Thursday, March 29, 2007

The thing about blogging...

...for me, at least, is that I seldom get to write about what matters most to me - my Savior, my family, homeschooling, Liberia, my abundance, and so on.

And that can be decieving.

I'm uncomfortable with the thought of somebody dropping in here and summing me up by the content of my blog, which for the most part, I consider rather superficial. I want my life to be a living testimony of the grace and love of Jesus Christ. And as I've said before, "I want what I write to be worth taking the time to read it - to be meaningful - to have some substance - to be interesting, entertaining, informative, convicting, inspiring, heartwrending, uplifting, encouraging."

Somehow, the posts that share my real heart are the ones that take the most time and energy to compose. It's easy to shoot off a post about something creative I've made, or show some lovely pictures. But, the posts that share my real heart are more likely the ones that would encourage, inspire, and minister to others. And, by writing my heart, it helps me solidify and organize my thoughts, and keep my focus on what's really important.
So, what I'm saying is that I'd really like to share more of my passions, my convictions, my dreams. I've been jotting lots of notes in my freedom journal. We'll see how it goes. I only have agonizingly and incredibly irrating slow dial up, and I'm only willing to take away a limited amount of time from "real life" to blog, if you know what I mean. :)
Any thoughts? Do you relate?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Homemaking Meme

I've seen this on a couple of my favorite blogs, and traced it back to Sallie. Most of the time memes don't really thrill my soul, but this isn't your average meme - it's about homemaking, one of my favorite things!
And to be honest, it's got an idea brewing in the back of my mind for a meme of my own to create. Just what the world needs, right? Another meme!

Aprons – Y/N? If Y, what does your favorite look like?
YES! I love aprons. My favorite is vintage and handmade out of a red calico with white flowers. I took it from my home when I left to get married.

Baking – Favorite thing to bake
Bread. Nothing smells quite like freshly baked bread. And the satisfaction of knowing that you made it yourself with freshly ground whole wheat flour – unbeatable! Hmm....I’m getting the urge right now.

Clothesline – Y/N?
Yes, oh yes. But I go in spurts on how much I use it.

Donuts – Have you ever made them?
Yes! From scratch are wonderful, and also from refrigerator biscuits for a quick treat.

Every day – One homemaking thing you do every day
Dishes – Praise the Lord for my Grandmother! She arrived at my home just hours after the birth of my fourth baby, noticed the lack of a dishwasher, and decided to take matters into her own hands. Very shortly, she had purchased for me a portable dishwasher at a garage sale – my very favorite present ever!

Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?
:( No. And I do miss it SO much. At this house we have no garage, basement, or electric in the barn. If I wanted to have one, it would have to be in my living room, unfortunately, and that just doesn’t work so well.

Garbage Disposal – Y/N?
Yes. I hate it, though. They are terrible for septics, which we have, and happen to scare the heebie jeebies out of me.

Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?
Umm....that would be the internet, I suppose. I have a mennonite cookbook I refer to and of course the lovely red and white Betty Crocker cookbook. But mostly it’s the net for me!

Ironing – Love it or hate it? Or hate it but love the results?
Ironing? What’s ironing?
No, really. I only iron when I sew.

Junk drawer – Y/N? Where is it?
Yeah, a corner of the drawer that holds the ziplock baggies, plastic wrap, and wax paper.

Kitchen – Color and decorating scheme
Walls are a sage/spring green. Above the cabinets are an assortment of mostly red willow pieces and some red glassware pieces. Basically, it’s a cheery green and red and white.

Love – What is your favorite part of homemaking?
Using my creativity to make things pretty – adding my personality and uniqueness to my home. For example – having my collection of bird nests all over the place. Some people would think that messy and unsanitary. But, I LOVE it.

Mop – Y/N?
Mop? Rarely. Mostly spot clean on my hands and knees with a rag. Works better on our awfully cheap, white, and installed before we bought the home linoleum. But the kids think it’s great fun to take a spray bottle and rag to the floor. They do that for me occasionally.

Nylons – Wash by hand or in the washing machine?
Never wear them. Okay, MAYBE once a year. And I can’t remember washing them. I know it’s not by hand, so it must be in the machine.

Oven – Do you use the window or open the oven to check?
Door, definitely. My oven window is tinted and effectually useless.

Pizza – What do you put on yours?
Were I to make a pizza JUST FOR ME – it would probably have toppings like basil pesto, grilled chicken, and fresh tomatoes, or maybe alfredo sauce, spinach, grilled chicken, and fresh tomatoes. Gourmet all the way for me, please. Usually, I don’t care to eat much of traditional pizza – just occasionally.

Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
Sometimes read books, sometimes read blogs, sometimes catch a cat nap on the couch, maybe write some ideas into my freedom journal, sometimes catch up on housework. Quiet moments are infrequent and don't last too long around here. :)

Recipe card box – Y/N? What does it look like?
Nope. I use memory, creativity, a couple of cookbooks occasionally, and the net.

Style of house – What style is your house?
Small ranch. Taupe siding, small wooden front and back porches.

Tablecloths and napkins – Y/N?
No, I would enjoy using them more, but since we have a custom made table out of a door, most tablecloths don’t fit. But the primary reason is we use our table for everything – eating, school, playdough, making snacks, and so on. I like my wipe – off table for now. :)

Under the kitchen sink – Organized or toxic wasteland?
Organized, but definitely needs to be swept/wiped out.

Vacuum – How many times per week?
At least once, sometimes daily. Again, it seems to go in spurts about how frequently I do this. Shedding season does seem to influence it somewhat. Hee hee.

Wash – How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
Seems like a lot. I’ve never kept track of the weekly loads. But with 4 children under 8, you can imagine.

X’s – Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Yes, usually, especially if they are out of the ordinary things I generally do. I don't list everything - just the most important things so I don’t get sidetracked as easily.

Yard – Y/N? Who does what?
Yes, 5 wonderful acres. Marty does the mowing – he loves it. Occasionally, he’ll let me do it. It’s a rider, after all. We both garden (vegetable and flower) together, with the children. Planning the gardens is my specialty, and Marty helps with the muscle work and upkeep. We both love to be outdoors.

Zzz’s – What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
Preparing the kitchen table for my morning Bible reading time. That means I clean off the table, wipe it down, and set out my Bible, freedom journal, and My Utmost For His Highest devotional book, a cup for tea, and a candle and matches.
Then, I turn on the stove hood light – our night light for the house, lock the doors, prepare our bed, and make sure my water cup is filled on my nightstand. However, my 4 year old has taken over filling my water cup for me lately without me asking. Isn't that sweet?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

First official Nature Study Walk

Today is a smashingly gorgeous day with a targeted high of 68 degrees. (Can anyone tell me how to get the actual degree sign - the little circle?) And as rain is forecasted for tomorrow, we are definitely taking advantage of today. Chores and homeschooling were done in short order, aided by the fact that we've finished up one history section and I'm still figuring out what we're doing next.
The nature journals I promised the kids had been waiting on my craft table until the opportune moment.
I called them all back indoors and parceled out their new possessions. The three oldest received a sketchbook, a package of 24 watercolor pencils, and additional peach colored pencil (necessary if drawing Caucasian flesh tones), and a flat paint brush.

The youngest (poor kid) got an old notebook, some old colored pencils and crayons, and an old paintbrush. He was tickled. All these precious things were tucked into their own small backpacks, along with a plastic trash bag. We used the bags to sit on since the ground is quite wet.
I gave some minimal instructions:
"We'll go for a short walk and sit down somewhere. Each of us will look at the ground around us very carefully and choose something to draw. Then we'll draw it. If you wish to watercolor it, we'll paint over it with water when we come back inside. How grand our sketch is is not what's most important. What is most important is that we learn to observe what is around us."
And we traipsed off!
We ended up in the far corner of our pasture where the kids have used some old fencing and a tire to build a fort. Each did as instructed.
Emma chose to sketch a bush with old rose hips.

Isaiah worked intently on his drawing of leaves.

Eli happily drew a fish (?!) and a monster. Hmmm... Gotta work on this NATURE STUDY thing a little bit!
Earl scribbled for all of 12 seconds, then ran back to the trampoline. :) Hey, he's 2.

I won't show you my sketch for today cause it was lousy, but I will show you my sketch of our barn looking from the kitchen window on Saturday. I'm happy with it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Nature Study: Keeping a Nature Journal

