Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Leaves the Size of Montana and Other Things

After one of the Blossoms' most anticipated events of the year - the co-op Thanksgiving potluck, which is something like the equivalent of a class holiday party - this mama had to get her driver's license picture taken.  Mega exciting, I know. 

But, there's a little nature park nearby, that I've oft wanted to explore, so with a bark of "Throw your nature journals and colored pencils in your backpack," I kept this little idea in my back pocket as a surprise for later.

I like to think that learning can happen anywhere, in the moments that we embrace, the opportunities right in front of us, instead of hoping for a better time, a better place, or even a better method.

I like to snatch the moments of just being together, grabbing on tight to the snippets of time that we have.  

This felt like that.

A boring errand that must be done before the holidays and the perfect location to explore.  

Once my little surprise was out of the bag, grins of delight emerged and twinkles of curiosity lit in their eyes.

We meandered wooded paths, exclaiming over maple leaves the "size of Montana."  Said maple leaf is now residing pinned to the bulletin board over Blossom2's desk.  I dread the day it gets bumped, crumples and must be relocated into the cycle of life, i.e., the compost pile.

We explored the chilly marshy froggy habitats.  

Poor Toad.  He is not allowed to cross.

Savoring a short repast in this woodland throne flickered the Blossoms' imaginative stories alive.

Mama adored the wooden bridges.  Water crossings are delightful, even when the creeks are low.  Hollow footfalls and shouts of glee make my mama heart glad.

When we're out in the Great Outdoors, I like to keep an eye on where the girlies are spending the most time.  Then, we plop down and journal there.  This catch and release area, chock-full of monstrous trout, suited the Blossoms' fancy just fine.  Since some thoughtful person stocked it with fish food, they loved feeding the fish and naming the species they could see.  

We all journal, even Mama, and I'm amazed at what journalling can do for someone.  It's a processing tool.  It's practicing communication.  It aids in observation.  It's an exercise that it unique to each child.  

We packed up and journeyed home, happy in a few moments of fresh air and fully appreciating the beauty God placed around us.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Life (Hiking) Lessons

Now that the foliage is gone, you'll probably enjoy a few peeks at flaming foliage as much as I did.  Technically, it's still autumn, right?

Remember how I was so excited to enjoy this trail with the Rugged Mountain Man?  
We were happy to bring the girlies along this time.  

I love that hiking reinforces so many terrific life lessons.  

We like this avenue for teaching the Blossoms to be mindful, to pay attention, to truly observe.  

We love that relishing God's creation, points us to the Great Creator.

We love that hiking helps us learn how to do hard things, how to really persevere.  

It's practicing perseverance in little step-size bites.  

At some point in every hike, someone hits that place where they just don't want to go any further.  

We're out in the middle of nowhere though.  There's no choice.  

You just have to keep going.  

You can whine.  You can complain.  You can cry.  (Yes, it happens.)  

But, the only way back to the truck, is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

There's so many situations in life where this can apply.

Think of how many women proclaim in childbirth, "That's it.  I'm done.  I'm going home."  

It doesn't work like that.  

There's so much in life that you just gotta go through.

You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

Many times you find out that you've got a little more to give than you think you do.

You really CAN go another step.

When the Blossoms "hit the wall," we usually come along to encourage and to energize.

Maybe it's a piggyback ride for a minute or two, another sip of water or a reminder that there's ice cream at the end of the trail.  Whatever form the encouragement takes, they do not hike alone.  

Perhaps you've come upon some hard things that must be done.  

You are not hiking alone.  

The only way is probably straight through.  

Keep hiking...

...And smile a little too.

(Blossom3 and Blossom4 are each in their own way admiring 
our favorite massive oak tree along the trail.  To each her own.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Inspector McChecker Lives Here

This is one of my favorite parts of the day... all those blond bedheads chowing down on breakfast while I grab the Bible story book for devotions. 

Anyway, it seems like tips and tricks have been a bit of a theme around here lately.  Sharing what works is a fabulous part of hearing what others have gleaned from their daily lives.  I love a good tip from others "in the trenches!"

