We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Homeschool Resolutions for 2008

Generally, it seems to me, homeschoolers tend to make their homeschool resolutions at the beginning of the school year rather than the New Year. I'm no different, but the New Year lends itself to a reassessment of how the school year has gone thus far. It's a good time to review the plans you made in the heady "homeschool convention" days of summer, when everything seemed possible! For the past 3 or 4 months we've plugged away more or less successfully, so where are we now?

Are there areas you've succeeded and want to ensure you continue that succees? Areas where you'd hoped to do better and need to recommit yourself? Things that have been troublesome that need to be addressed? Unexpected triumphs? Unrealized goals? Unrealistic expectations?Sometimes a review helps clarify where you've been particularly successful or not and why.

I'm going to spend this last week of our homeschool holiday break giving our last semester a good look. Then I'll be making the needed adjustments as I begin preparing for our school to resume on January 7th. The following are some of my thoughts on areas you might want to consider as you reassess your family. The areas our family needs to recognize successes or struggles are in ITALICS and our resolutions are in BOLD.

Goals for the entire family: Those goals that have slipped by the wayside or ones I'd like to institute. - In the past Hubby has been able to lead this each morning (or most mornings), but this fall that seemed to fall off a bit. So, we will recommitt ourselves to that. Also, we are going to begin incorporating Morning and/or Evening prayer from our "Anglican Family Prayer" book. We resolve to make daily family prayer and bible reading a priority.

School "flow": How does your day and week routine flow? Are there consistent bumps in the road? Are there techniques that have helped your days and weekls move along smoothly? - We've done a better job this Fall at keeping a regular schedule each week for school. However, our daily routine needs to be readjusted. One major change I'm making is me getting up and dressed first thing each school morning. In the past I've often found myself in my PJs still at mid-morning. I resolve to have myself completely dressed and ready to greet the children each school day.

Goals for each child: Those goals you've set for each child. Have you made good progress up to this point on these goals? Has one or more been supersceded (necessarily or not)? Do you need to rethink this goal or recommit to it? - My goals: Eldest (DS 10)- to become comfortable writing independently. He's coming along nicely with help for both of us through Classical Conversations "Essentials Program". Middle (DS - 8) - to bring reading up to a level of fluency rather than decoding. He's also coming along nicely, but I've slacked a bit in our goal to read a little each day. I need to recommit to this as I see the regular practice (even if it is only a few minutes) helps him immensely. Youngest (DD - 5) - to give her regular practice in "basics" of Kindergarten. Due to her eagerness, this has not been a problem. She requests to do her "school" every day! I resolve to continue the daily writing with DS - 10, daily reading with DS -8, and daily basics with DD - 5.

Concerning Co-op participation: Have you participated at a level appropriate for the needs of your family? Taking seriously your commitment to the program and/or maintaining the primacy of your homeschool needs? - We've been involved in Classical Conversations. I'm pleased with the interaction it has provided us and the structure and accountability. The program relies heavily on the parent to set the pace and our group does an excellent job of encouraging the parent in their teaching role. This has been a great boon to us. I've been able to enjoy the aspects of the program that enhance our homeschool, while not feeling pressured to take on more than we need. We resolve to maintain an appropriate activity level within our Co-op that maintains the primacy of our homeschool.

Outside classes: Have you overcommitted yourself, children or family? Is there one child who needs special attention in this area? Are there classes you'd like to seek out for your children? - My eldest is involved in karate and drama. My youngest is taking ballet. They both love their classes and these have not interfered with our homeschool. My middle also needs some outside art classes. I'm going to recommit to finding a class for him or making time to do the Mona Brooks "Drawing with Children" course I already own. I resolve to seek an art class for my middle DS.

Family activities and outside responsibilities: Where do you feel you need to be more or less involved? Are there activities you'd like to take on as a family or ones you've taken on that need to be assessed? Do these activities contribute positively to your homeschool or do they detract? - We've been particularly busy with our church the past 3-4 years. This year my husband's and my responsibilities have come to a close. We've been very slow to take on new responsibilities. It is a struggle not to take on more, but we are being very deliberate in what we choose to participate in or not. We've definitely noticed a lessening of the stress-level! We resolve to continue to carefully evaluate each activity and how it affects the homeschool and family.

