Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Celebrate Kaya!

Today we are celebrating the birthday of our firstborn, Kaya Grace Gregoire.  We love you sweet girl! 

How our lives have changed since that day eight years ago!  We had been down in Maryland visiting my parent's Bayhouse for Labor Day weekend when my water broke in the middle of the night.  After double (and triple!!) checking, and a quick phonecall to my OB, we were off and headed 2 1/2 hours back home to the hospital.  We did make it, with hardly even a contraction! 

Due to a condition that Kaya was born with, called craniosynostosis, I required an emergency c-section.  Five hours later though, the sweetest, most thoughtful little girl was welcomed into our family.  What an absolute treasure she was (and is) too!   Kaya loves to dance.  She loves dolls and babies (real ones!!) and she loves all things girly.  LOVE that about her!!  Here is a look back at the last eight years.

18 months

For about a year, this is the outfit that our very own little Cinderella donned everyday. :)

Beautiful girl.

She's three!!!

Sugar and spice and everything nice...

Kaya has always been a natural big-sister to all her siblings. 

Celebrating with family tonight.  Happy birthday sweet Kaya!!

We've been through major surgery together, a broken foot and E.R. visits.  But we would do it all again in a heartbeat.  So, so, so thankful to have such a precious gift for a daughter.  We consider it an absolute honor that God chose us to be your mommy and daddy.  We look forward to watching you grow into the beautiful woman God has created you to be.  We love you Kaya!!

Love, Mommy

Monday, August 22, 2011

Heaven Rules

Last week when we mailed in our dossier, we were cautioned by our social worker that it is very common for some of the documents to need revisions and to be returned to us.  Immediately, I began to pray that this would not be the case.  After all, we had worked FIVE LONG MONTHS on these documents.  I was done.  I was finished.  I was ready to move on. 

But as I prayed, I sensed that that was not the right prayer to be praying.  Not that God is not capable of making certain that our dossier was approved the first time.  But instead, I felt Him nudging me to pray FOR our social worker.  That she, in all her experience and knowledge, would have WISDOM and DISCERNMENT as to any mistakes we had missed.  That she would go over our documents with a fine-tooth comb, and pinpoint anything that could potentially pose a problem for us over in the Ethiopian courts. 

And a few days after I prayed that prayer, she did.  And I was sad.  I became like that Israelite again.  I got down, and started making lists of all the things I had to do to rectify the problem.  I began to fret, under pressure to get it all done in two weeks before I leave for vacation.  Under pressure to get it all done in the midst of OTHER looming deadlines and responsibilities.

And then as I read the book of Daniel, this verse leapt out to me:

"Your kingdom will be restored when you ackowledge that Heaven rules."
~Daniel 4:26

And I just knew.  I just knew that God was reminding me that it is HIS hand that rules.  That it was merely HIS voice that spoke Creation into being.  That is was HIS perfect plan that sent His Son to die on a cross, only to be raised up from the dead, to redeem the world from their sin.  That even when times are tough, and the odds are stacked against us, and we have deadlines and worries of this world....

Heaven rules. 

And in a blink of an eye, He can change our circumstances when we ackowledge that He is capable, not us. 

Do you know what happened in the rest of my story?  Well, when I learned this lesson yet again, and ackowledged His sovereignty over my life, MY CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGED!  Not because of anything I did, but because of WHO HE IS. 

Thank you Jesus.  Not only do you hold up kings and kingdoms, but also little 'ole me.

 "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
  ~Matthew 10:29

Thank you Lord that you are in the details.  That you RULE over the details.  That our circumstances can change instantly when we believe that Heaven rules.


Our Schedule

After my last post on our curriculum choices for this year, I was asked to post what our daily schedule looked like. We are NOT super-scheduled people here, though I do need a little bit of structure to my day to survive.  So, I would consider this much more of a flow-chart than a rigid time line.  We do TRY and keep this order of things, though sometimes the times may change slightly, depending on what time my kids wake up, etc... 

Our day is broken up into hour time slots.  As the kids finish their work for the time slot, they are allotted free time until the end of the hour.  This is an incentive for them to finish up their work without procrastination.  If they do all their assignments for the hour in only 40 minutes, they have 20 minutes left to do what they choose.  The younger ones naturally have less work, while the older ones have a little bit more.  It also helps in catching everyone up, so that we can start new on something together.  Any work that is not finished by the time that hour is up, will get finished later after dinner. 

This is a look at what our week looks like Tuesday through Friday.  On Mondays we're in class all day with Classical Conversations.  Nothing special, but here it is. 


