Monday, January 5, 2015

My 2015 Reading List…and how I'm reading most of it for FREE!

Happy new year everyone!

It's been a while since I've blogged-- three to half months, actually-- but life has been pretty busy around these parts lately.  Last time I posted, Leah was only a day old-- and now she is a smiling, cooing, drooling, and rolling bundle of cute.  


 Between homeschooling, baby feeding, diaper changing, laundry, getting meals on and off the table, and keeping the house almost-semi-reasonably clean, there's not a whole lot of extra time happening. Some days it's hard to find time to go to the bathroom, much less write a blog post. I'm actually voice dictating this blog post as I make this chili for supper. True story. I learned this trick from one of my favourite bloggers-- a homeschooling mama to 11, who is clearly busier than I am and yet still finds time to blog. This will need so much editing when I'm done but I'm not sure it's actually saving any time, but give me the illusion of ultra-productivity, so for now, this is how we roll.

If you are a blog reader, you've been seeing a lot of booklists lately. It's sort of like New Year's resolutions for book nerds, and as a formerly prolific reader and card carrying book nerd, I can't get enough of them.  (I don't actually have a card, but I love to smell new books, which I think fits the criteria).  As a homeschooler, I have an ongoing list of books I want to read to my kids.  However, I've never actually made a book list for me.  Until now. 

(Unrelated to this post, but related to my present task: I present to you, Chef Michael Smith's Sweet Potato Vegetarian Chili.  Delicious and healthy, which means if my kids eat it without coercion, it will be a miracle.)

As much as I would love to order every one of the books on my list from Amazon, underline  and margin-note them to death, and share them with my friends, that is just not in the budget.  Instead, I will buy a few, borrow a few from friends, and take advantage of our public library's best kept secret: request that the library purchase them for me!  Yes, folks, it's true!  Our public library (and probably yours too) has an online form where you can request the purchase of books.  To date, I have requested five, and all five have been purchased!  Since we're at the library pretty frequently, borrowing these books from them is almost as good as buying them myself.  I like to think of it as free storage for my books.  (After all, I've already paid for them with property tax!)

So, without further blah-blah-blah, my 2015 reading list!

{Sorry in advance for the messy formatting.  It looks great in the "edit" stage, but for some reason goes wonky when I publish it.}

1. Honey for a Child's Heart-  Gladys Hunt.
The first book on my list of books to read, is a list of books to read.  Really.  But it isn't just a book of lists of books; Hunt also writes about the value of books, how to encourage your children to read, and how to choose the right books for each child.  The library purchased this one at my request!

2. The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling- Debra Bell

I've read a few articles by Bell in Thriving Family, and she makes me laugh.  I'm borrowing this one from a friend.

3. Hold On To Your Kids- Gordon Neufeld

This one has been on a mental must-read list for a few years now.  Neufeld's research and ideas were very compelling in our journey towards choosing to homeschool.  My library actually had this one already!

4. Own Your Life-  Sally Clarkson
Sally Clarkson is one of my favourite authors, and her books were another major influence in our decision to homeschool, as well as an incredible encouragement to me. This, her latest book, releases tomorrow!  (If you are interested in signing up for her free webcast which airs tomorrow evening, click on the link and sign up!)  I'll probably buy this one to add to my mini-Sally-Clarkson-library.

5. 50 Women Every Christian Should Know- Michelle DeRusha 
I got Caleb the "Men" version of this book for Christmas last year and intended to read it, but I don't think I got through a single biography, as they were rather… err… thorough.  This one is written by a different author, and, after hearing her on Simple Mom podcast, I am convinced it is worth my time to give it a chance! I've just requested that my library purchase this one.

6. Not By Sight- Jon Bloom 
This one is heartily recommended by John Piper, and can be downloaded for free from the Desiring God website (click the link above).  An "imaginative retelling of 35 Bible stories," it's an easy but thought-compelling read.  (We've read a few already, but I'm hoping to knock this book off this year).  I downloaded this one for free!

7. The History of the Ancient World- Susan Wise Bauer
Bauer is a prof at William and Mary's, a homeschooling mama, a historian, and a leading proponent of the Classical method of education.  I've been meaning to get my hands on this book for a while, but it slipped my mind almost didn't make the list until I saw it on a friend's blog. Hoping my library will buy this one too!

8. Praying God's Word- Beth Moore
There was one day last year when the Kindle versions of all of Beth Moore's books were FREE!  I downloaded a whole pile, but I've only read two so far.  Two more are making the list for this year! Downloaded it for free!