I had a bit of a revelation while we were at our cabin on vacation in August.  Lots of kids go to summer camp and many of those camps do cabin inspections.  Tidy barrack are expected and somehow the kids survive such "cruel treatment" and come back from camp, having had the time of their lives.  

Our vacation involves six people living in two rustic rooms for 8 days.  The clutter disaster that explodes in a matter of minutes after our arrival has the power to greatly subtract from Mommy's and everyone's vacation.  

This mama got to thinking and cheerfully told the Blossoms, "We're gonna run this place like summer camp."  

Enter the morning and nightly inspections.  

I explained to the girlies that they were each responsible for keeping their sleeping bags and duffel bags tidy.  If inspection was passed every day, they could earn a prize.  The Blossoms took to this amazingly well, even eagerly asking me if I'd inspected yet and if they'd passed.  Sometimes, I'd have to send someone back to re-tidy up their space, but overall, what a success it was!  

Unfortunately, the girlies were slightly disappointed when they realized they couldn't get a (real) (live) sheep as a prize, but they did eventually settle for some new Littlest Pet Shop figures upon the completion of the goal.  

The end result:
Our cabin was SO TIDY and I was SO SURPRISED.

Ya'll, we simply do not expect enough of our children.

Then, we came home and Mama thought, "Why can't we use this for bedrooms?"  I helped the Blossoms with an initial, overwhelming cleanup.

The Blossoms are now working on a chart for earning some little garden statues that they want for spring time.  

I'll admit, now that we are four months into this "thang," I only remember to inspect about 50-75% of the time, but they often remind me.  However, it has helped their rooms to stay mostly tidy.  

Two things surprised me about this new "regulation:"

#1 - The Rugged Mountain Man noticed and commented that it made such a difference in the overall feel and look of our house.  There's no longer junk bursting out of their rooms.  It helps with the "calm" at night and in the morning.

#2 - The older Blossoms commented that it was SO MUCH NICER to go to bed in a clean room.  It was a relief and helped the next day to start off better for them.  

Right before I plop myself in the schoolroom to kick off our school day, I take a gander through the bedrooms.  At bedtime, we continue to try to start the bedtime process early enough to allow for a quick-clean and then, an inspection.  

It's something that's really helping us and I sure am glad for that.  

Go ahead, mama, I'm giving you permission to run your place like summer camp... or the military.  I'm pretty sure your kids will survive just like mine did.



Friday, November 10, 2017

Bring It!

Good morning, friends!

It looks like the real November weather is here to stay, or at least it has finally convinced me that summer is really gone and the temperate and scenic aspects of autumn are over as well.  As the Rugged Mountain Man fired up the wood stove for the first time, it triggered the mama-prepper in me. 

You know getting out the door with coats and shoes can be quite a process, so I had the girlies each pick a hat and gloves for each vehicle.  (They are more apt to wear them when I tell them to, if they choose them, though I always retain my veto power.)  I approved their choices and stashed them in our van and truck.  Those hats and gloves reside there all winter long.  Additionally, I grabbed hats and gloves for my man and me and stashed them too.  Since our hat and glove drawers are often exploding, even after I recently thinned them out, I was quite pleased that my winter prep had an added benefit - de-cluttering!  There was a much more manageable amount in the drawers afterward. 

Taking the preparations a step further, I rounded up a few warm blankets for re-homing in the back of our vehicles too.  This is the Northeast, ya'll.  It's cold and we should be prepared in the event of our vehicles breaking down!  I was also quite pleased to see that my linen closet inventory became more manageable as soon as I'd swiped a few for the vehicles.  De-cluttering is great, but sometimes you just don't have time to deal with what was culled!  I like it when de-cluttering is a surprising side benefit from another task.

'Tis the season for ice-scrapers too!  I dug them out from the garage and put them on the front lines. 

Part of a homemaker's job is seeing that her family is ready for the next season. 

Don't freak out, mamas.  That's not a guilt trip.  Snatch five or ten minutes and throw some hats, gloves and blankets in your minivan.  You'll be glad you did!

I'm heaving a satisfied sigh and saying, "Bring it on" to the cold weather now. 



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Little Bit of Life Lately & Laughter

After a stressful evening on the phone battling customer service representatives that dearly loved their scripts, I've decided a little "life lately & laughter" is in order. 

