Friday, September 28, 2012

Homeschooling 2012

Today is the end of our third week of homeschooling this school year.  A recent conversation with a friend who also home schools her children (and who has been a tremendous source of inspiration and encouragement!) made me think about my family's homeschooling journey.  Three years ago, after much prayer and research, my husband and I made the decision to home school.

Three years ago at this time, I was overwhelmed, holding a newborn baby, reminding my children to pay attention for the millionth time, traveling back and forth to the hospital to visit my husband who was recovering from yet another surgery, and certain that I made a terrible mistake by choosing to home school.  I thought back to the summer when we made this decision and was sure it must have been a moment of pregnancy craziness.  Everyone knows you shouldn't make life-altering decisions during the third trimester!  But, here I was in a big, heaping pile of the chaos as I tried to make sense of our homeschooling curriculum, grade books, planning, and teaching, while nursing a newborn, keeping my house semi-clean, going to soccer practices, doctor visits, and spending time in surgery waiting rooms.  It was one of those places in my life when I was doing lots of things, but none of them were being done well.  I've been in those places more than once and they're not a fun place to be!

I am glad that I had many family members and friends praying for us during that time!  My husband eventually came home from the hospital, the newborn baby adapted to our family and the process of planning and teaching and record-keeping became less-intimidating.  Three years later, I am sure that I heard God clearly when he spoke to my heart about homeschooling.  I feel very confident that I am not going to "mess up" my children's education.  I'm not easily frustrated when my lesson plan and actual school day do not even resemble one another.  I'm okay with giving my children Honey Bunches of Oats for lunch or knitting an Etsy order while one of the boys reads our Science lesson to save time.  I've found a Math curriculum that practically teaches itself.  And if my three-year-old empties her dresser and tries on every bathing suit she owns while I'm teaching History, that's fine by me.

The Robinson's house is much more relaxed these days.  When I remember those first few weeks of homeschooling and the circumstances surrounding them, I am reminded of how blessed I am today.  My husband is as healthy as he can be (seasonal changes are never easy for Crohn's Disease) and he's not in the hospital.  My kids are all three becoming responsible, respectful, intelligent, kind, compassionate, wonderful warriors for Christ.  I am keeping busy with just the right amount of Etsy orders.  And most importantly, God is in the center of all of this.  We still have our days when nothing I do can make my children remember how to spell the word "substitute" or no one can remember what the lowest common denominator means, someone older than age five asks me if December comes after October and I wonder if a mother's brain can actually explode.  I have moments when I feel like I am not teaching the right material or that I don't have enough time to teach my kids everything I want them to learn.  Experience and time have shown me that I need only to trust God and everything will work out just the way he planned.

Our memory verse this week was Philippians 4:19: "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."  I'm grateful for His faithfulness and his provision in ALL circumstances.  Thankfully He gave me just enough strength and hope to continue teaching our kids.  It would have been extremely easy to give up on homeschooling and send my kids back to public schools, where they would receive an education, along with exposure to the undesirable things of this world that we work so hard to protect and shelter them from.  Homeschooling is hard work, but the rewards are better than anything I ever imagined.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Would-Be Due Date: August 29, 2012

Since my miscarriage in January, not a single day (hour maybe?) has gone by that I haven't thought about it.  Most of the time, it's just a passing thought, as I think about how far along I'd be or how big the baby would be.  But sometimes, it overwhelms me so much that I find my heart breaking all over again.  This week is proving to be especially hard for me since our baby was due on August 29th.  Seven months later and the thought that I should be getting ready to bring a baby home from the hospital is still floating around in my mind.

Yesterday, as I played baby dolls with my daughter and watched how loving and sweet she is with pretend babies, I lost it.  She often asks me for a friend and points out that Ian and Brodie are friends, but she doesn't have a sister.  Ellery asked me if I was crying because I missed Great Papa. I know she was trying to remember a time in her life when she had seen me this upset and my grandpa's funeral came into her mind.  I told her I was just sad and she said, "It's okay, Momma.  You will see Papa again someday.  He's with Jesus."

