Category Archives: Homeschooling
- After eating mostly Paleo for about eight years, it stopped working. I don’t know what the deal is, but I’ve talked with other Paleo people who have had to switch up their eating habits, as they have started to gain weight, even while eating grain-free, sugar-free, refined-foods-free… It doesn’t seem fair, but I had to decide to do something different. After gaining about ten pounds since Jean was born, which put me at 160 lbs — the most I’ve ever weighed, non-pregnant, I started hiking at the end of November. I went two or three times a week, early in the morning, 3-4 miles at a time. In that time, I didn’t really change my eating habits. So, what did that effort net me? I gained eight pounds. Ugh. And, no, it wasn’t muscle. Well, maybe one pound was muscle. So, in the last month or so, I started tracking calories — something I’ve NEVER done before — on My Fitness Pal. I also started running more often, in addition to hiking. I’m now running or hiking, four or five times a week. And what has all that tedious tracking and MORE exercise netted me? A loss of five pounds for the month. It seems like very little in return for such effort, and I’m still way over the weight at which I feel comfortable. But, it’s five pounds. And I ran my first 10K. That’s 6.2 miles. I came in last for my age group… But I finished! I ran the first four miles (slowly) without stopping, then walked for a minute or two, ran the rest of the fifth mile, and then walked/ran the sixth mile. One hour, 23 minutes. I’m running to improve that time, and also hoping to complete the Phoenix Summit Challenge, which is in November.
- Today is the last day of 4th grade and 2nd grade for Audrey and Fiala, respectively. I’m kind of relieved, and I have a VERY long list of summertime projects from the mundane to the complicated. Grant, who is in 11th grade, is still doing work, mostly because he didn’t do enough during the school year. Sigh. Thanks to the homeschool group that I (very loosely) lead, we have a fabulous end-of-year party tomorrow. I really stink at planning parties, so I’m pleased that, while I had the idea for the party, other people who are much more skilled than I am are planning it. Speaking of the homeschool group, we have 210 families who now are members. THAT IS A LOT OF FAMILIES. I kind of envisioned 15-20 families, but the group meets a greater need than I knew existed. We have attended weekly park days, near-weekly field trips, and I lead a (typically small) mom’s night of grading and chatting every week. And the girls are in piano lessons. It has been a good year of homeschooling for them, which was my goal. Tomorrow is my son Wesley’s last day of 9th grade at a local charter school. It was mostly very successful: He loves it, but his grades aren’t the best I think they could be. As long as he finishes the year with a 3.0 or higher (which he almost certainly will), he will most likely be returning in the fall. “Baby” Jean is no longer a baby: she will be three years old next month!! She is bright, full of fun, and VERY active.
- My oldest son, Ethan, who attended Arizona State University on a near-full scholarship this last year, very likely won’t be returning to school in the fall. From my perspective, this really isn’t a good situation, and I cried for two hours when it all came down. But, my son is almost an adult, and he’s making more adult-y decisions, and that’s hard when your children don’t choose for themselves what you, as the parent, see as wisest. But, God is faithful, and Ethan’s times are in His hands, and this is an opportunity for faith on my part, bathed in prayer. Still, it feels like a failure on my part. I don’t know if it is, but it FEELS like a failure.
- My garden is thriving. It’s nearing the searing heat of summer, and I’m hopeful for its continued success. I have two beds: one is 8′ x 12′, and the other is 12′ x 12′. I am tracking, by poundage, how much I harvest. These past winter months, things DO grow here, but more slowly. I’d typically harvest 4-6 lbs of produce. Now that it is warmer, I’m harvesting 8-12 lbs each week. A couple of weeks ago, when I harvested the last of my beets, it was 16 lbs, 6 oz for the week. I am currently reaping: I’itois onions (bunching onions); Greek and Italian basil; Cardinal Chard; Top Bunch Collards; Tyfon Holland Greens; Harris Model Parsnips; four kinds of tomatoes; Greyzini (a summer squash like Cousa or Mexican Grey Squash); Sweet Banana Peppers; and just yesterday, the first of the Homemade Pickles Cucumbers. Soon, I’ll have Sweet White Spanish Onions (the largest have tops that are over 4′ tall! I hope they’re as giant as their tops suggest); Asparagus Yardlong Beans; Garlic; and Honeydew Melon. I’ve also been collecting seed from radishes, lettuces, and cilantro. And, I have at least nine kinds of flowers blooming, including 8′ tall Lemon Queen Sunflowers. And in another 3-4 weeks, I’ll have okra and Armenian Cucumbers.
That’s about it from our home. Well, actually, that’s not nearly it. There is always more that is happening than I can write about. And, I don’t know if this update is all that interesting, actually. But, I felt like I was overdue for posting one.
Today, I wrote to a “secret” group of homeschool (and former homeschool) moms, asking for perspective. I had a feeling they’d tell me that I’m doing just fine. So far, in fact, they have. But in this, and in other homeschool-related endeavors, I just can’t seem to find the right balance, where I’m pleased with what we’re doing.
My oldest three children are boys, and my youngest three are girls. I think I was/am pretty rigorous with my older boys. That approach has worked well on my oldest (now a university freshman on nearly a full-tuition scholarship), and for my 11th grader who is still homeschooling, but nearly independently. My rigorous requirements didn’t work fab on my 9th grader, who is thriving in his first year in a small, public charter school where they seem to value his… free spirit a little more than I do.
So, I’m really only schooling my 4th and 2nd grade girls. I also have a 2-year-old who makes things challenging and helps us to laugh and gives lots of hugs and kisses. Last summer, I told myself that I was going to make school FUN for my girls, after several years of really just focusing on my boys. I started a homeschool support/play group that has unintentionally ballooned — I now lead this group that has 179 families in it. It is a very relaxed group, a social network, really. Me “leading” is really a misnomer. I organize most events and communicate with everyone in person and online. With that group, we have weekly three-hour park days. We have one or even two field trips or activities with the group nearly every week. (This week, we’re going to the library for a decorate-your-own-journal art hour, and going to a local organic farm on Friday.) The girls are in weekly piano lessons and loving it. They play together more beautifully than I ever hoped. We spend lots of time outdoors every day. I have a veggie garden and they all putter with me. Our science yesterday was inspecting cilantro blooms and seeds in various stages of development, talking about how plants bolt, bloom, become pollinated, and develop seed that we can save. They also do seat work nearly every day (journal — writing and drawing; math; handwriting; and phonics/grammar). We have done lots of reading for fun — we’re working our way through the Little House series and are currently just beginning The Long Winter. The girls read on their own, fiction and nonfiction, a ton. My almost-10-year-old is the Arts and Crafts Queen and is working on some project all the time… She also is taking every-other-week drawing lessons from two ladies from church.
In other words, this school year is virtually everything I had hoped. HOWEVER… I’m not really an unschooler at heart. I feel much better with structure. I feel such guilt that we are on week 5 (FIVE!) of (old) Sonlight Core 2. Week five. We’ve barely gotten through anything, really.
When I read out everything I’ve written above, it seems like I should be pleased. But, honestly, I feel a little out of sorts, like I’m doing them a disservice for not being more regimented and rigorous. We are ENJOYING the school year. Yet, I have thoughts like, “I required so much more of my sons. Am I being unconsciously sexist by doing so little real schoolwork with them??” Seriously.
I don’t know what I need to be satisfied. This school year is one of the best, experientially, we’ve ever had — and this is my 14th year!! But, I just feel so uncomfortable not checking those boxes in the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide. I feel guilty.
At the other moms’ suggestions, I’m going to add more science and have them read aloud to each other and me.
But, mostly, I think I just need to adjust my own attitude and enjoy what is left of the year.
…actually write a blog post today.
But, I’ve decided to use my rare time on the actual desktop computer to look for plans for a chicken tractor, instead. (OK, I wrote a blog post.)
I will briefly update to say:
1. My oldest son, Ethan, is doing great at Arizona State. He is getting all As, and one of his professors loves his writing so much that he is keeping all of Ethan’s writing assignments to use as examples in current and future classes. While this is a particular win for Ethan (and for me, because — yay! I didn’t really suck as a teacher!), it’s a win for homeschooling, in general. Because what does this professor want? Analysis. Synthesis. Excellent grammar. Thoughtful, insightful writing. An understanding of the topic at hand. As a homeschooling mom, this is what I want, too! I’m not just looking for my children to regurgitate information; I want them to understand and to think. Apparently, professors enjoy having students who can do this.
2. My 16 year-old, Grant, is still mostly homeschooling in the traditional way. He is, however, taking two classes at a local two-day-a-week co-op. Honestly, he isn’t killin’ it like I thought he would; it’s a struggle for him. But, that’s a good thing to figure out NOW, as a junior, rather than in his freshman year of college. He still has the Air Force Academy as his goal, and is killin’ it in Civil Air Patrol Cadets, where he is a Staff Sergeant.
