Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Forward to the New Year

We ended up having a really nice Christmas holiday with extended family down in the Chicago suburbs. I have to say it was strange with no snow on the ground! We all gathered at my sister's house (my dad and step mom, my 3 sisters and their husbands, nieces and nephews, and some family friends who stopped by). It was fun seeing everyone's reactions to their new gifts, including the homemade ones from us. This year I made gift boxes for my sisters families that included a family calendar with photos from the year, two mason jar desserts of muffins and cookies and a homemade wreath ornament. Once my computer returns and I can upload pictures again, I will share a specific post with our homemade gifts. As I made the gifts, I took time to pray for each person I was giving them to. I think that was my favorite part about making them. At one point during our celebration, I stepped outside where my brother-in-law had a fire going in the fire pit on the patio. I soaked in some precious moments alone as I stood outside in front of the fire with the crisp air and the Christmas lights of the neighborhood all around me. As I looked up at the stars and thought about the true meaning of Christmas, my heart was filled with thanks for the amazing gift of God coming down to earth in human form, as a little baby.

We hope to do something special as a family to ring in the New Year. We have yet to finalize our plans. Every year we also set aside some time as a couple to reflect on the year that has passed and create a vision for the year to come. We go through our journals and talk about where we saw the Lord at work. We talk about the ways we have grown but also confess what areas we still need to surrender. It takes a lot of compassion and understanding to allow us to honestly share our feelings and this tradition has been an important part in growing our marriage relationship.  We are both excited for what the Lord will do in the coming year.

In looking forward to the new year, I also want to take some time to look back on the blog. I thought I'd share some of my favorite posts from the year:

Preparing for "Holy Leisure"

Random Things of Beauty (Sept.)

Our First Week of Preschool (Robots Unit)

Fixing Our Eyes on What is Unseen

Welcome to My Home

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season and I thank you for visiting!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Computer is NOT fixed ... But I Need to Catch Up!

So my computer wasn't fixed after all. I had it home less than 24 hours and it was constantly crashing so it had to be sent back! Thankfully, we do have a back up computer, but it is so old and slow that I haven't been able to put together a post of significance until now.

I have had no shortage of projects keeping me busy ... I decided to do homemade gifts this year (keeping those a secret until after Christmas) and I'm finding that very enjoyable. Making things by hand has been really rewarding, especially as I get closer to the finished product. We've also had some fun Christmas parties we've attended. One of them was with my mom friends as our husbands watched the kids which gave us a chance to get together. We had some really good conversations as we shared a meal, enjoyed Christmas music and decorated Christmas cookies together. Last night we went out caroling for our 3rd or 4th year. My husband likes to organize it, printing out the music and coordinating everything, then a few friends join us for the caroling. It is a lot of fun going out and bringing glad tidings to a few families, one of whom was a 92-year old woman still living in the home she grew up in.

My husband and I have been going through a really good book together, Celebration of Discipline - The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster. Each chapter looks at a different discipline of the spiritual life (prayer, meditation, fasting, study, confession, etc.) and it has opened up some good discussions. Lately, a struggle has been sitting down for an extended period of time just being quiet before the Lord; taking time to read his word, reflect and pray without any interruptions. It's been hard to do that regularly since my Thanksgiving vacation where I had some extended down time and it came naturally.

One place it seems to come more naturally is out in nature. I love getting outside in the fresh air and taking time to appreciate the beauty around me. I have really been hoping for some snow since we've only gotten a light dusting a couple of times so far. I love winter. Especially putting on snowshoes and heading out with my husband with J in the backpack to spend time together as a family just enjoying creation. I am always refreshed spending time outdoors yet I haven't been getting out enough lately.

I hope to post again soon, but I'm not sure when I'll get the chance. In light of that, I want to take time to thank you for reading and visiting and I wish you a very blessed Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Computer is Back!

I am so excited that my computer came back from the tech center this week! I am now up and running again, and hope to have a new post soon.

Thank you for patiently waiting!!

