Archives for June 2011

Keeping Cool Pasta Salad Recipe

It is almost the 4th of July, and in Spain that means it is hot, really HOT.  The air conditioners are small wall units placed in each room and do very little to keep you cool in the heat of summer.  While living in Spain, I had to learn other tricks to keep us from burning up. 

One of the things we did that was so much fun was to have “picnics” for lunch.  I would make up something simple, that required little cooking, and we would all go out and eat on the shaded patio (which was cooler than the house). 

One of our favorite foods is a healthy, but super yummy Greek pasta salad.  You can make this ahead and put it in the fridge.  When the temperatures rise and you don’t want to heat up the kitchen, pull this out for a quick and easy lunch.  I like to serve it with french bread and butter (using the bread to dip up the extra salad dressing)!

Greek Pasta Salad

1 package multi-colored pasta, cooked
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tomato, diced (or you can use cherry tomatoes cut in half)
olives (I like to use Kalamata, but use what you like)
feta cheese
Greek salad dressing (choose your favorite, or use the Olive Garden salad dressing below…I know, it’s not Greek, but it taste good!)

Pretty simple directions, just mix everything together and call it good!

Olive Garden Salad Dressing

8 oz Paul Newman’s Oil and Vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar

Again, just mix everything together really good and pour over the pasta salad.  I would wait to do this until right before you are ready to serve, as the pasta tends to soak up the dressing.

This post is linked up at Life in a Shoe and Smockity Frocks!

Homeschool Planning: History and Literature

History and literature are my favorite subjects to plan for each year.  While math and grammar are more of a workbook type subject, history and literature are an adventure.  Each year we get to visit new places, meet new people, and find out about the world.

Because we didn’t get finished with all I had planned for last school year, we are going to pick up where we left off.  Last year we used Beautiful Feet’s US and World History study guide.  The guide has 2 sections–one for high school and one for jr high.  There is a resource list that includes books and movies that can be used with the study guide. 

The guide does not follow a calendar, but rather leaves it up to the parent to determine how long the student should spend on each book.  I like this approach because I don’t feel pressured to have the kids finish each book by a certain date.  On the other hand, it does make it a little to easy to not get done in a timely manner.  We’re still working on a balance between the two!

Although the guide is geared toward high school and jr high, we still manage to do much of our history together as a family.  I usually choose to read the core material aloud (in this case, we are reading Abraham Lincoln’s World), then I find easier books that go along with our time period for the younger ones to read.

One of the best things about Beautiful Feet Books is the titles that are chosen to go along with the guides.  Rea Berg has chosen rich classic literature devoid of twaddle (as Charlotte Mason would say).  I remember when I was in school how boring it was to learn history from a textbook.  It always seemed like we were learning about unimportant events that had no impact on our life today.  I am so thankful to now know that there is a better way to learn history.  The literature brings the history to life and allows us to see the importance of each event.

In addition for Beautiful Feet, we are adding in a fun, new element to our learning this year.  We are using Homeschool in the Woods’ Time Travelers.  This is a CD that contains activities and projects to go along with the time period you are learning about.  I purchased the Civil War CD and the Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression CD.  I think these will be fun even for the older kids.

They will be creating notebooks to showcase their projects, as well as their writing.  The CDs contain printable items used to create lap books.  There are also games that can be printed out on card stock and laminated.  Included are instructions on making authentic time period crafts.  Each unit concludes with a final celebration.  I am hoping to try and really bring this study to life.  It would be nice if I could find some other homeschooling families to join in on our celebration.

More in this series:
Science and Math
History and Literature
Bible and Language Arts – coming soon!

Update on Cooper

Don’t you just love it when you spend an hour on a post and the somehow *poof* its gone.  Well, here is a shorter version of the post I tried to write several days ago.

My Cooper Booper got his final casts off last week.  He has now graduated to big boy braces.  He has to wear his braces 23 hours a day for the next 3 months, then he will gradually wear them less and less until he is only wearing them at night and naptime.

New feet, still a bit swollen from his casts

Cooper's new braces

He has been such a trooper through all of this.  What a joyful spirit he has, waking up cooing and smiling!  He very rarely fusses, but when he does I take off his braces and rub his feet and he is all smiles.  He loves his feet rubbed!

