Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thoughts from the Hearth: Week Three

Photo source unknown, found on Instagram


*Please note that I was too tired to put any affiliate links in this post. Just FYI! *


Okay, so this is a VERY late "Week 3..." I apologize for falling off the consistency bandwagon. We have had a CRAZY-BUSY month since I last posted...

On my mind-

Trials. Change. Times of transition. Our family seems to be getting a lot all at once.

We are planning a move at the end of May to the area where my husband and I grew up-- both sets of our parents are still there, and we decided it was time to move our family near them. 

We have not done a BIG move out of our area or state since 2010, and our kids-- especially the teenagers-- are not completely looking forward to it. Honestly, it is a very difficult move for me, too. Arizona has been our beloved home for the most part of fourteen years. We will all miss the culture, the beautiful winters, the amazing people... and the lack of Daylight Savings Time...

Yeah. 

But it feels right, the employment issues are working great, and things are falling into place. Which leads me to...


Grateful for-

We found a house in our new state! And after TEN YEARS of renting, we are actually able to buy this one.

THAT feels awesome!

My hubby and I took a plane ride up to our new state to look at some houses that we'd been researching for quite a long time. We knew we could not make a good decision unless we looked at them in person.

It was quite an exhausting experience, emotionally and physically. The house that we had been SURE we wanted and loved turned out to not be the right house for us, which broke our hearts. And then, we found something AMAZING and perfect, but it was more than we really wanted to spend, and would have been overwhelming to take care of. And so, we broke our hearts again.

Then, the last few hours before our plane took off to take us back home, we found something unexpected in an area that wasn't on our radar. And so we made an offer the day after we got home, and it was accepted.

We are buying a house!!! And I am so grateful.

Pondering-


BIG changes have been happening in our family, and they are only going to be coming faster and more often as time marches on.

Our oldest daughter got accepted to a little college in southern Utah, and she is THRILLED. We are excited for her, but we are going to miss her terribly. She begins her new adventure right around the same time we move up north.

And then, there's our married son and his bride that will be staying here in Arizona. It will be sooo hard to leave them behind. SIGH.

Our 20yo son is not planning on coming with us, either, which is worrying this mama to death. I just don;t like this whole idea of children leaving the nest. Yeah, I know I'm a wimp. But I don't like it. One. Little. Bit.

SIGH. SIGH. SIGH.


My messy business notes

Organizing-

I have had a enormous breakthrough in organizing my business thoughts this week! Consolidating all my business ideas has been something that has hounded me for several years, and I have never been able to find a way to bring together all the things I have wanted to do, such as: promoting and encouraging traditional motherhood, sharing homeschool methodology and curricula, Shakespeare.

I mean, what could these things possibly have in common?

Well, I feel that the Lord gave me an epiphany or two on how to bring all those things together during a few quiet hours without distractions in the dentist's office this week. And I am excited to share them here in the coming months!

Creating-

Okay, since my thoughts have begun to get untangled, I am facing the work I have before me. I have many things to write, and loads of planning to complete. It's not going to be quick or easy, but at least I now have a direction! Yay!



Reading-

Oh, I do still love the principles of Japanese "tidying up." I began what we now call "The Great Purge" back in 2015 using the principles in "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. It was the only way we were able to move into a house half the size of where we were living at the time. We got rid of a TON of stuff at the time, and I have been able to maintain the tidying I did at the time, but we never did finish the entire process, due to life-happenings.

Well, I just got Marie Kondo's most recent book, called "Spark Joy," and I am really enjoying reading it! It is more in depth than her first book, and also addresses more complex issue like how to deal with other people's stuff, and how to tidy with your kids.

I am again thanking my lucky stars that we color-coded the kids clothes, because that means that the process of tidying all the kids' excess clothes is already done! Check off step one of tidying for the kids.

Homemaking-

The cleanliness of our home is definitely where I wish it were right now, but I am hoping that the tidying/de-cluttering and the packing of the house will eventually help over time.

One other big issue we are having in the homemaking department is that our washing machine quit working, and so the laundry (especially all the bedding that we pulled off everyone's beds last weekend) is back-logged. 

