This Week’s Frugal Accomplishments

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Today I am launching a new set of *hopefully* regular posts entitled “Frugal Accomplishments.”

If you know me in real life, you may have picked up on the fact that I like to live fairly frugally. I don’t think I was always this way, but as our family grew, I have learned to run this house in a frugal and practical way. Sure, I think we live modestly as far as the “big things” are concerned–we both drive older vehicles, our house is not big and fancy, etc, etc. However, I like to think that saving and living simply with the “small things” do add up in the long run. I am very inspired by other people who make things work by raising families on a modest income and LOVE to hear the little ways they save. So, in turn, hopefully I can perhaps inspire you in some small way by sharing what I do on a weekly basis to save us some cash.

(I totally copied this idea from The Prudent Homemaker, who does this as a weekly post. I love reading what she does for her family.)

Here’s a few things that I did last week:

*With some nice sunny days I was able to line dry many loads of laundry and not run our dryer.

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(Weird but true fact about me: I rather enjoy doing laundry and love hanging it out to dry. It makes my heart happy.)

*I sold a few items on Ebay. An old Michael Jordan jersey, which I found in a bag of free-to-us boy clothes, brought way more than I expected. Sweet!!

*I went to a couple of yard sales on Friday. I scored a pair of kid snow pants for next year, a dressy shirt for Andrew, and a hooded sweatshirt for Heidi for a couple bucks. I also got a pair of knitting needles and some vintage quilt squares for free. I was just asking what the price was and the lady very much insisted that I just take them!

*Though it wasn’t directly for my own kids, I was able to easily alter a couple dresses for my brother’s girls so they can wear them this summer.

*Instead of doing a store run, I hit up my closet “gift stash” to provide a birthday gift for a party my daughter attended.

*We watched a few things on Netflix.

*With some coupon dollars, I was able to save a whopping $20 on a new backpack for my latest birthday boy. We have always bought LL Bean brand packs and they hold up for MANY years. He has had the same one all through elementary school and is now in 6th grade. This is the one he picked out–here’s to hoping it lasts through the next 6 years!!

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*We planted part of our garden on Saturday. That day we did 3 types of potatoes, green beans, and a little bit of sweet corn. Peas, onions, and a couple of other things had already been planted.

*I cut some early spring flowers from our beds outside the house and used them for decoration inside. There’s just something about fresh flowers!

Well, that was a sampling of some of the things I do. Stay tuned for more!

Have a blessed week.

Rachel

What I’m Into: April 2015

Happy April! Thank the LORD we may actually have Spring within our sights now.

Here is a second installment of a little series I call “What I’m Into,” where I divulge what either me or my family members are currently into.

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I am one of those rare people who enjoy coffee AND teas. Recently I discovered this wonderfully strong blend of Chai tea and loved it. I never thought I liked Chai, but apparently I had only experienced the wimpy kind until now.

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My baby girl is turning 10 next month! We let our kids have a special party at 1, 5, 10, and 16, so we are planning a cute little party for her and some friends and family. This is a pic of some invites I threw together today.

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This is a shot of my girl in the fabric store, picking out a cute cupcake fabric for her party’s goody bags. We love us some fabric.

Like mother, like daughter. It’s a little frightening!!

Though we have read this book aloud before, I am reading it again to the crew when we can before bed. I love the fact that though they are all pretty strong readers, they still enjoy being read to.

Know what this is?

Yeah, I didn’t either until a couple weeks ago when my sister-in-law discovered triangle loom weaving. She and her husband (my husband’s brother) made a couple of triangle looms and I inherited one that they made! What a nice surprise! Since then I have learned to actually use it and enjoy it. Once you get the hang of it it’s rather relaxing and easy to do.

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I didn’t take a picture of my actual calendar, but this is the time of year where it’s looking a bit ugly and full. A little too full for my liking.

I feel as if every school event, field trip, concert, play, birthday, and any other activity we are even remotely involved in is crammed between April and the beginning of June. Lots of extra stuff going on right now and it makes my head hurt a little.

Though we had a terribly rough winter in many ways, none of us had been physically sick at all. That is, until 2 weeks ago when 6 out of 7 had a stomach bug. Then we had a week’s reprieve. Now it has came back for a second round. Ginger ale and crackers are a staple here at the moment.

With warmer weather starting to creep in, we took our first hike of the season the other day. It was glorious! Looking forward to many more this year. (FYI–no one was sick at the moment in this pic, though my one that’s not smiling got sick that night.) Also, this was taken at the bottom of a pretty steep hill. It may have been amusing to see an “after” shot of everyone once we dug in and made it to the top. Probably not such a cute picture at that point, haha.