3. My son, Wesley, is a freshman at a small, conservative, tuition-free charter school. I have been extremely pleased with the school itself, and shocked, frankly, with how well Wesley has integrated into “the system”. There is one class in which he isn’t doing well — French II — and it’s mostly because of conflict with the teacher, who is pretty hard-nosed. But, I’m fine with that. I’ve told Wesley that, a) it’s an elective, and he’s still actually learning to speak French quite beautifully. And, b) for his whole life, he will encounter people who don’t “get” him, or are otherwise challenging, and learning to adapt and have healthy relationship is at least as important as learning particular subjects. So, overall: he’s doing very well.
4. Audrey is in 4th grade and Fiala is in 2nd. They are both doing excellently in school. Audrey is doing 6th grade math. Fiala can spell as well as a 4th grader. It was my aim for them to have FUN this year; to have a rich, full educational experience. That is happening. Because I couldn’t find a group in my area which was relaxed and social with no fees and no “statement of faith” to sign, I started a homeschool support group. We’re up to 95 families, which is crazy. Not everyone participates in every event, of course, but I organize a weekly park day, a weekly mom’s night grade-and-chat at a local coffee shop, and usually 1-3 additional events weekly. So, we’re busy, but it’s fun-busy. We’ve been to museums and on day trips and to art classes and more. This is exactly the sort of school year I envisioned for them, even if it means that we’re making really slow progress through the structured curriculum we’re doing (old Sonlight Core 2).
5. Jeanie is two years old and absolutely crazy. She is fun, chubby, happy, very active, doesn’t nap well, and has a thing for playing with her poop, which drives me absolutely batty. Yesterday, when I thought she was napping, she actually sculpted a faux hawk for herself with her poop. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!??” I admit I yelled. Holy crap. Literally. It’s one of those things where my previous judgements have come back, in God’s humorous way, to bite me in the butt. Truthfully, when I had previously heard about other toddlers playing with their poop — since none of my kids had ever done that — that there must be something deeply wrong with the family, or with the child, emotionally. Or something. Playing with poop is clearly wrong and disturbed. Well, Jeanie is about the furthest a child could be from “disturbed”. But, she still plays with her poop.
6. Jeanie has been going to the home of a dear friend of mine for two hours, four days a week, and in exchange, I tutor my friend’s great-granddaughter for Kindergarten. She also goes to weekly park day with us, and on field trips. This is the first time I’ve taught a child other than my own. In the past, I’ve declined such requests, because they’re mostly along the lines of, “Hey, since you’re already home and teaching your own children, and public schools stink and private schools are too expensive, why don’t I bring my child over and you can teach her/him for free!” Which I decline. However, this particular plan is going quite well! I’m paid AND my friend keeps Jean, which really makes the whole thing possible. I had intended for Audrey and Fiala to be doing their seatwork (math, grammar/phonics, handwriting, and journal) while I work with our Kindergarten-friend. However, we’re doing Five in a Row (plus Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Handwriting Without Tears). And, apparently, even though my older daughters are nine and seven years old, they still enjoy FIAR books and activities, which, frankly, I didn’t do enough of, with either of them. So, they are reliving kindergarten, and having a blast. (Reminder: Audrey is doing sixth grade math and can spell as well as a 7th grader, and is on-track with her other subjects; doing K won’t damage her education, thankyouverymuch.)
7. My garden is doing fab. The past summer, in my first — 8′ x 12′ — bed, the most successful things I grew were: Clemson Spineless okra — which is actually still growing, here in late October. My okra bushes — five of them — are nearly six feet tall, and still producing, though more slowly, as it has cooled a bit. I also grew Lemon Queen sunflowers, which were amazing — a good 7-8 feet tall. Armenian cucumbers grew wonderfully and were extremely productive. The next-most successful plant was Fonzy Melons, which I grew from saved seed from an organic melon I had purchased early this year. And flowers — Sulphur Cosmos. They made lovely cut flowers all summer and are self-seeding in actually a rather invasive way. It’s a nice problem to have, actually. Oh! And a volunteer spaghetti squash was quite productive. Less successful were banana squash, Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and a musk melon. I had a number of tomato plants come up volunteer — which I’m still growing — as well as a tomatillo plant which grew humungous and was covered in flowers, but never fruited. Dumb waste of space. I yanked it. In the places where I have pulled out and re-prepped the soil in this bed, I have planted Atomic Red carrots, Greyzini summer squash (which will grow here in the winter!), Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach, Super Sugar snap peas, white sweet Spanish onions, and zinnias, all from Pinetree Garden Seeds (which, yes, I know their test gardens are in Maine. But, I’m a sucker for small, family-owned seed companies). I have had a heck of a time getting the carrots and spinach to germinate, but the Greyzini has its first tiny fruit already growing! I have prepared a larger, 12′ x 12′ bed “next door” to my first bed. That sucker took ALL SUMMER AND FALL for me to prepare, as a) bermudagrass is so, so, so, so horridly invasive; b) our clay soil is hard and heavy; c) I worked on it in my “spare” time. The bed is now waiting for me to till in all the amendments. I haven’t done that because a) it has rained so much in the last week that the ground is too wet! and, b) I bought a rototiller and a friend from high school fixed it for me, but our schedules haven’t allowed us to meet up for him to return it! And, I don’t want to till 12′ x 12′ of heavy clay soil by shovel. In the new bed, I’ll be sowing more sugar snaps, Harris parsnips, Ching Chang bok choy, more carrots, Top Bunch collards, a leaf lettuce mix, Cardinal chard, Homemade Pickles cucumbers, more onions, Red Cloud beets, Gaillardia, and nasturtiums. Although I haven’t actually planned out the space exactly to see if I can fit all that into the bed… I might have to pull the okra, which I was considering trying to overwinter.
8. We’re still plugging away at our home remodel. I’m kind of weary of it, so I won’t say much about it, except to admit that it’s still in process.
9. We are still at Vineyard Phoenix and absolutely are in love with our local representation of the Body of Christ. (If you click the link, that is my hubby in the video on the front page.) God is good and moving mightily by His Spirit. People are getting saved and healed. It’s really an amazing church, and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I’m leading worship again at a small home group, which I greatly enjoy. I also am teaching the 4s and 5s Sunday morning preschool class once a month and singing on the worship team usually about twice a month. Our head pastor — whom I’ve known since I was 15 (I’m 42) — stepped down to a semi-decreased, semi-retired role in July, which gives him greater liberty to immerse himself in missions and apostolic ministry. As I type this, he’s in Zambia. My hubby’s best friend, Doug Scott, is now our head pastor. I adore Doug. I’m biased, but…. seriously…. I feel like God has given me absolutely GOLD with the church in which I get to participate.
10. As I mentioned at the beginning…. I’ve been given the go-ahead to start my chicken flock!! I’m super-excited. I just need to go now and get that figured out. 🙂
11. My husband is awesome, and I’m very grateful for him. NOTE: Awesome doesn’t mean perfect, nor does it mean that we don’t work, work, work, work on our relationship. We do. We have ups and downs. But, this November, we’ll celebrate 21 years of marriage that has been profoundly blessed and is the result of two people loving Jesus and not giving up on each other. HALF OF MY LIFE will be with that man, and it has been an honor.
My love and blessings to each of you who have read through this.
I truly still love writing. I’ve just been insanely busy. My load right now is somewhat lighter, which allows me the luxury of reflecting, here in my neglected blog. (Note: I have no idea why the sizes of fonts change throughout this post. Rather than taking the time to figure it out, I’m leaving it. Sorry-not-sorry.) Edited to add a few more things about Fiala, and to note that you may click on each picture to enlarge it, if you care to.
- My oldest son, Ethan, did receive the scholarship he was hoping for, to attend Arizona State University. I am part of a couple different groups where homeschooling parents support each other, especially where prep-for-college is concerned. I’m struck again and again how, as a homeschooling mom of a senior, it seems like the college admissions process is WAY more about how prepared and organized **I** have been as my child’s mother/teacher, and much less about how well-educated my son is. I’m happy to report that, even though I have discovered, in retrospect, that there are a hundred things I could have done better or differently, what Ethan and I did, together, was exactly right for what he needed. I’m feeling the mercy of God on that one, because truly, I’m not kidding about those “hundred things”. Ethan turns 18 this month. He isn’t altogether eager to transition to adulthood; it’s challenging for all of us, to be frank. I have told him, “We’ve never parented an adult before, please bear with us.” We’re all learning. It’s funny, because I have often urged him to DO HIS OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, because, even though I’m complimented by the fact that he still likes the things I choose for him — it makes me feel like I really know him — it’s healthier for him to be at least a little more independent than where he’s comfortable. So, in light of this, I turned over to him the plans for his birthday party. And, whaddya know? He has planned it for a day when I’m going to be out of town. Not purposefully; that’s just the date that works best with his friends, who are hosting. However, it’s kind of good news/bad news, “You took charge? GREAT! But you left me out of it completely?? Sad face.” LOL!
