Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Homeschool Evolution

Hello friends.  I feel like I need to take a moment and update you on our home school journey.

P.S.  We are very normal people with very normal sins of pride, selfishness, and lack of patience, to just give you the tip of the iceberg.  This blog is so not about "look at my awesome kids".  No no no no no no no.  NO.  This blog is so not about "I home school and you don't, nanny nanny boo boo."  No no NO NO NO!  THIS BLOG is about "THANK YOU JESUS"!!!  To Him be ALL honor and glory and praise.  It his only by HIM that any of my life is possible. And by Him you can home school or continue to home school.  Thanks!

I began home schooling in 2009 when my oldest began kindergarten. Prior to this he attended a public preschool for special needs children.  I have many, many reasons for home schooling but suffice it to say, the main reason I still continue to home school is because I feel that it is my God-given responsibility to do so.  Truly.  I began inquiring of the Lord as to what I needed to do for my children, and home schooling was the answer.  I don't believe home schooling is what God would require everyone to do.  But I do very strongly feel that if more people diligently searched out what God would have them to do, and were willing, there would be more people who do it.  I think it is something that is just sort of a "given"----that our country has free education, and we pay taxes, and there is a yellow bus that goes by the house, so we send our kids to school.  I think that as a parent, one must be heavily involved in their child's education, whether or not that is at home or at school.  I do think that it is an avenue worth exploring by foot while praying, not just by bus.

I want to thank God Almighty for His gift of wisdom, for His grace, and His longsuffering and gentle patience with me in home schooling.  Home schooling has brought me to the very end of myself.  I will at times throw myself on my "prayer couch" in the living room and complain like a child told to clean their room, and yet He is there to encourage and to enlighten over and over and over again, never wearying or faltering in His devotion to me.  When I mention that I home school I inevitably hear, "I don't have the patience to do that", or "other kids listen to me, but mine won't".  I try to explain as much as possible that I don't have patience either, and that my children are often too familiar with me to hold their steadfast attention.  But home schooling is the very vehicle that God has used to cultivate patience in me.  Just like stretching tight hamstrings, my being persistent while methodically being patient toward my children in an attempt to foster learning has made me much more "flexible" in dealing with them.  I feel that my children have a level of respect for me because I am their teacher and because I insist upon their best, not in spite of it.  It is helping them stretch a bit too: their self will is to push against, but when they voluntarily submit to a loving, patient mama that is TRULY only able to be such by the grace of God (and I am not ever that enough), they are learning humility and respect for authority, even in the familiar comforts of home.  That is golden.  That is GOD at work, friends.

I want this to be a hope and encouragement to those of you beginning home schooling with little ones.  I can remember the year my youngest was born.  I was high-risk pregnant, home schooling a 5 year old on the autism spectrum, a 4 year old who resisted my every request, and a two year old who was being potty trained and trying to write on so many vertical places in our home. My husband was pastoring and working 50-60 hours a week at his secular job. The next year my baby would be awake more and crawling, the two year old was in the terrible threes, and the 5 and 6 year old were learning basic skills that required much one-on-one time.  I will spare you any more gory details of those years.

From November to June of last year I lived in 3 residences, the biggest move being from Ohio to Oregon.  I also had a 3 year old who was still very much 3 years old in all things attention span.  It has been hard, but soooooo good!

Just this year, I am starting to see the fruits of my labor, which belong to my Jesus who made it all possible.  My big boys are much more "in charge" of their learning.  I love to teach.  I am a teacher at heart and in every single professional position I have ever held, I was a teacher in some capacity.  Often an unconventional one at that, teaching mostly adults or children who had many obstacles to overcome.  So I still get to teach history and science, and work one on one with each one on particular subjects.  But I can hand them a planner with the following on it:  Exercise, chores, Bible reading, science, grammar, math, spelling, independent reading and writing (and all of these have specific assignments or reading, or both)-------and they will just DO IT. They are learning to be independent learners, and that they are heavily involved in their own education process.  They are learning work before play, and play has taken on a new definition for them; less electronics, and way more playing together, or leisurely reading.

My reluctant daughter, who is a very hard worker when she has a job to do but detests seat work, is reaping her accomplishments and her attitude toward the whole process is shifting.  My littlest guy is very engaged this year, seeming to mature leaps and bounds over just 3 months ago.

In short, I am seeing this work, this struggle, this laying down of myself and my former lifestyle----I am seeing it WORK.  Because it WORKS!  I already knew how it was working in me, when I let it.  It was eroding my will, revealing my weaknesses, forcing me to go to the Lord for help, requiring that I dig in and do the hard stuff, helping me lay aside wants and desires that aren't important.  Oh I have so very, very far to go!  But I have come along more than I did before.

