Keeping the Hours

My Google Chrome Internet link crashed this past week. I was devastated at first. All those bookmarks gone. We tried re-downloading but a nasty virus had snuck in and we had to shut down all together. Internet Explorer it is. Slower, older, unfamilar. My heart ached for all those new blogs I had found and bookmarked but never made time to put up on my blogroll. Most of the really good homeschooling sites I have tucked away on a paper (the old-fashioned way of backing up!) but was bummed about the research I was going to have to redo on all the Great Depression and World War information that I had found but hadn’t written down yet.

At first I frantically tried to recall what I could. Then I moved to pouting. Then I moved to looking at a few of my old bookmarks. I saw faithful friend-blogs that have always been there since the beginning and were still favorites…still encouragers of Him…still food for my homeschool mothering soul. And the few that I remembered and could re-add were also soul encouragers, blogs of kind words that only uplift.

The Holy Spirit started speaking to me. I remembered verses about all things passing away, about not putting my heart in treasure that will rust. As I nursed and starting cleaning up my files (to evade any more viruses) the Lord, again, reminded me of how much I already have that I forgot about and am not using. Simplifying was my motive when moving out here. A fresh start. Use what we have to school. And yet here are a mountain of library books stacked up…most unread and I look over while quietly nursing in the night lights of Christmas the bookshelves full of books we already have to read being ignored. Why do I always forget?

And I realize that God is closing a door to prevent me from sliding a slippery slope towards bondage that he wants me free of. Today I am deleting some old bookmarks that no longer exist and I slip among these lovely words. A Mother’s Hours. And I think of last night and picking up the little’s mess of my books and seeing Holiness for Housewives and remembering the beautiful prayers that I was going to type up and put around the house and set to memory in my heart for those oh, so overwhelming mother moments. He is helping me to remember. Just Him. Nothing else. And if there is just that then the rest will come. And I see grace poured out and feel foolish over my own silliness. How so many good, but worldly, things slip in unnoticed to take up heart worship. Thank you that he is a jealous God. Thank you even more that he is gentle and compassionate and always there to take our hand and lead us home!

So please, go over to Evlogia and tuck those Mother’s Hours into your hearts as well! Be blessed, my friends!


Slow Reading

Are you a slow reader?

I don’t mean slow in that it takes you a week to read a book that might take someone else 3 days. What I mean is do you slow down enough in life to read? Whether for pleasure or information, reading is enjoyable and takes time to digest. The internet often interferes with this and actually worsens peoples reading attention spans turning us into hopeless skimmers (for a great article click here).

And what about these new-fangled e-readers? Do they serve a purpose? Can they replace books? Should they? For a positive spin from a true bookworm read here. After reading I was almost convinced that maybe they would have value. But then I picked up a book and took it to bed with me and changed my mind.

And then there’s this whole green movement. For those of us (and who isn’t in the homeschooling community?) who are very aware of the global impact and how it will affect our children, maybe e-readers wouldn’t be such a bad thing? But, yet again, I was rescued from the flawed logic by reading this wonderful post at a slow-reading blog entitled “Read a Book, Save a Tree”. Now who isn’t tempted by that?

It, of course, makes me think of my children and how I want them brought up…influenced…what memories I want them to cherish. Reading is a memory I want etched on their hearts forever. I do not want “education” to spoil this or the use of too much technology. I want to keep my kids immersed in fertile soil, always strewing books around that they can’t help but want to pick up, curl up in a chair and let time slip away. These are where the seeds of a new generation are born.

And the next book I will be putting on my library request list to curl up with in a cozy chair with a hot cup of coffee: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.

Enjoy your weekend and read a book!

The Simple Pleasures

holy experience

Well, hello there again family and friends!

I started writing a post on how our experiment into the simple life went. After a few days of sitting on it and realizing how negative it sounded (still may post it), I decided to first come back with a pictorial spread of the simple pleasures we enjoyed without technology at our beck and call.  Some of these things we may have ended up doing anyway, but I truly believe most of them were realized because of the time that opened up when sacrificing keeping up with the technological Jones’!

These pictures sum up the beauty and success of the experiment for me!

247) The kids using their imaginations.

248) peace and quiet in the house.

249) my music: the birds outside, children laughing in the yard

250) journaling…by hand!

251) sketching

252) new apple blossoms (already gone as I type)

254) spring rains

255) walking in the rain!

