Thursday, February 24, 2011

Frugal Beauty Tips

Those early days of marriage when Pastor Dad was in seminary at the same time that I was finishing up my bachelor's degree caused us to watch our finances very closely. We both had various jobs, "odd" or otherwise, to keep money flowing into the coffers but not enough that we didn't need to be thrifty which sounds so much nicer than saying we were cheap. Two babies were also added to our cozy home in those early years which helped keep the financial situation interesting, to say the least.

In other words, times were tough. Times are tough now, too, perhaps not as bad as they were then but we are returning in earnest to our cheap thrifty ways as we look for opportunities to cut spending again. Having a teenaged boy to feed and clothe makes one examine the finances minutely. I'm kidding. Taking a boy to basketball daily when gas prices are so high is more likely the reason behind it.

Whatever the reason, I began to make a list of the thrifty things we did when we barely had 2 nickels to rub together and here are the things I remember. I thought I'd share some of the beauty tricks I employed to stretch a dollar hard enough to make George Washington cry, "Uncle!"

  • I stopped buying my facial cleansing/moisturizer/makeup package from an independent distributor.
Oh, how I hated to do that! Not only were the products good, but the retailer was my friend and she was trying to make extra money. But friend or not, I had to cut her from my payroll. Here is what I used instead:
  1. Baby oil. This was slathered on first. It helped to soften the make-up and put needed oils into my dry skin. The object of any cleansing program is to remove dirt and make-up, not the skin's moisture. This step helped remove debris and protect the moisture at the same time.
  2. pHisoderm cleanser. I'm sure any facial cleanser would work, but this is what I used. Even though it has been reformulated to remove certain chemicals that the FDA considers regulatory drugs it's still for sale and still inexpensive. Mine was especially cheap years ago(free!) when my dad worked for the company and gave me what came in his product boxes.
  3. Alcohol. Yes, plain old isopropyl alcohol and half of a cotton ball (half because we're talking frugal here, you know). This step substitutes for toner and purifier.
  4. Moisturizer. This is applied at the end, either before bed or a layer of make-up. I don't remember exactly what brand I used but any facial moisturizer to fit an individual skin type should do.

The next thing I learned to save was:
  • Nylon hosiery
Since I wore panty hose almost every day I bought them in a multi-pack. Then if I got a run in one leg only I cut off the bad leg from the panty section which then left me with a pair of hose that looked like it was meant for an amputee. I saved that mutilated panty with one good leg until I had another one exactly like it and wore the two together, one over the other. (I hope I don't need to draw you a picture!) This worked well as stockings and doubled as a post-pregnancy girdle whenever that was needed, too.

* * *Speaking of pregnancy, those pairs of pregnancy panty-hose were really expensive! I didn't use this little trick then no matter what. Frugality is one thing, but I don't think binding a growing baby belly is a wise way to save money.

Now that I'm in those years where pregnancy is not much of a concern, but that the post-pregnancy belly has literally "hung around" a lot longer than I ever dreamed it would, I am seriously considering going back to this option. Buying hosiery that has the built-in panel is expensive and can almost reduce me to tears if I accidentally run them on the first or second wearing! Buying the everyday kind without support and doubling them up after one leg has been removed from each pair should help keep this expense in check.

Moving on. Specifically, we're moving downward from the legs to the feet.
  • Shoes.
When a pair of shoes wore out I needed to decide if they truly needed to be replaced. "Needs" are one thing but "wants" are another. What did I really need?
  1. Black pumps. They went with everything dressy and I wore a lot of dress clothes to my college classes, church, and even to school when I was teaching.
  2. White pumps or dress sandals. These met the need of summer dressy outfits.
  3. Gym shoes or similar casual footwear.
  4. Boots. This was a necessity where we lived! I bought combination dress/snow boots in a shade of brown just so I could mix it up a bit with my black pumps.
  5. (Optional) Casual sandals. This was a splurge when we had the money. Otherwise, I just made do without.
This list looks pretty austere, but these were all I had to have and did have. I was never the best-dressed woman anywhere I went but I was never barefoot even when pregnant! :)

Pastor Dad's "need" list was shorter than mine. He had 1 pair of dress shoes and 1 pair of gym shoes. He also owned softball cleats and we both had house slippers (when we received them as gifts, otherwise we just wore socks on the bare floors) but our closet didn't hold many shoes in any case.

I've got a few more tips for shoes.

  • Clean them regularly. (Must I really say this? I'm a mom, so yes, I must.) Clean shoes will stay nicer longer than dirty ones. Children's patent leather shoes can be cleaned with petroleum jelly. Mild soap and a soft cloth will clean most anything else. Permanent markers that match the color of vinyl or leather shoes can help hide slight (and I do mean slight) blemishes.
  • Allow shoes to air dry before putting them away. Usually this means at least 24 hours. This will not only help them smell better, but it will keep them from disintegrating as quickly. Never wear shoes that haven't properly aired. Pastor Dad has a couple of nice pairs of dress Florscheim shoes that he alternates just so they'll air properly.
  • Store them properly after they've aired. Either keep the shoe box they came in or store them in plastic boxes made for the purpose. A honeycomb-type box made for the purpose will work as well. Just make sure they are not squashed into the allotted space. Crushing and flattening causes them to wear out quickly.
  • Women should not drive in high heels. Wear gym shoes or other casual wear for this task. This is so the back of the heel does not scuff.
  • Keep shoes away from the dog! Obvious perhaps, but I've lost a lot of shoes this way over the years. Dogs like the smell of your scent on the shoe. (I told you dogs are crazy!)
This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Homeschool Chuckle

One of the young ladies that I have been blessed to meet in recent months - that means in person and not just in the blogging world - posted last week about a funny thing her 4-year-old son said. Read that here. It reminded me of a couple of conversations with The Bear when he was about that age and it seemed to be the perfect anecdote to follow the things I've written about homeschooling.

For instance, do you think homeschool parents sometimes have unrealistic expectations? Well, so do the homeschooled students.

