Summary Saturday: Fall Break

You might have noticed that my blog has been inactive for about two weeks, but we took a fall break to go visit my family and enjoy the autumn trees.  Here are some pictures of our trip:

First of all, me and the tree dwellers flew this trip home. Chipette hadn't been on a plane since she was 2. Magpie and Monkey had never flown. The gate attendant told us to tell the flight attendant that the kids were first time flyers. I must say that Southwest went over and above making sure Chipette and Magpie had a great first flight. The pilot let them in the cockpit, took their pictures, let them talk on the intercom, and push some buttons. As you can tell by their faces, being a pilot has become a serious contender for future career!

The first part of our trip we took the kids to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. I hadn't been since I was in Junior High, but the girls had a great time. Monkey just wanted to be able to take his afternoon nap in something other than a stroller.

Monkey did like the train at Silver Dollar City, though. Here he is in his conductor's cap.

For the second part of our trip, we just spent time driving through the Ozark Mountains and hiking around my parents' house. The trees were in their full autumn colors while we were there.

Chipette and Magpie had to put up with me telling them to stop and pose in front of pretty trees that we saw on our hikes.

We visited Alum Cove in Arkansas and hiked down to the Natural Bridge. Here's Chipette underneath the rock bridge.

Magpie had to be like big sister and have her own walking stick too.

Monkey has a really large vocabulary right now. It consists of one word, "ball." We stopped to eat lunch at a little cafe in Jasper, Arkansas and he found a bunch of orange "balls" to play with.

We had a wonderful time visiting with family and experiencing a true fall season. I haven't been home during the fall for five years, and I had forgotten how beautiful it is. Although I don't work for the tourism board, it is definitely worth experiencing an Ozark Mountain autumn at least once in your life!

Glad to be back in the treehouse,



Summary Saturday: Moving on Up

We started a new school year this week with Chipette moving up to 2nd grade and Magpie joining our school as a Pre-K student. Our late start (we usually start a new school year on Labor Day) was due to being stranded at my parent's house for almost a month thanks to a deer who thought that he would like to go home for Christmas as well.

Here is Chipette with most of her school books for the year:

Our core curriculum is Heart of Dakota's Bigger Hearts for His Glory which includes history, science, Bible, poetry study, hymn study, and storytime. For grammar and writing instruction, we are using First Language Lessons Level 2, Writing With Ease Level 2, and Bob Jones English 2. For math we are using Horizons Math Grade 2, Math in Focus:The Singapore Approach, Challenging Word Problems 1, and Singapore Intensive Practice. For spelling we are using Spelling Plus and Dictation combined with How To Teach Spelling. We are adding in extra science using Apologia's Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. Our electives are art (Scott Foresman Art Grade 2), logic (Mindbenders Warm-Up) and Spanish (Salsa Spanish Videos and Lessons Plans). And of course, like children always do, her favorite thing is our Spanish lessons which are totally free and a last minute decision!

Here is Magpie with her school books:

Her core curriculum is Heart of Dakota's Little Hands to Heaven. It includes Bible, beginning phonics/alphabet recognition, beginning math, and pre-writing skills. We are adding in Hooked on Phonics Pre-K and Explode the Code's Get Ready, Get Set, and Go for the Code Series for extra phonics practice. We are also adding in Rod and Staff's ABC Series for extra fine motor skills work. We are doing more math with Math Practice for Beginners. And of course Magpie wanted her own science to do as well, so I got her Singapore Child's Play Science just for fun.

It looks like a lot, but we don't do all of that every day. On average Chipette is done in about 2 and a half hours, and Magpie takes about 30-45 minutes.

Our first week went really well.

We set up our two bird feeders for an experiment seeing which type of bird food the birds in our area would prefer.

So far we have only seen one bird at one of the birds feeders. I'm thinking that they are too close to the house.

Chipette was really excited because her very first week with the new curriculum she got to paint an ocean scene. She LOVES art so we spent quite a while on this project.

Magpie worked on visual discrimination and sorting by putting different colored beads into sections of an egg carton.

Then she worked on fine motor skills by doing one of her sewing cards that she got for Christmas last year. Isn't it amazing how Santa plans ahead?!?!?

And finally Chipette turned into Atlas for a little while, as we used a large purple ball as our earth and labeled all of the continents and oceans.

Monkey was none too happy with what we did to his ball!

Hope you all had a great week as well.