I thanked God for the comfort he sent to me in the words of a two-year-old.  I had the World's Most Wonderful Grandpa and I thought of him holding my baby in Heaven.  A few days before he died in June, he told me he wanted to hold my "other baby, the baby girl."  When I told him Ellery is the only baby girl I have, he told me I was wrong and he would hold my other baby later.  This delightful old man said lots of things that didn't make sense toward the end of his life, so I didn't think much of it.  But now I'm thankful for his seemingly crazy talk.  And I am thankful I have a grandpa who walked with Christ, who is now in Heaven loving on the baby I haven't gotten to meet yet.

Often, I wonder about those who don't know Christ.  How do they make it through each day?  How do they endure a miscarriage with no hope of ever seeing their baby in Heaven?  Anger and sadness must overtake their lives.  Even on my hardest days of healing from this loss, I know that God's hands are wrapped around my life and He loves me.  How amazing and wonderful to know that the Creator of the entire universe has chosen me to be His child and he holds every tear I've ever cried.

I always seem to turn to Psalms when I need encouragement.  There is always a verse that speaks directly to my heart.  Psalm 62:1-2 says:  "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

What an awesome reminder that when we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to seek God and his wisdom, rather than attempt to figure it out on our own.  I may never know why my miscarriage happened, but I know the One who does.  And I trust Him.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Target Loves Me So Much They Pay Me To Shop There...

I love Target.  The Target store nearest to my house is just close enough to shop there frequently, but just far enough so that I am not tempted to go there daily.  Last week was an especially fun Target shopping trip for me because it's "Back-to-School" sale time and they were giving things away...after coupons anyway.  Here is what I got for free last week, in addition to cheap toilet paper, granola bars and diapers:  (2) packages of Papermate pens, (3) twin-packs of RoseArt glue sticks, (6) 24-packs of RoseArt crayons (technically 9 packages of crayons, but I shared one of my coupons with another customer so that she got 3 packs for free), (2) Up & Up brand eye drops, and (2) packages of Hershey's Simple Pleasures chocolates.

My sweet cashier, Libby, even had another employee bring me the two packages of chocolates at the cash register because I couldn't find them while I was shopping.  For a Momma shopping with three children, one of whom was barefoot, covered in Dora the Explorer stickers that she found in my purse, and is eating one of the granola bars we haven't bought yet, this act of kindness is VERY much appreciated.  She also is a super-fast coupon scanner.  Libby deserves a raise. 

These fun freebies made the purchase of new soccer cleats for Brodie a little less unpleasant.  Dunham's never has their $17.99 sale-priced cleats in stock in Brodie's size, so we always end up with the more expensive kind.  Why do little boys' feet grow so quickly!? 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Farmer's Markets and Knitting

Pre-Farmer's Market table set up in the living room.
My kids and I decided to try selling some of the items from my Etsy shop at our local farmer's markets this weekend.  Friday, I set up a booth in Plainwell and sold absolutely nothing.  I did barter with another vendor who wanted a rattle for his newborn son, so my family got some cinnamon swirl bread to enjoy.  There were not many potential customers, though I did share a few of my business cards with people.  I also finished knitting some slippers that I'd been working on.  And the little girl in the booth next door was so intrigued with my knitting that she spent the entire day watching me and talking to me.  She was eight years old and my favorite quote from her after she asked me how old I was, "Oh, when I think of people who are, like in their thirties, I think they're usually taller than you are." :)  She also shared with me *possibly* too much information about her family and I shared with her the love of Christ, so overall the day was a success.

Saturday morning, my three sweet children awoke early and helped me set up a booth at the Otsego Farmer's Market.  I made chocolate-covered pretzels and watermelon-shaped Rice Krispies treats for them to sell, along with a few dozen eggs from our backyard chickens.  Since they only played video games the night before while I prepared these treats and they got to keep all of the profits, I'd say this was a good deal for them!  Armed with My Little Ponies, baby dolls, books, crayons, and snacks, I envisioned my smiling boys selling treats, my daughter playing quietly nearby, and people buying up all of the items from my Etsy shop before lunchtime.

