Charlie Brown's Christmas Message
The Charlie Brown Christmas special has always been one of my favorites. I even had the vinyl version of the story, complete with turn the page prompts, that I keep tucked away safely to this day among my favorite Christmas memories.
I have developed a serious love/hate relationship with our western medicine culture over the last 10 or so years.
Though I am so very thankful that we have treatments for ailments that cannot be treated with simple backyard medicine, I find that sometimes the benefits don’t outweigh the losses. We have at our fingertips some of the most amazing technology that allows us to have doctors perform surgery by camera to repair problems. We have medicines to prevent and often cure ailments that 100 years ago would have meant a death sentence. But, with all of that amazing progress, we still have a one size fits all approach to health care and often the individual person gets lost in.
We are expecting our 6th baby. I have been pregnant on and off for the last 16 years and therefore I think that qualifies me as a bit of an expert on my own body and the process my body goes through during a pregnancy. I began really questioning how prenatal care works with its one-sized fits all approach while I was expecting my 4th child. My husband was a new RN at the time and was not at all open to a dramatic leave from the norm but I did begin to question things that were being “done to me” and I stood up for the types of tests I wanted, didn’t want and what I was willing to accept in my healthcare. I began to understand that I was the one who should rightly be in control as I was hiring my care team not the other way around and that my feelings, desires, wishes need be considered rather than blindly going along with what the norm was. That meant I declined an induction to begin labor at 39 weeks though my doctor told me my baby would be very large. I declined an amniocentesis because of the risks involved outweighing the information I would receive (information that wouldn’t change the outcome for our family anyway). I declined an IV in the hospital which was “standard protocol” with all patients. To say I am a difficult patient may be accurate, but I am not in any way malicious when I speak to care providers, I simply let them know that I do not desire certain things that they feel are the norm.
I began seeing a midwife with my 5th child and had the most amazing experience as well as home birth with that pregnancy (read story). That experience left me empowered and fulfilled that my body was more than capable of doing everything that God designed it to do without the assistance of Pitocin, epidurals and pain management meds, etc. That single experience empowered my ability to research options, learn what the norm was and why certain procedures were performed for the masses of expectant women, and to know what I felt was necessary for me and my baby and what was not.
Enter in the most recent experience I have had. I am a bit older now, and with this 6th pregnancy I fall into the “high risk” category due to age only. I have no other risk factors, no high blood pressure, no diabetes, no other boxes to check… other than my age. I am aware that maternal age increases the risk of special circumstances with an infant so I dutifully saw my OB for several visits with the intention of having that 20 week ultrasound to ensure that all looked well before proceeding with my planned homebirth and midwife care. I knew that there were certain things that could prevent my all natural homebirth, for the good of baby, and I was okay with that. I am thankful we have technology. I am thankful I have those options. I am thankful that I have the choice to “peek” into my womb and learn if there is more than one baby stowaway (no worries, just one in there). But with all that comes a price. I am not talking dollars and cents here.
I went in for my ultrasound and the technician, who has been scanning my pregnancies for a number of years, found a problem. My world sank. Her words began to kind of hang in the air above me as she was very general and kind of vague but recommending that I see a high risk maternal fetal medicine physician for a closer look at some of the “abnormalities” she was seeing. My eyes welled with tears and as I spoke with my very sweet OB (who happens to also be a friend) she tried to reassure me that it could be more minor than major issues that I was dealing with. The joy of the new life I was carrying was kind of sucked right out of me as I began to wonder what I was dealing with exactly, would I have to endure the valley of a stillborn baby, would I have to be the primary caregiver for a severely disabled child, could I handle all of this? As luck would have it the next appointment I could secure with that high risk OB was 5 days into the future. 5 long days away. 5 agonizing days of questions. I have never been good at following directions so I did not listen when my OB told me not to begin researching the concerns.
I didn’t listen.
My research lasted only about 5-7 minutes.
I couldn’t go any further once I began to read.
At this point I kind of began to feel as though I was drowning. I reached out to God and began talking to him, praying to him, begging him for help in this time of need. I needed a peace. My loving husband reached out to our church family and asked for prayers, something I was incapable of even doing because I couldn’t talk without becoming inconsolable and unintelligible. God is good though, I could feel the prayers, and I began to calm down within a day or so. God let me know, through his peace, that whatever we were dealing with, he would not leave my side. That was very hard. I honestly don’t know how people who don’t believe in God get through the rough times, the prayers surrounding me and this little life were almost tangible.
The day came for the subsequent ultrasound. There were a number of pregnant women in the waiting room and I couldn’t help but wonder what each of their stories was. I wondered if they prayed. I wondered if they had been coming here for medical news since the beginning of their pregnancies (that was recommended to me each time I became pregnant over the age of 35) I wondered if they were as anxious as I was. My husband and I were guided back to the ultrasound room where we spent the next hour looking at our baby from every angle possible.
The technician found no concerns.
The doctor found no concerns.
The tears began streaming from my eyes once again, this time tears of joy and not of fear.
As we were wrapping up the doctor suggested a few more tests, among them the option of an amniocentesis should I desire one (I did not) and a blood test or more ultrasounds, because after all I am of “advanced maternal age.”
No thank you.
I realize that there are some women whose pregnancies have to be monitored very closely, I am glad I am not one of them.
I had no desire to walk this path for even one more minute. Even the doctor advised that there are false positives that can be associated with each of the tests he subsequently had offered. The rates are reported to be low (the false positives) but anything that was going to cause this level of anxiety and stress was not worth it to me.
So continues my love/hate relationship.
The undue stress.
The extreme emotional rollercoaster.
All of it…I was ready to get off the ride.
I will never know if God worked a miracle in our lives and healed the baby in my womb, or if one ultrasound tecnichian (and a good one at that) simply made a mistake that caused an extreme level of duress to two expectant parents. Either way I know that God walked this path with us and helped us, as did all the prayer we received.
I know that I prefer to take the natural approach as I now switch back to my midwifery model of care and my planning for a subsequent home birth. I know that as I approach the 40 week mark (I always do with my babies) there will be no cause for alarm, even if I am “overdue” as many OB’s would say. I will not be subject to any invasive procedures, no physical exams, no further undue stress. My midwife will be concerned, as she always is, with my whole well being, not just the baby I am carrying and how my pregnancy is measuring. She will sit down with me over a hot cup of tea and we will discuss this chapter in my pregnancy, I will likely shed a few tears in retelling the entire experience to her but she will quietly listen. She will not push for more and more tests to “be sure” all is well. She will ask me what I want and how I feel. She will gently monitor signs for any concerns, she will test urine for proteins, she will measure baby and feel my growing belly to determine babe’s location and be sure he heads to the correct positioning before delivery. She will encourage me, as my OB did, but without the added clinical stressors that come from being a “patient”
That is the way I believe it should be.
I love the empowerment that comes with knowing what is available to me and deciding what is right for our family and our newest babe.
By the way...it's a boy!
I have been at this homeschooling thing for 5 years now and I have learned a little along the way. Here it is, I can tell you how I can totally wind up with a day that makes a mama wish she had made other educational choices, or maybe just a list of things that I try my best to avoid.
#1. Wake up late.
This may not be universally agreed upon but at least for me, this will wreck it. I find that on the days that I sleep a bit too long (I'm not talking till noon here, just even till 8 or a bit after when kids have all started to wake) I start off the day behind and I feel like I am playing catch-up for the rest of the day. I do so much better when I make myself get up, get my first cup of coffee, read my bible, blog, start a load of laundry and have a few moments to myself before our crazy whirlwind begins...I'm better for it and my kids find a much less frazzled mama.
#2 Don't have a dinner plan.
Ummm. As I type this I realize that I don't yet have a dinner plan for today. At our house with my crew, this is pretty crucial stuff. If I do not plan what to do at dinner time I end up at 4 o'clock tired, a bit frazzled and with no plan of action. We would then either end up eating cereal (hubby is not a fan of this- lol) or I would desire to grab something that would either cost more than I wanted to spend or something unhealthy...so excuse me while I throw something in the crockpot.
#3 Don't Get Dressed.
I am a firm believer in getting dressed whether I am actually planning on going somewhere or not. I also make my kids get dressed, its just me but I think we do better when we don't sit around in p.j's all day. That doesn't mean that in the dead of winter I don't allow for an occasional splurge of jammy time, but not on a regular basis. Oh, and for me, I make sure that by the time hubby gets home from work I have on makeup, hair has been brushed and at least pulled into a neat ponytail...I know he appreciates not coming home to a wife in yoga pants and a baby drool stained shirt.
#4 Spend the Day Wasting Time On Social Media
This can be a hard temtation especially with smart phones. I can find myself periodically checking emails or facebook status in between grading math problems and teaching science and lets face it, that can suck a gal in so I really try to limit this to only early a.m. before we start school and afternoon when littles are down for a nap and the rest of my crew is finishing up.
