Friday, July 29, 2011

No time for priorities....

   I can hardly believe that it's been more than 2 weeks since I made a goal to blog everyday..and guess what?  I have only blogged 4 times since I made that goal for myself. 

   The other thing I can hardly believe is that my summer is nearly over and I am not going to get much done after all.  I had a list of goals and a plan, but nothing worked out the way I planned it.  The one thing I forgot to include in my plan was that my kids take up a lot of my time even when school isn't in session.  When summer finally arrives after working so hard at school for 9 months it feels like I have oodles of free time, but that gets eaten up rather quickly once the kids start adding activities to it.  And me too, there are some things this summer I didn't plan on doing that fell into my schedule and ate it up.

   I am a big believer that we make time for the things that are important to us.  That can be very convicting on the days that I just waste time (and thanks to Facebook and email those days are out there).  But what is frustrating to me is that some days I actually did get all my scrapbooking stuff out only to get nothing done on my scrapbook.  Or I managed to get a few stitches into the blanket I am still trying to finish, but that was it.  It makes me feel like I can't accomplish anything that's important to me.

    But then I remember the reason for so many of the things that interrupt my "important" projects.  Things like swimming with friends instead of hanging out at home.  Things like driving kids to lessons and activities.  Things like weeding my garden and cleaning.

   As it turns out the things that interrupt so many of my projects are actually my priorities.  God has given me a home, a family and friends.  Cultivating and managing those things take up valuable time, but they take up valuable time because they are valuable things.   Running a household with 6 children is no small task.  Making my husband feel loved and cherished instead of doing a project is indeed a worthy goal.  My friends fill my life and I need them, and sometimes they need me. 

   As I look back on it I think my summer goals were a bit misplaced.  I did want to use the extra hours I had to catch up on some things.  That is a worthy goal.  Honestly, sometimes it is hard to focus when there are so many unfinished projects hanging over my head.  Having a few things off the table would make my next school year run smoother.  And honestly a few of those projects, if finished make my kids feel special.  Scrapbooking takes time, but I know that for my kids being able to sit down and see their life in pictures not only helps them remember--it also makes them feel important that I want to document their life.  If I did manage to finish my son's baby blanket this summer he would also feel special. 

   But still I know my son would prefer that we go to the park than that we sit at home so I can cross-stitch.  I know my kids would rather go to the pool than watch me scrapbook, after all there are no pictures to put in the scrapbook if we never go anywhere. 

   When I think of my summer this way I don't feel cranky at all.  I feel like there were some things I accomplished.  Actually everyday I manage my home and provide love for my kids is a day that I have done something worthwhile, even if it feels like nothing.  My kids had some wonderful experiences this summer that they wouldn't have had if I wasn't willing to drive them there (or make arrangements for them to get there). 

   I think when I sit down to make my school-year goals next week I will put the people first and the projects last. Then that will help me remember that  I do actually have time for my priorities...I just have to remember what they are.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Building character with laundry detergent?

    Several years ago when my in-laws moved out of state they offered us some of the items they no longer wanted to keep.  There was a period when we moved four times in 3 years, so I now have a policy to de-clutter often.  So, I turned down most of their offers.  However, there was an old game based on character traits that we decided to keep.

      We only played the game a few times, but my husband's aunt suggested that we pick one character trait for the week.  Sometimes our character trait hangs up for a little longer than that, but we try to change them frequently.  That way some weeks we have to work extra hard at character traits we aren't good at, and some weeks we can focus on those that are our strength.

    There are some character traits in the box that I hadn't thought much of.  Two of those are resourcefulness and thriftiness.  Good things to be, but I guess I never thought of them as character qualities.  It makes sense when you think about it, since a person who is wasteful (the opposite of resourceful) or extravagant (the opposite of thrift) often lacks discipline and self-control.

    In my experience most homeschool moms don't spend on things that aren't necessary or throw things out that we might still be able to use.  (Although we need to be careful not to hold on to everything...often we can use it to bless others).  So, when we came upon resourcefulness and thriftiness I thought it would be an easy week for me, since we already practice that by sheer necessity.