Chores: Where do you see failings or successes? Do some chores need "refresher courses"? Do you see some of your kids slacking off in certain areas? Are you slacking off in your direction of chores or in your own chores? Are there some chores that seem superfluous? Are there some chores that need to be added? Do you need to consider a new "system" or just buckle down with the one you already have? - I've decided to make some chores "required" to recieve a minimum allowance and some chores optional (as a way to earn the rest of their "allowance"). We resolve to re-address the issue of chores and allowance payment and to incorporate a system that ensures a minimum allowance with the chance for extra earning.

Goals for the teacher: Where do you need support and/or encouragement? When or how are you "feeding" yourself? Are you allowing yourself too much "self"? Where do you need to recongize a sacrifice is needed on your part? - As I stated earlier, I need to be up and ready to greet the children each school day. I also need to have a plan for regular daily prayer and bible reading. In addition to these daily needs, I need to improve my "Mother Culture" through book reading, lectures, cultural events, entertainment, fellowship and "personal time". I resolve to develop a list of "Mother Culture" ideas and consult it to plan daily, weekly and monthly "Mother Culture" time.

I'm sure there are other areas you might consider reviewing. If you have areas you'd like to share, I'd love to hear! Leave a comment! If you blog about it, leave a link, too!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas wishes, prayer and scripture

Merry Christmas

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns,
one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

From the Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Christmas Day

And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.... From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

John 1:14, 16-18 NRSV

Have a blessed and lovely Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A new Glogg recipe (mulled wine)

Svenska Glogg (or Swedish Mulled Wine) is a traditional Swedish drink for the Christmas season and no wonder - boy, will it chase away the chilly weather! It is a very potent spiced wine - served warm.

There are many different recipes for Glogg. Hubby's family's version takes two types of port wine, brandy, and vodka - and of course lots of spices. This one (the one we used last year and decided we liked equally as well) is a bit less alcoholic, but every bit as wonderful! I'm calling it "Erikson's Glogg" - because my kids are Erik's sons...and someday perhaps this will be their family recipe for Glogg.

Erikson's Glogg
1 large bottle red wine
1 reg. bottle port wine
10 cardamom pods, gently cracked
small handful of cloves (10 or so)
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 T whole allspice
1/2 c (or more) of sugar (more or less to taste - depending on your wine)
Handfuls of almonds and raisins.
1 orange cut in half

Place the spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, allspice) in a loosely-tied cheesecloth bundle. Combine the wine and the spice bundle in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir in 1/2 c of the sugar, carefully tasting to determine if it needs more. Continue adding by 1/4 cup fulls until it the wine tannins are smoothed out, but not too sweet. Toss in almonds and raisins (one or two handfuls of each). Float the orange halves in the glogg. Continue simmering the mixture slowly for 15 minutes.

At this point you can cool it off and store it, or go ahead and serve.

Before serving it is traditional to put a splash of Aquavit in the pot (or vodka) (or more - depending on your perferences) and light the glogg. Be VERY CAREFUL doing this...we've never had a problem, but it is fire, people! The floating almonds will sizzle and the flamed glogg mellows. (It also reduces the alcohol content a bit.) We turn down the lights and everyone gathers around when the pot is lit. The kids think it is wonderful!

Serve this in mugs - and be sure each glass gets a few of the almonds and raisins. (We serve with a spoon so we can dig these out of the bottom of the glass.) This is perfect to enjoy after the kids are in bed on Christmas Eve...in a darkened room with just the Christmas tree lights on. Very relaxing!

Interested in more holiday recipes? Visit my food blog: To Every Meal There is a Season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Advent "Link Love" 3

My friend, Jeanne, of At A Hen's Pace has a beautiful Advent poem up. Also, wish her a happy anniversary - it's a big one plus one!

