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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Small Joys

I loved holding Matthew in my arms while he read out loud for Literature class today. We snuggled on the couch and I played with his thick hair as he read. He didn't want to stop reading (I don't blame him, I'm also a sucker for scalp massages) so he read almost 100 pages in one day. 

For recess we enjoyed playing Snap It Up. It's one of our children's favorite math games. It's delightful to watch Sarah get so excited about Math equations. Daniel doesn't really understand the game since he doesn't yet have the proper cognitive development for it. He contents himself with matching identical numbers. When he's tired of that, he switches numbers around on Sarah's equations and sits back to watch her reaction. He enjoys that a lot.

We took a family walk this afternoon. Sarah and Matthew took turns pulling Daniel in our old wagon. The street was empty and quiet, so their laughter echoed off the houses and rang back to us. On the way home, Sarah discovered a Nature Treasure on the sidewalk. She skipped over it and ran back to fetch it after she realized what it was. It was a cicada exoskelton hiding among fallen leaves. She cradled it in her hands and gingerly carried her treasure home to keep in an old jelly jar.

We listened to Tchaikovsky's best works today. It's been really delightful to have our home filled with the strains of music while we played.

For Tuesday Tea today we are eating a lemon cheesecake the children made with Nathan last night for FHE. They did everything themselves, except for placing the cake into the hot oven. They are very proud of it.

I love these small joys. I'm living a wonderfully full and happy life.

Daniel works on a puzzle while I teach the older children.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why do we home school?

Last week several of my friends were positively jumping for joy as their children shipped off to school. I'll admit that it was a bit bittersweet...I felt a twitch of envy as they excitedly talked about all the free time they were going to relish. While they were planning free time, I was planning curriculum purchases and comparing notes to discover the best extracurricular activities. I asked one friend what she planned to do with her 6 child-free hours each day. The answer? "Now I can watch movies in the morning!"

Everyday? Yep. Doesn't that sound a bit empty? You are honestly giving away your best hours of family time so you TV? Really? 

I realize home schooling isn't a perfect cup of tea, and honestly there are afternoons when I wish my children were somewhere other than by my side all day. Even with the inevitable bumps along the way, home schooling is such a wonderful way to live. Why did I choose to home school? Let's back up three weeks. Three weeks ago I was planning on entering our children in public school since Matthew is a very demanding student to teach. 

All summer long I had been planning great home improvement projects. I have a 3-piece couch set that has been waiting to be re-upholstered. I bought the fabric for it, and planned on doing it myself. As soon as the kids were in school. Our home flooded in the last really big storm, and the carpet smells bad. Carpet shampoo isn't going to fix it. I was saving money all summer to buy new flooring so I could rip out the carpet and install wood floors. Now that money has all been turned into home school supplies. I had oodles of memory books to put together for the children, boxes of papers to file away, etc. I was looking forward to a quiet home and afternoons cuddling with a book and sipping ginger tea. I also looked forward to volunteering more regularly at the local food bank and the library. What changed my plans?

My father-in-law once taught me a lesson when I was a brand-new mother. He said, "Renae, who have talent and a natural desire to improve the world around you. You could spend your entire life doing good things to serve society, but don't save the world and lose your family. There are too many people that serve all day in great societal causes, and neglect their family. No success compensates for failure in the home."  

There was a powerful moment for me a few weeks ago as I contemplated whether to home school or not. I thought of my ancestors. What do I know of them? How did they impact my life? I don't know what hobbies or furniture they had, or if the home was always tidy. I don't know if they wore fashionable clothing. What I do know is the kind of character they had. Their journals and life stories impact me in a powerful way by being an example of goodness. It's a powerful motivator to improve myself or face adversity with cheerfulness and determination, or do good by serving others. The way my ancestors impact me is also largely due to the way they raised their children, and the way those children grew up and raised me. The powerful character and virtues were passed from one generation to the next.

What will I be leaving my posterity? I realized that fancy furniture or even new flooring don't matter. The only lasting impression I will leave is how I raise my family. How can I touch the hearts of my children? 

