reduce, reuse, recycle…rethink

Grist posted this piece from designer Max Temkin, and we felt it was worth sharing because we’re right in the thick of our waste less 30 Day GOOD Challenge.<br />
Take that, plastic spoons, you jerks.” /><br />
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I stumbled across this on Pinterest the other day. I’ve got to admit – the design was what drew me in at first…

but then I actually read it.

And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

We’ve made strides as a family for the past four or five years to live in a way that’s more friendly to the environment, as a way of showing our care for God’s creation. While we’re not perfect, we’re trying and I’ve seen how one change can lead to another and another and another…ultimately changing the way I shop and live in lasting ways. 

I want to cry a little bit when I see someone fill a shopping cart with styrofoam plates – styrofoam plates! – so they won’t have to do dishes. It bothers me to see water bottles and aluminum cans thrown away, rather than recycled. The small town we’re living in right now doesn’t even have recycling pick up, which is a bit shocking to me considering I’m back in California.

We’re not perfect…by any stretch of the imagination…but we’re trying.

And this sign has forced me to think about other changes we could make.

What I find really odd is that so many of these lazy things we do – buying styrofoam plates instead of actually doing dishes, grabbing handfuls of paper towels rather than a bar mop or kitchen towel, buying plasticware instead of the reall stuff (again, so we don’t have to do dishes – we sure don’t like dishes!) – that laziness costs us so much more financially in the long run. We’re choosing consumables over durable goods, replacing over and over items that, for a few dollars more, could be ones that last.

I purchased a set of white linen napkins at Target not too long ago, to cut down on the paper napkins we use. Still haven’t. They’re going on the table tonight.

I’ve been slowly collecting more silverware, again at Target, picking up another set of forks or spoons as the budget allows. Somehow, we had gotten down to about 3 teaspoons…not the greatest idea when you’re a family of four. I’d like to have forks and spoons for at least 20.  In all honesty, if I have a big party, I’m buying those plastic spoons…but that’s all they’re used for and maybe someday that will change for the better, too.

Little steps. Little changes. And keep looking for more.

What changes have you made recently or are you planning to make?

the best thing…

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We've been back in California for almost two months, and there have been so many favorite memories already.  Just yesterday, we had Shrove Tuesday pancakes at church with Grammy, Papa and Roger, Hanna ran her first mile and Caleb had his first ever baseball practice.  Last weekend, we had a birthday party for two of my nephews on Saturday and met Tom's Mom, sister-in-law Melissa and our niece Taylor for an impromptu lunch in Fresno after church on Sunday.

Nothing earth shattering, but so much fun.

The best thing, though?

Getting to spend so much time with my youngest nephew, Ian.  He's just over two and I've been watching him every so often when his regular babysitter can't.   By eight this morning, he'd asked for cookies and "pockorn", visited the chicks, watched an episode of "Bubble Guppies"  and found the blocks to play with.  By ten, we'd adventured with a flashlight (or "frashright"), visited the chicks a few more times, checked out the big chickens and talked about why he could no longer play in the chicken coop, dumped out all of the blocks, found the Matchbox cars in Caleb's closet, had a couple of snacks and played on the swingset.

By 10:45, he was asleep and I was just about ready for a nap too!

I love getting to share these days with him, and wish I'd been able to do it with my other nephews more when they were younger.  Today, I'll pick everyone up from school – 3 campuses and 4 kids – and bring them back to the house where everyone will play and beg for snacks and probably lose a few shoes.

So many, many favorite things about moving home.

the rails less travelled

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Two weeks ago, we travelled from Winter Park, FL to Washington, DC…from DC to Chicago…from Chicago through the northern part of the United States to Portland, OR (including about 120 miles through Glacier National Park)…and finally from Portland to Merced, CA.

Over 4,000 miles in 6 days and 5 nights via Amtrak.

I was a little nervous going into this trip.

Would the kids behave for that many days on a train?

Would we all go a little bit stir crazy?

How would the food be?

Would I sleep at all?

How late would we end up?

