Saturday, December 13, 2014

Preparations and "Dangerous-Christmas Cards"

We love traditions.
There is always the traditional cutting down of the Charlie Brown Tree. Now that the kids are bigger we have helpers to carry it back to the house.

And decorating the tree has never been easier...
We still have mostly homemade ornaments from when we moved 3 years ago and lost all of our Christmas decorations, I think we have only one or two regular ornaments. Its beginning to be a tradition to make some every year now.

The next picture is not your typical final decorated tree picture, but I liked it.
Its also very fitting for our house; P perched somewhere with a book.
Plus this is one of the only pictures I have before it fell over three times. The tree is now wired up (another tradition around here), but I still haven't fixed the lights that fell off the top half of the tree or the star that is currently hanging on for dear life as it balances curiously on one of the top bows.
For card making this year I remembered something I came up with in high school and decided to teach the kids. I have seen some melted crayon stuff online lately that reminded me of it but I'm still convinced that I invented the following method. This was way before pinterest and the internet was not mainstream yet. 
I began by hauling out my giant paper guillotine and a pile of colored card stock. I had gone through the kids crayons a few days before and retrieved all the broken pieces. Got a candle out and began chopping my card stock in half measuring 5 1/2 in. As I was chopping the children came in and curiously asked, "What are you doing?"
I replied coolly, "Its too dangerous you wouldn't want to do it."
Well, what a surprise it sparked their interest! 
I folded the cut cardstock in half and began peeling the crayons while the kids watched, lit the candle while the 'what are you doing' questions continued to come at me, and began explaining that I was making dangerous Christmas cards and if they wanted to try they better listen and pay attention.
As I put a crayon piece over the candle flame and held it there just long enough for it to start a drip then brought it down on my card to begin sort of painting with the melted wax. I allowed them to join in after this. We had an enjoyable time, I think the whole danger aspect really kept their attention and we together made over 30 cards!  
Now to mail them out, I have not been good at all the last few years so even if they are late we will be doing better than previous years.
-- We discus fire safety a lot having a woodstove in our home. --Obviously, you as a parent know what your children can handle maturely and what they can not. Also it goes without saying to never ever leave them unattended with an open flame. It only takes a second to blow the candle out if you need to leave the table. 

 Last year was a hard year for sickness in our home and I was not in a celebrate-festive mood most of the time. So I wanted to do some things a little more fun and thoughtful this year. So it was time to make a new tradition. I was a little late, 4 days to be exact, but I have never done an advent calendar with them.
I just did a real simple thing with brown paper lunch bags. I cut out the colorful paper and wrote down a meaningful verse from the Bible taping them to each one, wrote the numbers of December with a sharpie and filled each one with goodies. Some have candy, one had nail polish and toy cars, some have things I typically don't ever buy like poptarts and hot chocolate packets.
My husband had the idea to place them on the beam in the living room, I didn't even know where we were going to put the advent bags, but it is the perfect place out of reach.
Number 25 didn't fit so it sits somewhere on the tree (with something they will not expect inside).

We get up every morning and the kids take turns reading the verse aloud and opening the bags.
 As we snuggle up with blankets and warmth this month in expectancy may your Christmas be blessed this year; in ways you never thought, and may the whole reason for celebrating come alive in your hearts, more than ever before: Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Love, the Moore's

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Over-Ambitous Mother and The Great Chili Calamity of 2014

I had such big plans.

I have been wanting to change how I do things and do more make-ahead-cooking.

My eldest had been begging me to make my chili for weeks.

I would try my hand at pressure caning chili for the first time. I romanticized the idea of not knowing what to cook for dinner some night in the future. Then remembering, "Oh yes, I have 21 quarts of beautifully canned chili in my pantry-- ready at a moments notice!"

I had ordered a large amount of natural ground beef through the local food co-op, began soaking several pounds of dried beans the day the meat was expected to arrive, and went to the store to buy the rest of the ingredients. Thankfully the many green peppers needed were on sale.

After chopping peppers, garlic, jalapenos and crying over the chopped up onions for an hour it was ready to assemble.

The pot I choose was too small. Out came the giant canning pot, it needed to be washed.

The first batch was in, but it was already later than I wanted it to be, by this rate I would be canning all night. I had this wonderful idea; I would get out the second canner that was a double decker. It too needed a good cleaning.

