Monday, June 26, 2006

Childhood & Balance

Okay, we have ceased school for the time being. And I desperately need to plan for the new year. I am making David and Deborah each a book (with my comb binding system), which will allow me to easily peruse goals, track hours & review their progress twice a year. Last year was the first time I made a book for them, and I will be making it even better this year! I am very excited to tackle the project :-). However, first I must make a plan for the children to be occupied today.

David is currently curled up in a ball in his bed, hiding under the covers. When I went to shake him awake this morning, I had a flashback to my own childhood...

Of sleeping in on summer mornings.
Of playing hard all day and coming inside dirty and hungry.
Of swimming at the pool until I was wrinkly and oh-so-tired and smelling of chlorine.
Of climbing a tree until I had conquered it at the top of the world.
Of practicing gymnastics at the school playground until I was master of the weenie roast, genie & hip-circle.
Of going to sleep on a hot summer night with a fan blowing hard right at me.

I want my kids to enjoy being a kid and look forward to every day. It is definitely a challenge for the homeschooling mom to balance out the work and the play so that a child doesn't think they are being overworked, and they are happy and excited to face each day. I have by no means mastered this, but each year I find ways to improve, and planning times are exciting because then I can bring it all together and take another step in the right direction.

Lord, give me wisdom!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Let the Change Come! Part 1: Stevia

I knew we could do it. If I could just find something tasty enough!

And finally it happened. We received our Republic of Tea catalogue in the mail, with their customary sampler tea bag. It was ginger-peach. Mmmmm. That sounded so good. We brewed it to accompany our supper that night, and I knew there was hope for me. It was soooo delicious! But not by itself. There is more to the story.

There is a plant which grows naturally in South America, known as Stevia Rebaudiana. A plant from the daisy family, it has long been prized in many cultures for it's intense sweetness. When the plant is mature, it is three feet high and it's beautiful green leaves contain stevioside, a sweetener estimated to be 300 times that of sugar.

Stevia was introduced in Japan in the 70's and by 1988 it had taken over 41% of the market of potentially sweet substances. They use it to sweeten ice cream, candies, pickles & soft drinks (to name a few).

Here in the United States stevia is only approved as a dietary supplement. It has been labeled by the FDA as an "unsafe food additive" due to insufficient toxicological information to demonstrate it's safety, though studies have been conducted that demonstrate its safety. I find myself wondering if there are other reasons. Perhaps not of the scientific variety. If you are interested, there is a book which tells the stevia story at this link: The Stevia Story.

We now use it regularly to "supplement" our teas. And I am happy to report that after failing many times to give up soda, we are finally successful! I still crave bubbles sometimes with a movie & popcorn, but we are very much enjoying the stevia sweetened tea. And it is so much easier on the pocketbook :-). We are still using the very first 2 oz. bottle of Stevia Liquid Concentrate we purchased for $20 a few months ago - it only takes 15 drops to sweeten a pitcher of tea.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Empty Motivator

I don't know what it was about the empty room which motivated me, but the feeling was compelling. I felt that I simply MUST clean!

It was just last night. For Father's Day, I cleaned up the kitchen and took the kids to the park all afternoon so that Daddy could work on some of his projects. I took them out for dinner at (gasp!) McDonalds :-) This was a very satisfying experience for the kids, for they had pooled some of their money as a contribution to the treat. Hubby calls me in the midst of this time to let me know that a man had come to the door offering to clean the carpet in one of our rooms for free. He told the man to come back at 6:00, certain that I would desire this service.

We returned home to find that wonderful Hubby had moved all of the furniture out of the living room (minus the piano) in anticipation of the great cleaning of the carpet (mind you, super-Grandma had already cleaned the carpet for us just 3 months ago, but five little kids will do a number on your carpets, especially right near the dining areas).

There was only one problem: He didn't show up! So, after I nursed the baby on the couch in the foyer, I set to work. I cleaned all of the windows in the main area, cleaned the couches and end tables and coffee table. I wiped down the baseboards and deeply vacuumed the living room (I thought about the Bissell, but I hate to get the carpet wet during muggy season). Then I shined up the tables and other furniture with furniture polish and rearranged the living room. I think I'll rearrange it some more later :-) How satisfying it was to put everything back in place, knowing it was clean!

The Deep Side....
But how is it that emptiness motivates? When my cup is empty of tea, I walk over to fill it up again. Why do I do this? I suppose because I am sure there is more tea, and I desire this pleasing substance.

When it comes to a person, surely there is a certain despair associated with feeling empty. Perhaps because they aren't certain there is something good to fill them up.

And yet we have hope. God says "open wide your mouth, and I will fill it." Everyday, we open wide our mouths and fill our bellies. And we fill up the empty spaces around ourselves, motivated with a certain hope for a more satisfying life. But God says of them which do hunger and thirst for righteousness, that they will be filled. God was (is) motivated to fill the emptiness in our lives. The question is: are we looking to Jesus Christ to be filled?