Grant is my son who will be 16 later this summer. I don’t think I’ve blogged about this, but what I’m going to write about here, about Grant, is kind of a big deal to me. Grant is the opposite of Ethan; he has known for YEARS where he’d like his future to be, what he’d like to do, where he’d like to go to university… He really can’t wait to get on with his adult life. A big part of that includes his plans to attend the United States Air Force Academy. To be completely honest, up until nine months ago or so, I kind of blew that off. It’s hard to get into the USAFA. Really hard. It’s even harder for homeschoolers. And, they don’t just look at academics; they look at the whole person. I had decided, in my own mind, that the chances of Grant getting into the AFA were incredibly slim. However, early last fall, I started to feel convicted. I remember having dreams while in high school, and feeling like no one wanted to help me achieve them. I remember what it felt like to be blown off. So, I started checking things out, what I could do to help Grant gain ground on his goals. I decided that I didn’t want to be an impediment to his hopes; I wanted to assist him in every way possible. So, I signed him up for the Future Falcons at the USAFA website — which is kind of a Big Deal, as it is super-official; you need the child’s Social Security number, even! I downloaded the 21-page “Instructions to Precandidates” pdf and we mapped out his sophomore to senior years of high school accordingly. And, I looked into getting Grant involved in an Air Force-related program. I first thought of Junior ROTC… But, then, I heard about Civil Air Patrol Cadets from some other homeschooling moms. Long story short, Grant has only been in CAP Cadets for a little over six months, but he is excelling. He’s actually at a week-long semi-boot-camp experience called “Encampment” at Fort Huachuca as I type this. Grant still has a long way to go, and many smaller goals to achieve before we can even apply to the Academy. But, all of us feel pretty good about his chances, which is 180° from where we were, about a year ago. In this coming school year, Grant’s junior year, he will be taking two classes at KEYS — a two-day homeschool co-op — and the rest at home. Grant will be taking Honors Chemistry and College Lit and Composition. Frankly, these are two teaching-intensive classes, and I was looking to outsource the most mom-dependent classes for Grant. Additionally, we’re looking at having Grant take all of his classes for his senior year at a local community college, and we wanted to ease his transition. Other than American History, Grant won’t need much from me in the coming school year; his other subjects — French, Economics, Algebra II, and a couple of others, won’t need a lot of input from me. I’m totally OK with that.
My son Wesley will be in 9th grade in the fall, which hardly seems possible. He’s the youngest of our three sons, and it is a challenge for me to not think of him as “little”. He has had a massive growth spurt this past year, and his voice has dramatically deepened. Whether I’m ready or not, Wesley is no longer little. He is an excellent big brother to our toddler, Jeanie. He’s in the teen youth group at church. It just feels odd to me, still. Through much thought and research and prayer, we have decided to try Wesley at an “brick and mortar” school for this coming fall. None of our kids have ever gone to a “real” school before. But… I have long felt that I just don’t quite speak Wesley’s educational language. He hasn’t suffered under my instruction, and testing shows he is on course or ahead for his grade level. However, I don’t feel like I’m best-suited to maximize his potential, since his potential is in areas where I’m not strong. There is a charter school (publicly funded, privately run) less than a mile from us; I have checked them out before, and I like their literature-based, liberal arts approach. It’s a small school: this coming year, they’ll very likely have less than 150 students, only 9th – 11th graders. Most kids bring their own lunches (which seems trivial, but with Wesley’s celiac disease, dairy allergy, and peanut allergy, I didn’t want him to feel like he’s the odd man out, bringing his own lunch every day). And then, a good friend of ours took a job as the English teacher there. This man is everything you’d hope for in a teacher: brilliant, kind, patient, thoughtful, a good leader…. I do believe he’d be an excellent teacher for Wesley for English, which has long been Wes’ poorest subject. The daughter of that teacher, as well as another friend of Wesley’s, will also be attending the school. My husband Martin and I have discussed, toured the school together, talked on the phone with the principal, e-mailed back and forth with staff, read every click on the school’s website, and PRAYED. However, neither of us have felt any strong inclination or direction from God. We both feel like He’s saying, “All right. It’s up to you. You can give it a shot.” I’d feel a thousand times better if I had heard something more specific than that. But… It’ll do, for now. This next week, I’ll be enrolling Wes.
This past year was our busiest ever, for school. With Ethan as a senior, Grant as a sophomore, and Wes in 8th grade, there were far too many days when Audrey (who just finished 3rd grade) and Fiala (who just finished 1st) would just do seat work — phonics, math, journal, and a couple of other subjects where they can work largely independently, with little help from me. In other words: the bare minimum. I have no doubt that the girls’ educational skills are up to par, or perhaps beyond their typical peers. However, I want a richer, more robust school experience for them. With Ethan at college, Grant working mostly-independently, and Wesley enrolled in a charter school, I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to a hands-on school year for the two “big” girls: art projects, science experiments, field trips, actually READING THE READ-ALOUDS in our curriculum! It should be a wonderful year. As stated in the caption of the pic at left, Audrey — who turned nine years old a couple of months ago — is artsy, funky, fun, and LOUD. All the boys did Rosetta Stone French this year, and Audrey joined in, as well. I am tickled to hear her lovely little French accent. It’s charming. Fiala, who is six years old, is loving, thoughtful, intense, unique, and can be petulant and impulsive. She loves swimming, loves playing dress up and changing her clothes in general — her clean, folded laundry stack is ALWAYS taller than anyone else’s. She loves waking up earlier than any of the other children and coming into my bed to “snug” with me. It doesn’t usually happen like that, but it’s a good day for Fi when it does. All in all, she is a delight of a child, my little green-eyes-freckle-nose, as I often call her. If Fiala was in a public school, she would have been in Kindergarten this last year, as she has a late-fall birthday. That seems crazy to me, as she was well-ready for first grade work.
Jean will be two years old next week, which also seems crazy. I tell her that if it wasn’t for her screeching in restaurants and playing with her poop, she’d be a perfect child. Seriously: up until now, my sixth child, I have had NO children interested in their poop. Jean, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand what “gross” means. So, when she takes a nap, I have to put this ONE outfit on her, every time — it’s a BabyGap long-legged, button-up, one-piece, short-sleeved cotton romper. It’s the only thing that doesn’t allow access to her diaper area. Actually, “Pull-Up area”, as she is nearly completely potty-trained. We went from cloth diapers to early potty training in December, and I rejoiced, but it has taken her A Very Long Time to be serious about it. She just isn’t serious. She is a joyous little bundle of… everything. She’s still chubby and overall large for her age. She has a passion for Bubble Guppies, swimming, and dancing. She is bossy. Charmingly bossy. “Hum!” she will demand, which is Jeanie-speak for, “Come!” She will pull on your hand and do everything she can to make you comply. Or, “Hi! Hi!” she will insist, patting the seat next to her. For unknown reasons, “Hi! Hi!” means, “You sit HERE, NOW!” Or, “Tiss!!” meaing, “Kiss!” Then, “O’er side!!” Meaning, “I want a kiss on the other cheek, as well!” We all adore Jean.
- This past spring just about did me in. I always felt like families who couldn’t eat dinner together were doing something wrong. Well, guess what? We became that family in 2015. Sunday nights, Martin often has events at church to attend. Monday nights, I take Grant to CAP Cadets and usually sit in a nearby coffee shop, grading papers for the 2.5 hrs of CAP. Tuesday nights, Martin led worship at a weekly small group. I was leading worship just on Wednesday nights, until a group got too big and needed to multiply, but didn’t have a worship leader. I agreed — just for the spring — to lead worship in that group, as well. So, from the end of February to the beginning of June, I was gone both Wednesday and Thursday nights. Additionally, I started hosting a CSA/farm share again for a local organic farmer, every Wednesday. I had kind of taken an six-month hiatus, but started up again in April. And, Ethan works three nights a week at Sprouts. Martin has a fairly long commute, and often isn’t home until 6:00 or so… It became like passing the baton, and the 30 minutes we’d have together before one of us needed to head back out the door was usually not at the dinner table. When you have a family of eight, dinner is loud and usually fun, but it really isn’t the place for Martin and I to connect. I’d have dinner made, but we usually didn’t sit down together. Homeschooling, church, CAP Cadets, three weekly small groups, the CSA, Martin’s commute, Ethan’s work… Lordy, I was stretched. But, small groups take a break for the summer and school is DONE, so my load is infinitely lighter. I feel much freer!!
