Home and Family

Back in the saddle again

When I looked up the origin of the idiom “back in the saddle again” I found it came from exactly where I thought it did, and so it is the perfect title for this blog because I’m BACK!  It was originally applied to cowboys and jockeys who were returning to work, riding on their horses again, after taking a break or recovering from an injury.  (http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/06/back-in-saddle-again-autry-whitley.html)

While not a cowboy, I am returning to work(ing on my blog) after an extended hiatus due to illness, three family households relocating in two weeks’ time, surgery for my sweetie, a new grandson (read-bed rest pregnancy for my daughter), a child’s heart surgery, the holidays, and life generally exploding… and while my desk chair is more comfortable than sitting atop a horse, it could be considered my saddle.

The good news is that the surgeries went well.  The moves are done, and everyone is close to settled and fully unpacked.  (The new housing situations are much better, and so worth the nightmare of the last five months!)  Mom and baby are doing well, and he’s an absolute joy! The illness still comes and goes, but if that is the worst thing happening….I’m in great shape!

What have I learned?

  • I am not, have never been, nor will I ever be “supermom”…and that’s okay.
  • Homemade bread is best…for my budget and my health.
  • I am surrounded by people who are willing to help at the drop at a hat.
  • Who you choose as a realtor makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
  • My homeschool mom friends are wonderful sanity-savers.
  • Teaching children to work at a young age can translate into walls getting painted, boxes getting packed and carried, and order being re-established more quickly.  My grandchildren ROCK!
  • My grandchildren can handle just about anything when the adults in their lives are happy, and they can find their favorite toys/games.
  • We live in an amazing day and age when medical challenges that would have been devastating fifty years ago can be addressed, repaired, and life can resume.
  • A written list of priorities can keep your ship from sinking.
  • A sense of humor is an absolute must to survive the ups and downs of life!
  • Prayer is very real power, and miracles happen everyday!

And so I’m back.  With a head full of thoughts, ideas, and new connections made in the last number of months.  I hope this finds you and yours blessed, happy, and growing each day!



Home and Family

My goals for the New Year

Be still, and know that I am God.  Psalms 46:10

It’s that time again.  New Year’s Resolutions.  *sigh*  Often this exercise results in a list of things about which to berate myself, or, at the very least, to recognize where I fall short.  Not this year.  I won’t do it.  Instead of the more common goals of “fixing” my life, my goal for 2014 is to accept what is.  And work with it.  I don’t need another reason to feel I have failed, or a yard stick to measure my progress against those around me.  I need to simply “be still” and trust more. My limitations are no reason to not wish the absolute best for others, and my abilities do not give me the right to be critical towards anyone else (good, bad, or indifferent).  So how does such a basic, human, fundamental attitude change break-down into manageable, definable bites?  Here is what I have come up with so far.

  • If 20 lbs. (or more) comes off, fabulous.  If not, I still need to take care of the body I have rather than wishing I was 23 again.  (And really, I don’t want to be 23 again!)
  • Finances are okay.  Not ideal, not terrible.  I will continue to change things for the better a bit at a time, and refuse to feel as though the last of our debt isn’t disappearing quickly enough because I need to change something major, i.e. no more date nights, dvd purchases, cable bills, clothing purchases, days-out with Mom, etc. until it is all paid off.
  • Serving where I can, and doing what brings me joy is good enough.  Spending time with my grandchildren, or teaching cooking classes are wonderful and worthy places to spend my time.
  • Watching the news and wanting to throw something at the screen accomplishes nothing.  Being involved where I can, and trusting that, ultimately, the Lord is in charge is a much better plan.  He is smarter than I am, and can see things I can’t.
  • Find more joy as wonderful things happen to those around me, and express it.  I am pretty good at feeling happy for them, but I need to write more notes telling them congratulations, or simply patting them on the back!
  • Other people make decisions or participate in behaviors that confuse, annoy, or sadden me sometimes.  Not mine to fix.  My job is to love them, pray for them, and carry enough of His peace with me that perhaps I can share a bit with others as needed.  I am only in charge of my own sphere; I don’t have the time or energy to try to “take on” anyone else’s.
  • Laugh more-in a kind-hearted way.  Life is generally pretty funny.
  • Saving the planet single-handedly is not in my wheelhouse.  I will use my fabric shopping bags when I have them.  If I forget them, oh well, get over it, shoot for next time.  I can’t always recycle every bit of paper.  Or walk to every destination.  It’s okay; I simply need to do what I can. Reduce, reuse, and recycle is a good idea, but not a religion to me.
  • Remember that my children, grandchildren, and others I come in contact with may learn much from what I say as well as what I do.  Choosing to be cynical (which IS different than clever), or sarcastic, or negative is neither helpful nor worth-while.  Speaking positively and looking for the good can be much more difficult, but yields much better results!
  • I have an auto-immune disorder.  Not everyone understands my limits.  No problem.  But I MUST put my pride in my back pocket, count the cost of any given activity, and stay true to what I can and cannot do.  No more trying to push past where it is wise in order to meet someone else’s expectations.  No more worrying about how someone might (or did) react because I said “no” to something. No more worrying about letting others down because I’m having a bad-health day.  If the Lord gave me my limits, then He made them part of my package and will help me become what I need to become regardless of them.

