Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seasons of Change...Fall is here.

Fall is here.....seasons change. 

Seasons change all the time.  How do you handle change?  Sometimes we handle change well and well, other times....maybe we fight it.

At our home we have what we call a "new normal".  Our new normal includes having only part of our family home. Our son is away at college.  My husband is surrounded by women.  He feels a bit outnumbered sometimes, but enjoys it nonetheless!  There are less dishes, less laundry....but also less Nick.  While that may seem sad, it isn't.  We are so excited for all the changes we see around us from Nick being away and Katie learning to drive to Aimee being part of an outstanding triple threat discipleship program numerous hours a week.  I am enjoying every single minute of this new normal. And yes...I am overjoyed with my job!  I hate to even call it a job...because I love it so much. 

God has been leading us through this season of change well.  In fact, on Friday, our family Bible time was this very timely verse:

Joshua 1:9
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

What an awesome reminder!  God wants us to be strong and courageous and then promises to be with us - our protector.  I don't know about you...but I can rest easy knowing I have a GOD who is with me!

So as I am still striking a balance between work, family, home and life, I find my creative moments being inspiring and a recharge to my spirit. I enjoy decorating our home for the seasons that are limited here in Florida. In the picture above, I filled a few apothecary jars with artificial pumpkins, squash and various fall foliage.  This way I can enjoy the season, without having to dust at the decorations!  And it saves all these wonderful goodies from the cats! 

(The apothecary jars I purchased at Old Time Pottery and Home Goods.  The decorative items are from Old Time Pottery as well.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finding Your Joy in Strengths!

A little more than a year ago, I had the joy of listening to Linda Werner speak about strengths in a leadership workshop.  I was mesmerized....and God used this workshop....this yearning for finding my passion and strengths to lead me to His perfect plan in His perfect timing.

You have read here many times about strengths and I talk about my strengths often. It completely changed the way I viewed myself and others.  It has transformed the way I relate to those around me.  Living a strengths based life has led me to a joyful life in Him.

At that same workshop with Linda, my good friend Mary Arnold sat with me.  We learned so much together.  We learned how to be passionate about the strenghts God gave each of us.  I have had the joy of watching Mary begin a journey that has come to fruition this week....she has created an organization to support women seeking a strengths based lifestyle. 

I want to take today and this week to stand along with Mary as she launches this organization with a team of women that want the very best for you and your family. 

Strong Women Surrendered Hearts

The Place To GO When You’re Ready To GROW!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Joy of Cooking Something Yummy....

Today, being a holiday, I spent just a few more minutes preparing lunch.  I love to cook with my husband...we enjoy cooking and trying new recipes.

Today was Fish Tacos......I have never eaten fish tacos.

Paul has enjoyed them the couple of times he has tried them.

Today's fish tacos were unbelieveable!

Sorry no picture....but here is the recipe.  (It comes from Cook This, Not That!)

Grilled Fish Tacos


1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cubed

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for garnish

Chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and black pepper

Canola oil

2 large mahimahi fillets (1 1/2 lb total)

1 Tbsp blackening spice

8 corn tortillas (I used flour tortillas)
2 cups red cabbage, finely shredded


Mix the mango, avocado, onion, and the juice of 1 lime in a bowl. Season with cilantro, salt, and pepper.

Heat a grill or stovetop grill pan until hot. Drizzle a light coating of oil over the fish and rub on the blackening spice. Cook the fish, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove.
Warm the tortillas on the grill for 1 to 2 minutes, or wrap in damp paper towels and microwave for 1 minute until warm and pliable.
Break the fish into chunks and divide among the warm tortillas. Top with the cabbage and mango salsa. Serve with the lime wedges.
Makes 4 servings

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A long break....

So why the long break?

The past two months have been a whirlwind of change....

A child graduated.....

Getting ready for two in high school.....planning...choosing curriculum.....

Speaking.....traveling...and working.....a new season.....

Today I take a break...from everything..... being creative....and reflecting.

Sharing some creativity.......

Font: Sweet Shoppe Designs Digi , Paper: Sprouting Seeds Studio Digi Kit

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Joy of Being Me...

I am beginning a new Bible study this week: God's Good Gifts: A Scrapbooking Bible Study for Women's Groups. This first week is a long look into being me.  It might be hard to reflect on ourselves as we are always reflecting on our children or our husband.  It is so much easier to think what we need to do to care for someone else.  But you know what?  We need to celebrate ourselves and the way God made us.  He has equipped us for being us!  Isn't that amazing that God equips us to be just what he needs us to be?  Today, I am putting my thougths in a scrapbook page and thanking God for making me just the way I am.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Joy of Living in My Strengths

I started this blog back on January 1st, 2010.  I started it with the full intention of sharing my story - my joys!  Some days you read about our homeschooling adventures, while other days you can read about scrapbooking and the overall joy about my walk with the Lord.  Today I wanted to return to that orginal blog post on January 1st.

Today, I am reviewing my strengths.  Many months ago I took the Strengths Finder 2.0 test and finally had on paper a list of my strengths!  Sure we all know what we do well.  But, what about the satisfaction of knowing and seeing on paper a list with detailed descriptions of our strengths?  I have to say it is rather a cool thing to refelct on a list of things we do well, rather than a list of things we have to get done!  But you will see that one of my strengths includes the love of a goal!

So here it is for all the world to see, my list of strengths:

People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

People who are especially talented in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.

Why is it important to know our strengths?  For me, it falls back to one of my strengths!  Learner: I needed to know!  But seriously, I wanted to know to better use my strengths for serving my family, serving in leadership, and in building relationships.  For me, it also explains to me, why I do what I do. 

I love that God gave me these strengths.  I pray that I use these strengths to His glory and His plan!




Friday, June 11, 2010

Creative Friday

A little fun layout. Feels a bit more cluttered than my usual layouts, but fun!

