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Monday, January 9, 2017

He's in the Details.

This last week was rough; honestly, I just wanted to flat out run away from it all. Good things happened, but also discouraging things: too many details to list the drama. Also, my heart was heavy for friends who lost their mother and other friends who lost their brother/uncle.

Things can be so stressful sometimes.  At times I feel like I will never get to do one thing without being continually interrupted; I'm thrown into a life of changing gears. A mother continually adapts to everyone else's needs. Sometimes I get on a discouragement trip and start thinking that no one even sees me. I'm invisible to the people I live around; they only need me because they need what I have to offer- my services. The food, companionship, clean laundry, a clean house, teaching/instruction, and juggling/management abilities- like driving the "taxi" & the "ambulance". 

This mother/wife role can be so exhausting. Sometimes you feel very unappreciated, taken for granted, or to put it bluntly- your needs are just completely ignored. News flash, ALL of the mothers before us had moments like this too. I try to comfort myself with this knowledge when I'm feeling particularly taken advantage of. Of course, it's also neat when things happen that open my eyes to the greater purpose of this whole journey. Like what happened yesterday. 

What happened yesterday caught my attention. A long while back one of my women's groups that I'm part of gave each of us ladies an assignment. We were asked to write ourselves a letter of encouragement, address the envelope to ourselves, sign it and seal it up. At some random time, the leader would mail out these letters to us. I completely forgot that we did this assignment. I actually never thought about it again.

Lately I have been so forgetful that when I checked the mail and found an envelope addressed in my hand writing, to myself, I thought “Oh goodness! I'm so nuts! I must have gotten distracted by something and accidentally addressed one of the thank you notes that I sent out to friends last week, to myself.” Upon opening the letter, I remembered the original assignment and a flood of emotions hit me, because as I read it the words were just exactly what I needed to hear; the timing impeccable, and I was reminded that God cares. He cares about the little things that the world may find insignificant, like me, and like you.

My letter read:

Dear Beth,

    The season of life that you are in is just temporary. Hang in there! You will make it. Soon you will be living in your house and enjoying a new season. [for those who have no clue what this means- we went from living in a 1900 sq ft comfortable home, to living in a small cabin with very minimal amenities for 3 years while renovating the house we JUST moved into but are not quite finished with; all the while navigating home schooling, juggling a small home business & Waylon's full-time FD dispatch work schedule, among other things].
    Cherish your moments with Jonathan, Julia, and Waylon; you won't have them forever. Remember to seek wisdom in your daily studies and prayer. God loves you. He placed you here to succeed. You will be His servant and child no matter what happens. Remember,

“You are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” - Elizabeth Elliott

Stop the negative self-talk. It's not helping you. God made you who He wants you to be; accept it and honor Him with your thoughts. Be faithful, be strong; have courage.
~Beth

An interesting detail is that I had forgotten to get the mail for two days, and so the day that I opened this letter and read it was on Sunday, January 8th- the anniversary of the death of five missionary men, one of those men being the husband of Elizabeth Elliott. I shared all of this to remind you that, guess what? God cares. He gets your attention and it's in the details.

So, PAY ATTENTION. Be blessed. ~Beth

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Foxes in the Forest Quilt

Foxes in the Forest Quilt
This is my latest finished project. A hand sewn quilt for my great niece, Elizabeth Jane.

The front is 100% cotton, with appliques, cotton piecing; finished by hand quilting.

The back is a fuzzy soft blend material.


Hoot hoot!


Friday, August 12, 2016

A Quilt Full of Memories

One of my current projects: Sewing quilts for our two great nieces, and great nephew. 


I am currently working on a hand embroidered, hand quilted blanket for our two-year-old great niece who lives over seas. We get to see my niece and her family about once a year or so, and I want my great niece, Natalia, to have something special to remember us by in between visits. 