But I didn't really "see" where it was helping and shaping and changing my kids. . . until NOW.  I could see glimmers and glimpses here and there, but now I can SEE.  My boys are growing up, taking on their own responsibilities, and are learning self-sufficiency.  They are seeing the differences in themselves and those around them, and how what Jason and I are so feebly trying to teach them----to trust God and His ways and what that actually looks like in the day to day---------works and is true.  When my daughter comes along side me in the kitchen and cleans up after lunch and helps get supper going and does dishes with me, she looks at me differently.  She values what I do and wants to do it herself.  I am not a maid taking care of the place, and my husband is not a wallet that makes toy store dreams come true, but we are overseers training kids to "do" adulthood. Wow.  There is no place I would rather be.

He gives us spiritual blessings and when we have those we forget about this tempting world around us.  When we hone in on those blessings, the spiritual implications in our work as keepers at home, and trainers of children. . . there is a deep satisfaction.  He said the virtuous woman should be given the fruit of her hands.  I certainly don't feel like I am that woman, but I long to be.  How wonderful to begin to see the fruit that I hope to lay at His feet!

I leave you with this, friends:  "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."  Galatians 6:9.  Faint not, mamas.  When it gets hard and ugly, cry out to Jesus. He is an ever present help in times of trouble, and His light will shine on the problems and He WILL give you answers on how to help your kids, your husband, yourself.  Your very crying out to Him is teaching your kids that "when I get in trouble I go to mama, but when mama gets in trouble she goes to Jesus."

You are loved------

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Running with Patience

Yesterday was not a good day in home school.

But even on not good days, at least one person learns something.  That person is usually ME.

Something I truly hope that you all realize about me is that, most often, when I blog it is in response to an admonishment I have received.  It is sort of a letter to myself.  For you, it is like looking into my house at night----shades open, lights on, seeing me in my private thoughts.  I have never wanted to be one of those mommy bloggers who have it all figured out, or have it all together, because that could not be further from the truth about me.  I have wanted, deeply, to be an encourager.  And I suppose to be an encourager, you must be a person who has needed encouragement, because of mistakes or circumstances or both.  

I write because I was created that way.  Writing helps me process out the very deep feelings I have on things, things that for some reason can't stay "in there" for me.  Maybe they can for you, but they can't for me.  I have found that when I try to keep feelings in I pay consequences physically. And as to why they come out better on a keyboard I have no idea at all.  But they do.

As most of you know, I have been a home schooling parent for nearly 5 years now.  I have four children, and we are in the "even years":  4, 6, 8, and 10.  My oldest son has special needs, my other son is probably gifted, and two of my other children appear to be "normal", whatever that is.   This dynamic makes for an interesting home school experience:  one child barely treads water, and the next one is diving.  Two others are in the wading pool.  And I am at the pool by myself, or so it seems, trying to help all of them learn to swim at the same time.  The pool is loud, and the water is too cold some days, someone is almost always splashing water on me, or someone has to pee.  But for 5 years now, I have tried to teach "swimming". I have hung in there, I have sacrificed, I have worked hard.  After all, I couldn't love my students more fiercely than I do.  The drive to succeed is high.  If I succeed, we ALL succeed. And if I fail. . . . 

Today I realized that I have failed at running with patience.

We are working on math with our oldest two at just about the same level. I cannot tell you how difficult it can be to try to reach, or teach, a child with autism.  Even a very high functioning, obedient, sweet, wonderful child with autism.  It is so difficult.  It is like speaking English to someone who learned English as a second language----at 84.  I find myself constantly attempting to crawl inside that beautiful head of his, trying to squint through his eyes and see the subject like he does.  It is teaching and interpreting at the same time.  And it is exhausting.  Not just math, either.  But every single subject is afflicted by large pockets of missing information---information I have presented over and over----and yet there are pockets with rich, amazing, staggering knowledge.  Knowledge that I have no earthly idea of how it got there.  I told my husband that it is like "fracking"----digging down way deep to pockets of valuable material.  If I could only figure out how to get it to come to the surface!

When I realized that our son was on the autism spectrum, I knew I would have to fight.  I would fight schools, physicians, therapists, insurance companies, government programs, etc.  Oh, the fighting!  I would fight to do the right thing by him, in spite of the "hard".  I would fight over temper tantrums and meltdowns at the store and bad behavior and I was determined to win.  I don't like to fight.  But there is a fight in me, a fire, to fight for this child, and I know God gave it to me. I know that He made him for a reason, a purpose, and even if I never get to see that fully come to fruition, it still won't matter because He knows why. 

