Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

First of all, Happy New Year to each Smooth Stones Academy reader. My hope is that 2008 is a year of great joy, great growth and great devotion to our spouses, our children, and most importantly our wonderful Savior!

I have been thinking about resolutions for a few weeks now. This past year seems like a whirlwind; actually the past three years have been closer to tornadoes. No wonder, I've had two babies 18 months apart (one of whom suffered from constant ear infections and for the first 10 months of life and was unable to sleep more than 30 minutes before waking up screaming - ohhh so painful to think back-the exhaustion, the tears...did I mention the exhaustion?) and started homeschooling an ADHD child right in the middle of that chaos, too! So today when I read Heidi's post about "One Little Word" something clicked. The word I have chosen for this year is Intentional. It seems a little boring but as I have reflected all day on what this past year was and what I desire for next year it's the word that keeps coming to mind. It's been difficult to be intentional about much of anything with two babies in the house but we are coming, albeit slowly, out of that phase and intentional is what I want to be!

Here are my goals/thoughts for 2008:

1. Physical
  • lose weight that's been creeping on since summer
  • exercise more and be more active in general
  • eat less/eat healthier (will be aided by our going casein-free and gluten-free)
  • drink more water
  • take vitamins, calcium, aspirin and fish oil regularly
  • Get 8 hours of sleep most nights
2. Emotional
  • Be a better model of a healthy (emotional, spiritual and physical) life for my kids. This will be much more easily accomplished if I am meeting my physical goals above. It's hard to be patient and kind when I have no energy due to not exercising, lack of sleep and junk food (oh why oh why can't diet coke and dark chocolate m&m's be a food group? Lol!) I love the quote on the header of Rachel's new blog,
"My children! My darling, precious children!
What I want
them to become I must become myself."
- Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
  • Take time for myself each day- even if it's only 10 minutes to paint my toenails or call a friend on the phone. And continue to get away from the house every week for my Mommy's Night or a date with dh.
  • Invest more deeply in my friendships.
3. Spiritual
  • Spend more time in the Word. Get back to a consistent daily time of really soaking in the word...not just taking little "spit baths". This is more of a possibility now that I am not up all night with insomnia (common in my pregnancies) or needed by a nursing baby!
  • Finish reading Taste and See by John Piper for my devotionals (this book is amazing and if your budget is stretched too tight after the holidays, look at Desiring God's Whatever-You-Can-Afford Policy) and then follow up by reading/studying a New Testament book - possibly Ephesians or Galatians.
  • Focus on reading the Proverbs this year. I have been drawn to them the past month and so I identified with Jessica at Trivium Academy when she said, "God has given the gift of knowledge to me this year and I pray that I he will present the wisdom soon." I am in great need of increased wisdom in my life. I possess lots and lots of knowledge but somehow too often feel lacking in wisdom.
4. Mental
  • Get back to reading - even in snippets. I know this will be a slow process for sure because Beckett is so young and needy so I am starting small. Here is my book list for '08:
  1. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver (Personal/Spiritual)
  2. Pleasing People: How Not to be an "Approval Junkie" by Lou Priolo (Personal/Spiritual)
  3. When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey (Marriage)
  4. Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem (Theology)
  5. Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay Clarkson (Education)
  6. The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz (Education/Parenting)
  7. I will refer frequently to my favorite parenting books as well: Making Children Mind without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman, Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel and Parenting with Scripture by Kara Durbin.
  8. It would be a HUGE bonus if I got to squeeze in a little fiction - one new book, David Baldacci's Stone Cold and one classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
If my goals seem a little long take a look at Jonathan Edwards' 70 resolutions written when he was only nineteen years old. I conclude with a quote from him:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat Him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions,
so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Here is our 2007 Christmas card. Some of our good friends are professional photographers and the past two years have done our holiday cards for us. Dave, the photographer, told us in a normal 30 minute photo shoot he takes an average of 200-250 photos. To get these four photos he took 542! Thatcher always struggles to look at the camera, Beckett was in a contrary mood that day and Haddon was just plain goofy. :) To get all our boys smiling at the same time Dave started across the garden waving his arms and screaming like a wild man. Once they started laughing he stooped down and clicked away.

