Nearer, My God, to Thee

Sometimes I forget how old I am.  There is nothing like a really hard trial to transform you into a child again—a student—trying to learn the lessons of life so that the pain will stop and peace will replace it.

In church, the old hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” opened its treasure to me. I’ve sung it a hundred times in my life, at least. Probably more.  And never “heard” it.

“Nearer, My God, to Thee”
Verse 3:
“There let the way appear,
Steps unto heaven;
All that thou sendest me,
In mercy given . . .”

Oh! I get it! God in mercy sends us the growth opportunities, life’s hard lessons: tragedies, trials, insurmountable difficulties. Why is it merciful for us to suffer?

Because the way appears . . . the path opens up . . . steps unto heaven.

It is because He loves us, in mercy He let’s us learn.  He orchestrates learning. Just like any good parent. We do it too, for our child’s benefit.

Verse 4:
“. . . so by my woes, I’ll be
Nearer, my God, to thee
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!”

Our woes can draw us to God, if we allow them to. Nearer to God. The hard things are really the door opener so we can learn to know God. Challenges disguise themsevles as obstacles, but they are really stepping stones.

The speaker at church talked about Happiness.  He said, “my hobby is to be happy”.  I thought to myself how very much I need to make it a conscious decision, to make happiness a hobby for me, too, since I am often overwhelmed, frazzled, frustrated, and hurt by the grinding day-by-day challenge of Ammon’s recovery.  At the peak of a very difficult few weeks, Ammon told me I didn’t smile anymore. I hadn’t realized. Happiness a hobby . . . it is by our own choice and effort that we smile, that we count our blessings, that we feel gratitude and focus on the good things.

The speaker’s formula for happiness:

1- Gratitude
2- Serving Others
3- Personal Integrity
4- Forgiving
5- Being considerate (. . . and I would add: never judging others)

We already know those things are what make us happy, but it is easy to forget to choose them when life gets intense.  ”Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

If pain is the rocky path leading one nearer to God, so be it. It would be a small price. Soul stretching lessons are difficult to live through, but the education they provide is priceless.

I want to learn.

God, help me want to learn.

 

 

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A Lush and Lovely Garden

I live in a desert. Which is one reason my overflowing green garden gives me such satisfaction!  I also think being a mother makes me love it:  I have spent my life creating beautiful, growing living things.  Come into my garden, and I’ll show you what’s growing this summer:

First, my tools hang high on the fence inside the garden gate entry.  Gotta have them close by at harvest time!

This year I planted half of my garden in square foot garden beds, and half under black plastic.  Old carpet in the walkways ensures that no weeds grow in my garden, stealing water from the plants and making my back hurt to remove them! Drip lines go under the carpet and black plastic, but I still have a garden hose to water this and that as I choose.  When it is planting time, I simply cut a hole in the plastic for big melon and squash seeds or transplants. I cut a dotted line slit in the plastic for cucumber and green bean seeds, planting them right next to each other, as they have an entire bed in which to spread their roots sideways. The black plastic can be used year after year, if you buy the thicker type. We remove it in the winter, adding the summer’s chicken coop debri and autumn leaves, digging them into just the bed areas, not the pathways.  When spring comes, we put the black plastic back on a couple of weeks before planting time to warm up the soil.

Everything grows up! I have a fence down every bed in the black plastic covered side and I spend some time tucking vines through the fence so they’ll keep growing up, staying nice and tidy.  I can walk through the pathways easily, plus pick green beans at waist level rather than leaning over. Besides green beans; tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons, and pumpkins have to obey this rule and it is fun to see the melons hanging off the fence, getting plumper by the day.

I mix flowers in with my veggies in the square foot garden side of my garden. That way, when the radishes or lettuce are finished, the summer flowers are just blooming.  Besides, having them mixed in my vegetable garden means I remember everyday to pick a fresh bouquet or two, right along with picking the vegetables. Morning glory goes up the fence between the garden and the chicken coop, creating a spot of beauty.

