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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Show & Tell: An April Blogging Bonanza!

Well, since slowing down blogging a while back, I haven't done a Show & Tell, and I know there are some of you out there who love these things. Lemme tell ya, this one's a doozie. So let's get right to it:










THE SHOW & TELL WRAP-UP: Good for a laugh!
As always, happy reading! And Happy May! :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Little Alpaca Love

I drive past a field of Alpacas every time I go into town. As I drive by, I always think to myself how much I love, love, love seeing them. So yesterday, I decided to stop and say hello.

They were happy to see me.

They made me laugh.

They had beautiful deep brown eyes.

Some folks will tell you that they're apt to spit, but not him, he just wanted...

...a kiss.

Junk Sistas Raffle

So come one,come all~~~please buy a raffle ticket (or more) to help the family of baby Bella with the cost of her medical bills. 32 lovely ladies have banded together to donate items for raffle. Shipping is absolutely free to the winners so please be generous and buy as many tickets as you are able to. If you are the lucky winner of my items, you will receive a fabulous scrap journal from Secret Leaves, a heavenly bottle of Heliotrope scented bath salts from French Soaps, and a beautiful beveled charm by Cathy Penton titled "The Language of Flowers". Please go to the Junk Sistas blog or click on the ticket in the top right corner of my blog to purchase tickets. Thanks for helping and God bless!

Here's what the winner of my items will receive:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Baby Bella FundRaiser

Okay all you bloggers,junkers, and sistas in the search please help us out! Bella Marie came into the world in March as a teeny weeny blessing to her parents Jen and Roby, and to her grandparents whom we all know affectionately as Deb of Talkin' Trash and Cat Daddy. Bella is getting stronger by the day, and needs our prayers so please keep her in your heart. What else can you do? Please participate in the fundraiser that sweet Amy of Junk Sistas and Teresa of Garden Antqs Vintage have organized. Lots of cool stuff will be up for raffle but you've got to buy a ticket on May 1st to enter. Go to the Junk Sistas blog by clicking on the link above and buy a ticket there. You can also see a roll call of the awesome chicks who have heard the call and come runnin'. Here's the first pic taken of Bella...

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Blossoming Valley

The valley is in full blossom. Everywhere you look, you see cherry blossoms, pear blossoms, peach blossoms and apple blossoms.

It's an exciting time of the year here in orchard country. The earth has been stirring from its winter slumber for weeks now, slowly awakening into the bright-eyed and bushy tailed blossoms that is spring. The sense of renewal is palpable.

There's also a tantalizing anticipation for summer to come and an eagerness to watch all the various trees go from delicate spring blossoms, to voluptuous summer fruits. And the fruit is sweet.

Last summer I remember stopping in at the Organic Grower's Association down the road to see if I could buy a few peaches. I asked him if they were super sweet and juicy and he got out his knife and sliced me a taste. They were. They only sold them by the case so of course, I bought the case.

We ate fresh organic peaches morning, noon and night. We'd even have them for dessert. You'd think one would tire of the same fruit day in and day out for weeks on end but we never did. I made a couple of peach pies with them but other than that, they were eaten as they came, plucked fresh from the tree they grew on.

Happy glorious spring and summer to come...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thanks Bunches!

Thanks bunches and bunches to everyone who came to the Sweet Pea Home Sale yesterday! It was a success thanks to those faithful few who keep me going in this endeavor to bring great finds to fellow junk lovers. Please keep your eye out for the next sale~~probably sometime in June. Thanks again!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bring Butterflies to Your Garden

Encouraging butterflies and hummingbirds to share in your herb bounty will add dimension to your gardening efforts, give your flying garden friends a welcome place to rest or a meal, and embrace the unexpected in the garden. A frisky hummingbird will tease your cat, which might seem dangerous, but I've never seen a cat catch one of these fast fliers. As for butterflies, watching them take

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring 2009 Home Sale

Tomorrow is the Sweet Pea Spring 2009 Home Sale!! Be here at 9am with bells on to get the best stuff! Here are some pics to entice you to stop on by...

Homeschool Curriculum Choices: A Stream-of-Consciousness Analysis

So in the last week, I've gotten a message asking me to share how I chose curriculum, a message asking me what I think of the Classical education approach, and a message asking about how we investigated the various curriculum options. So, in this one post, without a ton of editing, bullet-points, or linkage, and while not-so-subtly showing off some recent pics of my family, let me just lay out what we did to get to where we are today-- happy & comfortable with the curriculum we use and the results so far.

