Monthly Archives: April 2012

Our Best and Worst

Homeschooling is a journey.  We have homeschooled for five years now and along the way made discoveries that pave our path.  Certain curriculum, certain schedules, certain processes….all these have brought us to the place we are now.  Constantly on the look out for ways to improve our boys’ education, I’m not afraid to make changes that would increase their learning potential and the effectiveness of our day.

One thing that stands without a doubt as a most effective, convenient, and frugal educational tool is use of the internet and technology.  Many times we are able to enhance our studies at the computer.  The wealth of information available far exceeds what one book might provide.  Our basic studies are dictated by the book’s outline,but more in-depth and relative information is gained through use of the internet.

That said, our worst enemy is also technology.  As soon as they rise in the morning, the first place our boys want to gravitate to is the computer, or the Wii, or the DS, or even the Kindle.  To start school each morning, I often have to pry them off of the laptop.  Sometimes, they try to wake up early and sneak to be the first to get it.  I’ve even resorted to asking Dad to hide his laptop so that they won’t know where it is!  (and I’ve hidden the Wii controllers too!)

This goes on for a while but then we seem to go back to the lackadaisical ways of leaving it all out and accessible again. 

It’s a constant battle to patrol and protect.  Safety and protection remains a top priority when it comes to children using the computer so we have to stay diligent in overseeing the sites they visit and the things they see.

Having these things available makes it hard to start our school day and also makes it less likely they will want to play with their toys or outside. 

Having these things available, however, brings our lessons to life, adds excitement and activities, and provides resources to supplement and challenge both of them.  

“It’s as easy as restricted use”, you say? 

“Give them so many minutes of use a day”, you say?

I wish it were that easy!  At their age, and because we are always here around the technology, they seem to be able to boot it up and get a game going faster than I can notice!  Sometimes, while I am taking a moment to put in a load of laundry or take a shower, they summon the Wii forces before I can get back into the room.  Once the controllers are  in their hand, it can get U.G.L.Y. just to get them off and refocused!  If only I could rig something that would electrically zap their hand if they touch it when they shouldn’t! 😉

We will likely never take drastic steps to remove it all, but acknowledge a growing need to achieve a balance with the technological resources in our household.  More time outside and more time building Legos rather than them even wanting to be playing video games.  Is there such a thing in America today?!

Technology…it’s our best friend and our worst enemy.

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Filed under Children, Family, God, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling, Life, Obedience, Parenting, Trials

Easter Food Fun

Every year for the last 14 years, we have celebrated the Resurrection with our dearest friends.  An impromptu invitation on “Easter Eve” in the middle of Walmart began what has become our cherished tradition.

Both our families know that despite rain, hail, sleet, and snow, we are equally determined to attend this event and enjoy our time together.  We’ve watched our kids grow up and now have seen several marry and have kids of their own.  We eat ….. alot!  We also play alot, sit around and try to keep each other from napping and then open the leftovers again later to eat again!

Normally, I make the same things:  Banana Pudding, Chocolate Cake, Bread, a Vegetable, etc.  Not THIS year though!  I had extra time and decided to play with some recipes that had long been selected for experimentation.

 

I decided to make this bunny cake

and this broccoli salad (in my Grandmother’s beautiful bowl 🙂

I don’t eat alot of raisins, but they really work in this salad.  Normally my BFF makes this and I do the banana pudding, but this year we switched out on those two items!

I also decided to volunteer for bread duty this year.  To make it fun

I started with thawed, frozen bread dough, shaped it like this, brushed with egg, let it rise a bit and put into the oven.

Isn’t he cute?!!  As a bonus, the bread dough also naturally made a little belly button for him!

We needed more bread than what the bunny affords, so I made extra rolls and placed them all in the basket together.  Who needs a chocolate bunny when you can have BREAD!

I still made the chocolate cake, but didn’t get a picture of it.  Usually it goes so fast, there’s no way to capture it on film 😉

Our annual BFF Easter event is always a blast! It was aNOTHER great time with our friends family.  I can’t imagine spending the best day of the year with anyone else! 

 

 

 

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Filed under Blessings, Cakes, Children, Easter, Family, Family Traditions, Friends, God, Joy, Life, Recipes, Resurrection, Time

Losing Everything to Gain Everything

“Pretend your family has to leave your home quickly.  You may take only one suitcase.  What would you pack?”

This was the question on an assignment my boys had to complete and that I am just now grading.  I chuckled when I read their answers:

  1. Cloths (I believe this should be “clothes” 😉
  2. Toby (the family dog)
  3. Toby’s food
  4. Action figure
  5. bible
  6. toys
  7. pants
  8. underwear (yes, I agree….these are VERY important!)
  9. shirts
  10. books
  11. DS
  12. yogurt covered raisins
  13. charger for DS

LOL!  My how priorities remain different for each of us!  What was on your list? 

