"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge it's rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24:3-4

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Kitchen Talk

Have I ever showed you my pantry's screen door?

Oh, friends! This is one of my most favorite projects we've ever done!

Come on in and take a look!...


We've lived here now for eight years, and our kitchen was the very first room we renovated upon moving in.

(before)

I really wanted it to have a down-home, farmhouse feel.

We had uncovered a stack of various old doors in our previous homes' attic, and it gave Micah and I an idea for our new farmhouse kitchen...

(Because what farmhouse kitchen would be complete without an old screen door?!!)

We selected our favorite one, and made sure it would fit...


Then spray-painted it white...


And... Ta-da!!!


After eight years, I am still very much in love with it! And it's probably the most commented on area of our home by visitors!

I turned the light on for the picture, but unless I'm in there looking for something, I usually keep the light off. So, it looks like this...


I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. I'm sure you do, too! It's like a headquarters for the homemaker, isn't it, friends? Haha...

You know, before I was married I lived alone in a tiny apartment, and I worked full-time at a salon. 

I didn't care about food or cooking.

I would spend about $30 a week on groceries and just buy a box of crackers, jar of peanut butter, a can or two of tuna, and a little milk.

I would work 10-hour shifts at the salon with just a sleeve of crackers in my purse to munch on in-between clients.

One day I was giving a middle-aged woman a pedicure, and she looked down at me and said, "Dear, you are extremely thin. Are you well?"

Puzzled, I looked back at her and replied, "Um... I think so... Why?"

She said, "You do not look well."

I did not know I was thin. I didn't look thin to myself in the mirror! But I remembered what that lady said to me and began buying protein shakes with my groceries. I still didn't attempt to cook or feed myself! Haha... I just sipped on a shake every day for extra calories! 

Why am I telling you all of this?...

Because I wish I hadn't wasted those years. I wish I had practiced cooking and baking in my tiny apartment kitchen! Just think of the cook I could be for my family NOW! To this day I am just a mediocre cook. I had several years before I was married where I didn't have any distractions (like babies and toddlers) and I could have gotten good at it!

Instead, I waited until I had to learn and by then I was battling nausea due to pregnancies, sleep deprivation due to newborn babies, and the hardest of all... toddlers underfoot in the kitchen!

So... I suppose my purpose in writing this is to encourage any young, single girls who may be reading...

Don't waste your youth!

Learn how to budget wisely, how to clean and do laundry well, and how to cook. Then when you get married, you won't feel lost like I did! Haha! AND, you can start being a blessing to your family right off the bat! 

(I don't want to even admit to all the times I fed poor Micah rubbery steak or crunchy noodles during those early years!)

So, my kitchen may have come a long way over the years due to renovations... But I have equally come a long way, too!

Even a mediocre cook who's trying, is far better than not cooking at all!!! Because you'll learn and get better!

Let me share one example...

Over the years I have learned a little trick for mashed potatoes. Would you like to make your potatoes really creamy and delicious?

I'll show you what I do...


Plop a little butter, cream cheese, and shredded parmesan cheese into a large bowl...


Of course the amount will depend on how many potatoes you are using. For my family I usually use three to four.

(My lovely potato-stirring assistant...)

Once they're drained, I pour the hot potatoes over the butter and cheeses to be blended all together...


You'll notice that the water's on. I like to have cold water running whenever I drain hot noodles or potatoes. This is because years ago I was watching Martha Stewart, and she walked over to her sink with a boiling pot of something in one hand, and flipped the water on with the other hand and said, "Remember! Be kind to your sink!"

I've never forgotten that!

I have a beautiful, bright white granite sink that I never take for granted, so... YES! I want to be kind to my sink!

A little salt and pepper are added in at the end... and these are very yummy potatoes to go with our dinner!

(The rule in our house is whoever helps gets to lick the beater!)

Let me know if you try this! Or maybe YOU have a few tips or comments to share...? I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for joining me in my kitchen today!

I loved having you! *wink*

Come over again soon!!!

xo,

~ Courtney ~







Thursday, September 14, 2017

An Indian Summer And Other Stories

I over-slept this morning!

Lately our days have been warm and clear, and the nights cool and crisp. It's wonderful to fall asleep with the bedroom windows open, and awake to sunlight flickering across the bed, birds singing, and my white curtains dancing around in the breeze.

I think it was this exact atmosphere that caused me to lose sight of all reality, and remain in dreamland until something caused my eyes to look over to the clock...

7:45!!!

