Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodbye 2011!

What kinds of things did 2011 bring to you?  It was a good year for me, despite the crazy start.  The year started with no water at our house, living with my in-laws and commuting back and forth.  Driving the hour drive home to stay 3 days a week while babysitting, with minimal water.  Returning to the in-laws for the rest of the week for laundry and bathing.

We rang out 2010 and rang in 2011 with a stomach virus!  We started at Christmas.  You would think it would run it's course and be finished pretty quickly.  However, this particular strain was slow moving.  It would take a full week or a little more to strike its next victim.  There are (were) 7 members of my family.  It took two months to clear this bug through my entire household.  I say there were 7 members because I was pregnant with our 6th child.  I never, ever, ever get sick - at least not vomiting sick.  Even I got this one, pregnant and all.

Then, the last of January came and my brother-in-law graduated from Army Basic Training in Georgia.  We set up a family trip to visit for graduation.  Right before we left my husband's grandfather passed away.  The day after we returned from Georgia, we drove an hour north for the funereal.

Emotions were running very high in the house we were living in.  Five kids, stomach virus, trip to Georgia, funereal.  Then, on the drive to the funereal, another victim of the stomach bug hit and my 5 year-old started vomiting.  This was a time of great chaos, distress and emotional havoc for me.  Remember, I was pregnant.

In March, still displaced from my home, I gave birth to my 6th child, my third son.  What an amazing blessing he was!  His birth was an interesting story, but I won't relate it here.  He brought with him great joy, but additional stress as he failed to grow.  That story is outlined here if you are interested in reading it.

The week he was born, the man came to drill my well.  Unfortunately, no water was found.  The rest of the spring was too wet to do anything more.  Once the threat of freezing was over, we were able to move into our home and haul water.

Despite this crazy start,  I still see this as a good year.  I gave birth to a baby.  That is the most joyful thing I can imagine.  I've increased my blog readership.  I've found many other outlets for my writing.  I've found use for a great desire that God placed in my heart to help children come to love Him.  I've discovered a workable schedule for my children to manage school and house duties (not perfected, just beginning to develop).  I've discovered some new recipes.  But more importantly, I've discovered that I can make some homemade stuff that I thought you had to buy!

The year has been chaotic.  It's been a little crazy.  It's been extremely emotional.  It's been a good year.  Goodbye 2011!

Below are listed my top 5 favorite posts of the year.  I'd love to hear from you if there is a post of mine from that you enjoyed this year.

In no particular order:

My Box

Be Careful What You Wish For


View From My Window

Goodnight

It's That Time





Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meltaway Cookies

In an effort to be more like my friend Amanda at Cooking Three Handed, I went web searching for a cookie recipe that was fast, easy and took only ingredients likely to be in my  kitchen already.  I often fail to make yummy treats because I didn't plan ahead and buy chocolate chips or raisins. 

I found a recipe for Meltaway Cookies.  It looked easy enough even for me.  I also decided to "mix it up" a bit.  I separated the dough into 3 batches.  I colored the first batch red and added a smidge of peppermint extract.  The next batch I colored yellow and added lemon extract.  The third batch I colored green but left unflavored for a control group.

Ingredients:

1 c. soft butter
1/2 c. sifted confectioners' (plus extra to roll in afterward)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
 
 
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix thoroughly butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla. Sift flour, salt; stir in. Drop teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet (cookies do not spread). I had the kids use a spoon and make the "balls" but they ended up too large so we sort of tore them apart and plopped them, unshaped.  They were all different and not perfectly round, but I liked them that way.  Bake about 8 minutes until set, but not brown. While still warm sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. The sprinkling didn't work for me, so I plopped them in the confectioners' sugar and rolled them around in it.  Makes 5 dozen cookies the size of a quarter.
 
Many of my children actually preferred the plain to the flavored, but all were a hit.  The coloring made them more festive and I suspect that my children would not have been as excited to eat them had they been "dough colored".
So now you have a fun, family friendly, quick and easy cookie recipe that calls for no specialty ingredients.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spoon Rolls

This recipe for quick and easy dinner rolls will make you look like an expert chef and please all bread loving members of your family.  My mother-in-law always knocked my socks off "whipping" these up for dinner.  Now I realize these are really easy enough to make any night of the week.



4 c. self rising flour*
2 pkgs dry yeast
2 c. warm water
3/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Add egg. Dissolve yeast in water.  Then add to above mixture.  Slowly stir in flour.  Grease muffin tins. Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Dough will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.

*make your own self rising flour - 1c flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt for each cup of self rising flour called for in the recipe


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Joys: Santa Train

One of my family's favorite Christmas traditions - okay, they are all favorites.  One Christmas tradition that my children love is the visit of the Santa Train.  This tradition actually dates back to my days as a young aunt with no children of my own.  I remember visiting the Santa Train in my home town, young boyfriend in tow, and holding any number of young nieces.

When my first two were pretty young, perhaps 2 and 3, my husband (same said young boyfriend with just a few more grey hairs) and I decided to take our children to the Santa Train in the town near our home.  We discovered, over the next few years, that the train actually visits 3 towns in a row the same day.  It starts at 3 o'clock in the afternoon at the first town and usually arrives at the third stop (the one I went to as a child) around 9 pm.  We decided that Daddy leaving work early and meeting during daylight hours was totally worth the time.  It is much warmer and takes much less time.

As the train pulls up to the stop, you see Santa and the Mrs. waving from the front of the engine.  Once it stops, characters of all sorts, from Buzz Lightyear to Rudolph, descend among the line of children and parents to entertain them while they wait to see the Claus.

The children love climbing on board the train and seeing it's decorations.  They (sometimes) sit on Santa's lap.  They rarely speak to him, as my children are incredibly shy, but they sort of smile for the camera.  They take their candy cane from Mrs. Claus and usually some other "gift" from the elves, this year - light up necklaces.

As they get down from the train they talk rapidly and excitedly about how fun it was and how neat the train was.  They discuss their favorite character and who they had pictures taken with or shook hands with.  Even the 10 and 11 year olds look forward each year to this event.  It amazes me how this pretty small event impresses them so.  The memories they are building now priceless.  This is what makes all the anxiety of Christmas (my anxiety) worth it.  The joys my children experience at Christmas outweigh all the stress I endure.  Merry Christmas!

Ed. note:  Check back for pictures.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Five Golden Rings

I have two blog posts waiting.  They have been waiting for days.  I have dinner cooking.  I have a grocery list to make.  I don't have time for this.  So, here goes.

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises - there isn't a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment of support and constructive criticism. 


Write On Wednesdays Exercise 27 -  Mel suggested that we look at the "12 Days of Christmas" poem/song and select one of the days/lines for our writing inspiration. So, whether a Partridge in a Pear Tree or Five Golden Rings, write your line at the top of your page, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head. 

Five Golden Rings 

He stared down at them.  Each shiny and sparkly.  Each with it's own story to tell.  The snow was swirling outside the window.  December had blown in with a vengeance after a November of sunshine and promise.  Tonight that was all he had left.  A promise.  A promise to love, honor and protect.  She was worth that.  She was worth far more than that.  She was worth all he could muster for her.  As he stared down at each golden ring, he wondered.  What stories did they bring with them?  Were they tales of love and joy, as he hoped his own to be?  Or were they tales of heartache and desperation?  He wished he were shopping in the finest jewelry store in the city.  But he had to settle for this cold, dimly lit pawn shop.  Would these used rings, these already told stories affect his own story?  Their story?  All he had left was a promise.   That was enough.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Homemade" Liquid Hand and Body Soap

I have been rather unhappy with my liquid shower soap lately.  Changing is not an easy task.  First, my husband doesn't like frilly, flowery smells first thing in the morning.  Secondly, I have been unable to find liquid body soap that smells like soap.  I found one that was okay, but it always left me feeling less clean than I would like.

I happened upon a post about making liquid hand soap and read that you could turn any bar soap into liquid soap.  Eureka!  I was thrilled!  I could buy soapy smelling soap, and make liquid!  Hooray!

Well, of course I quickly lost track of the post so I began websearching.  I discovered that there are conflicting explanations as to how to do this.  So, I am adding to the internet chaos of how to make liquid hand or body soap.

But I'm not giving "precise" measurements because I figured that all the recipes were different, mine would be trial and error.  Here's how I did it.

