Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

Dear Friends & Family,

We pray that this finds you well! We are thankful to our God, for sending His Son to save us from our own sins, and also for His continued faithfulness in sustaining us.

James is still with the same company and spends time both in the Sacramento area and the Bay Area. We are so thankful for his job there as a manager in the Outdoor Advertising division. Charlotte is still homeschooling and being a keeper at home; she has recently begun reviewing curriculum for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine online and has enjoyed writing and trying new things.

Mr. Lego (J) is going to be turning 16 in February! We are finalizing the paperwork with the DMW and he should start doing his behind-the-wheel drivers training in January. He still enjoys Legos and building things, putting up posters in his room, and riding his bike around. He is planning to raise a goat to sell at our county fair this year and has enjoyed serving others in our 4-H community service projects.

Bookworm (K) just turned 13 in October. She is becoming a lovely young lady who enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. This next year she is hoping to learn how to sew and to cook more things in the kitchen. She will be getting a polish rabbit in the new year to show, plus she is also planning to raise a goat for our fair. She loves being the corresponding secretary for our 4-H club and helping with the meetings.

Dasher (A) just turned 12 last week. She enjoys handwriting and her new online spelling/reading curriculum. She loves her matchbox car collection, doing crafty things, and rescuing any poor creature she finds outside. She is planning to raise a market rabbit to bring to our fair; she is also interested in doing poultry but we will have to see about that. :-)

Nutsy (E) is now 7. She really enjoys playing with her little animals and building houses for them with her Lincoln Logs. She likes doing math, playing phonics games, and has really started to read much better.

We are still involved in a homeschooling co-op; the families changed this last year and we have studied Astronomy, WWII, and hymn singing. We are planning to add a writing course next semester and move into earth science.

We are so thankful for those of you who keep in touch with us; we are thankful to God for your friendships and encouragement. May God bless you in the coming year, as He draws you nearer to Himself.

The Joyful Hearts Family

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gingerbread House Day

We have worked hard so far this year in our homeschooling co-op....learning about the planets, writing reports, reading about WWII, preparing presentations and poster boards, learning how to sing in parts, and becoming more familiar with some of the hymns in our hymnal.

So yesterday we decided to have a fun day and had our first ever, gingerbread-making day at co-op.

None of us moms felt like actually baking gingerbread, so we resorted to graham crackers.

With store bought frosting.

And tons of candy.

 They took this quite seriously and worked hard.

Four very cute little house-builders.

The three moms were in the kitchen preparing goodies.....

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls.....

Country-Style Potatoes....

....and Ham Quiches.

After brunch the kids were about are some of their final creations.

Now who is going to clean all this up?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That it is cold out there. I really struggle with being cold in the winter, and this last week it has been getting into the low 30's in the mornings. I am really only warm when I am in the hot shower or am in between my flannel sheets.

What I'm listening to: The washer and dryer going....I've already got a load in there this seems like the laundry just keeps piling up.

What we're learning: We are taking a break for the next couple of weeks from school. I have already been told twice today that it has been nice to not be doing math and writing. I am glad for the break, but I'll be working a little bit to tweak some of their school schedules.

What's cooking: This week I am making Butternut Squash Soup, Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas, and Beef Tacos. My slow cooker meal of the week is something called Hirino Psito, which is basically slow-roasted pork.

What I'm buying: I think I have finished all my gift buying; we don't make too big a deal of Christmas gifts, but I do still need to go out and get one last gift card.

What I'm thankful for: I am thankful for my precious children. They all got extra hugs this last week; I am so thankful that they are healthy and that God has graciously given them to me.

What I'm creating: This week I am creating Christmas treats! I'm planning to make Apricot Crescents, Chocolate-Orange Pinwheels, Salted Chocolate Caramels, and Peanut Butter Kisses.

What I'm planning: To take a break from blogging. I'll be posting our annual family letter in the next couple of days, and then be back to my regular musings and posts in the New Year.

What we did this last weekend: We celebrated Dasher's birthday on Saturday with a fun walk, steak dinner, and all of us piling into our bed to watch the third Hornblower. Sunday we went to church and heard a convicting sermon about prayer and feeding on the Word. Then after Sunday school we had our good friends over for the afternoon, then back to church for evening service.

What I'm looking forward to: We have a 4-H rabbit project meeting tomorrow, and then later this week we will head over to the food bank and help pass out food. And our co-op is having a massive gingerbread-house-making-day that the kids are eager about. I'm looking forward to getting some fun baking done, and just spending time hanging out with the kids.

A picture to share:

 ~On our walk Saturday afternoon....

~The birthday girl

~Twelve candles

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Birthday Quiz - Dasher

 It is that time again in our family.....another birthday. And this time it is Dasher's turn to celebrate 12 years of life. I am so thankful that God gave her to us! Her infectious laugh, big eyes, and fun spirit make her such a joy to be around.

