Thursday, February 06, 2014


So this happened yesterday.

It's not her first lost tooth. It's number three. (Though you might have guessed it was number one by her squeal as she ran downstairs to show me.)

It's number three, but my eyes filled with tears just like they did when that first bottom one became wiggly.

They teared up just like they did when the very first last first tooth...appeared in that baby grin some five and a half years ago.

My eyes will likely tear up over that smile again...when she loses that other top one soon. And the last time I see her before the braces go on. And then before they come off.

I imagine I will tear up when I first see that "finished" smile. The one that she will be known for. The only smile that most people in her life will know.

But when I see her smile, I always see them all, woven together. A smile that has become.

And I count it a precious privilege to be the keeper of her smiles.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

I just might need a blue bike now. (and a giveaway!)

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

Several years ago, I chose the word "purposeful" as my word for the year. Living with purpose or intention is something I desire...but it does demand discipline. 

So when I heard Tsh Oxenreider begin to mention her new book (via her website and podcast), I grew quite excited about it. The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World? Count me in. When an opportunity arose to be a part of her blog tour, I jumped at the chance to read this book. I had a feeling it would resonate with me. 

And it did.

I have loved reading each short chapter, as Tsh focuses in on living intentionally memoir-style in these five areas: Food, Work, Education, Travel, and Entertainment.  I've loved it all. But in reading through the book, Part IV: Education really caught hold of me. 

We began our homeschooling journey before our oldest could even talk...I pored over homeschool catalogs and got excited about this high school curriculum or that one. Seriously. We knew we wanted to homeschool. One child at a time, one year at a time. That's what we said.

My homeschool ideals and vision for what our days would look like were lofty and beautiful.

To name just a few...I knew that homeschooling would provide a consistency in our life of military moving. I longed to spend quality and quantity time with my children. I looked forward to the ease we would have to travel anytime we chose to go.  I saw gaps in my own education and desired to fill those in that of my children. I wanted them to see how all of learning was integrated...a part of the whole and not compartmentalized by subjects and separate classrooms. I wanted them to learn about their world in the context of our faith. 

We are now five years and three children into this homeschooling journey.

Sometimes, there are moments when I look around our homeschool table as we work on grammar or while we're snuggled up on the couch reading a really good book and it's a perfectly dreamy instagram filtered moment. But those moments are still a part of the jumble of everyday real life.

In the midst of daily word problems and errands to the store and language delays and history timelines and dishes and laundry and cobwebs and meals and story time and pick-up football, all of a sudden those ideals and reasons seem lost or at least very far away.

I find that in the hard moments, quite often I'm trying to make our schooling choices match the beat of other drums. That, and I lose sight of the forest for the trees. 

Reading Tsh's book was a good reminder to me to not let go of the details but to keep my larger hopes and goals in better focus. I'm trying to journal more about school...and to be mindful of the "seasons" of schooling at home that can be heavy ones where I'm prone to feeling burned out. (Funny, those seasons are quite similar to the ones I experienced when teaching in the public schools!)

I'm also trying to keep in mind the freedoms for living intentionally that homeschool provides us. The other sections Tsh writes on only encouraged me more because of this!

Here are a few passages from Notes From a Blue Bike that I loved...that reminded me of why we began this journey and appealed to me not to forget it:

Ultimately, there was a magnetic appeal to having the freedom in my day to really listen to my kids instead of rushing them out the door to school. We'd have the time and space to learn together, talk together, and listen to each other. It was pretty ideal, in fact.

I'm convinced that parents are the most essential key to unlocking the next generation's curiousity, creativity, and innovation. So much can be said for porviding a home full of books, art supplies, open-ended toys, and freedom to wander outdoors. Being stingy with screen time and generous with our attention to a child's natural interests can translate the message to him or her that learning matters better than any standardized test.

Our home will be the most significant place during out kids' childhood. I can't ignore its influence.

I think that this book will be one that I read often. Tsh has such a great voice...when I read, I feel like I'm sharing a cup of coffee and chatting with an old friend. I hope you might enjoy it too! I'd like to give away a copy, so leave a comment, letting me know which of the five sections of the book you're most excited about! I'll draw a winner next Tuesday!

Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. It doesn't always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions. Grab your copy here.

I received a review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers. This review reflects my own opinion. 
I am providing the giveaway copy because I really think you'll love Tsh's book too!

Friday, January 31, 2014

January in pictures

Fresh local produce and using my new Vitamix a LOT.

 Record low temps=a cold house and warm treats.

This month, my kiddos fell in love with reading independently. So excited for them!

