Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Wedding and Time With Family

Last week, Grace and I traveled to Clinton, LA for the wedding of some friends in my dad's church. It was a beautiful, simple, and meaningful ceremony of two people who are committed to loving each other and ministering to each other for the rest of their lives. So special.

Here's a picture of the wedding cake. Heather wanted a cascade of daisies falling down her cake.


For the groom’s table, I made a cake ball display.  The flavors were White Chocolate Coconut, Double Dark Chocolate, and Chocolate-Covered Strawberry.  So yummy and easy for people to pick up!


But the best part of the week was meeting my sweet nephew Jake for the first time!  I know I’m slightly biased, but he is the cutest and happiest and most perfect little 10-month-old boy EVER!  For this pic, I was sitting in the front seat of our car.  I turned around and asked Jake to smile for the camera.  He immediately pulled out his pacifier and gave me the biggest smile.  What a sweet boy!


Vincent and Grace enjoyed every minute together.  I know I’m still slightly biased, but you would be hard-pressed to find cousins who played together so sweetly.  No fighting, yelling, screaming, or inappropriate behavior at all.  They shared toys and games without being told, helped each other, and loved on each other all weekend! 



What a complete joy it is to visit with my brother’s family!  I only wish we could do it more often.  I’ll end this post with another pic of Baby Jake!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reflections on a Year of Homeschool

What a blessing this year has been!  I look back and I’m so thankful that God led us to the decision to homeschool Grace for kindergarten. 

This time last year, we were agonizing over what direction we wanted to take for her education.  Public school, private school, charter school, or homeschool?  We finally narrowed it down to two…charter school or homeschool.  The charter school fills up very quickly and in order for Grace to get in, her lottery number had to be drawn.  God’s hand was evident in the circumstance that she was drawn very late.  No chance to get in.

The fact that she didn’t get in the charter school gave me confidence that God wanted us to homeschool.  Homeschooling is where my heart was, and I’m so glad that her lottery number was not drawn because then I would have been really confused! 

I bought my curriculum and set up our little schoolroom.  From the very beginning, Grace has loved it.  I was worried at first because the curriculum was challenging and there were times of frustration…especially during the phonics lessons.  But we kept going, full steam ahead, and God has rewarded our efforts!  She is reading independently and soaking new books up like a sponge.  What a joy it is to see her take delight in written word!  It is truly magical when the light comes on and a child begins to read.  I am so honored to be the one to see it happen!

We also love the extra time that homeschooling has given me to teach Bible lessons, catechism, cooking, household duties, and just enjoy being together!  We have the freedom to visit the zoo, children’s museum, community events, and parks during non-peak hours.  Grace can watch me manage our household, learning how to plan and shop for the things we need.  She helps me clip coupons and is learning how to save money.  Much of this would not have been possible if she were in school 8-3 every day!

And we have loved being a part of the Travis Academy of Fine Arts (TAFA).  What an amazing program this is for homeschool students!  I have met some very wise and dedicated home educators that have been inspirational and encouraging to me this year.  Grace has loved making new friends and learning ballet!  We already have her registered for ballet, art, and drama next year.


I wouldn’t change our decision to homeschool for anything.  It feels so good to see how God has blessed our efforts.  He leads us through the times of frustration…when I thought she’d never learn the difference between a short vowel and a long vowel…to days where she begs to have school, even on weekends! 

I can’t wait to see what adventures are awaiting us in 1st grade!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

21 Rules of This House – Rule #2

If you are recently joining me on this series, here’s a link to all 21 Rules.  And here are my thoughts on Rule #1

Rule #2 – We love, honor, and pray for one another.

This one is huge.  Basically, the first two rules are the foundation of all that follows.  We love God (Rule #1), and we love others (Rule #2). 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

I guess the first thing to point out is that Rule #2 is about others.  Not ourselves.  It’s a hard concept to explain in our self-obsessed society.  Instead of worrying about what others do or don’t do to make us “happy”, we should strive to put others first by looking for ways to serve each other. 

