Unplugging the Drug

Sometimes, my 3 year old has ADHD-like tendencies.

And she watches too many movies.

Thus the TV/Movie Challenge: Giving both up for one week.

We don’t have cable, and living in the country, our reception is pretty limited. So the TV part of the challenge will be easy. It’s the movie part that I’m dreading. But at least I have the promise of having done this before and reaped the benefits. That’s huge.

Did you ever get that restless and bored feeling as a child once the television had been turned off? Growing up, we rarely had ours on. Occasional reruns of The Brady Bunch or Little House on the Prairie helped sick days fly by faster, but for the most part we entertained ourselves. 3 yo’s gotten to repeating a phrase that saddens me immensely:

“What can I do, Mama? What can I do?”

She’s forgotten how to keep herself busy. That whole “productive” road to happiness thing? Mm-hm.

When my oldest was around 4 years old, we took AFR’s annual challenge and went without TV/movies for a month, and couldn’t believe what a difference it made. My then 4 year old really didn’t spend scads of time in front of the tube, but when it wasn’t available she went from keeping her door shut against her toddler sister (keep her out, mommy!) to welcoming her in to play for hours. Who would’ve thought? Suffice it to say, we left the TV off for over a year after that month was officially up.

I wish we’d never turned it back on.

I’m not excited about losing my #1 babysitter for 3 year old, but I’m ashamed for letting it get to this point. I have no choice. I told hubby the TV has to go, and thankfully he’s backing me up. See, we both remember the idyllic days when our household wasn’t “under the influence”.

Want to join me in the “TV and Movie Challenge”? My family is beginning tonight, after one last movie fling. A week sounds really doable to me, how about you?

Hopefully a week will turn into a month, etc. I’ll keep you updated on the highs and lows! Pray for us…

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What is Happiness?

Each Wednesday a mom’s group meets at my church for fellowship and encouragement in marriage, parenting, and Christianity in general. Years ago, before homeschooling, you’d find me there each Wednesday.

A week ago, while helping cook ahead for camp, I sat in on their first meeting of the schoolyear. Michael Pearl’s dvd on “Teaching Responsibility” was chosen as first up for our viewing enjoyment, and it looked so good that I decided I would try to make all the September meetings and get this little gem watched with them! Am I glad I did.

He’s a quite funny character, Michael Pearl, and I’m not referring to his bushy white beard. His sense of humor slips in when you least expect it, and he’s gifted with a directness that makes your head spin.

Here’s what I took away this first session, his words paraphrased by my faulty memory…get the dvd if you want precise!

He said he wants kids to be happy, and most parents think that a happy kid is one that gets their way all the time. To this thought, he shook his head and began telling us what made him and his wife happy. Think about yourself, what makes you happy? Being productive and having something to show for it. What do you do when friends come over? Mr. Pearl takes visiting children out and gives them a knife throwing lesson, or down to his greenhouse to see the biggest broccoli. His wife Debi, author of the wonderful book Created to Be His Helpmeet, shows them her full canning jars or the armoire she recently refinished with her husband.

It makes us happy to share what enthuses us with the ones that come into our lives. When my parents come each week, I have fun showing them what I’ve been up to that week. I like to make something special for us to eat, and my girls take them to look at their latest crafting project, or to read the latest song 9 yo wrote…

So our intro into the “Teaching Responsibility” dvd was a simple lesson on happiness.

What makes you happy? What about your children?

Family Camp

We walked by the light of the moon to mail a few letters tonight, and it was the first time all day I’d registered the lingering soreness in my legs…reminding me of all the walking and running we did at Family Camp. It’s a bigger wonder that my stomach isn’t protesting after the incredible eating all weekend.

The path to our cabin, barely wide enough for a four-wheeler, was a steep hike. Charming walk though, carved out and canopied around by a wilderness of trees. The cabins were built into the hillside, some up high almost on stilts, others, like ours, snugged right next to the path with a nice miniature deck at the door. Our cabin had six bunk beds in it, comfortable mattresses and air conditioning! Pretty nice bathroom facilities could be found just a short walk back down the path.

Beautiful weather (for the most part!), rustic rock-lined lodges, shady evergreens in all the right places, a swimming pool, tournaments and games to keep the whole family happy…it was a great time of fellowship andknifethrowing.jpg competition and reconnecting with church family.

Our family’s personal favorites included the knife throwing tournament, and the devotion/song times which we had each morning and evening. The guitar accompanied praise and worship songs, and the treat of having a rodeo chaplain (fancy word for cowboy preacher?) give all our devotionals gave a solid backdrop for all the fun and games.

megan.jpgBut the highlight of the whole weekend was watching my husband and our nine year old daughter participate in a high elements challenge. Harnessed up and in the hands of the belayer’s ropes, they climbed a 25-30′ (height estimate by dh) telephone pole, gingerly stepped up on top and inched around to face a trapeze, to which they would leap out in faith. Seven people from our church attempted this, the youngest, my daughter. She loves a challenge. Nine yo scrambled up the pole, turned around and in response to the belayer’s request that she “talk to him, and tell him when she was going to jump” she said, with nervous laughter in her voice,

“I think I’ll count to fifteen.”