Friday, June 9, 2006


A Safeguard for the Soul

Souls are vulnerable things. They need safeguards. It was when Paul was in prison that this idea came to him. He had just been writing to the Philippians about the benefits that accrued because of his own sufferings and the possible death he might die. He told them of Epaphroditus' illness and anxiety, and finished with "In conclusion, my brothers, delight yourselves in the Lord!...You will find it a great safeguard to your souls" (Phil 3:1 JBP).

It would be very easy to allow depression and anxiety to overcome us when we look at the dismal circumstances in which we sometimes find ourselves. Who had better reason than Paul for depression? ("Oh well, but he was Saint Paul!" we counter.) He had learned by practice how to apply the soul's safeguard, which is not mere enjoyment. It is delight. This is a command and therefore an act of will, and it is done in the Lord. No circumstance is so dismal as to prevent obedience to the command. No trouble can blast that safeguard. Do it. Do it by faith. Delight yourself in the Lord. Maybe you will have to get out of bed, get up from your chair, go outdoors and walk, sing a song out loud, bake a pie for somebody, or mow the lawn as an offering of praise. You can do something which will help you to obey that command. It is amazing how strongly what we do affects how we feel.

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: A Lamp For My Feet
Scripture: Philippians 3:1-1

Lord, thank you! How I needed this reminder today...

We are behind. Having spent 2 days out this week, the house is dirty and cluttered.

So, today is catch-up day! I think the children will be motivated, for I have promised them pool time in the front yard later :-).

And tonight we will have a campfire. Hubby and kiddos would have slept in the pop-up camper, but it is full of ants, so we will content ourselves with hotdogs and marshmellows over the open fire.

Tomorrow I will take Deborah to buy shoes and pick up the last plants for our garden. So far we have planted three rows of tomatoes, one row of peppers, five rows of corn, and lots of onions! The onions aren't doing so well. I keep waiting for them to fall over and signify they are done, but they remain stubbornly upright, though I know they have been growing long enough. I think the weeds (yikes!) have stolen away their nutrients, so we may have to content ourselves with green onions.

I'd better get busy!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006


Picture the scene:

The curtains are pushed back, allowing the rays of glorious morning to splash onto little sleeping faces. Mom sings:

"Good morning, Good morning!
It's such a lovely day.
Good morning, Good morning,
I really love to say.

Good morning, Good morning!
It's great to be with you!
Jesus, you are someone who makes all things new...."

The children are hustled out of bed with a smile and a song. They dress, pick up their rooms (both the dawdlers and the diligent), and report to breakfast. While they eat, Mom feeds the baby, reads some scriptures, combs their hair and explains that today we will be going out to the park and the library. Anticipation builds. Breakfast is over. The teeth are brushed and the little bodies are excited about going to the park. Mom begins to prepare to leave the house...

And then the stress mounts, and sweetness departs. Commands are barked. Mom is distracted with too much to prepare: lunch, library books, bank paperwork. And the children are distracted also, and need to be kept on task - but their Mom is too busy with pre-trip tasks. This majorly stresses Mom out. By the time we make it of the driveway, Mom is dizzy with grief and ashamed to sing the praise song she had planned to teach the children.


It wasn't always this way. I feel that I need to forge some new habits and do trip-training with the kids. This site helped me...I feel that #23 was key for me. I must learn to ask for help! Okay, friends, this is a lightbulb moment for me. I have a hard time asking anyone for help unless I feel that they are eager and willing. I think it must be pride and self-sufficiency. But I need to learn to talk to God on the spot, when the stress mounts. To believe God and allow His spirit to reveal His hidden wisdom.

The funny thing is, that once we are out of the house, everything is fine. The kids behave beautifully, they are obedient in public places (for the most part :-) ), and I have a great time!

What is it all for anyway? Obviously the stress in my life is unnecessary. And disobedient.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:6-8

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Productivity - an "Ahhhh" Moment

My muscles are still sore from gardening on Saturday. Nathan and Ben took all of the kids to the zoo, and I planted all of the tomatoes and peppers and some corn. I still need to buy something hot to plant - Nathan wants jabaneros I think, and maybe some zuccini. But it is coming along!

Sunday afternoon I finished cleaning and organizing the garage. Not as deeply as I would have liked, but definitely much improved. I keep having flashbacks to the totally cool garage I poked around in at an organizing store once. Everything was neatly stored in attached baskets all along the walls. We just have our old yellow dresser, some small plastic drawers and a few nails on the studs of our unfinished garage. But for the moment it is neat :-).

I have been glorying in the amount of stuff I have been able to accomplish the last few days. Yesterday morning Jonathan woke me up at 4:30 AM and I stayed up, O Wonder of Wonders :-). I made the bread and washed the bedding and had quiet time and finished my planning for the month of June. Last night I did the bulk of the shopping - FOR THE WHOLE MONTH! I haven't tried that in a while, but I really get tired of joining the stampede every week. It seems that so much time is wasted. And - "MOOOOO!" I'll pass on that for now; I prefer to break the mold.

