Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Sacred Art

Yesterday's entry discussed home management. Today, I'd like to elaborate more on this subject.

During my childhood, it would not be unheard of to witness what was once termed "spring cleaning" in our household. A thorough cleaning would freshen and make the house almost new again. This was a ritual every year for my mother.

If you have read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you would get quite a clear picture of spring cleaning from Almanzo Wilder's boyhood description. They would literally empty the contents of their home, including the wall-to-wall carpet (Almanzo and his brother would remove the tacks, if I remember correctly), and scrub the surfaces to a gleam. According to Almanzo, this was one of his least favorite activities! Here is an account from Farmer Boy:

"Almanzo hated house-cleaning. He had to pull up carpet tacks, all around the edges of miles of carpet. Then the carpets were hung on clotheslines outdoors, and he had to beat them with a long stick. When he was little he had run under the carpets, playing they were tents. But now he was nine years old, he had to beat those carpets without stopping, till no more dust would come out of them."

Flylady attempt to make spring cleaning obsolete with her "zone cleaning" method. This entails breaking up the home into zones and choosing one zone per week as the cleaning center. Decluttering that area is the first priority. After this is done, housekeeping is in order.

I struggle with the Flylady method, however, it seems the most doable for our household. There is something I love about traditional spring cleaning, yet this is less realistic for our busy and bustling household. Our modern lifestyle frustrates the amount of time needed for spring cleaning. If my memory serves correctly, my mother would spend approximately 2 weeks scrubbing and scouring (windows, drapes, screens, carpets, walls, ceilings, cupboard/drawer interiors, etc!!!). It is more practical for me to break the day up into smaller bites of time in order to organize and fit everything in.

If you would like to read more about spring cleaning, you may want to read the book Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelsen (a judge!). What is humorous about this book is that the author even describes her own relatives' methods of spring cleaning and how they would consider their own ways superior to the others' (the Northern European and the Italian ways). I got a chuckle at her vivid childhood recollections. I love how she holds home keeping as a sacred art.

Perhaps we should all consider this sacred art of home keeping. The routine of using our own sweat, hands, and strength to wipe, scrub, and make our surroundings new. The satisfaction of walking into an immaculately kept room and smelling the fragrant air it exudes.

It sure creates a sense of workmanship and satisfaction for moi!

To me, home keeping will always remain a sacred art.


Monday, April 28, 2008

The Humble Homefront

The top of my blog layout features our home management report. This is just an overview of how we maintain our home during the week.

It seems to me that many homemakers and home managers do not consider themselves to be a supervisor of a system that requires an amount of organization to run smoothly.

I have realized that it is very important to have a haven for the family, no matter how busy we all are. It is nice to come home if it is fairly clean and in order. This can only add to family harmony and a peaceful life in general! Believe me, this is a big challenge for me....

Some of us are blessed with the ability to manage our homes without a second thought. My mom says her brain is like a computer when she walks into any room. She immediately scans the area in an orderly fashion to access disorderliness. I envy that! It is not uncommon for me to enter a room and miss the mess altogether.

I suppose it could have something to do with how our brains are wired, yet I do not want to use this as an excuse to allow disharmony and mess. In comes Flylady....

Flylady has helped me, a SHE (sidetracked home executive :o), to get things under control. I do not follow her system to a "t", but many of her ideas have really made house managment a lot simpler!

I'm certainly a work in progress :o).

How about you? Do you have a system for maintaining your household? Any ideas that you can share w/ us "homemaking challenged?"

In the meantime, ours shall remain a "Humble Homefront."


Monday, April 21, 2008

Time For a Little "R" & "R"

The children and I will be taking a short vacation, so the blog won't be updated for a few days.

Keep checking back!

BTW, for those of you wondering how the twins did at school, they did fine. :o). ...I did fine as well (grin).

Have a wonderful week!


New Opportunities

Today my oldest boys (the 14 year old twins) and I are meeting with the high school to get registered for the fall session. Wow! Our boys have been homeschooled from day one, and are not on to new challenges. This is all new to us, yet it is very exciting.

The boys will be observing a few hours of classes with their cousin, who is a sophomore at the high school. The twins were a bit anxious and nervous this morning (and so were their parents!!).The guidance counselor just happens to be the varsity football coach, so they were quite thrilled about that since football is one of their passions in life.

It's funny to watch the younger children imagine their brothers "going to school." They can't quite figure out why this is happening. After all, since they were born, the twins have been around on a daily basis! I think my wee ones are already missing their older brothers. It is certain that this feeling will be mutual, even for the twins.

So, that's the new horizon in our family life. It's interesting how new opportunities arrive because we are encouraged to look back on the former way of doing things. What a process, full of different feelings and emotions. I think it is healthy to do such things.