Instead, I sold just a few items from my shop and my boys sold all of their treats and brown eggs.  I did meet a lot of people who loved my work and want to place special orders for things that I was selling in different sizes.  I learned that people don't bring lots of cash to farmer's markets, so purchasing sweaters and hats is difficult. Thankfully, many people took business cards and seemed truly interested in making a purchase.

 My boys were fascinated by the older man next to us, though I only found this out later in the evening when they were sharing the details of their day with my husband.  His name was Mel and he was a watermelon expert.  He was a character of a man who gets his watermelon seeds from Arkansas.  He gifted us with a watermelon because "those kids are so nice." As we were packing up, a couple of other extremely generous vendors shared cucumbers and sweet corn with us as well.

I decided to wrap things up a bit early when I noticed my daughter playing in the back of our vehicle...without her clothes on.  Naked toddlers and farmer's markets aren't a good match.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Saturday of Groupons, Free Underwear, $3 Target Shirts, and Owls

I love Saturdays when our family is able to have fun and not spend tons of money.  This past Saturday was one of those.  While some of us may have had more fun than others, we were all together, doing something.  This summer has been a HUGE blessing to our family, mostly because this is the first summer in three years that my husband has not had to endure abdominal surgery.  For a while, we were spending both spring and summer vacations in hospital rooms and doctor's offices. So, no matter what we do, at least we aren't cooped up in a hospital!

Last month, I purchased a Groupon for an annual membership to the Kingman Museum in Battle Creek and we needed to go there to pick up our membership cards.  The cost was $19, which is a GREAT deal, but I had a $5 off offer from Groupon, making it just $14!  It's the little things that make this Momma happy.  The Kingman Museum is just an "okay" museum.  But, with this membership comes a reciprocal membership to many museums in every state, including the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.  Our plan, when we began homeschooling in 2010, was to go to the Chicago-area museums during the first week of school every year, as a kickoff to the school year.  Thank you, Groupon for saving us a lot of money on this upcoming trip!  If you use my referral link ( I earn $10 when you purchase YOUR first Groupon. :)

Our first stop was a nearby mall.  I despise the mall.  We were only there because Victoria's Secret sent me a coupon for a free pair of underwear and Bath & Body Works had a Facebook offer for a free bottle of lotion and we were already in the same area as this mall.  My oldest son also had a gift card for Dunham's Sports and needed to go there to buy a ShakeWeight and a pair of shorts.  These items will likely end up in a garage sale for a quarter in a few years.  I imagine his future apartment will be cluttered with all kinds of those "As Seen on TV" products...and airsoft guns and fast food wrappers. As I'm thinking these thoughts, I try to be encouraging about his decision and we joke about what huge muscles he will have "in just seven minutes a day".

After collecting my free gifts, my children were hungry.  I stopped at Target to pick up "picnic food", aka: a loaf of bread, some lunch meat, and a bag of Target brand snack mix.  While I was there, I found two shirts on sale for $6 each.  I had two $3 off coupons, making each shirt just $3!  After ignoring discontent teenage comments about going to Taco Bell like normal people, we had a lovely picnic lunch at some picnic tables outside of the museum.  There was a big hill that Ellery loved running down.  She also decided that this was a lovely spot to poop, so after a diaper change and a couple of family pictures, we made our way to our original destination.  

We gave our membership information to the adorable, friendly volunteer at the Kingman Museum.  She gave each of our children a sea shell and a tiny piece of dinosaur bone.  We savored the air conditioning for a few minutes as we took a quick look at the exhibits, before venturing back into the 92-degree day. 

When we arrived home, I sewed the finishing touches onto an owl I had knitted and listed it in my Etsy shop.  This owl is slightly different from the owls I've made in the past, but I think I like it better.  I'm thinking about making these owls in different colors, but haven't had time to experiment yet.  Here is a link:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Peace Like A River...