Growing new varieties intrigues me!  This year I grew a French pumpkin that is excellent for making pies and other baked goods.  It surprised me how quickly it got big! There are so many varieties of eggplant, that I love to see what new colors of fruit will pop right out of those pretty purple blossoms.  Eggplants love the heat so much that the difference between planting them in black plastic (see it on the ground in the picture) and planting them in open soil is enormous.  I have eggplant planted in my square foot garden, where it is struggling along, and I have it planted in black plastic where it is a monstrous plant, high and bushy, and has at least 5 x the fruit!  I live where the summer days are 90 degrees every day, so it is certainly hot enough already, but the black plastic definitely makes them more productive!  Eggplant just loves the high soil temperatures, as do tomatoes, squash, peppers and melons.

Horses hang around on the other side of the fence while I’m in the garden on the chance that they might get a tasty weed tossed their way.  Do you see the “poles” at the corners of my square foot beds?  They are really shelf corner brackets or something like that, leftover. Stuck in the corners of my bed, they make it simple to throw a blanket on top, in case of frost, without bending over the plants too much.  I cut the neck off regular water bottles and stuck them on these poles, upside down, to prevent injuring anyone. The water bottles need to be glue-gunned on, though, as our high winds have gradually taken them.

Last year’s asters reseeded themselves and I didn’t plant any this year, but my garden is full of purple, pink and white asters—such a beautiful and delicate flower. One of the benefits of square foot gardening is that the tiny herb and flower seeds drop down into the square foot bed and re-seed. Since square foot gardening does not require tilling or cultivating, those seeds will grow and give you surprise blossoms next summer!

Today I planted lettuce, as the cooling temperatures of fall will soon make it ideal for this leafy veggie that detests summer heat.

The benefits of growing a garden:

  • sunshine on your skin
  • peace and quiet
  • exercise
  • being outdoors
  • beauty
  • helping things grow
  • attracting birds and butterflies
  • fresh, organically grown vegetables to boost your health and make your meals gourmet
  • abundance to give away to others
  • a reminder that “whatever we sow, we will reap”—both in the garden and in life
  • joy!

Isn’t it fun!?

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

You might enjoy:


Square Foot Gardening

Art of Gardening

Encyclopedia of Country Living

 

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Why Can’t He Read Yet?

School can be pretty frustrating if you have a child who is old enough to read, but not reading well, happily or smoothly.  Is he just stubborn or is something else going on? Here’s some things to consider:

Is he ready for reading?

Some children (boys especially) require a little longer to mature before being able to tackle reading.  If you find yourself teaching and re-teaching the same basic phonics sounds or concepts and not getting anywhere, your child may not be mature enough to retain the information needed to read.  Give it 3 months and try it again. Neurodevelopmentalist Cyndi Ringoen claims that until a child has developed the ability to recall a sequence of 4 numbers you have spoken, they will not be able to retain phonics instruction.  You’ll know when your child is ready to read when he can remember the letters and their sounds from day to day. Before that time, your efforts may not be very effective.

Are you making it fun enough?

If learning to read just means he has to read his math workpage instructions himself—oh joy—there is not really a reason to learn!  I remember a retired school teacher who told me how she got boys interested in reading.  She would read aloud the first part of a chapter in a Tarzan book.  When the suspense got high, she would put the book down, open with a bookmark, and move on to other things.  She often “caught” her reluctant readers trying to finish the adventure on their own.

Just like with anything else, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. If reading means he can play a game more independently, order from a menu, read the little notes you leave in his “mailbox“, and other rewarding activities, he has a reason to read!

Are you giving him opportunity?

Sometimes mom is so eager to help, that she doesn’t patiently allow a child to figure things out by himself in daily life.  When it is family scripture reading time, give him a turn and be patient, helping only when needed.  We only remember what we use.  Plus, “who needs to read if Mom will do it for me?”

Does he have the tools?

I love to garden, but I need my trowel, scissors, harvest basket and my straw hat.  Without my tools, it can be less enjoyable.  Does your child have the tools he needs to be able to read?  Basic phonics sounds that accompany each letter are the tools of reading. If you need a fun way to teach phonics, try my twice award-winning  Happy Phonics program which teaches phonics in a game format.

Before I began homeschooling, one of my sons was learning to read in public school, and was hopelessly behind.  When summer came, I determined to help him get up to speed so he could start the next year reading with the same proficiency as his classmates.  I got the needed books and materials, and began the process of having him read aloud to me.  It didn’t take long before I realized that he was operating without any tools! He was uncertain even how to attack an unknown word and decode it.  He had been taught the “look-say” method (which I cynically call “Guess Reading”) and it didn’t give him any phonic skills so necessary to good reading.