We are thankful for new opportunities.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Frugal Tips

As a lifelong conservationist, it has been my habit to be both frugal and thrifty. Perhaps it comes from observing older relatives, who were brought up during the Depression. As a young girl their habits of saving and reusing items seemed odd, yet interesting.

There are many things that can be used more than once: aluminum foil, plastic bags, glass jars, various plastic bottles and other containers....

Here are a few things that I do to achieve that purpose:

I use canning jars of all sizes for food storage and bagged lunch containers. There are plastic screw top lids for these jars in the canning section of your grocery store). They can hold homemade yogurt, buttermilk, half-and-half, homemade salad dressings, bulk items, leftovers, etc. I use a gallon jar for our water pitcher during meals. These jars work so well, and are very durable. Canning jars are widely available. Thrift stores, garage sales, etc...usually someone is trying to get rid of their canning jars!

Plastic zip-type bags and other plastic food containers can be easily washed and used again. I turn them inside out and wash well (note: I do not save bags that contained meats). After washing, hang the bags upside down over a tall bottle so they can dry.

Aluminum foil can be salvaged if used carefully. Sometimes it is worth washing it (lay it flat in the sink and wash with dish towel). Normally, I use only enough aluminum foil for its intended purpose by tearing off the exact sized pieces that I need. Extra foil can be folded and saved in a flat drawer.

Yogurt cups from the store bought type can be washed and used as small to-go drinking or snack cups. I like these cups because little ones don't spill as much when they use them. You can even use a permanent marker to write individual children's names on the cups. I serve peeled orange segments, apples slices, popcorn, nuts, raisins, pudding, and homemade yogurt in these great little cups.

Plastic squirt bottles from dish detergent or various food items are used to hold homemade cleaners, vinegar, oil, etc. in our home. I save only the durable type bottles.

Otherwise, we do recycle what we cannot use, and this has diminished our trash content to one bag per day. Not bad for a family of 9 with a few children still requirng diapers.

Note: Keep an eye on how many of these bottles or other items that you save. The quantity can multiply rapidly! I have begun to keep a small area of a shelf available for this purpose. If it gets too full, then I recycle the bottles.

Have a great day!

Blessings :O)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Family Recipe

Happy Friday!

When you have a lot of people to feed, it is always a challenge to find quick and "stick to your ribs" meals that are economical. Here is one of our favorites that is both easy on the wallet and satisfying:

Sausage Rice/Lentil Casserole (a family original recipe!)

Brown the following in a heavy pan:

1 pound breakfast sausage
1 medium onion or 2 tablespoons onion powder

In a separate pan, combine:

1 cup of brown rice
1 cup of green lentils
4 cups of water

Bring lentils and rice to a boil, reduce heat to low or medium low (depending on your stove), and cover. Cook for about 40-45 minutes or until done. Try not to take off the lid for the first 40 minutes of cooking.

To sausage add:

1/4 cup good quality Worcestershire sauce or more, depending on your taste (I have used cheap brands and they don't work as well)
salt & pepper to taste

Combine browned sausage and cooked rice/lentil mixture. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water and stir over medium heat until heated through. Top with 1 cup of mozzarella or cheddar cheese and cover to melt cheese. Serve!

You can also add vegetables to this dish and serve as a casserole. We like it just the way it is. I serve it with tortillas, a green salad, and carrot sticks. It is one of our favorites! Even the toddlers enjoy it.

I triple the recipe so everyone can have seconds and thirds. If I'm extremely lucky, we'll have leftovers :o) Not a common phenomena in our house!


Thursday, April 17, 2008


One of the unforeseen obstacles in homeschooling was the fact that my children would not always be excited to sit and do lessons. The discipline required to learn and complete academic concepts requires attention, willingness, and cooperation.

This can be a challenge for the teacher (especially the "mom sort"). Sometimes the dynamics of the parent/child relationship come into play. If you tend to butt heads with one of your children, your time with him/her while doing school could get very interesting (and frustrating!).

Here are a few suggestions to ease those issues:

1) Develop a good relationship with your child. This is so paramount! Smile at him/her, laugh with them, play with them. Take the time necessary to facilitate this mother/child bond.

2) Establish good habits (see post below) and make them a daily routine. If your child knows what will be expected, it will become more habitual. Don't let them get lazy! This is not to say that you can never be flexible. I'm sure you get the idea.

3) Make school a daily habit. Try to order your subjects and tablework if possible. Example: we do our morning school this way: journals, spelling, English/writing, math. In the afternoon we do free-reading, Latin, and history/science. My children know what to do automatically without me nagging them (too much :o). Usually they begin their work independently.

4) Encourage leadership and independence by allowing your older children to instruct and teach the younger ones. If your older children are still somewhat young and unable to teach, have them read books aloud.

