2nd Cousins

This is Emilia as a (chubby) newborn with Nate's cousin's daughter, Sammy. 
Sammy was two when Emilia was born. 
We hoped they'd be friends as they grew.

And here they are, good friends, 7 years later! 
Both are homeschooled and both like to be the boss of their three siblings.  :)

Recently, Sammy spent the night at our house.  
They had a blast together!  
They colored, designed clothes, watched movies, shut themselves up in Emilia's room to escape the baby, and thoroughly enjoyed each other.

Here they are in their "house".

We are so thankful that they are good friends!


Perfect. Really?

Now, isn't this just beautiful?  This picture may feed a desire in someone to own chickens.  It's so perfect!  
Picture perfect...
and totally not real (you can't see or smell the poop here and let me tell ya, there's a lot of poop!).

This picture is completely staged.  

I hung up only our white laundry (I wash whites along with other colors) on the line (something I rarely do because, although I think it looks so pretty blowing in the breeze, I find it to be a big pain - not to mention that I really don't like stiff clothing or spiders that happen to hide out in the folds of the clothes and later appear in the house...).  

The chickens had to be in the picture, of course, because I wanted a visual of the beautiful (fake) country life that I wanted to be living.  So, I took a handful of grain (not organic - sorry folks, but it's just too expensive) and generously dumped it on the ground right where I wanted my feathered friends to gather.

My son, Jonny, happened to be out there running around anyway, so I had to get him in the picture as well.  I would have changed his clothes (not that Lightning McQueen isn't classy) if I wasn't worried that the chickens would eat all the grain first!  

"Hey Jonny, can you run this way?  Nope, not like that.  Straight through.  click.click.  Okay, do it again.  click.  Perfect!"   
Even HE was staged!

So, there's the truth about that picture.  

Just goes to show that all the lovely pictures we see in bloggyland aren't necessarily spontaneous (which is a bummer because I really like spontaneity).

My dear friend, Rachel, sent me a link to a blog post that talks about how this affects our lives.  

We see flawless photos of gardens, chickens, children, sparkling clean counter tops and rustic wood floors.  We want our gardens, chickens, children, counters, floors to look like theirs.  Or maybe we don't have these things, so we covet.  We become discontent.  We want better, prettier, perfect-er lives.  Just like the lives we see online.

Father, forgive my discontent.

This "perfect" picture should serve as a good reminder, while I blog, to keep it real.
Real life is not always picture perfect, but it's always better.



My sister-in-law, Amber, asked me to write up a post about preschool. 

Let me begin by saying that although I have an Elementary Education degree and have worked in a couple different preschools (one while I was pregnant with Emilia - I really liked a little girl named Emilia that was in my class, so we stole her name :) ), I do not claim to be a "preschool expert".  

I'll just share what I've done with our kids when they are "preschool" age.

We've always had LOTS of children's books that the kids can access at all times (thank you to my mother-in-law!)
Even though I was not for homeschooling at the time, I always knew our kids wouldn't go to a formal preschool.  So, when Emilia was very young we started teaching her letters and sounds and reading chapter books.  I read somewhere that you should read good books to your children that aren't necessarily at their "level".  This helps them develop a large vocabulary and more complexity of thought.  Cool.  So, I decided to try this theory out and read Charlotte's Web to Emilia when she was 2.  She was little, but she really understood a lot.  I still read chapter books to her and I try to get her brothers to listen, but they aren't as interested in sitting that long without being able to look at pictures.  :)  Although, I just finished The Black Stallion and, while the boys didn't listen to the whole thing, they listened on and off and by the end (a very exciting end with a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-horse race) the whole family was listening intently.  Such a good book!

When I first thought about doing preschool with Emilia, I had this neat little schedule written out with calendar time, circle time, stories and songs - just like what I did when I taught at a preschool.  However, as I read more about homeschooling (about 30 books later - ha!) I realized that the home doesn't have to look the same as the school.  So, I ditched the plans that looked like a school and incorporated learning through every day life.  We talked about everything.  We baked together.  We read lots of books.  We had tea parties.  We went lots of different places.  We talked and talked and talked - that girl can talk!  She learned through so many different ways.  She was curious.  I supplied her with creative, fun things and outings.  It was natural to learn through life.