***

I grated a bar of soap (I used Lever, I loved the smell).  I believe it was a 4 oz. bar.  I put it in a small soup pan and added 4 cups water and began heating and stirring until (mostly) melted.

Next I decided to try to blend it in my blender as several recipes recommended this step.  I put the 4 cups in the blender.  This is where I must warn you - they will suds.  I am missing the little top piece that fits in the lid of my blender, so I usually cover it with a washcloth.  I couldn't wash the soap out of the washcloth.  The soap created so much suds that it absorbed directly into just one small spot on the washcloth, but at that concentration, it was nearly impossible to remove. 

Several recipes recommended glycerin, others said it was unnecessary with most bar soaps.  After reading horror stories of the soap congealing so hard in the pump that it ruined the pump, I decided to try without and add it in if necessary.  Glycerin is apparently to help with the smoothness and softness, like a silky girly shower soap.  But it apparently affects the thickening as well.  I poured the 4 cups of liquid soap in a 3 gallon bucket with a lid and added more about 2 more cups of water.  I let this set overnight with the lid on but not sealed.

The next day I took about 1 1/2 cups of the soap and put it in the blender.  It was very thick.   I added about 1/2 cup of water.  I blended it and checked that it was a good consistancy.

I washed and reused an old soap bottle. 

The next day, hubby and I tried the soap.  We decided it needed the glycerin.  How much?  Well, the reports again conflicted so I added about 1/2 tsp to one (not quite full) bottle of liquid soap.  It seems to be less drying on the skin with the glycerin, so I will in the future add it again.

***

All told I spent $1.50 for 2 bars of soap and $3.00 for the glycerin.  I used very little so far of the glycerin, so I would say that each batch (which I'm thinking will make about 8 ish cups of soap) will cost me about $1.00.

It does not suds a lot on the scrubby.  We use 2 or 3 pumps to get a good sudsiness.  Many will not really like this effect.  I love the smell and I feel so much cleaner with this soap.  After an evening shower the first night, I awoke able to smell the soap the next morning.  This made me so happy.  I never knew how much I loved the smell of soap.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Joys: Decorating Grandma's House

Often the Saturday after Black Friday becomes "Decorate Grandma's House Day."  Daddy helps hang lights on the outside of the house.  The kids help assemble and decorate Grandma's tree.  The village gets set up, and re-setup, and re-setup throughout the Christmas Season as the kids move pieces around.

The kids seem to enjoy decorating everything at Grandma's as much as Grandma enjoys having stuff decorated.  Grandpa exercises his patience as much as possible in letting the kids decorate in the way that only children can.  Eventually, over the course of the next few weeks, the kids will get the fireplace mantle, the coffee table and every conceivable horizontal (and some vertical) surfaces of Grandma's house decorated for Christmas.  I think it is more fun for them even than decorating our own house.


One of the greatest joys of the Christmas season is the way it seems to have of bringing generations together, of uniting the child in all of us.  It somehow even manages to make cranky mommies sit back, smile and say "Now that looks like fun."

To top off our Christmas decorating fun, the kids made pine cone "Christmas Trees" to add to the village.  The photo above shows a house with two of the "trees".  Below is a picture of all 5 "trees".


Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Joys: Black Friday

It is easy this time of year to get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I often find myself more stressed than joyful as we finish Thanksgiving and begin the Christmas season.  My husband often gets so overwrought at the materialization of Christmas that he gets rather blue.  For this reason, years ago I determined that I would spend from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day making as many memories and joyful moments as possible.  I desire to make the gift giving as little a part of the holiday as possible, not because it is evil, but because it so easy for it to overtake the true joy of Christmas.

The first Christmas Tradition in our family is Black Friday.  Yes, we do go shopping while it's still dark!  Many years ago, my husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law and I and whichever children we had at that time, first began joining the insanity.  For many years we got up at 3:30 or 4:00 to be at the stores at 5:00.  More children joined the family, but we kept going, seeming a little crazier each year.

Then came the year when we just had no reason to go, no great deals, no desire to venture out.  That year, when I had nearly decided listening to the crying and whining (mostly the kids') was not worth it, I overheard my kids talking about how excited they were!

"We get up at like 3 in the morning, go get Krispy Kreme donuts, and go shopping!"  I knew that we had to go, even if we didn't want to .

Since then, the last 3 years, we have done Black Friday only for the kids.  Truly.  They begin talking about how much fun it is weeks before Thanksgiving.  I don't have the heart to not go.

So we kick off each of your Christmas Seasons with the official Black Friday.  Now, however, we leave in the dark (7:00).  Krispy Kreme is closed, so we have to get donuts elsewhere.  We shop until shortly after lunch, come home and nap.  It's really about the fun, not about the shopping.  The kids whine much less, and we all seem to enjoy the day gearing up for the celebration of the birth of our Savior. 

Merry Christmas!

Please share some of your Christmas Traditions.  Check out other interesting posts at Raising Arrows where I have linked this post. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Saddest Thing I Ever Heard

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 25 - I heard a song on the radio during the week and I thought the lyrics would make an interesting prompt for WoW. So, write the words "The saddest thing I ever heard" on your page, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head based on the given prompt.

It was the saddest thing I ever heard.  The two chipmunks were chattering away.  "Did you see the size of that van?" 

"Yes!  It came out of nowhere!"

"It carreened around the corner, kids flaily out the windows, screaming in the summer air!" The first chipmunk responded.

"Before he knew what was happening.... It was all over so fast!" The second chipmunk wailed into his little hankie. 

"I told him.  I told Jerry not to pick nuts on the other side of the street.  I've seen that crazy lady, all those kids, that big van flying down the road before.  Are you kidding me?  I'll never cross this road.  No way sir!"

"But, but, but... But Jerry was just too young to die!" The second one wailed some more. 

"Poor Jerry, he never stood a chance, not against that van driving momma." Replied the first chipmunk.  "That just goes to show you, the nuts aren't always crunchier on the other side of the road."


******

This was inspired by certain events that transpired today.  Whether I was the one overhearing the chatter of the chipmunks or the momma driving the van I will leave for you to ponder.  I decided on a humorous take, as I was in no mood for anything sad today.  Thanks for reading!

Please take some time to check out other Write On Wednesday stories. 

It's That Time!

Christmas is coming.  And with it comes the joy and dread of Christmas gift buying.  My greatest joy on Christmas morning is watching the faces of my children as they open their presents.  They are excited over the simplest things.  They simply and truly love dearly every single item they open.  For about a day. 

Every year I stress, plan, shop, think, worry, plan, think, worry, shop in an effort to buy great presents for my 5 (now 6) children.  And every year I see the joy with which they open their presents and it is all worth it.  Until planning time arrives the following fall.

That is when I begin wondering what I'm going to buy them this Christmas.  And I remember the things they loved last Christmas.  The things I haven't seen them play with in 6 months.  They things they've lost and don't remember or broken and forgotten.  The things they so loved, yet now are never touched. 

And that is when I begin to get distraught.  I am not a great gift buyer by nature anyway.  So trying to buy Christmas gifts for these children really stresses me.  Largely because I see the way we have too much stuff already.  And I see that they don't play with nearly anything from last year.  And I see that there is so little value in what they actually get.

So this year I am trying to think about shopping for things I might not usually.  I am thinking of buying more Christian books and games, more role playing games (dress up, etc.) and more board games.  We own, or have owned, nearly ever toy ever.  Most of them lie broken or disheveled and dispersed throughout the insane toy room.  I hate to add to that, yet I delight in that look of joy.  I don't want to raise materialistic children, yet the joy of gifts is an amazing sight to see, and it delights me to give that joy to my children.

Later in the week, I shall blog about the Christmas Traditions in my family that add to the joy of the holiday.  Gift giving is great, receiving is fun, but there are so many other ways that we try to make the Christmas Season enjoyable so that the gifts are but a small part of the bigger scheme of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!  And remember, in the end it's really only about The Gift, the birth of our Lord and Savior, don't let the stresses of the season steal His Joy from you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Family Closet

I was so excited when we moved into this house.  We had 5 kids and were leaving a 2 bedroom house for what is essentially a 5 bedroom house (though not "legally").  I was thrilled!  At long last I would have a library!  As book nut, teacher and homeschooling mom, a library really excited me.  My husband wanted a family closet.  I insisted on having a library.  He decided against arguing with me.  He let me have my way.  After a year or two, I saw the light, rearranged the entire house, moved the baby into her sister's room, turned the small nursery into a small library/guest room and turned the library into a family closet.  I hate it when he's right.

