Running On Empty

I used to think being a good host was making sure everyone had a full glass at all times, having a freshly baked dessert, and a freshly clean home when people come to visit.  Let’s not forget also a nice clean life, on the outside, so no one would think there were any struggles… but is this really what it’s all about.  As Christians we can be hospitable in opening our home, sharing a meal, making sure everyone has a cup of coffee or tea, all the while not really opening our lives to others. Often after we would have a big gathering I was left with a feeling of emptiness and loneliness.  Everyone else was visiting with one another enjoying a time of fellowship and I was left running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to be the perfect host, but I was missing out on something.  I poured myself out refilling the chip bowl and the tea pitcher, bringing out the food, putting it away, setting up the desserts, refilling the napkins, being sure everyone had what they needed, which isn’t a bad thing, but was it the best thing?   I was reading the account in Luke 10:38-42 of Martha and Mary when Jesus was invited into Martha’s home.  Martha was running around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to be sure the coffee never ran out and the dip was always full while Mary just wanted to sit with and hear the teachings of Jesus.  Martha gets frustrated at Mary and that she is left struggling by herself trying to be the perfect host and she wants Jesus to step in and to tell Mary to help, and here Jesus admonishes Martha  teaching a great lesson in that moment.  What Martha was doing was a good thing… but Mary was interested in the BEST thing.


   “I was left with a feeling of emptiness and loneliness……..I was missing out on something.”

 


Too often I get bogged down in the daily chores of life, homeschooling, laundry, keeping house, meal planning and preparing, and other good things. But what I have to remember is to not let time with God take second place, time spent in prayer and in His Word.  Some days the business of life kicks in before my feet even hit the floor for the day and setting some time to spend with God gets pushed aside.  I feel it in my soul those days…that need for more of Him.  It’s easy for that one day to spill into the next and the next and before I know it I feel a distance between me and the Lord.  It is not a welcome distance yet I have allowed it to happen as I have pushed aside my time with Him as secondary thing or squeezing in a quick read of a devotion that doesn’t even manage to stick with me to the end of that day ~can we say mom brain. Prioritizing time with God must be of first importance.

I see another lesson in this passage of Luke that also teaches how to be a good host.  When you’re running around anxious about the ice needing refilled and missing out on fellowship with other believers you are sacrificing the best thing.  I have had to learn these lessons the hard way and over time.  Being okay with sitting down to join in a gospel conversation while one of the guests gladly roots through my kitchen drawers in search of a fork, or allowing a sister in Christ to come into my home even with the laundry  on the bed needing folded and the rug needing vacuumed. Being able to open my home to a sister in Christ and have a time of fellowship that we both needed is of more importance than that pile of laundry, which we can fold together if it needs done that bad!  What I’ve seen too many times and also have done myself years ago was to be unwilling to share our lives with other believers or to not prioritize that time of fellowship because of our chores that need done.  The dishes and laundry and vacuum are all good things that, yes, do need to be done, but to prioritize that over sharing our lives and spending time in fellowship with other believers is to sacrifice the BEST thing for the good things.  Others don’t remember the mess in your house when they leave; they remember the good conversation and time spent worshiping and glorifying God and how you made them feel comfortable in your home by also inviting them into your life even amidst your own struggles.  However the other side of that is they will remember you not opening your home or life to them because your “house is a mess” or you have such and “such to get done” or even, “things in my life are so crazy right now”.  This has proven to be true time and time again when I have had a sister in Christ in my home for a time of sweet fellowship or discipleship and instead of noticing the dishes or rug that picks up dog hair like nobody’s business we have enjoyed our time together and we both walk away encouraged and refreshed.  In times where life is busy or messy and the laundry and dishes seems to be piling up, do not forgo prioritizing time with God and time spent sharing our lives with other believers.

Let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love others like Christ loved us!

What are you prioritizing in your life today?  Is it good things or the BEST thing?

 

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Our First Day of Homeschool

Hello!  I am so excited to share this post for anyone who might be interested to walk through some of the things we will be implementing in our homeschool this year!

This is my first year homeschooling and let me just say I am excited to finally be doing this (so this post may be a bit long.. this is your warning if you want to just stop right here and skim the photos instead)!  I have a 6th grader, a 1st grader, and one who is Pre K and going to bridge into Kindergarten!  I know it is not going to be all rainbows and butterflies.  I have enough friends and family who homeschool to know that we will face some very hard times.  It may be frustration with subjects, or just different learning styles, winter blues, schooling multiple ages or any other number of things! I am starting our school year off strong and hopefully by the end of the school year we will still have a smile on our faces, love each other, and not just be watching educational videos and going on field trips every day 😉 ( but I’m not ruling that one out ).