8am – 9am
AM Chores, Bible and Breakfast

9am – 10am
Memory Work
Handwriting, Copywork
Memory Work
 Read with Mom

Memory Work
Preschool with me

Table Play
10am – 11am
History, Timeline, Science, and/or Geography

11am – 12noon
M        A        T        H
Math Manipulatives                                                     Workbook pages
Computer/video work
12noon – 2pm
2pm – 3pm
3pm – 4pm
Quiet play
Quiet play
4pm – 5pm
Outside Play Time
5pm – 6pm
Television/Prep dinner
6:00 pm
6:30 pm
Finish homework and PM chores
7pm – 8pm

*Breaks whenever work is done until the end of the hour.  Unfinished work to be done as “homework” after dinner.

Happy Monday!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Our School Year at a Glance

Last week I wrote about giving my plans over to God as I begin to prepare for the upcoming school year.  Certainly making plans and trusting in God go hand-in-hand.  We plan, with all the wisdom and creativity that He has given us, but in the end, we hold those plans loosely to see what He will do with them.  Over the past few years I have heard the term, "holding your plans up to God with open hands instead of clenched fists".  So, as I've been planning, I've been praying also.  Praying that God will give me direction....and wisdom.  Praying that the curriculum will not be an idol, but simply a means to an end.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."
~Proverbs 16:9

Here is a look at some of my plans for this school year.  No curriculum is perfect.  It is all just that....curriculum.  Some of it will work well for us, and others won't.  And so as we go, we will tweak and change and muddle through.  What matters most is the heart in which it is taught in.  Oh my, don't I need a reminder of that these days!??!!

We've structured our entire year around Classical Conversations, the national homeschool organization that we are a part of.  CC strives to teach students classically through memorization.  On class days, our kids will be learning new grammar in the subject areas of English, Latin, History, Science, Math, Geography, Bible, Art and Music.  Our kids will be doing art projects, science experiments and an oral presentation each week.  It is truly the highlight of their week!  For those fellow CCer's - check out this blog.  It has been SO helpful in my lesson planning for the year.


The kids will be memorizing John 1:1-7 and then learning to translate it in Latin this year.  That should be interesting!


Draw to Learn the Book of Proverbs   -     
        By: Ray Notgrass, Charlene Notgrass
LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!  Combines art and bible.  Read through the Proverbs with your kids and they illustrate as you go.  Also available:  Psalms, Acts, Letters of Paul and Life of Jesus.


We're using Abeka books again this year for math.  My kids seem to like them (the books are real colorful and fun) - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

A couple of websites I am planning to use to supplement are:

Math Drills


Khan Academy

We're also a HUGE fan of Justin at Mathtacular!!


For those students from 3rd-6th grade, Classical Conversations has an intense Language Arts and Math program called Essentials.  For the first time this year, my daughter will be taking their Essentials class. The Language Arts program uses a combination of The Essentials of the English Language Guidebook and Andrew Pudewa's Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  So, so, so, sooooo good!!!

For my beginning readers, we have used this book:

Product Details
Joseph just finished it up and will be going on to "real" books.
For handwriting, we have always liked A Reason For Writing.  Kaya will be continuing on in cursive, while Joseph finishes up his mastery in printing.

Cooking and Science Elementary
So, I was trying to figure out how to teach chemistry to elementary students.  Enter, Cooking and Science.  And, it can only (to my knowledge) be found at  Truly one of the nicest family-run curriculum companies to work with!


Product Details
We're studying human anatomy this year in our Classical Conversations community.  Looking forward to using this resource!


Product Details
 I'm excited by the reviews on this book and am hoping it will be a great resource for years to come.


This year in Classical Conversations we will be studying US History.  Abeka books has a myriad of sources that we are using to supplement our memory work in both history and geography.

We'll also be working on memorizing a timeline of the world using Veritas Press' Timeline Cards.

Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards

A couple of websites that I have been introduced to also as supplements:

Paper Toys


FREE Audiobooks on Librivox

In the past we have used....

The Mystery of History Vol 1
and LOVED it!  But unfortunately, they do not offer an American History volume yet.  Maybe someday! :)


Classical Music for Dummies


Product Details 


Product Details


And, finally, Jackson is starting preschool at home this year!!!  I found this website with FREE printables for preschoolers.  It is AWESOME!  I was able to print off all kinds of their "preschool packs" in Star Wars and Peter Pan and Disney Cars.  Plenty to keep little hands busy.  I'm also intrigued by a book called, Preschool in a Bag, but I have yet to get my hands on a copy. :)

At this point, we have field trips penciled in, lessons plans written out, and objectives submitted to the local school district.  We're almost there!!!

Now, for me, the planning is the fun part.  I am a geek in the sense that I LOVE lesson planning.  BY FAR, my most favorite assignments in college involved lesson planning.  It's all fun and creative and in my mind it always plays out PERFECTLY.  The hard part though, is the reality.  When science experiments flop, and the baby poops on the floor during reading time, and my three-year-old clogs the toilet while I'm trying to teach math (don't ask - as you can see we have A LOT of bathroom issues here. :)  When life takes over and I'm left to pick up the pieces of my beautiful lesson plan gone awry.  Praying for a lot of GRACE this year!!