He has learned to kick his feet in unison, as the bar on his braces keeps his feet from moving independently.  He still hasn’t rolled over yet, and seems like it might be difficult to do with his braces on.  I guess time will tell…he may be the next Harry Houdini.

I am so relieved to be done with the weekly castings, the long drives to Houston, and long days spent at the doctors office.  To be completely honest though, it seems like my days have gotten harder. 

 When Cooper was going through treatment, I was very focused and I knew what I needed to do to get through each week.  There was always the goal of finishing his treatment.  Now that he is finished, all the things I set aside during survival mode have now come to the forefront.

My husband – I haven’t seen my husband in over 2 months and really I just want to cry in his arms in relief.  I am so thankful to the Lord for all He has done in healing our baby boy.  It is absolutely overwhelming when I remember Cooper’s feet the evening he was born, and then look at them now.  What a MIGHTY God we serve!

Moving – There is still no word on where or when we will be moving.  There are so many blessing the Lord has poured out on us here in TX, but my human nature just wants to move ahead.  It is so hard to just be still and know that it will all happen in God’s timing.

All the little things that turn into big things when you don’t take care of them cause you are just trying to get through each day – like losing the baby weight, disciplining the kids, getting regular sleep, reading your Bible daily, keeping to some sort of schedule, getting something concrete accomplished each day.

So that’s where I am at right now.  Just trying to find “normal” again.  But where is normal anyway?

Review: Botany in a Day

Botany in a Day Review has been moved to my new herbal site, The Christian Herbal.

Cultivating a Love of Music

The brown truck arrived this evening.  I could hear the squeals from every corner of the house, as all 5 children raced to the door.  Excitement was in the air as the older 2 kids pulled their new instruments out the boxes.  Kendra bought a mandolin and Tristan a ukulele.  The evening didn’t quieten down until after all younger kids were in bed.  And even then, the 2 older were on the computer looking up new music to play tomorrow.

I grew up in a very musical family.  My grandmother was an old-time country singer (she even played at the Grand Ole Opry).  My dad and his brothers always had a band of some sorts.  Both my brother’s share in the family talent. 

With all this musical talent in the family, you would think it would be only natural for my children to love music.  While the Lord does bless some with greater musical talent, the love of music can be nurtured in all of us.

Ways to Nurture the Love of Music

1)  Give you children the opportunity to hear music throughout each day.  I believe that even a child in the womb benefits from the sound of music. Sing songs to your children.  Play musical CDs for them. 

2)  Sing songs and/or play instruments during family worship time.  This is a great time to worship the Lord with music.  My children love to pick out and sing their favorite hymns or spiritual songs during our Bible time.  This is also a great time for the family to learn to sing together or play instruments together for the glory of God.

3)  Play music for others.  Share the talents that you have been blessed with to bless others.  My children have been able to share their talents at our church.  We have also had sweet fellowship with friends at our home as we sat around singing together.   

Opportunities for Learning Music

1)  Pray for the Lord to provide opportunities for your children to learn music skills.  Several years ago, I wanted my children to learn some hymns.  We didn’t sing many hymns at our church at the time.  I could never manage to squeeze in time to teach the children more hymns.  I weighed heavy on my heart.  We then moved to Spain and found a church to go to.  Guess what, they only sang hymns.  My children now know more hymns than I could have EVER taught them!

2) Short-term lessons.  There have been many times in our lives when the Lord would bring someone across our path that would teach our children music lessons.  The people he brings have varied in age, in talents, in the amount of time they have spent with us.  However, the Lord has used each one in very special ways. 

We met a wonderful Christian lady from Russia while we were living in Spain.  She was the most talented pianist I have ever heard.  She was able to teach my oldest daughter piano and the rest of the children she worked with on singing Spanish hymns.  She was only with us for the summer, but her wisdom and talent still bless us.  Recently we have been blessed by a young violin/mandolin player that has been working with Kendra while we are here in TX.  She has helped cultivate a love of bluegrass music that has my children practicing everyday without being told to!

3) Long-term lessons.  My children have taken music lessons on a long-term basis when they were able to.  There are a couple of things I would like to say about having your kids take lessons from someone else.  One, is make sure the music teacher shares your views on music.  This may not seem like such a big deal, especially when your kids are younger and playing Twinkle, Twinkle.  However, music is such a powerful thing–it stirs emotions in us either for good or bad.  I don’t believe that there is a such thing as “neutrality” in music.  It is either honoring to the Lord or it is not.  Make sure that your child’s teacher honors the Lord with the music being taught.