CM Blush Paper and CM Embellies

Monday, June 7, 2010

Product Review Monday: Giving Credit

Today I completed and printed my oldest child's final high school transcript.  (Big sigh!)

It was easy....really.  I used Homeschool Tracker!  And before you think this is one giant ad for Homeschool Tracker, I do not work for them or receive compensation in any way.

We often complain of bad service or products.  But what would happen if we filled our time promoting the really good things out there?  Isn't it great when someone shares a great product, class or book?  I love finding a deal, but a quality product is even better in my mind.

Homeschool Tracker is by far the best homeschool record keeping software around.  If you are even thinking of homeschooling high school, this product is a must.  I am serious when I say it took all the headaches away from the college application process.  In a matter of mere minutes I was able to print a transcript in the proper form required by each individual university.  One university wanted a combined transcript listed by subject, while another school wanted subjects and courses listed by date.  And finally the whopper of them all wanted a transcript listing all courses take listed by subject to include a course description and a list of all materials used notated alphabetically by author.  Yep, eleven pages later and less than ten minutes, they got their transcript as requested!

Homeschool Tracker allows you to even try a free version before you buy the plus version.  I started with the free version and used it years ago before our high school years.  It was great for the first year, but then I wanted more!  Homeschool Tracker Plus, does everything I need it to do, and more!

I as a curriculum developer I look for tools that help me do my job better.  This program saves me time and money, and last but surely not least, it saves me frustration.  Oh, and did I mention they have the BEST customer service in the industry.  Katie goes out of her way to make sure to offer support to you and your needs.  The forum on the site is available to everyone - not just those who pay for the plus version.  So check it out and make planning for next year easy as pie!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer Fun

Creative Memories Delight Paper and Letters

Enjoying a quiet afternoon watching Gilmore Girls with my daughter and digi scrapping! Remember to enjoy the sweet moments this summer!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Creative Moments

Taking a break today in the midst of all the planning and readying for guests. Sharing my creativity today.

 Using Music 2 Digi Kit from and CM Storybook Creator 3.0

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Joy of THE Homeschool Convention

For us veteran and even newbie homeschool moms convention season is upon us!  This is one of the most encouraging events that I attend each year.  The Florida Parent-Educators Association holds the best Homeschool Convention in the States.  Now, I am biased because, well, this is MY convention.  Sure, I have travelled to and attended many conferences and conventions as a vendor and speaker, but THIS convention is the granddaddy of them all!  You can check it out here: FPEA Convention.

If this is your first year to attend the FPEA Convention, or any homeschool convention for that matter, I thought I would set you up with the Convention Survival Guide!

1. Make your reservations early!  If your convention is being held in a hotel and you need to spend the night, stay in the convention hotel.  This helps the organization tremendously. Sometimes there is a contract for a specific amount of rooms to be sold.  By staying onsite you help your organization cover the costs of this event.  Trust me, once you attend your state convention, you always want to go back!

2. Get your convention guide and see what workshops you want to attend.  This year it took me two days to run through all the workshops for the FPEA Convention!  With a 120 workshops to choose from, I needed to read each and every description to make sure I wasn't missing something!

Here are the workshops on my "Don't Miss List":
  1. The Apprentice:Getting High School Credit for Internships
  2. Margins for Moms, Limits that Liberate
  3. The Five Finger Paragraph
  4. Asking the Right Questions: Teaching Literature with Socratic Discussion
Of course there are other workshops on my list, but these are the ones I don't want to miss.

3. Plan your time wisely!  Keep your watch and your convention guide handy.  Here are some don't miss opportunities that are on my "Don't Forget List"
  1. Leaders Forum on Thursday
  2. FPEA Annual Business Meeting - I want to stay connected to my state organization.  They work so hard for me all year, I want to be informed and support my district!
  3. Musical Theater Production: The Shopping Cart
  4. Keynote Address!!!!!
  5. Graduation
4. I am a list maker and a planner at heart. Some years I attend with friends, sometimes I attend with the family.  Some years, I do both!  So do all your planning before you arrive!  This way you won't miss a thing!

5. Pack good shoes, a jacket and some dollar bills....Shoes because you will be walking all day! A Jacket well, because sometimes that air conditioning is cranked! Dollar bills for the tipping the gentlemen that help with the luggage and for buying your bottled water!  Gotta stay hydrated!

6. Bring your shopping list/browsing list and stick to it!  Staying on budget will make attending next year all the more easier.

7. Take the opportunity to look over all your choices that you have researched before buying.  If you have the opportunity to speak to the author of a particular book then purchase from him or her!  They have invested in you and answered all your questions so purchase from them.  Taking their time up and then walking to another booth to purchase just to save a few bucks is simply disrespectful.  So do the right thing!

8.  Enjoy and soak in all the encouragement you can get!  Keep a notebook.  Write down your thoughts and then read it again after you have returned home.  Missed a workshop?  You can order the CD!  Just visit FPEA's website at and order.  Or better yet, you can order before you even leave the convention.

9. And for those of us who have been numerous times to our state homeschool convention, we have a motto: "What happens at convention, stays at convention."  Look for an update and more photos after the FPEA Graduation!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Joy of Being a Parent of a High School Grad

On May 1st, 2010 the Pinellas Parent Educators Association held their Graduation Ceremony.  It was the most wonderful graduation I have ever attended, not that I am biased in any way!

Homeschool graduations are different from any typical graduation, as it celebrates not only the graduate but also the family.  Prior to the ceremony beginning, there was a wonderful montage of music and pictures from the Senior Class Activities from this past school year.  The ceremony then began with introductions and a message from our group's chairperson, Mary Arnold.  It then proceeded with a 13 minute presentation of pictures and music for each of the 35 graduates.  It was so emotional watching the baby pictures proceed through the years of homeschooling up to their current senior picture for each graduate. 