Since she likes pink, Natalia's quilt is being made of pinks, purples, and greens.  I've chosen to use new materials (which I've embroidered with a theme: Each day of the week plus a mouse, because she also likes mice) combined with triangular quilt pieces cut from the scraps of vintage home-made dresses, sewn by my mom, and/or one or more of us girls, which we wore as our Easter dresses or other special occasions while growing up.  A few years ago one of my sisters was nice enough to leave me some of these "scraps" for quilting projects, and I am just now making use of them.

These dresses would have traveled all around Texas. Most likely they would have visited my late Grandpa Barney Lawrence and Grandma Mary Ivena's home in Alief, TX. At some point one or two of the dresses were most likely gone to our other grandparent's home in San Juan, TX, as well as many places in between. While wearing the dresses we hugged our mom and dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, and other special friends and family over the years. This will be a one-of-a-kind quilt with special memories sewn into every stitch, sewn for a one-of-a-kind special little great niece, Natalia. 

Here are some pics of the project underway. Later I will update with a photo of the completed quilt. 














What I've Learned About Homeschooling: To the Beginner

Here are my continued thoughts on homeschooling (I've posted about this in the past but decided to share again), along with some tips and personal experiences (with humor) that we have shared during our 16 year journey. 

CURRICULUM: Our family has used a collection of curriculum over the years, including KONOS, My Father's World, and Christian Liberty Academy, Teaching Textbooks Math, Aleks- for advanced math credits and tutoring, and we briefly used Saxon Math. 

We compiled our own personalized collection of ideas and books/learning materials up through Pre-K.  W
e started using Christian Liberty Press between K-1st grade; but found that it was more like public school, except for at home. We did the book work although we were somewhat relaxed, starting around nine in the morning and working diligently every day; but with plenty of outdoor time.  We switched to KONOS for 2nd grade, and this approach was not structured enough for me.  I needed something more systematic. By third grade we had discovered My Father's World and it was a fit for our family.  We used this curriculum each year after; up through high-school. We also added other resources as needed (or if the kids had a special interest).

MY THOUGHTS ON EARLY EDUCATION:
While I have found that most children are not ready for structured learning between the ages of 3-5, our children responded well to playing learning games.  We also practiced vowel sounds throughout the day while reading aloud. Letter/color/shape games, puzzles, computer games (like Reader Rabbit- learning shapes, colors, letters, pattern sorting, etc.) and/or writing/drawing/creating "books" together were activities that we enjoyed.  This age group is my favorite age to teach.  These littles are precious sponges with sweet attitudes and are always anxious to please- IF you take the time to earn their attention by being attentive to how they learn and how long they are able to pay attention.  Sometimes this means doing an activity over and over, or reading the same book over and over, or not doing something, if they are spent for the day. 

Speaking of reading...Kids are never to young to read together.  Yes, you read aloud to them.  I cannot stress how important reading aloud together is. Just do it. You will instill in your child a love for the written word, familiarity with language by hearing it, familiarity with letters and words by seeing them, plus you will increase their vocabulary. The bonding time when reading together is irreplaceable. Just do it. You will not regret this time spent together. At nap time I had to limit Julia (our youngest) to picking out 20 board books that we would read together each day. She didn't like naps and so she would just keep on wanting to read if I had not limited her. Reading is a fun and enjoyable time together.

At the age of four- as a fun project, Jonathan (our oldest who is now 16) co-authored his first "book". We named the book "Todd the Frog".  Although he could read and write a complete sentence by this age, I had him dictate the words to me while I typed them into the computer (we used a font that could be colored). TIP: Younger kids will burn out easily if you require too much of them academically; a project like this is for fun as well as to learn (keep this in mind over-achiever moms).  That said, together, we printed out his book and clipped it into it's own binder (with a custom cover).   Jonathan colored the words and we talked about the story while he colored (stopping here and there for his brief outbursts of dramatic expression- to emphasize the story).  He helped create the artwork using a computer program, and he colored that by hand as well.  Afterward he could read his book on his own since I had mostly encouraged him to use words that he already knew how to sound out. It was a simple project using words like Todd, frog, hop, jump, shop, etc., He had fun. We made plenty of silly sound effects every time we read the book.  He "owned" his project.  Creating ownership while working on projects helps kids put their heart into their work.  This approach is a glimpse into our Pre-K through K grade years of homeschooling with Jonathan. We introduced more scheduled book work during first, second, and third grade on up.   