#5 Take Phone Calls and Texts
Most of my friends will tell you that I try not to take phone calls or answer very many texts during school hours because it gets me off track and trust me, my kids can tell when I am not fully present because I am distracted. For the most part (unless it is daddy calling) I do not answer the phone during the a.m. Not trying to be rude, I will call people back but I can't take the constant distractions. I gotta unplug.
#6 Run Around
I am part of some great mom's groups. I am also a part of some great homeschool groups. Truth be told there is always something super exciting and cool to be doing, a field trip, a cool outing, a class for this or that...but I find that if I do not stay put and work on school stuff for the majority of our schooling, it is way too easy to get sidetracked, I mean who wouldn't rather go to a museum one day, an art show the next, hiking another and maybe a cooking class too? ME! ME! ME! Again, I can get off track so we have such better fluidity when we stay home and only indulge occasionally in these things. Now, as I say this our current semester is jammed with 2 literature classes we go to on different days, karate, volleyball and a college class one of my children takes...whew! That is why we have had to forgo several other fun field trips to work on just "regular" school.
#7 Compare Myself to Other Mamas
This can be true for so many things. As it applies to homeschooling if I constantly compare where my kids are in school, how they are learning, what other moms do, I can begin to feel like a failure. I assure you that no one has my children's best interests at heart like I do, No one. That being said there is always some mama that looks like she is doing a better job at homeschooling, she is better organized, more creative, has more patience...etc.
There it is, That is how I can ruin my homeschool day. How about you? Do you have other things you would add to this list? Leave me a comment below...
Its a fact really, boys and dirt go hand in hand. I had girls first, they were not quite like this. My girls didn't mind getting dirty and playing outside, but they did eventually want to come inside and clean up.
Not my boys. The dirtier, muddier, and wetter the better.
Clean up? No problem, half the time I find their discarded clothing (my littler ones that is) because if the clothes got too dirty or too wet to impede exploration or play, they just toss the offending article off to the side. This has led to many a laugh when mom is gardening and in the toss of a shovel of dirt I will turn only to find a partially or totally nude toddler running across the grass. There I go chasing boys again, at least trying to civilize and clothe them.
I think at its root little boys need to get dirty because they need to explore. They need to see how things work, they need to dig in the dirt, they need to look under rocks, they need to conquer the great outdoors, or at least leave a valiant effort in their wake while trying.
I also think that little boys are better for the ability to be able to get dirty. I once had a friend who never allowed her son to get dirty. He always had the cutest clothes, the nicest shoes, but frankly...I felt so sorry for him. He wasn't allowed to get dirty.
So while I may cringe at the mudstained knees, the cocoa colored bath water and the constant grass stains...Little boys need to get dirty.
Not Yet A Homesteader
Do you ever look at other people's farms or lifestyles and feel like you just don't quite stack up? I recently wrote this article for GRIT magazine about just such a phenomena, let me know what you think!
The verb “homesteading” leads us to conjure up images of roosters crowing, the smell of freshly cut hay, jewel toned mason jars lining shelves stocked for winter, fresh juicy fruits dangling from a front yard orchard tree, and of course the quintessential porch adorned with rocking chairs to sit back and enjoy the country life.
Though this may be the ideal that we have in our minds, possibly crafted from one too many country lifestyle periodicals, homesteading can actually look quite different indeed. According to Wikipedia, Homesteading is defined as:
“A lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.”
Far too many of us have a desire to homestead. However, lacking the rolling hundred acres that we have ideally tucked into our minds, we observe others and discount our own self-sustaining efforts. Let me suggest that anyone can homestead, or at least begin that journey. If you live on a smallish plot, in a more suburban area, on a few acres or as first generation farmers jumping in head first to the lifestyle of our ancestors, you can be a homesteader.
I actually began this journey about 15 years ago when I planted my first garden, in my first home. The string of years that followed caught me learning the skills of bread making, home canning, sewing, seed saving, dehydrating, and from scratch cooking. I still didn't consider myself a homesteader. We had expanded from a 900 square foot home on a tiny little lot, to a larger home on exactly 0.64 of an acre. I still didn't consider that I was on the road to homesteading; after all, we had no livestock, no rolling acres and no front porch rocker.
Fast forward a few more years and we were able to move out a little ways. Our small farm is just shy of 6 acres. Though I was aching for those rolling pastures, we purchased what was in our budget. That homesteading ideal was still eluding me, I wasn't feeling self-sufficient. Though cooking most everything from scratch by this point, I had shelves of those jewel toned morsels in mason jars waiting for winter. I had learned the art of saving heirloom seeds and growing a garden from seeds instead of nursery plants. I could identify and use a number of easily procured medicinal herbs and weeds. I could make most anything I needed, including laundry soap. I finally got some livestock in the way of chickens and turkeys, but I still felt vastly inadequate when I looked around at what others were doing.
We began harvesting and butchering our own poultry, purchasing our pork from friends, and drinking raw milk whenever we could get our hands on some. We made butter, yogurt, and sauerkraut. We learned more about food sources, cleaned our diets and introduced fermented foods and drinks. I also began blogging to teach others some of the skills I had learned. I still didn't feel like a homesteader, though I desperately wanted to join that ever intangible, seemingly exclusive club.
It was only recently that I realized that it was my ideal, or definition, that was holding me back from recognizing all that we had accomplished in the way of becoming more self sufficient, more sustainable. I was looking at others and comparing what our family did not have mastered and sustained, instead of accepting that we had come a very long way from the days when I fed my children macaroni & cheese with hot dogs for lunch and had no idea how to even cut up a chicken, let alone butcher one.
I stand amazed at the journey we have had to get to our homesteading nirvana. I may not have all that my neighbor homesteading on 30 acres down the road has, but I am learning daily and each season we get just a little closer to being less dependent on others and more dependent on ourselves and God's provisions.
If you are one of the voyeurs just lurking and wishing you could live the homesteading life, get started where you are. Plant some herbs in a window sill instead of buying them, teach yourself a new skill, and research some aspect of homesteading that fascinates you. Learn from another's mistakes and don't compare yourself to someone else, there will always be someone further along the road to total self sufficiency than you are. That someone will have a more well equipped greenhouse, more renewable resources, a larger scale livestock operation, and more country know how than you.
Don't let other homesteaders hamper your curiosity driven desire to get back to your roots, take off learning new skills so that you too can look back and see just how serendipitous your journey has become, and how you too are actually homesteading. You’ll be able to do just that, all while sipping a sweet tea from that quintessential rocking chair on the front porch.
I recently began blogging for GRIT magazine's online community, while there I stumbled across another like minded farm gal who blogs with humor and wit, I loved her take on life and this article that I found on her blog. I asked if she would stop over and share some of her wisdom with us, she obliged...
The Best Advice I Ever Got...
I have a personal affection for the older generations. I do realize that I am no spring chicken and fall into the category of "older" to many, many people. I also realize that "older" doesn't necessarily mean "wise" or "experienced." You can be old and stupid. You can also be young and wise.
Amazing insights here coming from me today.
With that being said, there are some tremendous life lessons that can be learned through cross-generational relationships. Really, they have a lot to say and we (I) have a lot to learn.
If you want to be politically correct, please the masses and get the most updated information - go buy a book. Or better yet, go to the library.
If you want the good old fashioned, unadulterated truth, go find someone who has lived through it. Amazing. What I learn from experienced folks is not usually found in books.
Candi & mamaw
Not only do these experienced folks have answers to many tough questions, they also have some excellent, life advice. Here's a few of my favorites:
QUOTE #1 "I can't imagine anything worse."
Some of my family members embrace the country life. Some of them enjoy suburb-dwelling. I have happily lived in both places. I chose the country now, but there are definite benefits to city-like-living.
I have an extended family member who has lived out in the country her entire life. She is no spring chicken and has plenty of wisdom and advice for all. Not only is she fully equipped with incredible doses of life experience, if you are with her, on the phone with her or happen to run into her, you will get to hear it whether you want to or not. Whether you agree or not. Whether you have time or not. Whether you like it or not.
Yes - lots of unsolicited advice. Which happens to be some of the best advice one can get.
So, we were chatting on the phone one afternoon about cows and calves and other country-things.
I have decided that once you have lived over 70 years you have earned the right to say whatever you want.Everyone I know over the age of 70 seems to live by this creed. For some it starts earlier; but it's unanimous: If you're over 70 - Go ahead - speak your mind.
This happens to be true of pretty much everyone I know over the age of 70. This also happens to be the reason why I love to be around them. They are some of my very favorite friends. If you don't have any friends over the age of 70 you need to go get some today. What they say will change you forever (and usually make your day).
They have outlived us, they have more wisdom than we do, they have more experience than we do, they know what is important in life (at least most do) and they aren't shy about telling us about it. I can't wait to be 70.....
So, back to the 70 year old. We were chatting on the phone about cows and life and answered prayers.
This is when she went into an interesting (solo) dialogue about living in the country v/s living in a neighborhood. You can probably guess where she landed on this whole debate.
Hands down, country girl through and through.
She felt sorry for all those poor children growing up in neighborhoods without pastures, livestock and creeks. She felt sorry for all those people crammed into neighborhoods, every house resembling the next. She didn't understand why anyone would want to live so close to other random people.
Then she said it."Candi, all those poor, poor children growing up in neighborhoods.... sitting on their back porches..... staring at other people's houses.... I can't imagine anything worse."Nothing worse.
Nothing worse than staring at other people's houses.
Not swine flu.
Not Tyfoid Fever.
Nope - nothing worse than sitting on your back porch staring at other people's houses. "I can't imagine anything worse."
QUOTE #2 "Men Can't see."
I'm going to have to wholeheartedly agree with Mamaw on this one.
If you need someone to go to the basement and grab a jar of jelly.
Or go to the outside refrigerator and get a jar of pickles.
Or go to the barn to get you a shovel.
Or walk into the kitchen and get your phone.
Or open the pantry and hand you the peanut butter...
Don't send a man.
Not an old man
Not a young man.
Not an 8 year old man.
Because they will be back in 3 minutes to tell you it isn't there.
It is there.
Send a girl and you will be holding said item in 1 minute.
Send a man and you'll be going to get it yourself.
Don't waste you time sending a dude.
Men can't see.
QUOTE #3 "They should have asked me."
One of my many talents is saying things I shouldn't say and talking when I should shut-up.
"Caution - Mouth operates faster than brain"
By the time I'm 70 I should be really good at speaking my mind since, unfortunately, for reasons beyond my control, I have been at it a while.
It was pineapple.A pineapple flavored biscuit.
They said it was a, "Scone." I had never had a, "Scone."
The only scone I've ever tasted came from an un-named, over-priced, coffee shop. I had never eaten a scone in my life. The display was so pretty. The assortment was so inviting. They just looked delectable. The one on the end was golden and had bits of sugar, fruit and goodness mingled within the danish. It was sure to be buttery, sweet, moist and delicious.
I said, "I'll take that one."
Then I took a bite of my over sized, over priced pineapple "scone."
Worst mistake I've ever made.I'll never do that again.
It was not buttery.
It was not juicy.
It was not moist.
It was not even sweet.
What is a scone anyway?
It was a dry, dry, dry, crumbly biscuit with bits of pineapple in it. No amount of butter in the world could fix this dehydrated, horrid excuse for a danish. And I'm pretty sure it was unhealthy, full of calories, fattening and bad for me. AND did I mention it was horrible.
Why, oh why do people eat scones? Gag.
Sorry, if you like scones.
Sorry, if you know how to make a scone that is not like eating uncooked flour.
I'll never eat a scone again. My oldest child said, "Mom, I think they're supposed to be like that."
I said, "Well, they're terrible."
He said, "I guess they should have asked you when they invented scones."
I said, "Yes, they should have. Then they would not be parched, stale, pineapple biscuits. They would be sweet, moist and buttery."
They should have asked me.:)
What was that night really like?
photo courtesy of: http://beyondsundaymornings.weebly.com/home/december-to-remember-day-10
Often as we see manger scenes or read of the birth of Christ in Luke chapter 2 we have a tendency to not think beyond the images we see. We see images and we think yes, we are celebrating the birth of a very special baby, but what do you think it was really like that night he was born? I often like to put myself in the shoes of another to gain a better understanding of their feelings, emotions, and situations. I was not there, I do not know but what my Bible states, I know that Mary was just a person, a young lady, with human feelings, emotions, and sensations. But, if we were to see this scene through her eyes, what might it have been like?
There is a soft rustling as some of the animals reposition themselves, maybe even the occasional snort or whinney of pack animals. The smell in the air is familiar, a natural musky smell intermingled with feed, dust, and earth. Not what she had hoped for, not what she had planned for, not what she had expected.
She had just had to tell her family some months back that she was with child. To say they were shocked, likely would have been an understatement. She was to wed, but she was young and was not to have been in this predicament. She may have felt that the world itself was against her, her tale was quite extraordinary…who would’ve believed it? But there she was. He was with her, beside her, his doubt was taken away by his own dream visitor.
The pains had been coming off and on throughout the day now. Was this normal? Midwives familiar to her and her family would have been far away back home…but here she was. Could she do this? She may have been granted peace, but also any woman who has ever given birth to a child knows…it is not serene, it is not easy. She begins to block out some of the distractions now as the time is nearing closer and closer. The intensity is more and more pronounced. How she must long for the comfort of the familiar…her home, her people, anything. But here she is. Would she cry out? Would she feel embarrassed to be seen in this light by the fiancé she was with, one who had not even seen her disrobed? He would see her at her most vulnerable if not during, then shortly after the birth. She may begin to pace, or lie in the hay curled up against the pain, she may rock herself to help with the waves of pain. But, like women for centuries, she has to do this, the pain will not go away until the birth. No turning back once the process has begun. Oh, to just have a soft mat, a familiar friend, a known midwife.
Hay would have likely lined the place where she was. She may have been crouching, kneeling, laying down. Hay is scratchy, its ends poke and irritate the skin. The smell of the stable may be comforting or it may be overwhelming…often sensations become much more pronounced during these final stages. She can feel the end nearing now, it is an overwhelming pain, she blocks everything else out, she may be praying now, the sensation of intensity and heat may be consuming her entire being. It is so very hard, she wants this part to be over now, just for the pain to cease. She may feel some embarrassment, does anyone in this strange land know she is birthing out here? What if something goes wrong. What if she is not capable, what if she wasn’t the right one to choose for this miraculous task?
Then the time comes, the severity of the end moments may not last too long. She has sweat on her brow, she is exhausted, but…
Then she sees him, she lays eyes on him for the first time. He is wiped clean, he looks healthy, robust even, and it is over. She weeps tears of happiness, tears of exhaustion, tears of relief. Her emotions may overwhelm her. He is beautiful, magnificent. She is sure that there has never been a babe as beautiful as he. Every mother has this moment, but hers may have been even more pronounced. She did it. He is here. She may try to cover herself as she cradles the new babe, what to wrap him in? She wishes she had the finest silks or linens. She wishes for so many things for him. But, she has only a stable at her discretion, one with a manger that the animals use to forage for their hay. She will spread the hay out as best she can and line the manger with as many garments as possible to make a soft place for the babe. She will likely need to make herself presentable again, for him, he has stood by her through all of this. She did it, he is here. After a number of hours she would still be on the natural high that comes with birth, people would learn that she had given birth in the stable, probably not a common occurrence, but then again, there was no other place for her to go, and there was nothing common about this babe either.
The Bible does not tell us what conversations took place between Mary and Joseph after this miraculous birth. The Bible does not tell us what feelings Mary had, but I know she was a human being, and a woman. I know she had emotions and feelings just like you and I. I just think that sometimes we don’t stop to think deeper than what we see. Let us be reminded of the amazing gift that was given to our world the night that Jesus was born. Let us remember that it is so much more than a manger scene lit up in someone’s yard. These were real living people, this was an event that really did happen, this was a birth like never before in history.
Confessions of a Homeschool Mom...
So, as I have mentioned before, I never intended on homeschooling my kids. Really. I thought homeschoolers were "weird" but now I am a part of that club of anomolies who prefer to spend all day with their kids learning the ins and outs of fractions and American government in lieu of luxuriously cleaning a house that would actually stay that way for a few hours, if the kids were all in school.
1. I sometimes do envy the moms who have time to go out for a cup of coffee with their girlfriends after dropping the kids off to school... I also totally envy the time they have to go grocery shopping "kid free".
Don't get me wrong, I do get my morning cup of fully leaded coffee, but more often than not it ends up being re-heated 2-3 times throughout the day because I don't ever get a chance to finish it piping hot, and never in the presence of a girlfriend while we laugh and chat about our lives over lattes.
2. I don't have any idea what it is like to go to the bathroom without being interrupted a minimum of 4 times with questions such as "I need help! I'm finished with math! Can I go outside? Can I have a snack?
Sometimes I would like to go into the bathroom and hide, but alas, they find me.
3. I have been known to have freak out moments over math problems.
when we are working on the same math problem for the third time because my child can't focus on the math but rather has his mind wandering with questions such as "how can I make a robot from a battery? What comes after a zillion? Do you like my favorite Pokemon?"
4. I have a perpetual basket of mismatched socks.
Yup, I admitted it. Its out there now. I HATE matching socks and there is a basket full of nothing but mismatched socks, so if you are looking for a pair, go check the basket. How is this part of homeschooling? Well, I think its because I always feel too busy to sit down and match socks...or maybe just because I hate that chore so much.
5. Sometimes I get creative and turn cooking dinner into math and home ec all tied into one.
Afterall it is helpful to see that fractions really do serve a purpose and I want all my kids to know their way around a kitchen.
6. We sometimes take random "days off"
We do this for things like a trip to great-grandma's house, or a massive outdoor chore day, an all out gingerbread house making extravaganza with friends, or just because we want to. I figure we can do this because there is no rule that says we cannot do math on Saturday or that my kids are not learning invaluable lessons visiting with relatives or working hard outdoors.
7. I have switched curriculum, more than once.
If there is one thing that homeschooling has taught me, it is that there is no "one size fits all" for learning. I often wonder just how much harder some subjects would be for my children if they were not homeschooled. I have the freedom to mix and match, speed up and slow down, and get very creative in my teaching techniques.
8. I have never figured out where all the pencils in the house go, seriously, where do they go?
I can start the school year with 50 pencils and by October they are all missing.
9. I have learned way more schooling my kids then I ever did in public school.
Who knew that history could actually be interesting? I have been able to teach my children in a way I wish I could have learned, I think I would have retained so much more than I did from my schooling.
10. I hate hearing non homeschooling moms say "I could never do that" (homeschool)
Guess what? Me either. It is by God's grace and leading that we are on this journey, it certainly wasn't my idea. But, you know what? I wouldn't trade the time I have with these kids for the world now, I could never get back what I have gained from being with them if I hadn't started this journey. I am better for it and the way I see our public education system going, I know my kids are better for it too.
I have heard your voice countless times as you lament about concerns for your children. Your concerns that they don’t stay children long enough, that it is hard to find ways to keep them young and innocent, that they just grow up too fast.
I have also heard your grief that all of their friends are able to go to that latest movie that was released and your child is being left out, so you conceded and let your child go. I have heard your concern that finding modest clothing is impossible, especially for a formal event, so you choose a lesser of the evils and instead of skin tight, you opt for shorter than you would like. That is better, right? I have listened as you have expressed concern about what they might be doing in an online world, but also heard your whispers that there is nothing you can do because you don’t understand it all anyway. You mention that you don’t really like the style they are choosing and the clothes they are wearing but you want them to be an individual so you stay quiet. You have commented that you don’t really like the person of the opposite sex that they seem to be spending so much time with, and you are worried about what may be going on, but when that person calls you allow your child to go.
I have listened, and I dare say, I do not concur. I am not mean or snarky about it and I don’t believe that you are intentional in what you are allowing, I believe you are just overwhelmed. I fear that you don’t understand the consequences of your silence on issues you feel strongly about. Here is my analogy…If you are standing in a river and the current is so strong that it causes you to be unsteady or to waiver, you have few choices. You can choose to lift up your feet and coast with the current which is the easiest option, or you can choose to stand though the waters around you feel so strong that they threaten to sweep you away, especially if you continue to venture into them. The further you submerse yourself into our popular culture, the more impossible it is to stand against the current. One can stand in a river current that is strong, dare I say you can actually walk against the current if you are only in ankle or calf deep water. But as you submerse yourselves and your families into the water you are swept away by the current the deeper you go, you often cannot control the current at that point.
What this means is by the time you have begun to waiver on your ability to find modest clothes for your pre-teen daughter the current has become strong enough that it threatens unsteadiness as you concede to more and more. First it might be shorter shorts, after all finding long Bermuda style ones is hard. It then leads to tighter and more revealing because let’s face it, she is still more covered than some of her friends, but is that the best standard?
By the time you start to become concerned about the online world that your child is immersed in many waking moments of the day, it may be so far over your head that you are unsure how to proceed. How much do you take away, you want them to have a social life, right? That current gets very strong, very quickly my friend and the only way is to stop it all together until you understand it.
When your child’s style is becoming so outlandish or bizarre that you have trouble deciphering reasons behind it you may have to question who is funding it. If it is you, why not stop it. I know, that current is strong and so is the backlash you would experience.
Then there is the person of the opposite sex that is interested in your child. Your child has a lot of really good things to say about that one, but your mom instincts don’t. That current is very strong too, that one can sometimes lead to a waterfall ending so be careful. Make it stop.
I think you are worried. You are busy. You are overwhelmed. You feel alone. You look around at the other moms and they all seem to be going along in the current too. They share with you that they are also concerned, but they don’t do anything different then you do, they are coasting too.
Have you ever watched one of those documentaries or read one of those stories that talks about bystander apathy? When something happens, let’s say someone is struggling because they dropped a few cans from their bag of groceries and most people walk by without so much as batting an eye? That is what you are doing with your children. That is what is happening when you look to other moms who are experiencing some of the same things you are, and they are not standing up and stopping it.
Friend, just say no. If you don’t like the music, turn it off. If you don’t like the clothes, quit funding them. If you don’t like the person, don’t allow them around. If you don’t understand it but your child does, have them teach you or just get rid of it all together. You really can do that. Yes, there will be backlash, there will be wailing, it will be hard. But, it is YOUR responsibility. YOU are the parent, YOU still have control and it is okay to be the mom who says, “no.” Your children will survive, they might even thank you for it later.
I recently had a conversation with my 15 year old about some things I did not allow her to do when she was younger, yet many friends at her previous school were allowed to do. She shared with me that she was so angry at the time, I remember it well. I questioned myself, I wondered if it was really an issue I needed to stand strong on, I may have even waivered a bit. But in the end I decided that it was something I needed to say “no” to. I did, and there was backlash, but, it was so worth it. Now when we discuss it years later, she has actually told me I was right to say no. I began walking against the current of what all the other moms were allowing and doing, it was hard. So hard. Do you know what though? It gets a little easier with each step. Each time you take control back and stop lamenting about what you wish things were like. It is like that current, did you know you can actually walk out of a current? You can swim out of one too when you are completely submerged, just look at the riptide warnings at a beach, they tell you there is a way out.
So, to the mom who is carried by the current, just stand up and stand strong. Don’t let yourself be influenced by those around you who are going along with things. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it and you really can say, “no”. God gave you the children you have, and he created children to be protected by their parents so stand up and be that parent who says “no” and who knows, maybe you will help someone else out of the current too.
Boys are so...well... different.
Yes, I realize that statements sounds rather dumb because of course boys, and girls, are inherently different. However, if you listen to the modern world it is only because we have made them that way. I’m here to say that as a mother of both sexes, that is ridiculous.
Our current society is so bent on blurring the lines of gender even so much as to equate the two genders to being equal or the same. They are not the same. Let me repeat myself, they are NOT the same. They are definitely equal in value, but that is about the end of the equality.
My first son was surrounded by female playmates. He of course was the third child born to a family that already had two very GIRLY girls. The girls would dress him up (much to dad’s dismay), play house with him and even include him in their Barbie play (we did get him a GI JOE action figure for this purpose). However, he still preferred more aggressive, risk taking play. He preferred to design a tower for Barbie to climb and knock over rather then idly arrange clothing or Barbie furniture. He loved being physical from the time he could move and would climb up a tree and toss things to the ground just to see them fall.
My girls would play quietly for hours, my sons…they will play for hours but there is NOTHING quiet about it. This was once again (as it is daily) evidenced to me yesterday as I took my two youngest boys to a local park. When I was a child I have such fond memories of going to a park with my mother and feeding the ducks. We would take popped corn or breadcrumbs and spend hours feeding the ducks. I loved to look at the colors on the duck’s feathers and see just how close I could get the ducks to come to me. When there were ducklings I always dreamed of getting just close enough to hold one.
Then there are the boys. I took my youngest two to enjoy the same type of experience that I had and as we sat down to start crumbling bread to toss to the ducks I was a bit dismayed that my 3 y/o thought it was much more entertaining to try to “bop” the ducks on the heads with balls of dough rather then gently toss the crumbs to the ducks. And, it was way more fun to him to run at the swarm of ducks to see them fly then to try to entice them to come closer. The worst was that both boys discovered that as a team they could get all the ducks to fly into the water at once by running at them from opposite directions. Ugh. What is a peaceful mother to do? I sat down with my 3 y/o to question him on this behavior and he simply told me that “its fun to see them fly mommy,” “I like to see them skid the water” (3 y/o speak for the way the ducks fly to the safety of the pond and then slip across the surface). Yep, definitely different.
The boys enjoyed feeding the ducks, but definitely not for the same reason I used to. I wound up shaking my head with a bit of a chuckle. They are definitely different. My current favorite read right now? Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson…if you haven’t read it, please do. The first 4 pages will having you laughing out loud so hard you may likely snort, I did.
Car Accidents and Wildflowers...
Sometimes when we wake in the morning and start our day...we are never aware of just how it will turn out or what events will shape the rest of our day, week and sometimes our lives.
It was like any other busy day, we bustled around and ran some errands. We went to the orthodontist and had some amazingly delicious fresh baked cookies on the way out the door. (can you believe that the orthodontist offers fresh baked cookies to their patients?) But, it was shortly thereafter that things went differently then I expected the day to go.
We were driving home, in fact, less then 6 miles from home...we had a car accident. The first real accident since I was 16 and began driving. It all happened so very fast and the main thing I remember once we came to a stop is just yelling "ARE YOU OKAY?" to all my children. I had all but my oldest with me that morning.
Everyone looked stunned but looked good, except I did notice that my oldest son had redness on his cheekbone and the beginnings of a bloody nose. He was in the back of our van wearing the lap belt and on impact he hit his face on the captain's chair directly in front of him. But, we were all okay...minus the jackrabbit heart racing that comes in a situation like this.
The other gentleman was okay too. No major injuries to any of us...Thank you God for your hand of protection! We did all the necessary exchanges of information, insurances and filling out a police crash report. All in all, if it had to happen, it was the best of scenarios. Everyone was respectful to one and other, the police officer was kind and efficient and no one was seriously injured.
After we got home I have to admit that the day wore on and I wasn't in the best of moods. My insurance company responded very quickly, the adjuster came out the same day and I was given a rental car that I forgot was even part of my insurance coverage. However, the adjuster told me that my car was a total loss and I would get a claim settlement, though not nearly enough to replace what I had. Afterall, I knew this van, my husband and I had purchased it "almost new" some years ago and had paid it off. We knew it was mechanically sound, we had traveled countless miles in it and it was a very dependable vehicle. I was quite disheartened.
I will have to say though, to my husband's credit, he never said a negative word about the whole situation.
My children could tell I was unhappy, and a bit grouchy as I had already begun looking at what was to be in our price range from the insurance settlement...it was not looking good. Somewhere between phone calls from insurance agents, adjusters, rental car companies, and various other things I recall my 11 y/o daughter bringing me a flower she picked outside. I was on the phone at the time and mouthed a quick "thank you." But, to be perfectly transparent...I did not really pause in what I was doing.
It wasn't until later that night when the children were in bed and I was cleaning up the kitchen that I saw that flower again for what it was. A reminder. A reminder that things could have gone much worse. A reminder that I needed to be thankful, not irritated. I needed to be thankful that 11 y/o was still here, in one piece, to pick me that flower. I wasn't visiting a hospital or receiving devastating news. I didn't have the guilt of having a seriously injured loved one, or even a stranger to worry about. I was safe in my home, my children were all safe. I had a home, food to eat, a husband who has a job. Life is very good and I am very blessed.
I have been married for over 17 years now. I married a man who is my best friend and who sees me at my worst and at my best. He has seen me sick as a dog with my hair a mess and smudges of makeup from the night before. He has seen me puffy-eyed and snotty after a good cry. He has smelled my morning breath when he has rolled over for a kiss, he has seen me as large as a beached whale before giving birth. He knows every stretch mark and scar I own. He also sees me in my “mom attire” and loves me anyway.
Yesterday this best friend of mine suggested we go out for a bite to eat after putting our littles to bed (it is so nice to have a teenager who is capable of babysitting for occasions just such as this). It was kind of a passing suggestion, we were busy mowing, gardening, cleaning house and basically just “doing life.” I kind of brushed it off as I was busy tending to so many things and thought we will figure out the details later.
Later did come and hubby brought it up again, we decided on a plan and then aimed to have our littles settled and dinner for the kids finished as well as the house cleaned back up before heading out for a brief reprieve. The problem then? I looked at the clock…we were supposed to be leaving in 35 minutes. Let me tell you this farm girl takes awhile to pretty up, especially after a hard day’s work. I had been so busy with “doing life” that I hadn’t taken into account that I needed a shower, hair blow-dried, makeup re-done and clothes picked out. I mean, when did I really have time for all that?
I stopped for a moment to take quick account in the mirror. He has seen me look worse after all, I could just throw my hair up in a ponytail, do a super quick rinse off and tidy up what was left of my makeup…I could make it happen. But, was that my best? Was that what I would have done when he and I were still dating? Would I have only put in partial effort back when I got butterflies every time he showed up at the door? Did he deserve less because he had seen me in every state over the last 17 years? I thought about it for one more minute and then decided I would make “beautiful” happen for him, even if in only 35 minutes.
I completely showered, shaved, did the fastest blow dry and makeup, had to skip doing the nails to save time but even turned in my “mom attire” for a pretty skirt and wedges. Did I feel like doing this…honestly no, I felt like just heading out “as is.” I decided though, that he was worth the effort. He even said something I pondered on for the rest of the night…we were heading out the door and my teenager commented “wow mom, you look really nice!” My husband’s comment to her was…”see, this is how you go out with your husband even after 17 years, remember that one day when you are married.”
I imagine someone may find that statement sexist in our current day and age, but I found that it was packed full of truth because the way I present myself to my husband can really show him how much I value him. God made men to be pleased by sight, and they like to look at nice looking things. I know that my husband would have gone out with me had I just made a half effort, and we would have had fun, but…he knows I still value him enough to put in the effort of trying to do what I would have done back when we were “dating”. I think on the whole when we are in the throws of “doing life” and raising littles, we moms often forget this very important fact.
So, a challenge to you mamas, even if a date night is not in your immediate future. Put in the effort, even if that means changing out of a spit-up laden shirt and yoga pants just 5 minutes before he comes in the door. It does matter, this is advice from a seasoned mama of 5 who looks her worst far more often then she does her best…
Go the extra step, put on the mascara....and if you really feel spicy…the wedges buried in the back of the closet too!
I am that mom. I could be seen as old fashioned, true, but I have my reasons. It is now summer in full swing, hot days, firefly nights, garden blooming, yard mowing summer. I want my kids bored. They cannot come to me and complain of boredom, that leads to work (ie if you are bored enough to tell mom about it you must need a chore to do). So, when the boredom comes (and I welcome it), just don't complain to mom. Now, let me clarify...
I have never been a mom that feels it necessary to completely fill my children's schedules with activities. Okay, maybe I did a little for the first child but I have since learned some valuable lessons.
We only allow our children to do one sport/activity at a time. (ie if you learn karate you are not also playing soccer during the same season). We want them to experience many activies, just not all at once. I believe in "down time" time to just be a kid. I know what a full packed schedule is like and it doesn't leave any time for...well you know...nothing.
Many of us make the mistake of believing that we want our children to have all of the experiences we did not have as children (I never took ballet so my first daughter was introduced at 4 years old...she wasn't a fan)
We want them INVOLVED we want them HAPPY we want them to learn an infinate number of skills. However, this often leads to a lack of quality time with family, siblings and again that nothing time I mentioned. We run to this practice, that team function, the store for new cleats, across town for that class, and we loose sight of one very important thing...down time. I also want clarification here...down time is not media time. My children will tell you I am vicious about avoiding media in the summer. I don't usually allow it before 7pm, hardly ever during the day, and no video games or computer if it is nice outside...Go.Outside! I have been known to tell my children to go outside and not come back in until lunch saving for bathroom and refreshment breaks. I told you...I am that mom.
Why in the world would I tout downtime and boredom as a desired experience for my precious gems? Because...it leads to greater things. It leads to dragon slaying from the tops of the 30ft pine tree, it leads to prairie living out of the back of a wagon parked in the bushes, it leads to building miniature landscapes from pebbles and peering into the world that may exist beneath the leaves at the base of a tree. Boredom leads to seeking mom out in the garden and asking about how she can tell the difference between weeds and plants, it leads to expirimenting in the kitchen and coming up with a new recipe, writing stories in a previously abandoned notebook, creating games that never exisited, forcing one to work with a sibling to figure out how to create something big.
Bottom line...nothing to do, and nowhere to go leads to... IMAGINATION. I was a child of the last times when you didn't have the immediate access of computers and gadgets. I survived, my whole generation did. We reminisce about long hot summer days with popsicles, sprinklers, tag wars, firefly lanterns, secret forts, rock collections, dandelion crowns, and BOREDOM. In that boredom imagination takes flight. You learn to create ideas from...well nothing. To engage your creative processes and figure something out...kick a can if you have to. Ask some old timer about that game.
When I was a child summer also seemed to go on forever. So long that when it was time for school, it was kind of welcomed as a structured setting once again. You looked back on the summer and it was a vast expanse of experiences and adventures and it seemed that it lasted forever. But, since our children today are growing up exponentially faster than most previous generations did, it doesn't last forever...but I want them to feel like it did. I want them to remember sticky hot summer lying around looking at cloud shapes, imagining new games (my kids made one up with a sprinkler under the trampoline and sports balls inside the trampoline) and dreaming new ideas.
I believe that this imagination that comes from boredom and nothingness will serve my children well later in life. They have created ideas that not been given them. When it is time to make a living, maybe they will be the quiet one behind the scenes coming up with a new innovation for how to make this or that work better. Maybe they will be leading at the forefront with groundbreaking plans for something big, maybe they will just be the mediators who help different sides see one and other's point of view.
But, I believe that what is created out of boredom will serve a purpose. At a bare minimum, maybe I will have created a space that my grandchildren will one day relish in, a space where you have to rely on creativity to save you because your mom made you go outside and play.
Like this one? Check out a few more that you may love...
This post was featured in Mary Jane's Farm Magazine 2016.
The downside of Efficiency
I pride myself on being able to be efficient. It is actually a matter of survival at this point because with a houseful of children and a husband to care for, as well as being the homeschooling mom, I have to be efficient. What this means is I am usually multitasking no matter what I am doing (teaching Spanish while simultaneously starting dinner and answering a text from hubby). Hubby has said he thinks I can sometimes get 48 hours worth of things done in 24, this isn't really the case. Though I have tried to figure out how to add more hours to my day, I haven’t figured that one out yet, which means that I better make the 24 that God gave me count, or I feel hopelessly behind.
When I look back on the career I had before I began staying at home with my children this efficient mindset was also a necessity. I was an investigative social worker for Child Protective Services and efficiency was paramount then as well. In many cases my ability to efficiently gather the information I needed quickly all while being hyper aware of my situation probably saved my tail. More then a few times as I had to go into some pretty dicey areas of town while doing sometimes dangerous investigations. I often worked alongside SWAT teams, Special Investigation Units and sometimes Homicide detectives too, their time was precious and I had to get in and get while performing a few critical tasks. I also had to compile hours of investigations into very concise reports that would later be used for court filings and prosecutors in criminal cases…you see how I had to be efficient?
Back to my current life. I find that there are areas that are time suckers for me and won’t allow me to function at my peak. Therefore, I try to avoid these traps. Television is one of these areas, I don’t have it and I don’t watch much on Netflix. Reading is a luxury that I love, but unfortunately don’t get much time to do in this season of life. Another example would be telephone conversations…for me these are a luxury. I love to talk to friends but I do find that with the wonderful chaos that is my life I usually do not have time to engage in fun chats with friends. I try to keep up with friends via quick texts to let them know I am thinking of them, a quick message on facebook to say hello, and the occasional call. However, I don’t typically make phone calls to friends (nor do I take them) during my day homeschooling or even in the afternoons as I am then preparing for my husband to come home and get dinner and evening activities rolling. I sometimes will try to fit a phone conversation in while I am driving as the children are all buckled and sometimes occupied, but then again there is a start and end to a car trip so I usually will preface with friends that I only have about 20 minutes to chat…you get the picture.
With all of this said, personal relationships are of utmost importance to me, as is my family. I do try very hard to make all of my connections know that I love and care for them, but as I found recently, I don’t always do a great job. I recently had a friend tell me that she did not feel that I valued her friendship because I was always so busy. She felt that when I answered my phone calls quickly and in a to the point fashion, I was not valuing her. She was not right about me not valuing her, but she was right that maybe I answer a bit abruptly when I am in the middle of something…and maybe I can have a little too much “get to the point” in my voice when I ask my friends “what’s up?” I guess that is my concise and efficient manner presenting its faults.
I am going to try to figure out how to systematically let the people in my life know that I do love and care for them and that they are of utmost value to me. I am going to try to go beyond just the occasional text or quick facebook message to find other ways to let my friends know that even though I don’t always have loads of time for them, they are exceedingly valuable to me.
So, lesson learned. Though efficiency can be an invaluable trait, I have to keep it in check and remember how I come across to others. So, friends and family of mine, be patient with me, I am trying to grow in this area.
We've lost our "Grit"
We’ve lost our “Grit”
As the temperatures plummeted last week into the single digits and then to the negative ones we ran into a bit of a problem. The night seemed extra chilly when I got up in the wee hours to feed the baby, but when my husband awoke very early for work he found the thermostat to be mocking him with a less than desirable number. He did what any good husband would do and he built a fire in the fireplace and began doing everything that he knew to get the house warm. We soon realized however that we had a serious problem. When it was time to get up and start school that morning we had been able to raise the temp from the low 40s in the house to just shy of 52. Not exactly comfortable in my book (in case I haven’t mentioned…I hate to be cold). Nonetheless, we began our morning in a bit of an unconventional manner by doing school right next to the fireplace.
It was here that I began to think of my grandmother. Grandma grew up in the country on a farm. Grandma has recounted numerous stories to me from her childhood on that farm, and I seem to remember that there was no heat and no indoor plumbing until she was nearly a young adult. She lived in the same state then as we do now, so I know there were some winters that were colder than others, and surely she too had to experience negative numbers on the thermometer. She survived. Therefore I had to almost laugh when several friends gasped at my being without a furnace and not evacuating my home. I’ve got this…I know how to make do. Grandma could do without heat and indoor plumbing; at least I have electricity, and indoor plumbing!
I began calling my friends and asking who had space heaters. I am prepared if the electricity should go out as I do have kerosene heaters and a fireplace, but to be honest those are last resort options for sole sources of heat. I love that I have an amazing church family and a number of friends responded with offers of small room heaters that they would lend us until we could get the furnace fixed. I then called the furnace guy and began trying to figure out how long we would have to use our “grit” and grassroots efforts of staying warm.
Here’s where it gets kind of interesting. When we had the furnace looked at, and an estimate given, I don’t think that the company realized they were not dealing with some desperate mama who would pay whatever the cost to get that heat fixed immediately, including blindly shelling out crazy amounts of cash without doing her research. Again, grandma never had heat; I can make do for at least as long as it takes to not get taken to the cleaners! When the estimates came in I think that there was a bit of dishonesty going on as the company just informed me that parts were not available any longer for my furnace and therefore I would need to get them to give me an estimate on a new system. Hmmmm. I think like I should do what I would do if I were told I had a medical situation requiring surgery, I would want a second opinion. To which I got one, and discovered that if I was willing to wait a few days that a part indeed could be ordered that would fix the heat and save thousands. Hmmmm. There’s my “grit” coming to the rescue.
So, what exactly do I mean by “We’ve lost our Grit?” As a whole, our society has forgotten that just 70 or 80 years ago, all of the luxuries that we take for granted were not readily available to all. I mean maybe your grandma had indoor plumbing and heat, but if she did, I bet your great grandma did not. It wasn’t a dire emergency if they could do without, so it isn’t a dire emergency if I am without… as long as I know how to make do. That is what most of the country is lacking, the knowledge of how to make do. When our hot water heater had to be repaired and we were without for a 2 day stint I had a number of friends ask why I didn’t just call a plumber and have it all replaced immediately putting the cost on a Lowes or Home Depot charge…Well, it’s because I know how to make do. That little part for the water heater cost us $13.00…Something those friends would have shelled out hundreds to have someone replace the entire unit for. In the meantime I know how to heat water on the stove and carry it to bathtubs to bathe, and I know how to heat water for washing dishes. That’s the grit.
I called grandma today as I was getting ready to write this post and I asked her about how they did stay warm when the temperature got really cold. Grandma told me that the farmhouse was a 2 story farmhouse that had bedrooms upstairs and the heat stove downstairs. She recounted that her mother would pile the upstairs beds high with blankets. Great grandma wanted her littles comfortable too so she would heat water bottles and put them in the beds so that when the children climbed in their spots were warm and they could then push the hot water bottles to the foot of the beds to keep their feet warm. I am told that the windows would sometimes frost on the inside because of the cold and if the wind was really wicked maybe even a stray snowflake or two would end up inside on the windowsill. I asked why they didn’t all just sleep next to the wood stove and grandma just said because there were no beds there, our beds were upstairs.
So, no complaints from me, we used the borrowed space heaters for bedrooms upstairs and slept under our down comforters with the upstairs temp staying around 65 degrees. We then just took the space heaters downstairs with us in the mornings and built a fire in the fireplace to warm the downstairs and keep the pipes from freezing. Not to mention, we don’t have to go outside to go to the outhouse…so, this mama can make do and wait for that furnace part to arrive…with “grit”.
I am a master of telling my husband it is his fault. I guess I should have been an attorney.
Just the other day we were joking around and I told him that the girl's bathroom sink was clogged up. I was unable to loosen the drain so I asked him to help. When he discovered that the culprit was a wad of hair, and he showed me, I told him that it was because he liked us all to have long hair that caused that. (smile) When he said, how is this my fault? I answered with, well technically the male chromosome determines the sex of the children born to a union...so, since you blessed me with girls, you have gunky drains (told you I was good!)
I put this little exchange up as kind of a joke, but, it is all too easy for us to respond to one and other in a negative fashion rather than a positive one. A few years ago I was reading through the book "Love Dare" after watching the movie "Fireproof" and I was admonished completely by just how often, if we truly are honest with ourselves, we are negative towards our spouses. I don't mean outrightly mean per se, but just negative. There is a part in the book the Love Dare that suggests going an entire day without saying one negative or complaining thing to your spouse...sounds easy enough right? Ummmm....maybe its just me but that would include simple things like "you don't ever leave me enough coffee"...(negative-complaint). "Why can't you just put the toilet seat down?" again...complaint. I mean to tell you that it is not an easy endeavor to go a whole day that way...I found that I wound up being a bit more quiet that day...hmmm....Never realized before that I could be so negative or complaining.
The world we live in will chew you up and spit you out as well as point out all of your shortcomings and flaws along the way. Our home is supposed to be our refuge and I for one want my hubby to want to come home to his refuge. I am speaking to myself here as well because it is very easy to be negative and much more difficult to be positive in all things, especially if you have been kept up all night by a fussy baby, you aren't feeling your best, or things just are not going well. It actually takes a concentrated effort. The amazing thing though is that during that day, the one where I was kinda quiet (lol) except for the positive things I had to say, hubby noticed. I did not tell him that I had read that in a book or even what I was trying out, but he noticed. That says to me that I need to be diligent in this area and when I feel the need to say something negative I either need to wrap it in love, or not say it.
We ladies all know we are good at arguing...some of us more than others. But, how much further do we get when we speak in love rather than in hasty anger? It is hard to not snap back at a hurtful comment made by our spouse but we also can oftentimes control a fight that is brewing. I can respond sharply to something that is said to me, I can begin to push buttons and start an argument that can quickly become a battle of the wills...or...I can speak in love, or not at all. No, I do not mean the silent treatment...that doesn't help either. But, I have the power to decide if I want to argue or not. It is very difficult to argue with someone who does not go tit-for-tat back and forth with you. Or, when hubby says something that irritates me, I can apologize for whatever it is rather than shoot back with a smart comment. My choice. Amazing the power we sometimes do not realize that we hold.
So, I dare you today...try it out...See if you can go the rest of the day without one negative or complaining thing. Speak in love, be the home refuge your spouse wants to come home to. You might just be surprised at the response you get...especially if you are usually the one to be the short fuse that instigates an argument.
What we gave up...
At the suggestion of a friend, I started reading a book yesterday entitled, Radical Homemakers. So far I can already tell that there are stark differences between the author's outlook and my own as I hold my worldview from a Christian standpoint and the author appears to be coming from a very worldy one. However, the author has already made some very good points that I do agree with. The author, Shannon Hayes, makes the statement that the majority of American households are consumers rather than producers. The majority of households give nothing back and produce little to nothing for themselves but instead "consume" or purchase and devour goods, services, items, foods, etc. There are very few households that produce enough of any one item to sustain themselves and/or others in the community. This was not the case just 50 years ago. People were in touch with the land they lived on as well as the products they used. They had a fostered sense of community through bartering systems (I'll trade you some fresh eggs for homemade bread) and they held dear those fostered relationships.
Pretty profound if you think about it. Especially in light of the posts I frequently write on how things were done in my grandmothers/great grandmother's day. A quote from the book that pretty much sums it all up is this, "Mainstream Americans have lost the simple domestic skills that would enable them to live an ecologically sensible life with a modest or low income." In other words, the skills that would allow for a family to survive and dare I say thrive, on one income in our materialistic driven society.
I believe we women made a mistake. We gave up some dearly held treasures in search of what I call "Bigger, Better, Faster." Women for years fought for more rights to be ascribed to ourselves and we won many of them. When the feminist movement began women wanted out of the home and into the world. Women, and girls now do firmly believe that you can be anything and anyone you want to be, and you can. But no one ever mentions the price at which that comes. I am not suggesting that there are not some positives that have come out of the feminist movements of the past. Women should not be second class citizens and be treated as such. But, we unwittingly bought into a lie with a consequence that we are constantly trying to rationalize. The lie? That we can be all things to all people, we can have a budding and successful career, live the American dream and it will not have any negative effects on the economy, our family, and our way of living. There are effects that are far reaching. We don't have the time to teach our children domestic skills, they have mostly been lost. Few people know how to can from thier gardens, make multiple meals from a roasted chicken, sew clothing or even how to just do without what you cannot afford.
We rationalize our need to work to "make ends meet" we have to have newer vehicles to get to work, we must go on vacations, we have to have cable television, smart phones, fashionable clothing. I can make all of these statements clearly because for the first 15 years of my marriage, I too bought that lie. To remain a middle class family we needed a dual income, or so I thought. Back then we had one, then two, then three children, two car payments, credit card bills to help buy the stuff we didn't have time to make/do for ourselves. On the outside it looked like we had it made, but we were struggling. I was struggling. I had a very successful career as a social worker and I had branched off into teaching after being certified by my state to provide ongoing education to social workers for their licensures. I was working full time, had a budding second career going, managed to make dinner for my family and work an opposite shift to avoid daycare for my children. What more could a mama want? To breathe...and have peace...and not be pulled in so many directions that one cannot give 100% to any one thing, but rather only provide degrees of ability in any one area. To not be so short fused that you feel ready to yell at the world at any given time.
The mistake we made when we women bought into the the feminist movement is that we gave up being the center of our family's world. Being the pin that holds it all together and keeps the calm, and enjoys the role. We gave up learning how to and teaching our daughters how to have domestic skills. We gave up knowing how to do without and how to make what we had work. I have to admit that had I been a stay at home mama from the beginning, I do not think I would have clearly understood this as I do now. But, I understand this to be fact after playing the role that society gives us. You know what? That role wasn't very much fun. Because, as most women will attest, just because you make a good living and have a successful career, you still have the other responsibilities of mothering, being a wife, maintaining a home and figuring out the grocery list. Oftentimes it also creates conflict in a marriage because as a woman working full time the argument then becomes, "I work just as hard as you do...you need to divide the household and childcare equally with me." Most men do not share this mindset which can often lead to arguments and burnout on the part of mom. So then we fall into the trap of "me" time...because when in the rush to have a successful career and mother and hold together a family to we actually have time to find ourselves? We don't.
Our family decided to put the brakes on and make a dramatic shift from chasing "Bigger, Better, Faster" to a simpler life. I would not go back for anything. When I look back at our incomes, we did very well for ourselves during those years that we were a dual income family, but there was so much we gave up that it just was not worth it. We are now doing life on one income, no cable, driving used cars with no payments, have added 2 more children (that's 5 if you are counting) and have moved out to a small farm that allows us to do more for ourselves.
By not being pulled into the mentality of feminism any longer, I find that I really enjoy the role of mother. It is not an oppressive role, not a downgraded one. We gave up the sense of family that comes with having a pin that holds it all together...but I have found that we can reclaim that role if we desire. It is not out of reach. I am learning as I go, I make mistakes, but I now have the ability to not give up my role as homemaker, mother and designer of the role that homemaker is in my generation.
I have not gotten past the second chapter yet, but I am anxious to keep reading, the author has nailed it on a couple of really good points. We gave up a lot, but we can take it back if we are willing to go against the grain.
I hate to be "schooled" by one of my children. What I mean by this is that sometimes the words that I so often echo to them come back to my own ears, and appropriately so.
The story starts last week. I had an old washer and dryer that were for the most part doing their job. When our washer went out about a year ago some dear friends gave us their old one to get us through, it was working well so we just kept on using it as we didn't want to go out and spend a bunch of money on a new one (and at the time didn't have the funds to do so). After saving up the money for the replacement we knew was going to be ineveitable, we thought we would just wait until the washer finally quit working to buy a new one. However, it was my dryer that went out on me. Not a biggie right? I do have a clothesline that I prefer to use anyway. As it went though when the dryer went out, I was already behind by several loads (when you have a family this size one day without a load of wash will put you in the rears!) Okay, so I will just wash and then hang to dry the clothes until we can find a dryer.
Not so much.... it rained off and on for the two days following the break down. So now I had a load of wash that had been completed but was unable to be dried (and trust me we took that thing-the dryer- apart and tried everything we knew to fix it). And hubby was working a few days in a row, really long shifts, so I had to wait for him to help me as I certainly cannot lift a dryer solo.