Can you imagine what a home would be like where every family member looked for ways to show love and serve?  Where we always showed respect and consideration, and prayed faithfully for each other? 

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  James 5:16

Webster’s Dictionary defines honor as:  “to regard or treat someone with admiration and respect.”  From a young age, we should be teaching our children to treat family members in this way.  Not just parents and other adults…but siblings as well. 

We should strive to make our home a haven from the world…a place where we speak kindly to each other, consider each other’s needs, and look for ways to show love.  What a wonderful legacy to leave our children!

Here are some practical suggestions for how to implement Rule #2:

  • Insist that everyone (including parents) speak to each other kindly and respectfully.
  • Nix the sarcasm.  Especially the kind that is belittles others.  (I’m surprised lightening didn’t strike when I typed this…I need to work on it.)
  • Share prayer requests with each other during family devotionals and/or mealtimes.  Pray together.  Consider helping your kids keep a prayer journal.
  • Recognize and reinforce kindness.
  • When we sin against each other, apologize and show forgiveness.
  • Don’t hold grudges. (Second lightening strike.)
  • This one is OH SO IMPORTANT, and it’s for parents:  Don’t discipline in anger.  Discipline in love.  Anger and indignation have no place in a discipline situation.  Take a minute…pray…then come back and handle things calmly. 
  • Make a game out of doing kind things for each other.  Secretly do something nice, then have fun guessing who did what!
  • And, finally…express your love to each other.  For some people this is easy.  For some people it’s very difficult.  The bottom line is we need to hear the words “I love you.”  Children, especially, need to hear these words from their parents.  Just because you say it a lot doesn’t make it mean any less!

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this post!  The first two rules are pretty heavy.  Really, if we truly understood and obeyed the first two rules, there would be no need for Rules #3-21!

Why I Haven’t Blogged Lately

The past couple of weeks have been pretty full, and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been up to! 

My mom came to visit, and like we do every time she comes, we crammed our days with shopping, crafting, and redecorating.  What started with, “Will you help me paint the family room?” ended up with complete makeovers in five rooms of our house! 

Ever since Todd and I got married in 1996, I have enjoyed rich jewel tones and autumn-y colors.  My kitchen was a deep purple and dark green.  My family room was dark green, brown, and burgundy.  My living room and dining room was brown and burgundy.  My bedroom was gold and dark green and burgundy.  See a pattern?  After almost 15 years, I came to the conclusion that I am TIRED of fall colors. 

I wanted to brighten everything up!

I got an awesome set of new dishes for my birthday…


So now my kitchen is teal and green!


I sewed new drapery and mom reupholstered my chairs.

Then…I painted my family room light blue.

makeover 3

And got a bright, happy new picture for the fireplace.


I hung new drapery in a pretty green for the living and dining area, but you will have to use your imagination because right now it is a homeschool/craft room/sewing room/playroom/piano lesson room…warzone.

But what I am most excited about is our bedroom makeover.  Before, I had an eclectic mix of hand-me-down furniture and dark colors.  Now, I have this.

makeover 1

It is so restful and peaceful!  We painted the walls a silvery gray.  I changed the bedding to all white with black/white/green accents.  A new headboard and picture pulled the look together. 

We painted all the furniture black and added new hardware.  I think it looks brand-new!

makeover 2

Thanks, mom, for all your help the past two weeks! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

21 Rules of This House – Rule #1

Thanks for all the feedback via my blog, Facebook, and e-mail.  It looks like a lot of you share my interest in Gregg Harris’s 21 Rules of This House!  My husband already publically committed to work on following #14-19, bless his heart.  He’s not the only one…I struggle as well.  My prayer is that by working through these rules, we will be on the road to a happier and more peaceful home!

Rule #1 – We obey God.

