Friday, October 29, 2010

Dios Consolare a Forza

Dios Consolare a Forza - God's Comfort and Strength. The words are written in green above my kitchen sink in my Mom's beautiful script. It is a place of prayer.

My hands sink into the soapy suds and I spend the next half hour or so washing and scrubbing things spotless. There are some chores in which I especially find the silver lining of indulgence. The satisfaction in doing them carries a bit of the feeling of privilege. As I work to remove the film of food and grease, rewarded with leaving each piece squeaky clean, the act of being able to set just this small space right brings me a settled contentment.

Humming along to the Christian radio station, I tenderly join in harmonizing to Lead Me by Sanctus Real. Remembering the difficult early years of my marriage, our lostness without a clue as to how to find our way to all we'd wanted when we first wed and made those impossible vows. Prayers of thankfulness for all the Lord has done fill my mind, and they flow into requests for my children and their future spouses, that they would all seek His provision and guidance. May they never take lightly the honor allowed them to seek the Lord of all for assistance and ability to walk rightly with another, and I pray they will perpetually seek his storehouses.

I listen to a familiar and beautiful recount of God's handiwork in the history of time and man. It is a wonderful 'bible in song'. I impulsively raise my hands and a bit too loudly resound, "He died for my sins, and He rose again!" I suppose that really can't be sung too loudly, can it? None of my children come looking to see what's got me so worked up so I guess I'm alright. Mama's praising.

The other night, I lay in bed trying to pull my diverse and sundry thoughts together and make them behave and sit quietly while I spent time considering my God and Savior. His majesty. His wonder. His glory. They refused to comply, and time and time again I would realize I had once again unwittingly followed after a wandering one. I chastened myself for such inept focus. How can one not realize the truth in, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak?" As is my overstimulated mind, at times behaving just as a wayward child distracted by the butterflies and clouds of thought.

But as I praise the Lord in melody, I know He smiles at his scatter-brained child. The words above me were chosen because of who He has shown Himself to be. Compassionate, never failing, forgiving, hope granting, mighty to save.

Rinsing my hands and drying them, I know that more than dishes have been cleansed and refreshed at my sink once again.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cocoa Butter Lotion Bar

It seems that eventually every family has to contend with the issue of what to buy extended family for Christmas, or more specifically WHO to buy for. Some are able to maintain the giving with the growing of the family, others choose to limit it to one another's children, and then there are those who decide that their own brood is as far as the giving can go. Many varieties of happy mediums exist out there as well, although they can be a long time coming. Too often I hear people complaining around the season of the huge number of gifts they must get. Really? I mean, before we get to Christmas again, let me ask you - really?

Growing up in my home we drew a single family member's name out of a hat and were supposed to keep it a secret until Christmas. Eventually, Dad was the only one still trying to keep his recipient's identity hush-hush, and it became the devilish delight of his children to spoil his ability to do so by sharing our names with one another. Ah, holiday memories and traditions... let's just say that we didn't get our wicked sense of mischief from our mother.

As we grew up, we maintained our gift-giving custom, extending it only to the added spouses. That way everyone has one person for whom to give a gift. Anyone who is able to give more is welcome to, but there's no obligation to do so. Some years it can happen, other's not. We all understand how it is.

A few years ago I taught my girls to sing "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, which spawned an idea we have incorporated into our gifting tradition options on some years. We all have little things that we just love. Why not share them with one another? Really, it can be anything. One year my sister T sent us all a tin of cuticle cream. Another, I sent everyone a little box of Jelly Belly popcorn jelly beans with a few licorice ones thrown in. My sister E sent us a bag of Lindt white chocolate truffles. The limit is usually roughly $5 a gift.

So, last year my brother and sister-in-law sent each of us some samples from their neighbors at Cross Timbers Farm. We all enjoyed the goat's milk soap tremendously. However, the wonder product wound up being this stick of Cocoa Lotion Butter Bar. My sister E has used it on blemishes with great results which prompted me to encourage one of my daughters to try it as well. She did and thought it worked pretty good. But she also used it on the horrible mosquito bites on her legs, as well as old scars she has from previous years bites and her incessant scratching. The pediatrician has guilted me about them to the point where I have sometimes just had her wear pants in the summer heat so as to at least protect her somewhat.

Well, a little while back my daughter commented on how that stick has helped her legs. I took a look and was amazed! Her legs haven't looked this good in years, many of her scars have healed and faded completely. The stick is completely natural and I don't know which ingredient or combination of them has made such an improvement in her skin, but I highly recommend this product.