A lovely rendition of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" featuring lovely madonnas from across the Christian world is up at On a Joyful Journey. Her blog is brand new - so go by and welcome her to the blogosphere!

Last Sunday in church, we discussed what it means that God is with us always. This touching story (very short), to me, illustrates beautifully how the Lord is with us even when things are bleak.

Ann at Holy Experience can always be counted on for a thougtful and thought-provoking...wait, and ACTION provoking, post. She doesn't disappoint in "How to Celebrate Christmas".
An Advent recap (a sort of accidental Advent lesson learned) from "Et Tu?"
Happy Catholic just turned me on to a wonderful online magazine "Dappled Things". Their current issus has an article I plan on reading during my Christmas break: "The Truth of His Humanity"

The Archbishop of Canterbury discusses the nativity as folklore and adds a little more fuel to the Anglican fire...here's a log and another. I'm sure there will be more.
One last craft to keep the kids busy during the last couple of days before Christmas.

While they are crafting, perhaps you will enjoy storytime with a "thatmom" podcast of: A Long John Christmas.

And totally cheating here - a straight cut and paste from StandFirm:
Streaming live . . . The BBC's Radio 4 will be broadcasting Lessons and Carols live from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge this coming Monday, December 24, at 10 a.m. EST. View the full program and order of service.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent "Link Love" 2

Two Square Meals gives us a lovelyAdvent update with just a little opining about children's behavior. I'm jealous, though, because the sweet little book she mentions is out of stock at Amazon! Oh well, next year.

Mere Comments has, as usual, a thought-provoking essay. It starts with an Advent theme, but then goes on to eternity and "knowing and being known." One I'll need to read again.

The Apostle to Suburbia shows off her Advent decorations. I love that she doesn't limit her decorations to one room!

And from Half Pint House and excellent look at what she is doing for Advent - with pictures. Don't miss the freebie .pdf from God's World News (with Jesse Tree symbols).

One of my newest reads: Scribbit has a great post with activity ideas. We are going to do the gumdrop decoration idea. Also scroll down to see a lovely etched glass project...with instructions if you'd like to give it a try. This is a Mama activity.

I could just sit and stare at this lovely photo for hours. Down here in the sunny South, this is a sight we rarely see. Shades of White often has wonderful and fun photos from around her home!

Another activity - look at this adorable little button wreath! We have jars of old buttons, we just may have to make some of these. How cute they'd be on gifts or wreaths, or on the tree (or a mini-tree).

Blessed Advent to you!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 Family Review

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!

We pray that this past year has been a prosperous one for you in every way, and that the year ahead will be as well!

Instead of sending out a family "letter", we decided to use a blog format. We plan to update it often so that friends and family can keep up with our goings-on. We hope you'll enjoy visiting regularly. For now, we've compiled a brief review of our year - it has been an exciting one. I've also incorporated some external links - have fun and click away!

And don't forget to bookmark us!

New Family Members
We have adopted two new family members! Of course, I mean pets. :) November of 2006, we brought Sophia, a sweet Labradoodle, into our home. She was the puppy of a rescued doodle - and is a delight! Her favorite game is hide-and-seek. She does both - hiding and seeking. No kidding!!!

Our second new family member is a little Labrador-Beagle mix. She belonged to a friend who just not able to give her the home she needed. She's a VERY HIGH ENERGY dog. Luckily, she and Sophia are a perfect fit. They keep each other entertained and are lovely companions.

To Asia with Love
Beijing, Changsha, Guangzhou, Manila, and Capul—these are the some of the places where our family feet stood during the past year! In April, Kerry traveled with our neighbor (Dear Neighbor) to China to bring home the her family's newly adopted daughter, YuanYu (her chinese name). They were in China for two weeks enjoying the hospitality, food, culture and cheap shopping!

