Here's looking at you 2012!

It's truly hard to believe 2012 is coming to an end. If I was to be honest, the last almost 3 years have been a blur. Life as I know it changed and will always be known as before Noah & after Noah. How can't it be? When you've been through a major life altering event, you are forever changed from that moment on. This year continued to challenge me in figuring out my new normal since my son died. I admit, each year that passes that takes me farther from when I last held my son is tough. Though I try to remind myself each passing year brings me closer to the time I can hold him again. I am still so thankful for those who continue to walk with us during this journey & remember Noah and acknowledge my tough days I still have. You my dear friends are priceless and I know you have a special blessing awaiting you in  your Heavenly home for obeying the Biblical commands we've been given.

I don't even know where to start summarizing our year. We started out in a really rough place when Kevin suffered a severe head injury at the hands of medical staff after he was supposed to just be having a typical routine exam (that didn't involve his head). This left him off work for over 2 months, he lost all vacation time for this year (through no fault of his own, his work took it away sadly) and we still are dealing with many repercussions from this still today.

We were blessed in the ways God provided during that time. Once again we were reminded that He is all we need to meet our needs & the only One who can truly be there for us. And despite Kevin losing all his vacation time, we were so fortunate to be able to take some much needed vacations this year with friends and one of my brothers family due to some amazing deals we were given. I think God knew we need a lot of time away together as a family after all we've been through, as this was a rarity.

St Maarten (one of the islands we visited during our cruise)

Crabbing at the beach house

Surprised the kids with a trip to Disney. They had NO clue until we were at the airport. They were given many surprises that week! (note the number of hats as one of them lol, click to enlarge pic)

We've enjoyed watching our rainbow baby blossom into such a sweet toddler this year. We were thankful to be able to celebrate her 1st birthday as well as Noah's 2nd birthday which were both on the same day, surrounded by many dear friends. We also did a neat lantern release as well.

We continue to enjoy our homeschooling journey. I can hardly believe this year I have 7th graders (our 8th year of homeschooling). I've branched out and this past summer started doing some curriculum reviews which has helped stretched us in learning of new products and being able to help others with figuring out products that work for their family. I truly enjoy having my kids at home with me. Sure, I have my moments like any other parent & seek out a few moments of alone time when I can, but I can't imagine not spending this valuable time with them. We only get one chance to raise our children & while I am far from perfect and fail, often having to ask my kids for forgiveness, these have been some of the best years. I love learning along side of them, seeing their faces glow as knowledge clicks and just being able to share intimately in ALL of life's ups and downs. We are a closer family for sure from being able to do life together completely the way we do.

Another challenge we faced this year was when Susan dislocated her knee. Oh my, the poor girl was on crutches for many long weeks then faced almost 5 months of physical therapy (which was twice a week, talk about time consuming!) She has to wear braces on both her knees for any type of physical activity or anytime she plays outside. Turns out she was born with loose ligaments and will someday need surgery to fix her knees. We also recently learned she has a deficiency in growth hormone & we are having to see several specialists asap at major children's hospitals. This cold weather has also challenged her asthma and adding more more specialists for her to see. We continue to remind her there is a purpose in all this and God created her to be just how she is no matter how tough things can be at times.

Despite our repeated ups and downs this year, we know we are still blessed. Although God continues to grow & stretch us, we continue thank Him for our 6 precious kiddos (and our soon-to-be-7th blessing). We are reminded that we aren't guaranteed each day & we strive to treasure each moment we have together.

I've been thinking on what word could I embrace going into this next year. Many crossed my mind but one that keeps coming back to me is HOPE. As I continue to face these tough challenges, I am reminded I still have hope no matter how bleak things may look at times.

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope
Jeremiah 29:11

  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

A book I recently started reading is Heaven by Randy Alcorn. What an awesome book! This has helped remind of why I am living today and what I have to look forward to (and gives me a glimpse into what Noah is already experiencing.) The HOPE I have in Jesus!

Wishing you a blessed New Year!!

Texas Roadhouse Rolls & Cinnamon butter

If you've ever been to Texas Roadhouse, you know how yummy their endless rolls are with that delicious cinnamon sugar butter smothered on them tastes.

Well, I set out to make a batch of both at home. It's always nerve wracking trying to make a copy cat recipe but I figured it's worth a shot.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This is one of those recipes I hit the nail on. In fact, my family thought these came out even better than the restaurant. I have to admit, I am not a huge carb eater, but even I ate a whole roll as they were *that good*. They even said they thought they were better than Texas Roadhouse's, much softer was the verdict. And I concur. They simply melted in your mouth!!!

