house finishing like it's a job :)

The other day I mentioned that we were working on a few projects around the house- well, we are still working on them. :D Here's what we've been up to lately! 

Here's what the fireplace has looked like for the last year:

We always knew we wanted to trim it out a little more than that, but time and money is always an issue when it comes to DIY projects, so it's taken us a while to get to it. :D When we finally decided it was time to start more trim work again, Rob was excited to start this kind of project:

He cut a hole to recess the TV into a hidden panel, and made a box:

We also made a secret compartment for all the TV equipment on the side:

Then we trimmed it out with tongue-and-groove paneling:

And then more moulding:

Now we're working on the mantle and the finish trim, and then it will be time to paint! :)

In the meantime, we started on another project so it could be painted at the same time:

We've never had a backsplash, so we needed some kind of transition from the counter to the wall because the gap was large in places and water and food ran down the wall behind the cabinet. Try as I might, I couldn't bring myself to like tile (or its price/labor time!). I was hoping for something a little more simple and affordable. We'll have a tiny bit of tile under the window around the sink, and that's it. We used 1x8 boards, and we're planning on painting it too:


The whole finishing the house ourselves with cash thing has been pretty challenging. We don't want to spend very much money and we don't want to care about looking fancy or amazing, but we want to add things that will work for us now, last for years and years, be somewhat traditional and timeless, and eventually bring a profit since we plan to sell it at some point.

Thinking of it as someone else's future house makes it so much easier for me not to put my heart or love into it. I want a house to just be a house in my heart, and not an idol or something I truly love and couldn't give up at any moment. It doesn't matter where we live, or what we have or don't have. God provided here in miraculous ways, and He will provide whatever I need again, and whether it's less than we have now, or more, it doesn't matter- it will be enough. And you know what is funny about this and every other house, anywhere in the world? It's all going to burn someday.

But I know we have it so very easy and great here and now, and it's not the same to live somewhere else as it is to live in the U.S. with all the things we could ever want. I am amazed we even get to live here with a comfortable bed, rooms galore, an a/c, and a pantry full of food. We even have what no one in history has had until recently: cold air, electricity, and clean, running hot water! Why us in all the history of the world? He has given us every single thing we could need for our family!

I have no idea why, other than God is teaching us, training us, and shaping us to love Him more than our worldly things. I feel like that's what God has done for us. He's allowed us to have everything we could need or want and by His grace and mercy has shown us that it's really worth nothing and that having too much can be a time, life, and heart stealer.

I don't want to spend our lives trying to get more stuff that will be useless in 2-50 years. How horrible would that be in the end?! Father God, please free every ounce of my heart from the love of money and things!!! I know I've sinned so many times with the pride of life, buying excessively, and coveting the trends and things of the world, and I'm so thankful the Lord is showing me and correcting and disciplining my heart (though it's painful and feels quite terrible at the time!).

But then here I am, right now, with a larger family, a house that is wonderful and a huge blessing but needs to be finished, and there is much work here to be done. It's like house remodeling is our family job! It's a weird place to be- thankfully (to the Lord alone!) not loving it so much like it's part of me or feeling like it's worth a lot like I have in the past, but still having to do the work and the next thing the Lord puts in front of us, all while being grateful for all He has given us here! It's so strange. And challenging. But okay. This is where we are now, this is what He's given us to do, and it's good too.

I hope and pray that like Paul, both here and now in plenty and when the next situation comes, that no matter what, I'll know how to face abundance, and I'll know how to face poverty: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (I'm sure He will put this to the test for us again, so I want to study hard now so I will remember His promises when that time comes. ;)

I can only trust that because of His faithfulness, no matter what we have or don't have, now or later- I will always have everything I need in Him.

decent muffins, a tasty surprise, + goals this week

After an unintentionally long nap yesterday I felt energized and had the urge to bake! :) These muffins were for the kids, but I'll own up to snagging a couple of bites too: :)

This was the first time in a while I can remember using only whole wheat and honey for muffins. They were decent, but they tasted quite a bit "healthier" than the white version I prefer. :D Luckily the kids didn't notice when I gave them one for dessert. :) They were happy with them because they were muffins and had a tiny sprinkle of sugar on top.

