Archive for January, 2011

for the past few weeks, rowan has been asking for a “day off of school” to which i always responded, “you get TWO full days off every week!” i think it was beginning to dawn on him that “snow day” meant NO SCHOOL for those who go to school, and not just “it’s snowing today! let’s do math!”

so today at 10:30, after i spent two hours cleaning out the boys closet and drawers, i decided that today was a no school day. rowan was overjoyed with the news. he almost started crying he was so happy. it was an easy decision: i needed a mental health day, and they were all playing together so well, i couldn’t possibly interupt.

besides, we are starting our new homeschool co-op on monday (more on that below), so it felt like a good time to take a long three-day weekend (and we haven’t taken a day off since before christmas!).  on monday, we will be “kicking it up a notch” in our homeschool!

for the three years that we’ve been learning together, we have been basing our education around the Classical Model of education. we feel that this way of learning best matches the way God created our minds to learn. there are certainly different degrees of the classical approach, and we’ve strayed from a strict approach, introducing other forms or methods along the way.

next week is our first week together in a classical co-op. Classical Conversations is a national organization with local co-ops. the co-ops meet once a week where students learn on their level (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) with other students, beginning at the age of 4. i’ve known about Classical Conversations for a few years now, but there hasn’t been one in western PA until now. typically, the co-ops start in the fall and run two 12-week semesters, but the interest in starting this local chapter was so high, that the PA state director pushed the local director into starting at the end of january. and here it is – filled to capacity! i’m so excited to begin this chapter in our learning together!

today, i’m making pizza dough for dinner. adam’s my little helper – every time he sees me pull out the mixer and hears the flour bags opening, he’s pulling up a chair to help pour in all the ingredients. i’ve been in the kitchen a lot this week, and it’s felt so good. i’ve been making pure comfort food dinners (PW’s Chicken Pot Pie is my new favorite) and baking bread, making cookies and smoothies. the kitchen has truly been the heartbeat of our home this week.

i need a new hat. so i pulled out my circular needles and just started a hat. i hope i finish it. at least before next winter!  i’m still working on a scarf that i started for myself back in october for the upcoming winter. i hope to finish it before the next upcoming winter. that’s how my knitting projects usually go. if it’s not something for a very small person (namely, a baby), it never gets done. or it sits for a few years and then either i frog it, or my mom finishes for me.

i’m reading fiction again. i haven’t read fiction since my summer of reading (and blog reviews!), but i’ve gotten my groove in schooling/homemaking again that i have found time to read fiction again. Jodi Picoult’s House Rules was lent to me a few weeks ago. i’m only 50 pages from the end. this one kept me captivated.

i’m also reading nonfiction: Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas and A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (is there anyone out there NOT reading Ann’s book right now? if not…you need to!).

i am considering a “blog series” for Lent this year, similar to the thankful posts in november i’ve done in the past. would love to know if anyone would be along for the ride. what would you want to blog about during Lent, in preparation for Easter?

for more quick takes, visit Jennifer’s blog, Conversion Diary.


american comfort food

   Posted by: liz    in food

i have a recipe to share and it’s full of real, whole-food ingredients. it’s pure american comfort food, and i hope you’ll make it to share with your family or with another family sometime soon!

i made it up on a whim this afternoon as i was craving a hearty meal as the snow began to fall. again.

Savory Meat and Potato Pie

1 cup whole wheat flour (i use white whole wheat)

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. sugar (i used sucanat)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup cold butter

4-5 T. whole milk

1 lb ground meat of your choice

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 large white onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 large carrot, sliced thinkly

2 medium potatoes, one diced and the other thinly sliced

1 tsp. butter

1/2 cup beef broth

1 tsp. flour

salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme to taste

splash of red wine (i used merlot)

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk the whole wheat flour, pastry flour, sugar and salt together with a wire whisk. Dice the cold butter and mix with pastry knife into the flour until butter is pea-sized. Add the milk 2 T at a time and incorporate until it forms a ball (it’s easiest to flour your hands and work the milk in with your hands). Working quickly, flour a flat surface with and roll dough out 1/8″ thick. Place into a 9″ pie plate and make it fit snugly, pinching off any extra dough. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes or until the edges are dark golden brown (after a few minutes, prick a fork into the bottom to release any air bubble forming between the plate and the dough). Let cool.

