Monday, July 31, 2006

Nesting Analogies

All my mental wranglings aside, I cannot seem to come up with an apt analogy for my current

obsession distraction
. The official, generally accepted term for my condition fits on some levels, but is not an exact match. In this most recent flare up recurrence, I have also stumbled upon the hard evidence that not only is this catching, but contrasted with stomach flu, this is an agreeable infection to have spread through the family.

Nesting is a very real phenomenon in our home these days. My painting and cleaning, washing and sorting, organizing and arranging can be favorably compared to a mother bird feathering her nest. Making the place clean and comfortable for my newest fledgling might be recognized even by Mrs. Robin as  natural and proper preparations for the impending arrival. When engaged in this part of my "nesting" experience, I feel matronly and responsible. This is the way of mothering.

In my
minuscule limited experience with nesting birds, I have witnessed  mothering of the latter sort.  What I have never known, however, is the flip side of what I am experiencing: a mother bird tearing apart every inch of her nest, chucking and flinging with abandon. The larger the Goodwill pile , and the more full trash bags, the more fuel is dumped on my proverbial fire. While I should possibly be resting and storing up energy for labor,  this discarding and casting aside serves to kindle a maniacal gleam in my eye and energize me to waddle faster.

I am unresolved as to which is the finest part of this season.  As much as I love the process of decluttering, I absolutely adore the results. I have been known to just go sit and gaze into a closet in the afterglow  of nesting. It is a glorious feeling!

Now that my children are exhibiting symptoms of nesting, I am overjoyed.  Witnessing the willing, unsolicited Goodwill bags leaving their bedrooms is the stuff of motherhood nirvana. Having the children be my moral support when wavering on some item is priceless. "Mom, we don't really need to keep that, do we? Be strong, Mom."

So it has no resemblance to mother birds. There is more to life than analogies. This season may not last forever, so I will ride this wave as long as it lasts.

Surely we cannot go wrong with living with less stuff.

Surely this will make life with the new baby easier.

Surely I need to get the Goodwill bags out of the house before any of us change our minds...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Should Not I Spare Ninevah?

During the time Jonah was angry with God, the Lord made a plant to grow up during the night to shade him. When the Lord saw fit to have the plant wither and die the next day, Jonah was even angrier with God.  While our current circumstance is not exactly parallel to Jonah's, the similarities are sure.

Our barn cats are a needful and effective addition to our farm. Without their proficiency in eliminating mice and moles, we would be overrun with snakes. When the cats step out of the realm of mice and moles, and into birds and, as in the present case, baby squirrels, our Deuteronomy 6 role changes. Instead of confidently proclaiming God's wisdom and ways, we quietly ponder the mysteries of His will, praising Him with certainty in the former, and by faith in the latter.

Yesterday afternoon our children rescued a baby squirrel from one of the barn cats. They researched how to nurse him back to health, and exuded all that is tender care and concern for him. They optimistically ignored the statistics that showed squirrels rarely surviving cat encounters. They prayed for his recovery, and in a mother's humble opinion, did everything possible to ensure his return to health.

His death late last night was a hard blow to the children. After the funeral, it should prove to be a hard lesson as well. "Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night" Jonah 4:10. When their compassion for the squirrel is compared to their compassion for their siblings, my prayer is that they are equally grieved.

The Flower Child, who never met a baby or a critter she didn't love...

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Tradition Continues…

Tevye once said in Fiddler On The Roof, "And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!" I know little (Ok, none) about fiddling on the roof, especially eight months pregnant, but I'll agree that tradition can be a good thing.

Our children started conniving about planning this evening several weeks ago. Much whispering and suspicious activity (studying cookbooks, cleaning the grill during free time, glue and colored paper bits found lying around) have marked their preparations. It has been a group effort, all focused around celebrating the marriage of good old Mom and Dad. This is a good thing.

They learned much about all the pieces that have to come together at exactly the same time in order to serve a meal. They practiced hospitality, they honored their father and mother, and they drank in the beauty of marriage.  

In serving us steak and themselves hotdogs, they learned that there are times to bless others with out reciprocation. When they entertained themselves so that Mom and Dad could talk quietly, they learned that life does not center around the children. When they burped M-O-M,  D-A-D and L-O-V-E, they learned to take advantage of our not being in the same room. (Ok, so I didn't say they just learned it.) This too is disgusting good.  


Here's to the first sixteen years. Sixteen years from now, we'll have some teenagers and some grandbabies. Life is good.


