Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Be Thankful for a "Small" Inconvenience

the blow out

When John moved to Texas to start his new job, he drove his truck and took the boat.  He was busy getting ready for the trip the day before he left when he discovered that one of the boat trailer tires was flat.  What a hassle!  John had to drive to the store to get a tool that he needed, and he had to make a jack for the trailer tires.  After he took the tire off, he took it to be repaired.  We picked it up later, and the shop said there was nothing wrong with it.  What a waste of time!  (Or so we thought.)

The next day, John called me after he had been driving for a little over an hour to let me know that he had had a blow out.  I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't the tire from the day before.  It was a different one.  But because John had had to remove that tire, he had the tools and equipment he needed to make a possibly difficult job relatively easy.  He was back on the road about ten minutes later.

What if John hadn't had the flat tire the day before?  He may not have had the tools he needed to change his tire, thus complicating the situation.  I'm sure you can imagine how frustrating it would have been without the proper tools.

So we learned to thank God for relatively minor inconveniences because they may save us from big problems later on.  We praised God that night for the aggravation of a flat tire!

Have you had a situation like this one where you felt frustration for a problem, learning later that it actually made things easier for you?

Monday, April 29, 2013

What I've Read So Far This Year

I haven't written a post yet this year about what I've read, so this one is a little long.  But I have read some good books so far this year, and I enjoy telling you about them.  And I hope that if you decide to read one that you will let me know how you liked it.
  • Cleaning House:  a Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Willis Wyma.  You need to read this book.  It will help you get more out of your children with the right goal.  The goal isn't for our children to do more around the house so that our lives will be easier and they will learn how to do things.  The goal is to have them do things, sometimes hard things, so their self-confidence will grow.  Then they will be willing to try other hard things.  A very good book that I highly recommend.
  • To Love Anew by Bonnie Leon.  This book captured my attention when I read the brief synopsis about a man and a woman who separately end up on a prison ship bound for Australia.  Both were guilty of very minor crimes, but the sentences they received were rather harsh.  I didn't know much about how criminals from Britain ended up in Australia, so I found this historical novel intriguing.
  • The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley.  Flavia de Luce is smart, witty, and spunky; she has a penchant for poisons which she loves to use to antagonize her sisters...as they torment her with stories of her being adopted.  Did I mention that Flavia is eleven years old?  Everyone treats her as a child (because she is), but she solves the mysteries as quickly as, or quicker than, the local police.  And because this book takes place in 1950's Britain, it's also an interesting read about the life and times then and there.  If you enjoy mysteries, I think you'll like this new approach.  I reviewed the first book in this series here.
  • Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.  After reading Starflower by the same author, I thought I would try another one in the series.  Once again, Stengl uses a fairy tale-like setting to show spiritual truths.  I enjoyed this book, too.
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gillman.  This book was a fun read about a 60-something year old widow who wants to join the CIA.  Her common sense approach helps her succeed in her mission when everyone else assumed she would fail.  I really enjoyed this book because it was just fun.
  • An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd.  Set during World War I, Bess Crawford is a nurse who plays detective when she's not saving the lives of wounded soldiers.  This is the second in the series.
  • The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One) by Rick Riordan.  Yes, I admit on the internet that I read this book.  I will even admit to enjoying it.  It was an exciting read that was full of clean action and adventure.
  • The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Two) by Rick Riodan.  This book was my guilty fun read over my birthday weekend.
Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  What have you been reading lately?

Writing Letters to Express Gratitude

As I wrote last week in my first post about this subject, letter writing can be a great way to encourage others, not just a way to keep in touch.  Another use for letters is to show appreciation.

When Uncle Ray came to visit last fall, he told us about a letter he received years ago when he was a teacher.  The mother of one of his students had written it, and it meant a lot to him.  He was upset that it got lost because he wished he had had it framed.  Similarly, when John turned in his notice at his old job in Florida, he received a note from one of his co-workers that he would like to frame and keep.  Both of these notes were important and worth saving because the writers were appreciative of these men and what they had done.  It meant a lot to them that someone had taken the time to write these notes.

Back in Florida, our children's nurse practitioner was a big help in getting Rachel diagnosed with JDM.  I tried to think of some way to express my gratitude for that and for the way she treated our other children.  I thought about baking something, making some soap, or even crocheting something for her.  But none of those ideas seemed right.  Then I remembered Uncle Ray's and John's experience, and I wrote her a letter.  

I never saw her after I sent her the letter, so I can only assume that she appreciated it.  There is always the possibility that she ripped it up and threw it in the trash...but I doubt it.

