Purim

We recently studied the book of Esther with Em, so decided to celebrate Purim this year, with our own twist. (We aren’t Jewish, and this was a first for us, although I did a little lesson on it when I was teaching last year.)

There are four main components to the celebration:

  1. Helping out or giving food to the poor and needy.
  2. Giving gifts of food to family.
  3. Feasting.
  4. Reading through the book of Esther

We went to the community care center that some members of our church help run to see if they needed help. They had enough help today, but were pleased to see us. Our women’s ministry group at church had recently put together baby essentials bags to give out to expectant moms at the care center, but they were still at the church. So, we offered to run and get a few of the bags so they would have them on hand. When we got to the church, a couple of members were there cleaning, and we sat and talked with one of them. We would have offered to help clean, but she was there to help teach the other member to clean, as he is taking it on as his job. So, we chatted with her as she took a break and he was vacuuming. Then, we ran the baby bags back to the care center and then went to pick up supplies for the rest of the day.

We decided to make Spring pudding cups for the kids in the family, and made something else for my mother-in-law. Once those were done, we delivered them, and then headed home for our feast. Em’s favorite dish ever is my bean enchiladas, so we had those with chips, guacamole, and ginger ale.

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“Dirt and grass” pudding cups
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A field of flowers
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Our feast!
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Enchiladas

Later in the evening we read through the entire book of Esther, booing and shaking homemade noise makers (dry beans in a glass bottle) whenever Haman was mentioned, and celebrating whenever Mordecai was mentioned. I think it would be a little long for little ones, but Em hung in there for the whole thing. One idea for little ones would be to involve puppets, other visuals, or have them act it out.

All in all, it was a fun, memorable day and I believe it helped cement the story in Em’s mind. We also planted some potatoes in pots on our patio! Yay for gardening. 🙂

A few things we thought of as we celebrated that we might incorporate next year are:

  1. Making and/or wearing crowns.
  2. A lot of people mentioned that traditionally people wear costumes. I don’t know that we will ever do that, but I did think that it would be a good time to give Em (or other future kiddos) her spring church dress, as Esther got to have beautiful dresses and had to pick one to wear to the king. We too, should have something special to wear on Sabbath to commune with our King. That is a concept we are still working on, but those are just some thoughts I’ve had about it so far.
  3. Essential oils and facials might be a fun thing to do with the girls in the family, since Esther went through a year of beauty treatments and scented oils.
  4. As we were reading chapter 1, it spoke about the mosaic floors of the palace, and so we thought making mosaic stepping stones or something else, next year might be fun.
  5. We recently watched “One Night with the King,” otherwise we might have watched it today. While I don’t like the emphasis they place on the necklace in the movie, it did help Em to visualize some of the other things in the story and was a good discussion starter.

I haven’t been back with a homeschool update because, well, four family members have been in the hospital in the last couple of weeks, including my husband, whose ambulance was t-boned. He is miraculously okay- God is so good to us. Honestly, my husband should not have survived that wreck, or at the very least had brain and eye damage, but he is alive and well. I am so, so thankful for that. We’ve had several of Em’s siblings staying here at various times as other family members were in the hospital or taking of those who were in the hospital. We have done some school work with her, but nothing much to speak of. There is a homeschool convention next week here in Ohio, which I am planning to attend. So, I will have a homeschool update in early April. Until next time, blessings! And, happy Spring!

Imagine Childhood

Hi all! I’ll be back soon with a homeschool update, potato month recap, and some other things. However, today I wanted to let you know that Imagine Childhood is running a great giveaway right now. I adore all of the items in their shop, and they are great for homeschooling families, and those interested in learning about God’s creation.

Here is the link: Imagine Childhood Giveaway!

P.S.- They have a wonderful blogs full of great ideas.

February Homeschool Plans

Things progressed more slowly in January than I anticipated, but I would rather go more slowly and ensure work is being done thoroughly and that Em is truly understanding things than speed along. I am trying to trust that once her reading level is up, things will progress more quickly, but that is not the case right now.

With that said, we are still working on Stuart Little and did not get to Charlotte’s Web yet. Em has the rough draft of her book report finished, and should complete the final draft finished this week. We realized when we read her rough draft that she really needed more English instruction. That’s the challenge of educating a preteen that we haven’t raised- we are constantly finding gaps in her learning that we have to backtrack to fill in. My husband has taken over spelling and English, and has begun working on sentence structure with Em. This month, we’d like to start her diagramming sentences. I never diagrammed sentences when I was in school, but I believe it would have helped me (English is not my strong point) because it is very visual, which I do well with. I think it will really help Em, too.

Part of the reason the book report is taking so long, aside from having to backtrack on sentence structure and tenses, is that we used a workbook from education.com on book reports which contained many worksheets on various aspects of the book. She identified and described the characters, did a story board of the plot, figured out where to find the book information, wrote an opinion piece, etc. All of that led up to writing the actual report. I think I will have her do the same for the next book report or two, but after that she won’t need to do all of that pre-work.

