11th Blogiversary!

This blog is 11 years old!

Hard to believe I've been at it that long. Life has certainly been full during this decade+, and it's been anything but static.

When I began writing in late 2004, we had seven children at home from age 1 to 14, plus two at Purdue in their first and second years. Now, we're down to just three children still at home, with three more in college (one at Purdue; two at IU), and three fully launched. Very happily, our family has grown with the addition of one wonderful son-in-law and four lovely grandgirls!

In my first year of blogging, I posted over 100 times! This past year, it's been a bit less than half that number. Often these days I wonder if I still have anything to say, but somehow I eventually find myself sitting down at my computer.

To celebrate 11 years of blogging, I decided to repost a few highlights from that first year. So here goes!


Jan. 2005
Dressed for a Mock Boston Tea Party
 (Rafts were launched on the pond)


Spring Mill Nov. 2004


(From Feb. 25, 2005)

Earlier this week some of the children visited the dentist and brought home some brightly dyed carnations. Yesterday they felt the flowers were fading and decided to add red food coloring to restore the vivid color. Amanda explained how it worked to a younger sibling. “It’s like Daddy’s hair. He’s losing his color and it is turning gray. But someday when grandchildren come to visit he will feel young again for a while and the color will come back.”

Pr 20:29 ¶ The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.

Now that grandchildren DO actually come to visit, you might be wondering how Amanda's prognostication has worked out.

Who cares about his own hair color
when he has a beautiful redhead in his arms?


Also in Feb. 2005 I wrote about how we sometimes take a Scrubbing Vacation a la Pippi Longstocking when the house needs more attention than the school books. Funny, we don't seem to need those so often these days.

Faith, a.k.a. Pippi, dries the floor with sponges she tied on her feet.


Benjamin's math class, April 2005

Figuring out how to homeschool a crowd with a couple of toddlers in tow occupied much of my creative energies.


From a family vacation to western Canada - Aug. 2005

Consolation Lake, Banff, Canada


I wrote about the life of Anne Steele, author of a favorite hymn of mine called "Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul. Eleven years later this hymn continues to give my comfort and strength.

Broughton church 

So many things have changed since I first began blogging, and many more alterations will come in the next few years. But some things remain unalterably the same; the foundation of my life has not moved one micron:

He only is my rock and my salvation;

He is my defense;

I shall not be moved.  (Psalm 62:6)

October Links: An Assortment of Articles on Education Topics

Educational topics fascinate me. I never tire of reading about how kids learn whether they are in a homeschool setting or a traditional classroom, whether they are preschoolers or college students. Here are some thought-provoking articles I've recently run across on issues of interest to educators. It's kind of a random collection, but hopefully you'll find one or two that might be helpful!

1. Handwriting: does it still matter in the age of computers? Along with dyslexia, many of my sons would likely be diagnosed with dysgraphia. (Truth be told - my handwriting isn't all that great.) Nonetheless, we keep working at this skill. Here's a New York Times article on "What's Lost as Handwriting Fades."

2. Over the past several decades we've homeschooled, we've frequently joined with other families for an educational co-op. These weekly meetings help meet us to our learning goals, especially in areas that work best with groups such as public speaking, intensive projects, and book discussions.  Karen at Living Unabridged has some good advice about How to Get the Most out of a Homeschool Co-op.

3. Wonder why American students fare so poorly when compared to students internationally? Here are some thoughts from "Exchange Students on What's Wrong with US Schools." 

4. STEM vs. Liberal Arts. This has become another hot-button topic among educators.  My family tends towards the STEM end of things, especially in college, probably largely because most of us are just more math-oriented than word-oriented. And while one daughter has a classics degree and another is currently studying interior design, those degrees were/are being earned at Purdue, a university with a decided STEM emphasis, which ends up affecting just how the arts are taught. Here's an interesting article from The Federalist on how liberals have killed the liberal arts. Liberal Arts Are Dead - Long Live STEM.

5. How PowerPoint is Killing Critical Thought
Powerpoint has become the go-to tool for university lecturers. Students are often able to download the lecture notes and go from there. Terrific, right? Not necessarily! Do students miss something by not having to synthesize material as it is presented? Here's a teaser from this article:
"Through PowerPoint, everything has a tendency to resemble a pitch rather than a discussion: information is 'storyboarded', as for a movie –"

6. Tiger moms or free-range parenting? The debate rages about how children should be raised! Life for the typical middle-class kid is certainly very different today than when I was growing up in the '60s. Back then a child might take piano lessons or play Little League, but still had vast swaths of time, especially during summers, for outdoor exploration, free play, and pleasure reading. But what are the effects on children's brains of these changes? The University of Colorado has come out with some research showing that unstructured time helps kids develop executive function. In "Kids Whose Time is Less Structured are Better Able to Meet Their Own Goals," you can read about these results. 