Teach phonics, pure and unadulterated. No sight words. No guess reading.  Teach simple and always-to-be-depended-on phonics skills.

A mother came to me once and explained that her daughter couldn’t remember anything she read, which of course, made her not want to read.  I advised her to get books that presented snippets of information, such as interesting animal fact books, and the like. Little morsels of interesting reading with pictures can motivate a child to keep at a book because of the immediate reward, while you get the necessary phonics practice done day-by-day. Comic books are great for this!

The problem of lack of comprehension is really lack of automatic phonics skills. When a child knows his phonics very well, from lots of fun practice, comprehension will begin to soar. What slows down a reader—both in speed of reading and understanding the story line—is the struggle to remember phonics. Once phonics is mastered, reading gets easy and fun!

P.S. I just got this letter from a happy mother:

I wanted to thank you so much for making the Happy Phonics program!  We have been enjoying it so much!  I am using it with 4 of my 6 children right now; my 10-year-old who has struggled in reading, my 8-year-old who has bucket-loads of energy, my 5-year-old who is eager to read and my 3-year-old who won’t miss the opportunity to spend time with Mommy.  Your program takes all the stress out of me teaching them to read and them learning to read.  So please know that you have made our homeschooling a pleasurable experience because you spent the time to help other Moms.
—C.J.

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

You might like:


Happy Phonics

Phonics Firefly

Phonics Readers

 

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Pillowcase Food Drying

It’s that time of year again, when the garden is producing faster than I can keep up with it. And the sun is so hot, it definitely begs to be put to use in the process.  And so, pillowcase food drying was a natural solution!  Here’s how:

1. Wash your garden produce and spread it on a drying tray (or a window screen, etc.)

2.  Slip the trays into a pillowcase to keep insects and the direct sun off.  (If you are using big window screens, fold them into a tablecloth or sheet.)

3.  Set them up on the clothesline and pin to secure from wind.  The clothesline allows ventilation from both sides.

4.  Keep the rain off.

5.  Check daily for crisp, brittle veggies that snap in two, rather than bend. This is the perfect state for long-term storage. Herbs and leafy veggies may take just one day. Tomatoes, green beans and other vegetables may take a few days. I dry those beans too big for fresh eating, and make them into veggie powder.

6.  Crumble herbs in a large bowl with your hands, removing stems.  Other veggies may be stored whole or powdered in the blender to make a great addition to soups and casseroles. Store in a jar and label.  Use all year long for that fresh garden taste!

Can food preservation get any easier than this?

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

You might enjoy:


Food Dehydrator

Fruit Roll Sheets

Add-A-Tray (2 Pack)

 

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Another Way to Clean Your Teeth

We’ve just started a new tooth cleansing practice at my house and it is really amazing! It is technically called “Oil Pulling” but “Coconut Oil Swishing” is what it is all about. Here’s how you do it:

Put about 1/2 teaspoon (estimate) of high quality coconut oil into your mouth first thing in the morning (right out of bed, before drinking or eating), and you can do it before each meal if you want. Once a day is great. If you are really motivated to heal cavities, before each meal will keep your mouth really clean! The first moment feels a little weird as the oil melts, but then it mixes with your saliva feels fine. Just swish, swish, swish—sucking it back and forth through your teeth.

If you can keep at it for 5 minutes, great! 10 minutes, better— and at 20 minutes, you win the prize! Stop, spit the foamy white stuff out on the grass (or in the trash, but not in the sink or toilet where it can eventually clog pipes). Do not swallow!  It has germs in it.

Now rinse your mouth with warm water a few times—you can spit it out in the sink or toilet. The coconut oil will actually soak up bacteria in your mouth from your saliva, gums and teeth. A microscopic slide of coconut oil before and after swishing shows a scary collection of bacteria and other undesirables.

The downside: you can’t talk for 5-20 minutes.  This can be a pro or con, depending on whose voice is turned off.  And it gets your lips greasy, which is okay if you are used to using lip balm anyway, of which coconut oil is often an ingredient!

The benefits: your teeth will be amazingly clean and whiten with each swishing. Stain is often caused by bacteria and I noticed a whitening difference within 3 days.  Many people claim oil-swishing softens built-up tartar, which eventually slides off the teeth, greatly reducing the need for dental cleanings.  Removing toxins from your mouth improves the pH of your mouth, which is he big plus—facilitating healing of dental caries.