Sometimes the "favorite thing gift" you give becomes someone else's treasure as well. Maybe it will be your's too! Oh, and my brother and sister-in-law have begun their own homestead business as well - Old Paths Homestead.

Woo-Hoo! I'm a Winner!

I skip most of the blog give-aways that I come across, but I decided to enter the recent one hosted by Keeper of the Home. The offering was the book Herbal Nurturing from Frugal Granola. I just love both of those blog names. Well, this morning I found I was one of the three winners!

I look forward to learning more from this book about the ways to attend to ourselves without necessarily having to use medications from our local CVS pharmacy. I have been turning over in my mind thoughts on a unique home-ec series to conduct with my girls. This will do wonderfully as a resource for part of that course.

Thanks so very much, Keeper of the Home!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Browsing Borders

Last night I took a trip to the nearby Borders with my husband and one of my sons, enjoying what amounts to an upgraded library visit for me. Not to take anything away from our local libraries, who get much more of my patronage; and quite honestly, my money, as I pay fairly routine library fines. Worth every penny.

It's just that I get a pumpkin spice latte at Borders. After a bit of relaxing family chit-chat, we disperse to our various aisles and settle in to the time-honored tradition of browsing and scanning. Sometimes I even do the unheard of and read the end of a book that piques my interest, but I never intend on buying. I love the liberty of the entitlement to look through things, taking care to leave it well-intact for its future purchaser, with the complete lack of obligation to leave with anything. It feels healthy. There is a time and a place for laying down your money, but it need not be each and every time you enter a business establishment.

I must get a little book that fits into my purse one of these days. Fishing through my bag, I dispersed one receipt to my husband and found one for myself. We use these for jotting down things. His were notes on what he read and didn't want to forget, mine were of books I might buy at a later date. Among these:

When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense - a subject I have met and walked through, yet still wrestle with helping others to grasp
Captivating - to better understand our mystery
More Beautiful You - looks like a great girl's devotional
9 Things You Simply Must Do- for our good and the good of others
Forgotten God - Have you read Crazy Love?
No Small Snakes - Great hook of a title, and up my alley
Praise Habit - Funny and identifiable
The Sacredness of Questioning Everything - He's big enough, and this looked very smart
Spiritual Secrets to Weight Loss - I didn't agree with all of this (big surprise), but it seemed like a sincere cheerleading support of a book

As I read and perused, my head nodded or I laughed out loud. I hear that the field of journalism and its kind is dwindling. I hope that is not so. There is so much joy and satisfaction within the pages of a book. And as much as I enjoy the advantages of the screen for various things, it is an entirely different sphere of relating and operating. It does not replace a book.

Uncharacteristically, I actually left borders with a book in a bag. I decided I couldn't leave without The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg. I truly hope it is a book that will nourish and grow me, and that I can pass on to another. There is such a grace and weight of particular importance when a book is given to you, especially if it was read first, don't you think? This particular book seems made for that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Time and Space and Imagination

It has always been important to me to not be the modern-day family. While I am glad to take my kids here and there as needed, the emphasis has always been on "needed." I recall the first year we began homeschooling, comforting my sons with the promise that fall soccer season would soon be over, and we would be able to concentrate just on school and outside play again.

This year we have two regular outings during the week. One is spent doing volunteer work for two hours, and the other is for the art lessons I prayed would be provided for A. It is a lengthy drive for the latter, but the lessons are an hour and a half long, and the teacher is a gifted Christian artist, so I find the sacrifice well worth it. Plus, it gives L and I some individual time together which is treasured by us both.

More than casting envious glances at the Joneses, my eyes tend to look back wistfully at my own childhood. There are any number of fond memories of skating and biking and swimming and games of kickball and freeze tag. But my favorite "growing up" year was the one we spent living on the island of Crete. I was nine.

There were no other American families stationed there when my Dad accepted his appointment. However, my gypsy Mother was not going to be left behind for a year or more, especially at a time when she was expecting their sixth child. So once Dad left, she sold the house, boxed up our things in storage, packed us all up, and we went sailing through the skies to be reunited as a family on a far distant shore. She homeschooled me and my two younger sisters, with two little ones underfoot, and soon after our arrival gave birth to the last baby - in a Greek hospital amidst people who knew no English. From the fertile soil of these memories sprang the courage to homeschool my own children (half in number at the time) many years later.

