Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Playing in the Snow!

Today the wind died down and even though it was still really cold outside the kids braved the elements and went out to play. Will climbed up in the attic to get the sleds down so they could all have fun in the yard.

Will, Amy & Katie


At this point, they were close to freezing. But I had to get my pictures!
Then we added in the cousins...Charlie & Samantha!

The kids were just about frozen when they came inside. Red cheeks and frozen fingers. It looks like snow but its really ice now, it is packed solid.

We hit the road tomorrow for points south. The weather is turning nasty up here in the next 24 hours and we are getting out of Dodge!

Monday, December 28, 2009

On the Road

We are traveling. This is going to be our new after Christmas tradition. We are going to try and stay home for Christmas and then travel between Christmas and New Years. We are still figuring out this blended family tradition stuff. I really think this was our most relaxed holiday yet.

Saturday we got up, loaded the RV and the kids and drove to Granny's house in GA. After dinner we opened gifts. Mom had already bought me and Greg and combo gift, but she surprised me with some "mad money" just for me to spend. The mind is working but I haven't spent any yet. Then my sister and hubbie and my niece and nephews came over on Sunday to have Christmas again. We let "Little Ceasars" cook lunch and all ate our fill of pizza. More gifts and lots of fun.

Monday morning we pulled out of Mom's driveway...not an easy feat on a hill in an RV, and started on our trek to VA to Greg's parents house. Greg (being the super homeschool dad that he is) found us a battlefield to visit (Cowpens in SC), so that we could get another stamp in our National Park Passport. Several years ago we got an annual pass for National Parks and its something we have thoroughly enjoyed having. After our picnic lunch we started heading north again. Keep in mind that it snowed up here a week and a half ago---14 inches. In Winston-Salem, NC we started noticing patches of snow, but here in VA is small patches of grass and lots of snow....2 or 3 inches still of snow and its COLD! (Us Miss. Magnolia's may freeze) Its really pretty and I hope tomorrow to get some pictures. And more Christmas frivolities tonight. So we've had 4 days of Christmas. My sister in law just came through and told me it was getting colder tonight and the wind was supposed to really blow, great colder weather!

The RV has some generator issues, so we may have to go home and not camp. We'll have to see what tomorrow holds. We have camped in the winter with no heat and its not fun. Camping in a tin can is not cozy, in fact its downright cold.

I was blessed with 4 new cookbooks for Christmas this year...Once A Month Cooking, An Amish Cookbook by Wanda Brunstetter, A Church Potluck Cookbook & Feed your Family for $75 a week...there will be new recipes on our Menu's. Then I've gotten new books to read and gardening magazines to ponder. Greg & I bought the "Entrepenuer Boot Camp" set from Vision Forum, so we are listening to the CD's during all of our driving time...and getting some good ideas about starting a business sometime in the future. We are also diving into financial books to strengthen our knowledge of the Lord's way to best use our resources. We've got all the Dave Ramsey books, which we follow, and we ordered some Larry Burkett books last week.

We are going to be making some changes with our tv viewing habits, our Bible reading times, coming together as a family to accomplish goals, and habits/character traits/attributes we want our children to develop and build upon. We have got lots of plans for projects at home. I've already got some Christmas gifts in mind for next year, that I need to start working on...51 weeks to go! We have 2 Mission Trips we are taking, Honduras the end of Jan. and Ohio the end of June.

2009 was a great year. We were blessed with Katie's miraculous, speedy recovery from shattering her ankle (jumping in a moonwalk inflatable, long story, freak accident). We visited with family in GA, VA & TN. Greg is in his 3rd year of graduate school, completing his Masters and making awesome grades. The older boys are all employed or doing well in college! Amen! The younger 3 are enthusiastic homeschoolers who are learning more and more every day. And I am blessed and so thankful to be a homemaker, a wife, and a stay at home mom!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We've had a very calm & peaceful Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. This is the 2nd Christmas that we have celebrated in Mississippi. The others, we have been in GA. I'm with Greg...this is going to be our new tradition. We can travel and see grandparents between Christmas & New Years (we are leaving tomorrow).

Yesterday started with making homemade waffles for breakfast. Then Greg & I went to run a couple of last minute errands. The traffic wasn't bad, but Borders Book Store was packed and they didn't have what we wanted. Hobby Lobby was relatively uncrowded! We also spent alot of time with Katie, Will , Amy & James playing the Wii. We did the bowling and the "whats your age" fitness test. Last night we did a snack supper...scallops rolled up in bacon, popcorn chicken, bagel bites, Rotel cheese dip & chips, tater tots, & little egg rolls. Then we went outside to take pictures of our house with the lights all turned on, bright & cheery. Amy made us chocolate fondue and dipped marshmallows into it. Note to self: next time use milk chocolate not semi sweet. It was rich and good and gooey. Then we all watched "White Christmas", great Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye movie. More Wii bowling and then off to bed with Visions of Sugarplums dancing in our heads.

This morning started with loaded stockings & candy bags and then the gifts. My kids must have been good this year cause Santa fulfilled their wishes. We are thankful he left us a Wii Fit Game because we have eaten lots of goodies and more to come. James cooked our breakfast and it was good. My darling husband gave me new books to read, cross stitch patterns to stitch, a necklace, and some gardening magazines. Guess I was good too this year! Greg & Katie made us shrimp & grits for lunch. Super yummy & a new Jackson family tradition. Andy & his girl Amy Kate and Sarah (Rob's girlfriend) are on their way over so we are doing grilled steaks and baked potatoes for dinner. Soon all of our kiddos will be under one roof & that makes me a happy mama!

Hope your day has been as blessed as ours!

Mama we are coming to GA tomorrow! Love You!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry CHRISTmas!!!!!!

T'was The Night Before Jesus Came...

'Twas The Night Before Jesus Came'
written by Unknown Author

'Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed.
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter.
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be THE DAY!

The light of His face made me cover my head
It was Jesus! returning just like He had said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;
When He said "it's not here" my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to His Father above.

With those who were ready He rose without a sound.
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late;
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There's only one life and when comes the last call
We'll find that the Bible was true after all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Swag Bucks

I've been reading on different frugal blogs about SwagBucks where you get "paid" when you use their tool bar to search on the internet. But, I wanted to test it out before I recommended it...so here goes.

Click on the swagbucks button located to. the right on my blog and it will take you to their website. Then you download their search bar onto your computer. Instead of searching for stuff through google, you use the swagbucks bar (powered by google, if I remember correctly) and earn swagbucks. The first weeks after I downloaded this, I randomly searched to see if I could find some swagbucks and was somewhat successful. Now, I just type in websites that I am going to visit and sometimes the bucks pop up (it will tell you if you have found one, or two or however many and you just claim your bucks) they will be automatically credited to your account. Just claim them and keep right on going. The toolbar will keep a running total of your bucks.

On their homepage you can click on the prizes button to see what you can win. I have used 45 bucks go claim $5 in Amazon cash ( you credit it to your amazon account just like a gift card) and I have done a $5 paypal payout to my account. I've done the Amazon 3 times. I ordered Greg a book for Christmas and it came yesterday...so now I can officially and publicly say...it works.

Why click on my button on the blog? Cause like everything else, I will get credited a buck or two when you sign up through my blog. I am now saving my Amazon credits to pay for goodies throughout the next year.

And it doesn't cost you a penny...nothing...nada...zip. Swagbucks come up several times a day when you type facebook into the search instead of hitting the facebook link in your favorites.

So please give this a try! It can only save you money!