The repairman is coming tomorrow, so I'm hoping we can get that fixed very soon.


Picking lemons off our lemon tree

Songhaven Homeschool of Fine Arts-

We are on Spring Break, and it has been a blessing, since I have had time to begin the packing process. We begin our third term on Monday. Yay!

Scripture Study-

I am still really enjoying my study of the Doctrine and Covenants. I am constantly amazed at how much love the Lord has for us, and how often He calls us to repentance. He is waiting there to save us, if only we just turn to Him!

"And again, the Lord shall utter his voice out of heaven, saying: Hearken, O ye nations of the earth, and hear the words of that God who made you. O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!" Doctrine and Covenants 43:23-24

Pink is the color for our "Common Room," where we do most of our homeschooling


Something to Share-

We have moved a TON of times. I am embarrassed to even say the number of times out loud, but it should suffice to say that it is more than most military families I know. It crazy, really.

Today I just thought I'd quickly share some of the helpful methods of my moving process here, in case they might help someone else.

First of all, I begin with decluttering and organizing storage items, and also start packing the MANY books we own. I usually get cardboard bankers or paper boxes for packing our books, but this time when I went in to Staples to buy their usual $1 each paper boxes, they said they don't do that any more. *sad face* So I bought some over-priced shipping boxes-- I don't know that I'll do that too many more times. (Boo, Staples!)

My other favorite boxes to pack in are the large plastic bins you can buy at WalMart for around $5 each. One has to be careful not to over-pack these, so that they're too heavy, but they stack quite beautifully, and are VERY sturdy.

I use color-coded sticker labels for both kinds of boxes, and cover each label with clear packing tape, so that the labels don't fall off. I also label the heck out of each box, putting labels on all four sides, and also on the top of each box, so that I won't have to turn the boxes during the moving and unpacking process to see what is in each one. It might be overkill for some, but it is a HUGE help for me!

Aw, I can't believe I'm moving again... Bleh...


Storage boxes always have plain, white labels.
I put clear packing tape over each label so they don't fall off.

Final thoughts-

I am very tired, but satisfied about all the things I got done this week. I still have a LONG way to go before we are ready to move at the end of May, but I can now say that I have the VISION to do it. 

We can do hard things, Mamas!!!

Love, Mama Rachel

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thoughts from the Hearth: Week Two

"The Storm" by Adolphe William Bouguerea, 1874



*Please note that some of the links I put in this post are affiliate sales links. You will not be charged any extra for clicking on an affiliate link, but if one buys the product at the link, Amazon pays me a small commission. Thanks for your support! *

Hello, wonderful readers! I am happy to be back sharing some of my random thoughts from this past week. I hope all is well with you and yours!


On my mind-

Popular feminism.

I am beginning to see it rearing its ugly head again in the rising generation, and it is deeply troubling to me.

With the recent "Women's March," I have seen an upswing in the amount of young women who are blaming the universe in anger as "victims of oppression." I have even seen grossly ignorant statements comparing the "struggle" of today's women with the persecution of Jews during World War II, and prejudice against blacks during the civil rights movement.

Honestly, the above thoughts made me sick to my stomach, and caused my blood to boil.

Only truly uneducated, UN-OPPRESSED generation could ever make such a claim. The literal suffering, pain, and bloodshed of MILLIONS can in no way compare to what the modern woman "goes through."

There are no bodies hanging in trees after vicious lynching by mobs. There are no cargo trains filled with sobbing men and women traveling to death camps. There are no people being forced to "sit at the back of the bus." There is no starvation or victimizing of human beings in our country or in the Western world.

But there IS death. There IS murder of the innocent. There ARE millions of lives being snuffed out every year.

And that depraved work is being promoted and carried out by the very women who are crying "victim."

And that is why it makes me ill to see vicious feminism gnashing its teeth and crying "oppression" when THEY are the oppressors.

I have said enough on this subject for today, but I am sure it will come up here again. I just know that I feel called to defend the Family and the divine calling of Motherhood with all that is in me.