If someone does something meaningful for you, I want to encourage you to write them a note letting them know.  Most people only hear about the times they do something wrong, so a nice note would probably be a welcome change.  

Have you ever written a note to express your gratitude?  Have you ever received one?

Friday, April 26, 2013

3 in 30: Fun, Fun!

On Monday, I took all four children to buy rain boots.  I think rain boots, or something similar, are necessary for life on a small farm.  I want my children to have shoes I they don't have to worry about keeping clean.  And they need shoes they can wear no matter how wet it is outside because chickens have to be fed even if it's raining.

So after we bought rain boots, the weather God blessed us with rain.  How nice was that!  Rachel and Mary discovered the joy of splashing in puddles, so much so that they had mud all over themselves.  Rachel saw her hat this morning and said, "My hat has choclit on it."  No, Rachel, that's mud.

Yesterday, we went strawberry picking.  We had a cold snap this week, and it seemed strange to pick strawberries while wearing jeans and long-sleeved shirts, wanting jackets.  But it was nice having our rain boots!  Ironically, we were thankful for cloudy weather because it meant that we didn't have to worry about Rachel getting too much sun.  And we're looking forward to strawberry bread this weekend!

Here's how I did with my goals this month:
  • Unpack.  I knew that I wouldn't get all of the boxes unpacked this month, but I hoped I would get more done.  This week, I only unpacked one or two boxes.  At least, all of the important boxes have been unpacked.  This goal will be carried over to next week.
  • Put away.  I concentrated more on finding places for things that were already unpacked this week.  I even started the master closet which seemed like such a mess that I would never get it straightened out.  (I dreaded going into it, it was so bad!)  However, it's amazing what you can get done in fifteen minute time periods.
  • Get back into a routine.  We are pretty much back into a routine, and that is very nice.  I can't help but feel that, if I could let the routine slide, I could get more unpacking done.  But I can't (and don't want to) do that.  
How did you do this week?  Have you been strawberry picking yet this year, or are you planning to go?

This post is linked up with Aurie at Welcome to Our Good Life.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr

In A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr, Errol starts off as a young drunkard.  He "lost himself in the barrel" (as other characters say), but through a strange turn of events ends up on a journey.  As Errol continues on the journey, he comes out of the barrel and becomes the man he should be.  Of course, there are many people chasing him during this journey, people who want him dead, but no one knows why.  No one realizes why he is so important, least of all Errol.  Although it has a bit of a slow start, this book takes the reader on a wild, adventure-filled ride.

Books that are Christian fantasy can be hard to deal with.  Are they allegories or parables?  Or are they simply fantasy written by a Christian author?  I think this book should be read as just Christian fantasy without trying to apply too much else to it.  It's a fun read, and I can't wait for the next book to come out.

I want to thank Bethany House for my copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing Letters: Encouragement

Writing letters and sending them through the mail seems to be a dying art.  When was the last time you wrote or received a real, live letter?  For that reason, I want to do a short series about letter writing because it's a way that we all have for God to use us in the lives of others.

I want to begin with writing letters to your friends.  A note can be newsy, of course, relating all kinds of information that we want one of our friends to know.  A note can also be encouraging or affirming.  Is one of your friends struggling with something?  Is another one feeling down?  A letter from you could give her spirits a lift.

Letters are better than emails because they are more personal, more permanent, and tactile.  You can hold a letter in your hand and read it over and over again.  You don't have to worry about accidentally deleting it; and if it's written instead of typed, you know that the sender took the time to handwrite it.  Isn't it nice to hold a letter in your hands as you read it?

I want to encourage you to write more letters.  Maybe you have a friend who is going through something tough; I bet she would love to receive a letter from you.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a few words letting her know that you're thinking about her and praying for her.  Even if no one you know needs encouragement of this kind, I'm sure that someone you know would appreciate a letter from you.

When was the last time you received a letter?  How did it make you feel?