The Friday before Christmas, I discovered that we'd be welcoming a new baby into our family in the summer.  I decided that wrapping the positive pregnancy test, along with a cute scrapbook paper creation featuring the baby's due date, August 29, 2012, would be a fun gift to give my husband.  Since we don't typically exchange gifts with each other, this was perfect.  Christmas morning arrived and after the kids had opened their gifts, Doug opened his.  What a happy morning this was!  It was all captured on video, of course, as is every Christmas morning of my children's lives.  Throughout the day, we talked about how that this would be our last Christmas as a family of five and how next Christmas, we would be toting around a four-month-old baby.  Would it be a boy or girl?  Whose room was he or she going to share?  What if it was twins?  My kids were full of questions and excitement!

Over the next couple of weeks, we talked about baby names and a bigger house.  We read BabyCenter emails each week, watching our baby grow from the size of a poppy seed to a sesame seed to a lentil, to a blueberry, and then to a kidney bean.  I went to the doctor for my eight-week visit and expressed my concerns about not feeling the same pregnancy symptoms that I had with my other three children.  I was told not to worry, that every pregnancy is different, that I was "lucky" to not be sick or tired.

I was reluctant to share our exciting news with everyone, but my husband convinced me that it was time.  We announced our big news and had lots of friends and family members sharing in this wonderful time in our lives.  Prayers and well-wishes were sent in abundance.  Baby Number 4 was already loved by many who couldn't wait to meet him or her.  Just a few days later, that baby went to be with Jesus.

Nothing could have prepared me for the devastation and sadness that overwhelmed me during those next agonizing weeks. The loss of this baby, whom I had not met, but who was very much still a part of me, caused more heartbreak than I could have imagined.  I would cry suddenly at the thought of anything relating to a baby or the summertime, knowing that my summer was not going to include the birth of a new son or daughter.  I woke myself up, sobbing, re-living all of the details in my dreams.  This affected me deeply.  For several days, I could not force myself out of bed.  I sat there, crying, praying, and hurting.  I thought about God's plans and His grace.  I thought about all of the parts of the Bible that should be comforting to me, yet none of them were.  I listened to my husband and children praying for me in the other room and I felt numb.  I had a friend tell me that it was okay to be angry with God, yet I wasn't.  My husband tried reassuring me that we could still have another baby, but these words and his inability to understand what I was feeling frustrated me.  I wanted THIS baby who had already spent the last couple of months growing inside of me and who was no longer there.

Several days after the miscarriage, I finally woke up, put on real clothes and make up and went to the grocery store.  My husband said, "I am so glad you're feeling better", but the look on his face said, "I am relieved that you are not wearing flannel pajamas, crying and eating ice cream toppings straight from the jar today."  Even now, a few months later, I still get teared up when I think about how far along I'd be in that pregnancy.  I still can't talk about it without crying.  It's a strange place that I'm in, yet not a bad place.  Knowing that my little baby is resting in the arms of Jesus and will greet me one day, makes the emptiness in my heart a little bit less empty-feeling.

This season of my life has definitely changed me, my marriage, my children, and my walk with Christ.  My heart is broken for the women who go through a miscarriage without access to medical care, running water, a bed to curl up in with a down comforter and high thread-count sheets, a husband to look after other children, friends to bring dinner and pray for them. And when I think about women who don't know Jesus, I cannot comprehend what that is like.  What a hopeless, lonely, terrible time that must be!  My experience is nothing compared to that.  As I write this, my two-year-old is in her bed, fighting a nap and singing, "I've got peace like a river in my soul."  I love her.  That's where I am today too, with peace like a river in my soul---this terrible thing happened to me, but I have Jesus, so I have everything.  That's a peaceful place to be!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Some day, when my kids are older, I will open a bakery.  Every day, I'll get to create all kinds of yummy things and it will be wonderful.  Cakes with fancy decorations and pies with decorative crusts, cookies in fun shapes and bars in unique flavors. 

