Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Dilemma Of Obedience

Just last night in a ladies' prayer meeting that my sister has at her house on Monday nights, we were talking about the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, which was on my sister's end table. This led to discussion of the contents of one of my older posts about obeying God despite the costs. Then today, I pulled that book out again and read today's date and low and behold, it was the exact same topic.
"God's call to you may hurt your 'Eli'; but if you try to prevent the suffering in another life, it will prove an obstruction between your soul and God. It is at your own peril that you prevent the cutting of of the right hand or the plucking out of the eye.
Never ask the advice of another about anything God makes you decide before Him. If you ask advice, you will nearly always side with Satan."
If this doesn't describe a hard lesson I have learned in the last few years, I don't know what does.
If I could give one piece of advice to parents, it would be this. Take the time to seek the Lord in the decisions regarding your kids. Close the door and go into your "prayer closet". Then humbly follow that leading no matter what price you have to pay or who you have to offend - loss of friends, family, church, reputation is nothing compared to obedience to God. He can handle all of the details and He is worthy to be trusted. He has definitely shown Himself faithful to us.
I once heard a man preach about the verse "The joy of the Lord is my strength." He rearranged the words like this - The Lord's joy is my strength. Obeying Him and experiencing the blessings of His joy have definitely given me strength. All other earthly approval or disapproval pales by comparison.
While flipping through that book, my eyes fell on a last line of a day's writing:
Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision.
Like many I know of, we have had a vision for the raising of our kids, a calling for some higher purpose, not just for our own pleasure and enjoyment. There is a price to pay for that vision. I thank God that there are some who are willing to pay it. I thank God that He is the strength that we can draw from. Let's not neglect to pray for each other, even for those whose names we do not know, for it is not easy and many grow weary and give up.

New Shadybrook Acres Daily Journal Blog

We've bravely started a new blog to record our daily activities, especially school work. I'm hestiant to share but I'm bravely forging ahead anyway. I can always delete it later. :) If you are interested in how-we-do-school they you can check us out here at Shady's Daily Journal.

Friday, January 26, 2007

We Love Comments

We received nearly 500 hits on our blog in a two week period, but only a total of about 12 comments. We always wonder who is reading. It's great when someone leaves a comment and we have the chance to bop on over to their blog and return the visit. Even those who don't have blogs but leave anonymous comments with their name or initials so we know who's been here, make it more fun for us. So, please, don't be shy. If would like to comment, just know we love it. If you would rather just sneak in and sneak out, we're fine with that too. We do plenty of visiting without leaving a trace all over blogdom.

Reality Check

Please don't assume since I only write about the good times on this blog, that we only have good times. And don't assume that is what I want you to think. That is not my goal at all. Once I was accused of trying to look like the perfect homeschooling family, which was rather shocking because out of everyone I knew I felt like I "told all" more than anyone else. My middle name was "open". I usually come away kicking myself for telling too much. In fact, if you knew me in real life and if you came to our CM monthly meeting, you would be well acquainted with our academic struggles. I just don't broadcast negative things here. I wouldn't want my children or husband displaying my shortcomings on the internet, so I don't do that to them.

Of course, we have bad days. I get frustrated just like the next guy when so-and-so still doesn't get it. I get looney over a messy house. Sometimes I wonder if I should revamp and do things differently. I wonder if I'm doing enough or too much. I wonder if there is some important thing I am forgetting. (Oh dear, you never learned that did you?) Those things all happen. I really do try not to "live there", in that state. I try to look at the good, which is pretty much only from the influence of my husband and sister because I tend to be a critical type of person.

A funny thing...just hours after I typed up our schedule for the blog, I had a talk with one of my daughters that caused me to rethink something and make a change. But I won't share that yet. I made up my mind quite some time ago, after I saw too many poor souls collapsing with the effort, that I would try not to drag everyone along on every rabbit trail I run down. Instead, I'll share what has definitely worked for me -- after I know it has worked. So maybe this summer, you'll hear about our changes.

