As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Friday, July 31, 2015

July Photo-a-Day Challenge {Week 4 and a bit more}

Summer days are racing by! We are keeping busy with one thing or another (or six) every day. 

Recently, I confessed to my friend Joanne that I felt like I was getting ready to be run over by the birthday train. (We have a gazundle of July and August birthdays and anniversaries in our family.) Later in our conversation, I said that I'd love to host a ladies' game night/dinner party in August and she said, "What?! That would be like throwing yourself on the tracks!" 

Yes, Joanne/Voice of Reason, it would. So I'll stay off the tracks and just do my best to keep up with the birthday train.

Today I am completing Kati's photo-a-day challenge for the month of July. Even though I can't believe that July is over. And I hear that train whistle right behind me...

day 22: tree
We planted two locust trees in our front yard when our oldest children were quite young.
One day my toddler son brought a "flower" he had picked for me.
It was the tiny locust tree.
(But what mother can refuse a gift given from the heart?)
The little stub that remained of the tree flourished and grew,
although it is still a wee bit shorter than its mate.

day 23: an ordinary moment
Ordinary in its every-dayness, but extraordinary all the same: morning coffee.

day 24: close-up
Petunia on the back porch.

day 25: far away
The long rows of corn lead back to the woods.

day 26: 9 o'clock
At 9 pm on day 26, we were on the edge of our seats!
This summer's shark activity on the East Coast (we saw one!!) had us talking about the movie Jaws.
Oh my. It was intense! Not our typical movie night.

day 27: cloud
Dark clouds brought some afternoon rain showers.

day 28: blue
Blueberry pie on a Blue Willow plate.

day 29: flip flops
Old Navy flip flops: one of the few things you can still buy for a dollar. 
(At least when they're on sale.)

day 30: shapes
When our friends took a trip to Israel, Kati and Bekah cared for their pets.
They were paid well, but our friends also brought them each a gift. 
Bekah's is a ceramic dish based on an actual mosaic of the loaves and fishes.
She keeps it on her nightstand where it sometimes holds earrings overnight.

day 31: morning
The morning sun spotlights the multitude of blooms on the limelight hydrangea.

This week (and a bit more) has found a couple of us under the weather, cancelling plans, rescheduling activities, cancelling again, cleaning out the laundry room, and shopping for birthdays.

What  has been happening in your world this week? 

* * *

Click ~ here ~ to see how others have met the photo-a-day challenge!

Thank you, Kati, for encouraging me this month to get my camera out of the bag and into the little details of daily life!

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Canning Story

Ron and I are a little like The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse. My growing up years were spent in small towns, in neighborhoods. His growing up years were spent in the country, on a farm. When we got married, we had a few --ummmm-- cultural differences. (Ask me about the first chicken killing.) (No, don't.) 

When the first summer of our married life rolled around, Ron planted a garden. A big garden. It was what his family had always done. He seemed happy enough planting and weeding and watching things grow. 

But then. 

He began harvesting. 

And I was surprised shocked overwhelmed at the harvest!

He would come in with bushel baskets full of tomatoes. Green beans. Lima beans. Corn. 

And Town Mouse Girl had no idea what to do with all of the bounty.

Thankfully, Country Mouse Boy was willing to help and teach. I snipped (thousands of) beans and shelled (millions of) limas and shucked (mountains of) corn. He taught me how to can the tomatoes and beans and how to freeze the limas and corn. Actually, we canned together. I was the helper as he led the operation. The pressure canner was (is) scary to me. (And my fears were confirmed when my niece had a canning mishap resulting in a kitchen full of hot green beans, but thankfully, only minor injuries. Yikes!)

I did not learn to love it, neither the gardening nor the canning/freezing process. It was just too overwhelming to me...all of that produce, especially as I spend two summers very pregnant (August babies two years apart) and summers with babies and toddlers and summers with no air conditioning. I would cringe when I saw those heaping baskets at the back door. My memories of the storybook wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana will always be intertwined with snipping mountains of green beans as I watched!

Over the years, Ron scaled back the garden to a more manageable amount. We gradually canned less and less. Eventually, we canned only "specials" like pepper relish, green pepper jelly, and an occasional batch or two of jam. (Remember, Ron is the canner; I am the helper.)

A few years ago, Lorraine (With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart) shared a recipe for Peach Chutney. I made it and served it to our dinner guests who suggested that I might try preserving it. Hmmm... I could do this in a water bath canner, avoiding Mr. Big Scary Pressure Canner.

I did it!! Without help too!

Oh, the thrill of the ping as the jars sealed!

(Don't laugh at me, experienced canners and farm friends. It was a thrill!)

So now I am hooked. (On small canning projects, that is. I still don't want a bushel basket of green beans to can.) In fact, last summer I asked for the book Food in Jars for my birthday and I was inspired by the tempting recipes and beautiful jars.

My goals for this canning season:
  • Strawberry Vanilla Jam   This recipe is from Food in Jars. It is the best strawberry jam I have ever eaten! (I let Ron help me this time. ~smile~) 
  • Blueberry Butter   Also from Food in Jars. Delicious.
  • Peach Chutney  Last year's batch was gone long ago. I gave several away as hostess gifts. We need some more.
  • Green Pepper Jelly  Green pepper jelly and cream cheese on crackers is a go-to hors d'oeuvres at our house.

So this Town Mouse has finally learned to enjoy canning (on a small scale). Maybe it's not too late to teach an old dog mouse new tricks.

