Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Many thoughts, little time!

WOW! It has been a LONG time since I wrote anything!

I have been busy living life and running my business. This week I am involved in the Build Your Bundle Homeschooling Book sale (https://www.buildyourbundle.net/affiliates/idevaffiliate.php?id=422) so I have been anticipating TONS of business. Well, it isn't so much a flood, but a tiny trickle so far! Here is hoping though. It is only day two!

I sit here knowing the sun is shining the kids are happy with Grandma, the house is a mess and I went to a meeting this morning to learn how to use Twitter and learned nothing about it, but did get some good insight and networking time with other business owners.

I am learning that there is TONS involved with owning and operating a business that I never considered and I have struggled to feel like I needed to be an expert at it all and I am learning that it is OKAY to not be perfect in every area, as long as you are able to delegate to someone qualified. Sigh, now to find qualified people! :-)

I start a new chapter in life here soon, homeschooling. Yep, we took the leap and are going to homeschool some of the kids. The oldest will stay in school, but the Freshman and 3rd grader will come home and my 4 year old will start a Pre-K/K combo this year. We will see how it goes! I am revved up and they are excited but when reality sets in it may be a different story! I am going to do a post about it once we get going on that!

Have an amazing day if you took the time to read this and let me know you are out there!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Painful Lessons

A few weeks ago for her birthday I got my oldest daughter a hand-fed, peach-faced, love bird. She was BEAUTIFUL!

I really wasn't convinced my daughter would like having a bird around. I thought it might be like all the other animals we had tried in the past (guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats, fish, even our horses!) and it would be a cool novelty for the first few days then the reality of taking care of it would set in and she would be kinda ignoring the bird, etc. I was fully prepared to have to take over the care and keeping of the bird myself.

From the day she arrived and ended up being named Kuruka (Swahili for fly), the bird and Rebekah were best friends. If Rebekah was home, the bird was on her shoulder or with her in some way. They bonded in a way I had never seen.

Yes, you can see what is to come. The child who always left the bird with me when she went in the laundry room with the dogs, one time forgot, then played with the dog, knocking the bird off her shoulder, dog thought bird was toy, grabbed bird. Bird died. Pain hit! HARD! Both for my daughter and I.

For starters we had both bonded with the bird. Second, I hurt because I got my daughter something, in the best of intentions, to bring her joy. Instead it brought her heartache and pain. I felt like I had failed as a Mom in not shielding her and protecting her from that pain. I feel guilty for not reminding her to keep the bird and the dog apart. I felt guilty for not knowing how to keep the bird from dying in my hands a few minutes later.

We are still working through the pain in this house, but I am also seeing the lessons. When tough times hit in life, you can close your eyes and plow ahead and chose to never remember them again, you can choose to wallow in them, constantly returning and getting sucked back into that pain and not letting go of it, or you can choose to learn the lessons that every trail can teach. Rebekah is learning that in the future she will be a lot more careful with her actions. She learned that she LOVED having a bird and she wants another one (which is ordered and will be hatching in the next couple of weeks and arriving here in another 9 weeks or after that). I am learning that as much as I wanted to shield my child from such pain, I can't, but I can help her through it. I can help her learn not to let the pain ruin her life. I can encourage her that even though it hurts, the love is worth it (being widowed, I can identify with that in the scary step of loving again and remarrying!) and that life is for living, not trying to hide from the pain the way Kuruka hid under Rebekah's pony tail!

And though it is hard and painful and we can't see ever loving another bird quite like we did Kuruka, we are learning to stretch our wings, cock our heads, perch on a high spot and examine our world with the wonder and awe of a young bird. Sometimes the perch isn't the safest or the most comfortable, but it is still worth trying! So we are going to get another bird, open our hearts to love, let others in and stop trying to wrap up in bubble wrap for protection!

Have you experienced pain in your life? Has your instinct been to wallow in it, hide from it, plow through it? How did that one work for you?

God didn't call us to protect ourselves from all hurt and pain. He called us to open ourselves to His love and sharing it. It may not be comfortable but that is what we are going to do!

So as we look at pictures and remember, we will also look forward with hope that we will have another amazing bird in the future and until then, we are going to choose to wallow in God's love to comfort the pain. Who wants to wallow with us?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fruit Cocktail Cake and Memories

Sounds funny doesn't it? And maybe kinda yucky! Fruit Cocktail Cake. The first time my mom ever told me to get out the recipe I remember looking at her like she was nuts!

