Sunday, August 30, 2009

I just read some wonderful food for thought over at A Holy Experience this morning that speaks about the ceremony of the everyday. This article struck a chord with something that I struggle with: daily routine. For some reason I really struggle with sticking to my daily routines. Something in me wants to rebel and not follow them each and everyday. I am not sure what it is. Ann at A Holy Experience discusses how God follows routine everyday. Everyday He commands the sun to rise and the tide to ebb and flow. It is as if every day is a celebration with a traditional order of events to follow making each day a special one.

To quote the article:
"Our God acts in endless ceremony to bring order to the world. And so we too, made in His image, are ceremonious beings, bringing order to chaos through ceremony.

Whenever parents create ceremonies, or a rhythmic routine, around any daily activity, we impose order on the environment, instead of on our children.

The order of service we create around bedtimes, school times, mealtimes allow ceremonies to prescribe behavior instead of each event requiring parental directive.

This atmosphere of known routine, expected ritual and, yes, celebrated ceremony, not only lessens the number of decisions that a parent must make throughout the day (the established ceremony directs, instead of the parent), but children thrive in such an environment.

Children "want things repeated and unchanged," writes G.K. Chesterton."

I know these things in my heart, but struggle to make them happen daily. I wonder why I like to change things around in our routines, daily. Is it a lack of discipline?

The article continues:

"When we reject repeated actions as monotonous and Spirit-quenching, are we simply exposing our weaknesses?

If we chose to "exult in monotony," to embrace habitual ceremony, would we be inviting the same God who instituted the observances of feasts, temple ceremonies, the service of communion, to be our strength too?

Perhaps the repetitiveness of ceremony does not stifle the Spirit, but ceremony invites us to regular meeting places, places to commune with the Spirit."

I am so weak in this area, but striving to be better. I am committing my quiet time to this in my prayer and study. This is especially important right now as I am reevaluating our school days here at home and we get back into our school year routine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In my world...

In my world, life is still busy. Nothing new. I have had too much stuff swirling around in my head to write a sensible blog post.

Here's what's happening:

Although we school year-round, lessons definitely slow down during the summer, so I am gearing up to kick things back up a notch.

Have asked the children to think about their goals and what they desire to learn this year and am meeting with them one on one to discuss. This will help me in the direction of their schooling for the upcoming school year.

I have a pear tree that needs to be harvested and I am trying to figure out how to preserve all that goodness.

I also have 2 crab apple trees that appear to have crab apples that are ripe and ready. I am thinking about trying to make crab apple jelly.

Trying to decide where to put another litter box in our house because we are having some issues in this area.

We've been cleaning carpets (has to do with above item). We have a monster-sized commercial carpet cleaner that does a great job, but is quite a bit of work to use. So we are trying to go room by room and do all of our carpets. This means emptying nearly EVERYTHING out of each room. This is good because it gives me a chance to go through things (toys) and only put back in the rooms what we really want and need.

There are quite a few birthdays coming up in the next couple of months and I have intentions of making quite a handmade projects for them. I need to get working on these.

Elizabeth has completed the class portion of Driver's Education and we are awaiting the driving portion to be scheduled.

My older girls have been taking archery classes through 4-H. Fun!

Samuel, at 6 months old, is hitting some milestones. He has been on his knees and rocking for about a month and it moving about quite a bit, but just this week he figured out how to get himself to a sitting position by himself and is now actually crawling slowly and deliberately forward. He is quite a curious guy and will have our work cut out keeping an eye on him, especially with this new mobility.

We are considering a new homeschool gym class.

We have units open in the apartments we manage which means fielding lots of calls and making appointments to show them. This can be a real time stealer.

The garden is flourishing. Herbs are producing well and I have been harvesting and processing these. Now the tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Love that! Soon I will have to be deciding how to preserve them.

Of course, there are the usual allergy shots and orthodontist appointments, etc.

I could probably go on and on, but I hear my household stirring and waking up, so it is time to get my shower and attend to breakfast. Just thought I would check in here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to Learn

Even though schooling and education continues year-round in our household, as the beginning of the new school year approaches for everyone else, I start to re-evaluate where we are and set new goals. I have been looking at and praying about what is important - what are my priorities when it comes to teaching my children. One of the things on my list is to teach my children to be independent learners. What does that mean? Eventually, I want my children to be able to learn anything that they need or want to all by themselves. I want to work my way right out of my job as teacher. Lately, I have been thinking more about what steps are needed to accomplish this. How do you teach someone how to learn?

