Thursday, November 29, 2007

Belt Testing

Isaac and Maya had belt testing for Tae Kwon Do today and they did fabulous, I must say! The whole testing progress was very long. We were in the gym from 1:00-almost 4:00 this afternoon, but all the kids did very well sitting still and being patient.

Kyle, Pedro, and Grandpa showed up to see them test, so this was a very special day for them! After Maya's first rotation of skills, the instructor stopped to tell Maya he loved her hair. Funny. Threw off her concentration totally! But she did manage to do all the correct moves while grinning ear to ear.

I'm so proud of Isaac for getting his orange belt (3rd level) and Maya for achieving her yellow belt (2nd level). Any complimentary comments will be read to them. Hint, hint.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Joe Cool showed up in our kitchen this morning and took over the meal preparations. She said her name was Miss Leah Elizabeth and she spoke with a British accent. She explained that she was named after the hotel. How intriguing! I asked her which hotel she was named for; she said "the first one." Impressive! She walked with ladylike poise and grace.
After I thanked her profusely for humbling herself to serve in our kitchen, she explained that she was only showing the servants how to do it properly. She then went to each of her servants and gave them a job. Even the youngest were employed in filling the cooking pots.
When her majesty walked upstairs to change her attire, her loyal help rebelled!

One lone worker remained faithful to the task.

Maya, the ever-loyal Onion Lady

Monday, November 26, 2007

Logan's Call to Radio Station

I Love to Read, but. . .

I also love audiobooks! We use a lot of audiobooks in our schoolwork. We have listened to several books from our curriculum from mp3 files on the computer or CDs in the car. Currently we are listening to An Island Story and Burgess Animal Book for Children on Librivox. I have become a big fan of Librivox, an online provider of free audiobooks from the public domain. As a general rule, if it's a classic book, it's on Librivox.

Since I'm frugal to the core (I prefer the term "smart"), I also utilize my library for a lot of audiobooks on CD. Right now, we're listening to Farmer Boy on CD. We've listened to all the Little House books this way. We listened to Pinocchio, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Wind in the Willows while traveling. Listening to books in the car eliminates sibling bickering, and since they have nothing better to do, they love it!

Another gem I was recently introduced to is Old Time Radio Programs. "You Are There" is a fantastic program for teaching kids history. You can listen to a news reporter reporting events of history as they happen. Try the episode The Sailing of the Mayflower. After you try one you'll want to use the rest to supplement your history studies.

Back to Work

Now that the weather's getting colder, Halftime is over and school is back in full swing. This morning we did our Bible study, nature study, poetry, math, and phonics. Then we headed to the library to get a few videos. It rained for the past couple days so we're having video time in lieu of playing outside.
After lunch, the kids had rug time while I read "Understood Betsy" and "Pilgrim's Progress". (The big kids always ask for "just one more" chapter of Pilgrim's Progress, but I like to end with a cliffhanger, so they don't always get their wish! Better to keep them wanting more than to have them beg to stop - that's my theory.)
Back to rug time- I keep special toys for this purpose in our under-stairs closet. To be considered a rug time toy, it has to meet two criteria: it has to be something you can play with alone (although they rarely do!) and something you can play with quietly.

Isaac playing with gears

Daniel and Lydia playing with magnetic dress-up dolls. (LOVE these!)

Chloe was very proud of her doll creation.

When I finish reading a portion of the story, I pick a kid to narrate back to me. Most of them do very well at this when their hands are busy. It's amazing! Chloe does much better narrating through drawing (it's impressive the details she can remember if she draws out the story), so I've learned to make sure she's doing a mindless task on the rug. Otherwise, the whole story is lost on her. Figuring out everyone's learning style has helped me so much. Then I knew what skills I needed to work on with each of them!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The contest is ending soon!!!

If you want to be entered in the drawing, you still have a few more days! The drawing will take place on December 1, 2007.

To enter, click on the link on the right panel. Put "Book Contest" in the subject line.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Our Daily Doses

Someone left a comment recently asking what herbs we take on a daily basis. The answer is different for everyone in the family as our needs are different, but here's the rundown:

We all drink herbal tea on a regular basis. The kids drink Alfalfa Peppermint tea because Alfalfa is such a great blood purifier. It's also really good for the Liberians, because Alfalfa prevents tooth decay as well as rebuilds decayed/decaying teeth. The Peppermint leaf gives it good flavor. I let them have as much as they want. We sweeten it with raw honey.
Chloe and Lydia take bee pollen everyday. I mix a spoonful with an equal amount of raw honey. They think it's candy and beg for it. Bee pollen is good for strengthening the immune system against allergy symptoms.Chloe and I take Cod Liver Oil in maximum doses everyday. It would benefit all of us to take this, but Chloe and I need it the most to heal and prevent eczema. Cod Liver Oil contains both Omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, and is also an extremely good source of Vitamin D.
I drink Nettle Leaf tea everyday during the fall and spring for allergies, and I'm also currently taking Fenugreek Seed capsules to strengthen my lungs. (I have allergy-triggered asthma.)

