Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Friday, May 09, 2014

I Love John Rosemond!

Okay, I love my husband a lot more, and love might be too strong of a word, but I do have a great respect for Dr. Rosemond.  He is a breath of fresh air to this couple right here.  We both enjoyed listening to him very much at the GHC convention in Cincinnati.  I thought it might be fun to revisit my notes and share with you what I learned.

Dr. Rosemond is very easy to listen to.  He is matter of fact and quite funny.  At the end of each seminar he left us wanting more; not that his talk was missing anything, just that he was that enjoyable to listen to.  My husband and I both agreed that we could have listened to him well into the night.

We feel challenged by the ideas of Dr. Rosemond.  His insight is well founded and spot on.  With his help, we traveled back several decades to the 1950's, and beyond, where he reminded us of the parenting styles of our mothers and grandmothers.  One thought that stuck with me is, "My mother expected me to pay attention to her."  Why, yes.  Yes she did!  His charge is that today's mother pays too much attention to her children, and that attention has profoundly negative effects on the very children we are so desperately trying to positively influence.

Based on his education in psychology and his own experience as a parent, Dr. Rosemond contends that this parental shift of sorts happened in the 1960's when parents quit listening to and learning from their elders in regard to parenting their own children.  Rather, they started listening to the flawed advice of psychologists and so called professionals.  From that point forward the behavior of our children has disintegrated, and our stress level has sky rocketed.  Today's mom has the bar raised so high that she can never achieve the standards she's set for herself, but she wears herself out to no end trying.  I have to admit my guilt in this one.  I have tortured myself day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and even decade after decade trying so desperately to learn the best way to parent my children without messing them up too much.  What a daunting task it has been at times!



Dr. Rosemond contends that today's mother works much harder than the mothers of decades past while she raises half the children her grandmother did.  It's really ridiculous if you stop and think about it, and think about it I have.  My husband and I had already been pondering some of these things.  We just hadn't found our way quite to the level Dr. Rosemond took us.  One thing that always bothered me was the level of effort we put forth to extract obedience from our children; never mind the multitudes of failures in this department over the years.  I had already been discussing this with my husband.  Don't get me wrong.  I wasn't a perfect kid.  I made some terrible mistakes growing up, but for the most part I did what I was told when I was asked to do something.  My mom didn't have to fight with me to do my part around the house.  I knew what was expected, and I did it.  There were no chore charts, no allowance, and rarely a remind.  She never had to correct how I folded the towels or go behind me because I missed the corners when I dusted.  There was no reminder to put the milk back in the refrigerator, and she didn't have to remove something from the cupboard due to me putting it in the wrong place.  It didn't happen.  I was taught how to do things right and to do it right the first time.  There were no battles.  I've never been able to understand why I wasn't able to pull that level of efficiency off with our own children.  I always chalked it up to being a combined family.  Now, I would have to say that would be incorrect.

Another thing that really stood out to me is the point Dr. Rosemond made about his mom spending time with her friends and what they did, or didn't, talk about.  He shared that he had asked his mother what she used to talk about with her girlfriends when he was a kid.  Guess what?  It was everything BUT him!  I know I have personally spent a lot of time talking with trusted individuals about my parenting challenges over the years.  Moms of the past did no such thing.  They didn't talk about their children.  Instead, the talked about their interests and how they were spending their time.  They were INTERESTING!  Are you interesting?  I know I am not so interesting, and it has been a struggle of my heart.  I have been frustrated very much in this department for quite some time.  I am so wrapped up in my children that there is NO time for ME.  I have felt lost in parenthood for many years now.  A couple of years ago I was just glimpsing the illusion of freedom, and it did feel good, then we became parents of three instead of one.  (For those of you that are unfamiliar, we had already raised seven children when we adopted one more.  Then, we also became parents to two of our grandchildren unexpectedly.  Vacation over!  LOL)  I say illusion, because I really didn't know that I was my own gate keeper.

This idea ties into another area of discussion between the husband and myself, freedom for the kids.  Dr. Rosemond hit on this as well.  Kids NEED time that is unstructured.  In today's society we are SO structured with an abundance of activities.  We cart kids from one thing to the next, and they rarely have time all to themselves.  One thing I have known for a long time is that kids actually NEED to get bored.  Boredom does breed creativity.  My conclusion?  If we actually allow our children unstructured time to explore, play, and just be children, then we mothers will have plenty of time to explore, play, and just be ourselves.  We can take off our hats and truly be who we are.  We CAN be interesting!  We do not need to be so wrapped up in the lives of our children that we cannot do anything relevant to ourselves.  Seriously!  If we do not make it a point to be interesting and be MORE than mothers to our children our children WILL view us as dispensers of entitlements.  This, dear friend, is a fact.  I have seen it plain and simple in our family as well as the families of those near and dear to my heart.

How do you feel when I make this statement?  "Children should be seen, and not heard."  It used to ruffle my feathers.  Now, I view it in a totally different light.  I love including children in conversation, but there is a distinct line that has been muddied over the decades of degradation.  Though the aforementioned statement may seem blunt and harsh to we parents of today, there is a value in the philosophy that has been going right over our heads.  It may be even more relevant to those of us that are homeschoolers.  When children are "seen, and not heard" they are cast in the role of the student.  The distinction between adult and child becomes clear, and children are effectively taught to become adults.

We, my husband I, are still learning how to be effective parents in our home.  Raising seven children in the circumstances that we did taught us a lot.  It laid the foundation for us to be capable of raising the children currently in our charge.  Our hearts and minds have never been more open to the prompting of God, especially with regard to the care and keeping of children.  I know what I have shared my strike a nerve with some of you.  However, when I am completely honest with myself I am acutely aware of the way things have degraded within our society.  I believe in the Biblical principles as the foundation for family, and I am constantly working toward understanding what the Bible has to say and how to apply it to my life.  I long for a self-sufficient life for my children based on Godly principles and Biblical virtues.  With this in mind I will continue to educate myself, keep my heart open to the prompting of God, and share with others what I learn along the way.  Over the coming months I will continue to share on this and related subjects.  I hope the things God has put on my heart with challenge your thinking as well as encourage you along your own personal journey with your Creator, your family, yourself, and your community.







Tuesday, April 29, 2014

GHC Cincinnati

How exciting!

My hubby and I took a five hour road trip to Cincinnati for the annual Great Homeschool Conference for the first time ever.  It was amazing!  We met wonderful people, swam in a sea of homeschoolers, and sat at the feet of some very wise leaders.  The weekend culminated with some very conflicting emotions.  We felt educated, informed, challenged, saddened, depressed, inspired, and empowered.

With well over 300 sessions to choose from, the choice wasn't quite clear at first where we wanted to focus our time and energy.  However, I did manage to find an hour or so before we left on our journey to spend developing a game plan.  There were a couple of tough calls, but overall we were quite happy with our selections.  I feel very sure that we did use our time wisely.

