Friday, October 25, 2013

A Fall Update

Here we are, in October, and isn't it the most wonderful time of year? I'm most definitely an Autumn lover, and we've been blessed this year with several weeks of wonderful, cool weather. What a blessing after a long, hot, muggy Mississippi summer.

Our little family seems to have been through so many changes in the last year, and the last month found us once again, moving. But not very far this time! We bought a little house about 10 miles down the road from the house we were renting, and have been moved in four about 6 weeks now. We are in love with our new homestead, and it really feels like home. A place where we could put down roots and raise our little brood, if the Lord so wills.

Our little house in the woods is just that--way back in the woods of Mississippi, away from traffic and, well, pretty much any other civilization. It is quiet and peaceful, and teeming with wildlife. We're so far off the beaten path that there is no internet access or cell phone service available. And after talking to our cell phone company, we learned there are not any plans of extending service to our little neck of the woods. Not enough people out there, they say.

So, we have learned to live without texting and Instagram and have gotten reacquainted with the ole practical and dependable landline phone service. Oh, Pinterest, how I long for thee! Seriously, though, it has been a blessing to not have these things pulling at me and constantly competing for my time. My house actually stays pretty tidy now!

Due to the move, we are only in our fourth week of schooling. It is going great so far! Emma has already blown through her entire book of Handwriting Without Tears and is making progress in her 100 Lessons. She is wired completely different than my older two children, who whizzed through two lessons a day. She is just as smart (maybe even smarter), but has a much shorter attention span, so we have to approach our learning a bit differently. I still have not ordered her any Math yet, mainly because I can't decide what to use. Any suggestions?

                                                  (Emma on her 5th birthday, August 14)

Grace and Elijah are both using Sonlight's Core C and absolutely love it! I could devote an entire post to this subject alone. But for now I will say it is working great for us so far. Grace is taking violin and had her first recital last month. She loves the violin. We are so proud of her!

Elijah is growing into such a big, responsible young man. He helps his Dad take care of the quail and chickens that we raise, and is really excited about getting hogs and goats. He loves to read and occupies his time with gathering crickets, frogs, and lizards for his Critter Collection (I draw the line at snakes. NO snakes.)

Josie is crawling around and "floating", getting into everything! I expect she will be walking within the next month. My baby is growing way too fast! Her personality is a lot more mellow than my other girls, and she is a steady-she-goes little girl, pretty much only fussy when something is really wrong, or Mama has delayed feeding time a little bit too long! Her smiles and giggles are the highlight of our days!

John loves it in the country, and it is the fulfillment of a long-time dream of his to have a place in the country where our roosters can crow and we can raise honeybees without disturbing and/or freaking out our neighbors. We love to sit out on our front porch and watch a mother deer and her twin fawns walk across the pasture in front of the house. You want to see a man's eyes light up, that will just about do it! 

I apologize for the long post, but it has been a long time in coming! I do miss blogging, and reading my favorite blogs. I feel like I am away from dear friends, as some of the blogs have become just that to me. Please, leave me a comment and let me know how your fall is going.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Amy, the Reluctant Canner

Last week, my Dad called to tell me that the corn he had planted for us at his house was ready to harvest. I have to tell ya, I haven't done much gardening in my life. My parents grow beautiful, lush produce, but I usually don't come in contact with it until it's sitting on the table. It's OK--go ahead and laugh!

Let's just say, this is an area I need to grow in, and this summer is providing plenty of opportunity for learning. A girl's gotta start somewhere, right? So...I'm a bit proud of the 9 quarts of green beans, 300 ears of corn, and 4 quarts of cut-off corn stocked up in my freezer and pantry. OK, OK,...John canned the beans, and Mom bagged 90% of the corn. But I DID cut-off and bag most of the second batch of corn. AND shucked the 300 ears (with the help of Dad and a friend). AND snapped the beans.


