Tuesday, September 29, 2009


One of my absolute favorite fabric designers is doing a giveaway for her upcoming fabric line, Eden. It is lovely and I can't wait to get some, either by winning or by purchase! Head on over to her blog!

Monday, September 28, 2009

This Afternoon in the Yummy Department

Lovin' from our oven today.

I made muffins for tomorrow's breakfast. I was trying to find something else besides banana bread to make with ripe bananas, so I searched a short time and found a recipe for "Best Ever Banana Muffins." Oh, my. I tested one just to make sure they really were the "best ever" before I could honestly type this post....and I think they are! Yumm!

Then Jacob baked some cookies. We baked cookies last Monday too, but we were out of vanilla and so our recipe choices were terribly limited. Do you know HOW MANY recipes call for vanilla??? Staggering. We needed cookies for tea time today, cookies for Jacob's den meeting and cookies for a visit to a friend's house tomorrow evening. So with vanilla in the pantry and barely enough sugar (add that to the list), we set about making "Chewy Oatmeal Cookies." My mom cut this recipe out of the Houston Chronicle years ago and I have a copy of her newspaper clipping. I haven't made them in years, but they are oh, so good. Yeah, I tested these too.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. each: baking soda and baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses (mild)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans (I omit these and add raisins instead)

Preheat oven to 35o degrees. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and sugar. Add shortening, molasses, eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth. Stir in oats and pecans (or raisins).

Drop batter by rounded spoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 12 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Hope you enjoy some happy baking this week. There are so many feasts to celebrate this week.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just for fun

Below is my progress on my red and aqua and white dutch pinwheel blocks. I really love how they are turning out! I had been looking and looking for the perfect block of pattern to use all my red and aquas I've been gathering. When I saw this block, I knew this was it. I can make at least 20 different blocks at this point with no fabric repeats, so we'll see if I want to make more once I get to that point. And you never know, I might find more reds and aquas at the quilt show in October that I have to have!

And I thought Hillary might like to see that I found the perfect spot on the wall for my new doll quilt - right next to my fun, whimsical bird print I bought on Etsy a year or so ago. They have so many similarities. I am happy every time I look that direction!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Doll Quilt Swap 7

I was so excited! I got a package in the mail yesterday!!!!!!!

Here is sweet ballerina Nicole holding my new quilt that Hillary made for me in the doll quilt swap. The photos do not do it justice. It is so amazingly me - I can't believe it!

The pinks, the reds, the aquas the white! And the bird! I love birds!

The applique is incredible. I want to do what she did.

Thank you so much, Hillary! You made my day. I will look at my quilt and enjoy it for many years to come.


Time is what I discovered yesterday. Time allowed me through the Lord's immense blessing - somehow, for some reason. Yesterday morning I awoke fretting over not being able to fit in all the things I wanted to include in our Monday. Even though I woke early to pray I still felt frustrated and impatient with the time allotted for the day ahead. It was only breakfast and I could already feel my self tensing up over the fact that they were eating so S.L.O.W.L.Y. Aaaaah!

Like the loaves and fishes multiplied in abundance for the hungry people, my felt like it had multiplied without my ever asking. At 4:30 I sat with the children for tea time and marvelled to them about how much we had gotten done! Even though I doubted, we had had time for all our morning lessons, a trip to meet Matt Maher, a run to the library, lunch, scheduled Wii time, all of our afternoon reading (our Ginger Pye chapter was not short), baking cookies, tea time and a concert! How blessed I am and how foolish I am to doubt that our Lord could not do what I felt was impossible.


We had a wonderful time! The concert was fantastic. What a blessing to have won these tickets. I had been telling Brian how much I wanted to take Jacob and Nicole to a concert, but the right one had not presented itself yet. I thought about it quite often. This all fell together so beautifully - Matt Maher, small setting, free!