This has long been a facinating topic for me. With the certainity of the approach of spring, the the motivation of this post, and my recent contemplation of what new supplies to purchase for our homeschool, I've pulled all our books pertaining to this subject off our library shelves, and have again become inspired to keep a nature journal.
I started browsing through them again and left them lying around in places where it would be easy for the little eyes in my house to spot them. The other day, my son was looking for something to occupy him during rest time that didn't involve a sword or hammer, so I handed him Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Leslie/Charles Roth. Right away he asked for paper and crayons, and began to draw, copying illustrations from the book and adding his own elements. Soon, the two oldest were quarreling over the book, so I pulled out the entire stack of books and my watercolor pencils, and a stack of clean copy paper. They, on their own, got out a few of our field guides, and have been happily occupied at rest time for several days.
This morning, I shared with them the Secret of the Pencils - that they really are WATERCOLOR pencils. With them, you can achieve a watercolor painted look by brushing over your drawing with a lightly dampened pencil. Oh, my! The lightbulbs went on! "So that's how their pictures look all painterly!" exclaimed the six year old. We discussed the most frequently used different tools - pens, pencils, watercolors, colored pencils, and watercolor pencils.
So, for about 45 minutes this morning, we sat together on the living room floor drawing/painting butterflies and flowers from our field guide. (Did I mention that we woke up to a fresh, 4-5 inch layer of snow this morning?)
I have planned this week a trip to our favorite arts/crafts supply store to purchase 4 sketchbooks and a few decent paintbrushes. I've been looking online at purchasing some good quality colored pencils, and a set of watercolor paints because I think I can get better prices online.

My goal is to have at least one entry a week - that would be 4 per month. Then we could look back on an entire year of seasons and see how our entries have progressed. This compliments my decision to Celebrate a Year of Abundance. By observing more carefully the abundant, beautiful creation God has given us here on the abundance of land He has given us (5 acres) and by recording it into a nature journal, I hope to foster in my heart (and my children's) more gratitude, more worship, more joy towards my Saviour.

Here is the marvelous abundance of books I am delighted to call our own that pertain to the subject of nature study/keeping a nature journal.

1. Wild Days; Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe - a how-to book discussing the Charlotte Mason approach to nature notebooks by an author who homeschools her 7 children. Very practical suggestions for families beginning the joy of keeping a nature study journal.

2. In and Out of the Garden by Sara Midda - an inspirational example- " lore painted in minute, jewel-like detail...Every page, including the text, has been hand painted...Dip into it for recipes, poems, proverbs, and garden thoughts..." (quote from dustjacket)

3. The County Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden - an outstanding inspirational example of a nature journal kept over the course of a year, including magnificent watercolor paintings, poetry, folklore, and journaling. My favorite - incredibly inspiring. I want another copy to frame individual pages. Eventually, each of my children will own their own copy.

4. Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy (What a delicious last name, btw!) - an inspirational example - "A fetching primer on gardening for children, chockablock with botanical lore.." (quote by The Smithsonian) Illustrated throughout with the author's own simple and beautiful watercolors.

5. Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola - a how-to AND inspirational example - "..a teacher's guide to nature study cleverly disguised as a heartwarming story written in the form of a mother's diary. Woven into the story are more than 50 examples of what to look for on a nature walk, Latin names for the living things observed by the characters, study questions, nature poems and verses," and lovely illustrations. (Quote from back cover)

6. Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie - a how-to AND inspirational example - "using the simple techniques in this book, anyone can learn how to start and keep and ongoing nature journal. Along the way you'll develop skills in observing, sketching, appreciating, and writing about life's beauty and mysteries." (Quote from back cover) - I like this one for it's how-to information, sketching exercises, and suggestions of what to include in a journal.

7. Mary Anne's Garden by Mary Anne McLean - an inspirational example - I'm shocked that Amazon does not contain really any info on this book - ?!?! - copyright 1987 - "From first bud to last bloom, all manner of growth is faithfully recorded in these poetic drawings. (70 full color pastel and 28 black and white drawings)" Included are her own handwritten "marginal notes, ideas born of the moment- part self-discovery, occasional ruminations on our role in nature, or whimsy." (quote from dustjacket)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Celebrating a Year of Abundance

Funny how reading something someone else has written suddenly puts actual words to the thoughts that have been resonating around in your head.

Sallie over at A Gracious Home has written a little about Celebrating a Year of Abundance. (You have to scroll waaaaay down to read her entries plus there are links to others who are discussing the same thing.)
As you may have guessed, I’ve decided to do my own little focus on Celebrating a Year of Abundance. I’ll be sharing some posts in the spirit of the old quote,

“Use it up,
wear it out,
make it do,
or do without.”

With minimal brainstorming, these are some ways I plan to focus on the abundance I’ve been blessed with:

1. Listing my blessings - the abundance the Lord has given me
2. Enjoying, appreciating, and using what I already have
3. Remembering what others do NOT have
4. Sharing my abundance
5. Being a good steward of/not wasting my abundance
6. Exploring what the Bible has to say about abundance