Our family began sixteen years ago today. To God be the glory!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Curiouser and Curiouser

When Mr. Visionary and I retired last night, we found this notecard on our pillows. I wonder if it has anything to do with our 16th Anniversary on Friday?

The Invitation 1

The Invitation 2

Tradition is that the children prepare "all by themselves" a fancy dinner and dessert for Mr. Visionary and The Mommy and serve us in our room. There is always a superbly decorated table with linen napkins, china, flowers, candles, soft music, etc. The wait staff is impeccable, the food just right and a lovely time is had by all.

I really hope this is what the invitation is for! I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Worth the Effort

Not everything is worth doing. I know this. After watching Mr. Visionary and the children perusing the Guiness Book Of World Records website and rehashing for me the idiotic stunts marvels they have witnessed, I am more confident than ever. These are people that have too much free time.

Often folks remark upon my choices with disdain. Once they ascertain that I indeed "know what causes this", they are baffled as to why one would willingly have "so many children". The stress, headache and financial burden are the only pieces they can see in the homeschool puzzle. Growing tomatoes from seed, making our own bread, milking our own cows, stump the

checkers at Wal-Mart, grandparents, folks who sit near us in church average person. Although falling outside the scope of this post, our reasons for our choices are rich and numerous, but to us, they are worth doing.

We have been recently reminded of another activity that for us, is worth doing. Laziness and busyness squeezed it out of our schedule for a while, but we have rediscovered the joys of "Family Night". While we are actively engaged with our children for far more hours per week than the norm, there is still something special about dropping everything else, and just being together.

Presumably because we do not have television, watching a movie together is a fun treat. When the weather is nice,to eliminate popcorn on the carpet make it even more novel, we have "Drive-In Movie Night". We pull the cushions off the couches, grab pillows and blankets, cuddle and set up the TV out on the deck. Plenty of butter on the popcorn, homemade ice cream, and liberal use of the pause button for potty breaks make for a lighthearted diversion from the discipline, chores and ritual of our usual routine. The popcorn tricks and pillow fights are bonuses. Yeah, this is worth doing.


Drive-Ins may be extinct, but our version has a better view anyway.

Edited to add: Mr. Visionary would like to let the record show that he personally agrees with my assessment of the Guiness Book "activities", but has too much fun checking it out with the kids to cease his current practices. He promises to not tell The Mommy any more of the "what people ate" stories.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Switching Over

(Note To Self: Do not add items to blog sidebar unless you are open to the accountability of folks asking about it, i.e. you really have to do the things you write about.) 

Several ladies have asked recently about what I am using for cleaning products. It is good timing, too, as after much trial and error, I have recently found several "recipes" that I really like. So in the spirit of telling possibly more than you ever wanted to know about the workings of our household, I'll share them. Disclaimer: if you leave this post feeling disheartened about the necessity to clean, I take no responsibility. However, if you leave this post feeling refreshed, encouraged, and with an itch to clean, please share so it will rub off on me.

First, to answer that nagging question in the back of your mind: "Why would anyone want to make their own cleaning products?", a short justification tutorial.

Most household cleaning products are made with toxic chemicals.  The safety labeling only covers acute toxicity, meaning if or how much of a certain chemical will induce sudden death. But chronic toxicity is more about real-world human exposure to those same chemicals, and it is more difficult and expensive to study, hence there is no safety labeling for it. Long-term low level usage (chronic) of items like cleaning products can be toxic in a different manner, causing a build up of toxic chemicals in our bodies (think cigarette smoke). Without having to purchase a book, here is a great article to explain some more about toxic household products. The main book that we have used is Clean & Green.

So, in the name of avoiding potentially (and some actually) harmful chemicals through skin contact and inhalation of fumes ( a real No-No for our kids who have asthma), we make our own. There are plenty of commercial products available that are non-toxic, earth friendly, etc., but they end up being too expensive for the quantities we use, and our being sixty miles from the closest "health food" type store disqualifies their use. (And you thought it was because I had too much free time.)

Here's what we have switched over so far:

Laundry: We use these instead of detergent, and add Baking Soda and Super Washing Soda to every load. For white loads we also add Borax for the disinfectant properties. (Lots of  little boys on a farm, remember?) The Super Washing Soda is great for greasy stuff, and the Baking Soda makes everything smell fresh. We ditched fabric softener completely because it turns out to be one of the most toxic of household products. Instead, we add a little water and a few drops of lavender essential oil to our Downy ball, and it makes the laundry smell heavenly, (but not too perfumy for Mr. Visionary). I have been informed that real men do not smell like flowers. Got it.

