Friday, June 29, 2012

Lessons From the First Ten Years of Marriage

I married the love of my life ten years ago yesterday.  It was a hot, humid, wonderful Friday evening.  I remember walking down the aisle on my father's arm and looking straight ahead at this beautiful man standing at the front of the church waiting there for me.  Waiting to pledge his life to me.  I remember standing there, my hands shaking in his, a combination of nervousness at the gigantic step I was taking and excitement that I was finally marrying the man I have loved most of my life.  I thought I knew what I was getting into on that hot day while standing in that hot church.   I thought I knew what love was ten years ago.  I had a thing or two to learn about what love and marriage truly is.

Love is Patient.  I thought that things would be easy once we said our vows.  I was marrying the man I love, a man that I grew up with, so of course we would get along all the time.  Wew!  How wrong I was.  While Hubby may be all that, he is also his own person.  Who has his own mind that doesn't think the same way mine does.  I used to get so mad at him when he wouldn't do things my way.  I had very little patience for him doing things his way and would tell him so--both big and small.  From how he changed diapers to the way he loaded the dishwasher to the way he put his dirty socks in the hamper (or more likely on the floor), I tried to teach Hubby the correct way, i.e. MY way, to do things.  It took me a few years to learn to let it go, that just because it's not my way doesn't mean it's wrong.  Hubby would probably tell you I still have a ways to go, but I'd like to think that I have grown substantially in the area of patience.

Love is Kind.  It's not always easy being kind.  Sometimes I am in a bad mood and it is all too easy to snap at the one I love the most--Hubby.  Sometimes Hubby does something that is mean and it is hard to be nice back.  But I have gotten so much better at this.  To show kindness even when I am cranky.  To show kindness even when it is not deserved.  And I can't tell you how many times Hubby has shown me undeserved kindness in return.

Love does not Envy.  So I entered my marriage not knowing very much about cooking.  Hubby entered marriage being a fabulous cook.  The first few years I really struggled with feeling inferior to him because his cooking was so much better than mine.  I found myself apologizing almost every time I cooked because I knew that my food was lacking when put next to his.  I really struggled with envy.  Over the years I have grown in both my cooking ability and in my confidence.  I have also accepted that there are some things that Hubby will always just be better at--cooking, computers, social situations.  Being envious of his ability to walk into a room and talk to anyone is not helpful.  I am thankful that he is strong in these areas because they balance our marriage.

Love does not Boast.  I used to spend a lot of time comparing myself to others--how I kept house, how I parented, how I educated my kids.  Hubby would gently correct me and tell me to stop comparing.  To just live my life as God has called me and to let others do the same.  I didn't necessarily always boast about my successes, sometimes I was positively green with envy (today I am extremely envious of my friend's pool--it's 95+ degrees outside), but no matter how I tried to compare myself, Hubby would bring me back to the fact that it was wrong.

Love does not Dishonor Others.  I grew up in a family that practiced negative humor and sarcasm.  We still do to some degree.  Hubby grew up in a home where that was just not done.  I would say things about Hubby in public that I thought were funny but Hubby did not.  He told me I was dishonoring him and to please stop.  It took a lot of tongue biting at first.  Rarely I still fall back into old habits, but for the most part I have learned to only speak honoring words.

Love is not Self-Seeking.  I think the first and hardest won lesson in my marriage was to be selfless.  It is not easy to die to self.  To give up what I want to do for the sake of others.  There are a lot of days where I really don't want to do laundry, the dishes, cook dinner, etc.  I would much rather curl up with a good book or do something by myself.  But selfishness has no place in a good marriage.  Life is not all about me.  It is about giving myself to my family.

Love is not easily Angered.  A few years ago we went through a rough patch where I was very angry at Hubby over anything and everything.  It threatened to destroy our marriage.  Instead of throwing all the blame on Hubby as my flesh begged me to do, I bought a book called The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion and Peace With Your Man by Laura Doyle.  What an eye-opening book!  Having a good marriage was not dependent on Hubby changing, it was dependent on ME changing!  Yes, Hubby was doing some things that needed to change, but I needed to start by showing respect to him and doing the right thing, which would then turn Hubby's heart toward me.  It took about a month of my following the book's suggestions for things to turn around dramatically.  We went from being in the pit to having a marriage that was stronger than ever.  My anger and pulling away were causing Hubby to want to stay away from me, which made me angrier in one vicious, marriage-destroying cycle.  I broke the cycle eighteen months ago and thank God every day for freeing me from my anger and restoring my relationship with Hubby.

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs.  There is nothing worse than having your sins held against you and brought up time after time.  Thankfully I have a poor memory and this is rarely a problem for me.  More of a problem was my inability to say I'm sorry when I did something wrong.  Thanks to The Surrendered Wife, I learned to apologize whenever I was in the wrong.  It was incredibly hard at first.  I would do something wrong and then sit and stew, knowing I was in the wrong but really not wanting to apologize at all.  I had to work myself up to go to Hubby and ask for forgiveness.  Hubby has always been incredibly forgiving and never brings up my failures again.  He has shown me complete forgiveness many times.

Love always Protects.  There have been quite a few times where I have made Hubby check out the source of some noise we heard.  One night we were sound asleep when the radio in the living room suddenly turned on full blast.  There was Hubby, in his underwear, holding a hockey stick, creeping down the stairs in pursuit of an intruder.  I still laugh all these years later thinking about the sight he must have made when he turned the corner and startled our cat who was sitting on the couch right next to the remote control for our entertainment unit.  I always feel the safest when in Hubby's arms (or hiding behind him as he confronts the source of the bumps in the night).

Love always Trusts.  When I first quit my job to stay home with my kids, it was extremely difficult for me to trust Hubby to take care of me.  He used to talk about finding a new job and I remember being almost paralyzed with fear every single time it came up--afraid that we wouldn't have any money, that we'd lose our house, that my kids would go hungry.  I had no clue how difficult it would be for me to learn to trust Hubby for my security, but I did.  I had to first trust God to take care of me which freed me to trust Hubby to take care of me.

