Monday, April 30, 2012


{trees at the Pattison Farm behind our house}


{Tomatoes and Bell Peppers}

{Tulips from our neighbor across the street}

{Sandals bought on clearance at the end of season last year--yay!}

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tirzah is 3!

Tirzah's birthday was on Saturday. Unfortunately it was cold and rainy.  :(

Mitch bought Tirzah some balloons...did you know you can get mylar balloons at the $1 store?  What a great deal!  What a great hubby willing to drive around to get better prices!

Tirzah was such a good hostess.  She greeted everyone at the door, jabbering all the while.  It was super cute. 

Tirzah asked for a "pink" cake.  To my dismay, I found that I was completely out of cake mix and frosting.  Instead of making a store run, I opted to make a cake "from scratch".  Oh no!  (just kidding).  I found a vanilla cake recipe and vanilla frosting that was "ok".  It was sort of thick--more like banana bread and not so much like cake.  Oh least coloring the frosting pink was easy!

(Photography question:  Why did the flame make those ghost shadows in the pictures like at the bottom of the 3?  In a couple other pictures the flame shows up on Tirzah's face.  Weird.)

Tirzah, at 3 years old you
~have blonde hair and blue-eyes (your hair is really thin and wispy)
~are very vocal (you talk about everything)
~are not quite potty-trained, but you do "hold it" for long periods of time (all night!)
~do not know the names of colors, but do know the names of many people

~love to wear dresses
~LOVE shoes
~get dressed by yourself (which includes some interesting combinations)
~love babies
~love to boss people around (working on your "mommy voice" already)

~sleep with your sister Eden every night, and if Eden is gone then you like to sleep with Mommy and Daddy
~are very independent during the day
~like to play outside, riding trikes or swinging or sliding or climbing
~still miss the kittens from last October

~love to hang out with Holly and Kyle at "Amirah's house"
~always want to go with Mommy when I am going shopping or running errands
~confuse Mommy when you pretend to be shy
~amaze Mommy with all the things you know how to do

~are quite the diva with a flair for drama--and I really mean that, you love to act!   You especially love to imitate the people around you.
~love to eat a good variety of foods.  You won't try something new if we ask you to, but you easily succumb to peer pressure when you see other people doing it.  I was astonished recently when you tried some tomato dipped in sour cream--the same tomato that a few minutes earlier you had been adamant that you did NOT like.  As a baby you NEVER liked peaches.  You would eat many other things, but never peaches.  Recently Addie convinced you (how??) to eat yours.  You think they're the best ever.  :)  You love pizza and spaghetti and mac & cheese, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and other kid staples.  You also love apples, bananas, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, peaches, pears, pineapple, and strawberries.

Happy Birthday, precious daughter!  We thank God for you.  You are a blessing and a treasure to our family.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Skins vs. Shirts

Tirzah turned 3 years old yesterday!  I have a birthday post coming, but tonight I wanted to post this quickie.

Mitch had just come home from playing basketball.  He had already thrown his sweaty shirt down the laundry chute and was sitting on the couch shirtless while he removed his socks. 

Tirzah came up to her daddy, leaned in close towards his chest, and said, "I can see yours."

After a pause she continued, "They are little.  You should cover them up."

Eden, who was sitting next to Mitch, was trying not to crack up.  Mitch said, "Steph, did you hear her?" while also trying to keep a straight face.

I looked up in time to see Tirzah lifting her shirt and saying, "Do you want to see mine?"


Friday, April 20, 2012

Flowers from Mitch

I like receiving flowers.  Mitch likes to give them spontaneously, but I usually like to have a reason why I'm receiving them.  When he gives them with no reason, I make up my own reasons.  :)  Flowers are always an occasion to practice photography.

A fortunate side-effect of receiving cut flowers:  I don't feel bad when they die, unlike how I feel when my potted flowers die (which they usually do).

