Monday, September 22, 2014

The Power of Nature

Walking the property with Lucky Dog.
 While the weather is still warm the kids and I are tryipng to send as much time outside as we possibly can.  After the historically long and cold winter we had here in Michigan last year I have been trying to be proactive in my preparations for this year.  I have experienced the healing benefits of time spent out of doors as well as the negative effects of going without time spent soaking in the sun and smelling the roses.  If I had to choose the number one bonus of living in the country it would have to be the abundance of nature available to us at all times.  This is in stark contrast to the nearly 20 year sentence I served in our previous, very urban, residence.  (No, city living is not for me.)

I was richly blessed in the realm of nature growing up, despite my lack of recognition or gratitude.  Even though I grew up in the city, my home had the feel of the country.  From the street you'd be none the wiser, but a short walk down the driveway opened up to a small sampling of the benefits of country living.  My mom grew up on a farm.  She always planted an AMAZING garden.  I grew up with home canned tomatoes, peaches, pears, and bread and butter pickles as well as an assortment of jams.  There was a small shed that looked like a barn, a raspberry patch, and several city lots worth of undeveloped woodland for tree climbing, fort building, and just plain exploring.  It was so much fun!  We had mature trees in our yard for lounging under on lazy summer days with a good book and a cold drink.  For a time we even had a couple of travel trailers for camping out at night.  (With a little black and white television for late night viewing of Benny Hill and Monty Python, probably the most risque thing on television at the time.  I'm still not sure if my mom knew we were watching those shows, or how much she would have even been bothered by it really.)

Now that we are raising another batch of children, I have tremendous gratitude for the location of our family home.  With all the emotional healing we have done over the past two years my appreciation has done nothing but multiply.  I can think of no better place to repair broken hearts, grieve lost dreams, and refresh mind and spirit than in the center of the quiet hum of nature.

So, how am I preparing to foster the love of nature within my children and nurture our connection to the out of doors during the winter freeze?  Here are some of my ideas:

The kids enjoying the sand table I plan
to convert for indoor use this winter.
1.  Clean out the sand and water table.  (You could also use a plastic sandbox.)  Stash it away inside.  Pull it out on one of those "cabin fever" kind of days, and fill it with dried beans and small toys.

2.  Keep the playdoh put away until winter settles in.  Use it for various activities on and off throughout the winter months like creating fossils with plastic animals, making nature impressions from items in our nature box, shaping animals and other critters, and general creative play.

3.  Fill the feeders, and make sure they are placed in convenient places to view from inside the house.  Keep a log of the birds we spot, and draw some of them in our nature journals.

4.  Gather items like leaves, twigs, flowers, and acorns for crafting.

5.  Track the weather throughout the winter watching the sky and reading books about the changing of seasons.

6.  Continue to take walks outside as the weather permits.  (Be willing to drop the day's plan to jump through the window of opportunity, especially after long periods of not being able to venture out.)

7.  Spend December learning about the history of Christmas and the true spirit of the season while crafting gifts to give to others.

8.  The very moment the opportunity presents itself, build snowmen.  (If you don't seize the moment, it will never happen.  Perfect packing snow does not fall according to my homschool schedule, ever.)

9.  Talk about fruits and vegetables, look at seed catalogs, and plan our garden for the spring.  Start some seeds.

10.  Keep track of events at the local nature center.  Participate in the activities, or just visit now and then.

Bella found a perfect walking stick
that she used during our walk and
discarded before returning home.
Here are some fun resources for further exploration:

I have TONS of resources on Pinterest

Family Education is always a good source of ideas.

Nature Detectives is a great site out of the UK.

Nature Rocks is a fun site with a search feature that you can customize to your own criteria; season, duration, location, age group, etc.

American Forest Foundation has some interesting ideas and resources.

Nature Explore has some fun resources for families as well as information about creating an outdoor classroom (One day!) and a free download for starting your own nature club.