***Neat thing about the book...I heard about this book on The Dave Ramsey show and wanted to get it. Its "QBQ, Question Behind the Question" by John G. Miller (practicing personal accountability at work and in life). At Borders this book was $19.99, I found it on Amazon for $4.99 (like new condition). Besides the book being in perfect condition...its autographed by the author. What a cool bonus I was not expecting. I gave the book to Greg last night and he discovered the autograph!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Andy & Rob are 22 !

Happy Birthday Rob & Andy! They are 22 today.

Being twins they share a bond that none of the rest of us "get". They finish each others sentences, like the same things, eat the same foods, watch the same shows and read the same books. And sometimes they do things that we just can't believe....see the picture below! (I can't pose this stuff people...I just seize the opportunity and catch it on film) This is slightly disturbing on several different levels but we love them anyway!

And then they pose for the picture below and "all is right with the world".
Left to right are...Amy Kate, Andy, Rob & Sarah.
Happy Birthday boys, We Love You!

Christmas Cookies



CHRISTMAS COOKIE RULES

If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookies is the test & thus calorie free.
If you eat a Christmas cookie while drinking a diet soda, the cookie has no calories because the diet soda cancel out the cookie calories.
If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Its calorie free...goes back to rule 1. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free also.
Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. this is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.
Any calories consumed during the frosting of the cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.
Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have 3 and green ones have 5 ~ one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!
Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.
As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.
Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate.

AND we all know how calories like to CLING.
Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. Its a rule.
So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies ~ we only get them this time of year!
I can't claim credit for that brilliant piece of dietary rules...I copied it from an email my sister sent to me this morning.
However, let me reiterate and clarify a few things, just in case it didn't sink in..cookies have no calories if you eat during a movie, right out of the oven, with a friend, steal from anothers plate, are stressed, lick the icing knife, are broken or drink a diet drink.
This sounds like the beginning of a great new Christmas tradition to me...invite all your friends over to bake, decorate and consume. You eat off everyone else plate and no calories! And just to be safe...watch "Miracle on 34th Street"...better safe than sorry.
Changing from red to green was stressful...time to go find some Christmas cookies!
Happy Munching!!!!!




Friday, December 18, 2009

Frugal Friday Post - Staying Home


This time of year there are so many places to go, things to see, sales to hit & people to visit. Everything is vying for our attention and our money. For the next week, folks will be frantically shopping, wrapping, planning and strategizing how to get it all done. Christmas comes every year on December 25, its not a surprise to anyone, so how come folks leave everything till the last minute? The best bargains are found when you shop around and plan ahead.

Starting today, we will be celebrating 4 birthdays in 7 days. James turns 26 today, Rob & Andy turn 22 on Monday and our Lord's birthday is Friday! What a great week! Greg is taking us all out to eat dinner at Backyard Burger tonight (last time we all went out was in Sept. for my b'day, not a frugal night but a fun family night)

We are staying home for Christmas this year. So the next week will be full of cooking, celebrating, playing games, doing crafts, reading books, eating goodies, watching movies, wrapping gifts, and keeping Christmas secrets. None of these cost anything.

So many people have forgotten what fun you can have at home, they constantly want to go, go, go and be entertained. Many people wander around shopping malls buying stuff they don't need and can't afford because they are bored (I used to be one of them). Then what really gets me, is folks who plan all kinds of activities, play dates, movie mornings etc. when their kids are out of school because the kids will be bored and they don't want to fool with them.

So here are some ideas for things to do when you are at home.....
1. Play a board game. We like blokus, monopoly, scrabble, yahtzee & dominoes.
2. Cook a special treat. Right now in your pantry, you probably have the ing. for cookies, or brownies or a cake.
3. Watch a Christmas movie or tv special together.
4. Listen to Christmas music.
5. Play a game system together...Wii, Nintendo, Play Station. I don't play these too much but I do love the Wii bowling (I used to bowl on a league in my younger days).
6. Make christmas cards, gift tags etc. Construction/scrapbook paper, stickers and markers are great things to make holiday cards.
7. Pop popcorn & drink hot chocolate, nice & cosy!
8. Attend church together: wonderful message, great music!
9. Turn everything off and read a good book.
10. Enjoy your family while they are still young. Our kids are 26, 21, 21, 20, 16, 15, & 13. Believe me, they grow up too fast!

Have yourself a merry, joy filled, stressfree, family fun Christmas!

Hop on over to Frugal Fridays at www.lifeasmom.com for more frugal ideas!

26 Years Ago


26 years ago, at 8:54pm, I became a Mom for the very first time! James Steven McDaniel arrived on the scene with a tiny bit of blonde hair and big blue eyes. It was love at first sight! What a perfect Christmas gift!

I remember holding him for hours and just looking at his little face. Well, when I could get him away from his Granny & Grandaddy Bill. My daddy was thrilled to have a boy to take fishing and out in the woods! They had a really special relationship.

We didn't hold James for long though...he started walking at about 9 1/2 months. I remember sitting in his bedroom floor and he toddled out of the room, then came back, waved and kept on walking. He hasn't slowed down since.

On his 1st birthday, Mom & I took him to see Santa. I ended up sitting on Santa's lap with James in my lap to take a picture. On his 2nd birthday, we took him again and James wouldn't get anywhere near him. I told Santa it was James' birthday and Santa got everyone in line to sing the Happy Birthday song.....he was James' friend then and he happily went to sit on Santa's knee so I could get the picture.

So a big, loving Happy Birthday to my oldest child! I love you James!

The above picture was taken at my birthday in Sept., I made James take off his UGA hat because we were in a restaraunt...he was reaching for it to plop back on his head. The only time he doesn't wear it is in church, other than that its pretty much on his head!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Kitchen is Reborn!


This year my kitchen got a much needed, much wanted, much dreamed about, much anticipated makeover! (Can ya tell I was excited?) I honestly don't know which part I was more excited about...its a toss up on several areas. First was the NEW, large, convection oven with flat cooking surface on the top. My original oven was tiny and cooked unevenly on the one rack we could use in the middle. If you cooked on the top rack, the tops of everything burned ~ cooking on the bottom rack resulted in burned bottoms of everything. And sometimes, even the middle was unpredictable. We love to cook and bake so this presented many problems. Also, Greg had to mutilate some of my cookie sheets, so that they would even fit. Enter, Donna's new toy! Now some folks just may not get this excited about a new appliance but I did.....hence the picture!

This oven is great! I can cook of 3 different racks at the same time! I can cook 2 pans of cookies together on the same rack. Its a miracle! And now, you may be wondering about the fate of my former, tiny wall oven. Its still in the kitchen. Its the storage "cabinet" for my Pyrex & Corning Ware dishes. Works well for me!


My next favorite renovation was the kitchen floor. The kitchen, dining room, & entry hall were all covered with a faux brick tile. I can honestly say...I hated it. It was uneven and uncomfortable. Standing on it for too long a time, made my feet, legs, & back ache. So my wonderful family took great pleasure in busting up the tile. (Its a great tension reliever) Thats was a mess quite like nothing I had ever experienced. Then Greg bought me these gorgeous, flat, easy on the feet tiles and they were installed on the kitchen floor. Before these were purchased, I tested them in the store. Many tiles look flat but aren't really, these passed the test. The grout is done and its the color of mud. Thats the best way to describe it. We've got 7 kids & 2 dogs. Mud colored grout worked well for me. And if you look closely at the counter tops, you can see that they were resurfaced with a beautiful granite looking formica.

Today my new beautiful kitchen will get another workout. The girls & I are cooking Christmas goodies. On the list is Haystacks, Brownies (both of those the girls bribed Rob with for him rearranging their furniture), chocolate chip muffins & cookies, fudge, and Christmas Crunch.