I love that the first rule is the foundation on which the other 20 rules are written, as well as the foundation of the first four 10 Commandments.  In order to obey God, we must acknowledge God as our creator.  He made us and is the author of our life. 

“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” Rev. 4:11

In His great mercy, He takes care of us.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:6

This doesn’t mean that we only love and obey God when things are going our way.  God does not promise that our lives will be free of trials!  This is what He promises:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

How can we NOT want to love and obey God when He gives us the gift of eternal life?  Even though we don’t deserve it!  The hardships of this life are but a moment in the expanse of eternity.  {Lord, help me remember this.}

Because of these truths, we should have a heart that seeks to understand God and obey Him more every day.  It’s a whole new way of thinking!  Everything we do, say…how we act, speak…what we spend our time doing…how we spend our money…our WHOLE LIVES should be lived in a way that seeks to obey God simply because we love Him and are thankful for the gift of eternal life. 

When we shift our way of living from how to please ourselves to how to please God, it gives us great freedom AND happiness!  Instead of being slaves to our own sinful desires, we can finally love others, forgive others, experience contentment, and have true joy in Christ.  It is the journey of the Christian life…and it always ends with the joy of eternal life with Christ.

Practically speaking, here are some ideas of how we can implement this rule in the home:

  • Read the Bible.  Read the teachings of Jesus, read Proverbs, do a word study on the word “obey.”  There are some great examples in the Old Testament of kings of Israel who did not obey God…and the destruction that followed.  Conversely, there were kings who did obey God…and were blessed.
  • Have a regular time of family devotions.  What better way for our kids to learn how to love and obey God?  When we spend time outside of church studying Scripture, it communicates to our kids how important God’s truths are! 
  • Think before we speak/act. (“What does God teach about this?  How would God have me respond?”)
  • Make obeying God part of our conversation.  Talk out loud with our kids about different choices and which choices are obedient to God.
  • Post these things around the house:  10 Commandments, verses that talk about obeying God (Acts 5:29, Rom. 6:17, Heb. 5:9, etc.), 21 Rules of This House.

Thanks for following along.  I would LOVE to hear from you!  Perhaps you have comments, questions, or additional ideas about how to implement this rule in your home.  I welcome all feedback!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

21 Rules of This House

A while back, I attended a small group fellowship for young families in my dad’s church.  My dad, as pastor, was working through Gregg Harris’s 21 Rules of This House.  I was struck by the wisdom and simplicity of the rules.  They just make sense.  This list was posted on the refrigerator when I was a kid, and the lessons have stuck in many ways.  I’d like them to stick in more ways!

I decided at that time to work through the rules on my blog.  I want to do this to expose people that might not otherwise have seen them, but also to work through them for my own family’s benefit!  All comments and feedback are welcomed from anyone who wants to follow along with me!

Of course, it’s important to remember that the ultimate rules for living come from the 10 Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ, but these 21 simple rules are a practical application of how we are taught to live in Scripture. 

What I would like to do is take one rule per week and just give my thoughts on how to apply it to the home.  I want to correlate it with the 10 Commandments and other verses in the Bible.  I want to share how Todd and I plan to teach the rule in our home.

Without further ado….here are the 21 Rules of This House!

1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another's interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept
the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy 6th Birthday Grace!


I can’t believe our sweet girl is six years old today.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were opening jars of baby food and lugging around a diaper bag?  What a joy these years have been.  What a joy Grace is to us!

We celebrated today with a simple dinner at home with friends and family.  Dad grilled burgers and hot dogs while mom and I fixed some baked beans and chips and dips.  We had a Hello Kitty strawberry cake for dessert!  The Towns’ joined us….Will and Grace played together the whole time.


For months, Grace has been asking for an hourglass.  Weird, I know, but she was SO excited to receive one of her very own tonight.  She sits and just stares at it!


She was also excited about getting a Crayon Maker.  Kudos to Crayola’s marketing campaign for making every kid who watches PBS Kids want one for Christmas.  Todd found the last one in Fort Worth!