So, as my Large Family Organization post, I want to share with you the ever evolving plan for my family closet.  Currently we have 4 dressers that 5 kids share, a table for folding (which becomes a horizontal surface to stack stuff) and we had a portable "wardrobe" that I bought on clearance.  It broke.  My fault entirely, but it broke.  To help me, my husband installed 2 closet rods and the kids were instructed to hang up whatever they wanted.

My children decided to hang everything (yes, everything, my 11 year old found a way to hang his underwear and socks).  So now they each have a section of closet to hang their clothes in. I can't believe how fast they put away their laundry now!  I've been folding it lately and putting it in their stacks.  I realize that we need not fold and I need to return to my previous laundry plan, with individual baskets.  Why fold when it is going straight to a hanger?

Since this seems to be working so well, I am evolving the plan.  I think I shall keep 2 dressers (12 drawers) assign them each 2 drawers for socks, undies and jammies.  Then I think we will hang at least 3 more rods so that there is more room for hanging clothes.  A hamper for dirty laundry, a set of drawers for sheets, a tub for blankets and baskets in the bottom the closet for shoes and I think it will make a much more usable space.   I think I will even move the adult clothes in there, once I get it organized.

I welcome comments and suggestions that will help me plan or better utilize this area.  Also, cheap ideas for storage are always welcomed.  Don't forget to check our Raising Arrows today for more ideas!

Monday, November 7, 2011

We are learning to make fire

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises - there isn't a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment of support and constructive criticism. 


Write On Wednesdays Exercise 23 - Write the words of Margaret Atwood at the top of your page "We are learning to make fire". Set your timer to 5 minutes. Write the first words that come into your head after the prompt. Stop when the buzzer rings.



The boys looked up.  They couldn't believe what they had just heard.  Did they really hear the words come out if the old man's mouth.  Yes, he had said "We are learning to make fire."  What did he mean?  The boys were excited.  They didn't know what to do, what was going to happen.  They knew only that their mother was going to kill them and that the old man was promising them something exciting.  

Looking around the dark cave, watching for any glimpse of their mother, the oldest boy repeated the man.  "We are learning to make fire?" 

"Oh, yes.  It has been outlawed way too long.  Few remember the way, not many know how it is done.  I, I am one of the few.  I am old.  When I am gone, so too shall be the knowledge of man's fire."

"Mother says fire is a fairy tale.  She says man has never used fire.  She says it is dangerous."  The younger brother responded to the old man.  He was very nervous, and very excited.

"It was outlawed right before I was born.  My father taught me, despite the law forbidding it.  I have no sons.  Now, I shall teach you."

Please visit WoW to read other great stories.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reason # 731 That I Love My Life

I could go on for hours about why my life is awesome.  Honestly.  Sure, it's not perfect.  I have many problems, but really when compared to the blessings, they don't amount to much.  But tonight I want to share with you one specific awesomeness about my life:  My friends.

I love my friends.  But mostly I love that my friends have kids that my kids love as much as I love their parents. When I was growing up, my parents had friends, I had friends, but my friends' parents didn't even know mine and if they did, they weren't really "friends".  Even in the small community in which I lived, it seemed our lives were separate in that area.

I don't know if this is "normal" or if it's a "church" thing or a "homeschool" thing.  I honestly hope many, many others are blessed in the way that I am.  My kids love to play with the kids of my friends.  Any group of my friends can get together and our kids will have a good time.

For example, tonight my friend Amanda (from Cooking Three Handed) had a  birthday party for her 5 year old.  She also has, currently residing in her house, a two year old, an infant and a slew of dogs.  Despite the fact that the oldest is 5 and I have 3 older than him, my kids LOVE going to play at their house.  They LOVE having the kids over to our house.  Another friend came with her kids, much the same ages as mine.  Her older children also enjoy playing with the younger ones.  They all play elaborate games, usually including all age levels, happily!

Now, don't think this means we don't have fighting and whining.  We do.  We have to stop bickering, enforce toy sharing, and generally discipline children throughout the course of the night.  But what strikes me as really cool is that when asked who they want to have at an event, birthday party or whatever, it is ALWAYS someone whose parents are my friends.  And they always want the whole family.  They usually don't ask for one of the 5 or 6 kids from a given family, they ask for them by family. 

I would love to hear from others outside of my little world.  Is this a common experience that other families share?  It is amazing to me, but I love it.  I know the day will come when this isn't always the case, but I love that when it comes time for a birthday party and I get to see my friends, too!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Things I Know - The Second Law of Thermodynamics

It's Friday!  Friday is Things I Know day!  This week I shall be telling you what I know about the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

I know that physics isn't my strongest subject.

I know that some really smart people discovered that over time if energy is not added to a system the quality of matter and energy will deteriorate over time.  Entropy is a gauge of chaos in a system.  As unusable energy is lost, there will be an increase in chaos and randomness.

I know that this Second Law over takes my home, daily.

I know that if energy is not added to wash the dishes, the pile will grow and the difficulty in the washing will increase.

I know that if energy is not added to tidy up the living room, the entire room will be engulfed in chaos in very short order.

I know that if the pile of dirty laundry is not washed, it will get bigger, more chaos inducing and stinkier.

I know that if the pile of clean laundry isn't put away it will spread to all the living areas of the home and begin to mingle with all the dirty laundry creating more chaos trying to determine which is the clean and which is the dirty.

I know that I really wish the Second Law of Thermodynamics would stay out of my home.

I'm linking this up to Things I Know.  Read more about what others know here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Paper Plates are Good for the Environment

Today's post:  Paper plates!  Hooray for paper plates!!!  I am nearly in love with paper plates.  And I very nearly didn't know how great they were.  Until I ran out. 

I have 6 children, one is an infant so his dishes are a different matter.  But three days a week I keep two extra boys, because 6 just isn't enough most days.  That said, I daily have lunch dishes for 7 kids.  I try to use paper plates.  This week I ran out of paper plates.  So I persevered and used real plates.  I am not a good house keeper, I am not good at keeping up with basic things, dishes, laundry, etc.  So of course, even with my new larger dishwasher, I am swimming in plates.  On top of lunch plates for 7, (plus me) I have dinner plates for 7 and this morning my children had waffles.  Yay!  They sucessfully ran me out of clean plates.  I put the maximum amount of plates possible in the dishwasher and still have dirty plates. (It doesn't help that last night was Halloween and we were out late and busy preparing so I didn't have time to finish yesterday's dishes.)

So, why do I say that paper plates are good for the environment?  Well, they make a huge difference in the number of dishes I have to wash.  That makes my home environment a lot better.  That makes mommy happy.  Happy mommy makes happy daddy.  Happy daddy doesn't have to stop and buy cranky mommy a fountain coke.  Fountain coke means more money, more styrofoam, more energy to dispense said drink and more gas for daddy's car.  Ok, so that is all a stretch, but it does make for a much nicer home environment and frankly, that is enough for me right now.

This is not so much a Large Family Organization tip as a large family survival tip.  Use paper plates.  (We use them lunch only, actually, and that alone makes a huge difference.)  Check out more tips here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Things I Know - The Promises of God

I am focusing today's Things I Know on the Promises of God.

I know that the promises of God are Yes! and Amen! 2 Corinthians 1:20 

I know that God is Good. Joshua 23:14

I know that God made me with a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11

I know that God created me, He knew me before I was born.  Psalm 139:13

I know that God paid for my sins so that I could spend eternity with Him. John 3:16

I occasionally have those days where I need encouragement.  I need reminders of God's love, grace and protection.  I need to remember to whom I belong, that I am the daughter of The King.  Those are the days that I need to look back at these basic things that I know about the promises of God.  


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laundry for an Army

I am raising an army.  I love my army.  They bring me much joy, delight, laughter and laundry.  I don't so much love the laundry.  Actually, I hate it.  Just when you think you have it all finished, you go to bed and wake up to 2 loads just from what they all took off after laundry was finished!!!

Several years ago, in an attempt to simplify my life, we decided to try individual baskets for the kids.  The kids each picked a color when we bought them (some had the same color, but they got to choose it).  We labeled the baskets with their name.  Each time we had a mountain of clean laundry, the kids would sort laundry into each person's basket.  They then were responsible for taking their basket to the closet. (Yes, we have a family closet.  When it gets better organized, I'll post about it.)  They were then responsible for putting away their own (and helping with the little ones') stuff.

