Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Book Review by Jordan

John Adams by David McCullough


Posted on Dec. 29, 2008

John Adams, a book by David McCullough, is a great book to read if you want to understand the truth about our Founding Fathers. When we think of the great men of the early days of America like Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Adams, we tend to see them as blurry images and we take it for granted that they were the perfect politicians because they were the ones who created the near-perfect political system that we have today. John Adams shows three of the Founding Fathers, namely Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin, as they really were. McCullough tells the tale of Adams from birth to death and brings out the good points as well as the bad. Adams was a good politician and a moral man, but he had his share of problems. During his courting days, he struggled with jealousy and as a result, was refused at his first proposal of marriage. Later on, he married Abigail Quincy. During his life as a politician it was his job, along with Benjamin Franklin, to try to keep peace with France. Although he considered Franklin a genius, he quickly found to his annoyance that he was extremely fond of the pleasures that France had to offer, especially the French ladies. Franklin would openly flirt with women half his age, and in one case played chess with one of his older female admirers while she was in the bath. But any complaints Adams may have had never reached Franklin's ears. For the most part, the book acts as an exposé of the Adamses and Jefferson. In reading this book, you will discover that while in France, Abigail corresponded with a man named James Lovell from time to time, and his letters closely resemble those of an admirer. In one letter, Lovell tells her, as if to spark distrust, not to imagine Adams doing anything in his private hours in Paris other than attending museums. Surely Lovell's wife and children knew that he himself wasn't writing to another man's wife regularly, and enjoying the company of many women in Philadelphia in his own private hours. Also further on into the book, Jefferson gains a rather infamous reputation. He was a man who owned slaves, and thought black people to be inferior, but that (and the fact he was married) did not keep him from having a relationship with one of his black maids, Sally Hemmings, and having several children by her. The Founding Fathers were only human. As for Adams, he struggled with pride throughout his political career. He did not take advice well, and he easily held grudges that lasted for a long time, even against Jefferson, who was Adam's closest friend. Over all, the book serves to show our early politicians as they really were, making it easier to understand our present government. This is a very well-written book I recommend if you want to make the early statesmen more lifelike.


Numbering Our Days

Every year during this season like many others the world over, I reflect on the past year. What can I do better this year? What do I need to work on with the children?
What do we need to work on as a family? There are so many areas that need improvement and it can be very discouraging when I begin to make a mental list of them. There have been areas of growth, though, and not just in family size. We are so thankful for our surprise baby, Caedmon, who has brought much joy. The children have grown in stature as evidenced by the "high-waters" pants that they occasionally pull out and the monthly trips for new shoes. They are also growing in wisdom although some days, being children, they can still be very foolish. But so can their mother.

Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain hearts of wisdom." This verse always comes to mind as I clean out from the old year and plan and organize for the new year. I want every day to count...not just waste in fruitless activity, but to really COUNT for God's glory. Whether it be cooking or cleaning, teaching or playing, everything we do needs to be for His glory and as if we were doing it for Him. My prayer for my family and yours is that we will number our days, planning things that will bring glory to God--whatever it is that our hands find to do so that we will gain those hearts of wisdom.

Away in a Manger

Jackson's favorite Christmas carol this year was "Away in a Manger". He wanted to sing it every night during the Advent season. When Kaelan was younger her favorite was "Go Tell It on the Mountain." We sing Christmas carols around the Advent wreath every night before Advent devotionals. Usually it is on the dining room table, but here, in the floor of the den, campfire style.

Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the sky
looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus,
asleep on the hay.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Please Pray for Baby Stellan

Please pray for Baby Stellan. He is in the ICU of some hospital in the snowy north. He has a bad case of RSV. Baby Stellan is a miracle baby (aren't they all?) who was diagnosed with lots of heart problems in utero. He appears to have none of those conditions now at about 8 weeks old. Check out his mom's blog at the link above. You will be blessed by this young mother of 4 children under the age of 4.


