Friday, October 13, 2017

Heritage Recipe: Grandma's Busy Day Cake





This recipe was one of the first I hand-copied out of my mother's recipe book when I was a young bride. I have made it many times over the years, and it always turns out beautifully!

You can read a bit more about my AMAZING, faithful, hard-working, inspiring Grandma Nielsen here. She was reunited with my loving Grandpa Nielsen in heaven in August of 2014. I treasure every memory I have of her, and that is one reason why this recipe is such a special one. I can picture her busy in the kitchen, baking this cake for her eight children, and then for her multitude of grandchildren.

Notice the words and artwork added by my son Lliam many years ago. He's now 21 years old.

Grandma Nielsen’s Busy Day Cake

{From Grandma Lawana Nielsen}

Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 ⅔ c. flour
  • ¼ tea salt
  • 1 ½ tea. cinnamon
  • ½ tea. nutmeg
  • ¼ tea. cloves
  • 2 ½ tea. baking powder
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅔ c. milk (@ room temperature)
  • ⅓ c. shortening

Topping Ingredients:
  • 3 Tbl. melted butter
  • 5 Tbl. brown sugar
  • 3-5 Tbl. cream or evaporated milk (regular milk will do in a pinch.)
  • ½ c. coconut and/or chopped nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to dry ingredients.
  4. BEAT on high for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan.
  6. Bake in the preheated 375 oven for 25 minutes.
  7. Make topping.
  8. Remove cake from oven.
  9. Spread topping on top of warm cake.
  10. Return cake to oven on high broil-- watch it carefully!
  11. Remove from the oven as soon as the topping is brown and bubbly.
  12. Serve warm!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Homeschooling During Sickness




*PLEASE NOTE: This post does contain some affiliate links.

In a homeschooling family, there are days-- or weeks-- that are less than ideal, and we just so happen to be in the midst of such a time this past week.

The great thing about homeschooling is that learning can even happen in our pajamas, if need be. (Not my personal preference, though I know several people love homeschooling that way.) 

During this week of coughing and sneezing, we have been able to at least complete the bare minimums, but then also added a few things to fill in the time when we're all feeling pretty icky.

When mom and the kids are feeling sick and can't do much, we can supplement with audiobook listening, and a few extra science and history videos. 

When Mom is too sick to read loud, audiobooks can be life-savers!

Here are a few favorites we have enjoyed listening to or viewing together over the years:

Favorite Audiobooks


Favorite YouTube Learning Channels and Videos

Gathering Time


Below is the list of things we did in our daily homeschool Gathering Time for everyone yesterday. We don't always accomplish these things every day, but it is so good to have a list to follow and a goal to aim for.

(Find the full document below on Google Drive at this link.)

  1. Gathering Time
    1. Prayer
    2. Scripture Recitation and Memorizing: 2 Nephi 2:27
      1. “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
    3. Copy Work: 2 Nephi 2:27
      1. Penmanship practice can be done during the scripture story reading and the music listening below.
      1. Pgs. 20-21: “The Nephites Separate from the Lamanites”
      1. Choose one or two pieces to play while the children finish up their handwriting.
      1. We have decided to read one section at a time of this epic poem.
      2. Paintings for visual reference during the reading:
  2. Read Aloud or Audiobook
    1. Little Men




During the time when we listen to audiobooks, the kids can color, draw, build with LEGO pieces, embroider, knit, crochet, or other crafting. 





My three year old LOVES coloring! I am pretty impressed with how well she does for her age.



As for me, I have made some real progress on a quilt I've been working on for years-- I actually finished hand-stitching the binding just this week! And yesterday I made a apron for a former Shakespeare student of mine who got married. It honestly helps my sense of well-being to accomplish some little things when I'm sick and can't do as much physically as I'd like to.

What is happening in your homes this October? Are the weather and the leaves changing where you live? How are you preparing for winter and the upcoming holidays?