For me, the best answer was to home school. It was a very tough decision. Why? I'm a perfectionist. I feel quickly overwhelmed by chaos or noise, and I really like having time to create art or read a big book. As I pondered this decision, I honestly had a mournful moment. I realize I was just being selfish, but I didn't want to give up the personal time I wanted to spend on myself. Still, I couldn't deny a persistent feeling that home school would be the best way for our children to be taught and nurture their creativity. 

My sweet Mr. Kingsley gets a hefty amount of home school credit. He teaches the children so many things after dinner each night. I'm so very thankful to have him as a teaching companion. I wish I had been blessed with teachers like him when I was a child. He has a natural enthusiasm that captures their attention and he's so patient. I'm so glad that our kids can have lasting memories of learning together as a family, strengthening our relationships as we embark into new intellectual horizons.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home School Village- How to Serve Our Community

Over at the Home School Village the topic this week is: do you involve your children in local community service / outreach projects?

Homeschooling opens so many opportunities for service. Our personal favorite service is to volunteer Fridays at Pioneer Farms, a local living-history museum. We dress up in reenactment clothing and host a cabin for the day. While we are at the cabin, we clean the grounds to make it tidy and welcoming. 

When visitors arrive at the cabin, we give a tour and explain the history of the building. We also teach them about life in the 1840's and demonstrate how to do activities such as laundry, cleaning and carding cotton from the field, spinning wool into yarn, playing marbles, cooking over an outdoor hearth, etc. 

We bring a lunch of rolls, meat, cheeses, fruits, and lemon cookies so we can spend an entire day there. When there are no visitors, we embroider samplers or read aloud together from period-appropriate books such as Little House on the Prairie or Indian Summer. 

My children love playing in the woods behind the cabin, and I love the time away from telephones, computers, and doorbells. It's so peaceful on the grounds, and as an added bonus it's a great educational experience for my children. They get to learn about history in a hands-on kinetic way. 

There is more service we did that I had kept to myself in the past because the scriptures say not to boast of our service. I am only sharing it here in the hopes that it may give you ideas for your own acts of service. 

We had an elderly neighbor who lived alone. We took her a nice dinner every Sunday so she would have a nice meal at least once a week. We'd stay for an hour and help with any household task she needed to have done, since she had Multiple Sclerosis and couldn't move very well. We mopped floors, changed light bulbs, fetched Christmas decor from the attic, fetched kitchen supplies from the top cabinets, helped set up her computer and Internet, and gave her foot rubs when she was ill. It was such a wonderful experience to serve this woman. We served her for over a year, and the only Sunday dinner we missed was when we were on a family vacation.   I felt like this was true service, to seek out and serve the lonely one. Isn't that what our Savior would do? 

The Lord tells us to serve Him with our might, mind, and strength. I wondered how to use my talents in serving the Lord. I am a face painter....and it seemed difficult to find a way to use that in service. I prayed for inspiration, and the answer came. I made a sign saying that %90 of all payments I received would go to Humanitarian Services. I put this up on my booth at the largest festival of the year. It was a great way to raise a large quantity of money for a good cause. I also offered that day to paint anyone who couldn't afford to be painted, since large families often couldn't cover the expense of having all their children get a painting. After painting for 8 hours, I had over $700 to donate. This is where the money went:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Glimpses of Tuesday Tea

Sarah in my Sunday shoes for tea.
Our tea time lesson this week was "Beauty Inside and Out". We discussed how our bodies are individually beautiful creations. We talked about the importance of a healthy body because a sick or weak body cannot be used in serving others. Sarah and Matthew listed ways we can take care of our body: brushing teeth, cleansing the hair and skin, having a healthy mind, eating good food, and exercise.

My sweet mother made a variety of bow-ties for the boys to wear for Tuesday Tea. They were so delighted to open the box! They giggled while meticulously choosing a color to wear today. It made it so much fun for them! Thank you so much, Mom, for the thoughtful gift! It was such a simple thing that made our tea party much more special for them!