If you get discouraged because your family isn't perfect, read Edith Schaeffer's writings. Or just come here for a visit. Her writings are a better bet because the proof is in the pudding. And ours is still in the oven.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

School Days

All this school year, PearlKeeper has voluntarily taken on the responsibility of cooking breakfast for the family. This morning, she and SmokeyBear got up extra early to make a grand breakfast of homemade waffles, turkey sausage, fruit, tea and hot chocolate with marshmellows. They even lit the candles on the table.

Our daily routine has been working out quite well this year. We start with our morning time together, which includes Bible (currently - the life of David including 2 Samuel and Psalms) and a read aloud, usually from Ambleside's 4th year's extra reading list or Sonlight's Year 7 historical fiction list. I'm adding Picture Study now on Mondays since I received my beautiful prints from a wonderful lady from the Ambleside list who sells the terms prints. Then we break for breakfast and I usually go and take my bath. After breakfast, we usually read a short chapter from the US geography book we are reading and review the previously learned states and capitols.

Next each child works from their daily lists while TheLittlestPrincess gets some attention for her studies. Lately, PearlKeeper has been reading her all of her own favorite "girl books" from her childhood. Then TLP reads aloud from her reader before PearlKeeper has to get ready for work.

The boys do their math, reading, writing and typing. Then I read them their science or history and we have narrations and/or notebook work. I recently purchased Sonlight's Year 7 manual because it coordinated George Washington's World and Story of the World with appropriate historical fiction. I am also adding Ambleside's other history readings from This Country of Ours and Trial & Triumph plus other AO4 readings. We only have about 10 weeks of the Sonlight schedule to accomplish this year and be on track for AO5 next year, so I can afford to stretch it out to include the AO readings too. If this goes well, we will continue on with this combination through AO5 and maybe term 1 of AO6. We are loving our science studies with Apologia's Swimming Creatures. I am so appreciate having a good science book because I spent years lamenting the lack of them when the older girls were younger. Our winter nature study is going to include sketching from the photos I took in the Everglades.

The girls have a more extensive list including math, science, history, current events and other readings along with language arts work.

If all goes perfectly as planned then the younger kids are done by lunch and the girls have a little to do after lunch. That happens probably half the time. The other half of the time we start later because of late night happenings or have other interruptions, so we may skip some things or go later into the day.

All in all, I'm happy with this year so far. When I evaluated at the mid-year point, I realized we had seen a lot of success. I listed areas I thought needed extra work and we have been incorporating them into the second half of the year.

I feel so blessed this year with our homeschool and other areas such as family, friends, church and business.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Our Twentieth Anniversary

We were married this day, January 24, 1987. We dated for three weeks, were engaged for three months, purposely got pregnant after one month and twenty years and seven kids later, we would do it all over again.
Here are 20 reasons I'm glad that I've been married for twenty years.

1. He is the calm in the storm.

2. He is always looking for ways to serve his family.

3. He's my favorite person to stay up late and talk with.

4. He's humble.

5. He laughs at me, even when I poke fun at him.

6. He still tells me I'm pretty, and he makes me believe he thinks I'm the most beautiful woman in the world.

7. He always says yes when I ask him if he wants to go out.

8. He loves to play with the kids.

9. He builds fun toys.

10. He is spontaneous.

11. He has worked hard and been diligent in order to provide for his family.

12. He is trustworthy.

13. He trusts me to run the home and respects that job as a most worthy career.

14. He is still in great shape.

15. He doesn't act his age.

16. He loves people and animals.

17. He supports me buying books (what more can one ask for? :) and homeschooling our children.

18. He still finds time to read picture books to TheLittlestPrincess.

19. He cares about the Kingdom of God more than anything else.

20. Because it's hard to quit at 20 and I look forward to our 50th when I can list 50 reasons.

After Cleansing

Kezzi, BLOCHhead, and I have recently started an acrylic class at our local Arts Center. I'd always been kind of afraid of paint because pencil has been the only medium I've worked with. But, learning to conquer my fears of getting out of the box, I took an extended watercolor class last year and this year I'm venturing into acrylic. I'm finding that it is easier to express oneself with watercolor or acrylic (I haven't tried oil yet), than with colored pencil.