Typing with paint-stained fingers in the treehouse (why do I always get the messiest when it's their project!),


Thoughtful Thursday: My Theory of Relativity

Thank you, Albert Einstein. Such a simple mathematical equation for such a complicated idea.
While I'm no Albert Einstein, I have my own theory of relativity. The buzz word in American culture and religious circles today is tolerance. Everyone needs to be tolerant. Truth is relative. What is true for you may not be true for someone else. Who are you to judge if I am wrong? What makes you think that you are the only one with the market on truth?
I ran headlong into this way of thinking during my Sociology class in college. I needed the class to enroll in a Master's program I was planning to take (I wound up not doing the Master's program, but that's a whole different story). Our last night of the class, the professor took it upon herself to introduce us ignorant Arkansas hillbillies to higher, learned thinking. She threw out this statement and wanted us to discuss it: There is no such thing as absolute truth. Everything is relative.
We literally spent the entire class, an hour and a half, trying to come up with something that was always true. She quickly dismissed Christianity ("Well, that's not true to a Buddhist"), so we started trying to come up with universal truths. It finally got to the point where one of my classmates said, "Well, murder is wrong." The teacher's response, "It wasn't wrong to Hitler. He firmly believed that what he was doing was the right thing to do. So it was true to him."
Um, yeah, whatever.
So in a moment of logic that is totally foreign to me (ask my hubby), I suddenly had the answer to take the wind our of her sails. As the rest of my class sat in silence, stumped with trying to come up with something that is always true, and my professor sat on the edge of her desk with a smug look of satisfaction on her face for showing us the error of our Bible Belt ways, I timidly raised my hand.
She calls on me and this is our exchange:
Me: "So you are saying that there is no such thing as absolute truth?"
Professor: "Yes, that is what I'm trying to get you to understand."
Me: "Well, saying that there is no such thing as absolute truth is an absolute statement itself. Therefore, you have just stated an absolute truth, thus nullifying your argument."
She just stared at me, her face getting redder and her mouth growing tighter.The class stared at me with awe and appreciation on their faces. Finally, she said, "Class is dismissed," shot me a look of death and stormed out of the room. Thank goodness, the grades for the class had already been turned in!
So what is my theory of relativity? That most people don't want there to be absolute truth, so we turn to things like "tolerance" and "relative" to make us feel better about ourselves and our sin.
But Jesus said that there is truth, he is it.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Jesus also lets us know that we will be judged by his words.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:48)
And so we have a choice, we can choose to believe the Bible and the truth that is in it or not. And that is not relative, just a fact.

Trying to walk in the truth in the treehouse,


Wordless Wednesday: Beginnings

Chipette (about 8 months old)

Magpie (about 15 months old)

Monkey (about 4 months)

Thinking they are growing up too fast in the treehouse,


P.S. This is what happens when you add another student to your homeschool. You get all sappy and nostalgic.


Tasty Tuesday: Poor Man Food

Growing up I loved when my mom would say, "We're having a poor man's dinner tonight." Translation: beans and cornbread. Maybe that's why, even today, beans and cornbread is one of my favorite meals.

Not too long after I married Hubby, his mom gave me one of the simplest and easiest cornbread recipes EVER! And of course, it's really good too!

Two caveats about my cornbread:

1) I do NOT like sweet cornbread! So if you are a Jiffy cornbread fan, you might want to add some sugar to the following.

2) While I do try to cook healthy most of the time, I like a nice, crispy piece of cornbread and the best way to achieve that is with butter. So beware if you are on a diet.

If the above is agreeable to you, then proceed.

Here is what you will need:

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1-2 Tbsp. butter

First, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Put everything into a bowl and mix.

After mixing, it will look like this.

Put butter in iron skillet and place in hot oven to melt the butter in the pan.

I know, my pan is all rusty, but Hubby didn't believe me when I told him you can't let iron skillets air dry. I'm putting a new one on my Christmas list.

Once the butter is melted...

pour in the batter.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. I like my cornbread crunchy so I bake it for 15 minutes.

Top with some butter or beans and enjoy!

SOOOOO GOOOD! And, yes, we did have beans with it :)

This recipe is actually the original recipe cut in half because if I make it all, it makes too much cornbread for us. This cornbread can also be made in glass baking dishes. In fact the orighinal recipe is supposed to be cooked in an 8x8 baking dish. When I take cornbread to potlucks, I cook it in a 13x9 baking dish. You can still do the melted butter in the baking dishes just do a little more, but you won't get it as crispy as you do in an iron skillet.

Original Recipe for the 8x8 baking dish:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 eggs
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk

Doubled Recipe for the 13x9 baking dish:
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups flour
4 eggs
8 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 cups milk

Enjoying my poor man dinner in the treehouse,



Mama Monday: The Blessing of Illness

Not a very long post today.

Monkey is sick. He's running fever, but has no other symptoms, so I'm kind of waiting to see what happens. I will take him to the doctor on Wednesday if his fever isn't gone. He could be sick because he's cutting teeth, has an ear infection, or something else.

And I'm starting to think that I must be a pretty "sick" person too, not physically sick, but mentally. While I hate to see Monkey not feeling well, I have to admit that I love how much he's wanting me to hold him and just to cuddle with me. He's usually so busy that mom doesn't get much loving anymore.