I used my bread maker to mix & rise the dough. After all, I am all about simplistic when I can be.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cups milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar, separated
1/2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly, plus additional for brushing
3 1/2-4 cups flour
1 whole eggs
1 teaspoons salt

Put in the order your bread maker specifies. Let mix & rise. Punch dough down. On a lightly floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten dough into a rectangle until it is about 1/2-inch thick. It's a pretty big rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half (short way - I know there's another way to say that, but I'm blanking out at the moment), so that it is about 1-inch in thickness, and lightly roll together to seal the sides together.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes.  With a dough scraper (or what I used was a pizza cutter), cut into rolls

After cutting, place rolls on a greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm area until double in size, about 1 hour or so. (I preheated  my oven to 200 then turned it off & put the rolls in there to rise for 30 min).  Preheat oven to 350 and bake rolls for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden. (I baked mine about 10 minutes). Upon removing from oven, brush tops with melted butter. What I did instead was take a cold stick of butter from the fridge and just used that to run over directly the tops of all the rolls, much easier than trying to melt then brush the rolls.

This is definitely one of those recipes I will make again as they were a hit!

Cinnamon Honey Butter
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for approximately 30 seconds until lightly whipped. Add confectioners' sugar, honey and cinnamon and beat until smooth and thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Merry Christmas!

Missing Noah so very much today & wonder what his celebration is like in Heaven. Though I have to admit, I would've loved to have seen his reaction this year at Christmas being 2 years old, he would've been at such a fun age! He & Olivia would've had a blast together!!

Also thinking of so many of you who are also missing your precious children today. Hugs & prayers to you!

Merry CHRISTmas!
From the 9 of us

And the winner is......


Thank you to all who entered! I enjoyed reading each & every one of your comments. From the memories you shared, things you are looking forward to & the many acts of kindness you blessed others with this Christmas season.

I wish each & every one of you a blessed Christmas! And keep your eye out for another upcoming giveaway here in the coming new year!

Don't forget to stop by and check out the virtual cookie exchange linky party that is going on. Many people have shared different recipes they've made so far this year. Feel free to post one of your favorite to share with us all!

Christmas party food

2 weeks ago I hosted our co-op moms Christmas party like I did last year. First & foremost I really enjoy entertaining, cooking, being with friends etc. But part of the reason I also do this is to give me something to look forward to because honestly, the holidays are a tough time for me. This week especially I've had more tears than usual and really am not up to doing much. So I thought I'd share a few pictures of some of the food I made as I recall the fun night we had!

I usually start putting together ideas for my party pretty early on. As in, I've already pinned some ideas from Pinterest for next years party! I enjoy trying to be creative not only with food but also presentation. Homeschooling moms especially don't get much of a break, so I want to make it a special time for everyone.

Sadly, I had accidently left my good camera at co-op that week, so the pictures I took were only with my phone. But at least they give you an idea.

Last year I made a veggie wreath so this year I made a veggie tree. It was pretty simple actually. I took a cone shaped foam, covered it in plastic wrap and used toothpicks to secure the broccoli. Then I just wedged in the carrots & tomatoes (no toothpicks) in between. This was taller than the picture makes it look, roughly 15-18" maybe?? I also had a side of dip to go with it.

One of the sweet treats I made were little santa hats. I used mini pretzels, dipped them in white chocolate then right into red sprinkles. I cut mini marshmallows in half, put a little white chocolate on the cut side then put it on for the white "pom-pom" like the typical hats have.

Just another picture of some more of the desserts. In the back are oreo truffles & saltine toffee. I also made mini cherry cheesecakes (super easy but taste SO good!)

Everything I made was all finger food. Other food I served was some homemade seafood & egg salad served in mini phyllo shells, buffalo chicken dip & a cheesy vidalia onion dip both with a variety of things to dip them in. I made a wreath using mini cocktail sausages wrapped in pieces of crescent roll with a side of dipping sauce and cheddar sausage balls with honey mustard dressing.

