My Blog Adventure!

Welcome to my blog! It's high time this 46 year old ventures into blog world and joins the ranks of you intriguing bloggers. First off, you should know I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I love His Creation, His Word, His forgiveness, His mercy, and His being the Savior of my life. He is my reason for living! After the Lord, my next love in life is my outdoor-lovin', prankster pullin', hard workin' man I've called my husband for 22 years and counting. My 3 sons - to whom this blog is dedicated - have the next piece of my heart, and they fill my world with laughter, love, and laundry. I am calling this MY BLOG ADVENTURE... so hop into blog world with me... let's get to encouraging one another... this could be fun!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ruby's Journey to Noble... Through Proverbs Chapter 1:10-19

Proverbs 1:10-19:

     Ruby and her husband found their way quite easily down the smooth path lying ahead of them.  Fingers entwined, steps in sync, they helped each other over the hills and down the road until they reached their first stopping point, the city of Gain.  It was a bright city, full of much hustle and bustle as crowds of people made their way up and down the busy cobblestone streets.  Lavishly decorated homes loomed beyond the swarming streets, catching the moonlight and casting a deep shadow on the less fortunate townspeople living at the foot of the hill down below. 

     At the very bottom of the hill, in a dark obscure corner of town, Ruby and her husband arrived at quite a sorry looking hovel of a home.  The little savings they had begun their journey with had been used to pay for their travel, and while they’d been careful with their spending, it had dwindled down to next to nothing.  This was the best they could afford. 

     Ruby and her husband cautiously entered their new home and took to exploring each nook and cranny, noticing a cobweb here and a dust patch there, searching for some bright discovery and finding none.  This search took only a fraction of time as the house was quite small, and the light was dim.  Ruby and her husband were tired, and some semblance of order was needed quickly, so after a bit of scrambling, makeshift sleeping quarters were hastily assembled.  As exhausted as Ruby was, she lay awake, noticing for the first time the weight of the box of her family heirloom in her hand.  As her husband peacefully slumbered, she came to the realization that he’d been carrying nothing their entire journey, and the more she thought about this, the box felt heavier and heavier in her hand.

     A gloomy day dawned in the foothills of Gain, and the clouds covered the sun, blotting out its light with shades of gray.  Ruby awoke to the sound of her husband quietly closing the door, a scrawled note on the pillow explaining he was off to find work in the city.  Ruby determined to put some order to the house and spent the better part of the day sweeping the floors and cleaning the cupboards, putting this and that in its proper place until there was nothing more to do. 

    It is time for a walk, Ruby thought, A quick tour of the city would certainly be timely.  There was a good hour or two before suppertime, and if Ruby hurried, she might catch a glimpse of the bright hues of the city before nightfall.  As Ruby hastened up the cobblestone streets, the further she ventured into the city, the brighter were the lights, but the more chilling was the air. Ruby drew her cloak more tightly about her, and was just contemplating turning back when a dark fashionably dressed woman stepped forth from the shadows. 

    “And who might we have here?” she purred, donning a curious look as a small smile played at the corners of her lips.  “I haven’t seen you around these parts, just where do you call home?”

     “Oh, I’m Ruby, and I am from the foothills of Gain.  My husband and I have just recently moved here.  And may I be so bold as to ask your name and whereabouts as well?” inquired Ruby with as much composure as she could muster.

    “I’m Enticement, and I live in the mansion at the very top of the highest hill Gain has to offer.  The view of the city is breathtaking – such a shame you live in the foothills.  Perhaps you could come visit soon,” Enticement cooed invitingly.  “If you just follow that path up ahead, you’ll find your way in no time.  Come as soon as you can, with or without your husband – preferably without,” she said laughingly, as a tall handsome man emerged from the shadows.  The striking stranger linked arms with her, and whispering secretly in her ear, the two of them slipped away into the shadows of the alley.

    Ruby suddenly became aware of the time and hurriedly made her way home, stumbling down the hill and arriving home just as her husband did.  Over a meager supper of beans and rice, the two of them shared the happenings of their day and made the surprising discovery that while Ruby had met Enticement, her husband had met Plunder, and the two of them just happened to be married. 

     Ruby’s husband was excited at the prospect of working for Plunder, and he wasted no time planning a visit to the stately mansion on the hill the very next day.  Ruby donned her best dress and pinned one of the remaining flowers from her garland in her hair as she readied herself for the trip up Gain’s highest hill.  As Ruby and her husband neared the path up the hill, they could not help but notice quite a spectacle was taking place in the public square of Gain. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ruby's Journey to Noble... Through Proverbs Ch. 1:1-9

I've been working on an allegorical book for the past 4 years.  It is a book about Ruby's journey to Noble, and how her life story unfolds to parallel the book of Proverbs.  I have loved writing this.  My heart is in it, but I do not have the end written.  I am giving myself a deadline of sorts by sharing a chapter of it each week here on my blog.  It will move through Proverbs a little at a time. I'll suggest music to listen to along the way, and who knows maybe a few questions?  We'll see.  Mainly, I hope you can see yourself in Ruby, as I see myself in her, and I hope her journey gives insight and inspiration to you in yours as she has in mine and continues to do so.  Here goes...