Here is the recipe for Christmas Crunch

16~2oz. squares vanilla candy coating
6 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Cheerios (original)
2 cups pretzel sticks (we usually break into thirds)
1 3/4 cup mini m & m's

Microwave the candy coating at high for 3 minutes or until melted, stir after 2 minutes.

Combine cereals & pretzels in a bowl and stir. Pour melted candy coating over cereals and mix well (a wooden spoon is great for this step). Then add the m & m's and mix again.

Spoon mixture onto 2 wax paper lined cookie sheets (with sides) and let cool in refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

Break into bite sized pieces and store in an airtight container.

*You can also add 2 cups cashews, but my family just prefers the cereal and pretzels. I add the m & m's last because they tend to melt and bleed into the chocolate if you add sooner.

My kids and husband love this treat and it usually doesn't last too long!

Enjoy!

Or as Julia Childs would have said "Bon Appetite"



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have you ever Wondered where the Lord is leading you?

The beautiful group of young adults belong to Greg & I. Back row is Katie (holding Hershey), Rob, & Andy. Seated in the front are Allen, Will (holding Mack), Amy & James.

Have you ever wondered what was going on in your life? Have you ever looked up and realized the Lord was moving and leading but you don't know where? Have you ever realized that the Lord was smoothing a path for you, your husband, and/or your children but you don't know to what end? Do you ever think like me or just sit back and let things happen and never wonder?

The Lord is moving in our lives and we don't have any answers to any of the above questions. We just feel his presence and action in our lives. Its a very hard thing to put into words, but he is definately in some decisions we are facing & making. He has brought different books, CD's, radio broadcasts, etc. to our attention. He has multiplied and blessed in ways that amaze us. Looking back over the last year, so much has happened & changed but you don't realize this until you take the time to stop & think about it. Greg will be eligible for retirement in 7 years or so and some of these decisions are post-retirement thoughts & prayers. Alot of planning & praying will be happening over the years to come.

We have got 7 amazing children. The Lord has blessed them with employment & decent wages. The Lord brought Andy & Allen new jobs this past year. Several of our children are praying about decisions that will greatly change their lives. We are privileged & honored to be able to pray for them. We are thankful for good grades for our college students (Rob & Greg). We were blessed to take Katie, Will & Amy to Oklahoma on a Mission Trip in June and watched the Lord work through these 3 young adults as they worked with & loved the Indian children. They seem to have a heart for missions and that is exciting. We were made keenly aware that Will has a tender heart & a gift for working with pre-schoolers. These 3 also got to serve at VBS this summer and had another fun week of working with children. Greg & I were offered the opportunity to travel to Honduras in Jan. & cook for a mission teams of doctors, childrens ministers & construction workers. This will be our 3rd trip down there in 4 years. Katie came to me and asked if she could go also, so she is going with us. Then the Lord paved a way for Katie's friend Shelby to go also. I can't wait to see what the Lord does on this trip, these 2 young ladies are excited for this new adventure.

The Lord is leading us to visit new places, experience different cultures & worship styles, read new books, learn new skills, & minister in different ways to others.

We don't know what the future holds. But we are excited about the possibilities! And are "waiting on the Lord" to see where he is leading or what doors he is opening next.

Please go to the list of blogs that I read and visit Jennifer at Saving & Giving. She has got a great post today about her family...Not making it to church on Sunday. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Its worth taking the time to read.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Frugal Friday - Shopping

Did you know shopping can be a very frugal experience? Most people would think those 2 words ~ shopping, frugal ~ don't really go together but they can. It just depends on "how" you shop.

Yesterday, the kids and I went shopping. They still had several Christmas presents to buy for several of their older brothers. Before shopping, we fortified ourselves with lunch at Chick Fil A, using our stash of coupons. Many, many stores are competing for your money, so they are offering some deals to make sure you shop with them. They found some great deals on things they purchased.

We found some gorgeous glittery ornaments at Penneys that they all 3 loved. My comment was, we can make that. So the hunt was on. First was Hobby Lobby. We did get the glitter glue there using a 40% off coupon. Their ornaments were 1/2 price but that still made the box $10. Next, we went to Target. We got boxes of ornaments for $2.50. Altogether we purchased the 2 boxes and the glitter glue for less than 1/2 the price of the original ornaments at Penneys. But, we have double the amount of ornaments. This will be an art project within a couple of days.

When we were at Walmart last spring we found Wilton Gingerbread Cake kits for .25. Since we don't eat our houses (they are just for decoration) I didn't have a problem buying the kits. Thats another art project next week. We will add some more candy & icing to the kits.

My husband and I shop year round. If we find something cool, we buy it and put it up for Christmas. Most stuff goes in the back of our closet and we try to make a list or we will forget about some purchases. Last year all the boys got Polo shirts. We found them at an outlet with 1/2 off the clearance price, which made them affordable. I have found cross stitch kits for $1, books on clearance, or books free on Paperback Swap.com, boxers & sleep pants at Old Navy for .99 or less, some great surprises at the $1 store, etc. Just keep your eyes open and have a little extra cash so that when you find these bargains, you can take advantage of them.

Stocking stuffers are fun purchases. The girls like girly, feminine stuff...bath gels, nail polish, makeup kits, cutesy pencils & pens, etc. Last year we did all candy in the stockings. The girls requested a seperate bag as a gift with girly stuff, they didn't want to miss out on the pampering. This year the stockings will be a mix of stuff. All year long, I have sent off for samples of various products, found stuff in clearance bins, bought candy clearanced after Halloween, and taken advantage of coupons/sales to get some stuff almost free. The All You Magazine from Walmart has been a great source of coupons. Plus the programs at Walgreens & CVS with the extra bucks you earn when you purchase certain products.

Ask your kids what they want for Christmas and birthdays. I am very guilty of buying stuff they want AND more stuff that I want for them. I am getting better but still not recovered from this habit completely. Honestly, this year I have more stuff like this for Greg than the kids (should excite him).

I realize that shopping for some people is a chore. They want to get the predetermined item, purchase it, and exit (Dave Ramsey talks about this in Financial Peace). I like to SHOP. Look around, compare prices, see whats available. Sometimes Greg shops with me, he loves the clearance racks at Belks...great deals for just a little money.

I have read some awesome blogs in the last couple of days with great gift ideas for little ones, gifts baskets for all ages, coupon gifts for family & friends, etc. There are tons of ideas out there just waiting to be found. Have fun.

And MERRY CHRISTMAS (I don't do Happy Holidays).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homemade Laundry Detergent & Fabric Softener

About 10 months ago, I decided to experiment with making homemade laundry detergent. I had read about this on other blogs and thought it sounded intriguing. I was willing to give it a try especially since the ingredients for the detergent cost much less than 1 bottle of the liquid I was already using. First, I did alot of research because I wanted to make sure it was safe for use in a High Efficiency Washer. I didn't want to have suds spewing from my washer. The following was a recipe I found on www.thefamilyhomestead.com.

Clothes Washing Detergent

1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
1 bar Ivory Soap

Grate the bar of Ivory into a large saucepan, add 6 cups of water. Heat & stir until soap melts. then add the washing soda & borax, stir until dissolved.
Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot tap water into a 5 gallon bucket. Add soap mixture & stir. Then add 2 gallons water & stir again.
Let soap sit for about 24 hours & it will gel.
Stir one final time.
Use 1/4 cup per load (front load HE washer)
Use 1/2 cup per load (top load washer)

*I buy the Ivory soap at Kroger when the bars are 3 for $1. The bucket I got free for asking in the Kroger bakery department. My mom saved me some of her detergent bottles and after the final stir I transfer to these other bottles. Its just easier for me to pour out of instead of using the big bucket daily.