While in China, Kerry and Dear Neighbor saw many amazing sights and had lots of wonderful experiences. Some highlights are: The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, an unscheduled “hutong” visit, the 2,000 year-old woman (Mawangdui tombs), shopping for pearls in Guangzhou’s “Pearl Market”, feeling oddly at home in Wal-Mart, drinking coffee at Starbucks cafes in Beijing and Guangzhou and attempting conversations with our few phrases of Mandarin. However, by far the best experience we had was getting to meet YuanYu!

YuanYu was 9 months old when she was adopted and has made the transition quite well. She is now a robust, happy, 17-month old with adoring parents and doting siblings (4 of them!).


July began with Erik and S on a mission trip to the Philippines. They joined long-time missionaries (and family friends) for a mission trip to their home on Capul, one of the many small islands making up the country.

They were part of a group of 8 participants on a short-term mission trip to assist the with bible translation training work. Part of the work they did involved conducting bible study workshops for native language translators.

S had the opportunity to do karate presentations to groups of local school children. As a result, he became quite a celebrity among the kids on the island!

Double Black Belts

After more than 3 years of work, two of the Potter's Shed (Erik and S) men received their black belts on April 21st. In order to earn their belts, they have had to pass regular exams in various techniques involving: kicks and punches, weapon work, pressure points, grappling, sparring, board-breaking, katas (long involved series of memorized moves), and basic physical fitness. The final examination included a timed distance run, timed situps and pushups, kata work, weapon work, back-to-back sparring rounds with other black belts, and finally a minimum of four different board breaks.

Family Escapes
With the international travel this year, our family vacation time (and budget) was very limited. But we managed a bit of time away.

Our first escape was our annual parish retreat to the Kanuga Episcopal Retreat Center in Henderson, NC. We enjoy a weekend of relaxed fellowship and unencumbered hours. Our entire family looks forward to this weekend every year. In fact, we leave Kanuga with the kids asking, "How long until we can go back?!?"

Over Labor Day weekend, we managed to make a last minute trip to the beach at Oak Island, NC.  Erik found us a quaint little cottage just across from the beach (no house in front, so it was like oceanfront!) for the long weekend. The dogs even got to join us - and they LOVED it. One of the highlights of the weekend was waiting anxiously beside a soon-to-hatch turtle nest. Unfortunately, we wore out before the baby loggerheads emerged, but we did return the next morning to see a flurry of turtle tracks leading from the nest to the ocean!

Back to the Books

Our fourth year of homeschooling began in mid-August with all three kids officially "in school". S is now in 6th grade, H is in 3rd grade (actually he's inbetween 2nd and 3rd because of his late birthday), and E is now in Kindergarten!

This year we've joined Classical Conversations and are thoroughly enjoying the once-a-week co-op style classes. The fellowship and interaction has been delightful and encouraging for both kids and mom!

A Leave-taking and a New Thing
The last big event of 2007 involves our church. Our family is very involved in our church, so when big things happen there, we notice! Our church family faced a crisis in the denomination and our own parish that ended with a leave-taking and a new thing. It all ended with a large group of the parish leaving the Episcopal Church to start a new Anglican Church, affiliated with the Province of West Africa. It is an exciting time, but sad, too. Many people in our old church chose to stay and the split was not entirely amicable. However, we are all trying to pick up and get on with doing the work of the church: sharing Jesus!

There were lots of other events this year, but these are the highlights. It's been a good year, all in all. We've been thrown a few curveballs and some that have left us very sad, but God is GOOD. All the time. And all the time, God is GOOD.

Thank you for sharing a bit of our lives! Please leave a note in the comments so we know who has come to visit!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How the Grinch Stole BACK Christmas!

Stumbled upon this delightful bit of fun today - from Touchtone Magazine's blog, a longtime reader, Joe Long, submitted this sequel to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I debated whether or not to post the whole thing here, but since that isn't really kosher here in bloggyland (without permission) I've included just a snippet and a link.

It will be worth your click, I promise! Here's the snippet:

“Now, don’t kid a kidder,” he tells such a one –
“I stole Christmas once, and I know how it’s done.
“But I stole it with style; I stole it with flare.
“You aren’t that clever, or else wouldn’t dare;
“To my exploits, your Christmas theft can’t hold a candle –
“You’re not even a thief – just a wannabe vandal.”