Project Learning Tree is a great resource for using nature as education.

I hope these ideas and resources encourage you in making time in nature a priority for your family, whether you live in the city or the country or somewhere in between!

My current crew exploring our property.
Avery found a turkey feather!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rising to the Challenge

We are independent business owners.  My husband is the owner-operator of a small transmission business in Roseville, MI.  As most of you are aware, I am sure, the climate for small business owners has dramatically changed over the past few years.  It has become progressively challenging to generate a livable income, especially for automotive repair related businesses.  In the process of reevaluating our approach to marketing our business we have done a lot of brainstorming.  It all boils down to social media.  Our business is lacking presence in the most popular form of communication and sharing of information in today's online culture.  When is the last time you referred to your printed telephone book that gets dropped on your front step once a year?  Exactly!  (Mine goes directly to the burn barrel.)

Acknowledging our lack of online presence, coupled with our lack of knowledge in the most efficient approach to generating this online presence, we contacted a friend in the business; the marketing business.  We hired Fusion Marketing to help us make this transition from paper to technology a more smooth one.  Part of the process will include writing short articles about our line of business to be published in relation to our business; AKA content.  We have discussed the generation of content several times.  The fact that I could write content if only he told me what subjects to write about came up once again.

Now enter the challenge!

My husband challenged me to write 150 words or more on the subject of transmission coolers, something I know nothing about.  What do you think?  Did I rise to the challenge?

Here is the article I wrote:

Keep it Cool – Extending the Life of Your Transmission

Is your vehicle a workhorse?  Do you frequently tow heavy loads?  Are you aware of just what the role of your transmission is in the performance of your vehicle?  The job of the transmission is to regulate the RPM’s (Rotations Per Minute) produced by your engine and transmit the power created by those RPM’s to the drive wheels.  In the process of regulating and transmitting this energy the transmission relies of transmission fluid (a slippery, oil-like fluid) to help keep it cool.  When a vehicle works extra hard temperatures can exceed the maximum range of 160-200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Extremely hot temperatures can cause the fluid to burn and even damage the moving parts of the transmission resulting in the need for costly repairs.

Installing a transmission cooler can help protect against the overheating of your transmission, help your transmission to last longer, and even possibly prevent the need for you to pay for costly repairs.  Much goes into choosing the proper cooler for your vehicle.  Your transmission technician can help you determine which cooler will be most beneficial for your vehicle based on specific criteria like the weight of your vehicle, the weight of your cargo, and the weight of your trailer as well as where you most often travel with your vehicle while towing all that weight around.

In addition to the above considerations, your transmission technician will also determine the proper placement of your transmission cooler.  The engine housing does not provide a specific compartment for the transmission cooler, but proper placement is key in gaining the most benefit from the installation of the cooler.  Heavy airflow is required as well as protection from rocks and other projectiles that may be launched up from the road surface.  Proper inlet and outlet hoses also must be installed carefully as to avoid contact with hot surfaces as well as moving parts.

With over 30 years of experience the transmission professionals at Royal Transmission, LLC will gladly discuss your specific needs and help you make sure your transmission is properly cooled in order to prevent inconvenient interruptions to your work day and avoid costly repairs.  You can contact them at 586-776-4470 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to arrange an appointment for your transmission check-up.


379 Words - Mission accomplished!

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Student Logbook Review

My Student Logbook Review
My Student Logbook has created a versatile, adaptable, and easy to use system for homeschool families to teach their children to track their individual progress.  The system was born out of the frustration of a real life homeschool mom anticipating the birth of her seventh child.  With a little inspiration from a tried and failed system, and the assistance of a loving husband, My Student Logbook was born.  Harmony is thoroughly enjoying using her Undated Student Logbook this school year.