Turns out, all of my worries were for naught.  The kids behaved wonderfully (most of the time), there was too much to look at out the windows and enough stops for us to not go stir crazy, the food was delicious (and plentiful and included in our first class tickets), and after the first night I slept at least as well as I do in my own bed.  And while we were often late on the tracks, we were rarely late into stations…or if we were, it was by less than an hour.

For most of trip, we all had roomettes – very small rooms with two chairs facing each other that fold down to become the bottom bunk.  The top bunk folds or cranks down from the ceiling.

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That's Tom and Caleb in their first roomette.  Unlike most of the trains we travelled on, our first sleeper car was a Viewliner, which meant that…

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the…ahem…facilities were in our rooms.  

It seemed a little awful at first, but it really wasn't that bad.  It was the only train that had that feature – most of the time, we walked down the hall or downstairs to find the toilets and showers.

Meals on a train are served community style,

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which means that if there are four of you, you get your own table.  Any number smaller than that and you're sharing your dinner table with another traveller or two.  It was really rather nice, and Caleb in particular liked sitting other other people and schmoozing

I'd intended to get pictures of the meals, but never did (that whole moving while you're eating thing!), but I was only disappointed in one meal (raviolis).  Other than that, everything – including halibut, steaks, breakfasts and desserts – was wonderful.

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The kids were a little nervous climbing in into their beds the first nights, but that changed pretty quickly.  Our car attendants (all so helpful and friendly) made the beds up for us and put them away each morning.  Between that and not having to cook or clean the kitchen each night, I was feeling pretty spoiled!

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We ended up leaving their beds down quite a bit to give them somewhere else to play.  And that Snoopy in Caleb's arms – he's officially travelled over 50,000 miles now.  I think Caleb's at 53,000.

It wasn't easy getting used to the swinging and swaying you always feel when a train is moving, and it took me over a week to get rid of it once we were off.  You never know when you're going to hit a bump or just sort of roll…although that usually seemed to happen when I was in the shower.  

What did we do most of the time?

We played games…

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we all did quite a bit of reading, we talked, we slept andwe looked out the windows quite a bit.

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 If only those Amtrak windows would have opened! 

And we learned one lesson very quickly:

Travelling by train isn't about getting somewhere.

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It's about the journey.  It's about sitting with your grandparents and staring out the window.  It's about not knowing exactly where you are or what time it is and being perfectly okay with it.  It's about true rest and relaxation.  Train travel means chatting with strangers who share your rails and a newspaper in your room each morning.  It's about seeing the country – the parts you don't always see from the highways. 

It's about living a slower life, if only for the duration of your travels.

I don't when or where, but I can guarantee that we'll be taking the rails less travelled again someday. 

Where are they…

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 and what are they doing?

We've always been fairly free with the kids and computer use… sort of.  There are time limits, they know where they're allowed to go and we have the passwords to any online accounts.  Hanna has a blog that we carefully monitor(though she rarely updates it).  They have both played on sites like Webkinz, and have played games on our Facebook accounts, often with us in the same room and watching. 

We've drawn the limit, though, at letting them join social networking sites until they're at least 13.   When you sign up for Facebook, you are agreeing that you are at least that old.  I've hemmed and hawed about that a bit, thinking perhaps we could just limit Hanna's account to being friends only with family members and well, she's almost 13 and we'll keep a close eye on things…but ultimately, the rules are the rules.  In a sense, I feel that letting her start an account before she's "legal" would really only teach her that it's okay to lie if it's something you really want.  

She'll be waiting until next January, for those reasons and more.

One of the interesting things about being married to someone in youth ministry is that I have a lot of younger friends on Facebook.  Because of that, I've given a lot of thought over the years to the benefits and the dangers of social networking sites.  We've been hearing quite a bit over the last few years about young people and their sometimes rash online behavior, and I don't see that changing one bit.  Tom started a Myspace account years ago and has had a Facebook account before any other non-college age person I know.  In that time, I've seen some truly terrifying things put online by the many young people he's been friends with…

photographs that Hef wouldn't publish in Playboy…

comments about other people that still make my heart hurt…

 joining groups and "liking" topics that are misguided at best…homophobic, hateful and disturbing at worst (I recently saw a group called "X should just die", referring to a local middle school student).

And now, I'm finding a whole new concern: Formspring.