I didn't realize I would have to fight me.

The Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 12:1 that 
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

The race of my life---being a wife, mother, teacher, church member---- has been set before me by my Savior who has numbered my days, who knows the exact mileage and terrain of the course. When the running-----my life----gets hard, it is a red flag that I am not running right.  All of the ways of not running right are in this verse. 

I ran cross country in high school and for one season in college.  And oh how much better I can understand a running analogy because of that. 

God tells us in this passage that to run successfully, we need to
Lay aside every weight:  We need to regularly take our burdens, our heart weights, to the Lord.  That means prayer----real, true prayer, where I know He heard me because He met me there, and fellowshipped with me, and blessed me with His presence, so that I might have His sweet peace.  For me, this can come quickly should God bless me that way, and sometimes I have to make an effort at prayer over a period of time before He meets with me.  Either way, it is my responsibility to make true prayer time a priority. We also need to drop off priorities that slow us down in our race.
And the sin which doth so easily beset us:  We have a choice, sisters, to stay in our sin---those things that God shows us we need to refrain from----or to sever it from our lives. Your sin could be anger, a sharp tongue, covetousness, laziness, or any number of works of the flesh, but in order to run, we must drop these things.  It was a lot easier to run years ago when I maintained good habits on a daily basis.  Now it would be more difficult, as my diet and daily activity do not equate to the physique of a runner.  To be successful I would have to make some practical changes.  Well, to be successful in our race, we must make practical changes in the way we live.  I find so often that once I pray about these sins in my flesh, the Lord will make me more aware of them just before I am about to do something I shouldn't so that I might "nip them in the bud". He helps me to see what I am about to do, so that I don't.
And let us run with patience:  In cross country I got the privilege to run some beautiful courses. 
There were times as an adult I would get to visit and hike a course that we ran, and I was always amazed at the beauty there that I couldn't see when I was huffing and puffing and nearly weeping, dragging myself up the hill.  I thought of what made those courses so hard back then in my early days of running.  It was my emotional response.

When I finally had some practice with hard courses under my belt, enough to realize that it was only a short 20 minutes or so to rest, I stopped freaking out so much during the course. When I saw a hill, I did the best I could.  I took one piece of the hill at a time---sometimes just concentrating on one step at a time----until I could get to the top.  Because once I reached the top, I could usually coast down hill, swiftly, nearly effortlessly, and have the opportunity to look about and enjoy the scenery.  

Oh sisters, how I fail at this! So often I run my race in a panic, not able to see past this moment.  I get overwhelmed by the task before me.  And what happens when that happens?  A painful fact to admit.  The scenery isn't so beautiful. In fact, it becomes an adversity to me, almost an enemy.  

My very blessings. . . I start to see as hardships.  Rather than the hill being an accomplishment to celebrate, it becomes a mountain I want to avoid.  And on my last math day, I was tempted to avoid that mountain.  To just travel around it----maybe he would never learn fractions at all.  What was the point?

I was tempted to just give up, to quit fighting for his learning.  Not entirely, just on that point----but I was not born yesterday, and I know how this temptation thing works a little bit.  All it takes is a little give here, and a little give there, and pretty soon,

you stop fighting.  

I didn't realize how hard my course would be sometimes. I know that there are much, much harder courses.  I know that some of you are on the Swiss Alps right now, facing circumstances that make my race rightfully look like a mole hill, and oh how my heart goes out to you!

But sisters, no matter the hill you are on;
Home School Hill, 
Toddler Tantrum Volcano,
Co-Worker Canyon,
Grouchy Spouse Summit,
Caregiver Pinnacle,

run with patience. After all, the beginning of that verse says, "wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. . . "

You know who is my great cloud of witnesses right now?  The people who make up my scenery----my children.  My church family, the lost all around me----

They are watching me run. I learned today that I CAN get up this big old hill in front of me.  But I have to run with patience, for I am my own worst enemy.  

We have the author and finisher of our faith at the finish line, cheering for us.  He stands ready to help, to encourage, and to comfort.  "Run with patience".  Don't let your emotions rule your spirit.  We have a sure hope, a steady anchor, a rock on which we stand, and a God who left the Comforter to give direction and aid to us----who has promised that if we do things His way, we will succeed.  Have confidence, not in yourself, but in the Master Designer of your race. 

If we seek to run our race with patience to the pleasing of the one at the finish line, sisters----what a peaceful, beautiful, lovely course we will run.  We can truly have joy in our journeys.