Friday, April 19, 2013

3 in 30: Getting Things Done

This week has been interesting, fun, and good.  The interesting and fun part was getting chicks last Saturday.  It's been so much fun watching their silly antics, and Sarah Beth and Daniel have really enjoyed catching and holding them.  Rachel and Mary are fascinated, too.  The good part was finding a doctor for Rachel; you never know what you're going to get when you first see a doctor, but we were pleasantly surprised.  Other than those two things, it has been a fairly quiet week which was nice.  Here's how I did with my goals:.
  • Unpack.  I planned not to unpack any boxes this week, but my children finagled me into unpacking three boxes of their toys.  I haven't figured out exactly what to do with the toys I unpacked, but at least it's three more empty boxes.  (I think it's time to get rid of some toys.)
  • Put away.  I concentrated on this aspect of unpacking this week.  I would like to get the house in good enough shape to have someone over for supper.  The house doesn't have to be (and won't be!) perfect, but the living areas should be decently clean and neat.  Just stay out of our closet -- it's an absolute wreck.  I hate going in there because of the mess, but I think I'm going to start working in there tomorrow.
  • Get back into a routine.  We are getting back into our routine.  Hooray!  We're getting school done, suppers fixed, laundry washed, etc..  I even baked a loaf of bread this week.  Yea!  And I've been able to incorporate my new chicks into our routine.
How was your week?  What were you able to accomplish?

This post is linked up with Aurie at Welcome to Our Good Life:  3in30.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Things I am Thankful For on This Thursday

I've seen a lot of "Thankful Thursday" posts, and I thought I would participate, too.  What a great idea, to remind ourselves of how much we have to be thankful for.  So here are ten things that I am thankful for this week:
  1. Our new house where we are all together again after being apart for so long.
  2. Our new yard where our children can play outside and we can try new things.
  3. Rachel's new doctor who saw her so quickly...
  4. and seems familiar with JDM so we feel comfortable with her treating Rachel.
  5. Homeschooling.  We were able to take three weeks off for the move which we can make up over the summer.
  6. Chicks and...
  7. a husband who supports me in this new endeavor.
  8. The freedom to homeschool after reading about this Swedish family who had their child taken away because they homeschooled and this German family who fled here to the U.S. for being persecuted for homeschooling.
  9. New friends that we have made here.
  10. Old friends who keep in touch even though we've moved away.
How blessed I am!  What a wonderful Savior I serve who gives me above and beyond what I could imagine!

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Ask More of Your Children

My mother gave me a copy of Cleaning House:  A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma, and I can't recommend it enough.  Wyma points out in this book that we parents are doing too much for our children, so they feel entitled to it and more.  A byproduct of this is that our children don't know how to do simple things, like make a meal or clean a toilet.  Here is a quote that I wanted to share with you:
It takes so much brainpower and emotional vitality and physical energy to do the so-called big things in life (work assignments, refereeing sibling fights, making your spouse feel valued) -- but if all their verve is drained because they're overwhelmed by the simple tasks of cooking and cleaning and shopping, how can we expect our offspring to be world changers?
So true!  Another thing I gleaned from this book is that when children learn to do things for themselves, their self-confidence increases.  When we push them to do something hard (that our children may not think they can do), and they accomplish it, they realize how much they can do.  And they are willing to try other, harder things.  For example, when I ask my children to walk across the fellowship hall at church to get forks that I forgot, it scares them a little bit.  But when they realize they can do it, they are willing to get dessert by themselves.  It boosts their self-confidence, and it has the wonderful side effect of helping me out!

When we don't let our children try hard things, because they might make a mess or they might not do it as well as we can, we tell our children that they can't do it.  So they want to try even less because they figure they will fail anyway.  Haven't you seen that happen?  I know that I have.

I want my children to grow up and leave home knowing how to cook meals, do laundry, and clean the house.  More than that, I want them to feel like they can do anything they set their minds to.  And I can set them up for success just by asking them to do more around the house.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What I Did This Weekend

 Yesterday was my birthday.  And since I was pretty much home alone all weekend, I got to do what I wanted.

When John started his new job here in Texas, he brought the boat with him, but he left it at his brother's house in Louisiana because he didn't have anywhere here outside of Houston to keep it.  Now that we've been here a couple of weeks (and bought a house!), he wanted to pick up his boat.  It just so happened that he wanted to go this weekend -- my birthday weekend.

When he realized that, I told him not to worry about it, to go ahead and go.  I knew that he wanted to get his boat home as soon as he could.  And he knew that I would love some time to myself.  So he took our older three children with him, leaving me here at home with Mary.

Why didn't Mary and I go?  We wouldn't fit in John's truck, so we would have had to take two cars.

Why was I looking forward to some time to myself?  I'm a homebody, so I like to stay home.  But when I'm home, I'm usually doing household chores.  But with only Mary here, there wasn't too much to do.  (I left the unpacking alone.)  I'm also an introvert, so I love having some alone time.  Honestly, I think that's the hardest part for me being a homeschooling mother:  I'm always surrounded by people!

How did I spend my time?  I spent my time reading, catching up on the internet, crocheting, playing with Mary, and running some errands.  I even made another batch of soap.  It has been a while since I last made soap, and I was about to run out!