Rob and I have been trying to eat far less animal products (a.k.a. hamburgers, pizza buffets, and buttery desserts), so I'm trying to find ways to make up the calorie loss with granola-ish foods. :D This combo of oats, Trader Joe's cookie butter (non-dairy!), coconut, and cornflakes was delicious:

Sometimes being out of oatmeal and ransacking the pantry turns into a happy surprise! ;)

Even with the lighter to-do list last week, I still didn't get everything done, and I think I'm okay with that. :) We're trying to get the house 100% finished and construction messes are everywhere, so I'm trying not to worry about the little stuff when so much big stuff is happening. With a bit of cooler air coming in, it reminds me of the old days when we were remodeling our 1895 house

Here is my do-read-learn+be goal list for this week:

do //
go on a field trip! 
plan out October events
blog as possible
plan 4 workouts
sweep stairs
exercise 5-6 days
help finish projects and clean up
order house items we need
write 3 emails
organize bookshelf

read //
re-read 1 John, and read Psalm 7-14, and Isaiah 1-7

learn //
aim to listen to one sermon a day
Abide study week 6

be //
soaking in the Scriptures. I need to meditate on God's Word so that it keeps me from sin and keeps my focus on the Word- my hope, and my life- Jesus. I need Him so desperately to be my source of joy and love, and I can't do it without the Spirit He's given me, and the Word living and being my life. I was so inspired by this sermon about Jesus speaking the Old Testament all the way to the cross, and it made me want to be more like Him, the Word itself, always speaking in Scriptures! Being in the Word of God feels like your soul inhaling fresh oxygen in a smoggy, smoky, suffocating world, and I think I need to take more deep breaths. :)


// dinners //
spaghetti + marinara
chicken, mashed potatoes, + peas
dinner out
eggs + hashbrowns
fish, broccoli, and rice

life lately: a little rest, a book date, and 5 weeks in

I'm so thankful for this blog and weekly recaps because I wouldn't remember a single thing that happened last week otherwise. :D (You wouldn't believe it, but there are so many events in our life I didn't remember at all until I saw an old post!)

I had more time to rest last week, which was SO wonderful because by Saturday I think I was fighting off some kind of cold. I'm so in awe of God and how He gave us immune systems!! A little extra rest and my body has been holding sickness at bay, and though I can feel it in the background when I'm tired, it hasn't surfaced! Thank you, Lord! I had a chance to sit down alone for a few minutes after CC day:

And then the munchkins found me... :D

Cleaning up after babies and toddlers is a serious full-time business, but who could resist this face?

We had a chance to go on a date and hit up our favorite place:

I was so happy to find this book on sale! I've only skimmed it so far, and I love how it's full of Scriptures and reminders of the Gospel:

And then by 8 p.m. we were so tired we just wanted to eat at a place you didn't have to wait, so all-you-can-eat salad at Jason's Deli it was:

And after church, lunch, and a nap on Sunday, we had to run to the home store again. 

I died laughing when Ivy-loo squealed with delight at the moving Halloween goblins:

And before we knew it, another week went by and it was Monday again. :) One really cool thing about Classical Conversations is that we've covered almost 4,000 years of the world history timeline in 5 weeks! Somehow all the kids can sing and order this many events so far, and we have 19 weeks to go!

It could be the early sunset, but the days are feeling so short- before we blink I have a feeling it will be Christmas! What??! :)

How was your week?

when suffering reveals your idolatry

This quote feels like everything the Lord keeps showing me right now:

source: Search the Scriptures
When sorrow, pain, trials, fear, or uncertainty comes I see just HOW quickly I want something or anything familiar to make me feel happy again!! My heart aches, and suddenly I just need comforting food, a date, to shop for something fun, or even to just go lie in my bed! Lately the Lord's been gently reminding me again of how deeply I've anchored my joy to happy circumstances rather than to the Orchestrator of my circumstances.  When life grows difficult, I'm quick to start laying out the plans for a golden calf (any old calf!) to comfort myself!! It's terrible, awful idolatry!

I am an idolater when I set up my own happiness as my master and ultimate goal. My sinful self was never meant to be my source of joy! (and my attempts to comfort myself never satisfy me for long, anyway!)