I wanted to post this here because so many of you have become dear friends even though I have never seen your faces in real life. I am thankful for this cyber-community, blessed by the encouragement I have received and the experience and wisdom so generously shared!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Weekly Report - Week 16

Our weeks are so routine at this point that sometimes I feel yet another Weekly Report will bore anyone to death reading my blog. Then I remind myself that these reports are a great way to track our journey, keep us focused and celebrate all we've accomplished.

This week I am going to start with a little bit of what Haddon is doing. We are going to start a little preschool in January - although I have no idea how I will work it into our schedule. This semester we have casually been working on learning to sing the ABC's and recognizing a few letters, counting to 10, reviewing colors and shapes, learning Mother Goose Rhymes, reading lots of board books every day and learning finger rhymes.

Below is our current Mother Goose book we read every day at lunch. I have three different Mother Goose books that we rotate so that we don't get bored. It's so cute to hear him walk around the house singing, "Hey Diddle, Diddle," "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" and "Humpty Dumpty"!

And because our time is so limited I have allowed these videos to teach Haddon his ABC's and how to count. They have done their job well, I might add. He can sing the ABC song, knows most of his letters and many of the sounds just from watching each video one time a week.

Here is Thatcher's Horizons Math Test from this week. He got 89% correct!

Here is his narration from Chapter 16 of SOTW1: The Return of Assyria. The illustration shows Ashurbanipal holding one of the clay tablets from the library he created in Nineveh. Thatch said he was smiling so big because he was happy to have all those books!

And here is Thatcher's copywork from science this week. We studied about flamingos and peacocks. We read from the Kingfisher First Animal Encyclopedia, followed up with more books from the library and completed our animal profile page too.

We have also been enjoying our readings of Aesop's Fables. Each week we focus on one story and read and discuss it each day at lunch. This version is wonderful and I would highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Introducing Jack Junior!

Meet our new pet....Jack Junior Betta Fish! That's truly what Thatcher named him. Jack is from the character in the Magic Tree House series; Junior is from Veggie Tales and he is a Betta. Anytime the boys refer to him they call him Jack Jr.

I wanted Thatcher to have his first taste of caring for a pet and having something depend on him. He's done a great job and really adores this little guy; they all do. Haddon begs Thatcher to let him help with Jack's feedings and Beckett is constantly pushing a chair from the kitchen table over to the counter so that he can climb up and watch Jack Jr.

One of the great thing about Bettas is that they are supposedly low maintenance fish. Unfortunately, I initially placed our tank near too much sunlight and I am already fighting algae growing in the tank (sigh). We're going back to PetSmart tomorrow to see if there are any algae-eaters that can reside with Bettas.

Dh just informed me last week that he wants to get a dog for the boys in January - Yikes! We are huge dog people and both grew up with big dogs (me Doberman Pinschers and he Border Collies). But I have always said that I do not want a dog until all my boys are completely potty trained. I am currently responsible for enough poo as it is. Lol!

When we were at the ranch for Thanksgiving, my in-laws' dog was there as were my bil's two puppies. Thatcher spent every single moment outside with those animals! It got dh thinking that it is time to get him his very own dog.

We have started negotiations so I'll let you know how it goes! We both want a large dog. I would prefer a female but dh really wants a male. We are trying to decide on a breed - previously Border Collies were a non-negotiable for him but he's agreed to look at other breeds that are less demanding. He has also agreed that whatever we choose can be an inside (mostly) dog! That was a non-negotiable for me. We're getting there. This is the breed I want - a Vizsla. Aren't they gorgeous?! I don't think they will be in our budget at $800 to $1500 each but maybe if we rescued one???