Our favorite speaker was Dr. John Rosemond.  We both enjoyed his sessions very much.  So much so that we attended three of them, and purchased an arm load of his materials as gifts.  He is certain to be the guiding angel perched on our shoulders as we lead our third batch of children into adulthood.  If it were possible to have a pocket psychologist, Dr. Rosemond would be my first choice.  Would it make sense to you if I said his teaching is both traditional and revolutionary?  We found him very refreshing and could have easily listened to him speak for hours without complaint.

Another highlight for us was listening to and meeting Spunky Homeschool.  If you've not heard of her before, you simply must check out her website and her Facebook page.  Spunky is a dedicated freedom fighter when it comes to educating the general public about the Common Core, and she is a LOUD voice in Lansing working diligently to protect our right to educate our children in total freedom.  Spunky Homeschool is a wonderful resource whether you are just now learning about the Common Core and wondering whether or not you should be concerned, or you know where you stand and want to be further educated and even get involved on some level.  I strongly urge you to educate yourself on Common Core.  Here is the perfect place to start.

Part of the trip I really enjoyed that I hadn't anticipated was just being in Cincinnati and hanging out.  It was so different than going to Detroit, my only real big city reference point.  The city was clean.  The people were friendly.  There were SO MANY people of SO MANY cultures out and about doing all kinds of different things.  It was warm and beautiful, both the city and the people.  I traveled a little down memory lane going there, too.  Cincinnati was one of my favorite vacations with my dad when I was a kid.  He liked to surprise us, and just wake us up early in the morning and tell us to pack a bag because we were going on a vacation.  I had forgotten the carriage ride around the city until I saw the horses lined up downtown.  The only real difference I noticed is that all the carriage drivers were women.  I thought that was pretty cool.

Take it from me.  Make sure you get registered before the special rate deadline expires for lodging.  We waited until just a week before the conference to decide for sure that we were going.  By then the lodging discount had expired, and all the hotels near the hall were booked solid.  So, we went across the river to Newport, Kentucky, which is another fun city.  However, the Travelodge we stayed at?  Not so fun!  I highly recommend never staying there.  It could have been worse, and we made the best of it, but The Millenium or the Hyatt would have been so much more sweet.  Lesson learned!

Never in my life have I ever seen so many homeschoolers in one location.  There were thousands of parents, children, grandparents, and friends of homeschoolers present under one roof for nearly 12 hours a day, three days in a row.  It was an amazing feeling and wonderful sight to see.  The people that worked at the convention center were beautiful, kind, helpful, friendly, and completely hospitable.  It really is a well oiled machine.

Miraculously enough, I exercised great restraint and kept my spending to a minimum.  I've recently made the commitment to get my thousands of books organized in a useful fashion, know what I have, and use it to the utmost.  I've targeted the weak areas in my collection and purchased a few books to fill the gap and prepare us for the next stage of the plan.  It was funny to me that my husband actually asked me several times if I wanted to go back to the vendor hall.  That was all the confirmation I needed to know for sure that I had indeed kept my purchasing on the conservative side.  Normally he's trying to walk me away from books for sale, not toward them!

This is less than half of the vendor area!

The main speaker to wrap up the weekend was Dr. Ben Carson.  One word:  AMAZING!  We absolutely LOVED hearing him speak.  Neither of us were much more familiar with him than knowing his story from the movie Gifted Hands.  Dr. Carson was an inspiration.  He is anything but politically correct, which he did disclaimer, but for me his lack of political correctness was refreshing and made me like him all the more.  He spoke from the heart with passion, reverence, and conviction.  His challenge?  Dedicate a half hour per day learning something new.  My plan?  Learn who all of my state representatives are, what they stand for, and their voting record.  By the next election, I WILL be a fully informed voter!

If you have never been to the Great Homeschool Convention, no matter your spot in the journey of homeschooling, you simply must work it into your plans.  It is an annual affair held in four locations across the United States and Canada.  Just be sure to take advantage of the early bird specials, and hotel discounts by getting registered early.  Trust me.  It's worth it!




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Focus on What Matters

Anyone that has poked around The Zoo Crew, even the slightest little bit, surely has discovered that we are living a life a little less ordinary.  Life has a way of catching us off guard, turning us on our heels, and sending us in a whole different and unexpected direction.  I am not saying this is bad, per say.  It does however pose some challenges.  As the years have gone by we have learned more and more how to respond more effectively and transition more quickly to our new found place in life.

I have learned to pray more; more often, more fervently, and more specifically.  Life is SO MUCH easier when I start my day with prayer and bible study.  It is AMAZING the difference this one act can make on the quality of my day.  Beginning in prayer sets the tone for the day, and it centers my focus.  I am more conscious of my purpose and much more aware of what is truly important.

Listen to my words, Lordconsider my lament
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
 
 Psalms 5:1-3

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  
 Phillipians 4:6-7

Our newest transition involves two beautiful girls and a headfirst dive back into active homeschooling.  We have learned some things along the way, and we are working on making a safe and stable home for the entire family.  This means some trial and error has taken place, and we have had to learn a new way of living.  One thing that we do is to begin and end our day with biblical focus.  The kids love it, and it brings us together as a family.  So, not only am I beginning my day in the bible, but the children are as well.

Currently, we are reading the book of Luke.  We have traveled our way through the Old Testament over the last year, learning lessons through our previous curriculum. We loved it and look forward to more in depth study in the future.  Now, we are beginning the day with me reading an entire book from the bible.  Then Harmony reads aloud a complementary bit from another source reinforcing what we just read and helping her to grasp the scripture more fully.  All of the kids enjoy this part of our day, and it sets a nice tone.

I share this with you to demonstrate that we are focusing on what is important and cutting a lot of slack in other areas.  The biggest lesson that I have learned is that there are seasons in all of our lives, and the areas of most importance change with those seasons.  Through it all our foundation, our relationship with Christ, holds the highest importance.  It matters not if we travel the valley, climb the hills, or rest on a plateau.  Our connection with Christ is our life force.  It is our purpose; our guiding light.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: 
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
- Ephesians 6:4

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, 
but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- Mark 10:45

For our family it has become essential to get back to the basics, find our center, and focus on the core.  Your basics, your center, and your core are very likely different than ours.  What it means for us now, during this season of our lives, is to slow down and focus on the basics.  We are learning to lean on Christ, respect ourselves and others, and to live life with an others focus instead of a self focus.  It is more challenging than you might think.

What does this mean for our family?

Aside from putting Christ first in our daily lives, each day we keep the same "schedule".  This means we try to have the same flow throughout each day.  The exact time on the clock may not be the same, but the order in which we do things is consistent.  This fosters a sense of security and stability for the kids, and it is remarkable the effect it has on their behavior.  This becomes completely evident when we stray from it too long!