Another thing I did different this year was to have a hot beverage station with choices of a cappuccino mix, a homemade hot chocolate mix and a spiced Christmas tea mix. I had hot water in an insulated self dispenser which kept it nice & hot all night for people to make whatever they wanted 

We all had a great time of just sitting around chatting & catching up sans kiddos. Of course, it wouldn't be a party without playing a white elephant gift of now you have it, now you don't. That game never fails to have us rolling in laughter from the usual variety of "gifts" we bring! The idea is everyone brings something from home they don't need or want, no buying anything new. It can be practical, funny, goofy or downright weird (we had all of the above!) Everything is wrapped & each person has 3 numbers. Each time your number is called, you pick a gift but you don't unwrap it. You can take a gift that someone else has already choosen (hence the name of the game). When your third number is called, you have to decide what gift you want as that is the one you will keep and then you open it to be embarrassed surprised at what you got. After your gift is unwrapped, no one can take it.

If you hosted any parties or attended any this Christmas season, what were some of your favorite foods you had? 

Don't forget to stop by and check out the virtual cookie exchange linky party that is going on. Many people have shared different recipes they've made so far this year. Feel free to post one of your favorite to share with us all!

RACK & Giveaway!

As I've read over my blog reader this month, I've seen many others moms sharing about their children they are missing this holiday season. I've been encouraged reading how they are still including them in their celebrations, even many who are further along on this journey than I am. Just goes to show no amount of time will remove the pain we feel or the holes left in our lives by our sweet children. They will always be a part of our family!

I have mentioned a few times about R.A.C.K (random acts of Christmas kindness) as a wonderful way to bless someone while honoring & including Noah (and other babies) during the Christmas season. I have appreciated the few friends who have done that this year already! After all, isn't that what Christmas is about, giving to & blessing others?

One of these sweet friends recently blessed me with a gift. She said she wanted to do something for us for Christmas in Noah's memory and sent me some wonderful smelling Scentsy products to encourage me this Christmas season! I want to build off what she did and pay it forward.

So for a Christmas gift in honor of my precious Noah, I want to bless one of YOU with this awesome gift! It is one of the Scentsy warmers called "Heavenly". My friend said immediately it makes her think of Noah when she looks at, and I agree! I think of Heaven & Noah when I see the angels on it. In addition to the warmer, you'll also get 3 different scent bars in the scents of Luna, Black Raspberry Vanilla & Peppermint Dreams. (and boy do they all smell AMAZING!)

There are several ways you can enter this drawing listed below. For those interested, one of the entries is for doing a RACK in Noah's memory. I will leave this drawing open for a week so you'll have time to fill out the other entries then come back & fill that one out if you'd like.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35b

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12 Days of Christmas With You in Heaven

Many of you may have heard of Small Bird Studios as I've mentioned Fran here before. She is a wonderful gal and fellow babyloss mom who has helped women from all over. Last year she started a series at Christmas time and this year she is doing it again. This year though, not only have I been reading the series, I had the privilege of being one of her guests as I shared  ways to honor your child at Christmas time. It's such a blessing to me to be able to share with so many others how we include Noah during Christmas. So grab a cup of hot chocolate or tea, sit & relax a bit and stop over to read my post and the many other great posts in this series!

Virtual Cookie Exchange Linky Party!!

Woohoo, it's party time!!! Let's exchange those photos & recipes of your favorite Christmas cookies & goodies!

I admit, what I'm sharing so far is candy I whipped up. I may get to some cookies later today, but this candy is quite delicious so I wanted to share it with you all.

First up is Oreo Cookie Truffles. You can't get much easier than this, yet they taste so decadent! It only takes 3 ingredients to make this wonderful treat.

1 package of oreo cookies (or a knock off brand like I used for these)
1 8oz package of softened cream cheese
melting chocolate

Crush the cookies either in your food processor or put them in a ziploc bag & whack the heck out of them to smash up. Then blend the crumbs well with the cream cheese. Roll into small balls & place on a waxpaper lined cookie sheet. I put them in the freezer to harden to make it easier to dip. Melt your chocolate either in a mini crockpot (like I used), microwave or double broiler. Dip the balls into it & let harden. Chill & try not to eat them all at one time!

My second candy treat is called Saltine Toffee. Again, another simple recipe that is addicting. I dare you not to keep taking a bite as you package them up!