Hope you all are enjoying this holiday season :o)

Picture Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preparing for "Holy Leisure"

HOLY  +  LEISURE    =     "Holy Leisure"                       

Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future."

This verse is a special one for me. It has meant different things at different times, as the Lord has used it to calm and encourage my heart.

He used this verse:
-in a season of singleness which got especially hard after turning 30 and the Lord had not yet shown me if I would find the one to marry (which I did shortly after).
-in my wedding; I put the verse on our wedding invitation as a reminder of His promise as I was entering the covenant of marriage and all that would bring.
-during the darkest time of my life; postpartum psychosis, depression and severe anxiety. The verse was something I held onto when darkness was smothering me and I literally felt hopeless and beyond despair.
-even now as a reminder of His ongoing love which carries me through all the life circumstances I will face.

When I sat down today, I didn't have any idea I'd be writing about that verse. I was thinking about preparing my heart for an upcoming vacation; a time I've scheduled for rest away from the busyness of my life. I'm glad the verse came to my mind, since I do want to prepare my heart. The last several months have been challenging and at times overwhelming. It started when my husband entered a depression that quickly became severe and led to him spending time in the hospital. It was so hard bringing my son there and then we'd have to leave without daddy and my son would just cry saying "Why can't daddy come home?" All I could tell him was that daddy needed special care from the doctors at the hospital. Just before this happened, I had accepted a leadership position in my mom's group at church. Our Titus mom's group has over 100 moms and my training had just started. I had also been asked to be the administrator for a "Lotsa Helping Hands" network for a dear family at our church. (Lotsa Helping Hands is a website where you can schedule caregiving when someone is in need.) For this family, I was responsible for putting things on the calendar (like cleaning, meals, groceries) and maintaining the website for the community of volunteers. My husband was brought through his depression, by God's grace, yet I continued serving in these other areas through this fall. It has only been in the last week I've received some extra help which has been a welcome relief. And if that wasn't enough, last month I was diagnosed with an irregular heart beat, (premature ventricular contraction); basically heart palpitations. Thankfully, the heart beat problem is not symptomatic as it's mainly from stress and not a concern for the doctor other than annoying for me at times. In light of this, I have sensed a deep need to take some time away; especially around this Thanksgiving holiday for reflection, renewal and relaxation.

With all that in mind, my son and I will leave Thursday afternoon for a 10-day vacation down at my sister's home a few hours south of where I live. Staying at her home is like being at a resort with its many rooms, spiral staircase and birds and wild life. I look forward to the simple joy of having no agenda; from enjoying a morning cup of coffee while just watching the birds come to feed, or packing my son in the back pack and heading off for some adventure at the nearby wildlife rehab center. I will have a full week of Otium Sanctum, "holy leisure" leading up to Thanksgiving day when my husband will join us for the holiday weekend. I just read about "holy leisure" in a book called "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard J. Foster. He describes it as a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves.

I'm looking forward to training myself in this way of holy leisure; to rest in Him as I go about each day. I am glad for an extended period of time like this where I can disconnect from projects and commitments and just enjoy some time away. It is truly a blessing to me.

I had all kinds of things I could have written about today; from preschool units of dinosaurs and pumpkins to beautiful fall pictures from a few days we had in the North Woods in September, but right now my computer is actually "in the shop". I'm glad I ended up with no access to the pictures I would have used to put those posts together and instead came up with this one. I'm also glad the Lord is preparing my heart for this getaway; a getaway from worldly things that bog down and a time of drawing nearer to Him, the Source of Life.

Thank you for visiting! I hope to post again soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Robot was Featured Overseas - Toasty is Famous!

Lilla A's Robot Exhibition Poster

I feel so honored! We were a featured robot in Lilla A's online robot exhibition. Lilla A is a blog from Sweden who somehow saw my Robot Preschool post and asked me to join her exhibition. Her exhibition had entries all over the world from Australia, South Africa, USA, Spain, France, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, UK and Croatia. For some reason, I now feel like my blog has really "made it".