Back-tracking:
Jonathan learned to read through hearing words and seeing words; we read aloud together Every. Single. Day. We also sang silly songs together (which had names and sounds of the letters), made up fun word and letter games (Hide-N-Seek Words), and acted out finger puppet skits to children's versions of stories and plays like Androcles & the Lion. We did this fun stuff EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  We worked while attending to other regular daily chores (cooking & laundry) together. I'm talking lots of repetition (but of course cloaked as fun!). I believe that learning can be fun, and should be fun, because it IS fun!
With our children, it seems that as long as you don't link the word "school" to an activity, it seems to be interpreted as agreeable and fun whether or not it is educational. 

Anyway, Jonathan had a good attention span; played alone easily, and focused on activities like building a track and playing with toy trains for a couple of hours at a time, daily. Along with these activities, he also played his favorite computer game Reader Rabbit almost each day (because I'm all about using available resources, and every teacher needs a break). 

Speaking of media sources...Jonathan also learned Spanish words from watching Dora. For a while he also became obsessed with a cooking show. He watched that collection of episodes over and over and over; after that he was infatuated with lobsters... and wanted to eat at Red Lobster.   
Julia (our second child) came along when Jonathan was almost five. Yeah, I know, we were supposed to have three or four other children between this time slot to fit your 'home school family' stereo type; but we didn't. Yet, things changed drastically. Gone was the one-on-one learning time Jonathan and I had grown used to. We had to reinvent our family educational system. This evolved over time through tears, trial, error, and success. To this day the process is still evolving as Julia heads into 6th grade this fall, and as Jonathan has been tackling college algebra over the summer.
 
When Julia was little she was completely different than Jonathan. She wanted to do everything together. Every. Single. Moment. Alone time? No. No alone time mom. I'm pretty sure in hindsight, that she watched too much TV as a toddler because that was the only way I could steal away and work on kindergarten lessons with Jonathan. (P.S. don't tell James Dobson about that, or my mom).  Yet, we incorporated Julia into the lessons as often as possible, because she wanted to be with US and be doing what WE were doing...Every. Single. Day. Although she couldn't comprehend what was going on at the same level, she learned things and she felt included.

Julia did not read well until she was six. All of the books say that "...each child is different" and I knew this, because I read all of the books.  Okay, maybe I just read some of the books. Anyway, navigating the real situation was completely new for us. We didn't push her to learn in the same way as Jonathan had; we were 
careful and patient. Okay, maybe I was just burned out, but anyway, careful and patient sometimes looks very similar to burned out. I could tell that Julia was not inclined to pay attention as well, or as early as Jonathan and so we took the whole "learning to read" thing at a slower pace.

From observation (Julia drew on the walls, measured her stuffed animals and drew lines to mark their "growth"; she played with Play Dough almost every day, and she loved to "cook" and play outside in the dirt). Julia is our kinesthetic or experiential learner.  It also became apparent, early on, that one of her best strengths is in relational skills. She understood other people's feelings and expressions from a young age; she made friends easily. Eventually, she learned how to read but at her own pace, AND when SHE was interested and ready.  I tried not to sweat it then, and to this day she has not fallen behind academically (if you care to measure/compare children's knowledge by grade level).  Now she is an avid reader and can knock out a chapter book in a day, if she chooses- depending on how interesting she finds it to be (and particularly if she is grounded from TV or computer). This brings me to a great point. 

Don't worry if your six-year-old is just now learning to read. There is no perfect educational timeline. Your family's educational experience will evolve. Education is not an inside-four-walls experience. You don't have to measure your success as a parent and teacher by how early your children read, or by how many facts that they can regurgitate at an early age; or if they are on track with their (insert other choices of schooling) peers. Your child's education starts before you even open the first book; it
starts with your attitude. It starts with your love, your intent, your nurturing, your attentiveness to the purpose of education (Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. This rule applies to everything, so be faithful and persistent; focus on your purpose.

