Primarily written by Adrienne, a homeschooling mother of seven, ages 10 and under. She chronicles life, laughs, struggles, and lessons learned as she raises a larger-than-most sized family and tries to figure out what she's doing day by day.

With occasional posts, Alexandra, Adrienne's older sister, writes of her ranch life in Nevada and raising four sons, ages 5 and under. Life is never dull and her boys have given her some pretty awesome stories to tell.

Stick around awhile, and you're sure to laugh, nod, smile, be encouraged, and see what life is like with a big (little) family.


You know you’re a mother when…

You know you’re a mother when…

…you hide with the phone the moment it starts ringing.

…you regularly move little shoes to the right feet.

…you don’t wear white, not for fear of your own spills, but for fear of little hands.

…conversations about poop and pee are totally common in everyday life.

…you wipe the seat before you use the toilet.

…you find buying clothes for your children far more fun than anything for yourself.

…you go to dry your hands and decide the towel has more germs than you had before you washed.

…your dive to save baby’s head has improved with each child.

…You’d trip and end up breaking a leg during naptime before you bump the wrong toy that makes noise.

…you sneak a snack, unwilling to share.

…you’ve cringed in a bathroom stall while a child discussed whatever embarrasses you most.

…you’ve hid in a bathroom stall until you are quite certain any audience of above mentioned discourse has vacated the facilities.

…you’ve found yourself cutting up your food or the food of your spouse far smaller than necessary.

…you’ve cleaned up vomit, made your own mess, then cleaned up both messes.

…you’ve disciplined and went searching for which child was missing a found chunk of hair, all the while praying it’s fixable and not too hideous.

…you’ve rocked a baby and found yourself praying they would hurry up and go to sleep – so that you can too.

…you find yourself scanning the lawn as you mow for one tiny croc shoe, fearful the mower will find it before you do.

…you totally understand when another mother mentions the awful hour before supper.

…you tell your husband you need a raise in pay. He offers a 100% raise. And then you both laugh, because you both know you cannot handle 14 children.

TOS Review: Greene Bark Press

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew was asked to review the children’s hardcover board book Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again from Greene Bark Press, Inc. A book designed to teach children how to safely cross the street while engaging the child’s interest in a fun story, I read this to all of my children (multiple times!) and my readers all picked it up on their own – multiple times.

Liberty’s comment was “That book gets stuck in my head!”. While she found that annoying, I found that to be highly effective. She’ll never again forget how to properly check for traffic before crossing a street or parking lot! Sounds like it did it’s job to me! Written by Ginger Pate and illustrated by Rhett Ransom Pennell, it’s a sturdy, colorful board book designed to teach traffic safety. With catchy rhymes, it tells the story of Wally Waddlewater, a duck on a mission with many streets to cross. It contains colorful illustrations, it captured the kids attention and had them reading it often. It was a quick ten minute read that was easy to get into a rhythm with as I read; it made it rather fun. (And then… I could chant it all. day. long. as I went about my day. The things we do for our children.)

My kids all really enjoyed this. Yes, it gets stuck in your head. It still rings through mine, days after having read it. But… I think I’ll make a habit of chanting the “Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again” phrase each time we cross traffic. With my brood of “ducklings”, it sounds like a great way to reinforce what the book teaches and start a great habit of having them check also, instead of my current habit of checking and hurrying them along. 

Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again was written for ages 3-8, and retails for $8.50 here.

To read what others thought of Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again check out the Review Crew Blog here.


Dyslexic Hearing. (Which, I’ve learned, is really possible!)

Charlotte just walked in the room saying, “Momma, I’m hungry. Can I have lunch?” (It’s 4:37 pm. Lunch is O.V.E.R.)

She walked in right as I said to Liberty that I’m going to go through the toys and getting rid of a bunch.

Charlie’s next question had me realizing I have a daughter who does the exact same thing I do: mix up what I hear.

“Why are you getting rid of LUNCH?!”

While the idea had never occurred to me, and I’m certain it would save me both time and money, I don’t think it’s a feasible option. The crabby children and crabby Momma would nix the benefits quite quickly.

Charlotte was quite relieved I wasn’t doing away with lunch. And suddenly, getting rid of some of the toys sounded like a great option to her.

Quality parenting, right there, folks. Without even trying, I showed her how nice I am. I kept lunch and threw the toys instead, and it was all good. Talent. Such talent.

Oh my. I needed a longer nap today.

Scheduling changes.

Yesterday we finally wrapped up school at 5:45 pm. With most of our days looking like that so far this school year, my house has suffered. Blogging has suffered. Laundry has fallen behind. And I’m going crazy.