Here's the story. We started home preschool this fall and our first unit was "Robots". My son loved the unit and at the end of it we ended up making a robot. We used "recycled" things around the house like a plastic Folgers coffee can, kid star sunglasses, an old Jif peanut butter can, plastic lids, toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls. My son named him Toasty and was so proud of our creation. He even wanted Toasty to sleep with him and when I told J he was too fragile, he had me put Toasty in his rocking chair and we put a little blankie over him at night. (Just recently, I actually found out why he named him Toasty. He said the slit between his head and body reminded him of a toaster slot and he named him Toasty because he could make toast).

Here is our Toasty:

My son J was just THRILLED to go on Lilla a's blog and see his robot among so many others. Now he keeps pointing to various new ones he wants to try and make next.  How cool is that? (as my son loves to say)!

Thanks for visiting!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What's Happening in Monroeville

Wow, I can't believe it has been OVER ONE MONTH since I've sat down and written something meaningful here! I am in a busier season of life and just haven't had the energy to keep up with it all. Unfortunately, the blog probably suffered the most as I put my energy into the other pressing things. It's good to be back though, and this is just the first post in catching up. 
I found a new blog called A Quiet Heart and I love what she had on there today, a Status Report. It was a great way to share a bunch of random things all in one post. I liked it so much that I wanted to do it too.

Sitting…at my kitchen table after just sharing a meal with my son. My husband is at church for a class on exploring the book of Isaiah so my son and I are hanging out. 
Drinking…my favorite drink - Milk! We go through 3 gallons a week for our family of three. I've loved white milk since I was a child. My husband doesn't even drink it that much, so I get the lion's share. One of my favorites is milk with pizza! Some people really hate that combo.
Wearing…My fuzzy (like fleece) red zip-up cardigan with white snowflakes on it (similar to the one above, but long-sleeved). We set our house temp around 67 degrees in the colder months, so I just love wearing my warm cozy sweater jacket.
Enjoying…a night at home. We have been having busy days, (good busy) so it's nice to spend a night at home. I was asked to be part of the leadership team for our church mom's group, the "inclusion" team lead. We have a group of over 100 moms so it's quite large (and so is our church) so there is quite a bit of planning and organizing. We had our bi-monthly meeting today and I was there from 8-12 noon, then we came home for some lunch and then hit the library for an hour or two. By the time I came home, it was little one's nap time and then I had to get going on dinner. So it's nice to take this time to "rest" as I blog.
The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life simplify my home. I have been skimming a book called The Joy of Less and began an overhaul of my home to reduce the clutter and disorganization. I have written a list of all the areas to tackle and then whether it's a drawer, a closet or a whole room the plan is to take every single thing from that area and sort through it separating things into Keep, Give Away or Trash. I am really looking forward to letting go of a lot of extra stuff that will benefit someone else.
Considering…what book I'm going to start next. I always have a few books going at the same time, but right now it's getting ridiculous and I have to decide what to keep and what goes back to the library. Right now I have No Graven Image by Elisabeth Elliot, Simpler Times by Thomas Kinkade, Thin Places by Mary E. DeMuth, The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts and Alex & Me by Irene Pepperburg. Phew! I will probably end up reading all of these, I just need to figure out in what order.
Wondering...if the Lord will bring us another child. Although we are not actively trying, I find that I am thinking about this more and more. Last night for the first time, J said out of the blue "Mommy, is there a baby in your tummy?" I told him I couldn't be truly sure, but not as far as I knew. He told me he wanted me to have a baby, so I encouraged him to pray. He prayed that God would bring a twin! So cute. My husband would have been content to have no children, yet really enjoys being a father to our son. But since we had kids later in life and have an 8-year difference, he's facing turning 50 in 2012 and just doesn't picture having more children. We both are trusting in the Lord for whatever His will is.
Trying…to make quiet time with the Lord (Word/Worship/Prayer) a DAILY priority! I have made daily quiet time part of my life for many years, but lately I'm finding it's slipping away. I don't want it to be something I do just as I'm falling asleep or little bits of prayer scattered throughout the day. Those are elements of my day I want to keep, but I mean a time of sitting down during the day and quieting myself before the Lord. Reading His word, really soaking in it and allowing for worship and prayer to flow from that. It may call for rising a bit earlier to make it happen!
Cooking…Creamy Scalloped Potatoes with Ham - YUM! My husband gave me this idea as it was one of his mom's dishes he loved while growing up. Now I think it's a favorite of my son too - he was eating and said to me, "Yum, that is wonderful!"
Reading…Jo Princess Warrior's blog Princess Warrior Lessons. I used to get her daily feed when she was on Facebook, but then she took a Facebook sabbatical and I lost touch with her blog. Today I found it again and it is such a blessing to catch up and read her inspiring posts.
Finishing…A Light in the Window (part of the At Home in Mitford series). I am not a big fan of fiction books, but am really enjoying Jan Karon's Mitford series that I learned about on Melissa's Fearfully and Wonderfully Made blog. (She's currently on a blog sabbatical since early summer.)