Right now I am loving  song from Brandon Heath called “No Turning Back.” If you haven’t heard it yet, go ahead and give it a listen!

Here is the link to an acoustic version: No Turning Back

Yes He does!! I have this exact quote on a chalkboard in my kitchen right now. (Mine doesn’t look quite this pretty…)

This Easter season I was once again reminded of what Jesus did for me on that cross. Our church had a “Stations of the Cross” on Good Friday, which our family participated in. Near the end there was a picture on a screen of Christ on the cross. One of my twins stared at it with a troubled look on his face. I asked him what was up. He whispered, “But Mom, He didn’t do anything wrong to deserve that punishment.” No He didn’t, but He went through it anyway because of His great love for us.

Canvas & Doily Art

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Hey all.

I have a quick, easy, and eye-catching little project to share for the week.

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All you need is a basic white canvas, old doilies or lace, and a can of spray paint.

I did not document the process portion of these with pictures, but it’s fairly easy to explain.

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If you want one of the colors in your artwork to be white, just let your canvas alone as a base.

However, if you want a different color as a base color, paint over the entire canvas with that hue and allow to dry.

Then you can lay out old lace doilies in a design that appeals to you and make sure they are lying flat on the canvas ( no curled edges).

Take a can of spray paint in a contrasting color (in this case, navy blue) and spray on a nice layer of paint.

If you need to, allow that to dry without removing doilies and spray on another layer to get a saturated color.

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Once everything is dry, pull off the doilies and admire your new artwork!

As you can see, I made a couple of these and placed them above the headboard of my bed. Actually, I may make another just because I think a trio would look better.

This is a semi-cheap project to make because plain white canvases can be purchased relatively inexpensively at Wal Mart or a craft store. Old doilies or lace can be scooped up at thrift shops or even yard sales. They can also be reused for this type of project.

Laying a piece of old lace over the entire canvas makes for a neat look too.

I used spray paint because it goes in all those little holes better than a brush-on paint ever would.

Love my new wall art!

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Thanks for stopping by,

Rachel

The Jelly Jar

 

“When it rains, it pours.” I’m sure you’ve heard that one before, haven’t you?

Or perhaps you’ve felt like this is what has happened to you. Not just one or two things in a row that go wrong, but a multitude of them.

To be completely transparent with you, this is how I feel about the last few months.

(Spoiler alert: This will start to sound like a whine session, but turns out kinda good. Keep reading:))

Our family has been hit with one mishap after another. Just when I think to myself that surely this is “it” for awhile, something else happens.

It all started with a fender bender I had on Black Friday and things have pretty much gone downhill from there. Nothing that is the end of the world in the grand scheme of life, but still…here’s just a little sampling of our life in the last 3 1/2 months: one fender bender, 3 separate flat tire incidents, an oven that caught on fire, frozen water pipes, septic issues, one broken humerus, one injured wrist (a week after being released from the broken arm–same kid, different arm), anxiety issues at school, and I could go on but I’ll stop there.

The topper was this past week when my husband’s vehicle had to be in the shop for a few days to repair a head gasket, plus some other goodies that the mechanic found when digging under the hood. We literally picked up his car Friday night–after paying a mucho hefty garage bill that made me cringe.

“Good grief, hopefully this is IT!” I really said that to myself and out loud to him. Yup, things were looking up….that is, until the very next morning when he hit a tree that fell into the middle of the road and couldn’t slam the brakes in enough time. With the same car we had just shelled out big bucks to fix. Oh, my poor man. Thank the Lord he was safe. The car, however…not so good. I could have cried, but held it together until after we had the police come out, cut the offending tree up and moved it so no one else suffered the same fate, and determined that we actually did not need a tow like originally thought (big praise here–it was actually drivable and not messed up underneath!). We got ourselves home and held each other, not even knowing what to say or how to react.

Well, after a few minutes I happened to look over at our counter where my husband typically places his wallet, and there was a pile of crumpled dollar bills and coins.

“Where did that money come from?” He didn’t put it there, and I know I didn’t put it there.

“Hey, does anyone know where this money came from?”

Well, my pure hearted Andrew, my child who has struggled the most this winter, came out to the kitchen with a sheepish look on his face.

“I did it,” he said. “Dad, it’s for you to help fix your car.”

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Ever seen an ugly cry? Oh my heavens, I cried buckets and Jeff was just barely holding it together. We hugged our boy and assured him that everything was going to be fine, we have money in our savings, and he could keep his own money for other things.

