Christmas in July: Used Books from Amazon


  • Becoming a Father by William Sears (Reading this for work.)
  • Bubby’s Homemade Pies by Ron Silver and Jen Bervin (I had borrowed it from the library until I could no longer renew… love this comprehensive book on pies!)
  • The Yellow Pages Guide to Educational Field Trips (updated from Everything from A-Z Field Trips) by Gregg Harris (Homeschooling resource for the field trip group I am forming.)
  • Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family by Kim Brenneman (Need I explain?)
  • The “I’m Still Here” Round-up

    So… what are you doing this summer?

    June 6 was the last day of homeschool for us. We loved our evaluator at Upattinas School! Home Education Director Kim Coffin thoroughly went through our portfolios and took an interest in each child. She asked about their hobbies, favorite reads, and their observations on Japanese culture amongst other things. The Upattinas campus is beautifully landscaped with gorgeous flowers as well as wild honeysuckle and berries. It has an atmosphere of peacefulness. Kim invited the children to sample the edibles and assured me that no pesticides were used on their property. If you looking for a homeschool evaluator who combines academic excellence with common sense, and who has a genuine heart for children and families, please do give Upattinas a call!

    This coming school year, we’re switching to K12, with Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School as our local anchor school. My hope is that the prepackaged, goal-oriented program, and activities organized by someone else besides me , will streamline our schooling and make for more cheerful school days. We will still continue our family devotions (we are currently going through the Shorter Catechism and its proof-texts as a guide) as a Biblical education is important to us. Although the curriculum itself is secular, our children will still be at home and we will certainly have the opportunity to discuss materials together as a family as they are being taught.

    The big news for this summer is that Tom will not be going to Afghanistan. Although he had his weapons training, a bazillion immunizations, and dog tags made, a botched filling from Japan kept him from being deployed. It’s absolutely bizarre and strange to have to regroup after having gone through such extreme mental and physical preparation, but the door was clearly slammed shut. The kids and I had planned to go to Indiana for three months while Tom was away, so we are regrouping as well. However, I can’t be happier. Tom was laughing today in the living room, and his laugh, as always, is the kind that makes everyone come running in to see what is so funny. I’m thankful he’s home.

    Our house is still for sale, after nearly ten months. While it passed inspection and is approved for rental by the City of Coatesville, renting it out would not provide the down payment needed for the purchase of a new home. God is gracious, though. Last week, Tom’s boss gave the “okay” to work remotely from Pennsylvania. He will not have to be in D.C. as frequently. Hopefully, without having to pay out-of-pocket for gasoline and hotel expenses, we’ll be able to replenish some of our savings as well as pay off the necessary repair of our front porch.

    Recently, we started cracking down on kids’ chores in our home. Lack of self-discipline is one of my biggest sin areas, and post-chore inspection as well as keeping the kids on schedule for chores is pretty grueling for me… so much, that I have a goal-defeating habit of doing all the chores myself, when I should be holding kids accountable for their work. After about two weeks, though, it’s paying off. The work ethic in our home is improving, and I’ve also noticed that the kids are taking care to make less mess, as they know that it will increase the amount of time it will take for them to be done. Tom pointed out that clearly defined chores help the kids to know when they will be done, vs. a never-ending ambiguous sorta-list that changes every day. This morning, my friend Perry reposted Jay Adam’s confessional pray on discipline, and it choked me up a bit. (I never did make it all the way through Elisabeth Elliot’s book Discipline: The Glad Surrender (because it was too painful to read!) but I’m thinking I should probably pick it up again.)

    After a recent ear infection, we discovered that Aiden is allergic to penicillin. He was a trooper as he endured a terrible head-to-toe skin rash that lasted for nearly two weeks.

    I, too, had a fun little medical scare. After a physical where I mentioned irregularities in my cycle, a complex ovarian cyst, which had solid mass and fluid build-up, showed up in an ultrasound. I’ve never received a call so quickly with results as I did from that ultrasound, along with the insistence on getting an MRI to determine if the cyst was malignant. What an ordeal, and relief to hear the results. Not only was it benign… the cyst was just plain gone. I’ve had my share of issues with my crazy body, and that doesn’t even include my pregnancies! I’m thankful that I’m okay.

    Speaking of pregnancy, I’m excited to be teaching Bradley Method natural childbirth classes again this fall. This week, I updated my affiliate website. I love and teach the Bradley Method because it prepares the body for an optimal birth. For four out of five of my pregnancies and births I used the Bradley Method. After seeing excellent results first hand, I’m quite passionate about helping others to have good birth experiences. If you know of a natural-birth minded expectant couple, please do send students my way!

    I’ve also been asked to do some tutoring in writing for students who could use a little nudging. The age group will be tweens. Again — feel free to send students my way! I love to help people learn to express themselves through writing.

    In other news, I now have a gym membership and have been going several times a week. I’m getting faster (15 minute mile down to nine minutes!) and stronger and it feels really good.

    Last weekend, we went to Penn Lake and had some quality R&R with our extended family. One of the highlights was floating on the lake, tethered to an large booze-filled cooler, with 20 other women. Oh the conversations! What fun!

    Finally… if you love apples, you need to make a Whiskey Apple Crumble (preparation process photo shown above) with the recipe from Bubby’s Homemade Pies. It’s the kind of dessert that inspires a backyard party with friends.

