Daily Reads


Over the last year, we've slowly dipped our toes into homeschooling. Last fall, when Michael was three, we bought a simple but fun curriculum called God's Little Explorers, and we had a great time with it! Each week (in a 26 week school year) covered a Bible story and a corresponding letter of the alphabet. So, each week we would read that particular story from the Bible, focus on writing the letter of the week, build or create something  that worked with our weekly material, and we would supplement with books and other activities like science projects. It was inexpensive, well thought-out, and a really wonderful framework for us!

 X is for x-ray / G is for garden / B is for boat
I is for insect / Mikey's alphabet (I love this!) / nature scavenger hunt
hard at work in our classroom / Z is for zoo / T is for tent

This year we have taken things a step farther and joined a co-op with other homeschooling families in our area, and it's been fantastic! We joined a local Classical Conversations homeschool group and I can't say enough about how encouraging, fulfilling, and educational an experience it has been for us. We've found such a Godly, supportive, vibrant community of teachers and friends! Michael, in particular, loves being at school with his teacher and his friends. It has just been the greatest blessing to be with these wonderful people every week. And we're learning so much!!

first day of CC - they were both so excited!!
some of our reading materials
our weekly board with memory work for history, geography, science, 
language arts and latin, and math (skip-counting seen here)

The new material that is presented every week at CC is the jumping off point for the studies for the rest of the week. Throughout the week we review and memorize the memory work (which is fun! even Samuel loves it!), we read about the subjects we are covering, we sometimes watch educational videos to reinforce the material, and we also do some math and language arts that isn't related to the CC curriculum. 

giving his weekly presentation / drawing bats in art class / our model of the Colosseum

Looking at it here, it sounds like more than it really is! On a typical week day we spend about an hour reviewing the CC material and working on math and language arts, usually in the morning right after breakfast. On the days we do projects or extra reading we may spend an extra hour or more on school. We also use lunch time to read and review, and we listen to our "CC songs" (memory work set to music) in the car. And, we use the time before Michael's nap and bedtime to read - something we've always done anyway. So, it's not a huge chunk of time we spend sitting in our school room every day, but rather we're finding ways to use our time more wisely and fit school in wherever we can.

We always say that we are taking the boys' education one step at a time, and that is true. We don't know how long we will homeschool. We never even thought we would do it in the first place! But decision by decision, we arrived at this place and for now it is a wonderful blessing. I'm so thankful to have this time with them and to experience all of this learning together. 


How we eat

A couple of years ago, Tim made the decision to start eating clean. After lots of careful research, he settled on a slow-carb diet that is similar to a Paleo diet, but does include some unrefined carbs (like legumes). He made this choice completely on his own (heaven knows I was perfectly happy in my rut of eating easy/yummy foods), and I was so happy and so proud of him! On the other hand, it presented some challenges for me as the main food shopper/food preparer and our at-the-time almost-two-year-old. But, we did our best! And after almost three years we have settled into a pretty easy routine of cooking meals that satisfy our dietary needs (and our tastebuds!)

I'm a little embarassed to post this here because I am in no way a food expert or even a very good cook. Also, we have "cheat day" every Saturday (and most of the time Sunday, too), so we're not always a great example! But over all, our diet is so much healthier than before! We're all eating more vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. So, when friends and family ask for tips and examples of how we make this low-carb diet work for the whole family, I often think it would be useful to put it all down in one place where people can see a coherent list of meals, instead of me trying to think of examples off the top of my head - ha! (Also, I keep a written list of meals that work for us (for quick reference when planning meals and writing the grocery list), but if I put them all here I can link to the recipes I use in each meal, and that will make cooking even easier for me!)

Before I get into the individual meals I should explain: while Tim adheres closely to the slow-carb diet, the rest of us do not. So, while we do eat lots of veggies and protein and healthy fats along with Tim, we also eat our share of bread and rice, etc. Tim graciously doesn't mind this, so I am able to just use a simple formula as the base for most meals:

protein + 2 vegetables (we try to eat as many cruciferous and leafy green veggies as possible) + slow carb (like beans)

To that formula, I will also add a starch (rice, bread, pasta, etc.) for me and the kids. We might also have some fruit. This is a loose formula, and we don't always stick to it strictly, but it makes things so simple when I approach every meal this way - first planning a slow-carb meal that will work for Tim, and then embellishing with some carbs for the rest of us, or adding beans or extra vegetables as needed for him. Here are some examples of our favorite meals, with links to recipes where available (slow-carb foods are in bold):

1. Roasted whole chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots, sliced tomatoes, baguette, cheese
2. Meatballs (much better recipe here for cheat days), pasta, sauce, spinach salad, melon
3. Grilled steak, grilled veggies, baked potato, melon
4. BLT salad (the kids like to eat the components separately with dressing for dip)
5. Hamburgers, fries, carrot slices (Tim makes a salad with greens, tomatoes, avocado, hamburger, etc.)
6. Grilled fajitas, beans, guacamole, tortillas and chips
7. Roasted pork tenderloin (and another version I like), roasted cauliflower, steamed green beans
8. Meat and vegetable stir-fry, rice
9. Baked chicken, mac and cheese, steamed broccoli, berries
10. Ni├žoise salad, baguette
11. Grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, roasted cauliflower, berries


Montana - Paradise Valley (Part III)

in my life I've probably taken 100 pictures by this bridge, but this one is my favorite

On Sunday morning, bright and early, we turned south on Mill Creek Road up into the mountains, past where the paved road ends, along gravel road that follows Mill Creek, and eventually across a beautiful old wooden bridge and into Yellowstone Bible Camp. We were only about 10 miles from our cabin, but I felt like I had stepped back in time to my childhood. I attended the camp from 1993-1997, as a camper and as a counselor (I basically went as often as I could). To this day some of my happiest times, greatest friendships, times of purest worship and deepest contentment happened here. It is sacred ground to me, and returning with my family and our friends to worship and play for the morning was the high point of my trip. My heart could have burst with joyful memories and thanksgiving.