- My other big things for the spring are: my garden — which is a scaled-down version of my original vision. I have one 8′ x 12′ bed in, and it’s growing wonderfully. I’m working daily (or nearly so) to put in a walk around the bed, and hope to have a second bed ready for mid-August planting. It is so hot here (yesterday hit 115°!!!!) that there is little that will grow in the heat of mid-summer. The bed that is growing, I planted in late April. I can’t really sow anything else until there is hope for cooler temperatures. I have sunflowers, two kinds of melon, Armenian cucumbers, okra, two kinds of heat-tolerant green beans, summer squash, and a winter squash growing, plus a variety of flowers. I also have way too many volunteer tomato plants, whose seed came from my compost, I suppose. I have transplanted as many as possible, replanting and giving away about 20 tomato plants. There are still far too many tomato plants growing in the garden — growing too closely with the other plants. It’s not really the right time to grow tomatoes here — ideally, I would have had them in by January or February. But, I can’t bear to yank them. We’ll see what happens. My garden gives me joy, exercise, and a sense of fulfillment. It keeps me sane. To me, gardening really is a kind of therapy.Of course, all of this is barely scratching the surface. There is much more happening in our home… An upcoming camping trip, me traveling to the Portland area for a girlfriends’ weekend, sewing projects, lots of canning, Bible studies, small and large challenges and triumphs, a continuing home remodel, birthdays — including my own, baseball, me going low-carb again to lose weight, books to read, and more. But, I will call it a day and go swimming with my kids.Blessings to you and yours.
When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children. Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week! But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever. Here’s why:
- Time and priorities. I love writing. But, I also love reading. I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook. I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share). I just can’t do everything, sadly. Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out. I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to. So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging. I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing. So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
- The current culture of blogging. When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”. I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading. In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing. I wasn’t careful at all. I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion. I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words. In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes. However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming. And THEN, you add Pinterest. If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture. So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own. Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
- My mind is blank. JUST KIDDING. Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share… Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!
Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:
- We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating. Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical. That’s why the process is slow: if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster. But, we both care. Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room. It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.
- We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment. Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand. Oh, wait! I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid. It was new in the box… So, I guess that counts as a new purchase. So, purchase #2: a highchair. I can’t wait until it arrives; baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap. That is becoming increasingly messy. I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive. I struck out. So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.
- Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so. I have a few current authors that I follow; I read everything they write. Those tend to be dependable authors; I like their craft of storytelling. However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile. I am enriched by having read that.” Not that they’re trash; they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound. The book I recently finished? Profound. I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems. But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction. Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky? Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information). But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum. When he finished, he handed it to me. “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I think you’d like it.” Which made me love him all the more… And he was right; I did like it. I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling. However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.” It’s rather annoying. I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction. I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine. And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch. I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
- And… This little sweetie. How I adore her. She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep. Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all. You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned. She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family. Everyone is smitten, still. She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle. So, so perfect. Except the sleep thing. I’m tired.
When I make a dish for the family to eat, it’s always my hope that EVERYONE will like it. Something that all seven people at the dinner table will adore has proven rather elusive, however. I now see this as a good thing, mostly. For instance: I made sauerkraut earlier this week, and it is done fermenting today. My 13-year-old son has been highly anticipating its readiness, and is already preparing his sandwich in his mind. He mentioned that he wishes we had ham, but we don’t. So, he’ll have turkey, mustard, and sauerkraut. Not everyone else is so excited. 🙂 But, other family members are expectant of different foods. I am roasting six bunches of small beets right now. My three youngest children are REALLY excited about that. I have received beets a number of times these last few months from our CSA and only ONCE have the beets actually made it into a dish. The rest of the time, after I roast the beets, peeling them becomes somewhat of a party, with everyone popping cooled, newly-peeled baby beets into their mouths, just like candy. I can’t say that I’m disappointed that not everyone feels this way about beets. My husband can’t stand them. My older two boys are rather ambivalent. The rest of us ADORE beets.
- Our new home is an older one, and it is an endless project. We knew it needed more insulation, as some of it was missing in wide swaths, some was thin and compacted, and some of it had shrunk away from ceiling joists and the outer walls. When we got our electricity bill for the time spanning from mid-April to mid-May, and the stinkin’ thing was north of $350 (and that is with our air conditioner thermostat set at 80-81°), that was a wake-up call. Last weekend, my husband Martin, after quite a bit of research (wet-blown cellulose? dry-blown fiberglass? fiberglass batts? do-it-yourself? or hire it out??) he decided to do dry-blown fiberglass, which requires a big machine. The blowing machine is rentable from Home Depot, or free with the purchase of enough packages of insulation. It was quite an undertaking. He purchased a head-to-toe coverall, and with goggles, mask, and gloves, ventured up into the attic. Actually, we have two attics, as part of our home is single-level, and part of it has two stories. It was hours of work. Our oldest son, Ethan, stayed at the ladder and fed the tube up into the attic as needed, and relayed hollered messages to our next-oldest son, Grant, who was feeding the batts into the blowing machine and turning it off and on as needed. At Home Depot, they supplied a cardboard measurement stick, telling us how deeply the insulation needed to be to supply a certain R-value. “How deep does it need to be again to reach R-38?” he asked Grant. “Thirteen inches,” Grant replied. “Good. We have about R-100 in most places,” Martin announced with satisfaction.
In the above pic, you can see a bit of the washing machine, with which I have a love-hate relationship. It is an LG, and when it works, it works WONDERFULLY. However, yesterday, we had the LG repairman out for the SEVENTH TIME in less than a year. Seven times. Granted, his visit on Friday was a follow-up from Tuesday’s assessment, and he was installing the parts that he had ordered on Tuesday. And two of the previous visits were — umm… — due to user error, as a quarter coin had slipped into the wash undetected, and had lodged in such a way that it was keeping the drum from agitating. BUT, this washing machine was the most expensive purchase my husband and I had ever made, barring cars and houses, in our 18 years of marriage, and frankly, I didn’t expect the thing to be a lemon. Or, I don’t know if it’s a lemon, exactly, but it just doesn’t seem that such a high-tech and expensive item should continually require repairs. So now, we are considering purchasing an extended warranty. I have kind of a moral objection to extended warranties. My thoughts are, “BUILD IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AN EXTENDED WARRANTY ISN’T NECESSARY!!!” And yes, this is said while shouting. I’m also kind of upset, because, before purchasing this unit, I did a lot of research to find the right product for our lots-o’-laundry family. This washer had glowing reviews and was universally touted as a heavy-duty, GIANT-capacity washer with few problems, certainly less problematic than a front-loader. However, the LG guy has been refreshingly honest with some information that I wish I had access to before I purchased. He has mentioned that, while the unit is power- and water-efficient, it actually runs better on the cycles which use more water (mostly the “Bulky/Bedding” setting). Also, the heating element in the washing machine, which allows the water to heat up super-hot (in the “Sanitary” cycle) especially for whites and cloth diapers, isn’t particularly powerful, and it takes a LONG time to actually heat the water. In the meantime, as I had observed, the washer just slowly spins, waiting and waiting and waiting for the water to heat, automatically adding MORE time to a cycle that is already THREE HOURS long. I guess I’m not the only LG customer who feels rather crabby about this, because just last night, I saw an ad for a new LG washer that heats up super-hot, but has an incredibly short cycle time. Hmph.
- Another thing I had wanted to add to our home is a clothesline. In our last home, the HOA forbade them. Even in the back yard. This house has no HOA and plenty of space. However, my husband wants to do the clothesline “right”, on its own separate poles, sunk in concrete, on the side of the yard, out of sight. But… that has been added to the very long list of to-dos, here in the house, and we have now been here ten months with no clothesline. So, last weekend, I procured four eye bolts and screwed them right into two trees in our back yard, and strung up some perfect nylon rope, handily left in the shed by the previous occupants. Voila! Clothesline. So, for a little more than a week now, I have been hanging up about 95% of our family’s laundry — everything except my husband’s clothes and the bath towels. Our handy new LG dryer (with which we have had no problems) has a great moisture sensor, and the few items from each load that go into the dryer are completed in about 20-25 minutes, instead of the 50-60 minutes each load was previously taking. A friend on Facebook (well, she’s a friend in real life, but she mentioned this on Facebook) said that she finds hanging clothes to be “meditative.” I didn’t quite understand her at the time, but now I do. I bring out a glass of ice water, put my basket of wet clothes on a chair, and actually enjoy the quiet efficiency of hanging clothes. I’m outside (which I love anyway); the sun is shining on me; it’s a gentle form of manual labor; I feel like I’m…. benefiting our family by saving money on power that would otherwise be spent on the electric dryer; it feels satisfying to provide my family with freshly sun-warmed and sanitized laundry; and it just feels RIGHT to be using the plentiful solar energy here in the desert to dry my clothes. Even when the day is hot (though I typically hang the clothes in the morning or evening), I have my ice water, and when I stand between the lines of damp clothes, the breeze cools and refreshes me… It is, indeed, a meditative activity.