Since there is no time for that now, I'll have to be content with baking just a few things throughout the week for Doug and the kids.  There is a "famous" Snickerdoodle recipe that is baked constantly in my house.  When ever my husband is scheduled for surgery and I ask him what he wants, this is what he requests.  Knowing that he will be unable to eat for days (or weeks!) I can't NOT make them.  

Neighbor children check our "cookie dome" to see if there are Snickerdoodles to be enjoyed and sometimes are disappointed to find only chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin.  One of my sons has a friend who loves these cookies almost as much as my husband.  Every time he spends the night, he asks my son if we have any of THE cookies. Usually there are a couple of dozen of them in the freezer and I have witnessed these boys eat them frozen!  The combination of butter and shortening gives them a buttery flavor and a perfect, milk-dunking crispiness.  Enjoy!


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
(1/4 cup sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine sugar, butter, and shortening.  Add eggs.  Mix in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  

Shape into 1" balls.  Roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture and place 2" apart on un-greased cookie sheets. 

Bake 10 minutes (these cookies don't look quite done, even though they are!).  Cool completely before removing from sheets.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Play Doh Boogers and Other Things God Blessed Me With

I love weeks where things fall into place, even when they don't go the way I had planned.  My dear husband had an unhealthy week altogether.  This kind of thing can really disrupt my organized, meticulously planned week of homeschooling and running my household. God has *finally* shown me over the past few years, though, that this is not necessarily a bad thing and that it is part of HIS plan anyway.  His plan is always better than mine.  :)

What began as some pesky little Crohn's Disease symptoms, escalated to the point that he had to remain in bed for a few days.  When he finally began to recover, an infected tooth sent him to the dentist for repair.  Thankfully, all of his ailments are resolved now and we're enjoying a laid-back weekend!

During this week, I had many moments where I stopped just to think about HOW I was juggling so much at once.  Don't misunderstand, this week had nothing on the weeks that Doug is in the hospital recovering from surgery, but it was a challenging week, nonetheless.  Time and time again, God gave me just what my family needed to make our life feel less hectic and even productive.  Ellery was beyond excited to play Play Doh during school one day--for two hours straight!  She ended up making "boogers" out of the green Play Doh (those brothers teach her well!) and I had to stop often to look at her many creations, but that time she kept busy was a very appreciated gift.  And so, I thanked God that day for Play Doh Boogers.

I was able to start and finish a cute pair of monkey slippers during my breaks (aka: naptime).   You can check them out on my Etsy site:

I also found a wonderful web site for making tests.  If you home school your children, I highly recommend this free web site:  A BIG time-saver for me!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Snowy Day

After weeks of waiting, my children's prayers for snow have finally been answered!  While they wanted the snow so that they could go skiing, they seemed pretty happy about tromping around our backyard in it.  Their Dad has promised them a half-day of school to go skiing, but is having a terrible week with his Crohn's Disease and isn't quite up to this kind of physical activity.  Growing up around a sick father has taught them a lot about waiting, patience, and compassion!  My heart is sad for them sometimes when this happens, but I know that this will make them remarkable men, husbands and fathers some day.                                 
They informed me that it wasn't good "packing snow," so my snowman will have to wait for a while. Instead, they rolled around, played on the swing set and trampoline and wrestled with our dog (there's something about a boy in snow pants that makes him feel strong enough to tackle a 90-pound Golden Retriever!).  Brodie tried out his new snowball launcher from Grandpa, but the snow was a bit too fluffy.  Instead they set some "traps" in case anyone tries to jump over our fence.  Apparently they saw some footprints, likely from the gas meter reader, and are convinced someone is going to end up over our fence (these kids have some lively imaginations!). Of course, they eventually got bored with the snow--plus, Ellery hit her head on the patio steps and needed her Momma--and came in for hot cocoa and cinnamon toast.  The perfect ending of a snowy day!
While all of this snowy fun was taking place, I was able to finish knitting an adorable new baby set that includes a sweater, a brimmed hat, and slippers.  It would make a wonderful baby shower gift! You can find it in my Etsy Shop: