A Long Overdue Post

Outside of family members, I doubt there are many people reading this long forgotten blog anymore! However, recently I was reminded of what a blessing it is to go back and read previous entries as a sort of family journal. Since I am prone to forget the mundane moments amidst everything going on, I am going to try and post a bit more frequently (it can't get much worse than a year, ha!). I even have an app now to make it easy to post from the iPad so we will see if that helps.

A little recap of our past year:

In the spring, we celebrated a wedding in the Herr family – Callie and Emma were thrilled to be flower girls!


We enjoyed a glorious summer living by our new pool. We absolutely loved it and all five of our kiddos turned into fish. If you ever need a good laugh, just ask me about what one of my children told severmy friends last summer.
In August, we started school back up. For the first time, all five kiddos are school age – 7th, 6th, 4th, 1st, and kindergarten (this might have something to do with my lack of posting). We absolutely love our homeschool group, Classical Conversations. Hailey has moved into the Challenge program and it has been a joy to see her excel and become self disciplined as she learns time management.

In September, Brian and I celebrated 14 wonderful years of marriage. I am incredibly blessed to have this guy as my husband.

In October, we took our annual OBX trip and had beautiful weather.

Later that month, Hailey turned 13! I am blessed to have this girl in my life. She is gifted in many areas, which include a servant's heart, diligence, abundant joy, and a desire to help out in any way she is able amidst a very full school load. She is a beauty, both inside and out!

 

In December, Sydney hit double digits! In our family, turning ten is the lucky number when you are allowed to get your ears pierced so we headed out for a mommy/daughter date on her birthday. This girl is a baby/kid magnet – she has a wonderful heart of compassion, gentleness, and love for all children and it is beautiful to see. What a joy to watch these kiddos grow up into big kids and see them use the gifts that Gid has given them.

That brings us to the current season: winter! Similarly to last year, I am surviving by enjoying my grapefruit, book reading by the fire, hot drinks, comfort food, candles, essential oils, and anything that helps to keep me warm!

I am all for the snow in the winter so the blizzard was very welcomed in our home! The kiddos spent a crazy amount of hours outside every day and thoroughly enjoyed building their massive igloo.
During the Super Bowl, we welcomed another addition to the Mellinger family! Another cousin for the kiddos and another nephew for us.

While life is full, there is nothing I would rather be doing than spending my days with these blessings …

And my evenings/weekends with this guy

 

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Life is Full … and New Books!

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Life is full of wonderful blessings, most of which include the love of my life and our darling children!  It is so easy to get busy amidst the chaos of life and not prioritize our time properly.  I want to look back on these days of having young children and homeschooling with gladness knowing that my time was well spent.  That being said, there were many times over the past several weeks where I would’ve loved to blog about school, field trips, birthdays, Thanksgiving, how we celebrate the Advent season, Christmas, our relaxing vacation over New Years in the OBX, etc.  However, I am well aware that blogging takes time.  Time away from something else.  Sometimes that is ok, but most of the time there is a little person asking me to read them a book, help them with their school work, “help” them bake a batch of muffins, or just spend time playing with them.  We live in a world where getting the undivided attention of a mom is easier said than done.  I want my children to know that they have my attention.  There will always be the never ending laundry, dishes, meals to make, house to clean, and school lessons to plan.  Not surprisingly, that doesn’t leave me with much spare time.  What little spare time I have usually finds me reading a book instead of blogging. 

I still enjoy blogging when I get bits of time, but it will likely continue to be incredibly sporadic around here!  Hopefully those of you who read this blog use some kind of blog reader so that you know when there are updates and aren’t checking in every day.  To the few who still read here, thanks for following along!

Since my book posts are often the most loved, I thought I would kick off the new year with a post highlighting some new favorites around here.

The Ashtown Burials Series by N.D. Wilson – A wild, action packed fantasy adventure filled with lost civilizations, ancient secrets, and buried treasure.  These are wonderful books to read aloud if your children can patiently wait for you to read to them! 

Andrea Carter Series (Circle C Adventures) by Susan K. Marlow – Hailey read this entire series on our vacation and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Twelve-year-old Andrea “Andi” Carter, who lives during the 1880s in California on her family’s ranch – the Circle C, attracts trouble the way her palomino horse, Taffy, draws flies on a hot summer day.  Andi is the type of girl that loves adventure, is curious about everything and always seems to get into trouble, despite her best efforts not to.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – This book has a captivating and unique story line with puzzles built into it that are filled with creative, engaging characters focused around 4 orphans who are exceptionally talented in their own ways.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks – An imaginative story about friendship and responsibility.

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry – A classic for horse lovers. 

The Kid from Tomkinsville by John R. Tunis – A great read, especially for boys who love baseball.

The Redcoats are Coming by Marianne Hering – Book #13 in the Imagination Station Series is the first of three books about the American Revolution.  In this book, the cousins meet Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.  A quick, engaging read that all ages will enjoy.

God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera – Captures the message of the gospel in a beautifully simple and engaging way.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – This is a current favorite of Callie and Emma’s, but all of the kiddos find this book hilarious (especially the peach crayon).  We are hoping that if we keep reading this book to Emma she will comprehend the proper way to treat crayons, ha!

