Monthly Archives: May 2015

Long Weekend Getaway

We have not gotten away in quite some time, so it was a joy to do something different for a change.

Day 2 ~
Sean, Mike, Brian, and Tiffany (Lauren and I are taking pictures here.)

It had been raining quite a bit here in OK but we were not going to be discouraged. Because we know that camping in OK is tough, we decided to make camp at the Hampton Inn in McAlester. After going to Natural Falls State Park last Thursday morning and eating lunch there (see last Friday’s post), we headed down to McAlester, checked into our hotel, settled in and then headed out to dinner. We ate at a Chinese buffet that night for dinner. I enjoyed it. :) Then we went back to the hotel, rested about an hour and then went down to the hot tub, pool, and sauna. They have a workout room too but with all the hiking we did, we didn’t need any more.

The next morning we got up and went down to the complimentary continental breakfast, which was very nice. They had everything from waffles you make fresh yourself in under three minutes to oatmeal to fruit. After breakfast we headed out to Robbers Cave State Park which is about 45 minutes away from the hotel. We still had not encountered any rain, for which we were thankful. (The picture above was taken there.)

It seemed as if it had rained fairly recently, so we were glad we left the hotel when we did.

L&I Day 2 ~
Lauren and I

They guys climbed all over this area for about 30 minutes or so before we moved onward on the trail. (This was right near the very beginning of the trail. We hadn’t actually hiked anywhere yet.) Brian and Sean even investigated the opening here behind Lauren and I.

Devil's Slide ~
Mike, Brian, and Sean

I know this next picture is a bit blurry but it is one of the few I have of most of us in the same spot on the trail together. ;)

Orange Hiking Trail~
Mike, me, Brian, Lauren, and Sean (Tiffany taking picture)

Sean and Tiffany are the only two that climbed down into the actual cave.

Tiff in Cave ~
Tiff in Cave

Tiff took this picture from inside the cave looking out at us.

Inside Out ~
Brian, Lauren, and I as seen from inside the cave.

This next one reminds me of the view atop Twin Peaks when we hiked in VA, near Mount Rogers.

Atop Robbers Cave ~ LifeofJoy.meAtop the Cave ~

This is about the time I realized that I was doing it wrong! I am NOT new to hiking! But my hiking stick was not even on my radar at any point until I needed it! I felt like such a newb. Climbing up wasn’t that difficult because there were rocks around to grab on but coming down was a bit treacherous and I nearly fell 2-3 times. It didn’t help that it had rained so much over the past couple of days that there was water running down the path we were walking on. ;)

Going Back Down ~
Mike is right behind me to steady me should I become unsteady again. :)

This was probably the best part of the whole trail . . . well, next to being on top of the cave and looking out over the beautiful view. This is the horse corral. It was really cool.

Horse Corral ~

Taking Pics ~ LifeofJoy.meHorse Corral~

Tiffany, Lauren, me, Mike, and Brian in the horse corral (Sean taking picture) in picture above on the right.

We finished the trail and this is what I see as I come back from the restroom.

Done ~

It was time to find a place to eat our picnic lunch. But it began to rain. Lucky for us, we found an available pavilion. I know this picture isn’t very good but I wanted you to see the rain. ;) (I think Brian was making a video.)

Rain ~

Lunch ~
Sean and Mike
Lunchtime ~
Lauren and Brian at lunch

I don’t know how I missed Tiffany in these two pictures as she is sitting just to the right of Mike and just to the left of Lauren. :(

After lunch we stopped in the gift shop and nature center and headed back to camp Hampton. We were going to eat at Western Sizzlin’ but it didn’t look like a very meaty buffet so we headed next door to Denny’s. Afterwards we went back to the hotel, rested for about an hour, and again went down to the hot tub and pool for about an hour or so.