Emilia gardening
 When Jonny became preschool age, I remember thinking that I should sit with him and teach him his ABC's.  Then one day I heard Emilia singing the ABC's with him and he already knew them.  I couldn't believe he could learn without me!

Jonny "reading"
I think that we, as parents, can feel so much unnecessary pressure to get our kids to learn so many things by the time they go to Kindergarten that we stress ourselves and our kids out.  Learning becomes drudgery when it's not suppose to be that way.  God created all of us with a desire to know about things.  Kids (everyone!) should enjoy learning.

Matthew is our current preschooler.  I haven't really done anything specific with him.  However, he has already learned a lot!  This year both Emilia and Jonny will be doing school.  Emilia will be in 2nd grade and Jonny will be in K.  I know that Matthew is going to want some school things to do while they are doing school.  I have some friends that also have preschoolers and I think we're going to have a Preschool Activity Bag Swap.  We'll each make one activity 5 times and then we'll have 5 different activities for our preschoolers!  I really like this idea because Matthew can have his own "curriculum" so he doesn't feel left out.  I'm also going to work on writing letters and saying the sounds with him as well as writing numbers.

Matthew being...Matthew!


Lunch Ideas

I wanted to be able to write all these healthy, exciting foods we eat for lunch, but then I remembered that
my idea of variety for lunch is asking the kids,
"Do you want peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?" 

I have no idea why I even ask this question because the kids rarely want jelly. 
Needless to say, we go through a lot of honey.  And peanut butter.

We eat PBH sandwiches with some sort of fruit and (if I'm feeling extra generous) chips or (if I'm remembering they should eat their veggies) carrots.

We sometimes have leftovers.  I'm actually the one who wants the leftovers because I can't stand the thought of having peanut butter again.  The kids happen to like the PBH sandwiches.  They think that peanut butter is an essential part of their diet.

It's a good thing that our dinners are more varied because I'm pretty sure it's a bad idea to eat peanut butter for all three meals (even if they want it).

I've linked up to Smockity Frocks where you will find a much better selection of food for lunch.  :)


Best Recipe Ever!

If you think I'm posting a recipe that I think is the best tasting recipe ever, 
I'm not.  Sorry.

This is the "Best Recipe Ever" because of how it's written.

I enjoy the creative process of baking because you can use a little "guesstimating" to make something extra tasty, but I usually do this with vanilla.  This recipe is full of guesswork!

The actual recipe is in black and my comments are written in blue.

Aunt Susie's Church Cookies

2 tincups lard
4 tincups sugar 
2 tincups sour or buttermilk or sweet milk with vinegar added
How big is that tincup? 
8 or 9 eggs
I guess this depends on how the chickens are laying that day.  If these were my chickens, I would need to adjust the recipe to 0 or 1 egg!
3 c. brown and 1 c. white sugar
6 soup spoons baking powder
Soup spoon?  I've seen multiple sizes, but maybe all Amish soup spoons are the same? 
3 or 4 soup spoons soda
That's quite a bit of difference, right?!  Suppose it depends on the size of that soup spoon.
flavor and flour
My favorite ingredients for a cookie recipe ever!  
I think I'll add in about a tincup of salt, a soup spoon of, say, peppermint, and, oh how about, 13 cups of flour (I got that amount from the recipe that preceeds this one.  :) )
(Mrs. Clara Ann Bontrager) 
Notice that there's no temperature to set (maybe it's a wood burning stove?) or amount of time to bake these bad boys.

I love a good laugh and I definitely got one while reading this.  
Now, off I go to bake up a storm!


Tommy Update (with video!)

Tommy now insists on feeding himself.  :)

And he started walking!  (Pretty sure he's already learned how to shoot a gun...)  

He's so much fun!


They Make Me Laugh!

My kids said two funny things today.  I wanted to make sure I wrote these down because so often they say funny things, but I don't write them down and then they are forgotten.  Not today.  :)

First Funny Thing:

The kids and I were watching a cooking show on TV.  I casually remarked, "I think that lady is Russian."  No one said anything for awhile, but near the end of the show Emilia piped up, "Yeah, I think she is in a rush.  Wonder why?" 