On the surface, it seems sort of fun.  Anyone can post questions, which you can choose to answer or not.  And yet, just like Myspace and Facebook and all the other sites, I'm watching young people post and answer questions that could quite easily come back to haunt them in ways they could never imagine.

Because that's what it really comes down to…what they may see as innocent, fun interactions can cost them so very much once they're older. 

A friend in Human Resources told me recently that the first thing they do when they're looking at a new hire is to do a little poking around online.  It doesn't take more than a minute or two of looking to find social networking accounts, and it's surprisingly easy to get around privacy settings.  Post semi-indecent photographs, profanity laden posts, join groups that look a little less than kosher…and finding a job just got more difficult.

I worry about those less than modest photos…the comments about sexuality…the seemingly innocent and flirty posts…and the way they're being taken by others out there.   No matter how protected you may think they are, you never truly know who's seen them or who's stored them on their harddrive.   Several years ago, our biggest online worry was about internet predators.  Now, young people are sharing their innermost thoughts (and sometimes body parts) with abandon and no prompting at all.

I also wonder what this does to their testimony as a follower of Christ.  I've always tried to be fairly intentional about what I do and don't share online, and try to bring glory to God in all of it.  Profanity laden name calling and photos that would probably be blocked by online filters don't speak to me of a life lived seeking God's will, even by young people.  Even in jest, it still colors other's view of them and the Savior we claim to follow.

And as I watch this happen over and over again, I wonder how many parents are aware of what their kids are doing online.   Growing up, we had one computer in the living room and there was nowhere near the online presence like there is today.  Phones, laptops, computers in bedrooms, nonstop texting…it can add up to a scary situation.  I read an article in a recent Group magazine that the average teen spends 12 hours a day connected to media (internet, phone, iPod, etc), and an hour and a half of that time is spent texting.  Some teens spend up to 16 hours a day connected. 

My parents didn't have that issue.  We were early to hop on the PC bandwagon (our first computer was a Tandy purchased from Radio Shack in 1985!).  We had one phoneline and no cell phones throughout my entire high school years.  My first cell phone was purchased in college and was larger than my purse.  I still can't text.

As parents, we are daily wading into new floods and praying for guidance.

It truly is a lack of maturity and wisdom that is at the root of so much of this, but as parents it's our job to be the shield, filter and teacher that helps our kids get to a place that they can interact wisely with the ever-changing world around them.  Certainly there are web content and accountability filters that can help, but ultimately…it comes down to accepting our God-ordained role as parents.

We trust our kids, yes, but that doesn't mean we throw them out to the wolves of a rabid society.  According to a counselor I spoke with recently, being a little "over-involved" is far preferable to having to rebuild a young person who has been victimized by technology. 

Limits, oversight, parenting…knowing what our kids are doing, where they're doing it and who they're doing it with – in real life or online – it's our responsibility.   We don't have to do it alone, though.  Talk to your child's youth pastor, teachers, counselors, other parents.   Become aware of both the good and the bad the internet has to offer, and be vocal about it with your children. 

This is a longer post than I'd intended (and I didn't even touch on one of the most touted web-based issues, pornography), but I'd like to know: where do you stand?  What limits have you set?  How aware are you of your children's online activities, or how aware do you plan to be?  What resources have you found?

Soda, Seconds and Smoothies: Preparing for Lent

It's Fat Tuesday.

I don't know why, but that always makes me giggle just a bit.  It's always seemed so silly to call a day fat.

The realization this morning that it is Fat Tuesday today makes me think I need to get a few plans finished up for Lent, which begins tomorrow.  Lent has become an important season for me over the last few years (see 2009, more 2009,…and I know I wrote about it a bit in 2008, but I can't find it) and I look forward to celebrating it and digging deeper once again.

I've been praying a bit over the last few weeks about how to observe this year.  Some of the foods I've abstained from in the past are already off-limits due too my dietary restrictions.  And because of some craziness I have coming up in March, I'm not comfortable giving up others.   

Finally, through praying and seeking, God has shown me three areas that I can focus on this year:

Soda, seconds and smoothies.