Well, I hope you enjoyed catching up as much as I did writing it!!

Thanks for visiting :o)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Blogger's Prayer (Ann Voskamp)

Life has still kept me from sitting down and getting to write a meaningful post here ... so I am posting something I saw today that I liked. Since she requests that it not be copied or pasted, I am including the link to the post below:

A Blogger's Prayer from A Holy Experience

Friday, October 14, 2011

**We interrupt this program**

We interrupt this program to bring you an important message ...


Just a quick word to say, I have not forgotten about this dear place, but have not had the proper time I need to sit down and write something meaningful!! I have plenty to share with a lovely vacation up to the North Woods of Wisconsin, a couple more fun weeks of preschool, a bit of a scare with my heart and latest lessons from the Lord .... yet I do need to carve out the time soon to sit down and put something together. Please be patient with me!! I do hope to be back soon.

Now back to the show!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Random Things of Beauty

So I've been wanting to do a personal post for some time now ... but I just didn't have the inspiration. Then today I had a sweet new visitor to my blog who left a wonderful comment and I took some time to visit her site. I'm so glad I did, because it was the inspiration I needed! She is over at The ArtsyGirl Connection and had a beautiful fall craft that she made out of old bottles. Go check it out! With that in my mind, I realized there were some neat things that I had been wanting to blog about and my ideas came together.

I have some random things I'm posting today ... but they are all things that have brought me joy in some fashion. I am really enjoying the beginning of fall here. I love this time of year when the air gets crisp and the leaves start to change into such beautiful colors and then fall and get blown around everywhere. I love being able to snuggle into my blankets at night without having to put the heat on and then wearing sweaters again in the daytime. Below are some other things that have brought beauty into my life.

Isn't this morning glory just beautiful? I love how the light shines through it. It is amazing to me the tiny blessings the Lord brings. The ones that if I'm not looking closely and paying attention I would totally miss; like this single little morning glory flower that bloomed in my vegetable garden. It somehow crept and climbed its way from over in my neighbor's garden on the other side of the fence into mine. It must have made its way over sometime last year - because my neighbor doesn't have that morning glory vine in her garden anymore! You can see how tiny and easily missed it could be surrounded by all the vegetation of my little garden.

So, I didn't even realize until I brought this watering can home that I have a collection of them! I didn't know what I was going to do with it until I collected some wildflowers and saw what a perfect fit they would be. It was on a hike with my son that we collected these pine cones and small turkey feather so I added them to the display. This goes so well with my names of God poster with the fall colors in it.

This was another wildflower arrangement I made after another hike this time with L and J.

It is barely visible (more so in the first picture), but I stepped outside during a rain shower yesterday when the sun was shining behind me and caught a glimpse of a faint rainbow. In the second picture, you can see the sunshine reflecting off the leaves. I thoroughly enjoy watching as the leaves are changing colors.