Without further ado... here's the link!

Saint Lucy's Bread

St. Lucy's Day is coming up on Thursday, Dec. 13th. It is a favorite pre-Christmas festivity in Scandinavia. My husband's mother is Swedish, so we've adopted a few Scandinavian customs. One I love is Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia) Day. A very traditional way to celebrate St. Lucy's Day in Sweden is to enjoy delightful, saffron-scented buns in the shape of an "S".

Swedish Saffron bread (or Saint Lucy's Bread) is one of my favorite Christmas treats. I love the smell of the saffron and the gorgeous golden color! In fact, I've got this year's first batch in the breadmaker right now! So, I thought while I wait, I'd post the recipe I use. The dough is made in the breadmaker and then shaped and risen a second time on cookie sheets.

The following recipe comes from The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook :

Add the ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine's manual. (Mine is wet first, then dry, then yeast)

3/4 c. plus 2 T milk
1 lg. egg

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/3 c. granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp powdered saffron (if you can only find saffron in "threads", just pulverize these as best you can then measure out 1/4 tsp. A trick I just learned is to use a bit of sugar as you pulverize with your mortar and pestle.)
3 T unsalted butter

2 1/4 fast-rise yeast

Place all in a 2-cup capacity breadmaker and set on "dough". At the end of the rise, punch down the dough and let rest 5 minutes before hand-shaping.

To handshape:
Lightly sprinkle work surface with flour. Divide dough into equal peices: 2 for 2 large breads, 4 for small breads, 6 to 8 for smaller buns. Lightly sprinkle with flour. Dampen hands and roll each piece into a rope. (18 inches for the 2 large pieces, 9 inches for the 4 pieces, etc.)

Lay a rope on a lightly-greased baking sheet. Curl each end, toward the center, into a coil. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush bread with egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water). Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

This bread freezes well and is excellent served toasted with orange marmalade. (We serve small buns on St. Lucy's Day and freeze a larger bread for Christmas morning.)

Let me know what you think!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Prayer Beads

In the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions, I mentioned that I've been using Anglican prayer beads (or rosary) for a few months. I also mentioned that I'd found an online source for liturgically-themed prayers for Anglican prayer beads. The link is still eluding me, but I'm going to go ahead and share the prayer for Advent. I wish I could give credit to the original website, but when I find it, I will post the link. Until then, here's an Advent prayer series for use with beads:

The Cross:
O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia!

The Invitatory Bead:
Stir up your power, O God, and come among us. Heal our wounds, calm our fears, and give us peace; through Jesus our Redeemer. Amen.

The Cruciform Beads:

Come, O Lord, and visit us in peace;
Let us rejoice before you with a perfect heart.

The Week Beads:
My soul waits for the Lord;
In His Word is my hope.

This isn't exactly how the prayer was laid out on the website. I've switched it around just a bit (the words are the same, just in different places).

Praying with the beads is a great meditative prayer practice. I love to get up early, but often find myself so foggy-headed early in the morning that I bumble around with my prayers. I'm so focused on "saying the right words" that I forget the focus of my prayer should be communication with God. So, in the early morning, I use the prayer beads and a collect from the Prayer Book. Then later in the day, I find some time to journal prayers for various needs - a time of intercessory prayer. At other times of the day, I sometimes pull out the prayer beads again. I'd like to put some order to this, but haven't yet done so. That is New Year's Resolution material!

If you use prayer beads, please leave a comment and tell me how you use them.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Advent "Link Love"

A lovely essay about discovering Christmas called "Finding Narnia".

Do you have the "Spirit of Christmas" or the Spirit of Christ?

A curmudgeon on Christmas cards. (We've been sending religious cards for a few years now, but I'm rethinking the whole Christmas photo thing now. :) )

A quick bible lesson.

And an early Christmas gift...go ahead, open it now!