(Above--my cutie-pie shucking, bean-snapping helpers)

I think my main obstacle in this area is that I am not able to let go of my other household duties. I think the laundry must be done, the house must be clean, and the kitchen spotless before I begin such a task. And with 4 kiddos (including a 5 month old), this is pretty much impossible. The produce would probably sit and spoil before all the above actually happens! Breathe in, breathe out. Where is Mr. Miyagi when you need him?

So, dear canning, gardening ladies (Laurie @ South GA Mama and Rebecca @ Renaissance), please keep posting about your abundant gardens and your industrious canning. I desperately need the motivation and inspiration your work provides! You're my Super Gardening Supreme Canning Mama Heros!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Grace's "Cake Boss" 7th Birthday Party!

  Look at this girl! I can't believe she is 7 years old already (sniff). The clock seems to spin ever-faster with each passing year. Ok, enough with the sappiness! This smart, fun-loving, 7 year old gal happens to love browsing my Pinterest boards. So when she saw a pin of a "Cake Boss" themed birthday party, she GASPED (like only a 7 year girl can), covered her mouth with her hands, and squealed, "Please, please PLEASE can I have a party like that this year?" What's a Mom to say??

Lessons learned:
  1. Must be stronger against the whiles of 7 year old sweet girls.
  2. Must limit said 7 year old's access to Pinterest. Could be dangerous.
As you can see, she got what she asked for!

First, we served the little girls with little-girl favorites foods--chicken strips, chips, grapes, and fruit dip with grape punch (it was soo good, and cheap too--two cartons of Minute Maid Grape flavored fruit drink from Wal-Mart--at $1 each!), frozen overnight and set out to slush. Slurp!!

Next, we cleaned the food off the table for the second phase of the party--hat decorating. My talented, sweet Mama made these cute bakers' hats for the girls. We used multi-colored cupcake liners to make flowers with which we decorated their hats.

Then, the girls were itching to get down to business and decorate their cakes. I had pre-frosted a one-layer round cake for each girl to decorate and supplied bright, fun colored bags of icing ready to pipe. They also had sprinkles and pretty candy shapes to add to their creation.

(My niece, Erin, decorating her cake)

Gracie's friend Bree concentrating hard to get it just right!

They took it very seriously (note the concentration on her face).

My Mom made the aprons, as well, and a good friend of ours appliqued them for us. These were the girls' party favors.

The party was hit, and the girls had a blast! It was so much fun watching them enjoy themselves. Now...what will she ask for next year?!?


Here we are, mid-June already! It's nice to forgo the normal daily rigors of school for a little while, and concentrate on other things, maybe less important, but much more enjoyable. Such as new baby nieces (one born last week, Eva Annelise Cooper), summer camps, slip 'n' slides, garden harvests and ice cream :).


This will also be the Summer of The Great House Hunt for our family (kinda sounds like a Nancy Drew novel, doesn't it?). The hunt is on, and we have already spent a couple of warm evenings walking through non-air-conditioned houses and their grounds. Exciting, yes? Hope to have a new house to show off by the first of the school year.

We celebrated our first summer birthday this weekend, when Gracie-girl turns 7! Emma will turn 5 in August. I will officially have 3 kiddos in school all at once this year--yikes!

 Sadly, our sweet dog Chinook had to be put down this summer, after he ate something poisonous and became really sick. The children, and especially Elijah, took it really hard, which has put somewhat of a damper on their summer. Consequently, we are now in search of a new family dog.

  Otherwise, we plan to lay low and keep cool however we can. Low-key is the way to be! How are you spending your summer?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons

 Last week, I posted a picture of this book on my Instagram and got lots of questions and showing of interest in it. It was kinda hard to address all the aspects of this method on Instagram, so I thought it would be a good idea to blog about it. There are many, many reviews for this book out there, and I'm sure they are all much better than mine. Be as it may, here is my take on this book. 