You see?  I am really not a schedule person.  I am a total unschooler at heart, and I LOVE freedom!  However, the most important thing in the happiness, well being, and educating of my children is by far for me to maintain a consistent schedule.  This means 24/7, even on Sabbath!  UGH!  I do it kicking and screaming all the way, but each time I get too "relaxed" with my approach I am quickly reminded of the error of my ways.  So, we keep a schedule of sorts, and the kids thrive in knowing what to expect next.  

He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand, 
but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
- Proverbs 10:4

In regard to "academics" I have also discovered that there is a season for things of a school nature as well.  We follow a basic outline, but it changes greatly based on our current circumstances, the needs and desires of our children, and even the weather.  Yes, the weather!  Life is seasonal, and learning is life.  So, it makes perfect sense that what we learn flows with the seasons.  I am excited for spring this year for possibly the first time ever.  We are on land now, and we have young children, and this winter was C-O-L-D.  We have projects waiting to be done, and we have children desperate to be outside.  This year will be my first year purchasing rain coats.  We will be outside rain or shine, as long as it is warm enough, all spring, summer, and fall for the first time ever in my life.  The land will not wait for us.  It will do its thing whether or not we are outside and active, so if we want to achieve the plans we have we need to work diligently.

In academics, now is a time for us to explore writing, reading, and math with excitement and interest, not drudgery.  I strive to create an environment rich with opportunity for learning in order to foster natural curiosity and interest.  So far, so good.  The difference is that we are fitting these core subjects in AROUND the things that foster character and family bonding.  Things like cooking, household responsibilities, playing games and doing puzzles, free play, writing to friends and family, doing kind deeds, and being helpful.

Trust me.  There was a time when I could not have approached life in this manner.  I was too busy washing the dishes and folding laundry to focus on the character building opportunity before me with my children.  Our unique circumstances have fostered a new desire for this batch of children currently in my charge.  I am more concerned about their heart, their soul, and their spirit.  I recognize that all those other things, the academics, will come in their own time, naturally.  They need not be forced, and it is all learning, all connected, and all important.  Sometimes we just need to adjust our focus.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Freedom in Definition

Recently I learned that I fit into a category.  Typically I am not one for labels, but I did find this a bit interesting; even a little freeing to a certain extent.  Never in a million years could I have ever imagined all the drastic twists and turns I would travel through traversing the road of my life.  I especially could have never begun to guess that there would even be a few corkscrews along the way.  Who knew, right?

Years ago I looked forward to this stage of my life with great anticipation.  It was going to be a time to reclaim my childhood.  I would explore what it truly meant to be me.  Maybe I would volunteer full-time for a local organization I wholeheartedly believed in.  Maybe I would continue my education.  I've always wanted to learn photography "for real".  Surely I would have plenty of time to really invest in my relationship with each of my grandchildren.

The first hairpin turn was our decision to adopt.  Okay. So we're raising one kid all on his own.  So what?   We raised seven already.  What's one?  It was like a vacation those first couple years; a breath of fresh air.  Then, the best fur buddy I ever had died, we moved, and we started becoming aware that things were going to dramatically change again.

Suddenly the track shot up, the cars turned upside down, and we pulled out the other side with two more children in our car.  This meant lots of changes, big emotions, and slow adjustments for everyone.  Our slow acclimation to becoming a homeschooling family again quickly turned into a quick dive into the deep waters head first.  The water was cold and shocking, but you know the story.  We adjusted.

I have never been a traditional homeschooler.  For a while I considered myself very much an unschooler.  This time around it seemed smartest to implement a full curriculum.  We started our fully anticipating using this curriculum through graduation.  It's perfect, covers everything important to us, and takes a huge load off of my shoulders in the planning department.  As the completion of this first year started to come into view on the horizon I prepared to purchase the next level.  Well, I hesitated.  I read what was next, and I just wasn't so sure we really needed to do it that way anymore.  You see, my favorite aspect of homeschooling is FREEDOM.  I LOVE IT!!!

Spring is coming.  There is so much for us to learn together.  We will be starting seeds, planning a garden, preparing to raise animals, building structures, manicuring our woods more, landscaping, camping, and I have a TON of educational supplies already (like any good homeschooling veteran would).  So, why not use what I have?

Enter me learning exactly who I am educationally speaking.  I had to take a brief demographic survey that required me to choose specifically what type of homeschooling family we are.  I had no clue.  Like I said, I don't concern myself with labels and categories when it comes to this type of thing.  Because, in all honesty, does it really matter?  I don't think so.  However, as soon as I looked up "eclectic" and read this:

"An Eclectic Homeschooler is one who looks at the different approaches and methods of homeschooling and takes from each forming his own unique philosophy."

...I knew it defined my style exactly.  Slowly, I have determined that it is now okay to ease back into our more relaxed approach to education.  Our resident elementary student is still warming to the idea that grade level is irrelevant, and grades are arbitrary, but she's getting there.  Taking what I consider a more "whole-life" approach to education will help her to lose some more of her guard and open up to becoming a more relaxed learner.  It is exciting to me!

Yes, being eclectic means a little more work on my part, but I really think I'm ready for it now.  I have the materials at my fingertips.  I need to purchase nothing.  So, why not?  This next year is looking much more inviting to me and even a little more easy.  I have been lamenting the fact that I have two preschoolers and an elementary student; not an easy mix.  With my new found freedom it will be much easier to cater to the individual needs and interests of each child.  I like preschool.  Now, I will be able to enjoy it more.  Therefor the kids will certainly have much more fun.

Does this mean we will never use curriculum again?  I certainly have my doubts.  However, it does mean we have found our niche.  We are grabbing life by the reigns and fully embracing the family we have become.  We know who we are, and we are running with it.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Cooking with Kids

I love to cook, and I love to cook with kids.  There is a small, in stature and number, audience watching me almost anytime I do anything in the kitchen, especially cook.  My oldest granddaughter was parked on the kitchen counter beside the stove just as soon as she could sit upright.  Everyone thought I was crazy, but she loved it.  She could stir a pot.  They understand so much more than we generally give them credit for, and she never did burn herself.

Harmony at 3 years in her rightful spot on the counter.

Now that she and her sister live with us, and we reentered the homeschooling circle, there is plenty of time spent in the kitchen together.  Recently she learned how to make her own egg over medium just like Papa likes it.  She is very proud!  Her younger sister is a constant presence and has no fear of anything cooking related.  I do have to watch her a little more closely, though.  She is much more bold and is the type of person that cannot just take your word for something, like a hot stove; she has to find out for herself.  So, I cannot say that she's never been burned, but she has survived just fine.