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Pizza Cake

A few moms asked how I made the pizza cake from Haddon's birthday so I thought I would post on my blog in case anyone else may be interested. I got my initial idea here but changed it up a bit. I added the gumdrop onions after seeing this site. If you click those links you can see that I am not at all creative - just a great thief of others' ideas!

Directions for Pizza Cake
(Adapted from Jake's Pizza Cake on


  • 1 16 inch pizza box - my local pizza store gave me one free
  • 16 inch Wilton cake pan (bought with the 40% off Michael's coupon that comes in the Sunday paper). You can make this cake any size depending on your pizza box. If you use this size pan be certain to buy Wilton's heating core as well or the center of your cake will be raw - ask me how I know this ;)
  • 4 Duncan Hines Cake Mixes - Classic White is my favorite. Prepare according to package directions except add 1 tsp of almond extract per cake mix to make it taste more like wedding cake - yum! You will need this many mixes if you are using the 16 inch pan which calls for 15 cups of batter. If you use a smaller pan adjust accordingly.
  • A batch (double batch if you really like frosting) of Wilton's buttercream frosting (I make the variation that says "For pure white icing" so I can make it ahead of time and my cake won't require refrigeration due to all the butter. In addition to the butter extract and the vanilla extract I again add a few tsp of almond extract to compliment the flavor in the cake) tinted light brown using Wilton's icing colors. These can be found at any craft store and even at Wal-Mart on their cake decorating isle in the craft section. You just need a little of the brown and your color will be perfect. Regular food coloring - if you can even find brown - will make your icing too runny. Use a little extra water to thin the icing to make it easier to spread if needed.
  • 2 cups strawberry preserves (raspberry will do too but buy seedless)
  • Wilton Candy Melts 14 oz package in white, red, and light-brown (can be purchased at craft store - Michael's, Hobby Lobby and some Wal-Marts)
  • 10 or so large malted milk balls or yogurt covered milk balls - found in bulk foods section of my grocery store
  • Green icing (the ready made kind, in a tube makes preparation easier)
  • 1/8 cup dried blueberries
  • 10 or so jumbo white gumdrops - more if you use the smaller ones
  • piece of cardboard cut into the same size circle as your pizza and covered with foil.


  1. Level cake if necessary with a serrated knife and turn cake onto foil covered pizza circle.
  2. Spread the tinted icing over the cake.
  3. Over medium heat, simmer the preserves until runny. Add several drops of red food coloring (if desired) to make the color closer to that of tomato sauce.
  4. Spread the preserves over the cake, covering the top thoroughly - be certain your preserves are not so hot they melt the frosting! Chill the cake again for at least an hour so that the preserves re-congeal.
  5. Now for the fun part - decorating!
  6. Sausage/Meatballs - with a very sharp knife, cut the malt balls in half, set aside
  7. Green Peppers - I am sure there's lots of great ways to do this but I bought Wilton's green icing and spread it onto greased plate then placed it in the freezer. Once the icing had set I cut it into into small rectangles. Put it back in the freezer to get firm again if needed.
  8. Pepperoni - Grease a mini-muffin tin and put one red candy-melt into each cup. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of grated brown candy-melts into each well. (I used a handheld cheese-grater to grate the candy-melts. See "cheese" below for more details). Put the muffin tin under the broiler to melt the candies (only takes a minute or two). Once they are melted, mix the red and brown candy-melts together using a toothpick. Place into the freezer for about 10 minutes or until set. Once they are hard, flip the muffin pan over to release the "pepperoni" This was a little tricky and I scorched the first 2 batches. You just need them under the broiler for a minute or so. They may not look melted but if when you swirl them with a toothpick they will be soft enough.
  9. Olives - get the dried blueberries ready, set aside.
  10. Onions- press 2 jumbo gumdrops together and press until flat - you will need to continually dip the candy in sugar to keep it from getting too sticky. I have a set of graduated circle cutters similar to this that I used to cut the onions into realistic slices in multiple sizes. If you don't have a set like this you can slice your onions like on this cake.
  11. Cheese - I used a handheld cheese grater to grate the white candy-melts over the top of the pizza. I worked my way over the top of the pizza until it had a good coating of cheese, but not so much that the "tomato sauce" didn't peek through. Then I used the brown candy melts around the perimeter the the "crust" -- I thought it looked more crust and slightly burnt, like a real pizza would. Finally I put the entire pizza in the oven under the broiler and watched it very closely. It only took 3 minutes for the "cheese" to melt - it even browned slightly!
  12. After you take it out of the oven and while it is still warm, put your toppings on the pizza. I started with the sausage/meatballs, then the green pepper, followed by the olives and the pepperoni, onions and then a little more cheese. Put it into the fridge to set again. For fun, put the pizza cake in a pizza box for a cute visual effect. Use a pizza cutter to slice cake!
Just one more note: You can do much of the prep for this cake ahead of time. I made the frosting and tinted it 5 days in advance. I made the onions, green pepper slices and pepperoni 2 days in advance. The day before the party I baked the cake and the morning of I put it all together.