Oh No!!!

How could I let this happen?!

I popped right up and bolted down the stairs. All of my children were awake; the younger ones watching PBS Kids, and the older ones sitting at the school desk working on school papers. I started the coffee and then realized.... 

This is not a problem.

We have no yellow bus to catch... I have no manager to answer to... and I don't have to get my kids over to their piano teacher until 10:30. So, I poured my coffee in gratitude, remembering all the years of my youth when over-sleeping meant great consequences! 

When I dropped my kids off at piano, I greeted their teacher, my friend, and said, "Good morning! How are ya?!" 

She sighed, "We're surviving... We had a bit of a rough morning."

I said, "Oh, me too! I over-slept! Didn't get up till 7:45!!!"

"Wow!" She said. "That's late!"

I laughed, and then quickly added, "But you know, we are SO lucky, aren't we?"

She nodded in agreement and replied, "We really are!"

Yes, friends, for the homemaker, our days belong to US! Isn't that great?! We design and manage our schedule! And as a person who has a background in public school and then career chasing... THIS is a breath of fresh air! And I've never felt freer!

It was in this freedom that I decided to whisk the kids away to the park the other day to spend the afternoon...


We've been experiencing a bit of an Indian summer. It truly is something to savor because Winter will be upon us before we know it, and he's cranky up here in the north, isn't he?- and never in any rush to give way to Spring. So, we disciplined ourselves to complete all chores and schoolwork in the morning, to take this lovely afternoon off. 


Soren cracked me up when we were wading in the water, he said, "Look mom! It's low tide!"

Haha!!!

We had the entire place completely to ourselves! 


Not another soul in sight!

It was like our own private little park!

This is like medicine to me! As an introvert, I thrive on quiet, alone time. It's like it renews me!

I sat on the park bench and watched my kids play and ride their bikes around...


You know, there was a time in my life when going to the park meant hard work! It seemed I always had a baby that I had to take down the slide, crawl through the tunnels with, and watch over carefully so that they wouldn't kill themselves.

But now, I sit and rest!!!

SO, mama's of babies, be encouraged!

Look at me reading a book on the park bench!

(I've earned this! Haha...)

This was such a treat! But not the only exercise my children get... Since we started school back up I have re-established our 'Morning Run'. This is something I instituted a couple of years ago for Roman, but now he and Soren are doing it. It goes like this... Every morning they are required to get outside for a brisk run before breakfast. It is one of the very first things they do! They are free to decide their route, but upon returning to the house they must tell me an observation. Over the years it has been things like...

~ A flock of geese flew right over the house!

~ The arrow on the barn's weathervane is pointing north.

~ The grass is wet.

~ There was an interesting bird in the maple tree.

~ A baby raccoon is stuck in the live trap!!!

More often than not, these observations have provided meaningful conversation for us while we eat breakfast! It is where real learning takes place! I can say, "Did you know that the reason the weathervane arrow is pointing north is because that's the direction the wind is blowing?"

Or, "What is it called when the grass feels wet first thing in the morning but we know it didn't rain last night?"

I have told the boys that they must keep up with their morning runs until the first snow. Then we will have a winter break.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In other news... Elsa has been going on the potty!!! And has quite the fan club cheering her on...


You don't mind if I use this blog to record some family history, do you? Really, I just wanted an excuse to share this hilarious photo! Haha...

OH! And this one, too...


Which really has nothing to do with anything other than I found it quite remarkable that I got them to all look and smile at the camera for once!!!

I'll tell ya, I really don't know what I'll do with myself when these kiddos all grow up and leave me! I sure hope they give me grand babies so that this doesn't have to end!

~ It's a wonderful life! ~


Oh, friends! I have more on my list of topics to write about and pictures to share... But it will have to wait until next time. It is late already tonight and I must get to bed so that I don't oversleep again tomorrow!!! Haha...

And what about you? You should get to bed, too!

We need our beauty sleep!

Take care sweet friends...


xo,

~ Courtney ~









Thursday, September 7, 2017

Our Week So Far

We started school this week.

Did you?

It's really been going well so far, and we're enjoying it!

I love having all of my children with me during the days, safely tucked into our nest.

The world shouts, "You can't shelter them forever!!!"

Well... I know that.

I don't need to be told that.

I figure, they'll grow up soon enough...


And for now they're thriving at home... so why fix what isn't broken?

So... I ordered our books, made a schedule, and prepared for our fourth year of homeschooling...