Somehow, over the last few months, a diet soda habit has crept back up on me.  I'm not sure how it's happened…I am fully aware of how bad fake sugars are, of how too much caffeine makes my hands and feet hurt, and of everything else bad associated with soda.  I'd gone months without drinking one and last week, somehow found myself bringing home a 12 pack of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Sigh….Diet Dr. Pepper…my soda kryptonite.

Honestly, compared to many people…I really don't drink that much of it, but it was quickly becoming a crutch and an addiction.  I tried to convince myself that in light of everything else I've given up, a Diet Dr. Pepper a day was reasonable. 

And then last week, I noticed how bad my head hurt when I didn't have one for a day.

And I realized how badly I was craving one.

And I heard God tell me it was time to give it up. 

So I am, but I wanted to make some sort of other food sacrifice.  It's just a little difficult to find something else to give up when you've already given up so much and much of what you do eat is rather necessary…which is where seconds comes in.  I need to eat regularly to keep my blood sugar levels more stable, but I don't need to eat seconds.   That extra bite, that second scoop…I can definitely forgo that and make it an offering.

I also wanted to frame Lent this year somehow so I'm finally getting around to that smoothie cleanse I've been planning for the last six weeks.  I'll start tomorrow, go through Thursday and then do it again from Maundy Thursday until the morning of Easter Sunday. 

So soda, seconds and smoothies are my plan for Lent this year, along with some more focused Bible Study. 

I think I'm ready.

Simple Solutions: Real Food, Real Hope

Natural foods and how best to prepare them have been an interest of mine for many years.

Part of it is because of where I grew up - right in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley in California.  It's a beautiful part of our country and I've always been proud to have grown up in a family that farmed…but I also grew up knowing that there were days we couldn't play outside because they were spraying the fields around our house (and our house was surrounded by fields on all four sides).  I knew that every fall, I'd be sick when the defoliated the cotton.  I was more annoyed by the crop dusters spraying at four in the morning than I was by what they were spraying.

As a child, it didn't strike me as that odd. 

As an adult, I worry about what all of those chemicals did to me.  My mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in her early 40's.  My grandmother had a childhood form of leukemia in her 70's.  My husband is sometimes blown away by the number of cancer patients I've known. 

And you will never convince me that it doesn't have something to do with all of those chemicals. 

When Hanna was little, I began shopping at farmer's markets and buying organic.  When Caleb came along, I really began reading and researching.  Since then, I've read and read and read and have made the food changes our budget allows, seeking to use our grocery dollars to support responsible agriculture.  We've started gardening.  We compost.  We recycle.  We capture the water it takes to get from cold to warm in our shower and use it in the garden.  We get most of our produce through a local organic co-op.  And I'm still reading and learning.

Two years ago, I read Nourishing Traditions on our cross country trip.  It was a fascinating read and made so much sense to me on an intellectual level.  The human body has been conditioned over thousands of years to need certain foods prepared certain ways.  Over the last hundred years or so, the way we eat has changed radically and our bodies simply aren't keeping up.   Much of what is foundational in Nourishing Traditions is contrary to what conventional nutritional wisdom tells us, and yet I find that conventional nutritional wisdom changes all too often.    We throw away tradition for the sake of science that contradicts itself every decade and our bodies and families are paying for it.

What do we do? 

We reclaim those traditions.  We eat real foods – to borrow a few ideas from Michael Pollan, we eat foods our great-grandmothers would recognize and with ingredients we can actually pronounce.  We buy more foods that don't have ingredient labels and we learn to make more from scratch.

It hasn't been easy to take that intellectual knowledge and turn it into daily practice, even for someone who is commited to living a more natural lifestyle.  I've been slowly implementing some of the suggestions found in Nourishing Traditions, but have been a little baffled by exactly how to make others work…which is why I am so excited about the solution that this class is for me:

Someone to walk me through baby steps to healthier eating and food preparation…exactly what I've been hoping and praying for.  16 weeks, 14 classes, less than $10 a class, with video and printables, and a member's forum to get to know others who are seeking to live and eat the same way…I can't wait for it to begin! 

As I mentioned a day or two ago, I was so excited by the opportunities for learning and health offered by this class that I signed up to be an affiliate.  If you click on any of the banners on my blog for it, I will receive monetary compensation. 