It’s easy, cheap and effective—just my kind of cure!

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

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Hard Easy

There are two ways to raise a child.

You can do it the Easy-Hard way, which is to roll along, give your child his way because he is young and “doesn’t know better”, keep him from crying by handing out cookies, don’t put demands on him to behave well or follow the family rules or contribute. Pick up after him. Do everything for him and expect nothing of him. Don’t teach him to use tools or cut with a knife or carry something to the table, because he might get hurt or break something. Do it yourself and save the mess. Easy. It makes for less stressful times, because a child who gets his way doesn’t pitch fits very often.

The other way is Hard-Easy. It starts out with a bang—rough-riding!  It takes lots of energy to train and teach and persuade and correct, and urge and work side-by-side with and expend lots of effort on polishing your little rough-edged baby-child into a smooth diamond. You’ll have to learn to ignore tantrums.  You’ll have lots of exhausting “let-me-show-you-how” and “work-with-me” instruction sessions. You’ll have to model being happy yourself and smile and take a proactive role in loving him. It takes creativity, patience and energy  to teach a little one how to behave politely, to follow family rules, to pick up after himself, to pull his weight, to respect his elders, to control his emotions and more. There will be cut fingers, broken dishes and messes while he is learning. Hard.

The Easy-Hard way goes along breezily for a few years, maybe even 6 or 8 years, and Mama is serving her child devotedly and life is relatively smooth. The child isn’t developing any skills, and doesn’t have much self-confidence as a result.  And the child senses that he is more a liability than an asset to the family. He just wants to have fun and indulge himself and is glad that Mom is picking up after him and doing the cooking, cleaning, toy-buying, driving him here and there, and still handing out cookies to shut him up. He wants bigger treats, more fun, and complains a lot. Mom feels worn out and wishes for school to start (or summer camp) to get the little demon out of her hair. It is getting hard!

As the child grows, the Hard-Easy method continues to be quite a job for Mom.  But her child is gaining some skills gradually, and the messes are diminishing a smidgen. When Daddy comments on how good the pancakes are, and the 8-year-old beams and proudly says, “I made them all by myself”, there is some honest-to-goodness self-esteem and confidence brewing. Mom now has a helper, and an eager learner who wants to gain his parent’s skills and knows he is a contributing family member. Self-control has increased, since the crying and tantrums didn’t do anything but wear him out. He can clean a bathroom, help with dinner, work side-by-side with Dad in painting the kitchen and scheme how to spend his carefully earned money. This child is a joy to Mom and she is proud of him. Guess what?  Easy is starting to show its face.

You’re guaranteed to get both the “easy” and the “hard” part of parenting when you raise a child.

Which one do you want to tackle first?

Which direction do you want your child pointing as he moves into adolescence?

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

 

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Growing Garlic

Today we had an abundant garlic harvest! I think garlic is the easiest crop to grow. Here’s how:

1.  Plant cloves of garlic in the garden in the fall time, first time around.

You can use grocery store garlic, and separate the bulb into cloves and plant them, point side up. You will probably have better success if you buy garlic at a local farmer’s market so you know it works in your climate. Plant nurseries have them too.  Once you get garlic going, it will replant itself every fall by producing little bulbs on top the seed stalks.  These dry and drop into the soil for next year’s crop, or you can collect them and plant them wherever you want.

2. Leave them in the ground when winter comes.

3. Enjoy their bright green presence when spring comes and all else is not yet growing.

Garlic will send up an artistic-looking curling seed stalk in late spring or early summer.  You can cut and eat these shoots when they are very young and tender, like green onions or chives.  Or you can put them in a vase with a flower arrangement. Or you can let them grow and set seed. The garlic cloves down in the soil actually grow around this central seed stalk (rather than through them, like onions). Experiments have shown that allowing the seed stalk to grow gives better garlic yields.

4. Slide them out of the ground in mid-summer when the bottom set of leaves turn brown.

Leave a few in the ground to go to seed (tiny bulbs on top will dry and drop into the soil) to make new garlic plants next season.

6. Braid them, after a fashion, and hang them up in the garage to dry.

If you live in a cold winter zone, you’ll grow “hardneck” garlic (which don’t really braid into those pretty Italian garlic braids of “softneck” mild-winter garlic varieties).  But we kind of braid it anyway.

