Tuesday, August 31, 2010

a potpourri of Scriptures

These verses spoke to me today as I begin a new homeschooling year, start teaching a new Bible study session next week, make notes toward writing another book and occasionally notice the housework that needs to be done around here.

The Lord upholds all who fall,
And raises up all who are bowed down. (Psalm 145:14 NKJV)

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. (Ephesians 6:10)

...live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ... (Philippians 1:27)

For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I will make known the Lord's faithful love
[and] the Lord's praiseworthy acts,
because of all the Lord has done for us...(Isaiah 63:7)

Oh Lord, Your vast strength enables me to live for You. Remind me to take my worries to You and rest in Your peace.

Back to Blogging...and Homeschooling

I've neglected this blog too long! I was very busy trying to deny the passing of summer. I do not like routine, and though I am very happy to be a homeschool mom, the last couple weeks of summer I really dread picking up the school routine again. If I didn't have the flexibility of homeschooling this would be an even more difficult time of year!

We started school last Thursday, and it was a surprisingly great day. Though I know without a doubt that I am called to homeschool my children, I never expected to enjoy teaching. I like to lead women's Bible studies, but I do not like to teach children.

Yet I am finding that being a homeschool mom is not just my calling but also my joy. I listen to other moms talk about waking up their children early in the morning and overseeing homework late into the evening and I know that I would fail at being a public school parent.

So far this year we are spending about two hours doing school projects together, another fifteen minutes reading history at lunchtime, and then in the afternoon my oldest daughter does her independent reading. The time will probably increase a little bit; I'll be adding spelling, more reading, and a few more science activities to the weekly schedule. We homeschool four days a week, with one day off for Bible study; I am blessed to attend a women's Bible study that also offers children's classes.

My oldest daughter is in fourth grade. We're using Portraits of American Girlhood for her history. This fun program uses the American Girl books and biographies of American heroes to study American history. It inserts a few language arts, crafts and cooking into the study as well. To add a few more language exercises we're using a workbook from Queen Homeschooling and we'll soon add Queen's spelling also. For handwriting we're using A Reason For Writing. My daughter loves to draw, and loves art, so the beautiful borders in the handwriting book really make this fun for her. I appreciate that she's copying scripture as she practices her handwriting. We're going to use the reading program Drawn into the Heart of Reading from Heart of Dakota. In October I'll add a science program, probably Animal Habitats from Winter Promise. The best news of the year is that we switched from ABeka math to Teaching Textbooks. Last year math was very difficult for both my daughter and I. Explaining math concepts is not one of my talents, and she needed more explanation than her workbook gave. Teaching Textbooks has math lectures on CDs. We put one into the computer and she watches the lecture (at her level it's about five minutes long) and then she begins her lesson on the computer. There's a workbook too, if there are problems that are easier to do on paper. My daughter loves the program because there's a little cartoon animal (of the ten options she chose a cat) that is visible on the screen all the time, and every time she puts an answer into the computer, the animal changes its clothes or says "Hurrah!" or waves a fan. The first day of school, she begged to do two lessons! This has never ever happened in math class before. I love Teaching Textbooks because when she's done, I click on "gradebook" and it tells me how she did, instantly. I aim at starting school at 9 or 9:30, but my daughter has been popping into my room at 8:15 asking if she can start her math yet.

My younger two daughters are using Heart of Dakota's Little Hearts for His Glory. This is the perfect curriculum for us this year because it is for Kindergarten or First Grade students. They do some activities together, and it has schedules for the books (like math) they do separately. Heart of Dakota has a wonderful mix of hands-on activities and workbooks that are fun and not burdensome. This week we're singing a song about the continents, learning about the days of Creation, and learning a verse (with the help of the Hide 'Em in Your Heart cd). This curriculum covers language and math and history and handwriting (the handwriting books are in the same A Reason for Writing series that my oldest is using) and a bit of science. We also have Queen Language workbooks and Winter Promise's The World Around Me science. I could probably just add a few library books to the science within Little Hearts for His Glory, but I had already purchased The World Around Me, so we're going to use it.

We are four days into the school year and it is certainly going well so far. I think the routine I was dreading may actually be quite fun.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A winner!

The winner of my book giveaway is Teri Lynne!

Keep watching this blog for a new giveaway.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Giveaway: Holy Available

This week I'm giving away an almost-new copy of Holy Available, by Gary Thomas. I bought this book because I was intrigued by the subtitle: "What if holiness is about more than what we don't do?" I was so intrigued, in fact, that I accidentally ordered this book twice. So I'm giving one copy away.

Leave me a comment, and on Friday I'll draw one of the commenter's names and mail this book to them! In your comment, please share the title of a book that made a difference in your life.

I'm extending the giveaway! I'll announce a winner on Sunday!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dieting and Vineyards and Fruit

Eight years ago this week, we moved from a tiny town in Oregon's lush green Willamette Valley to the desert city of Las Vegas. Last Sunday I realized this anniversary was a week away and I weighed only three pounds more than I did eight years ago. My weight has gone up and down a bit here, first when we discovered a bakery with Two Bite Scones, then when I had a child and quickly lost the baby weight and promptly had another child, and then when that baby weight was beginning to disappear I had a tough year and I ate a lot of baklava. Thanks to the Flat Belly Diet I lost most of the weight this spring, and I've maintained this summer, all the while eating fabulous food.