I think I read on KSBJ that it was a like a coffee house setting. That seems to be the perfect description. The room wasn't huge, but perfect. We went up to the KSBJ studios in Humble which was fun to see on its own. In the "auditorium" the lights were dimmed and there was neat lighting. There was an entrance area where you could help yourself to free snacks and drinks - talk about float the kids' boat! There was a table to join the Movemeant and then a KSBJ table. We got to meet two of the radio personalities who we listen to quite often. That was very fun for the kids. Susan O'Donnell, one of the morning show personalities, told the kids about some pillows on the floor in front of the stage. How perfect! They got to sit on the floor right in front of the small stage and I found one empty chair on the left end of the front row. I think all together there were about 150 people there. We were 20 feet or so away from him. It was so personal. Yet still the sound was super. He had the Robbie Seay band instead of his own and they did a fantastic job. All the songs he performed were from his new album, except for "Your Grace Is Enough." He did lots of talking and answered questions. It was a very fun atmosphere. It was fun to be up close and see Matt speak his heart. There were lines at the end for a special photo opportunity, but since we'd had our own personal family photo that morning, we didn't stay. We feel so blessed to have had the privilege to attend.

Here is a little bit of video I took. (PS - the other voice you can hear singing is Jacob)

Monday, September 21, 2009

A little field trip......or two

The kids and I with Catholic recording artist, Matt Maher.

His newest song, Alive Again (listen to my playlist), has been playing on our large Christian radio station here in Houston, KSBJ. They play quite a few of his other songs, too. It is so fantastic to hear an amazing Catholic on Christian radio. He is CATHOLIC! I mean, when we have been to concerts that are purely his, they usually have had adoration! This is how it was when Brian and I went to see him at the Catholic Charismatic Center a couple of weeks ago. Amazing.

Well, I had heard he was going to be in Houston again tonight for a special "private" concert. We haven't joined this "Movemeant" even though it sounds totally cool. Anyway, then I found out he was going to be at three different Lifeway stores across Houston today, before the concert, for what they call a "Street 'n Greet." One of the locations was at the Lifeway right near our home. I have been pondering all weekend whether I could put it in the schedule. I knew Jacob and Nicole would LOVE to go and meet him. They know all his songs. Could it be because their mommy plays his CDs so much? I have all five now! We went to the LifeTeen Mass last night at our parish (the kids have been asking to go) and they usually use several of his songs. Nicole knew that the sending song was one of his and she asked me quietly, "Is that Matt Maher singing up there?" Too cute.

And so........this morning I still wasn't sure I could fit it all in. And then as lessons progressed this morning, I had one who was crying at the least little thing and one who was grumpy and sleepy - you know how it goes. My first inclination was to say, "No way! I can't possibly take them to meet Matt Maher." But the Lord got the best of me and I decided it would be such a fun surprise for them. So we got through a little bit of school work and then I told them to get shoes on since we needed to go to the library and I had a surprise errand for them. I didn't tell them until we pulled up to the Lifeway who was inside. They were so excited! There was hardly anyone there!!!!! Perfect. We got to talk a bit. I bought a second CD so he could sign it for us (Brian pre-ordered it for me for my birthday). We got to take a picture too. It was very short, but very fun!

At the end the TicketServant/KSBJ man there asked if we would like to put our name in the drawing for a ticket to tonight's concert. He was so nice to us all. I agreed and put my name and phone number in the pot. He asked how many tickets we would want if we won. I said we'd like two thinking I could take Jacob since he loves all the Christian music soooo much. As we were walking to the car, I had this overwhelming feeling and this sense of confidence that we were going to win. I said a quiet prayer. Then I quietly wished I'd asked for three so that Nicole could go too. Oh, well.

Well..........around 11am a sweet lady from KSBJ called and said we had won the tickets!!!!! Thank you Lord! What a wonderful, yet small way, to show how even in frivolous things like this God can hear our prayers. Then the lady asked how many tickets I would like!!!!!!! Oh, wow! I asked if I could have three so I could bring my two oldest children. So, Jacob and Nicole and I are off across town tonight to the KSBJ studios to see a Matt Maher concert. I think it should be a really, neat personal event.

Praise God!

PS - If you would like me to send you my extra Matt Maher CD for free, leave me a comment telling me how often you will listen to it and what great care you will take with it! :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

For a Sweet Friend's Birthday

Even though I made this wonderful Christmas table runner, I can't take the credit. The credit goes to three talented ladies in my Scrappy Christmas Block Swap. It was so much fun to receive these blocks (2 from each lady), as well as sending them mine. I really enjoyed seeing them all come together in this runner. While all quite different, they go together so well. The backing and binding came from my stash - how exciting!!! I love the polka dots from the Sweet line of fabrics that I used on the binding. My friend has a wonderful long dining table that they use daily. I think it will be a perfect fit.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Favorite Birthday Present

Ta da!!!!!!!! Here it is - my favorite birthday present - my finished cabinets and counter top space!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love it!