My nutty look must not have gone un-noticed because my mom told me that way back during the depression my grandma had this recipe for cake that didn't use milk. It was not uncommon to improvise things back then and I guess this was an improvision that they liked so well, they kept the recipe. I admit it, I had heard of ritz cracker apple pies that are made of crackers but supposed to taste like apple pie. I just don't buy it! So this idea of using fruit cocktail in a cake had me leery. Of course, this was BEFORE we made it.

After we made the fruit cocktail cake, I thought we messed it up! It was darker brown than most cakes, it was moist and one of the huge things I don't like about cake is that dryness so I thought we did something wrong! Mom reassured me that this was right. As we ate the cake I was in shock! This is a cake that is moist! And yummy!

Over the years I forgot the recipe even existed (am I the only one that does that?) but as I grew and got married and was moving out on my own, one thing I did was to go to Mom's recipe box and go through each recipe! You know, you don't think about it, but when you live at home and the box is there and you KNOW you have the recipes, you don't need them, but once you are on your own and you have to call and ask for the recipe a few times, you go with a bunch of cards and start copying! I found this recipe again during that trip to Mom's recipe box.

Of course, I didn't write it as nicely as Mom and I don't make it that often because it is still a cake and therefore not that healthy. Mom has made it with Splenda instead of sugar (I can't stand artificial sweeteners ever but it can be done!) For me what matters is the memories. When I make it, I remember that time I thought my mom was nuts (yes, there were PLENTY of other times I thought that and when I get that look from MY daughters, I try to extend grace!) and I remember my grandma (who would have been 101 this year). And I smile!

I still haven't learned how to put little arrows and such, but you can clearly see the marachino cherry in the bottom left corner. We add extras because our family LOVES them, but they are not required!

Fruit Cocktail Cake

2 Cups Flour
2 Cups Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp Vanilla (I use a bit more, but I make my own vanilla and have plenty on hand)
2 Tsp Baking Soda

Mix it all up. Then drain into separate bowl one large can fruit cocktail. Dump JUST the fruit into the batter. IF it is really dry, add some of the juice you drained, until you get a cake batter texture. 

Pour into 8 x 8 x 2 pan. (hint, if you triple the recipe it perfectly fills TWO 9 x 13 pans) Then you have one for a carry in and one to leave at home! ;-)

Bake at 325 for about 50 minutes. Then enjoy! 

As you can see from the picture, this is not typically frosted. I am sure it COULD be, but we never have. It truly doesn't need it!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sleep, Bedtimes

I admit it, I feel like ranting! So I'm throwing this out there...does ANYONE out there have bedtimes for their children and if so, what are they?

My children have bedtimes, summer and winter, spring and fall, weekends and weekdays. I'm mean.

My children are ages 14, 13, 7 and 3. For this summer the 14 and 13 year olds have an 8:30 bedtime. I know they don't actually shut off the light and settle until closer to 9 and that is okay. Heading to their rooms helps relax them and get them started down the road to sleep. The younger two are in bed between 7:30 and 8:00 depending on how grumpy they are!

I know MANY people who think I am too strict, too mean, too unreasonable, too mean...you name it and I have heard it!

My 8 year old nephew had a little league ball game last night that was supposed to START at 8:00 PM! That is crazy! By 8 pm, 8 year old boys need to be settling, calming, reading stories with Mommy and getting tucked in! Not starting a baseball game! But wait, the team before them took too long so their game didn't START until about 8:45! Yes, 8:45 at NIGHT! Then it is supposed to last an hour and a half! Do the math! If a storm hadn't blown up and made them call the game, my nephew could have been playing ball until 10:15 at night! Allowing time to get home and go STRAIGHT to bed he would still have been up until at least 10:40. I don't even stay up that late!

I have noticed a pattern with sports. It is crazy, they expect hours of practice, they expect game times and practice times that make family meals virtually impossible, but it isn't just sports, all sorts of clubs and such are working to fit in around all the others and have crazy schedules! What happened to families settling down and spending some quiet time together?

So I am curious, am I an oddity or do you all have bedtimes and such for your children?

I am also the mean Mom who expects her children to actually get up all summer long! They do NOT get to sleep away the day. Their bodies do better on a schedule so they get to keep closer to their school schedule!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Do you have stress?

HA! What a question! Do you have stress? Don't we all? But the important question is how do you deal with it?

