Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goals for 2014

Below are my career, financial, spiritual, physical, intellectual, familial, and social goals for this coming new year.


Blog again-

I have found my old blog posts really helpful lately, especially for home school purposes. My blog works like a file cabinet and it allows me to go back in time and see what I was using when my oldest child was younger. That serves to remind me what I can do with my younger children now.  So I think keeping a record of what we're doing will help me in the distant future in much the same way. 

Complete another professional, fitness certification-

In 2013, I gained my basic AFAA Group Fitness certification and I started teaching cardio and muscle classes at a local gym.  I'd like to pursue another, more specialized certification this year, perhaps a Bodypump certification through Les Mills. This particular certification is a tough one to attain, but barbell classes choreographed to music are my favorite workout to do on my own and my favorite type of class to teach.

Improve on my housework-

I have been doing Fly Lady's daily flight plan for years. It's a list of basic, daily chores like making the bed, doing at least one load of laundry a day, emptying the dishwasher in the morning, and loading it before bed, etc. But this year, I want to also complete her daily missions and the detailed cleaning lists as well. 


Save money on groceries-

We ate a very clean diet in 2013, buying only organic groceries.  This served to reduce toxins in our systems and heal our bodies, but it almost doubled the amount of money went to spent on food last year. I went to some regular grocery stores this month and began substituting some of the organic products we were buying with regular ones and we have already saved hundreds this month alone. We plan to continue eating healthy foods this year, but we are willing to compromise on the cleanliness of some of the products we buy so that we can save money in 2014.  I plan to give the hundreds of dollars I save from our grocery/ household budget back to our family budget so that we can continue to pay off all our debt and be totally debt free, per Dave Ramsey's plan, in two years. 


Read through The One Year Bible online.  I did this a few years ago and it was a rewarding experience that kept me in a habit of reading, praying, meditating, and worship almost everyday for a year.  I should never have stopped it. 


Complete P90X-

By eating a healthy, clean, whole foods diet and exercising in 2013, I lost 70 pounds and reached my ultimate goal weight.  This year, I simply want to continue eating healthy and challenging my body with exercise.  I am already on the second week of the P90X workout program.   With my group fitness classes at the gym, I can't complete as many workouts as I am supposed to each week so it is going to take me more than 90 days to get through the program.  But I'd like to finish this workout as quickly as I can in 2014 and see some benefits like losing more belly fat and gaining upper body strength. 


I read a lot, but I want to be more deliberate to start, finish, and retain content from quality books, some of which will make a difference in important areas of my life.

The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer

My children and I are working through The Story of the World: The Middle Ages in our home school and we are also memorizing the timeline and important historical events that occurred in the Middle Ages through our participation in Classical Conversations.  So I have been reading The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer to enrich my understanding of what I am teaching and learning with my kids right now.  It's been a really challenging book to get through. I could teach a college level class from the basic notes I am taking on each chapter. But I think that reading and retaining much of the information in this book is a worthy goal that I want to pursue more diligently as the new year begins.

Read C.S. Lewis' Entire Bibliography

More than ten years ago, I bought a paperback copy of Mere Christianity because I was told it was a cherished Christian classic.  The book might as well have been written in Latin, because I couldn't really understand or appreciate any of it. C.S. Lewis' writing style was too advanced for me to read for leisure, even though I was majoring in English and Religion in college at the time. But, over the years, I've been reading more and more advanced books and I recently had the courage to try and read that book again and this time, it made sense!  That was thrilling experience and since then, I've been reading book after book by C.S. Lewis in my leisure time, understanding them better and being very inspired and even entertained by his ideas.  There are still quite a few of his books that I haven't read yet and I want to try and read as many of them as possible this coming year.

Read The Lord of the Rings trilogy

My husband read The Hobbit to our family out loud recently and it has inspired me to want to read all of Tolkein's books in this series, something I've never done.  I've seen the movies, but I know that the books are always so much better.

Finish The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

My husband has read and listened to the audio version of this celebrated book.  He tells me it worth reading again and again, so I've started it. I want to finish it and retain and apply some of it to my life this year. 


Call and talk to my parents and my in-laws once every week.  (Yes, Mom and Dad, here it is in writing.)  

Read and apply Laying Down the Rails

I've been meaning to read this book for at least two years.  Based on what I have heard about it, I believe it will give me some very useful, practical ways disciple and nurture my daughters.


Continue to learn the names of people who attend my fitness classes and build relationships with them in the time I have with them each week.

Continue participating in Classical Conversations community the rest of 2014 and sign up again for 2014-2015.

Begin sending encouraging emails, letters, cards, gifts, etc. to our friends in our church's small group.

Pray to the Lord for opportunities and take opportunities given to spend time with a younger woman I can mentor.

Pray and ask the Lord for opportunities to continue building a relationship with an older, wiser woman who is mentor to me. 

Friday, September 6, 2013


My husband has gotten into the habit of reading out loud to our family almost every night.  He's been doing it for about a year now and he has taken us through several books in that time.  Right now, we happen to be reading through The Hobbit. Last night, as he was reading a portion of the story, he was changing his voice to fit each character and it occurred to me how much his dramatic skill has improved over the year.  With constant practice, he's gotten significantly better at reading out loud.   From the beginning, it was a pleasure to listen to him read. But now, it's even more of a pleasure somehow.