A special time during the ceremony was the charge.  This was a special message the parents wrote to their graduating child.  Of course, having a last name beginning with "p" means that I cried through everyone else's charge!  Andrew Apple did an outstanding job of reading our charge to Nick as we stood with him in front of the attendees.  I then moved his tassel on his cap and Paul presented him with his diploma.  It was a moment of such pride for our son.  He has become a young man of God.  We are so proud of him!

(Photo Credit Karen Baillie)

The biggest surprise of the event was at the conclusion of the ceremony when they shared letters each child had written to his or her parents.  It was beyond emotional!  Such a wonderful surprise to end this ceremony. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Thought I would share the invitation to Nick's graduation I designed.  While Nick is participating in two graduations, this invitation is for his local Homeschool Graduation Ceremony this Saturday.  I will post his graduation announcement later in the month.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Month of Celebrations

May 2010 will be a month of celebrations.  Our oldest child, Nick, will be graduating high school.  We have always homeschooled our children.  So while the typical high school graduation is an event worthy of great celebration, a homeschool hogh school celebration is an event celebrated by the entire family! My husband and I have raised our children to seek God first, to love the Lord, to love learning and always seek the truth.  We have covered each of our children in prayer throughout their lives.  They are precious gifts.

Nick will be participating in a local Homeschool High School Graduation with the Pinellas Parent Educators Association on May 1st. He will also be participating in Commencement Exercises with the Florida Parent-Educators Association at the Annual FPEA Homeschool Convention on May 30th.  What a month this will be!  We are excited to see family come in from all over the country to join us in celebrating with Nick.

Today was bittersweet though, as I realized this is the last day I will make lesson plans for my son.  We have our final four days of school this week.  It seems like only yesterday he was learning to read.

Nick, then and now....


Friday, April 16, 2010

Digi Layouts for the Yearbook

I LOVE that our homeschool yearbook is all digital files.  It is printed and bound just like our yearbooks were back in the day.  (Okay, so it was slightly more than 20 years ago since I had a yearbook.) Here are the pages I designed for Nick's yearbook.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Week in the Life Project and MemoryWorks

I am gearing up for the Ali Edward's Week in the Life Project. This will be the third time I have done this project.  It is a great, and I mean fantastic way of showing a typicl week in my life to the world.  This year, I am going to try and blog my week.  So just a warning to all my friends, you may end up on my blog if we have plans next week. :-)

So what is Week in the Life Project?
Ali Edwards spends a week guiding her readers through documenting a week in your life. Often we are so busy caring for our family and others, that we forget that this is our life!  So document where you are and what you are doing next week.  I would love to see your projects. 

On another note, I received my Simple Stories Life Documented Kit last week.  I finally got it out over the weekend.  Let me say, it is such a nice quality product that I think I need to order another kit!  This is simply a very nice, and usable kit.  It is think - like the nice patterned paper out there.  It is so defined and usable yet flexible for any kind of scrapbooker.  So if you want another opportunity to order a kit, just let me know!

I will be hosting a MemoryWorks Event in May.  I'll post the date and details later this week!  So fun to get to create something new!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Joy of Project Wednesday!

Having a High School Senior in the house lends itself to lots of projects.  This is my latest project. This is for a Senior Signing Event.  Yearbooks are not in yet, and he needed something to have his classmates of the Homeschool Graduates Class of 2010 sign.  So I'll fill this little book with pictures of their senior activities from this year and then they can sign near their pictures.  What a great memory maker!

Supplies: Bo Bunny My Word Chipboard Album, Making Memories Vintage Findings binding rings, DCWV Paper

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Joy of Easter

Today was a day of putting away the books.  Today we begin our Easter celebration.  We started our day in prayer.  Together we prayed for our church.  Each day we start our school day together in prayer.  This allows our family to feel grounded to each other and together in our Faith. 

The joy of making treats together is always a part of our holiday celebrations.  These are just the first of many goodies we are making this weekend. 

From our family to yours:

Have a Blessed and Happy Easter as you remember the all the Lord has done for you!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Joy of Making a Plan Day 3 – Subjects/Course/Resources

Today is the day! Today we are going to decide what subjects and courses you will teach next school year. Isn’t that exciting and overwhelming at the same time? And of course you will then need to find the all the resources and materials you will need for your curriculum plan.

So in the effort of trying to stay one day ahead of my blog posts, I spent last night researching until the very wee hours of the morning. (But…I was loving every moment!)




Alternatively, you can make all your notes and research in a digital file. I like to use a spreadsheet I can update with links and plans.

Step One: Think about what subjects you will teach for all your children and which subjects you will teach separately. This is a huge time saver both in the planning and teaching. Then decide what subjects and courses your will be teaching next year. Make a list.

Here is my working list:

11th Grade Courses

Algebra 2

American Literature Honors

American Literature Comp

World Civilizations

American Government Honors

Political Science

Exodus Law vs. Constitutional Law

Advanced Biology w/ Lab Honors

Advanced Jewelry Making

Sewing – Garment Construction

Cake Baking and Decorating

9th Grade Courses

Algebra 1

English 1 Compositions/Poetry/Drama

Classic Literature

American History

Bible Study

Biology Honors

Drama 2


Sewing – Garment Construction

Cake Baking and Decorating

I am still in the stages of choosing our resources for some of these classes. I have a few resources already chosen, as I already own these items or will be purchasing them. I will post my resource list tomorrow.

Step Two: Take each course and develop the list of resources (books, dvds, texts, outside classes) that you will use in order to teach your child.

If you are having trouble finding resources you can always email me at justamom at tampabay dot rr do com. But I want to stress the importance of being a member of a homeschool support group. This iiis your “go to” place for guidance, support and friendships. Remember, fellowship with like-minded people enhances your homeschooling journey!