On Monday after a very busy weekend, I got in there and organized it all to look like this. Don't you love it? It is my little corner of quilting heaven.

I told Brian a while back that all I wanted for my birthday was a finished quilting counter top. The cabinets have been there since soon after we moved in almost six months ago, but we just hadn't gotten around to finishing it all. Now, mind you that hasn't kept me from quilting! Oh, no. But my open top cabinets were collecting piles and I was cramped for space - poor me. I didn't want to put anything in the cabinets because I knew Brian was going to have to move them when he did set it all up.

So, on my birthday evening, one of my presents was the lovely 48"piece of precut formica counter top I had been coveting at Lowes. I was thrilled. Again, like the Matt Maher CD, how did he know???

To make the gift even better, he finished setting it all up for me over the weekend. I am thrilled and I am oh, so thankful for my wonderful husband who loves me so very much. I am also very thankful to my dear sister and brother-in-law. They gave us the cabinets (two years ago) as they were remodeling the kitchen. They would have ended up in a dump I suppose. We had them all in the garage at the other house for Brian's work area and storage. When we moved we brought them with us and Brian so lovingly allowed me to take 48"worth for my quilting area. What love!

So here's a walk through my pretty little quilting corner.

Que the music.

This is my finished workspace. I love the formica and my cutting mat fits perfectly. Nothing is better than cutting at counter top height. I was managing, but this is so much more comfortable. We have had this lovely finished shelf for quite a while and it has had many locations and uses over the years. It wasn't being used right now and I knew it would be perfect for the wall over my counter. It holds a couple of cute little quilting tins. The one on the right contains the selvages I save. I can store my rulers and rotary cutter of reach of the children but so convenient to me. I have my pins up there too. Hanging under the shelf is a sweet Longaberger basket for cuttings that need to be thrown away (my system is to collect cuttings/threads in smaller containers and when full, then empty those to the main trash can across the room).

To the left of the counters is the white shelf I have been using. I was able to rearrange it and give myself more room for fabric since some things were finally able to be moved to the bottom cabinets. Also, I was able to unload three boxes of scrapbooks and photo albums that have been taking up space in the gameroom closet. I stored them on the lower shelves that I don't really use anyway.

And the DRAWERS!

The far left drawer is closest to where I sit at my machine. I can even reach it while sitting. In here I organized scissors, bobbins, safety pins and other odds and ends I use all the time.

The middle drawer holds all my threads. My favorites from Connecting Threads are in the recycled box lid (thanks Brian for teaching me things like that) and the rejects are over to the side. :)

This right hand drawer holds miscellaneous small stuff - notions and hardly ever used little tools, buttons, etc.

Now the CABINETS!!!!!

The left hand door holds magazines of different types and quilting books and an empty quilting travel box

In the middle section I put two boxes (recycled) - one with embellishments like ribbons and appliques and one with leftover fleece. I also put in another empty travel box. The roomy bottom shelf holds my big folded bunch of batting yardage and fusible fleece yardage. At this time there is a finished quilt sitting there as well.

And the last little cabinet with the missing shelf holds batting scraps, stuffing and a few larger fabric pieces for special purposes (like the red one on the left is for a skirt and the red one on the right is for a one block wonder quilt)

And last, but not least, I have my cute little bucket of scraps down on the floor next to my cabinets. That way I can just toss things in as I go.
I love it all and I love you Brian. Thank you for my happy birthday!

Little Flowers Girls' Club - First Meeting

My display for the Little Flowers Girls' Club

Well, what a lovely afternoon it was as we began our first Little Flowers meeting with a group of really sweet little girls. I was very interested in this girls' club as I read Jessica's blog and saw what their local group of girls was doing. I researched the organization that provides all the materials for the group, Ecce Homo Press. I put out an email to our local Catholic home school group to see if anyone was interested. Before I knew it, there was a lovely group of moms and girls forming and we were planning how and when to meet and ordering all our materials. Somehow I ended up kind of running the organizing of the group. Hmmmmm. Must have had to do with that initial email. I am so thrilled to be a part of this group and to have gotten such a lovely response from these families. We are all leading...leading our daughters to greater holiness and love of Jesus.