My youngest has never been to school so to get to go to school and ride the bus was sort of a right of passage for her.  She didn’t get to do that since this is the year we are starting our homeschooling journey.  My older two have been in school since Pre K so they know the drill.  This year there was no big school supply shopping list to check off, no new bookbags or lunch boxes or new wardrobe to buy ( I’m jumping for joy about that one!).  But I still wanted to make this year special.  With it being our first year there area few things we don’t have, like kids headphones for the computer…and (after seeing cute headphones at my friends house) I decided to get them each their own special pair! To make the first day of school more fun I made a scavenger hunt for their school supplies ( not the pens, pencils, tissues, crayons etc but for a few fun things and their ‘big’ thing- the heaphones.  But I’ll get to all that in a moment.  Let me walk you through my homeschool.

 

We will not have a dedicated room to our schooling.  We do have a ‘guest room’ since our girls share a bedroom but that room has my youngests toy chest in it and is also used when we have a guest which at least includes my mother in law for about two weeks a year and then some unexpected ones throughout!  I didn’t want to set up in that room for that reason, plus its rather small.  So we will work at a few places throughout our home.  First we have the kids desks as pictured above.  I even have a small desk that is easily moved that we keep behind the couch in our upstairs family room that our youngest can use wherever she wants!  Side not: I have been advised that this facing each other situation will likely NOT work but for now we will see how it goes since we are limited on space. 


Just a note.. our world map that is above the desks in our living room I did for a total cost of $11.  Here’s how….  I got an image of a map online, opened it in Photoshop and added a hint of yellow on top of it so it would look more aged.  Then I sent the file to Staples to be printed as a  24x 36 engineering print.  It costs under $4 for the print and I got these great frames on sale at Michael’s when they were 2 for $15.  You can see the other one hanging in our dining room with another engineering print that has a verse one it ” They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”


The second place we will do school will of course be at the kitchen table but I am trying to avoid alot of work and papers at the table that will need to be moved for lunch and dinner time! The third place is a desk that I have behind our couch in our upstairs family room.  This was a yardsale find with two chairs I got from a discount store ( not pictured).  I love that desk and it gives me a place I can send someone when they need a quieter place to focus.  Finally the kids love sitting at the table pictured below to color, eat or work on things so I know we will utilize this as well.

I added a few decorations to brighten up the first day of school… and they kept falling! So this is how it ended up 🙂 You will also see how I keep all of our crayons out in this box my husband made me from a free pallet!  They are separated by color stored in mini jars inside.

In our main living/ dining area we have this weird cupboard that faces out into the room.  It was always a ‘junk’ cupboard but now is used for our schooling and it is where I have our posters hanging so I can easily change them out ( just use command hooks and punch holes in the posters) and inside is where each child will go to find their books and in their baskets they keep things specific to them such as their flash cards and math keys, protractor, or bingo markers for my youngest!  The top shelf also holds our unit studies and some of my materials.

On the side of this cupboard is where we have the verse or catechism that we will be working on for the week.  Below it you can see my time chart.  All of these things are easily changed and removable in case we would have a party or company that we would want to put some of this away for!  Most likely that won’t happen because who wants to do all that extra work? Below the verse board you will see our “morning basket”

In this basket I have the books that we will go through in the morning together.

A few things we hope to do everyday…..

We will start our day off with breakfast together as we usually do.  During this morning time I will read out of one of the Bible books we will be working through ( located in our morning basket). We a currently working on this one.  On the days when we will be doing Bible in school ( Tuesdays and Wednesdays) I will read out of one of the other books, we have read some of Why do clocks run clockwise and other imponderables and just finished a children’s book on Martin Luther.  After this we will review our verse/ catechism for the week.  Then we end on a Mad lib!  The kids already love this and are asking for this every day even non school days.  This gets their brains started and is a fun activity, I highly recommend you add this into your day. I  especially love how it teaches/reinforces parts of speech!  After this the kids will clean up from breakfast, get dressed for the day if they aren’t already, brush their hair and teeth and make their beds.  Then they can grab their ” fun folder”!  I cannot take credit for most of these ideas as they have come from friends or meetings hearing other homeschool parents talk! This fun folder is a great idea from one of my friends!  Inside their fun folders are activities which get their brain thinking but yet are fun.  Some of the ones I currently have in my kids fun folders are: hidden pictures, crosswords, mazes, color by number, number and letter dot to dot, etc.  My friend also incorporated her map studies into her fun folders which I am looking forward to doing this year as well with my oldest!

