Home and Family

Count your blessings!

The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.                                                                            Psalms 145:9

Most of the time I try write something in my blog that might be helpful to someone else.  Today I am writing just for me.  We have just over two weeks to the wedding of my youngest (and are three days away from the bridal shower).   Life has decided to see how much I am prepared to accept and keep moving.  Last Saturday night, I got sick; still working on getting on top of it.  (Not kinda off, not feeling icky, SICK.  Can’t hold food down.  Dizzy.  Sinuses won’t stop running.  Sleep eludes me.)  The bride has found herself without a job.  My husband was gone for two weeks  and got home just in time for me to get sick (see above).  The twins are teething…again.  We are dealing with record heat (along with everyone else).   Our wedding photographer isn’t working out causing a major scramble to find a new one.  The budget is becoming a challenge.  I STILL don’t know where Uncle David is!   And the list goes on.

As we raised our family, when life got tough we would buckle down and focus on the blessings we have.  We would make lists of why we love the people in our life.  We would post a sheet of butcher block paper on our wall and fill it with every tiny good thing we noticed.  We would each take a turn saying something positive before our nightly family prayer.  Today I am going to make a list…blog-style.  The following is my most recent “tender mercies” list:

  • My husband has a job.  And he is back in the state!
  • The entire family has a vehicle that is dependable and we don’t have to worry about getting everyone where we need to be in the next little while.
  • My entire family will be able to join us in the temple as we celebrate the marriage of my youngest to a wonderful young woman.  I am so grateful for a posterity who love the Lord!
  • Even though she was raised by her grandparents (who are now gone), the bride’s aunt has stepped in to help defray some of the costs of the big day- not the least of which the perfect dress.
  • We have a family friend (a professional photographer) who will take pictures for us at a discount because she is just cool that way!
  • We have friends from our old neighborhood who have tablecloths they will loan us that are just the right color.
  • Rain is in the forecast.
  • My daughters are in the middle of the fray with me.
  • Pinterest is a life-saver in the form of ideas and last-minute communicating.  We can get online with our helpers, show them what we want, and never have to find a large chunk of time to spend planning in the same room.
  • I got a message from an old family friend last night asking what she can do to help.  Thank heaven for wonderful people!
  • All three young ones are learning to talk.
  • We have found the final decorations and serving items for a discount or on clearance.
  • The twins are learning to give each other “high-fives” and it is one of the cutest things EVER!
  • People I haven’t seen in quite a while have been helping me find addresses for those I haven’t seen in even longer.  The only person that really matters to me that I still can’t find is my Uncle David.  Time to make more phone calls.
  • The garden is producing in spite of the craziness in the house.  Rain from heaven has kept it alive when I have been too busy to water.
  • A cool front is coming in this week.
  • Garden corn is just starting to come on.  I may live on that for the next week.
  • The bride-to-be announced that “the marriage is more important than the wedding”.   She gets it so I can stop fretting the decorations and everything else and focus on healing and shower preparations.   YEAH!
  • We have friends in our new neighborhood willing to help with cleaning, decoration, tying the quilt, baking, and anything else we need to do.
  • My head is finally clearing, and I expect to be just fine for the shower.
  • The older boys are really taking off with their academics!
  • We bottled 250 pounds of apples last year in the form of applesauce.  It is actually staying down!
  • Ultimately the Lord in charge, and my life couldn’t be in better hands!

What “tender mercies” are you seeing in your life this week?


Treasure hunting

While I taught a workshop last Saturday, I was asked a question that has had me thinking ever since.  We were discussing curriculum, and they were looking over a few books I had pulled off my shelves, and writing down titles.  Then they asked if I preferred to order books online or purchase at second-hand stores.  Really made me think!  The answer: second-hand stores.  Why?  While they are generally cheaper, that is not the main reason.  I often find such treasures I didn’t know existed that it is worth my time to sort through the piles.  It is easy to order titles with which you are familiar from an online source (and I do from time to time), but there are books I have found while looking for something else which I now love and yet would never have known to purchase before I held them in my hand!

Here are a few of my discoveries:

  • Exploring Your World: the Adventure of Geography published by National Geographic Society.  This encyclopedic volume of geographical terms and pictures is beautiful and easy-to-use.  A must for geography study.
  • Mommy, It’s a Renoir published by Parent Child Press.  This paperback is full of ideas and activities to enhance your family’s art study- ways to study the Masters, and activities to help you appreciate what they accomplished.
  • If You’re Trying to Teach Kids to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank.  While this book was definitely written for use by a traditional classroom teacher, the hints, ideas, and other great information helped me approach the writing process from an entirely different angle!  Need help thinking outside the box?  This book does that!
  • We Had Everything But Money published by Reminisce Books.  This collection of stories and pictures from the Great Depression in America speaks to the greatness and resiliency of the American spirit.  While the Depression was a difficult and trying time, it allowed people to come together, work with what they had, and still manage to often build a happy life.
  • Milestones to American Liberty: the Foundations of the Republic by Milton Meltzer.  This volume contains beautiful artwork, copies of original documents, and the stories behind some of the most important writings in our nation’s history dealing with equality and freedom.
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.  I love the study of grammar and syntax; words are captivating for me, so this little book makes me smile every time I see the title on my shelf!  Truss picks apart the history and usage of punctuation for the English language.  While published initially in Britain, she has added information that applies to American punctuation as well. (Yes, they differ.)  Quite tongue-in-cheek, quoting classic and more contemporary pieces of the written word, and with obvious affection for the nuances of punctuation, this book is fun to read and always makes me think!