I have used 100 Lessons to teach my 3 oldest children to read, and they have all excelled by it. Elijah and Grace are both advanced readers, and were reading chapter books very early. By chapter books I mean Gracie (6) reads American Girl and Junie B. Jones, lickety-split. Elijah (8) reads anything he can get his hands on. We used Story of The World for History this year and he just couldn't get enough during school time and had the whole thing read through before the year was half over. Emma (4) is only on lesson 58 and out of all of them, she has been the latest to use this book. By latest, I mean she is much older than the other two were when they were at this point in the process. With the move, the baby, and her bout with hearing loss, we have just kind of "flowed" with it this year. She is doing awesome with it, though, and absolutely loves it, sometimes doing 2 lessons in a day.

How it works: Basically, this book teaches reading using the Distar method, which teaches a
child the sound of a letter before they learn the name of the letter. With each lesson, the child is given sounds that he/she learns to read by touching under that letter with their finger and simultaneously saying the sound aloud.

They learn the sounds one at a time, and practice verbally blending the sounds together until they progress to more complex words. This example is probably around lesson 30-something, although I could not find it in my book, so I'm just guessing (I found the image via google). As the lessons progress, the words get longer and more complex and the stories also get longer. Starting around lesson 13, each lesson/story begins to have a corresponding picture which is used to evaluate and enhance the child's comprehension of what they are reading. Each lesson also gives a letter/sound-writing exercise at the end, so if your child has not yet started writing, they can also be introduced to it here. I always designate a notebook for this sole purpose and use a sharpie for creating tracing worksheets.

Note: All 3 of my kiddos knew their letters way before starting this book, so I have not really used it to teach the alphabet, per se, only to teach reading. But it can be used to teach letters, phonics, and the whole shabang from scratch.

 The parent/teacher's role: This book walks a parent through, step by step, literally giving you a script (in red writing), telling you what to say and when to say it. Does it possibly get any easier than that? By now, with the 3rd child, I basically ignore the script and do my own thing, but I remember the first time I used it I was so worried about messing up and did every little thing by the book.  About halfway through, you will be skipping all the detailed wordiness and running with it.

By the time your little Suzy finishes this book, she will be reading on a 2nd grade level. However, her learning-to-read journey is far from being over. There is still much to cover, as 100 lessons teaches the basic blends and punctuation. My oldest two were finished with this book by 4,  and so this gave them a huge, HUGE head start on reading. However, I used Abeka Phonics/Reading for 1st grade and it was very beneficial, although they were a little bored with the reading, as they were beyond the kiddos in their class video. But they benefited greatly from it and needed the reinforcement of phonics and rhythm, etc.

The book provides a list of suggested books to check out from your library and read when the book is completed. I don't remember anything dynamic about them, other than the fact that my kiddos were totally stoked that they could actually read a book they had checked out at the library.  

My recommendation: if you are going to use this book, I highly, and I stress highly recommend doing it before kindergarten. Being able to read fluently gives a child such a head start and will help them excel in every single subject.  I am not going to say it will be easy. There were days when it really was a struggle and they just did not want to do it when it started to get hard. BUT. I did not allow them to stop just because it got hard and I pushed them through it. With each of my children, there have been points when they were like the Little Engine That Could climbing a steep hill and then one day, they topped that hill and it got easier and the rest of the book was a downhill breeze for them.

There have also been times when we have had to back off and take a break for a few days, maybe even a week, before coming back to it with a fresh perspective. But believe me when I say, there is no greater reward than seeing your little boy's face beam with pride when he reads a whole story by himself.  Especially when you know you taught your child how to read. What an awesome thing to claim as a parent, as a Mom. Your child can read and YOU taught him!

However, if you choose to wait until they are a little older, that's fine, too. You know your child, and they just may not be ready until 6 or 7. I have also heard of people using this book when their child is in school and is struggling with learning to read in the classroom. If yours is in that situation, give it a go! It can't hurt to try! 