These were the items they got to find on their scavenger hunt!  You can see each kid got their very own “special” headphones!  This makes the time they will spend on the computer extra special! It may be hard to see but in there are bingo markers and also the awesome see through blow up globe balls.  I love these as they are fun and cheap at only $1 from the Dollar Store.  Finally, and I must admit one of my favorite things for them to find were these smiley face bells!  Again another Dollar Store find for… you guessed it… $1 each!  I got these to use in debates or games.  We will be using them our first week of school as our history will be starting at creation so I have created a game where the first one to –ding– in with the correct answer gets it.  This will be a fun activity I can tailor to what we’re studying!

>Insert monkey covering its eyes emoji here! << I am going all out and sharing my closet!  I needed more space to store the extra stuff so here it is.  Here you see all of my extras ( the top shelf is just storage not really school related).  Below that is all of my extra books to pull supplemental pages from.  The pink basket houses all of my “Fun Folder” pages that can be easily pulled and restocked into the kids folders.  The bin beside that my Prize bin!  This is a big thing I am so excited about.  It is stocked full with prizes all $1 or less each found in the dollar zone or clearance bins at Walmart and… again the Dollar Store! I have things in there to appeal to each child.  So what can a child do to earn something out of the prize box?  They have to earn a full row of stickers.  I go these great sticker bookmarks from the Dollar Store and when they fill up a row they will get to pick something from the prize box.  This has already proven to be a great incentive for my youngest!  She is working so hard to gain stickers, and to be honest so are my older two!

Finally on the bottom row of my closet you will see my three tier storage which houses learning extras, in drawer 2 all of our music materials for music class, and in the bottom drawer all of our extra art materials for specific art lessons. The bins beside it hold 1.) Playdough and clay, 2.) marble maze, 3.) Pipe maze ( I love this one in particular click here to find out more) These will get utilized mostly by our youngest when I need to focus with the older two but my other two have also shown such interest in them as well!

The photo above is our office/ guest room/ lots of other things room.  In here I have another bin that stores our construction paper, printer paper, and the other drawer has my teacher extras, like learning games and learning materials we will be using.  Beside that bin we have two printers. One is a regular color ink jet one and the other was given to us by friends and is so awesome I recommend you buy one!  Its a Brother laser printer and it is just the bomb!  This thing has printed so much and its super fast so great on how much you can print! On top of the printers is where our kids will put their papers when they have completed them.  There is a paper bin for each child.  I will go through these bins then to collect the pages to build their binders with!

Onto our desk.. We will cover keyboarding, Spanish, and learning videos in this room.  This is where the headphones will come in and get alot of use!  Of course there needs to be a special treat to feed your stomach while you feed your brain!  I do have every intention of NOT eating these all right away and keeping this stocked as a special treat!  You can also see our “Brain Breaks” in this photo.  I took the photo before I had the craft sticks in the jar, we now have more than one brain break. Here are the brain breaks I have so far…

  1. Find it fast ( where I will call our a color or trait like “something yellow”, or “something small and wooden” and you must find it fast!
  2. Macarena ( yes, I will play the song and you must dance the motions to it!)
  3. 20 jumping jacks
  4. Crab walk around the room ( to be done in our bigger living room lol)
  5. Simon says
  6. Would you rather…
  7. Push ups ( as many as you can!)
  8. Balance a book on your head while you walk the hall and back ( or two or three)
  9.  IQ fit ( a cool puzzle brain game)

 

Behind the computer is our reading nook!  A comfy place to cozy up with a blanket and get your reading done.  This cool floating book wall decor is actually my sons reading books! I wanted to keep his school ones separate and since we don’t have a schoolroom or bookshelf this was an easy and unique way to keep them! My daughters are stored in an upright crate that also serves as a side table in our living room.