And just how much do I save using this.....I was spending $10-$12 twice a month for detergent. This cost me about $6 in supplies for the first 3 buckets of detergent which equals about 1/2 cent per load. I still have plenty of the borax and washing soda (get on the detergent aisle at the grocery or walmart). Those 2 items will probably last another year, I buy the Ivory when I find it on sale and store in the cabinet. So $22 per month (average) for 10 months is $220 but I spent $7 for the same amount of time for my supplies (did have to buy another 3 bars of ivory). So I have saved $213 just in laundry detergent costs for the year! Thats exciting! I would much rather spend that money on food and not on something that will be washed down the drain.

*You can also put a small amount of the detergent on clothes stains. Just drop it on and rub it in, then wash as usual. Works really well and you just saved more money not buying a stain remover!

Homemade Fabric Softener

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups vinegar
1 cup hair conditioner

Combine ingredients & mix well. Put into a pourable container (I use an old fabric softener bottle). Shake well before each use.
Use 1/3 cup in each load in place of commercial fabric softener.

*I buy the vinegar in the largest bottles walmart sells ~ price is less than $3 a bottle. Hair conditioner is usually Suave because I can get it for about .50 a bottle at Kroger with their sale and my coupon they double. I bottle of conditioner makes 2 batches of softener. I haven't really figured out the price savings on this, its not as significant as the detergent, but its still at least 75% or more cheaper than using Downey.

*Put the ing. in the bottle in the order shown, it will mix up better and not foam as much. I did the conditioner first one time, I had a really foamy mess on my hands.

*My bottle is big enough to double this recipe. Instead of measuring the conditioner, I just put in 1/2 of the bottle...even when doubling it. It still works great.

****For white loads, I just use vinegar in the rinse cycle and not the conditioner. It works great and your towels are more absorbent. And the vinegar smell rinses away so your clothes will not smell like pickles!

Making the softener takes less than 5 minutes. Making the detergent takes 10-15 minutes. These were very worthwhile and profitable experiments for our family.

Oh yeah, I read that instead of buying the expensive cleaners for the flat top, ceramic cooking surface, to use baking powder and a damp plastic scrubber instead. So I gave it a try...looks just as good as the ceramic cleaner did...you just need to use a tiny bit more elbow grease!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Appreciation & Acknowledgement

In this busy, busy time of the year lets remember to show appreciation and acknowledge kindnesses. It is so easy to "forget" to say thank you or I appreciate the job you did or thanks for your hard work. Do you ask people to do things for you & thank them or do you expect them to do something for you & then you forget about it? You may not think its a big deal, but it is.

Unfortunately, the world is full of folks who want everything and give nothing. I am not talking about material possessions but instead am talking about returning favors, asking if you can help, praying for each other, speaking a kind word, or saying Thank You.

As a Mom, I am guilty of wanting to get everything done and sometimes forgetting the help it took to get to "done". My girls are wonderful kitchen helpers...from cleaning out & loading the dishwasher everyday, wiping off the counters, keeping our tea & koolaid pitchers filled, and making us goodies. My 5 guys are wonderful, strong young men who help with outside chores, moving stuff in & out of the attic, decorating our yard for Christmas, keeping the pool clean, running errands, etc. Will is my #1 garbage collector, pool vacummer & dog feeder. My husband is a great provider, creative woodworker, lighting expert for holiday lights, computer & financial "geek", dreamer of the future, & indulgent homeschool dad (by indulgent I mean, I pick the curriculum and he buys it). I appreciate all of you and acknowledge publicly all that you do to make our house a home. Thank you!

Take time: to smile, to ask how someones day is, to pray for others, to see if you can serve another person, to be pleasant, to really listen to their concerns or hurts, give a hug, or say HI. I am sure there are many others. Look for opportunities to help & serve. Remember to say Thank You!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Varsity

We interrupt our regularly scheduled healthy eating to bring you "The Varsity". An Atlanta icon, that I grew up on, and now realize from non-Atlantans is an acquired taste. The Varsity has 4 locations...one in Atlanta near GA Tech, one in Athens near University of GA, one off Briarcliff Road, and one off Jimmy Carter in Norcross. I've been to all of them but my very, very favorite is downtown Atlanta. It takes up a whole city block and the echoes of "whadya have" reverberate through the joint. Some folks downtown have worked there for decades, it amazing.

On our recent trip to Atlanta, we ate at the Varsity for lunch the day before Thanksgiving. Since we didn't want to get stuck in the downtown traffic, we opted for the restaurant off Jimmy Carter. Same great, greasy food...not quite the same atmosphere.

My favorite Varsity meal...chili dog, fries & a coke. Greg loves the onion rings!

Mom, Greg, & Katie's Fried Peach Pies

Its all gone! Sure was yummy!!!


Will, Amy & Katie sporting their Varsity hats!

The meal tasted so good, that Will & I decided to order another chili dog for each of us. Then I decided (after devouring it) that the 2nd chili dog was probably not such a good idea. Just didn't agree with me.

The Varsity dogs come in several different varieties...chili dog with mustard, chili slaw dog, or Amy's personal favorite the naked dog. The traditional is the chili dog with mustard...don't add ketchup, it just ruins it. But you could add a big mound of raw onions to complete the yummy goodness. I didn't do that last time but I have in the past.

Mom's favorite drink here is a Frosted Orange. I'd just rather have a coke.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Meal Planning & Slowing Down

I am joining Organizing Junkie for another Menu Plan Monday but mine is going to be a bit different this week. I have got lots of main dish ingredients that I can build multiple menu's around. So I am just going to list the entrees and fill in with whatever side dishes appeal to me that day. Right now, I have the majority of ingredients for 18 entrees. Here are the entree's
Spiral Sliced Ham
Split Pea Soup
Sloppy Joes
Red Beans & Rice (with sausage or chicken)
Grilled Hamburgers
Lasagna
Taco's
Pizza
Chicken & Dumplings
Ham & Potato Casserole
Chicken Pot Pie
Loaded Baked Potatoes
Smoked Ham
Spaghetti
Pork Chops & Rice
Barbeque Chicken
**Baked Hamburgers
Macaroni & Cheese

The baked hamburgers are an easy peasy recipe. I got this from my mom...maybe you could think of it as flat meatloaf. Take a couple of pounds of ground beef and press it into a Pyrex rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Then bake (could it get any easier?). I usually bake at 350 degrees for about 20 or so minutes. Then I remove it from the oven and spoon off the grease and put it back in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes. Then cut into squares and serve. Greg's favorite sides for this meal are mashed potatoes, country gravy & green beans. Any leftovers can be for lunch the next day or you can put the square burgers on buns, top with mustard & ketchup and eat that way. Katie is my expert gravy maker & Amy is my expert mashed potato chef. My girls are turning into excellent cooks!

Now for the slowing down part! One of our very favorite Christmas traditions is "No School December" & watching all our Christmas movies (I really like the no commercials). With our churchs choral program over...we can slow down. We are going to take time the rest of this month to bake some goodies, work on crafts, listen to music, read books, watch videos, play games, gift shop, and enjoy each other. We also have 3 sons with birthdays this month, James will be 26 and Andy & Rob will be 22. I love this time of year!

During the busy holidays take time to enjoy your family. Make some memories.



THEY said it would happen!

THEY said it would happen. But sometimes THEY just don't know what THEY are talking about, especially in Mississippi. But this time THEY were right...THEY are the weather forecasters! My children were thrilled that THEY were correct on this forecast. In reading facebook entries on Friday night, it was very apparent that many other Miss. children were thrilled too! Since snow doesn't last long here, all the kids were outside at 9, 10 & 11 at night, mine included. In fact, I was outside at 10:30 taking pictures. It was gorgeous, but its all gone now! The first picture is our house on Saturday morning.

