How to Make Something not a Big Deal

When I was growing up, my mama did a lot of things around the house.  She used power tools, repaired furniture, skim coated drywall, decorated cakes, sewed clothes, baked fresh bread, gardened and preserved the harvest, had a family dinner every night, and taught Sunday School.

bread

As I grew up, all these activities were normal to me.  It wasn’t a big deal for me to bake bread or sew clothes, it was just something that mamas do.  Having a nightly family dinner was just something you DO, it never occurred to me to skip it.  When we were done, we cleared the table, washed the dishes and wiped down the counters.  We didn’t even think about it, we just did it.

hands-in-dough

We walked away from stuff when it cost too much even though my dad made good money. Mom’s willingness to walk away and do without, or wait for the right deal made sure they had savings.  They paid off their house when I was 9 and never borrowed another dime after that.  It built character in me to not have the latest trends and to wait for things. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the skill of waiting has served me well as an adult.

hand-tape-measure-sewing

We went to church.  Every time the doors were open.  I never had to ask if we were going.  We just did.

My babies came so soon after I married and so close together that I lost some of my good habits—like going to bed early, getting up early, working out consistently, and daily Bible study.  Now that life has settled down a little (knock on wood) I’m figuring out how to build these habits back into my day.  My first thought was to get up early and do them before my kids are up.  That way I can have uninterrupted quiet time (sounds so good!)  If I did that, they would never see me do them.  And those are the important things that I want them to think are just part of being a mama.  Mamas read their Bibles.  Mama’s take care of their bodies. Mamas pray.

mama-reads-the-bible

The habits that I want to be second nature for my kids, the ones I don’t want to be a big deal, just something they DO, those are the things I need to model for them now.  They need to see it consistently, day in and day out.  Not stressful, not a big deal, just accomplished.

I wonder what my kids will just do and not think about, because it was a normal part of their childhood.  I hope using cash is one of them, along with saving up to pay for stuff, being ok with roughing it to pave the way for a bigger goal, and giving to people who are in need.

Everybody Struggles

When I was thinking about the things I want my daughter to know before she leaves home, I made a mental list of the fastest way to clean X, how to make bread, how to fix a zipper etc…then I realized those are all things she could google.  What she really needs to know is stuff that I’m still trying to grasp.  Things like “everybody struggles.”

embarrassed

About 6 years ago, we drove a few hours north to go to a family reunion.  My husband’s cousin invited us for an impromptu tour of her home that she had built with her husband.  I offered to give her a head start and she looked at me like I had 3 heads.  Her home was ALWAYS ready for company.  When we walked in it looked like a show home.  It was spotless and perfectly decorated, even the kid bedrooms.  I left my shoes outside.

As the tour progressed I made a mental note of the things I could change in my routine to make my home always ready for company. When I got home, I chunked all those ideas in the trash.  Honestly, we could barely make sure we had clean underwear with the size of our family and the number of commitments we were involved with.  I felt like a failure.

The next year, our cousin left her family and filed for divorce.  Her daughter was in jail on drug charges.  Everybody struggles. The truth is life is hard.  What our home looks like is not a barometer on our overall success and happiness with life.  It’s a tiny part of the big picture.

woman-running-in-the-woods

All we can do is our best, with margin for appropriate rest and balance.  God doesn’t expect us to run faster than we have strength.  There are seasons in life that are harder than others and it’s so tempting to judge our performance in the hard season with someone else’s in their easy.  It’s like a marathon runner, sweating and out of breath, looking at someone cheering from the sidelines and saying, “oh man, she’s not even sweating.”  Then thinking of herself as a failure.

That said, there are habits and skills when formed in the easier seasons of life (childhood), that will make the hard seasons a tiny bit easier (3 kids under 3.)  We’ll talk about them too in a future post.

 

Before She Leaves

I have roughly 21 months left with my oldest daughter living in my home.  In that time she will graduate high school and head off to college; marriage and babies soon to follow.  I lounged on her bed this weekend just talking about the things that matter to her, that give her hope, that stress her out, that make her excited.   Breathing in the time with her, aware more than ever how precious and rare it is.  Read more

My Gratitude Journal

I’m excited about this easy little crafty post, because it has so much meaning to me. Along the journey of life a few years back, we chose to seek out help from a psychologist who said something very interesting: “The thoughts you think, control the chemicals your body releases.  If you are able to change your thoughts, you can change your chemical balance. If you can’t change your thinking, then medication can help make it easier.”

gratitude-journal

Stress is my enemy.  A little spurt of stress can put me in bed for a few days, too weak to even walk unassisted.  I can’t control all my stress, like when someone cuts me off in traffic and nearly causes an accident; when a bat gets in my house and flaps around my bedroom; or when someone I love gets sick or dies. But there is a lot I can control.