Daniel and Isaac take Black Walnut Hull power everyday still to rid their bodies of parasites. I am still seeing positive changes in Daniel with this, so I'm not ready for him to stop taking it yet. Daniel's been taking Black Walnut for five weeks now, Isaac's been on it for 3 weeks.

I buy all my herbs here:
Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Traditions

This morning, Maya found this in her cereal, so she got to be the first to name three things she is most thankful for. Without hesitation she said: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (I expected this kind of answer from Isaac the Hollow Legged, so it was really funny to hear Maya say it.) After she heard herself say it out loud, she quickly changed her answer. Here are the Clark kids' thankful lists:


  • my new family
  • all the things Mommy & Daddy buy for me
  • Daddy has a job so we can buy all the things we need


  • my new brothers and sister
  • Mommy & Daddy
  • my house


  • I can run fast!
  • lots of food to eat (see, I told you!)
  • books Mommy reads to us


  • my baby dolls
  • my bed
  • I'm in this world.


  • brothers, sisters
  • Mom, Dad
  • water


  • my mom and dad
  • my food
  • my cars

I'm very grateful to have such thankful kids. I am so very blessed.

"Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting."~ Author Unknown

You say, "If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied." You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.~Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."~Colossians 3:15

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thou that hast given so much to me,

Give one thing more--a grateful heart:

Not thankful when it pleaseth me,

As if thy blessings had spare days,

But such a heart whose pulse may be
Thy Praise.

~~George Herbert 1593-1633
I pray that you will be blessed this week with the greatest gift of all - thankfulness.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Just the Girls

Kyle took the boys to a Father/Son Marshmallow Roast with the men from church. So I had a rare evening with just the girlies. We ate popcorn, painted each other's fingernails, and enjoyed kefir smoothies.
Lydia kept peeking over shoulders to see nails being painted. She would look and say, "You look boo-ti-sul!" and "You look so pwetty!"

Chloe more than once declared that she would never forget this night. The girls were talking about all the firsts Maya has to look forward to: Thanksgiving at Uncle Jay's house, Christmas at Aunt Kathryn's house, decorating our tree, walking through the Christmas village in our neighborhood, etc.
At one point Chloe put her arm around Maya, looked her in the eyes and said, "We're never taking you back. You're going to be with us forever!"

Anticipating the popping popcorn. Elena had her eyes closed, sniffing in the buttery goodness. Lydia was shocked to see how it happens.

Not all of us got our fingernails painted.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How We Got Here

As a family, we are not remotely who we thought we would be when we married. Kyle wanted three kids, I wanted four. (I guess we both got what we wanted!) I wanted to have our kids in a hospital with a strong epidural, not at home like those granola women! Education is one of many decisions that changed for us gradually.
I planned to work part-time while my kids were in private school. There are a lot of things we assumed we wouldn't do because, frankly, we didn't know enough about them. Private schooling is the norm among our friends. I knew about homeschooling, but figured that's how to grow nerds and geeks. Aren't all homeschoolers socially awkward at best?? Through meeting more home school families I learned that the children who were nerds were raised by nerds. It had less to do with homeschooling, than with genetics. (I'm being a little bit facetious, I hope you get that.)

One family that I really admired homeschooled their children. Their kids were very sweet, well-behaved and smart, but the thing that stood out to me was their relationship with each other. The siblings had such a close relationship; I was really impressed.
When I find out about some alternative way of doing things, I tend to research it and research it until I understand it. A lot of times, in the process of doing that, I begin to fall in the love with the concept. That's what happened for me with homeschooling. The mother of these impressive children gave me what she considered her homeschooling Bible: "A Charlotte Mason Companion" by Karen Andreola. I had never heard of Charlotte Mason and quite honestly the book overwhelmed me. I didn't read it all, but got the gist and liked it. I knew enough to know I definitely wanted to keep my kids home with me and home school them. In the middle of Elena's kindergarten year, I went back and re-read it. I loved the idea of giving our kids a broad base - a liberal arts education. I also loved the living book and narration concepts. I absolutely love to learn through reading, so I knew I could be passionate about teaching this way. If I don't enjoy teaching, my kids won't enjoy learning, and that was and is my ultimate goal. "A Charlotte Mason Companion" then became the guide for how we home school. At that point we began using Ambleside Online, a free curriculum designed to be as close as possible to the curriculum that Charlotte Mason used in her own schools.