When The Bear was 4 years old we were riding in the car with the newlyweds, Karen and Prince Charming. The Bear suddenly announced, "I'm going to learn to read this year."

Well, this was news to us, since the little dude didn't like books and wouldn't sit still long enough for one of us to read to him, let alone learn to read a book on his very own! He'd need to get over this allergy to paper and ink in a hurry if he were to actually learn to read. Perhaps that was what he was doing by making his announcement to his fellow passengers: making us all "accountability partners" on his road to recovery.

"You'll need to learn your ABC's first," I told him, meaning the actual recognition of the letters. Can't very well learn the phonetic tricks of the letters if you don't even know what they look like!

So began The Bear's journey into the alphabet. He studied strenuously to learn their shapes.

One day he was riding in the car with Pastor Dad and he felt he should confide something to his father. "Mom lied to me," he asserted.

"What?" Pastor Dad asked incredulously (or at least I hope that's how he asked).

"Yes, she said that I need to learn the alphabet so that I could learn to read. I know every letter but I can't read anything yet!" He was quite disappointed when Pastor Dad enlightened him to the fact that he had merely mastered Step 1 and that there were several more in the process.

Every so often The Bear still gets impatient when attempting to master something new and I remind him that there is a process to follow on the path to achievement. He still looks at me like he doesn't know whether to believe me or not.

* * *
Karen tweeted yesterday about Sweet Pea's attempt to sing the ABC song. Sweet Pea and Uncle Bear would make quite the dynamic duo, but then again maybe not. She'd never be able to get him to sing. :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Scriptures That Helped Us Decide to Homeschool

Returning now to my little article series on the decision made 30 years ago to homeschool our children, I wanted to list a few of the scriptures that convinced me that the Lord wanted us to do so. The object is not to tell other people what they should do. This series has been my own testimony of what we felt was the answer to a very definite prayer request. (The first 2 articles can be found here and here.)

The secret to success of any educational system is the parents. It doesn't matter if the system is the public school, a Christian/parochial school, or homeschooling. The parents are ultimately accountable for every facet of a child's needs and that obviously includes his or her education.

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psalm 127

There are many things in this Psalm that spoke to our hearts. For instance, we realized that if the LORD did not help us establish our home all of our labors, no matter how worthy they seemed at the time, would end in failure. We wanted the Lord to build our home and to provide the protection for it. We needed His protection for our home.

These verses also state that children are the LORD's heritage. Perhaps I misunderstand this verse, but as someone who likes studying their own heritage, it appears that the LORD is stating His kinship to children. That would mean that our offspring belong to Him and are only loaned to us for a season. I think this is taught elsewhere, such as in the New Testament where Jesus teaches His disciples not to scorn the children because they are such that make up God's Kingdom. We also see in the New Testament that the gifts (sometimes called talents) given then require a great deal of responsibility while they are in the steward's care (cf. Luke 12:41-48 for the parable).

These verses also imply that our offspring are their father's weapons. Hmm. Why would we need weapons? Ask my son-in-law, Dan. He'd tell you that weapons are used for warfare. So, what kind of warfare would a Christian father be waging? Spiritual warfare, specifically when it comes to protecting his household.

Can our children really be the weapons God uses to fight a spiritual battle for our homes? Solomon, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, seemed to say so! He continues his city analogy stating the father's ability to beat the enemy at the door with the arrows in his quiver. This brings this Psalm full circle as we consider that God said He had to be the protecting the home and that He uses the children (arrows) He places in it to do it. Surely it is understood that our children are the ones who will keep the faith alive for future generations when the enemy ramrods the gate.

Could we raise children as arrows of faith if we didn't homeschool them? Yes, and many people do so. But given our own desires to stay together as a family through any circumstance (mentioned as one of the "pro" homeschooling decisions in the previous article) we knew it would be difficult if we didn't homeschool.

That leads to the next scripture portion.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD they God with all thine heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

If there is anything these verses tell me it is that teaching my children about the LORD takes time. Time together is something that would have been at a premium if we had taken the other route. I knew from experience that long days of managing a classroom meant that I was only diligent about one thing when I got home: sleep! I feared I would not have much energy to talk to my children diligently about the LORD early in the morning (most likely I'd be diligently rushing them out the door like I do The Bear now on co-op days), or when I sat in my house (I'm the kind of person who craves quiet and alone time in the evening). I felt I could do the rest, but these scriptures seemed to indicate that getting my faith across to my kids was going to require a whole lot more time than I was prepared to give it while hustling through the evening routine and bedtime prayers.

The part about keeping scriptures before their eyes was important to me also. Frankly, that's why the public school wasn't an option we considered since any mention of the Bible has almost been removed from its classrooms except in a derogatory way. The Christian school option would meet that stipulation if we chose that route. As for our home, well, if you come to our house and you don't see scripture almost everywhere you turn, then you must be looking at the ground. As a matter of fact, you can't escape it there either because even the door mat on the front porch has a scripture verse on it.

May I add a disclaimer? Not all of my days have been God-honoring. My children were witness to my very worst behavior. Do I wish they had not seen my depression or anger? Obviously, but I can't change the past. I can say that while I'm very sad that my children saw me slide into the Slough of Despond I'm equally very happy to say that they also saw the Lord, their father, and even themselves lift me out of it. They saw real life and that included the good with the bad. Sinful behavior was followed by repentance and restoration. I'm overjoyed that my children were witness to that part of the Christian walk, too.

Okay, there was another familiar verse that spoke volumes to me about homeschooling my children.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
This scripture advocates tailoring the training (or education) to fit the individual child. I am often asked which curriculum I use. My reply is always, "Which child? And which year? Or what subject?" because there were very few years where we used a cookie-cutter curriculum. Our methods were as eclectic as the personalities of the individuals who used them. We're still that way.

God made us all with unique characteristics that must be encouraged to reach our highest learning potential. Also, God endowed each individual with certain gifts and abilities. Our job as parents isn't to turn our children into geniuses but to help them discover the abilities God has placed within them and to use those for His glory.