What about you? Do you can/preserve? Do you have a canning story? 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

When Did I Become a Homeschool Expert?

When did I become a homeschool expert?

The answer to that question is...never. I never have, and probably (considering that I have only four years to go) never will.  

Oh, I have learned a lot in my homeschool journey of twenty-four years. I certainly feel more confident that I did in the summer of 1991 when I was getting ready for our first homeschool year, reading like crazy, planning unit studies, ordering curriculum, planning our schedule. I was afraid I would make that one giant mistake that would either ruin my kids or cause The Authorities to swoop down on me and deem that I was doing it all wrong or was not doing enough. 

Yes, I am more confident...compared to that

But I have to confess something.

Every year as I am looking ahead and planning for our next year of studies, I have qualms. I still sweat my choices. Because I don't believe in cookie cutter courses (the same thing, the same style, the same order for everyone), that means that our options are many. As I peruse homeschool catalogs or talk to my homeschool friends, I can get excited about a lot of things, but what is the best for my child? So much depends on the individual student -- her passions, her abilities, her needs. How do I prepare her for her future when I don't know what is ahead for her? There is so much that I just don't know.

I hope my confession doesn't discourage new homeschooling mamas! I think I can hear you saying, "You mean I may never get to the place where it's all easy-peasy-no-sweat-I-know-what-I'm-doing?!"

Hold on, Mamas. Hear me out. 

Recently, alone in my van while out running errands (think time), I was going through the myriad of homeschool thoughts and ideas and their pros and cons in my brain, but my focus was not clear. And I stopped. Not the van...the spinning thoughts. Why am I muddled? Am I making these decisions alone?

Then I prayed something like this...

Father, I feel so inadequate for the task. Teaching my child, preparing her for what is ahead is a big deal. I don't see Bekah's future. I don't know everything. In fact, I know very little. But You...You see. You know. You know what she will need to prepare her for what lies ahead. I pray for your divine guidance as I map out our school year. Help me.
Here I am, spinning my wheels about academics, but it is even more important that she be prepared spiritually, that her character is strengthened, that she hears from You. You knit her together before she was born, during those days of difficult pregnancy and hope. You had planned for her life from the start. Help us to be the parents who aid and encourage Your plan for her. 
So as I make choices for Bekah's ninth grade year, I ask for Your leading, as One whose love and care for her surpasses my own. 

And that, my friends, is where confidence comes in. It is not confidence in my wisdom or my years of experience or my hunches. It is only when I put my confidence in the Lord that I can rest in His plan for my life, for the lives of my children, and for our future.

Yes, I still have to do the legwork. I have to plan, and I must implement the plan. As I write this, I have yet to choose our science for this year or decide whether I will begin a writing club. But I am trusting that He will direct our paths because we have acknowledged Him. (Proverbs 3:5.6)

So while I'll never consider myself an expert, I can begin this twenty-fifth year of homeschooling with the confidence that He is!

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
Proverbs 13:26

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July Photo-a-Day Challenge {Week 3}

Continuing with Kati's photo-a-day challenge for the month of July...

day 15: sign
Joanne and I met at Panera for our monthly Mama Coffee.
(Love Mama Coffee. Love Joanne! Everyone should have a Mama Coffee friend. It is good for the soul.)
This sign was in the window behind me and I turned around and snapped this photo so we could continue our conversation.

day 16: indoors
A batch of blueberry butter. Yummy on toast. Yummy on a biscuit.

day 17: on the shelf
Atop some of my Heidi books 
is a pair of small wooden shoes that Ron's dad brought home from Germany where he served during WWII.
One shoe holds a thimble, the other a pin cushion. 

day 18: animal/insect
Pinky was stalking our hot dog roast, underneath and blending in with the black tables.

day 19: black and white
I put Bekah in black and white, portrait style.

day 20: colorful
My friend Jodi made this gorgeous appliqued table runner for me. I love it!

day 21: red
Red is everywhere at Chuck E. Cheese's!
Kristin and I have been taking the kids there once a summer for years. 
They insist that they have not outgrown it yet. :)

This week we have delivered a piece of furniture, had a grand sleepover, done lots of laundry, endured the heat, cleaned out some kitchen cabinets, and thought about a new school year.

What  has been happening in your world this week? 

* * *

Click ~ here ~ to see how others are meeting the photo-a-day challenge!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Weekend Snapshots: Summer Sleepover

It was the weekend of the annual Summer Sleepover at Papa and Gran's house. Another couple of days to make some memories...for the children, yes, but also for us. We are all too aware that our oldest grandchild will be 13 on his next birthday. Of course, you're never too old to make memories, but childhood is fleeting and we don't want to miss it. So we revel in the time we have to spoil them just a little. Yes, you may have three s'mores. Yes, you may play computer games. Yes, you may stay up way past your bedtime. Yes, Papa will make a run to Dunkin' Donut on Sunday morning so that we can have junk food for breakfast. (No, we won't break family rules, but we certainly will indulge where we can.) 

A two-day Monopoly game

Bekah likes her marshmallows black.
(So do her sisters, and so do I.)

Alaine went with Aunt Kati to buy this watermelon.
Aunt Kati reported that she was very selective, rejecting some for their appearance and thumping them to check for ripeness.
So cute!!
(Apparently, she knew what she was doing because it was a good one!)

We have been blessed with lots of grand time this summer! And guess what?!
Photo by Kristin

Yes!! Grand #10 will be arriving after the first of the year!!
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