Curriculum Review: Time4Learning

We have had the privilege of a free 30-day trial of Time4Learning, an interactive learning website designed for homeschool, afterschool, summer study, or whatever you need.    The website has a full curriculum for preK through 8th grade.  It includes math, language, reading, science, and history/social studies.

Each child was assigned to a grade level and given their own log-in information.  The child could then login and click on which subject they would like to work on.  Using a simple system, they could easily figure out which lesson was next in their learning.  If the level they were working on seemed too difficult or easy, we could step up or down a level quickly.  If I wanted to permanently change the default level for one or more subjects I could do that from the parent account.  Lessons are arranged into units with "quizzes" at the end of each unit.  On the parent page I got full reports including the amount of time a child spent on each lesson, the score received, and I could access completed quizzes to see what each child did.  I could sort or search through the reports easily, setting the date range to suit my needs.  Many lessons have printables, so they child can get further practice as well as writing practice.

At the beginning of the trial period I signed up Eden, Caleb, Zeke, and Josh.  This was really great to have the opportunity to try out Time4Learning for four children.  I feel like I received FOUR free trials, not just one.  About halfway through the trial period I switched Caleb to "Kindergarten" so I could try Malachi out on it.  Eden (finishing 7th grade) and Caleb (finishing 5th grade) must be too old and set in their ways.  They did a few lessons just to humor me and adamantly insisted that I not sign them up for Time4Learning.
Josh loves using the headphones and working on the laptop computer.

Zeke (finishing 2nd grade) and Josh (finishing 1st grade) loved Time4Learning.  I never had to ask them twice to log in and "do some school"...they often volunteered to do it on their own, but when I did ask them they never complained.  This is HUGE.  Big enough for me to consider signing them up for the summer months.  I think one of their favorite features was the playground feature.  After spending a set amount of time on lessons (which I was able to preset), they could have a set amount of time (again, preset by me) on the "playground".  The playground is a really cool collection of games or links to other sites (like Veggie Tales!) that have games that are safe for elementary kids.  The games are safe, clean, and fun.   While the playground links to other websites, it is still timed and when the timer is done, their game shuts off.  I love that.
Josh and Zeke frequently had younger children watching over their shoulders, which was great, too.

Since Zeke and Josh spent the most time using Time4Learning, I was most familiar with their grade levels.  Time4Learning has some specific teaching styles that I really liked.  I liked the reading approach for Zeke and Josh.  For example, one thing they would work on is reading a passage and it would time them.  Then the computer would read the passage back to them, demonstrating as well as giving tips on how to read aloud fluently.  They would then read a second time and hopefully their speed and accuracy increased.  It worked well every time I watched them.  The best part about this was their attitudes--it was done in such a way that Zeke and Josh were both motivated and encouraged to read fluently. 

No doubt about it, Time4Learning captivated my active, distractable boys and motivated them to do their schoolwork.  When I had the right level selected for each boy, it seemed to have a good balance of both challenging and easy material.  In that respect, I hold Time4Learning in high regards.  Because of that I am considering purchasing a subscription for the summer months for Zeke and Josh.

Now for the cons.  I sometimes wondered throughout the trial period if the boys were having so much fun that they were distracted from real learning.  The boys were never "forced" to do a quiz before they could move on.  So if I wasn't watching, they would whip through units and never complete the quizzes.  It's ok because Time4Learning isn't our core curriculum, but if it were, I'd have to be much more involved with making sure they boys mastered the lessons before they moved on.  Zeke was especially frustrated with the math.  That's not surprising, because he is easily frustrated with math no matter what we use.  If we were using Time4Learning for our math curriculum I would have had to do quite a bit of fill-in teaching.  The boys also seemed to zip through lessons like nothing.  Again, this could be the fault of my boys in particular, but there was no stopping them from progressing to the next level.  If I wasn't watching, they completed (not necessarily mastered) many lessons very quickly.  If I tried to divide the grade level out over the course of a year, I think they could complete each day's work in an hour or less.