I still plan on having her do Charlotte’s Web next. After that, I am planning to have her read a book about Balto, and maybe the original Winnie the Pooh. We are also going to try out this website that is a free “Accelerated Reader” type program: Book Adventure. Em can take quizzes on the books she reads and earn points for prizes. The website offers a few prizes, or I can add in a prize that we will give her when she reaches a certain number of points.

We covered different kinds of graphs last month in math, and will be moving on to graphing on a coordinate plane. We will also continue working on multiplication drills.

In science, I had originally planned to cover anatomy this month after talking about living things last month, but we took a bit of a detour this month that I want to continue on for the time being. We began talking about biomes this month for various reasons, and so this month we are going to be covering the different types of biomes more in-depth. I saved several episodes of Planet Earth on our DVR when they were on, so we will utilize those. Em also really likes Minecraft, and I’ve seen lesson plans before about using Minecraft to teach biomes, so I will be looking into that. Education.com also has some worksheets on the subject, and I plan to check some books out from the library on the various biomes.

For Bible, we have begun using the junior lessons from My Bible First. I had seen the lessons before and was very impressed, so I was very glad to find some at our church in the children’s Sabbath School room. I found a set of Quarter 1, Year B. So, we aren’t starting at the beginning, but this set starts with Daniel, who is the Bible character Em is most familiar with due to a children’s program I did this past summer during an evangelistic series. She wasn’t living with us at the time, but got to attend with us. During our family worship we are still in Genesis, so Em will still be getting the earlier stories, but for Bible class the “My Bible First” lessons are working well. Our memory verse this month is from 1st Corinthians 13, and we will be learning the hymn “Jesus Paid it All.”

For art, we have been mostly incorporating it into other subjects. Eventually we will move on to different artists and art history, but we have other things I want to have in place first. She does attend an art class at the library every other week, which she enjoys, and she also paints and colors a lot in her free time.

That’s all for this month!

 

No Spend January Update

In an effort to save some money, we’ve been making a mess.

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This room originally was clean and quite empty, but we decided to get all the rest of our items from the storage unit we were renting. So, into this room (and all over the rest of the house, too) the stuff went. The picture was taken a few days ago, and I’ve been working on going through everything. I found a couple of tubs full of old paperwork and cards, and found two $10 bills in the cards!

We are glad not to have to pay for the storage unit anymore, and we got our deposit back, which was a nice bonus. We don’t have any shed or garage at the place we are renting, though, so it has been a bit of a struggle to figure out what to do with all our yard/garden/tool stuff. I now have a table saw sitting in my kitchen:

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My husband found a board to fit the top of it, so I can use it as a work surface for now, which is quite handy for cooling racks and groceries.

Due to having to pay a mortgage and rent right now, we will be continue our “No Spend” challenge into February out of necessity. We haven’t seen any huge savings from it, as we weren’t big shoppers to begin with, but it has still helped motivate us to do anything extra that we can. We sold a few things on our local Facebook yard sale site, got everything out of storage, and have really made use of the few pantry items we had. We’ve eaten a lot of oatmeal this month. It has definitely stretched my culinary skills to the max, which leads me to another little challenge I’ve made up for myself for February- “The Month of Potatoes.”

My husband and Em love potatoes, but I don’t seem to think of cooking them very often. While I ate them growing up, it wasn’t super often, and they aren’t my favorite food. I would like to have more ways of using potatoes under my belt, though, because they are: inexpensive, easy to grow, and beloved by the rest of my family members. We were a part of a gleaning club when we lived in Walla Walla, WA and ended up with quite a lot of potatoes one year. I struggled with what to do with so many potatoes, and sadly many went to waste. I don’t want that to happen again if we grow our own and get a bumper crop. For all those reasons, I’m challenging myself to cook potatoes once a day for the next month. I got an early start and have already made some potato chips, roasted potatoes with pepper and onions, potato wedges, and a frittata with potatoes. I plan to make lefse, mashed potatoes, my family’s “cheesy potatoes,” hashbrowns, baked potatoes, hasselback potatoes, scalloped potatoes, and potato bread.

Anyone have other (preferably vegan) potato ideas?

“Scraping the Bottom of the Pantry” Pasta

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I am naming this pasta dish we had last night “Scraping the Bottom of the Pantry Pasta” because that is literally what I was doing when I made it. We still have oatmeal, popcorn, flour, walnuts, seeds, and some seasonings, but that’s really it. I had sprouted some bean sprout mix and really needed to use them up, as I can’t refrigerate them due to not having a refrigerator.  I had one lemon and one onion left. I had an idea for combining it all, but really didn’t think it was going to work out. It was tasty, though! I nearly caramelized the onion with olive oil and salt (I got impatient towards the end, so they didn’t completely caramelize), then tossed in the bean sprouts for a quick saute. I added the cooked pasta, juice from one lemon, cumin seeds, more olive oil and salt, some onion powder, and a dash of liquid smoke. I served it with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs over the top. It got high marks from my husband and Em.