But last week I decided that it was ridiculous to be just three pounds from my goal, so I went into action. I cut my calories from 1400-1600 a day down to 1200 (by Friday I'd remembered that I cannot live on 1200 calories for more than four days in a row without becoming a grumpy mom), cut my caffeine down to one cup of coffee or two cups of tea a day, drank gallons of water, and walked.

It is, of course, August, so going for a long walk outside is not very comfortable in the desert unless one rises at 5 a.m. I don't. I walked indoors with my pedometer, watching Rick Steves travel dvds and Rosemary and Thyme mystery dvds. I walked a total of thirty-six miles last week.

I really like Rick Steves Best of Europe series. Last week I watched the Italy and France dvds. I learned something interesting in the Provence episode. Rick Steves was touring a vineyard, and the owner was telling him how wonderful Provence was for grape-growing. She said Provence had two wonderful things: sun and poor soil. "Poor soil?" he questioned. "Yes," she replied, "because the vine must suffer to bear fruit." I would have expected a vineyard to need rich soil, but according to this owner, the poor soil was actually a benefit.

I thought of our experience, moving to Vegas, away from our families and the landscape we loved and the rain we honestly enjoyed and the ocean...and surprisingly we love it here. Without many of the things that brought us such joy, we had to lean on God in new ways. Our family has grown and we've found ministries. Though I wouldn't call our experiences "suffering," I could identify with the idea that serving God ("bearing fruit") is more dependent on the Sun above than one's location.

Happy are the people who know the joyful shout;
Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence. (Psalm 90:14)

And I'm happy to report that I lost those three pounds.

(Note: my quote from the vineyard owner may not be verbatim; I don't take very good notes while I'm walking. I'd be happy to hear from vineyard owners to know if this information is true for other locations or just in Provence.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recipe: leave-in hair conditioner

Several months ago Mountain Rose Herbs posted a recipe for a leave-in hair conditioner. I thought it might help de-tangle my daughters' hair, so I made a batch. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it works for my hair and my husband's hair also. We all have curly hair in varying textures, with the exception of my youngest daughter whose hair will only be curly if she ever moves to a more humid climate. I can't find the link to the original recipe, but here is my adaptation of it.

You'll need a spray bottle that holds more than 6 ounces. If you have one that originally held a purchased leave-in conditioner, that's ideal, as it dispenses the conditioner in smaller quantities than a regular spray bottle. If possible, use a bottle that sprays a fine mist rather than a heavy shower--it will make the conditioner last longer. A bottle that used to hold spray gel would probably work too.

This recipe makes enough for five of us to use almost every day for a month. It's really helpful on those "oh no, I spent too long on Facebook and I ran out of time to wash my hair" mornings.

Pour 3 ounces of aloe vera gel into a 2 cup measuring cup.
Add 3 ounces of water.
Add 1/8 teaspoon jojoba oil and
1/8 teaspoon vegetable glycerin.

Whisk. Pour it into your spray bottle--I recommend using a funnel, as aloe vera gel is a little gloppy even after being whisked.

Add 10 drops lemongrass essential oil,
10 drops lavender essential oil,
and 2 drops tea tree oil.
(For a different fragrance, try 10 drops lemongrass and 10 drops rosemary essential oil.
The lemongrass and tea tree oil keep the lavender from being a frilly feminine fragrance, but if you want a really feminine fragrance, try just using the lavender.)

Put the sprayer top on the bottle securely, and shake.

Your conditioner is ready to use. Shake before each use.

I bought all my ingredients from vitacost.com, which has great deals on all the things I used to drive to the health food store to purchase. Shipping is $4.99 on every order under $75; orders over that amount ship free.

and the winner is...

Angie, from Coaching Hearts and Tutoring Sisters! Angie won a copy of Catherine Martin's book Six Secrets to a Powerful Quiet Time in a random drawing.

I'll be posting another book giveaway next week.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Giveaway: Six Secrets to a Powerful Quiet Time

I have an extra copy of Catherine Martin's Six Secrets to a Powerful Quiet Time. It's practically new. Catherine Martin's books are always encouraging and practical, filled with scripture and godly advice. From the back cover:

Are you enjoying the closeness with God you desire? Are your prayer times
transforming your life from the inside out? Are you sensing God speaking to you
through your Bible reading?

Now you can join Catherine Martin on an exciting 30-day journey to discover
how to really have a quiet time. She provides effective, practical steps you can
take to go deeper with God...

I'm giving this book away on Friday. Between now and then, leave me a comment with the title of your favorite devotional book. One of the commenters will win this book.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Books on the brain

My mind is full of books this week! I'll be teaching my new study, Praise Patterns, at church this fall, and a box of Praise Patterns books arrived a few days ago. It's one of my favorite moments all year: opening that box and seeing my project in print!

I posted a proposal for the study I wrote last year, Sacred Signposts, at christianmanuscriptsubmissions.com. I set up a blog specifically for Sacred Signposts: sacredsignposts.com

Meanwhile, I have a basic outline for next year's study and I'm cleaning and organizing my writing corner so I can start the process again. Next year's book doesn't have a title yet, but the sub-title is A Song of Service and Surrender. Watch this blog for more details over the next nine months or so.

Tomorrow I'm giving away a book! Come back and read the details.