9. To Live is Christ- Beth Moore

The second of the two Beth Moore books I intend to tackle this year.  This one is a biography of the apostle Paul.  Downloaded it for free!

10. Unglued- Lysa Terkeurst

The subtitle is: "Making Wise Choices In the Midst of Raw Emotions."
That says it all.  Might buy this one.  I have a few friends who I could lend it to.  Just joking…sort of.

11. What Alice Forgot- Liane Moriarty

The one piece of fiction that made my list.  I know almost nothing about this book, but I've seen it on so many book lists lately that I figured I should check it out.  (If it's a total dud or completely inappropriate, let it be known that this is not a recommendation!) My library has this one too!

And that, my friends, is my reading list for the year.

I'd love to hear what you're planning to read!  If you're posting a reading list for the year, please post a link in the comments.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Leah Naomi

Early Sunday morning, our sweet little Leah Naomi arrived on the scene.
We have been enjoying some quiet days of snuggling and bonding as a family of six!
More details and pictures will come… eventually… but for now, here are some shots of the littlest Werner and the rest of us too.

The four girls. 


Leah & Ellie

The oldest and the youngest

Checking out her tiny fingers

Silas calls her "My Wee-ah"

Caleb is a rich man!
(And a very busy, sleep-deprived one too!)

Our new and improved family of six!

We are praising the Lord for this precious little gift.

We hope to introduce you soon!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ducks in a row… year three!

For nine days a year, our three kids' ages happen to be consecutive numbers.
I promised more pictures, so, at the eleventh hour, here they are!

(10th hour, actually.  In two hours, Maiya turns 5!)

My 2, 3, and 4-year-olds eating their chocolate-covered frozen banana bites, and too busy to smile.

It's almost impossible to get them all to look and smile… but I tried...

The littler two.

This is our last year of all of our kids' ages lining up, because our next little duckling, coming in September, did not get his/her act together in time to be born during last years' 9 day window.  
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!

Pictures of the birthday girl to come soon.

In the meantime, we're finishing birthday preparations and beginning to install under cabinet lighting in the kitchen.  At 10 pm.  Because… well… you know.  We do these things.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

He's TWO!

Our little (big) boy turned two today!

He's showing you the remains of his cinnamon bun breakfast… a birthday tradition around here.  

(This is the recipe I use-- I make them the night before, then pop them in the oven in the morning, and they're ready for breakfast!  I reduce the overall sugar, substitute some for honey, and omit the icing… I learned the hard way after all three were in tears by 9 am on Ellie's birthday!)

Newborn Silas, just hours after being born at home.

On his first birthday.

Our little buddy is a sweet and gentle boy, with a big heart and a calm nature.
Though he definitely has a toddler-wild-side (and if he didn't, we'd be worried!), he is the most laid-back of our three, and loves to sit and examine his toys, browse through books, and gaze contemplatively out the window.

He is a little man of strong preferences, however!

His favourites include:

 "neigh-neighs" (it's an obsession, really!)



anything with wheels



We love this little guy so much, and we're so grateful to the Lord for giving us this precious little one.  We're also very thankful for his calming presence… when Daddy's at work, Silas manages to balance out a house of emotional females.  
And he does it well!
(He'll be well trained for adulthood!)

 Every year, Silas' birthday begins the nine days when our kids' ages line up to be three-in-a-row.

Until Maiya's birthday, our kids are ages 2, 3, and 4.

I'll do my best to post a few more pictures of my ducks-in-a-row in the next week-and-a-half!

Stay tuned!

(But not too tuned, or you might be disappointed.  Life is busy around here, you know?!)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bye Bye Butterflies!

Yesterday was butterfly release day!

Remember these little guys?
(I posted about them here).

Carlos, Pearla, Hannah, Cupcake, and Flower.

A friend of mine bought a shipment from Butterfly Wings 'n Wishes and divided them between 5 homeschooling families.  

We received tiny caterpillars in these little cups with enough food for each caterpillar in the cup.
We watched the caterpillar grow, and saw them shed their skin several times.
We watched the webbing and poop accumulate, and cleaned it out a few times.
We noticed the poop turn reddish, a sign that chrysalis formation was coming soon!

We watched four of our caterpillars attach themselves to the lids of their little cups, and form a "J".  
Our fifth formed the "J" (and the chrysalis) on the bottom.

Then we literally watched one split its skin to reveal the chrysalis underneath!!!  
The others formed their chrysalises overnight, and we came down to discover them in the morning.

Two of our chrysalises, attached to lids of their cups, pinned to the screen that covered the top of our "terrariums" (large glass jars).  