256) making homemade whipped cream…and enjoying it on french toast with the first in season strawberries…

257) and on my coffee!

258) freshly picked Lilacs from my mother-in-laws house perfuming my dining room

259) the time to read a new issue of Victoria magazine

260) time to finally organize and pair down the dishes (Does anyone else enjoy taking pictures of their cupboards? I must be crazy!)

261) making fresh buttermilk dressing

262) and enjoying it with the first chives of the garden!

263) making fresh baked bread every week again…

264) and slicing it for sandwich bread…no high fructose corn syrup here!

265) making and canning fresh strawberry jam

266) eating said jam on toast and PB&J’s and in yogurt and – sometimes – just by the spooonful!

267) learning how to make yogurt and succeeding (after many failed attempts)

268) making homemade sour cream

269) showing and making homemade peanut butter with the kids out of – get this! – JUST PEANUTS! Take that you partially hydrogenated oil and hidden sugar!

270) figuring out how to use my tortilla press and making scratch tortillas

271) reading a back issue of Mary Jane’s Farmgirl magazine and getting re-inspired with its recipes.

272) making my own Farmgirl Budget Mix!

273) rigging a clothesline between the apple trees

274) using wooden clothespin just like my mom used to

275) letting laundry become my new favorite chore

276) watching freshly clean diapers blowing in the breeze as I’m doing the dishes

277) the naturally starched (and extra sanitizing) job of the sun

278) finishing the garden

279) Lilah digging up the pumpkin seeds and bringing them into me all excited-like

280) replanting the pumpkin seeds

281) my bouquets of violets and “fire flowers” (what my kids call dandelions) that look absolutely stunning on the dinner table

282) hearing my sister retell how her daughter was disappointed to not get to pick dandelions for her mom because their lawn is chemically treated and feeling very thankful I turned down the chem-lawn man!

Living Simply ~ The Challenge

If any of you read our Learning Room post on Henry David Thoreau, then you know that this study spurred something in our family. Living simply and sustainably has been a goal of ours for quite some time. We would love nothing more then to buy some land, grow and preserve our own food, and move a step back from what society says is normal and healthy. And, to a point, we are doing just that through planning and saving for land within our budget, learning how to garden and starting the process of preserving our own food, ridding our life of unneeded chemicals and cleaning naturally, cloth diapering and breastfeeding our children, ridding ourselves of a microwave, etc.

But how close are we really to that goal? How enmeshed into society and current culture are we still? How many technological doodads do we have that suck away our time through – what the professionals call – screentime?

We have this beautiful huge widescreen T.V. (not of our own choosing) that only has basic cable on it. No MTV/reality show theatrics of inappropriate nature go before our children’s eyes. No commercials between Nick Jr., Disney, or Noggin cartoons to entice our children’s desire. Only wholesome PBS, educational shows that teach while they entertain. We have no current Wii system to contend with, not even a Play Station. Our kids are not allowed to run whatever games they want on the computer and the their educational computer games and for-fun Nintendo Mario games are limited within boundaries. We avoid normal T.V. primetime hours (7-9ish) as a family because even basic channels are too risqué for what we want our children to be absorbing, even subconsciously while playing beside us while mom and dad have downtime.

But, despite the careful monitoring, our kids are still being pulled along by technology. All Gabe can think about is the next Mario fix. It permeates his thoughts, his conversation, his school work. And the younger kids find themselves in front of the television beyond what is actually healthy for them, even if it is in the name of education, often in the form of a babysitter while mom is busy with the older students. Adam has found himself sucked into the time-wasting, gossipy, self-promoting, witty comments of Facebook. And I…well, even I have been pulled along in despite of myself. More of my hours have been spent on well-meaning educational research (a link leading to a link leading to a link…you know how it goes) then actually implementing the wonderful educational tools right under my nose. And how many times have I done the, “Uhuh, that’s nice dear” routine as a kid was seeking my attention and I was too caught up in what was happening on the computer screen? How many of my hours could have been spent playing with them, reading to them…things I long to do but never “seem” to have time for?

So, our plan: to give up on technology and ALL screentime for a full month. That means no T.V., no computer, no video games, and Adam will give up his cell phone. We will use the month to get back in touch with what’s really important ~ spending time together as a family, playing together, reading together, rediscovering hobbies, and working on developing good character traits and work habits.