4oz of saltines (1 sleeve of saltines)
1 cup of butter
3/4- 1 cup of brown sugar
bag of chocolate chips

Line a jelly roll pan (15x10" pan) with wax paper. Spray with a little pam. Then lay out the crackers in a single layer. In a sauce pan, melt butter & sugar together. Bring it to a boil & let boil 3 minutes without stirring. Pour mix over the crackers then bake at 400 for 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top & let melt. Once melted, spread evenly & let completely cool. (if you like nuts on top, this is the time to add them). I popped my pan into the fridge for a bit to harden. Then break into pieces and store in sealed container.

Now it's YOUR turn! Share with us something you enjoy making this time of year then come back and check out what everyone is sharing and try making something new. Thanks for participating!

ps. Check out the awesome giveaway I have going on right now!

Upcoming virtual cookie exchange!!

As I am preparing to host our homeschool co-op Mom's Christmas party later this week, it got me thinking about what cookies I am making for our cookie exchange. Which then lead me to think of YOU all and how much fun it is to get new recipes for cookies. Sure, I can go browsing the internet for new recipes but I prefer making a recipe that someone else already has & deemed worthy of sharing.

So, dust off one of your favorite cookie, bar, candy, special "Christmas only" sweet recipes, whip up a batch & take a picture then get ready to join the Christmas Cookie Exchange Linky Party happening here this coming Friday, December 7th. (feel free to also use a recipe that you may have previously posted on your blog before). I will have a linky open where you can link up your recipe. If you are really ambitious, you are welcome to share more than one even. Then come back & visit as others share recipes & find some new ones to bake for your friends & family this year!

Please feel free to spread the word, invite others & share this button. I look forward to seeing you all here on Friday!

Thanksgiving Food

I trust you all had a blessed Thanksgiving no matter where you were or what you did! I was excited to cook a big meal because well, I simply love cooking! I had started brining my turkey the Monday evening prior to Thanksgiving. I absolutely LOVE brining and I can't imagine ever cooking my turkey without doing this. It is simply a way to help the meat hold in moisture & breaks down the tough muscle of the meat making it tender. So basically it keeps the meat from getting dry & adds flavor. There are tons of different brine recipes out there but I've used the Master Brine Recipe many times. I double this and sometimes triple it depending on the size of my turkey. This year I made a 20lb turkey so I tripled the brine.

Others have asked where in the world do I store this to brine. I usually have a spare fridge in my garage that I use (though it died earlier this year). Most turkeys have fit into my canner so I let it soak in there. Another way is to use a cooler to put the brine & turkey in. If it's cold enough in your garage or outside, you could place the cooler in either of those places. If not, just dump ice in with the turkey & brine to keep it cold. I like to brine for a minimum of 24 hours but I've done as much as 2 days as well. The longer it soaks, the more flavorful & tender it gets.

I was anxious to get my big bird in the oven this year that I didn't take any pre-baking pictures. But I used a big foil roasting pan (think easy clean up!). I placed foil balls on the bottom of the pan to lift the turkey up a bit so it would bake more evenly. You can place many different things for aromatics inside the turkey. What I did this time was a cut up onion, apple, garlic cloves & some thyme. Since the turkey soaked in the brine, I did not salt it at all. I tucked the wings under the bird & tied the legs together. I separated the skin of the turkey from the breast just enough to fit my hand in to smear some softened butter over the breast of the turkey under the skin. I then lathered on some olive oil of the skin of the turkey.

I started out baking the turkey at 450 for 30 minutes. It browns the turkey a bit helping to seal in the juices. Then I made a foil cover to cover the breast of the turkey. Later on, I eventually covered the legs in foil as well so they would stop browning. Once the turkey was done baking, I pulled it out of the oven to let it set 20-30 minutes while covered entirely in foil. Doing this allows the juices to go back into the meat before slicing. The meat stays plenty hot so no worries about it getting cold.
The finished product!

The day before, I had used turkey gizzards & neck to make a broth & combined that with the broth from the turkey to make gravy. The picture above shows after I drained most of the broth for making the gravy.

I did something unconventional this year. I didn't have enough oven space to bake some of my other dishes with the turkey. So I used my grill to start the baking process. My grill has a temp gauge so I was able to keep it the temperature I would've used to bake them. 

I kept the grill lid closed to "bake"

This actually worked out perfectly!!! Once I pulled the turkey out of the oven, I put these dishes into the oven to finish baking & took off the foil for everything to brown. Oh if you are wondering what is in them, stuffing is down front & up top is green bean casserole & the other is a sweet potato casserole with a pecan & brown sugar topping.

