Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Word ~ 2014

This graphic has lots of words, but they are all components of my ONE word for 2014 …. Steadfast.

I want to be faithful in my time with the Lord.
I want to be committed to growing the strength of my marriage.
I want to remain dependable to my children.
I want to be trustworthy to my friends.
I want to be reliable to those whom I have made commitments.
I want to help make steady progress in our becoming debt free.
I want to be devoted to fulfilling my savings plans.
I want to be a staunch devotee to exercising, eating healthy, and taking care of my body.
I want to be a true visionary in all of the atmospheres where I teach.
I want to produce solid reviews for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
I want to keep God as a constant companion and confidante.
I want to be loyal to my call to teach my children and give it all I have each day.


Word for 2014
Linking up at the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.

Monday, December 30, 2013

One Word ~ 2013 (A Look Back)

My One Word for 2013 was Less. You can read all about my reasons behind choosing that word by going to that post.

How did I do? I would say I did well, but still left room for improvement. I started strong and ended strong. That is what is most important.

Financially/Materially Less. We continued to live in our little, old house this year without any major improvements. In fact, our HVAC went out this year. As there was no money to replace it, save another payment plan, we found ways to do without. We purchased a couple of window air conditioners to get us through the summer. We had a few hot days, but we survived. For winter we purchased several different heaters, an infrared quartz and some electric heaters with thermostats. We have had some negative temperatures, but have stayed cozy warm in the main part of our house by shutting the bedroom doors and blocking off the entryway to the kitchen. We only heat the bedrooms at night, and the kids sleeping in the basement have warm electric blankets. It is not ideal, but it is good enough.

In fact, I have learned that central air conditioning and heat are a total luxury, not a need. I am not even stressed about getting a new system. We certainly won't be replacing it unless we can do it with cash.

We have made do with a stove with only three burners and a refrigerator without an ice maker and water in the door (gads!). Again, those are luxuries that we can, obviously, do without.

All of our extra money, which is minimal at best, goes to paying for things we can do as a family. We have grown so much closer this year … probably because of the things we do not have. We have all learned some valuable lessons in want vs. need, and I wouldn't trade those lessons for anything!

Contentment is a wonderful thing!

Less Stress. We still have stress. Some of it is beyond our control. Most of it is because of the poor choices in our past. We are still suffering the consequences of some bad decisions. The majority of the stressors are financial. But it does help to just keep the attitude that "It's Just Money." Money comes and goes (and goes fast). But does it really matter? No, we are not getting things paid off as quickly as we would like, and we are not saving as much as we would like, and we are not getting ourselves secure for our future. But, we have all we need. And we are slowly chipping away at the financial stresses. And our stress level is equal to the amount of power we give it over our lives.

Again, contentment is a wonderful thing!

Less Worry. I worry about very little these days. Maybe it's age. Maybe it's lack of really caring. But I just don't worry about things. I have had little instances of God showing Himself in my life this year, showing me His ultimate protection and provision. He has shown up at just the right time with just what I need multiple times. With God, I can do all things.

Less Greed. I can honestly not think of one thing I want, unless it's just some new comfy clothes. But, I do not need them. I do not sit and think of the things I want, want, want. I really do not even sit and think about the things I really need. I am content with what I have and know that God will provide me with exactly what I need.

Less Pride. This is a big one! My life in Oklahoma was one full of Pride! What I wore, ate, how I kept my house and decorated it, what activities I did, how my kids dressed, how I parented … it all was dependent on what someone else thought I should be doing. I have NONE of that anymore! I have an old house with lots of problems that is full of warmth and love. I have a car with even more issues, but could care less because it gets me where I want/need to go. In this town where we live, one filled with people living primarily on government assistance, going to the store in anything other than my pj's is a step up. There is not one person in this town that I think about comparing myself to, and I hope no one feels the need to compare him or herself to me. I am free to be exactly me, the me that God created and wants me to be. And I do not judge others here either. We live across the street from a drug dealer, our neighbors are homosexuals raising two precious little girls, and crazy things go on in all the other houses around us. But I let them live their lives and they let me live mine without judgment or condemnation. We wave and are friendly. I will let God handle my neighbors if they let God handle me.

Joy, Contentment and Love. These things are definitely the cornerstone of my life. I feel them in my bones. I know that they are from God, for being obedient to Him.