Remember, every child is different, and although mine have taken really well to this method, yours may have a totally different learning style and just not take to it.  Do not be dismayed! There is tons of great stuff out there, and the beauty of homeschooling is if one thing does not work, you are free to toss it out and try something else. Good luck on your reading journey!

p.s. Feel free to ask any questions you may have and I will do my best to answer them! 

p.p.s. I ordered my book from Amazon, and if you wish to do the same, please use the link below. I am an Amazon affiliate and if you purchase through this link I will get a (small) commission from that purchase. Thank you! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Surviving Postpartum
6 Simple Time-Saver Meals To Get You Through It

Having just came through the postpartum stage of Josie's birth (it feels good to be on the other side of that! Whoo-wee!), I have been looking back on the last 3 1/2 months and reflecting on how I actually made it to this point. There were days, y'all. Boy, there were days when I thought things would never be back to normal. Will I ever be able to wash a load of dishes, bathe a child or keep up with that mountain of laundry without having to take twenty-five breaks just to catch my breath?

Be encouraged, new Mama. Day by day, it does get better. It is slow-going, but God made our bodies to heal at the perfect pace. Although it is frustrating when you face the day-to-day demands of a home and family (and for some, even more demands outside of home), try not to rush yourself through this stage.

Interjection--I'm so thankful for my mother-in-law who came and spent two whole weeks with us to help with things when Josie was born. It was such a blessing! And my Mom, who popped in and out (still does) to do whatever she could to help.

For me, the most challenging part of the day during this stage was suppertime. 5:00 - 6:00 is, indeed, the witching hour. The big kids are hungry and underfoot, the baby is crying, the phone is ringing, and you're energy supply, even after 2 naps, has depleted. Hubby is due home from work at any minute. Even though my man was happy to come home and cook supper, without complaint--bless him--there were days when it did my morale good to have the accomplishment of a hot, delicious meal my family could enjoy.

 Here are 5 simple meals that are favorites of our family. They will not leave you with 5 dirty pots and pans to wash, or, um, leave to soak in the sink overnight and wash the next day. I advise using paper plates (recyclable, of course) as much as possible to contribute to the simplicity.

1. Loaded baked potatoes. Wrap in foil, bake for 30 minutes to an hour in the oven, or until a fork goes in easy. Add butter, sour cream, bacon bits (the real kind), cheese, and any other toppings you so desire. Your children will love you, your husband will kiss you. And look--there's nothing to wash except a few forks and the cheese grater!

2.  Biscuits & Sausage Gravy. Biscuits are a bit messy to assemble, so if you're not feeling up to it there is always (whisper) canned biscuits.Oh my. The healthy, natural Mama police are gonna get me! You can always go back to making those yummy homemade ones when your C-section scar is completely healed, MM-K? It only takes about 5 minutes to brown a package of ground sausage and 10 more to whip up some milk gravy to combine it with. Soo good. Makes really rich milk for your ninny baby, too. And don't worry, you'll burn off those extra calories while you're nursing.

3. Tacos.  Brown a pound of ground beef (or in our case, deer), and stuff your tortilla with all the fixin's. Only one dirty skillet to wash!

4. Fajitas. My family love, love, loves chicken fajitas. Just chop your meat up, and add in a package of fajita seasoning (or cumin, chilli powder, and paprika). With some fresh cilantro and desired toppings, you'll have a delicious, satisfying meal, lickety-split! Note--I love to cook my fajita meat in an electric skillet. It cooks super fast and always seems to have more flavor for some reason).

5. Crock-pot Colorado Burritos.  We live in the south, where the menfolk (and some womenfolk) take deer hunting very seriously. So we usually have quite the abundance of venison, in many forms--ground, chopped, and steak. You can use beef for this recipe, but if you have venison on hand, it cooks up so tender you'd never guess it's not beef steak. I don't actually use a recipe--I just chop up about 2 lbs of deer steak and throw it in the crockpot. Then I pour in one can of red enchilada sauce and cook on low until the steak is completely done (about one hour). Spread about 1/4 cup of meat and sauce into your burritos with a little shredded cheese and place in a casserole dish. Drizzle sauce and a little more shredded cheese over the top and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Serve with rice or corn on the cob. Really, they are so filling you don't need to serve much with it.