After meeting and discussing, it was decided that I would host the meetings at our home on the second Sunday of each month. I feel honored to open our new home for these gatherings. Each month one mom will lead the entire meeting - lesson, craft(s), games and or songs, snacks. I volunteered to lead the first meeting which would be an introduction to St. Therese, to the group and to the meaning of virtue. I came up with the idea for the display on my kitchen counter above. I think I will set that out each time and offered that whoever was leading could add to it for their saint/virtue lesson.

I served Little Flower sugar cookies, homemade chocolate hearts and pretty pink lemonade. All so pink and so girly!

The girls did two activities. The first thing they did was to construct a set of sacrifice beads for themselves. They learned about St. Therese and how her sister gave her similar beads to count as she made little sacrifices throughout the day for the love of Jesus. Therese said that she wanted to fill up her string for Jesus. The picture below shoes some of the little girls decorating pages to make their special pink binders beautiful. These binders will hold special papers and activities and prayers that they will accumulate over the meetings.

These are a few pages for their binders from the first meeting. I also gave them a St. Therese holy card as they left.

And of course here they are enjoying their "tea snacks." Such little ladies. You can see them wearing their blue sashes where they will earn flower petal patches as they complete activities for each saint/virtue.

Everything went so beautifully. I know Nicole is already looking forward to the next meeting in October and what we will learn about then. This club is such a lovely Catholic alternative to Girl Scouts and seems to me to be so feminine and sweet. Ladies of virtue and grace are in the making here!

Yes, it was my birthday

Happy Birthday to me!

I had a really lovely birthday. Amid MY celebration, I had the privilege to be a part of a much greater celebration. I was honored to share my birthday with a brand new baby belonging to one of my best friends, her husband and her five other children. I spent the night before my birthday and into the morning at my friends' house staying with children while mom and dad went to the hospital. Just minutes after midnight on the 9th, I was lying on their sofa thinking about actually falling asleep and I happened to glance at my watch. It was the exact moment I was born - 12:28am. I said a little happy birthday to me and said another huge prayer for my friend and her baby. She was born the morning of the ninth. Yes, an all day birthday extravaganza would have been lots of fun, but you know at 34 with four children and a husband that still has to go to work, that doesn't really happen anyway. Honestly, I couldn't think of a better way to spend my birthday - taking care of five sweet children while a dear friend brings a precious new soul into the world. Happy Birthday to us both!

The evening after my birthday at the hospital with a sweet new baby.

Enjoying presents and cards from Brian and the kids on my birthday.
Matt Maher CD (due on the 22nd - how did he know????)
a cute shirt
and my favorite present that I will show in another whole post all its own

my birthday meal - oven potatoes, grilled veggie kabobs and grilled salmon (still on the grill)

and my beautiful Cake Lady Cake - yum!

Sweet Quilted Goodness for one of the Sweetest Goodest Sisters

This went out in the mail today with enough postage to hopefully get it to my sister by Friday for her birthday.

I made the top to this quilt for her for Christmas (minus the yellow and pink outer borders) and gave it to her then with the promise to finish it. She gave it back to me over the summer and I decided I could "regift" it for her birthday, just nine days after mine.

I made this quilt using this Paper Doll fabric. They call it "Paper Dolls" but the line of dolls are actually called Dolly Dingle drawn by Grace Drayton in the early 1900s. My sister collected these paper dolls from antique stores when we were younger. She even drew for me my own set of Dolly Dingle paper dolls and gave them to me for my birthday as a child. She is very artistic and they are exact copies. They were so precious to me. Nicole has them now. When I saw this fabric months ago, I knew it was perfect for her. I made her an apron first which she says she wears all the time and then she asked me to use the rest to make something else for her - thus the quilt.

I branched out a bit in my quilting. The all over stippling that I so enjoy doing lately just didn't seem to fit this quilt. And I really didn't want to quilt over the little dolls themselves. So on the block borders I did a loopy, curly sort of vine. I repeated this design in a much larger scale on the pink outer border. In the blocks with the paper doll clothes next to the doll blocks, I branched out even further. I attempted to freehand simple flowers with leaves and vines. Overall I was really pleased with how they turned out. Just don't look too closely. I photographed the back of the quilt thinking you could see the flowers better that way.