I have found myself taking on a few more activities here toward the end of the year than I would have liked, and it has caused me some additional stress. So, as a family, and especially as an individual, we are fading back again. This requires me to say "No". But, that is okay, because I am saying "Yes" to Joy, Contentment and Love. And these are what really matters.

So, in 2013 I believe I did a good job living up to my One Word of Less. What is my One Word for 2014? Check back tomorrow to find out!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Where NO Schoolwork Was Done!

In our regular life this week…

It's been a glorious week of family and fun! After celebrating Eli's 10th birthday on Sunday, we moved on into our Christmas festivities. We had such a nice time as a family. Then we took down all of the inside Christmas decorations on the 26th and even sorted through all of our tubs to pare down to only the decorations we plan to use in the future. We are keeping it simple from now on. Christmas decorations are festive and fun, but we just prefer regular life.

In our homeschool this week…

Other than finishing up the final two episodes of Liberty's Kids, building with Legos, and getting in some P.E. by way of bowling league and basketball practice, we haven't touched a school book or worksheet. And we won't until our break concludes on January 13th!

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We went to "town" yesterday so that Kyndal could give haircuts to Rick, Eli and me. She gave me an awesome haircut! And, Eli got his hair cut for the first time EVER without tears! He told her she did perfect! That is a glowing endorsement coming from him!

After haircuts we dropped Kyndal and Dawson off at the train station so they could go to St. Louis to visit their dad for a couple of days.

A favorite thing this week was…

When I woke up this morning, I found this text from Kyndal that I received after I went to sleep: "Love you and miss you already. I know I don't tell you this near often enough but I'm so thankful you're my mom and I get to live with you."

If you have followed my blog over the past few years, then you know how special it is for me to receive this text.

What's in the kitchen this week ...

I have had pecan pie for breakfast and leftover dressing and homemade cranberry sauce for lunch every day this week. I finished it off yesterday, and I am sad.

What we're reading ...

Mom:  First Sight by Danielle Steel.

Eli: The Encyclopedia of Game Machines by Winnie Forster.

Brynne: The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book by Jeff Kinney.

Things we're working on…

The week after Christmas always involves some form of organization. I went through Eli and Brynne's toys in their bedroom and reduced them down to the eight fabric totes they have on their shelves. I am dreading moving to the toys in the basement, but it must be done!

Rick and I decided not to switch bedrooms with the kids. As I started organizing I realized that they really need the bigger room to play. We ordered a new queen size bed for our bedroom (we have been sleeping on a SUPER old full size mattress for the past year and a half and it is time for a new bed!) It will fit in our current bedroom just fine, so we are going to stay put.

I’m grateful for …

my older kids' decisions to stay home beyond high school. Putting Kyndal and Dawson on the train gave me a shivering moment of realization of what it would be like to send them back to school after a holiday break. I do not want to have to do that. I like having them at home.

What's coming up this week ...

We do not have any plans this week except for basketball practice and Brynne's first basketball game next Saturday. Otherwise, I am doing more organizing and reading! Rick will be home until Wednesday. Dawson's on school break. And Kyndal will be back to school on Thursday after the New Year's holiday.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

We are all hoping Shawn T will help us get a Rockin' Body with his workout system!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Oh, What a Merry Christmas Day

Well, folks, it just doesn't get any better than this Christmas!

We started our celebrations last night with dinner and gifts at my mom and dad's and then Christmas Eve church service. We had a wonderful dinner of barbecue brisket, hash brown potatoes, homemade rolls, green beans, corn, pasta salad and fruit.

Church was amazing with our whole family attending! We took up a pew and a half. I played in the bell choir. Eli and Brynne passed out candles and then started the lighting of the candles while the congregation sang "Silent Night". It's a tradition at our church.

After we got home and opened our traditional Christmas Eve pj's, we put Eli and Brynne to bed upstairs in Dawson's room, turned on Christmas Vacation and started "Wrap-a-thon 2013". It only took Rick, Collin, Kyndal, Dawson and myself 2 1/2 hours to get it all done. We were soooo ready for bed at 1:30 a.m.

Kyndal came bounding into our room at 8:00 a.m. this morning ready to open presents. She called grandma and papa, and woke up the little kids. Eli was so excited that when he came into our room he said, "I'm getting ready to burst into tears."

After grandma, papa, Rylee and Cade showed up, we gathered in the living room to open presents. We first opened gifts from Santa and then opened all of our gifts from each other.

