Mama Monday: Jumping Into the Deep End

Right after I got married, I worked as a counselor at a church camp for one summer session. It was a lot of fun, but there is one experience that I will never forget.

At the camp there is a rock that comes out about 10-15 feet above the water. We were taking our girls swimming that day, and the girls in my cabin really wanted me to jump off the rock. I am VERY afraid of heights. I kept telling them no, but eventually they talked me into at least climbing onto the rock.

Once I got up there, I realized that I was right. It was a really stupid idea. Now there was no way down except to jump. Those girls had tricked me! I spent pretty much all of our swimming time on top of that rock trying to convince myself to jump. When it was time to go back to camp, I knew I had to get off that rock. So I started thinking, what is the only thing in the world that would make me jump off of something this high voluntarily? The answer was my children. I didn't even have kids yet. I'd only been married a month. But I imagined that one of my children was drowning in the water below, and I had to get to them. It was a no-brainer. I got on the edge of that rock and jumped off.

I tell you this story to answer a question I get a lot. People ask me all the time why I homeschool or say something like, "I could never do that." And while I've never said it, I think, "Yes you could. If you had to, you would do anything for your child. Even something that scares you to death."

So why do I homeschool? Because I feel that it is something I have to do for my children and my family. It scares me, it's hard, some days I don't feel like it, most days I don't feel adequate, but I jump, every day, into the deep end. Because this is my calling and my profession, mother and teacher.

While you may not homeschool, I know that as a mom you jump into the deep end for you children. So I just want to encourage you to keep jumping. No one else may notice, but one day your kids will look back and recognize your sacrifice and your bravery in choosing to do the scary things for them.

Still not over my fear of heights (so why do I talk about treehouses!!!),



Thanksgiving Week Post

This week's post is going to be a little different. It's Thanksgiving week, family is in town, I will be busy baking a ham, and watching some college football. With that in mind (plus I'm sure that all of you are equally busy and blessed as well), I wanted to use my one post this week to talk about Thanksgiving.

I used to teach American History in a past life (aka before children) and some of the best Bible lessons can come to us through history. So now I want to share with you a true story from America's past about the Pilgrims and Squanto.

We all know the history of the Pilgrims. They had fled England to settle in North America. It would be their perfect solution. No one owned the land. Practically no one from Europe lived there. They could start over. They could be free. They could worship God the way they felt called to do. But a little over halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, the Mayflower encountered a storm that cracked the main beam. The ship was patched together so they could continue their journey, and they arrived in present day Massachusetts in November 1620. If you know anything about the Northeast, you know that they have brutal winters, and the Pilgrims had landed right at the beginning of winter. They had no time to plant and barely any time to build. That first winter only 47 of them survived until March because of disease. Then came the spring. The people that had lived through that first winter began learning how to survive in this new land.

They were taught by Squanto, a Patuext Indian. And now our story takes a providential turn. Who exactly was this Squanto? It turns out that the Pilgrims had chosen to use his old village for their settlement. Mainly, because there were a lot of buildings still standing, and they needed shelter quickly when they had landed in November. That spring Squanto shows up, and he speaks English! Out of all the locations along the east coast, the Pilgrims settle in the one spot where an English-speaking Native American lives. Squanto had been captured in 1614 and taken to Spain where he was supposed to be sold as a slave. Some friars took him in, and he convinced them to let him try to return to his homeland. He made his way to London where he lived for a few years and finally returned to the Massachusetts area in 1619. When he got home, he discovered that while he was gone his entire tribe had been wiped out by a disease, so he began living with the Wampanoags.

And to reference Casablanca, out of all the Native Americans in the New World who just happens to walk into Plymouth colony, but Squanto the English-speaking Patuext Indian by way of Spain and London. Squanto was the savior of Plymouth colony. He taught the Pilgrims farming and hunting techniques. He helped the colonists develop a good relationship with the Wampanoag people by translating for them. You can easily make the case that without Squanto, the Pilgrims would not have survived.

And so on this Thanksgiving, be thankful for a God who led a ship of Pilgrims to the perfect spot for their survival. He is leading us to our perfect home as well.

Be thankful for a God who provided the Pilgrims with salvation from a most unexpected source. He has provided our salvation from a most unexpected source too.

And, finally, remember to tell Him thank you. Thank you for heaven, thank you for salvation, thank you for blessing us far more than we deserve. Because everyone likes to hear that someone appreciates their love and sacrifice, even God.