You may notice that I wrote this in the past tense.  We have fallen out of this habit.  But after writing this post, while the kids are folding laundry, I think it is time to reinstate the baskets.  I must say, though, they are getting to be pretty good laundry folders.  Put awayers, not so much.

I'm linking this idea up with Raising Arrows, Large Family Organization tips.  Check out other tips, no matter your family size!

Monday, October 24, 2011

I thought I saw ...

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises - there isn't a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment of support and constructive criticism. 

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 20 - Write the words " I thought I saw" at the top of your page. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Write the first words that come into your head after the prompt. Don't take you pen off the page (or fingers off the keyboard). Stop only when the buzzer rings! Do this exercise over and over if you wish. Write beyond 5 minutes if you like, you can link it up as an extra post.

I thought I saw a fairy flutter on the wind.  She was a fairy, that was sure, all decked out in green.  I saw her peek inside a flower, to see what was within.  I saw the look of joy and glee as she reached to pull the dew drop out!  What a sight to behold, a little fairy on the prowl, looking for magic in God's creation!  I watched to see what she'd do, why did she need that?  She fluttered around with her little drop, looking for the right spot.  Suddenly, she spied something and turned to fly away.  Across the yard glided another little fairy, this one clad in orange.  She too carried a drop of dew.  What were these dew drops for?

The fairy in green popped out from the tree behind which she hid and tossed her dew drop at the fairy so orange - splat!  Target hit square on the head!  "I win! I win!"  The green fairy cried in joyous fashion.  "I'll get you tomorrow!" laughed the wet little fairy, "Just you wait and see!"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Homemade McGriddles Sandwiches

My kids love the McGriddles from McDonalds.  I don't love paying that much money times 5 (just for the kids) for breakfast.  So I began wondering how to make them at home.  I searched the internet, found many helpful recipes, and a few not-so helpful ones.  I refuse to go buy specialty stuff that I won't use for anything else, so maple crystals were out of the question.

After perusing recipes on the internet, I did what I always do and made up my own. Here is my first attempt at homemade McGriddles.

Here is what you will need:
Ingredients for your favorite pancake recipe
Breakfast syrup
Bacon or sausage
Eggs
Cheese of choice

I am not including quantities as I figure you can decide how much bacon or how many eggs your family will eat.  I have a large family, our quantities may differ from yours.

I started with a basic pancake recipe.  My favorite is this one from Allrecipes but I didn't have vinegar so I used an older one from my Betty Crocker cookbook.

After preparing the recipe, I put a small amount on the griddle.  I actually had rather large ones, keep in mind it might spread, I recommend going slightly smaller than you think you will want.  I only put four on my griddle so that I could have time for the second step:  syrup.

I put about a tablespoon of syrup on top of the pancake batter and swirled it around, then used a fork to "mix" it lightly in.  There was not quite as much syrup as I would have liked in the first batch, so when I made a few extras for the kids to munch on I put an extra dab of syrup on top after the syrup that I mixed in.

I cooked the pancakes as normal and made bacon and eggs, and shredded cheddar cheese.  I allowed the kids to choose whether they had eggs and cheese, but all wanted the bacon, of course!

They were a little sticky, but not too bad.  They were quite yummy and very filling.  I didn't get any pictures because we were all too hungry and anxious to try them.  When I make them again, I will try to get some pictures to go with it.  Happy Eating!

(The kids have requested these as a before church breakfast.  I am going to try precooking the pancakes and bacon and putting them in the fridge so that we can have a fast breakfast for early mornings.  I'll let you know!)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bring Me Sunshine in a Cup

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 19 - Sunshine in a cup. Write the words of Emily Dickinson: "Bring me sunshine in a cup" at the top of your page. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Write the first words that come into your head after the prompt. Don't take you pen off the page (or fingers off the keyboard). Stop only when the buzzer rings! Do this exercise over and over if you wish. Write beyond 5 minutes if you like, you can link it up as an extra post.
 
Momma sat staring forlornly in her cup of coffee.  Where had her day gone?  She had been up before the sun with a huge list of chores to do, and yet, here she sat, staring into a dark brown circle, to do list swimming in her head.

She heard the howling, cackling, raucus laughter of her children running and playing outside.  Occationally one would run through the house, screen door slamming on his way through. 

Tired.  Why did Momma always feel so tired, so - worn?  She sat her cup on the table and leaned back against the couch.  Just a minute of rest.  I'll close my eyes for just a minute.  She jolted awake.  Staring confused, bleary eyed at the vision before her.  Instead of her cold coffee sitting on the table, she saw a sight to behold!  Standing next to the table on which sat a cup overflowing with dandelions was the toothless grin of her little girl.  "Look Momma!  I brought you Sunshine in a Cup!"  

Things I Know

I know that God is Good - ALL the time.

I know that children grow up way faster than you ever think they will.

I know that beans spilled from homemade, homeschool cinco de mayo maracas and buried under 6 months of rubble in a car will sprout.

I know that nothing in life can prepare you for the day the doctor hands you a new baby, whether it is number 1 or number 6.

I know that when children first learn to graffiti, they usually spell their own names on the wall, making them relatively easy to catch.

I know that despite the above statement, sometimes they are smart enough to write their brother's name on the door of said bean sprouting vehicle, but not usually smart enough to lie about it.

I know that marriage was one of God's best ideas.

I know that 4:30 in the morning is definitely not the best time to hear an alarm clock.

I know that electric blankets, soft pillows, flannel sheets and a snugly husband make the 4:30 alarm nearly impossible to get up to.

Interested in seeing what other bloggers know?  Check out Yay For Home's Things I Know Friday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Train Up a Daughter

One of my (and my husband's) favorite verses is Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."

When the majority of my children were preschool age, this verse spoke to me largely in the aspect of training, meaning teaching them how to behave, how to listen and most importantly how to obey.  Now that the vast majority of my children are well past toddlerhood and in their schoolage years, it is begining to take on a new meaning. I'm looking past teaching them to be well behaved children and into their adult years.  I'm viewing their training in the sense of preparing them for adulthood.

As a homeschooling mom, some of that is academic, preparing them to be successful in college and in their career choice.  Some of that is home related, preparing them to maintain their homes physically and relationally.  Some of that is in choosing their "career paths".

When you have girls, the idea of choosing a career path leads to extra complications.  I want my daughters to be able to support themselves should they ever need to.  I want them to be compentent to succeed in the world in any way in which they choose.  I don't want to dash hopes and desires of being doctors and business women.  Yet at the same time I hope they choose to first be moms and wives.  I would love nothing more than my daughters all choosing to be stay at home moms, wives, ministering to their families and communities. 

Yet, one never knows when, or if, a girl will marry.  I want her prepared to lead a single life, competently, whether living in my home in her early single years or living alone.  This poses many problems for moms.  How do I encourage her to follow her dreams of being a (insert profession here) without making the alternative of being a keeper of the home a short term, temporary, second thought?

Many women who choose to stay at home during her childrens' preschool years, or even all of school years, think in the terms of temporary.  We have gotten to the point in our culture where we are usually tolerant of stay at home moms, even encouraging.  Yet a stay at home wife?  No kids to care for?  Should this truly be something young girls aspire to?

It is seems sad that society accepts the idea of being a mommy, yet being fullfilled in being a wife is, well misunderstood.  While our children will always be a part of our lives, they will not always be the main focus of our lives, but our marriage should be.  We should be as committed to being wives as we are being moms.  It is my desire that my girls would see modeled the idea of the wife being the part of the whole that handles home care while her husband shall be the part of the whole that handles the majority of the financial provision.  I want them to see that a woman at home is as financially valuable in her ability to help save money through her resources and resourcefulness as well as any homebased financial endeavors she shall provide.  I pray that they will see the emotional/relational value to helping a husband be a minister, no matter his profession. 

But this is a life choice they must make for themselves.  Short of modeling and mentioning it in passing during the occasional "What do you want to be when you grow up" conversations, there is no real way to "force" this desire upon them.  No matter how much you want your child to be a doctor, you cannot make them do it.  The same goes for being a professional keeper of the home. 