Initially, I read a lot and asked a ton of questions... anything I could get my hands on and anyone I could talk to. I went to Mardel and scoured the curriculum selections they had. I sat in Barnes & Noble and scanned basic principles from a variety of homeschool, parenting, & education books. Considered the homeschool families I had known and asked questions, of both the parents and the children... what curriculum(s) they had used? How did they like it? What was it like? What are the benefits of the books they used? What did they do for science? Did they add in electives? Etc.

In doing that, for example, I learned that Saxon math is heavy on drillwork & review, and learned that Math-U-See is a very hands-on popular math program. I heard, from the kids, what they thought their particular curricula was strong in, and what they didn't like. From formerly homeschooled young adults, what prepared them for college and real life, and what didn't. I realized that some curricula are workbook-based and get consumed by each child, so you have to keep re-purchasing them (perhaps less expensive on the front end, but more expensive the more kids you have), and that others use books to educate (perhaps more expensive on the front end, but less expensive as you spread those costs out to multiple children).

[*** I should say that later (after we made our curriculum selection), I was fortunate to join an online forum that Sonlight hosts with thousands of other homeschool moms where I can ask questions, glean from those who are further down the road, and learn from the mistakes & successes of others. It is a real blessing and has contributed greatly to my sense of ease and confidence in the choices we make.]

Then I thought back to my own growing up years in public school. Engaging teachers in the elementary years. A fairly good enrichment program. No real science (except for observing tarantulas my 5th grade year) until 7th grade. Once we reached junior high, we got boring, hodge-podge history without any real chronological/geographical "flow". And where there was flow, it was presented in a way that could bore even a history buff to tears.

Good math, but the value of each year, and what was learned & retained, was often entirely dependent upon the teacher. Good elective options. A lot of phonics. Grammar. Worksheets. Sentences memorized (and soon forgotten) for T/F tests. Mostly US history, some Texas history, virtually no world history.

Personally, also, I had the tendency to be overlooked by teachers because I wasn't a problem child behaviorally and could fake it through tests and essays, even without Cliffs Notes. Sad to say, I often did minimal work-- except in areas of interest (which for me, was drumline, vocal performance, and government... and the occasional paper on Jane Austen). So I got good grades, but rarely felt challenged. Needless to say, from this experience & background, I determined that one of my aims is to provide a more tailored and engaging curriculum that will draw in the hearts and minds of our children.

So I investigated homeschooling as our oldest son reached ages 3/4-ish. Somewhere along the way, after hearing about classical education, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, workbook-based, computer-based, DVD-based, and other options... I came across Sonlight. For us, this was it! A curriculum that has a Christian whole-world perspective. Excellent books. They even tell you a list of valid reasons why NOT to buy their curriculum, so that you go into the experience educated and with your eyes open as to what you're getting. No monotonous drill work or a stack of worksheets for subject matter that ought to be fun and interactive... history, literature, bible, social studies... these things are all studied by reading excellent books together with your child. Particularly when children are young, learning ought to be a delightful experience.

Here's an example of learning history through good books, from our Kindergarten year-- Instead of memorizing the dates, places, and people of WWII, or doing a word find, or coloring a page with pictures of parachute men, we read an engaging, award-winning historical fiction novel written at a level he could understand about orphans living in an orphanage on the French countryside. Together, we experienced and discussed WWII through their eyes... learning about ration cards, Nazi soldiers, the scarcity of things like oranges and chocolates, where the Alps are, the role that clergy and people of faith played in assisting the Jewish people. These are all concepts that we discussed together and were not only grasped, but retained, by my then-5-year-old because we looked at the war in an emotionally-engaging way rather than through a coloring sheet or a list to memorize.

Now, I should say that this curriculum is not for everyone. We all have different backgrounds, we all come with different values and aims... but I will say this: Sonlight consistently brings educational materials to my child that are worth using. The books they choose, and the way they present them (in the context of the historical chronology) -- it just makes learning fun. And that is one of my top aims with my younger, elementary-aged children. When my children are young, I want a few simple things for them-- to sense and see a real dependence on and dependability of God, their Creator... and to delight in learning about the world He made. I would consider it a huge failure and a real tragedy if I took the precious little curious minds God gives to young children and squelched that natural desire to learn and grow and explore and engage with the world.

Hear me: I am not saying that ALL other methods do this. I am simply saying that for me, and for our children, I believe Sonlight is the tool that allows me to best fan the flames of curiousity and inquisitiveness that are necessary for a lifelong inclination towards learning.

So, maybe you are a young mom looking at homeschooling. Contemplating. Wondering if you can. Wondering how you'd even do it, and what it would look like if you did. Here's what I suggest: talk to as many people as you can. Glean wisdom in what to do as well as what not to do. Talk to moms who have kids like yours-- maybe you've got a late-talking girl or a boy who can't sit still... talk to moms who have homeschooled kids like these. See what they did... if they waited to get started, if they did school in between backyard playtimes, how they handled the practical things.