Recently I was inspired by a gallery of paintings at our library titled "Out of the Box, Crazy with Color". To some of the artists, 'out of the box' was portrayed by large, colorful flowers or modern art type figures, but to others it meant digging deeper and instead of painting realistically (i.e. from photos), portraying the emotions and opinions. I have never tried this way of expressing myself but I did last week Monday night (or you could say Tuesday morning) a little after midnight with this acrylic painting, titled "After Cleansing". In an attempt to explain it...

The rock wall on the left is a progression of levels: Bottom to Top - Covenant, Communion, Repentance, Cleansing, Philadelphia (true brotherly love), Atonement, & Tabernacle. I came up with these and then afterwards realized that there were seven of them. The seven colors of the rainbow symbolize each level respectively and the splatters of color symbolize the pieces of the seven we find in each level. I believe those pieces help us to understand what the rest of the climb holds in store but we can only experience the true meaning of each level when we 'climb through' that stage.

The three levels on the right side symbolize the three primary feasts of the Lord. Passover, Pentacost, and Tabernacles.

The woman climbing symbolizes each of us on a personal level but also symbolizes the church's path as Christ's bride. She begins at the bottom where it is warm and comfortable but still hard climbing (especially through repentance) and progresses to the cleansing stage where she is met with the heat of the fire and a steeper climb. I believe that the hardest part of her climb is coming out of that stage. It becomes suddenly cold & black and the next reach is a far one. But the reward at the end is the tree of life, more glorious than any part of her climb. God will continue to bring His people to that point but many fail and fall and have to start over. We must each search our hearts and seek the Lord's help to reach beyond and pull up out of the blackness.

Painting is All The Rave

Painting has taken over as the official rave at Shadybrook Acres. The girls are staying up too late and losing track of time when they are supposed to be going out the door, while they crowd around the art table in BLOCHhead's room painting or offering advice to the painters. Even TheLittlestPrincess was seen recently at the table with Kezzi, mixing her colors as she painted a picture that Kezzi and she drew together. I don't know if you can tell, but it's a picture of a couple of mermaids (with shirts on:) talking to a dolphin. She beamed when Kezzi praised her for mixing a great skin color. Kezzi is promising to post some on her blog soon so stop on over. Pearlkeeper is working on a post about one of her paintings too, which will probably be posted today.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More on Family Life

Edith Schaeffer talks about dealing with blow ups. I know some families don't have many of these but we (me being the chief offender) have been rather prone to them, though I think we have improved immensley over the years. After years of repenting and praying, they seem to be less frequent and far less intense. Nevertheless, I appreciate the guidance Mrs. Shaeffer gives here after she describes a mother breaking plates out of frustration with her family. Does she condemn this mother? No.
"Something needs to come out, right away, or an hour later, two hours later. And there needs to be some exchange of forgiveness, understanding, and an ending to the day at some point - fixing a cup of tea or coffee or a milk shake or apple juice and cookies or toast and sitting down together to talk, or read a book or play a game of checkers, and going to bed together.
"Why bother? Because it is not letting big things grow out of little things which is important in keeping an environment of togetherness. The anger, sharp words, outbursts, frustrated feelings, and swift wave of wanting some sort of revenge may boil over like cream of chicken soup all over the stove, lifting the lid and making a mess of brown ugliness all over the sides of the pan and the stove. Just as with the icky mess of soup-the need is to take a deep breath and plunge in to clean up."
She talks about the importance of someone making the family their career and how the natural person suited for this is the mother. She encourages women to take their rightful place and make the office of wife and mother an exciting vocation "in an age when women are in danger of becoming extinct in the drive to be neuter". How much more so now than even in 1975 when she wrote this book? In 1975 I was a little girl and still most mothers were home being homemakers. Mrs. Shaeffer obviously could see what was coming.
"The psychological, emotional, spiritual, intellectual air, imperfect though it may be, of a family really attempting to live as a family and to stop looking for perfection elsewhere, will provide not only what is needed for a baby to grow, but for an adult as well.
Human adults (MamaLion: and teenagers too) make such stupid mistakes in spending a lifetime chasing rainbows. They chase an elusive thing called 'happiness' which they have vague daydreams about and picture in unrealistic ways, while wasting what they could have if they had spent time and imagination and work and all their talents in developing what they did have to start with."
Turning hearts toward home - that is the phrase that comes to mind.