 Love always Hopes and Perseveres.  Sometimes life can feel hopeless.  If there is something you are struggling with for years, praying about for years, and you never see any change, it's tempting to give up hope.  Back during that bad period in my marriage where I was very angry, I was tempted to believe that nothing would ever change, my prayers would never be answered.  I was standing on the edge, my bags literally half packed, ready to give up, and God pulled me back. He slapped me upside the head and shouted at me, "What are you doing?!?!?!"  He gave me a verse that promised if I persevered, he would return me to my former glory--he would restore my marriage to it's former glory.  I am so glad that I listened and didn't give up on my marriage, that I continued to hold out hope that things would get better.  God rewarded both Hubby's and my perseverance with a relationship that is even better than before--He kept his promise.  That time was horrible and I never want to go through it again, but we wouldn't be where we are now had we not tested the bonds of our relationship and found them strong enough.

I had no clue ten years ago what life had in store for me.  Some times were hard, some were easy, some brought me to my knees.  We've had beautiful moments--the birth of our three children, sitting on the beach watching a sunset.  We've had scary moments--a high risk pregnancy followed by an extended NICU stay for David, Hubby getting meningitis and cellulitis, putting an offer on our first and second houses.  We've had sad moments--the death of my grandpa and Hubby's two grandmas.  We've had happy moments--vacations, family outings, water fights, dinner around the table.

It's been a wild ride, but I can now say with confidence that I love Marcus because I truly know from experience what it means to love him with my whole heart.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reclaiming my Backyard

David getting the stuff out of the weeds while Lizzy is using the hedge clippers

The time has finally arrived--I am tackling the wasteland in my backyard.  We used to have an above ground pool, but the pool broke four years ago.  We removed it and had plans to turn the area into a patio, then a deck, then a garden area.  It's been four years and I just keep looking out the window seeing this ugly area in my yard, year after year, telling myself that I need to do something about it.

On the way home from my trip to the lake, I was driving through a beautiful area.  Every where I looked was nature at its best--lakes, rivers, forests, sand dunes that looked like rolling hills, acres of farmland, horses, cows.  I started wishing for a view like that out my back window.  There's not much I can do about putting a lake, a farm, or a sand dune in my backyard, but I can do something about the wasteland.  Sunday night I started the attack.

View from the beach

Like almost all my projects, I started with internet research to find advice for dealing with a large plot of weeds.  The consensus was that I needed to cut the weeds down and then cover them until next spring.  There were a variety of suggestions for covering methods--clear plastic, black plastic, cardboard, layers of newspaper and compost.  I decided to start with the cutting down first.

I pulled out the scythe and got to work.  The scythe didn't do anything.  I got out Hubby's machete and tried that.  Nothing.  Those weeds are nice and sturdy.  So I pulled out the big guns--the hedge trimmer--and I cut it all down.

I only got about half of it cut down Sunday night, but I am going to finish it once the weather breaks (working out in 90+ degree weather is not my idea of fun).  In the process of the weed cutting, I unearthed a nice surprise.  Wild raspberries!  My girls are in seventh heaven making daily trips to the raspberry bushes to find any ripe ones to eat.

Yummy raspberries

I bought a 20' x 40' sheet of black plastic that I will cover the area with until spring.  Then I am going to haul in hay, dirt, and compost and I am going to turn it into a garden.  The area right now is a big sand pit about a foot deep which is great for a pool bed, not so great for a garden, so I have to heavily amend the soil to make it useful for gardening.  I want to make a couple raised beds in the corners and put a bench in there somewhere, add some pretty flowers and make wood chip paths.  Maybe an arch with a gate for the entrance.  I want it to be my little garden oasis, something beautiful that makes me smile when I look out my window.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Princess Lizzy is Seven!

My little Lizzy who still likes to stick her tongue out

Today is Lizzy's birthday!  What a day!  Last night Lizzy came out of her room at 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, and 10:00pm telling me that she couldn't sleep because she was just so excited about her birthday.  I remember those days of being so excited I couldn't sleep--birthdays, Christmas, the first day of school.

When I came out of my room this morning at 6:45am to have my prayer time, Lizzy and Joy were sitting on the couch staring at Lizzy's presents.  Thankfully Dad woke up a little earlier than normal so Lizzy could open her presents before he left for work.  

As we were opening presents, my Grandma called offering to take us out for breakfast.  We went to the local diner where the owner, Mike, put a candle in Lizzy's cinnamon roll and we sang happy birthday.  Then we had swim lessons where everyone sang to her--and just in case someone missed the fact that it was her birthday, she told them.  I took the kids out for lunch and Lizzy told the cashier it was her birthday.  We went to the grocery store and Lizzy stopped at least ten people, maybe more, to tell them it was her birthday.  Thankfully everyone she spoke to was kind and wished her a happy birthday.

Raising Lizzy has been quite a trip.  Seven years and ten months ago, I was the bread winner in my home.  Hubby is a year younger than me, plus he took a year off from college to do a GAP Year in Ireland doing mission work.  When we got married, he was still finishing up college while I had already graduated and had a job.  We waited until Hubby graduated and found a job before trying for baby number two knowing that I would be quitting my job to stay home.  The day Hubby was hired, we started trying.  Two weeks later I got a positive pregnancy test.  

Lizzy's unique fashion sense

Unfortunately, all was not smooth sailing.  I became resentful of this child growing in me.  I was suddenly a stay-at-home-mom after working for the past ten years.  I was incredibly independent and loathed having to rely on Hubby for money.  I had no clue how to take care of a house, how to spend 24 hours 7 days a week with a toddler without going crazy, how to not feel lonely.  It wasn't until the twenty week ultrasound where we saw this baby on the monitor that I started connecting with her.  We learned that we were having a girl and we named her right there in the ultrasound room while waiting for the doctor to come in.  

