Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Things that make me happy


A "family-integrated" church is one where children and babies are encouraged and welcome to stay with their family during the services, rather than be whisked off to a nursery or special children's program.


Our church would fit that label, though we don't really use it to refer to ourselves as that. To us, it's just the way things are, no label needed. 

The older kids love taking care of Stephen during the service so much, they keep close tabs on whose turn it is next. Which of course also helps me out tremendously, as Stephen is at that active age where he wants to be all over the place, and eventually has to be taken to the parent/baby room every time.


Stephen just of late has discovered his love of "singing" along with everyone else, which is really cute. So while it lasts, it is very fun to have him sit with us and sing along. His attention span will grow as he ages. In my experience, babies up until about 9 months are very easy to keep in the service. From then on up until about 2 years they are a challenge, but beyond that are old enough to get the concept of sitting still and listening. And more importantly, learning.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. - Psalm 8:2

Monday, August 26, 2013

'Twas the Day before Homeschool

... and all through the house... Mom has lots of lose ends to tie up!

Today, listed here in no particular order, I have the following goals on my to-do-list:

- pickle 20 lbs of cukes in a crock. This will be my third attempt. The first two failed due to my lack of knowledge and our tricky climate. Wish me good success!

- finish and print everyone's schedules, as well as the lesson plans for the next two weeks.

- receive this month's Azure delivery.

- cut the boys' hair.

- proofread an 18,000-word translation I have been working on in my spare time (hahaha!) for the last 10 days, and send it in. Whew!!!

- buy supplies and decorations for a wedding at our church this Saturday, as well as run a couple of other necessary errands for this week.

- bake bread

- plus the usual: cooking, laundry, etc.

That's just for today. So much more to do this week, as usual. I am thankful for my job as wife and mother, that never allows for a single moment of boredom. Thankful also for the ability to work, and most of all of course for people to care for.

Friday, August 23, 2013

For old times' sake

It has been a busy summer around here. I still can't believe we are starting school again on Monday! The kids are excited, so am I, but it's always interesting to see how everyone will settle into the new year.
 
My cousin from Germany and his family were out here in the Western United States, traveling through Arizona, Utah, and California by RV for three weeks. Coincidentally, their journey both began and ended in Phoenix. They booked this trip just a few weeks before I happened to find him on Facebook, so it was funny how that worked out - he had no idea I lived out here.
 
We got to spend a couple of days with them both before they started out, and after they got back from their 2,400 mile round-trip. It was such a rare treat to have visitors from the old country, especially such sweet ones.
 
Do I ever get homesick, you may wonder. Well, imagine if you were born and raised here in the United States, and for some reason you ended up moving to a totally different part of the world, where nobody spoke your language, the culture was different, you had no relatives or friends, and the food was awful. Would you get homesick, no matter how many problems your home country has? Sure! Now add to that limited opportunities to travel overseas due to finances, family size, and TSA grope-downs, and you get the full picture.
 
All that to say, seeing my relatives, and getting to speak German with them, was a huge treat.
 
On my mom's side of the family, I have four aunts and one uncle (my grandmother had six children in all). This was the oldest son of my oldest aunt. I did spend a lot of time with my cousins growing up, as we would often spend our summers together. So I was thrilled my cousin brought me this picture of all of us together in one shot: my grandparents, their six children, their four spouses (my uncle is mentally handicapped and never married, and my youngest aunt was still single at the time), and their children. Eventually, there would be 13 of us cousins, but at this time there were only 8.

 
 
Did you spot me? I am the one on the far left in the front, with one of my brothers next to me. My mother is the second lady from the left in the back row, and my Dad is to the right of her (Nice beard, Dad! Those were the days, huh?). My oldest brother is right in the middle, in front of grandma and grandpa. Those two were like the best grandparents, ever. I have so many childhood memories of spending my summer and Christmas breaks at their house, or of them coming to visit us. My grandpa passed away when I was 11, and I would so love to be able to talk to him today. My grandma just passed away last year. I am thankful that our oldest four children got to meet her on our last trip to Germany. The cousin that came to visit is the one sitting on the far right in the picture.