I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn – Another favorite of the little girls right now.  A sweet story about a girl who has a favorite dress, outgrows it, and then her mom repurposes it so that she can continue to enjoy it and she learns to embrace change creatively.

God’s Providence by Sally Michael – We have enjoyed similar books (God’s Names and God’s Promises) and so we knew this would make a great devotional to use with the kiddos in the morning.  I often read this to the kids before we begin school as part of our Bible time together. 

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung – “A mercifully short book about a really big problem.”  As the subtitle mentions, we live in a world where being busy is the norm.  This book is filled with biblical tools to address the busyness problem.  No one is too busy to read this highly recommended short book!

Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breath by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson – This book offers hope amidst the sometimes mundane and exhausting work that moms experience.  Full of practical advice and wisdom to help you persevere and thrive as a mom to young children.  The two perspectives (Sarah Mae who is currently in this season of life, and Sally Clarkson who is beyond this season of life) bring a unique vantage point that is refreshing and encouraging.

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotion by Lysa TerKeurst – A funny and heartfelt book that will help you understand emotions and make wise decisions amidst those raw emotions.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield – An inspiring testimony and thought provoking read.

Not By Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith by Jon Bloom – Brian and I have been reading this together (well, I read aloud to him!) and have thoroughly been enjoying these short, faith building stories together in the morning.  His imaginative story telling brings fresh life to old stories in an engaging way that will build your faith.

And last, but not least … I have been reading the last book of the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson to the kiddos.  This book is technically not available yet, but because we were a kickstarter backer for the last book in the series, we received a PDF version of the book (before final editing).  However, it is only approximately the first half of the book, so pretty soon we will be waiting with everyone else for the conclusion!  Now is a great time to start this series because you will not have to wait long for the final book by the time you finish the first 3 books in the series!

Happy reading!  This time of the year is the perfect time to cuddle up on the sofa with a hot drink a good book!

Our Memory Master Girlie

As many of you already know, we are a part of a local Classical Conversations campus.  We concluded our year in April and this past week was memory master proofing.  For the 99% of you reading this, you are probably wondering “what is a Memory Master?”    Here is a brief description: “Memory Master” is an honor bestowed on Foundations students who have mastered all of the memory work during the twenty-four weeks of Foundations class.  This year we were on Cycle 1 (CC follows a 3 year cycle), so the facts memorized included topics from these 7 subjects:

-161 events and people in a chronological timeline, recited in order
-44 U.S. presidents
-24 history sentences, to add depth to our timeline
-120 geographic locations and features and the ability to locate each one – this year found in Africa, Europe, South America, and the Old World
-24 science facts (such as the classification of living things, each continents highest mountain, parts of the earth, parts of the atmosphere, etc.)
-5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions
-24 English grammar facts (including 53 prepositions, 23 helping verbs, and 12 linking verbs, plus the definitions of those parts of speech)
-Math multiplication tables up to 15×15, common squares and cubes, basic geometry formulas and unit conversions

This was no small feat!  Hailey was incredibly diligent throughout the year to memorize the new memory work each week and also spent much time over the last 2 weeks preparing for the big day when she would  need to recite (by memory, without prompts or help) all of the memory work.  Hailey first recited the information for me and then another adult (my mom) at home, then for a tutor on the day of testing, and then finally she had a “spot check” with the director of our campus before receiving the distinguished honor of becoming a Memory Master!  Put together that is over 400 pieces of information!  I’m pretty sure that I was more nervous for her than she was for herself, but we were both incredibly happy when she was finished. 

Particularly for those unfamiliar with a classical education, some of you might be wondering, “what’s the point of this?”  Yes, it teaches diligence, confidence, commitment, and hard work … but really, “what is the point?”  Leigh Bortins, founder of CC, answers this:

“Modern education scoffs at the first tool of learning – memorization. Why learn to memorize if you can just look it up? Isn’t critical thinking more important than rote facts? My response is, ‘What can I think critically about if I know no facts?’ I can offer only my opinion, my point of view. Yet shouldn’t truth play a factor? For the Christian, absolute truth exists. His story is unfolding. I want to know who did what, where, when, and why for Him. I want to see His creation revealed through science. I want His word to be a lamp unto my feet. That means I must acquire, nurture, and expand my ability to store information, words, and abstract ideas. I want to be able to repeat truth and think about how truth affects my life. This requires hard academic work – brain training – habits of character.”

We are incredibly proud of our girlie for working so hard!
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Hailey with her proof sheets completely filled in!
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new year, new books.

