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Updated: 2018-03-05T16:07:06.732-05:00


White Christmas 2016


Once again a lovely evening filled with amazing set design and delicious food! It has occurred to us that not every family has an annual party where they come dressed as set pieces, scenery, food, etc. Yep, we're weird and we like it that way ;)The generous host and hostess.Their talented assistants (Liam's very great contribution being to keep himself happy while everyone else was busy)."Pine Tree, coming into Pine Tree"MP at the train station."Go to Smith?! She couldn't even spell it."                            You catch a very quick glimpse of Dad's character on the right in the first scene. Mom thinks mother hen should let the little chick out of the nest.Jessica's mom was visiting and joined in the fun as mother hen with her little chick. Sorry, for those of you who don't have the movie memorized and can't immediately recognize which scene these lines are from :) We've been all the obvious characters so now we have to get creative with our costumes.The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing (along with the background scenery). Scene 1 and the slam bang finish.Snow, snow, snow!I couldn't get a camera angle that did the scenery justice. The background was hand painted by Katie and the drum set was all constructed from a variety of items they put together.[...]

Helpful Tips


I came away from the homeschool convention this year with information that has really changed my perspective on a few things, particularly in regards to struggling learners. It's not homeschool specific so I decided to post it in case it helps other moms!Diane Craft was an excellent speaker and I learned so much about teaching a right brain learner. Right brain kids are big picture, creative, problem solving kind of people. No matter how many times you have them read and write the multiplication tables there is no "glue" to keep that in their brain. So you're just repeating something over and over that isn't working. This was news to me since I thought the only way to memorize something was repeating it either orally or through writing! Right brain kids love pictures and stories and that's what makes facts stick for them. Diane Craft sells multiplication cards on her website that have stories and pictures but you could also make your own.Here's the link to the ones she sells: bought the cards and they really work! Our right brain girly is memorizing the multiplication tables very painlessly! She told me the other day it was too bad everyone couldn't learn math in this fun way.We also do spelling the same way. When she misspells something we write it on an index card and hang it up for a few days. Here's an example:This is the name of a friend and she always spelled it with an "F" in the middle. I write the word, putting the letters she gets wrong in color. Then we add a picture that will give her the glue she needs to memorize it. Sophia wears glasses so we turned it into a smiley face with glasses. This is training her brain to memorize and the idea is that eventually you don't need a picture to remember. We're not there yet, at this point I'm just so happy we have a method that's easy, free and working!Diane Craft's website has lot's of info: workshop that was really impacting was on the topic of multiple intelligences. Basic idea being that there are 8 types of intelligent. In our culuture word smart people are the ones who are considered smart.They're the kids who do well in school. Everyone else, at best, is considered talented but not smart. Our daughter that's word smart gets encouragement everyday that we have school because she's good at it and everyone in the family knows she's smart in that way. But what about my girl who's nature smart? Yes, she has to learn to spell even if she's not word smart but I also need to make room for her to flourish in the area that she's intelligent. The 8 intellegences are:Music SmartBody SmartPeople SmartLogic SmartWord SmartSelf SmartPicture SmartNature SmartI have a lot of information from the workshop in email format if anyone is interested. It explains each one and gives strengths, weaknesses and job possibilities.[...]



I think this 3 month review in photos must be my new blogging style.After the crazy busyness of the spring I wanted the summer to be more relaxed. We don't usually take a summer break from school but this year it seemed like a good idea. We've had lots of fun times this summer! And although time goes fast I don't feel like it's flying by. We were ready for church early and it had been a while since we did a picture of the whole line up.We have a shallow area that's perfect for puddle jumping after a rain storm. I'm not one of those fun moms that lets them get wet and muddy every time it rains, but this was one of the times I said yes.Grandma gifted our little tribe with some new dress up clothes. I had a shopping day with just these three which was a lot of fun. It's always a treat to spend time with just a few of the kids. These two are quite a pair.... I think we were experiencing a pirate invasion that day. Lots of hours have been spent in the pool! I was very apprehensive at first about the combination of toddlers and a pool. But they have become very confident  and seem to understand that you have to wear a life jacket when you go in the water. I still pray over the pool often but I'm also breathing a lot easier as the summer goes on. I finally have one room unpacked and decorated! It gave me a chance to use all those ideas I've been saving on Pinterest :) This is the sewing/school room which is an area that gets a lot of use during the course of a day. They're getting bigger. Sniff, sniff. Everyone sat at the table playing Legos one weekend morning which means they're all old enough to enjoy doing the same thing. Fresh peach ice cream tastes even better when the peaches come off your own tree. I'm certainly no green thumb but in spite of me we have managed to produce a few things.I no longer dread sweet corn now that I have people who can help with the husking! That's the round up![...]

