry cream, topped with banana cream cheese frosting.  For the topper, I used a small star cookie cutter to cut the star out of yellow-tinted fondant.

Strawberry cupcake with strawberry cream cheese frosting.  Diploma scroll topper is white fondant, cut into a small rectangle and rolled. then I cut a thin ribbon of fruit roll-up to tie around it.

I was happy with the way these turned out.