Playing in the Sand

Things have settled down here so I'm finally getting a chance to post more about the end of the trip.

For those who are curious, here were the choices everyone made on the last day:
Mr. Pott's - Sand Sculpture
MamaLion - trip to nature center
AdventureQueen - beach volleyball
PearlKeeper - movie
Kezzi - tv time
BLOCHhead - painting/nature journaling
SmokeyBear - tv
Tigger - Shuffleboard tournament
TheLittlestPrincess - swim in the ocean

We were not able to do all of them. It was very chilly and windy on the beach so we didn't swim or play volleyball. We did get the sand sculpture done. Yes, it's a little weird. But what does every big family wish for more of? Bathrooms!

The seaweed is the bathmat.
SmokeyBear found an old toothbrush on the beach and all of the little additions like these nuts for the handles and the little glass bottle.
It was a lot of fun and even though there were not many people on the beach, we did get a few grins and snickers from the few passers by.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Lot To Pray About

We are home now. I haven't had a chance to finish the last post from our vacation because a lot has been going on. We had a nice surprise of some out-of-town family coming to town so we spent some time with them the day after we got home.

But then Sunday we came home from church and we couldn't find the new puppy. She always stays close and hangs out with the beagles so we were immediately concerned. Mr. Potts and SmokeyBear drove around the neighborhood looking. My mom came over, worried about it to. She had the idea to check in the pool, hoping she had not fallen in and that is where she was found, drowned. We were all very upset, to put it mildly. I felt depression clinging to me all night.

Mr. Potts immediately drained the pool and plans to tear it down. He had never had the chance to finish the railing and there was one spot where it could be accessed. I had blocked that off at one time but somehow it was open again. Before it was a child that ended up there, we decided to get rid of it thinking maybe in the future we would put it up if we could immediately put up a new deck and gate so that it would be fool-proof. SmokeyBear seems to be doing ok today. Mr. Potts promised to get him another pup.

Then today I got news that my old friend/neighbor/midwife had a car accident today and is in the hospital. I don't know much more than that except some kind of bad head injury and possibly a broken shoulder bone. We are waiting on more news and praying in the meantime.

While that was happening my sister is taking 4 week old baby Joseph to the doctor because he has a bad cough. In fact, she had to detour around the accident scene to go to town and she said she told Kezzi, who went with her, that she hoped it was not someone we knew. She just called me and said he has RSV and they are running some blood tests and xrays. So we are waiting to see if they need to admit him.

PearlKeeper and I were talking this afternoon about how strange we felt while we were out driving, seperately, last night. I guess loosing Tinsel was just the reminder of how fragile life is and it made us feel vulnerable. We both had feelings of concern about having a car accident and then hearing about our neighbor today. It just feels a little weird.

So, needless to say, I haven't been up to blogging about the rest of our trip. I will be spending the rest of the afternoon praying and trying to prepare for our CM/homeschool meeting tonight.

**Update: News on the neighbor is good. She's home and going to be ok. My sister is taking her baby to the Children's hospital right now just to be on the safe side. He seems perfectly fine until he coughs and then it is a little scary. It is hard to wait it out at home when they are so tiny so she's taking him in. We'll all be pitching in, helping with the kids until she's home again.

***2nd Update: Joseph was sent home from the hospital last night. He was not bad enough to be admitted. Yeah!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Vacation Strategy

Tomorrow is our last day here at the resort so we were discussing what we want to do at dinner time. I asked the question, "If you had one hour tomorrow to do whatever you wanted to do, what would it be?" Of course, it had to be something free or very cheap. Nine people for a dinner cruise is just not an option. There was actually quite a variety of answers. When you put them all together, you have a Last-Day-Of-Vacation-Plan. The stipulation is each person has to cheerfully participate in every activity. Nine people, nine choices. If you want to guess who chose what, leave a guess in the comments section and we'll award a virtual Florida t-shirt to the winner.

Here's what our agenda looks like.

Sand sculpture (we haven't decided exactly what we are going to make yet)
Beach volleyball
swim in the ocean (thankfully, the man-o-wars have moved south)
Trip to a local nature park
nature journaling/painting
shuffleboard tournament
tv time (2 people chose this)
Rent a movie to watch on the NEW LAPTOP!