Then start to look at curriculum options. Some moms are really keen on making sure they cover every single topic of a scope and sequence and don't want to even unintentionally miss anything that they "should"... so they might enjoy the predictability and confidence that can come from using a workbook-based curriculum. Or a DVD instructor. Or computer, internet-based courses (generally for older children)

Some moms want to dive deep into ancient languages, teach according to "classical" education methods, or study topics in a pre-arranged, methodical order. There are websites and books devoted to those kinds of homeschools.

Some subscribe to a philosophy of child-led learning, where the mom maybe insures a constant continuum of progression in math and grammer, say, but lets the child's interests determine what kinds of things they'll study and then design a curriculum around that for each stage. (For example, if your daughter is really into birds, doing a study on the sciences involved in birds-- the physics of flight, the biology of their structure/etc, reading books like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"-- ok that's a joke, but reading bird-themed books, writing papers/journal assignments about birds, drawing birds, feathers, nests for art work, etc.)

And then I've already told you about book-based studies like Sonlight. There are other companies that do this same sort of approach also.

And then each homeschool family adds their own flair. Some people do unit studies and go bonkers over Egypt for 6-20 weeks. Some use the "extra time" gained in homeschooling to pursue advanced studies in fields of interest (horse lessons, piano performance, internships, community college/college level courses while still in high school years, etc.). The possibilities for a personal configuration of your homeschool are endless.

All that to say, it can seem overwhelming. But something that helps me with homeschool curriculum is something that helps me with life in general... once I find something that "works", something that fits, something that I feel that God has led me to, I don't go looking for something different unless prompted by Him or unless significant problems arise. I'm not the gal scouring catalogs to see if some other company can "trump" what I've currently got going. I focus in on the children God has given to me, and I try to see what will help them at the level they're at to continue to love learning, grow in their understanding of the world, and develop godly character. Once we make a decision, we stick with it and I tailor it to our needs if necessary (although one of the benefits with Sonlight is that it's all pre-planned, so I can take it at whatever pace we like).

If we need to drop something, I'm not freaking out about it (I don't think we ever completely finished a textbook in all my years of schooling). If we need to slow down a bit, we can. If we need to take a break (particularly in these young years) for a week to focus in on character issues, we do. God gave these kiddos to us and I want to be good stewards of not only their minds, but their hearts and personalities as well. We want to try and help develop every part of them-- not just turn out a gaggle of little Einsteins (not to be confused with "Little Einsteins", which we love but still don't really want our kids to be like once they're adults, you understand). While we are very interested in their intellectual development and providing stimulation for their minds and skills, our aims are more focused on launching them towards their eternal joy and God-given purpose than their ultimate financial "success" or the number of degrees they may one day obtain.

Well, I've said more than a mouthful. But that's what we do and have done. I love homeschooling. Our children love schooltime with mommy. And really, more importantly to us, they love to learn-- about God, about the world, about stories, about people, about history, about life. We are enjoying the journey so far, just three years into it.

Whatever curriculum you use or choose, look at the pros & cons... talk to people who have used it. Talk to the kids who grew up with it. See how it matches up with your family dynamics and your children's learning styles. Don't just take my word for it, or anyone else's. No one method is "the right" way to homeschool. Try to do your research on the front end so you don't end up 4 weeks into a year and already hating it. There is such a plethora of resources available that really, there is something to suit almost any and every possible situation, parental philosophy, or learning need.

Be engaged with your kids' education. Be aware of your children's needs. Model a genuine delight in reading and learning. These are all significant and will contribute greatly to your child's education, regardless of your "method" or curriculum. Blessings to you... I hope this helps someone. :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When In Texas...

When in Texas, we manage to squeeze in a little sight-seeing if we can.

The first two pics are of the house used in the movie Hope Floats, which can be found in Smithville, Texas just two towns away from where we stay. Who knew?

The next pics are of the world's smallest Catholic church. This teeny little church is right next to the field where our show sets up and I've always been curious about it. You can actually go inside and I did.

Beautiful fields of Bluebonnets everywhere the eye can see...

This majestic stone bridge sits in a meadow of Bluebonnets and beautiful old trees along the way to Round Top. Looks like a post card doesn't it?

In Warrenton, the biggest Easter basket I've ever seen!

And finally, this is me holding two adorable Yorkie puppies named Abby and Gidget. Check out the shades. What a scream!

The Masters~~Finale

For those of you who know Robin Brown and John Gray~~Magnolia Pearl~~I know you are not surprised that I would include them in my tribute. Beautiful,ethereal,dreamy~~just a few of the many words you could use to describe the gorgeous clothing they design and sell. When at Marburger, I wear nothing else but Magnolia Pearl. It's feminine and flirty and just plain fun to wear. Their booth is romantic and makes you want to sit down and just take it all in. Enjoy...