Where to Begin?


Project 52 seems to be lost in the move. I've decided moving is a lot like childbirth. When you're in the middle of it you vow you'll never do it again. But time must fade the memory because most people do repeat the experience.In spite of the overwhelming number of boxes we are enjoying the new experiences that this house brings. Plus it's spring time so it's a perfect time for the kids to explore the new surroundings.Here's a round up of what we've been doing lately.This little guy LOVES to be outside and sometimes his sisters get him ready to go out.It always feels good when the clothing beast has been conquered for another season. I've thought that I kept it simple with the kid's clothes. But moving made me realize that we still had way too much. It's easy for it to pile up when it's hand me downs or garage sale finds. It still means a cost of time to manage it all. I created a checklist of a simplified wardrobe and checked off each item as I came across them in storage and then got rid of the rest.Jeff and Celene head out on a goat buying adventure.And they were successful. We now have three Boer goats which the girls walk around our yard on a leash, hug, sing to, etc.This girly has quite a way with small people and small animals. They all love her!Elise turned three a few weeks ago. She was a high needs one year old, a sweet two year old and now a funny three year old. Just that kind of adorable three year oldness that makes you smile everyday. Like if you ask her what her whole name is she'll tell you "Elise Navidad".[...]

Project 52


                   Photo prompt: What I'm Reading

Fit to Burst is a book I've read over and over. I needed it last week to remind me that if I'm not teaching my kids to be kind and patient even when life is a whirlwind then I'm missing what's most important.
Life was indeed crazy around here. My mom broke her hip, my in-laws were out of town (which meant Jeff was flying solo at the shop) and we were getting our house ready for the realtor to come and take pictures. 

Project 52


Photo prompt: focused
This little person loves tea parties right now!

These Two Make My Heart Happy


In the beginning this is how the two of them felt about each other....I remember a drive home from church where they yelled no at each other the whole way home. But over time God knit their hearts together.  I can't say what it would be like to have biological twins, but I can't imagine that these two could be any closer. They have their own jokes, favorite things to play together and can always make the other one laugh.                         Our caseworker often said she couldn't imagine one without the other.People are always asking if they're twins. I'm starting to think maybe we should just say yes :)[...]

Project 52


Photo prompt: together
I didn't take this photo but I decided to use it as my picture of the week anyway. It is very rare, as in only every few years, for all of us girls to have an extended period of time together. Yesterday we  were celebrating Natalie's 30th birthday! We ate crepes, spent a long time wandering the aisles of the thrift store, picked out curtain fabric and ended it all up with another snack.  Good times for sure!

A Glimmer


Yes, this week I had a glimmer of hope. Koen will do something other than destroy things sometime in the future. This is just a season. There were two whole days where he actually played with things that were permissible.
He was delighting himself (and us as well) with his butter stacking abilities this week.

Project 52


                                  Photo prompt:  pieces
                                (image)                                                               Little girl creations.

Project 52


                            Photo prompt: folded
Three out of six dresses done and ready to be put away for summer. I recently resigned myself to the fact that if I want my older girls to look like the little girls that they still are, I'm just going to have to make their church clothes. Actually it's turned out to be a lot of fun to sew again!

Project 52


                                                             Photo prompt: texture
                    It's so fun to have girls who are big enough to create things in the kitchen!

Project 52


                              Photo prompt for this week: with the sky
Our sky looks a lot like the ground today!