Ways to Encourage Your Child

1)  Ask them to play for you.  I am always “bugging” my children to play for me, especially in the evenings.  While it is easy to ask your older, more competent musicians to play for you, don’t forget to ask the little ones to play and sing for you.  That encouragement goes a long way in their quest to get better.

2) Young children need help with practicing, especially the first 2 years or so.  I have noticed a trend with my children and learning to play music.  The first couple of years I had to really take the time to sit and help them as they practiced, or at least make sure they were practicing the right songs and the right amount of time each day.  After they were older, they begin to “own” the music, meaning it was theirs.  They had a connection to it and wanted to play each day.

3) Motivate your children.  For younger children this might be a musical game of some sort.  For older children, they need to be challenged and encouraged.  They also need accountability.  One of the best things to do is to find other like-minded people for your children to play music with.  This helps them grow musically and is usually so much fun for them!

Homeschool Music Resources

My daughter recently commented, “the more you learn about music, the more you realize how in-depth music can be”.  This is so true.  You never really get to the bottom of music.  Here are some resources that we have used and enjoyed in our home.

1) Classical Music Curriculum – The curriculum comes with books, study guides, and CDs covering 8 classical music composers.  The books are simple enough for young readers to read alone, but contain enough information to interest older children as well.  The CDs contain music from each composer, as well as printable coloring sheets, projects, and sheet music.  You can purchase this as a set, or buy the books individually.

2) Music Masters Curriculum – Music and narrative CDs covering the lives of 13 great composers.  Each CD is an hour long and contains famous classical works from each composers intertwined with the story of the composers life.

3) Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers

4) Then Sings My Soul – Both volumes contain the stories behind hundreds of beloved hymns.  They also contain the music and words for each hymn.

Bread of Idleness

Do Not Eat The Bread of Idleness

by Sue Becker, 1994
(An edited version of this article appeared in Above Rubies magazine #44)

 “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain.  Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is near at hand. “Joel 2:1

There is a health care crisis in this land.  Liberals and conservatives alike agree on this fact.  The cause of the crisis is quite another issue.  Some blame lawyers, while others blame doctors, insurance companies, medical suppliers or the government.  While all of these have certainly played their part, the truth of the matter is that we are to blame.  We are a sick and unhealthy people. God’s word in Matthew 9:35-38 certainly describes the state of our country today.  We are sick, but as we turn to doctors and medicine, weight loss clinics and diets we are often left “bewildered – harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless – like sheep without a shepherd.(v36)  Our health does not depend on doctors and medicine but on how we live our lives.

The God who created our bodies also caused the earth to bring forth vegetation and gave to man “every plant yielding seed and every tree with seed in its fruit” to have for food. (Gen 1:29)  After the flood His provisions for man included “every moving thing that lives” as well as the green vegetables and plants. (Gen 9:3).  I trust God completely in His provisions to know what foods will best nourish our bodies.  Man, however, has altered His provisions first for the sake of convenience and now for greed.

Look for a moment at the example of the children of Israel in the wilderness.  With nothing to eat, God lovingly provided them with manna from heaven.  It was to be gathered daily.  Some tried to gather tomorrow’s portion today so that they would not have to gather tomorrow.  God says six days shall you work and one day shall you rest and so on every day but the Sabbath, God caused the manna that was gathered early to get worms in it.  I’m sure if some enterprising Israelite could have discovered a way to keep the manna from spoiling, to allow it to be stored for several days, he would have had a very marketable product, especially to those who were simply too lazy or too busy doing other things to get their food every day.

This is exactly what we see if we look more closely at the foods offered in the grocery store and how they got there.  Jesus prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  God designed the wheat kernel, as well as other grains to perfectly store the nutrients within.  Once broken open, as in milling, the nutrients immediately begin to oxidize.  Within about 72 hours 90% of over 30 nutrients are virtually gone.

