Operation Christmas Child

Every year our local YMCA  and our church collect shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child These boxes will go to children all across the world who would not be receiving a gift otherwise. These boxes are to be filled with toys and things for the child to do, along with any other item that may help the child.

Each year, I try to let my children pick what they want to put in their boxes. The way it works is that you start by choosing a boy or girl and then an age group. The ages are 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14. My girls like to pick within their own age group.

This year we packed Brita water filter bottles, crayons, coloring books, scratch paper, Lifesaver candies, gum, soap, floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, dolls, little trinket toys, little glitter crafts, and a few other odds and ends.

For the boy gift since it was 2-4, I got a Grover toy, Play-doh, ball, crayons, coloring books, paper, a toy dinosaur, a plush stuffed horse, Smarties, a recorder (the instrument, which I’m sure his parents will just LOVE), a toy car,  comb, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, and a Brita filter bottle.


I like to pack these in a plastic box so the child can use it for a long time.

This year the children are going to track their boxes to see where they end up.

I really believe that showing love even in these small ways is the way we make the world a better place.

At a time when what we see around us looks far from what we wish it would be, I believe that love changes things. I hope that my children will look for ways to show love to people from all walks of life, from all areas of the world, in big and small ways, always.


Little Things

Sometimes it’s the little things that you cherish the most.

My Granny has been gone now for 12 years. I still think about her just about every day.

She was funny. I don’t think she always meant to be; but something about the way she was brutally honest made me laugh.

She had the most amazing and greenest thumb I’ve ever see. My niece still has a plant that is thriving from my Granny’s house.  (She’s given me shoots from it several times and I’ve killed them every time)

She was a hard worker. In her life she had more heartache than I can imagine. As a young girl, she was sent to be a house maid for a family because her parents had gotten a divorce (in the 1930s-can you imagine?) She lost two husbands, one to cancer and one to suicide. She was a single parent for many years.

She was beyond creative. She made clothes and quilts and pillows. I’m convinced there isn’t anything she couldn’t have made. While my sister has the quilts and such, I have a few little things that she made that I cherish.

This is a chair she made out of tin can. A. Tin. Can! I can only imagine how sharp it was and how very difficult it was to make. She even sewed that little cushion for it. I would never have the patience or the creativity to make this. I think that me thinking of her making it is my favorite part.

Here’s another one. It is woven and curled. How did she do that? The little cushion is just a piece of fabric, stuffing, and cardboard.

I keep these two little chairs that my Granny made in my china cabinet. I always think that I’d love to find a place in my house where I can show them off and have a chance to tell people about that great little lady who I loved so much who made them. They may just be little things, but they mean so very much to me.


This southern girl loves warm weather. I don’t care for freezing temperatures or snow. Given these facts it seems crazy that I could love Chicago the way I do. I’ve been overseas and I’ve been lots of places in the U.S too. Chicago is my favorite place to visit without the children (so far). I must throw the disclaimer out there that I’ve never been there in the winter and honestly don’t plan on it.

There are so many things to love so I’ll just name a few.

The Art Institute. I could spend ALL day there. I have always loved art. I love learning about the artists and seeing these paintings or other pieces of art that I’ve seen in books. There is so much to see.

The Field Museum of Natural History. This is yet another place I could spend a full day. There are amazing things to see and learn while you’re there. It seems like I never have enough time. If you go, don’t forget to meet Sue. She’s hard to miss.

The Museum of Contemporary Art.  I wasn’t sure how much I would like this place, but surprisingly I really enjoyed it. I love art that I can understand even if it requires some explanation. My favorite things in this museum were the sculptures. It amazes me how creative some people can be.

Magnificent Mile. There are endless things to do here. I cannot lie and say I don’t love a little shopping. The stores are fabulous and this southern girl even thought most of the people working in them were friendly.

Also, the architecture on the buildings is incredible. There are so many amazing works of art that are part of the building themselves.

The John Hancock Center. The views are unbelievable! Truly amazing.

Chicago has an endless array of restaurants. My very favorite is  The Grill on the Alley. It has a lot of special memories for my husband and me. There used to be a server there named Manfred that we always requested. My sweet husband even got him to write me a birthday note one year when he went there on business. Manfred always had two jokes ready to tell…a clean one and a dirty one. We always had him tell us both.

On our last visit we ate at both RPM Italian and RPM Steak. These are Giuliana and Bill Rancic’s restaurants. The vibe was electric in both places. It was a little more “hot” at RPM Steak. With that said, I preferred everything about RPM Italian. The food was out of this world and I even was able to stay low carb there. Neither place felt stuffy. Both were really fun. The food was good at both, but RPM Italian is most certainly a place I want to visit again and again.

On my last visit, my niece and I walked over 30 miles in the few days we were there. Our husbands were at a conference and we had the days to ourselves. We had such a good time! We were on a hunt for consignment shops. Those stories deserve their own post.

Anyway, we had such a great time really exploring the city and we were so proud with how well we were able to use the Chicago skyline like the northern star. We went everywhere and never were lost!

I don’t know when my next trip to my favorite city will be, but it won’t be soon enough!