I am sure there are dozens more titles on my shelf that could be added to my list.  Maybe I will later!  But this sampling helps me recognize how much I gain when I take the time to explore the possibilities around me.

Happy hunting!

Home and Family

Let’s hear it for strong women!

My youngest son is getting married in a few weeks.  The last of the weddings for this generation of my family.  We are in the midst of a flurry of wedding plans, reception decorations, and missing-address-hunting!  (Where IS Uncle David?)  We are still trying to find the right tablecloths, and a shirt for the groom to wear with his kilt.  The quilt is underway, but incomplete.  And we still have flowers and the cake to finalize.  (The bride’s parents aren’t in the picture, so we’re helping with most of the planning and arrangements.  Kinda fun; really crazy!)

Meanwhile, life goes on.  Academics, gardening, child-care, teething, and everyone still wants to eat three times a day.  My husband has been out-of-town for training.  Our older son and his wife are away for Air Force schooling, and are trying to find a way to get here for the big day.  My sons-in-law are working on their medical practicum/ master’s degree paper respectively.  It’s okay though.  We can do this!  There are five strong women working to make it all happen.  While our men go out and work at slaying the dragons and providing for their families, we are on the job.  Last week the grandsons did more worksheets and games for academics while the women created shower invitations and got them ready to mail.  Library day is being shared with trips to the fabric/craft store.  And the to-do list is beginning to shorten.

This would be so much more difficult if my future daughter-in-law was timid.  She’s not.  At all.  Decisions are made quickly and then we move on to whatever is next on the list.  The perfect dress was the ONLY one she liked.  Their cake will be a combination of a few different elements from various cakes out there (and will suit the two of them perfectly).  There has been a lot of “yes!” or “no way!” around our house as we explore pinterest, books, and ads.  (My daughters and I have done this before and are kinda the “steering committee” so that all the bases get covered.)  We cook, clean, and talk all the while; lots of final decisions have been made while stirring the pasta or chasing the twins.  Multi-tasking is a gift which is saving our sanity right now!  And will allow us to have joy on the big day!

While we are to be meek, obedient, and humble, no where in scripture does it instruct us to be weak, mousy, or inept.  It is really very difficult to accomplish anything of importance in this life if we are busy feeling as though we should be second-guessing ourselves and doubting our abilities.  The titles “Daughter of God” and “second-class citizen” do not work well together.  Nor should they.  I know where I need work, but I also recognize the gifts and talents I am responsible to develop.  So are my girls.  Bring it on.

In the next three weeks we will finish the flowers, make 30 loaves of bread for the reception, and keep the garden from dying.  The lawn will get mowed.  Meals will be prepared.  Decisions will continue to be made, goals will be accomplished, prayers of gratitude will be said, and I will find time for a nap.


Home and Family

How do we feed others?

Lovest thou me?…Feed my sheep.  John 21:16

I keep tripping across this passage as I spend time in my scriptures.  While I understand the clear message inherent in this scripture, it also has me repeatedly thinking about the opportunities I have to “feed” those around me.  In the dictionary the word feed is defined as…supply with provisions, nourish, to give food.  As a Mom, those things are part of what I do each day.

In John, Christ is speaking of spreading the gospel and bringing people to Him.  That mission begins in our homes.  How will my children/grandchildren learn to trust that the Lord will care for them if their basic needs aren’t met at home?  If I, as a mother, am their first experience with the connection between parent and child, what am I teaching about their Father in Heaven?  How can their spiritual hunger be addressed if their physical hunger or other needs are not filled?

And so I feed others; and have the opportunity to become more like the Savior in the process.  He provides not only food, but nourishment.  So should I.  He planned, created, and beautified all He has given us, and smiled at the result.  I should happily spend both my physical and mental energy on nourishing and feeding both the souls and bodies of all who enter my home. He provides comfort and healing when we need it, including (and sometimes especially) when we don’t “deserve it.”  I should too.  He assists us by helping us learn what we need to know to successfully get through life’s journey.  That should be something I strive to teach as well.

My job is to feed bodies, hearts, minds, and souls so that those for whom I have cared have experienced enough of love and trust that when the time comes, they know how to hand things over to Him, trust in His love, and be at peace.  If they can do that, they have truly been well-fed.

Home and Family, Homeschooling

The Children’s Story

During my third grade year (when the dinosaurs roamed the earth), I had a wonderful teacher.  Class was held downstairs next to the boiler room in the old elementary school just a few blocks from my home.  The ceiling was low; there were odd noises; we could smell lunch before anyone else in the building.  I loved that class.  Mrs. Suehr was amazing.  In a day when tolerance was not generally considered a necessary virtue, she taught us how to work together with those who were different.  In our class were children of different colors, religions, economic status, and abilities.  We sat in groups of six desks which rotated regularly.  I was not best friends with everyone in my class, but we all learned to get along and appreciate one another.  She was also doggedly determined that no one would leave her class without the ability to read, write, and understand math appropriate to grade level.  (It was years before I realized how much time she spent with each of us.)  She taught us to think critically, and encouraged us to express opinions.  She encouraged those who were struggling, and cheered on those who were advanced and needed enrichment activities to keep moving.  I loved this woman!