So the blessing that comes when my children are sick is that I know they still need me. That when they are sick, there is no one else they want to make them feel better than mom. I don't think we outgrow this. When I am sick the first thing I think is, "I wish my mom was here to take care of me!" 

All too soon my tree dwellers will leave home and go out into the world, but I will take the blessing that comes with illness, the blessing of being able to hold them and treat them like my babies for just a little longer.

Loving on a sick little Monkey in the treehouse,



Summary Saturday: Nature Studies

This past week it seemed like nature sought us out. You can tell that animals are getting desperate to find some food with fall coming on and the lack of rain we've had all year. They are having to forage in unexpected places.

Our first visitor we noticed this week was an enterprising squirrel, who has discovered a love for dog food. Our dog refuses to eat her food if it falls on the ground, so every morning after the dog comes back inside the house, a neighborhood squirrel sneaks onto our back porch and eats all the dog food from the ground.

Monkey stands in the window and watches him for about 15 minutes straight until the squirrel leaves. Apparently he recognizes a fellow tree dweller!

Here is what Monkey has been doing every morning:

Well, a few days after our discovery of a new backyard pet, Chipette caught a moth in our house and put it in a jar. She immediately became the coolest person in Monkey's world. They had so much fun watching the moth in the jar together.

On Monday, I will begin homeschooling two students. Chipette will begin second grade work, and Magpie will officially become a student at Live Oak Christian Academy doing Pre-K. Needless to say, Magpie is super excited to be doing school with mommy. Here she is all dressed for her first day about five days too early.

And last, but not least, Chipette got some new shoes for our upcoming trip. Finding shoes for her is a challenge because she's only 7, but she wears a size 7 WOMEN'S shoe! Trying to find women's shoes that would look "cute" on a 7 year old is hard. At Target yesterday, they had some of their Converse All-Stars on clearance for 50% off. They just happened to have a purple pair in Chipette's size, so they came home with us, and Chipette has yet to take them off. My mom coolness factor is at an all-time high right now with her!

Hope you all had a great week as well!

Getting ready for teaching two in the treehouse,



Thoughtful Thursday: Building a Spiritual Legacy

There are a few things I hate that my kids will miss in life. Probably one of my biggest regrets is that they will never have known their great-grandfather, my Papaw Lee. He was an amazing man and a wonderful grandfather. He was one of those people who loved to laugh and make others laugh, a great practical jokester.

But more than any of that, he was a Christian. And his story of conversion is one for the ages.

My grandfather was born on February 22, 1922 right around President's Day, so he received the name of Jefferson Washington Lee. His mother was a Christian, and he was raised a Christian, but living a Christian life held no allure for him. He liked to drink, gamble, and party. His mother prayed for him.

Then on December 7, 1941, the United States was plunged into World War II. My grandfather enlisted in the Army and was sent to the front lines in Belgium. And his mother prayed for him, that this boy of hers would not be killed because he was not a Christian. As my grandfather's company crossed a set of railroad tracks entering Dusseldorf, Germany, he remembered hearing a loud boom, turning his head, and seeing a railroad tie flying end over end through the air right at him.

He woke up in London, England a few days later. After he was well enough to travel he was sent back to the United States. His service in World War II was over. By the end of the war, out of about a hundred men who were in my grandfather's company, only 5 of them made it home alive. This fact was not lost on my grandfather.

After he was discharged, he went home to his mother and told her that he was ready to become a Christian. He could come up with no other reason that his life was spared when so many others died. He was not even a good person, but his mother was a Christian, and she prayed for him. So on a cold January day, he was baptized in a local creek because he wouldn't even wait for the weather to get warmer.

My grandfather went on to help start a little church out in the country, the same church that I grew up attending. He raised two sons to be Christians, one of whom is my father. He was also an elder in the Lord's church. And I can't help but wonder, "What if he'd made a different decision?"

And so I ask myself this question and encourage you to ask yourself, "Are you making the decisions that will leave your children a spiritual legacy?" My grandfather was not wealthy. He did not leave his family a large estate or a large bank account. But he left his children and grandchildren with an example of how to live a Christian life and what an impact one decision can have on an entire family's spiritual future.

And in the end Jesus said it best, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" Think of the spiritual legacy you are leaving your children. Is it one that will get them to heaven or leave them confused?

Sitting in the treehouse looking forward to one day introducing my children to their Great-Papaw Lee in heaven,



Wordless Wednesday: Storm Damage

I posted about the storm that caused this here.

Drawing up blueprints to fix the swing set in the treehouse,



Tasty Tuesday: Mixing Processed Cheese and Chicken=DELICIOUS!

About a week after I had given birth to Magpie, our next door neighbor called us up one night and asked if she could bring supper over for us. As if I would say no! I wish people would still call me up and offer to bring supper over!