 I want to remember how he fits under the table to sweep. And how there are bands everywhere.

A last-minute trip to the beach to see Mimi and Grampa was a perfect January diversion.
 Charleston food. Yum.

 50 degrees at the beach is still 50 degrees. Brrr. This pelican posed just for me. :)

Snow in Georgia? Yes, please!!!

I've been soaking in the January early morning sun through our bay window. Love the light.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Using what you have on hand

If you had joined us for dinner on any of the nights that we've eaten at home in January (which is the majority of them,) it's a really good bet that you'd be eating soup from this amazing cookbook.

I love that the cookbook is organized by months, which means many of the recipes focus on what is available seasonally. AND I love that I can look up ingredients in the back and find options for obscure veggies. You want this cookbook.

I love making soup. It's comforting. It's perfect for adding all of these new-to-me fresh veggies we're getting every other week from Local Organic Moms.


Soup is perfect for substituting what you have on hand.

Today's recipe for example? I altered three of the main ingredients. And I liked it so much, I may not ever use the suggested ingredients as they're written.

Also. Isn't the rainbow chard above just the prettiest thing you've ever seen to cook?

Wild Rice and Red Chard Soup with Andouille

1/2 cup wild rice, uncooked
2 cups cherry tomatoes (I roughly chopped the roma tomatoes I had instead)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 links andouille sausage (I used a Boars Head salami--pictured on the left edge of the cutting board)
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch red chard, tough stems removed, leaves and ribs chopped (I used rainbow chard)
6 cups chicken broth (I prefer chicken stock)

1. Cook the rice according to package directions and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until tomatoes begin to split or caramelize, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a large pot, fry the sausages over medium-high heat until they are cooked through, about 15 minutes. (I just fried the salamis until they were warmed and the outside was browned.) Transfer to a cutting board and cut into quarter-inch slices. Set aside.

4. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the pot and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chard and cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes.

5. Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping any bits on the bottom of the pot. REduce heat to low and let simmer.

6. Add the rice, sausage, and tomatoes and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.

Let me know if you try it!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Looking forward

Twenty Fourteen dawned for us after a whirlwind of a fall and holiday season.

It's been a whole week now.

I've been soaking in the slow days. Enjoying the post-Christmas and pre-back to school ease of last week. Finding our first week of 2014 homeschool a cold and cozy and treasured collection of hours so far. Going slowly, day by day and space by space in organizing our home.

I let this place go quietly, despite my plans for blogging while we traveled. Best laid plans and such.

But the quiet has been so welcome. It provided space for thought and space for just being in the moment with my family.

I'm looking forward to making more quiet places and spaces in life this year. Looking forward to chasing some dreams. Looking forward to making fruitful hours instead of busy ones. Looking forward to spending more time in this space with you, too.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

From our family to yours...

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Winner!

I loved getting to read the stories shared about acts of service during the Christmas season...thanks for sharing and for entering!

The winner of the giveaway for the book The Sparkle Box is #2--Stephanie! Congrats!

I'll be in touch with the details of the giveaway...and thanks to all who entered!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Christmas Peppermint Float

The other night, we surprised the kiddos with a cozy evening in (after too many nights out). On the agenda? A Christmas movie and treat.

Last year, we went the way of The Grinch...but this year, we decided for some nostalgia.

White Christmas just might be my favorite Christmas many favorite scenes...and I was excited to share it with our children for the first time. (They enjoyed it. Except for Nathanael during the kiss at the end!)

Peppermint ice cream (from Braums) is a sweet memory of childhood for me. So to go along with our movie (thanks to Pinterest and Southern Living,) here's our take on Christmas Peppermint floats:

Christmas Peppermint Floats

1 recipe homemade Hot Chocolate mix (recipe follows)
peppermint ice cream (I used Mayfield)
mini candy canes

1. Heat hot chocolate, enough for your crowd.
2. In festive mugs, place 1-2 scoops of peppermint ice cream.
3. Ladle hot chocolate over ice cream and top with candy cane. Serve with a spoon and enjoy!

Dark Hot Cocoa Mix

1 1/2 cups of a mixture of 43% cacao dark chocolate morsels and 60% cacao dark chocolate morsels*
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa

1. Mix all ingredients until blended and store in an airtight container.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat one cup of milk per serving to 180 degrees over stove. Remove from stove and stir in 1/4 cup hot cocoa mix per serving until combined. Make sure that the chocolate chips are fully dissolved. Serve.