We were out of town for several days before Christmas and didn't do laundry. When we came home this was the pile of laundry waiting to be washed. When sorted and divided it was over 20 loads. For four days. For eight people. I have finally caught up!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Vision Forum Year-End Sale

Many of you know how much our family has enjoyed the many toys, books, dvds, and cds from Vision Forum. In fact, our Christmas presents this year were mainly from VF --the Jubilee doll, bugle, contintental soldiers drum, dagger, Confederate sword, Princess Adelina, Ballentyne and Henty were among the gifts under our tree. These products encourage imaginative play, give hours of great reading and encourage us in our family life. I am now able to link you straight to Vision Forum's year-end sale with the link above. Check out their great sale prices to start your shopping for next year's birthday and Christmas gifts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Getting Older/Nursing Mother's Disease Part 3!!

Saturday morning we were all loading up to go to my mom's for a few days. When I say "all" I mean me, Lauren, her son-Chase, Devin, Jordan, Aaron, Kaelan, Jackson and Caedmon. If you lost track, that is nine people (Jeff and James both had to work ---or maybe they just didn't want to spend 4 hours riding with all of us). Loading up is quite challenging. I had packed, the children had packed and everything was gathered on the porch or by the front door.

Everything was loaded and we were off...we even managed just one stop for gas, lunch and nursing. We arrived earlier than expected and began unloading. I wanted to get the ice chest unloaded quickly so we could get the lasagnes in the oven before everyone else arrived. Lo and behold the ice chest was not on the truck!! Apparently it had been left behind on the porch. I was almost in tears!! Not only was the lasagne in there, but so were dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls and a variety of sweet treats! UGH!

It's a good thing Jeff didn't come with us or ALL my hard work would have been lost. Jeff put everything in the freezer for me. So, tonight, for our Christmas Eve dinner, we will have....lasagne. And the cinnamon rolls will be great on Christmas morning!

Here are the recipes for the lasagne and cinnamon rolls. Enjoy!

LASAGNE--this recipe has been in my family for about 35 years...we love it.

1 lb. ground chuck 1 cup chopped onion
2 large gloves garlic, minced 2 tsp. oregano, crushed
2 cans tomato soup ½ cup water
2 tsp vinegar ½ lb lasagne noodles (cooked & drained)
1 pint cottage cheese ½ lb mozzarella cheese, grated
grated Parmesan cheese

In saucepan, brown meat, cook onion, garlic, oregano. Add soup, water and vinegar. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently. In baking dish, arrange 3 alternate layers of noodles, cottage cheese, meat sauce, mozzarella. Top with Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes. I usually double or triple as it freezes well.


1 cup lukewarm water
1 tbs. active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
1 tbs. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I generally mix in whole wheat as well).

I mix all in my Bosch food processor and then turn out on a floured countertop. Let rise up to one hour. Punch down and then roll into a long strip about 6 inches wide. Spread with melted butter and then brown sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of cinnamon over the whole thing. Roll up into a tube and then slice with a knife. If you are very picky you can get a section of thread or dental floss, put under the roll, and with a criss cross action, make very nice slices. Put cinnamon rolls in greased baking dish. Let rise about 30 minutes, then bake at 350 until lightly browned. We top with cream cheese icing....One brick of softened cream cheese mixed with powdered sugar...or you can buy cream cheese icing from the store. If freezing, under cook and do not put the icing on. This recipe usually makes 2 9 by 12 pans and can be doubled to make even more. They freeze well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting Old part two

I left out something kind of funny/kind of rude/kind of "What?" that happened to Jeff and me the other day.

Jeff and I were together with Caedmon when someone who knows we are "older" new parents (OKAY!! We are at the point that is obvious that we are OLDER new parents, but we still feel young....well, every once in a while!) made a statement that really baffled and bemused us. A single, childless woman my age who knows how old Jeff and I are, came up to us and talked for a little while and then said before departing, "Let me just look at ya'll for a minute. I want to see what OLDER new parents look like. I still have hope that I will marry and have a baby someday."