Our children are all different and we embrace and celebrate their unique personalities and talents. We didn't always get everything right, but we did try to identify their needs and meet them as well as we could. I stand in awe as their talents and abilities still unfold.

Let me leave you with just a few more passages to consider.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. Proverbs 1:7-10

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. Proverbs 23:24, 25

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee, they shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth, that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? Proverbs 22:17-21

I'm so very thankful that we made the decision to homeschool Karen, Lisa, the Princess, and the Bear. Although we've missed the financial boost of a second income, we can say that we didn't miss out on much else. It remains to be seen if it is the Lord's Will for me to go back into teaching as a profession once this leg of the journey is completed. One thing is for sure, though. These four will always be this teacher's pets!

Frugal Food

This is the picture of the end of a very thrifty meal that served 15 people. Well, okay, that's an exaggeration. Baby Lili brings her own food source with her so that means only 14 people were fed from my crockpots Sunday.

Notice the cooker on the left. It was a gift from my parents many years ago and it has lived a long, useful life. I got the super-duper upgraded model on the right as a gift from Lulu and Dan (only Dan probably doesn't know anything about it) and I think Lulu managed to get all of her siblings involved in the purchase of it in one way or another. The new one was meant to replace my poor, disfigured, broken crockpot except I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. Sure the crockery is a bit cracked and the handles are taped on but the heating element still works just fine thankyouverymuch! I'm a bit cracked and taped up but you wouldn't think of throwing me away would you?  Don't answer that.  And let me just say for the record that my heater works just fine these days - or nights - too.

Anyway, I wouldn't dream of taking the old one to church dinners or anything like that for fear of the tape working loose and the whole shebang going "bang" but for after church dinners at home? Well, it still meets a need.

I like to spend time with my extended family over Sunday dinner if at all possible. I've got a bit of my paternal grandma in me, I think. I remember fondly those days at her house playing with my cousins while the grown-ups did grown-up things . . . like playing board and card games. Some things never change. :)

I also like to be able to invite others home with us on the spur of the moment.  That isn't always possible, but there is usually room for another 1 or 2 (or 3) around my table(s) as long as they don't mind eating home-cooking served rather informally.

The secret to inexpensive Sunday dinners is in planning ahead. 'Way ahead. I'm talking think-like-Thanksgiving-Day-is-coming soon ahead. I already have next week's meal planned and part of the next week also. I'm also scheduled to take a meal later this week to a family who has a new addition so I'm preparing for that meal also.  Nothing like a new baby to make me want to go sneak a peek at the little darling.   I've learned that if you stop by with food they don't mind the intrusion.

Yesterday's meal consisted of pork tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, tossed salad, mixed California style veggies with cheese sauce, home made crescent rolls, and white Texas sheet cake with chocolate ice cream for dessert. I figure that I spent $1.50 per person. The most expensive thing was the pork, but by fixing a whole tenderloin (and buying it on sale) it went further with less waste than individual pork chops would.  Plus I didn't need to worry about the one-to-one correspondence between each person and his or her chop.  Pork chop, that is.

I made my rolls the day before with another cost and labor-saving device: my faithful old bread machine that I bought as a reconditioned item almost 20 years ago.   It has more than paid for itself many times over.

I planned the cooking of the meat and side dishes carefully.  The pork went into the old crockpot and the potatoes went into the new one. The potatoes needed the "keep warm" setting that engages on the newer model once the cook time has elapsed. I made the cheese sauce in the little crockpot immediately after I got home from church for anyone that wanted to put it over the California veggies. 

My roast and potato recipes came from the Fix It and Forget It Recipes for Entertaining cookbook  that I found on sale a few years ago and the white Texas sheetcake one came from the Gooseberry Patch Family Favorite Recipes cookbook that I bought a couple of years ago for full price, but with a gift card. The rolls recipe was from a book that I got at a yardsale in Georgetown, SC while on vacation at Myrtle Beach many years ago (strange, but true:  who goes to yard sales on vacation especially when she doesn't go to them in her own neighborhood?) called Bread Machine Magic.

So I figure that for around $21 I fed us all. I'd hate to think what it would cost to take us all out to eat at a restaurant. Even eating off a dollar menu would not be as "ful"filling.

Speaking of eating out, if you like the flavors of certain restaurant cuisine but not the accompanying price you might be interested in this downloadable e-book entitled "28 No-Guilt Copycat Recipes" that are not only cheaper to make at home but diet friendly.  (Thanks to Cincinnati Cents for the tip.)

Note to Lisa:  I don't know how I could possibly publish anything about frugality that you don't already know!  I think I taught you everything I knew when you were growing up in our home.  And you've learned to live even more frugally yourself on a military salary.  Thanks for the encouragement, though.  Maybe I'll come across something new to teach you.  Love,  Mom

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Pursuit of Frugality

In recent weeks I have been reading a book on being frugal. Frugality is not new to me. It's just something that I felt needed a bit of a kick into higher gear.

I've now finished the book and will do a review of it when I post what I've read this month, but for now, let me say that I was disappointed. Not in the book I should hasten to add, as I feel that the author did an admirable job with the topic, but disappointed all the same.

First, I'm already doing 99% proposed and have most of my adult life. You knew there were some tricks to being a stay-at-home homeschooling mother/pastor's wife, right? So my disappointment wasn't in the book per se but in the fact that I didn't find a whole lot of new material. A few, yes, but not much to merit the cost of the book. Oh, wait. Ha! Ha! I didn't buy the book. I obtained a copy from the library. The only books on saving money that I ever bought were the "Tightwad Gazette" books. (You might have noticed them on my cookbook shelf a few weeks ago.) Those books have been worth every dollar I spent on them even if I haven't been able to bring myself to drink reconstituted powder milk. But I digress.