Thankful in the treehouse for so many blessings that I can't even count them all,



(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood

How do you know you've become an adult?

Carpet ripped out of living room.

Brand new Stainmaster carpet and carpet pad installed by Lowe's in 45 minutes!

Close up of carpet.

Living room back together with new carpet.

Answer to first question: When getting new carpet in your living room makes you so excited you can't go to sleep until 4:00 AM.

Yawning, but stain free, in the treehouse,



Tasty Tuesday: The Only Casserole My Kids Will Eat

Hopefully I'm not the only mom with this trouble, but my children will NOT eat a casserole. Those delicious Mexican ones...won't touch them. Chicken Pot Pie...not in a million years.  King Ranch Chicken...in your dreams. *sigh*

Apparently, having an all-in-one meal idea is not happening with my children. Until my mom introduced us to the hands-down most delicious chicken and rice casserole we'd ever eaten. Now I have one casserole my kids will eat, and I'm sharing it with you. Because I'm that kind of friend :)

Note: I will be citing the original recipe but putting my way of making it in parentheses. I make it a little healthier, than the original.

Here is what you will need for Chicken and Rice:

1 can cream of onion soup
1 can cream of celery soup (I use the 98% fat free)
1 can cream of chicken soup (I use the 98% fat free)
1 1/2 soup cans of milk (I use fat free milk)
1 cup white rice (You can't make this one with brown rice, so don't even try. Ask me how I know.)
1 package boneless, skinless chicken tenders (or cut up some chicken breasts)
3 oz Parmesan cheese (I had to use cheddar cheese when making it for the blog because Hubby and Magpie got into my Parmesan and ate it all. I live with rats.)
1 small package of sliced or slivered almonds (These can be left out, but we like the crunch it gives.)

First, butter a 13x9 inch baking dish generously. I do not butter the dish. Cooking spray works just fine and cuts some calories.

Mix soups and milk well in a large bowl.

Pour half of soup mixture into a small bowl. Add rice to the small bowl; stir to mix.

Pour rice and soup mixture into baking dish.

Place chicken on top.

Pour rest of soup over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese (I really like the Parmesan better than the cheddar, but either works) and almonds.

Bake in a 275 degree oven for three hours.

Yep, you read that right. Three hours. But the low cooking temp combined with the long time makes the chicken fork-tender. This is my go to Sunday lunch dish because it is ready once you walk in the door from Sunday school and worship. It is also great when you have company over. Put this in three hours before dinner time, and you don't have to spend all that last minute time cooking.


Calling an exterminator for the tree house (stay out of the cheese!!!),


Mama Monday: Protecting the Gift

I am not going to normally recommend books to parents since everyone has their own view of how best to parent their child. Of course, I believe the Bible to be the best guide of how to parent our children ever written.

In light of the Penn State and Sandusky scandal, which I wrote about in my Thoughtful Thursday post last week, I want to encourage every parent to read this book:

I checked mine out of our local library. This book will give you a plan of attack on how to talk to your children about sexual predators. It will give you as a parent a way to feel confident in protecting your child. It will teach you how to communicate with your children about what to do if your child gets lost and how to react to sexual advances by an adult.

These are the most important statistics I learned from this book:

  • 1 out of 3 girls will have sexual contact with an adult before their 18th birthday (In my college education classes, this stat was referenced as 50%).
  • 1 out of 6 boys will have sexual contact with an adult before their 18th birthday (My college class had this one at 1 out of 4).
  • 90% of sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows. The idea of beware of strangers is just not true.
  • Nearly 100% of sexual abuse is committed by heterosexual males.
  • On average there is one child molester per square mile, and that molester will have victimized between 30 to 60 children before he is ever arrested.
These facts are not to scare you but to encourage you to read the book. It will give you knowledge about how to protect your children from a threat that most of us don't even want to think about. But knowledge is power, and as moms we have to use all the power we have to protect our kids.

Anxiously waiting for heaven in the treehouse where no one has to worry about children's safety,



Summary Saturday: Two Weeks Worth

Here are our past two weeks of school and life:

We've been reading Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos during our history storytime. This inspired Chipette to make her own "kite" and wait for a lightening strike. Luckily, it was not a stormy day!

