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E is for Egg

My family eats eggs nearly every day. If we don't eat them as fried eggs or egg pancakes for breakfast, then we're likely to have them as deviled eggs or egg salad for lunch. We all do better when we get plenty of protein.
photo credit: photography.andreas via photopin cc
We've experimented with different methods of boiling eggs to get hard boiled eggs. We definitely have our preferences, which I'll share in a moment. First, I have to show you our new favorite way to peel eggs. It gives perfect eggs without any chips or ugly scarring in the whites, so your deviled egg plate looks delicious. How do we do it? We blow them out of the shell!

Tap each end of the egg and peel off a small bit of shell to create two holes: one for blowing in and one for the egg to blow out. Next, hold it tightly, pucker up, and blow. Watch below

This method does better if you lean over your plate so that it doesn't have far to drop. If it plops on the edge, it can land with enough force to crack the soft white open. Also, it takes a good bit of air pressure, so younger egg-blowers might not have much success.

Cooking Methods

There are two basic methods:
  1. Boil your water and then add the eggs. Continue boiling for 15 minutes.
  2. Add eggs to cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. 
Once finished, pour off the hot water and immediately pour into a cold ice bath. They should now peel easily.

Both methods have their good points. With the boiled water method, the yolks come out yellow and delicious. The cold water method yields grey-ish yolks and a more sulphuric taste. There is a noticeable difference. However, the yummier choice (cold water method) gives uglier whites. The whites consistently have a flat-bottom rather than a beautiful round oval shape.

Basically, you have to choose between having yummy yolks or pretty whites. For deviled eggs, you obviously want pretty whites that can hold their shape and display nicely. The yolks will be flavored with tangy ingredients that will cover any sulphur taste. For egg salad sandwiches, no one will see your whites, so opt for the best flavor.

Divine Deviled Eggs
*For egg salad, prepare as if for deviled eggs, but dice the egg whites. Mix together with the deviled egg filling at the end.

12 yolks from hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp (or 5) sriracha sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar

Whip together all ingredients until smooth. If it is too thick, add more mayonnaise. Two yummy alternatives are butter or bacon fat. Pipe the filling into empty egg white cups and sprinkle with paprika. Or dice the egg whites and stir them into the filling as a sandwich spread or a nice bowl of yummy goodness.

Ben and Me

Worldview studies for elementary students - a Review

Apologia Review
Apologia has never failed to be a hit with my family. This year, we've tried a new subject with them: worldview studies for students in grades 1-6. Apologia Educational Ministries sent us a high-quality set of books, which included the following:

What on Earth Can I Do? (hardback book) 
What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal 
What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal
What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book 

Apologia Review
Every afternoon, I read this book during our after-lunch Circle Time. Though intended for elementary students, my 14 year old son joins us and has not been a bit bored. He admits he has enjoyed listening to the readings. While listening and discussing, they take notes in the journals or color with the coloring book.

The website description says the book helps them "develop a healthy self-image". This phrase can be overused and sometimes has a cloudy meaning. In this case, I believe it is refering to our identity in Christ. The reading we've covered helps students see their place in God's story and helps develop their view of who they are in Christ.

The textbook is $39. It contains 8 lessons which can each be spread out over several weeks. A recommend lesson plan divides the entire book into 48 study days, with 6 of these days spread over three weeks, making it a semester-long course.

There are several sections found within each lesson. These components are:
The Big Idea: an introduction to the upcoming lesson plus a brief overview of previous lessons
Apologia Review
What You Will Do: a statement of the learning objectives for the lesson
Short Story: a fictional story of elementary children demonstrating what a wordlview looks like in action.
Think About It: provides questions that encourage them to dig deeper and to provide the teacher with a gauge of their comprehension.
Words You Need To Know: Vocabulary words
Hide It in Your Heart: 2 Bible verses to memorize to express the main theme of the lesson plus a character trait.
Integrated Learning: Articles that help integrate the learning initiated in the lesson.
What Should I Do? Highlights character traits for students to demonstrate.
Prayer: The conclusion of the main body of the lesson, giving thanks to God.
Parables of Jesus: elaborate retelling, with imagined details, of parables originally told by Jesus.
Going Deeper: Discussion questions to help students apply the parables.
House of Truth: This is included in 4 of the 8 lessons as a memory tool and visual aid to help answer the questions
  • Who is God? (foundation and Fellowship Wall)
  • Who Am I? ((Image-Bearing Wall)
  • Who is My Neighbor? (Servanthood Wall)
  • Why Does He Need Me? (Stewardship Wall)