I have realized something lately....we all try to deal with it ourselves! Why do we do that to ourselves? That actually just piles on MORE stress! But realistically, why do we do that? I know for me I try to deal with it myself for a variety of reasons. I don't want to bother my family or friends. I know everyone else has enough junk to deal with and I don't want to bother them, add to their stress or a variety of other things. I sometimes feel like it is a weakness to admit I need help. I sometimes am embarrassed that I can't deal with it as well as I feel I should. Or think I am stressed over things that don't stress other people.

Anyone else ever feel like that?

Well, I was thinking about it today and I remembered...yeah, I know, a bit late, that I don't HAVE to deal with stress alone! For starters, I have God. An amazing and wonderfully loving God who WANTS me to come to him with my stress! And even if I don't go to him, he knows anyway. It isn't like with a friend that I can try to not bother them and they are clueless.

So as I sit here today, trying NOT to focus on all the millions of things I need to get done, or how stressful the evening running around will be, I am resting in him. I am relaxing and knowing that he will be with me today no matter what I go through. He knows all the things I forget and how important they are. He knows how I try to keep organized (and fail!). He knows what works for me and what frustrates me. He also helps me remember and try new things to see what works for me. I have to CHOOSE, DAILY, to trust that he is with me no matter what. That doesn't make the stress go away, it just makes it easier!

So, how can I deal with stress, since it DOES exist and I can't avoid it? First, I am going to acknowledge it. I am stressed. Partially because of things I can control and partially because of things I can't control. Identifying what you CAN control is next. If you are in charge of it and it stresses you, figure out how to change that! For me, I am an avoider. If I know something is going to stress me or be difficult, I avoid it. Then I stress and worry because it isn't done. DUH! If I would just do it and get it over with, then yes, I would have some stress, but then it would be done! We did that with our taxes this year. Usually we have them done in early February but this year with our exchange student we weren't really sure how to do them so we just kept putting them off. Yep, right up until Sunday. Then it turned out they were pretty easy and we cheated ourselves out of our return for quite a long time! Sounds silly, but we did it!

After I change the things that I CAN change and acknowledged that I can't change some things, I have to change my attitude. I spend a lot of time frustrated by the things I can't change. Like that does any good, right? So instead, when there are things beyond my control I am working on REGULARLY and CONSISTENTLY giving them to God. Simply acknowledging that he is in control of the situation and he sees the big picture is pretty comforting. Some people will rely on a Bible verse or a phrase that calms or comforts them. It doesn't happen overnight.

The last thing I am really working on is to STOP! Stop worrying, stop fretting and mostly stop dwelling on the negatives. This became clear to me last week when I had a really busy week and I was REALLY looking forward to my Friday home...all day....just me and James....working on business stuff....blogging....hanging out....catching up on chores.....etc. Hmmm....was that God's plan? Apparently not. I had a friend who had her dad die that morning. So I grabbed some food and headed to her house. I felt really silly because I took a laundry basket (yes, really) full of "stuff" and it is a friend that even though we get along, we don't spend that much time together so I wasn't entire confident that she "needed" me. So I packed up my food and my makings for chai and I headed over there. I parked myself in her kitchen, made chai, started a meal in the crock pot and basically hung out and listened to her talk. I let my little man play with her children and distract them. I stressed that I wasn't doing enough and yada yada yada. Then God knocked on my heart and told me it wasn't about ME...it was about HER. I was filling a need. Even if I didn't feel useful. And all of the sudden, my stress left. I wasn't worried about what I WASN'T doing. I was just enjoying strengthening a friendship. I was not worrying about all the "Stuff" and I was worrying about my friend. Yes, it was a really long day. No, I didn't get anything done that I had planned, but I followed God's plan and I felt no stress about what I didn't get done. It was still all waiting for me on Saturday!

So today is another day when I could stress, lots to do, unsure of the exact schedule, a long list of things to do, etc. And yet, I am at peace. God is in control and I am allowing that. And just since I started typing this, one of the things that I was regretting saying yes to because it was causing me a scheduling conflict and some stress got cancelled. See, calm down, focus on God and give him the stress. He is so much better at dealing with it than I am! I think I will head out to finish my day calmer and less stressed, more focused on him today!

How will you handle your stress today? Alone or with Him?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Balancing Act

My life is just one giant balancing act! Sometimes I feel like I am perched precariously on the edge of a teeter-totter and I never know if I am going up or down!

As I try to figure it out, more and more things get piled on and I am always struggling to figure it out! Unfortunately my teeter totter is not as simple as the one pictured above. I have my family, my new home based business, my church commitments, my youth group mentoring and then in there somewhere I like to do a few things for me! How do you prioritize your time? Do you have a list of things that are all important? How do you balance them?