Prior to the 1900s most flour was milled locally and the bread baked at home. Since the flour could not be stored, only enough grain was ground fresh each day to meet the needs of the community.  This meant that just about every family was “gathering” their manna daily.  However, in the 1920s new technology allowed enterprising millers to separate the wheat components.  By removing the germ, germ oil, and the bran the remaining white flour could be stored indefinitely.  This began to eliminate the need for local milling and people began to relinquish their own responsibility of preparing their bread daily.

Lucrative markets were also found for the nutritious “by-products” of this new milling process.  The bran and wheat germ were sold as high protein food supplements for cattle.  Local mills soon went out of business as the large roller mills produced huge volumes of long lasting white flour.

This appeared to be a great advance in technology.  In just a short time, however, cases of beriberi and pellagra began to drastically increase.  Both of these diseases are the result of vitamin B deficiencies and health officials traced the problem to the new white flour.  The new milling process strips the B vitamins as well as about 24 other nutrients from the wheat kernels.

Health officials urged mills to return to producing whole wheat flour again but they did not want to lose their very profitable market of selling the germ and bran as cattle feed.  Instead, millers chose to “enrich” the white flour by replacing 4 vitamins for the 25-30 that are removed.  This solved the problem of beriberi and pellagra; however, we are now plagued with many diseases that are directly related to our consumption of white flour (appendicitis, diverticular disease, hiatal hernia, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more!).

Our willingness to be free of the responsibility of preparing our bread daily has now put the control of what we feed our families into the hands of huge food companies with one goal in mind – MONEY.  As we shop for our food we get to choose from what someone with only profit in mind is offering.

What can we do now? “… Thus saith the Lord of host: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but you do not have enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe yourselves, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of host: Consider your ways.”  Haggai 1:5-7  We as women must consider our ways and turn our hearts back towards home.  We must be willing to reclaim the ground that we have relinquished to others.  There are actually many” holes in our bags” where we have lost control.  I wish to focus on one that I think is key.  I call it The Bread of Idleness…….

“She looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:27

Upon first reading the verse I almost laughed.  Who could be idle with children, home-schooling, laundry, a husband and a home business?  The list could go on and I can honestly say I don’t think there is ever an idle moment in our house – or is there?  A further study of this verse was truly enlightening and opened my heart to some new truths.

The words “looketh well” come from a Hebrew word meaning “to lean forward”, “to peer into the distance” or “to observe, to wait”.  “Ways” means “a walk, or a step” and “household” means “family” with its roots coming from a word meaning “to build”.  “To build” called to mind a familiar verse from Proverbs.  “Every wise woman buildeth her house but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”  Proverbs 14:1

This wise woman that builds her house does so by looking ahead to see what lasting effect today’s activities may have on her future and the future of her family.  She ponders each step she must take in her walk with the Lord and in serving her family.  As she peers into the distance she is considering the future and outcome of her children.  She trains them accordingly.  She does not worry about tomorrow but certainly plans her steps as she observes and waits on the Lord’s direction.

Considering the foolish woman of Proverbs 14 caused me to wonder what makes one foolish.  I know that God’s word says that it is bound in the heart of a child.  Considering the behavior of my own children shed great light on the answer to this question.  Basically children’s one desire is for the “pleasure of the moment”.

All their decisions, actions or reactions, and thoughts are based on obtaining this “pleasure”.  They can not really think about “tomorrow” or future consequences.  They want what they want and they want it now!

The foolish woman, for the pleasure of the moment, is tearing down her house with her own hands.  The wise woman of Proverbs 31 does not eat the bread of idleness but this foolish woman consumes it.  The word “idle” means to “lean idle, having no value, use, or significance”.  The root of the word “idle” means “to burn or shine” either in the sense of “only apparent” or “burned out”.   “Bread” is “food, especially grain for making it”.  Another word for idleness is indolence.  Indolence means “disliking or avoiding work”.

We can not afford to be indolent any longer.  We must carefully consider the activities in our lives.  Are they pleasures of the moment that can masquerade as any worthwhile cause?  We must honestly ask ourselves do we merely have the “appearance” of being very busy.  Are we “burned out” because much of what we do (or don’t do) is for the pleasure of the moment (either mine or someone else’s) and has no real value or significance?  Can we look at our day’s accomplishments and say as God did “It is good”?  Are we tempted to work on the seventh day because we are not satisfied with our weeks’ work?