This past week, a lot of stressful things were going on in my life.  Here’s what I wrote in my Fit Yummy Mummy journal: Oh Girls, Life has kicked my tail… My grandma is on hospice and they don’t think she will live through the night. She is 90 and forgot who I was long ago, but I remember who she is. Her daughter, my Auntie, was on death watch for a short time last week, but miraculously recovered for a little while longer and has been moved to a rehab facility. …my mama hurt her leg mysteriously and can’t walk very well…. I tangled with some poison ivy last weekend and am COVERED. Plus the school district has denied to test Heather for learning disabilities even with all the private testing records I sent them and doctor reports. They said they don’t accept any outside of the district assessments and they haven’t observed her long enough to decide what to do about her. I’m so sad realizing that they are waiting for her to fail again before they intervene even though her records transferred from her old school show a clear pattern and need. I’m taking her to another clinic the next state over on Saturday to test her eye/brain connection. It’s so expensive, but if there’s a chance it will help her we’ll find a way to earn the money. I’m trying not to stress about everything, but I’m feeling all the feels anyway and it has zapped my strength. So that’s where I am. Not sure how to pick up the pieces from here while my body has checked out. 

That wasn’t even all of it, but it started to feel ridiculous writing so much complaining down. What if instead of that, I had written down all the things that were going RIGHT?  I can tell you THIS, I spend way more time thinking about the things going wrong than I do the things I have to be thankful for.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with my health struggles.

It’s hard to admit that I am a negative person.  Yuck.  Just admitting that makes me not like myself very much, so I’m making steps to change.  4o years of consistent negative thinking isn’t going to change easy, but I’m choosing my hard.

gratitude journal 2

I’m starting with this fifty cent notebook. It’s just a composition notebook from Wal-mart.  I made a little cover for it by merging this and this.  I printed it on regular paper, then trimmed it down slightly to fit the cover.

gratitude journal wax paper

I placed a piece of wax paper inside the notebook, so I wouldn’t get modge podge all over the pages and stick them together.

Then I put a thin layer of modge podge ($1 in the Target spot bins) over the back of the picture, and stuck it to the cover, starting on one edge and smoothing it over to prevent air bubbles.  Then I took my brush and put a thin layer of glossy modge podge over the top for durability.

img_3580

Here’s the best part, the brush strokes in modge podge are visible after it dries, giving printed art a hand-painted affect. To take full advantage of this, I went back once more and added brush strokes to the water color flowers, following the natural curve so each flower would look hand-painted.

img_3578

You GUYS! I’m feeling so clever right now.  When it dried I trimmed the corners and added a matching cover to the back.

gratitude journal drying

Before I thought of this little project, I looked on Amazon for a gratitude journal I could buy.  There were several good ones like this, this, and this. They were each less than $10, but the DIY one was the more affordable option for sure.  Karen at A House Full of Sunshine has a different idea for a DIY journal cover that is darling for all you washi tape lovers.  She also had some good thoughts about gratefulness that are worth clicking over to read.

gratitudejournalpinsmall

Here’s what I’ll write tonight:

  1. Heather’s new Irlen filters that are helping her read better
  2. Family cooperating for Grandma’s Funeral
  3. A chance to sing with my daughter and my sister-in-law
  4. Free flute lessons for Heather that make her so happy
  5. Our cars are both repaired and running well
  6. A supportive church family

I’m all about reducing stress, not adding to it, so I’m not writing in complete sentences, telling stories (unless I want to), or giving myself a quota.  If I’m too stressed to think, I might just copy down a scripture verse or hymn that I’m grateful for, or tape in a coloring page. And if I need to skip a day, that’s A-OK, since none of the pages are pre-dated.

P.S.  If you want to hear more about gratitude journals, Sherry talks about hers in the “We’re Digging Section” on episode #11 of the Young House Love Podcast.