I didn't have enough jars. More came out of storage, they had to be scrubbed.

I found out upon trying to load it that the double decker canner was not double decker for quarts. Well, it was out and clean at least I could get two batches done at once.

Wrong. After waiting for 40 minutes for it to build up pressure it never did, something was wrong with the gauge. The first seven came out of the other and didn't look good, they had lost a lot of liquid. I did not have a good feeling. It was near midnight when I was able to put the second set of seven jars in.

I had seven jars left to be processed, there was no way I could do the third batch that night. I needed to keep the chili warm over night. The crock pot was already out, it was still full of tapioca from an earlier cooking adventure that day.  That   too   needed  cleaning.

The seven last jars of chili were emptied into the crock pot, and I went to bed with the timer close by. Close to 2am I got up to finish dealing with that second batch.

Imagine the disappointment in the morning when upon testing jar after jar not one out of fourteen had sealed. This had never happened to me! I wanted to cry.  The kitchen was filled with pots, canners, jars and chili-- Cursed Chili! Why, oh why do I always have to make everything into such a big project?
But I couldn't cry, it was too much. I just had to laugh and laugh at myself.

All of 14 jars got emptied into a pot then bagged into freezer bags.
And then I had to find room in the freezer...
I surely learned a lot! I learned; I need to read directions more carefully, make smaller batches when trying something new, and not to start any crazy projects at 6 o'clock at night.

 Today I canned up the last of that chili I was keeping warm in the crock pot. Why? because I am just little bit crazy and stubborn, and a lot determined to win.

I think they are sealed.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sacrifices with Joy

We have officially been homeschooling for 9 years. You would think I should feel very accomplished and proud about this, but instead I have been terribly afraid. Going into the tenth year has been a rough transition for me.  All summer, thinking about the year ahead, with my oldest going into 9th grade and my youngest going into first, has brought nothing but a unnecessary knot of fear and doubt in my stomach. After I figured out what curriculum we would use for the year, I avoided all homeschool planning like the plague, putting it off until I absolutely had to (1 week before school was supposed to begin). In all outward circumstances it didn't make sense--even to me. We had a good year last year, not our best but we finished well, despite some large bumps in the road with health. The kids all tested really well and I have seen a new willingness in helping and a lot of growth in maturity this year. So why was I so afraid?

The week before school began I knew I HAD to get my planning done. I was so hormonal that week and not at all excited about cleaning out the school shelves. This is just not like me; I was cramming for what felt like the test of my life while I tried to figure out the new curriculums at the last minute. Nothing was coming together like it should; finally in frustration, I threw myself on our bed in tears and began sobbing into my pillow. My husband came in and patiently tried to listen to all of my woes. After a little while he got a cute smile on his face like he knew something I didn't and said, "You know you should never mix planning homeschool stuff with PMS-- just relax and take a break. You'll feel better tomorrow," then he brought me some chocolate to drown my sorrows with. Yes, he knows me pretty good by now.

I did feel better after a lot of chocolate and a good night's sleep. The next day I was able to plan what I needed for the first few days but I still felt so nervous and uneasy as if I was the one going into high school! I woke up the morning of our first day of school and came to Psalm 27 and felt lead to read it. Here's what I read:

 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life of whom shall I be afraid?
 ... Though a host (of chores, disgruntled homeschool children, and lofty goals) encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war (of wills and unrealistic expectations) should battle against me, in this I will be confident,  One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. (I don't need to be afraid) For in time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me on a rock..
And now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies (and my fears) round about me: therefore I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices with joy; I will sing yea I will sing praises unto the Lord.

The verse about offering sacrifices of joy hit home. I had lost my joy. In thinking about the year ahead, I was only seeing the negative. I had let unreasonable fears of what I thought I should be doing creep into reality. In that last week before we began I was drudgingly sacrificing my time to make room for homeschooling instead of seeing it for the blessing it is. It is a huge sacrifice, I won't lie and its not always pretty but its not about me. God wants a cheerful giver. It is truly a greater blessing to give of my time and see my children grow into the adults they will become than to receive time for myself and a perfectly clean organized life.