Christmas Memories

I was the last one up last night.  It's not often that happens.  The kids were in bed and so was Tom, and I had the living room all to myself.  As I enjoyed having the whole couch to myself  by the light of the Christmas tree, I had this weird experience of Christmas memories flooding back, almost like a movie.

I've always had a strong case of Christmas Eve Insomnia so old movies are a strong memory when it comes to this time of year.  I remember being wide away at 3 am one Christmas morn, watching That's My Boy and High Time on channel 26.

Memories of Christmases with new a new baby sister, of new baby brothers and of new baby cousins…all of whom are old enough to be married and parents as well.

Christmas Eve's at Gram and Gramps, when Santa would stop by to bring us each a gift and Papa would announce, "Hark, I hear the sound of reindeer hooves!".

Of visits to Granny Wooten, always so frail, who would give us kisses and tell us we'd grown.

Of times with my Grandma baking cookies and playing cards with cousins in her backroom, which I always remember as being so cold.

Going to Great-Grandma vonMoos's to take her a small tree and decorate it for her, as she pulled out boxes of heirloom glass ornaments.

Christmas day at Grammy and Papa's, with piles of presents and fudge and homemade caramels and family everywhere.

Of Anderson/von Moos Christmas parties full of even more family and fun, with Swiss Mac and Cheese and a white elephant gift exchange that could make you fall out of your chair laughing.

Of cards from Great-Aunt Ella and Uncle Eddie, always with two crisp dollar bills inside.

Of Christmas card photos, with Mom trying to get four kids to smile and look at the camera all at the same time.

Of watching a Good Times marathon with Dad one year, waiting for Mom to finish getting everyone else ready to head to Gram and Gramp's.

Of pots of Gram's chicken and noodles and then, in later years, Grammy's chicken and noodles.  Now, the chicken and noodles are mine and I will pass this recipe and tradition on to my own children, along with the love that goes into making them.

Of caramel pecan rolls and lebkuckens, of almond cookies and snickerdoodles.  One year, Carrie and I made 17 different kinds of cookies, while PBS broadcast holiday specials like an Andy Williams retrospective and An Ozark Mountain Christmas (which I would love to see again someday).

Of watching A Christmas Story for the first time, and  thinking that I'd never heard my Dad laugh so hard. 

Of getting to stay up past bedtime to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph, a tradition that I still keep with my own two little ones.

Memories of coming out on Christmas morning to find gifts we didn't even know we wanted, but would love for years.  That crazy push-me-pull-me spinning thing that was meant for outside, but spent most of the winter in our living room.  A My Little Pony nursery that Hanna played with many years later, a Barbie and the Rockers stage and dolls, new bikes, kitchen sets and more.   A black and white panda and a rocking chair for my first Christmas…the bear still in my closet and the rocking chair in my living room.

And once I had brothers, Legos…always Legos.

This year, as I prepare to spend my second Christmas away from the family that makes up so many of my most treasured memories, I am so very thankful for the little family of my own God has given me.  For my dear husband, who supports and loves and treasures me.  For my beautiful girl, who is so very like me.  For my silly boy, who can make me laugh like no one else.

Have yourself a Merry Christmas, and may it be filled with new memories to treasure.

Christmas Countdown

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We're almost there – can you believe Christmas is just a few days away? 

So far, we've been able to enjoy a quiet little holiday season.  Sure, there have been a few hectic days…but they've been just that – a day or two here and there and not the entire season as a rule.  As I lay in bed last night, all the things that must be done in the next week went rolling through my head… and I realized it's not really that much.  And the things that will take up our time are not stresses, but pleasures. 