You are all loved this day.


Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Charades----part 2

charade: (n) an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance.

In 2011, author E.L. James unleashed a firestorm with the first book in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy.   Selling over 60 million copies, the book was #1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list. 
These books have been met with both support and criticism.  Supporters claim that this is a harmless way to explore new territory for women and is liberating.  Supporters also insinuate that critics are prudes and are denying their own sense of lust.  Critics are often “Church Lady” types, disgusted and pointing a finger at those who partake in the reading of this book as unclean lepers, decrying the sinful degree to which one must stoop to read it. 

I quite frankly am weary of hearing both of those points.  For me, I see this a little bit differently. 
If you haven’t read “50 Charades, part 1”, you will probably find it helpful to stop now and read, as you will need the vignettes found there to understand my explanation.
So what was I trying to say with the vignette of Couple One and Couple Two?

In the examples of Couple One and Couple Two, they are each eating a meal.  And that meal is representative of. . . . 

Intimacy.  Defined as, “close familiarity or fellowship; nearness in friendship”, and in this context, also including a physically intimate relationship.

Couple One is a marriage that has been touched by pornography first brought in by the husband. 

Pornography is EVERYWHERE.  It is at the grocery checkout and on the highway billboard and in the advertisements for clothes.  It is in the box scores of the paper.  It is online, anonymous, and plentiful.  It is on TV commercials.  We are all bombarded by images of pornography.
When a woman has a husband who chooses to view pornography, she is like the wife in Couple One.  She has prepared and adorned herself to the best of her ability to provide intimacy.  She is sure that she isn’t the best thing out there and she is often times keenly aware she is no supermodel, but she looks at herself as a gift to her husband.  And she is.

Pornography is a charade.  

When a man brings pornography into his family, the charade says that it doesn’t hurt anyone and that it can spice up your marriage, thereby improving it, and that it is OK.  In reality it hurts both of you and is the enemy of intimacy.  It wounds your wife by bringing a competitor into the most private, vulnerable, and least confident of areas, and results in bitterness:  she is powerless to fight against a nameless, ever changing, virtual enemy.  She feels unloved, disrespected, and uncherished.  It pushes her away to a place where she begins to feel her own need for external intimacy.

Which brings me to the book.

In response, the wife runs to her own pornography:  literature.  Literature differs in that it is relational and the reader is sharing an experience with the character, which is why it is a successful tool against women, who are by design more relational. 

God created Eve to be the helper of Adam, and after their sin He stated of Eve, and all subsequent women; “her desire shall be unto her husband”. Women want the approval of their husbands.  The reward of the Virtuous Woman spoken of in Proverbs 31 is that she would be rewarded in this manner:  “give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.” She has a desire to be well spoken of by her husband.  We may not want to do things his way all the time or even MOST of the time, but we all seek and need his approval, much like as children, and sometimes adults, we seek and need our father’s approval. 

When a man sets the tone that, in order to have intimacy, you must seek the need for yourself in other things------well, he is leading his wife to do the same.

Why are we so surprised at this phenomenon of women wanting to read books like this?  We shouldn’t be.  They depict a relationship where a man is fiercely, and abusively, engaged with his lover in all aspects of her existence.  This book is male attention on steroids. 

Do you know how many husbands I have met whose week consists of going to work (maybe), drinking with the guys, and playing video games into the wee hours of the morning, and viewing pornography?    That is just the icing on the great big old cake of loneliness that his wife is eating each and every day.  Finally she gives up the fight, and starts following his lead:  by having that need for intimacy met elsewhere.  

She finds it in friends and social time and books that provoke the senses.  She shuts down to her husband, and they lose intimacy----not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too.  When they do come together-----physically or otherwise-----they may both be engaged, but are partaking as separate. 
But dear reader, oh it was never ever intended to be like that!  God never designed marriage to be two lonely people coexisting, scrambling in an unintended selfishness to get needs met.  God is love-----He is true, patient, longsuffering, promise keeping, unfailing, head-over-heels, know you to the very number of hairs on your head, LOVE.  Marriage is to be a reflection of that love.   

He gave us the gift of intimacy to be fully enjoyed in that capacity, in the context of a promise as husband and wife, mutually; physically and otherwise.  This is why His word speaks against fornication, adultery, and homosexuality---they are self-serving types of love.  A selfless type of love, where each person seeks only the best for each other to a great degree of sacrifice-----to the point of daily laying down each desire, big and small, to the benefit of the other---- is what marriage should look like.  

