Thursday, October 16, 2014

Family Traditions

We have the most amazing Women's Ministries team within our region.  Our church camp is phenomenal, and the most wonderful programs take place there.  This past weekend Harmony and I got to visit Camp Au Sable for our first ever Mother Daughter Retreat.  They put on an amazing program.  The Women's Ministries ladies really have a talent for making everyone feel special.

As we walked up to the main building for registration we were greeted by a fun row of colorful pinwheels and a ladybug light lined roof adorned with those fun party banners with the little pointed flags.  We entered the lobby to a 1950's diner setting where we signed in, made fun, polka-dot themed name tags, crafted a picture frame, and entered our names into drawings for the opportunity to win prizes.

Upon entering the main auditorium we found ourselves in the audience of the set of a 1950's home complete with beautiful turquoise-blue kitchen appliances, old school black and white checker board flooring, and the type of sewing machine my grandmother used to use.  We chose our matching aprons and posed for a picture.  The stage had been set for the weekend very effectively.

As things unfolded we learned about the value of being a woman in today's family.  The mother and daughter speakers did a wonderful job of teaching about tradition and how the Jews celebrate various things throughout the year.  Their personal experiences were insightful and refreshing, and they did a wonderful job appealing to the vast age range of participants.  We were in the company of daughters, granddaughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers.  It was a beautiful mix of women and future women.

The big topic of discussion was tradition, and this is a subject dear to my hear.  I long for tradition and so regret that I've not done a better job of instilling the importance of tradition within my children.  Guess it's time to work on the next generation.  We are carrying on some traditions of old and creating some new ones within our family.  Since we get to participate in a round two of parenting, there's no better time for us to learn from the past.

Current Traditions in Our Family -

Special Birthday Meals and Dessert
One on One Lunch Out with Mom on Birthday - Kid's Choice
First Day of School Photo Shoot
Annual 4-H Fair Dollar Day
New Year's Eve Indian Fry Bread Tacos with Friends
Christmas Eve Music Service with Mom and Looking at Lights
A Whole Month Break from School for December
Sledding and Hot Cocoa in the Winter
Lighting Candles for Sabbath in the Winter Months
Christmas Dinner with Mom
Nacho Bar, Taco Soup, and Tres Leche Cake with the Family for Christmas
Make Ornaments for the Grandkids
Read Stories at Bedtime

Traditions I'd Like to Add -

Annual Family Campout at Our House
Annual Family Vacation
Jesus Tree
Tamales Christmas Eve
Thankful Tree or Thankful Box at Thanksgiving
Special Plate for Birthday Meals
Celebrate Baptism or Baby Dedication Day
Decorating a Tree for Wildlife in the Winter
Last Day of School Pictures
Visit a Tree Farm for Christmas
Attend a Local Fall Festival
Friday Night Supper - same each week
Family Night - popcorn and a movie or game
Annual Photo Book - view on New Year's Eve
Make Resurrection Cookies for Easter

Some of the benefits of family traditions include fostering a stronger family connection, providing a feeling of security to the children, fostering a sense of belonging, imparting and reinforcing values, and helping children to become happy and generous adults.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Apologia Educational Ministries - Book Review

Apologia Review
We have had the honor of receiving three very interesting books to review as a family from Apologia Educational Ministries.  The books iWitness Biblical Archaeology, Old Testament iWitness, and New Testament iWitness are a real treasure and have been a wonderful addition to our history curriculum.  This iWitness trilogy is wonderfully written and holds the attention of children young and old.  I have personally found them very fascinating to read.

