Our Pseudo-Winter, and Unplugged Days

I’m in the process of writing an article regarding how to move forward from the I’ve-done-nothing-that-I-originally-planned-to-do-and-winter-is-making-me-miserable blues, and I’ve had a chance to live this article over the last few days.    We don’t see much winter here, but when it does come, we learn how unprepared we are for it.    (Interestingly enough, I read where a newspaper writer from Rochester, NY criticized our exaggeration and over-preparation for winter weather.   Let’s see her survive ~90 days where it’s already 90 degrees and 100% humidity at 8 a.m., with no chance of a cool breeze.)   The mere warning of winter has, for all practical purposes, shut the city down for the next 4-5 days.   Personally, I’ve laughed at myself as I, the notorious introvert, had finally worked myself up to get out of the house and take the kids out on a group field trip this Friday.   Cancelled.     The cheerleading practice for Saturday’s Upward games?  Cancelled.   All I await is the text from the dance instructors saying that tonight’s practices are a wash.

Because of the extended cold temperatures and high usage rates, the electric company has shut off the power intermittently throughout the city—45 minutes here, 45 minutes there, with no warning.   Yesterday, we woke up with no clocks, no heat, no nothing.   Then, just as everything clicked back on and we started about our day, there came another click, and everything was off again.   By the afternoon, life was far more normal, but the morning’s interruptions had taken a definite toll on a crew that doesn’t need much to get off track, anyway.    By this morning, I was just thankful to have consistent power while I baked oatmeal.

Filling the days without electricity has been enlightening.    The computer wasn’t always available, and neither was the television.   The oldest spent her day no differently than she always does, but our younger two were forced into some creativity with their normal outlets unavailable.   And though I missed television, I have to confess that I didn’t need to see one more angle regarding how the Packers might take down Ben Roethlisberger this Sunday.    Incidentally, playing in Green Bay, WI and Pittsburgh, PA, respectively, both NFL teams have requested to keep the “palace that Jerry (Jones) built” open for Superbowl Sunday.    For the Texas natives who control the Dome’s operation and the Superbowl-related revenues?   Not a chance.  

What did I do with my unplugged time?   I rushed to secure clean clothes before we lost the washing machine and dryer.    I got dinner prepared early—oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans, and for once, every family member could eat some portion of the same meal without me having to cook anything extra.    I washed and braided the youngest’s hair.    I had my own praise and worship via my cell phone (okay, so maybe I’m not so unplugged in after all).   When our son complained that he wouldn’t get to watch “Live to Dance,” I had another praise and worship session.    Kids in traditional schools today had no power and no hot lunch, and most had to brave the elements to get back and forth to home.   How dare any one of us stand with a full belly and a heated blanket and complain.   I think he, too, saw the light when he later came and sat and enjoyed his sister’s reading of Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.

   I even worked out, blowing the dust off my 8-lb weights and adding in some sit-ups.  

Besides the power outages and the cancelled school days, the city has yet to actually see any of the snow and hazardous weather that anyone predicted.  Yet, though I’ll be the first to say that I enjoy my modern conveniences, I can admit that a day or two with nothing to plug into, type, or watch passively probably did us a world of good.

P.S. Just got a text.    Dances classes cancelled.   Wonder what our (potentially) unplugged time might look like tonight?

In spite of…(the room re-do)

I am not accustomed to being sick, and it really bothers me to not be able to do and think and go at a pace that I feel is needed (Yeah, I know).

Not only that, but with all three children at some stage of sickness as well, so much of our normal “M O” has been left by the wayside.    The oldest, faithfully slow and methodical, has averaged about 8 hours to complete 2 subjects.   Our youngest has skated, given that Mom generally crawled back in bed for the day after her morning break.   By the time I tried to get us back on track at week’s end when I feel better, I realized quickly the impact of even a few days of inconsistency.    Our son is getting his work done, but not much else in terms of his responsibilities.   I chose not to immediately address any of this, less I respond out of my own aches, frustrations, and downright crankiness.