I am really happy with how it turned out. The doll blocks pooch out a little too much due to their absence of quilting, but overall it turned out great. I didn't enjoy the country-ish pastels as much (I am a very bright sort of person), but they fit the doll fabrics well. Most of all I am thrilled to share this special creation with my sweet sister who shared hers with me many years ago.

When Mikey serves himself goldfish........

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lazy blogger

Not really.

I know my blog posts and frequency thereof have suffered a lot over past months. I remember brighter blogging days when I had so much to say and so often I came up with some rather profound thoughts - if I do say so myself. At times I wonder where those profound thoughts went. The question is - did I actually stop having profound and meaningful thoughts all together or have I merely lost the ability to verbalize them in a coherent fashion. Not sure which. Who knows. Maybe the fact that I can't even answer that questions is the answer in and of itself. Hmmm - you think?

But all in all I don't feel too bad about my lack of blogging. So often a blog entry doesn't happen out of sheer lack of energy and time. But at times it is a conscious choice I make to NOT spend my time in front of the computer. This choice is backed by the same thoughts and feelings that have been behind my refusal to hop on the facebook bandwagon. The computer is already a very tempting, alluring time waster for me without it. I don't need something else to pull me away from the more important things sitting right in the next room - both people and activities. I thoroughly enjoy the Internet and the blogging world I have become a part of. I have met many wonderful people. But it would be better to leave blogging, etc. behind altogether than to lose the opportunities to spend time with the people I love most and doing the activities I enjoy more than blogging. Not that I am pulling out, but do you understand what I am saying?

Twenty minutes playing a game with the kids is of more value to me than 20 minutes staring into cyberspace.

Thirty minutes of quilting gives me more joy and satisfaction than creating nothing of beauty on the computer.

Completing all of day's lessons with peace and quiet and joy is far more satisfying than catching up on all the blogs and taking rabbit trails.

Being available to shepherd and listen to my children means more to me than turning them away because I am "busy" on the computer.

So, I have been turning the computer off after checking in in the mornings. I will turn it on at lunch time to check in again and then turn it back off. Then I will try to keep it off as long as I possibly can into the late afternoon and early evening. It is freeing. I get more done. I am more peaceful.

Aaaah, peace. Another thing I am trying to do to gain more peace back in my life is to wake before the children to pray. Once upon a time I was so good at this and I relished being up before sunrise to spend an hour or more in reading and prayer. Over the past two years, it has been a real struggle for me. 5:30 just hasn't happened and may not. I am trying to work a more reasonable schedule for getting up and beginning my day. I have had a few successes and more failures, but I will keep at it. Because I tell you nothing brings me more peace than this.

All in all, our days are good. We have a rhythm to our schooling and our days. We have enjoyable activities and lots of wonderful friends. Our new home (six months now) fits us well. It is a great home! I am enjoying my quilting. It has just been so busy. Even without too many activities, just the quiet of our days at home is tiring for me. But it is a happy tired for the most part. I enjoy my home schooling life with my children. It is tough, but it is a blessing and I wouldn't trade it.

So if my posts are less frequent, it is a good thing. Someday blogs may be a thing of the past and we will strain to remember what the fuss was all about. But my children and my husband are forever. I want to be with them in eternity. So there my focus should lie.

May your days be blessed.

Monday, September 07, 2009

quilting updates

My summer has been filled with many quilting "duties" - several swaps with deadlines and lots and lots of gifts. Baby quilts. Placemats for my mom. A bag for mother-in-law. A quilt for my sister. Bound burp cloths and receiving blankets. And other odds and ends for giving in the que. I haven't had much time for playing with my quilting stuff or working on my stuff. But, just the same, I have enjoyed pouring my quilting time into making special things for others. I love to use what I love to do to create for others.

Here are a couple of baby quilts I put together.

The pink butterfly quilt was made from half of a Butterfly Fling panel cut up and pieced with more Butterfly Fling and other fabrics. It's design is from my little head.

This bright boy quilt was fun to make. It is made using a pattern I bought online and downloaded - the Simply Modern Baby Quilt. I really loved making it and was trying to use these three Amy Schimler Forest Fun fabrics I had bought. Had I to do it again, I would have used less bright green, but oh, well. It is still a fun quilt.