These blog posts are actually part of my book Curriculum Workshop: a guide to writing homeschool curriculum. You can purchase it here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Joy of Making a Plan Day 2 – Examine Your Student

Today is day two of our planning week. How did yesterday go? Did you get a general plan for when you will start and finish? I know it is difficult not knowing what the co-op schedule or the practice schedule will be come fall or even next spring. But reality is this: we can’t wait! If we used the excuse that we were waiting on this schedule or that schedule in order to make our own schedule then we would be waiting a long time! The beauty of making this schedule is that once you have a plan it is so much easier to be flexible, because you now know if you can or cannot do an activity. You know exactly when your scheduled times off will happen and yet, you can easily move a week around here or there.

I have my calendar completed with all the school days noted, vacations circled and holidays marked with happy faces. I know I have about a 4 week give or take on my schedule. This allows me such freedom to move things as needed. When I have a family emergency, I can easily take off that time without fear that we need to be completing school work. Instead we can focus on the matter at hand.

I had a friend that gave herself 5 personal days each school year. She used index cards. I use yellow sticky notes. I wrote “personal day” on each of my five sticky notes. I placed them on my calendar sheet. I allowed myself the freedom to use any one of my five personal days at anytime throughout the school year for any reason. These were not sick days nor were they field trip days. These were my personal days to use to allow myself a day off from teaching. Sometimes my wonderful husband would teach that day or we would simply take that day off for any reason whatsoever. It was like a little surprise I knew I could use at any time. This year, I am using them all at once – for the very last week of school. But…don’t tell my kiddos!

On to our assignment.


Student Assessment Sheet (Print one for each of your students)


This assignment will actually take a bit longer than just a day. You will use this sheet for probably a week as you consider each of your student’s strengths and weaknesses. Now, I want to caution you here. This sheet is for your use as you see fit. It is not something I have shared with my children when they were younger, but as they matured they each began to complete a copy in addition to my assessment.

I want you to think about your child’s strengths. What does your child enjoy doing? These strengths encompass all aspects of their precious lives. So include everything from “likes to organize toys” to “reading” to “public speaking” and “serving”. There is so much to include here that I want you to really spend some time thinking about each of your children as individuals. You might want to even ask your student what they think they are best or good at. You can write down their answers too.

Then I want you to think about the areas he or she needs to work on. Don’t we all have to work on something? God is trying to teach me something new every day! So consider all aspects of your child. Don’t make a list of things you want to “fix” this year. Merely see your child and address the things that need addressing and guide them.

While this might seem like a silly or unwarranted task, it is so important to address your child’s needs. This is so much more about parenting than simply homeschooling. Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to make your child the next “perfect homeschool student”. Enjoy your child right where they are, doing just what they are doing. Remember, this is your worksheet. Use this tool to your advantage.

And as a final reminder, I want to share with you the dangers of comparing our children to Susie Perfect’s children. Chip Ingram says that when we begin to make comparisons we have only two choices: superiority or inferiority. Neither of which are pleasing to God.

Enjoy your week of intense planning. I’ll be back tomorrow with another post and update you on our plans! You can always email me any questions you might have or post a comment.

Happy Planning!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Joy of Making A Plan....A Week of Lesson Plans

Okay, I need to get myself together and prepare for next year.  I began this process back on February 1st. So in order to keep myself on the task at hand, I am doing this in a week of intense planning.  Want to join me?

First things first. You will find a supply list at the beginning of each post and an assignment.  So here is your chance to get some coaching with your plan this week!  So let's get started:

Day 1
Supply List
Year at a Glance Calendar (I like the ones at
Schedules (work, support group, sports)

Assignment: Prepare a yearly calendar noting your school days.

Step 1
Look at the yearly calendar.  (I use this calendar.)
Cross off all days you are not going to school.  For us, that means all weekends.  I am crossing off the days I know my son will be home from college (this may change).  I am crossing off all holidays.  Of course your holiday breaks may be different from mine.  But for us, that means 2-3 weeks at Christmas and a whole week at Thanksgiving.  Cross off vacation days/weeks.

Step 2
Decide your schedule:
5 day/4 day weeks
6 weeks on, 1 week break
9 week quarters
2 semesters
Check with your state as to what your requirements are for attendance.  In Florida, homeschoolers that are registered with their county do not have any attendance requirements. Although, I plan for 36 weeks of school within two semesters.  The semester break is at Christmastime.

When do you want to begin school?  I have a dear friend that begins school 6 weeks prior to Labor Day.  So she then takes that week off.  Seems everyone is in school and vacation deals can be had!  So that is definitely something to ponder.

This year we are beginning school much earlier than I have planned in recent years.  But, once again, I know myself and my children.  We get Spring fever.  So knowing that, I make sure we done with school by May 1. That also means we can begin earlier in the hot Florida summer earlier!  (Yes, my teens are not real excited about this, but they will singing a different tune when our Christmas break is longer than usual!)

 Step 3
Set a goal for your first day of school.  Mark that date on your calendar.  I circle this date.  Then I use a highlighter to note all school days.  Make sure you mark a realistic amount of school days.  The reality is you probably do not want to run from late summer to Thanksgiving with no breaks.  You need a break and so do your kiddos!

Make this calendar work for you!  Do not allow this "plan" to rule you!

Tomorrow we are going to think about our kids!  I'll even have a worksheet for you to print!

Post any questions you have or email me at justamom at tampabay dot rr dot com.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Joy of Finding Your Passion

We have always taught our children to "think outside the box".  As a homeschool family, we are anything but traditional.  We saw homeschooling as a way of opening up the possibilites for education outside the traditional classroom setting.  Now, here we are 14 years later and our oldest child is graduating in just a very few short weeks from now.  We have taught our children to be non-conformists.  We have taught them to seek out their passions- the ones God gave them and seek God's will while fulfilling your dreams.  It never hurts to try something new! Now, wouldn't it be grand if we could find a college or university that truly taught that message as well?