To discover how I should go about teaching my children to independently learn, I first need to look at how I, myself, go about learning something. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed being an independent learner. When I want to know something, or how to do something, I just figure it out. I don't feel the need to necessarily take a class or ask to be tutored by someone else.
Here are the steps I generally take:

Search out all resources on the subject. I gather all of the information that I can find on the subject. I search the internet for pertinent articles, raid my local library for books on the subject, look to see if their are any classes in the area teaching this subject, and think about who I know with knowledge about this subject so that I can either pick their brain or have them direct me to more resources that they find of value.

Evaluate resources. This is the weeding out process. After, I have all the information and resources I can find, I evaluate which ones are worth my time and/or money. I most likely will not read every book on a subject cover to cover, but I will skim them to see which seem most helpful to me. I skim lots of websites, bookmarking those that are of value for future reference. I consider whether a class is worth my time and money. For myself, I have found that often I can get the same info that I would get in a class through good books that I can get from the library for free saving my time and money.

Study resources. Here is where the learning takes place. I take advantage of the best resources and study them, taking notes if necessary to learn the material and internalize it.

Use what has been learned. If you do not use it, you will lose it. You need to put whatever you have just learned to use if you want to truly know it and retain it. Especially if you are trying to learn a skill, you need to practice it. You can read how to bake bread or change the oil in a car, but until you actually DO it, you don't fully know the process. Practice makes perfect! If what you are learning is more informational. then it is important that you somehow communicate and share this information either by teaching it to someone else or writing an article about it. The process of retelling something in your own words is an important part of learning. I forces you to understand it better.

So, these are the steps that I want my children to learn and put into practice. Of course, as their teacher and their mom, I am (hopefully) an important resource for them, as well. I have life skills and knowledge in many areas that they would be learning. For me, I need to remember to restrain myself. I can play teacher and spoon feed them information, but that will be less effective than if they seek it out for themselves. Often, I look at myself as more of a facilitator of my children's learning. I guide and steer them to where they need to be, but then let them work things out and learn on their own. If they get stuck, of course I am there to give them help.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Monday

Yes, it is Monday morning and I am sitting here trying to gather my thoughts and plan out my week and my day. There is so much I want to get done and know that in reality, it can't all happen right now in the time that I have. I guess that goes back to the priorities that I talked about last week. I have to decide what is the most important and move that to the front of my to do list.

I always envision this to do list planning as a priority ladder. The top rung is that most important thing that I have to do right now. Each day I hang things on each rung in order of importance and as I complete the top thing, everything else moves up. Unexpected things happen and they will have to be put at the top, pushing other things down the ladder. Sadly, often things I really want to do continually get pushed down the ladder and I can never seem to get to them.

So, how does one decide what is currently at the top of the priority ladder? Because I tend to be procrastinator by nature, deadlines tend to be the deciding factor. If something has to be done this morning, it goes to the top, while the thing that needs to be done by this afternoon goes on next, and so on. Once all current deadlines are met, I have to choose what is the most important using my priorities. Often I do what sounds like the most fun at the moment, but that is probably not always the best choice. Although, when I am in the mood and motivated to do something, I can accomplish it much faster than if I am not.

Right now, as I look at today's ladder, I think I am going to have to put motivating my children to finish getting ready for the day and fixing breakfast right at the top. That would fall into the "deadline" category above. The day is getting away fast empty tummies have needs. Then I will tackle today's to do list.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sewing on the Cheap

Recently, I have rediscovered sewing. I learned to sew when I was in the 7th grade from both my mom and my home ec teacher. Although I loved the idea of creating creative and special clothing and accessories, I was not a patient sewer and got frustrated easily. Throughout the years, I just dabbled in sewing now and then. It happened either out of necessity or because I would see something that would inspire me to say, "I can make that." One thing that tempts me to sew is seeing these cute little girl's dresses for sale for big boutique prices. I see them and think that I have got to hone my sewing skills because I cannot see paying that prices for just a little bit of fabric. But if you have ever done any sewing, you know that it is not as economical as you might think. By the time you purchase a pattern, fabric and notions for an outfit, you usually have more money wrapped into it than you would just to buy something ready-made at the store.

So, why now am I newly excited about sewing? I have discovered some ways to sew for cheap which I can share with you.

