This thought has been on my mind for a long while and I haven’t yet put it to any good use.

We talk about tithing, we talk about treasure, we talk about money, storing, investing, saving, spending….  It seems to me that money takes up a good portion of our energy.  And not that is not needfully so sometimes.

But, there are those of us who believe that money is not our only treasure.  I believe this is especially true of Christian mothers.  If treasure is defined as something of great value, great worth, that isn’t easily come by, then I know of a treasure more precious than money in our household.  Money might be hard to come by, difficult to budget, and quickly gone, but I can think of one thing of greater value, more difficult to come by, incredibly hard to budget, and even more quickly gone than money.

Time.

Oh, Christian mothers.  Could I beg that we tithe our time?  Or more importantly, let’s look at Matthew 6:21.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So I want you to evaluate – how do you spend your time?  Because how you spend your time will tell you where your heart TRULY lies.

Homeschooling mothers, do you spend over 95% of your schooling on academics and give a mere 5% to teaching your children about God?  Christian wives, are you spending your precious time on things that do not support your God given role of wife and mother?

How we spend our time is one of our best reflections of our hearts.   If truly we love and honor God should we not give Him the first fruits?  The best of the best?  Shouldn’t He get our best and not what is left over?  Should we not devote our “riches” to furthering His good, His will, His intentions?

Today, the Lord has granted you twenty four hours.

How will you “spend” it?  How will you honor Him with it?  Will you use your time in a grateful and obedient manner, fulfilling your God given purposes through Him and for Him?   Will you tithe your 10%?  Will you go even further with a joyous and obedient heart?

Oh my goodness what a great break!!  We took a vacation (literally) from the internet and our television.  I initially intended for the vacay to be 21 days.  BUT, then I loved it and decided I’d make it ’til December 1st.  Alas cabin fever set in and I caved after TWENTY THREE days.  But, with a twist.  I went ahead and installed a child guard software on the computer that only allows me a certain amount of time on the computer and only during very specific hours.  It’s one half hour in the AM (6:00-6:30) so that it falls after dressing/devotions and before the little ones are awake.  In the afternoon it’s an hour between 2:00 and 3:00 – so after phonics (little kids) and history/science with the big kids.   So far so good!

Although it took a LOT of work!  I had to transfer all my files into shared folders and set up separate windows accounts for each family member.  DH was sweet enough to password protect his account and promises not to tell me the password, lol.  Truth is, I have NO self control, so I have to build it in for myself.  And it’s working beautifully so far.

So, did I accomplish anything during those 23 days?  Sure did!  I switched out all of the summer/spring clothes for winter/fall and packed up the warm stuff.  Separated everything into Trash, Give Away, and Keep piles and got them packed back up, with the exception of the shoes.  I made the girls dresses and skirts for Unschool Day and we have really thrown ourselves into Tapestry of Grace and we’re loving it!

Unschool Day Picnic

Unschool Day Picnic

Pic1 Unschool Morning

I had time to make Abigail a new bag and an apron, complete with an EGG pocket for her birthday.

An apron like mama's!

An apron like mama's!

A mama from RGT made milk crate covers and they were so cute we made some as well!

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

I did INDEED learn to knit while we were on our break and I can now honestly say I can cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, bind off, and a couple other hand things.  With the help of online friends I discovered RAVELRY.com and I’m loving that!   Now, there are knitting sites and there are KNITTING sites.  This is the latter.  Oh my!  You can look up yarn reviews, patterns that are most popular, HUNDREDS of free patterns, you can sort through them, see the completed projects… It’s absolutely incredible.

My next project is LegWarmies.

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

I just know they’re perfect for us because the little girls will go through tights like crazy but Iowa in the winter is too cold for just socks.  I’m going to forego the stripes for the first pair and give it a shot on some pretty peony colored wool.  I’m using this pattern and I’m pretty excited to get started!   Ana suggested I size them for Sarah so that IF they’re too small they can be for baby Daniella and if they’re too big then Abigail can wear them.  Good idea!