With the Crooked Sky Farms CSA I host, I feel like we have a good plan for what’s going to happen when the baby comes. The sixth week of the summer season is on Wednesday, June 26, and the baby is due on the 27th. And… the baby could come at any time, really. I’ve been anywhere from 11 days early (twice!) to eight days past my estimated due date. While there have been a number of people offer to help, the most promising person is, ironically, a woman with seven kids. She hosts a raw milk pick-up (where I am a customer), so she is rather familiar with the ordeal of people coming to her house over the course of an afternoon and picking stuff up. 🙂 Also, she’s a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose oldest is 16. Just like me! She said that she would be happy to either come to my home and host the CSA for a day, or to even have it at her house. So, the plan is that, if I have the baby on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, she will have the CSA in her home. If I have the baby Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I’ll probably just tuck myself upstairs with the baby and she will stay here for the afternoon, with my kids helping her. If I have the baby on a Sunday, it could go either way. That’s at least the plan. Another woman, who participated in the spring CSA season, sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that she would like to help around the time the baby comes, if need be. I was quite touched by her thoughtfulness. She isn’t participating during the summer because she has her own garden which is being very productive right now — no need to pay $20 for organic veggies if you grow an abundance of your own! I sent her a reply sketching out the basic plan, and asked if she’d like to be back-up, or perhaps be the host (as her home is much closer to mine, and would be less of a deviation from the regular plan for the other CSA members). Anyway. It just feels nice to know that things are taken care of, and that people are kindly offering to help out. 🙂 I feel surrounded by wonderful folks.
- We’re almost done with school. Kind of. Three of my kids will be finished on June 7th, in less than a week! My oldest, who is a sophomore, won’t be done. He got himself behind and will likely be playing catch-up until the end of June. I’m rather displeased with that because, as a homeschooling mom, if he isn’t done, that means that I am not done! But, as he is a sophomore, we can’t just say, “Ah, well. We’ll come back ’round to it in the fall.” There aren’t really any do-overs once you’re in high school. So, he’ll keep working until he’s finished with the year’s curriculum… I will admit that I am very ready for summertime, and I’m very ready to focus on the baby. Two weeks ago, I told my middle boys (8th grade and 6th grade) that they will finish the last three weeks of school primarily on their own. Normally, I do about 60% of their work with them — reading to them, discussing assignments in depth, having conversations about the topics at hand, reviewing their work, etc. But, in order to help me be able to have time to prep for the baby, I was straight-up with them: “Listen, I know and you know that you learn better when we do school together. Having an actual teacher helps you glean so much more out of the material than if you just cover it yourself. However, you will be doing virtually all your remaining work for the year on your own, reading to yourself or reading to each other, because it’s either that or nothing.” That is one of the benefits of homeschooling: You can make it be flexible when you need to. They would learn more if I was more highly involved, so I feel kind of badly. But, three weeks of independent work within a 35-week school year won’t kill ’em, I guess. It’s better than just stopping school. That sounds like I’m setting the bar rather low. Perhaps I am… But, that’s what is necessary for these last few weeks of school. 🙂
I am 31 weeks pregnant. I had two and a half glorious months, post-morning-sickness, where I felt AMAZING. Now, my large belly has caught up with me, and I am feeling rather crabby and swollen and it’s hard to breathe, and I generally feel uncomfortable. I’m also getting exhausted in a way… well, prior to my diagnosis with Celiac Disease, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome*. I remember how it felt in the evening, anticipating even ONE outing the following day, and having to fight despondency, because I knew that ONE outing would wipe me out, entirely. That is where I’m at, now.
Until the last few weeks, the worst I could say was that the mass of varicose veins on the back of my right leg was giving me pain. All things considered, being a 39-year-old pregnant woman, I figured that was quite good. I got my stinkin’ expensive “pregnancy support garment” — which is very much like a girdle, or a compression garment. On one hand, it’s a blessing: It allows me to walk around without feeling like my leg is going to fall off; it minimizes the pain and pressure, as well, from vaginal varicosities. However… it is 80% nylon and 20% spandex which, apparently, my skin doesn’t appreciate. If I wear it for too long, I get hives. But if I’m NOT wearing it, I can literally be on my feet for maybe 5-10 minutes at a time.
I went to Illinois this past weekend. I went to my maternal grandmother’s memorial service and visited my paternal grandmother, who is very ill. I traveled with my sister (who lives in the Phoenix area, as well) and my brother (who drove down from Utah to travel with us). It was, all things considered, a wonderful trip, in spite of the sad catalyst for the journey. I could write for a very long time on my thoughts and the events of the four days, but I likely can’t: My experience is so intertwined with others’, for whom I deeply care. Telling my tale would necessitate telling theirs, as well, and I don’t know if they would appreciate me broadcasting their story; it’s not mine to tell.
Still, in spite of late nights, days spent going hither and thither on necessary business, spending my days in the endless company of others (which generally drains me, as an introvert) — whom I needed to see and wanted to see and LOVED to see, cramming a couple of weeks of events into those four days, in spite of unending exhaustion of both body and mind, an aching leg, and the aforementioned hives, it was an exceptionally worthwhile journey.
I love Illinois. The above picture was taken from the back steps of my aunt’s home. I took it, steaming coffee in hand. The sun was shining, it was about 7 a.m., and the temperature was 35°. The view is a corner of a field, which will likely have corn growing in it within a month or so, and a little pond beyond that. In the timber behind the pond is the remain of an old road, likely last used in the early 1800s. It had rained torrentially in Illinois, the day before our arrival, so the ground was saturated and impassably muddy in many places, and I didn’t own the boots which would allow me to go down that lovely road-path.
My husband, though, is considering having our family return to Illinois for our family’s summer trip this year — which would be our first time as a whole family — and I will most certainly meander down that road…
It shouldn’t be odd that, with the absence of The Mom, there are many things, upon my return, that have needed my attention. Life does go on, even when I’m not here at home. Laundry continues to pile up. Children still need attention in their schooling. The dog’s medicine runs out.
Today was much busier than I would have preferred, even if I weren’t pregnant. So far, I have:
- Gone to a grocery store — needed especially for milk and meat for the week. (In related news, I got three gallons of organic milk for $4.99. This was accomplished due to the fact that Shamrock Farms organic milk was 50% off this week, with the final price of $2.49 for a 3-quart container. Two containers were near their “best by” date, and were marked $2.50 off. In other words, FREE. I figured that even if they went bad before we finished drinking them, no harm done; they’re free. I got two other containers, as well. Four containers, three gallons total, $4.99 spent.)
- Done two large loads of laundry — it’s still not folded, yet.
- Overseen school with my three older children. I will admit my first grader, Audrey, did pretty much nothing today, other than some self-directed art and Lego-building.
- I fertilized my mini-garden with fish emulsion and epsom salts — something that should be done every two weeks, but of which I was very overdue.
- I called LG for my washing machine — again. It keeps having issues. I’ve needed to call them for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting it off.
- I ordered Algebra 2 on Teaching Textbooks.
- I had an overdue, hour-long conversation with another homeschooling mom, helping her (I hope) with some issues she’s having with one of her children.
- I went to Trader Joe’s for more groceries.
- I returned some overdue library DVDs. Yes, even with a smart phone, I kept forgetting to renew our family’s DVDs while I was away, resulting in $7 in new fines. 😦
- I went to the pool supply store and got chlorine tabs and shock. Our poor pool… It really needs a new pump. It is under warranty until July, but a repairman has already been out once, and he said that there’s really nothing he can do, under our warranty, until the pump breaks. If it breaks entirely before July, the $400+ cost of replacement will be covered. If it only limps along inefficiently, as it has been doing, we’re out of luck. I must admit that I am tempted to sabotage the pump to “help” it completely break. My husband, though, man of absolute integrity that he is, wouldn’t hear of such a thing. But, it’s in the 90s now, and our pool-cum-pond is unusable.
- I went to pick up more fluconazole for our dog, Tally, who is still recovering from Valley Fever.
- I stopped by a used furniture store and bought a small chest of drawers for the new baby ($25 — it needs to be either painted or lightly sanded and revarnished — I haven’t decided which, yet). I also bought a very solid, medium-sized bookcase for $35. It has a blond finish, and appears to be from the 60s. It is almost cool. Tomorrow, I will clear out the beleaguered particle board book case which is currently holding most of our school books for this year. It keeps collapsing.