Magpie had a science experiment in her curriculum. She was learning about Noah and the ark, so she got to figure out which things float like the ark and which things would sink. These are her results:

I warned Chipette and Magpie that next week we would have G.I. Joe Boot Camp for two hours. They did not seem as excited about this, but Monkey seemed relieved.

Magpie has been working on matching numerals with objects and one-to-one number correspondence. These are my fancy homemade math manipulatives and matching game:

In science we had an experiment to figure out what kind of bird beaks worked best at finding different types of food on the seashore. Here is Chipette using a plier shaped beak digging for food (assorted size beans) in the sand (oatmeal).

Here is how Monkey entertained himself for 30 minutes one day:

Stack the cups and bowls on the footstool, take them off. Stack the cups and bowls on the footstool, take them off. Stack the cups and bowls....(you get the idea).

Next was this week's science experiment, learning about the density of salt water. Here is the egg in fresh water:

And the egg in salt water:

After the experiment Chipette and Magpie each wanted to try a taste of the "ocean". I wish I had gotten pics of their faces when they took a sip of that glass!

In geography, we were learning about using a compass, so we made a one on our back porch:

And finally, Monkey discovered that he LOVES math! At least the manipulatives.

I still haven't found all of those blocks yet!

Hope all of you have had a great couple of weeks as well.

Checking diapers carefully in the treehouse for colored blocks,


For a couple of hours this week, Live Oak Christian Academy was turned into Barbie's Princess Charm School. These are the students:


Thoughtful Thursday: When Childhood Ends

Hopefully most of us have fond memories of our childhood.

I know that there have been times in my life when I would like to be a kid again. Times when I don't want to make those hard decisions and instead just curl up on my mom's lap and have her tell me that a Bandaid will make it all better. Times when I want to have one day with no responsibilities except to make the best mud pie in the world. Times when Christmas and birthdays seem to drag their feet in getting here, instead of rushing up so quickly that I'm not sure how we will get it all done.

But as Bob Dylan sang, "The times they are a-changin'"

Now we seem to rush our children into adulthood. Unfortunately this manifests itself most in trying to turn our children into sexual beings at a younger and younger age. Go shopping for girl's clothing (and I'm talking little girls, 3 or 4 years old), and you will discover a world of writing on the backside of their pants, itsy bitsy triangle bikinis, and even padded training bras. Media sells sex to girls and boys at young ages, including Disney, Nickelodeon, and movies targeted at children. The focus on making yourself marketable to the opposite sex is happening with 5 year olds.

But these examples, while bad, are NOTHING compared to what society has told our children about their sexuality.

This problem has been thrust to the forefront with the explosion of cover up and lies at Penn State.

Apparently, protecting children is not necessary if you are winning at football.

Apparently, watching a boy being raped in the shower by a grown man is not a reason to risk your future with said football program.

Apparently, when the truth comes out, the victims are not as important as expressing your outrage over the enablers being fired from working at the university.

And the summary of these messages is this: Children are expendable if money is involved. In fact most things are expendable if money is involved, including our morals and values.

While most of us, hopefully, will never have to deal with our child being in a situation like the ones that occurred at Penn State, but we do have to deal with situations like clothing and media with our children every day.

These corporations are sacrificing our children's childhood and sexual innocence on the altar of money every day. And we are funding it. These corporations wouldn't make the clothing or produce the shows and music if we as parents weren't buying it.

So take a stand. Let society know that causing our children to lose their childhood is not acceptable. It's not acceptable to cover up child rape, and it's not acceptable to market our children as sexual beings.

I'm praying for the victims of Sandusky, those who are known and those who are unknown.

I'm praying for the victims of society who will grow up thinking they have nothing more to offer the world than their sexuality and lust.

Jesus pronounced the punishment for those who take away a child's innocence, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6)

Jesus felt that protecting children was a life and death decision. Hopefully one day, we will too.

Writing with a heavy heart in the treehouse,



Wordless Wednesday: Chubby Monkey in a Little Cubby

What you might find when you hear a grunt while teaching Chipette math in the treehouse,


Tasty Tuesday: A Bachelor's Dish

I'm not sure many men read my blog. My Hubby just started reading it today!
My recipe for Tasty Tuesday came from a 40-something bachelor that Hubby and I met in Colorado. He brought the same dish to every potluck that his church had. And there was never anything left. When I make it at my house, there is never anything left either.

So this is my contribution to all those single men out there, learn to cook this dish. It's easy and good. Maybe it will help you impress a lady one day.