Lizzy playing with her camera

My pregnancy and delivery went well and I had no major issues like I did with David.  I experienced the baby blues, but as I'd dealt with it with David, I wasn't surprised.  But then the baby blues didn't go away.  I started really struggling.  I would forget to feed Lizzy,  a week would go by before I realized I hadn't bathed the kids, Lizzy's crying drove me crazy and I hated having to hold her, I hated being home so I was always going over to my mom's, grandma's or mother-in-law's houses.  I was either crying, irate, or indifferent the majority of the time.  I thought it was a spiritual problem so I didn't seek help.  Around when Lizzy was six months old, I finally bonded with her.  After about a year the craziness completely lifted and I returned to normal.  That's when I realized that what I'd gone through wasn't normal--I had just gone through a bad case of post-partum depression.  I had also had pregnancy depression which explains why I had such a hard time dealing with the pregnancy.  

How I wish I could get those two years of my life back and have a do-over where I sought help and treated my depression.  I can't even begin to explain how guilty I felt for the way I acted during Lizzy's first year of life.  I console myself by the fact that she was not irreversibly affected by actions.  

Opening her presents this morning

Lizzy has grown into a very happy, sweet, outgoing girl.  She loves people.  All people.  She will talk to anyone anywhere.  She makes everyone her friend.  She loves to make people happy, to make people feel loved.  She loves to make pictures for people, to write notes to her family, to give gifts, treats, and hugs.  She is the girl who notices that someone is being left out and will invite them to play.  She is the great organizer of fun--one day when I volunteered in her class last fall, Lizzy's friend came up to me and told me that Lizzy comes up with the best games at recess.  

I can't imagine my life without Lizzy in it.  She is a joy.  My Grandma has always called me her Sunshine Girl and I have passed that name on to Lizzy.  She truly is a Sunshine Girl.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Vacation Fun at the Lake House

David playing at the train park

I just got back yesterday from going to the Lake House with the kids, my friend, and her four kids.  We planned this little getaway because my friend's husband was gone on a junior high boys canoe trip.  We ended up picking a fabulous weekend to go to the lake because it was festival weekend.

We left Thursday afternoon after swim lessons (our kids are taking lessons at the same pool).  Friday morning we walked to a park with a wooden train the kids can climb on, around, over, through.  They played lots of games running all over the train.  In the afternoon we took the kids swimming in Lake Michigan.  While we adults sat warmly on the beach, the kids alternated between splashing in the water and playing in the sand.  David dug a hole four feet deep that he could sit in.  Lizzy and Joy tried to build sandcastles.  My friend's one-year-old contented himself with eating sand.

Playing on the beach

Saturday was Take-a-Kid-Fishing day.  I decided to put my new worm-touching skills to the test and we took the kids.  It was a great event!  They gave every child a free t-shirt, a loaner fishing pole, and bait.  After fishing they served up a free lunch.  I touched a lot of worms and dodged a lot of flying hooks, but only Lizzy managed to snag a fish--a small largemouth bass.  Unfortunately, we were grossly under-prepared for getting her fish off the hook as I'd left the tackle box back at home (not that I would have touched the fish anyway).  The poor fish almost completely swallowed the hook.  I stood around doing my best to look like a damsel in distress praying a dad in our vicinity would take pity on me and offer to get the hook out.  Thankfully my ploy worked and a nice dad asked if I needed help.  It took two guys and a pair of pliers to free the fish, but eventually he made it back to the water.

Deer we saw while sitting out on the deck

After fishing we went to the Solstice Festival across the bay where they had a bouncy house and kids games.  The kids bounced, they played games and won silly prizes, but they had fun.  We went back to the house and ate dinner.  After dinner I was looking out the window and saw the resident eagle in the water (he lives on the sand dune across the bay from the house).  We pulled out the binoculars and watched the eagle walking around in bay on a sandbar.  He was making us laugh--he'd stand still with his feathers down and then he'd raise his wings up like a lady holding her dress out, walk a few steps, and then put his wings down.  Over and over he did this.  We must have watched him for a good half hour before he finally flew away.

Sandhill Crane in the bay

After bird watching we made s'mores over the stove.  I bought the fixings not taking into account the fact that I've never started a fire, my friend has never started a fire, and while the boys insisted they knew how, we didn't take them up on their offer.  I discovered that I actually prefer my marshmallows roasted over the glass top stove!  No smokey flavor.  The evening concluded with the kids running through the yard catching fireflies while waiting for the fireworks to start.  Around 10:45pm, it was finally dark enough to set off the fireworks.  They were beautiful and the kids loved them.

Sunday is was time to pack up, clean up, and head home.

Saturday before the fireworks, when we asked the kids their favorite thing from our trip, we got a variety of answers.

Lizzy--Playing on the playground
Joy--Eating ice cream at the fishing event

My friends' kids answered very differently...
The 8 year old--Hooking mom with my fishing hook and getting a worm on her
The 6 year old--Hooking my brother with my fishing pole
The 4 year old--Hooking my brother (the other one) with my fishing pole

Clearly, flying fishhooks were the highlight of their weekend!

But after Saturday night they all agreed that the fireworks were the best part.

(These are all old pictures from vacations past because I FORGOT MY CAMERA!!!!  But we did do or see all of these things, so I figured they'd fill in.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Beauty of Math

I was good at math while growing up.  I always got straight As and was always placed in the advanced group.  And yet--I hated math.  I didn't understand a thing I was doing once I got past the basic four math functions.  I could solve the problems, I could get the right answers, but try to ask my WHY something was the right answer and I didn't have a clue.

I started to hate math.  I hated graphing calculators and sine and cosine--what are they anyway???  I hated when my math problems looked more like a writing assignment--you know the type of problem I mean.

A+B(X x Y)-T+N

Where are the numbers????

When I went off to college I had to take placement tests.  Miss Advanced Math tested into remedial math.  You heard right.  I had to pay to take a remedial math class for no credit before I could take the necessary math classes to graduate.  Despite grumbling and complaining the whole way to my first class, I ended up learning a ton that semester.  I had a great teacher who explained math in a way that I understood.  For the first time in years I was excited about math.

Since I did so well in remedial math, I got the bright idea to minor in math.  I took math all the way through Calculus 1 before I realized that my ability to understand math had maxed out and that going further in math would result in the need for a therapist due to stress.  I had visions of throwing my Calculus book into the river when the class was over.  So I changed my minor.