After 10 days, (at which point I had sort of concluded that they were all dead inside their chrysalises), wonder of wonders, five beautiful butterflies emerged from their chrysalises!  

I actually got a video of Cupcake emerging, but it's too long to post here!

Unfortunately, the one on the bottom was not able to emerge fully or stretch out her wings.  She lived a happy life, however, hopping from orange slice to apple slice on the bottom of the terrarium.

Then, after several days of enjoying our butterflies inside and watching them develop strength in their wings, we released them in our backyard!

They were docile inside the house, and we thought they might need some encouragement to leave their little habitat.  But… as soon as we brought them outside into the sunshine, they were raring to go!  Check out this video to see their rather quick release!

Here is our poor little crippled butterfly, with the crumpled wings and still-attached chrysalis.  We placed her in our lilac tree and assured our heart-broken children she would live a very…um… meaningful life.  

This butterfly actually hung around the backyard for a while, flitting from flower to flower and landing near the sandbox here.  The kids loved chasing it around!  (Good thing butterflies are fast!)

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that there was a bit of a gross-out factor for me.  I am usually not turned off of creepy crawlies-- spiders, ants, worms, snakes… I don't particularly mind any of them, in nature (rats and mice are another story)… so I didn't expect to mind the caterpillars at all.  But something about their shed skin, their super-stinky food, their red poop (which smelled like their super-stinky food), and then the blood-like "meconium" that they drip as they're emerging from their chrysalises-- I will admit that I was turned off of my supper more than once.  Maybe because I'm pregnant?  Anyways, you've been warned!

As far as homeschool enrichment goes, this was an amazingly fun and memorable activity.  Our five caterpillars cost us $20… and believe me, it was 20 bucks well spent!

I printed out notebooks for the girls from here, and Maiya loved working through it.
(Ellie worked hard too, making random markings with such intentionality and focus that I sort of wonder if she's created her own orthography).  

We also borrowed several books about butterflies from the library, sang and did the actions to this butterfly ballad, and coloured lots of butterfly colouring pages. Lots of cross-curriculuar potential for older kids.  

The best part of all was marvelling at the creativity of our marvellous Creator, who transforms ugly little brown caterpillars into magnificent "flying flowers."  Our Redeemer, who changes hostile hearts into new creations.  "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."2 Corinthians 4:16

And that's the real miracle of it all.

Oh yeah, and our other transformation?  Pictures of the kitchen will come soon.  The butterflies won by a long shot, but the kitchen is coming along quite nicely!  Countertop is going in as we speak!

Thursday, May 15, 2014


There is a lot of transforming going on around here right now.

After almost five years of talking about it, we finally took the leap and ripped out our kitchen.  

Our "new kitchen" lives flat-packed in cardboard ikea boxes in our living room, taking up the majority of the floor space...though actually very little, if you consider how much space it will occupy when it is "built." 

Our new kitchen!

In addition to the living room being overtaken by Swedish particleboard, we are living with a kitchen that looks like this ^^^.  Except not quite as pretty, because since that picture was taken, the tiles came off, then the holes left by the tile removal were patched with drywall, and then the drywall was removed in order to do the electrical.  So right now we are living with large patches of exposed insulation in a lovely shade of pink.  And, unfortunately, in that state it will remain until the city inspector moseys over here to check out our new wiring.  

But we have three working appliances!  I am appreciating the fridge, stove, and especially the dishwasher like never before!  And a sink?  Sink shmink… who needs one of those anyways?!

We posted our old kitchen on kijiji, and wonder of wonders, it got so many replies it just about swamped our inbox.  I was shocked and thrilled that someone actually took it and actually paid us for it!  This picture makes me so happy I sort of want to frame it.

New ikea kitchens don't get built overnight, and so we're settling in for the long-haul of kitchen less living.  It's sort of like camping!  

And in the mean time, I keep checking out these blogs for my kitchen inspiration:

Southern Hospitality Blog: This is similar to our desired end result-- same cabinets, handles, and similar  colour counter top.  (The after pictures, not the before!)

The Happy Space Project: This is a monthly design blog/magazine put out by two Kingstonians (and I know one!)… and they did an entire issue on Ikea kitchens!

Little House Blog: Same cabinets, and lots of info on tips/tricks/shopping guide, etc.

:: :: ::

The second transformation happening around here is of a different sort altogether-- we are raising caterpillars!  My amazing friend Jessica ordered a shipment of Painted Lady Caterpillars from here, divided them up between five homeschooling families, and left us to our own caterpillar raising abilities.  