To replace Ajax with bleach: We mix equal parts of Baking Soda and Borax for a scrubbing powder, and put it in a cheese shaker jar from the dollar store. We use it for toilets, trash cans, etc.-anything we also want disinfected. The Borax is an awesome natural disinfectant! Anything that doesn't necessarily need to be disinfected, or for pots and glass-topped stoves, we use Bon Ami Cleaning Powder.

All-Purpose Cleaner: for walls, counters... anything, really.

1 teaspoon borax

1/2 teaspoon washing soda

2  Tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil based liquid soap (we actually use Ecover's dish soap for this)

2 cups hot tap water

Mix it all together in a spray bottle.

Disinfectant Cleaner: for bathrooms, refrigerators... anything you need disinfected.

2 teaspoons Australian Tea Tree Oil (the pure essential oil)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil based liquid soap (or the dish soap here, too)

2 cups hot tap water

optional: 1-2 teaspoons lavender (or other) essential oil to make it smell lovely. (Tea Tree oil has a strong medicinal scent that I like to disguise.)

Mix it all together in a spray bottle. The Boys' bathroom never smelled so nice!

Glass Cleaner: for windows, mirrors, chrome...anything you want streak-free and shiny.

1/2 cup vinegar

2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil based liquid soap (if your windows are greasy)

This is my favorite idea: My best friend's kids cannot stand the smell of vinegar, so I did some homework to find a way around the smell. This really works great! We save up lemon or orange peels, put them in a jar, and cover with vinegar. After a few days, the vinegar no longer smells like anything but citrus. It is so cool! (See the jar in the picture?)

I hope this helps some folks! We have been learning a lot lately (can you say homeschool science?), and would be happy to answer any questions if we are able.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Ode to Mr. McGillicutty

He taught me a lot about men and women-even though he was neither. Male-yes, human-no. Mr. McGillicutty was my first experience with roosters. And he was my hero.

When we ordered our billion Buff Orpington hens and roosters from the hatchery, Mr. McGillicutty was the free exotic breed chick. Being much larger than the others, he commanded their respect, and being distinct in appearance, he garnered our attention. His two-stepping-don't-make-me-come-after-you dance kept the hens in line, and his larger-than-average spurs governed the roosters (and us).

I marveled to watch Mr. McGillicutty in action, caring for his flock. As harsh as he may have seemed, he truly was conscientious in meeting their needs. Whenever he'd find a tasty morsel, he called the flock, allowing them to enjoy the treat while he remained vigilant in watching for dangers. When the security of the flock was in any way threatened, he quick as lightning herded the ladies to safety, while he stood firm, ready to face the enemy.

And face the enemy he did, many times. Even when the enemy was us.

Standard procedure with Mr. McGillicutty involved not stepping foot out of the house without a large stick. We kept an assorted supply by the back door since his patriarchal ways demanded that we be armed at all times. The neighbors never did quite get used to seeing me hanging out laundry with a stick in one hand and clothespins in the other, and our UPS driver was sure he'd never seen anyone meet him at the sidewalk "packing that kind of heat".

It seemed a fair trade for the safety he provided for our hens. We also couldn't have asked for better training ground for our boys young men. Every time the girls went outside, the boys went along, weapons in hand, and formed a protective barrier from Mr. McGillicutty. Their opportunities to put into use their mental preparations for war and chivalry abounded. Mr. McGillicutty helped our guys put their sticks where their mouths had been. Our guys grew from green and boastful to experienced and humble with Mr. McGillicutty's assistance.

Mr. McGillicutty is gone now, but I still hear the children speak of the lessons to be learned from the roosters and hens. We watch the hens and are aware that they trust their roosters and know they will provide for and protect them. We watch the roosters and understand responsibility and authority.

When we watch our boys, we are proud to know that our security will one day be in their hands.

When we watch them whack themselves with their own stick, we're thankful that this is not that day.




Thursday, July 13, 2006

Loaves, Fishes and New Pants

It is a fact. Life is not predictable.  The weather doesn't always do what I would like, nor does the IRS. Diapers flood on the way out the door, and children don't always grow at the rate I expect. Growth spurts happen typically when I least expect them. The first evidence of their arrival is an increase (sometimes exponential) of a child's appetite. 

Likewise folks sometimes come over without warning. And they are usually hungry. In the South, where I have been raised, it is downright rude not to feed folks when they show up. It matters not that they have been discourteous in arriving hungry without an invitation. A good Southern woman feeds everyone in her path.