Another con I experienced was with the parent interface.  I like the things that I was able to control and change.  I missed some features that I have in SOS.  There is no good structure for lesson planning.  There is a worksheet that lists the number of lessons for each subject in each grade level, so you can do a little math to figure out how many lessons your child should do each day.  This is tedious for me, as well as difficult to keep track of.  I would love to see a way for the parent to assign lessons so the child can know each day what he/she should do.  I would also love for a parent to be able to jump a child to the middle of a grade level.  If you want your child to skip a unit, there's no way for the child to keep track any longer of where he/she should be.  When they login, it tells them to go back and do the lessons they skipped.  If you are using Time4Learning as an afterschool or summer study program, you may want to be able to assign the subjects and topics that your particular student needs the most work in, but there is no way to do that currently.

Finally I will mention my experience having Malachi do Kindergarten on Time4Learning.  This was not a good fit for him.  They use a whole-language approach to teaching reading and I have both feet firmly in the phonics camp.   Malachi quickly learned how to click to get the right answer and progress without really learning anything.  He also had "help" from older siblings from time to time, which gave the appearance that he was learning when he actually wasn't.  The lesson I took away from this is that my kindergartner (or preK) needs me to sit beside him through every lesson.  On the positive side, Malachi also enjoyed Time4Learning.

A word to the wise:  There is no, and I mean NO, learning solution for students where the parents do not have to be involved.  Whether you are homeschooling, private schooling, or sending your kids to public school, you as a parent should be involved.  Don't take a back seat and expect a program or curriculum or another teacher to teach your child all he/she needs to know.  Time4Learning is no different.  While it's a great program, you should be close by to monitor your child's progress and assess where he/she needs more help and practice.  Time4Learning (just like any other electronic teaching method) is not a babysitter.

Thank you, Time4Learning, for the opportunity to post a review!  I was not paid to write a positive review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This IS school...

It may not look like obedient students working quietly on their desks doing 14 worksheets per day, but I keep telling myself that this really IS school...

 Sunset shadows on the wall created a chance to play with light.  Nearly the whole family got involved!

 I found this little rogue carrot growing outside in our garden...a leftover from what we didn't harvest last year?  He sure didn't taste very good.

 We count the plants, measure the plants, water the plants, etc...

Other fun "school" activities I didn't get pictures of:  playing with a magnifying glass.  We examined salt, sugar, an orange, then I did like any good parent would and showed our kids how to set grass on fire.  :)  I walked past a window to see Zeke and Josh "playing a game" in the backyard.  Zeke had a nerf-type crossbow up on the deck.  Josh was waiting by the fence on one side of the yard.  Zeke shouted out "Go" and Josh began to run across the yard.  Zeke fired his crossbow.  Miss!  They tried again.  Soon, Zeke had perfected his timing and got a hit as Josh zoomed past.  Oh how I love it!!

Monday, April 16, 2012


Things have been busy around here, and I'm sure you noticed the lack of blogging. 

We had a wonderful Easter celebration at our church followed by lunch and an egg hunt at Paul & Marilyn's.

I have been reading some camera books I got at the library and trying new things.  I'm so pleased with how the pictures came out that I took on Easter...but I learned a hard lesson:  charge your camera batteries before leaving home.  Doh!  (If you're looking for a good camera book, check out the ones by Scott Kelby.)

Last Tuesday I started some seeds indoors.  I started roma tomatoes, green bell peppers, and marigolds.  I've never done flowers (besides sunflowers) before.  I hope it goes well.  I will probably sew some directly in the ground later in May, but I wanted to have some fun indoors.  Our garden needs some work.  :)  I went out to inspect it and see what might be coming up from any stray seeds.  I found sunflowers.  I didn't really want to plant sunflowers this year, so we'll see if I leave them or not.  Now that they're growing (and our weather is really up and down right now), it's hard for me to stop them.  Mitch brought home a Hosta last fall and asked Micah to plant it in the garden.  I don't think Micah knew what to expect.  He was surprised and excited to find it growing.  Now to find a permanent home for it besides in my garden.  By Sunday some of our seeds had started to sprout.  In a couple weeks I'll start some more seeds.  I want to do lettuce and radishes in containers, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