I also picked up some chicks.

As I get older, it seems that there is less and less that I want for my birthdays.  Last year, I started a new hobby -- soap making -- and received the utensils for that craft.  This year, I wanted chickens, so I got the stuff I needed for that.  Won't it be nice to have fresh eggs from my own chickens?  I can't wait...but I will have to.  It'll be awhile before these chicks are old enough to lay eggs.

Mary is fascinated by the chicks.

Why did I get the kinds of chicks that I did?  There are two reasons, well, really three:  these breeds are docile (we won't have aggressive animals around our children), they are great layers, and they were available at our local feed and seed store.  (Next year, I may order some to get exactly what I want.)

I love this smile as she watches the chicks.

I have two Araucana chicks (the little ones), two Buff Orpingtons (the tan ones), and two Barred Plymouth Rocks (the black and white striped ones).  Buff Orphingtons are supposed to be very friendly; Barred Rocks are nice looking; and I wanted Araucanas because they lay blue or green eggs (and sometimes pink!).  Easter eggs all year long!

Sarah Beth was so excited to be able to hold a chick until she discovered that it's really not that much fun.

John arrived home with the boat yesterday afternoon, and we all had fun playing with the chicks.  We plan to go out for dinner tonight for my birthday; there's a local Mexican restaurant with excellent food. I can't wait!

How do you like to spend your birthdays?  Alone or with a crowd of people?  Any suggestions for a new hobby for my birthday next year?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Finished Object Friday: A Baby Blanket

Laura, one of my very good friends, is due to have her eighth baby any day now, so I made her a blanket.  Don't you agree that every baby should have something handmade?

I found the pattern in this book, and I used Caron Simply Soft yarn...which the yarn that I typically use for baby blankets since it's so soft and easily cared for.

For more Finished Object Friday, head over to Fresh from the Chari Tree.

Friday, April 12, 2013

3 in 30: Getting Back to Normal

We've had a great time playing outside this week!

This week went pretty well, all told.  Well, except for the stomach flu going through all four children in two days.  That wasn't pretty.  I've still got my fingers crossed about John and me not getting it.  Even with that, I was able to get some work done on my goals.
  • Unpack.  I haven't concentrated too much this week on unpacking, although I did get some done.  I actually don't have too many boxes left...if I could just find my aprons.
  • Put away.  This chore is what I've been working at.  I'm tired of the mess in my house, and I would rather clear it away than make more by unpacking.  If I could ignore my regular chores, unpacking would go soooo much more quickly.  But my children need to be taught, meals need to be made, clothes need to be washed; and all of that is regardless of what needs to be unpacked.  Oh, well.  I'll get done what I can, and that's all I can do.
  • Get back into a routine.  I worked hard at this goal.  I had a meal plan that I followed...mostly.  We did school every day except yesterday when Sarah Beth was sick.  I got the laundry done and the dishes.  Next week, I think I need to work on some cleaning.  The house was cleaned before we moved in, but it's starting to get a little dirty.  It's just hard to clean with the mess.
How did you do this week?  Have you battled the stomach flu this year?

This post is linked with Aurie at Welcome to Our Good Life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Outside the House Pictures

I think I told you before that now we have three acres, and we love it!  It's so nice to send the older three children outside to play, knowing that there is plenty of yard for them.  Yesterday, when I checked on them, they were all huddled together looking at something on the ground.  I discovered that they were cracking open pecans they had found and eating them!  

We hadn't even moved into our house yet before we bought five blueberry bushes, a couple of apple trees, and a blackberry bush.   

Look at all of these blueberries ripening, just waiting for us to eat them!

The previous owners put in a tire swing.

Do you think our children like it?

Mary loves being outside, too, and I hate it that she can't go out without me yet.  There's just so much that I need to do indoors, like unpacking, and she's stuck with me.  But we do go outside every day, even if it's just to water the blueberry bushes.

I love this picture of Mary's little hand reaching for the clover.

Do you see it?  The honey bee?  When my mother and I saw the honey bees, we had the same thought, although she expressed it first.  Wouldn't it be fun to have a hive?  I don't plan even to look into it, though, until next year.  But wouldn't it be fun?!

We have a small pond, too, and apparently it has some fish in it, but we don't know what kind.  This pond is the big reason that Mary can't go out unsupervised.  

There is so much that one can do with three acres, and we are having so much fun making our plans!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Inside the House Pictures

The kitchen.

