Saturday, December 18, 2010

By Popular Demand - Amelia 11 months

Gone are the days of turning my back for even a split second. She’s walking, talking, and keeping us on our toes; not to mention she puts everything in her mouth...e v e r y t h i n g. I won’t tell you what, it’ll make you gag. But she is sweeter than pie and such an obedient little girl. Here are some pictures from the past month to catch you up.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homeschooling Helps

Jacob and Sophie just completed the first session of a homeschool online writing class with Home 2 Teach . They logged on to their class every week for an hour of instruction where they interacted with their teacher and classmates. They had three assignments due every week: a vocabulary assignment, a paragraph, and typing assignment. The class covered: grammar, spelling, vocabulary, sentence structure and reference materials to name a few. One aspect I liked about the class was that I was not able to help them AT ALL. There were tears the first week, but then the kids grew confident and were determined to hand their assignments in on time in order to make it to the Honors Club; which, by the way, had nothing to do with a grade. They typed all their lessons in MLA format and e-mailed them to their teacher. She would correct spelling errors in blue and grammar errors in red. They would then correct their original paper and re send. Sometimes they had several revisions before she sent them an e-mail saying, "This draft looks great, Sophia. You have corrected all the errors and your sentences flow smoothly. You are done with 4B." Teacher Kim. or "Looks great, Jacob. I like how you used "with that" as an alternative transition word. This is a nicely written paragraph; your sentences flow well. You are done with 4B." Teacher Kim.

Week 5 they wrote a paragraph where they had to persuade or convince using four reasons why their audience should believe. I was quite impressed with what they came up with.


Jacob Carel

Teacher Kim

Fundamentals 1


Every Child Should be Homeschooled

I believe every child should be homeschooled. One, your child goes to school at seven in the morning and comes back at five o clock with an hour of homework. After that it’s usually time to eat and go to bed, so you really don’t get much time to bond with your child. Two, when your child goes to school, you really have no idea who they could be influenced by .Three, some children need one on one teaching. Four, your child won’t get sick as often because he is crammed in a school room with twenty other kids or more. Five, after a while your child will come to love you and come to you for help. Six, it has been proven that home schooled children are smarter; for instance, I know a girl who just turned nineteen and already finished her bachelors degree. That is why I believe every child should be homeschooled.


Sophia Grace Carel

Teacher Kim

Fundamentals 1


Every Girl Should Babysit

I think that every girl should babysit; it would give them full responsibility for when they grow up. They will learn how it would be when they have children. And it will leave them to be able to take care of a child. It is also a really good way to earn money and a fun way to earn money. I also think it is good to have a little fun with the the kids. You can take things and teach them how to do some of those things. That’s why I think girls should babysit.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our Pasture Paradise

Well we made it to the end of our living in the office, packing, construction, living in limbo season of life and crossed the finish line. See Millie in the beautiful new farm sink with the 100 year old restored planks for the backspash and oak countertops. We loved it.......while it lasted. With the passing of the above mentioned season of life and enjoying our freshly renovated home for a total of one day the unthinkable occurred, a broken water pipe in the wall. Can you say flood? Yes we had water seeping under our freshly handscraped and sealed hardwood floors just days after they were finished. Now we get to start all over again. Have you seen Groundhog Day where Bill Murray woke up in the sleepy little town over and over again reliving the same day? That's us. And while I know there are much greater tragedies in life, this one took the skip out of my step and the whistle from my lips.

So we breathe deep, thank God for his greatness and Allstate insurance for their policy and move on again. We have torn out much of the damaged material and will commence the renovation again next Thursday. We will keep you posted.

What's in store you ask? New cabinets, floors, trim, plumbing, paint and about four weeks with no kitchen...again. We are accepting dinner invitations.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A mockery

Have you ever been made fun of or mocked? By your own child? It’s usually not a laughing matter but this had me in tears. The kids love to get on Photo Booth and make little video clips. This one was saved in the archives. Ed said Sophie had me embarrassing.

Monday, September 6, 2010


My kids aren't normal....and I am so glad. At a time when normal for kids is living indoors in large sealed climate controlled homes watching Disney, Nick, MTV, PS 1, 2, 3, X-Box, WII, DVD, Blue Ray, Chat, IM, Text, Face Book, and 15 different practices/camps/private lessons, today my kids played with card board boxes, crayons, spray paint, and a dolly for most of the day.