Now for some fun pictures of my little J:

He just loves this little chalkboard I found on Amazon. He is starting to draw people and creatures now and he is so excited to show me and tell me all about what he is drawing. This picture was Oscar the Grouch! It just lights up my heart.

This little guy is a climbing bear that his Grampa Bernie MADE for him. It is really sweet. You pull the wooden knobs and the bear shimmies up to the top. We've all had fun playing with it together. I love hand-made toys!

J is really into building and creating things now more than ever. His daddy is really enjoying it too. Here they put together a cool boat using his Trio building kit. He loves using the diagram and helping to make what's in the picture.

He was really creative with this little guy; using his Trio blocks to make a body and then putting his Mr. Potato Head pieces on to make the face, arms and feet. We both were laughing really hard when he was done putting him together. It looked so stinkin' cute and he thought of it all by himself!

I just love how he never seems to tire of dressing up and playing fireman. Here he got his helmet, gloves, jacket and boots and then off he goes to "fight the fire" and rescue people.

Well, those are a few of the things that have been touching my heart lately that I thought I'd share. Thanks for taking the time to visit and spend some time with me here!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Home Preschool - Farm Unit

We had a great week in our second unit of preschool, The Farm. J is really enjoying learning so many new things and he keeps asking me everyday, "Let's do preschool mommy!" I am blessed to stay at home and it is wonderful to have so many good curriculum ideas available on the internet. We are doing unit-based learning so we are not doing the alphabet in order. Most of my printables come from Home School Creations although this week's Farm Preschool Pack came from 2 Teaching Mommies. I enjoy getting new ideas from Jolanthe's link-up too.

Click the button below to see what other moms are doing:

Barn Size Sorting

In this activity, J was sorting by size. He separated the barns into small, medium and big. He does this one pretty well, but had a little trouble with a couple of the smaller ones.

Number Matching - Tractor
In this activity, he had to recognize numbers 1 through 10 and match up the piece of the puzzle with the matching number. When he was done, he had a picture of a red tractor.

Just having a little fun putting the number strip on his head.

Number Matching - Cow
This one was learning to recognize numbers 11-20. This was MUCH harder for him. We will spend a lot of time working on his numbers. When he was done, he had a picture of a cow. Here, saying Cheese!

Animal Shadow Matching

This one was an interesting activity - matching the shadow with the animal. He really had fun with this one, but it was pretty easy for him.

Gigglebellies - Old McDonald Had a Farm

J just loves music and dancing so I pulled up this song on You-Tube. We really like the Gigglebellies and Old McDonald went with our theme. They are very colorful and engaging and we like the songs. So far, we just watch them on You-Tube but they do have a DVD available.

Do-A-Dot Letter F
We haven't gotten out his do-a-dot paints in a while so this was a nice activity.

Tracing the Letter F - Capitol and Lowercase

This is a really challenging activity for J which I like. It is so great for his fine motor learning and part of the three R's (reading, writing and arithmetic). We used the giant pencil just for fun. I'm still trying to find a good kids pencil for him. Maybe we'll use a short golf pencil next time.

Matching Capitol and Lowercase Letters

Pigs in the Mud - Matching Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

This is something J asked me to get out several times just to do on his own. It is matching the lowercase letter on the pig with the uppercase letter on the mud part of the page.

Potato Stamp Art
Our craft was using potatoes to do art work. I cut a potato in half and then put different colors of do-a-dot paint on them so he could stamp them on the page. I made one of my own after J was done since I liked how it turned out!

The Reading Nook for the Day
J found a great place to read one afternoon. It was very cute.

Books We Read:
Richard Scarry's The Animals of Farmer Jones

Richard Scarry's The Animals of Farmer Jones (Big Little Golden Book)

The Noisy Farm by Marni McGee

Picnic Farm by Christine Morton-Shaw

Let's Go to the Farm by Vermont Story Works

I am also linking up at Get Crafty - Red Ted Art's Blog

and Our Country Road - Pinterest Tuesday

And Finally, Linking up to Play Academy!
play academy

Next week's theme: Dinosaur Unit

Thanks for visiting!