When I grew weary of lying in bed, I forced myself to keep moving on our no-cost home improvement project.   You could argue that I’m not paying attention to my body, and maybe you’d be right, but I’m also a believer that so much of our body’s state of being is first and foremost a product of our state of mind.   So, once we began moving furniture, we did as much as we could before having to stop and repaint our daughter’s room.

Color choice is always an interesting discussion in our home.   The kids always want what they want.   Yet, with an eye for future buyers, I try to stay in a certain pallette.   I love earth tones, but I’m not that crazy about green.   So with all of these different needs as a backdrop for the back-and-forth color choice negotiation, our youngest finally settled on “whispered purple.”

I didn’t plan on painting, and now that my fire for home improvement projects definitely needs rekindling, thank God for a growing son anxious to show himself a young man.   He couldn’t  remember to do his part with the laundry, or to pack his dance bag with socks and water  before time to walk out of the door, or to take his phone rather than mine, but he can paint.     I need to show him some grace, as I’m sure that he’s been in a stuffy-nozed, sore-throated fog, too.   One day he actually tried–on his own–a home remedy suggested to me recently: raw garlic cloves.   He must have been feeling pretty badly.

The room came out great, but all the new colors in the house got me thinking about how we might adjust the artwork to make better use of what we now have.   Just as one example, these sconces (there are two of them, one pictured here) once hung inside our home in our largely empty great room.   They and the picture they complemented matched nothing, but they filled a space on what would otherwise be an empty wall.  

Now they will greet everyone who comes to the front door.   Hopefully, they speak a graceful welcome to others, and nudge me to spruce up the wreath they now complement.   Can’t wait to post the other house upgrades later.

A Good Season

We didn’t get much snow in Texas, but this was our one taste of a winter wonderland while in Georgia for the holidays:

If I tried to pen what has been our life since my last post, it would seem uneventful, but these days have actually been anything but.   In the last few days, we…

1)      started school again for the 2nd semester

2)      rearranged 2/3 of the upstairs furniture

3)      painted the youngest daughter’s room

4)      revamped my husband’s and son’s closets

The whole paint/ closet cleanout/ urniture rearrangement was a Malachi 3: 8-12 blessing for us after a friend decided to get rid of the furniture she’d kept in storage for years.    It all began with her offering my husband a number of suits that she’d kept after the death of her father.     This man was what the kids call an “OG” (original gangster–LOL), so among the nicer church suits were also a number of pastel purples and fire engine reds with the shoes and hats to match.    I found out later that the red suit matched his red Mercedes convertible–too much.    Anyway, in ridding her high-priced storage area of the suits, she began to look at furniture.    She then offered us a formal sofa and love seat–something we’ve never invested in given our largely unused formal living room area.    Right now, we have our desktop computer in that room, and a sofa that the dog likes to sleep on when he thinks we’re not looking.    Now, we have a beautiful formal set which has the same cherry wood, traditional style of the dining room set given to us after my father passed.   With the addition of fabric, this area is going to be fabulous!   I just pray that we can preserve this WHITE furniture in a house with a busy 7-year-old and 2 dogs who think we’re just here to make them feel at home.   I won’t post a picture right now with the house in disarray; I’ll save the shots for a before/ after photo experience.

Well, with an almost brand new set in our now sincerely formal living room, we moved the dog’s secret bed-with-no-breakfast upstairs to the game room.     The futon that once provided extra bedding for our kids’ guest was now available for our son’s bedroom, giving him the extra room that he wanted to spread out those increasingly long legs.   His twin bunk beds now grace the room of the youngest, who’d had a dresser drawer that had seen better days.    I’d made a decision to get her a captain’s bed, the one with the drawers underneath.     How was I going to buy all this furniture, in light of everything else we needed to do, without debt?     Problem solved. 

I write to take my boast in the Lord.    We’ve had such a tremendous turnaround going into the new year until my head spins just thinking about what the last week has brought us.    In addition to what I’ve listed above, there’ve been business partnerships, contracts, speaking engagements–so much to share that I’ll have to spread it out over the weeks and months to come.    Stay tuned!