7.  Enjoy fresh garlic all year long.

 

Louisa and her enormous garlic braid!

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Whipped Cream Words

We’ve lapsed into being a bit grouchy at my house sometimes. And it isn’t fun. I’m not sure how or why, but we all decided that we needed to stop it!

Talking about stopping it worked just fine while we were talking about it and we were all full of resolve to do better.  But then life went on and we all forgot.

One morning we were all sitting at the breakfast table reveling in a most delicious and decadent breakfast made by Louisa while we were out harvesting the garden.  She called us in to enjoy whole grain French toast made with our farm fresh chicken eggs, and topped with cubed mangoes and strawberries—crowned with a generous dollop of naturally sweetened whipped cream.  YUM!  The sunshine was streaming through the open door, the trees outside were swaying in the morning breeze . . . and all was right with the world.  Ummm . . . whipped cream. Sweet and satisfying, delicious and soft.  Everybody loves whipped cream.

Then it dawned on us that whip cream is exactly what we wanted!  We wanted that soft and sweet, delicious feeling of whipped cream in our home, in our communications. That did it!  ”Whip cream” became our code word!

Later, at that very same breakfast, someone relayed some less than pleasing information and I turned to talk to the offender in a very reasonable voice (I thought), which they thought was a scolding voice.

“Whip Cream” they politely said.

I immediately “got it” and reworded my accusation into a sweet and soft question.  I prefer whip cream to caustic acid.

We are all trying to talk in whip cream tones now. It’s working!

Sometimes one of us doesn’t even recognize it when someone requests “Whip Cream” in respond to our less-than-gentle words, so we made a resolve to buy one of those aerosal cans of whipping cream at the store. If someone doesn’t respond to the “Whip Cream” code word, then a taste of the real stuff will help remind him to keep his words soft and sweet!

We all like whip cream words much better.

 

Please leave your comment here.  Thanks!

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What God Gave You Time For

 

All our grandchildren! Abigial, Isaac, Christian, Rachel, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Joseph

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling . . . It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”

—Rachel Jankovic

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Zip Your Lips and Write Yourself a Note

That’s the best parenting advice I can give  . . . and I wish I’d learned it when I was a young mother!

What is your reaction when . . .?

*Your daughter comes out of her room wearing something you think is immodest . . .

*You discover your sewing scissors rusting outside in the sandbox . . .

*You are late for an appointment and your gas tank is empty, courtesy of your teen driver . . .

Well, I hope your reaction is better than mine was as a young mother!  It is so natural to want to see justice done and to be loud about it too! When children are very small, immediate (calm) correction is necessary to match their short memories, but as they grow older, the very most effective reaction is to zip your lips and write yourself a note.  Truly!

If you don’t zip your lips, you might say things that you wish you could take back and you will model reactive behavior you never wish to see repeated. More importantly, the child you are lecturing may go deaf or claim innocence: “it wasn’t me.”  Anyone pushed in a corner will try to wriggle out. No one likes the hot seat, adult or child.

If you don’t write yourself a note, you might forget to do the proper and much needed teaching once your emotions have cooled down.  Life moves on and it won’t be a priority unless you make it so. Being too lax is quite as bad as being over-reactive. Make sure you give fair consequences and teach the lessons your children need to have reinforced, for their sake.

The time for discussing modest clothing choices is a week or more later when your daughter is dressed modestly and the incident has been forgotten. Then the air is clear, there is no need for defensiveness, hearts are more open.  Don’t reference the incident, just teach in the most inspired, memorable and interesting method possible: a story, a movie, a scripture . . . anything that will touch her heart—without pointing a finger of blame.

The time to deal with consequences on the rusty sewing scissors is later.  Am I saying that it is right to just let it go, not set it right in the heat of the moment when all the facts and evidence are clear?  Yes, that’s what I’m saying. There is something in us that aches for justice!  And setting it right punctuated with exclamation points seems justified and satisfying!  By writing myself a note, I can keep quiet but reassured that the price will be paid, that no one is getting away with anything here, that I am exercising wisdom and will definitely be applying consequences later, when I have a level head and can approach it calmly.

A child who makes a mistake needs better skills. He is in need of instruction and consequences.  Not fireworks.  Modeling being in-control is a great blessing we can give our family.

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