The Song of Solomon in the Old Testament is a book that makes people squirm in church when the preacher says to turn to it.  It is a very descriptive narrative of the love that Christ has for His church, but it is written as woman speaking of “my beloved” and the husband speaking of her.  It is very descriptive in the love each has for the other, but two things I love about it----

The bride calls her beloved, among other things, “my friend”.
The espoused husband calls his bride, “my sister, my spouse”. 

 They love each other way beyond physical intimacy.

Now-----what a lot of the bestsellers in Christian bookstores say is, “there is hope for your marriage.  Look at how awesome it can be!  It can be all fulfilling and perfect!”

Which is a big, fat half-truth.

Is there hope for your marriage?  Absolutely, in Jesus there is, and in doing things His way.  But is there ultimate fulfillment in marriage?

Nope. Not by a long shot.

But there IS ultimate fulfillment in Jesus! Listen to the bride describing how she met “her Beloved”:      

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.  The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?  It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.-----Song of Solomon 3:1-4

Oh dear reader, I too have found Him whom my soul loveth!  In June of 1995 I sought for Him by my bedside too.  I had tried for years to find Him in the broad ways of works, and religion, and a profession of the mouth.  But I found Him not----until I heard some watchmen who pointed me to repentance.  When I humbled myself before Him and abased my pride and confessed my utter wretchedness before my King of Kings-----oh, then I FOUND Him whom my soul loveth!  And I would not let Him go, and I have feebly and very poorly tried to take the message of My Beloved to those I love.  

Because my Beloved loved me enough to make me His----I can love my husband like He does me.  I don’t love as I should most of the time, but I AM able because HE is able, and when I rely on Him I do.

Which is what is on my heart.

Those who profess Christianity may or may not really know this Beloved.  I can say I know who LeBron James is but this is useless if he doesn’t know me.  But a true child of God, who Jesus  knows through true salvation----should realize that we are not above ANY TEMPTATION.  I want to educate, not hate.  I want to speak God’s truth in full----not just in judgment, but in love, so that my friends might be pointed to JESUS, the “author and finisher of our faith”. It isn’t in my own strength that I avoid temptation, but in HIS.  I realized a long time ago that I myself am, as they say, “a hot mess”.  

Friends, if I could give you anything, I would give you a taste of Jesus.  My heart’s desire is that you come to intimately be loved by Jesus, who knows you and created you. I long for you to know Him, to have your delight in Him.  To be deeply known and loved in the soul----not your mind or heart, but your soul-- a place that lies dormant until Jesus passes through.  I pray your desire is to find Him, that He may be your beloved.   

Love to you all this fine day----

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

50 Charades------part 1

Couple One:
The table was set in the very best she had; matching plates registered for eight months before, stylish yet sensible.  The glasses had only been used twice since their wedding day and now elegantly stood tall, proudly showing off a wonderful hand squeezed lemonade.  Atop the table was a loaf of homemade bread, not particularly Amish smooth but soft and warm none the less.  She could still feel a slight strain in her forearms as it took her quite some time to knead, and a slow, sly smile came to her lips.  She couldn’t wait until he finally arrived home from work. 

She pulled the ribs off the grill, and while they were tender they bore a few charred lines here and there, which disappointed her greatly.  She started to despair inside like a little child who had been denied, but then heard tires in the gravel.  She quickly removed her apron, and looking at her reflection in the patio door tucked a stray wheat-colored lock behind her ear.  Slightly nervous, she went to the door.

She opened it, and her heart sank.  Her husband came home with BBQ stains on his mouth, carrying a Styrofoam take-out box.

“Hey honey, wow did I have a day!  We were super busy, and I know you called me, but. .. “

Finally stopping to look at her, he was perplexed by the expression on her face. 

“Oh, yeah. . . yeah I know we were supposed to have a nice dinner in tonight.  But you’ll never BELIEVE my luck!  I got the chance to eat at the new BBQ place in town, and it was just awesome.  And I know that you made ribs tonight, and they’re always pretty decent, you know----- but these. . . . these just do something crazy to me.  They are the absolute best I have ever tasted. I’ll probably be hungry later----can you just heat them up for me in a few hours?”

Week after week, her hard worked dinners were met with a Styrofoam take out box.  First it was the new BBQ place, then a burger joint, then a pizza place; then any new place in town.  And week after week, her meal was consumed in a mirthless quiet, until that gave way to a deep bitterness.


One evening her husband had come home early, and in an effort to surprise his wife he had picked up dinner from the only place they usually went to together.  He set the table and read the news until she came home. 

“Hey honey!  Hey I wanted to surprise you tonight with our favorite place!  So I picked it up on the way home-----“

“Oh.  Thanks.  I’m not hungry.”