My second disappointment is that I didn't write this book. Obviously someone had the idea to do so and has made quite a bit of money doing it. In fact, the author was featured in her local paper because she decorated for the holidays with things that cost her nothing. Zilch. Nada. Here I am reading the book post-holiday and you know what kind of holiday decorations were gracing my tables and mantle? Yeah, you guessed it. The same things decorating her house. I let Pastor Dad read the page as my witness. So my second disapointment stemmed from the fact that I wish I'd had the forethought to write this book first.

I am now composing a list of frugal ideas of my own that I will share soon in a future post. And I know some of you want me to continue my homeschooling series. I'm compiling my list of scriptures that the Lord used to show me that homeschooling was His plan for our family. That will be coming soon, too. I promise. Tonight The Bear plays his last basketball game of the season and I should have more time to get these things written.

More importantly, just think of how much money we'll be saving on gasoline when not required to make a 60 mile round trip at least 4 days a week for basketball practice and games! Now that's the best money-saving idea I've encountered all month!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Providence 365, Week 7

This post has been edited. For one thing, the verb "work" in the word illustration below has been changed from "work[ed]" back to "work." This is because it dawned on me that the word is not in the past tense. It is something that continues to happen daily.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

This was the verse that was given to us this week to utilize in a picture layout or journal page. I will not be submitting any pictures, choosing to journal my thoughts instead. I prayed all week about this and this is what I felt the Lord would want me to tell you about how this verse has impacted my life.

* * *

This verse is so maligned. It evokes images of meaningless comfort in times of grief. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This verse is a cause for celebration!

And it is meant to bring delight!

This verse is one that takes many Christians mentally to places that they don't want to go. It has become a pariah, an equivalent of the "Please Don't Send Me to Africa" song. It is such a shame, too, because it is plopped squarely among other verses that few notice: verses about hope, about not being separated from the love of God, about being conquerors.

But few see this verse in context. They are too worried about what kind of "all things" this verse might mean for them. They do not trust God with their "all things."

I see these verses, including verse 28, differently. They are part of a love letter from the lover of my soul. He tells me that it will be okay. It will ALL be okay.

I'm going to tell you a little story and I want you to see the celebration instead of the tragedy. I don't want you to "feel [my] pain." I want you to shout "Hallelujah!" to the one who kisses all my wounds and makes everything better. If you can't do that, then stop reading and come back another day.

* * *

My hair fell out when I was 36 years old. I will always remember that Sunday morning in the shower when much of my crowning glory lay on the tiles at my feet. My first thought was, "It's Sunday. What am I supposed to do now?" because I was due at church in less than an hour. I spent most of that hour crying before going anyway.

This was not the first time that I'd had problems but it was definitely the worst. It had begun when I was 29 years old and had suffered through a difficult pregnancy. And the chickenpox. And almost losing the 10-month-old Princess to a spider bite.

The day after my shower episode we went to a center where cancer patients go to feel beautiful again. We bought my first wig. And I cried again for about another hour.

Now I want you to concentrate on the celebration. Here is how "all things work together for good to [me] that love[s] God, . . ." The Lord has taught me many things through this experience. Here are just a few:
  • Those who love me do not care what I look like. They love me anyway. This includes my husband, my parents, my children, and my friends. Those who do not love me would not love me anyway.
  • It's. Just. Hair. Meaning, I don't have a major illness. But in recent years I've been given many opportunities to comfort cancer victims experiencing the effects of chemo because I'm someone who can empathize with the hair loss part of their trauma.
  • I have a better understanding of what it means to have my imperfections covered because of the gift of another. I have real hair because someone donated it (probably at a price) so that I can look presentable to other people. I wear a robe of righteousness because Someone donated Himself (definitely at a price) so that I can look presentable to God.
I'm still learning new things through something that most people would call a tragedy but which that I've come to think of as a blessing.

And by the way, some of the happiest missionaries I know serve on the field in Africa.  There really is nothing to fear when God is in control of the "all things."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Busy Week!

I'm sneaking a peak at a few of my friends' and family's blogs this morning before I head out the door.  Just wanted to drop a note here saying that I'll be back writing when I can.  In the meantime, here's what has been happening lately:
  • Pastor Dad spoke at a Valentine banquet last Saturday evening.  It was so nice of him to take me along.  :)
  • The Bear was suddenly added to the varsity team roster (he plays jv) and had to dress for a Saturday night game. Thanks to Philip for providing transportation to the event and for being there to watch The Bear's varsity debut in our absence.  Sob!  Okay, the boy was only in for a couple of minutes, but I still missed one of my baby's milestones.
  • Most of the family was present for Sunday dinner.  This was only the second time we've been together for Sunday dinner so far this year, which is highly irregular.  We don't usually do small Sunday dinners either.  But this weekend we just had breakfast casseroles with homemade biscuits, fruit salad, and a heart-shaped Valentine cake that I made from a mix. 
  • The Bear had a basketball game that began about the time that our Sunday evening service ended.  It's tournament season.  Groan!
  • Monday was co-op day.  I taught my Ohio History class dressed in character as the widow of William Henry Harrison, our local boy who became President.  I dressed totally in home-made (not all by me) things and carried items that would be good period knock-offs.  The year?  1861.  Yes, Mrs. Harrison's life spanned the time of the American Revolution until her death during the Civil War in1864.  Not only did that cover a lot of Ohio history, but it also set the stage for our next Ohio boy-turned-President, Ulysses S. Grant.
  • Also on Monday, I taught the Apologia Physical Science class.  I got to discuss Einstein's Theory of Relativity.  Yes, it really was one of those days!  Between the costuming in my earlier class and the possibility of my brain exploding from discussing Einstein, I felt I was in desperate need of a nap after co-op!
  • It didn't happen.  The nap, I mean. Our church held its Valentine banquet that evening and I was the hostess.  Since I had many things to do that afternoon to get ready for it The Bear was forced to miss b-ball practice.  The Valentine banquet was very nice, I think, and thanks are due to Karen and Philip for once again providing games for our evening entertainment.
  • Tuesday I was blessed to have lunch with a long-time friend (notice I didn't say "old" friend) and I must say that it rejuvenated my attitude to spend time together chatting.  I then spent time getting some church work done and picking up the boy from basketball practice.  Yes, everything these days seems to revolve around basketball.  Thanks to Pastor Dad for dropping the boy off so that I could enjoy my lunch visit.
  • Wednesday  we actually got some homeschooling done!  In earlier years spring fever was a hindrance to homeschooling at this time of year.  Now basketball is the culprit.  So, yes, I took The Bear to basketball practice, had car trouble, went to church, and went home afterward.
  • Yesterday I went somewhere to apply for a part-time job.  I don't think I'll get it, but I applied.  The Bear applied at the same business for a different position.  If only one of us gets hired, I hope it is him.  Seriously.  Time for The Bear to start earning his own spending money.
  • Also yesterday, there is - you guessed it! - a basketball tournament in Indianapolis that The Bear needed to attend as the newest member of the varsity team.  I met a carpool in the afternoon and sent him on his way.  Then we met the carpool last night and got him back.  He didn't get in the game but he had a wonderful time, and those socialization issues that so many non-homeschoolers seem to worry about were adequately met.  Ha!  Ha!
  • While The Bear was gone yesterday I worked on a mailing for the church.  It took me most of the afternoon.  Since I worked at home I was able to do some much-needed housecleaning at the same time.
  • Today?  Well, today The Bear is back in Indy thanks to the carpool.  However, I must go later to pick him up because the family that drove is not coming back tonight.  Perhaps they need a vacation after all this basketball.  Who knows.  So in the meantime, I've got my grocery shopping to do and some more preparations to make for Sunday that I just don't like to leave until the last minute.
Catch y'all later!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Providence 365, Week 6