Every time I post about books I seem to hear from numerous people how much they enjoy it, so I thought listing some books that we are currently reading would be a great way to start the new year.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that we always have new books after Christmas!  Speaking of books, this week I had the opportunity to hear Andrew Pudewa speak at a seminar.  He is the founder of The Institute for Excellence in Writing and we have benefited tremendously from many of the materials they offer.  I heard him talk on the topic of Nurturing Competent Communicators.  You can download this talk (and numerous other resources) for free here on the IEW webpage after you create a free account.  It is outstanding.  He specifically talks about 1 myth and 2 truths: The myth – good readers will become good writers; the truths, which he says are the two most powerful ways to nurture competent writers — 1.  We must read good and great books (the classics) to them out loud, very often, even when they could read it themselves, and 2.  Have them memorize poetry, in large amounts.  He says that one of the biggest mistakes we make as parents is to stop reading aloud to our children when they reach the age of reading faster independently.  For a summary on this talk, you can read this 3 page document.  We read aloud every day, but I was encouraged to hear that the 2nd best alternative to reading aloud is to have children listen to audio books.  I am always amazed at how much even the younger kids love listening along with the big kids.  Although we have always memorized poetry each year, I am eager to increase the amount and length of the poems we memorize.  IEW has a wonderful supplement for this that is loved by many called Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization.  You can purchase the book alone, or the book/CD combo, which is perfect for while driving.  All that to say, it was encouraging and made me realize once again what some of my priorities are (especially on the days when I am ready to send the kids off to school)!

Moving onto books, here are some recent family favorites:

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Andrew Peterson – The Wingfeather Saga – There are currently 3 (of 4) books included in this fantasy saga.  We are long time fans of Andrew Peterson’s music and were excited to discover these novels.  Currently the books include On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, and The Monster in the Hollows.  The characters are wonderfully drawn and the storyline is epic.  These make a wonderful read aloud.

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Snow Treasure
– Both Hailey and Justin read this book in record time and couldn’t put it down!  This is a great story of courage and sacrifice.  For those unfamiliar with this book, it takes place in 1940 during WWII and tells the story of Norwegian children who risk their lives by hiding gold on their sleds and taking it to safety. 

Number the Stars – A classic from the same time period as Snow Treasure, this story tells the experience to life through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen, whose family harbors her best friend, Ellen Rosen, on the eve of the round-up and helps smuggle Ellen’s family out of the country.

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The Imagination Station: Challenge on the Hill of Fire – As I’ve mentioned before, this series is a favorite of the kiddos and book 10 came out just in time for Christmas!  This is a wonderful series for early readers as it exposes them to Christian values and historical events at the same time. 

The Farm Mystery Series – This is another series that I have mentioned in the past, but I thought I’d mention it again since book #10 was recently released.  This is one of Justin’s favorite series for his “fun reading” and he was thrilled to see that another book came out in the series.

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The Donkey Who Carried a King
– This is one of the most recent children’s books written by R.C. Sproul.  We enjoy his children’s books as they all use allegory to teach important Biblical truths.  In this book R.C. Sproul helps children understand that they should carry out every task in their lives without grumbling. He does it by telling the story of Davey, who was the Donkey that carried Christ into Jerusalem. Davey was overjoyed to have such a special task, but after taking Christ to Jerusalem Davey is put back to seemingly menial tasks for which he begins to grumble. Through a wonderful depiction of the servant’s heart that Christ displayed, this book teaches children to see the importance of doing every task without grumbling, but instead joyfully as though doing it for the Lord. 

The Barber Who Wanted to Pray – Another R.C. Sproul children’s book that is based on a true story about the great Reformer, Martin Luther, this story teaches powerful lessons on prayer for children and parents.

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Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing – From the author of the beloved Jesus Storybook Bible, this is a lovely collection of 101 simple-yet-profound thoughts on faith.  The readings are short, which make them perfect to read anytime!  We enjoy reading this book in the morning at breakfast for a short, yet helpful reminder as we start our day.

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy – This book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been an outstanding read!  As DeMoss says, “Gratitude is a choice.  If we fail to chose it, by default we choose ingratitude.”  I want to live my life filled with joy, thankfulness, and gratitude and this book has served me well.

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Sisters in Time: American Challenge – Hailey continues to thoroughly enjoy the Sisters in Time books.  These historical fiction books are filled with important lessons of Christian faith and history, making them a great option for spare time reading.

Wise Words: Family Stories that Bring the Proverbs to Life – The kiddos love the stories in this book!  They are funny, engaging, and thought-provoking.  The stories are short and only take about 5 minutes to read, which make them a great bedtime story or short family devotional.

Crystal Caves

Last week we went on a field trip to Crystal Cave in Kutztown, PA.  We watched a 15 minute video about the history of the cave, and then took a 45 minute tour through the cave.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the tour and we were able to learn and see some really neat things.  Thankfully, a dear friend watched Emma for me so that I could enjoy my time with the other 4 kiddos!  It also gave us a wonderful opportunity to talk about some of the science that we disagree with that was presented to us during the video and tour.  I love engaging with the kids and hearing their questions and thoughts. 

Here are some pictures from our time at the cave …

My cave explorers …
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One of the kids favorite parts about the tour was when they turned off all of the lights and it went completely black (as in, you couldn’t see your own hand 1 inch in front of your face)!  It was neat to imagine what it would have been like when the cave was being explored before they had lights throughout it.
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Some cool rock formations and cave corral.
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Callie was so excited to be in this picture!
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The kids were amazed at some of the cool rock formations …
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I have no idea what Callie is doing here, but at least they are all happy!
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We had a great time on this field trip!
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