6. BLTs. We like our BLTs around here, and if you're needing to build up your milk content, this ought to do it! Bacon, a slice of tomato with salt and pepper, a pile of lettuce,  a smear of mayo on one slide of bread and on the other, the secret ingredient--peanut butter! Yes, you heard me right. I was raised on this combo and it no BLT is complete without some PB. Don't forget to toast that bread!

Why only 6 meals? Because the 7th days is Sunday around here for us, which means we go to Mama's to feast, go out to eat, or if we do stay home, clean out the fridge of leftovers from the week. However you do it, think simple is better! Simple meals leave more time to cuddle and enjoy your new little gift.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Training Self-Control In our Children


As we all know, just as soon as one speaks her opinion about things regarding a child's behavioral training, her children will be sure to show themselves royally to NOT possess that particular quality. Tongue in cheek. That being said, I shall charge forward with my eyes squeezed shut, because this bee has been buzzing in my bonnet for quite some time, demanding to be let out!  :)

One of the most important, and possibly THE most important, trait(s) that we can teach our children is self-discipline. I'm not talking about discipline, as in correction of bad behavior, but discipline as in self-control. As in, the ability to control or restrain oneself from one's self or one's actions. The ability to say, "Yes, I want to ____, but I shouldn't, so I am not gonna. No matter how bad I want to." The ability to sit, and wait, patiently, without complaining or demanding gratification. The ability to stand in line and wait one's turn without trampling over everyone else around you. These things go against the very nature of a child, which is to think of oneself before any and all others. It is ingrained in them. They are born with it. It is our job, as parents, to un-train this selfish impulsivness. Undisciplined children produce undisciplined, pouty adults. A pouting child may be cute, but take a gander at a pouty adult.

(Sorry--I couldn't resist). >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Now, I'm no Debi Pearl or Michelle Duggar. I am not there yet, and don't claim to be. But I have asked the Lord in prayer, over and over, for wisdom and an understanding heart in training my children. This, combined with having four children of my own, has lead me to realize some practical, day-to-day exercises to develop self-control in my children:
  • Do not appease or reward a child who is demanding you to do something for them. Please, Mama, do not grant the demand of a child, only their request. Isn't it much more pleasant to hear your child ask, "Will you peel my apple?" than, "Peel my apple!". Yikes! 
  • Teach them to wait. Who likes to wait? Not me! But it is a fact of life. We have to wait in line at the bank, the grocery store, the doctor's office (groan). Wouldn't it better to learn to wait patiently while one is young? We wouldn't have to deal with all the rudeness from the adults waiting along with us! The best way to teach a child to wait patiently, is to make them wait! The louder a child complains and/or whines about waiting, the longer they must wait. For example, you are washing dishes and your 3 year old wants you to peel an apple for her. It is tempting to dry your hands and get the task done and over with so as to appease your child, I know. But this is a wonderful opportunity to train her in self-control. Tell her, "Go get your stool and sit right here while Mama finishes washing all the glasses. Then I will peel your apple." If she whines and/or pouts while waiting, then take your time, and move on to the plates. Tell her, "Mamas do not peel apples for whiny little girls. Only for little girls who wait with a sweet smile." If she cheerfully sits and waits, then reward her with the apple, and maybe a couple of chocolate chips go with it, and lots of praise!  