So, here's to a new year beginning.  It sure couldn't come soon enough!!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dossier Complete!

Power of Attorney Letters.  Check.
Letter of Intent.  Check.
Passports.  Check.
Completed and approved Home Study.  Check.
Criminal  and Child Abuse Clearances.  Check.
Original Birth Certificates.  Check.
Marriage License.  Check.
Medical Forms.  Check.
Photographs of Family.  Check.
Photographs of interior and exterior of home.  Check.
Employment Letters.  Check.
Letters of Recommendation.  Check.
Financial Statement.  Check.
FBI Fingerprint Appointment.  Check.
Post Adoption Committment Letter.  Check.
Three complete copies of entire dossier.  Check.  Check. Check.

And just like that, our dossier is complete.  We're just waiting to have our fingerprints done on Tuesday and then I'm mailing it in. :)  So, so, so excited and relieved to be through this part of the process.  Our dossier will have to be approved (hopefully BEFORE we go on vacation at the end of the month!), but then we will be waitlisted!

Take a look at our BEFORE family photo:

Charles and Kirsten
Kaya (7), Joseph (5), Jackson (3) and Sophia (1)

Can't wait till the day when we can show you our AFTER photo!  :)  Thanks for all your prayers!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shepherds and Sheep......and Cicadas?

I sat this morning out on my deck, my coffee in one hand and my Bible in the other, listening to a chorus of cicadas singing praise to their Creator.  And as I enjoyed my front-row seat, I began to read about shepherds and sheep. 

"As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.  I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements of the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land.  There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.  I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.  I will shepherd the flock with justice."

~Ezekiel 34:11-16

Well, it is that time of year for me again .... time to finish up my lesson plans for the year.  I've scoured curriculum catalogs....searching for the "perfect" curriculum.  I've written up lessons plans, worked on objectives and ORGANIZED closets, bins and drawers....all in the attempts to "start off the year on the right foot". 

And as I read about the responsibility of shepherds to their sheep, the faces of my four little "sheep" entered my mind.  How am I fulfilling my calling to them?   Am I training them up in the way that they should go?  And am I doing it in a way that is honoring to God?

And so out came the pen and paper and the list began .....

Areas I'd like to see improvement:

~Heart-changing issues~
~First-time obedience~
~ Being more intentional about family devotions and praying with my children~
~Service to others~

And as I began to plan how I could begin to implement these things, God gently reminded me....I can do all these things, but in the end, the fate of my children does not depend on if I've used the right curriculum, penciled in enough service projects or crammed enough scripture verses into their little heads.  These are ALL good things, even NECESSARY things, but NOT the final determining factor in whether or not we will produce children who follow Him.  It's so easy to fall into the trap of placing our trust in methods, instead of trusting in God, isn't it?  Feels somewhat safer, tamer maybe.  And I am guilty as charged.

Yet in the end, the most important impact I will ever have as a mother on my children will be my prayers for them.  It will be MY relationship with the Lord.  It will be how I model Christ's love to them.  It will be the everyday praise that bubbles up out of me as a natural overflow of my love for Him.  Just like those cicadas. :)

Crazy little bugs, huh?  And yet, they bring Him praise just by being what they were created to be.  I kind-of want to be like that, you know?  Singing my heart out in praise as I do what I've been called to do.  Praising Him in the mundane.  In the countless diaper changes, piles of laundry and mounds of homeschool curriculum.  Praising Him when I am tired and feeling unequipped for the task at hand.  Singing my continuous song of praise and petition to Him as I go about my day doing what I've been called to do.  And doing it all for the glory of God.   Just because it is who I am.

And as I do, I pray that my children will have a front-row seat to the Savior.  That as I work on MY relationship with Him, as I pray and serve and love, as I offer a continual chorus of praise.....that they will glimpse Him and desire to do the same. 


Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Reading List

Over the past several months I have posted excerpts from a few of the books that I have been reading.  Some of you have asked me to share those with you.  Here is a look at the books that have impacted me the most this year:

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream 

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God 

Seasons of a Mother's Heart, 2nd edition 

Family Driven Faith (Paperback Edition with Study Questions): Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God 

Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches 

And just for fun....

The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families--How they Do It 

Here's a peak at what's on my nightstand right now....

from ashes to africa
A memoir.  One couple's journey from infertility to adoption.


There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children
One courageous woman's personal  look at the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ethiopia.

And no reading list could be complete without my two all-time favorite novels.....

Redeeming Love 


This Present Darkness 

Summer's not over.  Grab a book and sit poolside.  Happy Reading!