The other jumpers had all jumped on the count of three. So my little comedian wanted everyone to think she needed extra time. Before the belayer was ready, she belted out:

“Five, Ten, Fifteen!” and jumped.

She’s still alive. The belayer braced himself just in time, when he realized she was counting by fives, but he told us later that if she’d been an adult he might not have been ready enough to support the increased weight. She was too short to get anywhere near the trapeze, but my dh successfully grabbed it and did a chin-up. He won the dubious title of being the first ever to climb and jump with cowboy boots on.

richmegan.jpgThen he and nine year old clambered up the rock-climbing panels together, one on each side and hugged each other at the top. Such an awesome sight. I was one proud woman, and so grateful to be there.

Our youth leaders organized this whole event, and pulled it off with panache. We had a survivor-like-family-edition obstacle course which involved zig-zagging through pylons, grabbing a marble and sling-shooting it at a hanging pop can, rolling a big tube a certain distance, and last, grabbing an alphabet letter off a folding chair before tapping the hand of the next team member in the relay. Once everyone went through, we put our letters together to form a phrase that had been used in the previous night’s devotions.

We had sword drills, a lady’s tea party, played a competitive evening’s worth of family kickball–in which even several grandparents participated, went night swimming, roasted marshmallows and made s’mores– and this after tournaments all day long Saturday: checkers, washers, badminton, knife-throwing, volleyball, basketball…

A better time couldn’t have been had. And one or two families made it all possible with their hard work and planning. In the words of Ray Boltz:

Thank you for giving to the Lord. I’m so glad you gave! :)

Click on the picture to enlarge it if desired!

Chicken Pot Pie

I promised Colleen I’d share the recipe Maude outlined for me Monday at the lake. It’s one of those canned goods casseroles, couldn’t be easier, unless you have an aversion to handling pie crusts. I’ll post my pie crust recipe sometime soon, it’s incredible, and very easy handling. I always roll it out between two pieces of waxed paper. Works like a charm!

Chicken Pot Pie

  • 4 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 2 10 oz cans cream of potato soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup milk
  • seasonings (garlic or onion powder, etc)
  • pie pastry

Prepare enough pie pastry to line either two standard pie plates, or one large deep-dish casserole. Steam veggies till tender and mix first six ingredients together thoroughly before assembling pie(s). (I had some leftover filling)

Bake at 350*F for 40 minutes or till pie crust is light brown.

This is a simple recipe, and my entire family gave it the thumbs up. We’re suckers for shepherd’s pie, so the next time I try this I’ll probably top it with mashed potatoes instead of pie crust.

It struck me that the “pot-pie” theme could be a great one for leftover beef stew as well…and a pie plate of leftover chili topped with cornbread batter baked in the oven…delicious! What else?

And we’re off to church camp! See you Monday…

Watering With Coke?

“If life is a box of chocolates, is it any wonder our Bibles end up at the bottom of our TBR pile?”

That’s how I began my post at Writer…Interrupted today! I hope you’ll stop in over there and read the rest of it. Incidentally, “TBR” is writer lingo for “to be read”.

What do you think? Does God’s word lose some of its appeal to today’s busy generation? Technology has advanced us, entertained us, and turned us into fast-paced consumers. How’s your spiritual appetite, or better yet, your child’s? And what can we do about it?

I shared my thoughts on this. Go read them and then share yours. :)

Or just share yours, because I’m interested either way!

A Most Lovely Two Lake Days

Day 1

My oldest was baptized with three others this Sunday in a lake near our church. I can’t imagine it having been a more special occasion, especially as my parents were able to join us for the after-church potluck, and then “Grandpa” (my dad) got to wade into the deeps with my daughter and baptize her. Pretty special! The wind came up which increased the waves, and just as they were done, it really started to rain. The joys of outdoor baptisms, really! It’s as close to a John-the-Baptist-like setting as we can get!

Day 2

We spent Monday at a privately owned lake, summering in sunshine and playing from morning till dark.

Our friends who own this lake are the big-hearted kind, always inviting us to join in their huge lake parties and luaus, treating us and our girls like treasured family in a most humbling way. A cabin surrounded by the lushest green lawn welcomes us, as does the biggest sandpile ever—taller than the children and with a wading pool of fresh water in its midst. Sprinklers, fed by lake water, are everywhere for sprinting fun. Jet ski and tube bob at the end of the boat dock. The wind blows frothy-white waves from the far blue side to ours, and big bales of prairie hay dot the never-ending hills surrounding us.