Since my children are well under the reading level of about 11 years and up, I was a little uncertain as to how they would respond to the material.  When I told Harmony, the resident nine-year-old, that it was time for me to write my review today she told me to make sure I mention that she loves the books!  Honestly, I was surprised.  Remember, I love the material and the way it is presented, but I wasn't sure what the kids really thought of it.  I mean it's like this.  I read, and they listen.  We discuss things here and there, and I explain words or ideas that they may be unfamiliar with, but I just wasn't sure what they thought of it.  The fact that they remain quiet in their activity while I read should have been a big clue, but it also could have simply been that they are such well behaved children.  (wink, wink)  The more likely reason, however, is due to the quality of the publication and its fun format.  The books resemble a scrapbook that one would put together after a cool vacation.  There are many tidbits to read, pictures to look at, and facts to find.

Apologia Review
To begin our journey of discovery of all things ancient we chose to start our reading with iWitness Biblical Archaeology.  Doug Powell does such a wonderful job of engaging the reader that when he told us to "...grab a Bible, a map, and a shovel..." Harmony asked if she should go get a shovel. Enter our first conversation of explanation.  The invitation was appropriate, though.  Mr. Powell does a wonderful job of transporting you through time all the way back to The Flood.  The pictures of the places traveled, the artifacts there, and the descriptions of the historical figures really draw a clear picture in your mind's eye as to the circumstances and historical events referenced within the Bible.  The value to history and the explanation of various perspectives completes the picture wonderfully.  You really do feel transported back in time.  From The Flood to The Exodus, through The Old Testament and into Jesus' World, within The New Testament and culminating with The Burial Shroud of Jesus, iWitness Biblical Archaeology pulls you in and takes you along on a fact finding journey of discovery.

Apologia ReviewTraveling on, we open the pages of Old Testament iWitness where Mr. Powell reveals the answer to many questions in regard to the origins of the Old Testament.  We learn about the manuscripts and the tedious process the Jewish scribes employed in the copying of scripture.  The detail of the specific criteria in which the content was required to meet in order to be included the Canon and exactly how the books were chosen for inclusion is fascinating and really brings the work of the Bible to life.  We also learn about the prophets and their importance in relation to the publication of the Bible.  Reading Old Testament iWitness really helps to take the Bible from being some abstract book that we read to a real piece of history with its own traceable history, real writers, and immeasurable significance.  This particular book and its implications excite me the most.  I remember really struggling with this aspect as a child, and my poor mother being at the brunt of my frustration.  I knew nothing of the history of the Bible or where it came from or who wrote it.  As far as I was concerned it could have just been some work of fiction that some random person wrote just to mess with all of humanity.  The facts and myths surrounding the Bible were never explained to me.  Oh the difference this book could have made for me during that personal struggle!

Apologia Review
Final destination, New Testament iWitness.  Here we learn further about The Canon and the criteria in which the writings faced before being included or dismissed as scripture.  I like that the topic of the books that were not included in scripture is covered along with the explanation as to why.  Having these materials on hand are a wonderful resource for answering questions as the children grow in their faith walk and discover more of their history as a member of the human race.  Knowing the origins in history, the scrupulous process of copying, and the time periods in history that these processes played out is a wonderful starting point for digging deeper and gaining an even stronger understanding of the origins of the Bible, the process in which it was written, and its importance in history.

I am thrilled to have these three books from the iWitness collection on our bookshelf, and I look forward to using them with my children for years to come.  It is easy to see them with their noses buried in the pages discovering things for themselves as it will surely have great appeal to them when they have reached the middle school age level.

To learn more about these books and how you can purchase them for $14.00 each, visit the Apologia website.  You can also find Apologia on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014


I am a huge fan of serendipity.  There's just something about it that I don't even know quite how to put into words.  Somehow it makes me feel comforted, driven; like maybe there really is real purpose to the things we do.  Even the little things.

Last year I was gifted a jar of green tomato relish that was purchased from a lady Up North at a garage sale.  It was one of the best things I've ever tasted.  Seriously.  I've wanted more ever since.  I even thought it would be fun to make.  Fast forward to this fall.  I attended a Fall Harvest Swap through our local homeschool group.  One of my friends made salsa and green tomato relish as her swap gift.  She even included the recipe.  I was so excited when I saw that it was green tomato relish!  This was my opportunity to get the recipe.  Never did I imagine that I would end up with her trade item as mine.  I found myself with a sample jar AND the recipe.  BONUS!