So, it was a pretty fruitful three weeks.  We spent a few weekends at the timber and on the trail.  We gathered wild berries, wild elderberries, wild plums.  We harvested most of the garden.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

And some taters

And some taters

Did a little baking…

Pic9 Making bread on the weekend

We’re preparing to hatch our last round of laying hens for the year.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am that we got out of the house and enjoyed the bounty of the season.  It’s hard to truly appreciate how beautiful fall is unless you’re outdoors.  Here in Iowa  it is absolutely the BEST time of year.  It isn’t too hot, it’s not too cold, and there is a harvest to be seen all around you.

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Our Bounty of Plums!

Our Bounty of Plums!

Trail5

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

And, naturally we had time to read a few good books.

Pic11 Reading more

Legend has grown this year into a big beautiful brute.   Tira, our beloved good mama, has had a new litter of baby bunnies.

Pic12 Leg and Abby

On the homeschooling front we’re also seeing our hard work come to fruition.  Little Rebecca has memorized almost all of her phonics… She’s in SUCH a big hurry to be able to read.  But her enthusiasm is lovely.  Elizabeth Grace is reading quite well now.  She memorizes with ease and we made her some flashcards yesterday, lol.  She was so excited.   She’s reading four and five letter words now with ease and some that are larger as long as they are phonetically correct.  We ordered new math books for her yesterday as she is a WORKBOOK lover.  Gasp!  Yes, I suppose every family has to have one.   Ana and Christian are enjoying TOG.  Although I’ll readily admit that Christian is the one who loves it most.  This surprised me VERY much as he was originally a hesitant book lover.  I’m thrilled!

Tapestry is working out just as I had hoped.  At this point I can safely say we WILL be using Tapestry next year as we enter our first year of high school.

And finally our most important update.  You all know we had our cerclage surgery in Iowa City.  The placenta had moved 100% out of the way and is not even considered low lying.  I’m now past 22 weeks…. A point we greatly feared we’d never even make it to.  God is good…  ALL the time.   Our Baby Girl is growing beautifully and is right on track.  We had a beautiful ultrasound of her last week and we are SO incredibly grateful for this little one.  I get comments like this must be old hat.  She’s our ninth baby, our eleventh pregnancy.  No, no it never is.  Each time is special, each time is unique.  Each pregnancy is a completely and totally different resulting in a completely unique and beautiful blessing especially meant for our family.  Old hat?  Um, no.

Sooooooooo… What’s next for the family?

Well, we have play-doh and some bread to make today.  Afterall it’s difficult to make the earth without play-doh.   It’s time to gather nuts and I’m wrangling for a trip to the timber again this weekend.  My great uncle went through and labeled various types of trees in the timber… It will make for an incredible leaf collection for the children.  They’ve learned to identify many trees but there are SO many we don’t know yet.  I’m dreadful… I can tell a maple from an oak, but the only tree I REALLY know is a shagbark hickory.  And that one is REALLY obvious.    We have a pioneer festival coming up in October that will be fun and exciting.  We go every year and drink real rootbeer, see blacksmithing and spinning, and enjoy talking to the soap lady.  They always have lefse and Ana enjoys the lady who does geneaology.  It inspired the trip to the Norwegian festival this year.    The boys are going on their annual camping trip to Wisconsin in the next few weeks. I’m only a tiny bit jealous, kwim?  Ana and I have a llama and alpaca festival planned for October as well.  We’re going to buy some natural yarn and try our hands at some simple dying…. tutorial here if you want to peek.  I’m terribly excited about this… And a little fearful that I’ll destroy some really beautiful Alpaca wool.  And, of course, we’re expecting the wee one to debut in December.

We’re also planning a move.  To where?  Oh sigh.  DH got transferred in his job.  The REALLY big decision is whether to have him drive there 2-3 days per week or to move there full time and he’ll work there 4 days a week with one day at home.  He’s been doing the drive for weeks now while all of this medical mess was up in the air.   But, we’re thinking we’d like to be moved by Spring.   We like this house well enough, but I’m not going to lie… If we could find a house with an acreage with a BIG barn or with a little pasture, we’d love it!  A four bedroom farm house with a horse barn and pasture came up last week, but it would only increase his drive at this point.

We’re still very much up in the air about this and it is on my prayer list…  Not to necessarily find the “perfect” house but to be where God wants me when He wants me there…  After all, that’s the best place to be, blossoming wherever God plants us.