Meanwhile, while the crust is pre-baking, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the ground meat and brown well. Add the sliced carrot, dice potato, beef broth, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the splash of red wine. Let simmer on low. If the broth makes it soupy, add the tsp. of flour, cook for another minute and then take it off the heat. Let it cool slightly without a lid.

While the meat mixture is cooling, melt butter in a smaller skillet. Add thinly sliced potatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and brown on both sides. Let cool.

Pour the meat mixture into the pre-baked pie crust. Cover with slices of potatoes. Put back into the oven for 15 mintues to warm through thoroughly. If desired, add shredded cheddar to the top of the potatoes to melt.


19 weeks under our belt!

   Posted by: liz    in homeschooling

monday…we celebrated martin luther king, jr and during the course of the week, i’ve heard adam yelling, “i have a dream!” and then he goes off in a poetic nature about mountains and stars. he remembers, as a four-and-a-half year old can. swimming at the Y after dinner. we all fell into bed tired and invigorated!

tuesday… after morning classes i got to enjoy a mama date!  the boys and i spent the afternoon with our friends down in the city. i got to hang with another mama friend who encouraged and inspired me. our seven boys ran circles around us (well, the month-old baby didn’t do much running…i monopolized snuggle-time with him!) and we left shortly before dinner.

wednesday… art and drama field trip at the library. always so good (so fun!) to hang out with other local families. my friend jill led the students in a read-aloud story, some drama, and sculpting with clay (snowmen!).

thursday… ’twas baking day here. i decided that buying pre-sliced bread in a plastic bag just isn’t me. it may be fine for you, and that is totally fine. but it’s not how i want to nourish my family. so…i made six loaves this week. one and a half loaves is left. i let them eat more bread when it comes from the oven. afterall, they eat the crust and enjoy the bread when they can smell it baking.

friday… we ate our ages, and a bunch of other numbers, in roman numeral cookies. i first saw the idea here last week, and since i knew that we’d be covering roman numerals in math this week.

it was a great way to review the lessons we covered this week introducing roman numerals. rowan gets it, he even used the cookies to teach his brothers. i love watching them teach each other.

in other subjects, we are learning the words of the first verse and chorus of America, The Beautiful for history class, action verbs in grammar, the 10 commandments in bible, and we’re halfway through Prince Caspian (we’re slow read-aloud readers here…as I long to savor a book, and our youngest is a bit wiggly during reading-time. lots and lots of questions happen during our read-alouds which also slow us down. i hope to finish it this semester and get one more book started before summer vacation. what can i say? i have three boys who would rather act out scenes, make up stories in action than sit and listen to me read any more. i have mixed feelings on this, but am going with it for now).


observing martin luther king, jr.

   Posted by: liz    in homeschooling

we kept class as normal today. we’re chugging along and will be done with school in late april at this clip!

we did change up our history lesson (on Benjamin Franklin) today and jumped forward to the 1960′s to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr.

it’s a touchy subject: slavery, and the civil rights movement. both are important and historical, but how do you introduce to someone, who is young enough not to notice, that at one time, white skinned people treated darker skinned people as though they weren’t created in the image of God? i don’t want them to even think that about anyone, so why introduce it at this young age?

because history is messy. history is human. history is what brings us to today.

we kept it light. i found a short video on youtube for them to watch. much shorter than the original, but i wanted them to hear the “famous” bits today. i wanted them to hear and see the melodic voice of a strong man who only wanted the will of a nation, the will of God, discovered for all people.

adam demanded his special time with mommy immediately following breakfast today. how can i resist? i found a craft online that later we used in our discussion with rowan and sawyer after watching the I Have a Dream speech.  he printed the words he heard most in the video for the center of the wreath. if they are the only words they remember from the speech, i am happy. it’s the springboard for discussions in the future.

how did you commemorate this day in your home?

I was so excited when I heard that I was selected to review a product from Classical Academic Press, a company for which I already have much respect.

This summer, after sorting through many curriculum web sites searching for a long time for a solid bible curriculum, I finally landed at Classical Academic Press‘ web site and discovered they offered their own bible curriculum. I didn’t even hesitate to order it since my experience with Classical Academic Press’ Latin curriculum has been a positive one.