Today we had the honor of being part of an Open House event at the university where our son will be attending in the Fall.  It was incredible to hear from faculty and staff on numerous occassions that the key to success in college and furthermore in life is following your passion.  It was nice to see that this message will continue with our son as he pursues his filmmaking career. 

So what is your passion?  For many years my passion has revolved around the homeschooling arena.  Being a conference speaker, homeschool author, co-op teacher and support group leader has used my passion in different ways.  I often talk of my cup being filled.  My cup is filled when I am doing something that uses my passions, my strengths.  Sometimes as stay at home moms we loose that passion for something. We become something else entirely. Don't get lost in the expectations of what you "should" be doing.  Embrace a passion, a hobby, a place of service and be an example of success to your children!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Joy of Friday Afternoons

Friday afternoons mean so much at our home.  It is the end of a school week.  It is an afternoon reserved for fun activities, or creative adventures. It is a beginning of a weekend!  At our home, weekends are full of fun, worship time at church and projects.  My Friday afternoon has been filled with a project.  I am working on a special album for my son, Nick.  This is the first  of this type of album I am making.  See, I am a chronological scrapper.  Yes, I know....I need help!  No, seriously, I have found amazing Photo Freedom.  Literally, I have found an amazing amount of freedom from Stacy Julian's Photo Freedom.  I am learning to scrap in a more meaningful way to me. Stacy has been an incredible source of inspiration to my scrapbooking.  You should really check out her website: Stacy Julian.

While Photo Freedom is definitely difficult to find right now, Stacy has other books that are equally inspiring.  One of the most affordable books I am looking at now is over at Ella Publishing.  And one of my new friends on Facebook shared this link today for a free Ella E-Book. (Thanks Katie!!!)

(credit: Ella Publishing)

So in my effort to scrapbook in a more authentic manner, I am working on this scrapbook, and telling my story of my amazing son, Nick.  I am sharing what I see and what I have felt in order to tell the story of Nick.

So here's where I need your help.  I need manly, masculine paper and supplies.  I am on the hunt....can you help?  Leave me a comment with your suggestions.  I'll write more on Monday with what products I find.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Joy of Trying Something New

I love being creative.  I enjoy scrapbooking as one of my creative outlets.  The act of creating a book or project that chronicles our life together as a family just fills my cup!  I love documenting our journey as a family.  So in the interest of trying something new, I decided to become an Independent MemoryWorks Consultant!  Do not worry about this blog turning into a sales pitch! I just need to support my addiction, I mean hobby!  I have so many reasons why I chose this company, but I will share that on another day.  Today I just want to share with you the product that made me want to try this new venture.

The Simple Stories blog will give you all the details of Simple Stories Life Documented.  It is a simple kit that lets you document an entire year in your album so quickly and easily.  So here's the deal: I wanted this kit after reading about it on the blog.  But, I had to order through a MemoryWorks Independent Consultant.  I didn't know one or have one in my area.  After a great deal of research, I am now a MemoryWorks Independent Consultant!  I'll share more about this amazing company another day.  But if you want more information on getting discounts for your own scrapbooking supplies or starting your own business you can email me at justamom at tampabay dot rr dot com. (Gotta keep that spam outta my inbox!)

Right now, my only reason for becoming a MemoryWorks Independent Consultant was to get a discount on products I was already ordering for my hobby.  From Basic Grey to American Crafts cardstock, this company offers more than my local scrapbook store ever has in stock. 

I am so excited about this new product, that I want to share it with you! I am placing my first order next week and I am offering 10% off all Simple Stories kits ordered by March 22nd.  Of course you can order anything from the amazing new catalog as well. (The links are noted below.) And an added bonus, if you live in the Riverview area, I will give you free shipping on this order! 

I am so excited, can you tell?  You can view the catalog online at the links noted below.  The catalog is in sections to help you find exactly what you need!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Joy of Sharing Creativity!

In an effort to be more creative, I am going to share my creativity!  I am hosting a workshop for Lapbooks/Questbooks at my home on March 18th.  All homeschooling moms are invited to come and learn all about Lapbooks/Questbooks.  You will even get to make your very own Lapbook/Questbook!

You can email me to get the address and all the details.  This is a free workshop and all the supplies are included!  Can't wait to share this creativity with fellow homeschool moms!

I'll post more about Lapbooks/Questbooks soon!  If you want more informaiton now, visit ExcellentQuests.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Joy of Making my House a Home

This week I am trying to be more creative.  Now I didn't create this item this week, but I did make a digi scrapbook page about it.  But rather than posting another digi layout I'll post the picture.

I used my digital cutter, a Quickutz Silhouette, to cut the large P out of brown vinyl and the rest from while vinyl laying them on the red wall.  This is high on a 10 foot wall above a large mirror in our formal dining room.  You can see it as you enter the front door of our home.  I think it shows how much a cherish our marriage and our home.  We have been blessed!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Joy of Documenting a Journey

It is obvious that I enjoy scrapbooking. I follow scrapbooking blogs and find inspiration from many different types of scrapbooking.  One of my favorite scrapbook artists is Stacy Julian.  She is author of Photo Freedom.  Of course she can inspire a person on so many different levels, but for me it was the freedom from being an "event" scrapbooker.  Of course I will still scrapbook our birthdays and vacations and holidays, but no longer will I negate the every day.  I could not believe that my scrapbooks had failed to show one of the most life filling acitivities in our home: homeschooling. And you can see that we have homeschooled for many years!  I am trying this year to tell more of our/my story.  I find scrapbooking to be my outlet for telling this story.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Creative Joy

Here is my creative venture for today!  Two months from today, Nick, our oldest child will graduate from all his years of homeschooling.  I am so proud to know him.  He is such a wonderful young man with an unwavering faith.  It is a joy to be his mama!  Such a sweet gift from the Lord!