Eli received a new bowling ball and bag, a Nerf gun, Lego BatCave, a movie, a couple of video games, a vintage game system encyclopedia, a vintage GameCube, some characters for his Disney Infinity game, and some books.

Brynne received a bowling ball and bag, some Lego Friends sets, a Jesus and 12 Disciples playlet, some movies, Just Dance 2014, a beauty kit, a stuffed Santa, some clothes and pjs, and some books.

Kyndal received a new North Face jacket, some grey boots, some pjs, the Rockin' Body dvd set,  a phone case, a new Bible, a new duffle bag, some slippers and a Nike hoodie.

Dawson received an Xbox One, new Game Informer subscription, some movies, an Xbox game, a Star Wars clock, a Hollister hoodie, and a tiki candle warmer.

In everyone's stockings were gloves, a mini flashlight, underwear, chapstick, and candy.

After gifts I made some biscuits and gravy and cinnamon rolls. Then we started dancing. Just Dance 2014 is a hit!

Everyone was gone by about 11:00 a.m., and Eli and Brynne settled in for some Lego building.

I sat for the longest time, drinking coffee, while the dogs slept next to me, counting the many, many blessings I have in my life. I have an amazing family … and that is all that matters. We are blessed beyond measure with strong relationships, good health, and happy memories.

May you and yours enjoy the rest of your Christmas! I am getting ready to fix a Christmas meal to share with my parents, and to go visit my grandma at the nursing home.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reflections on a Decade

Ten years ago today Eli entered our world. He was a fragile little guy at just 5 1/2 pounds, and had suffered from IUGR (intra-uterine growth retardation). He was born with neurological delays that would present themselves over the course of a few years. With the possibility of autism looming, we had him evaluated as a two year old and determined that something was, indeed, amiss. He had many of the classic symptoms of being on the spectrum.

Eli is certainly a special kid. I would say that he is a normal 10 year old boy, but he is not. He is extraordinary! I do not know what we would do if he was "normal". He is so serious and honest and probably the most loving and affectionate kid you have ever met. He never meets a stranger and thinks of everyone as his friend. I have never met someone with more of a gift of encouragement than him. He enjoys each and every ordinary moment of life. He has had a lot of best days.

Over the past 10 years Eli has overcome many obstacles with a dimpled smile on his face. He gets frustrated when he can't be perfect at something, and we have to spend a lot of time talking him off the ledge as he gets stressed. But, other than a slight remaining stutter, you wouldn't know that he was different from any other kid … except that he is always sweet, well-behaved, and respectful. (You don't see that much these days.) And there is not a shy or mean bone in his body.

I am thrilled to call Eli my son. I love him so much it makes my heart hurt. I cannot imagine my days without him. I am honored that I get to teach him and, more often than that, to learn from him. He has taught me much in this decade of his life.

Eli Jackson Taulman, your mama loves you so much! Happy 10th birthday!

Weekly Wrap-up ~ 500 Hours and 10 Years

In our regular life this week…

The beginning of this week was BUSY! After a busy weekend in Tulsa and then our children's Christmas program at church on Sunday, we were beat on Monday! I spent the majority of the day getting my Business Law class loaded for the class start date of Tuesday. Then Tuesday morning it was time to deliver all of the gifts and food baskets for W. Children's Christmas Fund. We kept it quiet the rest of the week.

In our homeschool this week…

We basically just spent the week wrapping up a few things. The good news is that we have completed 500 hours of school this first semester, so we are now free to take our Christmas break! I have calculated our proposed days of school for the Spring semester and decided we are safe to take a break from school until January 13th. So we are on an extended Christmas break! Yay!!! Other than little organizing projects, this is what I am planning to do:

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

It was a little overwhelming to deliver the toys and food baskets to the needy families in our town on Tuesday. I received lots and lots of hugs and sincere "thank you's". I felt on Cloud 9 all day after having the opportunity to be a blessing to others less fortunate than myself.

A favorite thing this week was…

hearing some good news on my child support case. But, more than that, I spent some incredible time with God, feeling His presence, protection, and ultimate provision while I waited for the court's ruling. I am grateful for that time to really dig deep with God and realize the depth of His love for me and that no matter what happens, He will take care of my children.

What's in the kitchen this week ...

Quinoa, spinach and poached eggs … YUM! It is so easy to make and so, so yummy and only 160 calories!! Just fix each one separately and pile them on together, then break the yolks.