We had planned to eat around 1:30 so I knew everyone would get a little hungry before hand. I put together a turkey shaped veggie tray for everyone to snack at with a side of dip.

thanksgiving turkey veggie tray

To make this, I took a round tray and placed a layer of spinach down for the background. I sliced different colored peppers into rings then cut the rings in half. I sliced cucumbers and stacked them then placed the bottom piece of a pepper on for the face of the turkey. I used drops of cream cheese for the eyes (could use black olives as well. I fanned out baby carrots for part of the tail. For the feet, I took the ends of 2 pieces of celery and made several slits part way up then placed in ice water for a few minutes to create the curling effect. 

It was over all a nice day but we couldn't help but notice the empty chair our sweet 2 year old Noah would've occupied. I am truly thankful for the promise of Heaven knowing I will hold him again. 

What was one of your favorite things you ate on Thanksgiving? Were you thankful for anything in particular this year?

Check out more Thanksgiving recipes from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


The one word that brought me to tears last night. The sound of our 16 month old rainbow baby, pointing at Noah's picture and saying his name in her sweet voice, "Nna-wah".
Olivia next to Noah's Mickey ears in Disney this past September

I can only imagine how much fun the 2 of them would have together if he were here since they are exactly 12 months apart. While we miss Noah every day, the holidays especially are a painful reminder that he isn't physically here with us. The tears come a bit more frequent, the ache is more pronounced. There is just a different feeling to this time of year and some days can be more of a struggle. I long to hold my son, to hold all my children together once again. And it hurts deeply that I can't.

We started a tradition after Noah died by participating in Operation Christmas Child. Since we can't give gifts to our son, we want to bless another little boy in Noah's memory. We fill a shoe box with some practical & some fun goodies to be sent to another part of the world. This past weekend, we finished assembling our box & I admit it made me choke up. The kids all helped pick out different items, each wondering what the boy would like. I couldn't help but wonder what Noah would be into about now. We check marked on the form that we wanted the box to go to a boy the same age as Noah would be. I pray that box brightens the day of a sweet child & that he has the chance to learn about Jesus. 

Corn Dogs

The other night I had a hankering for a good ole corn dog. When I found out my husband & kids had never had one, well, that sealed the deal. I had never made them before as I had only eaten frozen ones from the store. Let me tell ya, making homemade corn dogs far surpasses any frozen kind out there! They were a big hit with everyone, even the man who can be picky.

1 cup of yellow cornmeal (not stoneground)
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2-1 cup of milk
1/8 cup of oil
oil for deep frying
10 hot dogs
10 skewers or popsicle sticks

Push stick into each hot dog & set aside. Mix all ingredients (including the 1/8c oil). Mix until no lumps. Start with 1/2 cup of milk and add more if necessary until it's like pancake batter (not too runny but not too thick). Dip a dog in batter.  Drop in 360-370 degree oil & fry until golden brown. Remove with tongs & drain on paper towel.

A couple tips, when dipping the hot dog in batter, let the excess drip off. Letting it on too think will produce a puffy coating. The hot dog will barely look covered with batter but with puff up in the cooking oil. I used a metal cake pan on my burner to fry them in. It fit 2 dogs at a time in just right without using a ton of oil. I monitored the temp of the oil using my candy thermometer. After they were done frying, I popped them into my toaster oven to stay warm until I got the whole batch done. I had extra batter and I think I could've easily have made 15 or so corn dogs.

Enjoy! =)

Winner of Stamp-a-Scene & an Update

First off, a HUGE thank you to everyone who entered! I was blown away to see 640 entries for this giveaway & wish I could've given more than one prize away. BUT I enjoyed being able to do this and plan to host some more giveaways in the future with another one coming before Christmas, so stay tuned!

Thank you all for sharing something you are looking forward to this Christmas. I enjoyed reading what each of you posted and it seemed a common theme revolved around friends & family. And to those who mentioned new babies coming (and fostering), congrats to you on those new, precious lives! Also, a  big welcome to the new followers joining me here in my little corner of the web.

I sent you an email. :)

I realize it's been awhile since I've gotten caught up around here. I had started the Capturing Your Grief project during Pregnancy & Infant Loss awareness month last month but didn't get a chance to finish it in time.  I had some up & down days with grief, my twins turned 13 & had a birthday party/sleepover complete with an RV parked in our driveway as "their" place for the night, I took 200 portraits to edit/proof for our homeschool co-op yearbook and just dealing with some other things around here. Life happens, so it goes.  One thing I've learned since Noah died is to just take things one day at a time, after all, isn't that what the Bible tells us?