Our hostess has plenty of water shoes, life jackets and sunscreen. She has a freezer full of ice cream and popsicles, and a refrigerator full of pop, water bottles and juice pouches. The front half of the cabin is fully screen-enclosed, and filled with cushy porch swings and lawn furniture arranged around glass-topped tables. The deck floor, hose-washed after each gathering, welcomes dripping yellow Lab and sand-covered children alike.

My friend’s parents are visiting from Arizona, along with their grandson, and Grandma Maude takes to my children as if they’re her own. She’s in her seventies and full of riddles and other critical thinking puzzles. After a morning of tubing and sand castles, and a lunch of grill-burgers and brats, I enjoy an hour on the porch, the wind carrying a sprinkler-misting through the screen behind me at regular intervals. Maude, fifty-two years married, lures me to simpler times with her stories of a large circle of friends who did everything together. She and her friends picked a truck full of orchard apples together, unloaded them in one of their garages and spent the next day making seventy-eight apple pies. They swarmed a tomato field in the same way and spent the week after canning salsa, tomato soup, tomato-everything. Together they discovered quilting, candle wicking, rug making, etc. She told me how to craft a toothbrush rug, a penny rug, how to finish up my antique dresser project, her best recipe for chicken pot-pie, and how to make a fantastic Christmas centerpiece. My eyes are tearing up just telling you about it!

What a fascinating and lively woman! From a California girl on the cover of Life magazine, to a school-teacher, to a married woman and mother of four daughters…her stories nourished a part of me that had been pushed almost into dormancy in the past two years.

At two o’clock we got out garden fresh cucumbers and salt and let their coolness refresh us. My friend and I set up a rocket-blasting sprinkler for the kiddies and rescued the beach umbrellas from the rising wind.

At four o’clock I brought my wobbling three year old inside for a half hours rest on the porch swing. Three sunscreen sessions hadn’t survived lake water and sand, her blue eyes were bright and droopy against flushed cheeks. Maude played finger and toe games with her, till doggie “Belle” persuaded her back outdoors for more ball throwing and retrieving.

My favorite time of day at a lake is around seven to eight o’clock. Evening shadows and lapping waves and peace and tiredness all combine into a feeling of great satisfaction.

I’d love to see it in winter, bundled in a down comforter, with a fire in the fire pit and a hot mug of chocolate keeping my hands warm.

What is it about a good long day with friends that leaves one feeling so full and so empty? I think it’s the never-wanting-it-to-end. Knowing that summer is pretty much over till next year. And next year my girls will all be a head taller, and this summer day of memories a mere unread page archived on this blog.

But I have a chicken pot-pie recipe to try out, and some craft ideas to prepare for this weekend’s church camp. And believe it or not, I get to spend tomorrow cooking with friends in preparation for that same camp.

It’s shaping up to be a pretty great week.

Dreaming on the Five Year Plan

Had one of those great chats with hubby the other night.

I shared something exciting on the *writing front* with him and also shared my insecurities about this writing gig maybe taking several years to get going.

See, Dh and I both kind of thought I could pop a book out and get it published, no sweat. Embarrassingly naive, in light of what I now know about the publishing industry. Still, a common misconception among the optimistic masses!

Sweet man likened it to his debut into the saddle making biz. He started in 1990 (while still in high school) building his first saddle with no training whatsoever and in the meantime practiced his skills on other tooling projects, such as leather planners, photo album covers, barstool seats, headstalls and spur straps. By 1995 he’d finsaddle2.jpgished his first saddle and in the process gained valuable experience. He’s built many more since then and has repeat customers who spread the word. It took him five years to finish that first saddle. He’s faced many setbacks, most of them related to raising a family on one income while trying to get a home business underway.

In talking to the friends I’ve made at ACFW, American Christian Fiction Writers, getting published in the first five years of writing is quite a feat. Yet, in the last year and a half, I’ve had this sense of impatience with myself. Wondering if I’m spending too much time fixing on this series, feeling guilty that it’s not “done” yet and being shopped around. Thinking it may never see shelf space.

Having an understanding spouse is so freeing. I’m being told in books on the craft, that every word written is a step progressing my journey. Nothing is wasted. Not even blogging.

According to fantastic writers like Deb Raney and Karen Kingsbury, the learning process never stops. And I’m loving it.saddle1.jpg

So is my husband. He’s hoping to add silver smithing to his list of skills. Being a “do-it-yourselfer”, he’d love to create every last piece of a saddle from the engraved silver conchos to the wooden tree at the saddle’s core.

Our *creative* hearts touched during that talk the other night. We understood each other’s dreams on a level that each could identify with.