There were a couple of things that I wanted to tweak from what we did last year. So, we've been experimenting with that this week...

One change is to prep some of their seat work ahead of time so that they can get started on it right away in the mornings without me.

Last year I wouldn't really prep anything... Once breakfast was over and we were dressed and ready for the day, we would sit down together and pull out the books to begin.

Well, since my last post, so many of you kindly and wisely advised me to prep folders ahead of time and I've been doing that this week.

I love it!

We get up early...

I have my coffee and quiet time...


And the kids get a head start on school...


It's been working out great!

The other change I wanted to make was with our weekday breakfasts.

I was inspired by something I had read by Michael Pearl.

He was addressing the multiple issues that come with feeding kids at home, and he wrote...

"Picture this- It's breakfast time. The table is set with oats or scrambled eggs, real butter, honey, orange juice, wheat toast or fruit. They are invited to the table. All must come and sit, but it is their business whether they eat or not. If they do not eat, ignore them. Once the table has been cleared off, there will be nothing else to eat until lunch."

The reason why this inspired me is because up until now I had taken a different approach to breakfast. I would fix up four different plates of everything that I wanted each child to eat, then get into a tizzy if a child wouldn't eat what I had fixed for them!

That can be stressful and a lot of work!

 I decided to try Mr. Pearl's approach.

This particular day I had made scrambled eggs and cut up an assortment of fresh fruit...


(I didn't include a carb because the children had already had some dry cereal earlier that morning.)

Everyone was free to help themselves and take as large or as small a portion as they wanted.

It was freeing for me because I was no longer fussing over what they were eating. I was remembering Michael's words, "It is their business whether they eat or not."

As long as it's healthy, nourishing food, why can't I set the table like this and just let them take the portion size they desire?

I might stick with this approach!


We do our bible reading during breakfast. I read aloud while the children eat. Usually I read the Proverbs of the day, but we were introduced to a new curriculum at church recently, which has us reading from Ruth daily. So this is what we are doing at the moment.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I really like to guard our time at home. 

I was just telling a friend and fellow homeschool mama today how I feel as though there is always someone or something trying to yank us out of our homes.

She nodded in agreement, and we laughed!

A lot of them are good things! But as that famous quote goes, "You must learn to say 'no' to what's good, so you are able to say 'yes' to what's best."

So in my effort to protect our homelife, I decided that each child can choose only one extra-curricular activity to be involved in. 

I was saying "NO" to a busy, on-the-go lifestyle.

Nola chose gymnastics, Soren wanted another swim class, and Roman asked to do a homeschool Art/Gym combo at our local community center.

This summer when I was doing my research for these classes, I noticed that not only did the YMCA have a swim class for Soren at the same time as Nola's gymnastics class, but they also offered a toddler gymnastics class that Elsa could be involved in... All at the same time!!!

I felt like I had hit the jackpot!!!

These classes all go on during the 5-6:00 hour on Wednesdays, which is perfect for us! Because of church, I have to load up the car and get us ready to head into town each Wednesday anyway, why not leave a little early and knock out 3 out of the 4 kids' classes all in one hour!!!

YES! This is going to work out splendidly!

Yesterday was our first round of classes...

I figured I'd better pack some supper for us to eat in the car on our way over to church once we left the Y.

I happily swung open my cupboard doors to pull out our lunch boxes and get to work, but was met with this mess!...

Ugh!!!

No, no, no... I shouldn't be living like this!

And the next thing I knew I was sitting pretzel-legged on the floor in the kitchen, pulling each item out and organizing this messy cupboard. 

Ahhh.. This is better...


Time well spent.

Now I can make our supper!

(Packing lunch boxes for four kids is kind of a chore! I hope my motivation for this stays up as the weeks press on!) 


Our time a the Y went fast, but was really pleasant.

Elsa has never taken a class outside of church before. She was excited to try something new! 

She has never been a shy child, and I felt happy and proud to watch her walk right on in to a new environment without any hesitation!


I tried to snap a few pictures, but desperately didn't want to be a helicopter mom, so the pictures were taken at a distance...

Nola in her class...


And Soren in the pool...


I did not go into the classes with them.

 I think when you're a homeschool family, kids are sometimes deprived of something that can be just theirs. Do you know what I mean? 

Some activity that they can own... Some small chunk of their life where boring, old mom isn't in their face for once. 