“Executive function is extremely important for children,” said CU-Boulder psychology and neuroscience Professor Yuko Munakata, senior author of the new study. “It helps them in all kinds of ways throughout their daily lives, from flexibly switching between different activities rather than getting stuck on one thing, to stopping themselves from yelling when angry, to delaying gratification. Executive function during childhood also predicts important outcomes, like academic performance, health, wealth and criminality, years and even decades later.” 

Well, that's all for this time! What have you found of interest lately on the web?

Book Club: The Shakespeare Stealer

Having finished our two-year survey of the world via cartography, history, and literature, our co-op is taking a new direction this year, and our two themes revolve around Shakespeare and candles. Yes, candles! The chemistry behind candles, to be exact. And it's a much broader and more interesting study than that might sound at first blush. But I'll write about another time.

In our regular classes, we're learning more about William Shakespeare and spending time getting to know two of his plays. So to go along with this, we chose Gary Blackwood's The Shakespeare Stealer as our first Book Club selection. For kids who had already read this one, we encouraged them to also read Shakespeare's Scribe, the second in a series of three.

The Shakespeare Stealer tells the tale of Widge, a 14 year old orphan, who is given the task of stealing Shakespeare's Hamlet by transcribing it using a form of shorthand known as charactery. Before the unraveling of the plot at the end, readers will gain a sense of theatre life in the Elizabethan Age, sword play, and the importance of loyalty as they watch Widge mature.

Here's an interview with author Gary Blackwood that you might enjoy.

We began with a delectable lunch consisting of bubble and squeak, toad-in-the-hole popovers, and spiced apple juice. And of course, aiming for authenticity, we ate using only knives and fingers for utensils! ("What other forks does one need when he already has forks at the ends of his hands?")

Next, we settled in for a discussion using the story chart technique from Teaching the Classics.

This chart helps students see the flow of any story, and as they think and discuss, they eventually arrive at the main conflict and then the theme of the tale. Some books are more complicated than others, and often there can be multiple conflicts with various climaxes. Happily, The Shakespeare Stealer has a fairly simple overall plot, and we arrived at these conclusions:

Enough of sitting around, though! Time for some playacting!

Since swordplay figures heavily in the book, we thought it would be fun to try our hands (and feet) at learning how to put on a convincing sword battle.

Shakespeare for Kids has in-depth instructions for teaching how to duel with swords. Some pairs of kids found the dance-like movements easier than others, but all enjoyed giving it a go!


Living in a Construction Zone (again)

We've been in this house for over twenty years now. Twenty years of living with nine lively children! Years filled with much joy, some sorrow, and not a little bit of rambunctious living. Like the time some boys made a target in their closet and practiced shooting arrows. (Not the kind with foam tips.) Or the time another boy took a croquet mallet to a door which was being held closed by another brother. We've long since repaired the damage in those instances. But then there's the general wear-and-tear a house receives from having so many bodies live in it.

So at 20 years old, our house has been ready for some refurbishing. Last January we re-did our kitchen, and oh, how we are enjoying those new finishes!

Now it's the living room and school room's turn. You see, though we are still homeschooling the youngest three children, the schoolroom has outlived its utility. On the other hand, we sure could use a larger living room to hold both our own family when they are all here and to welcome groups of friends, too.
Living room side of things

Schoolroom end 

So this weekend we did it. We ripped up the filthy carpet, and then Tim took out the pocket doors which separated the living room from the schoolroom. (A small section on one side had to remain because it has a load-bearing job.)

Here's what it looks like today:

Can you tell how much space we've opened up? We've gained over 5 feet where the pocket doors used to reside, which should allow us to fit in a good bit more seating.  Next week we'll be painting and installing cherry hardwood from a local mill! It'll be slow going, sandwiching the work between Tim's paying customers, but I think it's going to be worth the wait.

Yet, this is the point I start to get worried. Are we crazy to tear up these main rooms in the house?? Will we be able to figure out some pleasant way to arrange seating in this odd-shaped room??? (I've been marking the bare floor with chalk, trying to figure this out and not really succeeding.) Ah well, such thoughts are not exactly helpful now, so I need to stifle them and contentedly live with the upheaval.

Besides, it's kind of fun having the piano in the entry hall!

Stitched in Color Mosaic Contest

From time to time, Rachel, creator of the Stitched in Color blog, hosts contests in which readers submit a collection of nine fabrics from a particular online fabric store. This time brown (ivory, tan, etc.) had to feature in some of the fabrics. I decided to play along, and, yes it is quite try out fabrics virtually! The contest is open through the 18th, so maybe you would like to join in as well!

Here's what I came up with:

"Adventure Travel"

An Introvert's Guide to Friendship

Recently my friend ML celebrated one of those big birthdays that ends in a 0. So we went ziplining.

And then had a tea party.

Perfect, right? Yes! Absolutely perfect!

Because right after loving the Lord Jesus, her ever growing family (21 grandchildren at last count!), and the church, ML loves women. Women of all ages, stages of life, and types of strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

It's been a long time since I laughed so much. Phew. What a dear group of ladies.

Later I pondered just why it is that someone like me, a profound introvert, takes so much delight in being with other women. Especially women I've known for a long time, shared the joys and griefs of life together. Laughed uproariously with and wept with.