This is where you find Annabella when I'm cooking now.

I love the layout of the kitchen in our new home.  The open counter with the built-in oven allows for me to be on one side of the counter or stove with the kids on the other.  It's like our own little hands on cooking school.  It really works well for including them in all aspects of the process without interfering with my cooking space.

So much can be learned in the kitchen.  A lot happens in cooking.  Math is the most obvious, but there is science, art, history, and creativity as well as character building aspects like self-confidence and hospitality.  Then, there's the opportunity to learn good health, preparedness, and self-sufficiency.  Not to mention meal planning and learning what is and is not a good deal in the grocery store.

Over the next year we will be doing a lot of learning in the kitchen.  There's the whole wheat free adventure we're stepping out on, and we plan to add learning to exist without sugar in our cooking as well.  Then there's the gardening we will be doing which will hopefully produce enough produce for opportunities in drying, freezing, and canning.

Harmony in the kitchen today.

I'm great one on one in the kitchen.  My new goal is to learn how to work with three kids in the kitchen at once since that's my new audience participation number.  I lack experience in that department despite the fact that we are currently raising kids number 8, 9, and 10.  I managed to potty train two at once this time around, so one would think I could figure out how to cook with three at once.

Avery gets in the kitchen now and then as well.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Healthy, Happy, Homemaker



This month's topic for our local homeschool support group was Healthy, Happy, Homemaker.  The idea was to share something that you've learned over the years that you practice within your home to contribute to the health and happiness of yourself and/or family, or something that contributes positively to your role as a homemaker.  I really enjoyed the topic this month and loved learning from the other ladies in the group.

I am so thankful to have a connection to such a wonderfully supportive group of families.  Great things come about when good people group together for the greater good.  I am always richly blessed when I gather with this group in any combination, and I surely take away more than I contribute.

One of the new things we've been doing is taking turns giving the devotion at the monthly meeting.  This month was just the second time we've done it this way, and I missed the last meeting to spend the evening with my hubby for his birthday.  So, I had no reference point as to how these things are to go.  It's all new, and it's all good.  I was asked to give the devotional this month.  Aside from tripping all over myself during my opening prayer--What was with that anyway?--it really was a good experience for me.  I struggle with being the center of attention and can be quite uncomfortable with "all eyes on me", but I know it is good to put myself out there and stretch myself a little bit.  Besides, God doesn't call us to do only those things that which we are comfortable with now, does he?  I chose to look at my prayer "fumble" as an example to others that God hears all prayer, even those that are not beautifully rhythmic and elegantly spoken.  (But, I sure do feel better when my words come out like a song as opposed to sounding like someone choking on a piece of dry cornbread.)

Any...who...

I decided to focus my devotional on what I do to take care of myself and nurture the happiness within me.  I did learn from my granddaughter that I am not perceived as happy.  Ouch!  Guess I need to work on that.  This momma has A LOT on her shoulders and tends to be quite serious most of the time.  Trust me.  Inside I am happy.  When you get to the core, I feel content and settled.  I do get thrown off course quite a lot, but I get right back on track.  I don't waste time in the muck and mire.  I pick myself up, dust my knees off, and go back to the good work of living my life to the best of my ability with the help of my God and the love of my family and friends.  So thankful!

So, here goes.  My devotional reworked for written format on The Zoo Crew:

There are so many directions this topic could go, Happy, Healthy Homemaker, but it kept  boiling down to one thing for me; happiness.

As home educating homemakers we are a unique group of individuals, and even among us happiness can mean so many different things.  Just like our homeschools, there are as many different definitions as there are of us.  Happiness may mean something totally different to me than it does to you.  Have you thought about what it is that makes you happy recently?  Is it part of your consciousness on a regular basis, or are you just going through the motions? 

As mothers, wives, home educators, and homemakers we are accustomed to giving a lot of ourselves.  We know what it means to give until it hurts, and even then some.  I would venture to say that we on occasion give more than we actually have to give.  We wear ourselves out, and we forget that everything we do stems on us being happy and healthy.  What are your priorities?  Do you rank the care and keeping of yourself among them?  I would like to share with you some things I do to take care of me so that I can take care of my family and strive to be the Daughter of the King that God would have me be.  Trust me.  I fall short each and every day.  The newest lesson I have learned is to cut myself slack, a lot of slack.  Of course, some days are better than others, but on the days that are less than stellar I ask forgiveness, and I forgive myself, which is not necessarily an easy thing to learn to do, and I move on.  Each day, each moment, is a new opportunity to start again.

God’s timing is perfect, and he places things in our paths just at the right time.  No one ever said that being a follower of Christ would make our lives easy.  In fact we are taught the exact opposite.  So, I am here to tell you tough times will come.  Burdens heavier than we ever knew we could survive will be placed on our shoulders.  But, the load is lightest when we share it.  Firstly, we must spend time with our Creator each and every day.  Everything boils down to relationship, and as Christian wives and mothers we MUST nurture our relationship with God.  The more time we spend in His Word the lighter our burden.  Does that mean the trials and the difficulties and the heart break and the challenges will go away?  I can attest that it absolutely does not.  What it does mean is that Christ can work in our hearts and our minds, and in so doing he shares our load.  Have you ever tried to move or carry a heavy piece of furniture on your own?  I have, and it does not always turn out so well.  It can even end in disaster.  What about moving a piece of furniture with someone that is not so experienced?  I have been in that position as well, and the load can seem even heavier than it actually is.  However, when a nice, strong, experienced person lends a hand the load becomes so much lighter and easier to bear.  That is what God does for us.  He shares the load, and suddenly it becomes bearable.  If we spend regular time in prayer and study of The Word our load does become lighter.  We are carrying the very same thing, but we get help from the strongest handy man there is, our Father.

I have learned that it is very important to care for myself so that I can care for my family (Kind of like the oxygen mask on the plane.  What good are you to someone else if you cannot breathe?), and it is okay for me to do things that nurture my soul.  It is okay for me to take time out for myself.  My family will survive without my direct attention for a time, and actually everyone will be better for it.  They will do much more than survive.  In the long run they will thrive; we will all thrive together. 

Is your cup full, or is dust gathering in the bottom of your glass?  Maybe it is time for you to think about what makes you happy.  What feeds your soul?  What area of yourself has been neglected and could use a little tender care?  If it has been so long that you cannot think of anything or figure out where to start, and I have been there more than once, might I suggest journaling as a method of connecting with Christ as well as connecting with yourself.  When I journal I focus on gratitude, and I make it a point to write three pages.  It may seem daunting at first, but in order to journal one must write, right?  First, I list five things I am thankful for, and it can be as simple as ‘daisies’ or ‘prayer’.  It does not have to be elaborate.  It can be, but it is not necessary.  Then, just start writing.  You’re not trying to write a best seller.  You are just putting pen to paper, and it is for your eyes only.  You can write a prayer, write about your day, vent, or just ramble about whatever.  It really does not matter.  What matters most is that you write.  It is very therapeutic.