This is the pool and backyard on Friday night! Anyone want to swim?


One of my beautiful red roses in the backyard covered with snow. James gave me the rosebush for Mothers Day this year!
And then we have our totally excited 3 youngest children on Friday night. This picture was taken outside the church after choir practice!


If there are enough snowflakes in our yard to press together, Amy will build a snowman! This years Frosty was about 3 feet tall and he was sporting Dad's woodworking goggles and Mom's bamboo plant stakes! Notice there is no snow surrounding little Frosty, its all in his compact little body!
I know folks from the "frozen North" will laugh at our excitement over an inch of snow, but in Central Mississippi this is major news! Thank you Lord for this beautiful gift.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Movie Review

We got lots of our chores done today and took time this afternoon to watch a new Christmas movie we recorded the other night. Its a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie entitled "A Dog named Christmas". Wow, what a great family movie. There was nothing offensive or rude or scandalous in this movie and the language was CLEAN.

Its a great movie about a boy named Todd who hears about an adopt a dog for Christmas plea by a local animal shelter. Todd is 20 years old and has Down's Syndrome. He lives on a farm with his mom & dad.

I won't reveal any more of the story but check your tv listings and see if its coming on again. Great family movie but beware...your kids may want a dog! This one is a keeper!

Taking Time to Blog

Boy, lots has happened since I blogged on Monday. We got the menu's set up, laundry done, took all the fall decorations down & packed them away and unloaded the Christmas decorations from the attic. Katie, Will, Amy & I got busy and have most of the decorating done. The kids have also wrapped some gifts and put them under the tree. I haven't gotten that far yet.

Tuesday was Ballet & Jazz classes for the girls & I ran to Kroger to get stuff we needed for the rest of the week. All the kids will be here over the next several days and it takes alot of food to keep them fed. Praise the Lord for the full pantry and freezer. We just needed milk, juice and little stuff to round out the meals & snacks.

Wed. was a long and very full, fun day. It started with our quilting class in the morning. The girls got as much done as they could but had to stop for lack of an iron. The 3 moms all "meant" to bring an iron but we all forgot. But they accomplished alot. Then we had a great lunch at Arby's with my friend Marie and 3 of her kiddo's. Her daughter Shelby is going to Honduras with us in Jan. on our Mission Trip, so I got to talk to her about some more details. After lunch, we hit Walmart and had lots of fun shopping for a ministry our church is involved in every December. It blesses us to be able to contribute to this ministry and the kids look forward to this all year long. And then a couple of hours at home...we vegged in front of the tv watching the movie "Game Plan". If you haven't seen it, its really funny and touching, we really like it. Then dinner and church for choir practice. After that, we were beat. Early bedtime for everyone!

Tonight we have to be at church, but during the day we are staying home. We will be getting the laundry done and hopefully some baking done. Maybe watch a video or two. Our college boy comes for the weekend today, just in time for the church performances.

If you have a few minutes to spare, scroll down to my bloglist and click on "Plain & Simple Life" and watch all the U-tube videos about homeschooling that Deanna has posted. I have seen the "Addams Family" spoof before and really liked it, but they are all great! "I will Survive" may just well be my new favorite!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu's & Busy Week


We are back from GA and I am ready to get organized. This is our super, busy week at church. Our church's annual Living Christmas Tree is this weekend and the whole family is involved. The activities started yesterday with the kids finding out their places in the tree and running through a couple of songs, now this may not sound like much but it took 2 1/2 hours. If you have never seen a living tree, you may have no idea what I am talking about. This tree is built of risers and chicken wire, stretching from the floor to the top of the vaulted ceiling in the choir loft. All is decorated with lots of garland, lights, ornaments, and ribbons. Then you add in a choir of 100 or so folks and you have a living tree. It is gorgeous and I love the music every year. 4 of our 7 children are singing in the tree. Next week, I will have plenty of pictures to show of the tree. Our other children will be on lights, backstage crew or orchestra. Greg programs all the lights to make the tree "dance" & I am his assistant. Full, fun, busy week. We will be at the church Wed. night, Thurs. night, Fri. night, Sat. afternoon & night, & Sunday afternoon & night.
For the most part, the menu's this week are based on what I have, what can be eaten quickly, & what can be cooked in the crockpot.

So here goes....

Monday night:
Crock pot Pork Roast
Alfredo Noodles
Green Beans

Tuesday night:
Potato Soup
Cheddar/Garlic Biscuits

Wed. night:
Spaghetti
Garlic Bread

Thursday night:
Chicken Strips with Ketchup or Barbeque Sauce
Cheddar Broccoli Rice
Lima Beans

Friday night:
Chili
Cornbread

Sat. lunch:
Hot Dogs/buns
baked beans
Chips & dip

Sat. dinner:
At Church

During the day, our goals for the week are to pack away the fall decorations & then Deck the Halls (I love Christmas!), finish up work for Co-op classes, watch History shows Dad recorded for us, start our December christmas movie marathons, & bake some goodies! Notice, I didn't mention math or language...we are done till after the New Year! Yippee!

To check out more menu's & holiday festivities please visit Laura at organizingjunkie.com. I checked this morning and there are already over 100 different menus posted! And many have great recipes attached to the menu's!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Vision Forum

I don't know if you have heard of the company "Vision Forum", but I really like all of their products. They are a Christian company that promotes family values & Christian principals. They have many wonderful books for children, wives/moms, teenagers, & husbands/dads. We have many of the CD's and ordered more last week. If you have children, they have a great line of wholesome toys.

I signed up to become an affiliate, which means if you click on my link on the sidebar, you can place your order and I will get credit for the sale. I would appreciate your business through this company.

Also, if you order, please leave me a comment so that I can make sure the link works!

Thanks bunches, Donna

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone has a wonderful day enjoying food & family!

Most of all, I wish to thank the Lord for the blessings he has showered on me And for sending his Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross and save me from my sins. We are so unworthy of this gift, but Christ took our sins upon himself so that we might live with him forever.

That is the greatest gift any of us could ever receive!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful for our Brave Men & Women

I am so Thankful for the brave Men & Women who sacrificed everything for our country. From the beginnings of our great country to the present.

I cannot imagine leaving my homeland and taveling to a new land knowing that I would never see my family again. And not really knowing what waited on the other side of the "big water". Was the earth really round or were we going to fall off the edge? How would you pack or prepare when you don't know what to prepare for? What would you consider important enough to take or insignificant enough to leave behind? Would I even have the courage to leave everything and everyone and set off on this great adventure.

I love to study History through Literature with the children because we get to read some of the writings of the men & women who did just as I described above. These are not dry, boring books but History come alive books that tell of their struggles with leaving their own countries, of their longing for religious freedom and escape from the state church/religion, & of wanting to make their own way in the world for them and their children. They wanted more for their families and they were willing to do whatever it took to achieve this.

I also want my children to learn non-politically correct history. This country was founded on Christian principals by Christian Men. The United States of America is a Christian Nation. The founding Fathers of this great land were Christians. One of the battle cries during the Revolutionary War was "No King but King Jesus".

And on a side note...do you know what the phrase "seperation of Church & State" really means? Its not what everyone is spouting all the time now. It means that the State will not have a State Church (such as the Church of England). And thats it. Sounds alot different from what we hear in the news now! All of the early colleges including Princeton & Harvard were Seminaries, training men to preach and carry the Word of God to the far reaches of the new land. The intention was never to take church out of government, but to take government out of church. Things have certainly gotten twisted around in the last several hundred years.

I am thankful for the Men & now Women who are in the Military. Their service and dedication is amazing. They are helping to protect our country and helping others around the world to enjoy some of the same freedoms that we enjoy. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives for our country. Thank You to the military, both past & present.