At first, I was a little apprehensive about Harmony using a logbook to track her school year independently.  She is nine, falling nicely into the second grade and up intended user age range, and not used to this level of accountability.  I didn't tell her we were getting it, and decided to surprise her with it one morning after breakfast.  We received Harmony's undated logbook with the Butterflies cover quite some time before we were actually beginning our new school routine.  So, I chose to use it just for her daily household responsibilities as a way to help her learn to use the logbook and get used to the accountability of record keeping in a more relaxed manner.  She was SO excited!  Seriously.  I am not kidding.  I know.  I was a little surprised myself.  I mean, I thought she'd use it okay, and she may even enjoy it, but excited?  Really?  Yes.  EXCITED!  In fact, last week, when she found out I would be writing the review soon, she told me, "Make sure you tell them I love it!"  The passion has not waned even as we continue to use it for our school year.  It may be, at least partially, that she can use it to keep me on track.  "Nana, we still need to do Spelling!"  What child doesn't like reminding their parent of something they forgot?  Oddly enough, I have never heard, "Nana, I forgot to clean the rabbit cage!"  (Insert smirk here.)


My Student Logbook Review

Currently, Harmony is using her logbook to keep track of her school activity as well as her household responsibilities.  I LOVE that I don't have to write everything down ALL-THE-TIME anymore!  At the start of each week I flip the page, tuck it under her list, and write the date at the top.  That's it!  No more list making.  No more forgetting things.  No more pressure.  It's one less thing I have to think about, and that my friends is a VERY beautiful thing!  Since we don't order our day by increments of time, rather a routine of activities,  I use the "time" column to put which day she is to do the task.  For example, We do Bible and Devotion every day, so I write M-F.  However, we do our Nature Journal on Fridays only, so I simply write F.  This lets her know in a simple fashion what she is to be doing each day.  It works wonderfully for the both of us, and I don't anticipate needing to make any changes to our routine until January of next year.  That means we will have used a list that I wrote one time for FOUR MONTHS.  (Que triumphant music here.)


My Student Logbook Review

Myself, I am very excited about the implications of using My Student Logbook over the long haul.  One of the goals of our family is to teach our children to be independent and self-driven.  This tool fits perfectly.  Over time Harmony, as well as Bella and Avery when they're older, will learn to hold themselves accountable and keep track of their progress.  The "little extras" round out the logbook nicely.  I love the pages tucked neatly in the back.  What child, young or old, doesn't like to fill out an "All About Me" page?  (Not to mention the pages to list your prayers and goals, the bible verses they've memorized, the books they've read, field trips and other activities, test records, and highlights of the year.)  Way, way, way down the road it will also come in handy when it's time for me to write their high school transcripts.  So much potential in such a little package!

My Student Logbook is available for $15 in 2014-15 School Year, 2015 Calendar Year, and Undated versions.  A PDF instant downloads are available for $10 - $20 depending on the download chosen.

To learn more about My Student Logbook visit them on Facebook or check them out on YouTube.



Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The 7 Minute Life - A Review

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
On August 14th I sat down with my The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner by the time management company The 7 Minute Life.  I did a quick review of my current priorities and began working toward discovering my purpose.  I enjoy reviewing time and again what my strengths are and putting that knowledge to work in my life.  Sadly, it had been much too long since I took the time to do any real reflection of self.  Sometimes all it takes is a quick, personal inventory of self to set us back on track with our use of time and our direction in life.  The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is a wonderful tool for guiding you through this process, putting what you learn to work, and leading you using baby steps in everyday life to actively work toward life goals, both large and small.


7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

The timing of The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner in my life was perfect.  It's objective is to teach you how and assist you in a course of action which uses the method prioritize, organize, and simplify.  This was VERY encouraging to me.  I learned that I have taken great strides in these very areas in my life all on my own, and I hadn't even realized it.  Woohoo!  As I delved into the personal inventory tasks in the beginning of the planner I found that it was extremely challenging to create the different lists.  It's not that the tasks are challenging in and of themselves.  I am just short on items to list.  In previous years I would have found this no challenge at all.  In fact it would have been more likely that I ran out of lines on the page than struggle to fill them.  How refreshing!