In addition to this material in the textbook, there are also extra assignments in the optional journals to aid in the lessons. The textbook highly recommends encouraging students to create personal notebooks to journal as they learn. The Apologia journals are intended to make this easier.

There are two journals available: the regular Notebooking Journal ($24) and the Junior Notebooking Journal ($24). They are very similar, but the junior journal is simplified and provides grammar-staged writing lines. Both journals are made with heavyweight paper with beautiful, muted graphics.

Apologia ReviewThe Journals have these components to accompany each lesson:
Blank Note-Taking Pages: plenty of space for ntoes, drawings, or pasting in.
Think About It: Reading Comprehension Questions.
    (Junior notebook replaces this portion with a coloring page)
Words to Know: Vocabulary words for each lesson with room to write the definition or draw something to prompt the memory for what the word means
    (Junior notebook uses fill-in-the-blank)
Hide It in My Heart: space to write out the Bible verses
Make a Note of It: Space to record answers about how to apply the lesson to life
Word Puzzles: Crosswords and word search puzzles
Mini Books: Lapbook styled crafts for those visual and kinesthetic learners
My Prayer: space provided for students to write or draw their own prayers.
Praise Report: space to record how God is answering prayers.
I Spy!: space to write or draw "where you have seen God"
Living Out Loud: page to record the ways you are ministering to others.
Do You Remember: Review pages
Find Out More: lists of activities, books, music, websites, and movies to help dig deeper into the themes taught.

My children are not fans of pre-packaged journals or notebooking tools. They much prefer the personalized look of a homemade journal. For the purposes of reviewing the product, I did make them use the journals, but they did not enjoy it. They really just loved listening and coloring. They enjoyed copying their Bible verses, but that's about it.

The Coloring Book, which can be purchased separately to accompany the text, was enjoyed by both of my girls. It was nice for them to color in while listening to me read. The pictures are perfect for coloring. There are a lot of stories in the book and they have a picture for each of them. This is 64 pages long and costs $8.

Apologia ReviewOur Thoughts
My kids like it. They are not begging to read it every day, but they sincerely enjoy it. They really enjoy the stories, but as I said, not the journaling.

I have always loved Apologia publications, but this one is not my favorite. I feel uncomfortable with the frequent changes in Bible translations. Verses that are just one line away from each other can switch from NCV to NLT to NKJV to ESV. I'm not a "King James only" believer, but the constant changing from version to version seems as if they are choosing the translation that sounds best like the meaning they are trying to attribute to a verse. If a few words variations can change the support of your message, then it seems like a weak foundation for a message. But this is Apologia, so surely that is not the reasoning behind this, right?

The stories really are fascinating, but the frequent changes make me dizzy. Lesson 1 begins with a story about an actor from the laste '30s, named Claude Rains and then segues into the Biblical life lessons we can learn from his acting example. This jumps to a page about Hitler and then a 10-page fiction story about children during the Blitz (and a story within the story about WW1), then a page on Charlie Chaplin. These are followed with a brief section on vocabulary and Bible verses before moving on to the story of Maria Von Trapp, the story of the Apocolypse Tapestry which was commissioned during the Hundred Years War which tell the story of the book of Revelation, a story of a weaver and his apprentice, the story of Corrie Ten Boom, and finally the story of Ulysses S. Grant earning the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. There are questions and a prayer and then a very descriptive account of the parable of the Prodigal Son. This last one is a little over 10 pages long. The pages are not small, but are of a full-sized textbook layout.