Project 52. Or maybe 45 or 49


A dear friend and I were talking recently about her new DSLR and we decided to do a picture challenge each week this year just to stretch ourselves and test some new skills.
The theme I chose for this week was treasure.
This little face was rather stormy looking for many months after she came but slowly this sweet smile began to emerge.  Her smile is definitely a treasure to us!



One of the highlights of 2015 was discovering that this family can travel! Up to that point the thought of it made me want to run and hide. But Jeff convinced me to try a week at the beach in September and it went really well.We unexpectedly had an opportunity to go to Williamsburg in the fall which wrapped up our Colonial history study very nicely. I really wanted to make the girls dresses for the trip but had a limited budget and even more limited time frame to get them done. I think it was one of those instances when God just blessed a desire because I easily found enough curtains and table cloths in my price range and I was able to squeeze in sewing time here and there. The kids had so many pictures taken of them that they fell into a routine of where to stand when someone approached. Elise had a fit (as in the above picture) if I tried to take her picture but when a lady with an English accent wanted to take one she smiled sweet as could be and acted very angelically. On the one rainy day we had the bright idea to take a bus to Jamestown and ride the ferry. Please do not EVER take public transportation to Jamestown if you stay in Williamsburg. It's a six mile trip and we ended up riding the bus for more than two hours. With a one and two year old that is no picnic. But the one plus was that we had some real life opportunity to choose a happy heart even when things didn't go as planned ;)This is clear proof that Jeff loves me. He allowed his son to be seen in public in a dress and tights.When we were talking about fun things from last year almost all the kids included Williamsburg as one of the best things we did.  It was a very affordable trip, especially for a large family with young children. We didn't pay to get in any of the buildings, we just did what was free and walked the streets. That was quite enough for the kids and their ages.[...]

The AMAZING White Christmas Party...


Delicious food, people we love and lots of laughs. It was the perfect party! We turned the corner and there was Bob Wallace and the General discussing the General's retirement plans. (Nate and Chip)As always there were so many delightful details in the scene design. Loved the fallen leaves and the jeep noises in the background.After seeing the jeep I was so glad we left Koen with Grandma. I'm afraid it's poor little life would have been cut short if he had been around.What would you like to dream about tonight? Choose your sandwich and a glass of buttermilk. (Chris, Katie and Liam)Lights from the "Choreography" scene. It's been so long since I've actually watched the movie that I need to go back and see these lights! (Ashley)An extra that runs into Betty while running on the stairs. Another reason to watch the movie closely! (Alice)Sorry Mom-Mom, it's the only picture of you I ended up with. I really don't think she's as disappointed in the antics of her offspring as this picture makes it appear ;)A cigarette seller from the "Carousel" scene and the guy in charge of the record from the "Sisters" scene. She's selling cigarettes and wearing a mini skirt. Clearly it's time for Dad to take her in hand.They unknowingly fit right into the scene as background horseshoe players during the General's contemplation of retirement.(Chris and Deb)Phil Davis and his charming cocker spaniel.(Natalie and Chad)"The theater, the theater whatever happened to the theater"? That midget of a Danny Kaye looks so thrilled with this idea.[...]



After 1,174 days in foster care, finally....



Here's a round-up of some current favorites in our house..1. Recipe I found it's easiest to place the cheese and meat on one half of the tortilla and then cook it open face. When the cheese is melted add the toppings, fold it in half and cut it in quarters.2. School We're still enjoying Sonlight curriculum but we got to Colonial era history and I had to stop! If you're a history lover who lives on the East Coast there is just so much to explore. So much early American history happened right around us.  We're taking a month off to do lots of reading and field trips. This blog was a great book resource as well as having some really neat ideas for a Colonial lap book. We've never done a lap book before but I think the girls will like putting one together.3. Cleaning Schedule Ending our Friday cleaning with a movie has been met with great enthusiasm by the kids and it kills two birds with one stone for me. Not only is it a fun way to end the chores but if anyone asks about a movie during the week I can always remind them that Friday is movie day :)  I've tried various cleaning schedules in the past but it always petered out after a month or so. I was convicted that the problem was me, not the schedule. I was too lazy to enforce what needed to be done. I have to admit I still have to have a pep talk with myself on Thursday night to remind myself of why it's important to clean each week. It's not just a tidy house but it's my responsibility as a mom to prepare my kids for real life and work is a big part of the world. 4. Photo Shoot I took Koen's one year photos when we were at the beach a few weeks ago. I'm finding it's really fun to dress a boy! Thanks to Grandma for the new outfit.[...]