    However, I have discovered that as thrifty as we homeschool moms can be there are always more ways to cut corners.  Some things don't work for me, but some things I have really enjoyed.  So, I cut my boy's hair (because it's easy and they mostly prefer buzz cuts), but I don't cut my daughter's hair, or my own (though I did attempt that a couple months ago to see if it was worth saving money...and I actually wrote about that on my blog).

    In the last year I have decided to try to see if there were ways that I could save money cleaning.  I am already the electricity police, so my family didn't need any more of that.  (Although this winter I am thinking of trying some other things to keep our energy costs low).  So, last year I started making my own laundry detergent to see how I would like that.

     I used the Duggar's recipe, but at the time I couldn't find a single bar of Fels Naptha, so I bought a package of them.  The soap seems to work just as well as regular laundry detergent.  It doesn't get out all the stains without pre-treatment, but neither do any of the name brands.   I only had a couple issues with it.  Number one, because it's a bit more watery than what I'm used to I used too much at first because it didn't seem like it would be enough.  Secondly, there are a few odors that it just doesn't remove.  That may not be everyone's experience, but I had some clothes that still smelled when they were dry.  The easiest solution to this problem was to add some baking soda to the laundry.  So, I pour in the detergent and then a couple small scoops of baking soda.  I made a new batch last week, this time using Ivory soap.  I have to say I like the Ivory better than the Fels Naptha soap.  It's easier to grate and it leaves a slight scent to my clothes.  I once added some essential oils to a batch of the Fels Naptha to make it scented, but the one I chose didn't make much difference and I never tried anything else.

       Anyway, I have been pleased with the batch made with Ivory.  I have also tried homemade powdered detergent.  It doesn't last as long, but it is quicker to make in a pinch.  This is what I do if I run out of detergent during a busy season (like when my kids are in a play and have 3 dress rehearsals in a week).

     Besides that, which has actually saved me a lot of money (since I do around 600 loads of laundry a year) I also stopped using fabric softener.  For one thing I found out from a friend that there's formaldehyde in it (she can't use it because she's allergic to formaldehyde..which is in more things than you want to know by the way).   It also made me a bit nervous that it doesn't really list any of it's ingredients on it.  And our friend who fixes appliances told us that it's bad for our washer.  Since it's so "gloopy" it doesn't rinse well, so it can cause build-up in our washer.  Anyway, I use vinegar now.  Vinegar still softens the clothes and removes static.  It seems surprising, but it doesn't make the clothes smell.  The strong vinegar smell evaporates and so your clothes don't stink.

   Last week, I decided I would try to make a few more changes in an attempt to save money on cleaning supplies.  I don't spend a ton on that, but I did have a slight downfall I wanted to correct.  When my kids were smaller and I needed help cleaning the house I bought a Swiffer Wet Jet.  We had hardwood floors at the time and my kids couldn't wring out a mop very well by themselves.  I have replaced it a couple times as well, because it got broken.  We don't always buy the spray that comes out automatically.  A lot of times I have my kids spray the floor with a vinegar/water mix and then mop (but apparently they find this really annoying as they mention it to me every time they have to do it).  We also tried using rags or paper towels instead of the disposable pads, but it doesn't work well (and my kids find this more than crosses the line into highly irritating).

   So, last week I went to the store looking for some washable pads that would fit on the swiffer and instead bought a whole new mop.  I did find washable microfiber pads that would fit the swiffer, but I also found a mop where you can add your own cleaning solution and it sprays from the mop. (Even better, unlike the swiffer it doesn't require any batteries).  I knew this way all of us would win.   My kids won't be irritated at having to hold a spray bottle in one hand and mop with the other, now they can spray from the mop (just like before), but I don't have to buy an expensive cleaning solution (which in my opinion also smells like it has a lot of chemicals in it).   I also bought a rag for my kids to clean the windows with, so we won't go through a whole roll of paper towels.

    So far these changes were easy.  I wouldn't mind doing a bit more work if necessary to save some dough, but since my kids know there's an easier way they would rather trade money for convenience.   The only cleaning supplies I'm not ready to give up yet are in the bathroom.  Scrubbing bubbles cleans my bathtubs so quickly that I just don't want to have to trade to something where I will have to scrub more to get that bathroom ring off (I'm working on convincing myself).  The other thing is the disposable disinfecting wipes.   I have 5 boys, and the only way I am going to get them to clean up their mess in the bathroom is if it doesn't take them long to do it.  Their bathroom is 10 times cleaner since I bought those (and since I made the boys start cleaning it themselves), and that is worth the money.