So what do I do when I am not peaceful or still?  I am sure it will happen…repeatedly.  Sing a hymn.  Look out my window at the beauty all around me.  Say a prayer.  Serve someone else.  Count my blessings.  Re-read a favorite book.  Look for the good in others.  Hug someone.  Laugh.  Be happy.

Home and Family

Take care Mom!

Wow.  It has been weeks since I have written anything.  And what a party those weeks have been!  The bridal shower for our new daughter-in-law is over.  The wedding was wonderful.  Having family and friends join us in the preparations and celebration of the main event created so many memorable moments!  It is time to hit the books for the new school year, and the garden is producing like crazy; the canner will be a fixture in my kitchen for the next six weeks or so.  Life is so full!


Photo by Emily Pearl Photography

On the down-side, I have over-extended just about everywhere.  The last few weeks have given me a completely new understanding of why Mom needs to take care of Mom.  I have batttled multiple infections, migraines, and other body challenges, my sleep schedule and naps became a distant memory, and I am just beginning to return to anything resembling competency.

What did I learn from all this?  A lot.

  • Take care of yourself.  Eat right.  Sleep.  Take a quiet walk or two.  Allow for time to pray, read, and ponder.  Although I am unsure what I could have changed during the craziest parts of the last month, I have surely come to appreciate the importance of taking time to recharge my batteries.
  • Ask for help.  We did, and it was amazing how many hearts opened.  We solidified old friendships, created new ones, and saw the Lord’s Hand in so many ways…large and small!
  • Have a budget for your time, money, and energy.  Know your limits and work within them.  There are so many things we wanted to do that ultimately didn’t matter.  And so many others that we were able to do because we worked to be aware, careful, and blessed.  While things will be a bit tighter for a bit, I am so grateful for the miracles we experienced through this!
  • Communicate.  Talk with those around you about limitations, plans, and needs.  Listen to what they have to say.  You may find some suggestions are worth their weight in gold.  And sometimes others just need to know what you need from them.
  • Attitude is everything!  While I felt lousy physically, I determined that I was not going to let my body get the better of me.  The shower was fun.  We laughed, shared, and visited.  The day of baking and cooking for the buffet table at the reception allowed for more visiting and great memories.  And the wedding day was marvelous.  Playing mom to both the bride and groom was exhausting, but I would do it again in a minute!
  • People are more important than things.  Focus on them.  While the hall was lovely, the food was yummy, and the gifts were greatly appreciated, the real memories involve the people who were there.  The bride and groom were radiant.  Our son and daughter-in-law were able to fly in from CA so that the entire family was all together.  So many of our family, and friends came and supported us.  There were a few glitches on the big day (The bride left her shoes at my house.  The hairclip we hunted and hunted to find so that my hair would stay out of my face disappeared until the day after the wedding.  Not everyone who wanted to be there could be due to car trouble, illness, etc.), but in the end, it was full of people, love, and peace.
  • Let go of what really doesn’t matter right now; some things will need to matter a bit more later.  My garden, canning, blog, and curriculum planning took a back seat to the other things happening.  As I get back into real life, they are still there, waiting for me to jump back in and get on with things.  And I will.  If I had tried to keep up with all of it as well as the planning, nothing would have been done properly and I would have ended up in bed or the hospital for way too long!
  • God is good.  The blessings and miracles we witnessed were myriad and memorable.

I am so grateful the wedding happened and is now in the rear-view mirror!  This autumn promises to be full of a flurry of activity.  My job is to take time for me, so that I can then take time for everyone else!  Take time for you too!