My darling Mr. Kingsley made sour cream/blueberry muffins with sugar sprinkles for our party. He is so wonderful. We relished each bite, and Matthew ate four muffins in one sitting.

Not Back to School

We've committed to doing home school this school year again. Here are pictures of our Not-back-to-school prep. First off is the teacher's supply closet full of art supplies, activities for stations, workbooks, text books, art manuals, games, etc.

The next biggest priority is the teacher's pantry, stocked with 2 weeks of groceries so trips to the grocery store are cut down to twice each month.

 I'm hoping to really streamline our time management skills this year, so we have plenty of the basics (such as milk) and plenty of homemade bread in the freezer along with several days worth of homemade freezer meals. Can I just tell you again how much I love freezer meals? My love affair with them is destined to grow stronger this year! Our top favorite meals from the freezer include chicken pot pie, lasagna, Cafe Rio burritos, chicken enchiladas, meatballs, chili and cornbread, and Shepard's pie. The top shelf of the freezer is our year supply of peaches from our backyard peach tree. There's plenty of fruit for hundreds of lunch smoothies. 

We love to make fruit smoothies a few times a week. We have our essential supply of fresh blueberries, all individually frozen and ready to be thrown into the blender.

Peach/blueberry/yogurt shakes have been a great hit! I love whipping up a healthy shake to accompany lunch. It's such a great way to creatively add a variety of fruits to the family diet. I don't add much sugar to our shakes; I find that the natural sweetness of the fruit and vanilla yogurt are usually plenty of flavor. Besides, Daniel has plenty of energy to spare, without fueling it further with added sugars.

One thing I love about home school is the quality of food. I cringed when I saw the public school lunch menu fraught with 'non-foods'. That's what I call items that are more stocked with preservatives, additives, flavors, and what-have-you than they are with wholesome ingredients. A perfect example is Wonder bread. Look at the ingredients. Most of it is fake. Bread only needs yeast, salt, flour, and water.

The school menu even had added flavor and sugar sprinkled on the applesauce. Really. The menu is loaded with fries, pudding, chips, etc. Look at all those empty calories! The smell of the school cafeteria turns my stomach. Compare that with today's 'school lunch' at home: Chicken curry over rice, fresh broccoli with ranch, a blueberry/banana/yogurt smoothie. Wholesome and simply delicious. There were no leftovers. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Day of Summer

A theater company in our town was performing "The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged". 

For free. 

I happen to love this play, and was delighted for an excuse for a other/daughter/sister date. It was such a fun night.

We began by shopping at a local department store with a $10 coupon off a $10 purchase. (Who would skip out on that deal? Not I.)  We had a great time hunting for the perfect purchase. We also were distracted by the rows of dress-up clothes (don't hats, scarves, and sunglasses just beg to be tried on?).

We also happened to have coupons for free hand-scooped milk shakes from Mighty Fine, which also happened to be next door to our department store. What luck!

With lovely milk shakes in tow, we headed to the public park for the play. It was delightful. Sarah's favorite part was when the costumed Ophelia ran into the crowd and pretended to vomit all over her.

Twice. (I think the actor loved her reaction so much he just couldn't resist singling her out again.)

She was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. She loved it. What a great introduction to Shakespeare!

Face Painting class

I taught a private face painting class for a mother/daughter team last week. It was so fun to get to know these sweet ladies and help them express their artistic talent. Rachael was so kind to be our model for the night as I taught them several techniques to work with. We spent 4 hours working together and they learned several patterns for their first jobs.

These pictures were from the end of the night when we did the most detailed pattern of the class. They made a lot of progress and I think their work turned out great!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Batman in the kitchen

What a happy evening. I was exhausted and emotionally wilted, so my sweet Nathan rescued the family from a night of boredom. 