I’ve given the recommendation MANY times that preschool (and kindergarten for that matter) is utterly unnecessary.

And I believe it.  I think the average child in the average home is going to pick up the skills he or she needs to successfully begin formal schooling somewhere between the ages of 6-8.  I’ve seen it work well.

That said?  If I don’t keep our little ones busy, they’ll keep themselves busy, and they are FAR, FAR more creative than I am.  For example, I know I would NEVER think of fingerpainting in toothpaste on the  walls.  I know I would NEVER think of making an animal “trap” out of all of Daddy’s zip strips from his garage.  I know I would NEVER think of making a fishing pole from PVC & fishing bobbers and for that extra special, can’t resist, secret fishing tip, stuff part of a jar of very nasty catfish bait into the PVC.  These are things I simply wouldn’t think of.  And yet, somehow, these are only RECENT examples of what my bright & beautiful preschoolers have done.  We are never bored.  And I am often sidetracked.

And honestly?  I just want to spend time with my littles.  It’s imperative I sit down with my almost 6yo and my almost 8yo and work on phonics.  We sit together as they practice handwriting.  They need help with math manipulatives.  I simply must sit down with my 10yo and 13yo each day and teach their math, discuss their writing, or read them their dictation.  There’s just no way around it.  The baby will fuss for me and just wants Mama, so she will be held and loved and snuggled.  But an almost 3yo and a 4yo?  The creative genius in them will keep them busy for HOURS.  They are both fairly content children and as long as they’ve been fed, semi-clothed, and given free reign, they’ll run amuck, playing, singing, jumping from things, amusing themselves all day long.  I’d prefer it be a wee bit more structured and a tiny bit less chaotic. 😉

Preschool gives me the excuse I need to sit down with them for a bit, put my feet up, and ENJOY them.  Preschoolers are easy to enjoy.  Happy children are fun to spend time with…  And children are happiest with something productive to do, lots of exercise, healthy food, and a routine.  There’s a reason routine works so well with these little ones… They know what “comes next.”  They can’t tell time yet, but it’s comforting for them to know we do chores, then breakfast, then Mama will sit down with you and read for a bit, then we’ll go outside.  They learn that everything has a place, that they are useful, needed little people in this family.

Our AM schedule looks something like this:

Breakfast
Chores  (sometimes we reverse breakfast and chores)
Family Bible Time
Preschool – Reading, Singing, Talking
Arts & Crafts at the table
Snack
Outdoors for an hour
Indoors – Potty & Wash Hands
Free or Structured Indoor Play
Lunch
Clean-up
Read-Aloud
Nap

And I’m sure you’re wondering what in the world the big kids are doing in all this.  Well, they’re busy.  If you can teach them in the AM before the littles get up this generally works out best.  They also know they should probably wait ’til I’m available to them for questions.  I’m available during Arts & Crafts, Outdoor play,  Clean-Up time,  and Snack.  Obviously they are with us for Family Bible Time.  And just as you’d tell a child on a standardized test, if you don’t know something, go to the next thing and then come back to it.  Essentially that’s how this works.  My oldest two children are quite independent learners and good readers and so it simplifies much of what I have to do.  The most difficult one to balance is, of course, Elizabeth, because she’s not quite on the level of a completely independent learner or reader!  And that isn’t terribly surprising at age 7.   But you’ll find you have time…   We work in concentrated blocks, much of it during naptimes when littles are down.

I can say that most of my day pivots on something important.  The first is tomato – staking.  If a child is tomato staked, they never get the opportunity to draw on the walls, get the catfish bait, OR grab Daddy’s zip strips.  I’ve become very lazy at this lately as I prepare for our new school year, and honestly?  Most of the summer.  I feel like *I* took the whole summer off as well, and that’s just NOT a good thing.  You can learn about this vital & biblical concept here, at Raising Godly Tomatoes.  The concept is very simple.  Keep your children WITH you.  If your children are out of earshot, you can’t correct their attitude or what comes out of their mouth.  If they are out of eyesight, you can’t correct their atttitudes or their actions.

