Family Stories

Who wants to read about someone else's ancestors? Probably not many of us. So my apologies to any of you who aren't my offspring!

Dear sons and daughters,

Last weekend I was able to drop in on part of the Mabel and Rutherford Laughlin reunion, and I learned so many stories that I wanted to share with you! In looking back into our family heritage I can see both some wonderful examples of godly forerunners and also some traits and sin-tendencies that we still fight against.

Mabel and Rutherford were my great-grandparents, and I only have vague memories of them in their last years. Mabel was Grandmother Ellis's mother, and she is the one who pieced the two quilts that are in Amanda's room. But I'll tell you more about them later.

When I was growing up, I didn't pay all that much attention to the various stories my mom told of her Greene County relatives. But as I've gotten older, these men and women from past generations have become more interesting to me. Hearing some of their stories this weekend helped bring them to life, and I wanted to share with you some of the things I learned.

The man in the picture above was the Reverend James Ingles, and he was the family patriarch. He  is my great-great-great-grandfather. Even though he died a dozen years before Grandmother Ellis was born, he figured large in her life, and even in my mom's, and I heard bits and pieces about him as I grew up. Now that I've learned more about him, I'm understanding why.

James Ingles was born in Beaver County in western Pennsylvania on Sept. 10, 1821. That was the year that James Monroe began his second term as president. (He was the fifth president of the U.S.) Soon after, the Ingles family moved about 100 miles west to Millersburg, OH. The Ingles' family originally hailed from Scotland (the original one), and they were good Presbyterians. So when it was time for James to go to college, he set off for Franklin College in New Athens, OH.

Franklin College, New Athens, OH

This school had been started by an abolitionist Presbyterian minister in 1818 "to instill religious and abolitionist beliefs in the students." During most of its history, only a few dozen students attended at a time, but a bunch of future politicians ended up coming out of this place. James Ingles graduated in 1845, and then he headed to the theological seminary at Cannonsburg, PA to train for the pastorate. This reformed seminary had been started to prepare American pastors so Presbyterian churches would not have to be dependent on pastors trained in Scotland.

After seminary James taught for four years at Antioch College, somewhere in North Carolina. (Names change over time, making tracking down old institutions difficult.) He was said to love study, as part of his obituary from 1902 records:

His scholarship was broad and deep and was a source of great comfort to him. He was a master of the Greek, Latin and Hebrew languages, was recognized as authority on many subjects and so extensive was his general knowledge that he was known as the “walking encyclopedia.”

Next James became pastor of the United Presbyterian Church in Freeport, Illinois where he served for four years.

By this time James was 35 and still single! But he had previously fallen in love with the young Martha Black, who reportedly had been a student of his when she was 17. Her family was one of wealth, and maybe they didn't quite approve of the match, because the marriage didn't take place until Martha was 24 years old. Yes - this is a theme that seems to recur in every generation in my mother's family - parental disapproval of a marriage. Yet each time the star-crossed lovers eventually have their way, and end up marrying. (Sometimes they have to go to the extreme of running away with the groom's father - a preacher - in tow! But you already know that story!)

About this time James was reportedly offered the job of a college presidency, but he turned it down. His heart was to serve the local church. And at this point in his life, James had earned enough (plus he had a wealthy wife), so further income was not really necessary. This put him in a great position to go wherever there was a need, so he asked the Presbyterian denomination to send him to a church that could not afford a pastor. They decided to place him in the little town of Scotland, IN.

Martha, apparently though, wasn't too keen on the idea, being used to a more sophisticated life than she expected to find in southern Indiana. (Ahem!) But James told her he would build her a lovely home, and to Scotland they moved. He served as the pastor of the United Presbyterian Church there for 45 years until his death in 1902 at age 80. The townspeople were said to have greatly loved him. (They found Martha, though, to be "uppity." Ouch. I'm afraid you can see some remnants of this kind of pride in later generations, too.)