I did take a little time this weekend to play with a "new" (to me) quilt block I saw online. I have been searching and searching for the perfect pattern or block to use with my purposefully collected stash of aquas and reds - I love these colors! Can you tell based in my flickr favorites??

my little stash

I saw this post on the Twin Fibers blog and then went to look at her inspiration here. I was sold. I had come across lots of possibilities for my aquas and reds, but this seemed the best of all. I couldn't wait to work on it.

So in between schooling today and preparing another quilt for quilting, I worked on my first block withe this adorable aqua and white polka dot fabric. I love how it turned out.

And here is my next set of cuts for another block. They are lots of fun to make and they turn out nice and big - I think about 11" or so.

Happy quilting!

Free Food times two

Friday night Brian and I ventured out on a date. We had bought tickets to a wonderful worship concert with Matt Maher and we were really looking forward to it. We have seen him in concert several times before and it is always a wonderful experience. Once again, this concert was centered around Eucharistic Adoration. It is a powerful thing! It is not just a concert, but an incredible act of worship of the living God - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharistic Bread on the altar. It just doesn't get much better. I have been a fan of Matt and his music for quite a few years now. I own his four cds and hope to own his next one soon! The kids love his music and know all the words. It was a wonderful evening. We even got to sit in front of a lovely blogging friend, her husband and friends. Thankfully she did not post any incriminating video of me rocking away! :)

The children stayed with Brian's parents and ate dinner with them. Brian and I couldn't decide what to do for dinner. We were leaning towards spending a whopping five dollars at McDonalds on the dollar menu, but Mexican was sounding good too. But, you see, we really didn't want to spend much. We have been trying so hard to not spend over budget. In the months while our house was being built and we sold our other house and moved in and settled, the budget just went out the window. We weren't in the red, but we knew we were overspending. When it came to working on using the budget again, we were too busy, too tired, and dare I say such a bad word on this blog, to LAZY! So, anyway, we did super last month and are at it again for September and we didn't want to spend much money on dinner. The concert tickets were our treat. Plus we really didn't have much time. Brian decided we would head over to a local burrito place and split a burrito (they're huge) and get two small drinks. As we were approaching we saw some other relatively new place - a Mexican grill. On a whim, Brian pulls in and we decide to eat there. It is quick and not crowded and had similar yummy burritos. So we ordered one monster size burrito and two small drinks (free refills) for a total at the checkout of about $12. Brian was pulling out his card to pay when the lady said, "Oh, don't worry about that. You tell your friends about us. We'd like to buy your dinner tonight." We protested. She insisted. I am sure we stood there with our jaws hanging open way too long, but this lady had no idea our agonizing over where to eat that had preceded this restaurant visit. We ate and enjoyed it very much.

While we ate we talked about God and what he had just done for us. I know. You may think "that was just some nice lady and this new company is desperate to drum up some business." We were just the lucky recipients. But I don't believe that. I believe that was a gift from God. He alone knew how we were struggling over the decision. He alone knows that we are trying our hardest to forego unnecessary purchases, to be content with what we have and to do without if need be. He alone know that our budgeting isn't out of cheapness or miserliness or even just to be "good with our money." He alone knows we try to give. I believe he wanted to show Brian and me that he is working for us even in the little insignificant things like $5 versus $12 for dinner. He wants us to see that I am not just here for the big stuff. He is telling us that he can even buy us a free meal - as crazy as that may seem. Brian and I proposed to keep a journal of occasions like this where God is working in our lives. We will forget someday the night we went out to dinner and Rosie bought our dinner for us. But if we record these things, big and small, what a legacy we would have to look over. So look for God in the little everyday things. He's there.

Today we had another free meal. This one we have a friend to thank for. She was the one that let us know that Chick-fil-a was handing out free chicken sandwiches today to everyone that came in wearing an official sports team logo. We donned all our baseball shirts this evening and headed out for six free sandwiches. We ordered two small fries for a total bill of $2.92! Yippee! That would have cost us $21! Thank you Kris and thank you Chick-fil-a.

Oh, and if you are down our way sometime, stop in and have a bite to eat at the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Clear Lake. It may not be free, but still worth it.