7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

Since I do not work outside of the home or even run a from home business, at least not at the moment, I used the areas that reference work items to reflect my work as a homeschool mom.  Again, perfect timing as I was preparing to begin structuring our new routine for the 2014-15 school year.  I do use a wonderful homeschool planner, but having The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is a blessing in that I can set personal goals and track items that pertain more to me personally; whereas doing so in my homeschool planner would have been cumbersome and truly rather impossible.  Having a personal planner with such a specific purpose allows me to really keep on track each day.  Although I am easily able to adjust this planner to fit my personal needs I can see its more inherent value to a mom (or dad for that matter), especially a homeschool parent, that either works outside the home or runs an at home business.  There is such a treasure trove of resources both inside the planner and online that owning this planner puts you in a position to actively achieve the goals you set for yourself, both large and small.  It can be applied to a homeschool, family, business, or personal venture.  Everything fits within the pages; goal setting and tracking, personal inventory, business contacts, home repair contacts, financial goals, life goals, and daily accountability to self, even in diet and finances, plus much more.


7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

Over the past month I have been actively using the Daily Progress Report in The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner.  Praise God, I rarely need to contact one or two people in a day, never mind the 25 for which space is given.  Instead, I track my progress with homeschool related tasks.  I love the "What I will do...5 before 11" section right at the top of the page.  This really keeps me focused and on track,  The "Unfinished Tasks" is encouraging rather than stressful, as I first thought it would be.  Keeping my most important unfinished tasks in sight each day reminds me of what is most important, takes off the pressure, and encourages me when I get to check it off; no matter if it is today or a week from now, or even longer.  Having it listed as unfinished is perfect in keeping perspective and reminding me of something I could work on when the odd opportunity presents itself.  The unfinished task is right where it belongs.  No pressure!  I also love the small section at the bottom of the page where I list what money, if any, I spent that day.  It gives me a tangible resource for tracking my spending and keeping a tighter eye on my finances.  Also, I can either record my meals or plan them at the very bottom of the page along with tracking my water intake, sleep, exercise (theoretically, of course), and time spent in reflection and reading.  It also holds me accountable by providing two boxes, one labeled yes and one no, for me to check as to whether or not I accomplished what I set out to do that particular day.  Full accountability on one small page!

The facing page provides places for the days appointments, voice mail records, thank you notes to send, and a generous portion of the page is dedicated to allowing you to write down whatever notes you may desire or need to record.  This feature will surely come in handy whenever I am working on a project that involves some serious planning, and I'm sure you can see how it would be an asset to someone otherwise employed.

In addition to the $24.97 printed copy there are several other options available through The 7 Minute Life including a downloadable version, strategy tools, online community, live training, and much more.  This online video explains more about The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner and how it works.  You can learn even more by visiting them online and checking them out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and YouTube.


Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Learning Lessons Along the Way



The simple act of living life brings many a lesson along the way.  No institutional education can even come close to doling out the important lessons we experience in actively, or even inactively for that matter, living our lives.  Lord knows I've learned some real lessons the really hard way.  For many years it seemed, at least it felt that way, that I learned EVERYTHING the hard way, and often the really hard way.  Profound and life altering lessons like the value of purity, the sanctity of marriage, the importance of honesty and integrity, the value of friendship, and the tremendous value of family.

Thankfully, those lessons are behind me, and praise God I learned from them; some quicker than others in all truthfulness.  From there I graduated to the next level of lessons including the fact that things rarely ever go as we plan them.  Life will throw us quick and fast curve balls that will test our faith and challenge our endurance.  A time, or two or ten, will come where we will NEED to sink or swim.  We will tire, rest, recharge, and kick back into high gear.  As long as we have faith we truly CAN see anything, anything, through to the other side.