What is my point?  (I do have one, I promise)  I want to do better for my children.  I have one child who is brilliant at math and loves it.  I want it to stay that way.  I have another child who is also very good at math but hates it.  I want to change that.  My third child is working on writing numbers and simple addition, but currently she shows very little math ability beyond counting and skip counting.  Hopefully that will change soon.

I started out our homeschool math journey with the goal to get David as far ahead in math as possible.  I pushed him through his books because he could do the work.  When he hit a point where he struggled, I got frustrated.  Until last summer when the wall was long division.  I showed David over and over and over and over and over and over how to do long division.  He still didn't get it.  Suddenly he hated math, decided he was horrible at it since he couldn't grasp this new concept.  I was ready to scream, to cry, to throw out the math book.  Until my dear, sweat husband said, "Lisa, he's only seven.  Give him time to grow up."

Right.  So I backed off.  I switched to a different math book that hadn't reached long division yet so that he could do other things before coming back to long division hoping that the extra time would give his brain a chance to catch up.  Two months later something clicked and we were back in business.  He suddenly LOVED long division and would challenge himself to do really hard problems like 456,987,456 divided by 34.  He would do it for fun.

I'm doing the same thing this summer.  Both Lizzy and David seemed to hit a wall in math and started making a lot of mistakes.  Math stopped being fun.  I considered pressing through it but decided that since last time was a resounding success, I would back off instead.  For David I pulled out his old math program and am having him go through the book really fast--it's all review with only a few new concepts, but it's keeping his mind thinking mathematically which is my goal for the summertime.  For Lizzy I am letting her go slower through her book.  She is doing half the work she was doing during the regular school year.  So far it's working.  She's understanding three digit addition and subtraction with carrying and borrowing no problem where a month ago she was struggling with two digit non-carrying/borrowing problems.

The beauty of homeschooling is that I can do that.  When my children hit a wall in math, I can slow them down or change things up until they're ready to move on.  I can spend a month teaching long division, move onto something else for a few months, and then come back to it until David thoroughly, completely understands how to do it on his own.  I can pull out a different math book for a few months or use counting rods and money to explain carrying and borrowing.  I don't want my children to be pushed through math until they find themselves sitting in a remedial math class in college because they never really understood math.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Homeschooling and Socialization

The most common complaint I have heard about homeschooling from well meaning non-homeschoolers is...what about socialization?  If your children aren't in school surrounded by 25 other little children their exact same age, how will they ever make friends and learn to be social?

I admit that sometimes this can be a problem.  But since I don't live in the middle of nowhere with only crickets and bears for company, we haven't personally encountered this yet.  We go to the grocery store every single week and see the same three checkout people.  My kids have built up a rapport with the employees and always have conversations with them.  We also visit the library weekly and see the same people over and over who my kids like to chat with.  My kids go to Sunday School and play on soccer teams.  Right now my kids are in the middle of their annual swim lessons where they've had the same teachers for the past three years--they beg to do swimming with Mr. Marty and Ms. Nyla.  They love their swim teachers.

Socialization is not a problem in our house.  My kids will socialize with the neighbor, the girl that runs past our house every single day that we affectionately have named Runner Girl for lack of knowing her real name.  The middle-aged couple across the street with the big black dog.  They will talk to anyone and everyone.  They are very socialized.  Almost every homeschooled child I've come across has been extremely friendly and will talk to anyone--child or adult.

What I think these well intended critics should really be asking is...what about friends?  While my kids are socialized, they have a distinct lack of daily interaction with friends.  We live in a neighborhood with few children.  Things are slowly turning over as new families move in, but so far my kids haven't made any real connections with the kids around us.

Their closest friends live about five minutes away by car--across two main roads that would make biking there more than I am comfortable with just yet.  I do my best to arrange semi-regular play dates with said friends, but time slips away from me and I just forget until one day I realize that a month has gone by since their last play date.

It can be challenging to keep up meaningful friendships when your kids don't go to school every day.  When their best friend doesn't live right next door like mine did when I was a kid.  It doesn't mean it's impossible, it just takes time and effort.  I can't just kick them out the door to go play with the kids next door.  I have to call up the mom, set up a time, and then drive them there.

In the mean time, my children have formed different relationships due to this.  We are fortunate to live right down the street from my parents, my grandma, and my inlaws.  My children, rather than spending all their time with friends, spend most of their "friend time" with their grandparents.  Yesterday they went to my mom's and had a tea party.  Last night David went running with my father-in-law.  They beg me daily to go see one of the grandmas as they call them.  To see if one of their grandmas has any work for them to do.  To see if someone will play a game with them.  In the evenings to see if any of them will go on a walk with them (they all like to go on evening walks).

My children may not have age-appropriate friends in the neighborhood, and I do wish they did, but they are building very strong relationships with their grandparents--and I think that in the long run, it is probably even better.  One day when David is a surly teenager with parents who "just doesn't understand," he will have five grandparents right down the road that he can talk to instead.  People who will give him good, Godly, appropriate advice.  I have serious doubts that they would get similar advice from same-aged school friends.

Every time Hubby and I talk about moving, we always come back to--we love living by our family.  Would we give that up for the sake of living closer to other kids?  We don't have any plans to move in the near future, so I think we've made our choice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chasing the Sun Book Review

I received a free review copy of Chasing the Sun by Tracie Peterson from Bethany House Publishers and was really excited when I saw this book in my mail box. Tracie Peterson is one of my most favorite Christian authors and I really wanted to read this book anyway. From the opening pages to the end, the story flowed and kept me entertained.

The heroine, Hannah Dandridge, finds herself responsible for a Texas ranch, as well as her two younger siblings, after her father leaves for Vicksburg to tend to his ailing mother during the Civil War.  As time goes by, she has received no word from her father and starts to worry.  Hannah then learns that he has been taken prisoner by the Union army and waits patiently for further word to come through her father's law partner, Herbert Lockhart.