5) Establish the fact that bad attitudes and disrespect are not acceptable. Recently, I noticed that we were getting out of the habit of regular schoolwork, and I wasn't reinforcing our attitude standard. What a mess. This can dismantle a whole day and create certain chaos. Simply go back to square one and work on attitudes. *My definition of a good attitude involves eye contact, decent posture, and replies to directives ("yes, mom" if they are asked to do something).

All of this takes such work. Real life will often get in the way, and we are constantly training and re-training. It feels like Marine Corps boot camp, over and over (at least as much as I know about Marine Corps boot camp!).

I'm right here in the trenches, serving with ya! Hang in there :o).



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Outing & Errand Day

It's a great, spring day, and we are headed out to take care of some business.

So I am making some gluten-free flatbread for my gluten-sensitive boy. I have run out of his bread as well as our regular wheat bread. My boys are eating more than 16 loaves of bread per week! We like to take food with us when we go out. It saves money and we haven't been satisfied by our eating out experiences lately.

I normally pack bread, peanut butter, and a big jug of water. This is when I haven't planned well for the occasion. Yogurt, applesauce, or pudding are great to take along, too. Don't forget to pack a knife, spoons, paper cups, and paper towel. I also use either small paper cups or yogurt cups for serving the pudding, yogurt, and applesauce. If you have fruit on hand, this is another great portable food for picnic-style eating.

If you take your lunch with you, it sure saves a lot of money! You can also stop by the grocery store and grab a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, yogurt, and some apples for an inexpensive lunch. Much cheaper than eating out.

Enjoy the day. Blessings!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yahoo! Spring Has Arrived!

I say this with much caution and trepidation. In Michigan, the weather can turn on you in seconds. The winter stuff remains in the closet, at the ready. However, we shall enjoy it all the same :o).

After yesterday's entry, I realized at that writing pace, I may exhaust the limit of words known to man, so here is a simple list of 3 homeschooling tips for the day):

1) House expectations should be understood and reinforced. Perhaps you have your own list or another reference (ex: The 21 Rules of This House). These expectations should reinforce independence and be self-motivating. Take the pressure off yourself and put it on the child to do what is necessary. This is where behavioral consequences are of much importance!

2) Have daily habits mastered before any schooling occurs: personal grooming, spiritual habits, chores/work (very important!!), and early to bed/early to rise (according to your own family's schedule).

3) It is important to remain "Spock-like with a smile" (remember Star Trek?) It is an ugly thing to see a mom freaking out and nagging her child (just ask my boys about their experiences :O).

It is my opinion that these 3 things are of crucial to help streamline the school environment as well as the keep the home somewhat orderly. Obviously, I am not perfect and don't often measure up to my own standards. We get tired, bored (the "Groundhog Day" sort of bored), and sick, which can change the home dynamics. When this happens, we just pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, roll with the punches, and keep running the race.

Have a great, blessed day! I know we will :o)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Homeschooling Boys

First, I'd like to officially say that I have joined the words "home" and "school" to form one word: "homeschool." Additionally, it doesn't seem improper to me to convert the noun "homeschool" into the verb "homeschooling." Just a picky detail in case any of you were wondering (LOL). This is not the dictionary way of using these terms :o).

I am frequently asked how I homeschool my boys. It is not because they are Rhodes scholars on their way to Oxford or members of Mensa. Perhaps it is because we have 6 boys, and many consider me to be an expert by default (grin...shrug). It is my theory that through my own learning in the "School of Hard Knocks for Those With Boys", I have earned a few Purple Hearts and various bits of wisdom (and a few gray hairs! LOL!)

My first bit of wisdom involves the "Less Is More" approach. The old adage "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" applies to all of my children, yet it firmly earns meaning when applied to my boys.

By "less", I mean both time and materials. Before homeschooling my twins (they were 4 when we began), it was my determination that we would be spending hours on many classical subjects: great books (read-alouds), Latin, math, various language arts, memory work, etc. This vision was immediately quashed by my sons as we commenced our studies. (I also imagined they would love Shakespeare, yet "A Midsummer Night's Dream" puts them into convulsions and "Romeo & Juliet" turns them into z0mbies! However, they do enjoy all of the bloody Shakespeare plays..."Macbeth"..."Henry V"...grin)

As I began to drone on and on, they transformed from little, energetic boys into deer in the headlights (LOL!). I figured that firmness and discipline would be required to gain their attention. WRONG. Well, perhaps it was a reward system that could motivate them to learn. WRONG. These two methods bombed royally. If I wanted to ruin my relationship with my little boys, this was a great way to do it! Tears, runny noses, and frustration were the results (and you should've seen what my boys went through...LOL!).