Well she brought us the most amazing Chicken Spaghetti I'd ever had so I asked her for the recipe. Thankfully, she was not one of those people who is hesitate to share, so I acquired a wonderful addition to my cookbook.

With the idea of paying it forward, I now share it with all of you.

Here is what you need:

  • 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can mushroom stems and pieces
  • 1 package spaghetti
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can Ro-Tel (I use mild cause of the kids)
  • 1 small can black olives (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • paprika (to taste)
  • few dashes of Worchestire sauce
  • 1 pound Velveeta, grated
Simmer chicken in salted water for about 25 minutes.

Remove chicken from water (chop it up when it is cooled off a bit) and save broth.

Into broth add celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and mushrooms.

Let cook a few minutes and add spaghetti.

Cook until spaghetti noodles are done. Drain.

Add Ro-Tel, soup. salt, pepper, paprika, Worchestire sauce, and cheese. Normally you would add the black olives here as well, but no one in our family likes them except Hubby.

Add the chopped chicken and blend.

Here is the finished product.

This recipe makes a lot of food, so it's great for potlucks or company. You can also eat half of it and freeze half of it because it reheats so well.

For this meal, I made it on Saturday night, put it in the fridge, poured it into my crockpot Sunday morning on high until we left for church, then turned it to low. By the time we got home after services, it was nice and hot and ready to eat!

Loving those easy Sunday dinners at the treehouse,



Mama Monday: Character Training

The past two weeks I've talked about training our children to do chores and take care of their homes and possessions.

This week it's all about character.

I stumbled across this great character curriculum called We Choose Virtues. It really filled a need with what I was wanting to do during our morning Circle Time. I was wanting to work in a character focus each month, so I was trying to figure out the 12 virtues I wanted to choose. Then I stumbled across We Choose Virtues which just happened to have exactly 12 virtues in their program! I quickly ordered it (especially since I had a coupon code handy!).

I must say that the girls have taken to it like a duck to water. We choose a virtue to focus on for the entire month. The month of September was Patience and, October is Honesty. The rules are this: anytime I catch them exhibiting the chracter quality for the month, then they get to choose time out of our time bag to add to their screen time for the day (they each get 1 hour of screen time: TV, computer, Wii). If I catch them doing the opposite of our trait for the month, then they lose that much screen time out of the time bag (it's a zipper bank bag that has cards in it that say 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes, about 5 of each).

The fun part for them is that they get to watch me and hubby. When they catch us not being patient or honest, then they have our permission to call us out for not showing the virtue that month. I got called out a lot during patience month (ugh, why can't they just get in the car!), but by the end I was much more aware of not letting my exasperation rule my attitude.

Here are what the virtue cards look like:

On the back is an easy to memorize definition, so that kids can understand exactly what it means to be patient, honest, etc. We memorized patience to a chant with hand motions, and we are working on memorizing honest to a rap.
This is the back of the honest card:

They sell the cards with Bible verses on the back and without, but, of course, we chose the Bible verses.  I am currently working up a list of children's books to exemplify each chracter virtue so that we can read a book each week to reinforce our character training.

I can already tell such a HUGE difference after just one month of using these cards. If someone begins acting impatient, all I have to do is ask, "Are you showing patience right now?" and they know exactly what I mean and correct it.

Hopefully, you will figure out a way to incorporate some character training into your family's busy schedule. Cause let's face it, they aren't going to pick up on it from living in this world!

Learning how to wait, wait, wait with a smile in the treehouse,


Summary Saturday: Act of God

Here's a little bit of what happened in the treehouse this past week:

Monkey discovered that not only does he love bananas, but coconut is pretty high on his list as well!

Note to self: Make sure that pantry door is securely shut!

While studying Elizabethian England this week, we jumped right into Shakespeare for literature. Luckily there are some wonderful children adaptations of Will's works. We read Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Chipette already knew the basic plot of Romeo and Juliet (thank you Gnomeo and Juliet!), and really got into the story.

While reading Shakespeare, I heard a lot of, "That's not fair!" and "If only the messenger had made it in time!"  My reply, "Well that's Shakespeare, Chipette, and life too."

On Thursday we had a little action around the treehouse as this bad boy rolled into town.

I wish that the picture could convey how hard the wind was blowing. I couldn't even open the front door! But the storm brought some much needed rain and cooler weather, plus my first tornado warning since moving here 5 years ago. Yep, me and Monkey had to hunker down in the master bedroom closet (only room in the house without a window) since a tornado was spotted somewhere in our little town.

The storm didn't stop Chipette's sewing lesson that night, though. She completed her first project, a needle book.

All in all, another fun (and stormy) week!

Me thinketh I posteth too mucheth in the tree-abodeth,

Chelli  Shakespeare