Introducing: Carlos, Pearla, Cupcake, Flower, and Hannah

(Note: the instructions explicitly directed us not to name them as caterpillar mortality is high, and naming leads to attachment… but how could I stop my girls from naming them the minute they came in the house?  And, fortunately, all five have survived!)

Meet Carlos the caterpillar.

Today was a very exciting day in the Werner household, as three caterpillars (Carlos, Pearla, and Hannah) have formed chrysalises!  We even watched Pearla's skin split to reveal the chrysalis underneath.  How cool is that!  (Yes, caterpillars form the chrysalis under their skin!  No "building" involved!)  The other two are hanging from the top in a "J" shape, and we're expecting two more chrysalises by morning!

:: :: ::

Transformation number three, of course, is going on in my belly right now!
We enjoyed getting our first glimpse of the little person two weeks ago at the ultrasound. 
We didn't find out the gender, and we're divided.  I'm thinking girl, Maiya knows it's a boy, Ellie keeps waffling, Caleb is guessing boy, and I don't think Silas knows the difference.  (He just keeps saying "Baby! Coot!")

:: :: ::

Stay tuned for the "after" pictures… eventually.

The caterpillars and kitchen are competing for which will be done their transformation first.
I'm voting for the caterpillars but hoping for the kitchen.

And I am really, really hoping that the baby comes in last place!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tutorial: Easy Circle Garland!

I rarely every post adult-craft tutorials on my blog, for several reasons:

1.  I am an inpatient crafter, so the creations I do complete are usually rushed and not blog-post worthy

2.  I only make easy things, so whatever I create either usually has 1000 tutorials online already, or you can figure out how to make it just by looking at it

3. By the time I finish a project, I am so bored of it I don't feel like blogging about it!

However… several people have asked me about the circle garland I made for Ellie's birthday, and commented that it looked like a lot of work.  

My friends, this circle garland is the most easy-peasy of adult crafts.  I whipped this up during one quiet time, and I got so carried away that I made it long enough for all three walls of my dining room.

You do need to have the right tools… but if you don't, you can always borrow them from me :).  Otherwise, this simple party decoration meets my crafting criteria:

1. Can be whipped up in one quiet time?  Check!
2. Inexpensive? Check! (If you have the tools and cardstock already!)
3. Minimal ability required?  Check!

Here's what you need:

1.  Sewing machine & thread. 
(If you have one.  I've made many different paper garlands using tape, and after sewing this one, I will never go back.  It is so much faster, easier, and lasts longer!  Plus you don't have an ugly "wrong" side with tape on it.  I used blue thread, but you couldn't really tell)

2. Circle punches.
 (You can use one size or multiple.  
I used 2", 2.5", and 3" punches because I had them… 
an awesome birthday gift from my awesome sister)

3. Double-sided cardstock.  
(I had some, but I got some more using a 40% off coupon at Michaels.  
You need lots if you're doing a long garland!)

4. Tulips.
(Optional but nice to look at)

1. Punch out LOTS of circles in different sizes and colours/patterns.
 As I mentioned, I got a bit carried away.  I used about 70-80 circles to make my very-long garland.

2. Lay them out on the table in the order you want them in the garland.  I did a random-ish order, meaning I didn't want a pattern, but I kept similar colours apart.  Keep in mind that the circles tend to spin when the garland is hung, especially when it is not hung right against a wall, so make sure you like the patterns on both sides, if they are different (mine were).

3.  Before you start sewing, pull some thread through your sewing machine (from both the bobbin and needle)-- this is what you will hang the garland with.  I pulled about 5 inches through.

4. Begin to sew your circles.  Just run the circle straight through with a straight stitch.  I was surprised how easily my machine handled the paper, and I didn't have to adjust the tension or stitch length at all.  

5.  If you want your circles slightly spaced like mine, just keep the machine going for a few seconds before sticking the next circle in.  My spacing wasn't even, but that wasn't noticeable when the garland was hung.  I just kept the pedal fully depressed and zipped through the circles very quickly.  I was amazed how quickly it went! 

6. Ta-dah!  You have a beautiful circle garland.  Now hang it up and get partying!

One of the best features of this garland is that it's reusable-- we had it up for 11 days (because it was too pretty to take down).  I finally took it down today, piled up all the circles, and put it in an envelope to store it.

* * * 

Here are some links to my circle-garland inspiration.

(She used tape.  Sewing is so much easier and faster.  Trust me!)

(I have to convince one of my kids to have an under-the-sea party some year, just so I can make these!  So cool!)

Proof that the result looks just as good with just one size of circle punch!

* * *

Let me know if you ever make one!!


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