And, yes. The saddles pictured in this post are 100% hubby’s work of art. Aren’t they beautiful?

Someday, I’ll have a writer’s nook in a back corner of my husband’s busy leather shop.

In five years? Doubtful, but we’ll keep dreaming!

Projects This Week

Project #1

Antique Dresser

I’m fulfilling a long-time dream this week–refinishing an antique dresser! I’ve always wanted the thrill of removing decades of dirt and varnish to reveal beautiful wood grains beneath. This simple piece (no carving, perfect first project!) was built by my husband’s great-grandfather and painted black. We’ve used it on our back porch, as a storage dresser–one drawer for gloves, one for hats, one for outdoor blankets, etc. Alas, I ran out of the stuff I was using to strip the paint, but am anticipating getting more…and also talking to the experts at the hardware store about the next steps (linseed oil? staining? shellac?) in this learning process. Can’t wait till it’s done! I’ve taken “before” pics, I’ll be sure to post them with “afters” here on the blog. It’s such a stately dresser, with 5 drawers and standing off the ground on four legs.

Project #2

I took the metal air conditioning vent-covers (very old-fashioned looking!) out of my girls’s room. Hubby blasted them, then I cleaned them and spray painted them a nice beige. Easy project, and they needed a makeover!

Project #3

Took the crib down, put it away, and deep cleaned our bedroom in the process, sans closet. Also set up a sewing corner where the crib used to be…my oldest has been whirring away in there every day since!

Project #4

Went through my kitchen cupboards in frustration and set aside several things to give away. How many mixing bowls do I need anyway? Talk about bulging cabinets, now I can open my spice cupboard without a barrage of dill and oregano shooting out at me!

Project #5

Went through the daughters’ clothing, weeding where necessary.

That’s all folks.

Did I mention I get a little nesting crazy when it’s about homeschooling time again?

We started school yesterday! More on that some other time…

Meanwhile, anybody have any tips on my dresser project?

By the way, visit Weekend Kindness today, I’m guest blogging there with a post titled: Wives, Let’s Get Serious!

Ten Minute Cleaning Frenzy

I think Flylady calls it the “ten minute fling-boogie” but don’t quote me on that, it’s been a long time since I checked out the queen of clean’s website!

Yesterday after lunch, we girls warmed up (stretched, jogged in place, did jumping jacks), turned on our favorite “cleaning CD”, and set the oven timer for ten minutes. Our goal: to get the living room as clean as possible in ten or less! Even toddler got excited…

On “go” everyone pitched in…toys got put away, dusting cloths and broom got put to work, rugs got shaken (outside!)…we even had time to haul the vacuum cleaner out for the hard-to-reach spots! Wow, 8 hands can get a lot done in ten minutes!

Psyche your kids up and give it a “fling”, it’s kind of fun, and even when the buzzer goes the motivation is still there to get everything back in place–quick! My girls went on to tackle their room…

Pretty good mileage for 1/6th of an hour…

More on the Calling of Motherhood

Afternoon on the HillPerhaps you’re wondering why this subject is consuming two days in a row here on my blog? It’s a bit of everything. I’m feeling pulled in many directions (homeschooling, church, writing) and being convicted on one. Motherhood. So easy to get off track, at least for me. I’m realizing again, that it’s an area of my life needing protection.I’m going to quote Holly again, because she sums up my thoughts on this so nicely. For the whole post, stop in at Seeking Faithfulness.

I do also believe that our society and churches will do much better if a woman is focused first on her husband and family – but that doesn’t mean she can’t do anything else. The priorities just need to be staunchly guarded and maintained. I do also see how easy it is for young mothers to be “guilted” into serving in the local church – MORE than they are able – and as a result feel like they are constant failures: never able to give their families what they need, never able to give the church what it needs. There is “almost” this complex within the church that says “Hurry up, Mama, and get those kids into the nursery or to school age so that you can serve more. Because you know, your real ministry is here, within the church.”

I see both sides – that a husband and children are very worthwhile ministries (first ministries) AND that there are many places a woman can serve God as He leads. A mom just has such a brief time to directly impact her young children. We may *think* that we have them for 18 years, but their impressionable, moldable years are actually much fewer than that. We need to capture their hearts while they are small, and that takes time, love, and a pouring out of our lives.

That would be the key. Listening carefully to Him so that we do, indeed, know “Where He Leads,” for the different stages of our lives.

He Leadeth Me
~a snippet~

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

I’m excited and energized by helping out at church, it grows me in many ways and I love the bonding with church family. I just struggle with wanting everything, and knowing it’s not working out for my family. Because the more I am involved, the less excited and energized I am about homeschooling, etc.

“Never murmur, nor repine…” Ah, Lord. Am I listening, as Holly urges? Or am I too busy to listen?