That's why this blog was created ten years ago, and I have no plans to stop now.



Grateful for-

My husband is so very good to me, and I am grateful beyond words for the loving care he gives and the sacrifices he makes to support our large family.

I am thankful that I have rarely had to spend my time outside our home working to help provide for all these people we are raising. I know that the burden he carries is heavy, but he continually rises to the occasion every morning as he leaves us to work "by the sweat of his brow" to give us what we need and desire.

I know that I often take this daily sacrifice of his for granted, and I want to acknowledge and show appreciation to him more than I have lately.

Thank you, thank you, Honey. You make our comfortable lives possible, and I honor you.



Pondering-

In the last few years there have been people I admire and love abandoning their faith.

And it breaks my heart.

But it has also made me examine my own heart and standing with the Lord, and brought me to my knees before God in prayer.

With every fiber if my being, I hope that we each realize how VITAL it is that we give sufficient time each day to studying the scriptures and praying to our Father in Heaven.

Approaching each day without those two things is tantamount to going out to fight in the most challenging and deadly of battles with the most skilled enemy without using any protective armor, or without even a weapon.

We CANNOT face life in the modern world without the strength that the daily nurturing of our faith provides.

We MUST NOT go into our daily battles, unprotected and unarmed.



Organizing-




I am LOVING the color-coding we are doing with our family's clothes! For the first time since my first born child was an infant, I have a good grasp on what clothes each of my kids own and wear. For so many years I have been drowning in an inordinate amount of laundry to wash, but now I have a complete inventory of every article of clothing that each person has to wear.

I made a spreadsheet that mapped out each day of the week, and then chose a color for each day. I gave the boys some choices on a couple days, since they don't love pink or purple. Ha! When I specified each color, I decided that the colors did NOT need to be exact. That helps a lot.

This has NOT been a quick process, and I have had to do a little bit of shopping at the thrift store to replace some of the worn out, old clothes that I got rid of. Everybody who depends on Mom or big sister to do their laundry has matching shirts, and then I just make sure each person has enough pants, shorts, or skirts to wear with those shirts.

My teenage daughters are not participating, because they do their own laundry, and don't have so many clothes that overwhelm our laundry process. Plus, they are a bit more "fashion conscious" than the rest of us.

Just in case you might be interested, here is a list of the colors we wear:

  • Monday- Red
  • Tuesday- Pink OR Gray
  • Wednesday- Purple OR Brown
  • Thursday- Green
  • Friday- Blue
  • Saturday- Black and/or White

Sunday is not assigned a color, though I did go through and purge a LOT of my little girls' Sunday dresses. With five little girls under age twelve, you can imagine how over-loaded we were in the dress department!

We're all enjoying matching one another-- it feels like we're all on the same team. And it makes it easy for me to pick my kids out in a crowd, so that's helpful, too. (Notice that we're all in Thursday green for our trip to the park in the photo further down in this post....)

The last things I need to purge/organize-- and hope to finish this weekend-- are the pajamas. Wish me luck as I face that mountain...



Creating-

You know how I was working on my Shakespeare curriculum, and was sooo excited about finishing my Table of Contents? Well, something went wrong and IT ALL DISAPPEARED from off my computer.

... (cue screaming here)...

Yes, technology can be a blessing, and it can also be a curse at times.

SO!

I am going back and looking at everything again, and trying to take in the idea that all my work is gone. I have decided that there MUST be a reason? Maybe I was on the wrong track, and need to re-think it all again.

I choose to see this as a happy accident, and a new chance to start again.


Reading-

I recently read Sarah Eden's "The Kiss of A Stranger" and it was good Regency fun, I can tell you! It was just a fluff read, but I need those now and then. Sarah Eden is the ONLY modern Regency writer I can tolerate. For the most part, if I want to read a good Regency romance, I'll just look to Miss Austen! But Sarah has done enough research, and writes in such a way that I am never jerked back into the modern world until I close that last page.

My other favorites by her include "Seeking Persephone" and "Courting Miss Lancaster" (my personal favorite of hers).