Grace, your daddy and I love you for so many reasons.  We love your sweet and gentle spirit.  We love your eagerness to learn new things.  We love what a good helper you are around the house and to others.  We love to watch you dance and sing.  We love to hear you talk about Jesus.  We love playing games with you.  We love that God gave you to us after so many years of asking for a child of our own.  How thankful we are for you, dear daughter!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Night On The Town


This weekend we had an awesome family outing in downtown Fort Worth. We ate an early dinner at Uno Chicago Grill. It was delicious and the first time for me to taste Chicago-style pizza.

Next we walked around downtown and enjoyed the huge Christmas tree and all the beautiful lights. There was a band playing Christmas tunes in the square, and we let Grace visit with Santa.

We wandered around a huge Barnes and Noble bookstore and finished our holiday shopping, then we headed to Bass Hall for the annual production of The Nutcracker. Due to a generous gift, we scored box seats on the first tier! We felt very high class with a private waiting room and beverage service. Grace had a clear, close, unobstructed view of the stage. She loved every minute of it! The production was AMAZING, and the ballet dancers were incredible. It was so fun to watch her face as she gazed in awe at the show. During intermission she entertained the other couple who shared our box by trying to imitate some of the ballet moves she had observed. So precious.

After the show, we capped off the evening at Starbucks and went home happy. It was an amazing night, and we are so thankful that we were able to have such a fun holiday outing. We hope to make The Nutcracker ballet an annual family tradition!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homeschool Update

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I have updated this blog!  Check out my Cakes By Joanna blog to see why I’ve been so busy!

My days are very full, and I love it.  Our mornings are spent in school, and our afternoons are spent doing household chores, baking cakes, visiting with friends, and field trips. 

Homeschool is going great!  We love it so much.  I thought by now the newness would wear off, and Grace would start to get bored or frustrated.  Just the opposite has happened…she begs me to do school on Saturdays, Sundays, and any day I decide to take off! 

The kindergarten curriculum I’m using moves fairly quickly, and I’m pleased that Grace is keeping up!  We are working on phonic blends and basic grammar rules.  She is slowly learning to read on her own!  I love to see her take an interest in all the words around her…on road signs, billboards, books, etc.  She is so proud of herself when she sounds out new words she has never read before! 

She is also making good progress on her scripture memorization and catechism.  I love that she does not consider this a burden, but she enjoys showing others what she has learned.  My prayer is that the words she learns will be hidden in her heart for her whole life.

Naturally, there have been moments of drama in our school days…especially when we learn a new concept.  But I will say that she is learning to calm her emotions and simply try again when she becomes frustrated.  What I DON’T want her to do is give up.  In my opinion, it’s a more valuable lesson than what she is learning!

Slowly, she is gaining confidence and growing.  We are so proud of her!  I am so thankful to be able to teach her, and I do not take it for granted. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You Know You’ve Watched Too Much Food Network TV When….

…during Bible-time, your five-year-old describes how Ruth made bread from the grain she gleaned in Boaz’s field by “putting flour in a bowl and stirring in some milk and a clove of garlic.”

Emeril would be proud.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Joys of Homeschooling

Words cannot express how thankful I am to be a homeschool mom.  I realize that we are still in somewhat of the honeymoon stage…we’ve only been going for three weeks.  But, for Grace, there is NO doubt in our minds that we have made the right decision to keep her home with me.

Every morning she wakes up and eagerly asks what we will learn today.  She loves all the attention she is getting during our mornings together. 

Granted, there have been times of stress.  Even tears.  But I use it as a learning opportunity for her.  And me.  When she gets frustrated because she can’t do or understand something, I don’t let her give up.  We just try a different approach and she eventually learns that she CAN learn.  And she learns perseverance.  Then we take a break and do crafts.  Ha!

For Grace, this is a challenging curriculum.  I’m having to read and research different ways to teach some of the phonetic activities.  But, despite the fact that she struggles at times, she really wants to learn and is so excited when things start to connect in her brain. 