Forced To Pause


By about 3:00 every afternoon the chores, schoolwork and quiet times are over and the girls are ready for free time. Free time usually involves crafts, legos, Playmobils, etc. This all works out fine for about one minute until their little tornado of a brother gets wind of what they're doing. Now that he's learned to climb nothing is safe. After about five minutes I get tired of pulling him off the table top and fishing legos out of his mouth so I've been taking him outside.  He can't get into too much mischief out there except for eating the compost. Or rocks. Or mulch. Or ashes from the fire pit. But other than that....It's been an unexpected sweet time of the day. Over the course of the hour or so that we're out there various ones of the kids come out to visit and show me their latest tricks. I've also gotten out my camera and played a bit myself. I'm still trying to get more comfortable shooting in manual mode! [...]

I Can Only See His Face


The contents of the latest video from the Center for Medical Progress felt particularly heart wrenching this week ( As I read about baby faces being sliced open to harvest brains I couldn't help but see Koen's big eyed, chubby cheeked face. I know they weren't as developed as he is but they were every bit as human.

I grieve for millions upon millions of children never given the chance to live.

I grieve for mothers in situations that make abortion seem like a good option.

I grieve for the condition of our human hearts. That a person could kill and dissect a baby with no remorse.

I grieve because so many of us in the church have been so silent.

There seems to be so little we can do to influence this situation for good. But we can pray and it has been incredible to me to see the changes in this debate as the church has united in prayer the past few years. 40 Days for Life is hosting events across the country tomorrow to pray and there is an event in our area. Please message me if you would like more details!

Saturday Morning Breakfast


I have fond memories of Saturday mornings growing up when my dad and I would get up early and make chocolate chip scones.  Since Jeff works on Saturday we rarely get a relaxed morning with him at home. We were talking about that recently and he decided to go in to work later on Saturday so we could have breakfast together.

This yummy recipe is a favorite for Saturday mornings! When all seven kids and Jeff give a recipe a thumbs up I know it's definitely a keeper. This cake is OK plain but very good with the lemon sauce that's mentioned in the directions.  For Trim Healthy Mamas this is an E breakfast.

Fresh Start


I can officially start logging our 180 days for school on July first so that's when the new school year begins for us. June was a good time to reevaluate our school schedule, our priorities and get some things organized. While our two oldest were gone with Grammy and Poppa I got some decorating done as well.The new schedule looks so pretty all hung on the wall but it is of course a bit different when you add real live human beings to it. There will be mornings where the littles cry, one of the bigger ones  nicely (ahem) helps her sister by making sure she is accomplishing all her chores in a timely manner, I've been up in the night with a teething baby and didn't start my morning early enough, etc. But for the most part our new system has worked wonderfully well and everyone seems relieved to be back on a schedule. A month of no school is plenty for this family! I used the "Before School Checklist" found here: It's simple enough that even our early reader can basically understand it.One of the things I allowed for in my personal schedule is time to blog, craft, sew, work on photography, etc.  Creating things is how I recharge and I hadn't made time for any of those things in the past few months.  I'm looking forward to blogging again!Most of all as we started a new school year I wanted to make Bible reading and prayer more of a priority in our school day because after all those are the most important things!  We're using a new devotional serious about making God famous instead of ourselves. I sat down with the kids the first morning and thought we were going to have this great time together focusing on God and His word. It ended up being really disjointed because I kept having to tend to a toddler. But later in the day one of our younger ones came to me and talked about something she had learned from our devotions. To God be the glory whether it's chaotic or not :)While we were having a school break it was fun to get some decorating projects done. This hutch has been needing an update and I was able to decorate it with things I had around the house. It helps that my dad has been bringing me cake plates from houses he works on.And of course no post in this season would be complete without a few pictures of Koen. Babies just change so fast! He's taking his first steps and is non stop motion (everyone tells me it's a boy thing!).All that wildness wears a boy out sometimes.I didn't think it would be fun to dress a boy but I was wrong. Bow ties and suspenders are so cute![...]