Meanwhile, William Barnett, who was off fighting in the war at his father's insistence for the Union, returns only to find his home confiscated by the Confederacy and given to the Dandridge family-staunch Confederate supporters.  Hannah and William attempt to sort out who truly owns the ranch through legal channels while both agreeing to live on the ranch, but Lockhart won't stay out of it.  He tries to coerce Hannah into marriage so he can take control of the property that he desperately wants.

As Hannah and William wait for the matter of ownership to be settled by the judge, their opinions of each other starts to change.  As they find themselves becoming attracted to each other,  Lockhart keeps meddling and will stop at nothing to get Hannah to marry him, including lying, forgery papers, and murder.

In the end, the real owner of the ranch hardly matters as Hannah and William have fallen in love.  But after the judge rules on the case and the owner is revealed, Lockhart threatens Hannah that he will kill her siblings if she doesn't agree to marry him.  He tries to kidnap her and confesses to the murder of her father in the process.  Luckily, William, accompanied by the local sheriff, arrives just in time to save the day.  

Overall, Chasing the Sun was a fun read.  It had twists and turns that kept the book moving.  The only complaint I have for the book is that the ending is rather abrupt.  It alludes to a trilogy with Hannah's siblings as the main characters, but future books in this series are about completely different people.  I wanted more and am disappointed that this is the end.

How Do You Clean?

My duster being put to good use

I'm just going to say it right now.  I hate cleaning.  I do it because it's necessary, but I don't get a thrill out of it.  I like the effects of decluttering, but cleaning?  Not so much.  I especially loathe cleaning bathrooms.  Disgusting.  I used to hate mopping my kitchen floor just as much, but now I can tolerate it after buying a steam mop.

So how does a gal who hates cleaning keep her house clean?  I have two systems that I use depending on how much time I have and how motivated I am feeling.

If time is short, I use the first system--the "get 'er done" method.  I set the timer for a specified amount of time--usually thirty to sixty minutes, and I force myself to clean the entire time.  No breaks, no distractions, just clean.  Once the timer goes off I finish up what I'm doing and then quit even if the house isn't completely clean.  I find that I can get almost everything done when I really set my mind to it and don't allow myself distractions--"Oh, I need to check my email for just a second" or "I should organize this room rather than clean."

My second method is for those days when I have more free time and don't feel very motivated, but the job still needs to get done.  For these days, I use a system of 15s.  I set the timer and work for fifteen minutes.  Once the timer goes off, I stop what I'm doing and do something fun--either on the computer or read a book.  After fifteen minutes of fun, I get back to work and clean for fifteen more minutes and so on until the job is done or I run out of time.

My preference is the get 'er done method.  I want to clean all at once and then forget about it until the next time.  I like to do all the laundry one day a week and then not have to worry about it until next week.  I like to pull out the cleaners once, use them on everything, and then put them away until next week.

Of course then there are those days when company is coming over and you have to do a midweek clean.  Those are the days when you clean the bathrooms and kitchen an extra time and run the vacuum.  But that only takes twenty minutes at the most.

And then there are those weeks when you are so busy that you don't even know how you're going to fit grocery shopping in, let alone cleaning the whole house.  Those are the days when you clean one room here, one room there as you find a few minutes of free time.  In the morning as I'm waiting for my bagel to toast, I empty the dishwasher.  As I'm cooking dinner, I do the dishes from the day.  As I'm talking on the phone with someone, I'll sweep the kitchen or spray down the bathroom.  As I'm walking through the living room I'll pick up a couple things and put them away.  I'll make my bed when I'm in my room to get something.  Over the course of the day these few extra minutes add up to a mostly clean house.

Nope, my system isn't spectacular.  It's not going to win any medals or compare to FlyLady.  But it works for me and that's what matters.

What system do you use?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kids Are Expensive

I don't know how it is in most homes, but my kids are expensive.  They keep growing.  And growing.  Maybe all kids grow like mine--super fast.  Or maybe my kids grow faster than the average child due to having a dad that's 6 foot 7 inches and a mom who is 5 foot 8 inches.  Whatever the cause, my kids are always in need of new clothes and shoes.

I went through Lizzy's summer clothes back in April.  I weeded out the clothes that were too small and felt confident that she had enough shorts and t-shirts to be fine for the summer.  And then one by one, she would go to put on a pair of shorts and they wouldn't button.  Or a shirt would actually be a belly shirt.  I took her to the thrift store and bought her a few skorts to fill in the gaps thinking that'd be enough.  Last week things came to a head.

I was behind on laundry due to a crazy week, so she was to the bottom of her shorts pile.  She tried on the last four pairs, one by one, and not a pair fit.  I went online and bought her five new pairs that arrived on Saturday.

Two weeks ago Lizzy commented that she needed new shoes.  Her old pair was not only falling apart, but upon investigation I found they were also too small.  David's shoes were also falling apart, but as they still fit and are from Lands End, I could take them into Sears and get a replacement pair for free thanks to their awesome 100% guarantee.  But that meant two weeks without shoes while waiting for the new pair to come in the mail.  So I bought both Lizzy and David new shoes from Target because they were having a sale and there was a 20% off coupon code.

I thought I was done for the summer.  Wrong.  While we were at Sears returning David's shoes, Joy was dancing around and I really looked at her shoes.  Also falling apart.  I felt for her toe and realized her toes were at the end.  Sigh.  When we got home I went online and found her new shoes from Walmart.

Maybe, maybe, we are really truly set for the rest of the summer.  Maybe, maybe, my kids won't have a growth spurt before the fall.  Yes, it's annoying to discover all of my children have outgrown their shoes at the same time, but I admit that it is fun to search the web to find the best deal on clothes and shoes, that I enjoy finding great clothes for super cheap at the thrift store.  Even if I won the lottery and had more money than I knew what to do with, I would still hunt down deals and shop at thrift stores because it's fun to save money.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

Joy playing in the pile that David-5 and Lizzy-3 helped rake

I distinctly remember the day when my friend from next door was over for dinner.  When we were done eating, my mom got up to do the dishes and my friend opened her big mouth and said, "You guys don't have to wash dishes?!  We do!"  I could have killed her.  The very next day my sister and I started washing dishes--by hand.  We took turns washing dishes until the day we moved out.  No dishwasher in our house until all us kids had moved out.  My parents apparently decided that since they no longer had free child labor, they weren't going to do the dishes themselves every night, so they bought a dishwasher.  Hmmm....