Hot Tub ~ LifeofJoy.meThen it was back upstairs to shower, get in our jammies, and play games while Mike had on Discovery channel. ;)

This is getting a bit long, so I’ll share what we did the next day next Friday. :)

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Learning to Read

Read ~ LifeofJoy.meLast week I shared what we used in the beginning. After that first year with Hooked on Phonics, Bob Books, and eventually Pathway readers at the end of the year, I followed the advice from one veteran homeschooler on the Practical Homeschooling forum on AOL and purchased The Scaredy Cat Reading System.

I think I would have enjoyed it so much more if I had just used the curriculum and taught it myself. Instead I used the accompanying cassette tapes that actually taught Brian for me. Hmmm, now that I think about it, I seem to recall using this, in part, during that first year. It has games to play to practice the sounds and eventually sounding out words. If you recall, the same is true of the math program we used, which I was great because that was about a six year program. One decision I wouldn’t have to make again for years. :)

We made a cross-country move after the first year (kindergarten for Brian). Brian was then 6, Sean was then 4, and Tiffany was a mere 3 months old. I used Five In A Row (FIAR) with Brian while Sean played quietly on the floor, most of the time, in the same room with us. It was a fun time. Brian kept working through the math, Scaredy Cat Reading System, and Pathway readers.

The next summer I enrolled him in the Summer Reading Program with the local library and his reading just took off. I asked Sean that year (he had turned 5) if he wanted to learn to read. I had learned that when a child does not desire to learn to read, it is very very difficult to teach them to do so. He let me know that he did want to learn to read. All year long I had researched what program to use next. I settled on Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. With this program the child did not need to spend time teach the child all the letters and their names. Individual letters are introduced with one of the sounds it makes. Visual cues are given to help the child know which sound the phoneme makes.

I really liked this method but unfortunately Sean did not. :(  Well, he liked some of it. The part he did not like was having to re-read the passages. It has some good activities including ‘Say it Fast’ and ‘Say it Slow.’ We made it through about 1/3 of the book before I gave up because of his insistence at not re-reading the passages. Knowing what I know now, I would have continued on and just allowed him to read it just once but I was a new homeschooler and thought I had to follow the directions exactly or it wouldn’t work.

I found another program, Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books. I have found this book, that I was able to read by borrowing it through Inter-Library Loan, as a pdf available for free online here. I like this because it has a list of library books to use for each grade level. I used this with Sean the second semester and come the summer reading program again and he took off reading as well.

My kids spelling wasn’t too good, so I began looking for something to help with that. I found Reading Reflex which is another learning to read program but could also be used as a remedial reading (or spelling) program. This program uses manipulatives, which I liked.

By the time Tiffany was ready to read, I had found Reading Made Easy by Valerie Bendt. It is very much like Teach our Child to Read with 100 Easy Lessons and is Christian based, which I loved. Tiffany was much like Sean and did not like re-reading the passages. Thankfully I had learned a thing or two by then and did not always enforce that she re-read the passages. I did make her finish the book though. :D

So there you have our journey through teaching my children how to read. It’s never an easy task but it is most rewarding!

Until next time, God bless,
Michele ºÜº


I appreciate the comments left last week! You all are such an encouragement to me. I know it takes time to do so, which makes each comment all the more precious.

While away last weekend on a mini-vacation with Mike (my husband), and my grown kids (including the married one and his wife), I spent so much time having fun and playing gameiamthedivaczts that although I did take my pens, pencil, and tiles, I did not get a single line drawn. :D Thus I was very glad to put pen to paper for this week’s Diva Challenge which was to do a tangle with all straight lines.

I didn’t go for anything fancy, just for something relaxing and enjoyable.

DC#219 ~ LifeofJoy.meI used hurry and paradox. Both are tangles I really enjoy even if I don’t use them very much. I love how by drawing only straight lines, a curve can be formed. I think Paradox is what hooked me on Zentangle.