First he did a fantastic Family Home Evening lesson about feeling reverence and listening to the Holy Ghost. The object lesson was SO fun! He blind folded a child and had them try to navigate a maze by listening to the whisperings of 'the Spirit', a part played by another child. To illustrate the difficulty of hearing the Spirit in noisy and busy atmospheres, the rest of the family sang loudly, yelled, clapped hands, and put up a general ruckus while the blind folded child tried in vain to hear any guidance. After this attempt, they would begin the maze again and this time the family members hummed Primary songs quietly. The child could easily hear the directions called by the family member portraying the  Holy Ghost. Our children really loved this lesson! They really began to understand why it's to important for church to be a reverent setting.

After the lesson Nathan brought the family to the kitchen to make gourmet brownies, courtesy of the Lion House Restaurant Cook Book. Yum!

The boys adore cooking with Nathan. They are eager sous chefs, and Nathan lets them do the majority of the steps while Sarah reads the recipe out loud and does the math for doubling the measurements. I absolutely love watching Nathan cook with the family. He's such a fun chef to work with!

While the batter was baking in the oven, Nathan did a science lesson on leavening agents. He explained the properties of baking soda, yeast, and eggs while the children listened with surprising rapture. Each time he asked a question, their hands shot into the air eagerly with answers. I was honestly shocked. Nathan showed the reaction of adding an acid to baking soda and explained how the batter in a cake would trap the ensuing bubbles and make a fluffy cake.

He asked them to review the recipe we just used and decide if the brownies would be very fluffy, a little fluffy or flat. Sarah pinpointed the sole leavening agent as eggs and decided it would be just a little fluffy. I was so impressed with the lesson. Nathan really has a gift as a teacher. Ever since we were first married, I've admired his skill with teaching. I wish you could watch him. It always makes my heart swell to watch him instruct our children in his special patient way. It's one of my favorite things about him.

This was Matthew's very favorite picture of the day. Batman cooking brownies.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Daniel's gum story

Today was a long day. Days that are full of errands just seem longer than usual. It seems to drag out longer when I have my three darlings in tow on a sweltering day. I feel so bad for them. Being dragged to five different parking lots and stores is just not fun, so I don't blame them for getting cranky.

Poor Daniel. He gets tired and hungry the fastest. He also gets bored the fastest. Daniel has such an interesting personality, and this is one of his biggest characteristics: when he's bored, he makes noise. Lots of it. It's overwhelming how loud he can be, singing songs he's making up on the spot and making animal noises at the top of his lungs while he dances in circles.

That just reminded me of a story of him. We're going to take a detour from the story I was GOING to share, to this one. It's better.

We were doing a home improvement project: installing lighting in our front room (honestly, who builds a home without ANY lighting in the main room?). I've been trying to learn how to home projects myself, so we went to the local hardware store to buy wall-mounted lighting that I could install. I had no idea what I was doing, so I needed to talk with a store clerk so he could explain how to do this project. We were there for over an hour trying to special order the fixtures I liked. Daniel was a ball of pure energy. Here is a snippet of the his conversation (imagine the speech occurring so fast that he doesn't seem to pause for breath, then you'll have a good replica of his voice in your head):

"Mom, look at those boxes! There's a lot of them. If I push the shopping cart into them, they move! Look at them go! Tim-ber! Look, they all fell. Wasn't that so fun? Mom, look at those lights, they're pretty. Can we buy those lights for our house? I want this one in my room, and Sarah can have this one, and HEY, you're not looking. Look over here. Look at this light right here, the one I'm pointing to. Can we buy this one? Please,please,please? Why not? Can I push these buttons? What will they do? Mom, look at these buttons. What do they do? Stop talking to that man and look at this! I'm going to push it. Wow! Look at all the lights turning on and off, this is so cool! What happens if I flicker it faster? Hey! How come I can't touch the button any more? I don't want to sit in the shopping cart. Don't put me in the cart! Can I play with your purse?" (and on and on....he didn't stop talking for over 30 minutes. Literally.) The clerk was trying really hard not to laugh.