Another thing that is helpful in the care and keeping of ourselves is to have a plan.  It does not have to be elaborate, but life does go much better for our home if we have some sort of plan for our day.  When I was a younger mom raising our oldest bunch I wasted a lot of time fretting about the care and keeping of my house.  Now, I focus on the care and keeping of my home.  What is the difference?  A house is just walls and rooms that contain things.  A home contains people, a family; in our case a very active, very messy homeschooling family.  I don’t know exactly how your homeschool functions, but I know ours is active.  Creativity is everywhere.  Each and every meal is prepared at home, and we don’t have a dishwasher.  It gets messy, and again that is okay.  So today’s plan included washing, drying, and putting away the dishes, but it was so sunny outside, or the toddler needed more one on one attention than normal, or that ever pleasant monthly visitor showed up, and energy was on short supply, and (((GASP))) the dishes did not get done.  Again, it’s okay. 

Who is the much loved first cousin of planning?  Why flexibility of course!  Flexibility is essential in the sanity of each and every homeschooling homemaker.  Life happens.  If you ask me my favorite thing about homeschooling I will tell you, “Its flexibility.”  The key to flexibility is in allowing it to exist in your plan in the first place.  Flexibility is freeing if you embrace it and cut yourself some slack.  I have a sign hanging up by my desk that I think is a good reminder for us all.  It says:
  

“The Proverbs 31 Woman…

          …isn’t so much a lesson on getting up early, sewing clothes, 
          buying a field, or achieving perfection.

          The heart of the matter is that she was dedicated to walking 
          in virtue.  She cared deeply for her husband and children.  
          She put the needs of her family before her desires.

          She was a woman of noble character who walked by faith.

          My guess is, she wasn’t perfect—none of us are.  
          But she was ready and willing to be perfected by God.”

                                                            ~ Darlene Schacht

By beginning each day with prayer and the study of The Word we are opening our hearts to God and allowing him to perfect us.  Everything is baby steps.  If you get up tomorrow and get caught up in the day and realize half way through dinner that you never spent time in quiet study, do it before bed, or try again tomorrow.  The important thing is that we remember to go to Him, that we keep our feet firmly planted in The Word.

Much like love, happiness is a choice.  If we choose joy on a regular basis, genetics or not, old habits or not, big mistakes or small, eventually we will learn to reside in joy, and our hearts will be so full that happiness will pour out into all areas of our lives.  No matter the challenges we face, when we are grounded in The Word and focused on things above we can always reside in happiness.  That’s not to say we never get angry, grieve, or have momentary lapses in judgment.  What it does mean is that we don’t wallow there.  We return to the throne, we dust ourselves off, and we start again.  We make the conscious choice over and over to actually BE happy.


The bible tells us in Romans 5 to “rejoice in our suffering”.  The old saying, “In every cloud there is a silver lining”, comes to mind.  There is always, without fail, good amidst the bad.  Christ DOES use all things to his glory.  Our suffering as well as our joy will not be without purpose.  Even suffering is a blessing as it does produce fruit.  Romans 5 goes on to explain that, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”.  In Romans 8:26-28 we learn that, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

**I will share my list of resources later this week.  God bless, and choose happiness!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stuffed Peppers

Food has always been a huge part of our lives.  I come from a long line of farmers, and my mom cooked like we lived on one when I was a kid.  A lot of my more fond memories from growing up center around food.  The beautiful pear trees that grew on my grandparents farm for over 100 years yielded a tremendous bumper crop every other year.  My grandparents, and anyone that wanted to lend a hand, put up hundreds of quarts of pears most summers.  Everyone awaited the bushels of pears each year, and I know I asked my fair share of, "Is this the year for pears?".  To this day nothing tastes quite like a fresh, ripe Bartlett Pear.  I look forward to the fruit trees maturing that we have planted on our property.  Maybe one day our grandchildren will have similar memories to share.

Recipes are a big part of our personal history.  Food nourishes us, sustains our lives.  It connects us on a deeper level.  We connect in a special way over the gathering, preparing, and sharing of food.  It fosters relationship.  I love to share my recipes with others, and I especially love to cook for others.  I think it's in my blood.  Someone cooking for me is a rare treat.  Someone cooking for me in my own kitchen; well, that's unheard of.

The summer we celebrated my grandfather's 80th birthday my cousin and his beautiful girlfriend stayed at our home.  The day she cooked us dinner will forever be etched in my mind.  It was such a kind gesture!  She even complimented me on the organization of my kitchen AND did the dishes after.  Talk about feeling special.  It was so sweet!  And, guess what?  She actually sold me on stuffed peppers.  I hated them growing up.  Sorry, mom!  To this day I do not care for cooked green peppers, but I LOVE these cooked green peppers.  So does my family.  Now, if that isn't saying something right there!  A recipe that my whole family will eat and enjoy?  SOLD!

This is my version of her recipe.  Honestly, I make it a little different each time.  I tend to use what I have, and you can too.  It's the formula that's most important.  Green Peppers + Rice + Ground Meat (or Sauteed Veggies if you're not into meat) + Spaghetti Sauce + Cheese = Super Delicious Dinner

Now, if you're super crunchy, and you can your own pasta sauce, use it.  If you're like me, and you use the best you can afford at the time of the jarred selection at the store, use that.  Personally, I always try to purchase the best quality of products with the shortest list of ingredients that fits in my budget.  I don't use the same brand of rice or pasta sauce each time.  I don't even use the same type or amount of meat each time.  The original recipe calls for ground turkey.  I have used ground beef, ground chicken, and even left over ground beef seasoned for tacos.  All yielded equally yummy results.  I would even use ground lamb, venison, or buffalo in this recipe.  Whatever floats your boat.  If you don't eat meat, just leave it out or add your own mix of sauteed veggies or your favorite meat analog product.  There is no right or wrong way to make a recipe, and I don't think I ever follow one completely.  That's why I prefer to cook and not bake.  Cooking is much more flexible!

So, here goes:

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef, chicken, or turkey
2 boxes boxed rice mix (I prefer Near East Long Grain and Wild Rice)
1 jar Spaghetti Sauce (I prefer Bertolli)
6 medium to large Green Peppers, cut in half from top to bottom with stems, seeds, and veins removed.
1-8 ounce package shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (if something else is your favorite or more handy, try it!)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Fill a Dutch Oven 3/4 full with water, and bring to slow boil.

3.  Place three or four pepper halves into boiling water.  Allow to blanch for just a minute or so.  You just want to bring out the color in the pepper, not cook it through.  (This step is the secret of why these are so amazing.  Don't skip it!)