Lately, I have been reflecting a lot.  I rather enjoy it.  Yes, my life has been pummeled by round after round of challenges.  Sometimes it feels like I've barely caught my breath from the last circumstance, and there's already another huge challenge coming through my front door.  More than once I've felt there was no way I could withstand another hurdle.  "It's just TOO MUCH!", I would cry out.  "I cannot take ANYMORE!"  Then the peace would come.  Just when I reached the brink a glimmer of light would appear on the horizon, and there would be hope (no matter how small) that indeed I could see things through to the other side.

When I look back at the whopper challenges I have faced and seen through, the things I am facing today pale in comparison.  On my worst days I am reminded that I have faced far worse in the past and made it through, and no matter how bad things are they could ALWAYS, always, be worse.  And, Heaven forbid, there are likely worse days to come.  With the reality of circumstance in mind I have become much better at living in the here and now, and handing what lies ahead over to the Lord;  plain and simple, and sometimes as complicated, as it may be.

When I live consciously in the present I focus on what is most important now, and my energy sustains what is necessary.  There is no wasted energy and emotion spent on what has been or what could  be.  All of my valuable, more now than ever, energy is spent on what's most important, the present.  This has been becoming more and more clear to me as each day passes.

These past few weeks have seen me aggressively putting a concerted effort into planning our 2014-15 school year.  It has been a monumental task that was nearly all consuming.  At first I lamented its necessity.  Then I beat myself up for waiting so long to begin planning.  After a little reflection and some encouragement from fellow homeschooling moms I was reminded that this is my first year using this approach to educating my children in many years.  I didn't wait, I just figured out what we are doing and started preparations accordingly.  It has been a tremendous learning curve for ME, and that is perfectly fine and acceptable.  It's all good!  No worries.  Learn the lesson, and move on.  My lessons learned about planning the upcoming school year, so far and for me, are:

1.  Know ahead of time at least the "skeleton" of what you will be studying for the following year. Have a long term plan.

2.  Know your mission statement, and refer to it often.

3.  Cut yourself A LOT of slack.

4.  Purchase any curriculum and needed materials in the spring.  (April and May host my favorite homeschool conventions, and they are perfect resources.)

5.  Spend the summer planning the following year instead of cramming it all in just a few weeks before your scheduled start date.

6.  Purchase two workbooks.  It's cheaper financially and in regard to time spent making copies.  Seriously, just buy two workbooks!

7.  Just because September seems like a good time to start the new school year doesn't mean that it is.  Follow the crop schedule, put up food, and start school in October.

8.  Purchase extra erasers for use during planning.  You WILL do A LOT of erasing!

9.  Keep a running list of needed materials or resources that you discover as you actively plan your year.

10.  Trade childcare with a friend when you need large chunks of time to concentrate.  It's impressive, really impressive, what you can accomplish with five hours of uninterrupted time to work.  Really, it is VERY impressive.

11.  Notebooks are a beautiful thing.  Buy extra.

12.  Crayons disappear like magic.  Buy extra.

13.  It's worth it to buy a full case of copy paper.

14.  Be cautious when purchasing re-manufactured ink cartridges.

15.  It will never be a fully perfect plan.  Life will interrupt living.  Start on your planned start date, anyway.  There is no perfect time.

While my focus has been on planning the 2014-15 school year for my family and learning to live with a less than tidy home I have been afforded the opportunity to see life, my life, a little more clearly in the process.  Even when living seems overshadowed by tragedy and turmoil, blessings persist.  Where I choose to put my focus is up to me; another facet of free choice granted to me by my Creator.  

The Beginning of Knowledge
Proverbs 1:1-7

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 

To know wisdom and instruction, 
to understand words of insight, 
to receive instruction in wise dealing, 
in righteousness, justice, and equity; 
to give prudence to the simple, 
knowledge and discretion to the youth— 
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, 
and the one who understands obtain guidance, 
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...