This cake turned out to be one of my favorites and I will definitely make it again!

I don't have digital photos of many of the cakes I've made since we only got a digital camera a year ago but here are two of the others I've made. The cow was from Beckett's first birthday and R2-D2 was from Thatcher's 5th birthday.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekly Report - Weeks 14-15

Here is my weekly report for the past 2 weeks of school - one before Thanksgiving and one after. We are finally in a good rhythm - and it only took four months to get there! Lol.

Math is plugging along; nothing new to report there. One lesson continues to take an hour but I am getting used to it and it does not bother Thatcher. He chooses to start with Math every single day! I have not been drilling his math facts nor practicing his skip counting since we are already spending so much time just completing the lesson. He can count to 100 by 1's, 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, 9's and 10's. And he's almost half-way there with the 6's. If I would just count out loud to him every single day once or twice he would get it within a week or so. It seems like such a small thing but all those small things can sure add up!

Language is not happening. I am not sure why since it only takes a few minutes a day but we haven't done it in 3 weeks. It just isn't as fun as history, science or Spanish which are the other subjects we do in the afternoon and it just seems to get put to the side. I am going to try to pick up where we left off this week.

Reading is going very well and tonight I actually found Thatcher reading a Magic Tree House book all by himself. He is capable of reading above that level but because of his ADHD he struggles to focus when he sees that many words on a page. Because of that, for his independent reading I have kept him in longer picture books to minimize his frustrations, and we read all chapter books together.

If your child is in the same boat - somewhere between easy readers/picture books and chapter books - and you need some new ideas for reading here are some of our favorite series so far:
If you have any others, please leave a comment. We're always happy for new ideas :)

For our read together time we are enjoying the Tales from the Odyssey series by Mary Pope Osborne. Thatcher loves these books more than any other we have ever read together. I would highly recommend them, especially if you have boys (Cyclops getting gored in the eye with a burning log may upset a few girly-girls!). The story has captivated his imagination and each day he can't wait to hear what adventures Odysseus will find.

Spanish is going great as well. Thatcher loves watching Sra. Cano on United Streaming and he is retaining a lot more than I thought he would. Most importantly he is excited about Spanish and is learning to love the culture which are some of my biggest goals for this year!

History and Science are great! Some days I wish we could spend much more time on these than anywhere else. Thatcher loves these subjects and to be honest, I am learning so much!

The week before Thanksgiving we went on a field trip to a wonderful place called Dewberry Farm. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from that day.

How do you like the shirts dh had made for all of us at the start of the year?! We wear them anytime we go on an outing. It makes it a lot easier to keep up with everyone and the boys are so proud to have their own school shirts!