I was frustrated and really needed to focus on the information the clerk was telling me, so in desperation I gave Daniel a piece of gum. (As a family rule, gum isn't allowed in our house until the children are 8 years this is a big deal) I told Daniel he could only have gum if he could chew it quietly and keep his mouth shut. This is the monologue he had while I was pushing him through the store, trying to follow the clerk to a new section of hardware:

"Thanks for the gum Mom, but I don't have to keep my mouth shut. Look! I can chew my gum and talk at the same time! Just like you! You chew gum and talk at the same time, and I'm big like you! I'm growing so fast that I'm not like a baby any more at all. I'm so good at it that the gum won't fall out of my mouth like you thought. I'm really good at chewing my gum and talking just like a grown up! I could do this all day! Thanks so much for the gum! *gasp* Mom, STOP! Where's my gum?! My special gum is GONE! It fell out somewhere, and it's not in my mouth and I can't see it anywhere on my lap. *Bigger gasp* It must be on THE FLOOR! Oh no! Now my gum is dirty! Mom, we have to go back and look for my gum! Someone  will step on it and get it all messed up! Let's go find my gum!" 

As we passed all the other customers, I noticed them all stepping lightly and looking at the floor, trying to avoid smearing gum on their shoes. They were chuckling while Daniel panicked over his precious gum.

What an entertaining boy he can be.

I'm so happy to have him brightening my life.  On days like this I am particularly happy to enjoy him when he's sleeping and cuddling with me.  He adds so much intense flavor to our family. Even though I often feel overwhelmed by him, I can't imagine life without him. Our house would be so boring if he was gone.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Face painting session

I had a fun opportunity to paint Rachael and my brothers Ben and Sam. I was really excited to paint the boys- I don't often have male models to work with. The exposed muscle on Ben was more gruesome than I usually do, but I really wanted to see if I could make it look a bit convincing. It was really fun to paint!

I enjoyed painting Sam as a marsh/beach sunset. I'd like to do more of this was too fun painting the black line work over the bright colors.

I wanted to try my hand at a feminine skull pattern for the upcoming Halloween season. I think Rachael looked great! It was still 'pretty' with all the swirls and line work surrounding the skull.

Here they are all together:

Homemade Pizza

May I just say that I love being married to a cook? Mr. Kingsley makes the most wonderful meals. Look what he whipped up this week for dinner:

Home made pizza crust made with home grown rosemary and oregano: Yum!

Home made sauce with fresh herbs: Yum!

Marinated chicken, provolone cheese, Parmesan cheese, and vegies: Super yum!

I love the way he makes cooking a family affair. Daniel had fun putting on cheese, Sarah loved spreading pizza sauce, and Matthew enjoyed parceling out the meat. The kitchen is so often the center of our family life, and I'm so grateful Mr. Kingsley makes it this way. His cheerfulness is like a magnet, drawing us all to the stove to be with him. His enthusiasm for the culinary process is contagious, making it seem delightful rather than a chore. How I love him!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The month of August is almost over, so I wanted to give a quick reminder that my free giveaway ends August 30th. You still have time to enter!

It has been so delightful to hear from some of you! I have really loved hearing about your life and passions! It's also been really fun to explore your blogs and get great ideas from your family traditions and insights!

Sarah's questions

Each week Sarah's Sunday School teacher laughingly relates to me 'Sarah's probing questions'. I believe Sarah thinks it is a game to see how many difficult questions she comes up with. I recently found a list she wrote down of things to ask her teacher. It was tucked away in her scriptures. 

1- Where did God live before he was God? 
2- What sciences did Jesus use to make the Earth?
3- What did Adam and Eve eat in the garden of Eden?
4- How long does hair grow in one day?
5- How long does it take to make a baby?
6- How much water is in all the oceans?
7- How long did it take to make the Earth?
8- How did God become God?

I was surprised that a 7 year-old would think of some of these questions, but we've had some great discussions. 

Midnight Plane

I forgot to post some pics, so here's a revision to my earlier post about our brother Ben coming home from his 2-year mission in Bulgaria. His flight arrived at midnight, so our children were on the dregs of their energy.

Sarah holding her sign in the airport while we wait for Ben to get off the plane.

Daniel and Grandma Kingsley. Isn't she beautiful even at midnight? 