So you will now understand why I get so much glee out of what I'm about to tell you.

Three summers ago we got new neighbors.  They have a teenage daughter and two boys who are older than David--they are now going into sixth and eighth grades.  Two winters ago, when said boys were ten and twelve, I was out shoveling the driveway with David who was seven at the time.  The dad was also shoveling.  We got to talking and I asked him why he doesn't make his boys do the shoveling.  He said he'd never thought about it; he just does it.  The very next snow fall, his boys were out there shoveling and have been shoveling ever since.

The following fall it happened again.  I was outside raking the yard with all the kids.  The dad was raking his yard...alone.  I asked him why he was raking when he had two boys who could be doing it for him.  Darned if he didn't go into his house, drag his boys out, and thrust a rake in their unwilling hands.  Once David was done with our yard, he even went over to help the neighbors because he loves raking that much.

David helping rake the neighbor's yard

Fast forward to this summer.  Hubby decided David is old enough and strong enough to mow the lawn.  David is responsible for keeping the back and side yard mowed every week.  This time I didn't even have to say anything to the neighbor.  Up to now it has always been the dad who does the mowing.  Today I looked out the window and saw the younger boy mowing the lawn.  I admit to laughing.  I may have snorted.  A few cackles of glee might have possibly escaped my mouth as well.

I don't want you to think that I am this evil woman who gets inordinate joy out of seeing the boys having to do work that they didn't have to do before.  I admit, while that is a part of it, I am also thrilled that the dad is taking the steps to give his sons responsibility.  Any responsibility.  I have shared here before my stance on children and work.  How I am raising children to be self-reliant, independent adults and that chores plays a big part in that.

When I had that discussion over snow shovels, the dad was outside shoveling while his sons were hiding in the basement playing video games on a snow day.  The dad was clearly annoyed with the amount of time that his boys spent playing video games and their lack of willingness to help out, but seemed almost handicapped to do anything about it.  It was as if he needed permission to step in and demand better from his sons.  To see it happen again with lawn care makes me even happier.  Like my work here is done.

Maybe I need to send David over there for dinner some night and say the horrible words that were said to me.  "You guys don't have to do dishes?!  We do!"

Oh the mighty power of suggestion is alive and well at my house.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Touched a Worm

I took the kids fishing all by myself today (read that as no Hubby to do all the yucky worm and fish touching).  I bought the worms myself--$3.90 for twenty Canadian night crawlers (I'm not sure if Canadian worms are better than American ones, but that's what the container said).  I actually touched the container that they came in.  We drove a few miles to a pond with tons of little nibbler fish that like to bite hooks.

David and Lizzy are independent fishers.  They bait their own hooks and only occasionally need help getting their fish off.  Joy is not.  I thought about making David bait Joy's hooks, but I didn't think it was fair to him to have to stop fishing all the time.  So I bucked up and baited her hook myself.  I tried not to think about all those worm guts getting on my fingers, about the wriggly little bodies wrapping around my hand.  I will probably have nightmares full of disgusting worms tonight, but I did it.  I touched a worm and survived.

We all caught at least one fish.  David, our fisherman, caught six.  He also caught the largest fish, coming in at just under six inches long-ginormous!  I don't know what he does that's different than the rest of us, but he always catches a bunch of fish while we catch a few.

We had a fun time and I plan to do it again soon.  It was peaceful and fun for all of us.  And that's one more thing I can cross off my Summer Bucket List.  Next time I'll plan ahead enough to remember the picnic.

1. Built a fort out of downed wood.

2. Pack a picnic lunch and go fishing.

3. Fly a kite.

4. Watch the clouds drift by on a hot, summer day.

5. Catch fireflies and put them in a jar so we can watch them light up in a dark room.  (And then release them)

6. Build a sandcastle.  

7. Paint nature scenes while sitting outside.

8. Go on a bird watching hike.

9. Go canoeing and/or tubing down a river.

10. Buy a pup tent that the kids can set up themselves and play in outside.  

As you can see, the fish were HUGE.  Joy named the fish Floppy, Floppy Boppy, and Floppy Boppy Loppy before she got tired of the game.  She wanted to take them home for dinner, but I assured her that my dinner plans are much tastier than hers.

life rearranged

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Changing Our Diet One Step at a Time

Munching on fruit and sugar snap peas

It all started last fall when Hubby decided to give up artificial sweeteners.  He stopped using artificial sweeteners in his coffee and started drinking it black.  He gave up his Diet Pepsi habit cold turkey.  He never said that I needed to stop my two cans of Diet Pepsi a day habit, but since I didn't want to be a stumbling block to my husband, I gave it up.

The first week was literally painful.  My legs ached, my head hurt, my energy level was nil.  When Hubby quit drinking pop, he also experienced the achy legs.  Rather disturbing all things considered.  After a month, I was able to go a whole day without craving a pop.  After two months, I was doing fine.  It has been six months now and I have only fallen off the bandwagon in the last two weeks--I was extremely tired and craved the caffeine so I gave into temptation.  But I am back to normal and no more pop.

Next came the fruit push.  I started buying lots of apples, oranges, bananas and grapes (our winter fruit staples) and all but shoving them down my kids' throats.  "Oh, you want a snack?  Have fruit first."  Fruit, fruit, lots of fruit.

Then we got rid of the white flour (except for pasta because the rest of the family thinks whole wheat pasta is gross).  This has been the hardest change for my kids.  At lunch time the kids whine about only having whole wheat bread (the real stuff, not the pretend wheat bread), begging for fluffy white bread.  It's been two months and they're getting used to it, for the most part.  I stopped buying all crackers except triscuits and wheat thins--these two being the healthier of the bunch.  Higher fiber, low sugar.  I stopped buying pretzels and chex mix--oh the agony for my kids!