Let’s pretend a child misspells the word CAT.  He spells it KAT.  When he writes it, he writes it K-A-T.  When he hears it, he visualizes K-A-T.  Nothing has led him to believe that KAT isn’t correct and without you to make the correction and to further train him in the correct spelling by reinforcement, this child will continue in his wrong belief and behaviour.

Let me add some caveats here.  Have you ever watched the Dog Whisperer?  An amazing man.  He excels at what he does because he understands pack behaviour and he knows what he can expect in behaviour and he trains to the EXPECTATION.   The problem with parenting is very few people know what type of standards to expect from their children these days.  OR they are unreasonable.  An oddity I’ve noticed is over 1/2 of his cases, the problem behaviour is fixed by the owner’s giving appropriate affection, a routine,  and lots of exercise.  I can’t emphasize enough the impact exercise has on these dogs.

Now, don’t get huffy, I’m not calling your toddler a dog.  But I’m saying we have higher expectations of an 8 week old puppy than we do of our 3 year olds.  And I certainly know MY Abigail is smarter than Legend, and he’s a German Shepherd, lol.   Children need GOOD food.  This will get rid of most of your convenient foods, Mom.  They need REAL food.  They do not need food additives, preservatives, food coloring, or most things that come out of a box.  They don’t need refined flour, refined sugar, or no-calorie sweeteners.  They need REAL food.  I’d suggest you I.L.L the book by Dr. Sears, The Family Nutrition Book.  Look, Dr. Sears, I like some of his books.  Others, not so much.  But when you start learning about whole foods, the books people recommend are OVERWHELMING.  You’re going to start reading books where you need to milk your cow, grind your wheat, grow your own food organically, make your own yogurt, and ferment kombucha.  And WHAT is kombucha?  And, are you kidding?  It’s just too much.  This is a GREAT introduction to real food.  You THINK what you’ve been buying at the grocery store is real food, but you’d be surprised.  Most of the nutrition in the checkout line is synthetic and our body just doesn’t know what to do with it.  Don’t look at the label – buy the stuff without a label…. Produce.  And don’t even get me started on bread!

Next thing – EXERCISE.   I am not saying introduce your 4yo to pilates.  I’m not advocating a treadmill for the 5yo.  I’m saying GET OUTSIDE!  Get them plenty of fresh air, let them yell, let them climb, let them jump and run.  If you do NOT do this things, you are asking for what you get….  I am a FIRM believer that children can and should be taught to sit and sit quietly, but just as every year has a season, every child should have a healthy time to play and run and get out physical energy.  THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE IF YOU HAVE BOYS!  Oh, I’ve had people argue that point, but I’ve got 2 boys and they are entirely (ENTIRELY) different.  They were made to work.  They were created for physical exertion.  And they desperately NEED to get out the physical energy.  Also, it is an important sidenote that this will also destroy the Mom Guilt factor when you require them to sit still and be quiet and you’ll be a better trainer and more consistent.

Now, let’s get to the bottom line.

I know what you’re thinking.  I BARELY get done the minimum.  How in the world do I work all this in?

I can almost guarantee if you have untrained preschoolers and toddlers, a huge percentage of your time, more than realize is, in the words of FlyLady, spent “putting out fires.”  In other words, you’re inefficient.

Oh I’m NOT saying you’re not busy!!  Quite the opposite.  I’m saying you’re busy with busy-work and not with what needs to be done.

For example, let’s say you have to make lunch, and in the meantime, Little Junior dumps out the legos, and the play-doh, and tosses the pillows and blankets on the floor in a mini-fort.  After lunch, you have to clean all that up.  If you had had Junior WITH you helping make lunch, none of it would have happened and after lunch you could have read aloud or gotten something else done.   Let’s say your Little Monster, er… Junior doesn’t take “rest” times or naps.  Instead he goes upstairs and you spend the next hour yelling at him to lie down or cleaning up whatever mess he made.  Please, close your eyes and dream with me for a moment….  At 12:30 you tell Junior it’s naptime.  You read to him, kiss him, tuck him in.  In ten minutes, Junior is sleeping and will continue to do so for about 1-2 hours.  And you can concentrate on what you need to do.   Let’s even say Junior isn’t a sleeper…. That’s fine.  My 5yo isn’t a sleeper either.  She has a choice.  She may either quietly look at books or she can sleep.  What she can’t do is get out of her bed, fuss, wake up her little sister in the same room, or in general move for 1.5 hours.  She’s been given a choice – books or sleep.  She may make either choice.