Craziest “French Toast” Ever

I shared my recipe for low carb cookies and a cheesecake last week. Today, I have a breakfast recipe for anybody low-carbing it out there.

Keto French Toast:

2 to 3 eggs

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 packet of sweetener

1 Tbl. butter or coconut oil for cooking

Mix eggs, sweetener, and cinnamon until well blended. In a hot skillet melt butter or coconut oil. Pour egg mixture into skillet. Cook both sides until done. Serve with sugar free syrup or any other topping (or not) you choose.




Ancestry DNA

Two years ago for Father’s Day we got my dad the Ancestry DNA kit. It was what he wanted and specifically asked us to get him. Now, we all assumed that it would come back telling us that he was 90% German. What we knew from his family was that his father’s parents had come from Germany before they’d had children. We knew very little about his mother’s side and because her maiden name was German sounding we thought that she was also German.

After a few weeks, he got the results and they were a complete surprise.

That man is BRITISH. He has a little Western European in him, but way less than we thought. Once we got started on the website we were able to start making a family tree. It even links you up to cousins that match up with your DNA. It’s been a fun project..

I got my own kit and was shocked that I am 20% Irish. I didn’t know I was Irish at all. Now, both of my parents, in-laws, husband and lots of friends have done it too. It really is fun. The anticipation of waiting was even kind of fun. If you choose, it can be a lot of work too.

So after many hours of work I found out things I never would have dreamed. One thing that completely shocked me was that most of my family on both sides have been here for a long time. Many of my relatives were part of the Revolutionary War.

Some came over later and I’ve even seen their names on the passenger’s lists for the boats on which they arrived. Some seemed like nice people and others maybe not so much. You can’t pick your family.

Some of the coolest things I’ve discovered are the people way back in the past. 2108


What this particular discovery had led to has been really fun and interesting. Our history lessons this year (we use Ambleside online) have been all about Medieval British history. It’s been neat to read and learn about these great grandfathers. The children have been far more excited to learn about British history because it’s related to them now.

If you’ve ever considered doing your Ancestry, I would highly recommend it. It’s been an amazing experience.


Everybody has them. Some people excel in mathematics, others in science, others in the realm of technology. There are many people who have several things in which they really excel. For almost everyone there is at least one area of school or life or both that challenges them.

For my oldest daughter, Victoria, this is algebra. That girl could read at four years old and had poetry published by ten. Math, however, has made her cry on more than one occasion. She’s so incredibly smart that I have no idea what she’ll do in life because she could do anything except be a mathematician.

For my second oldest, Lillian, reading was her struggle. Diagnosed with a phonological processing disorder in third grade, it took her longer for her to learn to read and her confidence took a hit because of it. Years later, she reads like a pro, but her confidence still affects her willingness to do it. Her strength is that there is not anything that she can’t figure out and make happen.

My third daughter, Olivia, is a unique story. At the age of one, we had confirmed what I had long suspected…she had a brain abnormality. She has colpocephaly. It is extremely rare with only about 40 documented cases. We were told that since so few people have it that they had no idea what her life or her challenges would be. Today, she has begun to read and finally grasp the concept of numbers. She has the most incredible memory of any person I have ever seen. She can tell you what she did on a particular day down to what she had to drink.

Then there is Eva. She is a math whiz but also struggles to read. She is the truest example of a dyslexic that I’ve ever encountered. She learns best through listening and has a great memory too. She is good at history and loves science. She loves people and it shines through her daily encounters with those she meets.

So, what’s the point to all this?

As a homechool parent, I struggle with knowing if I’m doing the best thing for these children. There are days that I feel like I fail and other days where I feel triumphant. Truthfully, when I did student teaching in college I felt the same way, but they weren’t MY kids. One of the best things about homeschooling is being able to let each child move on where they are doing well and stay and continue to practice where they are not doing well.

That’s why at my house we don’t focus on what grade something is;  but rather if it is the appropriate level for that particular child.

I have tried SO MANY things to help my struggling readers. There are two that have made the biggest difference.

Years ago, when Lillian was struggling with reading we hired a tutor. She used a program called Academic Associates. Within a year she was reading well. It was incredible. We still use the binder with my two younger girls.

This is what their website says about the program:

“Our Reading Program uses the 44 sounds of English.

The Academic Associates Reading Program provides students of all ages the “tools” that unlock the million words of English. Amazingly, non-readers can be reading over 300 words within 3 hours!

Most students complete the program in fewer than 50 hours. They will gain 2 to 4 grades during this time.

Those with dyslexia and other learning challenges make remarkable gains.”

The thing that has helped my younger two girls has been Primary Phonics. It works very slowly through the sounds of the letters and the blends. I’ve ordered the books from Ebay and Amazon. They may even be available at some used bookstores or education stores as well. The progress I’ve seen since using this has been impressive.

primaryphonics_hero (1)

I’m excited to see what lies ahead for these girls. Our challenges don’t define us but refine us. They have more empathy for others because of what they see and experience. They learn that if you want something, sometimes it requires MORE….More time, more effort, more work; but it’s all worth it in the end.