We'll let you know how it goes and hopefully post pictures tomorrow night.

An Educational Vacation

This has definitely been a vacation filled with experiencing new flora and fauna. We have collected all sorts of interesting things from the beach. While we were collecting different types of sponges, a seagull flew over to us and dropped the biggest one, by far, that we had seen. Then he just stood there looking at us as if waiting for our thanks. Everything is on a pan out on the balcony so they don't stink up the inside and boy, can you smell them as soon as you step out there. The boys had a new experience today. They picked coconuts, broke one open and drank the milk and then brought another one home. They had just watched a show the first night in the hotel room about a man surviving on a deserted island so they knew just what to do with the coconut.

Then in addition to all of the new experiences, M.O.M. (mean ol' mom), amid much protest, is making the boys spend 15 minutes each day writing about their activities. They resist but to no avail! :) I know eventually they will be glad they documented these times.

Maybe all of this "education" will counteract all of the time they are spending in between activities watching one of the three tvs here in our rooms. We don't watch tv at home so it is an extra treat that we feel we can afford to indulge them in on these rare occasions, especially since it is mostly Animal Planet and Discovery channel shows.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Everglades

Today we paid a visit to the Everglades. I was impressed by the unique beauty of the place. Since I'm accustomed to being closed in by mountains and ridges, the open space had a special appeal to me. It was just so different. One of my first views was of a great egret flying across the horizon. I felt like I was in some far away country like Africa. I took enough pictures of wildlife so that we will probably be busy with our nature journals for the rest of the winter! We saw cormorants, great blue herons, ibis, wood storks, egrets, anhingas, and an American kestrel along with a couple of others that I haven't identified yet. There were flowers blooming -blue-eyed grass, daisies and swamp lilies. This shot is from a tower that looks out over the glades. It was beautiful. The pictures can't do it justice.

The first place we stopped ended up being the most packed with wildlife than the whole rest of the trip combined. The kids enjoyed being able to get so close to the birds. Kezzi, our bird lover who is studying bird biology this year, experienced a rather close encounter with a bird that was perched in a tree she walked under. :)

And then there were times we were thankful for a little barrier. What are they all looking at?
This guy. This was not a zoo or park. These are just living in the wild and only a few feet away. There were many places that afforded the aligators access to the walkway. I guess they get plenty to eat because I didn't see them go after anyone.
I was hoping to see a panther since there were road signs warning of them but no such luck. Apparently sightings of them are rather rare. There was a sign saying to not let the children run ahead on the wilderness trails though, especially after dusk.
After braving the wild animals, we headed onto the Miami interstates around rush hour. Yikes! I'll take the wild animals any day. I was thankful to return to "home" safe and sound.


We visited the lighthouse at St. Augustine Sunday. The weather was beautiful! The weather in Tennessee hasn't been all that bad this winter, but we are still appreciating the 80 plus degrees.
Mr. Potts and I waited while the kids climbed to the top. TheLittlestPrincess looked a little pale when she returned from the hike to the top of the lighthouse, but she pinked up soon after I gave her a reassuring hug.
They also enjoyed climbing around on the big Spanish moss covered Live Oaks.

Yesterday we walked to this lighthouse. On the way we noticed strange blue bubble looking things washed up on the beach. Some older people stopped Mr. Potts from touching one and told us they were Portuguese Man-O-War! They can sting weeks after they are washed ashore and even when the tentacles are detached. We began to see all kinds of them on the beach and we had to really be careful not to step on them. Not long after this we came upon a family on the beach gathered around their son, looking concerned. I approached them and ask if he had been stung. He had. There was a long blue looking line along his neck and part of his chest. Mr. Potts had me bring along a little vinegar in case we needed to put it on a jellyfish sting, so I was able to offer some instant relief to the little boy. He stopped crying immediately and they left to see what king of treatment he would need. It ended up being a longer walk than we had imagined, especially facing into the wind on the way back. The exercise paid off, however, in the form of a jamocha almond fudge hot fudge sundae later on that evening!