“Really?  Why?  I figured you would love this. . . .”

“Well, to be honest, I am kind of tired of that.  So I stopped in for a spicy sushi roll from the new place in town.  You wouldn’t believe how awesome it is!  The atmosphere is really a lot of fun----my friends and I have been meeting there a lot.  It is the best fun I have had in ages!  We dance and laugh and just talk and have a great time together.”

Sometimes the couple would eat together-----he would eat his meal and she would eat hers, in the same room together, but never the same meal.  The rift grew a little bigger each week.

Couple Two:

Wiping the sweaty, sticky hair from her forehead, Allyson put the firmly frozen pizza in the oven.  “It’s amazing how long these suckers take to bake!”, she said, consulting the box.  She had spent most of the day dealing with sick children in this summer heat, and she surely didn’t have much to show for it. 

She managed to pick up the living room a bit because she knew that Will would be home soon.  She knew that was important to him.  He worked such long hours at the machine shop to make a way for her and the kids that he deserved a little order and peace when he came home.  She went to the door and opened it, mustering up all the cheerfulness she could find.

Will saw his sweet wife in the doorway.  “My goodness, she looks like she’s had a day”, he thought to himself.  Allyson was such a hard worker, so thoughtful toward him and the children and to others. She deserved a little rest when he came home, so he intended to read books to his sick little ones so she could have some time of her own. 

After quick kisses Will asked about dinner. She apologetically told him that it was just a frozen pizza----nothing fancy, and certainly not what she wanted to serve.  She knew there were so many better pizzas out there to be eating, but she gave the very best she had that day. 

Will was so happy to have that pizza with his wife.  There were many other places to get a better tasting pizza, but no one in the world had made a pizza just for him.  .  .except Allyson.  And no man had worked hard for her that day . . . except Will.  They were thankful for the meal they shared together, which could have just as well been filet mignon, for the companionship was the true delight.  They ate side by side, enjoying the pizza, fully engaged with one another, eyes sparkling and both laughing and sharing about their day, the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me.----Solomon 7: 10
I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.----Solomon 6:3
His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.-----Solomon 5:16
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.-----Solomon 4:7
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!-------Solomon 4:9-10

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Lawman

My childhood super hero is retiring today.

I can remember as a very little girl when my handsome daddy would be getting ready for work. He would sling on his heavy, wide black belt with the various sized pouches on it just before he left for the evening.  When it was off and sitting on the table I would latch and unlatch the "keepers", little black loops for keeping things on the belt, apparently.  I would marvel at the weight of the mag light, and couldn't understand why it needed to be so much heavier than our household plastic flashlight.  I never could figure out how a night stick could actually be a weapon.  And the .357 Magnum was more of a paperweight than anything else to me.  Taught with firm discipline that it was not a toy, I was a child who was surrounded by firearms and was never tempted to use them. I still am not.

If I was able to be awake when he left for the midnight shift, I would hug my daddy tight around the neck, kiss his smooth cheek, deeply breathe in his cologne, and think about how handsome he was in his uniform with his dark hair.  Even as a young girl I could grasp that in his line of work there was a chance that he wouldn't be coming back home.  I told myself that the heavy bullet proof vest he wore, which I would throw on my skinny shoulders and parade around the living room each time I could, was like Captain America's shield, able to protect in all circumstances.

My daddy, in my mind, was 10 feet tall.  After all, when your daddy is a cop, he is the one everyone else calls when they are in trouble.  He was called on duty, and off duty----to help break up domestic skirmishes among the neighbors, or the time there was a peeping tom in the neighborhood.  He had really cool places to take us, like when we got to go to the courthouse and ride in the elevator, or to the county fair when he directed traffic, or for rides in the Crown Vic.  It seemed we always had friends with German shepherd dogs, and we had them too.  We knew the clerks in the convenience stores by name, and listened to a scanner at home.  We had lots of cops that were friends----most good, a few bad, and a few somewhere in between. 

As I got older and my dad got more experienced, he moved up to different positions, culminating as a police chief.  But no matter where he was working or what he was doing, being a cop continued to touch our lives.  There were times the job or the pager interrupted family activities.  There were long, long hours that would stretch into nearly days sometimes, whenever a substantial crime was first committed. 

Perhaps the most pressing thing is the interruptions I didn't see.  Being a cop, or a soldier, or anyone else who deals with the basest of human behaviors, touches places inside that most of us don't have to visit very often.  It changes your world view of humanity.  It causes a silent, secret tap dance inside between the reality of the workplace and the reality of home.   