Our pastor’s words at the beginning of this year have come from 2 Kings 17, and the message has been so powerful in our lives.   Last year’s word was based on being a priest in the home/ community/ workplace, etc.; this year’s focus is what happens to the priest (us)  as we step into the presence of the King.    I’ve been basking in His Word and enjoying the fruits of this season.    There are a number of confessions we’re making and seeing them come to fruition.    I may share them, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, but without context and teaching it might not make sense.    Just rejoice with me, for I know that,  like the tribulation-filled 2010,  it will pass, too.   Yet, it is a good season and I’m thankful for it.

How (Not) to Do It All

It feels as if so much has gone on in the past few weeks until it’s difficult to get my head around it, much less articulate all of it on paper.   Somewhere in the last month,

1)      My husband changed jobs

2)      My job changed, forcing me out of my comfort zone and into new uncertainties

3)      Dance season began, with unexpected investments in time and money

4)       We brought home a puppy (in many ways like having a new baby, I now realize)

Another change that occurred, and I now realize that it was far more significant than I thought initially (since it had become a relatively new habit), was that my MP4 player broke.   The little electronic tool that had become the center of my morning devotional crashed and burned, just about the time that my devotional had become routine, and I had no back-up plan.

 

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, life has happened—school still happens, the house still has to be cleaned and maintained (enhancements are beyond me right now), kids still have to be fed, taken care of, and loved, and a business needs running.    I’m not complaining, just stating that I’m overwhelmed.       Even in the midst of realizing that it is all for my good (speaking primarily about #2 listed above), I’m just plain whipped out.   Seriously.

This week is our fall break after nine weeks of school.   Monday was a field trip for the kids and me that somehow wound up being a homeschool trip for 25 people.   Tuesday, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone during a grocery store visit that lasted 2 hours.   They rearranged the store, so now I’m relearning shelves, plus I took my girls with me, which didn’t help me focus any on the task at hand.    (I wrote that elaborate description of my errand because it is a microcosm of what is happening with my life these days).   Wednesday, I sat down to get a better handle on all the changes, and to figure out what all of this means for me.   Thankfully, the word that has continuously come my way—from a number of angles– is to prioritize.    Thank you, Lord.    So I looked at my schedule in blocks of time and embraced the ebb and flow of work that I’ve often taught to my adult students.    Here’s what I discovered:

The “non-movables” are here to stay: ministry to my family through school time, non-school family time, couple time, and home management.   Since the “non-movables” are a given (thank God), I must submit each day to the Lord’s priorities.  And guess what?   Some days the non-movables aren’t the priority! That doesn’t mean that they won’t be taken care of, but it means that if I believe the Lord has gifted my mind and hands in this way, then I must make the most of His gift.   So, with that in mind,

In the earliest portion of the week (Mondays and Tuesdays), I have time to write, and need to make good, effective use of it.

I have blocks of time later in the week to exercise—a rarity in the house now-a-days.   The running joke of the house is whose Mii is sleeping the hardest—we’ve all been really tired.

I set goals on a number of sewing projects that have hung around for far too long.    The date written down, even in pencil, gives me hope (LOL)

The time between waking up with my husband and actually getting out of bed is my quiet time with the Lord.    However, tuning every other care out in order to focus in is a task for me, and that’s where my player came in handy.    I really need another player.    My devotional time was priceless, and because of the demands of my family, I was ministered to while operating with free hands to minister to my family through breakfast preparation, last-minute school plan adjustments, etc.

 Each day, what God wants, not what I want.    Too often, I want to be Superwoman, or at least some version of it based on the images of a woman who does it all, but looks like she does nothing, that suffocate my sense of self.   I may not get done all that I want, but there is peace and prosperity in accomplishing His purposes.