So here I sit, with my coffee and a counterful of groceries to organize into my pantry. The kids are stirring, the garden needs to be watered before the sun beats down upon it. And here I sit...

It occurs to me that maybe if I had been glorying in the Lord instead of my accomplishments, I would have noticed that my dear bookend is feeling rather overwhelmed. Having shouldered much of the caretaking of the kids and helping me in the kitchen the past few days, he has fallen over and is feeling a bit overwhelmed with his own untended list of things to do.

Maybe it is time to return to the real world; to tie some strings with my kids and find out what I can do to bless hubby.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Praise & Glory

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. -1 Cor. 1:30-31

I started reading in Corinthians this morning. So long have I lingered in Romans, seeking to fully understand different truths. How silly of me! I should have known that I would get stuck in a rut when I abandon the iterative process which holds me in good stead. I'm sure it will sink in more the next time I get there. Wow! What clarity on a Monday morning. There must be hope for me :-)

Last week I told Deborah that I thought she had great potential as a pianist; I explained to her that this was why she would have piano lessons instead of gymnastics next year. To my surprize and delight, she has been on the piano every day! And when I give her a little lesson, she practices and practices!

I guess I shouldn't be surprized. I'm the same way. When I feel that others are praising my abilities, I tend to be much more energetic about practicing skills, aren't you? And there is nothing more disheartening than ridiculed, criticised or ignored. I much prefer constructive criticism (ie praise, correct, praise).

Food for thought: Could it be that God is motivated by our praise and glory? Could it be that we limit His activity by leaving Him out of our conversation; out of our praising and glorying?

Speaking of praise, I have been greatly remiss in not telling how wonderfully proud I am of my brother-in-law and niece, who have graduated from high school this last month. Benjamin received 2 special awards for art and computers and Jessica was on just about every single list in the program, graduating with honors. She has a $6000 scholarship to attend her first two years of college and she says her first year will be a breeze, for she is taking simple things like calculus and chemistry :-0 And Benjamin has gone and gotten a job at Kohls, so I have lost my gardener :-). Go Ben!

Friday, June 2, 2006

On Simplicity in the Home

During our trip to Iowa, we finished reading "On the Shores of Silver Lake" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was struck, as I usually am when reading one of her books, by the simplicity of their lifestyle. A one room home and extremely limited possessions makes for easy maintenance and cleaning, I'm sure ;-) Now granted, I'm sure that the Ingalls family needed more time for other things, such as gardening and preserving meats and churning butter. Yet you usually find them singing by the fire in the evenings, enjoying each other. I don't know about you, but managing the things in my life can tend to suck me away from my family if I'm not careful.

Recently during a quick clean of our house, I realized that the decluttering step was taking far longer than I liked. In fact, by the end of the day, there were still rooms which needed to be decluttered! I realized that part of this was due to lack of discipline and build up, and it was partially due to having TOO MUCH STUFF! Now, I've visited houses which have significantly more "stuff" than we do; however, I believe with all of my heart that "stuff" can so easily distract from the important things in life. Especially those who are easily distracted, like myself.

So, when Nathan directed me to do major decluttering for the upcoming church garage sale, I was naturally delighted, if a bit short on time. But I did what I could and I am happy to report that our house is several boxes lighter - and so is my heart! There is still more to be done, but I feel I've learned a few important lessons:

1. If you don't use it - give it away! The juicer in our cupboard was difficult to part with (it was a gift from my dear sister!), but we just don't use it, and there it sat, taking up space. Now someone else can use it, and if I ever need to start "juicing" I'm sure the Lord will provide us with a marvelous juicer:-)

2. If you have a lot of space, that doesn't mean you have to fill it up. It's ok to have empty cupboards and counters - especially when full ones make you insane! This is a major lesson for me, because I simply don't have a lot of time (echo that a millionfold homeschoolers!). I've realized that something can't be cleaned thoroughly or quickly if it is covered or filled with stuff. It needs to be stored or given away. Period!

3. Always have a box or space designated for giving away (or selling or storing or fixing). For me, this is half the battle. When I have something in my hand, it's important to sort it right then, otherwise it may end up increasing my clutter and this is bad bad bad for me!

4. Allow limited toys in the kids rooms. A child will develop confidence if they can easily pick up their room, but stuff everywhere tends to overwhelm a child. It is not fair of a parent to allow a huge buildup of clutter in a child's room and then give the dreaded command "clean your room!"

As with everything I am sure there is a balance involved. It is a challenge to always do the most important thing. Rarely is the most important thing housework when I need to tie strings with my kids, but after a weekend of festivities, our household has a hard time functioning properly without being cleaned up again. However, there are times when I need to ignore clutter or dirty things in order to focus on schooling or devotions or just spending time with the children or my husband. Perfection should be much strived for, but it's ok if it remains elusive ;-)