   I am sure a lot of you moms out there are even more frugal than I am.  I would like to be more frugal in the kitchen, but I am not a good cook, so I can't make things from scratch (well I can, but my kids would gladly tell you stories about that).  Some of you may be less frugal.   I certainly don't think that buying laundry detergent makes you extravagant or wasteful.  I do think though that when we think of thrift as a character trait it can help us to examine where in our lives we could be more careful with our resources that God has given us. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal 7/17/11

In my life this week...

    Well, I vowed to blog everyday for the next month, which is already not working since we ended up having a couple of days that were busier than I expected.  I wanted to blog every day because I have been putting it off and then it isn't getting done at all, however Friday and Saturday were days that I don't think a supermom could've blogged on. 

  I did, however, manage to make some headway on some of my summer "to-do's" as several of my other homeschool mom friends did (both in real life and in the blogosphere).  Perhaps we are all feeling the time crunch.  This week I did 10 scrapbook pages and made 3 batches of laundry detergent.  Two of the batches were powder (which only takes about 10 minutes and doesn't last as long), but with that I am hoping that we will be well into January before I have to make any more.  I tried a different soap this time and I am liking it much better.

I am inspired by...

   In church today one of our pastors preached about earth being our temporary home and looking forward to heaven.  It was both a good reminder to not get so caught up in all the little details I have to manage here, but also a reminder that someday we all die, and there are some things I need to tell those I love (and people I don't get along with either for that matter)

I'm grateful for...

    This week I had 3 of my kids out of town (camp, missions trip, visiting family) and my mom took one for a whole week to help him do some work around her house.  So I was thankful for friends who took my other two children to do fun things and just hang out with their families.  I love it when other people give my child an experience I wouldn't have been able to, and I appreciate the perspective it gives my kids to be around other families.  I was thankful for a couple afternoons without kids, but I also find that when I spend too much time by myself it makes me more resentful of all the things I have to do when my "real life" returns.  Guess that's something I need to work on.

Questions or Thoughts I Have...

   Several things, some of which I am just going to have to wrestle with myself.  For one thing I am trying to decide which activities are the better choices for us in the fall and I am having trouble making up my mind.  

    Secondly, I am having trouble getting some graphics to show up in the blog posts themselves.  I am not sure how to fix that, but I am hoping to figure that out this week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don't Forget the Little People

   It was hard for me to figure out what to blog about today.  I have a list of things I would like to blog about (as I'm sure most bloggers do), but I had one of those days where I was behind the eight ball most of the day.  I was running late, messed up dinner, got cranky with my kids, etc.  Those kind of days make me feel like not blogging, because what possible advice could I offer other homeschool moms, except maybe what not to do.

     However, the day didn't start off badly.  I joined some other homeschool moms for breakfast.  This summer we decided that it would be fun to do a mom's breakfast every couple weeks.  We do a potluck type breakfast, and kids are welcome.  For the moms who don't have the room for a lot of people we meet at a park and bring breakfast there.  

    Most of the moms there today had younger children (younger elementary, preschool, toddlers and babies).  It reminded me of when I was in that stage of my homeschool journey and how much I needed the support of other moms, especially "veteran" homeschool moms.  It was so hard to make connections and feel like I was doing the right thing when I didn't know anyone else who was homeschooling.

   I think about this topic off and on since I help lead a support group.  I plan activities and field trips, but since my kids are older I don't always have activities that include the younger moms.  I don't leave them out on purpose, we just aren't always doing things the younger kids can do.  It can be a challenge to plan an activity that my older kids can't (or don't want to attend).  For instance my teens aren't excited about going to a Play Place.

    So, I do my best to try and encourage these moms, and stay in touch with them, since I remember how much I needed someone to say, "You can keep doing this."  But I wanted to encourage other moms to do that too.  Don't forget the little people, the moms who are just starting out and need encouragement and connections.  Even if our kids aren't the same age I know it gives other homeschool moms comfort knowing that if they show up at an activity they will know somebody.