Life would be boring if there weren’t any challenges.

These Are The Days of Our Lives

Everyday is filled with to do lists, places to go, appointments to keep.  We are all so very busy. I watch (actually I hear it while I’m driving and the children are watching it)  Little House on the Prairie. It makes me think about slower days. I always love how at night they just sat around and were together.  When I read the book, the fondness for these moments and Laura’s sweet memories of them shine through. I don’t want to let the busyness of life make me miss the moments. Here are a few from the past couple of weeks that I know if I don’t purposefully try to remember, that I will forget. I don’t want to forget.

005008 We found a dog wandering in the street. We had it about 3 hours before we found its owners. The girls fell in love fast. He was sweet, but I was proud that when the time came they were able to let him go because they had empathy for the owners.

162David climbed into Bony’s lap and wanted him to “hold me”. He’s such a loving and happy little boy.

175While we waited for his sisters to get their teeth cleaned, he put this thing on his head and was just sitting there waiting for me to notice. I don’t think he realized how funny it was.  He is always trying to make us laugh, so maybe he did.


Our little Halloween hot dog, the whole crew and a mermaid all on Halloween.

David’s favorite thing to talk about, pretend to cook and sometimes just randomly say is, “hot dog”. When he saw the costume he just had to have it.

Lillian planned and embellished that costume. She saw it on a Goodwill run when we were looking for a costume for another party. She’s been planning it since August. She’s a planner!

For many years, we have hosted Halloween at our house. We have dinner and desserts. I have games for the kids to play. It’s nice that even as they get older they still want to all get together.

These are the days.

The Hundred Dresses

Yesterday was National Young Readers Day. It is suggested that on that day parents and adults read to the children in their lives. This book is a great book to do just that!

I homeschool my children with the exception of my high schooler. I have homeschooled them from the beginning and for our family it was a very good decision. Anyway, with all that I have going on I usually only have time to read the books my children are reading or that I am reading to them. One of these books is “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes. I read it aloud to my youngest two girls and then made my older two read it because it is just so good! I cried. I usually do at good stories and this one is so very good.

Goodreads says,
“Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” This powerful, timeless story has been reissued with a new letter from the author’s daughter Helena Estes, and with the Caldecott artist Louis Slobodkin’s original artwork in beautifully restored color.”

This book was written over 70 years ago; but the message and the moral still ring true. Bullying is wrong. It hurts more deeply than we may ever realize. The bully is wrong, but the people who watch and do nothing are wrong too. One of the beautiful things in this story is the way that the girls who bullied feel remorse and have a true desire to make it right. The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”  is proved WRONG in this book. The girls in the story come to learn that words have weight and they can hurt more than a stone. The best part of all is that Wanda is one of those people who doesn’t carry bitterness.There is much to take away from this little 90 page book!  I think this is a must read for all children and this parent loved it too!

Today is Veteran’s Day so to all those who have served and those who are currently serving

A Couple of Low Carb Dessert Recipes

The low carb diet is one of those things that ebbs and flows in popularity. I found it particularly helpful after the birth of my son. Despite working out 7 times a week, I managed to pile on more than 50 pounds. I blame some of it on hypothyroidism, but most of it was just because I became a carb junkie. I wanted juice and bread and pasta. Those are things I almost never eat. I don’t really even like pasta .  So after the birth of my son, I decided to drop the carbs and the calories. I waited to lose most of the weight and really diet until I stopped nursing when he was 15 months old. The weight came off within 4 months. I am still trying to stay low carb except on vacation (so if you see me at Disney with a Dole Whip or lobster roll, please don’t judge).

Now, I would always suggest that anyone wanting to lose more than a few pounds talk to their doctor first. You need to know what is healthy and best for YOU. Just because one diet works for one person does not mean it will work or even be healthy for another. Please talk to a medical professional. I am not one and don’t even play one on TV.

This post is really not about a diet as much as it is about a couple of desserts I depend on, especially during holidays or celebrations, when foods that I don’t need to be eating are the highlight.

The first is what I have named the FAUX-T-MEAL COOKIE. My favorite cookie is an Oatmeal cookie, but I barely miss it when these are around.017




1 stick of softened butter

1 cup of Splenda

1/4 cup Torani Sugar Free Brown Sugar Cinnamon syrup

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

2 cups of almond flour

Mix it. Drop 1 to 2 inch balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges start turning brown. I like mine crispier than my husband does, so I leave one batch in longer than the other.

I use Splenda because I have tried every other sugar substitute known to man and Splenda gives me reliable tasty results without the massive stomach and intestinal sadness that others seem to cause me. Please feel free to use whatever sweetener makes you happy.

The other recipe that my husband and I love is a coconut cream cheesecake.





1 block of full fat cream cheese

1 cup splenda

1 tsp. coconut extract

2 T. coconut sugar free syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 egg

I mix it all together in my blender. Pour it in a greased dish. Bake at 350 degrees until it begins to brown and is set. I let it cool and then place in the refrigerator until it is nice and cold. You can serve it with whipped cream.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and please let me know if you try them.