I’m WAY behind on other challenges but if I manage to get any more done within the next day or two I will add them here. I really think I may get some done and added because I’ve got a little extra time on my hands this week.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

His and Hers Potato Salad

We are a house divided! No, I’m not talking about opposing football teams or anything like that. I like Miracle Whip and Mike likes mayonnaise. I use Miracle Whip for all kinds of salads potato, macaroni, tuna, chicken, ham, and even coleslaw. Mike has always eaten it the way I fix it but has lately gotten it into his head that he prefers it with mayonnaise, much to my dismay. I’ve never really understood why he prefers mayo because when it is used sugar and vinegar are added to make it more like Miracle Whip.

Yesterday I decided to make potato salad. I decided to be nice and make some his way and some my way. Thus the his and hers potato salad.

The pictures aren’t the greatest, actually a little blurry but the one on the left is mayo and Miracle Whip is on the right.

Potato Salads ~

I boiled six potatoes whole with the skins on. I’m pretty quick at peeling potatoes, so I’m not sure it really saved me any time. Although if I had put the cooked potatoes into ice water, they may have come off more easily . . . I forgot about that part of the directions.Potatoes ~

I also boiled 3 eggs and peeled them.

I cut 3 potatoes into bite-size pieces into each bowl and diced one and a half eggs into each bowl as well.

The next part is simple for mine; simply add several spoonfuls of Miracle Whip and a little salt and stir. :)

Mike’s is a little bit involved but even it is simple. I added several spoonfuls of mayonnaise, a squirt of mustard, some salt, and a couple of tablespoons of diced onion.

Mike's Potato Salad ~

The big thing with how much mayo or miracle whip to is is about taste. My grandmother told me that if you’ve put in all you need and it doesn’t seem moist enough, add a splash of evaporated milk and stir again.

Mike's Potato Salad ~
Mayo (with mustard and onion) Potato Salad
My Potato Salad ~
Miracle Whip Potato Salad

So there you have it . . . two versions of a simple potato salad. I love it. Now in the heat of summer I like to add some diced cucumber and diced tomato.

Until next time, God bless,
Michele ºÜº

Mindfully Self-Sacrificing

Robber's Cave ~
Lauren and I are missing from this picture because we were both taking pictures. ;)

We went out of town for a few days on a mini vacation. Brian and Lauren joined us. It was a fun time and memories made and oh, so fun. The kids all enjoy playing games of all kinds: video, board, and card games, which they get from me. We played a number of them over the last several days. We even got Mike to play some but it’s just not his thing. Mike enjoyed watching some Discovery channel shows that he cannot watch at home because we don’t have cable or satellite. Truth be told, we all kind of got hooked on a couple of the shows he was watching. :D

The big thing was that we were all together, enjoying being with each other. My only regret is that I was so busy enjoying myself that there were a few times that I could have and really should have paid a bit more attention to Mike. Oh, he doesn’t hold it against me for which I am grateful.

It is a hard thing that although it does get better with age, it is still a battle within myself to consider him, what he needs, and what he wants to do, especially in the little things. Marriage is about being self-sacrificing but being a parent is as well. It is important to take time for yourself too. It is a huge balancing act that can be quite difficult and one of which I have never been very good at but which is definitely worth the effort.

It takes being mindful and in the present rather than just acting or operating on autopilot doing the things you want or have always done. It is important to think through decisions. It just might be better to bring your hubby a cup of his favorite drink and sit down beside him or rub his shoulders or scratch his back than to put your feet up and do whatever is relaxing or enjoyable to you at the moment. You don’t have to spend hours focused on him but 30 minutes give or take would be beneficial. Bottom line is to let him know by your actions that he is important to you and a priority in your life.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

A Full Week and Odd Happenings

Monday night was really odd. Tiffany made Chicken Fried Rice for dinner again this week but immediately after we ate my nose started getting all stuffy. The same thing happened to Tiffany! It was most strange.