Don't know whether we should be offended or just laugh it off! (OK, we have seven children...we are past being offended about how many children or how old we are when we have/had said children.)

p.s. I am finished Christmas shopping as of early this afternoon!! Hip! Hip! Hooray! Now I just need to finish the wrapping and the cleaning and the cooking and the.....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Movie Review

Last night we went to a preview of The Tale of Despereaux which comes out in your local theater this Friday. I am not a fan of most children's movies that are popular...too much bathroom humor, etc that I don't want my children to become familiar with. This movie didn't have any of that and there was no use of the Lord's name in vain. However, there were some dark images... some of the characters looked downright scary and we really didn't understand some of the storyline. My 12 and 9 year olds thought the movie was ok, but my 4 year old has repeatedly told me that he didn't like it. He did like going to our favorite Mexican restaurant after the movie with some of our favorite people, though.

Am I Getting Old, Do I Have Nursing Mother's Disease or Both?

I don't know if it's just that I'm getting old ( I am 44!) or if I just have Nursing Mother's Disease....those of you who have ever been a nursing mother know what I am talking about...those of you who haven't are probably just grossed out by the thought! Lately, I have had a few times of confusion or just plain out stupidity.

A week before Thanksgiving I inventoried my freezers and made a detailed list of all my prepared foods and meats ready to cook. My plan was to get back in the habit of weekly menu planning, but my list disappeared after Thanksgiving and I don't have time (and just don't want to make the time) to re-inventory. So, no weekly menu, but thankfully, I can still pull out prepared foods each morning to suit my mood for the evening meal.

The other day I was in my Research Room deeply submerged in research (this actually means I was soaking in my tub!) when my youngest daughter discreetly passed the phone to me as her father needed to speak to me. We were having trouble hearing each other and he asked if I had put it on speaker phone. I said, "Let me check." After checking I asked him if he could hear me now and he said, "Yes, that's much better. What happened?" I had been holding the phone upside down!!

Then I called my mom to check if she had worked on a little Christmas surprise that I had asked her to do. When I had asked her to do it she was just getting out of some outpatient surgery and was very groggy, so I didn't think she remembered. She didn't, but one of the recepients of the surprise was in the room with me and I couldn't reveal too much. I asked the recepient of the surprise to leave the room while I continued talking with my mom. Said recepient had been gone for several minutes and I had continued talking when my mom asked, "What did you want me to do?" I said, "What are you talking about?" I had forgotten what I called her for...even after asking the recepient to leave the room.

I think maybe it's a combination of both.....I'm just an old nursing mom!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas is coming!

Yesterday during the morning rain, I finished wrapping all the presents and put them under the tree. I still have one order that hasn't been delivered (eagerly awaiting the big brown truck's arrival soon) and have a few small items to purchase. We are downsizing a little this year, not necessarily because of the economy, but because Jeff splurged on some of the children's birthday presents this year.

Most of our Christmas goody baking is done- thanks to Devin's all day session in the kitchen last Saturday. We still have a few goodies to make, but I think Kaelan and I will try to do those things. I will also make and freeze several dishes to take to my mom's for our early Christmas down there and for our own Christmas dinner here. The turkey is in the freezer (actually there are 8 turkeys in the freezer purchased after Thanksgiving at 29 cents a pound!) and things shouldn't be too hectic for the rest of the season. We are enjoying some time off from formal study and I am finishing up plans for next semester and clearing out some things in the school room.

Yesterday Jeff took the afternoon off. He napped with the two little boys and spent some time with the others hiking down to see the swollen creek and playing a few games of Clue. Here are some pictures of my youngest children--Kaelan, Jackson and little brother Caedmon.

Caedmon is two months old!