And adding to that complexity is that I believe every girl needs to have skills that would allow them to support themselves in the event it become necessary.  So, my problem:  How do I encourage my daughter in her dream of being a doctor and in being a homemaker?

I'm linking this to Raising Homemakers Homemaking Linkup.  Check out the other posts!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

SOCKS!!!!

If you know me at all, you have heard me complain about socks.  I think they are horrible, evil and nasty.  But they are a necessary evil in the midwest.  Fortunately, for me, during the summer months my girls like to be barefoot or in sandals/flip flops, so we have few socks to deal with.

Several years ago, my husband issued a decree that has made socks almost bearable around here.  Almost.  We all wear white socks.  The only exception is Daddy and his socks for work, which are brown or black. Okay, that's not true.  I have my winter long socks that I wear with my shorter skirts to keep my lets warm.  They are all funny colored.  Next, each person not only wears white socks everyday, but they have only one type of sock, all their socks match.  Then, twice a year I buy all new socks.  It is expensive, but worth it.  I throw away all the socks (or if they are still reasonable, I donate them to my much more organized and less sock picky mommy friend).

To further help, each different size of sock is different.  For example, the oldest boy has a blue strip across his toe.  The middle boy has a green stripe.  The littlest girl has pink.  The two older girls wear the same size sock, so they both have purple toes.  If they share a sock size, they share socks.  They don't get to bicker about whose sock is whose.  I just don't care.  Daddy's socks are gray heeled and Mommies have pink words written across the toe.  When we buy socks next, we will all get a different brand/style so that the old ones are easily identifiable in the purging process.

Now when we do whites, all the socks get washed in that one load, rather than having only yellow socks to wear with a pink outfit or something, or worse, only one yellow and one pink sock to wear.  They aren't cute, but they are work.  We've done it so long that no one cares, even the girls.  It's just life. 

When we sort the clean load of whites, we put each person's sock into their own stack, but I don't fold.  If a person wants to fold their socks (including Daddy who is the pickiest sock person in the family), they fold their own.  If there is a stray sock, it goes in the drawer unmated so that we know where it will be when next we find a stray.  Since they all match, it doesn't matter!

This is the best sock solution this untidy disorganized mom of 6 has ever had.  It works for us!

I'm linking this up with Raising Arrows Large Family Organization Tips


What Would You Do If?

What would you do if you could do anything you wanted and know you would not fail.  

I've seen the question posed before.  I never know the answer.  Is it because I don't know what I'd like to do?  Is it because I can't narrow it down to just one thing?  Is it because I have no goals?  Is it because I'm afraid to admit, even to myself, what I most long to do and am afraid to try?

Yeah, I don't know.  So, while I'm pondering this for myself, ashamed that I can't give an answer, I'd love to have your "What would you do if" listed in the comment section below.  You can post anonymously if you desire.  If you have tried to post in the past and had difficulties, try again.  There should be an option to post anonymously if you do not want to create an ID.

If I get at least 5 reader comments, I promise to most one myself.  If I get at least 10 reader comments, I promise it will be true!  Post your answer and encourage one another to dream big!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I'm the Worst Mom/Woman I Know

and other such nonsense....

I have the world's most amazing friends.  Let me describe them.  These are real people, honest.  Read how truly amazing they are (if you get bored, please skip to the bottom for the point, it's a good one):

1) I have a friend who actually makes her own bread.  Not sometimes, like twice a day, every day.  And she grows her own meat.  Ok, maybe raises is better. She has slaughtered her own chickens, served her own holiday goose.  She has had goats for milk, and entertainment.  Oh, yeah, she has 4 kids 5 and under, works 3 jobs last I counted (or was it 4), runs her own business, takes her preschoolers/infants/toddlers with her to her job(s).  Homeschools her kids, who are grades ahead though so young, and has her kids in classes at the "Y".

2) I have a friend who has 6 kids, homeschools and makes herbal home remedies.  Her kids match everyday, not just public days, study Latin and Spanish, listen to classical music and appreciate fine art.  Her husband is one of those multi-talented highly respected men in the community and a leader in church.  She looks amazing every day and has an impeccably kept house.

3) I have a friend who is beyond amazing in her love and heart for her children.  She knows them so very well and has high expectations despite their individual quirks.  She has dealt with heartache most of us cannot imagine, nor would want to, and yet shines with joy and love for others.  She's been a married, yet mostly single military mom, runs her own business, writes and cooks divinely.  She teaches others how to have fun and to not sweat the petty stuff.  Oh, and in her spare time is pushing forth an adoption for their first girl.

4) I have a friend who has the most amazing sense of humor and heart to give and serve.  She never forgets a birthday, or other anniversary-type event - even the silly.  She brings Whatchamacallit bars and Dr. Peppers to friends just because she's that sort.  She has a voice that the angels stop and listen to and a gift for song that glorifies God in the most necessary of circumstances.  She always has the encouraging word and the scripture to back it up.  She makes sure her children have a variety of experiences and encourages their faith in every breath of her life.

5) I have a friend who exudes love.  She has done it all, homeschool, public school, a mix of both, and is a general advocate for her friends to follow God's call in their lives and hearts.  She has experienced heartache and pain that have brought forth beauty.  She helped me find a call for small children I didn't know was there and is a daily inspiration, though we speak rarely.  She knows what's important as a mom and doesn't stress over the stuff that's just not worth it.  She builds up the hearts of her friends.  She is an amazing cook, too!

6) I have a friend who I'm still getting to know, but intrigues me often.  She doesn't see how cool she is.  She has tireless energy.  She coaches everything.  She cooks incredibly.  She is a great artist, in many different media types.  She gives of herself and is totally not selfish, just don't ask her.  Her mind is always running.  She enjoys helping friends in the craziest ways.  She is the sort of friend that is a true friend, the one that you just know you could call when you need help and she'd drop everything she could and do it.

7)  I have a friend who is gorgeous.  Not just outside, though certainly, but deeply inside.  She exudes the Joy of the Lord in all she says and does.  She has 4 beautiful children and loves them deeply.  She is an example to all the women who know her.  She honors her husband in all her actions and speech.  She gives endlessly and tirelessly of herself.  Without even knowing, she has brought me comfort and joy.  Though I see her rarely now, she is still dedicated to my life, always willing to pray when asked.  

8) I have a mean friend, too.  Just ask her.  Only she's so not really.  She's tough and independent.  She knows what it takes to survive in this yucky world and works hard to protect her kids from it.  She works mostly full time and homeschools while going to school herself.  She feeds her kids good, wholesome food, and adores her time with them.  She cares for her disabled grandfather.  She has a heart big enough for all that are in it and room to spare.  She likes to do nice things for others, though she doesn't like to be too highly praised for it.

I chose, of all the other amazing women in my life, these 8.  I know them best, so they were easiest to write about.  Seven of them are women invested in my life, praying for me and each other as a part of (or formerly a part of) my small group.  They are the women I call when prayers are needed or I'm just overly frustrated.  The other one is the oldest friend that I still see from my childhood.  (Oldest as in been friends with the longest, she's younger than I.)

I could have written about so many other amazing women in my life. I really don't know were to stop, so I decided it must be here.  Honestly, I could choose a dozen more women I know and write some amazing things about them.

So my title was "Why I'm the Worst Mom/Woman I Know", and the inspiration came from many conversations with women leading me to see that we all think we are terrible, awful, bad or just plain crumby, while everyone else is so amazing.  Well, that is half true.  Everyone else is amazing.  Different amazing.  Each of these women sound almost perfect here, and frankly that's how I see them.  Except they aren't.  That is how they see themselves.  The truth is, we are all flawed.  But if we are seeking to serve and to love, to give of ourselves in any way, people will see those good things about us.  If a few people that don't know us very well see the superficial flaws we have and make judgments based on those, they are the ones that will suffer.  They are the ones that won't get to know how amazing we truly are. 

So if you are having one of those days when everyone you know seems so perfect and you feel so unable to compete, read about my friends.  Then realize, someone else thinks these same things about you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street?

I do not follow the news.  I do not listen to the radio, watch TV or read news related internet articles.  I do not follow politics when I can help it.  I am NOT a financial guru. 