 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."- Matthew 6:34 

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" -Luke 12:25-26

It's my hope to get back into posting a bit more often again now. I've got some new recipes to share I've recently tried, some cute pictures of the kids and even some link-ups I'd like to host. I also look forward to hearing from you, what you are cooking for Thanksgiving/Christmas, special traditions you have, etc.

"By God’s grace, beauty so often rises from sacrificial love."
-Jedd Medefind

Melissa & Doug Terrific Twenty List & Giveaway!

It's hard to believe Christmas is right around the corner. Many of you have probably heard of Melissa & Doug products. They have great toys & educational items that are durable & great for kids of all ages. We have some of their puzzles & a wooden train for many years & they have held up beautifully through all our kids.

Recently, they published their Terrific Twenty List made up of 20 of the top holiday gifts for 2012. There are arts & crafts, wooden toys as well as things for both the young kids & older ones as well.

To launch this awesome toy list, they are having a Terrific Twenty Giveaway on their facebook page. They are giving away one of their toys from the list for 20 days. This started on November 6 so you have time to still jump in!

AND if that wasn't awesome enough, they are letting me give away one of these awesome toys to one of my readers!!! I am giving away a Stamp-a-Scene Fairy Garden.

When my kids saw this one, they were drooling over all the possibilities of things they could do with it. Make cards for friends, make a story book & use the stamps to illustrate it or just make creative pictures. There is a 2 colored washable stamp pad & 5 color pencils included so they can even color in the stamps & decorate them as they wish.

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Check out a list of other blogs who are also giving away other Melissa & Doug items.

To Be Educated

I recently heard this poem from our homeschool co-op & wanted to share it. My greatest purpose & prayer in schooling my children isn't to focus on worldly knowledge but to instill Godly wisdom first & foremost! 

To Be Educated
If I learn my ABC's, and read 600 words per minute, and can write with perfect penmanship,
But have not been shown how to communicate with the Designer of all language,

I have not been educated.

If I can deliver an eloquent speech and persuade you with my stunning logic,
But have not been instructed in God's wisdom,
I have not been educated.

If I have read Shakespeare and John Locke and can discuss their writings with keen insight,
But have not read the greatest of all books - The Bible - and have not knowledge
I have not been educated.

If I can explain the law of gravity and Einstein's theory of relativity, 
But have never been instructed in the unchangeable laws of the One Who orders our universe
I have not been educated.

If I can classify animals by their family, genus and species,
And can write a lengthy scientific paper that wins an award,
But have not been introduced to the Maker's purpose for all creation,
I have not been educated.

If I can recite the Gettysburg Address and the Preamble to the Constitution,
But have not been informed of the hand of God in the history of our country,
I have not been educated.

If I can play the piano, the violin, six other instruments, and can write music that moves men to tears,
But have not been taught to listen to the Director of the universe and worship Him,
I have not been educated.

If I can run cross-country races, star in basketball and do 100 push-ups without stopping,
But have never been shown how to bend my spirit to do God's will, 
I have not been educated.

If I can identify a Picasso, describe the style of da Vinci,
and even paint a portrait that earns an A+
But have not learned that all harmony and beauty comes from a relationship with God,
I have not been educated.

If I graduate with a perfect 4.0 and am accepted at the best university with a full scholarship,
But have not been guided into a career of God's choosing for me,
I have not been educated.

If I become a good citizen, voting at each election and fighting for what is moral and right,
But have not been told of the sinfulness of man and his hopelessness without Christ,
I have not been educated.

However, if one day I see the world as God sees it, and come to know Him,
Whom to know is life eternal, and glorify God by fulfilling His purpose for me,
Then, I have been educated!

-By Carolyn Caines

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 1:7

Samson's Classroom

Reading, spelling & comprehension can sometimes be a challenge for some children to master as they aren't always  as exciting as other subjects. So that's why I appreciate when I can find online resources like Samson's Classroom to change things up from our typical book work. This especially comes in handy if you have a child that enjoys engaging computer games.

We recently were given a chance to try out Samson's Classroom. It's a fun, online educational program that is broken down into 3 parts, sight words, spelling & reading and designed for grades K-5.