Then Tiff and I ran errands on Tuesday. My house keys were not in their usual place in my purse or hanging on the key rack by the door. I had the car key and Tiffany had a house key, so we went ahead and ran to town. I needed my hair cut and needed to get a few clothing items for myself.

Since this isn’t the day we usually go to town, the lady that usually cuts my hair wasn’t there. The lady that did cut my hair did a great job on the top but the length is too short in the back. :( Oh well, it will grow!

When we got home, Tiffany took a few things in the house, unlocking the door, while I finished dusting the dash of the car. By the time I was done, she’d come back out and loaded me up with packages to take in. Our car key is on a bright red spiral wrist band (coiled like the old phone cords). I am pretty certain I put it on the key rack after putting down the variety of packages I was carrying. Later that night, when Sean came home after his meeting, he said he saw them hanging there.

Wednesday when Tiffany and I went to take Shiloh (Tiff’s dog) to my sister Sondra to watch for us, the car key was missing BUT my house key was hanging on the rack, right where I thought the car key was!!! I’m telling you, this is strange to the utmost! We searched everywhere, including the garbage can, for that key! When Mike got home, he proceeded to look too. When Sean got home a couple of hours later, he join in the search. Some places were searched upwords of 6 times and odd places were even search at least once. I even did some weed eating to make sure that it hadn’t fallen in the thicker grass that has grown in some spots with all the rain we’ve gotten recently. Still nothing.

Finally at about 8:30, I used Sean’s car and took Shiloh to Sondra. On our way, Mike called and told me that he’d found a way to get another set of keys . . . reasonably . . . and at 10:00 at night without having to tow the car anywhere and without costing a fortune!!! YAY!!!

We went to Natural Falls State Park yesterday and had a really good time! Because of all the rain, the falls were really flowing nicely.

The Falls ~ LifeofJoy.meThe View ~

Pano Falls ~
Panoramic view of the falls from the lower viewing deck.

The small lake was beautiful and peaceful.

The Lake after the Falls ~
Nice place for a picnic, next time. ;)

There were some nice trails.

To the Falls Viewing ~
My kids headed down to the lower viewing deck. (Left to Right: Tiffany, Lauren, Brian, and Sean.

Men Leading the Way ~ LifeofJoy.meHiking ~

And some lovely flowers.

Flower on the Trail ~ LifeofJoy.meMore Flowers ~

I think this one is could’ve been in the movie Avatar.

Gorgeous Flower ~

It was a very enjoyable time. They have a nice Disc Golf course too, another note for next time. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Curricula, In the Beginning

Early Curricula ~ LifeofJoy.meLast week I shared how we started homeschooling. Today I want to share about the curricula choices I made and my thoughts about them.

Before Tiffany was born, I visited Practical Homeschooling’s AOL board. It was such a help to me in so many areas. Actually, some of the recipes (one of which is Breakfast Burrito Bake) I still use today are ones I gleaned from the wonderful ladies on that board. They offered their advice and expertise those of us who were new to it all.

Brian finally learned each letter, its name, and the sound it made. Then we were able to move on to putting sounds together. At that time, Hooked on Phonics had “readers” that were just a listing of the phoneme family groups. We struggled through with him slowly laboring to sound out each word. After a couple weeks of this torture, he wizened up and realized that after he sounded out the first couple of words, he could sound out the first letter/blend and simply rhyme with the previous words.

He fooled me! I thought he actually “got it.” So after a couple weeks of this, seeming, success. I was ready to take the next step. I had purchased the Bob Books at a local book store and thought they would be perfect.  Well, we sat down, he read through the page of the hooked on phonics book we were on, and then I got out the first Bob book. OMG! He struggled soooo badly! I quickly realized what was going on and began searching for what to do next.

We continued on, using Hooked on Phonics and occasionally the Bob books. Then I ordered the Pathway readers. They are more of a sight words kind of reader, so I thought that might help. (Both Bob Books and Pathway Readers are available through most of your homeschool suppliers.)