 

An Archeological Dig

Caleb mapping stonesSummer time is the busy time around here.  As soon as school was out at the end of may, I headed to Yellowstone via Wall South Dakota as a tagalong on the Grandparent trip for my youngest 2 kiddoes.  Every year for the last 4 years my parents have taken 2 of their grandchildren on a cross-country adventure.  This time they felt Grant was too young to go without his parents, so Darren and I got to come along.

Yellowstone

We were home for a couple of days, just enough to wash and repack everybody.  Then I kissed Darren goodbye and took the kids to Lamoni, Iowa for reunion.  I think other denominations might call it family camp or camp meeting.  It was a week of living as families in University dorms. We had prayer and testimony service and classes every day, time for recreation in the afternoon, and powerful music and preaching in the evening.  It’s a time to rest from the cares of the world and get a fresh perspective on our Christian walk.  The leaders encouraged us to stay off the internet to keep apart from the influence and cares of the world.  I had to get on a little to make sure the meal plans went out on time and take care of customer service issues, but for the most part I tried to rest.

The day reunion ended, I filled my mom’s car with 5 of my kids and all their stuff and sent them back home.  My 14 year old son and I headed east to an archeological dig in Nauvoo, Illinois.  He’s at the age where he’s trying to make some decisions about a career and education.  At first he wanted to be a novelist, so we homeschooled his 8th grade year with the One Year Adventure Novel program.  It was a great program but showed him that he prefers to write for a hobby and not to make a career of it.  When he mentioned archeology as his next choice for careers, I used some connections to join the end of a dig unearthing an 1840’s home foundation and artifacts.

IMG_2800

He’s still trying to unpack the experience and see if it’s a career option he wants to pursue, but it was super interesting to learn about all the different aspects of the dig.

Last year it took the team most of their month long dig to locate the foundation of the home.  It was a lot of digging to find nothing and trying again to get just the right location.  This year they were able to get started right away in the correct position and make progress.  By the time we arrived they had found 3 of the 4 walls of the home and the 4th wall was uncovered while we worked.

IMG_2859

We found things like flatware, scissors, square sewing pins, marbles, square nails, china and other earthenware, glassware, cast iron cookware, animal bones, teeth, fossils, buttons, and a cast iron trivet for a clothing iron.

IMG_2829

Each 5 foot square was dug down 2 inches at a time.  The diggers would gently scrape the soil to protect any artifacts that might be hidden beneath.  The loosened soil would go into red scoops (we called them fire trucks) and sent over to the sifters.

IMG_2842

Another team member (ahem–me, so hot and sweaty) would rub the dirt through a screen and look for smaller artifacts that might have been missed by the diggers.  All artifacts were placed in a green scoop labeled with a sticky note to show the quadrant and soil level it was found in, then sent over to be washed with a soft brush and clear water.

IMG_2840

Then the artifacts were carefully dried and sent to the head archeologist, Paul Debarthe who would identify and document each piece in a database.

IMG_2855

Finally the documented pieces were sent to the restoration lab, where Synthia glued pieces back together for display.  It is the team’s end goal to rebuild the home just as it stood in 1840 and display the artifacts inside.
13450943_1012268108862829_7607377967401943150_n

It felt awesome to play a part in recovering history, but it was also a dirty, sweaty, exhausting job.  Caleb and I only dug 3 days with the team.  Most of them were there for a solid month!

 

Homemade Funnel Cake

I just got back from taking my High School choir to Silver Dollar City for a music festival. It was such a great trip!  The kids behaved really well, and the parents that went along were a huge support.   After singing in Silver Dollar City (and earning top honors…cough cough) we got to experience the ShowBoat Branson Belle dinner cruise. They had a magician comedian, tap dancers/cloggers, and a men’s vocal group that made the evening a delight.

Rachel and Me

I shared a hotel room with Read more

If Valentines Reflected Real Life

I’ve been thinking about love a lot the last few days as we meandered through Valentine’s day,  about the heartbreak of my teen years and wondering how I could protect my kids from some of that.  I wouldn’t insulate them from all of life’s heartbreaks. That would be robbing them of crucial character development.  I would, however, like to Read more

Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.  Ours was lovely.  I was determined not to be stressed, and it worked out except for about a half an hour on Thanksgiving morning. That’s the half hour, I feel compelled to tell you about.