When I was canning beets and beet jam, Blossom2 utilized the beet juice creatively the other night. She painted her entire face in a vicious war pattern while doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. I actually let her wear her Indian war paint for a couple hours before making her wash her face. I can't figure out if that means I'm growing or digressing as a mom.

Apparently, "we don't put rubber bands on our heads" is something I say now.  

Apparently, "we don't whittle in the house" is also something I say now.

You know you're a football family when you specifically go out to eat on Sunday afternoon because your teams have a bye and/or don't play til Monday night.

Also, you might be a football family if your 4 year old argues against bed time
because she's "missing the game."  

The thing that earned me the most super mom points lately is the fact that I gave the Blossoms a huge cardboard box.  They've been occupied for well over twenty-four hours now.  Though their fast food restaurant is pretty cool, I've personally been enjoying Blossom4's jack-in-the-box performance.  Who knew a box could be so entertaining?  And it was F R E E.

Coming in at a close second, I let the Blossoms and a friend make homemade wax and cotton ball fire-starters and build fires in the woods near their fort.  Since I supplied some marshmallows and later hung out near that fire, I also earned some pretty serious mama points.  The Blossoms are coming in to the house, filthy and smelling like smoke, but ecstatic over some concoction they've been cooking over their fire.  Now, THAT'S childhood, my friend, simple and endearing. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

On Filling Up

On our recent cabin trip, we spent some time meandering through the woods, getting filled up by spending leisurely time together discovering mushrooms, strolling through the fallen leaves and breathing deeply of the pure mountain air.  We marveled over the exquisite shades of mushrooms, reveled in Blossom2's discovery of an Amanita and explored a curious, but slippery bridge.

When it comes to filling up, I'd say that part of growing up is learning to feed yourself.  It's not surprising that part of growing up as a Christian is doing the same.  It's taking responsibility to make sure you've got the spiritual nutrition to do more than survive.  

It's going after the spiritual nutrition to thrive.

I've always loved 1 Samuel 30:6, where it talks about how, during a hard and trying time, David encouraged himself in the Lord.  David was feeling weak and he took action.  He encouraged himself.  He strengthened himself!  

If there's a practical and spiritual lesson I've learned along the motherhood road, it's to adapt quickly or dry seasons will quickly ensue!  

We often identify that we are weak or weary, but do we step up to strengthen ourselves in the Lord?

How can we adapt quickly?  

If the time of day or location isn't working for your time with God, adapt quickly.  Make the change before you're so starving, you can't hear God.  

Is your baby swatting at your Bible pages, read on YouVersion.  

Is your quiet time after breakfast, lingering at the table?  Train your kids for that.  Prep a snack and a sippy cup beforehand.  

Whatever the problem, just try something a little bit different.  Make what changes need to be made to feed yourself.

(Blossom2's Amanita)

Adapt quickly!

Lately I've been taking special care to feed myself spiritually.  Some days it's sermon blurbs I fit in here and there, giving me bursts of Scriptures and thoughts to ponder.  (That sounds like snatching time, doesn't it?)  

Another day, a good friend invited me to the Revive 2017 conference.  We attended virtually, thanks to the amazing technology of live streams.  We heard excellent preaching and encouragement for practically living out our faith.  Take some time and check them out here.  The solid and practical preaching gave me much to mull over for the next several days.

I'm also delving into Adorned, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.  It's good, solid reading material based on one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Titus 2.  God has laid out a specific curriculum for older women to younger woman training.  This in depth study of Titus 2 has been richly rewarding and so inspiring to every day aspects of my life.  Nancy shares truths so humbly and personably, that I want to keep reading, to continue letting God shine His spotlight into my heart.

Today, instead of letting the moments disappear into thin air, snatch them to feed your spirit.  Get them in your clutches and get filled up.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Whose Week Is It?

Do you ever pull your hair out in the frozen foods aisle just trying get your children to agree on an ice cream flavor?  Do you wonder how you'll be able to make your children feel valued and appreciated amongst the family herd?

In my reading I recently stumbled on a simple tip to solve this problem and make each of your children feel special.  