First of all, one word: Wal-Mart. Not all Wal-Mart stores have a fabric department, but if you are lucky enough to have one near you, it is worth checking out. The one near me is not huge and is limited in variety, but is a great resource for reasonably priced fabric. Most cotton prints are around $4/yard and flannel is $3/yard. This definitely beats the big fabric stores unless they are having a fantastic sale. The best deals I have found at Wal-Mart are on their clearance table. They have scads of fabric for only $1.50/yard. I am not sure where this fabric comes from, but they get in numerous full bolts of all types of fabric. I always laugh when I try to figure out what some type of fabric is from the label on the bolt which declares that it is made of "100% Undetermined Fabric Content." I figure that's a small price to pay for some beautiful cheap fabric that you can buy in decent quantities. Wal-Mart also has patterns for about 1/2 price.

My next big discovery is recycling fabric. I never thought much about this idea until I got inspired by someone on etsy selling these adorable leggings for kids made from recycled sweaters. I love the idea of taking something cast off and turning it into something new and usable. I have been looking at my clothing donation pile with new eyes now. A few months ago, I discovered that I had worn a hole right through the fitted sheet that we were using on our bed. I was disappointed because I really loved those soft sheets. I got to looking at them and started seeing a whole BUNCH of usable fabric in those king sized sheets- yards and yards of it. That's when I got the idea to make a nightgown out of a bedsheet. I figured it may not be quite the color that I wanted, but it would be very soft and comfy. I found a cute pattern (at Wal-Mart 1/2 price) and just needed to find the time to sew. In the meantime, my church had a rummage sale and I found a soft vintage bedsheet with a cute little floral pattern on it that I liked even beter than my own sheets. I slapped down my 50 cents and took it home and created the nightgown I showed off in this blog post. I have been wearing it and am totally thrilled with it. It cost me a total of $8.49 for the pattern plus the sheet which is less money than I would have spent for a cheap nightgown at Wal-Mart that I wouldn't love nearly as much.

Last week I stopped at two side by side garage sales on my way home and scored really big. At the first one, they were selling cute, flannel, twin-sized, snowman bedsheets. There were 3 sets of identical ones selling for $2 per set. My younger children generally do not use flat sheets. When I put them on their beds, they end up on the floor and are a nuisance. They use a fitted sheet and cover up with a comforter. So, I bought up all of these sheets and I plan to make my kids PJ's from the flat sheets to give them at Christmas (They always get Christmas PJs.) and I can give them sheets to match their PJs. How fun is that! At this same sale, I also picked up a pretty bright red fabric shower curtain for $1. It has a wonderful texture and looks to be made of cotton. That's a lot of nice fabric for a buck!

The sale next door was done by an older couple with all kinds of antiques. I really scored big finding a hand embroidered table runner and doily for just a quarter a piece. I will probably use parts of these as accents on something that I make. I also got an adorable, big, printed, vintage tablecloth for only 50 cents. The lady was apologizing because it had a stain, but I didn't care because I plan to repurpose it - probably to make a couple of cute aprons. I can see making some really cute gifts with these that will cost practically nothing but my time.

Another thing to do when trying to sew cheap is sign up for mailings from your local fabric and craft stores. Around here, we have Jo-Ann's and Hancocks. Both run really good sales and send out coupons regularly, but you have to be on their mailing list.

For inspiration and patterns, be sure to check out free resources. These certainly include the internet. It takes no more than a simple google search to find many free patterns on the internet. Also, do not forget to take advantage of your library. I have checked out many books that include patterns.

So, I hope that some of these ideas have inspired you, too, to drag out that sewing machine to create something thrifty and fun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Last week I was discussing schedules and how at this time of the year, when much of the rest of the world is going back to school, I can't help but feel the need to reevaluate our homeschool day. I always end up discovering that I have so many things that I want to do that they will not all fit into a realistic schedule. How can this be dealt with? It has to be about priorities.

Priorities can be tough. It is all about deciding what is the most important in my life. This can be hard because in the grand scheme of life I don't place doing laundry very high on my list of priorities. However, I do like a certain amount of peace and order in my life and I think we should all dress reasonably clean and tidy each day. So, the dreaded laundry must be done to achieve this.

I have been thinking quite a bit about what is important to me and what I feel that God wants me to focus on each day. Obviously, as a mother of six, my children are a big priority. Of course, I (along with my hubby) need to take care of their basic needs such as shelter food and clothing, but beyond that we are responsible for their character and because we homeschool, their complete education, as well. These are daunting tasks. Choosing what to teach and how to teach it is tough. Just pick up any homeschooling catalog and the multitude of educational choices is overwhelming. Each one of these choices are worthy and of value, but no one could ever use them all. So, how do you choose? The answer is priorities.