Ruby’s Journey Through Proverbs to Noble

Proverbs 1:1-9

     Ruby was but a young slip of a girl when she began her journey to the city of Noble.  Clad in a simple white dress, she had but few possessions to take on her journey.  Other than a garland of lilies encircling her head and a golden cross locket adorning her neck, Ruby had only one more gift to take.  Nestled in a small box and clasped tightly in her hands, the gift was no larger than her fist and felt as light as a feather in her grasp.  It was a parting gift from her parents, and the contents of the box were a complete mystery to her.

     “It’s a family heirloom, Ruby, passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter for many years,” said her mother kindly.  “No daughter should begin her journey to Noble without it.”  Ruby’s fingers fairly flew over the box, turning it this way and that, searching in vain for a way to open it.  Her mother watched her carefully, but as Ruby searched and searched, no opening to the box could be found.  It was tightly sealed and would not open no matter how she pried.

     “It is as I thought.  It cannot be opened yet,” her mother said thoughtfully.  Ruby’s face clouded with disappointment and confusion, but those thoughts soon raced away as her newly betrothed husband crossed over the hill. 

    “Let us make haste, Ruby,” her husband said excitedly.  “We have a long trip ahead of us, and we best be going while the sun is still shining bright.  Come, come!” he cried, “It is time to start our life together!”  Ruby smiled brightly and giving her parents a hurried hug, she clasped her husband’s hand and began the journey to Noble. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Julie's Yummy Mushroom, Ham, and Cheese Bites (3 Weight Watcher's Points)

1 Sargento Light Mozzarella Stick, peeled vertically into 4 sections
2 oz. deli Virginia or honey ham
Sliced fresh mushrooms
Olive oil PAM spray

Roll up each section of mozzarella stick in a slice or 2 of deli ham.  Cut in bite sized pieces (about an inch - I used a kitchen scissors).  Place each rolled up piece on a slice of mushroom and spread them out so they aren't touching in a glass pie plate or pan.  Lightly spray PAM olive oil spray over the entire top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Broil for 1 min.  Put in toothpicks and enjoy!

P.S. Don't put the toothpicks in the oven - they will burn, and that would be so sad.

P.S.S. My oldest son tried one and begged me to make them for supper.  Good stuff!

P.S.S.S.  I actually had these (3 pts.), 15 fat free pringles (2 pts.), a cup of green beans with salt and pepper for lunch (0 pts.), and a coconut La Croix (0 pts.) for lunch.  Yummy - and only 5 pts. total!



Monday, January 6, 2014

Easy Apple Caramel Cinnamon Rolls for Breakfast

Here is one of our new favorites for breakfast!

I make these just like the recipe, only right before cutting the log into individual rolls, I put the whole log (on a little cutting board) in the freezer for 3-5 minutes (makes the cutting easier).  
I also double the frosting.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tear-Off Pads for Chores

Household chores are a big part of homeschooling.  A family home all day creates more chores to be done because more meals are cooked and more messes are naturally made.  I like to switch up the way I manage chores every few years or so.  Starting the summer of 2013, I made tear-off pads for each of our sons, and a more open-ended one for me.  Due to the rotation of chores we have, it made sense to have a Monday - 1, Tuesday - 1, etc. and then for the next week's rotation Monday - 2, Tuesday -2, etc.  I took these into the local Office Max store and had them make 3 months' worth, cutting theme down the middle vertically and then horizontally, and putting tear-off glue on the top end of each.  It cost $13.  The boys have to turn them into me at breakfast and then again at the end of the day.  This is how they earn their morning snack and drink.  We've done this since June of 2013, and now it is January of 2014, and I just had my next set of 3 months' worth of pads made.  It worked out so well!  Here is a copy of our Monday - 1...

Keep in mind I've been working on chores with our sons every year for many, many years, so these are a compilation of all of the chores I've taught them.  If starting chores for the first time, you'd want to chose 1-2 chores for each child and teach them diligently for several weeks and then oversee them doing the chores more independently for another several weeks.  I've found it best to have each of our children keep the same chores for 3 years or so, and I usually add 1 new chore for each of them to be taught each summer.  I usually move one chore down each year or two to the next youngest child, and and teach the oldest something new.