I originally thought homeschooling was weird because I didn't know anything about it. So I learned all I could. There are 101 reasons why we home school. We want to be in charge of our kids' education - not just to know secondhand what they're learning, but to be the one's determining what they learn. We want be the ones to give our kids' a solid Biblical foundation. We want to vacation when everyone else is in school! And the reason that drew us to homeschooling initially: We want our children to have close friendships with their siblings. (As an experienced homeschooler, I now know that close sibling relationships is a fairly consistent characteristic among homeschooling families.)

Although we definitely aren't interested in sending our kids to public school so they can be missionaries (Jesus's ministry began when he was 30, not 6 years old), we do not home school out of fear of anything. We home school because of the benefits.

Herb of the Week - GSE

Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) is a must-have in our home. It's strong anti-bacterial properties make it very useful for a number of needs. When I discovered GSE, I stopped depending on antibiotics to get over Strep. Gargling with GSE and water will kill strep infection in the throat. Of course, it tastes awful so I prefer GSE capsules for all other applications.
You can find a comprehensive list of all the uses and benefits of GSE here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Homeschooling Holes

This question was recently asked of me and I thought it was a great question: "I wondered how you know that your children won't leave homeschooling with holes in their education?"

I first need to explain a little about how we home school. We follow the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, an educator who died in the early 1920s in England. She believed in learning through living books as opposed to textbooks. So, our curriculum has a very heavy literature base. On the right panel I have listed the books the kids are currently reading; it changes every couple of weeks. Apart from phonics, math, and classical music (which I didn't list there), that is our curriculum. That said, here is my explanation for overcoming the fear of "holes":

The goal of covering material for tests should not be allowed to get in the way of relations being made with God, man, and the universe during the early years of school life. Rather than feeling it is our duty to pass children through a system, it should be our duty to ask ourselves how our children can acquire knowledge. . . we accomplish this by letting the
children fill in the "holes."

Our knitting the net of subjects makes a sort of hammock: though it has holes, it will uplift and support its owner. While we knit, the children fill in the holes. By means of self-education they acquire genuine, long-lasting knowledge--the real stuff. [Public] education has become "a gigantic sausage machine--the pig going in at one end and coming out educated pork at the other." Are we all to learn a little about all the same things, for example, and express the same opinion of them?

We owe it to our children to stimulate in them a wide range of interests in their elementary years. It should not be "How much has our child covered?" but "How much does he
care?" and "About how many things does he care?" The children go beyond just becoming interested in someone or something. They develop a deeper understanding --a greater appreciation--when relations are formed.

~"A Charlotte Mason Companion" by Karen Andreola, pg. 36-37

I don't know about you, but through my public and private education I developed very little interest in the subjects I was learning. I memorized what I was told to learn and spit it back out on a multiple choice test. W.B. Yeats said:

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.

This is my hope for our home school. Rather than love of learning, what I learned in my years in school was how to cram. I left school with plenty of holes and I'm confident my kids will as well. My goal is that they love knowledge and learn how to learn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's Lego Day

In general, I am not a fan of toys with lots of pieces. We've never had puzzles for too long or Duplo blocks because the pieces would get scattered, end up under couches, and weren't played with correctly anyway. Now my kids are older. They know how to play with these toys and more importantly, they know how to pick up after themselves.
Today, after putting the babies down for naps, I brought down the bucket of Legos from the top shelf of the game closet. (Now you get how anal I am about these things.) All five of the big kids played on the rug for well over an hour (don't be fooled, Pedro was playing, not helping). They had a blast!

Moral: If you withhold from your kids most of the time, you can rise to World's Greatest Mom status in a single afternoon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New & Improved Blogger

Blogger is finally allowing comments from non-Google account holders. You no longer have to post as anonymous and you don't have to login if you don't want to. Just select "Other" and type in your name. This will make commenting much easier. Add your blog address to your comment if you want me to find you!

Developmental Ages

I have learned a lot in the last few years about the difference between a child's chronological age and their developmental age. It has everything to do with how they should be treated.

Case A: Pedro will be 20 in December, but his emotional maturity is more like that of a 14-15 year old. He has matured a lot since he joined our family. Back then (when he was 17) I remember telling Kyle that he's more on the level of a 12-13 year old. Now, I'm not talking about his intelligence. He was public schooled, so he's definitely lacking in common sense, but I'll avoid that soapbox for now. Maturity, not smarts, is what I'm talking about. The reason for the gap is his upbringing. He wasn't raised in a normal family. He had none of the benefits we take for granted. He has only had a father for the past 2 years. If you understand the importance of a father in a child's life - that says a lot. There was no one to show him how to be a man, how to have a work ethic, why you should be honest, how to manage money, what is and is not ok to say aloud, I could go on.
We have several people in our life who don't get it when we jokingly say that Pedro wants to live with us until he's 35. We are bragging when we say that. To us, it means he loves us. He isn't a leech or a mooch; he's a boy who needs a family.
Case B: Daniel is 3 1/2 years old. Developmentally, he's about 2 1/2 - the same age as Lydia. Although his speech is more articulate than hers, his thoughts are very similar to hers. Physically, he is age-appropriate and in some ways advanced. He can do a lot of things other 3 year olds cannot. On the other hand, he isn't remotely ready to potty train and I'm ok with that. Emotionally, he needs more mothering and more attention than other 3 year olds. Can you guess why?
Case C: Maya is 9 years old (she could actually be 10, but we're sticking with 9 because honestly, it means we have more time with her). Developmentally, she's on par with Elena who's 16 months her junior. Most of Maya's delays simply have to do with lack of opportunity. She is just learning to read and do addition. She has learned fairly quickly, but will not be caught up for quite awhile. A surprising blessing is Maya's innocence. Considering that she was raised in the middle of the horrific Liberian civil war, she is very pure of heart. Example: In the movie, Love Comes Softly, the girl asks her pregnant mother how the baby got in her tummy. Maya yelled to the screen, while rolling her eyes: "God put the baby in the mommy!"