Here’s what we are doing these days. We are fasting media. But before you call CPS, let me explain. We have never been much of a media family, in fact in our 16 years of marriage I think we have had cable for about 2 years. Not because we’re broke and it didn’t make the budget, but because we always had an intrinsic gut level feeling that it is a huge life sucking brain vacuum. So rather than participating in a voluntary TV brain lobotomy, we talk, play and hang out with each other, read, or work around the house.

Have you ever gotten one of those chain e-mails that talk about the good ole days when kids were free to roam and play, the kind that make you long for a time when life was more simple? Yeah me too, but guess what? It still exists if you can unplug long enough to notice. This brings me back to our media fast. We had noticed our kids being unusually restless and discontent over the past several months. Comments like, “I’m bored” and “there is nothing to do” or “it’s too hot” or "its too cold” became normal. In the past the kids loved to read. In fact, I would at times pick up 20 to 30 books Gretchen had on hold at the library and the kids would bombard me when I got home to see if the books they ordered were there. We realized that we had unwittingly let media/games via the computer take a dominant role in their daily activity. Not unsupervised, but stuff like, Godtube, WebKinz, and NetFlix. We said we didn’t have TV, but streaming cartoons and family flicks through the portal of Netflix is kinda like TV. Right? So we wanted to simplify and get back to basics to see if it impacted our kids attitudes. Guess had. It’s been amazing to see the kids become content again with sketching notebooks, board games, books, and yes, cardboard boxes. I have not heard I’m bored for awhile now and loving it.

Here is another great benefit. They don’t want a bunch of stuff or think they are fat because they are comparing themselves to toothpick girl on whatever teen rave sitcom. Advertisers spend millions and millions of dollars and thousands of intellectual hours figuring out how to make our kids discontent. Not just with stuff like toys, but with who they are. All so they will go out and drink their earth saving water or wear their hip (or far below the hip) jeans, or use their sport equipment so they won’t be losers anymore and will finally attain “coolness” ..... for a moment.

So don’t go and throw your TV out the window or bash your computer screen just because my kids dig playing in cardboard boxes and read books, but give it a shot and see for yourself. Set aside a period of time, unplug and watch your kids (after they start breathing again from an anxiety attack) begin to master the art of creative play and thought. It may take a bit of an adjustment period, so don’t, after only missing ONE of their favorite shows, give up. And don’t give up because your neighbor, or family members think your are a freak. Hang in there and see what exciting and creative being your child will become.

And by the way, don’t worry about peer pressure. Your kiddos might become influencers on your street when they cruz their tricked out cardboard box by.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Amelia - 7 1/2 months

Amelia is on the move. The kids have so many nick names for her but the newest is "Hot Shot" cuz she thinks she is BIG stuff. Not only is she crawling but can go to a full stand from a squatting position without the support of a piece of furniture. My babies all walked before a year but I don't remember any of them standing at such an early age. Oh, do babies grow too fast or what? I am grateful God gave Amelia to us. She has been so much fun and has blessed us beyond measure.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Movin to the Country

All packed up and ready to go!!!

The lane to our new house.

For those of you who know us know we have dreamed of living and raising our children in the country. The time has come. The Lord has brought us an amazing property within 15 minutes of our church home instead of the 40 minutes we have been driving every Sunday. This is something we have put much thought and prayer into but didn't know that God would have something in store for us NOW. Back in May, a family in our church phoned us and asked if we would be interested in purchasing their home on 7 acres, backed up to their neighbor's 3,000. We had shared with them just weeks prior that one day we really wanted to be closer to the church and on a few acres in the country. So here we are...listed our home in McKinney in July, got a full price offer in August, close this Friday, move out the same day. Here's the fun part...we get to live in Ed's office for 4-6 weeks, one room, no kitchen, 4 children, two dogs, and 1 cat. I'm trying very hard to keep a smile on my face. Our new home needs lots of TLC but thankfully I have an amazingly talented and creative husband who plans to do some great things with the house. I am most excited about are new hardwood floors and a farmhouse sink in my kitchen. More pics on this later. As for the outdoors, we plan to have our own mini homestead with a large garden, berry patch, cows, chickens, laying hens and possible milking goats. Any tips or advice on any of these are more than welcome.

Front yard.

Back yard.

Fishing on our new neighbor's pond. I think we caught over 10 fish.

I keep telling the kids raw food is best. I didn't mean for Jacob to take me so literally.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Ok Fine!!! You win Vicki. I'll do it.