Sometimes I feel like I am sitting on a swing! I am working as hard as I can but I am actually getting nowhere! It may even be fun but I still make no progress over time. I am active, I am killing time, I am even enjoying it but the progress is not happening!

I am still trying to figure this out on a regular basis but I have come to some conclusions lately.

First is God. ALWAYS God is first. When I start my day with Bible study and prayer, my day just goes better. I KNOW this. I have experienced this regularly. Of course, I also regularly forget it. I get "BUSY" and it slips my mind. I have the world's best intentions but follow through is sporadic. Then I get discouraged!

Second is family. This gets more complicated. It shouldn't but when you have a larger family (I have 4 children and 1 exchange student until June), it is just hard to keep up with EVERYONE the same. I WANT to devote equal amounts of quality time to each person but then I also see that each one needs me differently at different times so I can't schedule this to fit MY needs. I need to fit THEIR needs. That makes is so much more complicated! I still haven't quite figured out how to balance the needs of my 3 year old with the needs of my 14 year old!  I have discovered though, that QUALITY time is different in each of their eyes. For my 3 year old, it is cuddle time. Or playing with trains! For my 7 year old, she just wants me to take her with me. Just her. No one else. If I go to the store and I take her, it makes her happy.  For my 12 year old...UGH...your guess is as good as mine! It varies so much from day to day, week to week that I can't keep up with her! My 14 year old wants quiet, contemplative time. She wants to work with me while no one else is around so we can talk and if that time is NOT available (even if she chooses not to use it!) then she gets grumpy and conflict happens. That is when her worst attitude comes out.

Then I have my good intentions...my business that is to help me be able to stay home with my children and devote more time to them. It takes part of my time, but still less time than a full time, out of the house job would. I can be flexible and work around their schedules so that I have to spend part of the time away from them, but I can do it at the best times for them.

My time with the church and with youth group is not as flexible. There are scheduled events. But I have chosen to get involved in ways that I am either with my children or busy at the same times they are busy so that I am not stealing too much of their time.

The part that really bothers me is the taxi service. It seems like the kids (who have very limited activities) are in things at different times! I spend much more time running from place to place than I want to. I am sure that will get better as it is easier to leave the littler ones with older ones.

As I stop to think about my life, I am thrilled. I love it. I knew when I was a child that being a Mom was a very important thing to me. I now find that it is the most rewarding thing! I have a wonderful husband who supports me in staying home and devoting time to being a Mom and that adds to it. I don't know how people work full time and still are Wife, Mom, Housekeeper and any other title you can think of! It would exhaust me!

So today as I balance my schedule....and learn to say NO to a few things (which isn't too easy!), I encourage you to prioritize and learn to say NO to a few things! Focus on the best things in your life and know that your family will appreciate it!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Re-evaluating your home church

Sounds kinda strange doesn't it? Re-evaluating your home church? When was the last time you did that? Have you ever?

Think back...how long have you been in your current church? 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years or more? Now think about this...how much have you, and your family, changed in that amount of time? A little, a lot, so much that people couldn't recognize you on the street if they knew you then?

As I look back at the churches I have attended in my life as a believer, I see similarities...and extreme differences! I chose my first church because I was at college and I had friends who said "Hey, this church has a great college class, really active and lots of fun". Yep, it might sound shallow but that is how it was chosen. Combine that with the fact that the church ran a free shuttle bus to the college campus to get me and I didn't have to beg a ride each week. Hey, I was a college kid with no vehicle...what do you expect! HOWEVER....if that was all the church offered, I wouldn't have lasted long! As it was, I learned that the Bible was not just something historical...but applicable to my daily life! A lesson I treasure to this day!

My next major church change...my husband and I chose a church that was close to our house. Yep, we were in a larger city than either of us had ever been in and we found a small church close to us. It was all about location. And we muddled through. We liked a lot of the people but really didn't get fed much there. The sermons were not impactful, there was not much in the way of bible study available, etc. We kind of just hung out there while trying to decide what to do. Then we found out the church had hired a known child molester to drive the van for the church daycare and we decided that was it for us! We really didn't want anything to do with a church willing to compromise children. While we were totally not against giving second chances to people, that went a bit far on the foolish and downright dangerous side!

Next came a church farther away....we went there for 6 months. The first day we were there we were greeted....in the next 6 months we were never greeted, never invited to Sunday school, never connected at all. We skipped an entire month of church and when we got back someone came up and said "It was so nice to see you guys last week." but we hadn't been there the week before. We hadn't been missed and it wasn't noticed if we were there. So guess what....we left!