We had such amazing freedom! We lived in a village called Kounoupidiana (translation: cauliflower, ???), and roamed its length and width and breadth, and a bit beyond its borders as well. At our little girlfriends' houses we did our best to fork snails out of their shells, and ate soup containing the heads and feet of chickens as well as the familiar parts. We saw women gathering greens for dinner out of what we considered "empty fields." We raised fertile chickens and cats and rabbits and experienced all manner of strange situations that come up in animal husbandry. Shepherds herded their flocks of sheep through the village. We drank goat's milk delivered by a village woman each morning. I attended my first wedding - a Greek one - and it formed my impressions of what a wedding was like... lots of crowding forward. Our favorite place to go was the nearby olive grove, a beautiful gnarled woodland on its own, ripe for the imaginative creativity of childish minds. And when Mama wanted us, she rang her large brass bell and we came running home. I have chosen to share just a few memories from among the garden of delights that remain within me; my roots, as it were.

I have my own bell now, yes I do. ;D A friend purchased it for me on a trip years ago, and I have used it many days to call my own children back from their play. Times and the world have changed since I was a child, but we have tried to give our kids as close to an upbringing as we were blessed to have. We have lived in a few places that have had nearby woods for my kids to explore with compasses and lanterns and packed up lunches.

We are big fans of the Food Channel, and have all been impressed by the recent show, Chopped! We cheer our favorites on in this fast-paced, challenging contest. Our most beloved was a contestant by the name of Johanna who wanted to win in order to go visit her Grandmother in France. She was so sweet and humble and gifted. I wanted to bring her home here. So this past week, my girls have created their own version of the show during their outside time. They choose four different ingredients: three from the yard and a piece of chalk. They and their friend from across the street create fantastic and unique assemblies for a dinner entree and call one of us to be the judge. We take it all very seriously (and in great fun), and choose from among them who will be Chopped. The remaining two chefs get to duel it out for the dessert round, then call us to judge this as well.

And none of us misses where we might be driving to instead. It is my hope that afternoons and days of freedom will leave a deep and lasting impression upon my children's minds; that they will work good things into the fertile soil of their memories for the day when they will be nurturing their own children in years to come.

And if they want, I'll buy them each a bell.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

He Rescues The Downtrodden

I found a recent article in this month's Family Circle to be quite enlightening. Titled Too Cruel For School, there were a number of comments and statistics given that shed light beyond what I think the author even intended. Throughout the entire piece, the numbers were given to show the increase in any and all number of bullies and their attacks. 'In a 2009 study, researchers asked teachers whether they thought children's ability to get along with one another and resolve disputes had improved over the last decade, stayed about the same, declined slightly, or declined significantly. Their response was overwhelmingly negative: 75% of educators perceived a significant drop and 25% said they saw a slight decline.'

Now I understand that this is simply a matter of opinion, but these are the people who spend the most time with our nation's kids Monday through Friday - if anyone would know something about how they are behaving towards one another, you'd think it would be them, wouldn't you? And as far as how kids are conducting themselves during the times their teachers are not watching; well, I'd wager that most kids do not improve their responses and reactions when no one is around to correct them.

One of the selections chosen to boldly headline a caption was this: "In our enthusiasm to make our children smarter and stronger, we've forgotten they need time and opportunities to learn how to be competent social beings, which is every bit as important as knowing algebra and grammar." We are all painfully familiar with the common refrain of how poorly our schools are educating our children and ill-preparing them academically for life after high school. But now I'm reading that simply turning them out to be well-behaved and honorable members of society has fallen by the wayside as well. Not something I did not expect, but it is still so awful when the suspicions are verified to be true.

Here's a shocker. According to the 2010 Study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, do you know how much time per day the average child between the ages of 8 and 18 spends connected to smart phones, laptops, or other technological devices? Seven and a half hours! And that does not include the additional 1.5 hours spent texting. I'm not sure if television was included in 'plugged in' time, to be quite honest. But the grand summation is more than a full time job - 63 hours a week. "The time young people spend engaged with technology is time not spent playing on the playground, or learning verbal cues and face to face skills, like maintaining eye contact," says Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA and author of iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.

I found it interesting that these specialists, experts, teachers, and parents have all kinds of programs (many, very expensive) that they have found, have tried, or are willing to take a gamble on. 'But even the best of such programs are no silver bullet.' I would whole-heartedly agree with that. Even for parents such as myself who give our lives in an effort to not only educate our kids at home, but even more importantly in order to train them in the way they should go; we have no guarantees. I could not help but feel for the grasping heartache of parents who see their children in such a negative spiral and still leave them in the hands of others.