Can we see that women have relinquished much of the homeward responsibilities and that the milling of grains and baking of bread was left to others because it freed them (and men) up to do other things.  These “other things”, unfortunately have taken us more and more out of the home.  The food products in the stores are there because America wants fast and easy.  “We just don’t have time to cook anymore.”

I am here to tell you, however, that the food we eat is the “bread” of our own idleness.  For the pleasures of the moment we now have sickness in our land in giant proportions.  God has not sent these judgments on us, rather we have brought them on ourselves by altering His provisions designed to perfectly nourish our bodies.  Many of the foods we now eat for convenience are literally making us sick because they are devoid of the fiber and the nutrients that are essential to our health.  Yet, vital life-giving whole foods are available.

With the purchase of a grain mill and the baking of our own bread we began to discover many of these whole foods and their benefits.  We began to see many positive results – constipation relieved, warts disappeared and a considerable decrease in our cravings for sweets.  This led to our virtually eliminating white sugar from our home.  The use of our grain mill opened the door to unlimited possibilities.  It brought joy and creativity back to food preparation.  Now after 5 years we have seen tremendous health improvements.  We have not been to the doctor for an illness nor have any of us had to take antibiotics in more than 3 1/2 years.  With 7 children (ages 16 yrs -2 month), this is a blessing and testimony of God’s perfect provision.  God has the answer to the health care crisis!

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)  As Jesus is the very beginning and source of our spiritual life, we believe that bread -real bread – should be the foundation of sustaining our physical lives.

“Give us this day our daily bread” – If God is willing to provide, are you willing to “gather and prepare”?

For information on ordering  a complete 90 min. audio of this message, click here.

Homeschool Planning: Science and Math

A couple of the kids are finishing up schoolwork for this past year, but the new school year is on my mind.  I always love a new school year.  All the disappointments of the last school year get wiped away.  All the stuff we didn’t get around to gets re-evaluated and adjusted for next year.  Old curriculum gets put away, new curriculum gets ordered.  It is just so exciting!

I thought I would share some of my planning for next school year…


I am going to try something new for science.  Normally I don’t teach formal science until Jr. High, then I start them on Apologia’s General Science.  I like for my younger guys to experience science in a natural way.  We do nature walks, plant things in the garden, keep all kinds of critters, etc. 

However, this year we are all going to work on The Human Body.  Kendra will be a Senior and she will be doing Apologia’s Anatomy and Physiology.  She will be working with me on an herbalism and nutrition course and it requires an A & P course, so it should fit together nicely.  Tristan will be a Freshman and will be working on Biology.  I believe the last couple of chapters cover the human body.

And new for us this year will be the elementary Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology book by Apologia.  There were several reasons I decided to change things up for the young ones this year.

~The older kids will be studying the human body and I thought it would be nice for us all to learn together.  My goal is to foster cohesiveness between the kids.  I am hoping that by all of us learning one topic, we can discuss it and learn from each other.

~The girls will be in 4th and 1st grades.  The Apologia anatomy book is perfect for this age. 

~Apologia uses a Charlotte Mason type learning approach.  They recommend narration, short lessons, and hands on learning.

~The girls love projects and notebooking.  I ordered the Anatomy Notebooking Journal to go with the text book.  The journal is not required, but it does make my job easier.

~The science experiment supplies can be ordered in a kit.  I don’t know about you, but if we don’t have the supplies on hand it may be awhile before I remember to get them (if I ever do!).  I am planning on ordering the experiment kit so that everything will be on hand and ready to go. 


Math is fairly easy and straightforward as far as planning goes.  Several years ago we started using Math-U-See and it has been a great fit for our family, especially for elementary math. 

It uses a hands on approach with manipulatives to explain and help the students grasp the math concepts.  There are also videos that come with the teacher’s pack that cover each lesson.  Honestly, we haven’t used the DVDs a whole lot.  I usually just go over the lesson and teach the concept, then let them work on the pages on their own.  A few years ago when Tristan was working on upper elementary level math, he would sometimes watch the videos by himself and do his math afterwards.  Kendra reads through the lesson and then goes on to work on hers without watching the videos.  She will ask me for help if there is something she doesn’t understand, but most of the lessons are explained very clearly.

Tristan will be finishing up Algebra 1 next year.  I have him working through Jacob’s Algebra.  I find Jacob’s to be much more in depth (and harder).  Actually, I feel like Jacob’s Algebra covers much of the MUS Alg 2 material.  The only problem with Jacob’s is that it doesn’t do a very good job of explaining some of the concepts and neither do I. 