And that lead me to thinking how true that is in so many areas of this man's life.  He's better today than he was a year ago in so many things.  And that lead me to thinking how glad I am that I married him young, really young.  Neither one of us were finished with college when we said, "I do." We were still children in many ways.  But it's been the greatest privilege and adventure to grow up into maturity next to this man of God.  That's what he was when I met him.  That's why I married him.  And, by the constant grace of God, more than ever, that is what he is now: a man of God. It's a sight to behold.

Marriage has given me a front row seat for my husband's sanctification.  In fact, marriage has given me a leading role in the story of this man's walk with God.  I've been able to be his constant help and counselor, as he has been mine.  And when he stands before God approved, as I believe he will, I will know, really know, what God is referring to when He says, "Well done, good and faithful one." 

Marriage. What a privilege.  What a holy calling.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Because of Love

The other day my daughter asked, "Why am I home schooled?"

"Because I love you,"  was my answer.

But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I regretted them.

I realized that if my daughter followed my logic to its end, she might believe that the parents who love their children home school and then assume that parents who don't love their children, don't home school.


So I had to backtrack.

"Norah, if I didn't know how to teach you at home, would it be loving to keep you out of school?" 


"If you were suffering lack, going without things you need, and I could go to work and provide those things, wouldn't it be loving for me to do that?"


"So I stay home and use my gifts here out of love. Another mom with different gifts sends her kids to school because she loves them. And another mom, out of love, goes to work and provides for her family. So parents can make opposite decisions for the exact same reason: love."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Scrambled Eggs and Provolone Over Spinach

You will need:
1 Tablespoon of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh spinach (At least 3 ounces)
One egg
A slice of provolone

1. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a deep skillet and turn the heat on medium-high. Fill the skillet with spinach, really pile it in there because spinach shrinks a lot as it wilts.

2. Stir the spinach on and off as it wilts. When it's wilted, transfer it to a plate.

 3. Keep the pan off the burner and let the pan cool off for half a minute.  Turn the heat down to low then crack an egg in the skillet and scramble it as it cooks. 

4. Bunch the egg together and put a slice of provolone on just until it melts.  Then transfer the eggs and cheese to your bed of greens.


5. Salt it to taste and enjoy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Our "Whys" Make All the Difference

This picture is going around Facebook and I've had conflicting feelings about it. At first, this mom appeared to me to be reinforcing negative cultural messages like being heavy should be avoided at all costs, that being pretty or worse, sexy, is power and influence women should strive for, that people aren't worthy of love unless they are perfect, that aging is bad, etc. I think all the fashion magazines at the checkout and advertisements on television have put me on the defense. 

But, on the other hand, I see how this picture can be inspiring.  Children should see parents modeling good choices and healthy lifestyles and they need to know that real life won't always be accommodating to their goals, even their most worthy ones.  You have to work for what you want wherever and whenever you find the opportunity, even if it's on the middle of your living room floor.

My daughters watch me work out because they are always with me.  My four year old has a little baseball bat that she uses to mimic what I do with my bar and barbells. When I first noticed her behind me, mimicking me, I was afraid, afraid she was learning all the things I had to unlearn since I grew up in this culture.  But I realized that I am not teaching her or letting her be taught all our culture's ideas about beauty, so I relaxed and have come to think it's adorable that she exercises with me.  

I pursued and continue to pursue health out of obedience to the Lord, so He will receive glory for working in that area of my life, so I can be strong and useful to Him, and because I have discovered that I just really enjoy healthy food and exercise.  (In yet another area of life, God has taught me to love what's good for me.) I have no doubt that when my daughters probe and probe, and they do probe already, that those reasons are the reasons they will find behind what their mom is doing.  Those are my "whys," truly.

I'm not sure what the mom in this picture's reasons are.  But I believe our "whys" make all the difference for the little eyes watching us.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Thoughts Upon Rereading The Core by Leigh Bortins

I just reread The Core by Leigh Bortins.  I had to reread it because I didn't glean much from my first time through the book.  But, this time, I came back to it with "a different brain,"as Bortins would say. I had a better understanding of the book because I had been reading and listening to classical educators talk about classical education for several months, so, quite naturally, I was able to glean more this time through.

And actually, this illustrates the classical model of learning that Bortins explains in The Core. She says we all go through three stages as we learn anything new.  First, we memorize the vocabulary and rules about a new topic, the basics. This is what Bortins calls the grammar stage of learning.  This may take place over years or just a few days, depending on how much we work at it.  If we are really interested in something, mastering the grammar of that topic may only take days.  Next, we begin to understand the topic logically and make all sorts of interesting connections about it and other topics.  She and other classical educators call this the logic stage. And finally, we become so familiar with the topic that we can explain it to someone else.  This is the last stage of learning, the stage of mastery, called the rhetoric stage. So, while I was reading The Core the first time, I was still learning the grammar of classical education. I was still becoming familiar with the terms Bortins and other classical educators use, so I wasn't able to really delve into the material. But, the second time through the book, I knew the lingo, so I gleaned much, much more.  And now, with this blog post, I am able to explain it to you, so I guess that makes me rhetorical!