    Well… the motorcycle is done being inspected. Time to go pick it up.

    I’m still here.

    You are loved.

    Are Dragons Real?

    “Were there any dragons discovered yesterday?” my children ask daily.

    “Not that I know of…” I say, sometimes searching the news to be sure.

    They used to ask me if dragons were real.

    I would say, “If they are, they have not yet been discovered.”

    Which mythological creatures do you wish were real?

    Photo by my brother Elijah, of our costumed sister Grace.

    Public Education is a Social Service

    “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!” – Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall

    Education cannot be separated from the rest of life. It is learned from life. It applies to life. It is social.

    Yet, for some reason, people are surprised when schools “butt” into the lives of students.

    Given the nature of education itself, how can they not?

    Instead of wasting energy being indignant over government-funded schools “overstepping boundaries”, why not entrust your children’s privacy and welfare to a scholastic institution with whom you agree and who shares your same values?

    25 Random Things About Me

    I was tagged on Facebook by my seven friends Christa, Susan, aka Mrs. Carlson, aka Susan “Whimsy” Carlson, Valerie-the-Wannabe-Pyro, Rebekah, Laura, Robyn “Pigeon” Vannoy, and Amy for “25 Random Things”. I was already tagged for the “16 Things” meme and there is no way I’m writing 25 additional things, so I’m only writing nine more! If you really want to read the other 16, click here.

    17. This August, Tom and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We were married in the Chapel of Atonement at the Church Farm School, a boarding school for boys, in Exton, PA. There was an extreme downpour between the wedding and the reception – which was at the Catranis’ house. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my wedding. It was the most relaxed, fun wedding I’ve ever attended to date. Potluck wedding receptions are the way to go! Secretly, I wish more people would get rid of the formality and stuffiness of their wedding.

    18. My shoe size is 7.5 US. While I have rather small feet at home, in Japan, 24.5 cm is an L or LL size! It took me a while to find the only L size pair of house slippers in the grocery store bin. They are red felt printed with a calico-pink flower pattern. If you saw my slippers (see them while you can, because they are rapidly falling apart!) by themselves and tried to guess whose shoes they were (wouldn’t that be a fun bridal shower game?) you’d bet they belonged to the cute white-haired lady in the kitchen ;)

    (Speaking of shoes, my favorites are my brown Nike cross trainers (shh! Sometimes I wear them in the house if the floor is particularly sticky!), my black ankle-high high-heeled zip boots, my vintage leather, 16 eyelet black Dr. Martens, my black satin pumps, and my strappy brown chunk-heels. My next shoe purchase will likely rain boots. Maybe a pair of Chooka Koi Tattoo Boots or perhaps these Autumn Rose Wellingtons from Victorian Trading Company?)

    19. If I were to order a drink in a bar, it would likely be either Guinness,, Makers Mark Bourbon (on the rocks) or a Sapphire Gin and Tonic.

    20. I am attempting to learn Japanese out of necessity. The best Japanese lesson series I have found is at JapanesePod101. I have Rosetta Stone and did learn some Japanese from it, yet I enjoy JPod101 so much more. If you are serious about learning Japanese, it’s worth it to upgrade to the full version which includes quizzes, online flashcards and multimedia to enhance your lessons.

    21. Curry is one of my favorite foods to eat and to make. I love how curry is a mainstay dish all around the world, each location with it’s own unique flavor combination. The story of how curry was introduced to Japan is quite interesting. Incidentally, A Taste of India in Exton, Pennsylvania,is my favorite place back home for Indian cuisine. Their curry is lick-the-plate delicious.

    22. I have never gone on vacation. Ever.

    23. Complaining is one of my pet-peeves. The only exception is if something is genuinely wrong, and the goal is to find a solution or because the situation is bad enough that beer and hugs are required. FWIW, I also loathe nagging.

    24. One of my goals in life is to build my own house. After living in Japan, the house would have to include some tatami rooms, hot-water-on-demand, a tub that overflows onto the floor, and a loooong kitchen sink suitable for gutting a small shark if necessary. Unlike my present house in Japan, it would have heat :) The kitchen would open up into the great room so that I would never be separated from guests because I had to check to see if the food was ready.

    Tom has talked about having perimeter floors in our dream house that make the sound of birds softly singing when walked upon. Such floors are called uguisubari, aka Nightingale floors, and they were designed as an ancient security alarm to alert homeowners when ninjas are prowling about. Apparently, he walked on uguisubari while touring the Nijo Castle in Kyoto.

    The house would also have to come with both flower and food gardens, as well as an orchard. It would need enough pasture for a dairy cow so we’d have fresh milk and I can make my own cheese, as well as and a creek for fishing.

    The list goes on. I admit – I keep a scrapbook full of house ideas, complete with paint swatches, just in case this dream ever comes true.

    25. Cleaning secret : I use a plastic garden rake to gather up all of the toys on the floor to aid with the cleaning process. This idea originated from my mother-in-law, who raised seven children and welcomed the neighborhood to play :) I find that (quickly!) gathering all of the playthings lessens the cleaning anxiety by creating a place to walk without having to step on little Legos, for example. It makes the mess seem less.

    Tom… I ‘m tagging you. I have no expectations, but, I admit, I am kinda hoping you’ll play along and write up a list of your own.