My sweet boy had emptied his little jelly jar marked “Andrew Craig- College Savings” to try and help us out. I could still cry all over just thinking about it. What a beautiful example of sacrificial love. It blew me away.

Well, hopefully things are looking up from here. Sure, it’s been a rough one, but God is good. He never told us that we wouldn’t have troubles, did he? In fact, I’m certain it states in the Bible that we WILL have them. Thankfully I can trust that He only wants what’s best for us and we’ll just lean on that promise right now.

I hope you enjoyed my little story. It touched me so much that I just had to share it with you all.

Blessings to you,

Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Into: March 2015

Hey y’all.

I am starting a new kind of series here. Every month I plan to share a “What I’m Into” post.

It can be books, TV series, food, or whatever I’m “into” that particular month.

I enjoy these on other people’s blogs, so hey, why not give it a try here? I may also include things that my family overall is into as well.

For March of 2015, this is what I’m into:

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Grantchester. This is a new British series recently put on PBS. It always includes a mystery solved by a detective with an unlikely partner–a country vicar. Good script, good story line, and good characters. James Norton (pictured above) is the lead character and quite the handsome fellow. Need I say more? Nope, didn’t think so;)

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Cornelia Funke books. I read Inkheart a couple years ago, but now I am reading Inkspell. Yes, they are chapter books for probably later elementary to middle schoolers, but I enjoy them.

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Soups and stews. I could eat soup pretty much every day no matter what the season, but have been making lots of them these last months. My go-to dinner option is to make a soup or stew with either bread, biscuits, or some of my skillet cornbread.

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As a family, we are currently obsessed with the series “How the States Got Their Shapes.” We discovered it on Netflix last month and love it! This is a great show for learning all kinds of US history and geography, but it is also just plain interesting.

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Yarn. This winter I have done a lot of knitting and crochet projects. Currently I am finishing up a crochet tank top that I *think* (fingers crossed) will be cute for summer. I’ll have to let you know how it turns out.

Breathe by Priscilla Shirer. I have just begun leading this new Bible study series with my ladies from church. It addresses the issue of creating margin in one’s life, the Sabbath, and not being a slave to busyness. A blog post just addressing this may be impending, but I’ll see what all I learn from the study first. I believe this is quite a timely issue for today’s culture, don’t you think?

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Lastly, our family has been poring over the latest Burpee catalog for the last couple of months. It is extremely dog-eared from being looked at and pages marked with possible things to plant this year.

We are SO ready for spring!!!

Easy DIY Earring Holder

Hey everyone! I realized that it has been awhile since I put any crafty ideas on here.

(By the way, how do you like the new look on my blog? It was past time to freshen it up a bit and I found that this theme suited me.)

Anyway, today’s project is one that has actually been made and in use for many years at my house already.

It’s not really a new or novel idea, but one that I think looks nice and keeps my dangly earrings semi-organized.

I was on a purging/organizing spree the last two weeks and cleaned up my jewelry area, so I figured I would share my earring organizer and display.

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There really isn’t much of a tutorial for it. Basically I had been given an antique wooden picture frame minus any glass. All I did was clean it up and cut a rectangle of window screen out that more than covered the front open area. Then I proceeded to use a heavy duty staple gun to attach the screen to the back part, stretching it out as I went so it was taut.

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One could also use chicken wire, lace, or anything else with holes that you could hang earring hooks onto.

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I enjoy seeing some of my favorite pairs hanging up in rows. I used to make a lot of jewelry, so probably over half of these are ones I’ve put together at one point or another. All of my post-style earrings are kept in little pinch pots that my kids have made in art class at school.

Anyway, that’s really all I have for you today. Nothing earth shattering or new, but something that does work well for me.

Happy March to everyone. I am more than ready for Spring to arrive!!

Fasting from Facebook: An Update

Well folks, it’s been over two weeks since I posted this article about wanting to get off of Facebook.

I wanted to let you all in on how I’ve been doing since placing myself on somewhat of a Facebook fast.

Notice that I just used the word “somewhat.” No, I’ve not been off of it entirely. I get on to check my messages, then pop right back off again. But no scrolling down the Newsfeed at all.

To be completely candid, I did post one lot of items on a local Facebook garage sale site, plus my new blog entries do automatically post on my timeline.

Do I feel like I am missing something or missing out on being in touch with the world? Nope.

In fact, I’ve cherished the real conversations and interactions I’ve had with real people. I’ve also spent much less time online overall and it’s been great.