Anyway, I think this book is a good fit for other "Well-Trained Mind" homeschooling types like me.  If you are classically bent, this book is one you will want to have in your arsenal.  But, if you hate "The Well-Trained Mind" and other books like it, you won't like this book either.

That said, even if you are classically bent, you may be put off by Bortins's style. She is very frank.  Reading her book is like listening to a seasoned home school mom tell you how she really managed to educate her kids as well as she did, only at times, it is like she's talking to you before she's had her morning coffee. Bortins doesn't qualify her statements like many authors do these days so that her readers don't get offended. She doesn't go out of her way to make sure you don't imply something that she doesn't mean.  Here's one quote that I think reflects what I am talking about.

"Success comes from doing schooling every day and not missing opportunities to do more when lying around sick or when it is raining or too hot to be outside."

I had to chuckle at her frankness in this quote. I kept waiting her to say, "But, of course, if your child is very sick..." but she never did. Still, I don't believe Bortins actually means that a kid with a raging fever should be propped up at the table so they can still do their school work. I give her the benefit of the doubt because in other places in the book, she talks about snuggling with her boys throughout the day and things like that. But, from what Bortins doesn't say at times like this, you can imply that she thinks parents who home school should be doing the hard work of teaching their kids and that they should take their responsibility seriously. 

I am taking away at least one very practical piece of advice that I plan to apply to my home school right away.  I am going to make my kids set a timer and do thirty minutes of math everyday from now on. Bortins says that her boys were able to work through more than one math textbook every year because they would work for thirty minutes and do as much math as they could in that time period instead of just quitting after they had finished one lesson for the day.  Math is a weak area for us and we are slow to get through our one, singular textbook each year, so I think Bortins's advice will help us solve both those problems.

Bortins recommends several books and resources as she discusses all the different subjects. I've added a few books to my "must read" list because my interest has been peeked by what Bortins said about them.  Two books I am planning to read are "Do Hard Things" and "Amusing Ourselves to Death."  Both sound amazing and I love it when one book leads to another.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We lived out of suitcases for the entire month of February and now that we are home again, I keep finding myself overwhelmed, even anxious, by all the stuff we have in our house.

I think I'm a productive person. I keep myself and the kids on a strict schedule that allows us to get all the beds made, do the laundry, take care of the pets, keep the whole house clean, neat and organized almost all of the time while we also home school and I nurse and nurture the baby.  I cook three healthy meals a day from scratch and empty the sink and re-clean the counters, table and floor after each of those meals.  I read to my kids, talk to them, play with them, supervise their play and work.  And, in my free time, I exercise and read through several books at once.  So I have no reason to be ashamed about how I use my time.   

Yet, when I walk by shelves of so many books, I see the ones I haven't read to the kids yet and I feel guilty. When I walk by all our board games, I see the ones we all haven't played in a while and that makes me think, "I'm not doing enough." And then I feel condemned.

But it's just not true, I realize.  It's all this stuff that makes me feel like I'm not doing enough.  It's maintaining all of it that swallows more and more of my time.

So I've started purging.  Twice I have filled our van with books and toys and furniture to donate.  But, as much as I have given away, I still feel like I am spending too much of my time putting things back where they go or supervising my kids as they put things back where they go.  We have too much stuff for one family to handle and I don't want our whole lives to be about handling our stuff. 

Interestingly, while I was on vacation, making due with what fit in a few bags, my friend told me a story about an Amish woman who asked her husband to build a purple martin birdhouse for their backyard. He built it and put it on a pole so she could see it outside their kitchen window.  It was beautiful and it brought her a lot of joy, at first.  But, as time went by, the Amish woman fell back into her busy routine of work around the house and the farm and she found herself too busy to fed the birds in the birdhouse as often as she wanted to and that brought her tremendous guilt.  Every time she saw the birdhouse, she was reminded about what she didn't have time for.  The woman realized she shouldn't have asked for a birdhouse in the first place. She should have just been content without one. 

That story keeps playing in my head, stirring inside of me.  I have so many of those "birdhouses" in my life.  From now on, I want to be content with what I can manage as one person. And in the future, I want to guard myself and my family from wanting more than we can handle. So I'm getting rid of what we don't have time for, all of it, no matter how much we wish we had time for it. We'll do as much as we ever did with what's left over.  But, with less stuff around, I believe we'll have even more time for the things that remain.

"Be on your guard against all forms of greed, for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  Luke 12:15

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I've found a healthier chili recipe.  Note: I use only organic products, whenever possible. 

Beef Chili

1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
One 28 oz. can of whole, organic tomatoes
3-4 cups of V8 Juice
One medium-sized onion, chopped
Three cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
One tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
Two teaspoons chili powder

After opening the can, carefully chop each tomato before adding it to the pot. Pour in the remaining tomato juice from the can and the V8.  Add the onions, drained beans and spices. Let this begin to simmer, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, brown the beef in a skillet then drain it and add it to the pot.  Simmer chili for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.