In the sight word section, there are 28 different list made up of some of the most common english reading words. Each list has 8 words and 5 different steps to go through to help master the words. Each step is a different game the student completes earning a check mark. Erik liked that each game was different & kept it from getting repetitive or boring.  Once that level is complete, they earn a star. Each step & level gets progressively harder as they master everything.

The spelling sections contains more than 5,000 words or you can use your own spelling lists. The words are broken down into grades 1-5 and grouped into different categories like commonly misspelled, days of the week, ocean animals, etc.There are 4 games for each list the student can play.

The reading section is comprehension where the student reads a short story. There are 4 different levels to choose from. The child then questions they have to answer pertaining to the story they just read. If they answer the question wrong, the portion of the text containing the answer is highlighted. When they get the answers correct, they earn a chance to play a game called "hammer time".

I used this program mainly with Erik as he fit in the suggested grade level. He really enjoys the program & seeing his immediate results as he does each section. It's been easy to include in our everyday schedule as it doesn't take a lot of time. I like the parent dashboard where I can see his progress. There is also a section where you can download worksheets, lesson plans & certificates for your child.

You can try out a demo of Samson's Classroom to see if it's something that would work for your family. There are different pricing options available from one student all the way up to a classroom size. The cost is $30 for one student for a year or $50 for up to 4 students for a year.

As a member of TOS review crew, I was provided a family membership at no additional cost to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Ahhh yes that time of year.....apples, pumpkin in many forms (coffee & cappuccino anyone?) as well cool, fall nights. We've been itching to make some goodies using pumpkin and one of our latest creations was pumpkin spice pancakes. These were a hit with everyone. The pumpkin isn't strong tasting for those who don't like an overwhelming taste of it. The hint of spices rounded out this yummy breakfast and it couldn't be complete without the dollop of whipped cream on top!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir with a fork to combine.  Mix together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil or butter in a liquid measuring cup.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combine.  (The batter may still have a few lumps – that is okay.)

 Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan.  Let cool until bubbles begin to form on the top surface.  Carefully flip with a spatula and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.   Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed.  Serve with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and/or whipped cream.

*note, I doubled this recipe with my family which gave me a few left overs. These also freeze well.

The Pilgrim Story

Dayspring Christian Academy is no doubt a familiar name to my local followers as you know this is a Christian school in our area. So imagine my surprise when I was asked to review one their online courses called The Pilgrim Story. For those not familiar with Dayspring, they take the principal approach in their teaching which means they use the Bible as their central resource to equip students to have a biblical worldview.

The Pilgrim Story is an online, self paced course that consists of 5 units with a total of 17 lessons. The website stated this course was geared for grade 3-6 but at the beginning of the intro it stated grades 2-8. All my kids worked on this together (grade 4-7). We did 2 lessons a week as they can take about 45 minutes give or take to complete. There is also a lot of information to soak up as well as additional activities you can do. I also wanted to stretch this out to finish right before we celebrate Thanksgiving.

The course is made up of a multisensory approach containing colorful slideshow presentations while being narrated at the same time. That made Erik happy he didn't have to do a lot of reading! (though at times it was a lot of writing for him). The students have to click through each slide which keeps them from tuning out the lecture. At the beginning of each lesson, there are notebook pages you can print out to put in a 3 ring binder. During the slides, there are times when the student can fill in the blanks on the worksheets. These are highlighted on the slides with a pencil and the words underlined that they need to copy. This helped keep them engaged and retain the facts. There were also interactive questions throughout the course that required the students to click an answer before moving on. At the end of each unit there was an online test they could take or you could opt to do an offline essay instead.

This is a screen shot you see at the beginning of each lesson that lists the different activities you can download to print out. I love the options each lesson have (some of the later lessons have crafts and a recipe) but I would prefer to have the ability to download the pages for printing in one location or at least at the beginning of each unit instead of each individual lesson.

Overall, we have been learning a lot of new facts about the Pilgrims and their life that we've never heard elsewhere.  This course definitely digs deep into their history, showing us how important the Bible was to the Pilgrims and all they went through in order to be able to worship freely. We've all found it enjoyable and are looking forward to the end of the course where we will take a virtual field trip to Plymouth, MA led by Mary Stauffer the creator of this course.

The Pilgrim Story is $99 and will give you access within 48 hours after purchase. It is then available for 6 months after you purchase it.
As a member of the TOS crew, I was provided this course at no charge to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Capturing Your Grief Day 13: Signs

I view this as signs from Heaven, ways God is letting me know that Noah is still involved and a part of our daily life and a reminder than they both love us.