Our purpose is not to condemn others who watch T.V. or use Facebook or the Internet (all useful tools when used properly), rather it is a reflective look at ourselves. What motivates our actions? What draws us to this screentime? What is the condition of our hearts? Isn’t that what the Lord desires most in us ~ our hearts? I think we are so busy filling our lives up with things and escapism entertainment that we never even pause to consider the condition of our heart. So I will take this time to journal ~ old-fashioned pen and paper journaling ~ how we do end up spending our time and how this project affects us. I think we may be very surprised at the answers we find. The obvious will be the time gain and quality gain of family life. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be harder on us adults then we think it will be. There will be times of silence that will force us to deal with ourselves. No distractions means no excuses.

So for one month, starting tomorrow ~ Monday, April 19th ~ until 4 weeks from today ~ Monday, May 17th ~ we will give up on technology and take a step back to a simpler time. This means no emails. I will try and set up appointments and playdates in advance, but if you really need to get a hold of us, you can always call my cell (our only home phone connection that we will be disconnecting in July and reverting back to good ol phone jacks) or you’ll just have to drop by. Remember when people used to do that? I will post again here on the 17th. Until then the blogosphere will have to go on without me. Adam officially took down his Facebook site and will only be using the computer to type a story if it’s due for the Reader/El Perico magazine, otherwise it will be powered down. Since we are using this time as a school break/get-the-gardening-in, even I will be off the computer for everything including journaling and researching. My research will have to take place with a physical trip to the library and my journaling with have to be done with a trusty pen and notebook! And we will be monitoring our OPPD bill to find out just how wasteful our normal technological habits are concerning electricity.

Feel free to leave your comments here (will check back one more time this evening before powering down and then again in a month and will respond to all) about what your thoughts are. And, if any of you feel even slightly brave, I challenge you also to take the challenge with us and report back in a month how it affected your life – for positive or negative!

Now, let the games begin!

Assuaging Screentime Guilt (A 30-Min Blog Challenge Post)

So recently I visited this wonderful ladies site: Steady Mom and found this link: The 30 Minute Blog Challenge that piqued my interest then spoke to my heart. What a challenge it is to balance blogging with real life, especially when you’re trying to live an authentic life of real education with your children. Does blogging even fit in?

Some days I’m not sure. But then, as my dear husband pointed out, we now use all the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of random photos I take that my husband always says, “WHY on earth are you taking a picture of that?” and I always reply, “Well, one day I’ll scrapbook that!” This used to drive him CRAZY! I get to scrapbook, even if it is online and digital (although I am still trying to find ways to carve out for the other, tangible way as well but I digress…that is for another post). I am keeping a more accurate journal of our homeschooling journey and my family gets to peek in and see what I am doing whenever they like. But I do, as most of us homeschool mothers tend to find, get hooked on rabbit trails of linking in the world of cyber blogs. There are too many good things out there and not enough time to do them all. I have to be picky. I have to pray for discernment. And, most importantly, I have to limit my screen time just like I do for the kids. What better way then to participate in this challenge…thirty minutes to type, upload, and link then Publish wherever I am. I love it.

So on to my first post challenge ~ What better way to start then talk about a positive effect of screen time for our children? We hear the negative all the time. Here is the upside.

Saturday is our movie night and we picked the Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit DVD series based on the book series after digging out all our books for the spring season. If you’ve never seen this DVD series, I HIGHLY reccommend it! They are classically done to preserve the exact style that Beatrix Potter spent so many years trying to get just right.

Watching the movie led to us reading a biography on her.

The next day I found my darlings huddled up in a special “clubhouse” on the bunkbeds and Lily was “reading” in her special way the whole series to Luc and Lilah.

I grabbed this other book we happened to find at the library and the kids were smitten and spent a good hour pouring over it.

Then they went around the house gathering whatever stuffed animals they could find to act out and play Jemima Puddleduck, Peter Rabbit, Tabitha Twitchet, Mrs. Tiggly Winkle, and other dear, dear characters. It was charming to watch and I was amazed at how much of the day was spent playing and reading this wonderful series. Everyday since Saturday has seen more of the same. Now the books are requested regularly and the animals come out faithfully and find themselves niches and homes all over mine.

So, is screentime bad for our kids? In abundance, yes. Used in exclusion to other play, yes. Not monitered or censored by a caring parent, yes. But sometimes…sometimes it just may lead to an unexpected rabbit trail that you did not see coming and the joy of childhood flourished in your home. And that is why as tempted as I am to dump the TV and the computer permanentally, I don’t. All things used in moderation and with proper handling can yield beautiful thoughts and actions.