I already mentioned Friday that my dad was released from the hospital on Tuesday, then was right back in on Wednesday for more tests checking for complications.  My mom still planned on hosting Thanksgiving for 20 at her house.  It was easier to do that for my dad than to try to move him or make him spend the holiday alone.  I went over that night to help Mom carry the tables and set a few things up.  Nothing major.  Then I convinced her to let me bake the rolls and sweet potatoes to lessen her stress a little.  She still had the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, salad, and pies to do. That was still too much.

Master Bedroom winter 2015 2

I determined to get over there by 10am to help and had a perfect checklist in my mind.  Get up; make the bed all cute with my new allergy free bedding; turn on the parade; bake the sweet potatoes and then head over.  But no one in my house was cooperating.  Darren wouldn’t get out of the bed so I could make it. The kids complained about having to watch the parade (and I couldn’t’ see it from the kitchen), and when I looked at the sweet potato recipe, it was going to take an hour longer to prepare than I was counting on. There was no way I could get to my mom at 10 and I didn’t like leaving her alone with all the prep work.

I could feel things start to boil inside.  “Fine, you make the bed!” I yelled at my husband.  Muttering under my breath why he couldn’t grow up and help out a little.  He is a smart man, and he got up and made the bed.  It looked absolutely nothing like I had planned it to look.  I boiled up a little more.

He tried to tell me things would be fine.  “So we get there at 11.  What’s the big deal?” he wanted to know.  The big deal is my dad is sick, my mom is stressed, and the SOURCE of the irritation doesn’t get to say it’s not a big deal.

I stomped and huffed around the kitchen a bit and when he got too close I glared at him, “I’m angry at you because you made the bed and it looks STUPID.” And then the humor of the whole thing kind of hit me.

Who cares if the bed looks stupid?  My dad is alive.  My husband is alive.  My kids are healthy.  We have a big family to gather with.  Get a grip, Woman! I calmed down and apologized to my family and we had a really nice day.

I wish I could get a better handle on my emotions when things start to spiral out of control. It triggers when I have a goal and I think others are purposefully blocking my goal. Usually it’s because I didn’t communicate it clearly or early enough.  The reason really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I understand that the only thing I can control is ME.  So, I choose JOY.  I want to influence others with my love and happiness instead of trying to control them with my anger.

Christmas Tree 2015 3

So Friday, when it came time to decorate the Christmas tree, I thought ahead of time about the things that matter to me (hang the balls towards the inside of the tree) and I communicated it clearly.  I decided on the things that didn’t matter and let the kids have free reign with them (put the silver and gold on this tree, but put it anywhere you want.)  I limited what mattered to me to just one or two things. The kids aren’t used to a pleasant Christmas decorating mama and they asked me a lot of questions about what goes where and what to do with this or that.   They were surprised with how much freedom I gave them and we all had a really pleasant day.

Christmas Tree 2015 2

Any time I had a strange feeling of “don’t put that there” well up in me, I swallowed it and reminded myself that I could change anything I wanted another day.  What I got in exchange was beauty.  Our decorations this year are so very human.  The kids will never be this age again and I loved watching them put things in places and step back to judge their work. It won’t end up in a designer magazine, but it’s a special collage of their current ages and thought processes represented in design.

Am I the only Mom out there that gets a little freaked out on special days?  If you haven’t seen it already, this video could have been taken at our house.

“If you haven’t made your bed already, throw it away.  It’s too late.”

This Changes Everything

autumn-in-holland-1410318-639x426

Two people in the exact same circumstances, one is happy and the other is miserable.  Why?

Attitude

The character quality that influences our happiness the most, is gratefulness.  Gratefulness is a seed that flowers into contentment and joy.

When we have it we spend less money. We smile and laugh more. We can rejoice in other people’s blessings.

There’s an herbicide that will kill it all.  It has the generic label Complaining but can be found under the brand names of Comparison and Envy.

DCF 1.0

Sometimes reading someone else’s grateful list brings up some jealousy.  This time of year, I wonder if I should share my grateful list or if it is better to tell it to God.  When I list off my list of things I’m thankful for, I naturally leave out the things that we are struggling with.  It would defeat the purpose to complain and be thankful at the same time. That can leave an impression that my life is perfect and make someone else wonder why theirs isn’t.

In this human experience we will all have trouble.  If it’s not happening now, it’s coming.  Our gratefulness is interwoven with tragedy. The contrast is beautiful.

autumn leaves

My goal is to become thankful no matter my circumstances.  It’s easy for me to be thankful when I look at those who are less fortunate.  If comparison is the thief of joy, then I want my gratitude to be independent from comparison .  There will always be someone better off or worse off than I am.  My joy and my gratitude has to be unaffected by circumstance.