We're all chomping at the bit and counting down the weeks until summer vacation.  Not much longer!  Micah, Eden, and Caleb are finishing up their last weeks of SOS.  Their scores are good, but they are getting done with school each day in about 2 hours.  That seems really fast.  :(  Today they began their standardized testing, and I'm anxious to see what the results will be.  I should know about the middle of May.  We have a curriculum shake-up coming, but I'm not sure what it will be exactly.  Micah will be going to high school in the district where Mitch teaches.  Malachi starts kindergarten this fall.  I'm 90% sure that Zeke, Josh, and Malachi will all do Math-U-See for math.  And I'm almost as certain that Eden and Caleb will use Teaching Textbooks.  Other than that, I don't know.  My brain is too cloudy and I need some focus.  This is our 5th year of homeschooling.  I can hardly believe it.  When we started out we were strictly A Beka and tried to keep our homeschool as close to traditional school as we possibly could.  That was a disaster, but we still kept trying.  I hate to say it, I really do, but I think that I'm becoming much more like Charlotte Mason than I ever thought I would.  More on that to come, as I clear my head and do research.  I told Mitch I'd love to take a one-week sabbatical.  I really wanted to go to the MACHE conference this past weekend, but Mitch and I need to take a trip to Florida in May and we just couldn't do both.  I felt a little relief when a friend told me that our local homeschooling association bought cd's of all the sessions for the lending library.  Also I can attend an online convention for free at anytime (and so can you) at  I am especially looking forward to carving out time for this. 

We don't have any firm summer plans yet, but we have talked about going to visit my family in Virginia (and we'll visit Mitch's mom and stepdad on the way too).  I'd love to just go park ourselves for 2 weeks and do nothing but visit with people.  Of course, I haven't talked to anyone except Mitch about this.  :)  Like I said, no firm plans.  I am doing daycare through the summer, but Mitch is not going to work a summer job this year.  Micah has applied to Camp Lebanon to be on the Sweat Team and is signed up to attend two weeks in August.  He is SO excited.  I'm excited for him.  I didn't even know about it, but Paul and Marilyn told us.  Micah had to fill out an application just like for a job and give references and everything.  He kept asking me to do it for him.  Oh how I love life lessons!  :)

I have a few reviews I need to write.  I have a review due for Time4Learning, an education site that some of my kids have been trying out.  I also have a couple book reviews to write.  I am trying hard to balance the things that need to get done and the things I want to get done.  It seems that I have taken on a bit too much lately.  Did you know I've been blogging for 6 years?  I can't believe it!  And I recently posted my 1,000th post.  I knew I was getting close, and I tried so hard to remember, but alas I didn't.  I think this is post 1,010 or something like that.  I love blogging.  I wish I could remember to post shorter posts with all the cuteness that my kids have going on.  I think I'd better go back to making notes again.  ;)

I briefly mentioned that Mitch and I need to take a trip to Florida in May.  We are attending a Missionary Assessment Center at Converge Worldwide.  It is our goal to come away from the MAC with a better picture of our strengths, personalities and our calling.  We hope that the MAC will help us set healthy goals for ministry in our family, local church, and community.  We also hope that the MAC will give us a recommendation towards working in the global community in another context.  We are so thankful for the opportunity to attend the MAC, for the timing, and God's provision of finances to be able to attend.  We are also thankful for the many friends who have filled out lengthy reference forms for us in order to help the assessors really have an excellent picture of who we are.  We ask for your prayers for us as we prepare for (it has been literally HOURS of paperwork) and attend the MAC.

Well, my blogging time is well used up.  But I had it coming.  :)  Keep watching for those reviews, and I sure hope that I get on here more often.  I'll write on my hands if I have to!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

1 minute and 34 seconds

I have 1 minute and 34 seconds to blog...