James and Martha had four children: Nettie (died at age 10), Edward (our forefather), Jennie, and Anna.

Here's a bit of the obituary, written when Pastor Ingles died:

When death called the Rev. James INGLES, of Scotland, to his eternal home, Friday, March 21, it could be truly said that Greene County lost one of her oldest as well as one of the worthiest and most highly respected of her citizens. He was the enemy of no one, looked upon everyone as his friend and brother and all who knew him respected and honored him

I love the account the obituary gives of the day of his death:

Friday night, March 14, he retired in his usual health, but on arising the next morning at his accustomed hour—four o’clock—he fell by the bedside unconscious from a stroke of paralysis. Before he died he regained consciousness and recognized his wife and the other members of his family. 

And then the funeral, recorded in the flowery language of a century ago:

The funeral took place at Scotland Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock, the Rev. J. N. BLUE, pastor of the M. E. church at Newberry officiating. A large crowd of neighbors, friends and acquaintances was in attendance to pay the last loving respects to the memory of a good man.
And so the pioneer preacher was laid to rest, but the memory of his devoted life will remain as an inspiration to those among whom he so patiently and so conscientiously labored.

Well, that's about all I know about our great-great-great-  ancestor. I was glad to discover these things, and I hope you might be interested as well. Maybe I'll tell you some of the other stories I learned at a later time.

With love,

Mr. and Mrs. VW!

In May we celebrated the marriage of our second daughter, Kristen, to Benjamin VW!

(Having a Ben in our family already, we've had numerous debates as to what to call Kristen's husband. "V-Dubs" seems to have won out over other options.)

What a lovely day it was, despite the rain showers that came and went!

There's no question about it - it takes a lot more to pull of a daughter's wedding than a son's! But the one thing that kept recurring to me throughout the entire process was gratitu for the involvement of others in Kristen's and Ben's lives, not just at the wedding itself, but going back to the time of their long-distance romance and even before that.

So our joy over Kristen and Ben's marriage was made so much the sweeter by sharing it with so many of these friends and extended family!

Here are some glimpses of some of these special ones:

Two of Kristen's nurse friends were just tireless.

Emily and Kristen met on a trip to Thailand with our online school about ten years ago and have kept in contact via phone and periodic visits. They've shared their lives during high school years, nursing school in two far flung states, and now as newly married ladies. A few days before the wedding, Emily arrived from Mississippi, and she was amazing! Wedding decorations? No problem! Help needed with flower arrangements? Sure thing! Reception set-up? Covered! We all fell in love with Emily and were so thankful she could be here while her husband had to be away for flight school. Happily, these two lovely ladies now live only a few hours apart, far better than the New Mexico-Indiana difference of their teen years!

Heidi and Kristen worked together for a couple of years at our local hospital before Kristen moved to Cincinnati. When we needed a florist at the last minute, Kristen remembered that Heidi ran a florist shop before becoming a nurse, and she was delighted to be asked to step in with the flowers! She and her daughter did an amazing job with the bouquets and cake flowers!

And the cake!!! This lovely and delicious cake was made our friend Cindy.

Two other very special and busy ladies, Jenna and Katie, made time to serve as Kristen's photographers.

Siblings preparing the succulents for table decorations

Other friends helped us with decorating, keeping us on task (thank you, Kate!), and serving cake and ice cream at the reception.

Here, then, are a few more pictures from the day.

Ben gets ready

A little rain didn't dampen these bridesmaids' spirits 

Siblings! (Faith, Amanda, Ben, Jonathan, Kristen, Andrew, Paul, Kara, Peter)


More Family!

Mr. and Mrs. V.W.!

Summertime, Summertime, Sum, Sum, Summertime: A Quilt Finish

Stepping off the front porch to pick some fresh fruit for breakfast is one of my favorite simple summer pleasures. Raspberry and blueberry bushes line the front of our house, with more bushes in the backyard. The raspberries have been producing for several weeks, but the blueberries are just coming on. Nothing beats some just-picked berries in a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of yogurt, or hot muffins or scones.