I was thinking about pictures, important documents, my purse, etc.  yet to young boys, action figures and video games remain as one of the most important things they own.

Recent tornadic events have swept away what alot of people would consider important.  The residents of Diamond Creek in Forney, Texas  are still picking through what is left of their material possessions.  What may have seemed so important at the beginning of the year is probably very different for most right now. 

Realizing that no one died or was seriously injured surely has caused our community to come back to the importance of life.  Having our families, friends, and neighbors well and healthy brings about a new appreciation for the protection, love, and intervention of God.

Now that the clean up is mostly done and the rebuild is going on, what will we do with this memory?  Will we do what we can to go back to life as it was before the tornado?  Will we build our houses, both physically and spiritually, in such a way that we duplicate what was the “norm”?  Just how long will it take for us to forget the blessings of the past weeks, and start to replace all the “stuff” God allowed to vanish?

I’m not just talking about houses, cars, clothes, and video games.  The “stuff” I’m referring to is our need to gather all those things  — the American dream, the desire toward pridefulness and power and position, and our insistence to keep up with “The Joneses”. 

Stuff like the comfortableness in which we live, or perhaps the wastefulness of our time…the hoarding of treasures and memories.  The stuff we take for granted.  Stuff that pales in comparison to life and relationships.  Stuff comes in lots of forms:  money, position, technology, business, paper, plastic, convenience, procrastination, beautiful colors, memoriable events, books, and ideals.  It can permeate our lives before we even stop to realize that most of it is just “stuff”.

A pastor of the local church we have recently visited took time to speak of such stuff and the effects it can have on our lives.  His thought provoking question was “Is it eternal?” 

The absolute answer to most of our “stuff” is “No, it’s not.”

We often, even unknowingly, use our stuff to set an image to others of what our life is like.  These images are usually false and not at all a real representation.

Years ago, I realized that good friends in my life actually thought I was much more than I am.  They were surprised to hear that my house is not always clean, my children do not always behave, and I, even I, made mistakes.  {gasp!}  I guess because of my quest for perfection at work, they believed my personal life was also that way. 

(And now I just feel the need to break here and laugh out loud!!!  Bwa hahahahaha!)

What my friends had no clue about was that I frequently mess up.  I have baggage.  My house is pretty much always a wreck  (at least until I know someone is coming over, lol).  Try as I may, I cannot clean enough around here.  Try as I might, stuff creeps into my time and thoughts and many times prevents me from being what I know I should be.

Right now in my living room there are mounds of toys, video games,  and a tent set up and encompassing the small amount of space still visible on the floor.  There’s dust on the ceiling fan and furniture, something stuck on the floor under the rocking chair, and toe prints from where the boys and grandchild have endlessly walked on the wooden floor.  I have two sinks full of dirty dishes, things scattered across the kitchen counter, and a whole stack of papers to grade on the table.  Outside, within my current view, is a bag of lawn clippings that need to be thrown out.  There is also bits of fuzz scattered all over the back lawn from where the puppy decided to shred our grill cover…..again. 

This is everyday life around here.  If you called and said you were on the way to our house, I would most assuredly rush to put away all this stuff! 

Still, even though rushing to clean up the house for you, I would hope that our lives represent a real-ness from the Lord.  Even if you came unannounced, I would invite you in, longing to make you feel welcome and be attentive to the purpose for your visit.  I would hope that even surrounded in my stuff, you would enjoy being here and look past my failures as a Domestic Engineer.

I wasn’t always this way.  I used to put only my best foot forward trying to impress and amaze.  During that time, only the best of my stuff was on display.  Nice dishes, perfectly folded towels, trophies, perfectly dressed children pre-scolded about their behavior lined up at the door to greet all who enter… these were part of the stuff I wanted people to see.

What hides behind a perfectly displayed life?  How many times do we greet others masking the events of our personal life with a smile and a nod?  Do we really expect our stuff to effectively shield true lives? 

Our life is messy.  I am definately not perfect.  We have too much non-eternal stuff around here, and what I have figured out is that I don’t have time to lead a non-eternal, stuff-filled life anymore.

Learning to look past stuff, taking moments to address stuff, and talking about how less important alot of stuff is in our lives has led us to alot of decisions.  We have purposefully tried to let go of stuff and look toward only what God would set before us.  These past few years have led us to leave alot behind.  Whether purposefully removed by us or by God, we have found that our lives are becoming more of what they should be. 

This is still transforming even now as we seek our next residence and ministry, but all I can say is “Wow, God really is better than our stuff!”  His stuff is lasting.  His provision is real.  He really does know what it is we should be doing and how we should be doing it.  We just have to lose our stuff to gain His.