1. What do you normally smell like? my homemade lavender & patchouli lotion

2. How far away do you live from your parents? 813 miles, 13 hours 32 minutes according to Google maps

3. Are you happy with your job? Wouldn't dream of trading it

4. What did you get in the mail today? Haven't a clue. Avoid checking the mail. (Sorry Vicki. I know you never got this about me.)

5.How do you like your steak cooked? medium...a little pink in the middle

6. What do you usually order at Taco Bell? Hmm, can't say I frequent Taco Bell. Maybe a crispy taco supreme.

7. Have you ever sat all the way through Gone With the Wind? Yes

8. Have you ever been to Mt Rushmore? No

9. Where is your favorite place (that you have actually been to)? Estes Park, Colorado. Can't wait to go back and take the kids.

10. What is your favorite candle scent? Patchouli

11. Have you ever smoked cigarettes? Not really.... Is that an answer???

12. Have you ever been to NYC or LA? Neither and have no desire to go to either

13. Are you currently planning a trip? Just got back from family camp. Illinois in the late fall.

14. Do you prefer to pack your own groceries? If it gets me home faster

15. What is your favorite snack? ice cream if I'm bad, apple and peanut butter if I'm good

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Amelia - 5 months

My sweet baby is changing every day and we are all continuing to enjoy every minute of her precious little life. Enjoy, yes, but fight is a little more accurate. I think I just may ground the older three kids from her for an entire day if they continue on as they have. This is what I hear on a daily basis, "It's my turrrrn", "I called her", "She held her longer than me", "It's not fair that he gets her again", "Why can't Amelia sleep with me", "She always sleeps with you", "Mommmm, she is hogging Amelia", ok, you get the point, Amelia is verrry popular around these parts. Even though it gets a bit old to hear these complaints, I am grateful they love and enjoy her as much they do. It's better than hearing, "Do I have to hold her again?".

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brace Face

Brace face, tinsel teeth, metal mouth, railroad tracks, jaws, zipper lips, magnet mouth, cheese grater, fence face, and tin grin are just a few of Jacob's new names.

Braces don't do this to your face, but what does? Any guesses?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't Blink

I just got back from a weekend of camping; I am sunburned, sore, exhausted, and my hair still has a faint smell of campfire. I spent 2 hours packing, 1 hour driving to camp, 1.5 hours setting up, 1 hour tearing down, 1 hour driving home, and 3 hours unpacking. That is nine and a half hours for a “quick” weekend getaway, hmmmm, but you know what? For the memories swirling through my mind right now and the special time I had with my family, I would do it all again ten times over.

The smile on my son’s face, as he burst into the camper this morning, while holding a slimy dripping catfish just a couple feet from my face exclaiming “I caught one”, makes it worth it.

The look on Sophia's face as she sat playing Uno with the late seventies couple we just met at camp, makes it worth it. The same old man, Larry, who does professional bead work for Indian tribes all over the country, taught Sophia how to bead, something he learned to do over fifty years ago...that makes it worth

Vivian “took off” on her bike this weekend and officially has taken a spot as one of the “big kids.” While riding down a hill showing off her new skills to dad, the bike was gaining more speed that she knew what to do with. The utter expression of terror on her face and a quick cry for help was satisfied as she was caught safely by mom and dad just before crashing. Being there to catch her made it worth it.
Sitting at the campfire last night singing to the strum of the guitar, praising, and laughing together with young kids, preteens, teens, young adults, young families, older families, and older, wiser and slightly gray headed church family under a brilliant star specked sky made it worth it.

I enjoyed my many conversations with our camp neighbor, professional retiree’s who travel the country 365 day a year in their RV/rolling home. Our conversations were frequently interrupted by “hey dad, watch this” “can you help me for a minute” “dad, dad, dad, DDDDDAAAAADDDD.” My neighbor looked at me with a smile and a glistening sparkle in his eye and said, “Don’t blink cuz it will be gone in a moment and you will be left in a big empty house that was once loud and full of bodies and life, wondering where in the heck the time went.” It reminded me of a pastor who shared his experiences to a group of dads a coupe of weeks ago.. he said as a pastor he made many trips to the hospital to be with guys who were in their last moments. He said the seen was usually the same, as family members come around to sit with, cry with, pray with, and hold the one who is about to breathe their last breath. He said he never recalled a man, in his final moments of life, mustering just enough energy to speak his final words who then asked for clubs to hold, key to the bass boat, or the many framed diplomas and service awards. They want what maters most, the people they love,family.