Now that my official disclaimer is stated:  I decided that maybe since this Occupy Wall Street thing seemed to still be happening, I should read up on it.  So I did.  I went to their (whoever they are) site and read some of the, admittedly heartbreaking, stories.  I read some "news" sources reports on the "occupation" or "movement".  Yep, I'm still confused.  But at least I know a thing or two and believe a few other things.  Maybe what I know could be helpful.  Maybe it will just make them angry.  Maybe what I think will just make you angry.  Who knows.  But here goes.

First what I think:  I was tempted to think at first that this was a group of lazy people unwilling to work and upset at the people who did work and made their fortunes.  Now I think it's a group of people who have so bought the lies we've been told by the people "selling" that now they somehow think the government is supposed to fix their problems.  What lies?  Mostly about debt.  We've been told lies about debt for years. According to most of the stories I read, it is largely student loan debt (possibly because credit card debt doesn't make people as sympathetic?).  I have student loans, too.  Not as many as some people, but still more than I really have the extra cash to pay for.  Yet, somehow people have decided that the government is to blame because I took out student loans?  You know why I only have a comparatively small amount of student loans?  Because I was poor growing up and got good grades in high school and got a lot of scholarships. 

Did you read that right?  Yes, I said I was poor growing up and so I got scholarships.   Wait?  We are being sold the lie that the lower class are the kids who need loans for college.  Not true.  ALL of my loans paid for my summer abroad studying education in England (which was totally awesome and totally worth my husband having to pay for now). Yep, my trip to Europe is what we are paying for.  I didn't have to go.  I would have gotten a great degree (with Honors) from a reputable (state) college resulting in a decent paying job in education even without the trip to Europe. 

My hubby has as much student loans to pay as I do (maybe slightly more).  He wasn't poor growing up.  Nope.  He was middle class all the way.  His parents made decent money, a 2 income family.  They weren't super wealthy, but they were not thousands of dollars below the poverty line like mine.  So, why did he get loans?  Simply because his parents had not saved enough to pay for his education (at state schools mind you).  And because he was not a good student and received no scholarships. 

Here is another difference in our two stories.  I graduated in 4 years with honors, high GPA, latin words, the whole nine yards and got a teaching job making decent (for fresh out of college) money.  He attended for 6 years, finally stopped and got a job in IT making the same money I was making.  In 10 years of learning on the job and being a generally dedicated learner and worker, he has more than doubled what he started at (not really a huge stretch, but better than 10 years at minimum wage).  I have left the job that was earned by my degree and am staying home with my kids.

My point?  Glad you asked.  My point is student loans alone are not the problem and the government isn't the answer.  Our combined student loans are less than many of these "middle class" college kids' loans were for one year of school.  I agree they were lied to and convinced student loans were the answer, but where is the accountability for making stupid choices?  Everyone likes to promote the "'poor' kids can't pay for college and need student loans, then get stuck with the bad economy" story.  I beg to differ.  I would have gone to college scott free if it weren't for my summer abroad.  Hardly a necessity and I take full responsibility for that decision.

So I've digressed a bit.  Ok, a lot.  Next, I believe these "kids" have been lied to by the "You have to have everything" advertisers so that they felt that going to a private college, buying fancy computers and living in apartments were great expenditures of their student loan money.  We bought a computer with student loan money.  It was stupid.  We are still paying for a computer that no longer exists.  OUR dumb decision.

They were lied to growing up thinking that when they left their (parents') nice little middle income home they would enter their own little middle income home with all the amenities their parents worked 20 years to afford.  Gee, we did that, too.  Yup, credit cards!  That took a long time to get out from under.  Buying nice things because he (the hubby) was used to them and I liked being spoiled.  OUR dumb decision.

But mostly, I think, they were lied to in the idea that they somehow have gotten that 1) the government is supposed to fix their lives and 2) anyone who has managed to make money should be punished because they (the 99percenters) couldn't.

I think if the government would stay out of business more, not interfere more, we just might see a few things about this capitalism that make sense.

So now, for what I know:  It's precious little.

I know that you have basically 2 real economic choices, capitalism and socialism.  I know that socialism has not worked in many, many countries around the world.  I know that governments don't actually make money, they acquire it from the people who have it and spend it doing things, some good, some bad. 

I know that the government gets its money from people that have it.  Yes, I know I said that, but I wanted to make that clear.  There is all this talk about the rich should pay more percentage-wise than the middle class because somehow we need to punish them for being rich.  Here's what I know about math:  10% of $50,000 is $500.  10% of  $5,000,000 is $50,000.  So if, hypothetically speaking, I make $50,000 and we have flat tax rate of 10% I pay the govnerment $500.  If you make $5,000,000 you pay, on the same flat rate scale, $50,000 or about what I make in a year you pay in taxes in a year.  So now, why would I want you to pay say 20% or $100,000?  (I'm not lobbying flat tax, just removing variables for discussion purposes). 

I can hear it now "But the loopholes, the tax write offs, the incentives...." Okay, again with made up figures to make a point.  Let's say that you own a company and your annual income, you yourself not your company, is $5,000,000.  Now that's pretty nice and in our scenario you owe $50,000 in taxes.  Your wise tax accountant (who you pay a lot of money to and provide with an income so that he can pay taxes) finds a loophole and saves you $25,000 of that. Great!  Now, since you are stinking rich, not only do you pay an accountant a great deal of money, but you have a nice house.  And nice cars.  So with the saved $25,000 you hire a housekeeper.  Now the government doesn't have your income, but this girl does and the government doesn't support her.  Now you also have a cook, a pool boy, a chauffeur, a butler, a guy who brings you the paper, whatever your little heart desires.  All these people would much rather work for you than not have a job, obviously because that is the choice they have made, so you are employing maybe 10 full time staff.  Hmmm, you save $25,000 of the $50,000 you should have paid, but pay salaries on 10 people who may, or may not, pay taxes on that money but are not being supported by the government. 

Pretend for a moment that the government decides this is unfair, takes away your fortunes, gives you the same amount of money as the guy who brings you your paper and gives you a nice little job to do to earn that mediocre salary.  Do you suddenly feel compelled to work your best?  Work as hard as you can?  Improve your standing and help others?  Or do you do the bare minimum and come home each night to watch the government programs on TV like everyone else?  Now the government is paying you to do no more than anyone else and your hard work and determination that built you up to a billionaire to start with get you no better off than the guy who wasn't interested in working in the first place. 

Oh, wait.  Do you remember what I said?  The government doesn't make money, they get it from the people who have it?  Well, now, once all the nation's wealth has been redistributed, who has money to give to the government to pay their own salary?  It's like trying to pick yourself up off the ground.  Try it, I'll wait.  Did it work? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Do Service Points Expire?

There is a terrific blog that I follow called A Slob Comes Clean in which the author gives great tips, suggestions and advice that she discovers on her journey away from slobdom.  In one of her blog posts, which I highly recommend you read (but only if you promise to finish reading this post when you are finished) she talks about how All Housekeeping Points Expire at Midnight.  I don't want to ruin her witty prose for you, but in short she explains how those of us who tend to have difficulty keeping our house clean sometimes are ruined by a productive day.  I know for me, when I have worked really hard and made a huge improvement in one day in my home, I tend to waste away the next day.  See, sometimes we tend to rest on the efforts of the past.  We sometimes think that what we have already done gets us out of doing something else in the future.

As I was musing over this idea the other day I realized this thought can invade our service life as well as our housekeeping.  Have you ever thought, "Someone should really (insert idea here), but I'm not going to because I already (insert heroic action here) so I've done enough"?  No?  I didn't think so.  Not you, I'm actually talking to that other person.  You know, HerShe is the one who reminds everyone of the fact that she served faithfully in her church for 10 years, 20 years ago, so she doesn't need to serve now. That is an extreme example.  I am sure most of us would not be able to relate to that.  But sometimes I am Her.  Sometimes I think, I've done enough.     

There is truth to that fact that we need to guard ourselves from overcommitment and from interfering with our family's needs.  We need to be sure we aren't taking on roles that God intended someone else to do.  Sometimes we fill a need that God doesn't want us to fill because we aren't listening, seeking His guidance. In doing so we interfere with a blessing God had intended for someone else.  There are legitimate times not to serve.

But sometimes we are using our past service to excuse things we don't want to do.  Okay, again, not you, but her.  I know I have been her.  I have thought "I don't need to volunteer to help with the Women's Ministry Christmas dinner, because I have helped with Children's Ministry."  I am certain that sometimes I have lost out on a blessing God had intended for me because I have used the excuse of past, or even current, service to avoid serving elsewhere. 