Romans 12:6-8 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophesy according to the proportion of faith: Or ministry, let us wait on our minstering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence, he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

The assignment this week was to identify our specific talents and picture them accordingly. I spent the week thinking about this and concluded that nothing symbolizes my God-given talents quite like the books I've accumulated.

This is my Bible study corner where I sit and read my Bible each day.  Under the small lamp are my study Bible and a couple of small journals where I keep notes.  These books symbolize the times that I have been the "exhorter" at ladies' meetings, pastors' wives' conferences, and retreats.  Sometimes I use my studies as blog material also.

These are the books in my kitchen.  Included on this shelf are my cookbooks and my bird identification books.  I am sure that I have the gift of hospitalilty as evidenced by the number of people and birds I'm blessed to feed each week.

These are a few of the research books that I use when compiling my genealogy.  There are also a couple of momentos pictured on this shelf that symbolize my ties past and future generations:  the picture is of one set of great-grandparents and the little tractor was The Bear's favorite toy when he was a toddler.  I feel that one of my gifts is keeping history alive through the use of my research skills.

Besides more Bibles, these are just a few books that I am currently using in the field of education, both for the benefit of myself and others.  I feel that I have the gift of teaching because I have the desire to instill the love of learning in others also.  The books about the presidents are for my Ohio history class that I am teaching at our homeschool co-op.  This Monday I will dress in costume and portray the widow of William Henry Harrison.  These books, among others, are being used as reference material.

These are some of the areas that I have identified as the gifts that God has given me. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Books of January 2011

This synopsis is a bit late, but thought it best to get it posted now, even if it does interrupt my current article series on homeschooling.

*Note: This may appear several times in your reader. For that, I apologize! I am having "issues" with my text editor and I. Am. Not. Happy.

Here are the books I completed in January:

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner (fiction). Susan is one of the authors regularly highlighted by She Reads (notice the new button on the right sidebar) but I do not think this book was one of their monthly selections. If it was, it was picked before I started following. White Picket Fences was written in 2009 and I didn't discover She Reads until early in 2010.

You may recognize the name of Susan Meissner from her book, The Shape of Mercy, because it is one that I read last year and discussed just a few weeks ago. Ms. Meissner was kind enough then to send me an email to thank me for my recommendation.

I recommend this one also. Like The Shape of Mercy the present tiime is influenced by past events. In White Picket Fences the Holocaust provides a series of mysteries for the protagonists to unravel. And like all individuals, the modern-day people have their own secrets. Let's just say - for the sake of providing a nudge in the direction of this book without spoiling anything - that the characters might seem to be part of the perfect family (hence the reference to the proverbial white picket fence) but appearances can be deceiving, even to the individuals themselves.

I do have one criticism concerning the use of mild profanity. I say mild because they are Biblical words but they are not meant to be King James English. I do understand that authors, even Christian ones, feel compelled to have their characters speak authentically, however, I don't need to read such in order to know how people talk. One of the reasons I choose Christian fiction is to escape such language. Nor do I think it's usage was appropriate even in the context. Granted, it was a mild-mannered individual who used "mild" profanity and not one of the more worldly characters who did so, but that just begs the whole question of why even go there if everyone isn't going to speak freely?

Aside from that caveat I would recommend this book. It was a touching story about the seemingly perfect family that obviously is not all that it seems. Life with its interpersonal relationships is, um, complicated. This book deals with that issue.

I also recommend this book because I love a story that looks back through a character's genealogy. The blending of modern individuals with snippets of information concerning their family heritage makes a story right up my alley! This book does that as well.

7 Events That Made America America by Larry Schweikart (nonfiction). This book looks at some events of American history that were not seen as bellwether events in their time. For instance, did you know that the era of big government began in 1820 with Martin Van Buren? Or that when Dwight Eisenhower had his heart attack in 1955 the media set in motion the nanny state to control the diets of all Americans?

Each of the seven events highlighted is compared and contrasted with the concept of government that the Founding Fathers set in motion with what our government does now. And as you might imagine, what it gets wrong. He uses historical events that show that private enterprises and individuals can and will meet any needs that arise better than the government can. The problem is that the government will rarely leave well enough alone and goes so far as to get in the way by regulating the altruistic that step in to help. This in turn causes more chaos, which in turn causes more government regulation, etc. For example, the tragedy of the Johnstown, PA flood was contrasted with Hurricane Katrina flooding and argued that individuals that are familiar with the people, resources, and the topography of a devastated area are better able to offer assistance than FEMA agents.