There have been lots of big & little signs these last 2 years. I'll just share a few. The other month we had this beautiful butterfly that came and sat in our garage on a broom and wouldn't leave. We needed to run some errands and I didn't want it trapped in the garage but it wouldn't leave no matter what we tried. When we came home, the butterfly was still in the same spot. We eventually got it to fly outside to a bush right by Noah's rosebush and it sat there for several hours before eventually flying off. The day this happened was on the 13th. Noah was born on the 13th.

This past April, a dear friend of mine was giving birth to her precious son Weston who wasn't going to live very long. He was born & later died on the 14th (Noah died on the 14th as well). That morning, which I didn't know till later but it would've been around the time Weston died, I got a whiff of Noah on my hands. I can't explain it but it smelled I had chills. We were outside doing some yard work as a family. I didn't say anything but called the others over & stuck out my hands and said take a smell. Susan didn't miss a beat and she said that smells just like Noah!!!! Which confirmed my thoughts exactly & that I wasn't imagining it. The others couldn't believe it and didn't stop sniffing my hands. Admittedly I didn't either. I didn't wash them for many hours, not until after his scent was gone. Call it what you want, but I hadn't smelled Noah that strong since he had last been in my arms. I don't think it was a coincidence on the timing nor the day. I'd love for that to happen again someday!

Back in August, I blogged about the Travels of Noah's balloon which was another neat story!! A balloon a friend released on Noah's birthday traveled about 1200 miles and the details behind who found it & when are pretty special.

One of the biggest signs from above was my rainbow baby. I was due with my rainbow the day Noah died which I felt was a sign in and of itself. But I usually carry close to 2 weeks late. Noah was my "earliest" at 9 days late so I figured I'd carry baby #6 until close to the end of July. Apparently God had a bigger surprise in store and I unexpectedly went into labor early, giving birth to my rainbow baby on Noah's 1st birthday, in the exact same room that Noah was born in & later died in (the nurse had no clue who I was when I came in in labor thus didn't know about the room when she put me in it). Knowing my history & that I should've carried late, there is no doubt that this was the hand of God tying together Noah & Olivia's stories for a bigger purpose.
Noah & Olivia on their shared birthday in the same bed they were both born in

Day 11 & 12: Support and Scents

Day 11: Supportive Friends & Family

First off I'd have to say my husband and kids have been so very supportive. They are the only ones who also truly feel the depth of my pain in missing Noah.
Us gazing at sweet Noah before his burial. Our last time as a complete family this side of Heaven.

My dad, stepmom & grandma are also some of the other family who stood by us the last 2 years, calling to check on us, having us over for meals as well as remembering & including Noah. My homeschool co-op has also been a rock for our family. Many of those precious friends don't hesitate to ask me how I am truly doing and aren't afraid of my tears. They remember me on the harder days with notes or emails and have even given us gifts that have reminded them of Noah.

Our church family was also there for us in the early days by providing meals, helping out around the house and taking the kids out to do some special activities.

I've met many dear women both in real life as well as online who have been a wonderful network of support. Most of them have lost a child themselves. There are also some who haven't walked this path but have such compassion and understanding and have been very supportive to me as well. I have several dear friends that I email with fairly regularly and one recently reminded me of Galatians 6:2 in that we are to bear one another's burdens and that's how I'd describe what this circle of friends does as well as those others who have supported us.

I know I didn't cover each & every person or act of kindness that has been done for us but please know each & every thing that has been done for us has not gone unnoticed and has been very much treasured & appreciated!!!

Day 12: Scents that remind us of our baby

I wish I could say I had a specific scent that reminds me of Noah. As I read some of the other baby loss moms answers on this topic, I wish I had done what some of them had. You just don't think of all these things when you are trying to prepare for a birth & death of your baby. Some of them picked out a special lotion before their child was born, maybe even using it on their belly before they had their child. Then after their baby was born, they caressed that lotion onto their sweet baby. And to this day, they have that to smell and remember them by.

The only scent I have of Noah's was the sweet scent he had after he was born. It remained on his hat so much so when we came home from the hospital, I put it in a ziploc bag to try and contain the scent as long as possible. I could pull it out and smell him on his hat for quite sometime. Eventually though, his scent began to fade and sadly I can no longer smell it on his hat. I wish there was a way to preserve things like that.

There was one time earlier this year I got to smell Noah again, but more on that in the next topic.