So, the same as I have done with all the kids this year, I asked her the birthday questions:

What is your favorite food?

Steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable kebabs, 
spaghetti, Chicken Soup, Tortilla Pie. 
(The first three things are what she 
requested for her birthday dinner.)

What do you not like eating?

I don't like to eat squash, squid, 
and real crab. (I'll eat the fake crab in maki.)
(She does pretty much eat everything else.)

How about your favorite color?

My favorite color is yellow.
(This answer changes often, but it has been
yellow for a while now.)

What is your favorite subject in school right now?

Handwriting. I like learning cursive; I am learning that right now.
(She does love that subject; she also loves to draw 
and had been wanting me to teach her cursive for a while.)

What are you looking forward to this year?

Christmas. Thanksgiving next year. Swimming in the summer.
(She has always been a water bug. I thought it 
was cute that she is already looking forward
 to Thanksgiving next year.)

What do you enjoy doing the most?

Playing dogs with my sisters, playing cars with Nutsy. 
Mr. Lego has ninja books and he is teaching me stuff.
( Ever since she was little, she has always loved to pull 
out the car rug, which has little roads and houses on it, and play cars.)

Where is your favorite place to be?

In my mom and dad's room. I also like to play in my room.
(Too cute that she loves being in our room.)

What is one of your favorite memories from this last year?

The Delta trip in the summer was fun. I also liked going to Oregon 
and swimming and going on the boat.
(Me too! We have such wonderful times on
 our summer vacations.)

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (When you're 17)

Maybe doing school, probably math. I would still be in 4-H,
 I would want to learn how to cook better.
(The first thing she said when I asked her this was 
that she would be on Facebook. But then she made me erase it.)

In 20 years? (when you're 32)

I would probably be married, I think I would have 
two children and I would be homeschooling them. 
(Time sure flies. And this day will be here before we know it.)

What do you like best about having an older brother and two sisters?

I like it that I have sisters because I can play with them, and 
Mr. Lego he makes up the funnest games.
 Bookworm likes to read to me too.
(These are the very things they do with each other the most.)

Our plan today is to take a fun hike later (I am hoping the weather holds), and then have her birthday dinner. And she has requested my trifle for dessert.

Happy Birthday, my Dasher!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: Christmas is in two weeks. My, how time is flying. I have a couple of cookie recipes I want to try next week, and I'll be making my salted caramels too. Last week our family drew names for our Secret Servant, and this coming Sunday evening we have our annual Scripture reading and caroling night.

What I'm reading: I finished One Thousand Gifts last week. I'm not quite sure what I'll read next....I was looking at my sidebar with the list of books I want to read and deciding....

What I'm listening to: Chattering in the kitchen, the shower going upstairs, the heater coming on.

What we're learning: This is our last week of school before we take off for Christmas. The older two have papers due in co-op, and have a science test at the end of the week. Dasher is moving along and finished two books last week; an Explode the Code level and a Rod & Staff math unit. Nutsy and I are working through the IEW PAL lessons, nice and slow, so I make sure she is getting it. And with the fun games we play, she is loving it.

What's cooking: This week I am making Spaghetti and Meatballs, a skillet dinner with chicken, orzo and spinach, and on my co-op day, the day when making dinner is a bit harder, I'm making Carnitas in the slow cooker.

What I'm buying: I am looking through things to buy online....a family friend of ours just started a new website where their kids are putting stuff up for sale that they have made.....they have handmade glass items (made in their kiln), handmade wooden bowls, books, and wool socks (from their own angora goats, which they spun and knit). I am having to restrain myself....

What I'm creating: During this break from writing reviews I need to plan out the next semester of school work; especially our science curriculum (Apologia Astronomy) and Bible (God's Great Covenant). School scheduling never ends.....

What I'm praying: For wisdom and patience for myself and other moms out there who have teenagers. It is such delicate balance....they are becoming adults and need to make their own decisions, but they still need guidance....

What we did this last weekend: We braved the cold and went out to a pretty spot with another family to take our annual photos Saturday afternoon. Then back home with them for a fun evening of fellowship. Yesterday we heard a sermon on Mt. 6 and then our last Sunday School class going through Paul Tripp's DVD series on marriage What Did You Expect? This was one of the best marriage seminars I have heard....lots of good stuff and I highly recommend it. Sunday afternoon we went over to a friends home with a couple of other families for lunch.

What I'm looking forward to: We have a pretty quiet week ahead...this weekend we have a fun Christmas party to go to, and I am looking forward to having a break from school.

Pictures to share:

~Outtakes from our photo shoot.....