Learning starts when your child is born and it will not end until they die.
This is the beauty of growth.
Teaching your children to love learning and how to be persistent is the key to succeeding at this whole home schooling thing.  The most important, critical, TOP pointer that I can give to you after having personally home schooled for 16+ years: Learn to love learning, and your kids will love to learn. 

THE EXTRA STUFF:
Christian parents contemplating homeschooling, I highly recommend reading Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson or The Self Propelled Advantage: Independent Motivated Excellence 
(or any comparable book covering the same subject matter). A book of this genre will give you some idea of your options on educational approach/techniques, as well as bringing to mind some complexities that you may not have considered about what education is. 





Monday, March 28, 2016

How to Start the Day: Coffee or Tea? The Battle with Inflammation

I resisted and did not have coffee this morning. Why you may ask? Well, coffee is my comfort drink in the morning. I love the smell, the taste (with plenty of additives such as sweetener and non-dairy creamer ((as in almond beverage or other non-dairy beverage)). I like having a hot drink to sip on while I read and sit quietly, waking up and taking the new day in; reflecting on things, enjoying the peaceful morning. That is generally how I begin my day. But for the last week or so, instead of coffee I have been drinking an unusual concoction. It seems to help me feel more energetic and has helped me be pain-free. Possibly because it has antioxidants, caffeine, and may have anti-inflammatory effects.

Turmeric-Ginger Black Tea is what I've been drinking each morning. It has an unusual and odd flavor, and it is a bright yellowish-orange color. I'm hoping that it doesn't turn ME that color or you all are going to think I've been using a cheap brand of sunless tanner. LOL!

The recipe:
1 tsp kosher organic Turmeric powder
1/4-1/2 tsp kosher organic ginger powder
2 bags of Twinning's English Breakfast tea
3-4 (8 oz) cups of boiling water
sweeten with stevia (I use about 1-3 tsp. powdered Truvia brand stevia to sweeten this whole batch)

I mix all  ingredients together and let it steep for a few minutes (5 or so), and then I sip on this stuff throughout the morning until it is gone.

I was prompted too do some research on turmeric tea, by a conversation with a friend which reminded me about turmeric having anti-inflammatory properties. After painting on the house so much lately my shoulder injury from a few years ago flared up.  I was literally waking up at night with throbbing pain in my shoulder for about two weeks. I used my oils to ease the misery, but I wanted to try the tea as well because I have heard good things about it.  I also generally take Sulfurzyme (a supplement which is made by Young Living which combines pharmaceutical-grade MSM with Chinese Wolfberry) but of course I'm all OUT when my inflammation starts flaring up.  I am COMPLETELY impressed with the results that I've had while taking the Sulfurzyme, but if you are highly allergic to some forms of MSM you must beware and use Sulfurzyme with caution; one of my family members who is highly allergic to MSM reacts to Sulfurzyme when they take it. 

So anyway, I had heard that turmeric was anti-inflammatory and wanted to try it out. Prior to this, about two months ago I had ordered some kosher organic turmeric and ginger over the internet but when it came in I didn't particularly feel inspired to use it right then (I bought it because I read that it has cancer preventive properties) and so thinking I would look into some recipes in the future, it landed on the pantry shelf and there it sat, untouched. The good thing is that I had it on hand when I was ready to use it.

I've been drinking the turmeric/ginger/black tea for about a week- hit or miss. The first day that I drank it my shoulder stopped hurting all together and did not wake me up during the night. The pain has not been back at night again since. I have had some tension when using my arm during the day working, but minimal ache compared to what was.

After doing a some research I saw that just like everything else "natural", that there is always an argument among the scientists about whether it is truly effective or not. What I found is that in preliminary research the findings from animal and other laboratory studies suggest that a chemical found in turmeric—called curcumin—may have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties, but these findings have not been confirmed in people- only in animals and in vitro.