I have promised you pictures of our new house for months now (at least, it feels like it's been months), so here I am finally making good on my promise.  Of course, pictures of rooms inside houses don't show the whole, well, picture, but I hope you can get an idea of where we live now.  I don't feel comfortable showing you a picture of the outside of our house just in case there's someone out there who I don't want to find us.  

The living room.  Yes, those are built-in book shelves; aren't they nice?!

Daniel's room is covered in dolphins and fish.

Sarah Beth's and Rachel's room.  Even the ceiling is painted this color.

The playroom.  It's bigger than it looks, and we love it.  (It's not as big as our old one, however.)

Lone stars are everywhere, and this one is on our front door.  We have more on the sconces of our outdoor lights, on the mantle piece, and other places.  I joke that we need to replace them with Georgia peaches since I'm from Georgia.  Apparently, people are proud to live in Texas because there are lone stars all over people's houses.  I guess I'd better get used to it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

What We've Been Doing Lately in Pictures

Wearing Mommy's shoes.

It's been more than two months since I've been able to upload pictures from our camera and then to this blog, and I've missed sharing pictures with you.  This week, I plan to inundate you with pictures, starting with what I wasn't able to show you before we moved.

We celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday with green eggs (but no ham).  They didn't taste too bad, but they looked pretty awful.  My children asked for them again the next day.

Daniel lost his first tooth.

And his second the very next day.  Yes, the Tooth Fairy came to our house two nights in a row.

Easter happened after we moved in, but this picture seemed to fit well here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

3 in 30: New Goals for a New House

It's nice to get back into this monthly goal-setting after two months off.  With our computer broken, I wasn't able to post anything; and then with the disorder of getting ready to move and then moving, I couldn't make goals anyway.  But here I am again with simple goals for the month, simple but not necessarily easy.
  • Unpack.  Even with my mother's help over the weekend, I still have many boxes to unpack.  The important things are unpacked...I think.
  • Put away.  Everything that gets unpacked needs to be put away, and that is harder than unpacking.  I have to find a place for everything, and I'm the only one who can do it, and I find this task overwhelming at times.
  • Get back into a routine.  Ever since John moved here to Texas at the beginning of February, our routine has been thrown out of whack.  With him gone, I didn't cook much, so I look forward to getting back into that.  We took three weeks off from school:  one for the move, the next week while we were in the rental house, and this week for me to work on unpacking.  So we need to get back into our school routine.  One good thing about homeschooling is being able to do school during the summer to make up lost time; that's also a bad thing.  And there are other chores that I need to get used to doing again.
I don't expect to get everything done this month, but I would like to make a good dent into these things.  What are you hoping to accomplish this month?

By the way, I did finish my recipe notebook at the end of January, but I just wasn't able to post about it.

This post is linked up with Aurie at Welcome to our Good Life.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Texas Update

So we're here in Texas and moved into our new house.  Our new computer (remember, the old one died) is up and running...for the most part.  Life is starting to come together, so I thought I would write a quick update to let you know how we're doing in our new life in Texas - so far.

John is absolutely thrilled to have us all here with him, and we are excited to have our Daddy and husband back with us.  John enjoys his new job and thinks it will be a good fit.  He likes the people he works with and the goals of the company.

Our children are adjusting well; kids are so resilient and adaptable, aren't they?  Of course, they didn't want to leave Florida and their friends there, but they are already making new ones here.  Our homeschool co-op Classical Conversations is a national co-op, so we got plugged in here for the last three weeks.  That was so nice for all of us:  we're all making friends through school.  And there is even a little girl next door for Sarah Beth to play with.  Hooray!

Mary is almost sixteen months old and still not talking.  Well, she's not speaking English although she talks all the time.  There's nothing wrong with her, and she can make herself understood with hand motions and her "Mary-ese."  She's just not interested in talking to us in our language.  It'll come...when she wants it to.  But I must admit that I'm ready to hear, "Please, Mommy," instead of grunts.

This neighborhood seems friendly; we've had several different neighbors come over to meet us.  We've never had that before.

We have three acres, and it's so nice to be able to send the older three children outside to play.  We're making plans for what to do with our yard.  We bought blueberry bushes already, and we plan to get chickens soon.

Meanwhile, the house is an absolute wreck.  My mother left this morning, but she unpacked a bunch of boxes over the weekend.  Now I have to find places for everything, but that will happen more quickly than if I had to unpack the boxes as well.  And I still have boxes to unpack, but the living spaces are getting more livable every day, and I think that's what counts.

Now we just need to find a church and a doctor for Rachel, and we'll be all set!