This is one of the main reasons why I so far haven't volunteered to teach any of their classes at church. They need opportunity for some independence... Spread their wings a little... Learn how to obey authority that isn't mom or dad... And practice the social skills they've been learning at home, without me hovering over them. (Although I am still in the building and can pop my head in to check on them if I want. *wink)

They all did great in their new fall classes, and loved it!

I think this will be a wonderful school year!

Our week so far as been quite enjoyable!

How has it been for you?

I sure do love it when you leave comments for me! It helps me get to know you better, and I love that, because when I sit down to blog I feel as though I am visiting with friends!

You all are my friends, you know that, don't you?!

:)

Thanks for reading...

I'll be back here again soon!

xo,

~ Courtney ~

















Thursday, August 31, 2017

Getting Ready For School

Hello friends!

Can you believe that summer is winding down already?

We get to welcome in a new month tomorrow!

Fall will be upon us before we know it, and I've got a lot to do to get ready!

 I'm sure you do, too!

School starts for us next week and I will have a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a kindergartener!

Each year just keeps getting more complex!

When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I just take a time-out and head outside with my scissors...


My roses didn't do too bad this year despite the fact that I didn't end up fertilizing any of them!

They are faithful friends that show up year after year...


I have five different varieties.

A sprig from each was snipped for this arrangement in my kitchen.


But I can only turn my back on my responsibilities for so long, *sigh....

I need to make sure I am ready for school!

I decided to write out a rough draft of Roman and Nola's upcoming school year to make sure I'm not missing anything.

I wrote out the subjects that I wanted to be a part of our year, and the means by which they will be incorporated...


It made me feel a little better!


I'm really looking forward to starting the year! But it'll be a lot to take on, and I feel as though my plate's already full! SO, I began brainstorming ways that I can be more efficient in my home.

One idea that I had was to train the older ones to do some of my morning jobs.

If we're going to get everything done in the mornings to be ready to start school at a decent time, then I need help!

I thought I'd try giving Roman the job of making breakfast for everyone. So the other day I assigned him the entire task from start to finish. He had already been used to helping me with kitchen chores, but this was the first time I completely backed off and let him do it.


He did great!

He made scrambled eggs and toast; cut up some fruit, and gave everyone a yogurt and a vitamin.


Once I saw that this could be a possibility for our mornings, I felt encouraged! This could potentially free me up for an extra 20-30 minutes each day, allowing me to focus on other morning tasks.

Some other ideas of chores that my older kids could do...

~ Nola could switch over the morning load of laundry from the washer to the dryer.

~ Roman could help Nola and Soren with their piano practice.

~ Nola could make Elsa's bed for her and help her brush her hair and teeth.

etc...

These are all habits I'm accustomed to doing, but I've been wondering lately if I need to do a better job delegating, so that more can get done!

Well, if there's ever a time to experiment with that, IT'S NOW! Homeschool takes a big chunk out of the day, and I'm not willing to cheapen our meals and homelife because of it. 

I would LOVE to still do hair and makeup every morning, make nutritious meals, and keep our home clean and tidy...

(Any of you veteran homeschool mamas out there willing to give me advice on this? Haha... Leave me a comment!!!)


Once we're up and running with school and in the groove, I'll write a post about our schedule.

I'm just still in the planning and waiting phase now...

Yesterday I set up a bookshelf in the family room and stocked it with supplies...


Last year we did school in the dining room, but this year I'd like to try it in the family room.

What do you think?

Where do you do school?

Do you have a school room? A school corner? Or do you do it at the kitchen table?...

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have any of you tried it in the family room? Did you like it? 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

My brain could go and go...

But for now I'll just try to enjoy the last few quiet, unhurried days of summer...


and finish getting ready for school.

:)

xo,

~ Courtney ~











Friday, August 25, 2017

Our Week Of Adventure

Have you ever noticed how nobody ever says, 

'World Sweet World', 

or 'Job Sweet Job', 

or 'School Sweet School'...

No.

Everyone knows it's 

'Home Sweet Home!'

And for good reason!

"... At home we are totally in charge! We can turn on or off the music any time we want. The curtains can be lace, or linen, or shades, or blinds ~ or none at all. And if we want something and it's too expensive, we can figure out how to make it, or save for it. TV can be on all day, or never... We can feed the birds or we don't have to. And no one cares because it is our own world and no one else's."
~ Susan Branch

Yes! This is how I feel about my home.

It is my own little world where I can do what I please, and I almost never wish to leave.


Sometimes though, I have no choice and I must leave.

This happened recently.