Adding these factors into the equation, it becomes necessary for a homemaker to have a backup plan. I can get over the house not being "just so" after a few minutes of visiting, but I can't make food appear out of thin air. Those times when there isn't enough prepared food to meet the apparent need,  creativity is earnestly needed. In our home this creativity is actually a learned skill. We call it Loaves And Fishes-making the available food feed the present mouths (or appetites). 

While understanding the difference between mincing and dicing, frying and sauteing, boiling and braising are all important, they are skills not used nearly as often as Loaves And Fishes. In our home, Loaves And Fishes is viewed as the single most important kitchen skill to learn before leaving home.

We know not what a day may bring. Where we will live, what types of food may be available, and our budget are all variables that we cannot presume. But an understanding of how to make food stretch can always be useful.

There have been times when I have dumped the contents of a casserole back into a bowl and added more vegetables and sauce. Still not enough casserole? Serve it over rice. For a pasta meal, more pasta can be quickly prepared. Bread is a great filler of bellies-especially homemade. More lettuce can be tossed in to a salad, along with other miscellaneous refrigerator items. A few lonely boiled eggs? Throw them in. Stale bread? Make croutons and throw them in.  Everyone knows that soup is great for using up small bits of leftovers, but what about quiche? Quiche is a great user-of-leftovers. We toss in bits of meat, small amounts of vegetables, some cheese, and pour on top a mixture of one egg for every quarter cup of milk. It doesn't even need crust-just throw it in the oven and bake at 375' until set in the middle.

Truly, the method is not as important as the mindset. Feeding hungry folks is very rewarding. Just remember that good company makes the food taste great. So, the next time you have an unexpected blessing of company, think Loaves And Fishes.

The next time your twelve servings don't make it past your eight year-old son, think Loaves And Fishes...

...and be ready to buy him some new pants.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

The Chair Treatment

My middle son has been reincarnated. Well, at least his personality has. It has appeared in  the form of his younger sister who is currently at the ripe old age of two and a half. What these siblings have in common is their tendency to be stormy toddlers. You know the ones: grouchy, easily offended, with hot little tempers.

Of course everyone can be like this at times. We come by it honestly, being the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are. Gratefully, sanctification can deal a death blow to the majority of it for those of us older folks. Toddlers do not have the ability to deal with it effectively, however, at least not without some training. Enter Mom and Dad.

As I have prayed recently about our feisty Doodle, and how the Lord would have me handle her outbursts, I suddenly remembered. I have been through this before! Why I had not recollected it sooner, I cannot say. I would need to use the old standby, the Chair Treatment.

As a toddler, when The Dreamer had an episode of "losing it", the only cure was to pick him up (kicking and screaming if necessary), take him to the rocking chair, and rock him until he melted. The amount of time it took to get our happy little boy back varied, but the plan never failed. Eventually he would be a good-humored, happy-go-lucky little guy again.

We have recently taken up this practice successfully with the Doodle, and are likewise experiencing  foolproof results:


It appears to work for The Daddy, too.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Our Idea of Family Bonding?

Folks spend their weekend evenings in all manner of ways. Some go out, some stay in. Some relax in front of the TV, others get a head-start on their weekend chores. Our family doesn't have a set pattern for Friday night activities-we wing it based on whatever is going on at the moment.

This Friday night, our "family-bonding" time was nothing short of, well...weird.


Mr. Visionary holding everyone spellbound with his story-telling.


Chick'n Pick'n Fun!

(Missing is The Dreamer, who was on "Doodle Duty".)

Needing to make room in the freezers, we had billions of chickens cooked, and everyone helped bone and chop it.

I know you are anxious to be invited over for some Friday night fun.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

A Childhood Rite of Passage?

I am not buying it. Pressure or no pressure, it is not what is best for my family. It matters not to me how cute the crafts , how godly the curriculum, or who else is doing it. My kids are not going to Vacation Bible School. ( I can hear the gasps.)

I know it is not a popular opinion, but it truly should not be a surprise. Should it? I mean really. Our children do not go to Sunday School, and have always been with Mom and Dad in the church service. Oh yeah, and we homeschool.

I do not believe there is anything inherently righteous in our practice, only that it is simpler and safer. This is one of those, "If you want something done right, do it yourself" type areas. If Mr. Visionary and I are the ones who must answer to God for the training and instruction of my kids (and we are), then we will do it ourselves. It is not prideful, it is cautious-my kids are young.