God Bless the USA!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful for my Husband

I am so very Thankful that the Lord blessed my life with Gregory Jackson! He is the best husband in the whole world!

He provides for our family, generously and abundantly. He is my "Dave Ramsey" geek & budgets, saves, and spends to indulge my wishes!

I love to spend time with him, just be in the room with him. I have even listened to his classes on engineering (on the computer) for his Masters Degree. I don't have a clue what the professor is talking about, but I'm still there!

I love to spend time with him in Honduras as cooks for our Mission Team. We have so much fun "shopping" and walking the streets of El Progresso. This is the week that he is the cook and I am the assistant. We have found some wonderful bakeries full of delicious sweets on our 3 - 5 mile walks everyday during the week!

I love to watch him and help when he creates the light extravaganza for our churchs Christmas musical production every year. Until I sat and watched him program these songs, I had no idea the work that went into each one. He loves doing this and can make those lights dance in time to the music.

I love to watch him interact with all the children, especially Amy. I didn't know that you could "catch" a sense of humor, but Amy has caught Greg's. She is becoming a little Greg and can hold her own with him. She is truly his daughter & several times a day he will say, "thats my girl". James & Allen are also very close with him and many times will confide in him before I ever know there is a problem. He is a blessing is their lives, they all really needed a Dad! And he is great with Katie, Will, Andy & Rob. It takes a special guy to be a great Daddy to 7 kids.

Greg is a great handy man and works on a number of projects for my Mom almost every trip to GA. She usually has a list and he tries his best to accomplish it. Will is becoming his apprentice in the projects both at Mom's & our own house.

He is everything and so much more than I ever dreamed of. I thank the Lord daily for this special man he placed in my life!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful for Children

I am so thankful the Lord continues to bless the world with children. I love them! Cute little babies with chubby cheeks & dimples...who can resist their drooly smiles! Toddlers running pell-mell to the next adventure (or disaster). Preschoolers who scribble impossible to decipher pictures and "read" you their stories. Early readers who read you the same book over & over! Watching the lightbulb turn on when one of them understands a math concept. Preteens & young teens who are trying to decide if they want to be grown ups or kids. Teenagers with their first jobs and earning paychecks. Praying fervently for my children the first time they drive away...alone! Boo Hooing at the graduations of my oldest children. Watching my little girls turn into young ladies. Parenting is a 24/7/365 proposition.

There are 7 children that are very special to me! Mine! James is 25. Andy & Rob are 21. Allen is 20. Katie is 16. Will is 15 & Amy is 13. I love my children and pray that the Lord will always be their "guiding light" and "anchor in a storm". These 7 blessings are all unique personalities and have varying interests. Our house is full & lively when all 7 are home. And they can put away some groceries! I look forward to college breaks & holidays when they will all be home. When we are blessed with grandchildren , my cup will runeth over!

There are 12 more children that have a special place in my heart...my neices, Becky, Megan, Bethany & Samantha. And my nephews Matthew, Brian, Billy, Ben, Bobby, Charlie, Ben Scott & Drew. Our families have been blessed with some great children~

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thankful for Household Conveniences

OK, this will be a different post but something to make you think about household items you may take for granted. Ma Ingalls didn't have these goodies to work with in her home each day.....

I am thankful for.....

*Indoor Plumbing ~ pretty much self explanatory!

*Central Heat & Air ~ I thoroughly enjoy both expecially the air conditioning in the very hot Mississippi summer.

*Washer & Dryer ~ with 2 adults & 7 offpspring, these get used alot. Which also leads me into thankfulness for the homemade laundry detergent recipe because we have saved a bundle of money making our own! And my clothesline (yeah, Ma Ingalls had one of these), it gets lots of use on the hot summer days and keeps the house cooler not running the dryer as much.

*Television, Tivo, DVD & VHS players ~ There are some tv shows that we watch but the Tivo is great because we can fast forward through commercials. The kids and I use the DVD & VHS player daily. We watch lots of movies and old tv show series...Little House & The Waltons, how to videos on gardening, herbs, candle making, canning, sewing, etc, and our collection of Christmas movies.

*Sewing Machine/Embroidery Machine ~ fun, practical, creative toys (I didn't start sewing till 8 years ago...now I love it)

*Refrigerators/Freezers ~ Wonderful appliances for keeping food cold or storing/freezing bulk purchases. I love to find meat on sale and stock up...right now I've meat to take home & store from the Kroger 4 day meat sale here in GA!

*Oven ~ up until Jan. of this year, I had a tiny oven, definately too small for someone who loves to cook and cooks & bakes from scratch most of the time. Greg bought me a new stove with a convection oven and flat top cooking surface. It is wonderful to be able to bake multiple pans of cookies, muffins, or whatever at the same time.

*Dishwasher ~ the girls are very thankful for this appliance, they are my clean up crew!

*Wheat Grinder/Kitchen Aid Mixer/Wand Blender ~ The wheat grinder produces beautiful whole wheat flour. The only drawback is its so loud, but we can deal with it! Mixer if great for just about everything. My current kitchen aid mixer is about 16 years old and still going strong...when it retires itself (dies), I have picked out its replacement. Greg bought me the wand blender for Christmas last year. We have had a lot of fun with it...makes great mashed potatoes, blends down potatoes in my potato soup, and recently I used it in my homemade hot chocolate mix, it made a fine powder that dissolves easily in hot water!

*Mattress ~ So ultra comfy. Ma Ingalls had to stuff hers with straw or hay. I prefer my tempur-pedic!

*Radio, CD Player, CD's ~ We love music, its great to have it available at the flip or push of a button. We have listened to lots of the Adventures in Odssey CD's and historical & Christian home CD's from Vision Forum. Greg ordered us some more CD's from VF last night.

*Books ~ I love books. Fiction, novels, cookbooks, how to books, homemaking books, raising Godly children books, etc. However, if I could only have 1 book it would be my Bible. The Lord has the answers to all my questions about living, being a wife & mother, and following & obeying him! But I am tremendously thankful for my other books also.

*Computers ~ We can visit with people all over the country/world, look up information on anything (sometimes I think too much info is not a good thing), blog, Facebook, email, get new recipes, quilt patterns, etc.

I am sure that there are many things I am forgetting! I do thank the Lord for the household blessings he has allowed in my life and for my generous husband for providing these for me~

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful for Friends

I am very thankful for the friends the Lord has placed in my life. Friends come in many shapes, sizes & ages, they live in different states, they accept you for who you are & love you anyway~

I've got internet friends that I may never meet this side of eternity. I have found them "blog surfing" and am intrigued by their lives and lifestyles. We don't agree on everything but they will never know that I don't agree. Why comment on someones blog or Facebook post and be disagreeable? If you don't agree...then just stop reading their blogs, easy peasy solution.

I've got homeschooling Mom friends. It would be hard for a non-homeschool mom to sympathize, empathize or encourage and homeschool Mom. I said hard...not impossible. Sometimes you just need someone to say "that happened to me and this is what I did". We can talk for hours about unit studies, notebooking, history curriculums, etc. All while curled up on the couch with the kids running in and out and having a wonderful time together. What an awesome support!

I've got friends that I've had for years, several that I grew up with (in fact some of our parents grew up together too). These are friends that KNOW you, know your background, your mama & daddy, and are there for you & your family through thick and thin, sickness & health, etc. Since all the friends in this category live in GA, Facebook has been a wonderful way to reconnect with them!

Then there is my crafting friends. We talk about quilt patterns, smocking, sewing, scrapbooking, and whatever else catches our fancy. We shop at JoAnns, Walmart, Hobby Lobby or Hancocks for fabric, laces, threads etc. We share scrapbook paper and stickers. We laugh and cry together as something sparks a memory of a joyful or painful time in our lives.