God doesn't put our skills, our gifts or our passions in a little box labeled "Children's Ministry" or "Women's Ministry" or even "Church Ministry".  God sends us opportunities to grow and be blessed disguised as service opportunities.  It seems to me that it is a rare event when God uses us to do something but doesn't have a plan to impact us in the process.

We do need to be aware of using "service" as a way to hide from the world or of taking on more than God is calling.  But we need to stop using our past service as an excuse to avoid the next thing God is asking us to do.  Or maybe that is just me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Award Winning Raw Apple Cake Recipe

Here it is!  The moment you have all been waiting for!  I am going to share a secret, award winning recipe that will leave anyone who tries it impressed.  Yes, it is really that good.  I've never met anyone who didn't rave over this recipe.  It is amazing.  I've never seen anyone make it other than my mother in law and now me.  I know there are others of you out there, and I hope soon that there will be many more of you.  This recipe truly is killer.



Raw Apple Cake

4 c. apples chopped fine
2 c. sugar
mix together let stand 30 min. (Honestly, it doesn't always have to sit quite that long, just needs to make a good juice.)

Sift together:
2 c flour
2 tsp soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients and
2 beaten eggs to apple mixture.  Stir only to blend well.  Pour into prepared 9 x 13 pan.
Bake 350 for 40 minutes.

Topping:
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 stick Margarine (I actually use butter, it is just as good, either works)
1 c water
(1 teaspoon Vanilla to add at end)
Cook until thick, stirring constantly.  Add 1 teaspoon Vanilla.  Pour over hot cake.


Around the edges you can see the bubbly topping.
After the topping has settled.  Best served warm!
Warning, this cake does not look good. You may have to force some people to try it. (I am one.  I didn't try it the first few times, but now I LOVE it!)

This is hands down my husband's favorite cake, maybe all time favorite dessert.  Happy Eating!  (I would love to see other fall apple/pumpkin kinds of dessert ideas from anyone who wants to post their own yummy recipes.)

Update:  The year I won the coveted Golden Spatula for this recipe, my dear friend Amanda from Cooking Three Handed also won the Golden Ladle for her Chili recipe posted here.  Check it out and say hello!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Doubt?

Why is it so easy to get discouraged despite the obvious fact that God is working great things?  How can I have such great joy in one area of my life where it is so amazingly clear that God has restored peace and hope and brought joy and excitement, and yet feel so discouraged in other areas?  How can I see God's glory as He cleans up messes, meanwhile despairing of the messes I have that yet need cleaned up?  Is my faith really so small that I cannot believe, or choose to not believe, that God is working in all the areas?  Do I limit God by thinking he only has enough time, energy or focus to fix one area of my life at a time?  Do I doubt His ability?  Or is it His desire I doubt?

These are the questions that I ask myself as I feel so distraught over some, rather tiny I suppose, issues in my life and yet simultaneously feel more joy than I have felt in a very long time. How can I see what God has done for me and those I love and despair that I cannot handle these other issues alone?  Do I forget that God isn't calling me to do anything alone?  Do I forget that He who restores hope restores finances and relationships? 
Why is it so easy to put God in this place and that situation, but forget to invite him into that other situation, the one you want to forget?

Now is the time that I need to remind myself of one of my favorite sayings: "God is good, ALL the time!" and to remind myself of a verse I need to hear from time to time: "Be still, and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10.  

So I'm writing this as a reminder, God is Good!  It is His job to fix the world.  The joy of the Lord IS my strength.  I'm going to pick up and dust myself off, try not to worry about the things I can't change and try to follow what God has planned for my life.  Sounds easy enough...

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Simple Story

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  Her name was Sally.  Sally lived in a house with her mom, dad, 2 brothers, 6 cats and one rather large hippo.  They lived in a rather large house.

Sally loved to play tea party with her mom, play golf with her dad and play tag with her brothers.  She enjoyed playing dress-up with her cats on rainy afternoons (the cats, however, did not much enjoy this and would try, often unsuccessfully to hide under the couch or behind the dryer). 

But by far her favorite thing to do was play "ballerina:" with her hippo.  Her hippo was named Eustace Eugene Englebert.  You didn't expect an animal so large to have a small, common name like Fred did you?

Eustace Eugene Englebert was an expert ballerina.  He could Plié, Dégagé and Fondu like the most famous of all ballerinas. He was light on his huge, enormous feet and made all aspiring ballerinas jealous.  So of course Sally loved to dance with him.

Then, one bright, sunshiny Wednesday afternoon, Eustace Eugene Englebert fell down.  When Eustace Eugene Englebert fell, it was not a small bump like when you or I fall.  No, in fact, when Eustace Eugene Englebert fell, it shook the entire block.  People came outside to see if it was an earthquake.  Several people noticed poor Eustace Eugene Englebert lying on the ground near the apple tree.  Many neighbors came running over to see what had happened.   

Poor Eustace Eugene Englebert!  He couldn't get up.  All he could do was lie there in the grass and cry.

Sally ran to Eustace Eugene Englebert and begged him to try to get up.  He just stayed there, crying and covering his eyes with his enormous front feet.  Sally knew he was embarrassed with all the crowd gathered around.  She also knew that she couldn't help Eustace Eugene Englebert stand up alone.  

Oh, what to do?  The local veterinarian happened to live across the street.  Dr. Wolfe came over to make sure Eustace Eugene Englebert hadn't actually damaged any bones.  When he had pronounced Eustace Eugene Englebert to be in fine health, Sally knew she had to convince Eustace Eugene Englebert to stand up.  But how?  He was so embarrassed.  

Suddenly, an idea came to Sally.  She ran to her friend Joey, whose dad happened to be the school principal.  She whispered her idea to Joey.  He agreed and ran to his dad and whispered the idea to him.  After thinking for a few moments, Joey's dad, Mr. Board, smiled and agreed.  Mr. Board went to Miss Groove and chatted with her.  

Miss Groove was the school theatre and dance instructor.  She jumped up and down with giddiness over the idea.  She ran to the 5 little girls and 3 little boys that had been having a private lesson with her just moments before and discussed it with them.  

They all beamed and bounced and agreed that this was the best idea ever.  The group of kids ran to Sally and poor Eustace Eugene Englebert.  The children began to dance and twirl and spin in front of the poor hippo.  They practiced all their best moves.  Eustace Eugene Englebert stopped crying long enough to see what they were doing.  When the children saw that Eustace Eugene Englebert was watching, they stopped and began to plead with Sally, quite loudly to ensure that Eustace Eugene Englebert could hear every word, to let Eustace Eugene Englebert help them perform their spring recital in 9 days.  Sally, who of course had orchestrated the whole thing, pretended to be concerned that Eustace Eugene Englebert might not be able to dance, having fallen so recently.  The children pretended to be sad and begged further, knowing all the time that this was Sally's big plan.  

While Sally stood, her back to Eustace Eugene Englebert, slowly and sadly shaking her head to the children, Eustace Eugene Englebert slowly began to stand.  Sally pretended she could not hear him standing.  She said she was very sorry, but if Eustace Eugene Englebert was hurt too much to stand up, there was no way he could dance in a mere 9 days!

Sally, hearing much commotion from the neighbors, turned around to see her rather large hippo dancing behind her!  He did his finest moves, showing off each bend and stretch and twirl with great joy and pleasure.  The children laughed!  Miss Groove bounced up and down!  Mr. Board rubbed his hands together excitedly!  Yes!  This would be the best spring recital ever to take place at Sunnyside Elementary School!  

Sally stood back and smiled realizing that sometimes all it takes to help us get up when we fall down is the love and encouragement of our friends, family and neighbors. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My God - Restorer of Hope

It's 11:30 on a Sunday night.  I have an early morning coming after a long weekend.  I have a lot to do.  Yet, here I sit.  Why?  Because God did something amazing for me this weekend and I need to share. 

God gave me renewed hope, brought some wonderful people into my life and spoke into the lives of many that I care about.  God is good.  And God is doing good things in the lives of His people. 

Our church had a guest speaker this weekend.  He was very good.  Not like the super best speaker ever, but very very good.  I think it is the fact that he wasn't the BEST but very good that actually helped God's light shine through.  See, I wasn't so much distracted by the man as we sometimes can be.  I was able to see God and hear a few things along the way.