So, after experiencing "Homeschool Boot Camp", it became apparent to me that we needed to pare things down and keep them to a reasonable amount of time. By "reasonable", I mean about 15 minutes per subject. In the beginning, we kept our subjects narrowed down to phonics, Bible history (as our ancient history text), real-life practical math, and Charlotte Mason science (nature walks and outdoor activities).

Through the years subjects are added and expanded, yet the "Less Is More" approach has not changed all that much. We have kept things short and to the point. My boys love to learn and are very self-motivated. It is my opinion that they are bright young men.

It is late, so I must retire for the evening. This is just a start to a few more things I'd like to add.

Your ideas and suggestions are always welcome! The more the merrier. It is certain that other readers will want more information and wisdom. Though I think I know it all, I prove myself wrong every time and do learn along the way from individuals who have their own unique circumstances. Please feel welcome to share!


Friday, April 11, 2008

Phew! Shopping Day Today

Shopping Day for our family is very interesting. Today was that particular day. Logistics must be considered, lists made, laundry gathered (we do our washing at the laundromat, drying at home), food planned for those staying at home, school lessons determined, etc...

It is always ideal when those details are hashed out. WHY IS IT THAT 9 TIMES OUT OF 10, THEY ARE NOT????

This makes shopping day what mom calls "creative."

First, we decide who will be attending mom, and who will be staying at home. It came to pass after much confused and erratic discussion between the children, that Greyson, Elijah, and Sam would go. Greyson (11) and Elijah (8), tend to frustrate the authority of their older brothers in charge, therefore they are the usual suspects to accompany mom (grin). Sam (2) is at the age where all he does is look for trouble: i.e. getting into hair products, make up, food, and decorating the walls with permanent markers (grrrrrr). Mom likes to keep him right by her side most of the time.

After breakfast devotions (Starr Meade's "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds), we gathered up the laundry (8 loads) and the toddler. The van was loaded, last minute instructions given to the authority figures in the house, admonitions revealed to the wee ones left behind with said authority figures, and we 4 were off.

Elijah decides he would like to play a game on the cellphone. This was fine until he found it quite exciting filming Sam running around the laundromat. Mom confiscated phone and had the two rascals sit down. Laundromat visitation: 30 minutes (2 triple loaders, 1 double loader machine).

Next stop, "The Monster." We call our local "one-stop" grocery store by this surname. Most people are miserable to be there, but still seem to go anyway. It is a sporting event for us to find a parking space as near as the store as possible (preferably near the cart corral). Alas, we do fairly well. Just a short walk to the entrance.

We find one of those extra-long shopping carts with a bench seat. Yeah, it's alignment is perfect with no swaying to the left or right! It also has a working seatbelt to keep Sam strapped in. Many of the old men in the store say "Do ya need a license to drive that thing?" Mom pushes the cart and gives orders to Greyson and Elijah on what items to throw (or place gently!) into the cart. Oh, and one last stop to view the live lobster tank to see which lobster is the toughest. Grocery store time: 1 hour 15 minutes (not bad!).

Last stop, "large warehouse store." We gather up a few things, avoid the video game aisle (smile), check out, and sit down for a slurpee (a treat for well-behaved children.....especially little boys who behaved well all morning!). Warehouse visit: 30 minutes.

We arrive home. The biggest shock of mom's life is in store....THE HOUSE IS CLEAN...INCLUDING THE KITCHEN! Another bonus, Rachel (7) and John (4 1/2) are perfectly content and even well-fed! Thanks Malcom and Noah (14 year old twins).

This is what I call an almost perfect Shopping Day. Nobody hurt, relatively little fighting, food in the house again (until a few days anyway), and mom is not exhausted.

What a blessing!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hi, Everyone!

This is the first entry for the new blog here at Blogger. Perhaps this is a better way for friends and family to keep up with our busy family.

Speaking of busy, today is what I would term "partially busy." Everyday in a homeschooling household is busy, almost frenetic at times! However, this day will allow for some flexibility.

My sons are having a buddy over. They will play every imaginable sport under the sun while trying to elude the smaller children (laugh!). I may even be generous and allow them 1 hour on the X-Box 360.

The X-Box 360 can be a blessing and a bane! My boys become completely unaware of their surroundings while engaged in gameplaying. We keep their time on that contraption very limited. It also makes a great DVD player!

Our DVD player is on the fritz, so I use the X-Box 360. I'm currently viewing Michael Palin's "Himalaya" series by the BBC. He is one of my favorite personalities! British humor and great scenery, those are a few of my favorite things. Seeing so many cultures and traditions is also something of great interest to me.

Well, it is time for lunch. I must round up the hungry troops and get them fed. We are having leftovers from last night's dinner, a hamburger stew. I think I am the queen of ground beef meals!