This is what other families don't see.  They don't see Superman coming home after a long day of dealing with sinful shenanigans, only to change out of the cape and into Clark Kent's suit to pretend  the job was just another day at the Daily News.  They don't see the up close evil in the day to day, the cruel and hard ways in which people deal with one another.  Other families can live in relative normalcy, assuming that bad things happen to other people-----when the super hero's experience tells him that in the blink of an eye, we can all be the other people.

So it seems strange that, after being a cop, a detective, a captain, an investigator, working for the coroner, and finally, pasturing out at a bailiff (haha!)----my dad is retiring.  For the first time in my lifetime, my dad will have the chance to be like everyone else.  And I hope that he enjoys it to the very fullest.

Dad, thank you so very, very much, for the hard work and sacrifice you have made for me.  For providing for me through multiple jobs at a time, and for doing it in such a taxing way.  I am so very proud of the service you have provided to your community; for helping others in their most despairing moments with little thankfulness, but I thank God for giving you to me.  I hope you have a wonderful day today and rather than send you some cheesy gift, I will send you what ends every Superman's career.

Kryptonite.  Not in the form of a donut, but in the form of an entirely different cheesy gift---

You can pick up your double anchovy pizza tonight after work from Guido's. 

Sandra :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Laundry Soap

Hello ladies (and fellows, if you are reading this)!

I want you to know, that both as a blogger and as a person, I never want to put something in my blog that makes me look like I have it "all together".  You know the blogs----the cutesy, flowery ones where the moms are confessing some terrible humble brag about something like, "sometimes when I clean out the van, I am so embarrassed--- today I found ONE french fry under the car seat".  Or maybe, "I must confess that this year I only made 5 quilts, since I am busy making cheese, roofing the house with synthetic shingles the children created with rocks and Play-do in our home school engineering class, and making sure that I have ironed all the socks.  Remember, the ones that I hand-knitted, not while watching TV, but while I was watching my children put on a spontaneous musical adaptation of 'War and Peace'?" Ugh.

My friends, I am a student of life.  I am learning who I am, what I struggle with, and how to try to rule over my flesh every. Single. Day.  As a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, and most importantly, a child of God, I fail a lot; but God is so good to patiently teach and instruct me.  That is what I want my blog to be about:  how God has put me on this adventure, and what He is teaching me, and how absolutely, wonderfully awesome He is.

This is precisely why I don't share a lot of "how to" things.  I usually wait for someone to ask me, and then I share in person.  Because I don't want to be that "Ugh" person.

Well, today I want to share something with you that I have been doing now since about 2010, if I am not mistaken.  It has saved me hundreds of dollars and countless trips to the store. And it truly takes about 10 minutes to do, once every four to six months:

I make my own laundry soap.

I remember when I first read an article in our local paper about someone doing this.  "What?!?  She does. . . WHAT?!?"  The woman may as well been making ricin or Spam.  I thought, "Can you really DO THAT?"  Well, why couldn't you do it?

I don't know what I was afraid of.  I mean, I am hardly a professional laundress.  We have a laundry checklist: 1.  Is it clean?  2. Is it dry?  3. Is it not too embarrassingly wrinkled to wear it in public?  Three yes's and we are ready to go out.

But making my own detergent was sort of going rogue.  I was a Rebel at Home.  It was a way to, well, stick it to the man.  I felt like I was sitting on some big enormous secret.  Psssst-----hey!  You there!  The one hauling out your 55 gallon drum of Tide that cost $700 from Sam's Club.  Do you know what I can do?  And can you find your receipt you just crammed in your purse before you get to the lady at the door with the marker?  I felt a little Amish. I felt like if there was a zombie apocalypse, that my family would be the only one in clean clothes.  I'm sort of a laundry doomsday prepper:  if the nation's economy ever shut down and the stores were empty. . . well, we could trade laundry detergent for some rice and beans!

A woman who is a keeper at home may be doing many manual tasks with her hands, but don't be fooled:  our brains are moving a hundred miles an hour.  We are CEO's of our households and are always looking to lower that bottom line because, after all, that is what keeps flavored coffee creamer in the fridge.