I laughed so hard I couldn't talk for awhile!  Emilia just stared at me asking, "What?  Why are you laughing?"  It may have been the lack of sleep or the headache, but I sure found it hilarious.  

Second Funny Thing:

Jonny found some blackberries in the yard and ran in, all excited, to get his siblings to go pick some with him.  Matthew was getting his shoes on and I asked him, "Do you want to change into shorts?  You might be hot in those pants."  He looked at me with those big, blue Matthew eyes (if you know him, you know what I'm talking about) and said, "No.  I don't want those porky things on the porky-pine (a.k.a. pokey blackberry bushes) to hurt my legs.  I need to leave my pants on."  

Once again, I found this absolutely adorable.  Probably because he's just so stinkin' cute.  I love how he sounds when he talks and it makes it even cuter when he gets the words all wrong.  :)

I love these kids (and the smallest one who is sleeping right now :) )!

Week at the Cabin

 We spent a week at my parents' cabin with my parents and brother and sister-in-law (who has a great blog that focuses primarily on how to eat gluten-free - with tasty recipes) and their two kids.

I'm realizing, as I put this post together, that I only had my own camera out for one day!  All the other pictures from the week are on my dad's and sister-in-law's cameras.  So, here is one day (very similar to other days) from our time up north.

We did a lot of sitting around by the lake, reading magazines, making fires, swimming, jet skiing, and generally enjoying each other and the quiet days of being up north (well, as quiet as it can get with 6 kids running/crawling around :) ).

 Emilia was the queen of catching small fish and crayfish.  I wish I had the picture of the HUGE crayfish we caught.  We've only found crayfish about 2 inches long in Grand Lake.  This one was at least 6 inches long and very fat!

The water is super clear, so it's perfect for finding unique rocks and crayfish.

Here's the backyard of Birchwood Cabin.  We stayed in this cabin for the week.

This is the backyard of Cedarview Cabin.

And here's a picture of both backyards together.

We ate excellently all week long.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed playing with my dad and mom.  Here are Jonny and Matthew with my dad.  In the background you can see my mom and Emilia.

Tommy and me.  :)

Matthew was the Cabin Superhero.

He can fly.  :)

Daddy and Tommy.

We had a great time!  Thank you Lord for all that you have provided.


Homeschool Planning According to Heidi

Edited March 6, 2012:  You can still read this post, but also understand that I am constantly changing things for (hopefully!) the better in our little homeschool.
Here's what we're doing with schedules now.

I am "schedually challenged".  Remember this post?

I'm not the type of person (at this point in my life - I like saying that because it leaves room for improvement or change ;) ) that does so well following a schedule (besides the schedule of: wake, breakfast, do things, lunch, naps, do things, dinner, do things, sleep - does that count?

I'm spontaneous. 

At least that's what I keep telling myself because it sounds so fun.  Doesn't it?!  :)

However, because I am spontaneous (and super fun), I don't do so well following a strict schedule.  I like to drop everything and take the opportunity to enjoy days like this

I can feel badly about this at times because I read about all these other moms who are extremely organized and have their days laid out in 15 minute time increments.  It looks so...well...organized!  There are days that I WISH I could be more like this!

But, that is not who I am (at this point in my life ;) ).

And I'm okay with this.  Everyone is different.
(Although I do admit to a small amount of schedule-envy when I see things like this and this.)

As a homeschooling mom, though, I do need some sort of accountability (besides my hubby who faithfully makes sure I'm not TOO spontaneous).

Not only is this homeschool planner asthetically pleasing, it has been a great way for me to see how much schooling we've done.

I don't exactly use this planner to "plan" out my days.  Instead, I use it as a record keeping system.  I write down what we did for each day.  This is a great way for me to see what we've accomplished by the end of the year.  It also helps me know what we need to do weekly.

For example, Thursday comes around and I can see that we haven't done any art and we've only done one day of math that week.  I can then add subjects in to make sure the kids are getting a balanced educational diet

Keep in mind that I only have one child officially in school and she just finished 1st grade, so even though we may not do every subject (or even any subjects) every day, we still finished all of our 1st grade curriculum by April.

I know this may seem crazy to those of you 15 minute time-slotters, but it really does work for me.
And THAT is a good thing!

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