Here's how you make Crispy Ranch Chicken.

You will need:
  • 2 cups corn flakes, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 envelope Ranch dressing mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken tenders (use 2 packages if you are making a 13x9 pan)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
Spray a 9x9 or 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Combine the corn flakes, Parmesan, and ranch dressing mix in a large bowl.

Place beaten eggs in a medium bowl (or just beat in the bowl with a fork like I do, less mess that way).

Dip each chicken tender in the egg and then in the cereal mixture to coat evenly.

Arrange the coated chicken pieces in the baking dish.

Pour melted butter over the chicken.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

These things are so good that I didn't even have time to get a picture of them on the plate before my family had descended on them.

This is definitely guy food at it's best!

Loving the leftover cornflakes for a midnight snack in the treehouse,



Mama Monday: Selfish Parenting 101

Today's class, students, is about how to be a parent in the 21st century.

First, we must figure out why you had children to start with. Maybe you were lonely and wanted something to love, maybe it was just what was supposed to happen next in your life after the age of 25, maybe it was an "accident", but whatever brought this little bundle into your life, I'm sure it didn't take you long to realize how much time and energy the new member to your family required. I mean seriously, they start out needing you to do everything for them! Then as they get older they want you to do things with them, like play Barbies, build Lego towers, read Green Eggs and Ham five times in a row, or, heaven forbid, talk to them and ask questions about their day. Obviously, you don't have time for that. You have reality shows to watch, people to text, a facebook status to update. So what is a parent to do?

Second, I will tell you the trick to not having to parent your children so that you can have more time to do what you deserve to do. Go out right now and invest in a television, a game system, a laptop, and a smart phone. Put all of these electronics in their bedroom. Show them how to work all of the devices and then leave the room. If they come out of their room for any reason and ask you for something, then you need to yell and scream at them. Say something like, "What are you asking me for? You can do it yourself. Get back in your room when you're done and leave me alone. My favorite show is on right now. I didn't buy you all that stuff so you'd be bored!"

Third, ignore all the stuff that seems to be go wrong in your child's life because of this parenting approach. The bad grades at school, getting in trouble all the time with authority figures, finding bad friends to hang out with, these things are NOT your fault. You just have a child that's misunderstood. Everybody is out to get him. There is nothing you could have done to change her. She's been that way since she was born. Remember how needy she was. You are a great mom. You bought them all that stuff so they'd have something to do and leave you alone because you were so tired at the end of the day. And that vacant look in his eyes, like some important part of him has shut down, that's nothing to be concerned about.

Fourth, I will be there to pick up the pieces. I will help them find things to make them feel accepted and worthy. Things like drugs, alcohol, pornography, abusive spouses, money, and maybe even a child of their own. And I will be glad to teach your child how to be a parent as well.

Thank you for attending my class. Be sure when you're filling out my evaluation that you spell my name correctly. It's S-A-T-A-N. 

In rememberance of the mom who told me it was my job to raise her son. That's why she sent him to school. And all the other students I had, when I taught in the public schools, that had given up on themselves because their parents had checked out on them a long time ago.

Struggling to give up my wants for my kid's needs in the treehouse,



Thoughtful Thursday: Common Household Courtesy

Do you love your family, your husband and your children? Boy, I do. I feel so blessed by God to have my husband in my life. My children are some of my favorite people to hang out with. I have a feeling that most of you love your families as well.

A few weeks ago, I overheard this in our local Wal-Mart:

Mom: (extremely nasty tone) Just shut up and leave me alone! I'm trying to think here.

Child: But, Mom, my teacher said I needed...

Mom: (even worse tone, practically screaming) I said to shut up!

Mom: (super nice, sweet voice talking into her cell phone) Yeah, I think I can make it tonight.

I wish I could have taken a snapshot of that kid's face. It just went vacant, no expression nothing. I would like a photo to remember that event because as I walked away all I could think of is why did that lady sound so mean and hateful to her own child, but so kind to whomever was on the phone.

Fast forward about three days and here was a conversation in my house:

Chipette: Mom, I'm getting hungry. When are you going to fix lunch?

Me: Let me finish getting this typed up on my computer.

(About 5 minutes later)

Chipette: Mom, have you made my lunch yet?

Me: (nasty tone) Can't you see I'm busy here!?!? I'll get your lunch when I'm finished.