Okay, so 3 days have passed and I am desperate for a dryer (did I mention that laundry piles up fast around here?) Hubby and I searched craigs list and some other places as we do not use credit cards and do not want to go into debt for a washer and dryer but I did want a nice replacement set that matched. We found a set that we liked from a guy who re-builds washers and dryers and off we went. After making the purchase and heading home I have to admit I was pretty excited, I was now going to have a matching set of pretty appliances (the other ones were not from the same decades and were different colors to boot)
We got home moved all the appliances around and learned first that the new set were an extremely tight fit. We learned second that the washer did not work, some computer error message. So I had gone from having a working washer and broken dryer to a new broken washer and working dryer....grrr... We called the guy we made the purchase from and he ran over with a second washer to replace the first. It worked at the start of the cycle, but as it went through its wash cycle the computer board became more and more erratic until it dove into the spin cycle and sounded like a jet plane was landing in my kitchen! UGH!!! Oh, and did I mention that the dryer started to display an error message too? By this point I have to admit I was starting to stomp around the house in a bit of a temper tantrum and probably resembling my toddler more than I would like to admit.
That's when it came, the schooling. My 14 year old said, and I quote, "Mom, you still need to be thankful. You have water, you have a home, and we still have clothes to wear. Be thankful for all of that." She wasn't being a smart aleck, she was simply repeating the words she has so often heard me tell her. And, she's right.
So, there, I am choosing to be thankful. I am here whining and fussing about a washer and dryer, but there are mothers all over this world who don't even have enough food to eat. Mothers who dont have clean water for their children to drink and not even clothes for their children to wear and I and am whining like a spoiled brat.
Therefore I am choosing thankfulness. It is a choice. If I choose to focus on all of the things I am so very blessed with and thankful for, the things that are not going right begin to pale in comparison. I find that we have to make this choice often, to be thankful. We live in a world of entitlement and any other mother I would tell this story too would agree with my irritation and frustrations and tell me I was totally entitled to those feelings. But, am I really? I don't think I will dwell there. I think I will choose thankfullness. I will be able to get another set of appliances in a few days time and the man we purchased from promised to make things right. I am thankful we have the funds to purchase these appliances that save us so much time and labor. I am thankful I have all these dirty clothes piled up because they represent all the people in this home whom I love living out each day here with me. I am thankful I can heat up a cup of tea and go take a hot shower to start my day.
Even if I have to wear mismatched socks because most of my socks are still dirty.
Why We Homeschool
We are gearing up for our homeschool year to start so I thought this an appropriate topic. Let me start by saying that I NEVER had planned on homeschooling my children. No really, it was not in my plan. My oldest daughter and I laugh now because she had actually come to me when she was in 3rd grade and asked me to homeschool her. Do you know what my answer was back then? NO! I told my daughter that I had to work and could not homeschool her and that she probably really wouldn't like it anyway. Hmmm. Sounds much different then how we do things now.
Why did we make the switch? Most families that I knew who homeschooled just always knew that was what they wanted. Not me. One of my friends smirks when she reminds me that I actually told her (she homeschools) that there was NO WAY I could ever homeschool, I would probably die if I had to spend all day teaching my kids, I mean who has that kind of patience? But, when we came to the place where I had a child about to enter into middle school and who wasn't getting some of her academic needs met, not to mention that our family's moral values were in direct conflict with what was starting to happen in many peer groups, we decided we needed something different.
To be perfectly honest, though hubby and I knew we wanted something different, homeschooling was still not on MY radar. It was definately God's leading that caused us to make that choice. I know many people say that they know God has led them to do something but I know this to be true for our family because I resisted the calling for so long before I finally relented to what he was calling us to do. In other words, it was not my idea. That being said, I love it. I believe that my kids do most days too.
So, why do we homeschool? We homeschool because it affords the children we have to learn at their own pace. I have some who excel in certain areas and others who need a bit more work, but no teacher will be more invested in their learning and success than I will. No single teacher will read book after book on learning styles and teaching mannerisms to figure out what is the best approach to take with each of my children. This is not to say that teachers would not like to do that if they had the time, but the reality is that a teacher has a class of anywhere between 15-30 students. With that kind of class size you cannot tailor each lesson to each child's most optimium learning style. We also choose to homeschool from textbook curriculum, not computer based online school. I am that mom who still likes to limit media time.
We homeschool because we can be sure that our children are learning what we feel is important. When we learn history, we do not learn a watered down version that is politically correct. We read and learn about what really happened. We also can allow our children to learn concepts not taught in public schools any longer, like the simple fact that our country was founded upon Christian prinicpals and with Christian ideals. We can pause and go deeper into a subject if it really perks our children's interests. We can spend several days doing science experiements and art projects that may be too costly for a class to do but we have the time and resources to do.
We can do field trips to see and touch places rather than just reading about them in books. The most ironic thing about homeschooling is that I am learning just as much and more than my children are. And I already hold a bachelors degree! I found that history doesn't have to be boring, Math does not have to be totally incomprehensible, and life sciences can be really fun!
There are other things that were not initally reasons for homeschooling but are added perks. My children are very close. My teenager actually likes being around her siblings most days. My younger children play together and my toddler is included in everything. This benefits many areas. If my older children were in school 6 hours a day they would not have the relationship they do with their younger siblings because they just would not be around as much. Our family would not be as close because we would all be doing our own things and I would not be as in tune to what my children are learning and where they excel, and struggle as when I am the one responsible for teaching them. My children in turn are learning through life experiences. I remember taking a class in high school about child development and carrying around an egg to learn about responsibility and child care. My children can experience this every day hands on. The children learn cooking, budgeting, household management and responsibility through just daily living. We also incorporate learning into our everyday lives in such a way that it is seamless. We don't always need a textbook as we treat almost every opportunity as a learning experience.
There are challenges to homeschooling, not every day is a great day and I do not always do everything right. However, no teacher will be as invested in my children's success as I am, ever. No other teacher knows every aspect of my children's character, temperment and personality like I do, and no other teacher loves my children as much as I do.
What about the future? What about college? Am I worried my children will not get as good of an education at home as they would if I sent them to school? At first I was, but no longer. Standardized testing has shown that my children are excelling and their passion for and love of learning has demonstrated that we are on the right track. (Especially since this was not the case prior to our decision to homeschool) My oldest is currently enrolled in a community college earning dual credit (high school and college) for math classes she is taking. All of my children are excited about starting school and what kinds of things we are going to do/learn this year. I'd say that is a good start!
What is there to look forward to?
My first experience with this question came during my eldest daugther's kindergarden year. One of her friends was the first child I knew of to have a cell phone. In kindergarden. WHAT??? I didn't have my own cell phone until my first year of college, and even then it was for emergencies only. I have racked my brain and CANNOT think of any valid reason why someone feels their child needs a cell phone at 6 years old.
Next it was makeup. Yes, makeup. This was in 3rd grade. Again, why does my 8 year old need makeup? She has no blemishes to cover up, no under eye circles, she definately doesn't need mascara (hello racoon eyes!).
Then cheerleading, soccer, swimming, and any sports imaginable, mixed with art classes and ballet and whatever else may be of the child's desire or parents for that matter. But, all of the activites at once causing many of the 3rd and 4th graders we knew to not have time for play dates due to their ever busy schedules. We want cultured, athletic and highly intelligent children right? We spend our children's childhood whisking them from one activity to another leaving no time for learning to wait.
Towards the tail end of our intermingling with my children being public schooled (they are now homeschooled) it was coed parties. This was in 6th grade. I don't mean the kind of innocent coed parties where the kids play who can swing the highest while all the parents stand around and laugh, while supervising. I mean, the kind where as a parent you have to be sure that parents are supervising and not leaving the house during said parties...my children did not attend any of these.
The question begs to be asked...What is there to look forward to??? When I was a kid I looked forward to being 13, that was when I was allowed to start wearing makeup. I looked forward to being 16, that was when I was allowed to get my driver's license and also allowed to ride in the car with friends who had theirs. I looked forward to so many things that our children are already done with before they ever even move out of the 6th grade. If our children have already had the marjority of experiences that their parents had to wait until young adulthood to have, what's left?
I think its boredom...
Not the good kind of boredom mentioned in my earlier article here, but the kind that leads to apathy.
We are now living in a world where you don't have to wait for anything. In fact if you google something and the answer does not pop up in 1.2 seconds we get frustrated. If our cell phones break and we order new ones we expect overnight shipping and what do you mean its the weekend and it may take 2 whole days!?!?! We go to the U-scan at the grocery and feel irritation when the machine is too slow. We don't even bother to call others as it is easier and faster to just text message (yes, I am guilty of this one) We expect instant gratification and we will not be patient to wait for anything that takes time. We aren't doing such a good job of modeling good behavior to our younger generations when we can't wait either.
So what is there to look forward to if we have everything right now, if we do not have to wait for anything, if patience is never a virtue? I wonder if maybe we just need to slow down and create space for ourselves and our children to learn to wait for things, to look forward to things, and to have patience...
Wife to a wonderful husband, Daughter of the King, Mother of 6 (one with an xtra chromosome), and an incidental farm girl.