Our nectarine tree was looking really promising this year, but alas, all the fruit disappeared one night, almost certainly thanks to a 'coon. The same thing happened with our cherries, though we were able to collect a bowlful of the first to ripen before the varmint discovered them one night.

Inspired by these and other lovely summer fruits, I made a wild and crazy summer quilt I've called "Fruit Salad."

Fruit Salad quilt

The pattern is called Summer Slice, and it's available free from Cluck, Cluck, Sew. (Yes - this is the third pattern I've used from that site! I really like Allison Harris's simple, modern, and fun style!)

Since there's such a riot of color, I kept the quilting simple with a basic all-over meander pattern.
Once it was washed, it took on a lovely, crinkly texture. 

All the fabrics were left from other projects, especially my granddaughter's Christmas jackets (featured here and here), so the only thing I had to buy was the backing.  As I've been doing recently for throw quilts, I again used a non-pill fleece for the backing. This options is less expensive than batting and fabric, but yields a wonderfully cozy quilt, just right for snuggling under, say on a wet, cool summer evening.

26 Years of Homeschooling: Then and Now

Our first schoolroom (Also the dining room)

Wowza! Tim and I have now been homeschooling for more than a quarter of a century. Yes, that means we are getting old, but we still have a few more years to go. (Five to be exact. And yes, we are definitely counting!)

Our family, homeschooling, and the world in general have undergone enormous changes in these 26 years. It's been kind of fun to reminisce about they way things were then and now. Here are some of the things I've been remembering.

1990-1991  vs. 2016-2017 school years 

President George H. W. Bush was in the second year of his presidency. He had only recently succeeded Ronald Regan.

NOW - U.S.
Donald Trump rather unexpectedly defeated Hilary Clinton and is serving the first year of his presidency. What a crazy ride it has been already! Trying to steady the ship is Vice President, Mike Pence.

THEN - World
East and West Germany reunited a few days after we started school in August.

NOW - World
Last summer Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. ISIS threatens security in the West. Syria continues to disintegrate. Venezuela is collapsing.

Baby Kristen loved just hanging out
near the school action
THEN - Our family
We had three children: 5, 4, baby, and we lived in a little house tucked into a small mountain cove in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. Our kids liked to wander up the mountain and play in the little rill that ran down it. We met many snakes, but never any black bears, though some did roam the mountains.

NOW - Our family
This year we had only two children at home: 16 and 13. (Plus three in college and four adult children). We've made our home on a farm in southern Indiana for the past couple of decades. No bears around here, but plenty of turkey and deer. Some things don't change: Ben, our youngest, still spends plenty of time exploring the creek in our front yard.

THEN - Technology
Tim had an IBM clone that ran DOS, and I didn't yet have a computer. We were a couple of years away from hooking into email and the internet via AOL. When I needed to make copies, I ran to Kinkos or the church office where Tim worked. Our kids loved to listen to music and stories on cassette tapes. That was the extent of our technology!

Paul's life improved  immensely when
we bought headphones long enough
to allow him to attend his algebra II
online class and still reach
the fridge
NOW - Technology
I think we have four computers running in the house now plus a couple of tablets. I don't know if we would have been able to homeschool through high school without all the resources made available by the internet these past years. Most importantly, we rely fairly heavily on The Potter's School for wonderful, live classes as our children hit junior and senior high, especially for English classes. Add to that Google research, online purchasing of books and supplies, and the ability to find help and inspiration from others in forums and social media, and the way we homeschool in 2017  looks so very different from 1990!