I think I shall go to the German butcher and the German baker in town today to drown my sorrows in chocolate and smoked ham.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sourdough Bread, Whole Grains, and Health

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Several months ago, I discovered the "Bread for Life" sourdough starter for making bread on the Azure Standard website. I had at that point already been on a quest to incorporate more cultured/fermented foods and beverages into our diet, so this was a blessing to find. 

No doubt, we have all heard of increasing numbers of people suffering from gluten intolerance and other gut-related ailments. Grains in particular have been getting a bad reputation. On the other hand, the Bible speaks very highly of bread, and the Lord's prayer teaches us to ask for "daily bread." So what gives?

Enter naturally leavened bread in the form of sourdough. Unlike bread made from fresh, non-fermented and/or non-sprouted flour, it is very gentle on the body, while having a much higher nutrient content thanks to the living
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enzymes, plus a whole host of other benefits.

Not only is sourdough bread more nutritious, it also greatly reduces the amount of phytic acid found in whole grains. You may be shocked to hear me say this, but consuming large amounts of whole grains that have not first been properly prepared by either fermentation or soaking and sprouting will have detrimental health effects, mostly in the form of mineral loss, which leads to tooth decay (cavities) and bone loss. 

If you are eating a healthy diet low in simple carbs and sugar, and are surprised to find your child(ren) developing cavities in spite of regular brushing, take a look at your family's diet - is it rich in whole grains? They may be to blame for leeching minerals from your body. For a more thorough explanation of the link between grains and tooth decay, I highly recommend the book Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel.

I am not suggesting you switch to all-purpose white flour, which is a simple carb and will wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Nor am I saying to cut grains out of your diet (unless you are trying to heal/reverse a food allergy). What I am saying is that switching to traditional sourdough bread will allow you to eat bread, and embrace it as the health-promoting staple that is should be.

To that end, I have recorded the below video tutorial on how to make traditional sourdough bread. 

 

As you can see, my kitchen is not that of Pioneer Woman or Martha Stewart - please excuse the dirty dishes in the background :)

If you cannot buy the starter on Azure Standard, and you do not have a friend who can give you some of his/her starter, I recommend these instructions on how to start your own. Azure also carries a lovely DVD explaining the process of how to make your own starter and bake bread, and also carries my favorite bread pans. (These pans are also available through Amazon.)

(Any readers living in my area are more than welcome to hit me up for sourdough starter to get them going - just drop me a line in the comments or contact me some other way.)

Soon, I hope to be sharing other recipes using this same starter, including raisin bread, pancakes, and English muffins. For now, this post should give you enough information to chew on... (ta-da! I just crack myself up!)
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Where can I sign up for this?

Recently, I received a comment telling me that my 11-year old tackling Algebra II is really behind public school academic levels these days. It was suggested I should sit in on a public school fool class to get a better grasp of where my poor, disadvantaged children should really be at in  their education. 

And then I saw this...



... and this...





Oh, sure. This is great! Where can I sign up for such excellence?? I mean, our children are still stuck memorizing their multiplication facts. It's like, Stone Age Math. Worse yet, I don't even care why they think 3x4 might equal anything but 12.

Someone please tell me how I go about getting permission to sit in on a public school classroom? I am as serious as a heart attack. In fact, I will even bring my older children along, just so for once they can have a glimpse into what real education looks like.

That should be very enlightening. Although I fear I might either suffer terrible headaches as a result, or sore abs from laughing fits.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Piano Book Review

If you play piano, and/or would like to learn how to play the hymns, you may be interested in The Complete Church Piano Course, authored by none other than my husband. 




For a limited time, you may obtain a free copy of the first book in the set by agreeing to do a review on your blog in exchange (positive or negative). 