It is important to sit down and think about AND pray about what is important in your life. Do this and make a list. This will be your guide to making choices about how you spend your time, energy and resources. I have been doing this for myself. and will share later at least part of my list that I have come up with.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Daily Grind

Schedules confound me!
I really LOVE the idea of my days following a precise schedule in theory, but in practice, I just can't do it. Ugh! and it frustrates me. I know that to get all that I want to get done in a day, I have to plan for it. I can make up the best schedules ever, but then something happens and they all fall apart. Some days it is some unexpected event, or a child's meltdown, but if I was honest, I would have to say that I am the biggest detriment to my schedule. I hate being a clock watcher; it stresses me out, and I also have to much desire to be spontaneous. I will run something out to the mailbox and then get sidetracked pulling a few weeds I see in the garden.
The next thing you know the kids and I are weeding the entire garden and watering the plants and I have used up the rest of my morning. This is both a blessing and a curse. I have gotten important work done, but to do so I have neglected other important work.

I wish I was a person who found pleasure in a schedule. I know there are people like this who are even passionate about their schedule and feel such a sense of accomplishment from staying on track and crossing things off their list. Why can't that be me? I know that managing a household of eight and homeschooling my children requires the discipline of planning and scheduling to get done what needs to get done. A schedule is a required tool to maintain sanity. So why do I struggle with it so much? Is it a lack of discipline and a form of sin? Some days, I would have to say that this is so. I have made poor choices and chose to do unproductive things with my time. But, on another level, I think this is part of my genetic makeup - the way that I am built.

If I am not a structured person by nature, what am I then? I find that I get an idea in my head or the urge to accomplish something and I am very passionate about it and intensely motivated to get it done. I will tend to ignore everything else until I accomplish this task. If I were one single person who was not accountable to anyone else, this would probably work just fine. But I am not, and my struggle is to figure out how to allow for this spontaneous, random productivity in a framework of a schedule that forces me to get other things that HAVE to get done done.

Several years ago, I was a fly baby following the Fly Lady. She is a great motivator for "side-tracked home executives" like me. There are many useful tips I have learned from her. One of them was the concept of a routine instead of a schedule. A routine does not watch the clock, but is a series of things you do in order and is based on habit. You do one thing after another every day until it is a habit that does not require thought. One routine that I have established is my early morning routine. I wake up before the rest of the family, get dress and cleaned up, make my coffee or tea and have my morning quiet time in which I pray, do bible study and (attempt to ) plan out my day. I do this pretty consistently and it works fantastic for me unless I oversleep or the baby wakes up earlier than expected. I keep trying to add other little routines throughout the day, but I am struggling with being consistent with them.

Although, we homeschool year round, I find that I let the lessons get pretty laid back in the summer. As the rest of the world prepares to go back to school, I get the bug to take a fresh look at our schedule and do a little planning. So, I have been doing a lot of thinking about our family's daily schedule. There are several areas of discipline that I have let slide in both the lessons and the home maintenance so I want to build these back into our daily routines. I can make great plans, but as I look at them, I know that it is unrealistic that I will be able to enforce them or even keep up with it myself for the long term.

I have been doing a lot of praying about this and feel like God is showing me that we need a balance of both more tightly scheduled times and more loosey-goosey times that allow the freedom for spontaneity. My plan right now is to build these tight routines into the benchmarks of our day. Everyday we wake up, eat three meals, and go to bed. Exactly how we do these may vary, but they happen every day. So, I need to build routines into these activities for myself and all the children.

Hopefully, within the next week, I will have some concrete ideas that I can share. I am praying that God gives me some profound wisdom in this area.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

In a Perfect World...

In a perfect world...

I would wake up early in the morning before the rest of my household, dress, make my coffee, and have some quiet time with the Lord before I start my day. I know that isn't everyone's dream morning, but for me, I have found it is what works best and sets the tone for the rest of the day. isn't perfect and it doesn't always happen that way. But a girl can dream, right? I think it is a good thing to try to visualize the ideal scenarios so I can at least shoot for them.

Here are a few more that maybe a few of you can relate to:

In a perfect world...
there would not be enough cereal on the floor after breakfast to make an entire second meal.

In a perfect world...
my children would never watch mindless television and I would never use the TV as a babysitter when I am desperate to get something done.

In a perfect world...
I would never see an unflushed toilet or never see a used toilet that does not include toilet paper within its contents.

In a perfect world...
I would be able to see my laundry room floor.