So you’re thinking, “Must be nice…”  And I’m telling you YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!  I deeply appreciate what I’ve got.  But please don’t kid yourselves that it came easy.  Ah, no!  The reason why I appreciate it so much is because I had the little terror that wouldn’t nap and would destroy her room and I’d yell upstairs, and occasionally flip out. 😛  And her name was Ana.  And she was awful.  And I only had TWO children and I got less done at naptime than I do now with all of them.

So, how do you train for something like that?  First you exhaust them.  You feed them well.  You create a routine.  And you be CONSISTENT.  You tuck Junior in and you wait, like a cat… Because you know he’s going to do something.  And then you pounce.  🙂  Okay, it’s slightly LESS dramatic than that, but the truth is, correcting behaviour isn’t about waiting until you can’t ignore it.  It’s about catching it right away and correcting it immediately.   It’s setting clear expectations in YOUR head and then training them to it.   It is REASONABLE to expect a five year old to rest or read.  We stop with naptimes when they have graduated to learning phonics.  Then they are expected to do Phonics with me and then quietly look at books.  If I find they are not old enough to do this, they revert back to naptime.  This includes whispering.  I LOVE my naptimes and I will not give them up.  I refuse.  It’s a hard and fast and necessary rule to making our house work smoothly… Or at least as smoothly as it does, lol.

After nap?  Snack, activity, lots of outdoor time.  Our afternoons are FAR less structured than our mornings.  But they cannot have lower expectations for behaviour.

Our chore charts turned out beautifully by the way.  I think I gave the inspiration link on these a couple posts ago.  The “check-off” pictures attach via velcro.  A hint?  Buy the velcro dots at somewhere OTHER than the fabric store… They were expensive!

The chore charts were made from Googled images and Excel, very simple.  We also made Activity cards to go into each child’s folder.  The activity cards – again Googled images and Excel.  We cut them out, laminated them, and all was well.

I’ll add pictures in the next post as I can’t get the camera to work right now.

I’m not a shopper by nature.  I don’t enjoy the hunt, I don’t enjoy spending money, I don’t enjoy hours of walking.  Nothing about shopping, unless it is in a bookstore, is enjoyable to me….

But, I will say that handmade holds a special place in my heart.  WAHMamas have been a love of mine since 2000 when I sewed my very first cloth diaper.  And the recognization that there are amazingly talented women out there, who choose to stay home and be with their family while they “do what they do” deserves recognition.

Most of these mamas have a sincere passion behind what they do.  The motivation is so much more than just financial, and if you look very carefully, you’ll see what that is in their products.

I will gladly admit my favorite Work at Home Mama is Lori from Beneath the Rowan Tree.  Her toys…..  They’re art, pure, simple, and amazing.  Full of wonder…..  I’ve been blessed to speak with Lori before and I know that Rowan (her daughter) has been a source of inspiration and joy.  And I wonder how someone can translate such beauty to silk, or clothing, or toys.  She did something recently that just absolutely took my breath away.  I didn’t know wool could become, well, this:

Beneath the Rowan Tree Wool Sculpture

Beneath the Rowan Tree Wool Sculpture

BTRT's "Mother & Daughters" Sculpture - Back

BTRT's "Mother & Daughters" Sculpture - Back

I have never in my life seen such a beautiful handmade object.   What Lori did with this….  It’s breathtaking. 

My children are very blessed to own a few things Lori has made for them.  Two of the girls have matching shirts, Sweetest Pea has a handpainted dress that doesn’t fit her anymore, yet she refuses to give it up… It’s more of a smock top now, lol.  She also made us a set of incredibly vibrant playsilks.