 I added these READ Dr Seuss letters for a whopping total of $6!  I purchased the letters from JoAnns using a coupon and then covered them in a book (with modpodge)  that I got for $1 at our local thrift store ( if only I were patient I could have waited for half off day and gotten it for $0.50 but I am not one to wait when I want to do a project).  This quick floating book storage idea is so much easier than most and again the total cost was $5! I got two books from the thrift store for $2 since I didn’t want to ruin any of my book jackets ( again not half off day). The floating shelves are just a packet of 4″ L brackets ( from Wal-Mart for $4.97) and the bottom book the jacket gets two slits cut in it to allow the brackets to hide in the jacket.  This was done in under 5 minutes and gives me a place to keep those extra chapter books and it looks so cool! Click this link for instructions


 

So far our first “official” day was a great kick off to the year!  We had a lighter day since I wanted to introduce how everything would work to the kids and since today is the solar eclipse we talked about that and did a craft/lesson specific to that!  We also did these two great first day interviews and activities! Click the image below to go to the site to get these papers for yourself.

We had fun with the interview! I plan to do this at the start of every year.  The other paper I didn’t use all of them just the Goals, Dreams, and I also really love the room challenge idea as well!

We have this page hanging above our computer desk as well for a great reminder to our keyboarding class, click the photo to get this page.

Here is a page I printed to keep in the front of my binder where I store all of my resources and extras, it serves as a great reminder… click the photo to be taken to the page to get a copy for your self!

Happy schooling!

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One Bowl Chocolate Cake With Peanut Butter Icing

I have never been much of a cake fan.  But there is one kind that when I eat cake I must have, it is chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.  Just the thought of a piece of decadent moist chocolate cake with a light homemade peanut butter frosting and a big glass of milk makes me need to eat a piece while writing this post!

The chocolate cake recipe is amazing!  Everything goes together in one bowl and is super quick to through together, just as quick as a box mix and you cannot even begin to compare the taste! The cake recipe is so good there was no need for me to change anything in it.  The original recipe comes from Valerie over at Valerie’s Kitchen.  You can click the link and follow her recipe and directions and you will get the best chocolate cake ever.  And it only takes 35-40 min to cook too so this is something that I just whipped up last night when I needed a dessert in a pinch!

Her chocolate icing recipe is also to die for and came out perfect when I tried it!  Again no worry about having icing in the cupboard as I always have powdered sugar on hand so you can just make you own and again it’s THE BEST!  I will post her recipe below as well but drop by her page and give her some love for sharing this amazing cake and frosting recipe. –Just a side note, her cake and icing recipe call for buttermilk which I never buy but that is a simple fix; by adding one tablespoon white distilled vinegar to 1 cup of milk you will make the perfect buttermilk.–

Now for the other best part… peanut butter icing!  Yes there are a tone of recipes out there and there are so many different ways of doing it.  My mom likes to mix peanut butter into a chocolate icing and use that!  This is my favorite and one that I have come up with to produce that perfect light ( not too peanut buttery) but also one gets nice and stiff.  I am do not like a watery frosting on a cake and this one is light and melts in your mouth but it will set up so beautifully on the cake!

Whether you needing a dessert in a pinch or you are craving that wonderful chocolate peanut butter combination or you just want to make something completely from scratch with ingredients you probably have in your pantry right now and you want to wow everyone with your skills… this is the recipe for you!

Peanut Butter Icing

The best light and fluffy yet nice and firm peanut butter icing recipe for all your bakes goods!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons milk

Instructions

  1. 1. In a bowl cream together the butter and peanut butter. ( handheld mixer or with your whisk attachment to your stand mixer)
  2. 2. Mix in vanilla.
  3. 3. Add your powdered sugar to the bowl and slowly mix in the milk starting off with 2 TBSP and adding the other as needed... you can add more milk as needed to get the desired consistency.
  4. 4. Place icing in your pastry bag and pipe onto cupcakes or spread over cake with your spatula. Will ice a 9x13 cake.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake ( From Valerie’s Kitchen)

Ingredients
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup cocoa powder
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup very hot water

Easy Chocolate Buttermilk Frosting
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
• 6 tablespoons buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 16 ounces (4 cups) powdered sugar, or as needed to reach desired consistency
• 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

For the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, beat in eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Add hot water and mix until combined. Batter will be quite thin.
3. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan before frosting.

For the Frosting:
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over MEDIUM heat. Whisk in cocoa powder, buttermilk and vanilla. Turn heat to LOW and whisk in powdered sugar until you’ve reached desired consistency. It should be thick but pourable. Continue whisking vigorously until smooth. Stir in chopped nuts, if using.
2. Immediately pour frosting over cake and use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread it out evenly over the surface. Allow to set for a few minutes before slicing and serving the cake.

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