The author of the bible curriculum, Claire Larsen, has split the Old Testament into two year-long studies: Genesis to Ruth (OT1) and 1Samuel to Malachi (OT2). We are going through the OT1 this year.

Each week, students learn of a new Old Testament story, beginning with the Creation. The stories are grouped into the following Unit Studies: In the Beginning, God’s Power; By The Patriarchs, God’s Promises; Out fo Egypt, God’s Redemption; Through the Wilderness, God’s Provisions; and In the Promised Land, God’s Faithfulness.

i love how these unit studies are grouped. i love being able to point out instances in the Old Testatment stories that we’re learning over and again how God keeps His promises with His people, how He takes care of them, and overall, how He is a faithful God.

I would recommend using this curriculum with your reading students.* Each lesson has a story to be read (either by the teacher, or the student), suggested chapters in the bible to read along with the story included in the lesson, and a few worksheets for the student to fill out to reinforce what they have learned.  What we’ve really enjoyed through this study are the bible verses selected each week to memorize. We’ve spent time each day learning the verse, writing the verse or drawing a picture to remember the verse and by doing so, we can remember the storyline laid out for us in the lessons.

To enhance your students’ understanding of the time and places you are learning, you can purchase Timeline and Map Set to look at, hang up in your school room, cut and paste on, or trace from. The full color, 13″x19″ maps included in the bundle have been a great hands-on addition to our storytime. The boys and I pull out a map and look at the journey outlined for us, and we can see where on the Red Sea the Israelites crossed. I’ve used these maps for the boys to draw/trace their own maps, reinforcing the journey in their own minds.

If there is anything negative about this bible curriculum and map/timeline set it’s very small. The only thing we didn’t enjoy doing together was creating our own timeline with the cut and paste pieces. The material of the paper timeline is hard to keep glued together (it’s a heavy hard-stock material), and our own-made timeline kept falling apart!  However, this is easily “fixed” by just hanging up the timeline that is included with the maps (there is no need to make one yourself, it’s an added bonus to do so).

Overall, this curriculum has made our first semester very easy and enjoyable for me to teach bible in our relaxed classical approach to teaching. Larsen’s chapters are well-thought out and spaced perfectly for learning over the course of a year. I would definitely recommend this bible curriculum to others looking for a way to teach the Old Testatment stories in your homeschool.

*my boys weren’t really reading independently this year, so i worked with them in all the lessons. this is also completely do-able.


being more generous ~

   Posted by: liz    in faith

once i get past the fact that everything given to me isn’t mine, this last resolution is one of the easiest to accomplish.

i don’t necessarily mean being more generous with our money. i am referring to generosity of time, of self, of “things” that own too much of our desires.

i certainly need a lot of help being more generous with money because by nature, i am a tight-wad. i can jokingly blame the scotch-irish in my blood for this, but it’s a serious nature, and one that i’ve been working on.  how can we let go of our constant desire to a) make more money and b) spend more money (on ourselves) and c) not give away our money?

this resolution is one of the three i will not post about again. it’s not that i won’t be working on it and doing it, but what good is giving away ourselves when we brag about it?

matthew 6:1-4 ~ Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. 2-4″When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—’playactors’ I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

of the many ways i hope i am more generous this year (and future years!), i hope to see our family doing more for other families, giving away of our resources to those who don’t have, donating time and money to children who are in need, focus our prayers on the needs of others. i do want to share an example of being generous of my time that happen this week:

during the course of a school day, i tell adam (4 yrs) to “go play” a lot as i work with the older two on math or spelling. he is a great independent play-with-toys kind of kid and he does sit in on bible and history and science lessons, but i don’t have a mommy-adam-only time set aside during our days. two nights ago, he was more cranky than usual and he said something to the effect of, “i just want to do school!”  so yesterday, i told him that after our math lessons it was mommy-and-adam time.

we got some colored pencils and paper ready and spent a good half hour coloring in some pictures. the older two wanted to do it with us, and i was ready to tell them that this time was just for me and adam, but adam said, “sure! get your art kit!”  so all four of us continued to color. when we were done, adam wanted to read a book while the older two went back to their legos. we read one of his new favorite books (gifted to him by his godparents at christmas) together and then just sat and talked for a few minutes more. a real, uninterupted conversation with my four-year-old.