I try to take into account what each child likes.  For example, my oldest son loves to do outdoor chores, so most of his chores are outdoors.  My middle son loves to do special things for me, so I added making my K-cup coffee and smoothie each morning.  He also loves to use the spray bottle, so cleaning the counters in the mirrors and bathrooms are a favorite.  My youngest son loves running our morning IPOD praise music as he does the chores, so many of his chores are near that.  He also loves to run water in the sink, so I added that for him to do as we rinse the breakfast dishes anyway before putting them in the dishwasher.  They are all quite happy with this arrangement.  In fact, none of them wanted to give up any of their chores for new ones last year, so we left them as they are for this school year.  HTH as you all try to figure out how best to do chores in your home!

In Christ,

Our Christmas Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

Another year is coming to a close, and it has been a year to recognize the joy the love of
family brings.  Though Rich’s work at Graybar and my work at Heart of Dakota and homeschooling remain important parts of our lives, we find it is our children, our parents, and our extended family that are constantly on our minds, and in our hearts and prayers.

Wyatt turned 14 years old and is officially taller than Rich.  Sometimes I look out the kitchen window and see Wyatt walking and think he IS Rich - they look so much alike!  Wyatt is a freshman in high school and our right hand man at home.  He continues to love the outdoors, taking excellent care of our 7 cats (I know, that’s a LOT) and 2 dogs.  He likes to hunt and fish with Rich, and shooting 2 deer and catching lots of walleye were the highlights of the year for him.  Anything physical is a hit with Wyatt – sledding, riding 3-wheeler, and working alongside Rich; playing football, basketball, baseball, and bowling with his cousins and Uncle Mike are all favorite things to do.  School comes easily for Wyatt, and when he’s not on the move, his head is always buried in a book – preferably a G.A. Henty or J.R.R. Tolkien book.  Wyatt spoils us with his cooking talents – thanks to Wyatt we are well stocked on homemade ice cream, popcorn, smoothies, and donuts.  Wyatt is a wonderful big brother and a sound leader in our family.  We all depend on him for something, which works out well because he is incredibly dependable.  Wyatt has an easy smile, an ear for listening, and a heart made for serving – we thank God for blessing us with Wyatt!

Riley turned 10 years old and remains the official fix-it guy of the house.  If it’s broken and has tiny miniscule little parts that must be put back together just so, Riley’s the one we call.  Riley is always on the move, and loves to be coached in all things sports-minded by his big brother Wyatt.  Riley throws caution to the wind, and it often takes a toll on his body.  Bumps, bruises, and scrapes are a common sight on Riley, but for all that rough and tumble side to him – he also has a big heart.  From bringing me coffee in the morning, to making me a fruit smoothie, to giving me a hug when I need it – Riley brings sunshine to the day.  Rooming with little brother Emmett has also given Riley a different role as ‘big’ brother, and it is certainly stretching him in new ways… mainly in patience.  All things creative come naturally to Riley – from singing to drawing to building to creating – somehow, in the midst of a mess (and I do mean a mess) it all just comes together and turns out right for Riley.  Riley has a quick smile, sparkly blue eyes, and a compassionate heart – we thank God for blessing us with Riley!   

Emmett turned 6 years old and brings needed comic relief to the family.  We never have to wonder what Emmett is thinking because he is quick to tell us.  What we DO have to wonder is WHY he is thinking it?!?  Emmett is quotable, for sure.  Everything he says includes a larger than life vocabulary and is witty, offbeat, or just plain surprising, and yet we find ourselves nodding our heads and laughing right along with him.  Emmett enters a room with swagger, often with a cowboy hat, a clown hat, a ninja mask, or a cape of some sort – and never quietly.  He loves to lead the conversation at the dinner table, but in no particular direction.  If things are quiet, it’s never a good sign.  Making a science ‘experiment’ up, mixing things together that should not go together, and painting or gluing things not meant to be painted or glued, are a staple of the quiet moments of Emmett’s day.  However, amidst all the chaos, he reads like a champ, writes neater than any 6 year old should, and thinks those he loves walk on water.  Emmett has a hearty laugh, a toothless smile that lights up a room, and arms just made to give the best hugs - we thank God for blessing us with Emmett!

Along with the blessing of children this year, a few highlights were Rich earning a trip to Hawaii through his work at Graybar (which I was blessed enough to go on as well) and a beautiful addition, attached garage, and wrap-around porch we were able to add to our house.  Another blessing was the health of our parents and the gift of extra time with my beloved dad, who is now in at-home hospice care in Rock Rapids, with my mom by his side.

This year has taught me more than ever to hold tight to the ones I love and depend on the Lord for the rest.  The truth is, there is never enough time with the ones I love.  Given the choice, my dad would live forever… but then again, he will, because I know where he is going, and heaven is a better place than here.  Letting go is never easy.  I may never truly be ready, but the beautiful thing is, I don’t really have to be, because my Savior built us a mansion in heaven, and I’m going there someday too.  This Christmas season, hold tight to the ones you love.  Thank the Lord for the blessings He has bestowed.  But, above all, know where you are going – it is the best gift you can give not only yourself but also the ones you love because amidst darkness, Jesus still brings hope and light.  God bless you and your family, and Merry Christmas!