Lest anyone think that we are immune to bullying tactics and maneuvers within the homeschooling environment, let me assure you that even here the story is as old as Cain and Abel. I just recently had to have a couple of conversations with my own children and their friends. Tough girl attitudes, intimidation plays, demeaning and minimizing of a person's value, even threatening fists had come in to play. This is, unfortunately, our all-too-human nature. God desires to remake us. Our children have to be shown that a better way, His way, is a very real option.

I have been having the girls memorize some parts of Psalm 119, and we have been discussing it each day. This is no guarantee, no "silver bullet" as was mentioned. And yet I share the Lord's word with them, and trust Him to water the seeds that are being planted. In this lies my faithfulness, and the power of the Living God.

When someone treats another person in a demeaning or unkind way, it is always wrong. Our kids need to know that the Lord desires our delight in His ways at all times. They are not to be a passive audience, to watch or laugh, to allow it to continue by anything they might do or not do. His word is not simply for us to know, but to understand as a calling of the highest order as those whom He calls to follow in His steps. At times, we are to be the means of His rescue.

*How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

Praise be to you, O LORD;
teach me your decrees.

With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.

I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.

I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

*Psalm 119: 9-16

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I suppose most of America heard about the mother who spoke up against the explicit lyrics being taught to her 6-year-old daughter - just a few weeks ago. Anyone happen to catch the article on the young cheerleaders in Connecticut who protested the skimpiness of their uniforms' appearance? It sure caught my eye. In this day and age, anyone taking issue regarding the decency and appropriateness of public appearance is quite a rarity. I must admit, I have inwardly shaken my head at what I can only conclude is naivete' on the part of parents who encourage or go along with their daughter's enthusiasm to pursue cheerleading. Sure, I understand team spirit and the fun of rah-rah-rahing your side to victory. But once again, the times and ways of our culture have left this particular pursuit wide open in just about any way you might choose to imagine.

Cheerleading has been an issue for me for years as the Mother of sons. Remotes must always be in hand during sports events so as to quickly switch away from half-time temptations. But having daughters who are now of an age to participate (and having had to decline) has brought it more to the forefront. I could go on about how this past-time encourages exhibitionism, but can a true argument even be made that it does not? As I looked for a picture to adorn this post, I had to repeatedly minimize the screen as my husband, grown sons, and impressionable young daughters walked near me and my computer. What a job of stealth it was to lightly scan all the scantilly clad and suggestively (no, erotically) posed women in order to find an image of innocence that I think is what most parents are envisioning when they let their little girl don her "uniform."

Seriously, take a peek (parents) at what cheerleading has become. Are these the aspirations you want to encourage in your daughter? And even for those cheers and the girls who shout them out with smiles and real earnestness, I still have to say, "Come on. Your jumping around and high kicks create more of a distraction for men and boys to overcome than they inspire them to root for the team."

Reality Check

Friday, October 1, 2010

Faerie Organics Foundation and Blush

This was my first purchase with Faerie Organics and I have to share. I bought Medium Beige and Medium Golden Foundation, and True Blush and "Sun Kiss" Bronzer/Blush. I am a fan of mineral foundations and of natural products that come without planet-harming chemicals. Today I went with the Beige foundation and True Blush and was absolutely pleased with the soft finish. I had my choice of Airbrushed or Maximum Coverage; I chose the former. They are right, a little goes a long way. I used a very small amount with a light touch and the coverage is perfect. I can't wait to experiment with other products they carry.

The foundations offered come in a wide range of colors and you are certain to find a few options that will suit absolutely any skin color. There is also a White Mix Color "Adjuster" that you could use to tweak your choice, if necessary. And take a look at their bountiful lineup of blushes! This was harder to settle upon than which would be the best foundation match. Their colors are gorgeous.

Speaking of Color - they have two categories of eyeshadows. While I am more of a "au natural" girl and can't see going for the high pigment option, personally, there were a vast number of choices to tempt me among their regular eyeshadows and shimmers.

Additionally, Faeire Organics offers a very unusual service - foundation combo samples for a penny plus shipping! They come with 2 foundations (in any finish), sun goddess faux tan and sheer veil. What's not to love?

On a heart of servanthood note: I was surprised to find that they'd sent me two of each of my foundations. In the note they sent, they explained that they were out of the size I ordered, so they'd sent me two of the smaller containers - a full 10 gm more. Also, when I wrote and informed them that they'd accidentally sent me the wrong item color bronzer, they responded right away telling me to keep it and they would send me the one I'd ordered in the first place.

I look forward to trying more of their good-for-me-and-you products in the future! Five butterfly kisses to Faerie Organics!