In another chapter the book goes so far as to say that the bad boys of the 1960s era, the anti-establishment rockers, were pure capitalists. What? You thought they weren't in it for the money? Ha! Ha! Ha! How many of them held concerts for free? Hmm. Even the Beatles weren't happy with the British tax code and moved their enterprise elsewhere. And to think, our politicians want to emulate the European model!

Remember that last year I read a book about "myths" promoted by the North after the end of the American Civil War? I mentioned that our family had lively talks around the dinner table that were inspired by that book. And seriously, the anti-Lincoln slant of last year's read had somewhat unsettled me. Well, this book helped answer some of our questions. The real racists were ensconced within the Supreme Court, that branch of the government that overstepped their boundaries even back then.

Even one of our modern heroes, Ronald Reagan, is written up in this book for his crucial and erroneous decision to send our Marines into Lebanon on an impossible peace-keeping mission. They had targets painted on their backs the moment they set foot in the place, figuratively speaking.

The study of history is important to our nation. It is only by protecting the system set in place by our founders that we can be protected ourselves. I thoroughly recommend this book! Read it and cringe.

The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (audiobook). This classic fiction was a required reading in The Bear's literature study. He didn't read it. One of the nice things about being the homeschool teacher is that I can make any necessary substitutions to fit the program. The American Literature guide that we bought from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) had this Hawthorne book scheduled as part of its study of the Romantic Era. I chose to substitute Hawthorne's book The Scarlet Letter (which was listed as the honors text, but don't tell The Bear that.) because I am more familiar with it and until this month I had not read the other. This would make me able to discern whether The Bear was actually keeping up with his reading. (Don't tell him I said that either.) Okay, this is not a discussion of The Bear's reading habits so I'll move on in the discussion of mine.

Hawthorne suffered from verbosity, as do I, but probably because I read a great deal of American literature when I was young and was therefore highly influenced by it. His wordiness is evident in both books.

In classic Hawthorne fashion, the reader is introduced to the story through a prop. In The Scarlet Letter it is an embroidered letter that the author found in a drawer the leads to the invention of a story about the woman who wore it. In The House of the Seven Gables it is Hawthorne's house that fuels the author's imagination as he constructs a tale about its prior inhabitants. Again, this is a ploy that I find appealing! I'm much more amenable to reading historical fiction set in my own ancestors' haunts now that I am aware of such. Before I pursued my study of genealogy I had no clue where I fit into the history of the United States. This makes Hawthorne's writing as much a study of the New England culture as it pertains to my genealogy as it does of the Romantic period itself.

This book did not take me long to "read" on my iPod. A few days of basketball practice, some housework, time on the treadmill, and this book was completed! Again, if you haven't discovered the world of audiobooks, you really must. I'm blessed to be able to download mine free through the Ohio ebook program, but I'm sure there are other ways of procuring them frugally.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis (audiobook). Again, I'm using audiobooks to read some of the classics that I missed as a youngster. For one thing, my tastes have changed and now I appreciate certain genres so much more than I once did. It isn't that I didn't like Lewis. I read The Screwtape Letters when I was young and thoroughly enjoyed it. But the type of fantasy that he, Tolkien, and their kind usually produced? Not so much.

Now, however, thanks to the movie adaptations I have become a fan. I decided that I wanted to read the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader before seeing the movie, but I decided to go back and read them in order. Okay, I am aware that "in order" is somewhat of a misnomer when it comes to the Magician's Nephew but I read it first since it is the prequel to the others and I didn't want to have to go through another Star Wars type flashback experience. This book tells how the events of Narnia came to be a part of the human world before they were discovered through the wardrobe.

The audiobook is particularly enchanting, the narrator being Kenneth Branagh who reads it in his lovely British accent. Somehow, that just makes it all the more appealing.

In fairness to my complaint about mild profanity I need to point out that it exists in the C.S. Lewis classics, too. I wasn't aware of that when I began reading them (I'm so naive) so it was somewhat of a shock when certain words came through my headphones. I'm also acutely aware that British and American vulgarities are not necessarily the same. I know an American who served as a pastor of a British church who unintentionally shocked his congregation by the use of some words we Americans use daily. And we'll leave it at that. :)

This month I read 4 books. 1 was non-fiction, and 2 of the 3 fiction were classics enjoyed via audiobooks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Our Decision to Homeschool is Tested

Yesterday I went back 30 years to the time when we felt the Lord leading us to homeschool. If you read that article you know that our first child was still in the womb when that event occurred. So what happened in the intervening years between her birth and the start of her formal education? That's Part 2 of the story. . .

By the time our first-born child, Karen, was 5-years-old and ready to begin school we were also the parents of another daughter, Lisa, the blogger who writes A Look In. She is the child we affectionately call Lulu because of her childhood antics. Lisa was 2 1/2 years old when Karen embarked upon her educational endeavors.

We had also moved within the previous year from the Midwest to the South because Pastor Dad had been called to pastor there. Our new congregation had recently merged their Christian school with another in the vicinity. The year that Karen was to start kindergarten was a year that the school was in need of a new kindergarten teacher. The principle approached me with a job offer. They needed a qualified teacher and he knew we had a child ready to start school. In order to meet the needs of both parties they would employ me and part of my salary would go toward Karen's education.

It sounded good on the surface. But there were a few things to be considered before we made our decision.

First, what about Lulu? I had to find daycare for her. It turned out that the school had a center so we would all be going to the same campus each morning.

Then there were our legal and pastoral obligations. When we first arrived in our adopted state homeschooling was illegal. This would not have been an obstacle in our former state of residence but we weren't sure how to proceed now. We also weren't sure if our new church would support our controversial decision. They didn't know us very well at the time and we didn't know them that well either.