But when I look to Jesus and worship Him instead, I no longer need X,Y, or Z to make me feel better. He is the reason I can have joy, whether I'm young or old, free or in prison, a mother or not a mother, can exercise or become paralyzed, no matter if my hair all falls out, all my children and husband die, or I die an early, painful death myself- nothing can change the fact that He is my salvation, my strength, and the source of all joy. And He is good. Always. No matter the situation.

That's why poverty of spirit is so wonderful: difficult circumstances buckle my knees and make me fall on my face and worship Him alone because I know I can't face it on my own. And there in my weakness, He shows His strength! It's there He shows me how little I can do on my own, and it's there He displays His wonderful love, His marvelous power, and just how much I can trust Him! And He's so very gentle. When my heart is aching, He leads me by still waters, and He restores my soul. He is my only true Comfort.

Oh friend, He is worthy of glory, honor, and praise forever!!

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:3-4

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
Psalm 119:50

the closest thing to fall, a peaceful row, and this is my comfort

Thursday might be the first day of fall, but the closest thing I have to fall right now is this candle:

I can't even tell you how excited I am for cooler temps, pumpkins, birthdays, and hay rides!! October is just my favorite month, and I am counting the minutes until the 1st. :D

Even through the summer, I always enjoy the early morning because the house is so much cooler. I get to pretend it's cold and wear robes, fleece, and coffee on Sunday before church... :D

With so many house projects, so much c.r.a.z.y happening right now, our Sunday worship service truly feels like a sanctuary of peace (once we get there, anyway). I can't believe we take an entire row now. :) These are my sweet little people:

And then Monday happened all over again- after a busy weekend, we had to break out of the schoolroom and sing our memory work while we brought at least a little order back to the house:

Cleaning with kids is always an adventure in sanctification... :) Someone dumped out their dustpan on top of a broken umbrella, on top of a full trashcan:

Then, within a few seconds of our discovering it, one of our children unintentionally hit the umbrella and knocked it all on the floor. But it didn't even surprise me, because things like this happen ALL THE TIME. If I wrote it all down, I'm pretty sure we'd have enough material for a daily sit-com. :D

So that's been our weekend/week so far. :) The last few days we've been feeling overwhelmed with all we need to do as a family, and how little time in which it feels we have to do it. Rob and I have been praying about it too, and I am sure that God will help us use our time wisely (and see where we're wasting it)! It's so hard to see what to do next in the thick of it! 

Planning helps me get motivated to do something (if it's broken into chunks, anyway!). I took a breather after school yesterday and made a new planning sheet for the "big rocks" I want to accomplish everyday:

I filled it out last night and crossed off four out of my five Monday squares. It felt so good. :D If it seems to work after a week trial, I'll upload it here for you if you'd like! :) 

To fight the feeling of overwhelm, I'm keeping the to-do list short and sweet this week:

// do //
help Rob work on kitchen/projects (I'm the clean-up crew because tools + Mandy don't mix!)
answer email
blog as possible
exercise every day
read 1 John + do this week's study
write new workouts
wash all sheets
read CC notes for next week
fix Mac (my OS is going crazy with the latest update!)

Oh, how I need the Lord to teach me to number my days, even more and more. My heart feels torn in so many places, and we're in a season of waiting on the Lord as He directs our steps, and I don't want to fear whatever may be next. He is always our Good Shepherd, and I feel like I just want to stay right by His leg and touch His cloak for comfort (The Word, the Holy Spirit, and prayer has been this leg, cloak, and comfort for me at every turn!!) We're trusting that He's leading us exactly where He wants us to go, and we know His purposes for us are for our good and His glory. And remembering that gives me SO much joy!!

What gives you comfort in the Lord when you're waiting on Him? :)


our school day schedule 2016-2017

A few people asked for a close-up of our lesson plans and schedules when I shared them at the beginning of the school year, but since we are all new to Classical Conversations, I wanted to see how it worked before I shared it (it could have been a total bust, because I had no idea what I was doing! :D). Three weeks later, I'm happy to report it's surprisingly going pretty well for us! :D Here's our 2016-2017 daily school/lesson plan schedule for the middle three kiddos:
For Bible, Rob does our family devotionals before his workday starts. Right now we're reading a passage from the book of Acts, then we talk about it, and say our memory verse (some days!), and then do prayer requests and pray together.