This and That


My mom turned 60 and turned into our very own Martha Stewart. One of her hidden talents was growing asparagus and we have enjoyed several meals of her very delicious crop. Our favorite way to eat it is an easier version of eggs Benedict.Here's my quick, less gourmet eggs Benedict:Make this blender hollandaise sauce - Canadian bacon rounds into cups of a greased muffin tin . Crack an egg into each muffin cup. Bake at 400* for 8 minutes or until egg whites are cooked.Lightly steam asparagus while eggs are cooking.Place asparagus and eggs on plate.Top with hollandaise sauce.Elise had a birthday recently and I decided two gets a bad rap. I actually really like this age. For a whole year she did nothing but hang on my leg and whine. Then she turned two, let go of my leg and became this cute, funny toddler. She wants so, so badly to be like the big girls.  A few weeks ago they were decorating the table with flower bouquets they had gathered in the back yard. A bit later she came to me with a dead dandelion in a tupperware container as her contribution.Koen's antics continue to delight us. I'm not sure how many babies you have before these milestones get old but we still enjoy them very much.Just a little too little.[...]

I Hope I'm Like Them When I Grow Up


Both of our moms have March birthdays so I had planned to write this last month. But, April's a nice month too, right?One of my hopes for married life was that I could have a good relationship with my mother in law. Fortunately, God didn't test my resolve and I was blessed with one who is kind and generous. We sort of had a crash course on how to get along because we basically lived together for the first two years that Jeff and I were married. Mom G. and I worked together everyday and then went to church together on Sunday! Her very detailed oriented, organized personality patiently put up with my always- trying -to -be more organized self.Mom G. has become one of the most influential ladies in my life and I am incredibly blessed to be her daughter in law.  I love how she showers our kids with affection! Not just our bio kids but also our foster daughters. They found a place in her heart from day one. Mom often blesses our family with food. Which in a big family with big eaters is a huge help. In the weeks after Koen was born she would send a gallon of soup over so I didn't have to think about lunches. Jeff often comes home from work with treats she thinks we would enjoy. Our kids think this Grandma and food go together. Elise starts asking to eat as soon as we pull into her driveway. She also has expanded my knowledge of cooking and ingredients.I have learned so much from her about what it means to truly have a servant's heart. She is  willing to give even without recognition.My mom taught me a lot about having spontaneous fun and not taking myself too seriously! She made time for lots of memories like long bike rides in the summer and reading chapter after chapter of our favorite books. Now that I'm a mom a realize that meant she was sacrificing in other areas in order to make those things happen.Mom really helped prepare me for the life that God had planned for me. By the age of about 12 I had free reign in the kitchen and she never belittled my flops (believe me, tofu peanut butter bread was tough to get down) or begrudged me ingredients. I'm so thankful that she encouraged that skill since it's one I use all the time and I really do enjoy cooking. Since she poured her life into us kids it's no surprise that her grandkids are also being blessed by her dedication. Recently mom and dad were away for a week and the girls missed her so much! One of them even asked if I would call and ask her to come home early :)Mom makes it a point to be encouraging when she sees us working at various areas of parenting. I appreciate this so much, especially on days when I feel like I must be doing everything wrong!I'm so thankful for these two ladies. I am rich because of them.[...]

Big Boy


This little man turned 6 months old last week so this afternoon I threw together some props and took him up to the photo room for some quick pictures.

Elise thought she was the one being photographed so she dressed herself up. She turns two on Saturday so I will be doing pictures with her soon. But fortunately I'll be the one choosing her wardrobe.

This is a Koen photo Shelby style.