I wish you all the best in your homemaking and teaching efforts this week.

Love,
Mama Rachel



Friday, September 15, 2017

Applesauce Muffins


These delightful muffins are perfect for an autumn breakfast!


What does a mother do when it's raining and the temperature outside is in the mid-40's? She bakes her babies applesauce muffins for breakfast!

I found this delectable recipe online, but had to tweak it slightly for my family. 


(And no, I did not partake, myself. I was good!)

I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as mine did! The recipe is below...


Love,Mama Rachel


Applesauce Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 c. quick oats

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream butter, shortening, and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add applesauce and stir until well incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients together. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients until just combined. 
  4. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers. Divide the batter evenly between 24 muffin cups, filling each one 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a wooden tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 24 muffins.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Striving for Excellence


"Men [and women] cannot... rest content with mediocrity once they see excellence is within their reach." ~Thomas S. Monson


Content with Mediocrity

For most of my life, when things started to get difficult, or I got tired of doing or trying something, I would often use the phrase "that's good enough" and move on to something I already knew I could succeed at easily.

Honestly, many things do come fairly easy to me. I'm not "great" at them, but I'm pretty good, and so I've been content to sail along in ease, without difficulty. I always told myself that I was just easy-going by nature, and didn't need to push myself to do more, or be better.

But over the years, I have come to recognize that this attitude is not always a positive thing. Yes, there are times when the mentality of being content with what we are is healthy. However, I know that deep down inside, I was just in the habit of being lazy.
  • Ten years of piano lessons, and I felt fine just being mediocre and quitting to do something I liked better.
  • After singing in groups for most of my life, I decided that I was better at acting, so I dropped music and focused on theatre.
  • As a homemaker, I did the bare minimum for years-- and my "bare minimum" standards were pretty pathetic, I admit.
  • After trying my hand at homeschooling for a while, I got really stressed out and decided to "unschool" instead for several years.
Now, before anyone thinks this post is devolving into a self-bashing article, I just want to clarify that I eventually worked for excellence in some of the areas I mention above. And I'm very proud of the hard work I have done.

But I also want to acknowledge that there are decisions to give up that I wish I had not made. And I want to learn from the regret I feel and remember it when I start to give up on difficult things.

A Lesson in Excellence

When I was a young mom with four or five kids, I used to get together with a dear cousin of mine each week to do some crafting. (Hi, Nat!) We would laugh and talk, while our kids played and made messes.

It was a wonderful opportunity to do something creative that could not be undone at the end of each day. (Here's looking at you, laundry...)

I will never forget when my cousin taught me a very important lesson during one of these "Sister's Days," as we called them.

We were making invitations for the baby shower of another cousin's wife. The stamps, colors, and papers we were using were so adorable, and we were having a great time. We had been working on the design for quite a while, and I wanted to be done because I knew we still had all the cards to make. I looked at what we had put together, and felt that it was "good enough." So I told my cousin that it was cute, and I thought it would work just fine the way it was.

But she was not satisfied with the design, quite yet. She felt it still needed a few more details, and so we tried a few more things.

I watched in astonishment as we completed the final design. It was beautiful-- professional, even! The end result was so much better and more beautiful than I had envisioned it could ever be. It was not just "cute," or "fine," or "good enough." 

It was excellent.


Many years have gone by since, but I have never forgotten how it felt to create something with all my very best efforts, until it was truly finished.

The Principle of Striving for Excellence


Okay, so a little card for a baby shower is not an earth-shattering creation. But the lesson of the principle of striving for excellence CAN be life-changing.

Why would I remember that experience all these years later?

Because the lesson had begun to change my heart. It gave me a little glimpse into the potential we each have to become better. To create excellence.

Fast forward to this past year. After one terribly failed choir audition the previous year, I made it into the greatest choir I have ever listened to in a live concert. 