For Math at 8 a.m., the boys use Saxon videos (1 lesson), Isabella uses Teaching Textbooks (two 10-minute lessons per day), and Ava is using BJU. For Spelling, we are using Spelling Plus for the first time and I love it (the boys have a harder spelling list than Isabella), and Ava does a Word Building pace from ACE.  

For Foundations I thought of lots of things to do on the schedule, but we mainly focus on practicing their memory work, and then after that we have fun learning about the parts of the world's timeline and doing handwriting and notebooking at the end of the week. :)

For grammar and writing I took the daily work activities straight from the curriculum, and they're almost exactly what we do each day, with the exception of adding new vocabulary words and dictating weekly sentence 5 (a more advanced one). :) Bella and Noah both LOVE the sentence dictation and the diagramming, which kind of thrills my heart because I love it too. :D

In the afternoons, we finish any leftover work, the children spend time reading aloud and practicing their weekly presentations (I added that to our schedule to start before Tuesdays this week :D), and then around 2:30-2:45 p.m. we start cleaning up and go upstairs for a nap/quiet time until 3:30.

This schedule is much easier on us than last year, but this year we're starting earlier, working hard through lunch time, and then have more relaxed work time in the afternoon. Editing and turning in a paper each week for the older ones has been a challenge that averages longer than the allotted hour per day right now, but I think it might take us longer because we are still new to the TWSS formula of writing.

I love the way everything is laid out for us in Essentials each week, and our tutor is awesome at explaining everything we need to do so I don't feel lost at all. And all that prep work and DVD watching in the beginning is already paying off- I know what they're talking about every week!! ;) Now it's just putting in the sweat and tears. :P

Overall, I feel like we've had an awesome first three weeks, and I never thought I would be the person to say it but I'm ridiculously grateful for a daily plan that keeps us all on track! :)

a CC blur, messy surprises, and life lately

Oh, life. :D I'm pretty sure it's becoming more and more of a blur these days. We've had three weeks of Classical Conversations and we are still getting in the groove! :D Maybe it's because I spent so many years not going anywhere, but it feels like community day happens every other day. Every week it keeps catching me by surprise. ;)

One of my favorite things about it is that I get to see my little people throughout the day. We even eat lunch together: 

The kids all look forward to community day. They pack their lunches, set their alarms and generally amaze me by being so responsible- Isabella even makes my lunch!! (I'm not sure if this is a mom fail or a mom win? but I am thankful for it! :P)

I googled what to take to CC and couldn't find much out there, so I've been winging it with what to take with me. :P I've been taking my personal notebook, our Foundations guide (but I don't think I need it!), Teaching Writing Style and Structure, one week of Essentials of the English Language, our English Grammar trivium table, and our student history writing notebook:

And then most of our days at home look a lot like this: 

Essentials keeps us busy! Our weekly presentations on Wednesdays keep us on our toes too- it's only taken me three weeks to remember to help them pick out their topics before Tuesday afternoon. :D

By the end of the week I pretty much feel like Ava:

And while we get done by 1-2 p.m. at home, we're all ready for our daily nap:

Except for these two crazy kiddos, even by the end of the day they're still having fun making gigantic messes:

The snacking in the schoolroom is getting out of control. :P I found a surprise snack in my pencil bag:

At 37 and 14 months, those two littles might just be reaching the pinnacle of toddler terror (at least I hope so, anyway!). :D In between catching our breath from school and cleaning up messes, we found some time to spend an hour at the lumber/building store:

I hope to show you what we're making VERY soon! :D 

the evolution of a gallery wall

You know you must be short on time when it takes you almost a year to hang a gallery wall after you find the pictures. :D

Our entryway needed something on the wall (my opinion, not Rob's ;) ):

Last YEAR I found some matching Scripture prints on sale, and bought a few frames, and only months later we got to this stage: ;)

And months after spray painting the frames twice and reassembling them all, I was happy to get to this point with the templates on the wall:

And because I stink at hanging things, I begged my sweet husband to do it for me and he said YES!! :D

And it was finally, finally done. :D

Of course, I bought the whole alphabet set to save money so now I have the other 18 letters left to put somewhere else in the house: 

At this rate, they might be on the wall by 2020. :D