Lori's Silks

Lori's Silks

My children don’t own many toys.  The only plastic is some Schleich animals. 😉  In our home, there is no toybox.  There are no shelves of toys.  But there is one very special picnic basket.  It contains a tea set, 7 silks, and crocheted food.  And it can keep three little girls entertained for hours….  Playing, dreaming, imagining.  I was skeptical of play silks.  I bought the first one from EllieBelly when Lizzie was just a baby – 2002.  And it became her lovey.  Now, with more, the girls can make princess dress, sling their babies, have a picnic on them, wear a turban, tie on an apron…  You are only bound by your imagination.  Open ended toys create a sense of wonder, they grow the seed of creativity into a sapling, they inspire.  With natural playthings you’re giving such a gift, so much more than a plastic something….  And moreover, it’s been created by loving hands.

Give more than a gift…. Inspire wonder. 

Two links for you today – one is the one of the finest collaboration of WAHMama artists I’ve ever seen and I’m proud to link to them…  Fresh Congo.

The other is Lori’s store at Etsy… Hours of window shopping enjoyment.  Do look through her past sales.  You’ll go back over and over again.

So, two days ago on another forum we were asked to SHOW what a day was like for us.  Another forum had asked to see what our school rooms / school day looked like in homeschooling families.  So, yesterday,  the camera followed us around all day….

Morning comes around 5:30.  I get up with dh to make the coffee and see him off…  Still dark, and chilly.  No fire. 😦 

No ashes either.

No ashes either.

 But any morning that starts with coffee is a good morning. 🙂

And a favorite cup

And a favorite cup

A little computer time

A little computer time

But then

Sun's Up!

Sun's Up!

Chores will be a little chilly this morning.

Chores will be a little chilly this morning.

But first, a little breakfast of granola

But first, a little breakfast of granola

Or with strawberries :)

Or with strawberries 🙂

Preparing Breakfast for Dogs

Preparing Breakfast for Dogs

Big Brother Juices

Big Brother Juices

Sweetest Pea helps me sterilize for milking

Sweetest Pea helps me sterilize for milking

Girly Girl milks Cinderella

Girly Girl milks Cinderella

She milks Cinderella first, because Cinderella holds still, doesn’t kick, lets milk down easily, and pretty much pours it out into the bucket.   Gypsy… Um, well, not so much ANY of those things.  Old Bat.

I strain, measure, and chill

I strain, measure, and chill

 By this point, all little girls, big girls, and Big Brother have showered and are dressed.  Big Brother watches Shortie Pie while the rest of us go out and do chores.  His turn comes next.

Chicken Chores - Feeding Leftovers from Juicing

Chicken Chores - Feeding Leftovers from Juicing

Feed all the babies.

Feed all the babies.

 

Big Brother gets a bale of alfalfa for the does from the other barn.

Big Brother gets a bale of alfalfa for the does from the other barn.

 

While I milk.  Yes, in my pajamas.

While I milk. Yes, in my pajamas.

Showered and Dressed... Only four hours after waking up.

Showered and Dressed... Only four hours after waking up.

Finally.  We’re ready to start school.  Everyone is dressed, everyone is fed, including beasts.  I WISH we were all organized too.  As this is technically a cross-post because I’m lazy and was supposed to take pictures of my school areas last week. (Different board – school areas in a small house) This is going to double for  both posts. 🙂  Wait!  That’s not lazy.  It’s MULTI-TASKING!  It’s actually uber efficient.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Books, functioning as school books, in general state of disorganization.

Books, functioning as school books, in general state of disorganization.

This was our $14 find at the last farm auction we went to.  It allows me to have the rest of my books on my bookshelves.  I am VERY grateful. 

More coming……

Chamomile & Oats ~ Debuting @ Creatively Serene today!

Chamomile & Oats ~ Debuting @ Creatively Serene today!

But I’m finally done formulating my baby wash!

And Andrea (WANTED Web Design) made me a lovely label for it!

Because Mondays are BUSY around here.  So, just some photos to share.  We had a great weekend, got to see Grandma and Grandpa, met some sweet folks, and DH started on my laying boxes for my hens!  Hope you had a good one!
Girly Girl and Shortie Pie

Girly Girl and Shortie Pie

 

Sweetest Pea

Sweetest Pea

Big Brother

Big Brother

Little Brother and Boat

Little Brother and Boat

Punkin Head

Punkin Head

Princess

Princess

 

Little Brother and Shortie Pie

Little Brother and Shortie Pie

Big Brother & Shortie Pie

Big Brother & Shortie Pie