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

20 Years Later: Things I Would Do Again and Things I Wouldn’t

Things I would do again (and often wish I could)-

  • Read about home schooling, home schoolers, and education theory in general.  Talk to people who have been successful.  Get involved.  Learn enough to have a wide overview of my options- and then choose wisely.
  • Laugh.  A lot.  Find the humor in the hard days, the struggle, and the joy.
  • Find families that have great teens and ask how they got there.  I am so grateful to those willing to share with me.  (Great teenagers do not just fall from the sky that way.)
  • Have absolutes.  No double standards.  Your children will spot hypocrisy a mile away.  It is confusing and frustrating for them.  Help them learn what you value before the world has a chance to rewrite their value system.  Live what you preach.
  • Apologize to your children when you are wrong.  We all make mistakes.  Create learning experiences out of them so that your family can be comfortable knowing that it is okay to mess up.  The problem is being unwilling to work it out.
  • Limit screen time.  For years, our television lived in the closet.  It came out for special occasions, surgical convalescence, and holidays.  The computer was for academics.  It is easier to focus when the distractions are limited.
  • Put a stop sign on the front door.  Ignore the phone during academic hours.  Take the time you have with your children seriously and those around you will learn to as well.
  • Limit the junk.  Life is full of time-wasters, distractions, and wasteful options.  There are not enough hours in the day to waste them on things that do not build, feed, encourage, or edify.  Mere entertainment in not enough.
  • Remember – you are the model your children will follow.  You are the adult with whom they have the most contact.  You must choose to handle stress, the unexpected, the wonderful, the negative, and the shocking, with grace and control.  If you don’t, how will they learn to do so?  (I learned this a number of years into our family life by watching my children be “me”.  Not pretty!)
  • Identify the learning styles and personality types of your children.  We used the information we learned to not only “school” more effectively, but to help communication within our family.  Not everyone sees the world in the same way; recognizing the way others see it is a tremendous tool.  We learned to relate to each other better and be more patient with each other.
  • Have a schedule.  Success is much more likely if you are flexible within a framework than if you have no guidelines or expectations.  People are inherently lazy- adults and children alike.  Self-mastery comes from meeting expectations, having discipline, and consistency.  That applies to the parents as much as the children.
  • Have annual goals: Academic goals, spiritual goals, service-oriented goals, life and skill-related goals for each member of the family.
  • Begin the day with group time.  In our pjs.  With hot chocolate.  (Okay, get dressed if you must.)  But seriously, starting the academic part of the day together with an opening devotional, reading literature and history together, doing drill and memorization work as a group was such a great experience.  Sometimes it lasted for an hour; sometimes much more than that.  Having time with my children every day to discuss things, hear their thoughts and ideas, and just enjoy each other was brilliant.
  • Find a phone buddy.  Having a calm, supportive, and friendly adult to talk to on hard days helped me laugh at myself, see the humor in the struggle, and be a better mom to my kids.
  • Have my teenager’s friends in my home.  Do units in the summer with public school and home school kids.  (We did a few of these and they were SO fun.)  Bake cookies.  Host group date activities.  Feed them.  Even more fun, teach them to cook.
  • Take time for your marriage.  When the children leave home, and they eventually will, it is important to know how to spend time together as adults and communicate.  Nurture each other.

Things I would Not do again-

  • Get caught up in worrying so much.  You are the parent.  Be one.  Take the best from each idea or method you come across.  Leave the rest.  It’s your decision.
  • Spend so much on “stuff”.  I am a home school junkie.  I admit it.  If I had only found companies like Timberdoodle and books like The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (great resource lists) I could have saved a bundle!
  • Begin without any organization.  I overspent and duplicated too much by not knowing what I already owned.  You don’t need things to be perfect, just have a framework, a few ideas, and somewhere to put things!
  • Avoid things I disliked in school.  As I stopped feeling intimidated or disinterested in things, I found I love history, and really enjoyed art.  I can think scientifically.  And my children were more willing to try as they watched me learn with them.  Home schooling has given me a second-chance at my own education.
  • Tell another parent they should be home schooling.  I love to teach people how to do what we have been able to do, but I have learned to wait until asked.  Home schooling takes commitment, time, money, and patience.  It is not for everyone!  As we support others and the choices they make, our children will learn to appreciate and celebrate the differences in people.  What a great lesson to learn!
Gardening, Homemaking

Gardens- the ultimate multi-taskers!

The race is on to get the garden in the ground before rain falls this weekend!  (In the desert, that doesn’t happen as often as we would like!)  Last evening we planted 36 tomato plants, 9 bell peppers, and seeds for watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber,  squash, more cabbage, and watered the existing plants.  When I went outside to get the newspaper this morning, I just grinned.  Overnight while I slept, the starts took root, more buds were created on the peas, some spinach, lettuce, and beets appeared from the soil, and my beans grew another 1/4 inch or so.

There is so much I can learn about productivity from my garden.  Plants set down roots, grow taller, and become fruitful at the same time.  Maybe that is why Adam and Eve were placed in a garden.  It is an amazing object lesson in taking advantage of every opportunity to settle, grow, and bear fruit.

Today we’ll get potatoes, sweet potatoes, hot peppers, and more corn and beans in the ground.  Once seeds are planted I can go about my life putting out the fires that appear, living each day as I need, and (with minimal intervention from us) in the next few weeks we will have peas, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries to enjoy.  Then comes the corn, beans, tomatoes, melons, and everything else.  They just quietly use what they are given and turn it into food for my family.  No fanfare needed.