Preparing red peppers for freezing--I always stock up when they go on sale for $1/lb

The last two months I have been working on upping our fruits and veggies intake even further.  I used to buy fruit and forget about it, resulting in having to throw it away.  Now, the first thing I do when I get home from the store is to wash the fruit and put it in containers.  Every meal I pull the containers out and set them on the table.  We have gone through a TON of fruit this way.  Strawberries, grapes, cherries, blackberries, watermelon.  We're all anxiously awaiting the start of blueberry season to add to our assortment.  I've also increased the portion sizes of the vegetables that I serve the kids for meals.  They're now up to eating a full serving rather than a small serving.

This will last us about a day--if I'm lucky.  Cherries always go first.

This month I am working on dinners.  Dinner used to be a meat, vegetable and a starch.  I have changed that to be a meat, a green vegetable, another vegetable, and sometimes a starch.  For example, tonight we are having hamburgers on whole wheat buns, salad and green beans.  Last night was chicken stirfry with lots of red pepper and zucchini over rice.  The night before was grilled chicken, salad, and corn.  I always set out a variety of fruit for dessert--both fresh and frozen.

Dinner of chicken, salad, corn and frozen berries (the steak tasted "off" so we didn't eat it)

We've tried doing more extreme diets where we go through an induction phase and have to change everything all at once, but they're hard to maintain over the long haul.  Taking it one step at a time is working much better for us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Building a Fort

The first item on my Summer Bucket List has been crossed off.  The kids hauled lots of sticks from the woods behind my grandma's house down the street, we nailed them to a supporting board, and then we put it all together to create a fort.

Truthfully, the kids say it looks more like a jail (and I have to agree), but eventually as we improve on it, I hope it will look more like a fort.  One wall is just a left over piece of plywood, but we'll build another wall as we find more sticks--we ran out.

1. Built a fort out of downed wood.

2. Pack a picnic lunch and go fishing.

3. Fly a kite.

4. Watch the clouds drift by on a hot, summer day.

5. Catch fireflies and put them in a jar so we can watch them light up in a dark room.  (And then release them)

6. Build a sandcastle.  

7. Paint nature scenes while sitting outside.

8. Go on a bird watching hike.

9. Go canoeing and/or tubing down a river.

10. Buy a pup tent that the kids can set up themselves and play in outside.  

The kids played jail on Saturday as I worked in my garden.  Joy kept getting put in jail by David for speeding.  Good thing she still has another eleven years before she'll be old enough to get her driver's license!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lurking In the Deep....

Are plant-eating slugs!  AHHHHH!!!!!  I've been having problems with slugs eating my snap peas and brussel sprouts plants.  The leaves are starting to look like an intricate lace pattern.  I tried several suggestions I found on the web to eliminate them without resorting to chemicals--I tried putting used coffee grounds around the plants, no effect.  I tried putting pine needles around the plants which did help a little.  But the slugs were still happily munching away one leaf at a time.

I was out watering my garden today and noticed my chives starting to look a little pathetic.  I decided to move them out of the south facing spot they have been in for the last two years and move them to a more shady spot to see if less sun would help them rejuvenate.  Well.....

I found the mother load of slugs under the planter.  I almost gagged there were so many slugs.  So I got out a shovel and a piece of scrap wood and started scooping them up and smashing them on the wood until all the ones I could see were dead.  I killed over twenty.  They stunk!  Blah!

Why yes, doesn't everyone garden with a Dora shovel?

Of course situations in nature often cause me to think about parallels to my own life.  Sometimes I have symptoms of a sin affecting my life.  Sin slowly eats away at me one leaf at a time.  I have tried to eliminate the problem by sprinkling coffee grounds around my sin, you know, making a few surface changes to try to shrink the problem.  When the first attempt produces no change, I try a little harder.  I sprinkle pine needles around my sin.  That works for a while, but then the sin gets crafty and works its way around the needles.  You thought you'd had the issue resolved, but the leaves are still being munched away at slowly but surely.

And then something happens to cause a glaring light to shine on your sin--a trial, a comment, a passage in the Bible--suddenly the source of your sin is no longer hidden and the only option left is to pluck the sin out one slug at a time and smash it to pieces so it can no longer harm you.

Now that the sin is no longer eating away at you, eventually the holes in your leaves will heal as you grow.  The leaves on my plants aren't going to fill in any time soon, but the holes left behind in me due to sin will be filled in as Jesus takes up the space left behind.

One slug at a time I am growing that much closer to Jesus, that much freer until I am as beautiful and whole as this unaffected plant.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Normal--Our Summer Routine

A month ago I wrote about starting a new routine around here.  I kept to the routine until Memorial Weekend when we went on our first family camping trip.  After camping, I had a crazy messy house from all the camping stuff--laundry, bins of stuff to put away, a camper to clean out.  It was the last two weeks of preschool for Joy which meant field trips and parent programs which sucked up even more of my time.  Plus I was trying to wrap up the bulk of our homeschooling subjects before the craziness of summer started this week meaning we were spending more time than normal doing school.  Needless to say, our routine and my homemaking skills pretty much went out the window for those two weeks.

This week we are back in business...sort of.  Lizzy is spending the week attending our church day camp.  Next week we start swim lessons for two weeks.  All of which means lots of driving and breaking up of the schedule for the next three weeks.  

So I am going to have to adjust our schedule to fit our summer lives.  We've done our next schedule three times so far (last Thursday, Friday and partly today).  I really like schedules.  A plan keeps me on track and makes sure things get done around here.  Our summer schedule has been amended to this:

7:00am-Up, dress/shower, breakfast
8:00am-Family prayer time
9:15am-Free time, errands, walk, field trip, etc
12:30pm-Quiet time (David and Lizzy read, Joy listens to audio books)
2:00pm-Outside play
3:15pm-Free time
5:00pm-Dinner prep

Obviously our mornings will be adjusted significantly until July due to day camp and swim lessons, but we're fitting in math and prayer every morning before having to leave.  The beauty of a schedule is that it's flexible.  My kids can do their chores after quiet time if we don't have time in the morning.  The important thing is to just know what your goals for the day are and to have a loose plan for how you're going to accomplish everything.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer Bucket List

I have always loved the lazy days of summer.  As a child, I spent the bulk of my time playing outside in the kiddie pool, running to the library across the street (sometimes still in my dripping wet swimsuit) to check out more books or to play on the playground, riding my bike, laying in the grass with my best friend, Jessie, watching the clouds drift by, playing in our pup tent, just about anything that involved being outside or reading books.