I was so excited to sing with such an amazing group, but also a bit terrified. I had a damaged voice from a very long illness, and I had not sung anywhere but in church for several years. Would I have what it took to participate? After support and kind words from friends, I dove in head-first, determined to give it my very best efforts.

Oh, man, was it HARD!  That first rehearsal, I felt like I had been trying to drink out of a firehose. The level of professionalism and the quality of my fellow singers, the pianist, and the director took my breath away. I knew I had to step up my game.

Over the months that followed, I discovered that my desire to excel and succeed was flowing into my every day life, as well as into my musical efforts. I found that I could not experience so much beauty and merit during our rehearsals and then go home and just do the bare minimum there.

It occurred to me that the care of my home and family was a divine calling from God. My singing with the choir was just a rare gift that I knew would only last for a short time.

I wanted to finally become the homemaker that God had been leading me to be for many, many years of learning and struggle.

And because I had experienced putting my heart and soul into praising the Lord through some arduous musical efforts, I knew that I was ready and able to step up my game...

Effort Equals Excellence


Am I a "perfect homemaker" now? 

Um, no.

However, I go to bed every night with the satisfaction of knowing I have given my family, my home, and the Lord my very best efforts at creating a comfortable, ordered environment.

I am still busy, yes, and there are days when I don't complete all-the-things. But I have PEACE, because I am not giving up before I should, and saying "Oh, that's good enough." 

So what am I doing differently?
  • I usually go to bed later than everyone, so I can tidy up the kitchen and living areas before I go to bed.
  • I do my very best to put things where they belong, rather than setting them down somewhere convenient. I avoid saying, "I'll move that/put it away later."
  • Every thing has a home, and if I find something that's "homeless," I find it a home, and declare it out loud, so everyone knows. (That's not to say that they'll remember, but speaking it helps me remember better...)
  • I do something with the laundry every. single. day.
  • I never go to bed without loading and running the dishwasher. (I know this is probably a no-brainer to most homemakers, but I'm a slow learner, remember?)
  • I don't keep things I don't need-- I am unafraid to throw away or donate things that do not truly bless our family. 
  • I clear off cluttered surfaces I see in my field of vision.
  • I have made a schedule for cleaning throughout the week, and included my kids in it. (New post on that coming soon...)
  • I remind myself that I AM THE MOTHER HERE. There is no other. I'm all my people get! If I don't do it, who else will? 

And the biggest thing:

  • I have come to see that I am telling my family how much I love them by the work I do in our home. 
We mothers are serving out of the same kind of sacrifice and perfect love that the Savior has for each one of us-- freely given, without expectation of appreciation or reciprocation.


And that selfless sacrifice is truly excellent.


With love,
Mama Rachel

P.S.-- In case you might want to hear something from the wonderful choir I got to sing with last year (and had to leave when we moved to another state *sniff*), check out the video below:




Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Home: Babylon? Or Zion?



One morning last week, I awoke with a question in my mind:

Is your home like Zion? Or is it more like Babylon?

This question startled me. But it also made me think seriously about the atmosphere in my home, and I began to ask myself more questions, such as:

  • What am I spending my time doing? 
  • What activities are a true priority for me, based on my actions, and not just my words? 
  • What kind of media is our family exposed to? 
  • Are there attitudes and ideas creeping in that are leading us down the wrong path? 
  • How do we speak to one another in our home? How do we treat one another?
  • What messages am I sending my children?
I then sat down to write a list of words in my journal that describe the two cultures of Babylon and Zion, and I came up with the lists below.