Caedmon was two months old on the 6th and had his checkup this week. He weighed in at a whopping 16 pounds 5 ounces and was 24 1/2 inches long! He was off the chart with his weight and at the very top for height. He'll slim down in the next year....I have 6 others to prove it!! We grow them big around here!! I have had to empty everything from his drawers that is under 6 months....which was half of the contents. Most he never wore. Oh, well. We have another baby boy arriving in March that can wear them. (No, I am not pregnant!! Lauren is!)

Everyone is enjoying Caedmon. He is a very happy baby with lots of smiles and even laughs. He also loves to talk to funny to see the faces he makes. Lauren always wants to change his diaper when she is here. She says it's like putting a diaper on a ham. Here are a couple of pics of his chubbiness.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Check my school work, please!

Jackson is my four year old sixth child and ALL BOY!! Having two older brothers who love to study (read) about history somehow trickles down to Jackson in the forms of weapons. He loves weapons-- guns, rifles, knives, and especially swords (my dear brother Chance is bringing Jackson and Caedmon their first REAL swords from Toledo, Spain for Christmas!). Jackson is always asking, "Daddy, when I get older can I please have a knife?"

He is very wiggly and I quickly realized that preschool lessons with him this past year were not worth the time and energy and tears...his and mine, so they didn't happen.

But this child will also sit and look at books all by himself for long periods of time...okay, maybe 10 minutes or so, but that is long for him. ; ) I thought he was just studying the pictures, but apparently he was also looking at the words....Lately he has been found with notepad and pen in hand writing actual letters. He always brings the pad to me so I can "check his school work"! Now that he is actually interested and will be officially old enough for --gasp!--kindergarten next fall, I will attempt again to do a few minutes of formal activity with him in January. If it works out great....if not, well there's always another day! I have listed his proposed course of study in our "What We Are Studying" section to the lower left of my blog. I am looking forward to our new resource Language Lessons for Little Ones by Sandi Queen. This will require some discussion between us and I hope to really be able to work with him during this time on some of his letter sounds that he still has trouble pronouncing. We have never had a child with speech problems, so I am quite in the dark here. If any of you have dealt with this I would love some advice on when to seek outside help, etc.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Another Cranberry Recipe

When I was growing up my mom joined the Parent's Magazine Book Club and we received a couple of hardback books in the mail every month or so. One of my favorites was Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin. I have seen several Cranberry (name your holiday) books in the last few years, but as Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays....this book is my favorite. This is the recipe from the back cover of the book. I hope to spend some time in the kitchen making it this afternoon.

Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1 t. grated orange peel
3/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup light raisins
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add egg, orange peel and orange juice all at once; stir until mixture is evenly moist. Fold in raisins and cranberries.
Spoon into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.

You may substitute cranberries for the raisins to have an all cranberry bread.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Traditional Recipe

The only experience I had in my growing up years with cranberries was the canned cranberry sauce that we had every holiday with our turkey and dressing. A few years ago my mother-in-law began making this cranberry casserole. We really enjoy it and I think you will, too! BTW, a side note for those of you doing the KONOS states and regions unit beginning in January---you will need cranberries as you study the New England states in week 2. Sam's has a big bag that you can get to make this recipe and then freeze to use for the recipes in your study. Enjoy!

Cranberry Casserole

1 c. peeled raw apples, chopped
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. uncooked oatmeal
2 c. fresh cranberries
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 c. chopped pecans (I leave these out due to allergies)

Butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Put a layer of apples, half of each sugar, half of oatmeal and half of nuts. Repeat layers. Pour melted butter over all and bake in 350 degree oven for 45-40 minutes. Serves 8-10 people.

This also freezes well. I will be making two pans this week.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Our family photo on Thanksgiving Day. We rarely take the time to get everyone in the picture....and still missed Lauren and her family! They arrived a little later...when it was too dark to take more outdoor pictures.

For Lauren's first Christmas my mom decided to start a collection of Christmas ornaments for her. As the grandchildren kept coming, she kept up the tradition. She now has twelve grandchildren! Jeff and I have also added to the children's collections each year. The older children have at least one box full of ornaments. When Lauren and James got married three years ago, we gave Lauren her box of ornaments. Our tree is still very full!! Our plan is that all of the children will take their ornaments with them when they marry.