This morning, knowing something had to change but still pondering on what, I typed up a schedule. I gave a time to breakfast, and a time for breakfast to be over. I gave school a start time, moved chores to the afternoon instead of the morning, and said chores get done directly after lunch. Then, at 2:00 pm, you either get back to school or, when school is finished, you have free time until 5:00 pm.

Today, the child that finished last yesterday – at 5:45 pm, finished school at 10:45 am. They are, at the moment, enjoying their 45 minute lunch break (I was generous with times. I hate harping.) before starting afternoon chores. Only two of the four have schoolwork to finish this afternoon. And I may have, just maybe, not gotten any more gray hairs this morning.


While I refuse to hold my breath on whether this works every day, today has been so much better. See, I’m blogging? There’s only one more load of laundry to be done before there are only empty baskets in the laundry room, and I have hope of getting the lawn mowed and house straightened before the end of today.

Hope. Hope is a wonderful thing.



Life is pretty mundane right now. My pregnancy is creeping toward 12 weeks, I’m starting to feel better but have started throwing up on occasion. Strange. My ultrasound showed just one baby, due mid-March. Exactly what I thought. It’s measuring a week or two bigger, but nothing enough to change dates. After two miscarriages, seeing a baby live and moving and growing on the screen was amazing. So thankful.

In other news, Charlotte told me my crack was showing when my shirt crept a little lower in the neckline that she thought it ought.

I see the midwife tonight for the first time this pregnancy. Strangely looking forward to it. Very different than my five OB/Family Doctor experiences. Bonus: no exams. Maybe that’s why I’m looking forward to it.

A friend kept my kids during my ultrasound. She has six children too. There were 12 kids ages 1.5-10.5 in her house. She had all of her hair when I returned. Kudos to Laura.

I folded nine loads of laundry this afternoon. I paused the wash; fearful I’d never catch up if I didn’t stop washing the laundry. Tomorrow I get to wash… about nine loads of laundry. And mow the lawn that’s starting to go to seed on the top. It’s been a week of falling behind. Dishes in the kitchen reached new heights. Horrible, stinky heights. All better now… and I kept my lunch down to boot. Amazing.

I had to get my maternity clothes out. Back to the world of tents and elastic. Such a lovely place to be.

The kids and I all got our teeth cleaned at the dentist this morning. Sterling had an x-ray to check his adult teeth formation. He’s going to have enormous front teeth. The hygienist told me that, showed me the x-ray, then told me he takes after me. So honored. Good thing has has my big round head to match.

Ruby turns five next week. She’s been counting the days for months. I can’t wait to give her her gifts.

Last night was awful. Watching my child endure a bad experience that I have no control over and know she’ll never forget  is heart breaking. I hope she grows from it. I’m seriously questioning my mothering capabilities. I’m glad it’s another 8 or so years before I have to let any of my kids go. Awful.

The shelf in the fridge fell off today and condiments crashed to the floor of the fridge. No one was even touching it. I’m amazed how fast we break things around here.

Crockpot Pizza is for supper. It’s one of my new favorite recipes. I’ll have to share it one of these days. Seriously easy and so good.

We’ve been talking personality tests and types lately. I’m a ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs. A ‘C’ on the DISC assessments. What are you?

TOS Review: Doorposts

Liberty and I have had the privilege to review a Bible study book from Doorposts for ages 12 and up called Beauty in the Heart: A Study of Godly Beauty for Young Women as part of the Old Schoolhouse Magazine and their Review Crew. Liberty is just ten years old, a bit below the recommended age group. She and I have done the study together – necessary for her at her age and level of understanding, but it worked well for us.

The first thing I noticed was that we weren’t just studying beauty. We weren’t just studying from your typical places in Scripture. We were all over the Old and New Testament, and we were studying different methods for Scripture study. It was teaching how to study alongside the study itself. With a concordance pretty much required and a new set of colored pencils in hand to highlight Scripture, we set out to learn about beauty and what God says about it. The questions, I found, were pretty open ended. Some of them we found hard to find the answers to, but when we were finished, we’d read and studied and cross referenced and looked for authors and timelines and learned so much.

There are ten different studies that spend a few days to a week on each topic. They include:
    • Beauty in Submission
    • Beauty in the Heart
    • Beauty in Trusting God
    • Beauty in Humility
    • Beauty in Modesty
    • Beauty in Serving
    • Beauty without Discretion
    • Beauty in Crisis
    • Beauty in the Gates
    • Beauty in Review
The study touches on many women in Scripture – like Sarah, Ruth, and Esther. It has the studier reading large amounts of Scripture. No fluff here! Liberty has never done a specific study like this before, and this one took her into the deep end. She loved it – and the time she got to spend with me, one on one. We both learned a lot and I can’t wait to do this study again with each of my girls as they approach their teenage years. Modesty is a much-discussed topic in our home, and not something we’ve fought about (yet…) but learning what the Bible says about this topic and several others was fantastic. With a mother who loves jewelry, adornment was another great topic to study and discuss.