A shot of me and the beautiful Robin Brown...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day find the universal elements
enough; to find the air and the water
exhilarating; to be refreshed by a
morning walk or an evening
be thrilled by the stars at night; to be
elated over a bird's nest or a wild flower
in spring - these are some of the rewards
of the simple life.

John Burroughs


I only went out for a walk, and finally
concluded to stay out till sundown, for
going out, I found, was really
going in.

John Muir

Happy Earth Day 2009! A Gardener's Perspective

Today the world celebrates Earth Day 2009. There are many special events being hosted world wide as the world focuses on saving our planet. While Earth Day brings an immediate awareness to our planet's plight, living green is something each and everyone of us should strive for daily. There are so many things we can do daily that do make a difference not only on a personal level but as a small

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Growing Stevia

Stevia (Stevia Rebaudiana)

Stevia is a delicate perennial that should be planted in light, sandy soil with a neutral pH. Give it full sun and wait to transplant it until the soil warms up in spring. Once the evenings start getting into the 60s and your tomato plants start to put on some growth, stevia should to do well. Stevia likes rich soil, so compost it well. Space plants 18 inches

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Body of Christ: What a "Beautiful Mess"

When I was in high school, and Christ had begun drawing me back to him from the rebellion I'd been living out for several years, I came across a band called Sixpence None the Richer (best known, perhaps, for their song "Kiss Me"). The album of theirs that I loved most was just close enough to Smashing Pumpkins-style music for me to dig it, while being challenged by the lyrics to look at life more through the lens of faith... a perfect fit for that time in my life.

One of the songs that meant a lot to me at that time was "Within a Room Somewhere". It talks about every breath of life being the potential impetus for us to realize that Christ is there:
Messiah, I know You are there
Within, without me, holding me
Messiah, I know You are there
Catching carrying this beautiful mess
The last line of that chorus fits so well, that Christ catches and carries us, and also gives us a useful description of ourselves. That view of myself, a sinful human, as a "beautiful mess" is a good one, I think. Realizing that as believers, we are beautiful in Christ... and that in our very nature, made in the image of God, we are beautiful... all the while, realizing that we are, each of us, a mess. A sinful, messy, doing-what-we-don't-want-to-do, not-doing-what-we-want-to-do mess.

The Body of Christ can be the same way. It's hard to live in community. To open yourself up authentically, to receive exhortation & correction. To know how to hold fast to what is essential (the Gospel) and offer grace and freedom in non-essentials. It's so tough to interact with others on a deep level and then not feel hurt or wounded when we disagree on things that are significant in our hearts or minds, or when our sin natures become painfully obvious.

Just this week, I've come across three instances of messy, difficult-to-sort Body life. It can be tempting to think we'd just be better off alone.

Lori Chaffer's song "Alone Everybody" sums it up pretty well:
I am happiest when by myself
Nobody’s hurt, nobody’s helped
Like a gun or bullet on a shelf
Alone, everybody’s fine
So I tiptoe around because it’s easier to fake it
Try not to be loud, or emotionally naked
I've been thinking I could get along
I think I’m happy, I think I’m strong
But like my cactus when it’s dry too long
Alone even cacti die
Alone everybody’s fine
Alone everybody lies
Alone everybody cries

Really, it's true. Alone isn't good for anyone. The mess of community, however messy it sometimes gets, is preferable to the mess that happens when we are unrefined, left to ourselves. We are such a beautiful mess when we come together as the Body of Christ.

Alone is not how God meant for human life to be lived. He built community into our make-up... we aren't like many of the animals where we reproduce together but live life mainly alone... He set it up so that marriage is a necessary and right part of overall human life. He separated the people out into people groups with various languages and lands, so that identity and community would be significant in our lives. Christ Himself modeled intensive community life; His first followers walked that same path as the early church. He calls out the Body of Christ to love and honor one another, pursuing unity and peace, so that more people will be drawn to Him.

Though messy & certainly not easy, it *IS* a miracle. In Christ, we have the ability to forgive. We have the ability to live at peace with people that we formerly did not. Even, miraculously, to have unity and fellowship with people that have wounded us in profound ways. As the Body of Christ, we can live in a way that is markedly different from the vengeful, bitter, self-protective, interpersonally-insulated world around us.

I pray for grace to walk in that.

In Christ, we have all we need for godly living... but it requires that we abide. Trust and obey. Love one another deeply. Be at peace with one another. Walk in a manner worthy of the calling. All the things the Word tells us.

Body life as the Church is, really, a beautiful mess.

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