I was at each of those churches for about a year. Then we found a home church. It was a large church....and I mean large! We went to the church the first week and I loved it! Of course, I was pumped and getting so much out of the sermon and I looked over and my darling hubby who took notes every single week was not writing a thing! Ack! Oh no! What now! Were we going to clash? Nope...this is when I learned that he took notes to help him stay focused on boring sermons but that sermon was enough to capture his attention and keep it! We had found our home! We were there a long time. Through the birth of our two daughters, through his illness and eventual death. We loved the Saturday night service that was smaller than the Sunday morning ones. We connected. We made friends. We got involved. But, after I got remarried and we were moving away, it wasn't realistic to stay there. Change needed to come.

We moved to our current church. Once again we chose because of seemingly little things...it was close to the house, we knew at least one couple who went there and it had a band. Yep. It had a band. Those were the draws! Over the last 10 years we have changed our family dynamic from Mom, Dad and two little girls to now having Mom, Dad, teenager, tween, little girl and preschool boy! WOW! What a change! And in that time I have tried various things in the church, bible study, Sunday school, hanging out with other ladies while the kids were at Awana, ladies' night outs, etc. The kids loved it. They have a great program for young children. They learn a ton. They have wonderful people there who genuinely love the kids. But I wasn't connected. We stayed there for the kids. As time passed I got involved with the youth group. I found a spot I fit! I still felt the lack of connections in the friendship area but I felt like God had a plan for me with the youth. This past year has been hard. I know I am drawn to working with the teens, but the kids were floundering. There were changes happening in the youth Sunday school that the kids didn't like. The youngest girl was just not enjoying Awana. We were getting GREAT sermons but not even getting to say "hi" to people in church. We would walk in, go to service and walk out. No connections. People would refer to my home church and I wanted to say...not a home...just a place we go to listen to great sermons with no connections to people! Then came more changes...the youth group is changing....and for reasons I won't get into, I am given a strong impression that I am not welcome or wanted to be working with the teens this fall. As all of this is happening, a friend is talking about a new church they are starting and I keep thinking...WOW! That sounds like a church I would love...but I don't want to move my kids, rock the boat, make a change, etc. More things happen....and I start to realize....maybe God is talking and I am stuck in my church rut, ignoring Him.

So along comes some serious prayer time! And I realized! A church that fits you (speaking generically here, not about any church in particular) when you are a young couple which children who are 2, 3 or 4 and the church has a fabulous children's program might NOT be such a great fit when your children are 12, 13 or 14 if they don't have an equally amazing teenage/youth program. Yet we stay. We are COMFORTABLE where we are...but are we getting the MOST out of church? My family dynamic has changed a LOT in the last 10 years. If I were to look NOW for a church, we would not look for the same things we looked for 10 years ago. Oh yes, there are still benefits at our church. It is still the same distance from our home, they still have a band, we still get fabulous, thought provoking sermons....yet we are still disconnected, our children don't feel like they are getting anything from Sunday school, we are left searching for more.

After all this time I have become convinced that maybe God is leading us in another direction. Maybe HE has a greater plan and I am missing it because I am nervous, even scared, to go to a new church where I might not know anyone! I don't wanna leave my comfort zone! Maybe I am wrong! Maybe I am misinterpreting things! Maybe I am right where God wants me and the restless and lack of peace I feel is satan and not God prompting me to stretch? Gee, how easy it would be to talk myself into staying right there in the same old rut I have been in! Does that mean my current church is a bad church? NO! Absolutely not! But even a great church might not be where God wants me and that means I am missing out on His plan in my life!

Wow! Where did this all come from? What does it mean? It means that after some really serious prayer time, my family is church hunting! It doesn't mean we hate our church, the people in it, or that there was anything horrible that happened to make us leave...it simply means that over time the call we feel from God is AWAY from our current church and TOWARD something else. We aren't sure where He is leading, but we do know we need to follow and if we don't we will miss out.

Will I miss my church, where my children are comfortable and I know the sermons will lead me toward God? Yes. Am I eagerly anticipating what He has in store for us? YES! And that is the key. I want to make sure I am listening and following Him rather than staying in my comfortable rut and missing out!

How about you? Care to re-evaluate with me? Maybe your answer will be that you are exactly where God wants you! How cool would that be!? Maybe you will find that like us, He is calling you to try out something new? Are you willing to try?

I am stepping out in faith (and lots of trepidation) and trusting that something amazing is happening in our family!

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