At this point, I’ll not hesitate to jump into any Doorposts study, expecting quality. It uses KJV and ESV, both versions I appreciate, but it’s easy enough to use your own version. Marking up your Bible is encouraged – something I cringe at, but I need to get over it. Liberty jumped into that with both feet and loved the color coordination of it. My perfectionist child found her niche.

Beauty in the Heart is written by Pam Forster, sells for $14.00 and contains 86 days of study broke down into five days a week spending 5-20 minutes a day. Special bonus: use the coupon "beautystudy" in your shopping cart to get a free instant-download PDF copy of the Bible study when you pre-order the paperback (Print books will ship by 8/29. Special ends 8/31). To order the book, read Doorposts’ description, and view sample pages, click here.

To read more reviews on this book and Because You Are Strong: A Study of Godly Strength for Young Men, check out the Review Crew Blog.



We have barn cats. Very wild barn cats. The boys weren’t even sure what a cat was because they had never really seen one. So we got a couple cats. One of them disappeared 3 days after we brought him home. We think the owl that has been lusting after my chickens got him. We currently have Cat and Bob. In hindsight I should have pressed for different names. These names create a bit of confusion for little boys at the museum when looking at a bobcat….


Cat somehow seems to escape the majority of ‘loving’.


Bob, however, does not.





We even had to test out his swimming abilities! Poor Bob.


He’s mild mannered enough that this same night, he got snuck into the bathtub. At least the water was warm the 2nd time, I guess. I finally had to get after the boys and tell them they absolutely could NOT make him go swimming anymore.


Still, I don’t think that they have life all that bad.

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TOS Review: The Family Hope Center

As part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a DVD titled Understanding Child Brain Development from The Family Hope Center. Sold through the Institute for Excellence in Writing, Matthew and Carol Newell offer this 2 hour 10 minute DVD of a short seminar as a offer of hope to anyone with a child who suffers from a brain injury.
First of all, just wow. This was amazing. I learned so much – just enough to learn how much I don’t know. With information regarding how the brain functions, or doesn’t, and the symptoms you’ll see with different areas of the brain having been injured, this information is fascinating. Topics of ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, vaccine injuries, birth injury, and many more labels discussed – and instead of a label, what’s actually injured – and how to help it – I couldn’t help but think, in watching it, what hope they really offer. It’s the chance at healing.

I have to say, my mother in law is right. I remember a story she talked of, years ago, of teaching her firstborn to crawl. Her oldest daughter had gone straight from sitting to walking without ever learning to crawl, and my mother in law taught, and practiced, crawling with her daughter. She’d been told it was important for reading.

That’s not even the half of it. With a brain injury in certain parts of the brain, crawling is what heals it. Minutes or hours of crawling, daily, for months or more, have been prescribed with success to help the brain heal. It’s amazing.

Nutrition, exposure to sunlight, exposure to electronics and radio waves, water, smells, crawling… my head spins with all the information. Fascinating to me was the comments regarding newborns, and how they are essentially paralyzed by being on their backs. But place them on their bellies, and you can watch them go. I have to admit, I was pretty excited to hear what was said on that topic, and to look forward to the birth of our baby next year. I have plans to see if what was said really happens! I’ve had two dear children who were delayed in crawling and walking – far enough that they “qualified” for physical therapy. While they caught up, and today you’d never be able to guess which two it was, I can’t help but wonder if some of the things I did as a mother – not nearly enough tummy time, especially – didn’t contribute to the problem. But, as Dr. Newell states, “You aren’t the problem, but you are part of the solution.” Families are at the core of what he does at the Family Hope Center, and he aims to teach the family to help the child, not simply to step in and work with just the child. With charts regarding development age and comparing that to the child’s actual age, he can work to close the gap between the two, to help the brain heal, and to offer hope for healing for the child – and the family.

This DVD was pretty amazing. It just touches the surface, to be sure, as there is so much to be learned. I’d love to continue learning and I’d highly recommend watching the DVD. It’ll change your thinking regarding all of the “disabilities” we see, especially in today’s culture. Where there is injury, there is healing. Where there is healing, there is hope for a brighter future!
To order the DVD, call 610-397-1737 or you can order Understanding Child Brain Development from IEW for $19.00

To read other members of the review crew’s thoughts on the DVD Understanding Child Brain Development, visit the Review Crew Blog.

I have a dream.

I dream a LOT when I’m pregnant. I have no idea if I dream when I’m not, because I never remember them. But when I am… it’s bad.

Last night, I dreamed I’d discovered this rare bug that stopped all other bugs from biting you. What I did with the bug, I’m not sure. But all other bug bites cease to exist once I’d found the cure all.