Again, the Lord intervened. By the time Karen reached the mandatory school age the laws had changed. It was no longer illegal to homeschool even though the new laws were very strict and oppressive. This is why I say that we weren't pioneers in the strictest sense but followed along soon afterward. The true trailblazers battled state lawmakers at risk of their own peril. We encountered struggles with the state due to the stringent regulations but we never had to fear being arrested due to breaking truancy laws.

In weighing our options we discovered the following:
  1. The teaching position would result in very little actual money being added to the family coffers because most of the salary would be eaten up in the barter system between my teaching in exchange for one child's education and another child's daycare. But homeschooling would result in no money being added to the family coffers. (Pro teaching: Some money is better than none.)
  2. The teaching position would require that Lulu receive daycare from others. But homeschooling would result in Lulu receiving daycare at home from her own mother. (Pro homeschooling: I did not like the idea of not seeing Lisa except at the end of the day when I was tired and preoccupied with preparations for the next day's classes.)
  3. The teaching position would mean that Karen would be in her mother's classroom during her kindergarten year. But homeschooling would mean that each child would remain in my "classroom" every year. (Pro homeschooling: Instead of my children passing through their parent-taught classroom one year of their education journey they would be directly tutored by me each year that we chose to homeschool.)
  4. The teaching position would require that the wife and children would maintain the school schedule even if Pastor Dad's preaching appointments allowed him to travel. But homeschooling would provide the flexibility of taking school "on the road" whenever necessary. (Pro homeschool: The family unit would remain together as much as possible and travel would incorporate field trip and enrichment opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable, including visiting our families back home.)
  5. The teaching position would allow our children to receive an education based upon our Christian world view. And homeschooling would allow our children to receive an education based upon our Christian world view. (Neutral, but leaning more toward pro homeschool: Any issues could be discussed in context immediately.)
  6. The teaching position would allow our children to be tested yearly in a sympathetic environment. But homeschooling would require that the state test our children approximately every other year as per state law. (Pro teaching: Dropping the children off at the door of the local public school was an adversarial relationship because the state designed it to be so, including the intrusive questioning of the children about "non educational" issues without a parent or guardian present. This requirement was later changed but not before we had endured several such predicaments.)
  7. The teaching position would require that I go on unpaid maternity leave in the event that other children should be added to the family. But homeschooling would allow new additions to the family without a loss of teaching income. (Pro homeschool: Two more children were later added to our quiver and homeschooling went on as scheduled.)
  8. The teaching position would require that our children study the curriculum that the school required. But homeschooling would allow us to tailor a course of study for each child based upon learning styles, family needs, and time constraints. (Pro homeschool: At first, there were limited resources from public and private schools that could be adapted. Later, the popularity of homeschooling resulted in the development of a whole industry to meet the demands of the homeschooling market.)
After weighing the pros and cons it was obvious that homeschooling was the right decision for us. I wish I could say that we homeschooled just out of pure obedience to the Lord, but the fact that we researched our options proves otherwise. Or maybe it just proves that God allowed us to see some of the reasons why He led us in a certain direction. I don't think He needs to give me a reason for every thing He requires me to do but I am glad when removes the scales from my eyes. I'm also glad He protected us during those early years when a well-intentioned answer from a small child could easily have brought trouble to our door.

This will inevitably lead to the question as to whether I think everyone should homeschool. I can't answer that definitely. I may be a lot like the Apostle Peter in many ways, but in this instance I will not go so far as to say, "And what will this man do, Lord?" Pastor Dad and I will only be accountable to God for doing the things we know He told us to do. There are very specific guidelines that the Lord put in scripture that every parent is accountable to fulfill but I am not willing to say that every person must homeschool to meet their obligations. Perhaps we'll discuss those specific parenting guidelines in a future article and I will tell you how homeschooling has helped us meet those requirements.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reminiscing About Our Homeschool Journey

It has been a full day. I got up early (for me, anyway) so that I could give the Princess a ride to work. After dropping her off The Bear and I made our way to a McDonald's so that I could fortify myself with a cup of coffee and he could indulge in blue Powerade. Yeah, it seemed strange to me at the time, too, but I didn't ask. Then he dozed in the backseat of the car until co-op started 45 minutes later. After co-op we made our way to his basketball practice and then finally back home where I made dinner and settled in for the night. I'm not complaining, you know. I'm well aware that most women follow a schedule that requires them to absent their home each weekday. It just made me somewhat reflective of the time when I, too, got up every morning and headed out to work. Those were the days when I received a paycheck for teaching other people's children.

This seemed like a good time to tell you how the Lord led us to homeschool. It's a long story, but one that always reinforces my belief that God led me in a certain path. Go back with me 30 years. . .

It had been a difficult school year. Without going into painful details that no one needs to know and that I don't wish to relive, let's just leave it at that.

Complicating things was the fact that two months after being hired as the school's newest teacher I discovered that I was also two months pregnant! After a year of trying to conceive, this news was very welcome indeed, even if it did present a few difficulties.

For one thing, the Christian school administrators were decidedly not happy with the news. It would mean finding a substitute during the last month of my pregnancy which would coincide with the end of the school year. School years are approximately 9 months long, as are pregnancies.

For another, it meant that each day's battle with morning sickness (ha! what a misnomer!) meant that I was not always at my best. "Excuse me, Tom. Could you stop reading for a moment? I'll be right back," I'd say as I bolted out the door heading to the nearest bathroom. Some days were worse than others, I assure you.

Things degenerated at the school and the denoument came when the church that housed the school split. I was not a member of that congregation, but their in-fighting gave me the opportunity that I needed to extricate myself from their turmoil. While it is true that I found myself suddenly unemployed it is also true that I found myself home each day preparing the nest. An added bonus was that we managed to quit going deeper into debt for gasoline. These were those horrible days where high gas prices and long lines at the pump meant that I was barely making enough money to fund my hour-long commute.

Pastor Dad got a substitute teacher certificate which enabled him to work in our local schools. He came home and regaled me with reports of the goings-on in the public elementary school that our child would attend in a few years.