Believe it or not, the stories all tie together. But it makes me dizzy following it. The frequent changes keep the kids engaged and listening, but I worry that the theme gets muddled. It is a lot of reading. The reading is very informative. However, it doesn't feel very thought-provoking. Don't get me wrong, it teaches very good things, but it doesn't seem to inspire much by way of discussion or questions. Because of this, it seems to tell us the good things we are to believe as Christians, but it doesn't feel as if it provides students the chance to come to their own decision or to "own" the lesson.

As a Christian worldview course, What We Believe focuses on laying foundations for the believer rather than focusing on apologetics and other faiths, which I appreciate. It falls more in line with what adults would read as a devotional. The authors, I've read, are Calvinists and some have said the reformed stance does come through in the writing somewhat, but I haven't noticed anything for or against it in the book yet. The book itself states that it has omitted things that might be controversial within denominational doctrines. We are around 7 weeks in and I agree that they seem to have omitted things that might polarize families.

The purpose of a worldview curriculum is to help students develop their own Biblical worldview, which is the lens with which they approach the world. Everyone already has a worldview. Everyone. And when given data, it is observed through that lens. If a curriculum simply tells them what their worldview should be, it becomes more data to be observed. If it did include Reformed theology and was read by an Armenian family, it would be dismissed as incorrect, and vice-versa. If instead, the material included verses and prompting questions, the students could be guided toward developing and growing a worldview.

This sounds terribly unprofessional, but there is something I can't define that makes me feel uncomfortable with the book. I hate to say something without backing it up, but I strive to give honest reviews and I feel it needs said. My children love it. The quality of the books is impeccable. The content has seemed very good, but something in me just feels on guard each time I read it. I have a high regard for Apologia and their material, so I did not enter this review with any suspicions that it would be anything but marvelous. As we continue the series, I hope to have a better idea what it is that leaves me uncomfortable and I will share it when I figure it out.

Until then, I can most honestly say that the kids really like it. The lessons involve a lot of history stories, which they love. The lessons all teach very good things. The quality of the books is very nice, and they are full of beautiful art and photographs.

Be sure to click the link below to read other thoughts from Crew members who also reviewed this book.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

How to Homeschool Part 3

Once you've determined your state's requirements, my advice is to consider the different methods of teaching in the home. There are a lot of experts with lots of advice and lots of publications and curricula out there. Thankfully, there are also many veteran homeschoolers with a passion for helping new families.

Do a search for your area to see if there are any Homeschool Expos or informational meetings. Close to me, there is a group that shares an informational meeting once a month for new homeschooling families. It is the same speech each time and they share samples of curriculum for families to browse. Expos usually have speakers describing their favorite methods and there is generally a vendor hall with publishers galore.

Some Christian bookstores have a nice homeschool section. Mardel has books on the shelves for you to open up and see if they'll be a good fit. Used bookstores are great options for this, as well. Online bookstores sometimes provide digital previews. CBD has an incredible homeschool selection, as does Rainbow Resources. If possible, I really recommend viewing a book in person before ordering.

The books you are drawn to will be a good indicator of what teaching style you will be most comfortable with. The books your children are drawn to will be a good indicator of what learning style they are most drawn toward.

You need to figure out what direction you're heading. With so many styles and publications available, this can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that you can change your mind at any time. The book doesn't really matter all that much. Setting a tone for learning matters. Developing a love of learning is the real goal. The rest will follow.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you will probably find it easiest to begin with formal boxed sets, which having everything you need all taken care of for you, material gathered and planned out for the year. I recommend this to families that have just taken a child out of public school. That has its own level of stress. There also seems to be a process of mental detox and a boxed set helps take some pressure off of the parent. It's also a good option for families feeling unsure of themselves and gives a good confidence boost.

I probably should use a boxed set, due to my lack of organization or personal discipline, but....I'm a rebel. I bristle when told I *should* do something. That's a sin issue God is dealing with me on, and I won't bother you with that therapy session.