There’s still alot of unanswered questions about our immediate future but I honestly believe that wherever He takes us, it will be the right place.  His allowing us to lose stuff in our lives is leading us to a better place.  Although a bit painful at times, the journey is proving more eye-opening every day. 

Sometimes we have to lose everything as we know it, or aspire it to be in order to gain just what He wants, and it is then that the eternal stuff starts to matter a great deal more.

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Filed under Attitude, Blessings, Children, Church, Faith, Family, God, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling, Humor, Life, money, Obedience, Parenting, Power, Priorities, Sin, Weather

Smothered Sirloin Steak in Parmesan Peppercorn Sauce

1/2 cup Italian Dressing, divided

1 lb well-trimmed boneless beef sirloin steak (and as you can see I didn’t take the time to trim very well)

1/3 cup sour cream

4 1/2 tsp grated parmesan cheese

1/4 to 1/2 tsp black pepper

1 large onion, thinly sliced

Pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over steak in a resealable plastic bag.  Seal bag; turn to coat.  Refrigerate 30 min or overnight to marinate.  Combine sour cream, 2 Tbsp of the remaining dressing, parmesan cheese and pepper.  Refrigerate until serving time.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat.  Add onions; cook 7 to 8 min. or until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Remove onions; set aside.

Drain steak; discard marinade.  Cook steak in same skillet on medium heat 3 to 4 min. on each side for medium doneness. Place on cutting board; slice crosswise into thin strips.  Serve steak topped with sauce and onions.

Makes 4 servings.

(recipe found in Kraft Food and Family magazine, Spring 2006)

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Savory Tomato Pie and Swiss Cheese Potato Pancakes

Although a little soggy, this pie had a lot of flavor.  It resembled the taste and texture of quiche.  The potato pancakes were nice, but then isn’t most everything FRIED just wonderfully marvelous?!

Savory Tomato Pie

5 green onions, sliced

3/4 cup chopped sweet onion

2 tablespoons butter

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)

3 eggs

1 cup half-and-half cream

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon white pepper (I used black)

In a large skillet, saute onions in butter until tender.  Add tomatoes, cook and stir over low heat until softened.  Remove from the heat; cool.  Line unbaked pastry shell with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil.  Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes.  Remove foil; bake 5 minutes longer.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, cream, salt, basil and pepper until smooth.  Stir in the tomato mixture.  Pour into pastry shell.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.  Yield:  6-8 servings.

Swiss Cheese Potato Pancakes

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups shredded peeled potatoes (about 1 pound)

1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese

2 tablespoons grated onion

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

dash cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add flour; mix well.  Stir in potatoes, Swiss cheese, onion, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. 

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat.  Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls; press lightly to flatten.  Fry until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes on each side.  Drain on paper towels.  Yield:  16 pancakes.

(Recipes from Taste of Home Spring 2008 magazine)

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Colby Corn Chowder and Ranch Biscuits

Finding a new soup recipe always interests me.  I love soup, but some in my family only accept certain kinds.  To please all, the soup must be creamy, full of flavor and it always helps to accompany it with some bread.

This corn chowder and ranch biscuits surely fit the bill!  My family has now permitted “Soup Night” more often 🙂

(As found in Taste of Home magazine, Spring 2008)

Colby Corn Chowder

6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1 large onion, chopped

1/4 cup butter, cubed

2 cans (14 3/4 ounces each) cream-style corn

4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

3 cups milk

8 ounces Colby cheese, cubed

Place potatoes in a Dutch oven or large soup kettle; sprinkle with salt and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onion in butter until tender.  Stir in corn and bacon; heat through.  Drain potatoes.  Add milk; heat through.  Stir in corn mixture and cheese.  Serve immediately Yield: 12-14 servings (about 3 quarts).

Ranch Biscuits

2 cups biscuit/baking mix

4 teaspoons dry ranch salad dressing mix

2/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon dried parsely flakes

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

In a bowl, stir the biscuit mix, salad dressing mix and milk until combined.  Drop 2 inches apart onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  In a small bowl, combine the butter, parsley and garlic powder; brush over warm biscuits.  Yield: 9 biscuits.  (…and of course, we doubled this recipe!  9 biscuits?!  Who only eats NINE biscuits?!!)

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Boys Birds and Bees

Son 1:  “Mom?  So if I want to find the right girl, I take a rib from my side, put it into some dirt, say a magic spell and then I get my perfect girl, right?  Is that how it works?”

Me:  “Well………..almost” 😉

(Several moments later….)

Son 1:  “So are yall going to have another baby?” 

Me:  “That’s up to God.  He’s the Creator.” 

Son 1:   “Mommmmm, we know how the system works.”

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