I baked some bread last night and have enough for another loaf or two. I will need to get a few groceries soon, though. I am grateful that we have never gone truly hungry and that this challenge (“No Spend January”) is pushing and stretching us in many ways. I have more thoughts on that, but think they deserve their own post sometime soon. Thinking about baking bread made me think of the verse “Man does not live on bread alone…” and when I looked it up, I found the Old Testament passage that Jesus was quoting from. It was a promise I needed today.

 “Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him.For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” ~Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Living Well, Spending Less- A Book Review

One of my resolutions this year was to read at least one book a month. It isn’t unique resolution, but it is a helpful one. I read a lot online, but wanted to get back into the habit of reading more books cover to cover. I had checked out “Living Well, Spending Less” (by Ruth Soukup) from the library back in October, I think. We had started to do her “Live Well, Spend Zero” challenge in October, but weren’t able to follow along because of the living situation we were in, and the fact that we moved at the end of the month. It was the one book I had checked out while we moved from my sister-in-law’s extra bedroom that we were staying in to our current rental house. I had started reading it, but lost it in the shuffle. I renewed it as many times as I could, but thought I was actually going to have to pay for the book because I could not find it anywhere. It was actually due a few days ago and I was planning to go in and pay for it when I grabbed an old computer bag to put my laptop in for the trip to the library and the book was in there! And, the library system actually let me renew it once more even though I should have been maxed out. I’m so glad I did not have to pay for the book (it would have been a bit ironic, too, as I would have paid for it during our “no spend” challenge month, inspired by Ruth’s blog challenge). I was also glad to have the opportunity to finish reading the book. I took the afternoon of our cold, slightly snowy day here to finish it up so I can get it back to the library.

I appreciate Ruth’s Christian viewpoint in the book, and her emphasis on giving, particularly in the last chapter. She also urges goal setting, which is something I could definitely work on. There were some useful tips here and there, but overall I didn’t find a lot of things that would be helpful to my family in saving money, which is really why I got the book. A family that is used to shopping often, eating out frequently, making car payments, and in debt, might find the money saving information more useful. Ruth mentioned that when her family first did a “no spend” month, they saved $1000, which might be achievable for many families. However, we are not going to be anywhere close to that, not because we aren’t saving, but because that is generally our way of life. My husband and I have always chosen to live with less when needed, so as to not be in debt. For instance, we have not had a refrigerator since we moved into our rental in November. We had a deep freezer for about a month and a half, but we sold it for various reasons, and just have had other things we needed to spend our money on, and haven’t had enough extra to get a fridge. We’ve been making do with a cooler and some occasional ice when the temperature has been warm. We are thankful it is winter!

If you generally live a frugal lifestyle, then don’t expect to find anything that will help you save “big” money. Most of the tips will probably be familiar to you- making homemade cleaning products, making food at home, shopping sales, only buy necessities, etc. However, her thoughts on hospitality, goal setting, and learning to be content still make it a worthwhile read.

Accepting Imperfection

Last night, I baked a chocolate cake for a potluck today. I had planned to make a peanut butter frosting for it with the last of our powdered sugar and peanut butter- something I have done before. This time, for whatever reason, the frosting went from play dough consistency to a grainy, wet messy and never achieved fluffy, spreadable frosting. I tried to save it because it was the last of what I had, and I hated to waste it, but eventually had to give up. I ended up chopping up a mint dark chocolate bar I had gotten for Christmas and melting it down with a bit of coconut oil to use as a glaze. I took pictures that I intended to use for this post, but they didn’t turn out. At all. The whole thing reminded me of the simple fact of life that things don’t always work out, and that’s okay. I didn’t end up with a beautifully frosted peanut butter chocolate cake. I did end up with a serviceable chocolate mint cake that still tasted good even if some of the chocolate in the glaze seized.

A few weeks ago I wanted to make a wreath for our door, and went out to forage materials. Having lived in the west my whole life up until six months ago, I was not thinking about the fact that there aren’t many evergreens around here. I finally found some other material to work with, but it wasn’t anything like I had envisioned. I was too embarrassed to even think about hanging the wreath up, but my husband and Em thought it was cute, so I did. And, you know what? Seeing that little, silly wreath has brought a smile to my face many times the last few weeks. Em made another wreath for our back door last week, following my example.

In a world of glossy magazine spreads, perfect Pinterest images, and Instagram-worthy photos, it is sometimes hard for me to feel like I have much to offer. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. However, what we should remember is that we can still be a blessing in our imperfections. That cake still tasted good. The wreath made us smile. A hand sewn pillow with crooked seams can still provide comfort. A small bouquet of wildflowers might not be be picture perfect, but they can still brighten a room and bring a smile to someone’s face.

So, here is my imperfect wreath as a reminder that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a blessing.

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