For details and to obtain your free copy, please head over to my husband's blog.


Monday, August 19, 2013

The benefits and pitfalls of scheduling

Note: I am NOT talking about scheduling young babies in this post. It is my personal preference that a very young child (in our house that is typically under 12-15 months, give or take) should be allowed to eat and sleep on demand. While I do try to have them in a good routine by 2-3 months of age, the pattern for that routine is based upon each individual child, and I just gently encourage their pattern, aligning it with a consistent schedule for the rest of the household. I never allow a young child to be left to cry to learn to soothe themselves to sleep, much less when  they are hungry).

With only one more week left until we start homeschooling again, I have been fine-tuning and honing my daily schedule, and "test-driving" it for the last couple of weeks to see if it had any major flaws. I must say, I am rather pleased with the fact that it has been working out well for the most part. 

Before I share my schedule, I wanted to give a word of caution to new moms, those just starting out homeschooling, those with more young children than older ones to help set the pace and stay on track: PLEASE do not look at this and try to pattern your own day after mine. I am very serious about this. 

I tried to make a schedule like this, using a popular Christian scheduling book/kit, about five or six years ago, when our oldest child was only six years old. The problem was not with the book on scheduling itself, nor was it with my schedule. Rather, at that point in my life as a wife and mother, it simply was not possible to adhere to a schedule broken up into 15-minute increments. I am sure that this system worked well for the authors of the book, and many others in different situations than mine, so I am not trying to criticize the book at all.

When you have only young children (in my experience, this is typically younger than 6), or more young children than older ones, there simply are too many variables to make a rigid schedule. You may have scheduled a half hour to read your Bible, only to find yourself interrupted with true emergencies that cannot wait such as diaper blowouts, someone getting hurt, etc. (truly, I am still learning that the possibilities for these interruptions are endless). 

Instead of the schedule being a tool to help you, it will become a scourge and a master, hanging over your head all the things you are not getting accomplished, rather than having the freedom to delight in your young children. It is far more important to be a joyful mother, than to have a perfect house. The basic, minimal chores and cleaning can be accomplished in windows of opportunity, whenever they arise.

So rather than having a detailed schedule like this one, for years I had a pattern, what we would do each day, in which order: get up, get dressed, have breakfast, clean up, Bible time, run errands, lunch, nap, play time, dinner, bath time, bed. If we got interrupted somewhere along this routine, we would deal with the diversion, and then pick up where we left off. But there was no time frame attached to the whole process.

Over time, as dealing with the kids became easier, the pattern would gradually become more sophisticated, and certain "anchor points" in the day would get their set time: Bible time by 9 am, lunch by noon, kids in bed by 8 PM, and so on.

Having older children is a great asset for many reasons: 
  • They help set a pattern: When you have two parents and four older children all following a consistent schedule, the younger ones simply fall in line themselves, assuming it's just the way things are.
  • They help offset interruptions: While the inevitable emergencies occur just as much as ever, I now have older ones to either help me deal with them, or carry on whatever I am supposed to be doing while I fix the problem. Example: unexpected diaper change during Bible time - one of the older boys can keep reading out loud, while I change the diaper. 
  • They are self-motivated: Allotting a certain time for a certain activity can quickly become a source of frustration with young children. "Hurry up and finish dinner, we got a late start on the meal and you only have 5 minutes left" is just too much to ask of a young child. Older ones, however, will on their own read the clock, assess where they are at vs. where they are supposed to be at, and take pride in being responsible and helpful. 
  • They help get the work done: With only young children, when mom is the one to do the vast majority of work around the house, there are more things that need to get done, than there are hours in the day to do them. Planned neglect has to become a way of life. The areas that need to be neglected on any particular day cannot be scheduled ahead, but rather are based on the necessity of the moment. I remember distinctly that the first time I tried to work out a schedule like this, I struggled for a full week trying to cram everything into the 15 minute slots, only to realize I needed about 26 hours in each day, not counting breaks for myself. Now, I have older children to help shoulder the work load, and I can delegate many of my chores.
I would say that the main benefit of having a great schedule is that it is a tool to keep everyone on track. Like a financial budget, it helps offset guilt: Should I really be sitting around reading or sewing right now? Am I neglecting something important? It also helps stay motivated: I just need to bite the bullet and brush the kids teeth (or whatever other dreaded chore is looming), and then I am done with that for the night. 