This past weekend, the hubby and I took the kids to a local, family owned orchard.  The best kind, right?  We enjoyed fresh donuts and cider, picked apples, and even took a hay ride.  The kids loved it, and it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  We even ran into the fellow homeschooling friends that recommended the orchard.  Plus, all of their apples were considered seconds this year, so I was able to get a bushel for $8.  Bonus, again!

It had been about five years or more since I last did any canning.  My last experience was when I learned that you must not ignore the advice of wearing gloves when processing jalapenos for salsa.  Yes, I still insist upon learning some things the hard way.  Anyway, I dug out all of my canning gear on Monday.  I never did find my canning rack, so I just made do without one.  The kids and I had a wonderful time making applesauce with the $8 bushel of apples, and green tomato relish with our abundant harvest of green tomatoes that we planted this year.  I planted late, so we just picked them the end of last week.  

It made for a long day Tuesday, but the kids loved the process.  They learned a lot about history, where our food comes from, and being self-sufficient.  We sampled the relish that night, and it is amazing.  This experience canning was important for me.  I planned our next school year around the growing season.  We are gong to put up as much food as possible as it comes into season.  By doing this small project, 49 jars total, I was able to see that I can do it.  Canning is hard work, and it is time consuming, but there is no greater reward than feeding your family good food that you worked to provide them.  I got 49 jars of food for $8 and about six hours of my time.  Not bad!  Granted, I did already have the canning supplies, so there was no investment financially there.  (Double bonus - They were all gifted to me!)

If you never have canned before, it really is worth the effort.  The key is to be prepared, have all your supplies set up, and the time set aside.  Make sure you have all of your ingredients before hand, and that you have read the entire recipe.  The relish I made requires part of the ingredients to sit 12 hours before you actually make the recipe.  So, I did it the night before, and just let it sit overnight until I was ready to actually do the canning.  I made the mistake of thinking I had all of the ingredients, and then finding out that I didn't.  Fortunately, it was easy enough to pause the recipe and have the hubby grab the ingredients on his way home.  It all worked out, but it did remind me the importance of checking ahead of time just to be certain.

I am so glad I grew up helping my grandma, aunt, and mom can food.  It still is nothing to talk to my 80 year old grandma and have her say, "I put up 60 quarts of pears yesterday."  Of course, she says it off hand like it was nothing.  Let me tell you it's something.  Real work goes into putting up our own food, but doing so is its own reward.  There is everything to be gained, and nothing to be lost.  Now is the perfect time to look online to see what is in season when in your area.  Sustainable Table has a nice Seasonal Food Guide.  You just select your state, and they provide you with a list of in season items as well as information about the food and even some recipes.

The next thing we plan to put up is pumpkin puree.  We will be freezing that.  The big item on my wishlist is a pressure canner.  I hope to have one before spring so that I can preserve low acid foods like carrots and green beans and such.  It is my goal to can as much as possible so that our food stores are not reliant on electricity to last.  However, in the meantime I will be freezing some things as we go along.  Fresh pumpkin is wonderful, and it is so versatile.  It's also affordable and easy to process.  Another bonus!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just a Peek

I've been wanting to take a moment to travel back through our first month of homeschooling through the pictures I've taken these first three weeks.  I cannot believe next week will usher us into October!  I remember older people telling me how fast time goes by the older you get.  Now, I am one of those older people saying the very same thing, because it is SO true!  That is why it is SO important to take time to just be.  Be present.  Be mindful.  Be observant.  Be reflective.  Be still.  There is no better way to slow time down than by making a conscious effort to NOT be so busy.  It's the business of adulthood that sucks our time away.  So, now is my time for reflection.  I hope you enjoy traveling back with me.

We ended the summer with our one and only trip to the beach.
Weather was a bit cool here in SE Michigan this year.