Clinical research which followed show that Turmeric might improve symptoms in anterior uveitis, it might stabilize some markers of colorectal cancer in some patients with treatment refractory colorectal cancer, in high doses may decrease the number of aberrant crypt foci in smokers with abnormalities detected on colonoscopy, it may reduce some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and might be more effective than diclofenac, also may might relieve odor and itching associated with skin cancers.*

WARNING!
Turmeric is generally considered safe, but high doses have caused indigestion, nausea, vomiting, reflux, diarrhea, liver problems, and worsening of gallbladder disease. The NMCD warns that it may interact with anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs to increase the risk of bleeding, that it should be used with caution in patients with gallstones or gallbladder disease and in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, and that it should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before elective surgery. 

The ginger also adds benefits to the tea. 

*Clinical research on turmeric is being funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) https://nccih.nih.gov/.
Also read about published curcumin research at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=curcumin 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Snap shot of the Progress & Life

Jonathan picked out the light switches for his room...
(purchased at Hobby Lobby)

Life has been busy- too much to recall since the last time I updated the blog. I'm pretty sure you don't want to read all about every single detail, but here are a few to let you know what's been going on. 

Here's what's been happening at the
White House and with our life.  Since we have chosen to renovate almost everything ourselves (with a tremendous amount of help and knowledge shared from my father-in-law (and a few other family members)), this house project has been a long drawn out ordeal. After digging in, it turned into "If we are going to do this, lets do it right".

Our kids keep saying we will never finish.
I keep seeing the amazing lessons in this experience.
Life isn't about getting everything now.
Life is about long term investment in things that are worth investing in- your faith in Christ, your family, your home, your fellow man.

Working on an old house has shown me that I am spoiled and self indulgent. That some days I hate hard work, and most days I would rather get everything just the way I want it, and RIGHT NOW. Isn't that typical human nature? "I want it now." Guess what? When you have all of this work to do all by yourselves and the other things in life MUST go on- home schooling, extra curricular activities, pet care, church involvement, family activities and holidays, community outreach- you simply can't have it all right NOW


That's one thing that I've learned again and again through this process: patience, endurance, and tolerance. 

Tolerance of things being uncomfortable.


Jonathan's other light switch
For those who pester me continually about our move in date (it is non existent because we are doing this one day at a time), please know that we would not have signed up for this project is we couldn't see it through. We could have hired to have this house finished for us, we have chosen together do the work ourselves, when and as we can. That means there is no move in date, so here's a nice direct hint: please stop asking us if we have a date to move in. We don't, and we probably won't. But I promise that you will know it when we move in because I will be so excited that the whole world will know.  

Lamp Decoupage Project Before & After: 

Lots of magazine snippings










Most days I feel that this experience has been worth it, even though some days I have complained until I'm blue in the face because I am so tired of white paint. how about just tired of paint in general. Or just fill in any other thing that I don't like doing (sanding by hand- ugh!). If you had not guessed, I'm the main complainer around the place. Waylon has patiently abode, working along silently for the most part, plugging away in his consistent manner, and reminding me of the value of doing things right the first time.


As of this week, I would project that the White House renovation is about two thirds of the way completed. What I am currently working on has been painting (white paint, grumble) and filling holes, sealing and trim, etc. I'm about to paint the kitchen, which will be green. Yay! Almost all of the priming downstairs is complete- bring on the color! We have chosen mostly neutrals on the downstairs walls, except for the kitchen and laundry rooms which are both shades of light green. Our colors for the kitchen are minty green and bright red (I'm throwing in a few accents of peach, pink, and pastel turquoise). 

This old rose painting that I snagged while thrifting will go nicely in the laundry room. 