And to all you other mother bloggers out there…please, give this challenge a try! Go check her out!

Now Entering the Blogosphere

Apprehension and a bit of nervousness fill me as I publish my first post.  Blogging has been something I’ve long agonized and prayed about participating in.  Anyone who knows me knows that Adam and I are constantly on the search for a simpler, back-to-basics sort of life – more likely to end up Amish then buy a Blackberry!  We tend to shun more technology rather then embrace it.  I’ve felt for years that the Internet is at the forefront of the cultural downfall of the world – a giant foothold for Satan to achieve cracks into man’s soul.

So why blog?

I’ve thought about it a lot.  For years I’ve told myself all the reasons why NOT to blog.  Pride, time commitment, self-involvement, disconnecting from real relationships, addiction, caring about other’s validation rather then God’s redemption, self-importance, and the list could go on.  I’ve read several articles – ironically, from other blogs – about the cautions of too much time in cyberspace and not enough time in real space such as here and here and here. Would I be perpetuating these concerns?

But the pull was still there and growing stronger daily.  It was seeing this quote by Edith Schaeffer in The Hidden Art of Homemaking that finally put me in a place to start seriously considering it.

“Whatever form art takes, it gives outward expression to what otherwise would remain locked in the mind, unshared.  One individual personality has definite or special talent for expressing, in some medium, what other personalities can hear, see, smell, feel, taste, understand, enjoy, be stimulated by, be involved in, find refreshment in, find satisfaction in, find fulfillment in, experience reality in, be agonized by, be pleased by, enter into, but which they could not produce themselves…Art in various forms expresses and gives opportunity to others to share in, and respond to, things which would otherwise remain vague, empty yearnings.  Art satisfies and fulfills something in the person creating and in those responding.”

Art satisfies the person creating and the person responding. That got to me.  I started thinking about what a blog is – what its function is.  Of course, there are all sorts of blogs out there, some silly, some serious, some informational, some very personal.  I started thinking about why I have followed the blogs I have over the years – loyally, daily even.  The blog is an art form in and of itself.  It tells a story, weaves a poem, laces a tapestry of history together.  It is an integration of sorts for mothers out there who have very little time to pursue creative artistic talents outside the home precisely because they are at home fulfilling a vocational duty of raising Godly children.  It is a way for others to share what they feel bubbling over in them, needing a platform – to reach out to others of like-mindedness who will respond to that art.

I am a responder.  Following the blogs I love have inspired me, made me think, shown me beauty, fed me HIS word, encouraged and uplifted me, commiserated with me in a season of life, linked me to treasures I would not have found otherwise, increased my ideas, shared perspectives on life, broadened my community, sharpened my philosophies, and tempted me to pick up and brush off my artistic talents of writing, sketching, journaling, photography, scrapbooking, crafting, cooking, and sewing as well as allow bravery in trying out new endeavors such as composting, cloth diapering, nursing, gardening, preserving, living sustainably, and entering social justice through voting and political action.

Again, Edith Schaeffer says, “It is not a waste of man’s time to be creative.  It is not a waste to pursue artistic or scientific pursuits in creativity, because this is what man was made to be able to do.  He was made in the image of a Creator, and given the capacity to create…man has the capacity both for responding and producing, for communicating as well as being inspired.  It is important to respond to the art of others, as well as to produce art oneself.  It is important to inspire others to be creative as well as to communicate by one’s own creative acts.”

This is why the pull gains strength.  I long to give back.  I long to participate in this art form.  Responding to it has created a yearning, a true desire, to create also.  And so I shall.

And what shall this blog contain?  First and foremost, a record of my homeschooling journey – the good and the bad.  I would also like to share ideas and information with other new homeschooling moms or others who are new to blogs in general.  It is a place for me to share my love of photography – a place where no one will think it weird to show a picture of a bar of soap or a shelf of books.  Yes, people really want to see that!  I know I have!  It is a place for me to marry my journaling, documenting, writing, spiritual ponderings, poetry, ideas, and quotes from greater thinkers than I.  It is a place for my family and friends to share with me, eliminating the need for mass emails (Thank you dear sisters  – blood and Second Cup gals – for inspiring that!).

And, with all that said, on to the posting!  May I humbly throw my hat into the ring of inspiring response in others.