Assign each child a week.  
We created our schedule to follow youngest to oldest, which is easy for me to remember.

Week #1 - Blossom4
Week #2 - Blossom3
Week #3 - Blossom2
Week #4 - Blossom1

This solution quickly and effectively answers all the very difficult questions in life:

~ Who gets the last brownie?
~ Who accompanies Daddy on his errands on a Daddy date?
~ Who chooses the ice cream flavor?
~ Who gets to go first in line?

To which I reply, "Whose week is it?"  Anything special that comes up during that week, goes to the child whose week it is.  

One of our children is a talented and persuasive negotiator and voiced stubborn opposition to this idea.  She wanted the power to lobby for the special item or privilege.  Since we are the parents, we grinned and established the practice anyway.  

It's only been two months and now that everyone realizes that their week will eventually come around, it has been an outstanding way to single out each of our children on a regular basis.  Plus, I keep telling the Rugged Mountain Man how much more pleasant it is in the ice cream aisle.  

What happens if there's a fifth week, you wonder?  It's MAMA'S WEEK!!!!



Friday, October 27, 2017

Rockin' out the Pumpkin Rolls

I was talking with a friend about how hands-on learning seems to be the most effective way to truly learn something.  When I discovered that another friend of mine was an expert pumpkin roll baker, I realized the Blossoms and I needed to capitalize.  This will be some tasty hands-on learning!

This mama has tried and tried to figure out how to properly and successfully roll a pumpkin roll.  They just keep cracking!  How better to learn, than from an expert?

It took quite a while for us to get our pumpkin roll lessons scheduled, mostly because of my busy schedule, but we eventually got around to it... a year later. 

Elizabeth is not only an expert, but also is a person who is willing to let us invade her home, making a gigantic mess in her kitchen in the process.  It didn't seem to bother her in the least.

What also touched me was that when we arrived, her boys had rounded up an astounding amount of imaginative toys for the little girls to play with in the adjoining living room.  They'd prepared for us, which enabled me and the big Blossoms to more fully focus on rolling pumpkin.  That's hospitality - thinking of and providing for your guests.

Elizabeth knows her stuff.  We baked a very specific recipe with very specific proportions.  Silicone mats on smaller cookie sheets seem to work best for easy removal.  

Once plopped on an abundant cushion of powdered sugar, she then rolls them in three kitchen towels ~ two thin cotton flour sack style towels sandwiched around a thicker kitchen towel.  Apparently it helps to soak up the steam.

It's like magic.  Pumpkin magic.

(Don't worry, the stovetop is set to the locked off setting.  I checked.)

Next up, our tightly rolled rolls rocked on over to the freezer to chill for a while.

Once they are fully cooled, they can move to the next step.  I learned that it is a mistake to rush this process.  Pumpkin rolls fill best when thoroughly cooled.  

Then, they magically unroll for filling time.  

Insert my sparkly awed eyes.

To say that I was thrilled with how well they unrolled is an understatement.  

I'd say it's the little things in life, but around here, "punkin roll" ain't no little thang.

See, this is how it's done.

Like a good homeschool mom, she made Blossom1 go for it next!

I still can't believe she wasn't twitching over all the powdered sugar in her kitchen.  

In the meantime, I did the dishes to help ease the twitches she might've been holding back.

Elizabeth lassoed Blossom2 for some fancy rolling practice and then, she wrangled me in.  

If the Blossoms can roll these things, so can I!

Friends learning and chatting in the kitchen has been one of those old-fashioned practices that I'm trying to resurrect in our lifestyle.  Each time I carve out time for it, I'm glad I did.  It's good fellowship and we come away with new skills and recipes that stand the test of time.

We wrapped these beauties in press-n-seal and stored all but one in the deep freezer.

The lone pumpkin roll was gone before 24 hours were through.  Blossom4 requested pumpkin roll the next day.  When I told her it was all gone, she said, "No, dey are not.  Dere are seven more in the freezer, Mommy!"  

That's what happens when you teach your kids to count, people.  Think carefully before doing so.  

Next up, homemade pierogies.  They've only been on my mental to-do list for about eight months, so I'd call that progress.