I have always loved math.  It was my favorite subject in school and I went on to get my degree in Accounting.  My problem, though, is that I can’t explain math very well.  I will work out the problems and get the right answers, but a lot of the times I don’t know how I got it or why I did it the way I did.  This is very frustrating when you are trying to teach it to others.  Most of the time the kids get upset because they don’t understand it, and I get upset because they don’t understand it.  (This is why I caved and let Kendra use MUS for Geometry and Alg 2.)

More in this series:
Science and Math
History and Literature
Bible and Language Arts – coming soon!

Enchilada Sauce Recipe…Ole’

Being from Texas, it is a given that I love Mexican food. I grew up eating Mexican food and then married into a Mexican family with a mother-in-law that could cook up some great food.

A year after I got married, Jamie went to basic training and I stayed with his mom and dad. His mom taught me how to make tortillas, pinto beans, rice, and lots of other great mexican food. The one thing she didn’t teach me how to make was enchilada sauce. All these years I have wished for a really good enchilada sauce recipe.

My mom and I were discussing this the other day as we were meal planning. This evening she came up with “the” recipe I have always wished for. We had the best homemade enchiladas I have ever eaten. We should open up a restaurant!

Thought you might like her all-star recipe. It is super easy and so yummy!

Enchilada Sauce Recipe
Authentic Tex-Mex Enchilada Sauce

1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups water

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add in the flour and cook until the flour gets slightly browned. Add in the remaining ingredients and let simmer until thickened. Pour over enchiladas.

Yield: 2 cups sauce (enough to make approximately 12 enchiladas)

Note: You could make up a large batch and freeze it in smaller portions.

To make the enchiladas, you softened corn tortillas in hot oil. Then fill them with cheese, or chicken, or ground beef and place them in a casserole dish. Cover them with sauce and cheese. Bake until they are bubbly and the cheese is melted.

That’s all there is to. And let me tell you, those enchiladas were gone. No leftovers, not even a bit of sauce!

Homemade Laundry Soap

If I had written this post a year ago, I would not have had anything nice to say about laundry.  Just the word overwhelmed me.  It was a constant reminder of the fact that I could not keep up.  There was forever a huge mound of laundry, overflowing out of the laundry hampers.  There is something about that huge pile that made me feel inadequate about my homemaking capabilities. 

We had a small (teeny tiny) Spanish washer that held maybe 4 towels at the most.  It took over 2 hours to wash a load and another 1 1/2 to dry (unless I hung them out on the line).  For our family of 7 (at the time), I had to keep the washer going all day, every day.  On Sundays I didn’t wash, leaving an even larger pile to start my week off.

Needless to say, I am feeling sooo blessed these days.  I get up and wash a couple of loads in the morning and I am all caught up with laundry.  It is such a great feeling! 

Only one piece of the pie is missing…I miss using my own homemade laundry soap.  There is just something about making your own soap and being self-sufficient that just makes me smile. 

Homemade Laundry Soap

1 bar “real” Soap (You can use Fels Naptha if you can find it or Ivory, but I prefer my own handmade soap.  Don’t use Dove or any of the other store bought brands as they are not real soap, but detergent.  They don’t work well for laundry soap.)
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax (You can find this in the laundry section of the store.  It is a naturally occurring mineral called sodium borate.)
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (Again, you can find this in the laundry section or you can even order this online.  Make sure you buy washing soda and not baking soda, same company, different products.  Washing soda is sodium carbonate, while baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.)
2 gallons Water
(Opt.) 1/2 to 1 oz. Essential or Fragrance Oil

1) Grate the soap into a large pot.  Add 1/2 a gallon of water and heat until soap melts. 
2) Add in the Borax and Washing Soda, stirring until dissolved.
3) Pour into 2 gallon bucket.
4) Add remaining 1 1/2 gallons of water.  Mix thoroughly.
5) Add in essential or fragrance oils.
6)Let sit for 24 hours.  Depending on the weather and location, the soap will range from a solid gel to an “eggdrop soup” consistency.

I use about 1/2 cup per large load of laundry.  This soap doesn’t lather up like commercial detergents, but remember, it’s not the bubbles that do the cleaning!