I need to be more like my garden….


Curriculum planning rant

It is that time of year again.  Now is often when homeschool moms get into the books for the coming year, and put an academic plan together.  If you use a programmed curriculum, it is fairly straight-forward.  You buy their books, and use what works with the learning level for your child.  It may require a tweak or two, but nothing too crazy.  Then again, if you are trying to assemble curriculum on your own (as we did), it can get confusing.  Let me explain.

Obviously you need math, language arts, history, science, and some fun stuff for the year.  Add in critical thinking, cultural arts, religious studies, life skills, and a bit of this and that and it can look undecipherable.  Let’s try making sense of it.

Math.  Pretty clear.  You have a text-book, flashcards, and maybe some math songs for learning basic skills.  Done.  But what about games and activities like tangrams, pattern blocks, or other math-related critical thinking options?  Is that math?  Is that critical thinking?  Is it just for fun, and not recorded at all?  Is cooking math, science or life skills?  Hmmm…

Let’s try it with language arts.  This generally includes reading and literature, spelling, vocabulary, penmanship, grammar, and writing.  Oh, boy.  Do you do spelling and vocabulary together?  One list for each?  Isn’t that a lot of writing?  If so, does it also count for writing?  Not really.  Oh.  Okay.  Grammar could be done in your best hand, and then it may also count for penmanship…or not.  Reading.  Simple enough.  Pick a book and read.  Literature means find a well-written, classic work.  Read and talk about it.  Okay.  If we are reading The Door in the Wall, is that literature?  Do we count it as history?  It does provide a great jumping off point for a discussion about life in medieval Europe. If we are reading Bible stories is that literature, history or religious studies, or something else?  If you teach them to outline on the computer, is that writing or computer skills?

Enough of that.  Let’s look at history and social studies.  History- the story of what has gone before us.  Social studies- the lives of people throughout the world.  Sounds pretty basic.  Where do you add geography?  Or is that a subject on its own which deals with different cultures and covers also orientation and map-reading skills?  If you study specific countries around the globe, and include commonly used phrases and a titch of their grammar, has that just become a study of foreign language or language arts?  What about political studies and law?  If you include a study of your nation’s founders, and the creation of your government is that history?  Law?  Or does it get a more specific title such as Government Studies?  Then there is economics.  It generally falls under the social studies umbrella, but does it count for math if you are working on interest rates, checking and savings accounts, and such?  Or do we call those things life skills instead?  Perhaps some of each?  And is the study of art and/music history part of history or cultural arts?

Is science any easier?  Are we simply working on a specific branch of science such as physics, or biology using reference materials and experiments?  What if we begin studying about Newton, and Darwin?  Is that still science?  Has it just become history?  Or if it is a classical work they have written, are we now doing literature (which is language arts)?  Do we teach evolution or creation science as science or do we create a comparitive study of them as a critical thinking exercise?  Is growing a garden and preserving the surplus considered botany and chemistry, or should you call it life skills?

You get the idea.  In all seriousness, Mom, don’t over-think this!  The answer to these questions if YES;  you can place this material where ever you see fit.  Set your goals.  Choose your materials.  Put your plan together, and get to the exciting business of learning as a family!  If you have high-school age youth who will need a transcript, you may find it helpful to use more diverse labeling for their studies in order to include what they will need for college admissions.  (Just ensure that you cover enough information to be able to claim completion of that subject!)  What matters most is that your children receive a broad, well thought out, and challenging education that provides them with the knowledge base, discipline and study habits to serve them throughout their lifetime.  However things were categorized when they were children, they will remember it as part of their education.  Isn’t that what really matters?

Home and Family, Parenting

Bring it on!

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

– Helen Keller

This life is a testing ground.  As we raise our families, we need to remember that our job is not to avoid every storm, but rather, to prepare ourselves and each other to meet them.   Every person of great strength and integrity I have ever known has become who they are by standing firm and facing what life throws their way.  And those who are best at this are the most joyful people I know.

Some of the challenges I see around me include large families, couples who want more children but have been unable to bear them, military deployments, health challenges, financial problems, children with learning difficulties, and too-much-to-do-too-little-time.  I don’t know anyone who has an easy life.  If we are looking for one, we will miss so many of the greatest lessons we can learn in this life.

There are challenges which may enter our life through the poor choices of others, but they need never define who we are or what we can accomplish.  Our goals, habits, and pursuits are up to us.  I have chosen to become the woman God sees in me regardless of what others do, and I hope to be able to give that gift those with whom I come in contact.

We can do hard things.