And truly, seriously-----I think that a lot of mama's out there could reduce their work hours by living a thriftier lifestyle.  I would highly suggest to read a "Little House" book.  Reading those helped me to see that out on the prairie, joy was found in WORKING.  Not at Target with Starbucks in the hand, strolling for hours.  And yes, I am sure there were times that Ma wanted to run Pa, still wearing his shirt, through a wringer washer because he went hunting all day and left her there with kids that only had 2 toys between them, but there was still joy in just doing a hard day's work. The Lord started to show me that I have trouble feeling satisfied with a simple lifestyle and that I crave distractions, and while it is something I have grown in, I still have a long way to go.  If we could find our joy in tasks rather than in goods, we wouldn't have as much leisure time for entertainment and we wouldn't buy as many things.  And more women could stay home a little more. I fear for our nation as a whole, as we have become so very dependent upon entertainment to get us through our discontented, busy, soft, and unnecessarily stressful lives.  

So, someone inquired of this laundry "elixir", and I thought, "I am going to tell the whole world about my laundry soap!!!!  With pictures!!!"  Just in case you are too skeerd to try it.

So enough rambling.  On to the soap!

1.  You need the following:
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Empty, clean, 1 gallon milk jug
  • Cooking pot dedicated for laundry soap only----I got mine at Goodwill
  • Cheese grater
  • Long stick, like a yardstick, 5-gallon paint stirring stick, or just a plain old stick.
  • 1 box of Arm & Hammer washing soda, which on is $3.24 for 55 ounces
  • 1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax, on for $7.70 for 76 ounces
  • 1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, at walmart stores for $1.00
  • One cup measuring cup 

What you need to get started.

   Unwrap the Fels-Naptha, which is an old school laundry soap.  You may use other soaps for fragrance, etc., but Fels has a great reputation as a degreaser.  You will then grate the soap as pictured by my lovely model below.  It will look like cheddar cheese.  Keep all husbands and male children out of the kitchen and do not leave the faux shredded cheese unattended.  Trust me.  (Some people also use their food processors to grind up the soap, therefore limiting the amount of knuckle present in the final product.)
If she can do it, so can you!

Can you see why they eat it?
It is time to cook the Fels.   Put the shredded soap in the pot and add 1/2 of a gallon of water.  You don't have to be exact, you just need to eyeball it.  Turn it on low and stir (with stick) until it is melted.  You don't want to boil this.

Fill your bucket with 3 gallons of lukewarm water.  Don't use cold.  It will cause the soap to "set up" really fast.  Pour 1 CUP of washing soda and 1 CUP of borax into the bucket, and stir with the stick.  Be careful with these powders.  It's kind of like making Kool Aid, as in it is easy to inhale accidentally, so you should hold your breath when pouring it out.  Mix it until it is dissolved.

STEP 4: 
Gently pour the contents of the pot (the Fels)  INTO the bucket and stir.  Your soap will congeal a bit, typically by the next day but sometimes before.  It is perfectly OK to use the soap as soon as you make it.  You will either need to stir it before using if the gel-like consistency grosses you out, or you can just use it straight in there.  After significant self-talk, I can now use it straight in. 

Finished product, before it congeals.     
Congratulations!!  You just made detergent!!  Cover your bucket with a lid, keep it up high from little people, and you can use it immediately. 

1.  How much do I use in a large load?  1 cup for top loading machines, 1/4 cup for front loading machines.
2.  Will this hurt my machine?  I don't think so, but you'd have to ask it.  It hasn't bothered mine and I have had both machines.
3.  Does it sud? No.  Which is awesome because you can use it in a front loading machine, and you DON'T NEED FABRIC SOFTENER.  At all.  Not even a dryer sheet. 
4.  What does it smell like?  Nothing.  It is just clean.  There is a tiny bit of a fragrance from the Fels, and you can add essential oils, but to me the price of the oils negates my laundry savings.  What I do is use the Downy Unstopables for fragrance, and it doesn't take much for a great scent, probably because it isn't competing for fragrance space with my detergent.  P.S.  Those Unstopables are great for making auto air fresheners.  Just make up a "Christmas Ornament Dough" recipe, and put some of those in the mix. Use a cookie cutter for the shape and use a straw to poke a hole in the top to put a string through.  Great gifts from kids to grandparents.
5. Does it really work?  Yes, it does.  I do use the detergent to pre-treat really bad stains.  I also use peroxide for blood stains too.  But it really does work.  Try more or less in your machine.  
6.  Is it safe for my clothes?  I have not had one problem in using it on my clothes.  
7.  Do I really save money?  Ok, this is the fun fun part:
                        I wash about one load a day.  I have a family of 6.
Cost per batch:  Borax, $0.80 + Washing Soda, +$0.48 + Fels Naptha, $1.00 = $2.27


So I spend less than $10 a year on washing all of our clothes!  And SO CAN YOU!!!!!

Aren't you inspired now?!?  Get your keys, get to Walmart, and

. . . . . stick it to the man.

Have a great day!!