- I still need to shower.
- I need to make dinner — which will be the Crockpot refried beans I made last night, reheating a roasted Costco rotisserie chicken, and likely some roasted beets from the CSA I host each Wednesday. Easy peasy.
- I need to pick out the worship set list for tonight’s small group. It is definitely one of those nights where, if I didn’t have to go to small group, I probably wouldn’t. Frankly, I’d rather put up my feet, watch baseball, and read my current book** during the commercials. When I’m actually there at group, I always enjoy it. Always. But, right now, I am tired, and wish I wasn’t compelled to attend by my responsibilities there…
So, that’s it! That has been my day. Too busy for me. Still not over. But, life could be worse, eh? All things considered, life is still good — many things have happened in the last week that are stellar, and on which I cannot comment.
If you’re still reading, thank you. 🙂 Since it has been nearly three weeks since I posted, I felt that this post was overdue, as well… Not my best work, but it will have to do for now.
Blessings to all my readers, those whom I know personally, and those whose acquaintance I’ve only made through this blog… I’ve been feeling particularly thankful for you, lately.
*Virtually all CFS symptoms disappeared when I went onto a gluten-free diet. I do believe that the underlying cause of my chronic fatigue was celiac disease itself.
**In spite of middling reviews (which I have not read — only noticing it has only about 3.5 stars on Amazon), I am still very much enjoying it. Well, I just peeked at some reviews. It appears that those who love Anne Perry’s mysteries, set in 1800s England, are most disappointed. Perhaps that explains why I like the book: I don’t care for Anne Perry. (I did read her four-book series which was set in WWI, but once the series was completed, decided that any more of Perry would be a waste of my time.)
It’s not quite two p.m. as I type this, but today has been one of the sorts of days that I hope for, but rarely occur. To me, a “good day” is one in which I get things done in the home, outside, with the kids’ school, and that something pleasant happens for me, too. It has a nice pace: Filled, but not frenetic. I hate busy, deadline-driven days. I hate days where I feel like I’m doing stuff all the livelong day but nothing gets accomplished. I hate days in which there is an abundance of strife amongst the children. Today has been good, full of the things I like, and with little to none of the things I don’t. So, I thought I’d document it, if for no other reason, than to encourage myself.
- Let the day begin! The day started just as I prefer: On the back patio, with a cool breeze blowing, coffee mug in hand, reading the Bible. I have an odd (?) affinity for Old Testament prophets, and was reading from Zechariah. Then, my four-year-old, Fiala, came outdoors, sleepy-headed, and crawled up into my lap. It was just right. What started as a bright and breezy morning has turned into an all-out windy, dusty day, but that’s OK. It’s keeping the temps down to the high 70s, which is fine with me.
- Gardening. I am out of large and medium pots, now! In what I semi-affectionately call my “fake garden”, I now have 10 medium or large pots filled with plants and seeds, in addition to my two, 2′ x 4′ planting boxes. Today, after creating a mix of native “soil” (clay, really), compost (from a bag; my homemade stuff isn’t ready yet), and vermiculite in a wheelbarrow, I transferred two large heirloom tomato starts into my last two medium pots. I planted cilantro seed around one and cumin seed around the other. I also transferred three small tomato starts (not ready to plant outside) into larger containers. In related news… I thought that with such a small garden, that there was NO WAY I’d forget what I had planted. Wrong. I have three different kinds of squash (I think) plus a few cantaloupe plants and a couple of cucumber plants, and they all look identical. I have no remembrance about what is planted, exactly, and where. Around each larger plant, I also planted smaller things like chard, scallions, various herbs, and flowers. Some things are pretty easy to tell: Chard, for one. Scallions, too, are pretty apparent. But the various herbs and flowers??? I have no idea. AFTER I had planted cilantro seed around one tomato plant today, I noticed that some seedlings in another pot were getting real leaves. “That looks like cilantro!” I thought, “Or is it parsley??” I sampled it. Cilantro. From now on, I am making markers for each pot.
Yard work. I am happily transforming our back yard. Our home, into which we moved in July 2012, needs some serious work to the back yard. The front, too. But, the back is where the living and the gardening takes place. We have plans to seriously overhaul the back yard, but one bad thing about this being a larger property (almost 1/2 acre) is that the bigger the yard, the more it costs to re-do. We need a pool fence, a completely redone drip irrigation and sprinkler system. We need more trees. We need to install my REAL garden (which, blessedly, my husband does consider a high priority!!). We need to re-do at least some of the landscaping so that grass is not growing right next to the swimming pool. The cool-decking needs redone. We need gutters. The whole yard needs to be Roto-tilled, as the clay soil is VERY compacted. The list goes on. But for now, we’re doing small things. For instance, every Monday, I’ve been moving a sprinkler around the yard. I let it soak a spot for an hour, then move the sprinkler. It has very much greened-up the yard. Regrettably, a good half of what’s growing is weeds. But, when the collection of grass and weeds are mown, as my 15yo son did on Saturday, the yard is looking quite nicely. There are a number of bare dirt patches, still, though. I decided today to start aerating them, to see if that will encourage the grass to spread. Today, I only did a maybe 5′ x 20′ section with an aerator we already had. It’s just a four-prong step-on device.
- Homeschooling. In spite of the above, I still got school done with my four school-age children. Actually, I’m sitting at the dining room table with my son Ethan (who is a sophomore) while he works on science reading and questions… I read in several subjects to my 11 and 13-year-old sons, and gave them instructions for further self-directed work. For my first-grader, Audrey, well… I should have done more with her. I only had her do her workbook items (phonics and math) and then let her play with her new Play-Doh contraption all morning. That’s fine motor skills and creativity, right?? (It was her birthday on Saturday… Can’t believe she is seven!!)
- Laundry. I also washed, dried, and folded a giant double-load of laundry, and loaded the machine with a new load to start tonight, after the electricity rates go back down for the evening…
- Food, etc. I noticed that some red oak leaf lettuce, obtained from the CSA on Wednesday, was looking decidedly water-logged this morning. So, I sorted through that, as well as some CSA spinach, and started a small salad for my lunch, and a large salad for our family’s dinner tonight. And I used up the rest of the Red Russian Kale I had on hand, too, though that went on top my eggs this morning. It feels good to use something completely. I also harvested ten small-to-medium-sized Red Rhubarb Chard leaves this morning to add to the salads. It was the first chard harvest of this spring… I love my organic CSA veggies, but there is nothing better than plucking something from the back garden, which you’ve grown from seed, and nurtured into maturity.
Birds! I finally positively identified a hummingbird that has been flitting around our back yard for the last couple of weeks. It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird. I got to get quite close. “Male, medium-small, short beak, red gorget, throat, and head, green back, wingtips not quite as long as the tail… Think it’s an Anna’s.” Then, I went back inside and checked my Sibley guide. It was an Anna’s. Those are fairly uncommon here — I usually see Black-Chinned or Costa’s hummers. It wasn’t quite as satisfying as ID’ing a new-to-me species, but still very nice.
- Pain. The ONE bad thing about this pregnancy — I am now 28 weeks — is that I have a mass of varicose veins running up the back of my right leg, from my knee area up into my rear. It sucks. It is often incredibly painful. I am WAITING AND WAITING on a stupid, expensive, girdle-looking “pregnancy support garment” that I purchased about two weeks ago. I hope it works miracles. I do take Horse Chestnut Seed extract for leg vein support and pain, as well as cod liver oil to thin my blood. That worked brilliantly until about six weeks ago… Some days are better than others, and today, even though I’ve been on my feet for much of the day, has been good.
- The one bad thing about today: Last week, we took my truck — I call it The Land Barge — in to get fixed, as the RPMs were revving with little corresponding power to the engine. The shop found a cracked gasket somewhere that was letting air into the system. Problem fixed. Except that it wasn’t. On my way to the zoo on Friday (a 25 mile trip), the truck started to lose power and we had to pray it into the zoo parking lot. My husband came to our rescue and traded out vehicles. (Originally, all five children were going to go to the zoo with me, but my husband said that Ethan, our 15yo, needed to stay home and work on school. I wasn’t quite in agreement, but did go along with it. Well, if Ethan HAD been with us, we wouldn’t all have fit into my hubby’s small commuter car! As it was, myself and the four kids fit snugly but fine…) The truck completely broke when my hubby was driving it, and he had to get AAA to tow it back to the shop, which is closed on the weekend. (I don’t mind single-owner, small businesses that close on the weekend and give themselves and their employees a break.) Today, we heard from the shop that they had to take it out for a spin for a good 20 minutes to get the truck to repeat the problem, as no codes were showing up on the computer diagnostic system they use. The good news, I guess, is that the truck DID lose power and they DID determine the source. The bad news is that we need an entire new transmission for the truck. That’s an expensive fix! 😦 One good thing, though, about being 39 and gaining the perspective of years, is that I have seen provide for us NO MATTER WHAT, and I wasn’t worried. No, I don’t know where the money will come from — we’ve been saving money for a tax bill and the midwife — but that’s OK. God still provides, He still takes care of us, and I found myself saying, “At least it broke down now, not on some big, long summer trip.”