There is a special group of Christian friends. They have been fellow church members, bible study participants, prayer partners, listeners, encouragers, & cheerleaders. They have supported my family and I through sickness, death, & discouragement over life changing decisions my children have made. They love me & my children (even though they know us)! They thoroughly and enthusiastically rejoiced when the Lord brought Greg & I together. They helped plan the wedding, serve at the reception, and cried when we said "I Do". They have blessed my life beyond comprehension.

The last group of friends is the most special to me. They are truly friends in every sense of the word. They are there for me in any and every situation. They didn't run when things got tough with one of my children 8 years ago. In fact, they understand more of what I went through than that child. They love me and my children. They pray for me and encourage me beyond anything I have ever experienced. This last group of friends is also named "My Family". I love you all and hope that I can bless your lives as much as you have blessed mine.

Praise the Lord for friends!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Blessings of Homeschooling

I've decided that in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I would like to concentrate on the blessings the Lord has given me. And the first one (to write about) is homeschooling. If you don't homeschool your children, you may not understand some of this. But, homeschooling isn't just about the schoolbooks and learning that takes place during the day, its much more.

1. Relationships

As I have written about before, we are a blended family. Since Katie & Will have joined Amy and I for school, we have gotten closer. We are all learning everyones different personalities and "quirks". This closeness would have been harder to achieve if they had stayed in a classroom for 8 hours and then come home to do several hours of homework. During the first 2 years of our marriage, they were still attending public school and I much prefer them to be at home. We enjoy spending time together and playing & learning throughout the day.

2. Practical Skills

To my knowledge, public or private schools don't teach practical life-long skills the children need to succeed. I don't think home ec is even offered in schools. My children are learning to read & follow a recipe, canning & jelly making techniques (we are learning this together), gardening skills, lawn maintenance, house cleaning, laundry, budgeting, grocery shopping, bargain hunting, nursing (helping care for one another in times of illness or injury), accountability, scheduling, etc. How about balancing a checkbook? These are important things that they wouldn't learn anywhere else. And some of these are things that should have been emphasized more with their older brothers.

3. School

Besides just the readin', writin', and rithmetic', we are enjoying an extensive history study, learning to do different things on the computer, typing, foreign language, science labs, etc. Public school teachers have to get so much done in a certain amount of time and they have to worry about the politics of making sure "no child is left behind". That doesn't mean the children learn or understand more, it just means they can pass a test at the middle or end of the year so the school gets their state/federal funding. We buy our own books, choose our own curriculum and can work at a comfortable pace for each child. I don't worry about "new age" philosophies or "politically correct" rewritten history. We are learning about what really happened and can dig into some interesting subjects. We have children working at all different levels and they really keep each other accountable for getting the work done. We can speed through a concept they understood quickly or slow down for additional help where needed. It is totally individualized.

4. Reading

I love to read. I read Christian novels (usually historical or amish), magazines, how to books, magazines, & cookbooks. I have found that schools teach you how to read but not how to enjoy it. We are learning to read for information, fun, and learning. Katie said she didn't like to read until she started to homeschool. I did find out that when her classes were assigned a book, each student was told what chapter (usually 1 or 2) to read and report on to the rest of the class, they didn't have to read the rest of the book. That is such a waste. Read and savor it cover to cover! Reading is an important part of the day for all of us and its a time I really enjoy.

5. Ministry Opportunities

We have been able to participate in many Ministry type projects during the day. We have packed "parent" bags for a childrens hospital (toothpaste, toothbrushes, mints, deodorant, etc. for parents who are sent from a dr. office directly to a hospital with their children), packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and shopped for toys for our churchs Christmas Store for families in need. We have also baked bread or meals and delivered them to families. And now our "Granny" ministry...whatever she needs, whenever she needs it.

6. Flexibility

We can set our own schedules. Bookwork is usually Mon-Thur, Fridays are for co-op classes, house cleaning and errands. Our school year is normally Aug.-November and Jan.-June. We take off December and July. Greg has several travel opportunities through his job and we get to pack up the schoolbooks and go with him. When we travel to Wash. DC the schoolbooks stay home and we spend hours in the Smithsonian Museums. We all have our favorite museums and love to visit the city. Greg usually plans the route and we visit President's homes, battlefields and other places on the way there and back. When Katie and Will were still in school, we made our first trip to Wash., I notified the school ahead of time, got the work and they got it done. However, when we returned, I got a "nasty" letter from the county about their absences to which I sent back a polite, firm reply. I gave them a list of every museum we had been in, every jr. ranger project they had completed, every monument we had visited, every single sight we had seen and pointed out they would not have gotten this much "education" sitting in a classroom. This was a 2 page, single spaced letter. I never heard from them again!

This is my 14th year to homeschool. I didn't realize when I started in Aug. 1996 all of the benefits of homeschooling. Its not just about education, its about all of the above and much more. It is a lifestyle of loving, learning, and caring for each other. In 5 short years, I will work myself out of a job. Maybe by then I will have some grandbabies to love on!

Biggest compliment a homeschooling Mama can receive.....Katie & Amy have both told me they want to homeschool their children! Ahhhhh, that was wonderful to hear.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Trying to Find a Routine

During the summer I read a great book about developing a daily routine. The book is "Managers of Their Homes" by the Maxwell's. It is an awesome tool. We set our routine and have really enjoyed knowing what comes next. And every once in a while we scrap the routine and do our own thing...like the day we went shopping and found our .97 sale at Penneys. Last week the routine was shot to pieces, but that was ok!

We did schoolwork on Monday & Tuesday, drove to GA on Wed., and then the girls and I spent the next 2 days at the hospital with Mom. They went home at night. They brought their books and got some work done when I was with Mom in therapy. Greg & Will built Mom a handrail coming up the steps in from the garage. They also put a handicapped rail in the bathroom, installed a new water filter at the kitchen sink, and put together the rails to help in two of the bathrooms at the potties. So they have been very busy also.

But the routine is shot and I can tell a difference. I have 3 children "floating" around not knowing what to do next or what is coming up next. We are going to work on that this afternoon and try to establish some sort or a routine for the next 2 weeks. We normally "school" Monday-Thursday and leave Friday's open for cleaning up and games. So we will have 4 days of school this week and 2 or 3 days Thanksgiving week. Then no more "schoolwork" till Jan.! Yeah! When I set up our school schedule for the year, I realized that Thanksgiving was the very end of the month and the next week was our big Christmas musical Living Tree at church. Our whole family is involved in this and will take lots and lots of time that week. For those skeptics out there...yes you can take off the entire month of December and still get your books finished for the year. We usually finish sometime in May.

So we are going to establish a temporary routine to use at Granny's house. Rising, getting dressed, breakfast, schoolwork, reading time, lunch, afternoon activities, dinner etc. We will have a much better time if we can come up with something. It won't be set in stone however. We will also have to account for exercise time for Mom, dr. appts., physical therapy and home health care visits. The kids are really good about keeping on with their tasks if they know what to do next, so we will hopefully be able to carry on.

We are off to Walmart for a field trip. We are taking the wheelchair and the walker. The aisles are wide enough and the floor flat enough that Mom will be able to walk and get some exercise...we were doing this in the hospital. (Its a little more difficult to walk in the house because of going from tile to carpet to tile to carpet to tile again. And its a smaller area to walk in. She is however doing great making the transition to the carpet or tile) At the same time, we can pick up the few things we need for groceries and art projects for the week. Tomorrow, we will probably venture to the Beauty Shop so she can get her hair washed (no showers till after the dr. visit). Mom also hates taking the pain pills, so she is going to try tylenol this afternoon and see how that works. But, I think before physical therapy she will be taking a painpill next week...don't need to chance it too much.