THEN - Homeschool curricula
When we started homeschooling, I gathered catalogs from just about every homeschool supplier. This wasn't hard to do back then, as the number of people selling materials to homeschoolers was very, very limited. Finding material was sometimes difficult, but making curriculum decisions thus was pretty easy. You didn't have to decide if you preferred Charlotte Mason, Classical, eclectic, traditional, or unschooling. Most of those terms didn't really exist, or at least weren't known by most of us trying to teach our kids. Early homeschoolers generally fell into the "school at home" camp or the "anything but school at home." (I.e. unit studies, living books, etc.) For our first many years we used KONOS, a character-trait unit study program with a wonderful combination of hands-on projects, discovery learning, and oodles of good books.

Studying Indians in the early days

NOW - Homeschool curricula
Finding good curricula has become challenging for a new reason - the options are seemingly endless! Rainbow Resource, a major homeschool supplier, now publishes their catalog in two giant volumes which they mail out in two successive years! Of course the internet, blogs, and Pinterest, provide limitless inspiration and resources as well (if you can keep from getting distracted and losing focus.) As a product reviewer for Practical Homeschooling magazine, I have the opportunity to test out many new products, some of which are duds, but others which make their way into our lineup.

With our two students in junior and senior high, our methods of instruction look different than back when learning about the ear meant making a model large enough to crawl through. With our older kids we outsource a number of classes to our online school or community college. But just as back in our first year, high-quality books play a major role in all we do.

Cool! Andrew just found the lens from the cow's eyeball
THEN - Purpose
We started homeschooling because we wanted to intentionally teach our children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength while providing a well-rounded education. We also desired to help our children grow in Christ-like character and to give them tools to learn and help them to love learning.

NOW - Purpose
We're still homeschooling for those reasons, plus we've appreciated being able to customize the education for each one. Overall we're encouraged by the results. Though we are more aware of the downsides to homeschooling than ever, this method of educating our children works well for our family. Most of all, we're thankful for the freedom parents have to choose from a variety of schooling options.

Peruvian Village Quilt

I'm partial to house quilts, so when I saw the Suburbs pattern by Allison Harris from Cluck Cluck Sew, I fell for it immediately. But instead of an American suburb, I wondered if I could instead create a Peruvian-inspired village and make something for Ben and Kristen to use in their new home. (Their wedding is in one week!)

Night in Ollantaytambo throw quilt

Kristen and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Peru back in September before she and Ben were engaged. Even then, though, I knew our days for such a mother-daughter trip were limited, which made it extra special. (You can read about our travels here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Ollantaybambo is the Andean village that we made home for the bulk of our trip. We loved this ancient place which spills down a mountainside! Not all the houses in town were not quite as colorful as the ones in my quilt version, but some definitely leaned toward warm pastels. To guide my fabric selections for the quilt, I made an inspiration board with photos from our trip.

Here's the view we had from outside the apartment we stayed in.


Before we arrived in the Andes we had spent about 24 hours in Lima. Rather than take in typical tourist attractions in the capital city, we (mostly accidentally) lodged at a small Peruvian hotel off the beaten path in a commercial/residential area. From our hotel base, we took numerous walks in the surrounding neighborhoods filled with little parks, houses, and small shopping areas. It was lovely! Among other things, we were impressed with the beautiful, ornate garage doors on the houses. Clearly these doors were handcrafted, not picked up from the local Garages Doors Plus dealer!

Typical Lima house with beautiful door

As an homage to the Liman door artistry, I quilted a wide variety of designs on the village house doors.

It's hard to see, but this door has a wood grain pattern.

And because I hope Kristen and Ben will enjoy snuggling under this quilt, I backed it with cozy fleece. I quilted clouds in the sky area and a simple double loop pattern in the white space. Even in Atlanta, it will sometimes get cold enough to want something warm to wrap up with, right?

Graudation/ Wedding/ Mother's Day Mashup

With a passel of kids, it seems that major life events often come right on top of one another. Take this weekend, for example.

First, Peter graduated from IU's Kelley School of Business!