My memories of third grade are many, and most are quite delightful.  One, though, has almost haunted me into adulthood.  We had returned to our classroom after lunch and the desks had been shifted to make room for the other third grade class to join us.  That generally signaled to us that we would be watching a film strip or television clip, but no tv or projector was in sight, so we all sat down on the rug and wondered what was happening.  She read a book whose name I would not learn for 25 years, but whose story has stayed with me from that day forward.

Fast forward 25 years.  I am attending a home school convention class on government, and the presenter takes 15 minutes to read a small volume to the attendees.  Within a few sentences I recognized the story and had a difficult time containing my excitement.  It was the same book read to us that long ago day in third grade.  This time I was able to better understand the story and its implications.  And I was able to speak with the presenter afterward to get the title and author.  The book is The Children’s Story…but not just for children by James Clavell.

Best known for his novels Gai-Jin and Shogun, Clavell wrote The Children’s Story as a response to an experience he had with his young daughter when she returned home from school one day.  It is effectively written, and has a message every adult who values freedom needs to hear.  Just be prepared to be slightly disturbed, and have someone to speak with afterward.  Sometimes truth resonates with agitating clarity.  While I would not read it to a seven or eight-year-old child, adolescents need to hear its message as well.  I read it to my teenagers each year as part of our “beginning of the school year” routine.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, you may find a copy in your local library.  It can also be purchased online for just a few dollars.   (It was also made into a film that can be watched online, but I would read the book first.  The written version is slightly different, and I prefer it.)

Sometimes life comes full-circle.  It certainly did for me with this book.  Looking back, it is apparent that the message of this story affected actions I took and some I didn’t.  It definitely had an effect on the things I felt it was vital to teach my children when they were young.

If you find a copy, let me know what you think.


Begin the school day together

As a family, we began our school day as a group.  It didn’t always begin at the same time, and sometimes we were still in our jammies, but we began our studies together in the front room.  I called it group time.  It became the signal that it was time to focus and take care of the academics for that day (both the children and the mom needed a reminder sometimes).   I miss having group time sometimes.  The opportunity to  be together to share and discuss things which mattered developed into one of my favorite times of day as my family grew.  This time can be especially effective for auditory learners, or social children.  What did we do when we were together?

Devotional study– scriptures, prayer, and pledging the flag were the beginning of group time.

Poetry-I would take a book off the shelf and randomly choose a poem or two to read aloud.  The goal was exposure, not serious study.  We did a poetry unit together when they were teens that did require some analysis, but this was simply to hear the beauty of the language and learn to become a bit more comfortable with poetry in general.  We read classic, religious, and non-sense poetry.

History reading– I would read a chapter or two from the current volume of history we were studying (often from a book by Genevieve Foster, or Albert Marrin).  Discussion would follow.  Writing and further study took place on an individual basis.

Character or ethics study– We would discuss manners, courtesy, positive character traits, hero study, and ethics (as they grew older).  It became a time to answer questions, share experiences, role play, and explore correct ways to handle the challenge of dealing with people around us.

Drill– time for the 3×5 cards!  Greek and Latin roots, facts about the US Presidents, geography facts, times tables, anything you would find on a flashcard can be drilled as a group.  Often the younger children memorize more easily than the older ones, so it can become fun for everyone to get involved!

Memorization work– quotes, scriptures, poetry, parts of significant documents can be fun to memorize as a group.  We would work on memorizing things such as Walt Whitman’s O Captain, My Captain when we studied the end of the Civil War, scriptures they needed to memorize for church, or just a wonderful quote we found.  Having uplifting, inspired words in their minds and hearts provided them with a well from which to draw good things when they found they needed it!

Literature reading– We would generally all read the same literature book at one time.  I would then assign writing or other work that was appropriate for the age of each child.

Hands-on activities– If it was going to create a mess or was a particularly interesting activity, everyone wanted to be involved so we added it into our time together.  That often gave me time to clear things away before lunchtime, and everyone went to their individual studies with a smile.

Whatever Mom wants to throw into the mix– I would often find something I wanted to share or introduce to the whole gang, so I would simply add it to the days’ group time agenda.   Upcoming scheduling changes, discussion about learning styles or personality types, music and art study, and a rare video were some of the things we added as needed.  (I also found that any academics we could accomplish as a family made their lists seem shorter, and was like magic for everyone’s mood.)

When my children were young, group time took 10-20 minutes.  It grew as they did.  We had some epic times when they were all teenagers; sometimes we went for hours.  The opportunity it provided us to share and understand each other and the world around them was a favorite for everyone!  We are not all the same, but we learned to work together, talk to one another, and appreciate our differences.

Sometimes I really miss group time…