Waylon and his Dad have been laying unfinished wood flooring upstairs, they have also installed a new front and back door most recently. Waylon has plans to put up more trim downstairs, and work on laying wood flooring in the kitchen next. We have a cabinet maker lined up to give us quotes on the kitchen cabinets. Things are moving along nicely, and that makes me happy.
Julia's room before new floors & trim
Julia's room after (not yet finished)
Jonathan's room after new floors (still unfinished)


Something that has changed is that since I last posted Waylon has taken a new position at work. He's a captain in dispatch now, so instead of fighting fires he is answering and directing calls. He has been happy with the change as it is more mentally challenging which fits life now. It is significantly less dangerous, which is something that I appreciate. The schedule is crazy though, and something we have had to get used to, even though we knew getting into it that this would be different. He has continued to work on the house renovation whenever possible, but not as frequently as before- so this was a downer to taking on the new position. Still the positives (more pay, less risk) will outweigh the negatives (less time to do extra projects) in the long run. God has been good to bless him with this opportunity, and we are thankful for it. I am so thankful for a hard working husband who supports our family financially.
Pic snapped of us at a wedding in the fall 2015
Kitties!
























We gave away the last of our quail last week and acquired five bantam show hens. These little chickens have been laying an average of one egg each, every other day. They are small enough to be staying in the quail cage for the time being. I will adapt one of our other cages to be a larger pen for them eventually. (No pictures of the hens yet)
Narcissus

Rosemary
I've noticed that the grass has grown a lot. The spring weather has brought beautiful flowers blooming about the place (featured above). We have had flowering Quince, decorative pear trees, red buds, Narcissus, and today I saw the first of the purple iris' blooming.
Cabbage

Flowering Quince
Lily of the Valley


Garden shed pathway

Old ladder -  Julia photographed

Just being silly
Spring is one of my favorite times of year because of all of the beautiful flowers. I love how they look, the colors, the smell; there is no replacing real flowers. I cannot wait to complete the house and have more time for gardening and learning how to care for the landscape around the place.
braid
Sanding the walls for priming (back bedroom)


Back bedroom during the priming process

back bedroom

Living room beams during priming

new back door

decorative pear & red bud - sunny day

 Bath Tub Project: Before & After

the original tub in the upstairs bath

one coat in
the inside
several coats later
finished product...
Completed!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Quick and Easy Bread Recipe

I recently started searching for a quick and simple homemade bread recipe. It had been a long time since I had baked any homemade bread, and I love the smell of homemade bread baking and the delicious warm melted butter on a fresh slice of bread just out of the oven.  My Mother-in-law has a recipe that she bakes regularly, and it is so delicious that I was inspired to try my hand at bread making again.

In the past it has been impractical to make bread because of the time involved, the measuring, mixing, kneading, rising, kneading some more, rising again, and then the baking time. For me, it is time consuming and I already have too many things demanding my time as it is {I'm sure many can relate}. Needless to say, my ever trusty bread machine is packed up in storage until we complete the house and move in, and so that route is not an option right now either.

So a month or two ago, I searched and found a quick and easy bread recipe. I tweaked it to fit the ingredients that I regularly have on hand, and I have been making it quite often ever since.  In case you'd like a simple, yet delicious bread recipe, I've included the link to the original recipe here http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/whole-wheat-bread-recipe.html and I'm adding my own as well, below.

Quick and Easy Bread Recipe

1 1/4 cups of warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
3 Tbsp. local raw honey {or raw sugar}
2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour {or you can do half whole wheat/half unbleached wheat}
1 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil {or coconut oil}
1 tsp. liquid vitamin C {this acts as a dough conditioner}
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions:
In a 2 cup glass measuring cup place warm water, honey, and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes.
In a separate large bowl whisk together flour and salt.  After letting stand 5 minutes, add olive oil, liquid vitamin C, and apple cider vinegar to the yeast mixture.  Pour wet ingredients over flour and mix with a whisk until it begins to thicken and becomes difficult to mix.  Use your hands or a wooden spoon to continue to mix the dough. After it is smooth, place in a greased bread pan. Let rise in a warm area for around 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrease.  Bake bread for 30-35 minutes uncovered.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before removing from pan. Slice and enjoy! Makes 1 loaf.