All that to say, the schedule below is the result of 13 years of marriage, and 9 years of homeschooling. It is more detailed this year than it was last year, but probably not as sophisticated as it will be one year from now. It is what works for our family, and not anyone else. I am sharing it in hopes it will give you ideas or be of help in some other way.







Sunday


Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday


5 AM


















get dressed, groom, read Bible, work o.n computer (emails, online orders, scheduling, meal planning, blog, library book lists, etc.), go over calendar and plan daily activities, feed and care for food starters
(Mon: get deposits ready, Thu: have breakfast ready for Dad and Isaac by 6:45 am)
get ready


read Bible


6 AM


produce co-op

(kids cook breakfast)



make bulletin


7 AM

cook breakfast, get bread/kombucha/dinner/etc. going, dress little kids, fix girls’ hair, keep everyone on track


8 AM

eat breakfast

clean up (dishes, wipe counters, put away leftovers, sweep), brush little kids’ teeth


9 AM

get ready for church, morning chores
Bible time

work with girls
P.E. class at the park
(walk, play w/ babies, computer time)
work with girls

piano lessons
field trip

(or  same schedule as Mon and Wed)

weekly housecleaning


10 AM

work w/ John
work w/ John


church

work w/ Isaac
work w/ Isaac


11 AM

work w/ Solomon
work w/ Solomon

lunch prep


12 PM

eat lunch

eat lunch
clean up (dishes, wipe counters, put away leftovers, sweep), lay youngest three down for naps


1 PM

clean up
work with Miriam and John as necessary

library
errands
free time


free time

All Through the Ages with Solomon, Isaac, John, and Miriam
art or other projects
(or errands while kids stay home and do their reading)


2 PM



3 PM

German with Solomon, Isaac, and John

chores, laundry


4 PM


dinner prep

dinner prep


5 PM
 eat dinner

clean up, evening chores
dinner


6 PM

clean up (dishes, wipe counters, put away leftovers, sweep), evening chores


church

practice piano w/ girls
get ready for church
practice piano w/ girls


church


7 PM

bath time, brush little kids teeth & get them ready for bed
bath time, brush little kids teeth & get them ready for bed

story time
story time


8 PM

put little kids in bed
put little kids in bed

laundry, cleaning, pick up house
laundry, cleaning, pick up house

get kids in bed


9 PM

get ready for bed, brush teeth, shower, school prep, computer time, plan for next day
get kids in bed
get ready for bed, brush teeth, shower, school prep, computer time, plan for next day

pick up house, get ready for bed


10 PM

free time (read, sew, crafts, etc.)

vitamins, water, etc.



Blogger has thrown off the format to have different size boxes for equal time slots, but on my actual schedule all rows are the same height, making the schedule much easier to read:
 

The only things not included in the above schedule are Solomon's ASL class, which meets every other Sunday afternoon, and my weekly soulwinning time, which for right now is Friday evenings (my husband will carry on with the things I would usually be doing in my absence). Once the days get shorter, I will start going during my free time on Sunday afternoons. 

To those criticizing aspects of my schedule, or saying that I am not spending enough time on this or that: I am not claiming that me or my system are perfect. It's just what works for us, ineffective or ugly as it may be. Feel free to blog your own superior ways on your own blog, to your own audience.

And with that, seeing it is just past 7 AM, my time on the computer is up and I am moving on to breakfast. :)

Have a great week, everyone! :)