last night at dinner, it was his turn to pray for the meal and he normally says the same thing every time he prays, but last night he added, “thank you for my surprises with mommy today” to his prayer. i didn’t understand what he meant by the word “surprise” so i asked him and he said, “you know, the craft time and scuffy book with you…”  he actually LIKED having one-on-one time with me!  he THANKED GOD for that time.

those words were a precious gift to me.


a call for peace

   Posted by: liz    in faith, health

i recently linked to two political-in-nature news stories at facebook and then participated in discussions about the articles. one of the discussions escalated a bit, and while it wasn’t completely heated, emotions were running high and i just felt a bit sick about it. i was turning into the person that i’m trying hard to fight against being. the angry, bitter, face-biter:

yes. her. she’s not very attractive is she?  she might say some poignant deep thoughts once in a while, get a few “likes” to her angry voice, but inside she’s boiling and outside she’s just downright ugly.

i didn’t like turning into her. especially when i am to be meditating on things true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, with virtue, and being praise-worthy. (phil. 4:8)

i hope that others will join with me. it is important to speak your mind, i see the good in that. but when your mind and heart are angry, like mine were becoming, maybe it’s best to keep it under wraps instead of spreading the anger, the hate.

this is NOT a pious admission. i’m embarrassed by my recent actions. i’m embarrassed that i let politics rule my tone in these conversations. i am not that person, and i will not feed it any more.

When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
(prov. 31:26, the message)

(cartoon credit to abestwistsworld)

being more intentional ~ the daily life

   Posted by: liz    in faith

i know i talk a lot about liturgy and the liturgical church calendar and you might just wish i would STOP already!  but i can’t.

it’s not that i think it’s the ONLY way to worship. after all, we worship in a non-liturgical, non-traditional church.

but my days and weeks and years still observe the liturgical calendar. what i love about the liturgical church is that it forces you to be INTENTIONAL throughout the year. there is purpose to the year, beginning with Advent, climaxing at Easter, and ending in Ordinary Time. there is purpose in each word spoken in the worship service, which ends with the observance of the Eucharist.

“being more intentional” is one of the things i listed in my three resolutions, and i know it sounds a bit too general of an idea. what i mean by it is that there needs to be more purpose in all that i do, every day. every day is an opportunity to be be a better wife, mom, and friend…i’m grateful for the opportunity to do this daily.

“The Lord be with You” the priest says.

“And also with you!” the people respond.

it’s the opening greeting of the Holy Eucharist. how do i greet each morning as a mother? as a wife? as friend? what are the words i choose to speak to my sons each day? do i bless them in my words, or do i belittle their achievements. focusing on my role specifically as their mother-teacher, i am humbled. i have the opportunity to teach and love on my boys all day long. but i fail to truly bless them with my words.

i am human, made from dust. and my words at times feel like dust on a wound instead of balm. my words are supposed to soothe, instruct, and admonish, but only in love.

Lord Have Mercy

Christ Have Mercy

Lord Have Mercy

any mother you know will agree that this is a daily struggle. we are not perfect. and thank the Lord we’re not supposed to be perfect. and thank the Lord we have help in our journies. today, i will be intentional in modeling Christ’s love for my children.

how will you be intentional today?


epiphany ~ blessing of the house

   Posted by: liz    in Christmas, seasons

Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

~isaiah 60:3

House blessings on Epiphany come from the visit of the Magi to the home of Jesus, and the gifts they gave to Him.

God bless this house,

from door to door,

from wall to wall,

from room to room,

from basement to roof,

from beginning to end.

God bless this house

and all who enter here,

all who eat here,

all who work here,

all who play here,

all who sleep here,

all who visit here,

all who abide here.


epiphany ~ homemade nativity

   Posted by: liz    in Christmas, seasons

the last day of christmas has come.

the boys and i spent the afternoon preparing our family 12th Night. their stuffed animals became key players in their own manger scene complete with three paper crowns for their favorite animals.

we three kings:

a shepherd (that’s the shepherd’s hook at the far left), and a sheep:

the baby jesus (in a sock) with llama-mama-mary looking lovingly on:

and my favorite, “view from the back”:

today, the formed a star and hung it on the window behind the creche. it hasn’t moved since this morning. i love our little homemade living nativity!