We always save decorating the tree for Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving. That way I can assure that we will have on nice clothes!! We try to get ornaments that reflect each child's interest for that year. Jordan has been working on a pirate treasure story on his blog at, so his ornament is a treasure chest. Devin is into hats and scarves this fall (accessorizing, she says) and of course shopping, so her ornament is a young lady garbed in hat and scarf with an armload of gifts.

Kaelan has actually gone ornament shopping with me the last two years and has chosen her own ornaments. Both have been beautiful birds.

Caedmon needed a little help hanging his ornament. It is the typical first Christmas ornament which will include a small picture of him.. Right now he is only interested in sleeping, nursing and talking to his mom.

Jackson loves to help Jeff work around the house and follows any "worker men" that are around. His ornament is a handyman's shop with a hammer hanging from the sign. One day when "working" with Jeff on the barn, he spent a very long time hammering nails into a piece of scrap wood. He loved it.

Aaron still likes to ride our pony "Little Lady", so his ornament has a horse riding theme.

Over the River, Shopping Frenzy and Decking the Halls...Fa La La La La

Our long Thanksgiving weekend has been a blur! Our original plans had been to go "Over the River and Through the Woods" to Grandmother's house, but an early phone call on Thursday morning changed our plans. Grandmother wasn't feeling well...Hope you are better now! The children were disappointed and quickly wanted to know what we were going to do! I turned over for a little more sleep, but plans were formulating in my sleepy brain.

I had dressing and pies in the freezer and various ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving feast on hand, but the turkeys in my freezer would not thaw in time for a dinner on Thursday. Thankfully, Jeff was willing to head out to Kroger for a fresh turkey and ham. While Devin and I worked in the kitchen, Jeff took Jordan, Aaron, Kaelan and Jackson out behind the barn for some shooting practice. Our dinner was complete and we had our fill and were out the door for a family photo shoot before 4:00. Just as it was getting too dark to take more pictures, Lauren and Chase arrived. ( I think Lauren planned it that way!! Her brother-in-law had taken lots of pictures of them earlier in the day...I think I will get a CD of those.)

My mom and her husband arrived later in the evening and we had sandwiches and more pie and fudge! Some of us went to bed early in order to take advantage of Black Friday sales. Lauren, Devin, Caedmon and I left home at 4 a.m. and returned around 10:30. My mom, Kaelan, Lauren, Caedmon and I were back out by noon and returned with a Chinese dinner just after 5. A good break from the turkey and ham!!

My extended family always plays games when we are together. However, I was so tired I went to bed early with Caedmon while some of the others played Rummikub....usually my brother wins, but he wasn't able to come home for Thanksgiving.. This time Jordan won....We may have a new game champion around here.

Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday was spent in decorating. By Sunday evening things were pretty much in order and we were able to sit down to a good dinner and then have our Advent/Jesse Tree devotions.

We have been celebrating Advent for many years. We purchased our Advent wreath at a roadside shop/bakery that was part of John Michael Talbot's monastery in the Ozarks. This has made our Christmas season much more Christ-centered as we reflect on the coming of Jesus every night during our devotions. A few years ago we also added the Jesse tree. We have a 3 foot Christmas tree with lights and small manger scene ornaments. Every day in December we have a devotional and time of singing that tells of Jesus beginning in the Old Testament. We hang an ornament with a picture symbolizing each devotion. The first reading is about the Creation, so the ornament has a picture of the earth.

Resources that we use each year are Jotham's Journey or Bartholomew's Passage by Arnold Ytreeide. These are Advent storybooks that have devotionals at the end of each day's reading. The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Meador Lambert is used for our Jesse Tree. You can find Jesse tree ornaments and devotionals on the internet. It's not too late if you want to incorporate them in your Christmas traditions.

What are some of your family's favorite Christmas traditions? Leave a comment to let me know!
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