Can you tell we are dealing with a lot of bug bites right now?

So in my dream, I was famous. Everyone was amazed and excited at my discovery.

The next day, I got bit by a mosquito and died.

I know. Irony.

So, there I am, dead, and my husband wakes up to the horror of raising six kids on his own, and he has the utmost compassion.

“At least she made enough zucchini relish that we’ll never run out.”

Yeah, that’s what he said in his moment of grief. And then I woke up.

If I ever dream of fourteen cows, I’ll let you know.

Next time, remind me to think twice.

For two days last week, I made zucchini relish. In a moment of stupidity, I decided that all the zucchini in the kitchen needed to be used up, and relish was how it was going to go. Turns out, there was about 45 squash to deal with. And I’d just told my dear helpful daughter to shred ALL of them.

She went to town on the kitchen aid shredder, and in no time, we were ready to start. And then I counted bowls. Unable to use metal bowls, mostly, I think, because the author of my recipe wanted to laugh at how that would turn out in my kitchen and my TEN batches of relish planned, I ignored my big stack of giant stainless steel bowls that are my go-to bowls these days, I got out glass cake pans, glass bowls, and any other item I could find big enough to hold a batch. The kicker? All of it had to be salted and refrigerated overnight. Ten containers of salted zucchini mixed with 25 chopped onions are not easy to find room for in any refrigerator. We learned to be creative. I don’t think the fridge will ever lose the onion smell.

The next day, I chopped 25 peppers. Fun times. Then, we cooked it down in the canners for lack of a big enough pan.


That, my friends, is my sanity, boiling away. 60 cups of sugar, among other things. Insanity.


All of that… for this. In the end, what was supposed to be 70 pints I strained and used less liquid to cramp it into less jars, fearful I’d never, ever use it all or find a place to store it. But, rest assured, we’ll be eating relish for a very, very long time.

And now… there’s more zucchini ripe, ready, and in my kitchen. I’m thinking bread.


When the days are hard.

When the day drags on, there’s supper to be made, and I am out of energy, I remember: this is more than a job. It’s a calling.

When I tire of the world’s perspective that tells me I have too many children, not enough luxuries, and not enough money, I remember: these are souls I’m raising. Eternal ones. I’ll never regret them.

When I’m running out of space to organize more things into, I remember: less is more, and we’re just about to the point where we can eliminate all toys. They have siblings to play with, after all.

When I stick to the floor, I remind myself that someday, syrup will no longer be considered a deadly weapon.

When I find sand in my bed from the child who napped there earlier, I try to remind myself: someday, they’ll be too old for naps. And then, I’ll long for the time when they were little. (And the time when they’d disappear into their beds for an hour or three each day.)

When I feel nauseous and tired, I remind myself that it’s but for a season, and there are so many women who would love the chance to feel a baby move inside of them.

When I discipline the same child for the same disobedience for the twenty fifth time that day, I think, “Think what this strong will can accomplish if I persist.” And so I do.

When I catch a cold from the baby who suffered from it for a day (and is, more often than not, the child who insists on chewing on the shopping cart handle) and I suffer for a week, I’ll try to be thankful. I’m alive and honored to parent that child. And obviously, I haven’t finished my job yet – or he wouldn’t still be chewing on the shopping cart.

When I have to choose between cleaning my house or schooling my children, I’ll choose schooling my children. The house isn’t going anywhere.

When I’m tired and crabby and find chores undone, I’ll scold. Then I’ll jump in and help. Because I don’t want my children to only remember the scolding.

I’ll mend the “fluffy” tulle skirt again and again, knowing my daughter loves it.

I’ve never, ever had someone tell me they wish they had less children. I’ve never, ever had a mother tell me to spend less time with the children. I’ve yet to hear my two year old tell me how clean the house isn’t, or complain when supper is simple because we spent the day at the park.

When I serve my children and die to self, I remind myself. I’ve got nothing on Christ crucified. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in self pity when I’m having a bad day, when the kids have offended me with their disobedience in the store again, when I’ve given and gotten nothing in return. But really, I’ve got nothing. Here’s to choosing joy, choosing service, and choosing to pursue the goal with my all. Because that’s all I’ve got.


TOS Review: Reading Kingdom

As part of the TOS Review Crew, I’ve received a one year subscription for Reading Kingdom for Liberty (10), Eden (8), Sterling (6), and Ruby (4, almost 5). I was curious how this would be for my older kids. According to Reading Kingdom’s website, it “teaches children 4-10 years old how to read and write to a third grade level”. Both Liberty and Eden are reading at nearly an adult level, but since they fell into the appropriate age range, I signed them both up as well. They didn’t complain; computer time is greatly limited at our house but they love to play on it.