- Now, I’m blogging, which I’ve been working at, off-and-on (mostly “on”) for the last hour and 20 minutes… I’m always happy when time allows for that.
- Next, I will sort through Sunday’s coupons and plan my four-store grocery trip, which will be this evening, after my husband comes home from work with the car, instead of this afternoon…
No matter what happens the rest of the day (it is now 4:00), I can look back and say, “Today was a good day.”
I have a one-ish track mind. I tend to bunch my thoughts, my efforts together in one spot… Right now, even though I’m 26 weeks pregnant, and one might think I have, “BABY BABY BABY,” going through my mind, it’s not.
Actually, that’s somewhat of a good thing.
Historically, I start nesting somewhere around five weeks pregnant and it’s all I can do to remain focused and engaged with the rest of my life, responsibilities included, for the whole pregnancy. I tend to spend eight solid months with a nearly compulsive bent toward thinking, dreaming, planning, preparing, for my new baby. I put a huge amount of emotional investment and TIME into it. On one hand, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing. But, when I have other children who need mothering and schooling; when I have a home that needs cleaning and maintenance; when I have a husband who shouldn’t have to fight for my attention; when I have responsibilities at church that need me to NOT be thinking, “I sssooooo don’t want to be doing this;” when I have friends who merit attention, my hyper-nesting isn’t that great of a thing.
So, for me, the fact that this is on the back burner of my mind: I’m going to be adding an 8th member to our family in three months or so… is rather a blessing. I’m not struggling like I usually do with wanting to drop everything and become a hermit in my home and feeling VERY CRABBY that there are other parts of my life that are calling.
I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone.
I, for one, though, am very happy to feel ENGAGED with the world at 26 weeks pregnant*.
- We’re still doing school (though I am REALLY looking forward to our Easter Break next week).
- My home is quite tidy (most of it).
- I’m still leading worship in a weekly small group (though I joked that I might need to obtain a dobro sometime in the near future to accommodate my expanding belly).
- I’m still leading worship twice a month for SuperChurch (the 6-12 year-olds’ Sunday morning service).
- I’m still singing with the “big church” worship team two or three Sundays a month (I keep telling myself that I probably look ridiculous dancing… Oh, well.).
- I’m still hosting the weekly CSA at my home, and even just decided that I’m going to do at least another 12 weeks, shortly after the current season ends on May 1 (even though I’ll have to find an alternate location for while I’m in labor…).
- If anything, I feel MORE connected to both my husband and our five children during this pregnancy. I also feel more peaceful. This is probably my happiest pregnancy ever.
Knowing my history, I wasn’t sure, three months ago or so, that I should do the CSA. I often start well, but don’t finish strong. I get all fired up for one project or another, then start to lose steam… I was more than a bit concerned that this would be a similar endeavor, and then, when I lost focus and dropped the project, not only would I pay for it, but so would the 25 or so other people who were counting on me, and their families…
Also… and this is hard to communicate; I can’t grasp the right descriptive words… But, I was uncertain if the CSA was where God wanted me to invest my time. I long to be fruitful. I want the things I do to have lasting impact. I want my time to be well-spent. I want my involvement with others to have more than just a tinge of “ministry”. I mean… not that I’m trying to make this The Christian CSA with a prayer corner, worship music in the background, and Bible verses plastered all over my fridge — not that at all. But, I wanted this to be worthwhile in every sphere, and I wasn’t certain if hosting the CSA was a good choice in how to spend my time — time which often feels spread too thinly as it is.
So, I prayed about it. “Is this where you want me, God? Is this OK?”
I got no discernible response. I’m not saying God didn’t speak, but if He did, I missed it. I didn’t even feel vaguely “led” one way or another.
I asked my husband — who is well-acquainted with my tendency to rush into projects hard and fast and then feel overwhelmed — what he thought. Honestly, I was a little surprised that he seemed to think favorably about the whole thing.
It didn’t seem like God was telling me, “No,” although a nice, clear, resounding, “YES!” would have made me feel much more confident.
So, I went with my husband’s approval.
I guess I had previously felt that I was hosting the CSA for my own personal benefit. I mean, from the bottom of my heart, I truly want to equip others to eat better. But, I was kind of compelled more by the fact that I would get roughly $40 worth of local, fresh, organic produce for FREE each week, plus earn $1 per person, per week for what seemed like very little time.
I was wrong on nearly all accounts.
In the six weeks the CSA has been operational:
- A couple of weeks, I’ve gotten much less than $40 worth. The remaining time I’ve received FAR more. We’re rolling in veggies, which pleases me to no end.
- I anticipated making around $40/week, thinking we’d have that many participants. However, we started with only 16, and are now up to 24. So, I am not making even enough money to pay the midwife each month, which was my thought going into it.
- It takes much more time than I realized it would. Not only do I devote time “on the ground” from 2:00 – 5:30 every Wednesday, but there is a lot of communication and planning involved, too. I probably spend an additional 3-3½ hours weekly, often more. Seven hours total every week may not seem like a lot to you, but in my world, subtracting seven hours from other things that I could be doing?? That’s huge. That’s a big commitment.
Much more significant, though, is how I have been absolutely surprised by the positive feedback I’ve received from so many of the participants.
I was thinking recently about how, when I started blogging more than seven years ago, I was just compelled to write. It was 100% for my own benefit. I saw blogging as an online version of journaling: simply documenting the time and thoughts as they passed. I wasn’t trying to gather an admiring crowd. I wasn’t trying to change the world. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or even benefit them. I just wanted to write.
Similarly, with the CSA: I just wanted some veggies. Some free, organic veggies.
But with both endeavors, I have been very taken aback by the genuine thanks, the more-than-occasional encouraging note, the thoughtful gestures that have come my way… I never thought — not once — that hosting a produce-pickup was going to make a difference in anyone’s life; I entered into it as rather an indulgence in something of significant interest to me. But, similar to how I am now compelled to continue blogging by the random e-mails that will start off, “Thank you for your post on ______________ . I was in tears because of my situation of __________. I stumbled upon your post, and it was just what I needed, and here’s how it affected me: ______________. It was just what I needed and I can’t tell you how thankful I am.” — I am now compelled to continue the CSA due to letters like this (shared with permission):
You’re a good friend Karen – even if “long distance”. I don’t think I would have stepped into organic thinking without your help and encouragement. The rest of my extended family think I’m nuts…a super picky eater or whatever. But I have strong convictions to take care of the body God blessed me with and it brings joy to my heart hearing my kids happily talk about healthy vegetables during mealtimes! It’s sad. I never knew any fresh vegetables except iceberg lettuce when I was a kid…nothing but canned and always over cooked. Surprisingly I took after my grandma it seems in how I feel about my health and she lived to be 70 even after smoking for 20 years of her life! She found Jesus, quit smoking & drinking cold turkey and lived a life of joy I still remember this day. I guess I’m sharing just to show my appreciation for you Karen. You have made a difference in my life too. I Love you friend.
That made me cry. It also made me think that maybe why God was so silent was because He knew that I was just looking for Him to say, “Yes, it’s OK with me that you have this interest, and yes, it’s OK with me that you invest your time here.” I was just looking for permission. But He was setting me up.
I sent an e-mail of thanks back to my friend and asked her if I could put her story on my blog. She didn’t immediately respond and I got nervous. But, when her reply came, the tears flowed anew.
I would be honored to be a story in your blog – Please feel free to write whatever you wish! Amazing…Our Lord God never fails to love and “push” us into His most blessed plan if just choose to submit! Love you, your thoughts & prayers are never wasted.
I’m an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale… If you click on that link, at least 95% of it is me, to a T.
- They have a strongly-felt internal sense of duty, which lends them a serious air and the motivation to follow through on tasks.
- They place great importance on honesty and integrity. They are “good citizens” who can be depended on to do the right thing for their families and communities. While they generally take things very seriously, they also usually have an offbeat sense of humor and can be a lot of fun – especially at family or work-related gatherings.
- The ISTJ will work for long periods of time and put tremendous amounts of energy into doing any task which they see as important to fulfilling a goal. However, they will resist putting energy into things which don’t make sense to them, or for which they can’t see a practical application.
- Once the ISTJ supports a cause or idea, he or she will stop at no lengths to ensure that they are doing their duty of giving support where support is needed.