Last night we had some comforting potato soup (and are enjoying leftovers for lunch today.)

Christmas morning I will make our traditional cinnamon rolls and biscuits and gravy. I am also going to make an egg casserole this year. Then we will have an early Christmas dinner of pork tenderloin with homemade cranberry sauce, party potatoes, crock-pot dressing, and stuffed mushrooms.

With Rick home for the next week we have plans to eat salmon with veggies and rice, spinach-rolled sirloin steak and potatoes in the crock pot, and pork sliders.

What we're reading ...

Mom:  First Sight by Danielle Steel (I got back into it this week) and The Christmas Story by G. A. Myers (finished it … excellent book for Christmas).

Eli: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney.

Brynne: The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes by Marlane Kennedy.

Things we're working on…

I am working on teaching my class. The little kids are now doing everything they can to detox from school for a bit. Kyndal is still working hard at school and Dawson is now on Christmas break. He is still working, though, even on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

And do you know that little booger got up yesterday morning and walked the mile to work in the freezing drizzle at 6:00 a.m. because he didn't want to wake me or Rick up to help him de-ice his car. I was SO mad at him, but am also so proud of his work ethic! Rick got up and drove Kyndal the 30 miles to school, I think we could have handled a little de-icing just outside the house. He is such a nut.

Everybody is nailing down their last-minute Christmas gifts and our Christmas celebration schedule. Something just feels special about this Christmas.

I’m grateful for …

The little job offer Dawson received from Minecraft Homeschool to be a Head Game Master. It's a paying gig for playing Minecraft. It doesn't get much better than that for a 17 year old boy!

What's coming up this week ...

Well today is Eli's 10th birthday!! We were going to take him out to lunch and shopping to buy Lego kits with his birthday money from his grandparents, but since we were supposed to get ice we took him yesterday. Today we are home hanging out with him, playing his new Disney Infinity game!

We are going to Kansas City to eat dinner with extended family tomorrow night, will celebrate Christmas Eve with my family and go to church service, and then will have our traditional Christmas celebration here at home on Christmas Day. After Christmas Rick and I are finally switching bedrooms with Eli and Brynne, so we will be doing some painting and moving things around.

Happy birthday, buddy! We LOVE you!!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

The Cobras bowling team got their shirts this week. They all bowled above their averages yesterday!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Phil Robertson vs. A&E Debate

I just thought I would put in my two cents on this issue. Here is what I think is sad. The issue is not about whether or not Phil Robertson believes homosexuality is a sin or whether or not he proclaimed it for the world to hear. We should be worrying about what God thinks about it.

Isn't it just like satan to take a God-fearing man like Phil Robertson and use him for his glory? I wonder if the Robertsons have even taken the time to consider that.

I love how people, some of whom I know personally who are eons away from declaring God's power in their life or that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, have taken on the platform of proclaiming Phil Robertson as some sort of hero. He is being idolized, which is exactly what satan set out to do.

Gazillions of people are backing Phil Robertson. I wonder how many of them are God-fearing Christians who back what God, Himself, says?

We do not watch Duck Dynasty. And this is just another example of why we won't.

I think it's great that the Robertson family wants to use their show to proclaim their faith. But they are human. They will fail. They will make mistakes, just like all of us. We cannot put our belief in what they do or do not say.

Come on, people, do not be deceived into believing that you are going to learn God's Truths on reality television.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Each morning when I look at my e-mail account, it is flooded with junk e-mails. If I do not have time to deal with them right then, then before you know it I have about 600 e-mails that need sorted. It is overwhelming!

As I feel the suffocating effects of clutter in my life, both physical and mental, I feel the need to delete some things. And I have started with my e-mail account.

Each morning this week I have spent some time unsubscribing to e-mails from companies. I have especially unsubscribed from companies where I would be tempted to spend money! I do not want to know what percentage I can get off from Hollister or Old Navy or Kohls any longer. When I know how much money I can save, it tempts me to spend. And I need to spend less.

I do not want to know what exotic place I can vacation at a greatly discounted rate. I am not going anywhere, and all it does is cause me to feel a lack of contentment because I am not going there.

I get e-mails from Twitter and Pinterest, and I do not want them! I only have a Twitter account to post my homeschool product reviews, so I do not care what celebrities are saying. And I absolutely do not have the time or inclination to keep up with all that Pinterest has to offer. No thank you! I only signed up to be able to organize some of my homeschooling ideas. All Pinterest does is make me feel like I should be doing more, more, more when I want to be doing less, less, less.