We started out the first day with each of the four kids taking a skills assessment test. This is when I could see that my children really do not spend time on the computer. Sterling and Ruby were both placed in the same level – the lowest. Sterling can read nearly every word he encounters fluently. Ruby’s still learning to read. Eden was placed three levels below Liberty. They both read at a nearly adult level. The catch: Liberty has her own email account. She has used to keyboard enough to find letters fairly fast. Eden, Sterling, and Ruby have barely touched the keyboard. And… it showed. They weren’t tested on their reading levels during that test, but on their ability to use the computer and find the letters quickly.

Once the kids were working on Reading Kingdom every day, they worked up to a better level. Sterling never did reach a level that was a challenge for him because he was so slow on the keyboard, but the others seemed to get better. Reading Kingdom offers the chance to use your own keyboard or an on-screen keyboard they select with the mouse. We tried both, and each child chose what they liked best. Ticking timers are about enough to panic Sterling, so in the end, I don’t think this is quite up his alley, but the others liked it a whole lot. Eden, of course, was rather insulted with where they put her, but the progression she made quickly was fun for her. Each of the kids – except Sterling – were asking to do it every day and did more than one lesson if given half a chance.

Reading Kingdom has three areas: Seeing Sequences (Where both Sterling and Ruby were placed.), Letter Land, and Reading and Writing Levels (Liberty and Eden both were placed in different areas of this one.) The program is based on learning reading in six areas: motor skills, sequencing, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension. You can read about Reading Kingdom’s approach here. Reading Kingdom emailed me progress reports. That was pretty cool! It was great to keep on top of where they were without having to log in to the Reading Kingdom website. It also encourages parents not to help the student – something I appreciated. Between them being capable of figuring out the program (It was super easy to use!) and me not having to invest time each day to help them along… this was a great bonus for me! (And by parents… I’m pretty sure they mean older siblings as well. I’m not sure how many times I had to tell on of the older kids to back away from the computer and leave the little ones to their work!) I’m not certain that any of the kids learned anything new during these first few weeks, as it was working to catch up their computer skills with their phonics and reading skills, but they had a great time working with it and I can only assume that they will be learning as they go along during the coming months.

Reading Kingdom offers a 30 day free trial, and after that it is $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year for the first child with each child after costing an additional $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

To read the rest of the Review Crew’s experience with Reading Kingdom during this review, check out the Review Crew Blog.

Firsts. Embarrassing… just a bit.

I hired a babysitter yesterday. First. Time. Ever. I’m not sure if it’s a sad fact or a testament to something else entirely. I’m not sure.

As a kid, I babysat. A lot. Often, it was 5-6 nights a week. I loved kids, and once I started babysitting, I had a steady stream of families calling for a sitter.

But, I have never had one. Chalk it up to generous friends and never going out, but I’ve never had to. Never tried to afford it, really. Our closest relatives are 650 miles away, but we have a great church family willing to serve if something arises. We’ve left them with friends quite a few times, but last night, when a friend from co-op offered her daughter, I took her up on it. Blaine had planned to stay home with them while I went to my meeting, but instead, he came with me. We came home to our children, many ready for bed, and I had enough energy to read them a book before bed.


While I’m sure we won’t be able to do it again anytime soon, it was pretty awesome.

And all today, I’ve heard about Charity. Turns out, she’s pretty awesome. She got a good dose of normal around here, from the sounds of it. Pierce took his pants off… multiple times. She just kept redressing him. She got here as the kids were finishing up supper, and got a firsthand look of my version of potty training. I’ve always used the potty as their booster at the beginning. It was uninterrupted time. Pierce has taken this to new heights. He always does his business at the breakfast, lunch, and supper table. If I don’t put him on the potty… I clean his pants. Poor girl didn’t know Pierce was on a potty until she picked him up. To hear Liberty tell it… she took it in stride. I can only imagine.

Poor girl.


Confusion with Ruby.

Ruby: “Sterling, you’re weird.”

My ears perked up. I’m pretty sure she’s never heard anyone called weird before. I’m also nearly certain she has NO CLUE what it means.

“The only person weirder than you is Satan,” she continued. Now I’m quite certain she has no idea what she’s saying.

“No, you’re even weirder than Satan. Satan is just evil. He’s not weird.” Okay, now I’m wondering who on earth taught her what “evil” means, since she seems to have a clear perspective of the word.

I stepped in. “Ruby, what does weird mean?”

“It means you’re really funny.”

Alrighty then. Now that we have that one cleared up, she’s making slightly more sense. Slightly. Earlier in the morning she’d asked me if Satan eats fire for his food. I think it’s time to sit the kids down, figure out what they think, what they know, and set a few things straight. Wow.