   Some of the ways we can help these moms is to help them get plugged in.  If we know two moms with kids the same age, or two moms who have only children we can introduce them and try and help them connect.  We can send emails or make a phone call to see how they are doing, how homeschool is going.  We can tell them the things we did to make connections, to help our kids find friends, etc.  

     We had a mom leave our group recently.  She was having a hard time finding other moms with younger kids to connect with.  After she left we had an influx of moms with younger kids.  So, I sent her an email and let her know there were some younger moms and that I hadn't forgotten about her, etc.  She told me that she had found another group and made some connections, but she said something else that stuck with me.  She said that if she had still been seeking to connect with others my email would have been a lifeline to her, and she appreciated that I was concerned for her well-being. 

   It made me think, "Am I being a lifeline to the moms who are newer to this?  Am I being a lifeline to the moms who just moved here and are trying to find connections for their kids again?"  I wanted to put this out in the blogosphere to encourage other moms to do this too.  Homeschooling is a LONG journey (as is motherhood in general), and we all start it at different stages.  Some of us start at the very beginning and some pull their kids out in elementary, or Jr. High.  We may think we don't have anything to offer, but sometimes being a listening ear is all that another mom needs.  Someone to say, "That sounds tough," or "I'm sorry you had to deal with that."  I read recently that women process our feelings by talking, and that our husband's brains are actually not capable of dealing with the amount of words that we speak in a day, nor the amount of emotion that we sometimes throw at them.  I'm not offering this as an excuse, just an interesting observation that sometimes our husbands physically cannot process these things as fast as we can.  If we give them too much they stop listening because they have to.  This is a good reminder to be concise, but what it really made me realize is that we need other women to process our feelings to, or a prayer journal or a blog.   Maybe we can be that for other homeschool moms as well.

   So, this week I am going to try to reach out and be a lifeline (or at least a sounding board) for one mom.  I hope that you will consider doing that as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not knowing where to begin

   Really most times that I sit down to blog it's a post that has been running through my head all day.  Something that came up that I started thinking about and just had to share.  The last couple weeks though I haven't had any idea what to write about.  I do keep a list of things to write about, but none of them seemed "inspiring" to me.   I knew that if I sat down and started typing there would be something to say, but since I wasn't sure what I would have to say I did nothing.

   My "real" life is like that too.  I have a whole list of things I would like to get done, and I know if I just get started then something will get done.  But sometimes I am afraid that I won't have time to finish, so I would rather not start, and sometimes I am not sure how to tackle the task, so I do nothing instead.  And a lot of the time I am just not excited about doing it.   It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because I know that making the effort feels good even if I get nothing accomplished (most of the time anyway). 

   Today there are no children in my house.  This rarely happens.  I did have grand plans today.  I had a few things to catch up on and then I was going to scrapbook.  However, it's 5:30 now and I have yet to get my scrapbook stuff out.   I needed to make another bath of homemade laundry detergent today and I did that.  And now I am blogging which I also wanted to stop neglecting.  But my scrapbooks didn't get brought out yet because I went out and dipped in the kid's wading pool and read a magazine.  Not productive at all, and I am glad we have a privacy fence as my neighbors would surely have gotten a laugh out of me sitting in the kids pool.  But, I was hot and I can never cool myself off in their pool when the kids are home, because I get splashed.  Not to mention who could read with kids running around outside?  Whenever I try that I almost always end up reading the same sentence over and over until I want to cry (and not only does that freak the kids out, but I also don't want them to think that I am the kind of mother who would rather read or do "my stuff" than watch them play and hang out with them).

   So, this what my summer has been like.  I have a list of goals and things I would like to do, but so far I don't feel like I've gotten anywhere and school starts SOON!  I am actually not really sure when I'm going to start school, but I do suddenly feel like time is running out on me.  And not knowing where to begin has really left me with not doing much of anything (now since I rarely get to do hardly anything that is it's own blessing I suppose). 