Words that describe Babylon:

  • Proud 
  • Wicked 
  • Selfish
  • Annoyed 
  • Judgmental
  • Critical 
  • Negative 
  • Mocking 
  •  Rejection 
  • Derision 
  • Impatient
  • Contentious
  • Angry
  • Snobbish 
  • Rude 
  • Mean
  • Unfriendly 
  • Sarcastic
  • Immodest 
  • Lustful
  • Ungrateful 
  • Fearful
  • Worried 
  • Irritated 
  • Vain
  • Materialistic
  • Stubborn
  • Trendy 
  • Haughty
  • Rebellious
  • Filthy
  • Dismissive 
  • Frustrated

Words that describe Zion:

  • Humble 
  • Loving 
  • Kind 
  • Patient 
  • Giving 
  • Generous 
  • Happy 
  • Unselfish 
  • Peaceful 
  • Content 
  • Positive 
  • Encouraging 
  • Faithful 
  • Obedient 
  • Clean 
  • Pure 
  • United 
  • Supportive 
  • Beautiful 
  • Holy 
  • Teachable 
  • Hopeful 
  • Loyal 
  • Courageous 
  • Safe 
  • Honest 
  • Grateful 
  • Joyful 
  • Sharing 
  • Helpful 
  • Forgiving 
  • Simple 
  • Willing 
  • Understanding 
  • Sympathetic 
  • Integrity 
  • True 
  • Service 
  • Righteous 
  • Trustworthy 
  • Christ-like

A Litmus Test

After pondering on this on my own, I decided to discuss these questions with my family, and we came up with a list of things we wanted to stop doing in order to eliminate "Babylonian" culture from our home. We also made a list of things we have been doing that make our home feel more like "Zion-like," that we want to continue doing. And lastly, we made a list of things that we want to add to our family culture that will help our home feel more like Zion, and less like Babylon.

Some things on our list that the kids suggested was spending less time on computers and devices, less time watching movies, and more time playing games together. We also wanted to continue our daily family prayers and scriptures study.

A Free Family Home Evening Plan

If you would like to use the lesson we shared in our home, below is the link to the Family Home Evening plan on Google Drive:






With a prayer for each of our homes,

Mama Rachel




Friday, July 14, 2017

System #2: Old-Fashioned Homemaking Rules

Photos are from the U.S Farm Security Administration photo archives found at http://photogrammar.yale.edu/ .

Now that we have moved to our new home, and we are getting settled in at last, I am excited to get back to posting about the homemaking systems I use to keep my home running smoothly. 

These are the rules that have proven the most successful for me in my personal homemaking journey. It is my prayer that they may help you in your Divine Calling as a homemaker, as well!



Homemaking Rule #1 -

Keep Routines: 

Keep your morning and evening routines EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Your routines are the blessings that keep your home running smoothly and your kids feeling secure, even in difficult times.



Homemaking Rule #2 -

Dress the part: 

Get dressed and prepared every day for your job as a homemaker-- you should be prepared to leave home at a moment’s notice. And alway, ALWAYS wear an apron when cooking or cleaning! Your wardrobe will thank you, and you will feel “official” in your “mother uniform.”



Homemaking Rule #3 -

Prioritize: 


1) Serve the Lord, and follow His guidance for what you should do and when you should do it.
2) Nurture family relationships. Your husband and children should be your highest priorities, second only to the will of our Heavenly Father.
3) Care for the home. Yes, serving your family is very important, but make sure that the way you care for your home doesn't harm the relationships that you have with your husband and children. 



Homemaking Rule #4 -

Tidy Constantly: 

Though the work of keeping a home tidy is really never “done,” cleaning up after ourselves and others as we move through our days is the secret to a truly “tidy” home!



Homemaking Rule #5-

Plan Ahead: 

“If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” 

Plan menus, holidays, days, weeks, and even years using planners or apps-- the choice of "how" you plan is up to you. But please PLAN! Your life will run more smoothly, and you will have peace in your heart if you are prepared.



Homemaking Rule #6 -

Don't Procrastinate: 

Whatever it is that you know you should be doing, DO IT NOW. Putting things off until later causes regret and frustration. 



Homemaking Rule #7 -

Remember Your Divine Calling: 

NEVER forget that God has called you to be the mother of your children, and the keep of your home. The humble service you give to your family every day is a way to show them that you love them, and that their happiness and sense of well-being is important to you!