It is very hard for me to treat my kids according to their development, instead of their age. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the discrepancy. Pedro looks like an adult. I want to treat him like an adult. I've found more success in talking to him like I would a boy in jr. high. That's how he thinks. He only bought a car when he was 18 because we kept telling him that he should want one. He didn't.

I'm learning.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Very Best Kids' Music!

All the songs are directly from scripture. We all love the music and we're all learning a lot of Bible verses as a result. Check out Seeds Family Worship.

Today's Mommy Encouragement

If I focus on the things I'm not getting because I'm serving my
family, and then I'm told I urgently "need" those things, I might easily become embittered against the very people God has called me to sacrificially love and serve. If I strive for a "me-centered" life while I am surrounded by a family who needs me, then I will find myself frustrated and desperate indeed.
Some days are draining, but we need to let Jesus be the satisfier of our souls. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, pg. 59

This reminds me of a song my girls were singing today: "So whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Ohh - ohhh. . ." If God is our provider, we can trust Him to provide everything we need - including down-time or time to ourselves. In the meantime, let's glorify God in our mothering, by focusing on our family's needs, instead of our own.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Liddy Bitty has just entered into a really adorable stage. She is very expressive and she's also talking a lot more. The entertaining thing is, she speaks with perfect grammar most of the time. I'll ask: "Are you thirsty, Lydia?" and she'll reply: "Yes, I am thirsty" or she'll say, "Yes, I do" in response to: "Do you need your cup?" I think it's so funny how she always says "yes", never "yea". Isaac and Maya are punished with push-ups anytime they answer "yea" (instead of "yes sir") to their karate instructor. They've decided to carry that rule out at home as well. Perhaps Lydia speaks so properly to avoid a work-out!

This night, like many others, Lydia provided the entertainment during dinner. There's nothing better than getting everyone laughing at you, as far as she's concerned. After dinner, the kids put on some music so we could "Praise the Lord", which to them means dancing around the living room to praise and worship music. Lydia wants to dance too, but she doesn't want to embarrass herself, so she comes to me and asks: "Mama, you hold me up and dance!" This happens on a regular basis. I love my little dance partner.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Herb of the Week - Horehound

This is one of our favorites. Horehound Extract is our anti-ear infection herb of choice. My kids have never needed an antibiotic for ear infections because of Horehound. Research shows that the recurrence of ear infections increases significantly (80% from what I remember) the earlier antibiotics are given, so avoiding antibiotics is important to us. Horehound strengthens the lungs and acts as an expectorant, so it also makes hacking coughs productive, which everyone seems to have right now.
Horehound Blend by 'Herbs for Kids' is our favorite brand as it is an alcohol-free tincture. I give the babies 1 dropperful, and the bigger kids get 2 droppersful. Lydia actually loves the flavor of it! I think it tastes like licorice.

Friday, November 9, 2007

In Honor of Adoption Awareness Month

Here are 8 Great Reasons . . .

Note: If you are an adoptive parent, please leave a comment.

Junior Chefs

Last night, Migas (breakfast burritos) was on the menu and Elena and Chloe made the whole thing, start to finish. I played the part of kitchen supervisor; I was very careful to keep my hands off. It started when Elena asked if she could brown the sausage. Normally this is Isaac's job, but since my nephew Max is here for the day, I wanted Isaac to stay with him. Elena and Chloe were so proud of themselves.

Although all the big kids generally help in the kitchen, they each have at least one special job. Maya is known as "The Onion Lady", Isaac is "The Can Man" and also responsible for browning meat of any kind. Chloe is in charge of eggs, and she's also my spice girl. Elena usually chops the bell peppers and potatoes. They love putting on their aprons and helping out in the kitchen. One day, I didn't announce that it was dinner-making time and just started chopping vegetables. You should have seen their hurt faces. I haven't done that since.