The Joy of Monday Musings

Mondays are like a reset button for me.  I can begin fresh with a  new week, new ideas and new goals.  Before I begin any of these "new" things I begin with my thoughts on my Bible Study.  Aside from my Bible reading I enjoy reading a good book.  Presently, I am reading Good to Great in God's Eyes: 10 Practices Great Christians Have in Common by Chip Ingram.  To tell you that I have been reading this for over a month and am just now getting to the second chapter is even a surprise for me!  Mr. Ingram writes in a manner that invites you to come along on a journey to see yourself in a new light. 

Ingram walks you through ten life changing practices.  The first chapter dealt with thinking good thoughts. It took me over a month of prayer and study just to digest all that was included in that chapter.  There were many life application ideas as well.  Today I began chapter two: Read Great Books.  While Ingram lists books that were life changing for him, you and I may come up with a completely different list.  As a homeschool mom, a wife and even being a woman may define or lead you to find books specific to you and your life. 

So this week I am building my book list of books I want to read.  I have a list on this blog of books I am currently reading.  Yet, I wanted to make a list of books to read.  And then set a GOAL to read so many books or a specific amount of time each and every week.  Chip Ingram asks an interesting question:  What things in my life can I replace with reading great books that strengthen my walk with the Lord? 

So are you a list maker or a goal setter?  Not everyone works well with lists.  Lists can be motivators or defeat your good intentions.  Set a goal for this week.  My goal is to be more creative this week!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

RANDOM.ORG - Integer Widget

And the winner of my book giveaway:

is BECKY! Email me at alice at excellent quests dot com. (Remove the spaces.)

RANDOM.ORG - Integer Widget: "True Random Number Generator

Powered by RANDOM.ORG"

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Joy of Fellowship and a Book Giveaway!

Yesterday I had the pleasure to host a few homeschool moms at my home for coffee and tea.  Oh, the joy that comes from being in fellowship with like-minded people!  I think we all left that gathering last night with renewed joy and excitement to homeschool our children!  The interesting thing is that everyone was new to someone there.  I was blessed with sweet ladies from my church, my homeschool group and a sweet new friend. 

While we all love to find that special place of fellowship, often we allow hurdles to block out paths to this joy.  We may allow cold weather (and wow, it was cold last night!) and attitudes of those around us rob of us of the opportunity to be in fellowship.  I urge you to find that special place, that special group of friends that you can surround yourself in encouragement and allow your cup to be filled.

As homeschool moms we give all day long.  We give to our children, we give to our homeschool groups, we give to our churches, we give to our husbands.  When we give and give, we need someone to give to us.  We simply cannot allow ourselves to give and never receive.  We empty our cups of all the encoruagement and sweetness and we are left with an empty cup.  Find a way to fill it up! 

Last night my cup was filled as I sat around the table of like-mind women connected by homeschooling and our faith in a loving God!  What an encouragement and cup-filling event!  It all comes back to seeking God's will and turning our eyes to what He has for us each adn every day!

My birthday is tomorrow, but I want to give the gift!  I am giving away a copy of my book Curriculum Workshop! So leave a comment below and I will pick a random comment to win a copy!  Comments left by 8pm ESTon Sunday are eligible.  I will post the winner shortly after 8pm on Sunday. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Joy of Being Present

Being present, in the midst, in the here and now is something I find difficult sometimes. Yet, it is something I strive to achieve. I want to be in the midst of the every day stuff. 

It is my nature to be a researcher and planner.  I love to plan for the next big thing.  What is the next big thing?  The next trip, the new lesson plans - even the menu for next week can all be things I am planning. While I enjoy planning the next big thing, I need to be mindful of the here and now. 

I love meal time at our home.  We gather around the kitchen table for every single meal.  I LOVE this!  We even gather for a snack or special dessert too.  So on any given day we are gathered around our table as a family at the very least of three times a day.  This is precious time to me.  Sure, not all meals are full of great attitudes.  And sometimes my "surprise" meals are better in the garbage.  But...we are present.  We laugh together almost every single time we gather around the table.

I challenge you to be present this week.  Life can pass us by so quickly.  Become part of your family time together.  Find something you can all enjoy together.  Family game nights can be a source of great laughter and memories.  We enjoy family movie nights at our home.  What do you do the be "in the moment" with your family?

Chcek back Thursday for a giveaway!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Joy of Dependence

This past weekend was filled with joy. The joy of being in the arms of my beloved husband of twenty years as we danced at the Valentine’s Day Dance hosted by our church was unlike any other Valentine’s Day we have shared. As I danced with my husband, I actually was reflecting on something our pastor had shared in the Saturday night service the prior evening. In the midst of his sermon, he used the phrase “there is joy in dependence”. Of course this immediately brought me back to my quest for Joy.
Dependence is usually looked at in such a negative light. According to society we are to be independent. Yet, I find myself relishing in the thought of being dependent on the Lord and what he has for me. I depend on the Lord much like the Israelites depended on the Lord: for their daily sustenance and guidance. I depend on the Lord to take each fear away, and replace it with his reminders of his provision, protection and love.

After praying on this subject for a few days, God reminded me something very significant. I often have unrealistic expectations of others. As a server, my nature is to meet another’s expectations. I enjoy serving my husband dinner, taking my children places they need to be, and giving my service to others in need. I hold high standards for myself when I serve. On the flip side, I find myself never allowing many to serve me. I don’t want to be a bother to anyone. Yet, when I find myself needing help, I expect someone to help me. My expectations are that someone will remember a date, will know to check on me when I am sick or lend a helping hand without being asked. God reminds me that I need to depend upon him alone. Sure our human nature allows us to become upset when we perceive that we are forgotten. But there is joy in dependence on the Lord and those he places around us. It is okay to depend upon others

I continued to think on this thought of joy in dependence as I danced with my husband Sunday evening. I depended on God to give me a husband that I could depend upon. I have been blessed in immeasurable ways. I stand in awe of what God affords me and blesses me with. I need to remember to depend upon the Lord and realize that my expectations of others need to be realistic.