In a perfect world...
I would not know what a lego feels like when you unexpectedly step on it in the dark.

In a perfect world...
I would also not know what oatmeal feels like squished between my toes (related: see cereal note above).

In a perfect world...
I wouldn't need to hold myself back while making this list.

I think I could go on and on because as I go through my day there are so many things I encounter within my home that not only are not perfect, but are just plain wrong. [sigh] But we are working on improving. As I type, the TV is off, my younger children are "cleaning" their rooms, Anna is cleaning the kitchen and the washer and dryer are doing their thing. It may not be perfection, but it is good.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Exciting News

My oldest daughter just got her Learner's Permit and is signed up for driving school! How did this happen? How did she go overnight from being a little girl in frilly dresses to a grown-up, driving teenager? I suppose for others it all seems right, but for me, I feel like I just blinked my eyes.

Now, I have full confidence in my daughter that she will be a responsible driver. I trust her. Even still, this is just one step in letting loose the reins of control. As parents, it is our job to teach our children independence and slowly nudge out of the nest on their own, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that a part of me finds this very hard. Part of me would love to keep her perpetually a little girl. Of course, a bigger part of me adores the young woman that she is becoming. I enjoy being able to hold real, thoughtful adult conversations with her and I appreciate and value her opinions and thoughts.

So, although a part of me mourns the passing of my daughter's childhood, I am excited to welcome my daughter into adulthood. This is just another step on this journey of parenthood - and what a journey it is!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Yummy Recipe to Try: Fudge Sauce

When I was a girl, still living at home with my mom and dad, one of the treats we would make is homemade fudge sauce for over ice cream. I am pretty certain that the recipe came from the side of the Hershey's Cocoa Powder can. I am fairly certain that was a pretty simple recipe with sugar, water, cocoa powder, and vanilla. The trick to getting it right was cooking it for the just the right amount of time and boy, was it yummy!

Just the other day, I stumbled upon this recipe for fudge sauce. It is a bit different, but sounds good, too. It does seem to have quite a bit more sugar, so I am sure the younger kids will like it.

Fudge Sauce

1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 T. butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups powder sugar

Cook until desired consistency.

The recipe did not elaborate on how to cook it. I suppose there would be no harm in just placing all of the ingredients into a small pot and cooking over medium to low heat. It probably should be stirred the whole time it cooks, perhaps with a whisk to keep the powdery ingredients from clumping. While you are stirring it would be easy to see when it thickens to the right consistency remembering that when the sauce is poured over ice cream it will cool and be even thicker.

If you try this let me know how it goes and if you liked it or not.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Power of Herbs

A while back, I mentioned that I was learning a bit about herbs, specifically their medicinal properties. (Herbs) Yesterday, I had a perfect opportunity to put herbs to the test. As I was taking some bread out of the oven, my finger slipped off the potholder and touched my stoneware baker. Since I had been baking at 450 degrees, it was instantly a very painful burn.

What I Did:

I immediately used some of my green boo boo salve that I had made from plantain and looked up what herbs are good for treating burns that I know I have in my yard. I went outside and picked some plantain, burdock, and mullein. I washed them and tossed the leaves in my little food chopper with a couple of cloves of garlic. After chopping everything together, I placed it in a paper towel and wrapped it up like a burrito. I held this on my finger as I went about my work. Within about a half hour, the intense pain was pretty well gone. I put some more of the plantain salve on my finger and covered it with a bandaid.

The Results:

By bedtime, the swelling was gone and I was left with a white, thick-skinned spot. I was amazed because when the burn happened, the finger immediately began to swell up and blister. I figured, from past experience, I was in for a huge painful blister that would last for several days. This morning, I am sitting here typing normally using that finger. There is a very slight amount of tenderness where the burn happened and the skin is still somewhat white. I assume that as it continues to heal, the white skin will peel off, hopefully not until new skin has taken its place underneath.

I have to say that I am impressed! I was able to effectively treat a pretty bad burn in mere minutes using stuff that was growing freely in my yard. Isn't that amazing? It is just a reminder that God is such a great provider. I am so glad that my eyes have been opened to this.

I plan to continue learning about herbs because I only see benefits to doing so. I think modern medicine is wonderful, too. Both are a gift from God. I think it is a good thing to have the knowledge to be able to treat simple problems at home and I am quickly becoming convinced that herbs are a good way to do this. With the changes in health care that seem to be on the horizon, having knowledge of medicinal herbs may prove to be even more beneficial in the near future, but only time will tell.
Photo source: By pat61nl from stock.xchange