Happy Labor Day!

Back to School

the first day of co-op, last Friday

Our first day and our whole first week went really well. We have begun our second week today. Yes, I know. It is technically a holiday, but it seemed a better idea to work our school in today than to play catch up all week long. We didn't have big plans for Labor Day anyway - just staying home and playing outside and working around the house and garage.

This year we are continuing our home school journey with Sonlight. We began to use Sonlight last year. It was a wonderful experience and I feel settled now after making my way through a couple of other curriculum options.

When I started Jacob's Kindergarten year, we tried the Mother of Divine Grace Syllabus that Laura Berquist put together based on her Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum. It was good, but we were bored. To me it seemed to lack richness. Of course, long before I ever began Jacob's "official" schooling, I had been reading and reading and reading everything I could about home school methods, styles, etc. As my reading progressed and evolved, I found myself very drawn to the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. Everything I read sounded so much like what we already enjoyed doing - lots and lots of reading REALLY good books. Elizabeth Foss and Sally Clarkson were huge inspirations here. I came across a free online curriculum that was both Charlotte Mason in its philosophy and Catholic in its theology. Sounded great and it was! But after a year of using it for Jacob's first grade (Nicole listened in) and working to pull all the components together, I was tired. We had four small children, one of them a new baby. It was more work than I felt I could handle to pull it all together. But other than that my major complaint was that while it was beautifully rich and full, it lacked cohesiveness. I felt like were pulled in many different directions across the curriculum. Let's face it - I was searching still.

Then last year we made the decision to switch to Sonlight. Yet I still felt attached to Mater Amabilis. Plus, I really liked what Elizabeth Foss was doing with poetry and music and art on her website. So I ended up doing Sonlight for Jacob's second grade and Nicole's Kindergarten PLUS various components from Mater Amabilis PLUS some extras from Elizabeth Foss PLUS a few extra workbooks from Catholic Heritage Curriculum! WOW! What I learned was that it was too much. It all seemed wonderful, but it was too much. I realized how much I loved the Sonlight work we were doing. It was lots of GREAT reading - the kids adored everything we read. I made only a couple of modifications last year (and this year) based on what was said on the Catholic Sonlight yahoo group. Sonlight has a beautiful cohesiveness and we do not feel tied down by bunches of rote workbooks. That's just not our style. So over the year, I found I was slowly plucking out all the pieces of the curriculum that left me feeling burdened, overwhelmed and scattered. What was I left with? For the most part - Sonlight! As I dropped lots of the other things, I felt like we had more time and ability to delve into the subjects in history that Sonlight was guiding us through. And it left me feeling more peaceful without the heavy load of intense planning. As much as I love designing our learning, I was not enjoying the pressure. Sonlight works for us because it fills a need in more than one way for me and our family. We are richer as a result.

Last year we studied history using Sonlight's Core 1 which took us from ancient history until the time of Christ. We so enjoyed this last year! This year we are continuing through the rest of world history in Core 2. We spent last week reviewing last year's material and today we began our new material. This CORE portion that we do together includes our history, geography, read alouds and Bible. I only dropped a couple of things this year. One was a book that has the children praying for different locations on the globe in need of evangelization. There were a couple of things I read that I didn't care for so we omitted it. But we are doing the wonderful World Geography Songs and workbook - it is so much fun. We learned the continents and oceans song last week. I omitted a Bible Fact book - not because there was anything wrong with it but because we have other Catholic things we substitute. We are using their daily Bible reading suggestions in the afternoon. We began last week with Genesis and it is just a good way to get good chunks of Scripture into our days. This is on top of the Mass readings that we read and discuss in our morning prayer after breakfast. And we are using the Sonlight scripture memory song CD. The children love music and I have seen them learn Scripture so well this way. We are currently working on Psalm 24.

This year I also decided to use Sonlight's Science 2. I am not a science person!!!! Sad, but true. I have vascilated back and forth bouncing from this type of lesson to that. I had used a very old version of a Kindergarten Sonlight science once and I was unimpressed. Again I tried this and that. And you know what happenss when you do that - nothing! We hardly ever did science because everything was either too much work to prepare or boring, etc. So I just told myself that this year, I was just going to use Sonlight's science and make the best of it. Consistent lessons in science would be better than the most well thought out lessons that never got done! So far I am happy. It lays it all out for me and I really like this. It leaves me free to tack on a few books from the library that supplement what we are studying. I think I decided that there was nothing wring with that Sonlight way back when. I just don't like science very much.