Love in Christ,

Rich, Julie, Wyatt, Riley, and Emmett Grosz

Homeschooling with Planned Breaks - A New Schedule

For the past decade of homeschooling, we have used the shotgun approach... and LOVED it!  The shotgun approach, for us, was homeschooling from early morning straight through to a late lunch, and it worked splendidly!

However, due to increased responsibilities in my life (and I also think increased AGE on my behalf), I needed to do something different.  So, I tried to schedule an afternoon break this year.  It didn't work.  Why?  Old habits die hard.  We just pushed harder, talked faster, got up earlier... not good.  After talking to my wonderful sister Carrie (who still finds time to help her little sis even though she's the author of Heart of Dakota guides), I moved lunch so early and planned such a big afternoon break, that it would be impossible to do the shotgun approach.

The results?  TOTALLY HAPPY SUCCESS!!!  I cannot tell you the difference in our days.  We work hard and STOP at 12:30 PM, no matter what, and we finish from 3:30 PM to whatever time is needed (never later than 5:30 PM).  We leave 3 independent boxes for the end for my 2 oldest sons, and 1 or none for my youngest.  We don't always have that much left, but most the time we do.  It works!  My oldest high school student is doing the Heart of Dakota World Geography guide, our middle school student is finishing Heart of Dakota's Creation to Christ guide and soon to be starting the next guide Resurrection to Reformation, and our youngest first grade student is doing Heart of Dakota's Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory guide.  Click here for my SCHEDULE!

I have enjoyed all of my years with Heart of Dakota - it is such a blessing in our home!  Whether the shotgun approach or a planned breaks approach is your cup of tea... Heart of Dakota is something I want to share with everyone.  Hope this helps some of you as you think through scheduling your homeschooling days!

In Christ,

A New Year's Resolution Taken from "Kisses from Katie"

New Year's Resolution... try to add something to my blog more often than last year (shouldn't be hard, right?!?)

I just finished reading "Kisses from Katie,"  which is a book used in Heart of Dakota's Living Library for World Geography...

This book was just incredibly inspirational, and I can't help but think it was God's nudging for me to read it RIGHT NOW, at this moment in my life (especially as her book ended with Christmas celebrations).  Yes, I do believe God is in the details of my life like that.

Katie is a young Christian lady living in Uganda doing amazing things amidst terribly difficult conditions.  I'll admit, reading about Katie's average days made me repeatedly think, "How in the world am I so tired at the end of my quite predictable and admittedly easier days?!?"  Then, I remember I am in my 40's, and Katie is in her 20's, and it makes a bit more sense (those of you in your 40's get what I mean, those of you in your 20's - go attack your day gals!).

So, do I feel my purpose in life is to be a missionary in a foreign country?  No - surprisingly that is not the message of "Kisses from Katie," though I imagine God will put that purpose in the hearts of those who read that book who it is His purpose for.   So, do I feel my purpose in life is to adopt a child from Uganda?  No - surprisingly that is also not the message of "Kisses from Katie,"  though again, I do believe God will put that purpose in the hearts of those who read that book who it is His purpose for.  What I did take from this book that profoundly affected my life outlook is to LOVE THE ONES GOD PUTS IN FRONT OF ME.  That is what Katie continually does, in the midst of extreme poverty with countless people in need, she just helps the THE ONES GOD PUTS IN FRONT OF HER, one at a time.

Hmm.  I can do that!  And do you know who I looked out and saw?  My husband - weary from work and in need of my love.  My children - growing up in an uncertain world and in need of my guidance.  My parents - in the throes of dealing with pancreatic cancer and hospice care and in need of my help. The gal at the checkout counter at Walmart, who needs someone to smile at her and thank her for her hard work.  The gal at the chiropractor's office showing me her tattoos and telling me she's contemplating getting a cross on her back to bear the sins she inflicted on her parents through the years - like I said honey, 'No need to do that!  Jesus bore them for you already!'  And the list goes on. One person.  One moment at a time.  Whoever you put in front of me.  I can do that, Lord, with You by my side.  I can do that.  If you get a chance, ladies, get "Kisses from Katie" from HOD and tell me how it affected you!

So this 2014... I'm going to LOVE on my husband - a lot!  I'm going to LOVE on my children - with joy!  I'm going to LOVE on my parents - with gratitude!  And should I be blessed enough to meet any of you, and have you be THE ONE GOD PUTS IN FRONT OF ME, look out - love is coming your way!

Happy New Year - may it be a good one!  God bless!