Amy wants to go to Mall of GA sometime before Thanksgiving, so that will be in the plans too. There is lots and lots of available walking space there!

Katie, Will & Amy are doing great with helping with the nursing duties. They can help get Mom off the sofa...it sinks down. But that was the most convenient spot to set up the electronic knee bending machine the dr. wants her to use for 6 hours a day. Katie and Amy have both learned how to hook that up. Will is helping with lots of errand running and fetching. Greg also assigned them all the job of painting the garage this week. So, even if all the schoolwork doesn't get done, the "helping Granny get better Ministry" will be taking place all the time~

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing Nurse

My dear Mama had knee replacement surgery on Tuesday of this week. She is doing really well and is happy that the surgery was not as bad as she expected. Her therapists are pleased with her progress and we are making plans to go home tomorrow.

Greg drove the kids and I to GA yesterday so we could play nurse for her recovery period. I stayed at the hospital with her last night and am doing so again tonight. However, you don't get any rest at night. No sirreeee, the nurses were in here doing vitals, checking on her leg moving apparatus and helping her to the restroom every 1 1/2 hours...all night long! There was one stretch during the night that I slept 2 hours, from 4:30 - 6:30 am. I must have been really exhausted because I slept through the "vampires" coming to draw her blood at 5:30 am.

Katie & Amy joined me for daytime nursing duty and got in some math & history work too. Greg & Will are building Mom a handrail from the garage into the house and put a handrail in the shower and something at the potty. They also bought us a gallon of sweet tea from Chick fil A and we have been drinking it all day! Gotta have that caffeine to stay awake!

Therapy is very interesting. You can tell who wants to get better and is working toward that goal. Mom is in that category. She is doing everything and is gaining back alot of strength in her leg. We are walking laps around the halls--today we have walked 6 laps. She also walked up and down a set of 4 stairs twice today. She has 3 stairs from her garage into the house, so she needed to learn how to do this. She also has to give herself shots of blood thinner so hopefully we avoid clots. We are learning lots of new stuff. Tomorrow we will delve into the world of home health care and home therapy. (Just found out she will have to do the shots for a couple of weeks)

We would appreciate everyone's prayers for her continued progress and return to health.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Woman's Rules to Live By

I found the following while visiting different blogs the other day and loved this message. It says everything I want to say but sometimes can't find the right words.

Many thanks to Candy at www.keepingthehome.com for giving me permission to copy and publish this on my blog. She has lots and lots of good info and links on her site!

You could say this is part 2 of my post from yesterday...

Rules for the Wife at Home

1.- Overlook husband’s faults, and instead focus on his better side.
2.- Never nag, or try to manipulate your husband into doing things your way.
3.- Trust God, and trust your husband. Pray for him daily.
4.- God first, husband second, children third, house fourth.
5.- Submit to your husband’s authority, and allow errors in his judgment.
6.- Allow him to provide for the family, and appreciate the money he brings in, and the provisions he provides for his family, no matter how little or how much.
7.- Spend your husband’s hard earned money wisely, and be frugal. Never sneak expenses behind his back.
8.- Do not wound his masculine pride. Instead, compliment him on his manly accomplishments, and show your appreciation of him every day.
9.- A modest, feminine appearance is important. As is feminine manner, nature, softness, gentleness, and a spirit of sweet submission and dependency on the husband.
10.- You have a God-given career that can bless you abundantly. That career is in the home.
11.- Cook delicious healthy meals, keep the home clean, and take wonderful, loving care of your children.
12.- Your duty is to be a “homemaker,” hence, your job is to make your house a home.
13.- Above all, the wife at home is to exude an attitude of happiness and joy. Rejoice in the Lord for the wonderful family He has provided for you, and never take your family for granted.

Wasn't that great! 13 very concise, clear guidelines! What a blessing this would be to all husbands if their wives followed these simple suggestions!


Monday, November 9, 2009

I Am a Wife & Stay at Home Mama

Before I elaborate on my title, let me fill you in on a few facts about me. My first marriage ended abruptly on Nov. 18, 1996 when my first husband died. We had a good marriage, but had many struggles. Our greatest accomplishments and sources of pride were our 3 wonderful children, James, Allen & Amy. For the next 9 years, I was a widow (hate that word) and a single Mom. For most of those 9 years I prayed and asked the Lord to show me what I could do differently as a wife if he chose to send me another husband. I prayed for specific qualitites that I wanted my Prince Charming to have...my list was very specific. I also prayed that the Lord would just drop my Prince into my life, I wasn't looking. And yes, over the years, I reminded the Lord several times that I was still waiting. I had friends praying that the Lord would send someone to me. Some of Amy's little friends prayed that God would send her a daddy. (She was 7 months old when her Daddy died, so she really didn't know anything about Daddy's) Besides praying, I was also reading the Bible about being a wife. In the spring of 2005, I saw a book advertised online named "Created to be His Helpmeet" by Debi Pearl. I felt like I was supposed to order and read the book. Its really hard to explain, but I did. (The book is great, I don't agree with everything Debi says, but alot of it)

Also, during that spring I was corresponding with a dear friend of mine (since I was 3) whose wife had been killed in a car accident. In one of his emails, he asked me what my kids reaction had been when I dated. I told him about my prayer and waiting on the Lord. I had not gone out with anyone. Can ya guess what happened next? My next email was a date invitation! And I said yes! We went to 6 Flags with 6 of our 7 children as chaperones and had a wonderful time. The next day, we went on a long drive and had a serious talk about our future together. We both agreed to pray about it and keep discussing where we thought the Lord was leading us. 2 weeks later, Greg proposed and we were engaged! My friends were thrilled and knew that our prayers had been answered. We were married on Sept. 3, 2005.

Mine and Greg's relationship and marriage is completely different than what I experienced the first time. I know spending almost 9 years of praying and seeking the Lord on marriage was a great benefit to me. And I was 23 when I was married the first time and almost 45 the 2nd time. You do learn from experience that some issues are just not important, you get your priorities in line. Greg and I are best friends. We are each others strongest supporters and encouragers. We love each other and truly enjoy spending time together. We love to do things together...I have gotten up at 4-5 am to go fishing with him, he has walked the aisles of JoAnn's with me looking for fabric, we have walked the streets of El Progresso, Honduras grocery shopping on Mission Trips, we pray together, work in the yard together, share ice cream sundaes, hunt for shells, go to National Parks, plan homeschool lessons, plant the garden, and watch tv. We love to do things together.

I also, relish the fact that I get to stay at home, keep house, cook meals, and homeschool our children. We are growing and learning and bonding as a family together. I like to have everything done by the time he gets home from work, so that we have time together at night. He is gone all day and likes coming home to clean laundry, a somewhat clean home and dinner. I say somewhat clean because we do LIVE at our house, all day long. The beds are made, most of the homeschool stuff put up and we are ready for him to be home. We also discuss decisions, purchases, budgets, & business ventures. I am pretty convinced that I am living in the wrong decade because most of these things are not important to wives and families today. The way we live is reminiscent of how families lived many, many years ago.

But what happened? Why did families change? Did they change for the better? Is keeping up with the Jones' and Smith's the reason families don't do things together?

I really like Proverbs 31. That woman did it all! She kept her home in order, made their clothing, shopped in town, kept the servants (in our case, children) in line, planted a vineyard, etc. Talk about achieving alot during her day!

I know that many folks don't agree with our lifestyle. But its our lives. We are happy and we feel like what we are doing is pleasing to the Lord. Every family is different and they live according to their own convictions.