There is one constant to be grateful for,  Jesus.  He remains unchanged no matter my circumstance. He lived and died and lived again so that whatever happens in this life is a blip in the scheme of eternity spent with Him.  If your Christmas tree is already up and you’re singing Christmas carols while you work, it doesn’t bother me.  It’s just another reminder of the reason for our gratitude this Thanksgiving day.

Happy Thanksgiving from Our Family to Yours

I’ve sent up special prayers for those of you with family members who have already been welcomed into the arms of our Savior.  It seems like we miss them more on days like today.

 

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

We had an unexpected death in the family last week. Darren’s Grandma was 92, but still living alone in her own home with her mind, sight and hearing sharp as a tack.  He lived with her during the summers after his family moved to Texas and again when he graduated from High School so he could farm. They were very close. I lived with her part of the time when I was student teaching and she taught me a lot of things about frugality, being a homemaker, wild edibles and frying mountain oysters.

Lest you think she was all sugar and spice, she was a person who told things as she saw them.  Every time she saw me she complained about my long hair, big earrings and tall heels. When I got pregnant with our 4th baby, she offered to teach me about birth control. I learned to smile and roll with it. If she didn’t care about me, she wouldn’t say a word.  It was her way of saying, “I love you.”

She had a deep faith and prayed poetically. When Darren and I had been married 2 years, her son died in a tragic car accent.  It was a serious time of grief for all of us.  She told me death was beautiful and not to be sad.  She had already buried her husband and oldest son.  She KNEW they were in the arms of Jesus.  During her service I kept hearing her voice say those words, “Death is beautiful.”  But I still miss her.

My oldest son was acting up in the car during the funeral procession to the gravesite, poking his siblings and making them scream. I told him, “Your grandmother is in a hearse 10 cars ahead of us.  Remember what we are doing here and what your frame of mind should be.”

My oldest, Heidi, chimed in, “Yeah if grandma were here right now, she’d whack you with her cane.”

He said, “If she were here right now, I wouldn’t dare.”

After the funeral Saturday we went to her house with all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (28!) and a few extended family.  The church brought over the funeral meal leftovers and we ate and visited just like we would have on Christmas day.  The only thing missing was her and we all felt it. It was a lovely day until it was time to leave and I realized it was probably the last gathering like that in her home.  The last time there would be fig Newtons in the jar put there by her own hands.  The memories flooded in as tears running down my face.  My first date with Darren was there, a whole day of learning to farm. Not long after she decided Darren was taking too long and offered me her wedding ring set so we could just go get married.  She didn’t see any point of big weddings or long engagements.  If you love each other, go make a life together. What’s so hard about that?

I had plans to finish Kids and Money month strong with some posts about Kids and Christmas spending, but it was just more important to be with family.  I’ll come back and visit the topic again in a few weeks, but first I want to get some recipes out there.  Too many times I’ve searched my own site for a favorite recipe to refresh my memory on some of the details and find it wasn’t there.  Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas 2

This recipe is my go to when life gets really busy.  It throws together in 15 minutes and then just has to heat through in the oven.  Every ingredient is available at Aldi making a very frugal main dish. Add a tossed salad for a complete meal or make it bigger with sides of Spanish rice, corn, and fruit.  If you are gluten free, grab some gluten free tortillas.  Low carb tortillas work great here too, for a THM S Meal (You can have up to 3 Tbs of refried beans in an S setting.)  You can also assemble the whole thing in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1 jar, 24 oz salsa
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 10-8" flour tortillas
  • 1 can, 15 oz refried beans
  • 1 can, 15 oz black olives, drained
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar, Colby, or Monterey Jack

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic, drain.
  3. Stir salsa into ground beef mixture. (If you have picky kids, puree the salsa in a blender first, and use onion powder instead of chopped onion.)
  4. Chop the olives and reserve 1/3 for topping.
  5. Divide refried beans, olives and 1/2 of the cheese cheese among tortillas and roll up. Place seam side down in a 9x13 casserole dish.
  6. Top with beef mixture and spread to cover the edges.
  7. Top with remaining olives and cheese.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through.
http://www.groceryshrink.com/beef-topped-bean-enchiladas/