No, I haven’t seen your whining about the cold, the roads, or winter weather in general.

I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen the latest cute picture of your kid or of you.

I have no idea what you just cooked for dinner or where you went for date night with your spouse.

(Note: If you have recently posted something newsworthy in your life you’d like me to be aware of, give me a call or set up a time to just get together with me. We could talk for real. I would love it!)

Overall, I don’t miss being on Facebook and can’t see myself going back to a place where I am habitually checking my newsfeed or frequently posting many pictures or things about my life. (Not that I was on as much as some people, but still…) I may pop on to check in here and there, but I can’t see it having as much of an influence on me anymore. Perhaps if I had close family that lived far away it would be a good tool to see family pics and whatnot, but my immediately family is somewhat close by.

My kids and husband certainly like the fact that I’m not on as much or putting things on about them. In fact, just as a cute little story, my Joey said something very wise for a 7 year old about two days after I quit.I was on my laptop, so he snuggled in next to me and asked, “Mommy, are you checking your Facebook?”

“Well, no, I am trying to not be on there anymore. I just plan to check my messages and then get off. That way I have time to do more important things like being with you and not be on the computer so much.”

His response was priceless. My very blunt and outspoken second grader said, “Well, that’s good Mom. I don’t think Facebook is a very constructive thing to do anyway.”

Well said buddy.

To wrap up, I am giving you a challenge if you are intrigued and tempted by the idea of going without social media. Try going without Facebook (or Twitter or whatever you do) for at least two weeks and see how it goes. Perhaps it could be what you give up for Lent. I did mine cold turkey and that seemed to work best for me. Let me know how it goes!

Blessings to you,

Rachel

Peasant Bread

Can bread be beautiful?

Yes, it absolutely can!

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This is a gorgeous loaf that we made yesterday. Hearty and rustic with just the right amount of crust. So, so good…

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My typical “go to” bread recipe is a honey wheat that I make about once a week.

This particular recipe, however, is one I found in an international cookbook.

It is entitled “Slavic Farmer’s Bread.”

Here’s the recipe we used, with a little extra somethin’ somethin’ added in for texture:

*2 Packs active dry yeast

*2 C warm water

*1 tsp salt

*Approximately  5 1/2-6 C bread flour

*1/3 C butter, cut into little pieces

*1/4-1/2 C wheat bran (Shhh…our secret ingredient!)

Dissolve yeast in a bowl with warm water.

In a separate large bowl, mix salt with 4 C of the bread flour and the wheat bran. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until it is a crumbly mixture. Add yeast mixture in and stir by hand or in a stand mixer until flour is nice and moist. Work in 1 more cup of flour to form a stiff dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Add a little more flour to prevent sticking as you go.

Place in a greased bowl and flip to grease the top as well. Cover and allow to rise in a warm location for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down dough and knead a little longer. Shape into a round or oval loaf and place on the baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise for about another 45 minutes. Loaf should about double in size during this time! Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut a 1/2″ deep cross into the top of the loaf. Brush loaf with warm water. Bake for 25 minutes at 400, then reduce to 350 F and bake about 15 more minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

The nice crusty underside of the loaf.
The nice crusty underside of the loaf.

Slice and enjoy!

Note: This makes one giant loaf of bread. When I make it again I am going to try dividing it into 2 smaller round loaves and figure out the baking times. Also, what we didn’t eat I stored in a paper bag overnight and it was just as wonderfully crusty this morning.

How We Homeschool Without Homeschooling

Today I have decided to re-post a favorite article from my archives. Hope you enjoy!

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It may come as a shock to some of you dear readers, but I do not homeschool my children. Neither do they attend a private Christian school. Yes, my friends, this product of public schooling sends her brood of children to public school. (Gasp!) A lot of people think we do homeschool, and I really take that as a compliment.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the wonderful aspects that homeschooling has to offer. I really, really do. Many of the Moms on my personal “Most Admired” list homeschool their kids and do an awesome job of it. However, I also know a LOT of highly admirable, godly Mothers who send theirs to public school as well (and their kids are doing great). And lest I not forget, some who choose private schooling for their kids.

**Don’t take this post as an offense to any of these categories of schooling!**

Oh yeah, and please don’t judge me for sending my kids to the big-bad public school. I personally believe that every family is different, school districts are different, and each one has to choose what they deem best for their family. That’s what we all really want for our kids, isn’t it?