The minute the words left my mouth I thought back to that lady in the store, and I realized that I act like her far more than I like.

And I started noticing that my children were pretty rude and mean to each other most of the time. I noticed that more often than not, I had a sarcastic tone in my voice when I talked to Hubby. Chipette was starting to talk back to me much more frequently than she ever had before.

What had happened to us?

We had lost our common courtesy. Not out in public, though. No way would I want someone to hear my snapping at Chipette like that...what would they think? My kids tend to get along pretty well when we are out and about, too.

And that got me to thinking, if I love my family so much, than why do I talk to them worse than I would a stranger?

So this Monday morning during Circle Time with the girls, we decided to try an experiment. For one week, we would treat each other like we would treat a stranger. I had to talk to my kids the way I would talk to some random children at a park or at church. My kids had to behave with each other like they would a child they had just met for a playdate.

It has been and amazing, eye-opening week! I was shocked at what a habit I had gotten into with talking so severely to my kids. At the beginning of the week, I actually had to stop and think about how I was going to respond. My children have had to do the same with each other (with a few gentle reminders from mom).

But it's so much more peaceful in our home, just like it should be. Throughout your life, you'll encounter rude people wherever you go. Shouldn't your home be the one place that you can go and be built up and encouraged, not torn down even more? I hate to admit it, but I'd let our home become a place of rude words and actions with me in the lead.

I want to encourage everyone to do a courtesy check in your home. Bad habits have a tendency to creep in while our guard's down.

Bringing courtesy and kindness back to the treehouse, 



Wordless Wednesday: Sugar Coma

What I found laying on my bed when I told her to go brush her teeth and potty after we got home from trick or treating...

Poor Magpie! Halloween is rough!

Recovering from Halloween fallout in the treehouse,



Tasty Tuesday: My Hubby's Favorite Dessert

While I am a lover of pies, cakes, and cookies, my hubby is not. I can make the most wonderful dessert, he will eat one piece, and then it would sit there until it grew a beard on it.

I, on the other hand, might let him finish his one piece and then devour the rest in the next three of four days...okay, okay, that same night.

This was true in our home until Symphony Brownies came on the scene. Another wonderful Paula Deen recipe that made my hubby FINALLY have a favorite dessert.

Here is what you need:

1 Family Size Brownie Mix (you can use any brand or flavor you like)
3 Symphony candy bars (I prefer the ones with toffee and almond chips in them, but you can also use the plain chocolate ones.)

First, make the brownie mix according to the package directions for cake-like brownies (usually that means just adding an extra egg).

Mmmmm...brownie mix, so chocolatey and good!

Next, line a 13x9 baking dish with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.

Pour half of the brownie mix into the baking dish.

Next, lay the three Symphony candy bars on top of the brownie mix.

Yep, you know where I'm going with this, don't ya? Now pour the rest of the brownie mix on top of the candy bars.

Bake according to the package directions. Then lift the aluminum foil out of the dish and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Cut into pieces and serve.

That added layer of chocolate makes ordinary brownies into something AMAZING!

Just ask my ambivelent dessert-eating hubby.

Plus, practically no clean up. Just throw that aluminum foil away...unless you are my grandmother who still washes aluminum foil and keeps it in a drawer in her kitchen and reuses it until it tears. The result of living during the Depression, I assume. Does anyone else's grandmother do that? (Sorry, rabbit trail there.)

Packing up a surprise container of brownies to take to my hard-working hubby in the treehouse,


Mama Monday: The Halloween Edition

Well, if you are a mom anywhere in the United States, then you know what today is: Halloween. I joined the throng of families in our town going from house to house and asking the question, "Trick or treat?"

We had lots of fun. As Chipette said, "Halloween is my favorite holiday!" Guess she's a lot like her mom, because Halloween was my favorite holiday well into college.

It is such a hassle, though, buying or making costumes that will only be worn once before being stuck in the dress up basket, herding my children through the city streets (Stay on the grass! You are going to get hit by a car!), and dealing with the sugar fall out later.

So why do I do it? Because I'm a mom, and that's what we do. We sacrifice our comfort and convenience for our kids...at least we should. I will finish up this thought in next week's Mama Monday post, but for now I wish all of you mamas out there a Happy Halloween! And if you want to lace your kid's candy with a little Benadryl so they will sleep a little longer in the morning, I won't tell anyone :)

Happy Halloween from the boys and ghouls in the treehouse,