God, through words spoken over many of the youth of our church, renewed my hope and vision for the children of our church.  They are not the future of the church, they are part of The Church today.  Hearing what God wanted to say to these amazing kids, young adults, in the presence of our body really softened my heart.

God softened my heart in a few other areas and helped me truly work down a path of forgiveness that I need to be walking down, perhaps more quickly than I have been. 

God brought a beautiful family whom I love and have prayed for during these last many months back home to visit our family.  I saw God working restoration in them and us.  I saw God blessing them and us.  That alone would have made my weekend, the visit of one family would have been enough.  But not for God.

God began, or perhaps continued, healing some hearts that have been agonizing.  He spoke life and love and hope into hearts that were broken.  I saw amazing personal heart change that showed on the faces of those I care about. 

God allowed me the opportunity to reach out to a church member and remind her of how adored she is.  He allowed me to speak a few kind words of truth to her heart to help calm a worried spirit.  God allowed her the opportunity to do something she loves, give.  God is restoring things there as well.

God helped the people of our church family throw a baby shower for a woman most of them had never met, just to show His love.  He got many people to work together to bless one small, young family with His heart for His people.  This alone knocked my socks off.

God brought another family that I love to the shower.  This was in itself a healing, restoring process.  For many.  God restored some things that were taken from this family, or so I think.  I suppose I could be mispeaking, but I do not think I am.

God allowed a friend flag me down in town and stop just to say hi, reminding me how precious one person and one family is in the Kingdom of God.  

God started another precious family on an amazing voyage of discovery, sending them to find what He is calling them to next.  He gave me peace to know that they are in His hands, a heart to love them and the knowledge that they are still part of our body, the Body of Christ.  I am excited to see where He calls them to next and hear what He has in store for them as they seek Him. 

And, though this is little, God gave me a small moment for intellectual exercise in His word, to think and ponder and wonder.  

God is good.  God is GOOD!!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

More Long Winded Ramblings of a Tired Mommy

     I have recently been pondering many difficult questions of life.  Yet, I wonder, as difficult as these are, how important are they?  How much of our life is spent in deep despair, consternation or just plain aggravation over things with no lasting eternal value. 
       As I contemplate that, I begin to go through the rather major events in my life right now.  A lot has changed.  A lot is changing.  A lot more will change when I least expect it.  This leaves me unsettled as I detest change.  I hate it.  I am sure most of us would say the same thing.  Change leaves us unsettled and uncertain.  Even good change brings with it a certain amount of sadness. 
     Over the last 4 years or so, I have endured more change than I thought was possible.  Some good, some incredibly painful and some down right angrifying.  (Like that, I couldn't think of a good word.)  And I know that above many people's problem with change, I have to add an additional problem that others may not.  I like to have control.
     I know, we all do, right?  Who doesn't want to choose what we watch on TV or eat for dinner?  Frankly, me.  I don't care about those things, but things that seem of vital importance to me, well, I want them done my way.  Not just done well, done well my way. 
     I am a perfectionist.  I demand perfection in myself and fail to achieve it every time.  I know perfect is impossible, but I never feel as though I've done it well enough.  I don't demand perfection of others, in fact I tend to give much grace, too much I've been told. 
     So, what is my point?  I warned you in the header, this is a blog of my ramblings, you might want to stop while you are still ahead.
     My point, as you ask, is I have recently been, well accused is a bit harsh.  Let's say that it has been said of me that I am a "controlling woman".  I hardly can say that without laughing! 
     Now you are confused.  I can see it in your eyes.  Ok, I can't really see your eyes, but I'm just guessing.  "How can a woman who admits she likes to be in control laugh at the thought of being a controlling woman?"
     Good question.  So I've been asking myself.  If I really think this assessment of me is wrong, yet I openly admit to anyone interested enough to listen or read my blog (so a whole like 8 people) that I like to be in control, how can I be upset by being labelled a "Controlling Woman"?


     Oh, wait, you are waiting for the answer?  Well, I'm not sure I have it entirely.  But I have spent the day pondering this very thing.  Because right now in my world, it really matters to me.  And it just might matter to others that matter to me.  (See, I started a sentence with But, Because and And.  Rule breaker!!!  Sorry, humor me, it's late.)

     Here's what I think.  I think we all want some control.  We all want things to go the right way.  Most of us think we know what that way is.  Some others of you are blessed with the gift of "it doesn't really matter".  Some of use are not.  So we make mountains of mole hills and control everything within our grasps.  Yet I have a huge respect for chain of command and line of authority.  I will complain, disagree and petition to be heard, but if the boss says "Do this" I do this.  And I attempt (though often fail) to do this, without complaint.
     So I guess I want to be heard.  And I want to know that my voice counts.  And I want to know that the authority to whom I am submitting shares my conviction in the area in which I have submitted. 
     So I want to be heard.  Do I insist on having it my way?  Honestly, no.  I like it my way.  But if the authority has heard me out and shares my heart, then I trust them and follow, knowing that it will work out in the end and this "issue" must be one of those of no eternal value type problems. 
     Which brings us to the present.  I have recently found myself in a leadership role within my church.  It is not a new role for me, it is one in which I have functioned in the past and managed with some degree of success.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was not asked to take this role, I chose to take it.  This does help make the point of my "Controlling woman"ness.  In the past when I have had this role, I have had a clear leader to whom I could turn that held the authority and I served under her (or him) with the authority bestowed upon me. Now I serve under a ruling board that I respect and admire.  But there is not mediator between us.  This makes me nervous.  I don't want that much authority.  See, I want to be heard, and I'm willing to step up and do a needed job.  I'm willing to manage people and events (just not laundry).  But I don't want to be the top authority reporting directly to the boss.  I want to be down one on the food chain.  This is an uncomfortable place. 
     I don't strive for "power".  I don't even really like it.  Not really.  I strive for quality.  I know I have some skills and gifts given to me by God for His purposes, I just don't want to be the big boss.  I want to be kind of in charge of some stuff, allowed the privilege to serve and listened to when my "expertise" is helpful. 
     Even in my home, I am not a controlling wife.  I manage (I chuckle as I type that) my home and make a huge portion of the daily running decisions, but I never, ever tell my husband what to do.  I make suggestions.  Sometimes forcefully.  But I never let his decision to do something different cause division.  I know that it isn't worth it.  I've seen what I'm like when I let our disagreements on something as silly as room color eat at me.  I'm not willing to go there in my marriage.  Usually.  I'm not perfect, but I see how not important most "arguements" are. 
     See, I haven't forgotten, though you probably have, where we started.  I have come full circle.  I think what the difference between being controlling and having a desire to be in control is all about the perspective.  I know, or try to, the things that are eternally important.  When I begin making mountains out of mole hills, I begin to slide toward that controlling personality.  When I get a grip and look at life in regards to the eternal value of the issue, I begin to slide back to the "I want input, but will follow the leader" side. 

     Now, if I could learn to control the environment directly around me (aka my home) as much as I would like to control the world, I'd be set.

Holiday World 2011!

Holiday World 2011!

Baby # 6

Baby # 6
Welcome to the world and welcome to our crazy family!

Fort Benning

Fort Benning
We finally made it to Georgia!!!

Just a day at the park!

Just a day at the park!

My Hero!

My Hero!
I don't do dead things. Fortunately for me, God gave me boys!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!
Daddy and Grandma make Jammies every year for the kids, They love it!

Christmas in PJs

Christmas in PJs
Don't I just have the cutest kids?

2010 Jammies

2010 Jammies
Once again Daddy pulled it off. They look cute!

Round 2 birthday parties

Round 2 birthday parties
Cake number 1 of 3 done. I am so not an artist, but I think it came out pretty well!

My Girls

My Girls
Borrowed dance clothes, my girls sure look cute.

Couped up

Couped up
More images below showing the children feeling a bit "couped up" from the long winter!

Chickens: Take 2

Chickens: Take 2
Cute chicks!

The robot cake. I am glad my kids' standards aren't as high as mine!

Tree Climbers

Tree Climbers

Summer Fun!

Summer Fun!
Hi Daddy! Hope you are having fun at work!

This one is so bad, I had to label the cake so you would know it's not a cow!

Dressed for Church!

Dressed for Church!
Come as your favorite Bible character night!

Too cute for words!

If the boy wasn't so tall, I could get a picture of his face!

Establishing the pecking order!

Babies!