The answer's pretty simple: because God made us - all of us, not just extroverts - for relationship!

These days it's clear to me that our friendship stands today because my sweet friends have so often gone the extra mile to make relationship happen. Left to my naturally introspective self, I'm pretty sure I would have friends, but not to the deep sister level which we share.

Because at various times I've had a bunch of objections to the idea of having deep girl-friendships. Maybe you share some of these?

Thankfully, God has seen fit to override my concerns and has given me some beautiful sisters to pray with, to share what God's doing  and teaching, to love, laugh, and sometimes cry with.

So with the advantage of some hindsight, here are my current thought on those original objections.

1. I don't have time for friendships!

I've definitely said this. And in some seasons of my life, it's been partly true. When I had six, seven, eight, nine children at home, life was super busy! My focus needed to be on caring for these little and bigger ones. Raising children requires hard work and attention. Ironically, in many ways these years, surrounded by many, many children, were very lonely times.

And yet. Not as lonely as they might have been.

Because even in the craziest times, my friends continued to ask me to join them to walk and pray. We couldn't make this happen terribly often, but we kept trying, grabbing a Saturday here and there, especially during summer breaks. Sometimes they just came out to my house. Those visits, infrequent as they were, gave each of us encouragement and strength for the various tasks we each faced, and our friendship grew as well.

At an earlier time in my life, when I had three children, I'd meet with two moms at some unreasonable hour on Friday mornings for prayer. We'd slip away from home before our children were up and return in time to finish off breakfast and start our days. Sure it was hard. But totally worth the effort!

Here's one more idea. I read once of two moms who would call each other to pray over the phone each weekday. They'd spend no more than five minutes praying for each other and their children. Then each would move on to her daily responsibilities knowing her friend was praying for her. What a strength.

2. I don't know anyone who shares my situation!
Yep, this has also been one of my complaints. I had this vision of a friend who would have umpteen children like I did, homeschool them, and share many of the same day-to-day concerns I had. Ha-ha! Somehow I never met her!

And you know what? It doesn't matters! In reality, sometimes the very differences in our lives make our friendships stronger, not the opposite. Do you work and your friend doesn't? So what? Enjoy learning about her days and she can learn from yours! Whether you are married or single, childless or have a house full of children, if you both love the Lord Jesus, that is plenty for a solid bond of friendship! As you begin to share your lives and pray for one another, friendship will grow.

3. But my husband is my best friend!
This has been my third excuse. And it's true - Tim is my very best friend. There's no one I'd rather spend time with than my husband, and he with me. We talk about anything and everything, and he is the first one I always want to tell things to, whether it is about the crazy double agent pigeons used in WW II I just read about (true!) or a deep emotion.

BUT - there's still something different about having friends who are sisters in the Lord! Friendships between women look different than the type of friendship seen in a healthy marriage. Tim takes joy in my friendships with other women, knowing they help me be a better wife, mom, and follower of Christ.

We've been friends since some of our children were babies.
And now we're gray haired ladies attending their weddings.
This one was in D.C. last December.
How fun is that?!

OK, fellow introvert, have I convinced you?

But what, you might be thinking, can I do to make a good friend?

I can't take any credit for the friendships the Lord has given in His kindness. But in thinking back over how the ones I have have developed over the past two decades or more, here are a few thoughts.

1. Friendships often are born as a result of working alongside others. 
So find opportunities to serve - teach children's classes, join with a couple of other families for a homeschool co-op, work in women's ministries, etc. As you work, you'll build trust and naturally share your lives. Love the women you are rubbing shoulders with and see what God will do.

2. Find one or two other women to pray together with.
No matter what stage of life I've been in - high school and college, newly married, old-time married, no kids, tons of kids - my closest relationships have been with women I prayed with regularly.  "Regularly" might be too strong a word for some of those periods, as mentioned above, but we kept trying. Share your lives. Be vulnerable and honest. And then pray. As well as having the great joy of seeing over time God's work in each other's lives, your hearts will be knit together in love.

3. Give it time.
Don't expect deep relationships to happen over night.

4. Sometimes - just have fun!
Deep friendships won't be forged by fun times alone. But a friendship made by years of working together and praying together benefits from plain old fun and laughter. So give it a shot - try ziplining! Or maybe skiing! Or have a tea party!

Skiing with friends this past winter. 

On my design board...

So often I have such good intentions about writing more regularly in this space! But as usual, life is FULL! Right now Faith and I are up to our ears in the time sensitive college application process. Give us another month, and we ought to have that wrapped up. 

So instead of finishing my started posts on what our book club is up to this year or working on my piece about friendship for introverts, how about if I show you what I'm working on in the quilt realm?

This is the start of what will be a king sized quilt for Tim's and my bed. I'm crazy about batik fabrics, so that's what I choose for this piece. It's going to be e-nor-mous, but happily since the individual squares are just four strips, they go together super rapidly. I have no idea how long it will take to finish, but working with these lovely fabrics makes for a few minutes of color therapy each day!