Today was so sweet.  When we finished our daily lessons, I went in the kitchen to make lunch.  I heard her in the school room pretending to teach a phonics lesson to another student.  She went through the whole lesson and all the activities we did today, pretending to be the teacher.  She even gave her imaginary student stickers and lots of verbal encouragement, “Great job, sweetie!”, etc.  My heart just melted and I knew today that we made the right decision for her.

I can only pray that she will continue to grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.  Being her teacher is a great responsibility that I take very seriously.  It’s also a great joy!  All those months of agonizing over our decision of the direction we wanted to go with her education have been put to rest. 

Wedding Cake

wedding cake 2

This past weekend was the wedding of a special friend from high school.  She asked me to make her wedding cake, and I eagerly took the challenge.  Thankfully, she knew exactly what she wanted…and she is nowhere close to a bridezilla.  So sweet.

Doing a wedding cake is so much more stressful than a birthday or shower cake.  The whole time I was decorating it, I was thinking that these pictures will be saved and looked at for generations to come.  I mean, my wedding album gets looked at pretty regularly since I leave it sitting out in my living room. 

I considered calling my doctor and asking for an anxiety pill.  Then I thought if I felt like I needed drugs to get through a job, maybe it was not the thing for me.  So I stayed in a continual state of prayer…l literally prayed without ceasing.

Anyway, there were a few scary moments, particularly during transport, but God is good and it all turned out well in the end.  When I saw the final product, watched the beautiful bride cut into the cake, and saw how much the guests enjoyed eating it, all the stress was worth it! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Day of Kindergarten


Grace’s much-anticipated first day of kindergarten finally arrived!  We have been literally counting down the days, marking them off our wall calendar.  I really had NO idea what to expect the first day, but it was great!  When we wrapped things up before lunch, she grabbed my arm and said, “Mommy, can we do this every day?  Please?”  Mission accomplished.

I know it won’t be sunshine and roses all the time.  There will be challenges.  We had a small one today.  But, I can already tell homeschool is going to be a wonderful experience for us both.  I am so thankful to be ABLE to do this.  I am so thankful for a husband who WANTS me to do this.  I am so thankful for a daughter who BEGS me to do this.  I am so thankful.

Many of you have asked what our typical day looks like.  We’ve only just started, and I’m sure it will evolve as we work out the kinks, but I’ll share what has worked for us so far.

I get up at 7:00 and exercise for about 45 minutes.  Grace usually wakes up between 7:30-8:00.  We eat breakfast and get dressed/ready for the day.  Grace meets me in the schoolroom to start at 9:00.  I like to start with Bible time.  We work through a simple devotional together.  Next I like to practice memory work with catechism and  Bible verses.  We finish with a short prayer time, asking God to bless our learning.

Next we have our calendar time where we learn the current day, date, year, etc.  We check the weather and record the forecast.  We post our letter, number, shape, and color of the day.  We keep track of how many days we have been in school, learning place value.  Calendar time takes about 10 minutes.

Next we move to phonics.  The curriculum I’m using has daily lessons with corresponding activities and worksheets.  We’ve been spending about 45 minutes on these lessons.  It’s a lot of oral practice and auditory learning.  I save the writing component for later.

Next we change gears and do math activities.  The curriculum is very hands-on, using manipulatives and games.  This is a great way to break up the more stressful phonics/language arts activities.  Math is Grace’s favorite part of the day!

Now that she’s had a break with math, we go back to writing.  We use dry erase boards and worksheets to practice the letters we have learned. 

Since writing can sometimes be frustrating for her, I like to move into a fun craft activity next.  I try to mix it up and use different materials every day. 

We end our school day by reading books together for a while.  Sometimes we might play an educational game.

All together, our kindergarten day takes 2 1/2 - 3 hours.  We finish before lunch! 