Maybe one of Mrs. Eden's books will help you endure the last of winter this year.


Homemaking-

Reducing our family laundry by six garbage bags has been so freeing and helpful! I can now do just ONE LOAD of laundry a day, people!!!

MONUMENTAL.

If you missed it, I go into more details above in the section on organizing. ^^^ 



Songhaven Homeschool of Fine Arts-

Homeschool Outdoors
This week's beautiful weather simply called for some outdoor reading and learning time. So on Thursday, we packed up lunches, put all our homeschool supplies in a box and the kids toted their backpacks down to the park with me.

We are really enjoying reading "A Little Maid of Massachusetts" by Alice Curtis for our American History read aloud. The kids get so involved emotionally, sitting at the edge of their seats, and yelling at the characters. Lots of good lessons for kids in this one so far, all contained in the backdrop of the American Revolutionary War.

We're also reading "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" together, since there are some among these younger ones that have never heard the book. Reading C.S. Lewis NEVER gets old for me! He never fails to inspire, and I love sharing his writings with my children.


Scripture Study-

I have started reading the LDS Doctrine and Covenants over again this month, and I'm really enjoying "hearing" the voice of the Lord as he counseled His imperfect servants at the very beginning of the Restoration of the Gospel.

One of the scriptures that stood out most to me this week was this:

"Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end. Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work." ~Doctrine and Covenants 10:4-5

I don't know any mother who does not need the support of heaven in this all-important work. I know that I cannot do it alone!

I hope that we are good to ourselves and to others, and do not compare ourselves to other women who seem to "have it all together."

Ladies, NO ONE HAS IT ALL TOGETHER.

We are all just trying the best we know how.

And so we need to take care that we do not "run faster or labor more than we have strength." We can rely on the arm of the Savior to make up the difference when we feel we are falling short of where we want to be. If we trust in Him and ask Him for His help, he can fill in all the gaps we might be worrying about.

Truly, He is there for each one of us.



Something to Share-




My husband is one of the greatest cooks I know-- no joke! I have been spoiled by this since the day we got married. (I am keenly aware how lucky I am, ladies!)

I just want to share a yummy treat recipe he came up with for our kids the other day:


Yummy and Easy Chocolate Shake
Made from all the cheap ingredients you probably already have at home

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • Enough ice to reach the 32 oz. marker on the blender
Blend and serve!



Final thoughts-

I have had a couple experiences this week that reminded me how important it is for us to stand up and defend Families, Traditional Motherhood, and our roles as homemakers and nurturers.

This is a stand worth taking, ladies.

My hope and inspiration for creating this blog has always been with the aim of taking that stand. And I believe it is more important now than ever.

Thank you for standing with me!

Love, Mama Rachel

Thursday, February 16, 2017

System #1: Tidying

Image source unknown


*Please note that some of the links I put in this post are affiliate sales links. You will not be charged any extra for clicking on an affiliate link, but if one buys the product at the link, Amazon pays me a small commission. Thanks for supporting our work!


I have never had a talent for keeping things neat and in order. It has been something that has taken me YEARS to overcome, and though I am not perfect at it, I have improved a lot over the years.

I have a daughter who is especially good at tidying. She was born that way, and tidies at least once a day in my kitchen when she can't stand the chaos any longer. I love her. I hope to be more like her when I grow up.

There are a couple of really great tools that have helped me learn to keep and organize my home over the years.

Organizing Resources


Way back in 2000-2001, I started using FlyLady's emails to get my house in order. She helped me overcome procrastinating household chores, and taught me some great lessons about wearing a "mom uniform" and shining my sink. I don't agree with every part of her philosophy, but there are habits I learned from her that I have continued to use more than a decade later.

I also LOVE the classes and blog posts that Becky Edwards at Purpose Driven Motherhood has. I was privileged to stay in her home while I was speaking at a homeschool conference in her state, and to say that I was impressed with her organizational, homemaking, and mothering skills would be an understatement. She was so warm and welcoming, and her children were gracious and kind. Her home was not a mansion, but it had a wonderful feeling there. Her home and schedule were orderly, but comfortable.