We made it through the school year. Near the end of May, Tiffany was born. Then I started looking for what to use the next year. That’s when I found Five In A Row! I ordered the first manual and tried it out with The Story About Ping. We loved it!!! I used it with all three of the kids and recommend it to everyone. I absolutely LOVE it!!!

Then I was looking for a formal math curriculum and asked on the Practical Homeschooling board on AOL. Mastering Mathematics is the one that I went with that was recommended. I loved that it was reproducible which meant I could make copies of each worktext to use it with all three of the children. My kids do not care for math; I love it so this is bothersome to me. I liked this one because it had games and such to help with the math facts.

Next week I’ll share about the different curricula we used for learning to read and such.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Diva Challenge #218 White on Black

I appreciate all the wonderful comments last week. You all are so kind! After reading the comments, I went searching for how to make the pens last longest and confirmed that they should be stored laying down rather than in an upright position. If stored upright on the tip, you can end up with a puddle of ink in the cap when you remove it.

When I looked at the Sakura website, I found that the nib can become damaged and you can replace a damaged nib from an old pen with the broken nib and they tell you how to do it here. I checked the Zentangle website but could not find it in the short time I searched. But I did find another CZT that wrote about it and included pictures too.

If I decide to try it out, I’ll take some pictures and let you know how it turns out. ;)

Now, on to this week’s tile. Yes . . . I’m busy this week getting ready for a vacation, so I’m not going to kid myself and even suggest that I might get other tiles done any time before this weekend.

iamthedivacztThis week’s Diva Challenge is a new experience for me. I love the look of white on black but had not yet attempted it. I got some black tiles for Christmas and had a white gel pen and a white pencil kind of thing (pictured below but not a great picture).

Zentangle Tool ~
White Pencil Thing

I found that my white gel pen had a few issues when it came to starting a line . . . sometimes it wouldn’t put down any ink at all and then sometimes it came out jagged, for lack of a better description.

Without further ado, here’s my tile.

DC#218 ~

I usually have a tendency to crowd too many tangles together on a tile, so I decided that I’d just use the big center part of the string I drew and make a big Drupe. I thought I might put meer in the section to the right but was afraid of my usual overcrowding problem so I opted to just add a bit more shading to the right, trying to give it some depth, and then add a few little shapes in the corners and outer line.

I did a little ‘shading’ on the tile but because it was the first time using this white pencil thing, I decided to keep it minimal. Overall, it isn’t bad for my first experience using these materials.

Now it has me wondering what the best white tools are. I really like using my tortillion to blend my pencil shading on regular tiles but don’t really know what to use with white. (My gel pen is a Y&C Gel Xtreme 0.7.)

I appreciate your comments; thank you for visiting my blog.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Apple Cake

Slice of Apple Cake ~ LifeofJoy.meThis wonderful apple cake is so good I make it each Thanksgiving for breakfast and have made it for breakfast on many a Christmas morning as well. I got this recipe from a fellow homeschooler, Kay Close. She brought it to one of our homeschool support group meetings and I loved it so much I asked her for the recipe, which I shared in our group’s newsletter and have made it ever since.

Lauren even likes it and has requested it several times for dessert when they come out. Thus it passes the pickiness test. ;)

Without further ado, here’s the directions.

Grease and flour bundt pan. I cheat and use the stuff in the spray can. But I don’t think I lay it on thick enough. I had trouble greasing and flouring my pan and my cake would stick in the pan, so the fact that it is still sticking somewhat is no concern to me . . . I will find the right amount of spraying needed to get this to come out easier at some point.