  • Break their "Me First!" will. "So the last shall be first, and the first last..."(Matt 20:16) I quote this verse to my children often, probably daily. We have a little problem with our two eldest children racing to the van, trying to be the first to jump in the front seat, anytime we go anywhere. To discourage such selfishness, I have begun to put the person who gets there first in the very back of the van. And if child number two gets a "Na-na", attitude, they will join their sibling on the back bench! Another example: If there are several children who are waiting for a popsicle, and they are all yelling out their color of choice, explain that they must wait until they are asked which color they want, and refrain from yelling out of turn. Anyone who yells out of turn will get theirs, last. They may not get it the first time around, but after a few waits at the freezer door, it will begin to sink in :). 

 A note to grandparents: I have noticed that grandparents (Hi, Mom!) are the worst at dishing out instant self-gratification to children. I urge you, please think about what you are doing. Yes, I know grandparents are supposed to spoil their grandchildren, but what kind of child are you producing by doing so? The spoiled, ungrateful, demanding kind! Stop letting your grandchildren run you ragged and start teaching them some self-control!

  • Teach them daily habits.  Requiring your children to adhere to daily grooming and chore habits go a long way in teaching self-control. Brushing their teeth, getting dressed, and putting on their shoes before they go outside are good things to implement into their daily routine. If you allow your children to be lax in these things now, they will be much more so as adults. Who wants to see a grown man or woman grungeing around in stringy hair and pjs at 2:00 in the afternoon? Is speaks of lack of self-respect and self-control. Now, we all enjoy a slow, rainy day every now and then, but when there is absolutely no requirements for grooming, sloth will soon be at your door.
  • Undisciplined children will result in undisciplined Christians.  What we need more of in this day and hour, and the ones to come, are disciplined Christians. Disciplined in prayer, disciplined in studying the Word. Disciplined in saying "no" to sin. This, my friends, is the most serious reason to teach our children self-control. The best kind of soldier, is a disciplined soldier. Let's equip our little souls to be good little soldiers for our Lord. Get to work, Mama!

p.s. I hope you enjoyed the pics of these adorable little pouts! I sure enjoyed finding them! 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Enjoying the Newborn Days

Having a newborn has turned the Acklen household upside down, to say the very least.  This little bundle of squirming sweetness has thrown us all into an alter-universe of sleep-deprived fogginess. Just now, at the beginning of her 8th week, are we beginning to regain some sense of normalcy. A new normal, as a new baby tends to change everything, in a good way of course.

Josie's siblings are all absolutely crazy about her, and can't wait for the chance to hold her and fetch things for Mama. I never run out of extra arms to hold her in a pinch. A HUGE help, they are. The poor things has been going through a bit of a colicky spell for the last few weeks, but seems to be coming out of it. To the makers of Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water, I'd just like to take a moment to say...Thank You.

Josie has been a busy little bundle, meeting some very important people....

Josie and "BB", my grandmother, at 10 days old (Josie, not BB--Ha!)

With our Paw-Paw (her great-grandfather), the sweetest man on earth!
6 weeks

8 weeks old

Just this Sunday, already holding her head up while having some tummy-time on Papa's (my Dad's) chest. She is growing way too fast! 
First sibling pic!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Josie Amelia Is Here!

Hello, World!!!

She arrived yesterday (Friday, Jan 11) at 8:39 am, weighing in at 7 lbs, 1 oz, 18 in long. She is like a sweet little shortstack of pancakes :). Too precious for words. We are still in the hospital, where they are being very good to us. Hope to be back home by Monday. Here's a sweet little pic of Josie with a family friend, Mallary, who came to see us yesterday:

My parents brought the kiddos up to see her and they were over-the-top excited! The girls got to hold her, but Elijah had went on to run some errands with his Dad and when they returned, Josie had been whisked away to the nursery. So he did not get to hold her. The poor thing was very disappointed. While on said errand, Elijah asked his Dad to take him to buy me some flowers. He brought back a dozen pink roses, and two of my favorite candy bars. Just for his Mommy. I'm amazed at my kids sometimes....(tearing up). I mean, it just doesn't get much better than this, does it?

Yes, those are socks on her hands--someone forgot to bring mittens :).