Boxed sets can be expensive, but there is some great stuff out there and it is quality material that you'll keep and treasure and be able to reuse with younger siblings. There are 3 that I recommend:

Living Books Curriculum 
This takes a Charlotte Mason approach, which we'll get into later. Beautiful books. Literature based learning. There are lots of free helps on this site and Sheila is very happy to answer any questions you might have. Here is an old review that I did for that curriculum.

Excellent books! Another literature approach. Excellent stuff. Here is another old review

My Father's World
Another great set of books. No review of that one, but I've had many friends use it and I've sat in on several of their seminars. It falls in nicely with the Classical method, which we'll get into later.

I've reviewed other sets, but these are the ones that I felt confident recommending. They are all excellent and you can't go wrong with them.

D is for Deserve

I keep running across a little internet counseling advertisement that says, "You deserve to be happy." I want to weep every time.


[dih-zurv]  verb
to be worthy of, qualified for, or have a claim to reward, punishment, recompense, etc.: to rewardhim as he deserves; an idea deserving of study.

It sounds good to a lot of people. Everyone wants to be happy. And we all want others to be happy. Those are good things. What could be wrong with taking that extra step and saying we deserve to be happy?

I'm basically a "good" person. I haven't done any of the bad stuff like rob a bank, murder someone, or talk at the theatre. But I have envied. I have talked about people. I've boasted. I've been haughty. I've disobeyed my parents. These things are listed (in multiple passages) alongside the "bad" stuff. The truth is, everyone has done bad stuff. And bad stuff deserves bad stuff.

The mindset of entitlement is everywhere and it leads to misery. As G.K. Chesterton wisely said,  “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain, meaninglessness comes from weary of pleasure.” When we focus on what we think we "deserve", we focus on our desires and how our reality is lacking. We convince ourselves that we'll be happy "if only" we can achieve, acquire, receive just this one more thing. 

But the truth is, there isn't any such thing as being happy outside of God's will. A life of obedience can mean living in a house, a job, a family that we don't want. And yet, that's where God has full gifts of blessings for us. 

I think the little internet ad breaks my heart mostly because it is advertising for counseling to help people who are already hurting. When we're hurting, we don't want to hear that we can find contentment through obeying God in hard things. It is tempting to hear the affirmation that we deserve better. But it is deception.  The truth is that focusing on our desires means focusing on our flesh and even focusing on our discontentment even more. It tempts us to make choices that are sinful in order to pursue what we "deserve". It convinces us that our unhealthy choices are good for us. But we're much more than flesh. We're spirit as well.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. -Galatians 6:7-8  

But here is the really, really cool part: God gives us what we don't deserve. He pours out His blessings and His gifts on us. Yes, it is hard to trust that the hard things He asks of us can actually be for our good. But think about it: He suffered horrifically and died to free us from sin and its punishment. That's a lot of love. He loves us and desires good things for us. His definition of "good things" sometimes differs from ours. But when we focus on Him instead of on us, He helps us see the beauty of it all. 

Ben and Me

A is for Aim
B is for Broken
C is for Circle Time

Trident iPad case - a review

A couple years ago, Chris won an iPad in a contest. It isn't something we would have purchased on our own, but it was certainly something we were happy to have. It quickly became a family item, with everyone clamoring for their turn. And then Chris won another iPad in a different contest. Crazy! He finally has his own uncluttered iPad and the rest of us are enjoying the other one.

A couple months ago, my daughters dropped it. They sat it on the edge of a table and then bumped it off. It was in a case, but it received a slight crack in the corner. Nothing terrible, but it's there. I'm thankful it wasn't worse, but it made me a little leery about handing the device over so freely to the kids. Thankfully, just a few days later, Trident Case sent us a TOUGH iPad cover, called the Kraken. Doesn't that just sound indestructible? Technically the cover name is Kraken A.M.S. Case for Apple iPad 2/3/4.

C is for Circle Up (part 1)

When they were little, my children loved starting the school day with a check of the weather. We filled in our charts and graphs, wrote the date, signed names, and counted money. It was a fun way to practice skills each morning as we gathered together at our wall calendar.