How wonderful to see God's grace in Peter's life these past four years! Somehow Peter managed a triple major (accounting, business analytics, and technology management) while working every semester. Peter also ran cross country and track with the IU Run Club and was active in our church's college group, ClearNote Campus Fellowship (CNCF.)

We are so thankful for God's faithfulness to Peter, helping this young man grow in godliness while gaining accounting skills and other business knowledge.

Peter will be moving to Minneapolis in July to join Target's accounting department. (P.S. If you have any recommendations for a good church in Minneapolis, please drop me a note! Peter's doing research, but we'd love some personal input.)

Events so often come in bunches! Sometimes it has been the strangeness of having joyful events as the same time as anxiety or even grief. Like when two of our kids graduated from college the same week a younger brother and their grandfather were hospitalized. Or the year when a family member took her life and a grandfather died in the busy days before a daughter's wedding

But this year, our other events of this mashup weekend were happy ones!

On Saturday, while Tim was at Peter's actual graduation, I was hosting a bridal shower for Kristen. (Peter wasn't originally going to go through the mass ceremony, as the important part for him was a business school ceremony the night before. Several of us were able to be at that more personal event.)

What joy to share this special time with ladies from our church who have known and loved Kristen through the years! Oldest sister, Kara, shared a wonderful devotional with biblical and practical advice about how to love your husband, forgive quickly, and serve as his helpmate.

And finally, because eight of our kids were here this weekend, they planned an early Mother's Day surprise. After the big events on Saturday were finished, Tim told me we were going for a walk on a trail in a neighboring town. I was tired! Still, I took him up on it without suspicion. He'd been asked, you see, to get me out of the house for a while.

And here's what I saw when we came home!

Seven gorgeous hanging flower baskets now fill all the slots on my porch!

I'm pretty sure our family isn't unique in having plenty of mashup times where so many different things take place at once, our heads are spinning. Most likely, you have those times as well. Though sometimes I'd like to slow the world down and take things one at a time, that's not what God has purposed for me. I'm so very thankful for His presence and grace for each day, no matter what that day brings.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; 
He will never let the righteous be shaken.  
Psalm 55: 22 


Testing 1,2,3...

These are some of the rowdies who kept our schooldays lively.
Today these are my three college students.

Many states require homeschoolers to take standardized tests. Happily, Indiana is not one of those states. Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, since our oldest was in first grade, every other spring we've chosen to have our 1st-8th grade children take some type of standardized test. We've used both the Stanford Achievement Test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

I've always dreaded testing years. When we had many children at home it was a logistical nightmare. Would we combine with several other families? Send the kids to a Christian school for testing? Test only our own children at home? (We've done all of these.) Somewhere along the way I became an official test administrator of both the Stanford and the Iowa test. And of course the big question - how to keep the little ones quiet and out of the way while I was administering tests to older siblings? (Answer: Grandparents!)

This year we're down to only one student needing to be tested, but almost accidentally, I stumbled on a painless way of testing! (Painless for me, at least. I'm not sure Ben would completely agree.) Oh, how I wish this had been available back when I had a houseful of rambunctious little people.  

What's this new method? Online testing, of course.

Brewer Testing Services offers a variety of test which can be taken either on paper or online. I chose to have Ben take the Stanford Achievement Test in the online format. The tests ran for three hours on each of two days. We picked the consecutive days and start time, and Mrs. Brewer, who holds a master's degree in Education in Curriculum and Instruction, administered the tests remotely. The whole process was flawless, and we received Ben's complete results in less than half an hour after he finished the final test.

The online test cost $40, which is about what it would have cost for me to administer the Iowa Test and send it in for grading.

PROS: Super easy to set up! Speedy turn-around on test results. Quick communication from the Brewers concerning any questions. Inexpensive. No requirements or training for parent. More time efficient than paper testing. Stanford Online is available for grades 3-8.

CONS: Some research suggests that children perform better on paper tests than on computer tests.