I have found a way to overcommit myself in this small town where we live. And I am feeling the effects of it as we enter this Christmas season. I am tired and grumpy and any little bump in life sets me off.

So, I choose to Delete some distractions and get back to cozying up in my little home with my family, enjoying some good books and some quiet time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Be Blessed

Do you want to feel blessed?

Hug the neck of some mamas as you deliver Christmas gifts and food boxes to them.

Give a couple extra dollars in a tip to the young, single mom at Sonic, even when the service you received wasn't the best in the world.

Find extra meaning in your fortune cookie that says "You will bring sunshine into someone's life", because you know that you have today.

It's been a good day.

What can you do today to be blessed?

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Holly Jolly Weekend

The kids and I headed to Tulsa this past weekend to spend some time with Rick doing our favorite holiday activities.

We stayed at a fun hotel with a mini-waterpark inside. Eli and Brynne had lots of fun playing on the lily pads.

We visited Toys R Us for some birthday money shopping, went out to dinner at Los Cabos, and celebrated Christmas with Rick's family.

Then we went to see this guy.

We came home late on Saturday night because we had our church's children Christmas program on Sunday night. I directed the program which included a fun Christmas pageant. Brynne was one of the narrators and Eli was King Herod. They did a great job! I was so proud of all the kids!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bowled Over that He's Almost 10!

Eli's 10th birthday is coming up in a little over a week. We try to have his birthday party at the beginning of December each year to put some distance between it and Christmas. This year he wanted to have a bowling party. He is really into the video game Pitfall: The Lost Expedition and wanted that to be the theme of his party. So, he and I picked out a cake design and some party favors (that included candy and some small plastic jungle animals) and got to work making it "the best birthday party EVER!" He always says that.

I will say, though, that he seemed to have more fun this year than he has ever had. I don't know if it's because of his age, or that he enjoys his friends more, or if he just appreciates all he has (I tend to think it's the latter). But, he is one kid who can just have a great time and is just so joyful. His happiness is contagious!

I can't believe my little guy is almost a decade old. It's just crazy to think that a short time ago he was a tiny 5 1/2 pound baby boy. I love him with all my heart.

Friday, December 13, 2013

How to Teach About Electricity for Ages 8-13 by Susan Kilbride {Review}

Susan Kilbride has some of my favorite science unit studies! The kids and I have done her plants study, her atoms and molecules study, and reviewed her book Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers . She recently gave me the opportunity to review How to Teach About Electricity for Ages 8-13.

Susan's unit studies are very well-organized and planned out. This electricity unit study is set up like all of her others. The beginning of the study has a "Materials Needed" page that lists each and every thing you will need to complete the unit study. Some of the materials are those you have on hand, and some are those that will need to be purchased.

I appreciated that Susan had a chapter on Safety. As the experiments involved electricity, she had specific dos and don'ts for how to perform the experiments.

Two of the chapters and experiments we covered were on Static Electricity and Electrical Currents.

The Static Electricity chapter contained three fun activities that were easy to complete. They involved, primarily, balloons, which are always a hit in our house. We learned about negatively charged electrons and positive charges.

The Electrical Currents chapter had four activities. These required a little more help from me as there were wires to cut and prepare and there were light bulbs and battery holders that had to be constructed before the experiments. We learned a lot about how electrons flow in a current and how we can manipulate electrons by making a loop for them to flow in make a current.

The other chapters in the unit study include Switches, More Circuits, Short Circuits, and Electricity and Magnetism

As always, we really enjoyed the unit study, the information we learned, and the varied activities.

I do believe that the unit study would be better suited for kids around the 12-14 age range, though. My two are 8 and 9 and the topic was a little advanced for them. We did follow the recommendation of completing the Atoms and Molecules unit study, and that did help. However, this was a study that required a lot of my help and additional explanation. It was just too complicated for their ages.

As my teaching philosophy is "if you can't read it, you can't learn it", I helped the kids out in the unit study by checking out a great Magic School Bus book called The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip. It helped the kids visualize the entire process of electricity, so when we talked about the topics in the unit study they could better understand it at their learning level. My kids just appreciate a good picture book to help them see complicated topics.

I highly recommend How to Teach About Electricity for Ages 8-13 by Susan Kilbride. I might introduce the Atoms and Molecules study to a 10-12 year old child and then move onto the Electricity unit at ages 12-14.