For a little while, I thought we outgrew this morning gathering time, but I was so wrong. I started implementing it again a few years ago and it has been a huge blessing to my family. With such a variety of ages and stages, it's easy to lose track of where we all are. Gathering together in the morning gives us a chance to share a vision each morning of where our days are going, of where our lives are going. It's just 10 minutes, but it's 10 minutes well spent.

Our morning routine looks like this:

Fabulous Five
Everyone tackles the five things on their morning list before sitting down to breakfast. The lists include things like bed-making, hair-brushing, feeding the dog, etc.

This is nearly always fried eggs or a Dutch Baby. Sometimes it's oatmeal, but they grumble if I do that very much. When it is oatmeal, they add peanut butter or a tall glass of milk. I've found they really must have some protein for breakfast or they are begging for snacks all day long and not focusing.

Circle Up
This is the beautiful beginning to our day. Similar to the idea of starting the first day of a new school year with fun traditions, we mark the beginning of each school day with this Circle-Up tradition. It's not exactly a fun tradition, and it doesn't compare to scavenger hunts and hot cocoa, but it is hopefully a memorable and impacting tradition.

We use this morning time to practice our memory work more than anything else. We implement a sort of cross between the File Card System and Living Memory. I collect poems, verses, speeches and more in a notebook full of things that I want to add into our memory work, and I slowly work them in as we master old material and are ready for new.

Circle Up #2
We gather again after lunch and read a book that we can all enjoy together. This year we've read Johnny Tremain in small, bite-sized chunks to go with our history reading. We've also read The Willoughbys, just for fun. It's a nice transition time for us to regroup before hitting the books again.

Circle Up #3
This doesn't happen every evening, but we try to work in an evening Circle Up with Daddy. Chris reads a short devotion from a catechism book that we will take years to finish. We joke around and share highs and lows of the day before heading off to bed. Some nights, we stop for a movie. Some nights, we settle in for a good reading from Lord of the Rings.

Circling-Up is not a preschool thing. It's not a homeschool thing. It's just a gathering of family. Grabbing a minute to laugh, to listen. With families stressed and running non-stop, these moments are worth the effort it takes to stop and connect.

I'll share more details on the memory aspect of our morning Circle Up soon.

Ben and Me
A is for Aim
B is for Broken

Golden Prairie Press - a review

History is my favorite subject to teach. We start with the core reading, but quickly get sidetracked with conversations. I love hearing their thoughts and discussing ideas with them. Unfortunately, there is an age gap that sometimes makes this time more complicated than it used to be. I used to be able to sit down with just my boys and talk for hours over a history lesson. But now, my 14 year old student is ready for meatier things than my 8 year old's attention span allows. I long ago gave up the idea of holding my 16 year old back to stay with us. 

B is for Broken

Every now and then, I get this idea in my head that I have things figured out. It's laughable, really. And it lasts all of five minutes. Sometimes, I'm well aware of my failings, but it doesn't stop me from bull-headedly pushing onward, convinced I can improve things if I only try harder. 

Thankfully, He Who began a good work in me is determined to see it through to completion. Be it a forgotten bill, a child needing stitches, or a generous gift...somehow He grabs my attention every time and reminds me that He is the one that works all things together for my good. He is the one who is my strength. He is the one who gets the glory in this relationship. 

My one fear is bitterness. I fear that I will not soften my heart when He asks me to step down and listen. I fear that the events He brings into my life to get my attention will be ignored until my heart hardens. I definitely have it in me. I could be the one choosing bitterness and instead of thanksgiving. Each time I gripe about something, I feel it inviting me to give in and embrace it. I don't want that. I want to always respond and be pliable, useable, and broken.


A is for Aim

A is for Aim

Aim has been the word of the week for me. I can't get away from it. It's a tiny, three-letter word, but the question has weighed on me heavily: 

What am I aiming for?

Having a goal isn't the same as aiming. I can desire good things, but if I don't aim for them, odds are, I won't reach them. As Zig Ziglar famously said, "If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time." And if you aim to misbehave? Well, that is still surely better than not aiming at all.