 Mill Creek / driving up the gravel road with the windows down

It looked a little different, but the place still smelled just like it did all those years ago - the fresh piney air, the smell of the creek, coffee and hot breakfast and smoke from the fireplace coming from the lodge. Kids played basketball and adults sipped coffee around the campfire. We were welcomed so warmly, and when it was time to ring the bell for worship Michael and Sam got to do the honors! We packed into the chapel and worshipped together. It was such a special morning.

Hyalite Reservoir (photo by Elsabe)

On Monday Tim and Lance spent the day fly-fishing and Elsabe and I took the boys on a hike to Palisade Falls in the Gallatin National Forest south of Bozeman. It was a fairly long drive (about 90 minutes from our cabin in Pray), but it was so worth it! The views were beautiful and the hike itself was gorgeous and good for kids too. The trail is steep, but it's paved so I was able to push Sam in the stroller, and Michael ran along ahead of us most of the way. 

Palisade Falls

At the top of the trail is this beautiful waterfall. Also, some really cute, really bold chipmunks. I didn't get any pictures, but the chipmunks were obviously used to sharing food with the hikers and they hung around us the whole time we rested and snacked by the waterfall. Later that afternoon after we returned to the cabin and the boys had napped, we went out for a walk in the neighborhood and I fell in love with it all over again. I even found my dream house (see below).

home of my dreams
 picking wildflowers and gathering rocks. always gathering rocks.
big sky and mountains at the end of our street

On our last day we all went to Bozeman. We shopped for souvenirs, had some lunch, and played at the park until it started raining. Then, we had the treat of driving back down the valley in a huge thunderstorm - it was so beautiful. I had forgotten how quickly mountain storms come in, and how quickly they move on...

walking down main street in Bozeman
enjoying Lindley Park
Lindley Park / the storm completely hid the mountains
after the storm, headed home on highway 89
 stormy afternoon view from the cabin / last night out in Livingston

That night we drove back into Livingston for one more meal at the Rib and Chop House. It was hard to enjoy it, knowing that we had to leave the next morning. I was so sad and then, that night when we got back to the cabin, God blessed us with one last spectacular sunset over the river. It was so, so beautiful. It was quite a gift to all of us. 
I'm so very thankful for our time there. 

sunset on our last night at the cabin


Montana - Paradise Valley (Part II)

storm over the Absarokas, headed south on 89

On our third and fourth days in Paradise Valley, we spent some time in the local towns. On Friday we went in to Livingston, one of our favorite places in Montana. We walked around and bought souvenirs (including some cowboy hats for the boys - be still my heart!), and had an amazing lunch at Mark's. It was one of those days - the weather was gorgeous, and the burgers and shakes were so good, and we had such a good time devouring our lunch and listening to good music in the car. That's a memory that will always make us smile! 
Livingston. I love so much about this picture, but especially the truck with the canoe, camper, dog looking out the window, and a bike on the back - delightfully typical in this part of the world
 the boys in their new hats / lunch at Mark's was a good choice

The next day we went to Bozeman, another town we love, and took the boys to the Museum of the Rockies. That was a huge hit! The dinosaur exhibit was amazing as expected, but so were all the other exhibits. Michael loved the Native American exhibit, and both boys were in heaven playing in the Children's Discovery Center, dressing up as rangers and fire-jumpers, camping and fishing. It was really fantastic. Michael has been talking about it ever since.
Sam was SO excited about these dinosaurs - this picture makes me laugh every time!
 Sam has a thing for mountain lions / please, please don't ever become a fire jumper, Mikey

And in all the rest of our other free time we were on the river. Pretend fishing, waving to all the people that went floating by, collecting rocks, throwing rocks, catching minnows, climbing on fallen trees and driftwood, and later doing some actual fishing after we bought them some poles. It was such a treat for all of us to be out there on that cold, clear water.
we loved waving and chatting with the people floating the river
 our "pet" minnows / all four of us in our happy place
Michael really took to the river - he seemed right at home and it was so fun to watch him!
Sammy liked it too - as long as he could hold our hand

One of my favorite nights of the trip, we allowed Michael to stay up late with the adults to have a camp fire. We also told him we would sleep outside with him (his idea because he thought we should be camping out all the time in Montana). We didn't get a lot of sleep that night, but it was really fun and I know it will always be a special memory for us.
he was so excited! (actually, we all were!)
such a big boy! he totally enjoyed being one of the grown ups for an evening :)
 sitting around the fire pit with Uncle Lance
 it was such a beautiful night! not too cold, but chilly enough for a fire...
...and s'mores, of course
 Michael took this one for us! One of my favorite shots from the trip!
We took this one in our bed on the porch around 10:30. Two hours later Michael and I were still awake (mostly because he wouldn't quit talking). He walked out into the grass to go potty and came back to tell me that he smelled a skunk. And that's when we retreated to our beds inside. But it was fun while it lasted!

There's still more to come...