Instantly after I read Psalm 27 my unnecessary fear was removed, peace resided. God brought me back to the place of joy--Our first week went well, I found myself so thankful to have the structure of school in our lives after a nice long vacation, enjoying the time spent struggling through subjects and predicates, and happy to be stumbling over arithmetic problems again. I am spending time with my kids and that time will never be wasted.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Little Things

It's the little things that I love, they are the things that stay with me, over the loads of dishes and mountains of laundry, little conversations, little smiles, little moments.

 Watching my daughter with her bunnies, so much love....

....crafts and music together

"The best beans; are jelly beans. --They are the only beans I like" --S

 ....Starting our seeds on a warmish kind of day

While waiting for dinner...
"I want you to eat so much food so you get big and fat and get another baby,"
Little buddy proclaimed. "I remember when I was in Mommy's belly."
"What was it like in there?" I ask.
He responds, "It was dark.... and slobbery...because there was guts. And then there was Momma's blood...and yucky food...and when she ate too much, I popped out!... POP!"

... chickens in the snow.
 and brand new tomato seeds. Spring is coming!... eventually.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Homeschool Blues

Why is it so hard to find articles about homeschool moms that are tired and want to quit? For a number of reasons I think; Most of us (me) are too stubborn to give up; usually with me, the Lord resolves my anxieties before I can complain about them. It could be pride, but I think more-- a resolve to do what we are called to do even when it stinks.

I am coming out of a season where all I was seeing was my failures. It happens regularly actually. The responsibility we moms place on ourselves can become a mountain, plus the expectations I heap upon myself are my undoing at times. My mind can become a trap of fear, worry, stress...This is not what the home school dream was supposed to be! I've already shared a little about my unrealistic ideas of what I thought it should be (The Homeschool Crisis). After the honeymoon of homeschooling is over the drudgery sets in and its down right stressful at times. Its been so comforting to talk to other moms and know I am not the only one.

People ask me how homeschooling is going, I smile and say, 'It's the hardest thing I've ever done'. It's true. God has stretched me and squashed me and had me on my face before him in desperation. Maybe that's why he has called me to homeschooling not just for the kids growth, but for mine as well; so I can learn to be a little more patient, a little more longsuffering,... a little more loving .

A month ago a special friend of mine who was a huge encouragement and one of the women who I looked up to and made the biggest impact in my decisions to home school and keep homeschooling went to heaven. That week my emotions were high, the battle raged with the kids being unwilling and the will to home school died in my heart.

We actually did what I have threatened many times and called the local Christian school to inquire about enrollment. At first I was relieved and glad. I wouldn't have the worry anymore if I'm actually succeeding, I wouldn't have to plan anymore or be so stressed about it all but it was quickly replaced with what felt as if my heart would rip out of my chest with grief and I couldn't sleep. Was I being prideful? I had to really examine myself. After long night of prayer God gave me these following verses first thing in the morning:

2 Corinthians 6 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings;...

The first thing that struck me was that I was blaming homeschooling (verse 3), rather then the root of the problem. I looked up the word commend from verse 4 and the definition is: to commit, to entrust or give in charge--to deposit what belongs to one, into the hands of another. God was reminding me that he has paced these kids of his into my hands, and this is the ministry he has given me. The writer, Paul, was called to the preach and he didn't give up because of these things. The other half of 4 and the next verse is pretty self explanatory-- Life is never easy and we as moms are going to go through a lot no matter what we do. I remembered the words of my wise friend, who had just recently left this world, who told me another time I was contemplating public school, "Well, whatever you choose, you'll just be replacing one problem for another."

I stopped reading there, "Okay, God I'm hearing you, you've called me and I wont give up because I'm having a bad few weeks,..... but how am I supposed to accomplish this??!?", and I went back to reading...
by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report.

"Wow", I had let the armor down, I wasn't loving, kind, or led by the Holy Spirit, not led by his word, or pureness, not even by knowledge--  and definitely not longsuffering!
Then verse 8 confirms that even if people speak ill of what we have chosen, he has still called us.

I was so excited! I called my good friend and homeschooling prayer partner at My Life in Crumbs. She had been praying and had a similar word from the Lord for me--right from the same book!

2 Corinthians 4:1Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. ...  7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

So we continue, it may not be all sunshine and roses but at least I know God is faithful to answer and equip us. We will not lose heart!

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