Finally, I’m not a slave to social media, but as a business owner, I recognize its power to quick spread the word and disseminate information.   I just have to exercise wisdom in being a good steward of when I use these tools and what I use them for.    An angel mentioned HootSuite to me, and it’s been a life saver.   I can quickly access Twitter and Facebook (and three other networks if I had them) at once and do what I need to do without the 4-hours of time on average that I’ve read as being common to most Facebook users.   YIKES!

Okay, this simply scratches the surface of all the places that my mind has been, but just writing it down is energizing.   I promised myself that today I’d catch up on my mending (husband has buttons missing on about 4 shirts), and sure enough, I’ve let the weather change catch me regarding finishing my youngest’s bathrobe.   We had our first day of 60-degree mornings this week, and she had to stroll around in an unfinished robe.  Oh, well!   I’m off to complete it now as I listed my deadline as Sunday!   God bless!

Fruits and Vegetables for the Mind

‘Research shows that one of the common characteristics of geniuses is that they were raised with many books available to them.   Don’t be stingy on your library–have as many books at home as you possibly can.   Have a wide variety of kinds of books.   Leave them at strategic reading spots throughout the house.   Make all of your books accessible.   Every time your child opens a book to read, it is a lesson in language–how someone else used it to express a thought, story, idea, or insight.’

Clay and Sally Clarkson, pg. 48  

 

I am convinced as I continue on this journey of the power of homeschooling to change so many facets of your life.   A significant part of successful homeschooling is the atmosphere that we create for learning.   A traditional school already has an established atmosphere because of what the physical building represents.   Although the students might give the school personality, it is still a school, and most enter knowing what is expected of them.

 

Such is not the case with our homes.    Home represents so many things, and dependent upon where we place our priorities (spelled M-O-N-E-Y), we risk not getting the rewards we want from our efforts.  My SIL, as one example, invests heavily in electronics for her kids, but then says to me, “How do you get yours to read?   Every time I see them, they have books in their hands.”    I don’t say that to stand in self-righteousness over anyone; I am convicted each time I leave the television on “for noise” as I’m completing my work, and then wonder why the kids watch too much of it. 

 

In their Educating the WholeHearted Child, my personal favorite of the “how to homeschool” texts, the Clarksons speak of the need for a designated learning space as a way of focusing the kids on formal schoolwork in the same way that a formal school facility would.    I’ve blogged about our homeschool spaces here.   However, to transform the atmosphere of a home into one that stresses learning whether in the classroom or not, we must establish certain environments: verbal-rich environment, visually rich environments (through art, use of walls for educational posters, art easels, etc.) and a print-rich environment.   This latter environment means for us but one thing: we must buy books and build a home library.

 

 

books;school;education

 

 

 

In creating the home library, accessibility is as important as exposure.   What good are books that aren’t both reachable as well as readable to your children?    This was our original space, complete with the rocking chair that once helped the kids get back to sleep in the middle of the night.    The only problem with this room is that it is our game room, also home to the Wii, the cardboard condo, train sets and dollhouses.     In our home, I brought many books from my parents’ home into ours when our library started.   My mother was a huge fan and supporter of Reader’s Digest (do they still make those?), and so she always had a number of Bible reference tools available.   Though I didn’t appreciate them as a child, these books have heightened our experience with the Bible by allowing us a peek into how people may have actually lived.    With a few other additions from my husband and our investments over the years, we’ve now outgrown our original particle board shelves.   (Lord, please send some lovely built-ins before we move!)   When we purchased our son’s bedroom set, we intentionally bought a student-like model bunk bed with a desk and room for book storage.   This has helped us with increasingly cluttered shelves, and he’s able to store his own personal favorites here close to his bed for nighttime reading.

 

 

books;school;education

 

One novel idea, at least for me, that is also a part of the Clarkson’s approach is to get the books off the shelf.    They proprose having baskets of books throughout the house.     

 

‘Next to just about every comfortable couch or overstuffed chair, there is a big wicker baset sitting on the floor filled with "fruits and vegetables for the mind."   The baskets can be filled with random or topical selections of books (holiday, illustrated stories, heroes, pre-school, etc.).’   (Clarkson, pg. 101)  

 

books;school;education

 

 

 I’ve always had a magazine rack, even as a single lady, but as we acclimated ourselves more and more to this change of lifestyle, I put out baskets and baskets of books.