In the early childhood years, the aim is often Survival. And rightly so. During the more rested, lucid moments, we may aspire for greater things, but those moments are rare and should not leave us with feelings of guilt when we have to fall back on the more immediate aim of being sure everyone is still breathing. I remember feeling guilty that we were surviving rather than thriving. I also remember being giddy with glee when I managed to sleep for 3 hours instead of 2 at a stretch. I failed to realize that surviving was a plenty ambitious goal for the stage we were in. 

But now...


Now I have a teenage son who is looking towards his future. His future likely involves leaving the nest in 2-3 years. 

He's almost gone. 

Any aim I had now has a looming deadline. 

My baby girls will not be baby girls much longer. Though always my babies, they are approaching their preteen years. In a couple years, I will not have baby girls. 

The moments fly so fast, flying faster each year. What is my aim?

Each year, Chris and I take a mini marriage retreat to evaluate where we are and refresh our goals. One question that we ask each year is, "If our family turned out well, what would it look like?"

Our answer is the same each year: 
  • Everyone pursuing God.
  • Each one knowing that we are all here for each other.
  • Holidays at home together.

I know that there is no controlling their final residency and that holidays at home is a bit ambitious, but it is my hope. The aim is creating a family bond that fosters a desire to come home. I don't want them to leave and not look back. I don't want them to dread trips home or think of it as an obligation. I want them to always know it as home.

That is my aim. Now, how do we get there?

Our weekend leaves us with lots of ideas. Often, they are the same ideas and decisions we've made the year before, but we underline them and write in, "Yes, but REALLY this time." 

Seeing how desperately fast the time is flying, my heart is screaming: REALLY. 


Aim and let the arrows fly before the targets are gone. 

We will quiz each other weekly to assess our diligence in aiming. Our list includes:
  • Are we watching our tone when speaking to them?
  • Are we being consistent with catechism?
  • Are we being consistent with fun?
  • Are we praising them?
  • Are we intentionally discussing our personal Bible studies in front of them?
  • Are we being careful to get enough rest so we're not grumpy?
  • Are we working in one-on-one moments with them? 
  • Are we protecting them (and ourselves) from too many distractions?
  • Are we praying with them over the little things?
Hopefully, after facing our progress or lack thereof week after week, our aim will improve. 

How is your aim? Some of you moms have been-there-done-that. I'd love to glean from your wisdom.


52 in 52 for April

We failed. I am afraid we did reach our movie watching goal this month. Boy, has it been busy! My husband has been working his hind end off and evenings just aren't the same without him. Thankfully, things are slowing down and May will offer more family time opportunities.

I think we've learned though that even if it doesn't slow down, we're going to have to hold it down and not let a week go by without connecting. Time is short and they'll all move out before we know it. Obviously, movie watching isn't our real goal here, but family time is crucial and we need more margin. 

Here are the two movies we did manage to squeeze in. 

1. Muppets in Space

This was a favorite when the boys were younger. The girls barely remembered it and it is now a favorite for them. This is one of those movies that you just never get too old for. The cool teens and the old parents laughed through it all, even though we've seen it a dozen times.

2.  The Sandlot

I wouldn't have shared this movie with them if the girls were any younger than they are now. Even at 8 and 10, we said plenty of "Oh! We don't say that!" The language wasn't terrible, but it was there. The 's' word was said several times. There was plenty of name calling, as well. Also, one scene involves a boy faking a drowning so that the lifeguard will give him mouth to mouth resuscitation. He said that he'd had a crush on her for years and took the opportunity to kiss her. Obviously it was a "We don't do that!" moment, but it was also obvious that we would never do that anyway. It's more of a running family joke that we have to state it when watching anything. The part that was actually awkward was the introduction to that scene when the boys were ogling the lifeguard. It might sound terrible now that I've shared the bad points, especially if your children are younger, but it really is a great movie that we all enjoyed. It's the origin of the catchphrase, "You're killin' me, Smalls!" which you've no doubt heard and will find yourself saying for weeks.

We have more movies on our list, but few are striking our fancy lately. I'd love to hear suggestions for some other family movies for us to try. Please share your favorites!