Today:

  • Christmas Cleaning (with the business of the last few weeks, our poor house is in desperate need of a good scrubbing)
  • Studio time (a few custom orders to take care of)
  • Christmas party at the Caponi's

Sunday:

  • Church (Tom is needed at all 3 services
  • Studio time
  • A bit more baking? (I have a need for spiced nuts and want to try making them with sucanat instead of refined sugar)
  • Youth Christmas Party/Open Gym

Monday:

  • Tom's first day of vacation
  • Studio time 
  • Bake banana/pumpkin breads
  • Sherlock Holmes premiere at Universal (date night)

Tuesday:

  • Take treats to church staff
  • Studio time?
  • Communion service at church (that Tom is part of)

Wednesday:

  • Movies with the kids

Thursday:

  • Cook turkey/prep stock/bake bread for Christmas Day
  • Dinner at Robata (thanks to a gift)
  • Christmas Eve service at church
  • Open a few gifts

Friday:

  • Pray the kids don't wake us up before the crack of dawn
  • Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus
  • Enjoy Christmas

Also in there, we're hoping to get in lots of bike rides, lots of games of Apples to Apples ($7.99 on Amazon right now – if you don't have that game, get it now!) and doing nothing as a family.

Sounds like a perfect recipe for Christmas week to me!

Gratituesday: caramel rolls and traditions

Caramel rolls
 
I made caramel rolls yesterday…already made a loaf of bread for supper and chicken stock  to make chicken soup for dinner for all of my sickies.

I'd also attempted to work on a few work necessities but technology wasn't my friend yesterday.   The scanner wouldn't come up and my Cricut refused to cooperate.  About half of my to-do list for the day involved those two items and it was a little frustrating.  When all else fails, I spend some time in the kitchen.  Things usually work for me in there.

I love caramel rolls.  They're yeasty and gooey and sugar-y…and so good.  They're also a food I remember eating every Christmas at my Grammy and Papa's house (although with pecans, but I didn't have any today).  In a season filled with food traditions, those caramel pecan rolls are still one of my favorites.

I've been thinking a lot about traditions over the last few weeks.  It was even the subject of one of my Wednesday night classes at church a few weeks ago.  Traditions are important — and they're so easy to marginalize. 

Traditions provide checkpoints where we can pause and slow down.  I force myself to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put up the tree and put on Christmas music.  It's a cue for me to slow down and begin to savor the holiday season.  The Charlie Brown holiday specials have worked the same way for me since I was a child. 

Traditions create memories and communicate love.  My grandmother has created an amazing tradition of quilts as gifts for milestones.  High school graduation, marriage, babies…I don't know of any better tradition to commemorate a special accomplishment and communicate love all at the same time.  In fact, I sleep with my high school graduation quilt every single night and have for years.  It's a Grammy hug even when I'm far away and I find that pretty special.

Traditions add rhythm to our schedules and lives.  We tend to think of traditions as holiday related, but simple daily things can become traditions as well.  We clean the house once a week, together as a family.  When I was growing up, Saturday morning was our time to clean.  I try to get it done on Fridays so we have a clean house and a free Saturday, but it's still a tradition.

In many ways, the traditions we take part in let others (and ourselves) know who we are as a family.   Some of my favorite holiday memories are times spent at my Great-grandparent's home.  There was family and friends and people I'd never seen before.  Everywhere.  There were kids at the kitchen table, the grandparents and great-grandparents in the formal dining room, my parents and their generation in the sitting room, and more tables set up in the family room.  There was always a place for anyone who might need one and never too many around any table.  I remember being about 8 years old and getting to sit in the formal dining room with Gram and Gramps, my grandparents and the others.  I was so proud that Gram thought I was old enough to join them that I can still remember the chair I got to sit in (it's at my grandparent's house now and I have to fight the urge to try to sneak it home with me).

Traditions are a comfort, much like the stuffed Snoopy that Caleb carries back and forth to California with him every time we fly.  That Snoopy has now flown nearly 50,000 miles and is the first thing Caleb packs for every trip.  It's made many a grumpy TSA agent smile, too.

Traditions are flexible — they can change and grow as our families and their needs change and grow.  I have to remind myself of that.  We began celebrating St. Nickolas Day when the kids were quite small.  Originally, it was a little something fun.  The kids would put their shoes out and Santa's elves would fill them with candy and a small gift.  When we moved to Florida and went home to California for a few Christmas's, St. Nickolas Day changed.  It became our day to celebrate Christmas with just the four of us.  The things we normally did on Christmas morning – reading the story of Jesus' birth and singing Him Happy Birthday – they got moved to St. Nickolas Day.  It was when the kids opened their big gifts from us.  Last year, we stayed in Florida for the first time and St. Nickolas Day changed yet again.  Santa's elves still brought candy, but they also brought a game for the entire family and holiday pajamas for the kids. 