I love that we have our afternoons free to do other things.  Yesterday we attended orientation for her new ballet class, which begins next week.  Today we went to the science museum and played for a couple of hours.

I’m very happy with our schedule and I’m excited to see what this year has in store for both of us!

How To Make a Pillowcase Dress


A couple of weeks ago, I invited two of my SAHM buddies over for a sewing playdate.  Between the three of us, we had nine children from age 4 months to 7 years old.  Despite the chaos, I managed to teach my two friends how to make a simple pillowcase dress for our daughters.  It was a really fun time of fellowship together!

I promised to post step-by-step instructions, so here goes:

Materials needed:

  • 1 yard cotton fabric
  • All-purpose thread that matches the base color of fabric
  • 2 yards 1/2”-1” coordinating ribbon (Get more if you want to sew ribbon around bottom of dress above the hem)
  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • Basic sewing machine
  • Fray Check (optional)

  0151.  Cut two identical rectangles of fabric.  Length should be the desired length of dress from neck to hem plus about  3”.  Width should be about 18”. 

0162.  Place right sides together.  Pin fabric together with identical pins 6” from top on each side for sizes Birth-2T.   Pin 7” from top for sizes 3T-6.  Pin 8” from top for larger sizes.  With right sides still together, sew 5/8” seam from marked pins (armhole) to the bottom hem. 

018 3.  Press both seams open all the way to the top, including the armhole opening.

0194.  Reinforce armhole by sewing down one side, turning sideways across bottom of armhole, then back up other side.  

020 5.  Make casing for ribbon.  With dress still inside out, fold back a double casing a little larger than the width of coordinating ribbon across top of dress.  Iron it flat to make the sewing easier.  Repeat for other side of neckline.

0216.  Sew  both seams very close to bottom of casing.

0227.  Make hem.  Fold a double hem around bottom of dress.  Iron and sew.

0238.  (Optional).  Sew extra ribbon a few inches above the hem.  It’s still just as cute without it!

0249.  Cut ribbon into two 1-yard lengths.  Thread ribbon through casing on both sides with a safety pin.  

025 10.  I like to cut the ends of the ribbons at an angle and seal it with a little amount of Fray Check to keep it from unraveling in the wash.


Here is Grace modeling the dress I made for her at our sewing party.


You could also add a coordinating strip of fabric around the bottom, separating with a pretty ribbon.  The possibilities are endless!


Happy sewing!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zenni Optical

I’ve been long overdue for an eye exam, so I recently went to Sam’s Club optical for an appointment.  I have this weird sensitivity on my eyes.  I can’t stand anything to touch them.  I DREAD that puff of air they shoot into your eyes for the glaucoma test.  Seriously, I’d rather get 20 shots or drink the nastiest medicine than have that puff of air touch my eye. 

I finally sucked it up and went to the appointment.  After I went through the torture of that puff machine, they told me it wasn’t working because I couldn’t keep still.  I have to go back for a dilation test whenever I can get someone to drive me.  Uugh.

Anyway, a friend of mine once told me about Zenni Optical.  It is an online store where you can enter your prescription information and purchase glasses on the internet.  I ordered my glasses early last week and got them in the mail today!  They are perfect!  My entire order was $26.80.  That includes VERY cute frames, non-glare glasses, anti-scratch coating, attachable sunshades, a cleaning cloth, a glasses case, and standard shipping.  Rock on!  They also offer rock-bottom prices on bifocals, progressive lenses, Transitions lenses, etc.

If you decide to take your prescription and order glasses online, you need to have the optometrist write down your prescription, including the PD (Pupillary Distance).  Usually, they leave this off the prescription because they want you to buy in their store…they just leave it in your file or do the measurement when you order the glasses.  I kindly asked my optometrist to do the PD measurement right then and write it on my prescription.

I only wear my glasses when I read, do computer work, or play the piano.  I didn’t realize how old my other glasses were until I put my new ones on today.  What a difference they make!  Thank you Zenni Optical!