When you realize you’ve worked hard at schoolwork with all the kids all week, haven’t left the house since Monday, and it’s rained every day of the week, you pack up the camera (realizing blog posting has fallen by the wayside) and decide supper can be an hour late, it’ll be fine. You head out on foot, six kids in tow, to the nearest walking trail.

You’re tired, sore, nauseous, and that headache that’s been present all week is threatening to come back.

You walk up and down the quarter mile of grassy hills to get to the path, stumbling along the rocks that stop up the stroller. The baby thinks it’s funny.

You finally get to the path and take one look at the massive hill you’re about to descend and cringe. Coming back up that thing pushing the stroller isn’t going to be easy.

You get to the bottom of the path, sit down on the park bench, and enjoy watching the kids enjoying the river. About then is when the realization hits: You left the camera packed up and sitting in the living room. Perfect.

About ten seconds later, the first mosquito strikes. You swat, trying to grin and bear it. After all, while you’re being miserable, they are making memories. The last thing you want is one of those memories to be of crabby momma and how she ruined the trip.

After an appropriate amount of time passes and you’re thinking it’s time to head home, you realize that the walk home is just as long, but will take longer because you’re tired, and your 9-week pregnant bladder is already protesting. Again.

The 8.5 pound dog decides to run, taking the two year old with her. Wipeout on gravel. You pray there won’t be blood, because carrying the dear girl home might just put the whole trip in the “worst walk ever” category. No blood.

You head back over the bridge and through the woods to the bottom of that horrible hill. Your ten year old offers to push the stroller. You take her up on it, uncertain you’re going to make it up all on your own, never mind pushing the stroller.

About half way up the hill another family is coming down. The teenage boy wears one of those “survival” necklaces. The two year old can’t help her self. She talks in a louder voice than she’s used for 99% of her speech for her whole life. The girl can’t talk loudly to save her life. But she can talk loudly to embarrass Momma.

“Momma! That boy was wearing a necklace!”

You cringe and agree. Not much to say there. They were most definitely in earshot. After all, you’re barely getting up the hill at this point.

“Boys can NOT wear necklaces! Boys are NOT PRETTY in NECKLACES!”

You wonder if she’d understand the “Just because your daddy does, because your brothers don’t, doesn’t make it wrong” explanation. You decide you don’t have enough air to get it out, so the answer is no. You wonder if everyone’s children take such enjoyment in embarrassing their parents, or if it’s just yours.

The six year old has to pipe up now.

“That was NOT APPROPRIATE for her to say that while they could still hear her!”

True enough, but you’re pretty sure they heard the dear boy, too. Thank you for that. Agreed. Inappropriate. Moving on.

You head back across the grassy hills toward home. Just a quarter mile left. You can do this.

Baby’s making kissy faces. Go to kiss him, and he sticks out his tongue. Turns out, you’re not too tired to laugh.

Home. Sweet home. Time to make supper. Craving fried rice. Found a recipe online, made it, grilled some chicken. Yum. You opt for supper at the picnic table. Rice makes one nasty mess on the floor. Cleanup is infinitely easier outside.

Bonus: The kids go to sleep faster than normal by a long shot. Turns out, they were tired too.

Ice cream. Coffee ice cream. Done for another day. Exhausted. But done.


TOS Review: Bible Study Guide for All Ages

Several weeks ago, members of the Old Schoolhouse Review crew received materials from Bible Study Guide for All Ages to review. I received three copies of Intermediate Level Student Pages and the Bible Book Summary Cards for Liberty (10), Eden (8), and Sterling, (6). For Ruby (4) I received Beginner Student Pages, Beginner Time Line, and Children’s Songs CD Set.

The Beginner Level was created for ages 4 and 5. The Intermediate Level has been created for grades three and four. Sterling is in first, though, and it was quite easy to include him with the older girls, although I did have to give a bit more instruction.

First of all, the kids loved this program. We worked through 2-3 lessons a week, and they all crowded around on the floor. With the story spread around simple instructions about coloring small pictures inset on the page, their attention was complete and they were eager to continue with the story. Ruby did hers with just me, and it was her homeschooling day’s highlight. As a dear girl who likes to “decorate” her pages, some days it drug on for 45 minutes, but if she were to follow the simple instructions instead of giving poor Joseph a coat of many polka dotted colors… yeah, she really enjoyed herself. The Intermediate Level with the three older kids moved along faster, and we spent 20-30 minutes a day with it. I read the story we were studying from Scripture, narrating when necessary so they’d fully understand, then we’d go through the instructions on the page. They colored and filled in blanks and listened along and from the answers they were giving me to the questions I asked, they totally “got it”.

There isn’t a teacher book, so I’d have one of the kids sit next to me so I could read their instructions. Separate instructions would have been helpful – or, for a large group, I think the teacher simply having an extra copy to read and see what’s required would be great.