On to other thoughts today….I am thinking and planning our curriculum for next school year. This week I am working on realistic expectations for our school year. You can follow along with me over at my website: Excellent Quests.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Joy of Accomplishing a Goal

Well, it is February 7th, also know as the day after "the conference". All this past week my family and I adopted a motto: after the conference. So when something needed to be done or an errand needed to be completed, I would reply, "after the conference". Well, today marks "after the conference."

Since August, I have had the pleasure of working with Linda Oberg to plan, organize and now execute the Tampa Bay Homeschool Conference & Expo. And in a word it was: Awesome! I was overjoyed with the speakers that delivered messages of strengthening our homeschool - both parent and student. I was overcome with respect for the staff members that gave their heart and their Saturday away from family to serve the homeschooling families of the Tampa Bay area. I am thankful to my vendors that shared their products and experience with the attendees. And what would a conference be without volunteers? I had the opportunity to work with wonderful volunteers from the Tampa Bay area. Thank you one and all! We could not have done this without you!

I have always had a goal of serving homeschool families. A few years back I was given the opportunity to attend graduate school on a full tuition scholarship. This was truly an answer to prayer! I made a commitment to serve my homeschool community with the knowledge I gained from studying curriculum development and instructional technology. I had the joy of presenting a workshop at the conference yesterday. I often speak of "my cup being filled". Presenting this workshop filled my cup to overflowing. When I can see another homeschool mom's eyes brighten and a passion reignited, I feel like a goal has been accomplished - I have served another homeschool family.

To be in the place where God can use me in my strengths, I feel content and full of joy. God is good.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Joy of Creating Lesson Plans

Today is February 1st. This marks the time of year when I begin the process of planning the next school year for our children. So you are invited to join me on this journey this year.

The 2010-2011 school year will be a bit different from other years. Actually it will be the first year since 2000 that I will be homeschooling only two children. Nick is graduating this year, and will be living on campus. So in the fall, I will be teaching 9th grade and 11th grade. (I will refrain from an entire week's worth of reflecting on the years of homeschooling the kids!)

When I begin this process each year, I write down who and what grade I will be teaching. Sounds basic, but it is needed. And yes, I do actually use the pages from my book to do my planning! You can find a copy of my book here. I then write down the subjects I want my children to study. (This is a different list from what I am teaching, and what resources I will be using.)

So my working list looks something like this:

Age 15
Grade 11
Civics/American Government
American Literature Honors
Constitutional Law vs. Exodus Law
Algebra II
Advanced Biology
English IV
Sewing - Garment Construction

Age 13
Grade 9
American History
American Literature
English I
Algebra I
Sewing - Garment Construction

This is the beginning of my list. This week, or rather after the Tampa Bay Homeschool Conference & Expo, I will sit down with Katie and Aimee and ask them what they would like to add to this list.

This is a process and only the beginning at that. Next week I will spend time really examining my children. I want to define, validate and celebrate their strengths!

Come by adn see me at the Homeschool Conference this weekend!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Joy of Weekly Lesson Plans

Yes, I am one of those homeschool moms that simply love writing the weekly lesson plans. Maybe that is why I went to graduate school for curriculum and design - to write really good lesson plans! :-)

Now, seriously I do enjoy writing my weekly lesson plans for our children. This year the kids are completing 8th grad, 10th grade and 12th grade(dual-enrolled at the local community college.) So each Sunday evening I sit and move lesson plans, created last June, into my weekly list. I look at our outside commitments and place the appropriate lessons into each day and subject for the week. The kids each have their own report, listing by subject, what needs to be accomplished each day.

In the past I have used notebook paper and pencil. (Always pencil, as there were always changes to be made.) I graduated to making plans in Word, including hyperlinks to needed online resources. Of course there were seasons where I printed forms or created my own and filled them in by hand each week. Then I finally found my tool of choice: Homeschool Tracker.

I create a list of lessons for each book/activity in a subject area during the summer months. Then as each week arrives I move the needed lessons - typically five - into the assignment grid for the week for each student. I then print my report and we are good to go!

I'll spend more time on lesson planning in the coming weeks. But if you are eager and want to know sooner than later, you can attend an upcoming workshop. My next workshop is February 6th at 10am at the Tampa Bay Homeschool Conference & Expo.

Check back later this week for a lesson plan update. Have a blessed week!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Finding Joy in my every day life.....

I find Joy in my every day. You know those things we do every day, not necessarily a routine of things - just life. I found Joy this morning in the way my daughter takes the funnies (comics) out of the section of the newspaper and then folds it back nice and neat. I found Joy in taking my 16 year old to his first day of Spring semester classes at the local community college this week, even though it does not feel like spring yet in Florida. I found Joy in watching my youngest laugh at the "rescue" kitty playing in our bathroom this morning. I am choosing to find Joy in the every day occurrences of life. Be present in your surroundings. Watch and cherish what is going on around you. Take Joy in having your children and hubby surround you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Joy Found at My Front Door

Every other Tuesday evening I open my front door to this wonderful basket of fresh produce. Yes, you read that right, I get this wonderful basket from Lancaster Farm delivered right to my front door! I told Angela, the owner, it feels just like Christmas to get a basket of goodies right at my front door!

As you can see I have everything from pecans to grape tomatoes to fresh baked rolls and muffins. This basket is chocked full of yummy fruits and vegetables.

You can order your own delivered basket by joining the produce club. The Produce Club at Lancaster Farm offers a variety of basket choices and lots of things to add onto your order. If you do sign up tell Angela that I sent you!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Finding Joy in Routines

I was so glad to get back to our usual routine today. It was back to the usual breakfast together, the usual school time together, the usual lunch and dinner together. The usual errands and the usual outing tonight. There is Joy in the usual routine. I find Joy that we are a family for all our meals around the table with no television or other screens in sight. I find Joy in the family discussion during these meals. The usual routine is comforting to me.