    So, my plan for the next month is to give myself specific tasks to do each day to get my goals done.  For example I have 2 boxes full of magazines that I need to go through.  I am using them for a craft for the preschoolers at church and I am cutting letters out of them, and pictures of children.  Doesn't seem like a big deal except that those magazines have been sitting in my basement since April.  I decided I am going to get rid of them this summer.  I decided that I would do at least 2 magazines a day.  Now, I still have 2 boxes sitting in my basement, but the piles in them are getting smaller.  So, if I do the same thing with scrapbooks and my other goals then I just might get somewhere.   So, for the next month I am going to make myself blog every day even if it's really short and dumb (wish I could think of a more creative word than that).  Please feel free to skip the dumb posts.  I am hoping by doing this not only will I get in a good habit of writing every day, but also of organizing my thoughts, becoming more concise, and getting some good ideas.  (When I am blogging I always seem to think of things I would like to write about). 

   So, here's to coming up with a place to begin, because a little something done every day can end up being a big thing.  Hoping big things (or at least accomplished goals) come out of me tackling my little projects one little step at a time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I left my heart in...Sacramento?

   I recently returned from a short visit with a friend who lives near Sacramento.  I should point out that this visit was without my 6 kids.  My husband took care of them while I was gone.  He took them to all their events and even found a replacement vehicle for us while I was away (since our car was recently totaled in an accident).

     The last few months our family has been struggling with some trials and when I shared that with my friend she offered to let me use some frequent flyer miles to come out and visit her.  It was meant to be a break for me, to give me a chance to pull myself together...and it gave me something to look forward to even on days that were a challenge around here.

    I expected that the visit would give me a chance to hang out with my friend and relax, and give me a little bit of breathing room.  However, I was surprised by the way that God grew my heart while I was down there. 

     So, I wouldn't say that I left my heart there...but I did come back with a different heart.  I had some time to get some perspective and it changed some of what my struggles were.  Here is what I learned in Sacramento:
  1.   I live in Colorado and being in the mountains is one of my favorite places to be.  However, I haven't seen the ocean in 10 years and I was reminded of how wondrously our world was created and how magnificent and beautiful it is....which made my heart grateful.
  2.   My friend moved back to Sacramento a couple years ago and in the meantime we have made do with phone conversations (which doesn't always work with small children).  On the drive to San Francisco (which is an hour and a half from her house) we were able to really talk.  In phone conversations there is no body language for me to gauge if it's okay to ask certain questions, not to mention that I can't give a hug over the phone and sometimes there aren't the right words to say.   As a result I feel more connected with my friend, more a part of her life...this made my heart feel less isolated.
  3.   My friend has a 3-year-old son with autism.  She also has a 1-year-old.  This visit was a chance for me to see into her life.  On the phone and through emails she communicates that sometimes her life is stressful, but I got to see firsthand what that means.  Now I can see not only how frustrating it can be, but how good of a job she does.   This made my heart more understanding.
  4.   Seeing my friend struggle with her son's autism made me realize that God gives us all something.  It has been hard to struggle these last few months, and sometimes in my frustration I have felt bitterness at the ease that others seem to have.  Seeing my friend's life firsthand made me realize that even though my struggles are different I am not alone in facing things that sometimes seem to be more than I can bear.  This made my heart feel peace.  
  5.   Getting a chance to be in my friend's house and in nearly every aspect of her life allowed me to see her in a way that I hadn't before.  Being with her I realized that sometimes in a way to make her feel better I want to make her feel like her life is normal.  I want her to feel that her son with autism behaves like other kids, that he is a normal child.  However, after being there and seeing some of his therapy I realize that he isn't normal.  I'm not saying that in a bad way, I just realized that he will always be different, and for my friend raising him her parenting will never be the same as mine.  My attempt to make her feel normal actually makes me seem dismissive of her concerns.  This made my heart compassionate and it has caused me to think of other ways that I might dismiss the pain of others unintentionally.
  6.    My husband and kids did fine without me physically, but upon coming home I realized that having me gone was hard for them.  Not that I think I shouldn't have gone, but it made me realize again the effect that I have on my household.  The spiritual presence that I bring to this house is different than what my husband brings and I realized how much my family needs that.  That made my heart feel renewed.
    Those are just brief thoughts, but it has been amazing to me how much God could grow my heart in just a few days away from home.  How much my perspective could change in 100 hours.  Even after being home for several days now I am still reflecting on how to express how I felt about my vacation and what to tell others when they ask about it.