I have been reading (or finished reading):
Educating the Wholehearted Child
The Mission of Motherhood
Breath of Angel
Eye of the Sword
Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology
The Bible reading plan our church is doing

I am going to start reading:
Bringing Up Girls

I have overdue (and no time to read):
Kisses from Katie

And my 1 min. 34 sec. is time to do links to those books.  Maybe later!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Obadiah's 1st Birthday (lots of pics)

Obadiah turned 1 on Thursday.  On Thursdays Mitch always stays late after school to work, then goes to play basketball at the high school and doesn't come home until 9 pm.  I didn't want to interfere with his "normal" schedule, so we decided to celebrate Obi's birthday on Friday night instead.  As it turns out, I still didn't manage to write a blog post on Obi's birthday.  :)

Obadiah is one crazy, special little boy.  He is moving everywhere--running, climbing, jabbering nonsense.  He goes up and down the stairs with ease.  He has 6 teeth--4 on top and 2 on bottom (just like Micah and Eden at 1 year!).  He loves to eat chicken nuggets, pizza crust, lasagna (or anything with noodles), baked beans, and other soft foods--he loves to feed himself.  He also loves to drink from a cup, whether it's a sippy cup, straw, or just a big kid cup.  He loves water, juice, or milk.  He thinks he loves my Pepsi, but I don't let him try it.  ;)  He is gradually weaning himself from nursing.  He loves to nurse when he's tired, but during the day when he's the most busy he pushes me away and climbs down off my lap.  He doesn't have time for me!  He usually wakes up 3-5 times per night to nurse.  I know what my doctor will say about that...she won't be too thrilled...but I also have been there, done that, so I know the days are numbered.  Eventually he will give up night nursing too.

During the day Obi runs around from kid to kid trying to get into whatever they are doing.  He ignores his large baskets of toys.  He pushes chairs to anywhere he wants to climb, pulls himself up on the chair, and proceeds to pull things off the table, desk, counter, you-name-it.  Playing outside is the best thing ever invented, and if one of the slower-moving children is headed outside and can't get the door closed behind them quickly enough, Obi will follow.  Obi loves doors and loves to enter a room and shut the door.  Every few minutes I find myself playing "hide and seek" with my active, busy boy.

Obi climbs on the stool in the bathroom.  Thankfully he can't reach the sink to turn on the water.  He finds the toothbrushes in a drawer and tries them one by one.  He LOVES water and baths.  One day Mitch came home from basketball and turned on the shower.  While he was waiting for the water to warm, he wandered into the kitchen to talk with me.  Within seconds we heard a thump followed by a short delay, then a cry.  Obi had climbed into the shower, which was now hot, fully clothed and couldn't get back out.  I stripped him down and let him get back in with Mitch once the water was set at a tolerable temperature.  Then he loved it.

Obi still takes two naps during the day, but he's spacing them out so that I think he is transitioning to one nap a day.  Micah is his big buddy and can get him to sleep better than anyone else.  This bond with Micah will be useful when we wean from night nursing.

Well, enough are the pics from Obi's birthday party!

 Making the cake

 He kept trying to grab the mixer while it was stirring.  Then he bobbed his head back and forth in rhythm.  It was so cute!

 I let them lick the whisk after I made the frosting...

 This was so cute because Malachi and Tirzah were making these slurping noises when they put their fingers in their Obi watched them and watched them until he could do it too! 


Holly, can you help me?
 I want to go for a ride!

 We tried and tried to get him to sit still on this so I could take a picture (using a new technique I learned)...but nope...

I love the look on Obi's face when the lighter came near to light the candle.
 And the looks on our faces when he tried to grab the flame...

He couldn't figure out the blowing.  He did almost manage to spit on the cake, though.  ::grin::

 Chocolate was a good choice for frosting.   Not only did he love it, he made a great mess!

Then he shared with Holly's dog, Amira!

Happy Birthday to a special boy!  We sure do love you, Obadiah!