Homemaking Rule #8 -

Let Go of Guilt: 

Every day, every moment, we can begin again and improve! Don’t allow feelings of discouragement or guilt to bring you down and keep you from trying again. Satan uses those tools to keep us from becoming the mother and homemaker God wants us to be. If you stumble, ask forgiveness from your family and from God, and then move forward with a “brightness of hope.”


We can do it!

Never forget that the Lord will give you the strength and ability to care for your home and family in a way that is pleasing to Him. You do not have to be just like your neighbor, and you don't have to follow the world's standards for homemaking. If you seek the Lord in prayer, and follow the answers He gives you through His Holy Spirit, you WILL be the successful homemaker that He has called you to be! 

With love, Mama Rachel

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Routines and Habits



There have been numerous studies done and articles written on the power of daily habits and routines. Our mothers and grandmothers had daily habits that helped them work through the duties of the week. In this modern, busy world, why would we ever try to go through our days without habits and routines?
“We are all mere creatures of habit. We think our accustomed thoughts, make our usual small talk, go through the trivial round, the common task, without any self-determining effort of will at all. If it were not so– if we had to think, to deliberate, about each operation of the bath, or the table–life would not be worth having; the perpetually repeated effort of decision would wear us out.” ~ Charlotte Mason

I want to keep this post short and sweet, but I also want to share a few things that have helped me create daily and weekly habits to get through the busyness of life.


Daily Routines

It is not a difficult thing to sit down and make a simple morning and evening routine for yourself and/or your family schedule. It will take a mother about 10-15 minutes to think through what they'd like to accomplish each morning upon waking, and each evening before bed.

Now, mamas: BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Don't make these lists so long and ambitious that you could never complete them! Be practical and realistic about what you can do every morning and every evening.

To see what my personal morning and evening routines look like, check these printables out here:


Tools for Getting Things Done

My husband, teenagers and I are all having a LOT of fun working together to get things done by using the website and application at www.habitica.com .

Essentially, it is a role-playing game that is also a way to get things done and solidify habits. I have been AMAZED by how much I get done each day-- and how little I forget these days! 

I have been known for spacing appointments and important events in the past, but using technology has really helped me to be more dependable.

Along with Habitica, I also use the alarm on my phone and Google Calendar reminders to help me remember the commitments and appointments that I have scheduled.

It feels really good to finally be a mother that is where she needs to be when she needs to be there!

So, yes; the irony of this "old-fashioned mother" using modern technology to finally become organized is not lost on me! 

(ahem...)




One Less Daily Decision

If you've been following me on Instagram or Facebook, then you have seen my posts about our new family color-coordination.

I stole the idea from a wonderful homeschooling mama on YouTube named Andrea Mills. I found her idea right at the moment when I was overwhelmed with all the laundry of our family of 15. I had had enough!!!

(insert angry emoji here.) 

But instead of throwing everything away and starting over, I went through EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM. of CLOTHING. that each person owned, and I decided on a color for us to all wear for each day of the week. (And yes, that was partially based on what colors everyone already had.)

I did end up getting rid of lots of clothes-- six garbage bags full! But each person has two shirts in each color, and a few pairs of pants. I keep everyone's (except the grown-ups) shirts in the boxes you see above, and we fold them Kon-Mari style, so everything fits beautifully. 

PLEASE NOTE: If my teens are doing their own laundry, I do not require them to match with us. Some of them do, just for fun, but I only do the clothes-matching thing for the people whose laundry I have to clean and fold.

This idea has REVOLUTIONIZED the way I do laundry. I only have to do ONE load a day, and the colors of the loads is timed perfectly according to who wore what on which day.

It's been working beautifully for us!


To close...

You don't have to do all the things that I have suggested above to create good habits in your home, but I love sharing what has been working for our family, and I hope these ideas might inspire you to try something new to establish habits and routines in your home! 

HAPPY Homemaking,
Mama Rachel

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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