 

 ‘Make maximum use of your table top spaces.   Tastefully display appropriate magazines, art books or special books on coffee table for casual reading…Display an open art book flat, or on an book easel, on a corner table.’   (Clarkson, pg. 77)

 

 

Finally, a coffee table just begs for a colorful book or two.

 

 

books;school;education

 

 

How successful is this?   Honestly, there’ve been hits and misses.     The kids do love books, and the books do spark enough curiosity to defeat the Wii and the game room toys.   However, the television is undefeated .   The basket in this picture sits in front of the television, largely untouched.     Yet, that, too, is a part of changing our environment.   The kids (at least the older two) are making wiser choices about what they watch and when they watch it.    I have hope for this basket yet.

Back to School

I actually completed over 90% of my list!

Tammy thankfully took the time to blog about the blessing of housekeeping from a book by Cheryl Mendolson. The book, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, incidentally, is listed on Ambleside Online as a resource for a home economics book, and I’m almost convinced that I will use it as my daughter and I learn some things about housework and its larger purpose together. According to Ms. Mendolson (and Tammy),

Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty, the conditions for health and safety, and a good place to do and feel all things you wish and need to do and feel in your home. . .it is your housekeeping that makes your home alive, that turns it into a small society in its own right, a vital place where you can be more yourself than you can be anywhere else.
~. . .what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things. . .Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home. Of course, this did not always turn out well. A controlling woman might make her home suffocating. A perfectionist’s home might be chilly and forbidding. But it is more illuminating to think about what happened when things went right. Then her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens, and good meals; the pantry; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home; her good humor in its light and air. She lived her life not only through her own body but through the house as an extension of her body; part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made.

When I wrote the Fall Break post on last week, I almost immediately experienced “analysis paralysis.” How will I get all of this done? I can’t do it all, I thought. I became absolutely depressed by Wednesday when I completed the item “sleep later” on two days straight. It became obvious by that time that several of my “to do” were in conflict with each other. Also, as much as the baseboards needed cleaning, I was dreading the task (probably why it’s taken so long). My knees and back are not what they used to be, but God in His goodness sent an angel—my five-year-old, who thinks cleaning with Mom is almost as fun as dollhouses. So she got down on her knees, I got down on my knees, and we began to go around the floor. The baseboards looked good, and it felt even better to accomplish something that was slightly difficult for me—so good, in fact, that we kept going. We cleaned the bathroom and kitchen doors—it’s amazing the dirt and dust that can accumulate on a door. The doors looked so good that we kept going–to the kitchen cabinets. The kitchen cabinets now look brand new, but alas, we stopped. I’m excited for the kids as they’ll get the railings on the stairs during the next break, and praise God for the scientist who invented ibuprofen (smile).

My strength is renewed, I’m looking forward to this week, and I actually think everyone is ready to get back to school, believe it or not. The oldest actually started working to get ahead—can you hear the Halleluiah Chorus? She’s very proud of the fact that she’s ahead—way ahead—in her reading list, and I think it motivated her to get ahead in other areas. The five-year-old kept asking, “Is today still not a school day?” It was interesting this week to see her at play, which often entailed some educational component (making a book, growing a plant from pepper seeds, making hats with paper and feathers), but in her mind, school means breaking out the books. Bad momma, but I’ll get better. I still need to look over her materials for the next couple of weeks, but I still have time tonight if I manage it well.

We’ve got about a week and a half of “normal” activities, and then we’re taking off for Vicksburg, Mississippi. We’re studying the Civil War, and the plan is to bring it to life by visiting one of the major battle sites. We’ll also see a bit of Natchez, billed as one of the wealthiest antebellum cities in the country. Although I realize the story told from a Confederate perspective might be different version than that of the history books (that will be a part of our studies, too), but I still am thrilled to make our studies leap off the page. Sure do hope you’re doing well, too.