Friday, December 7, 2012

Decorating for Christmas

I am not by nature a decorative-type person. When we moved into our home, we chose some lovely paints, put nice pictures up, chose candles, and other knick-knacks. And it has pretty much stayed that way all this time. But I do like seasonal decor and this time of year I love seeing twinkle lights, smelling pine, and seeing red and green candles.

And having a Christmas Tree.

We let our kids put up all the decorations. That's how my family did it; my mom was blind and she was very happy to hand the job over to my sister and I. I have wonderful memories of putting up all the round ball ornaments, the lights, little snowmen, and tinsel. And it was probably a good thing she couldn't see because let me just tell you, that tinsel got everywhere, especially when my sister and I would have tinsel fights. (I remember vacuuming in February and still finding a strand here and there.)

I wanted my kiddos to have the same lovely memories so from the beginning they would help decorate. And now that they are 15 - 13 - 11 and 7 years old they really can do it. In fact, I did not touch one Christmas decor item this year; they did it all.

And had a blast.

Introducing our hodge-podge Christmas Tree.

Wedged in between the sofa and piano.

Notice there is no tinsel.

Some things you might see if you look closer....

 These ornaments were made by my grandma....she made so many things out of that plastic canvas material.

This one was made by My Sweetie, when he was about 6 years old.

We laminated it one year when its neck started to tear.

We were married in January and at one of my showers in December, the hostess thoughtfully had each guest bring me a Christmas ornament. I still have many of them....

And then these type of ornaments are all over the tree....made by my favorite people.

 Dasher and Nutsy came up with this fun craft idea last week....

As you see it doesn't match, have all the same color lights, or the same theme. And most of the ornaments won't break. This makes it super easy for my kids to decorate with or even to look at while the tree is up.

I am not saying that I have a kid-proof tree.....we have those small glass ball ornaments which break every now and then (in fact, I broke the first one last week when I tried to move the sofa closer to the tree), and other delicate ornaments, but I teach my children to be careful and gentle when handling.

Other things around the living room.....

On our mantle we have some green garland with these little houses from my childhood. They don't get played with; you can see that they have been displayed many times in the last 35+ years.

 My cute little snowman and his tree stand on one side of our piano.....

....and a couple of wire trees on the other side.

I do love candles....

And on our table is a simple garland wreath and candle.

It is lovely to see different things in my living room, on the dining room table and mantle, but it makes me very happy to see the joy on my kids faces as they pull the box of Christmas stuff out and start going through it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: About yesterday's sermon. I was convicted about what motivates me to do the things I do. And in my heart it has to do with trying to impress others, thinking much more of myself than I am, and craving man's empty praise. Instead I need to be thinking heavenward, with my mind on Christ, and his grace. I still need to work hard to do the things I need to do, but with a different perspective in mind.

What I'm reading: I usually have a couple books going on at the same time...I am still reading Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, and One Thousand Gifts, plus I am slowly reading through Paul Tripp's A Shelter in the Time of Storm.

What we're learning: I finished the Autumn lapbook with the younger two which they made me realize that I don't do as much hands-on stuff with the younger ones, and should do this more often. This week the older two are studying Wakefield by Nathaniel Hawthorne in literature, doing a chapter on Mercury in their astronomy book, and starting to work on their 4H presentations.

What I'm watching: The streets dry out from our crazy rainstorm. Yesterday on the way to church we saw a massive oak tree that had come down, we went through a pretty large puddle in our car on a busy street, and passed a church that was flooded. In the last 4 days I think we have gotten about 5 inches of rain, which is a lot to us considering our rainfall total for the whole year is around 18 inches. More rain coming Tuesday and Wednesday.

What's cooking: This week I am making Split Pea Soup, Vegetarian Curry with Chicken (I am following a vegetarian recipe, but am going to add chicken), and Chicken Chiaquiles. This is a lovely layered casserole with chicken and chile verde sauce. Yum.

What I'm thankful for: Today I am thankful for fuzzy bathrobes and wool socks.

What I'm creating: Over the weekend my parents brought me some bookshelves. Right now they are standing in our garage...over the next week I plan to organize our 1000+ books and switch out some old, sagging bookcases for the new ones.

What I'm praying: I am praying for a family we know who recently lost their dad/husband to leukemia. Praying for comfort, peace, and wisdom. God is good.

What I'm planning: Tonight is our poultry meeting... a couple of the kids are doing mini-presentations on poultry parts, and we are going to be learning about the different chicken and bantam breeds.

What we did this last weekend: Saturday we braved the crazy weather and went wine tasting with some friends. Then yesterday was church, our fellowship meal, and the assisted living service. A busy but profitable day.

What I'm looking forward to: Just a normal week. Next weekend we are getting together with our friends and we'll attempt to take our yearly family photo; I'm praying the weather will cooperate.

A picture to share:

~Yes, I let me youngest go out during a break in the rain and jump in the puddles.