You will be glad you used these studies as there is much to learn and the hands-on activities are fabulous. The Kindle version of How to Teach About Electricity for Ages 8-13 can be purchased on Amazon for $2.99. That is a bargain for the plethora of educational value you receive!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Exchanging What is Good for What is Better

In our regular life this week…

My brother Tim, sister-in-law Shawna, and niece Bell, are visiting this week. They have consumed our regular life as we try to squeeze in every second we can with them. We took some family photos while we were all together. Unfortunately we had to gather at night because of school and work schedules, so we didn't get any outside shots with good lighting. We just did the best we could.

In our homeschool this week…

School is good. Family is better. We did get lots of school work done this week, but we condensed it into shorter amounts of time because we wanted to maximize our time with my brother's family, and we have a special time planned with daddy in Oklahoma this weekend.

Spelling - Best Guess was a success this week. And, both kids got 100% on their Pre-tests so we don't have to take a final test. They learned about the long e sound using e, ea, ee, ei, ie, and y. They had the pleasure of learning the "i before e except after c" rule.

Grammar - We acted out more action verbs, and learned about transitive verbs and direct objects.

Reading - We finished reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, and I cried through the last several pages. The story is just so sweet and expresses the true meaning of Christmas.

Writing - We slowly worked on a news story about our trip to Oklahoma using the 5W's.

Math - We completed Lesson 18 in Math U See.

Handwriting - The kids completed five more lessons in Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Success

Geography - We watched more episodes of Liberty's Kids. We completed Episode 36 of 40.

Literature - In Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling (related activities), we learned how to measure pressure (kg per cm2) to see what animals would be more successful walking through the snow without sinking. We even factored in our own pressure calculations to see how we would fare against various animals. Then we talked about various scenarios between animals walking on the snow. We used Sid, Diego, and Manny from Ice Age as examples.

Extra - We did another rainbow lesson in science notebooking from Kindergarten Kindergarten. This time we mixed paint instead of water.

The kids continue to work on their Holiday Minecraft class. This week they learned about the Wild West.

Homeschool Tricks and Tips ...

Give your kids some independence in their work. I know a lot of homeschoolers use workboxes, but I am typically more hands-on than that. This week, however, I had to be out of the house for a couple of hours. So I saved their independent work for the afternoon and left them a list of subjects to complete. When I got home they are "happily" working away, checking off the items as they were completed.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We cannot wait to see our friends, the Linns, this weekend! They were our best friends in Oklahoma and we have missed them so badly! Megan and I did some unit studies together with our kids and they were just amazing friends. We have only seen them once since we moved back to Missouri so we are so thankful to get the chance to spend some time with them on Friday!

A favorite thing this week was…

spending time with my brother and his family. They live too far away and we miss them! They are getting ready to take a 6-month trip to Nicaragua. Please join me in praying for their safety in their travels!

What's in the kitchen this week ...

Easy foods again this week because we have been busy, busy, busy! Last night we had chicken fettucine because it's the kids favorite! When I got home from handbell choir practice, the kitchen was all cleaned up by a collaborative effort between Kyndal and Dawson and Kyndal, Eli and Brynne were sitting at the table playing Uno. I love to come home to that!

What we're reading ...

Mom:  First Sight by Danielle Steel. (I haven't touched it this week). The Christmas Story by G. A. Myers.

Eli: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney.

Brynne: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney.

Read-aloud: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (completed).

Things we're working on…

Wrapping up our school lessons for this semester (we're almost to 500 hours!), getting the gifts ready to deliver to the kids for the W. Children's Christmas Fund, making props for the Children's Christmas program at church this Sunday, enjoying family and friends and each other.

I’m grateful for …

my upcoming child support trial date. That has been a money-, time-, and energy-sucker that I am glad to conclude!

What's coming up this week ...

We are heading to Oklahoma this weekend to visit Santa at Bass Pro Shop, stay in a fun hotel, visit Toys R Us to spend some birthday money, see the Rhema Christmas lights, go out to dinner, visit our best friends, and celebrate Christmas with Rick's sister and her family.

Then next week we are focusing all of our lessons on Christmas. We are shooting to be done with our semester of school on Wednesday the 18th. We will take a break until January 13th.

Brynne has her first basketball tournament the weekend before Christmas and we will be celebrating Eli turning 10!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

I love this picture with my kids!