Micah called a family meeting and announced that we would be leaving for a week to travel south. He wanted to watch the eclipse, visit family, and give the kids a summer vacation.

So he planned a summer road trip for us and rented an RV.

Of course my initial reaction was not very pleasant. My first instinct was to feel sorry for myself with thoughts like, This does not sound fun at all! I do not wish to go! I can't be out of the house for a whole week! He knows that!!! What about laundry?! What about my plants?! What about back to school prep?! And on and on these thoughts went...

Until finally I came to a conclusion.

I realized that there are more people in this family besides just me. My happiness is not the only thing that matters, and there are others to consider. I resolved that I would go on this trip with as good an attitude as I could muster! This would be something that Micah and the kids would enjoy, so I would find contentment in that!

I began to embrace the idea, and do my best to get us ready to go!

I gathered together the items I thought we'd need...


Threw the kids' clothes in a bin...


And away we went...


I learned very quickly that RV living is NOT for me! But as I told a girlfriend the other day, I am more than happy to go through a rough week to give my kids a memorable experience!

(The RV had NO hot water!!! And the generator kept quitting on us!!!!!)


They loved it, though!!!

And it was good for them because they have so far lived a rather sheltered life, and our week on the road gave them many unique experiences...


For example... We camped at a place where we met an earthy, European family. When my children asked why the dad had long hair, and the daughter was running around shirtless, I explained to them that there are all different kinds of people in this world. God made and died for everyone, even the ones who are not like us!


We attended a church that was nothing like the church we're used to at home. It felt like we were at a rock concert! When my children asked why this church was so huge and so loud, I explained to them that God's people are everywhere and worship Him in all different ways!


But probably the most unique experience was to watch the eclipse in the path of totality...


We had two full minutes of complete totality. The sky grew dark... The temperature dropped... And the people all around us clapped and cheered!

It was a memorable experience for us all!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One of the days on our trip was spent in downtown St. Louis.


My children have been raised in the country- on trees, trails and meadows... So, spending the day in a big city was a great opportunity for many important life lessons!



We took them to the Arch...


And made our way up to the very top!




Once we came down we decided to walk to the City Museum. 


My children are quite used to walking because of our daily nature walks on our trails. But this walk would be twenty city blocks!


The kids did great! And as I mentioned above, there were many teaching moments.

They learned how to cross streets in a big city, how to read the signs and what they mean, how to figure out the way to 17th street from the corner of Washington and 4th, etc...

At one point one of them said, "Why are we walking for so long?" And I explained that it's a lovely thing to be in the heart of a city- absorbing the atmosphere, gazing at all the interesting sights, and taking in the energy!

The city is exhilarating!...


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

While on the road, we drove to Kentucky. Micah has some family there, and together we visited the Ark Encounter...


The exhibits were fascinating! And the whole experience really boosted my faith!

One exhibit is of Satan saying, "If I can convince you that the Ark wasn't real, then I can convince you that heaven and hell aren't real."

And it reminded me of 1 Peter 1:14-15 which says, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do." 

Unsaved people are the ignorant ones.

SO... don't ever let unbelievers put you down for your faith and make you feel silly for believing the bible!

"Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."
-Proverbs 30:5


There were some challenging moments on this trip, but also some sweet ones...



My hope is that the memories made will last a lifetime...




When our week of adventure had ended, we headed back.

I was ready for 

~ Home Sweet Home ~

I couldn't wait for this sight to greet me...


Ahhh... Home!

When we arrived home, we discovered that my mother had stopped by the house to drop off some groceries, feed the pets, bring in the mail, and leave 'I missed you' notes on the children's beds. THEN! I got a text from a friend saying she was bringing us our dinner for the next night!

She said, "I know what it's like to get home from a long trip and be overwhelmed and exhausted..."

I don't know what I ever did to deserve such wonderful people in my life!


They take care of me!!!

And even though I've had mounds of laundry and lots to do, I've made sure to get out into the yard for my usual puttering around and flower clipping.

Arranging clippings in a vase stabilizes and reassures me, and helps get the house back to normal...

(The cranberries are here! Fall must be close by!)



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well friends, there's so much more I could share, but I'll end it here for today.

I plan to have a quick recover but then I must get to work preparing for the school year to start!

I have a lot of ideas and much to do to make it all happen, but I'll be sure to take the time to share it with you!

Thank you for stopping by my blog today, and for all the comments, 'likes', and support you have lavished on me throughout my blogging journey!

It means so much to me!!!


xo,

~ Courtney ~