Friday, January 05, 2007


Tonight my husband brought me a big box that UPS delivered down at the shop. It was full of packing peanuts but when I reached in, I pulled out a beautiful shiny black leather LAPTOP CASE with a beautiful LAPTOP computer in it! A very good and generous friend of ours sent it to me as a gift. A gift!! And the best gift I could wish for it is. Wow! It also came at the perfect time since we are leaving tomorrow morning for a trip to Florida. I will be able to email and blog from the BEACH!!! And I will be able to access high speed internet from the places we stay, which will be a treat because I don't have it yet at home. And I will be able to come home and take it with me to the coffee shop. Now while the girls are doing their writing, I'll be sitting there sipping my chai tea latte with a silly grin on my face while I email, blog and surf the net!
THANK YOU, ALBERT!!!!! And Annie too, for giving up Albert's time so he could work on this. We love you both! Aren't you two due for a Smoky Mountain vacation??

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Entering the New Year with Thoughts on Family Life

I have finished reading L'Abri by Edith Schaeffer. The thing I appreciate most is the "realness" of their family. The Schaeffer's have quite a legacy in the way of family and I think Edith is someone whose advice and thoughts should be highly valued.
Yesterday I began reading her book What Is a Family? My pen was busy underlining away in the very first chapter. I am really excited about this book and feel it's timely purpose in my life. She begins by describing events at a family reunion. After many beautiful scenes of special moments depicting much love and care, she comes to this:
"Conversation grows hot with differing opinions at times, and even more heated with strong agreement at others. People pound their fists and walk out of the room, come back and start again, and either modify a point, or 'suddenly see' something they didn't see before-or go to bed disturbed or mad, to get it sorted out in the next discussion or perhaps alone with someone. This is not polite surface conversation, but an exchange of growing, developing ideas which are often a result of much reading, thinking, praying and struggle...Each one has something to say in the direction of the unmistakable worthwhileness of fighting to have the continuity which cannot be had outside of family-a family which is not shattered, scattered, fragmented, splintered, but together in a growing unity throughout the years and generations." (emphasis mine)
My family has recently lived with pressure that something was very wrong with us if we did not live in a continuous state of peace and harmony. This idea threatened to destroy us. I have always contended that times like those described above indicate a closeness that can not be had in an environment where "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Some people tend to prize peace at too great a cost, and the cost in relationships is shallowness substituted for closeness. Patrick Henry addressed the idea of prizing peace above all in the political realm and I believe it is just as important in a family realm.
I am not saying it is not vital to strive for the fruits of the Spirit in our conversations and relationships with our family and others. There is some behavior that is never acceptable. But we must allow each other room to FEEL and EXPRESS emotion. Then we must be willing to stick it out and work through anything that will threaten the relationships we value so much.
"The family reunion did not come about because of perfect people, nor because of having had perfect relationships every moment of every day, not because of having always made right decisions, nor because of calm perfect dispositions and easy-to-live-with characters. There have been a long sucession of mistakes and sins, forgiveness asked for and given, troubles and feelings of hopelessness, discouragement to the point of wanting to give up, hard lessons learned, and a fresh learning from each other."
"Frustration, anger, impatience, the feeling of being misunderstood, the giving in to day-dreams of perfection-these or other forms of dissatisfaction invade every human relationship for at least minutes, if not hours or days. Have any two people never felt like walking away from each other? The difference is that the deep underlying sense of the importance of family continuity must be stronger than the insistence on having perfection. People throw away what they could have, by insisting on perfection which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it. Everyone has been in danger of this, but many more each year are giving in to it.
The first chapter is titled 'A Changing Life Mobile'. In it she compares family to a mobile, a living art form.
"There is a beauty and continuity which can never be had unless someone in the family has the certainty that the whole art form is more important than one incident, or even a string of incidents."
And this final quote is the last paragraph of the first chapter.
"People need to experience the beauty of being part of a mobile art form, and people who have never known such beauty exists need to see it taking place. If human relationships are to be beautiful on a wider form, in church and state, the individual families making up society have to be really worked on by someone who understands that artists have to work to produce their art. It doesn't just fall down readymade from the sky!"
The gallery where our art is displayed is the church and the world, both in desparate need of seeing the beauty of family. So let us enter this new year with the mindset to work at our art.
"And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9
Happy New Year to everyone!