Part of the crew waiting for Ben. Our welcoming party had 10 fans total.

I had made candy leis for everyone to put on Ben. We handed everyone a lei to wear.... evidently Uncle Adam was given the tiny one I made for Daniel. 

Sarah had fun trying on Aunt Rachael's shoes. 

Finally, Ben arrives! Mmmm....look at all the melting chocolate in those necklaces!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Girls' day out in Nauvoo

We had planned a 3-day stay in Nauvoo so there was plenty of time to see all the performances, do all the carriage rides, explore all the historic homes, etc. There was an unfortunate event wherein our 3-night lodging was unavailable (that's a whole story in itself), so there was an emergency change of plans and we stayed those 3 nights with Nathan's family in another part of the state.

I was determined to get to Nauvoo so Sarah and Rachael could see the pageant. The only solution was to leave really early in the morning and drive 4 hours to get there, spend one full day having fun, then drive 4 hours back home after the pageant ended.  That's what we did, and it was completely worth it. We even wanted to go back the next morning and do it again.

Here are some of the highlights from the trip:

At the blacksmith shop the guide demonstrated how to make a miniature horseshoe. One person in the tour group gets the shoe. I've been to Nauvoo 3 times in the past, and haven't happened to be the lucky recipient.  Sarah was given the horseshoe this year, and she was immensley proud of it. She carried it in her hand the rest of the day. She and Rachael also liked the Prairie Diamond rings that were given out for free at the same shop.

My favorite spot was the Calvin Pendleton one-room school. Nathan is a descendant of Mr. Pendleton, so Sarah was privileged to sign the register of the cabin. The cabin has this book to track all the direct descendants who visit this site. She was the youngest one to sign the book.

She also loved having a spelling lesson from the 1840's presented to her by the cabin tour guide.

It was delightful to visit the grounds of the beautiful Nauvoo temple. I went through this temple last time we visited this city. I was disappointed that we didn't have enough time for me to enter it again. It's so stunning on the inside!

We visited Carthage Jail, the site of Joseph Smith's martyrdom. It was quite literally overflowing with bus-loads of touring teenagers, so it was hard to feel any peace for quiet contemplation. We decided it's much better to visit Carthage in the off-season when we can have the place to ourselves. The last time I was here was in the quiet of late August, so we had a personal tour and could spend as much time as we wanted in each room. It was still a neat experience.

Sarah and Rachael also really liked the Nauvoo Brickyard, where visitors are given free miniature bricks stamped with pictures after learning about the brick industry of 1840.

Rachael loved seeing Joseph Smith's home and learning about spinning wool. It was interesting to see the different types of wools and learn the history of cloth-making. 

There is a country fair every night in Nauvoo during July. It was SO fun! There was a plethora of activities for free: puppet shows, making toys, making handkerchief dolls, braiding rugs, races, tug-of-wars, handcart rides, live music, dancing lessons, and log-sawing. I was very surprised to discover Sarah's favorite spot was log-sawing. She loved pulling on the two-man saw and would hop right back in line after each turn. I loved the dancing- the bagpipe band taught the audience several Scottish highland dances.

After the fair the pageant began. It was wonderful! There was great music, great dancing, and great special effects. Sarah eagerly asked if we can volunteer to be in the cast next summer. Volunteer families live in Nauvoo for 2 weeks and host pioneer games during the day while performing at night in the pageant. I would love it.

Glimpses from Grandma's house

We love this home. Our kids didn't want to go anywhere else the entire week. These were my favorite shots of the week.

We all had watermelon for a treat one afternoon. Daniel disappeared from the kitchen with his bowl of watermelon, and this is where I found him. He was perfectly content, and was splashing in the water with his feet while his chin dripped with sweet juices.

This was Uncle Ben's first morning home from his 2-year mission in Bulgaria. 

Sarah really loved playing with Grandpa Kingsley's new iPad. 

(This last picture I just had to include. It was just so bizarre. Nathan and his brother Sam were cleaning the tops of the cabinets in the middle of the night.)