Both of the levels used the Children’s Songs CD’s, and while the songs were super simple, with 90 a capella songs. The kids (Ruby, in particular, wanted me to hit repeat on them, and after a bit I thought I might lose my mind, but she was learning. (That song was teaching Jacob’s sons… and Ruby was definitely trying to learn them!)

The Beginner Time Line has 34 full-color 8.5”
x 11” pictures on cardstock with simple questions on each one. It supplements the book Ruby used. The Bible Book Summary Cards are also on 8.5” x 11” cardstock and could go with all levels, but I used them more for Liberty, Eden, and Sterling. They include a colorful picture on one side with a summary of a book of the Bible and questions regarding it on the back. They cover all 66 books of the Bible.

We haven’t finished the book yet, but so far, everything has been completely in line with Scripture with no frills added. I really appreciate their approach: Read the Scripture, then go over the major details of the story again to talk about what happened. It never took liberties with the story, and didn’t fail to point out sin as the reason for the struggles that were faced. After the story was told, it would tell a modern-day story to tie the morals taught together. It was very well done.



The student pages books are made to be torn out. They’ll fall apart if you don’t take them out. As a homeschooler, I’d rather keep books together, but if you were using these for a Sunday school or similar setting, this would be entirely appropriate. The pages are 8.5”x14”, so my idea of a folder has yet to come to fruition because I don’t have the proper folders on hand. I plan to get them though, to keep all the work together. I’m sure that this “binding” of sorts helps keep costs low, but it was frustrating to have them falling apart from day one.


Beginner Student Pages have 26 lessons per book, all the way up to Lesson 416. Each set of 26 lessons is $5.95. The Beginner Time Line is $24.95 The 2-CD Set of Children’s Songs is $19.95 The Intermediate Student Pages also have 26 lessons per book, up to Lesson 416, also $5.95 per book. The Bible Book Summary Cards are $24.95 and cover all the lessons offered.

To read what others thought of the levels I received as well as the other levels offered, visit the Review Crew Blog.


After reading an article this morning of a mom who, having been asked “How do you do it?!” reminded us all that we’re busy, our plates are full at whatever stage we’re at, it reminded me of days past. I get asked constantly how I do what I do. How I get it all done. The short answer is… I don’t! I get the most important things on any given day done. Most of the time. The things that shout the loudest get attention, and most everything else waits for another day. But… I remember the days with just two children.

Back when Eden was little… Liberty and Eden were 19 months apart. Liberty, a difficult baby with reflux issues, was a pretty easy toddler. We had our battles, but looking back, they weren’t that bad. And then Eden was born.

It wasn’t that Eden was naughty. She was just busy. So, so busy. She ran from one thing to the next, made one mess after another, and holding still was not something she understood until well past the age of three. It was a season of life that I felt like I had no clue what I was doing. With former dreams of having a large family of four children mocking me, I felt done with two. I couldn’t handle much more.

Finally, I decided I might live if we had another baby. When Eden was 28 months old, Sterling was born. Sterling was the easiest baby I’ve had before or since, and life leveled out into a new, busy, but manageable normal. And then. I found out I was pregnant with Ruby. She and Sterling are 15 months apart, and life fell into a new “I’m just living in the moment, because if I think about later on today, I’ll cry” kind of managing. Sterling wasn’t walking yet, Ruby just wanted to nurse day and night, and about then is when Liberty was getting old enough I needed to start schooling her. My only saving grace I could see at this point was Blaine working second shift, leaving me with my mornings “off” if I so chose to grocery shop alone.

Life. Was. Hard. Hard enough I don’t want to go back there. It’s exhausting to think about. But, time passed and the children grew and life slowly got easier again. Easy enough I wanted another baby. And so, just after Ruby’s second birthday, Charlotte was born. An easy baby, life was stay-at-home survival not so much because life was difficult, but I was ridiculously outnumbered with five children age seven and younger.

I thought I was starting to regain my sanity when I found out Pierce was on his way when Charlotte was three months old. At that point, I just had to laugh. In an obvious “God’s in control” moment, it was laugh or cry. Since I’m forever telling my overly emotional two year old that crying won’t make her feel better, I chose not to be hypocritical and laughed instead. And you know what? It was okay. Pierce was the most difficult baby I’ve had yet, clingy and needy and never quite satisfied with the amount of time I gave solely to him. But we survived. My house survived. The girls got older, helped more, we found new routines and as Pierce gets older, he’s starting to understand I have other children besides him. Any minute now he’ll decide to like it – but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Now, as we anticipate the birth of another baby come spring, I have no idea how we’ll do it. Day by day, I find the grace provided that I need. If you had told me I’d be here, at this place, when Eden was toddling around dumping powdered sugar and laundry soap and dry spaghetti faster than I could clean it up, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’d have been the mom wondering how someone else does it. And I probably would have cried.