Since Day One of entering the world of having school-aged children, this is a decision that so far my husband and I have stuck to. However, just because we don’t homeschool doesn’t mean our kids don’t get “homeschooled,” if you get my drift. Though I desire a great education for my kids, I have an even greater desire for them to love God, learn His Word, and want to share that love with those around them. I believe that we can still instill this in them on an everyday basis. Some days I really do a cruddy job of this, but this is something we really work towards doing at home and in our daily interactions.

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So, how in the world do we “homeschool” without homeschooling? Here’s some examples I have thought of that our own family does. While you read this (hopefully you haven’t tuned out by now!) please don’t think I have picture perfect kids or that I’m some picture perfect supermom. I can assure you that we are most definitely NOT. This is what we TRY to do to instill values, a love of learning, and godly character in our gang.

* Be involved in their schooling. Anyone who knows me can assure you that though I don’t homeschool, I am very actively involved in my kids’ school lives. I know their teachers, know their friends, am on PTO, volunteer in classrooms, and make sure they do their best at whatever they’re learning. We do homework Every.Single.Night and if someone is really slacking or struggling in a subject, you’d best believe I’m in the trenches trying to help them conquer that area of weakness.

*Read, read, read. We are a household of readers, and I love it. You can find books in literally every room of my house. (Even the bathroom, you say? Yup.) Though my crew isn’t homeschooled, I have some boys who are off the charts whenever their reading levels are tested. Though all can read independently now, we still like reading chapter books aloud to them most every night. Parents who love to read usually (though not always) have kids that learn to love reading. Together we have been on many adventures to faraway lands without even leaving our home. Most of the crazy random facts and knowledge my older two can spout off was learned through independent reading.{Just as an aside, I have noticed that on library days my daughter always brings home fiction and my boys drag home non-fiction books. One day it was a book all about FEMA. I’m like, really?}

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*Experience things together. Summers are especially great for this, but it can be done any old time of the year. Visit a museum, an art gallery, go fishing, take a hike, cook a meal, grow a garden together–it doesn’t matter what or where, just doing things together is important. Kids learn by doing and they need our time as well.

*Read God’s Word together. One of the best Christmas gifts we received this past year from my parents was Jesus Calling for Kids. It is a daily devotional that has a short bit to read everyday and then some verses to look up. We have taken to doing this at dinnertime and they remind me when I forget– “Mom, we didn’t do Jesus Calling!” I read the page out loud and they take turns looking up the coordinating verses.

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*Go to church and Sunday School. As a child, my family went to church every single week unless we were half-dying. My kids also know this is just what we do. It is not an option. We love our church family and they love us. Many of them have taught at least one of my kids in some capacity through either VBS or Sunday School or Children’s Worship and I cherish that. I have taught each of my kids in Sunday School as well. Our small group convenes at our house and they hear us praying corporately together. They know that we are invested in the ministry of our church and we are invested as a family. Church is not just something we go to, it is what we do.

*Serve others together. Our kids know that their Dad and I want them to look for ways to serve others, not serve themselves. Whatever my husband and I are doing, we try to get the kids involved too. An example of this is my husband’s role as Head Trustee at our church. He has done this for years and completely rocks at it. It is a habit that whenever he goes to the church to do trustee work, at least one if not several helpers go along with him and he puts them to work. And you know what? This is something they look forward to, don’t complain about, and also ministers to others.

*Be a good example. Live it out. Show them that you love to learn new things. Be respectful of others. Use manners. Let them see you studying the Bible. Treat others as you want to be treated. Talk about Jesus, what he has done for us, and how he loves us. Show your kids and your spouse unconditional love. Serve your family without grumbling or complaining. The list could go on, but you get the idea. Some of this stuff is caught, not taught.

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I’m going to stop right there with my list, but I hope you get the picture. I really, truly believe parents can raise awesome, godly kids while still sending them to public school. What’s really great about this is that they can then shine their light to those they encounter there. We need to be focused on raising kids that are in this world, but not of this world. We are called to be salt and light wherever God has planted us. I have a couple kids that think nothing of popping their Bible into their backpacks. My one son has witnessed to other kids already and is completely unashamed of what he believes. Hallelujah! A former teacher has told me with tears in her eyes how she still thinks about some of the things one of my boys said to her when he was her student a couple years ago. My heart leaps with joy whenever I hear something like this.

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For now we feel like this is where God wants our family. I’m not saying that I’ll never, ever homeschool. I can see some really great benefits of it. However, if God is using my kids for His glory in the midst of a public school setting, then so be it. Use us, Lord, and use all the other Christian families out there wherever and however they “do” school.