Traditions are what we choose to make them.  My Mom's family is large, with lots of kids and even more grandkids.  Getting everyone together on Christmas wasn't really possible, so for years everyone got together for a big family party the weekend or two before.  The location rotated every year and who made it and who didn't could vary.  There was always, however, a white elephant gift exchange…which included in years past a giant sombrero, a high school era statue of my Mom's head (which came back the following year wearing a helmet) and a giant frozen fish head.  There was always great food, and way too much of it.  And there was always lots of time to catch up and laugh and remember.

I am so grateful for the traditions I grew up with, as well as the ones we've built in our own little family.   I am grateful that they give me a platform from which to share with my kids the love and legacy of family members they never had an opportunity to know.  I'm also grateful for the way traditions help me to instill in my children the things I believe are important.  And perhaps, more importantly, I am grateful for the way traditions connect me to family when we're so very far away.

Want to view more Gratituesdays?  Head on over to Heavenly Homemakers!  

doing the best I can…

This post of Ann Kroeker's hit me at the perfect time the other day.

We're five weeks into homeschooling now.

Five weeks.

Such a short time and yet, so very many changes…so many new things…still exciting…but I think it's safe to say we're through the honeymoon phase.

At least twice a day, I decide I'm ruining the kids.

At least three times a day, I decide we've made the right decision.

I feel like I have let the ball through…dropped the ball…heck, I even feel like I've made goals for the other team some days!

And there are so many moments I think to myself, I'm doing the best that I can.  Is anyone even noticing?

These words of Ann's really got to me:

And here’s the thing: don’t let the world define your worth.

Whether you’re doing your best or messing around. Whether you score
or let the other team score. It’s not about your performance.

You are loved.

No matter what.

My worth – and the worth of homeschooling in our lives – I can't let it be defined by the world.  I'm working hard to stop my own comparisons between what they would be doing in school and what we are doing at home.  I'm learning that it's okay to just blow it some days, and sometimes it's okay to blow it to the point that we just have to end school for the day.  I've tried to keep my expectations reasonable and to re-evaluate them on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

And I've determined it's totally within reason at five weeks in to take stock and make a few changes.

The biggest change – we're not going to be taking part in Thursday co-op.  I think maybe if it were on Wednesday, it would work a little better for us.  Also, if it wasn't a 35 to 45 minute drive that might help.  After a long week of struggling with the decision, I talked it over with Tom last night and then with my Mom…and decided it was just too much for us right now. 

I've been spending Monday through Wednesday rushing and cramming things in, because I know Thursday we'll be gone all day.  Fridays are Tom's day off and I've always tried to keep it as our short school/errand days.  Essentially, we've been trying to do everything in three days and right now, that just isn't working.  Our schedule, our needs, our learning how to do all of this…it's not a good match. 

Next year, that  might change. 

Not having co-op on Thursdays is going to allow us to slow down during the week and spread our work out a bit. It will also allow us to reorder Fridays so that we can actually make it to park day.

I've also decided to refocus my plans with Caleb.  I'm changing to a more unit-based approach – we'll pick a subject, spend a few weeks studying it and wrap much of our lessons around that topic.  It's a struggle getting him to read and write, and I think that giving him studies about subjects he's already interested in could make that easier.

I let him pick the topic for our first unit and he chose…dinosaurs.

No big surprise there! 

We already have quite a few fiction and non-fiction books about dinosaurs and I've found a few good online resources.  We'll also hit the library and see what we can find there. I'm working on developing some more concrete plans and will share those once they're done.

I have a feeling our next unit will be sharks, knowing the boy as I do.  I'm also keeping an eye on this study for December, which would be a great lead in for a train study.  We'll be traveling from Florida to California by rail next summer and I'm intending to use that as the basis for some of our studies come Spring.

I find myself giving thanks for the internet and all it has to offer to this homeschooling mama at least once or twice or a dozen times a day.  I can do a quick search and check my favorite blogs and resources and find curriculum, encouragement, and gentle reminders to keep me on track. 

On to the next five weeks!