4.  Turn peppers onto a kitchen towel and allow water to drain out.

5.  Brown ground meat, and drain fat if necessary.  Add rice mix and cook per package directions.



6.  While rice and meat mixture is cooking place blanched peppers cut side up in two baking pans.

7.  When rice mixture is cooked, stir in spaghetti sauce.

8.  Generously fill each pepper half with rice mixture.



9.  Generously top each filled pepper with shredded cheese.



10.  Loosely cover filled and topped pepper with foil.

11.  Bake for 30 minutes.

12.  Remove foil, and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted as desired.



Our original feast was served with garlic bread and salad.  We've been avoiding wheat products around here, so we have it with a cooked veggie and salad.




Should you have any left over filling, I do on occasion, just put it in a container and refrigerate or freeze.  It's good to heat and eat just the way it is, or you can add it to soups, or save it for the next time you make stuffed peppers.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Behold the Power

One of the most powerful books I have ever read, more than once, is The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.  If your marriage is anything at all like mine you have weathered a storm or two, or fifty, as a married couple.  I don't think I've ever felt more helpless than when my husband is struggling on a deep and personal level.  How this book crossed my path I am unsure, but I am forever thankful.

Personally, I believe there no more powerful tool at our disposal than prayer, and I hold it as a treasured gift.  It is unclear to me how I ever made it as far as I did before I ever discovered the power of prayer within my own life.  I do, however, attribute my survival to my dedicated and prayerful grandmother, among other caring family members.  Prayer is our direct connection to God; our family tie if you will.  There is no better place to focus our time and energy than with our relationship with the Father.

I have felt compelled to pick up this wonderful tool once again.  Initially I was just going to access the prayers, as they are powerful in and of themselves.  So much so that they have now published the prayers separately for quick reference.  However, it has been about a year now that life fully knocked us off our feet, and my time with the Creator has suffered.  Inadvertently so has my marriage relationship.  It's no surprise, really, when time is of a premium.  There are only so many hours in a day, and some things take longer to bounce back from than others.  When life throws you a curve ball sometimes it hits you square between the eyes!  It can take some time to focus past the stars circling your head.

In the past year we have welcomed two new young ones into our fold, settled more fully into our county home, experienced the re-entrance and exit of our college age son to and from our home - leaving a huge wake that we are still recovering from, and severed some pretty strong family ties.  There is a lot of emotional energy that was expended through these huge life events right at a time when we were expecting to experience a more laid back way of life.  Then, of course there's more, you add on a struggling business just to frost that tasty life cake, and you've got one sweet concoction sitting right in the middle of your dining room table.  It's a cake I'd rather toss in the trash than indulge in, but alas it is our lot to eat every last bite.

Here in lies the choice.  Will every bite be bitter and hard to swallow, or will we find the sweetness that lies within?  Enter The Power of a Praying Wife.  Past experience has taught me that when my mind is focused on my relationship above, and my relationships with those near and dear, the bites I do have to swallow taste all the more sweet.  When I choose to start my day with prayer, especially prayer focused on my most important relationship, the day goes by much more smoothly than when I neglect to do so.  Today I choose to focus on the most important things.  Today I begin with focused prayer for my husband.

"Through wisdom a house is built, 
and by understanding it is established; 
by knowledge the rooms are filled 
with all precious and pleasant riches."
~ Proverbs 24:3,4




Monday, November 25, 2013

I Should be Cleaning, or Should I?

There was a time when the current state of my house would have unnerved me to the point that I could accomplish nothing before tending to the domestic duties loudly calling my name.  Over the years I have learned that there are many more things that have a much higher importance than a home so clean it could grace the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  Does that mean that I like a messy house?  Absolutely not!  I function best in a home that is orderly and clean.  However, life is messy, time is limited, and kids are only young for so long.  Then, it's over.  Children graduate, and as time frees up the house gets cleaner.

The part that was most challenging for me is that I had a small taste of freedom, and a near perfectly clean home was my norm.  In a way I do miss that.  Who wouldn't?  We raised seven children to adulthood.  We have 12 grandchildren and one more on the way.  We were shifting gears where our focus would be more off our children and more on ourselves and our grandchildren.  It was a welcome change of pace.

Then, we were thrown our first curve ball.  It's one we're ever thankful we caught!  Thanks to that unexpected jag in the road we now find ourselves proud parents of a soon to be four-year-old.  After seven children raising one was like a vacation...seriously.  Life was still slow paced, and we were taking time to smell the roses, and the scent of a very comfortably clean home.  Active homeschooling was still years in the future.  This was our time.

Enter curve ball number two, and three if you will.  Apparently, God has a lot of confidence in our ability to rear children.  We now find ourselves the proud parents of an eight-and-a-half-year-old, and a soon to be three-year-old.  Biologically they are our grandchildren, but legally we are their guardians.  We now find ourselves neck deep in homeschooling, and child rearing.  Thankfully, we are entering the other side of potty training.  (Two at once I might add!)  Through their presence in our lives God has been teaching me what is truly most important in life.

News flash!

Having  a spotless home is not even in the top 10.  Who knew?  (Yes, I am saying this tongue-in-cheek.)

These past few months have been extremely stressful for our family.  More stressful even than becoming a teen mother.  (I'll save that story another time.)  But, seriously, I never thought anything could ever top that.  Welcome to adulthood, a full contact sport!  The girls have now been with us a full year, and our family experienced some boat rocking that unsettled us all for a bit.  We're now coming out the other side, and recovery is taking some time.  Schedules have been thrown off, and many messes have been made.  We're working on finding our center again.

With the inclusion of two new young souls in our home there came a lot of lessons to learn.  Most of them had to do with ourselves.  You know?  The you that exists deep down inside.  For me, the current state of my home would always dictate a lot in my life.  It dictated how I felt about myself.  It would dictate to me my success or failure as a wife and mother.  It dictated to me whether or not I had time to spend with my children.  It dictated to me when I got up in the morning and went to bed at night.  It dictated to me whether or not I had company.  That's a whole lot of control to give to a house.

So, I took it back!

Now, my children come first.  The dishes can wait.  When my friends come over they may see a basket of laundry around, the counter may have dirty dishes stacked on it, the family room will surely be littered with toys, and in all likelihood my floors will be in need of a good sweeping.  Be sure to help yourself to the broom in the corner.  (wink-wink)  However, my perspective has changed.  I can look at my messy house and tell that I have been making time for things that matter for eternity, not just the moment.  I no longer get up early to sweep the floors, or pick up the family room.  If this mamma rises before the sun it's to spend time with her creator, and maybe throw another log on the fire.  I don't even sweep up the wood mess right away.  Gasp!  Now, I can look at my messy home, especially when it's a little past lived-in, and see that I have been up to something good.  I am investing my time in what matters most.  That makes everything sparkle!