As a mom, summers are a little bit different from what I was a kid--I no longer go to the library in my swimsuit, I don't ride my bike through the neighborhood like a speed demon, and I don't sit around in a pup tent playing endless card games of War.  But I still love those summer days spent doing nothing constructive.  

My favorite place to be in the summer is at the Lake House.  Whether at the beach, climbing sand dunes, berry picking, hiking in the woods, biking on the bike trail, or just sitting around the campfire, I love being at a place with no agenda, no internet, no TV, and limited cell reception.  Where family time is a given.  Where the kids can run out the door and find tons of things to occupy their imaginations.

I have come up with my Summer Bucket List to help create a "Lake House Effect" at home.  To try to give my children a fun, lazy, wonderful summer.

1. Built a fort out of downed wood.

2. Pack a picnic lunch and go fishing.

3. Fly a kite.

4. Watch the clouds drift by on a hot, summer day.

5. Catch fireflies and put them in a jar so we can watch them light up in a dark room.  (And then release them)

6. Build a sandcastle.  

7. Paint nature scenes while sitting outside.

8. Go on a bird watching hike.

9. Go canoeing and/or tubing down a river.

10. Buy a pup tent that the kids can set up themselves and play in outside.  

The first project we're tackling is building a fort.  We have started it, but need to find more branches to complete it.  Here's the beginnings of our fort--we're working on the walls.

David nailing a stick to the board brace

Joy helping me nail sticks to the board brace

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Graduation Day--Joy is a Kindergartener!

Joy's last day of school

My baby graduated from K4 today.  Sniff, sniff.  My how the time has flown.  It seems like it was just yesterday that my big kids were in school and Joy was bored being at home with just me all day.  Then we brought the big kids home and Joy kept going to school because she loved it, we'd already paid for it, and she was learning new skills.

Joy went to the school that Hubby and I graduated from--a private church sponsored school.  It'd been a long time since I'd last stepped foot into the school when we went to register Joy.  It was a pretty good school back when we went there, so it was the natural choice when we decided to enroll Joy in preschool.  There had been a very large turnover in staff, curriculum, even the principal.  Yet the spirit of the school remains the same.  If anything, it is even better now.

Whenever I sent Lizzy and David off to public/charter school, I always worried what they were going to be learning, what the other kids were going to do, what nonsense they were going to come home with.  Some days I was livid, others I was horrified, a few times I was shocked, but rarely was I happy with what the kids brought home.  Not once did I ever worry about Joy.  I knew that she was in a safe place, surrounded by the very best teachers,  in a school where the "big kids" went out of their way to be kind to the "little kids."  I knew that while she was busy learning how to read, write and do simple math, she was also learning about the Bible, who God is, and memorizing scripture.

It was exciting to watch her mature this year.  She went to school barely writing any of her letters and graduated being able to write all her letters mostly right most of the time.  But at least she can write!  She went to school knowing all her letters, able to sound out a few simple words and graduated being able to sound words out in a way that my other two never did--she's by far the best at it.  While she isn't ready to tackle Shakespeare, she is definitely a beginning reader.  She started the year scribbling rather than coloring and finished the year coloring near the lines and drawing simple pictures that you can usually tell what they are.

The next stop on Joy's academic journey is homeschooling.  While she was hoping to go back to school in the fall, she is very excited about doing "school with mom."  She loves her momma!

Today her school had an awards ceremony and Joy received the "Sweet Spirit" award.  She really is a big sweetheart who loves nothing better than snuggling up in my lap.

Joy receiving her awards

LOL!  I just went through Joy's bag of last day of school stuff and found a booklet of autographs from her classmates.  I just have to share this...

This one made me laugh the hardest--I think someone has a crush on Joy:)

This got the second biggest laugh--Joy is the messiest eater I know.  Her face is always covered in food.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Tale of Two Children

David was bored the other day and moping around the house.  I suggested a few ideas to him, none of which appealed.  That's when I got the idea that he could design a pinewood derby car using one of the kits that I had stashed away.

Of course the girls instantly decided they just had to make their own cars, but I only had two kits, so Lizzy won the second one.  Hubby got out the power tools and cut the blocks of wood into the desired shapes.  Lizzy thought she was done and was ready to start painting.  No, no, no, dear.  It's time to sand.

They sanded for five minutes tops and declared their cars done.  I said they had to keep going to make their cars smooth and to get rid of the cut lines from the power tools.  I said that it could take them a few days of working at it to get them just right.  Lizzy whined that it was going to take forever to finish.  David just kept sanding.

Lizzy sanded for maybe twenty minutes and then gave up.

David sanded...

and sanded for about an hour that day.

We bought finer grained sand paper at the store.  As soon as we got home, David got it out of the bag and was on the front porch sanding (I kicked them out of the kitchen after I discovered they also sanded my kitchen table).  Lizzy sanded for a few minutes while David kept on sanding...

Lizzy clearly is fully invested in her sanding project

And sanding...

until I called him in for lunch and he declared his truck was done and smooth as glass.

He washed off the sawdust with a rag and set the truck out to dry and went to mow the lawn.  He painted it later that day--one coat of green.  He said it was done.  Hubby told him it needed another layer of green.  So he painted it again and said it was done.  I said it needed windows or some sort of detailing, so he painted it again.  I tried to get him to do another round of painting, but he put his foot down and hammered in the wheels, declaring it completely done.

Lizzy gave up on her car after a few rounds of sanding.  I'm sure it'll eventually be finished, maybe by the end of the summer.  Meanwhile, David is having fun rolling his car down the driveway and doing lots of experiments seeing how different weights affect the speed of his car.