Her online class on organizing really moved me forward into being consistent in my daily habits-- something I was woefully lacking in. I tell every mama I can about Becky-- she is truly inspiring! You can find her at her blog and also on Facebook. I just love her and what she teaches!!

One of my drawers, after using the KonMari method of "tidying" 

Our Great Purge

More recently, I have had wonderful experience using the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (Also known as the "KonMari method.") We were making a temporary move to a house half the size of the one we were living in, and I knew I had to reduce the amount of stuff we had.

As a little bit of background, I am a very sentimental person, and have been known to hang on to things in a pretty desperate fashion. I have always been the type of person that strongly associated memories with "things," so, needless to say, I have been surrounded by clutter throughout my life. I had begun decluttering a LOT using Fly Lady's method, but it never seemed to stick. My heart had not changed, I was just getting braver about getting rid of things. (Which was a step in the right direction, for sure!)

Keep in mind that I am a homeschooling mother to thirteen-- yes, that's 13-- kids, only one of whom has left our home for good. You can imagine how much stuff we have!

In August of 2014, my 91 year old grandmother passed away, and my mom and her family were able to take care of her things she left behind easier than many, because my grandmother was so organized. However, there were many things that needed to be passed around the family, and I inherited really too many of them. (My mom brought a truck full of stuff for me two states away. She associates stuff with memories, too.)

As I have been going through many of the things, I realized that most of them hold no memories for ME, even though they did for my grandmother and my mother. And then I was startled to realize that my sweet, amazing grandmother had to leave all of those things-- that she longer needed them! She has moved on to be with my grandpa and her other family members, and those memories she has are also always with HER.

This realization has been so absolutely FREEING for me! The main reason I hold on to things is so that I can be reminded of memories and people. But now I know that the memories are REAL-- in my heart. WOW.

If I had not learned these things, I could never have been able to embrace the KonMari method! While I still worry about what my mom will think, at the same time, SHE didn't want the things she gave me! There are special things I inherited from my grandmother, but I have also been able to let many things go.

And for me, that has been ground-breaking, because it is MUCH easier to keep a tidy home when one only keeps the things that they love and can care for. It's really is "like magic!"

"Tidy-Up Time"

Now that I've told you about how I tidy up myself, I'd like to share how I get my younger kids to bring some order the disarray they inflict upon our house...

"Tidy-Up Time" happens at a couple of key points in the day. We aim to gather around the homeschool table at 10:00am each weekday, so I use that as our first "Tidy-Up Time" of the day. (I mean, who can learn in a room of chaos?!)

Then after their school work is done, they might want to go to a friend's house or outside to play, so I require another "Tidy-Up Time" before they can go out. And then, before any fun family evening activities or desserts happen, they need to tidy one more time.

I will often add a "Tidy-Up Time" before Dad comes home if our front room is cluttered. After his long day at work, I know that he hopes to find some peace in order to decompress. (He's an introvert that works in a very loud, sociable company.)

Okay, so maybe he won't find PEACE, but I try to make sure that he doesn't come home to a disaster. It's the least I can do for his diligence in supporting us all!

Some things that help motivate kids to help with the clean-up, rather than dragging their feet, includes fun music, racing a timer, playing "I Spy", or some other fun game, and let's face it: bribery.

(I admit it-- it has happened here a time or two...)

Tidy Boxes

I learned this many moons ago from my amazing mother-in-love who raised eleven children. 

When tidying a room, I want to have QUICK success, so I grab a box or plastic bin labeled "Tidy Box" or "Misplaced Items," and I put all the homeless stuff in that one box, then I can carry it around to put things away.

I sometimes even have a box like this sitting at the top of my stairs, and one at the foot of my stairs, so that I can put everything away when I make it down or up stairs. It works much better than just chucking stuff over the stairway, let me tell ya.

I hope some of these Tidying tips help you in your homemaking efforts. Tidying is one thing that will never go away for we humans, so it's nice to know that there are methods we can use to contain the madness.

Love, Mama Rachel



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