On the drive home tonight I asked Jacob what his most favorite thing about the weekend was, he said, “When we sat out fishing last night after everyone else went to bed”.....that makes it worth it.

So, I encourage you dads, push aside some time to go wipe some noses, knees or bottoms. Take a trip to the ballpark, lake, or hiking trail and enjoy your family... and whatever you do, don’t blink.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Amelia - 4 months

My beautiful baby. She's growing up and doing big girl rolling over. I seriously have never put her on her belly until today. Honestly she has barely left my arms. I am enjoying every second of this precious little life. What a blessing she is.

I love those eyes!

I love those cheeks!

I love those lips!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lentil Soup - healthy, thrifty and delicious

I found this recipe on the back of Stonyfield's plain whole milk yogurt container and made it for dinner tonight. I love it when I find a recipe that is one dish, easy to make, inexpensive, and healthy. This soup met all my requirements and my kids scraped their bowls clean. I know it's spring and you may not be in the mood for soup but this one will be a staple in my home regardless of the season.

Lentil Soup

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp chili pepper
2 cups lentils
2 quarts chicken stock
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt

Pour olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, sea salt and pepper. Saute until onions are clear, about 3-5 minutes. Add celery, carrot, garlic, cumin, coriander, and chili pepper. Stir and cook until vegetables are soft. Add lentils. Stir until lentils are coated with oil. Add enough stock to cover lentils. Cover pot and let simmer 30-45 minutes, until lentils are soft and creamy. Add more stock if lentils are too thick. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and 1/2 cup of yogurt. Reheat slowly before serving. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt.

(I used more oil, celery, carrot, stock and yogurt.)

Thanks Stonyfield!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bunny Ears

Happy Resurrection Day (Easter) from the Carel family. Now you and I both know that Easter is not really about bunnies and chocolate eggs, but when Gretchen saw the pattern for these hats she could not pass them up. She worked really hard making them in time for the girls to sport at church and Grandma’s for lunch. What I loved most about today was the innocence in which our kids worshiped, played, egg hunted and enjoyed the richness of a day with family without a bunch of tricked out hype. Just kicking around being kids and grateful to God for the gift of redemption that is expressed in the Passion Story.

Today I am thankful for:
God’s amazing gift of grace
The budding of spring time
Green grass
Fresh air
Our church
The innocence of my kids
My wife
My new baby
My dad’s brisket
Crocheted bunny hats

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Sharkarosa Ranch is a hands on wildlife preserve where you can get up close and personal with many of the animals and learn things you never knew to be true. Home to a capuchin monkey, red ruffed lemurs, black and white ruffed lemurs, red fronted lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs, black lemur, brown lemur, pot bellied pig, llama, blue bobcats, capybara, grants zebras, grevy zebras, dromedary camels, american buffalo, royal tibetan yak, miniature zebu, whitetail deer, fallow deer, axis deer, barasingha deer, guanacos, nubian ibex, emu, mini horses, mini donkeys, zedonk, quarter horse, draft horses, 2-toed sloths, kinkajou, african crested porcupines, scarlet macaw, blue & gold macaw, eastern grey kangaroos, albino eastern grey kangaroos, western grey kangaroos, red kangaroo, bennett’s wallabies, swamp wallabies, binturongs. Ok, we didn’t learn about all of these animals. I didn’t even know some of these animals existed. But we did get to see them and learned about many of them.

Have you ever seen a zedonk? You know, half zebra, half donkey. We have. Check out this little guy’s striped legs.

This deer was injured by a car and is one of the many animals rescued at the ranch

We were able to touch and pet this precious 8 month old albino kangaroo.

Sharkarosa recently rescued two baby black bears. They were so cute.

Some of the presenters for Wild Home School Day this year were Mr. Zoo, Snake Farm, Critterman, Dr. Randy & his amazing skulls, and 911 Wildlife. The Critterman did presentations on a scorpion, snake, python, barn owl, porcupine, alligator, and possum.

Can you guess how much this barn owl weighs? Guess again, he is a whopping 1/2 pound.

Amelia did a great job looking cute for all the passers by. Grandma had a rough job too.

All my kids. Believe it or not I think this is the very first picture I have of them all together.

This camel really liked Jake. Look at it whispering sweet nothings in his ear.