I would love to hear back from some of you.  If you make your own soap, please do tell!

Plan to Change Plans

This past school year wasn’t the school year I had hoped for.  It wasn’t the year I had planned for.  The first few months of school were also the first few months of pregnancy.  I had morning sickness all day, I was exhausted, and the heat in Spain added to my miseries.  As I started feeling better, Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around and it is always hard to stay on track during the holidays.  At the end of January I packed up and flew to TX with 5 kids in tow.  By March I was feeling the effects of being 9 months pregnant and school was at the bottom of my list.  Cooper was born April 1st, so April and May were spent driving 1 1/2 hours away each week for his appointments.  The rest of the time I was just trying to survive, taking care of 5 kids and a newborn alone.

Now I didn’t write all that so that you could feel sorry for me and my rough year.  Rather, I wanted you to know that after 10 years of homeschooling, I still haven’t perfected it.  There are times when life is the lesson we are learning.  This year, we spent alot of our time focused on life issues.  Some lessons we learned this year…

1) Life Doesn’t Always Go As Planned

No matter how much we plan, or how good our plans may be, life doesn’t always happen as we have planned.  When we started school last fall, I had a plan.  I had thought about the school year and planned what needed to get accomplished during that year.  We need to remember than plans can change.  This doesn’t mean that the year is ruined or that we have failed because things didn’t go as planned.  It simply means we need to switch gear and move to a different plan.

When I boarded the plane in January, my plan was to come to TX, have my baby, and return to Spain where we would live for 2 more years.  In the blink of an eye, my plans changed.  I may never go back to Spain again.  This wasn’t in my plan.  But it was in God’s plan.  And His plan is peace in our lives.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 
Jer 29:11

2) Life Doesn’t Always Revolve Around Us (Me)

Several years ago there was a country song by Toby Keith called “I Wanna Talk About Me”.  We may not admit it, but really, deep down, we all wanna take care of #1.  We have plans for ourselves and we can’t stand if when “our” plans are interrupted. 

Everyone in our family got to practice this lesson this year.  Kendra wanted to work for summer hire.  Tristan wanted to play basketball.  I wanted to quilt more.  All these things were swept aside when there was a more pressing need.  Jesus was the ultimate example.  He wasn’t concerned about His plan, but the Father’s plan.

And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Mark 14:36

3)  God Comes First, Family Second, and Everything Else We’ll See

Our priorities in life should be in order.  God and His will for us should always take precedent, even (especially) during the difficult times.  He is our strong tower, our mighty fortress, our solid rock.  His plans should always be our plans.  Second, our family should be protected and nurtured even if it means a change in plans.

Sometimes the really big change in plans is easier than the small change in plans.  For example, it was easier to accept not going back to Spain because my baby needed care, than it was to accept not getting to bed early because one of the kids really needed some chatting time with mom.  Today I planned to work on my blog during the boys nap time.  My plans changed because my girls needed some craft time with Mama (and without little boys!). 

4)  There Are Seasons For Everything, Even School

Ecclesiastes tells us that “to everything there is a season”.  I believe this includes school.  Throughout the years, we have had up years, and down years.  Some years had more “school” lessons, while others had more “life” lessons.  Learning doesn’t just happen between 8 and 3, between September and May.  Learning is always happening and we need to learn the lessons given during the season we are in.

My mom remarked today how smart 2-year-old Isaac is.  A truck passed us on the road and he shouted, “There goes the Blue Bell truck”.  Sure enough, it was the Blue Bell Ice Cream truck.  My mom said, “He even knows all his colors”.  He is a smart little guy and he does know all his colors.  But guess what, he didn’t learn them in school.  I was too (sick, busy, tired, whatever) to do preschool with him this year.  He learned though, just what he needed to know.

Be Flexible and Plan to Change Plans

Ok, so my plans for last year went up in smoke.  I’m good with that.  Will I stop planning?  No, in fact I have already started planning for next school year.  Do I think everything will go as I plan?  Not a chance.  But you know what, I am good with that too.  My plan for next year is to do what I plan to do until the plan changes.  Life is not about having the perfect plan, it is really about following the One who has the perfect plan.  And if I keep my focus on Him, He will reveal the plan He has for me as He sees fit.  And that will mean that my plans may change.