The hubby got all our wood ready for this year, and hopefully next!

School pictures!  Our new first day tradition.

The first science experiment of the year; a visual in mummification.
The three-year-old was the one with the spot on hypothesis!
We started using the busy bags from the trade I participated in the summer.
(A fun idea I highly recommend!)

Bella loves preschool!

Harmony back at her math program.

We still took time to watch things grow and to enjoy the nature around us.
Bella LOVES taking pictures of our growing tomatoes!

We all helped in one way or another to
prepare for hunting season.

Finding out what happened to our apple slices in our first experiment.
Annabella needs to taste everything!

Wild grapes grow around our property.
Maybe we'll do something with them next year.

We enjoy the turkey that travel our yard.
Finding their feathers is like discovering treasure.

My favorite stop when we take a nature walk on our land.

Exploring a new local park.

Bella loves to climb!

The kids think the new hearth is a stage.
Guess what movie we watched recently!

We learned about cells.

And, learned that Play-doh can grow mold.  Gross!

An exercise on the importance of our bones.

People without bones.

Learning about the protective fluid around our brain.

Traveling around Africa before the digging of the Suez Canal.

Benefiting from the short cut of the Suez Canal.

As you can see, we've done a lot in September.  Now that fall is here, we will begin a whole new set of adventures.  I love taking pictures of what we do if for no other reason than to see that we really do get a lot accomplished in our time, as fast as it does slip by.  Pictures are a fun way to record our life together, and with today's technology it is easier than ever.  Most of these pictures are unedited, because I just don't have the kind of time I would like to devote to photography at the moment.  Plus, I wanted you to see that it doesn't matter the perceived quality of the photos, rather it's the ease of record keeping that they provide.  We forget things all too quickly, and pictures are a good way to preserve those memories and even record your school year.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

10th Annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day

September 26th is the 10th Annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  If you are anything like me you have no clue about what this disease is, what causes it, or if there is a cure.  When Heather Von St. James contacted me and asked me to spread awareness, I accepted the challenge.  There's been a lot of that going on here lately.  Here is a little bit of what I learned:

What is Mesothelioma, anyway?

Our bodies have a thin layer of cells that line our internal organs.  This lining of cells is called the mesothelium.  Malignant Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that occurs in this layer of cells.  There are three types:

1.  Pleural Mesothelioma - Occurs in the pleura, the lining of the lungs.  Accounting for about 70% of the cases, this is the most common form.

2.  Peritonial Mesothelioma - Occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity.

3.  Pericardial Mesothelioma - Occurs in the lining of the heart.

What is the cause?

Plain and simple, Mesothelioma in all its forms is caused by exposure to asbestos.  It may be decades after exposure that an individual begins to show signs of having this disease.  As soon as a person exposed to asbestos begins exhibiting symptoms proper diagnosis should be sought from an expert.  The sooner this disease is caught the more options the exposed individual will have for treatment.

What symptoms should I look for?

Depending on the type of Mesothelioma one or more of these symptoms may be present.  Since some can be easily attributed to another cause most people have experienced symptoms for two or months before diagnosis.  Symptoms can include:
  • Low Back Pain
  • Side Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Persistent Cough
  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Loss of Sensory Capability
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Facial and Arm Swelling
  • Hoarseness
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos in their lifetime and is exhibiting any of the above symptoms should promptly see their medical doctor.  Once a diagnosis is confirmed you will then be referred to a specialist.

What happens after diagnosis?

Treatment options and a treatment plan will be the topic of discussion when meeting with your specialist.  Recent developments and discoveries mean that there are now more treatment option available than ever before for those diagnosed with Mesothelioma.  Some options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  There are also clinical trials, experimental treatments, and other alternative options available to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.  

If you would like to learn more about Mesothelioma please visit the following websites:

Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

Heather Von St. James ~ Mesothelioma Survivor

Heather with her daughter Lily.


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