But. There’s no greater joy. God provides the grace and strength needed, when it’s needed. Often, not a moment before. So here I walk, day by day, doing the next thing. I don’t have to think about next month, next week, or even tomorrow. I just have to do the next thing. By the grace of God, that’s all I’m called to do. And it’s good. So, so good.


TOS Review: Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura

   The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew was asked to review two DVD’s from Dean Butler’s Legacy Documentaries. I received Almanzo Wilder: Life before Laura to review. Dean Butler, producer of Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura played Almanzo in the television show Little House on the Prairie from 1979 to 1983, and has since produced this and other documentaries on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family.

Life Before Laura speaks of the book Farmer Boy, Almanzo Wilder’s experiences, and shows his boyhood home in Upstate New York, where the Wilder’s lived from 1957 to 1975. The home has been restored with period furniture and boasts it’s festivals and they often bring in a set of oxen, oxen calves, and Morgan horses to recreate Almanzo’s experiences. It makes you want to visit!

I was particularly excited about this review. I grew up not far from DeSmet, South Dakota, and now live in Missouri. We’ve toured the Mansfield, Missouri homes of Almanzo and Laura and read most of Laura’s books. At some point, you feel like you “know” them, and seeing where Almanzo grew up was pretty fun!

All of the kids and I watched this. (Okay, so mostly Pierce just wandered about the room and danced when there was music. I’d still say he enjoyed it!) When supper interrupted our watching, the kids were quite fearful they’d not get to watch the end and were greatly relieved when I told them that we get to keep our copy.

The kids asked if the DVD was “real”. When I assured them it wasn’t fiction, they were a little confused on the drawings depicting Almanzo and his classmates and siblings – and how Almanzo and his father on the movie, having taped it 150 years ago! Once we clarified the difference between acting, fiction, documentaries, and the like, I think they understood. Either way, they definitely enjoyed the movie, learning more of the American Pioneer heritage, and the life of years past.

Blaine walked in towards the end and heard the story of Almanzo finding a neighbor’s wallet, and, long story short, receiving $200 for his honesty. In the days of $20 ounces of gold, that’s like handing a nine year old $15,000! Equally amazing is that the $1500 found in the wallet is the equivalent of carrying $120,000 around in your back pocket! Different times and ways of life, to be sure!

I was really pleased with the quality of this DVD, the time put into it, and the vivid descriptions used. It captured both my and my children’s attention and made learning fun. It has Eden ready to pick up the Laura Ingalls Wilder series again to finish it, and we’ll plan another trip to Mansfield once we finish the series. Maybe we’ll plan a trip to DeSmet next time we’re in South Dakota too. There’s learning to be done!

Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura is about 50 minutes long and is $21.95 available here. The Walnut Grove store also has this and many other Laura Ingalls Wilder titles listed. To read other Review Crew member’s reviews on Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura and reviews of the other DVD received, Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder check out the Review Crew Blog.

Review: The Sparrow Found a House


Elisha Press, publisher of The Reunion, a book that I reviewed here last year, contacted me recently and asked that I review their latest publication, The Sparrow Found a House: a story of family transformation by Jason McIntire. Thrilled at the opportunity, I agreed.

I told my older girls, 8 and 10, to read it, and after a week or two, asked what they thought. They both hadn’t finished it. Curious what the problem was, I read it.

Turns out, it was a little over their heads. The story line was great, and definitely nothing they shouldn’t be reading – but I’d estimate a good age range to be high school and adult. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and so appreciate the morals presented. With things like violent video games, modesty, money, and friendships addressed, it was spot-on with Biblical truths in a great story format that never feels like preaching.

The story spotlights 15 year old Jessie Riviera. Her mother, a widow, has recently remarried, and the man she’s chosen is Jessie’s worst nightmare. He has ideals for the family they haven’t had to live up to, and worse yet, Jessie’s three siblings are completely won over by the changes made. They begin homeschooling, deal with a less-than-thrilled grandmother, and attempt to adjust to life with a father figure once again.

The Sparrow Found a House is available here for $12.99. For a big (little) family readers, coupon code BALES6313 will take $4.00 off the $12.99 regular price. It is good through May 2014. In a very cool move, Elisha Press offers the e-versions of their books free at this website, or for the lowest available price Amazon offers ($.99) delivered directly to your Kindle. I’m so impressed by this publisher and their motivations to provide great reading materials to the public, I really encourage you to check them out and spread the word!

Disclaimer: Elisha Press provided me with the 203-page paperback, free of charge, for the review. All opinions expressed in this review are mine.