My List of Top 10 Things MORE Important than a Clean House:

10.  A Happy House
  9.  A Healthy Family
  8.  A Means of Supporting our Family
  7.  Fresh Air, and Time to Enjoy It
  6.  Freedom to Home Educate
  5.  Freedom to Worship
  4.  Time with Friends
  3.  Time with Children
  2.  Time with My Husband
  1.  Time with God

Those are things that surely matter most.




Saturday, October 26, 2013

Surprise!

This year will see my hubby to 50 years of living.  He's a great man, dedicated to family and helping others.  The kids and I wanted to do something super special for him.  Of course he's one of those dads that always tells you to not worry about his birthday, he doesn't need any gifts, and he would prefer a handmade card.  Coming up with something to buy him is near impossible, but we knew something that would mean more to him than any material gift.  So, we made plans to surround him with all of his children and grandchildren.  It was a challenging task that took six months to plan and tremendous effort to keep under wraps, but we did it.  We pulled off the ultimate surprise without a hitch!  Yep, you read that right.  Something went completely perfect for our family, and it was amazing.

Our youngest daughter and her husband flew in from Missouri, and our Navy son flew in from South Carolina.  Due to the government shutdown, we did not know if the Navy son would be able to take leave until the day before the party!  So glad he was granted leave.  It would not have been the same without him since he was an integral part of the surprise, and who would have helped me clean the house?  We gathered all the children, minus two, and all the grandchildren, minus one, into our home. Vehicles were hidden down the road, finishing touches were made, and pictures were taken.

We prepared a traditional holiday meal, had a photographer do family photos, and we waited.  I knew better than to try and capture the moment myself.  Our family is just too big, and it takes too much effort just to keep the party rolling for me to be in charge of photography.  It just isn't humanly possible.  So, for the really big events that I just don't want to be without pictures I hire out, and I breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the party.

We wrapped up all the details in plenty of time, and we waited.  I watched out the office window for his car to emerge through the trees, and there it was.  "He's home!", I yelled, and everyone got into place.  It was so awesome to hear everyone yell, "Surprise!", as he walked through the door and see the look of confusion on his face when our son in law was the first person he laid eyes on.  Totally priceless!  He was so touched and enjoyed himself so much that he thanked me for it for days.  Pulling this off for him is sure to remain a high point in my life.  SO AWESOME!

SURPRISE!

Smith Family Part Two; the Third Batch

The Family
All present and accounted for!

Mr. & Mrs.

Happy Birthday to You!

Ultrasound pics of #13

It really was a great time.  We missed the children and the gandchild greatly that were unable to attend.  With eight children and 12 grandchildren it's no wonder we can never seem to get them all in the same place at the same time, but we are a houseful nonetheless.  The cousins always have such a wonderful time together, and I am so happy we find ways to get them together now and then.

It just feeds my husband's soul to have his family around him.  If we could have figured some way to make it work we would have had everyone possible here (siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, etc.), but it just could not be done.  Guess we'll save the super big bash for when he turns 60.


Monday, August 26, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

We just never know where our paths will lead.  I don't know about you, but for me it is like traveling around a constant bend.  The road curves ahead of you leaving just a small portion of your path in view.  What truly lies ahead remains unseen, a gift waiting to be discovered.  If we sincerely believe our steps guided and all experiences valuable then it is of no matter what remains unseen.  All that awaits is a gift if we keep our focus on things above.  Even the most seemingly negative of circumstances hold within them a gift if we are open and courageous enough to look past the surface.

I am forever thankful that I am not the one in charge of my life.  Messes are my expertise, and I do not need any more experience in the driver's seat to know that my hands may be on the wheel, but I am not the one doing the steering; that is if I remember to stay out of the way and keep a willing heart.  It is possible to drive all the while having our course be guided.  I am constantly reminded that every stop we've made along the way has brought us to where we are now.  If I had not made the choices and experienced the consequences, good and bad, of my decisions in days gone by I would not be the person that I am today.  It is certainly easy to think of the negative implications and focus on what may have been lost.  However, I choose to keep my vision on the positives and be thankful that things are as good as they are.  Sometimes our sight requires a little adjusting.  When we're hit with bigger than life events it can throw us off a bit, but constant conversation with the Creator will surely keep our paths straight; if only for a time.  And, if we're living in the present, really living in the here and now, that is all that truly matters.

This past year provided for us another big change.  Our family, the family that resides within the bounds of our home, has grown by three.  One left, one returned, and two were added.  Yup, that is huge adjustment all around for all involved.  As my last post indicated, our oldest son left home for the Navy.  He currently finds himself stationed in South Carolina.  His first visit home since leaving that day will not be until this coming October.  In November of last year two of our granddaughters came to live with us.  We didn't know it at the time, but it would be a permanent arrangement.  I became their court appointed guardians this past June.  Right on their heels in April of this year our youngest son returned home from Wayne State to secure employment and attend the local community college.

We have given hugs, said goodbye, made amends, severed ties, given flight, and created sanctuary.  There is a whole lot of emotion tied into all of that activity.  My newest revelation?  The only constant in life is change.  Learning that fact, and accepting it wholeheartedly, has given me such freedom within all that has transpired in the past nine months.  It's rather symbolic really.  Nine months.  The gestation time for human life.  It leads to a birth and loads of change.  What have we nurtured in the past nine months?  The melding of lives.  We have created another family within our already large family.  Rolling with the punches has become an area of expertise for the hubby and myself.

In 1997 we became a serious couple blending our two families together.  We gave up being single parents and learned how to open our hearts to the endless bounds of love overflowing.  Our families became one and we numbered nine.  The next milestone was 2005.  It was a year of tremendous emotion.  We lost my father to his battle with male breast cancer on April 1st, our first grandchild was born on July 24th, and we wed on September 17th.  Our lives were never the same, and we could have never imagined the journey before us.

The children aged and spread their wings, more grandchildren were born, and we were actively viewing the light at the end of the tunnel.  The time came when we could take off on a spontaneous road trip just the two of us, or hop on the motorcycle for an afternoon ride.  No worries.  We were enjoying an emptier nest.

Then we were presented with the opportunity to become parents again, and our journey went around the bend slowly revealing more and more with each step.  Avery was born in January of 2010.  Our family now numbered 10.  We sold our house in December of the same year and purchased our new home in August of 2011.  Through a lot of transition we found ourselves moving from a large family in the city to a soon-to-be parents of one young child in the country living arrangement.  Andrew went in the Navy, Adrian went to university, and Avery hung out at home with us.  We had effectively given flight to all seven children.  Raising a single child felt like a vacation.  It was fun while it lasted.