I designed our own morning prayer binder this year from a variety of resources. It includes the monthly schedule of daily Mass readings, the Pope's prayer intentions for the month, the daily feasts and the collect prayer for the day. There is nothing fancy or flowery, long and drawn out. But it is exactly what I was searching for. Anything I had bought or could buy was either too much or too little and either too above or below their level. I didn't want a dumbed down version of the scripture from the Mass. I wanted the real readings from the real Bible. I wanted a couple of simple morning prayers. I wanted a few guided prayer intentions to guide our own. I wanted to know what the day held as far as feasts, whether or not we were planning a big celebration. I am pleased with it!

Jacob is a big third grader this year - both physically and mentally (just yesterday I had to buy him boys' size 6 tennis shoes!) For his school year we are doing the Sonlight Language Arts 2 Advanced with Advanced Readers. He could technically read at much higher levels than this, but this level fits him all around. He has wonderful books to read all year. And as we discovered last year, Sonlight has him doing lots of thinking and writing. It has really developed his writing skills. It provides us with his spelling and phonics (MCP Word Study) and vocabulary development (via Wordly Wise once a week and me assigning him vocabulary words from our reading to define using the dictionary). As Sonlight provides for, we tack on our own choice of Math (Horizons 3) and Handwriting (D'Nealian 3 - probably the last year for this). We do copy work and general language arts, both very well integrated with his reading. I add on the Seton Cathechism workbook for his grade level. This came as a recommendation from a seasoned homeschooling friend. It is not fun and interesting. BUT it is solid, thorough and seriously Catholic. This is his religion study aside from what we do as a group spiritually.

Sweet Nicole is in first grade this year. She is reading so beautifully - I can't believe it. You wouldn't know she just barely finished Kindergarten. It is impressive through no fault of my own. She is a reader like her brother. Now I have trouble getting both of them to put down their books. :) With Nicole, I am using Sonlight's Language Arts 2 Regular. It fits her well. The readers are a bit lower than her level too, but it is good fluency practice. And everything else is a good fit for her abilities. The types of things she does daily are much like Jacob's - spelling, phonics, copy work, language arts and lots of writing and reading. She has less vocabulary to work on. The Wordly Wise was optional and I chose not to do it so that I wouldn't overburden her with just one more workbook. She's only first grade! She is also doing Horizons Math, Seton Catechism and D'Nealian Handwriting.

And then there's my little Pre-K 4/5 Andrew. He just loves to tell everyone he is in Pre-K 4! Too cute! I hate to admit it but I ordered the Sonlight Pre-K 4/5 Core guide for him this year. I told a friend - "It's not that I can't think of things to teach him and read to him. I can. And I have - quite well I think. But I need accountability." What I mean is that for me with two other small ones to "officially" school, lessons and time for Andrew and Mikey can so easily get pushed aside. Yes, I am doing things other than Sonlight with Andrew, but with this little checklist, I at least know that at the end of each day, I have done worthwhile learning with him. He really loves it and is very proud to have ownership of his own little lessons. I am happy. He is happy to get much more of my morning school hours.

And then there's Mikey! While we are busy with school, Mikey is busy too. He usually is pretty happy finding something to play with on his own, but often times will join us at the table to color. He loves the ABCs and loves to sing. He is a busy boy.

Today is Monday. We completed our school work with lots of time left over to hang out outside with Daddy and for tea time. The children adore tea time so I reinstated it this year. I chose Mondays since it was a relatively calm day with no outside activities until after dinner. My plan is to have a special drink and a special snack each time like we used to do. During this time time we will read about and discuss artists and musicians and their works. Last Monday I read about Monet to them from a Venezia book and we looked at some of his paintings in a library book. Today before we had chocolate milk and graham cookies, we made lovely Impressionist artwork bookmarks. Then we looked at more of the Monet paintings and I read Katie's Sunday Afternoon. They so look forward to this time.

I pray your school year is as lovely as ours promises to be, whether your children go to school or stay home to school. I pray all your learning is blessed and bountiful!