I am often asked what I do to balance homeschooling, writing, owning a business and keeping home. I didn't always have a balance, and occassionally that blance tips to one side more than the other. I craved reading organization books when my children were younger. I thought there was some single answer to getting everything in order. There isn't! What works for some families won't work for other families. For my family it was establishing routines.

I set out to establish routines one at a time. When the kids were still very young I started with the very basic routines: we were up and dressed and fed by 9am. Then I added everyone was to be in bed by 8:30pm. Then we added expectations to that routines. We were each "expected" to pick up after ourselves. If you went to bed and left something out, then it went in the Saturday Box. This Saturday Box was emptied on the following Saturday. So if you couldn't pick up after yourself you lost your stuff. Sure, those were easy in the beginning.

Now that I have three teenagers, life looks a bit different, maybe even rigid to an outsider. Everyone must be up, showered and to the breakfast table by 8am. Some get up earlier and begin school lessons before breakfast, as he or she has the desire to be done with schoolwork prior to lunchtime. And, due to ages the kids have staggered bedtimes in the evening. We have specific rules about "screen times" too. We are trying to instill good habits in our children before they leave home.

We have routines for most everything in our home. Routines make life so much easier knowing everyhting can be done and we can head out for fun too! If you are trying to establish some routines are your house, remember not to try it all at once. Choose one thing and do it well. It takes 28 days to establish a new routine. Set your expectations on "realistic" mode not "idealistic" mode. You can find Joy in routines.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Joy of Serving

Today I spent the better part of my afternoon serving. Serving comes in many forms. Serving is something I like to do behind the scenes. I love serving in leadership, but I find Joy in serving my homeschool community. Today was a day of doing just that! I am currently working with (as a volunteer) Linda Oberg organzing the Tampa Bay Homeschool Conference & Expo. It is on February 6th, 2010 at the University Area Community Development Center. You can read all the up-to-date information on the Facebook page as well as the website above.

Finding Joy while serving others is one of those perks of serving. Sure doing laundry and getting dinner on the table is serving and sometimes a chore, but see it as a blessing that you can do this for your family. Serve with Joy!

As I said before, I enjoy serving my homeschool community. It wasn't so long ago that I had just completed my first book. I was travelling and speaking to numerous homeschool groups, conferences and book signings. It was a whirlwind of a year! But, I so enjoyed every moment of it! After that first few months of being gone more than being home, God spoke to me about serving my own homeschool community - the community where I live. I had served in leadership with the Pinellas Parent Educators Association for nearly six years. But God had another plan: moving us out of our beloved homeschool community to serve in another nearby area. God blessed me with the opportunity to serve once again in leadership with the South Hillsborough Christian Homeschoolers. Serving is an act of love. I don't know about you, but I find Joy in loving and being loved.

So think about finding a place of service, you will find Joy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Finding Joy in Fellowship

Saturday night is our night for attending our weekly church service. We attend a church full of people who love God and each other! We find Joy in fellowship with like-minded people, the people of our church: Impact Church.

Worshipping with others in song and praise fills my cup. I can't imagine not belonging to a church. God calls us to worship and fellowship. My prayer today is that you find just that place of fellowship with believers that God has for you. If you live in my area and want to check out Impact Church, I'd be glad to have you sit with me!

Friday, January 1, 2010

How do I find Joy?

There have been several seasons in my life when this question, or rather the answer to this question eluded me. Being a stay-at-home mom with three children can be lonely sometimes. Being a full-time grad student while homeschooling and serving on the board of directors for a homeschool group can be stressful. Being anything at any point in our lives can be lonely, hectic, fast-paced, wonderful and joyous. We use these words to describe the place we are in right at the moment. Looking back over the last twenty years of marriage, I can see the different seasons that could be described as everything from lonely to joyous. The times that were the most joy-filled were times when my "cup" was being "filled". These times also reflect the times when I was strengthening my walk with God.

I have spent the past year really seeking what "fills my cup". For me, this is seeking what God seeks to fill my cup. I have some very good friends that have been instrumental in helping me find what fills my cup. This past year I was blessed with the opportunity to hear Linda Werner speak about finding our purpose. (She could have been speaking on an entirely different topic, but this is certainly what I went away with: Leading with my strengths.) There are numerous books about this subject, but I found Strengths Finder 2.0 to be the best "fit" for my learning style. Through this book, or rather the quiz included in it, I was able to finally put into words what strengths God has equipped me with. I can now begin to see a connection with my strengths and how they go hand-in-hand with what fills my cup.

I will always be forever grateful to my friend Mary for helping me understand, process and continue to learn about my strengths and what it means to have my "cup filled." Everyone should be blessed with a friend as gracious and kind as Mary.

Another day I will explain in more detail my strengths, but today I am thinking more about how I find Joy, how my "cup is filled". Sure there are times when our cup is filled with temporary things. There are the "life" cup fillers too. Looking back again over the past twenty years of marriage I am compelled to see that my cup seems most full when I have been creative. Creativity is different for everyone. I find my creativity used when I scrapbook or when I am creating lesson plans or writing. Some days I need finished "product" other days I need to feel accomplished by the number of words I write. Each day is different and there are days when my cup is not completely full, but full enough that I can find Joy.

As I walk through learning more about each of my strengths I am finding stumbling blocks along the way as well. My personality or character is that of serving. My love language is acts of service. I want to do things for those that I love. I love to cook for my family. I love the art of keeping house and home. What I have to be careful of is thinking that it is my job to fill another person's cup. I have wrestled with this thought for many, many weeks. Of course we can see a need in our husband, child or friend and do what we can to help, nurture and listen. In the same token, we can't expect someone to fill our cup. It is ultimately our job to turn to the Lord. He is our ultimate cup filler. My prayer is that you find Joy each and every day.