*This recipe from this month's Southern Living calls for 53% cacao chips, but I couldn't find those, so I used a combination of what I had on hand!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Our Christmas book tradition (and giveaway!)

For the last several years...maybe of our favorite Christmas traditions has been wrapping up 24 Christmas books and counting down the days 'til Christmas as we read favorites, old and new. I keep the books in a festive basket or bin and after reading the day's book, it gets put behind the wrapped books...for the kids to read as Christmas approaches.

One of the things I love about this tradition is that is keeps us from reading all-of-the-Christmas-books in one sitting as soon as they're unpacked with the Christmas decorations. It also helped when the kiddos were younger to see how close we were to Christmas. (We have other advent calendars too, but these books seemed to be the most helpful, especially before the kiddos understood the concept of a calendar.)

There are books that are favorites of mine as a child that I've hunted down (my favorite illustrated copy of Twas the Night before Christmas and The Christmas Snowman). We have many that have come as gifts, including several of Jan Brett's wonderful books...and of course, classics like How The Grinch Stole Christmas and O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.

Each year, I always try to add at least one new book...and phase out ones that the kids may have outgrown. (Although I still set those out in our "Christmas toys" basket!) 

Our new book this year was The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie.

The Sparkle Box is the sweet and simple story of Sam and his curiosity about a silver box he discovers on the mantle of his fireplace. His mother tells him that it isn't ready to be opened yet, as they still need to fill it. As the story unfolds, Sam and his parents go about their lives during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, with an emphasis in the story placed on serving others. Christmas morning arrives...and Sam is finally able to see what the sparkling silver box was all about.

This was the first book that we unwrapped this year, as I wanted to begin December with a focus less on stuff and more focused on giving to others and the Gift that we've been given in Christ. The story is well-told and the illustrations are lovely. I found myself pausing to hold back tears as the ending neared, the story a good reminder for adults as well as children of the call to serve others.

While reading, I couldn't help but think of Matthew 25:40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" And sure enough, on the last page, in a note from the author, was the verse and a challenge to fill your own Sparkle Box this Christmas season.

The book includes a silver, glittery cardstock-weight box that you can assemble to begin a Sparkle Box tradition in your own family. (There is a pocket on the back cover for storing your box after Christmas.) The kids and I will be brainstorming some ideas today for serving others in this last week before Christmas...I'm looking forward to it a lot.

If you'd like to win a copy of The Sparkle Box...please leave a comment: share a favorite memory of serving "the least of these"or your favorite Christmas carol! Comments will be accepted through Thursday, December 19 12:00 pm EST and the winner announced that afternoon!

This review of The Sparkle Box is sponsored by PR by the Book, who provided my copy and the giveaway copy, but the review is entirely my own opinion.

Friday, December 13, 2013

slow, slow, quick, quick, slow

I remember chanting those words at a similar time of year in a very different season of life.

Eighth grade cotillion.

You could see the boys nod their heads and mouth the words. A few of the girls were seamless in their execution of the steps. A few, you could tell, were counting their steps silently.

Slow. Slow.
Quick, quick, slow.

That's how I feel about the last few weeks...a combination of quick and slow.

A slow onset of autumn weather...followed by a few summer-like days.

A quick November (I was traveling over three of the five weekends.)

A slow drive to Virginia for Thanksgiving...and a wonderfully slow five day visit with Brent's brother's family...lots of time spent watching eight cousins enjoy time together.

A quick onset of the advent season, as we returned home December 1.

A quick trip to cut down our Georgia tree (some type of lacy Cypress...a first for us!) And a quickly decorated tree...all in the same evening!

Quick shipping of gifts (Lots of love for Amazon Prime.)

A slow and gradual approach to decorating. It always seems to take me a little longer to decorate the first year in a new home...and this year was no different!

Quick mornings and days...trying to find rhythm and balance for Christmas activities and homeschooling and wrapping gifts and the next stage of paperwork for our adoption and the usual upkeep of a home at Christmas.

A slowing down to enjoy time read our advent devotions and light the candles.

A slowing (to almost a stop!) of blog there's been much to say but not many moments to say it.

Quick weeks, full of good and fun activities with friends and our church family...

And quick nights; I am definitely putting in my night owl hours.

I'm looking forward to this next week...with a slower pace of school beginning Monday (just math & reading) evening plans scheduled at all...and time to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas.

I hope that in the midst of the "quick, quick" this season, you also find slow moments, to rest and reflect on the Hope and Joy and Peace that advent recalls.


© 2011. All Rights Reserved. | Prefab Blog Design By Penny Lane Designs