We didn't know what to do. Our Christian school option had dried up. Our public school option was a nightmare. We prayed and asked the Lord to show us what He wanted us to do. We figured He had a little over five years to provide us with directions.

Within weeks the Lord spoke to us. Okay, the Lord used someone else to speak to us. That's the way it's done, you know. His voice didn't actually thunder from the sky, but the answer to our prayer would not have been any more obvious if He had chosen to do so. We were listening to Dr. James Dobson interview someone we had never heard before on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast. It was Dr. Raymond Moore discussing homeschooling. No mistaking it! This was our answer!

We had a few questions, though. Or maybe I did. I'm the type of stubborn individual who rarely does anything without asking questions first.
  • Did people actually homeschool their children? We didn't know anyone who did.
  • Who had actually ever heard of such a thing? Certainly not us!
  • Could we (I?) do it?  I had my doubts about my own abilities, but this was our answer to prayer, after all.
We knew from that moment that we were going to homeschool our child. Pastor Dad and I never argued about it, we never really wavered in the decision, and even though our first child still had several months in utero (yes, that would be our Karen of Candid Diversions), her "school" decision had already been made.

Did people think we were out of our minds when we told them of our decision?  Yes, but then, it probably wasn't the first - and certainly not the last - time that anyone questioned our sanity about something.  But we knew without a doubt that this was what the Lord wanted us to do.  To not do it would've been out-and-out rebellion.  I'm sure of it.

The homeschooling years will soon be coming to an end.  In two more years this journey will be over and I will have completed 27 years of homeschooling. 

As I told The Bear the other day, "In two more years you will be done homeschooling.  You are nervously looking toward the future as you try to determine what it is that the Lord wants you to do.  But guess what?  In two more years I will be done homeschooling.  I am nervously looking toward the future as I try to determine what it is that the Lord wants me to do."  I distinctly heard The Bear's surprised laughter.  And even though I didn't hear the voice of the Lord yet I'm sure I will soon.

Speak Lord, for your servant heareth!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Providence 365 Project Week 4

I'm a week behind. I was aware that I would need to do two projects to get caught up or that one would need to be omitted. I decided to omit one and chose to go back to last week's verse because it seemed appropriate to this event.

There's a story behind this picture. It was taken during recent days when my faith was drastically shaken. Are you shocked? Please don't be. Pastors and their wives are subject to the same fears, frustrations, worries, and woes that you are. Our faith wavers, too. Or at least mine does occasionally. I'm not proud of this. I'm merely stating facts.

Okay, that's enough confession. I continued to read my Bible and pray during that time. The Bible reading schedule has been quite a blessing to me as God used His Word to speak to my heart. I'm thankful to have been reading about Job's trials as well as the lack of understanding that the disciples exhibited and even the questions that John the Baptist asked in his own dark days. Bible passages spoke to my heart in ways that I've never experienced before.

One day I encountered the Lord's Prayer. That evening I had two different women bring me gifts of bread. The scriptures that I had read earlier were immediately brought to my attention. The Lord really did provide us with bread, and far more than what we could eat in a day! As you can see, some of the "bread" was a plate of fried apple pies! More than the physical food these loaves provided was the sweet manna sent to strengthen my faith. REAL soul food. :)

I thank God each time I take a bite of this bread. I pour out my heart in praise to the God who provides all of my needs, both physical and spiritual.

For this page I used background paper and frame from LAImel Designs' "Sugar Plums" kit and the tag is from Vicky Day's "A Fresh Start" kit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Cost of Being a Grandparent

If you have more than one grandchild let me warn you about something. Grandchild #2 is taking note of everything you do for Grandchild #1! Remember that prior to Tigger's fifth birthday I was surprised to discover that she expected us to buy her "a bike" for her birthday because we had done so for her older sister Polly's fifth birthday? Read that one here if you need the reminder. And also, remember that we did so because she was correct. We really had bought Polly a bicycle bike for her fifth birthday and felt that buying one for each successive grandchild on that milestone birthday is well worth the cost.

Well, the accounts have been called into question again! Miss Tigger must be keeping copious note of my every expenditure on her older sister's behalf whereas I had no clue another debt was due.

Last week it was the loss of her first baby tooth that sparked another one of those "Gram did such-and-such for Polly so of course she will do the same for me" conversations. Thankfully, she said this to her mother so that Karen could deliver the message thereby making me look magnanimous when I said to Tigger the next time I saw her, "Oh! You've lost your first baby tooth. How exciting! Let me get you a dollar." Smiles all around. I'm not sure which smile was bigger, the one with the gap left by the missing baby tooth or mine borne out of a sense of relief.

This time it only cost me a dollar to satisfy my debt but I don't even remember giving Polly one when she lost her first baby tooth. I suspect there could be several such events of sufficient magnitude for me to need more than my faulty memory and Tigger's messages relayed through her mother in order to keep proper accounts. After all I'd hate to be told on Tigger's 16th birthday that I'm obligated to buy her first car! Okay, I'm kidding, but I think I'll start keeping a list and reconciling it. Like bank accounts, not keeping track could prove costly, and I'm talking about a precious grandchild's esteem account and not the expense of a few dollars! And we have three more grandchildren younger than Miss Tigger who are or will be keeping accounts.

This weekend for the small cost of $1 I received a gorgeous gappy grin from a granddaughter who needed to know that she is loved as much as the one who came before her. It is probably one of the best bargains a dollar has ever bought me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And The Winner Is:

Utilizing the tools available at have produced a winner of the Valentine book giveaway.  I have sent the winner an email and am just waiting to hear back.  If Nancye Davis would kindly contact me by midnight Friday EST I will get the book in the mail. 

And for the rest of you?  Valentine's Day is less than 2 weeks away.  This is your second warning.  The clock is ticking. . .

(Don't forget that tomorrow is that all-important spring guestimate event, Groundhog's Day.  Most folks around these parts - and in the rest of the northern hemisphere, I presume - are anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring.  I don't mind the snow, but this ice draped over the overladen tree limbs is something else again!)