One Step Pan Prep ~

Peel, core and chop about 4-5 apples (depending on size) to get 4 cups. The recipe calls for them to be finely chopped so I chunk them and put them in my food processor. Okay, I put them in my mini-chopper because my regular-size one is broken. {Oh! when I have apples that are older and won’t be eaten, I prepare them like this and then put them in a freezer bag and freeze them until I’m ready to bake this cake and one step is already done for me. :) It doesn’t matter that they turn brown because the cake is brown anyway. Just be sure to add all the juices in the baggie when you thaw them out and use them in the batter or it probably won’t be as moist.}

Finely Chopping Apples ~

4 Cups Apples ~

Put in large mixing bowl and add other ingredients: cinnamon, salt, vanilla, baking soda, eggs.

Adding ingredients ~

flour, sugar, oil, and pecans. (Pecans are optional.)

Apple Cake final ingredients ~ LifeofJoy.meStir.

Finished Apple Cake batter ~

Pour into prepared pan. Not everyone in my family likes nuts but Mike and I really really like them in this cake, so I put nuts in half of it. When I remember I put some nuts on the bottom of the portion of the pan that will have the nuts, so that when it comes out of the pan I can easily tell which portion has the nuts. But I forgot tonight. I sprinkle nuts on the part that I want to have nuts – here, nearly half – and push them down into the batter. Yes, they’ll end up not being evenly distributed but that’s okay, at least they are in there. Sure beats just eating them with it after it’s baked, which we have done before. ;)

Apple Cake Ready for the Oven ~ LifeofJoy.meFrom now on, when I am moving this pan from place to place, I keep my eye on the points that I have made sure has no nuts. Thus I am very deliberate about how I pick up the pan and put it down, so that I know where those nuts are located; don’t want anyone spitting out wonderful nuts. ;)

Out of the Oven Apple Cake ~ LifeofJoy.meSince I know this has a tendency to stick because I don’t quite have the greasing and flouring part down yet (I think I need to spray it thicker/longer), I use a rubber spatula and help it release from the pan a bit, both the outer edges and the inner edge.

Helping it out of the pan ~


Not Too Much Sticking ~

Apple Cake ~ LifeofJoy.meIt is so moist and sweet that it doesn’t even need frosting.

Apple Cake No Nuts ~

Apple Cake


  • 4 cups finely chopped apples
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup pecans (optional)


  1. Grease and flour bundt pan.
  2. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl.
  3. Pour evenly into prepared pan.
  4. (Add nuts now, if only putting them in a portion of the cake, pushing them down into the batter)
  5. Bake at 350º for 45 minutes.
  6. Optional Sugar Glaze
  7. 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  8. 3 tablespoons water or lemon juice
  9. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  10. Pour over hot cake. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

When my friend Kay made this she used Splenda 1/2 & 1/2 in the cake and only makes 1/2 the sugar glaze. As you can see I don’t use any glaze because it is sweet and moist enough just the way it is. :)

My family was very glad that I had toApple Cake Slice nearly gone ~ make this last night so that I’d have something to share today. :)

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Leave and Cleave

hug ~ LifeOfJoy.meI was struggling with what to write today, so I asked my hubby if he had anything. Of course, his first answer was no, which did not surprise me. Then he asked me if it could be just one sentence.

“What is it?” I asked.

“When you get married, leave and cleave,” was his reply.

“What does that mean to you?”

“When you get married, you aren’t always going to please your parents.” Then he added for emphasis that he doubted that my grandparents were pleased when my parents moved over 500 miles away from them.

Once you are married, your first priority is to God and the second is to your spouse. Family should not be ignored but you and your spouse are now one, which means you make decisions together but once the final decision is made, whether it is the option you wanted or not, it is now YOUR decision. Anything spoken against that decision begins to break down the unity you have and, quite frankly, is wrong.

This doesn’t mean that you abandon family but if there become differences that are causing stress, strife, or other such negativity, your must make decisions that are beneficial to your family, which is now you and your spouse. Always prayerfully consider your actions and reactions, as you must be able to live the outcome.

I don’t really need to belabor this, so I’ll close for today.

Until next time, God bless,
Michele ºÜº