- Traditional and family-minded, they will put forth great amounts of effort at making their homes and families running smoothly. They are responsible parents, taking their parenting roles seriously. They are usually good and generous providers to their families.
- They are very hard workers, who do not allow obstacles to get in the way of performing their duties. They do not usually give themselves enough credit for their achievements, seeing their accomplishments simply as the natural fulfillment of their obligations.
It has actually been quite a while since I reviewed what I’m “supposed” to be like as an Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger. But, re-reading that descriptive page makes me appreciate God more: He who made me knows who I am. He knows what I need. He knows what brings me joy. He knows what will surprise me. He knows how to stretch me without breaking me. And He knows just the right time to bring encouragement to me…
*It recently came to my attention that I never stated what this child will be: SHE IS A GIRL. My husband was 100% right. Not only was I pregnant, but the baby is a girl.
SEED GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES!!!!
I have deleted all the non-entry comments so as to get a more accurate count of the entries… Just a note: I tried to contact most folks who put all their entries in one comment to ask them to return and create multiple comments — one comment for each entry, as per the rules. If I wasn’t able to contact you, I’m sorry!! All winners chosen through a random number generator (from http://www.random.org). Oldest entry is #1, newest is #323. First selected gets first choice. I will post both on my Facebook page and on here as I select winners.
- The first winner is comment #64, Melissa K!! The entry that won it was for her subscribing to the Botanical Interests newsletter. She wanted the Can You Dig It? Children’s Gardening Kit for she and her children to use in their new home! (The kit was by far the #1 choice of winners!)
- The second winner is comment #173, Vickie! She said that she would like the Can You Dig It? kit as well, which was the choice of the first winner… So I have sent an e-mail out to Vickie asking her what her second choice would be.
- The third winner is comment #165, Cindy in GA. She also wanted the children’s kit. After Vickie (winner #2) chooses, Cindy will get her choice of the remaining prizes.
- The fourth winner is comment #303, Alex. Alex will get whichever prize remains after Vickie and Cindy have chosen!
I WANT YOU TO GROW THINGS.
I want you to try your hand at gardening, even if gardening means putting a few seeds into a windowsill pot and hoping they sprout.
I have found that most people, when they find I love gardening, say something like, “I’ve always wanted to do that…” Or, “My mother had such an amazing garden. I wish I could…”
There are so many rewards to gardening!! I dearly want to help you overcome the typical reasons I’ve encountered for not gardening, like…
- Not enough space.
- Intimidated by lack of experience.
- “I don’t have anyone to teach me!”
- “I know a lot of people who have tried to garden and failed.”
- Not enough time.
- Not enough money to invest into a garden.
- It just seems like a huge hassle…
Honestly, I’ve had to battle my own gardening challenges and disappointments. The home into which we moved, July 2012, has ample space for a really big garden, but we decided to prioritize remodeling the indoors before we tackle the yard. We live on nearly half an acre, but as I recently blogged, it takes a LOT of work to prepare the soil to grow things, here in the Phoenix area. You can’t just scatter seed and expect it to do something.
So, for the time being, I’ve resorted to container gardening. I have some raised boxes that are currently growing some veggies and herbs, and some containers that are waiting for my indoor starts to be ready to transplant. This almost doesn’t feel like “real” gardening to me, when my previous garden looked like this:
But… I am often encouraging friends to just grow SOMETHING. Just try.
I want to equip you to try your hand at growing something.
I was recently thinking about how much I love Botanical Interests. They’re a seed company whose home is just outside of Denver, Colorado.
- They’re family-owned.
- All of their seeds are non-GMO.
- Many of their seeds are organic.
- Many of their seeds are heirloom (Meaning you can collect, save, and re-plant the seeds from the veggies you grew from the originally-purchased seeds. With hybrids, this is not possible. Being the cheapskate that I am, I save as many seeds as I can, though I have much to learn about seed-saving!!)
- I love that I can find Botanical Interests’ seeds locally.
- They have fabulous customer service.
- The art on their seed packets is gorgeous.
- The information on their seed packets is second-to-none: It is detailed, helpful, and educational.
- I love that their seeds are reasonably priced, even the organic ones.
Having a wee bit of a brainstorm after not winning this giveaway, I thought that perhaps Botanical Interests would sponsor a seed giveaway on MY blog. Happily, they quickly agreed! In fact, they agreed to a BIG seed giveaway!!
There are FOUR separate prizes which will go to four winners and TEN ways you can enter. Yes, you can enter ten separate times. But, you can only win one prize.
First, the prizes (click on the titles for more information from Botanical Interests):
- Can You Dig It? Children’s Gardening Kit. This retails for $29.99 and is a package that includes a colorfully illustrated instruction book, garden supply list, planting map, horticultural glossary, a reusable harvesting bag and garden markers. The seed packets included in this collection are: Carrot Baby Little Finger, Tomato Cherry Gardener’s Delight, Lettuce Butterhead Tom Thumb, Bean Bush Blue Lake 274, Radish Cherry Belle, and Marigold Dwarf Lemon Drop. This would be perfect for a homeschooling project, a weekend family project, or as a project to do with your preschoolers! You and your children can learn together!!
- Water-Wise Flower Mix. Two large packets of seeds, enough to cover a total of about 500 square feet with water-wise color, both annuals and perennials. It contains a mix of 20 different flowers like Arroyo Lupine, Sulphur Cosmos, Orange California Poppy, Moss Verbena, and Pink Evening Primrose. Retail value: $9.98.
- Container Vegetable Seed Collection This collection retails for $15.00 and contains eight packets of seed, all selected to grow well in containers or other small spaces. Included are: Carrot Tonda di Parigi, Cucumber Spacemaster, Kale Dwarf Blue Curled, Lettuce Mesclun Farmer’s Market Blend, Onion Bunching/Scallion Tokyo Long White, Pepper Sweet Cherry Blend, Spinach Lavewa, and Tomato Bush Better Bush.
- Karen’s Selection for February-March planting in the Phoenix area. With a (small bit of) knowledge of what is likely to grow well in the Sonoran Desert, and using the reliable, indispensable University of Arizona Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County, I have personally selected a eleven varieties that are perfect for late-February and/or March planting. Of course, you don’t have to be in the desert to plant these gems, but the seeds, some good compost, some water, and the spring Arizona sunshine should net you some great veggies in a couple of months, right about the time that most people in cooler climates are starting to plant! Nine of the the eleven varieties can be direct-seeded: You plant them directly into the soil of your garden; no need for starting them indoors. Included in this package are: Organic Greek Yevani Basil, Heirloom Pencil Pod Yellow bush beans, Organic Heirloom Gourmet Blend beets, Heirloom White Stem bok choy, Spacemaster cucumbers, Organic Heirloom Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Heirloom Tokyo Long White green onions (scallions), Organic Heirloom Early Jalapeno peppers, Organic Heirloom Cherry Belle radish, Heirloom Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and Organic Heirloom Italian Roma tomatoes. (Approximate retail value $23.00.)
Now… here are the TEN DIFFERENT WAYS YOU CAN ENTER! Please leave ONE comment for each entry. Yes, that means you may end up leaving a whole bunch of comments. That’s OK. There is no maximum number of times to enter; I would be tickled if you did every single thing on the list. Also, if the entry requires you to take some action, do it BEFORE you comment. In each comment, tell me what you did.
- Post a comment below telling me which prize you’d most like to win, and why.
- Like Only Sometimes Clever on Facebook.
- Like Botanical Interests on Facebook.
- Post a link to this contest on your personal Facebook profile. (Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1wkS-Z2)
- Post a link to this contest on your Facebook page — other than your personal profile (for instance, if you own a company, or have a blog, or moderate a group that has its own Facebook page).
- Post a link to this contest on Pinterest.
- Write a little blurb and include a link on your personal blog.
- Send out a Tweet promoting this contest with a link.
- Download a PDF catalog or request a print catalog from Botanical Interests.
- Subscribe to Botanical Interests’ eNewsletter. (Enter your e-mail address in the box on the right-hand side of Botanical Interests’ home page.)
Contest ends at midnight, Mountain Standard Time, on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.
Four winners will be selected at random on Thursday, February 14. I will contact the winners by e-mail, so make sure you include a valid e-mail in your comment registration. First selected will have first choice, second will have second, and so on.
If winners do not respond within three days, I will select a new winner (or winners) at my discretion. All prizes will be awarded.
Giveaway open to legal United States residents aged 18 and over.
Odds of winning depend on how many entries are received.
Winners agree to have their first names and locations published here on Only Sometimes Clever.
This contest is being sponsored by Botanical Interests, and the prizes provided by their generosity. However, I am not being compensated for this in any way!! It really is because I want you to GROW SOMETHING!!!
Sponsored by Botanical Interests, Inc. 660 Compton St., Broomfield, Colorado, 80020