In November of 2012 the girls came to be with us, and life has forever changed again.  We are learning how to parent in yet another set of circumstances.  Our new family structure sets to remind us that love really does know no bounds, and anything is possible.  Families come in all shapes and sizes, and presumptions are a waste of time and energy.  If anyone has done the math you have now figured out that the full size of our family numbers 12; two parents, and 10 children.  In our home we currently have a variety of ages; 19, 8, 3, and 2.  (Six of the original seven are off living their adult lives.)  With such a vast range in ages comes a variety of personality types and emotions.  We are learning how to live together and thrive.  Once again we find ourselves a full-time home school family.  We kind of dove in head first.  The kids love it, and so do we.

It took a little more growth, but I can see the blessings more clearly and more quickly now.  The little road bumps in life have become more of a minor inconvenience instead of completely throwing us off track.  Even the big, orange barrels cannot put us off track for long.  The capacity of our heart is limitless if it remains always open.  I knew God led us here, and I remain immensely grateful.  Even with the chaos, the big emotions, the endless change, and all the growth there is not one place in my history that has ever felt more like home.

It is really the greatest gift ever to be where we are geographically speaking.  I love our home, our community, our family, and our friends.  The network we have here is incredible.  Each and every day, even the ones where the struggles seem to dominate, I am SO thankful for everything with which we are blessed.  I choose to see the forest for the trees.  The blessings abound!  Are you looking for yours?  Do you see them?  They ARE there!  Take another step.  A new one is sure to be just around the bend.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A New Chapter is Unfolding

Well, 2011 is upon us, and a new world is opening up for the Smith household. We finally did it. We sold our house on December 23rd. It was a process that lasted several months and was by no means forced along by either of us. We put it in God's hands, and things just kind of happened. Isn't it cool when you get to experience something like that? I love the feel of God at work. It's so freeing!

We sold our house on a short sale to an investor. In my perspective it was a true work of God. We were not behind on our mortgage or in any type of financial trouble. Our main objective was to have the freedom to be able to move. I consider it a miracle that we were approved. It's awesome the way things worked out. We could not have asked for a better deal. Due to the fact that the purchaser was an investor we have been afforded the opportunity to stay put and rent our home, saving $500 per month, while we look for our new home. Also, since our financial situation was a good one, and our credit score was good, we will not have to wait any length of time to be able to purchase another home. Can you say, AWESOME!?

I don't believe I have ever felt such peace in the middle of such change. It was a little anxiety inducing right at the end, but knowing everything is in God's hands just smoothed it all away for me. It also doesn't hurt knowing that we are one giant step closer to landing our much desired country home. It is so exciting to know that within the next year or so we will be looking out our window peeking in on God's wilderness. It is down right miraculous!

My prayers include things like praying that God finds the perfect family to be blessed by our home when we are ready to leave it, praying that we are put in a new situation that will better position us to be a blessing to others, and that God will open the rest of the doors in much the same way as he did for the sale of our home. It really is my desire for others to be blessed by the decisions we make and the positions God puts us in. Is there really any other reason so worth living than to be the love of Christ to others? I can think of none.

January will mark many milestones for me. The first begins a new year. The eighth is my 40th birthday. The 21st will see the birth of our eighth grandchild. The 26th will mark Avery's first year on this earth. Also, in January I will begin simplifying our home. We will begin to purge the things that brought us through the end of 2010 to make room for the blessings of things to come in and beyond 2011. I am so excited to be ridding our home of any and all unnecessary possessions. We've done it before, and I plan to be even more radical this time. Seems odd to think that the time when moving boxes, packing tape, and permanent markers will consume our days is just around the corner...closer than ever before.

When it finally is time to pack up and go we will be leaving behind the childhood home of our children. A few of them remember calling nowhere else home. It will be sad and exciting all in the same moment. Change is good. It induces growth and gratitude. I look forward to the experience despite the things I will miss. There will be more than just memories to leave behind. Our life has been here for around 15 years. (For my husband, close to 20.) We will be leaving all that is familiar to embark on a journey of discovery. School, church, the library, home school groups, neighbors, and the comforting sense of the familiar will become a thing of the past.

It is my prayer that I will keep my heart and mind open to God's leading and prompting always seeing the blessings in every experience, both good and bad. I wait in anticipation, without fear, for my God is with me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Farmgirls - Canning

I finally got around to doing some canning a couple weekends ago. I was going to post about it last Friday, but I came down with an upper respiratory cold. Avery got it as well, but he wasn't as bad as myself and seems to be over it already. I, on the other hand, am still feeling under the weather, but I do seem a bit improved.

Anyhow, while the hubby was off bagging his first deer of the season, I spent the day canning applesauce and salsa with my oldest granddaughter, Harmony. She turned five this summer and started kindergarten in the fall. Harmony has been sitting on the counter helping "Nana" cook since everyone else thought she was too little and that I was crazy for having her up there next to the stove.

Cooking has to be one of the best ways to spend time with children...in my humble opinion. It's a universal language. You don't have to say much if you don't want to, but you can have fun together nonetheless. Each year I have the grands over to make chocolate bark. No matter their skill level or experience in the kitchen there is a task they can master or be in charge of, and it makes them feel so special. (Pictures of this year's gathering will be shared in December.)

I always enjoy a connection with the past when I am cooking. My most prized possession in my kitchen is my Great Grandma Sheldon's pepper grinder. So, borrowing my Grandma Sheldon's old sieve from my mom for the applesauce made the experience all the more special. Here I was sharing the old art of food preservation with my granddaughter while using my grandmother's old kitchen tool. Awesome!


Oh, I almost forgot! We also roasted tomatoes. Harmony is pretty proud when she gets to use a real, bona-fide, sharp knife, and "Nana" let her bask in the lime light that day. If you have never tried roasting tomatoes you just have to. It is SUPER simple, and they taste so amazing. We've plucked ours right off the pan and eaten them like candy, put them on sandwiches, and added them to spaghetti sauce and salsa. There are so many uses for them, and you can just throw them in the freezer. Here's the recipe if you'd like to give them a try:

A bunch of tomatoes, any variety
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
a bunch of garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 325

Arrange cut tomatoes in a single layer, skins down, on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Mince garlic and sprinkle over tomatoes being careful to let most of it drop directly on the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place in oven and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. It usually takes about 3 for romas that are halved. If you quarter them they'll get done a little faster. Keep an eye on them after about 2 -2 1/2 hours. Take a peek through the window. The juices will have dried up, and some of the tomatoes will start to get dark around the edges.

*Each time I roasted tomatoes I used Roma tomatoes cut in half.


I hope you enjoy making these tomatoes and getting creative with ways to incorporate them in your cooking. They freeze well and keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator. Maybe you'll even find a little helper to share in the fun and make some of your own memories.


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