Besides, it is totally inefficient. By the time I get everyone ready with matching shoes and combed hair, drive into town in our gas guzzler, get everyone unloaded and into the appropriate classrooms...just once, I could have taught the entire week's VBS lessons myself. And did the cute crafts. And had juice and cookies. For me, this just does not fit with my ideas of what redeeming the time looks like.

I have recently heard a talk that reminded and cemented for us the importance of teaching our own-and the consequences if we do not. The stakes are high. Here is a link to a sermon (Voddie Baucham "Closing The Generation Gap") that was a last-minute pinch-hit for another pastor who was unable to speak. I am certain that had they known the content of his message beforehand, he wouldn't have made it to the pulpit. It is controversial, but deep, simple... and based solely on God's Word.

Disclaimer: This talk I can sanction, but I have not heard enough of Voddie Baucham's other messages to recommend him outright.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Can’t You Smell That Smell?

I knew that moving to the country would change me. I felt up to the challenge, and still do for the most part. There are things to get used to living in the country, and I am willing.

Folks said,

"Oh, you won't like being that far out"

"You don't know anything about farming or animals"

"There will be bugs and snakes and wild animals".

Granted, the things they said were true. We were moving  far out, we knew nothing starting out, and we did have wild animals running amuck.

Yet I have become used to being 40 minutes from the closest Wal-Mart. I love the drive through the country into town, especially when the hay is freshly mown. I  just plan it into our schedule, and it actually helps me save money. We grocery shop every two months, then have a food co-op deliver once a month, and a Sam's club run once a month.

I have read books, asked a billion questions, spent days online, and even have a smidge of on-the-farm training now, all about caring for our animals and gardening. I believe we have proved that you don't have to be born a farmer-these are acquired skills.

Yes, there are bugs and snakes and wild animals. I have learned to not go around barefooted outside as often. (An incident with a Copperhead last summer branded that concept into my psyche. Besides, chicken poop is gross when it is wet.) We have a few free-range guineas and homemade tea tree oil spray to help with the bugs, and a  shotgun for the wild animals. No problem. I'm adjusting.

Except for one thing.

Driving home from church yesterday I was eagerly anticipating basking in the  warm spring breezes on the blue-skied, sunny drive. I fully opened each window in the van and took a deep, invigorating breath-one of those breaths that leave you feeling a little lightheaded from the extra oxygen.

Then I gagged.

It seems no one mentioned the delicious aromas emanating from the countryside when spring planting is imminent. The kids, amid mock vomiting noises and all the melodrama they could muster, cried,"Ooh, what is that smell?" Mr. Visionary unexcitedly assured the family that it was nothing to cause alarm, that it was just the odor of "fresh soil".

I am a decorated (evidenced by the stains on my shirts) veteran of family stomach viruses, toddler diapers, and boys' bathrooms. I have even managed to acclimate myself to the smell of chicken litter (outside the house) and cow manure.

Assuredly,  my getting used to the fragrance of "fresh soil" will be a work of the Lord. I know He is able, I'm just not sure I'm willing. That soil might be newly turned, but I promise you, there is nothing "fresh" about it.

(Note to Self: Please refer back to paragraph One.)

Saturday, July 1, 2006

All Available Resources

Our second child, The Flower Child, was out this morning for her birthday breakfast with Dad. Tradition is, that while the birthday child is away, the rest of us scurry around to get party preparations in order, as well as start on any other weekend work.

Since I was missing one of my biggest kitchen helpers, others had to be drafted. Over the years I have learned that the youngest child who can handle a job, gets it. This plan  frees up the older children to learn new jobs as well. I am not a big fan of "self confidence" and "self worth" that is based on nothing other than the fact that a person "is". Instead,  I teach my children their worth in the eyes of the Lord, and provide ample opportunities to learn self respect.  Mastering new skills and being aware of their valuable contribution to our family builds a child's self respect in ways that lounging around being waited on do not.

Using all my available resources, and taking into account Mr. Visionary's timeless advice to not refuse help, the boys were recruited for new kitchen duties. With a half cow coming from the butcher tomorrow and no place to put it (the two full-sized chest freezers and two refrigerator freezers are crammed), the boys learned to cook hamburger. They cooked and packaged twenty pounds without destroying the kitchen.

Also, teaching the boys cut short my time for other preparations, so The Literary Lady was able to try out cake decorating for her first time. She did a great job!


The Literary Lady decorating the cake, and Doodle "washing dishes".


Left to right: The Engineer, Little Napoleon, and The Dreamer.

Professional chefs? Maybe. Godly servant leaders? Definitely.