Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Unveiled Wife, A Book Review


Through a happy turn of events, I was able to get on a team to review the book, The Unveiled Wife. I was excited about doing this because my husband and I had recently been to the marriage conference, Love After Marriage, which had completely transformed our life and our marriage. One of the interesting aspects of Love After Marriage is how the leaders emphasize honesty and vulnerability; the principle of not hiding things from your spouse.

After this conference, my perspective on marriage ministry was changed. It was no longer just about following some nice rules- wives respect, husbands love, but it was about letting the Holy Spirit lead us into a deeper level of intimacy and reconciliation.

Enter the book, The Unveiled Wife. It was beautifully written in the same vein as the marriage conference we had attended. Here was an author, Jennifer Smith, who was willing to expose the deepest levels of shame and pain that she had experienced in her marriage so that other marriages could be helped. She addressed some of the very tough issues that marriages face; issues such as sexual intimacy, pornography, and financial stresses. Not only does she address these issues, but in an achingly vulnerable way, she addresses them by sharing her own experience with these various crisis.

Some of the issues that she talked about were issues that we had battled with first hand in our own marriage; finally there was an author who could understand the trauma that happens in a marriage when communication breaks down and when our own methods of numbing our pain, inevitably dump salt in these already tender wounds.  Not only could she understand, but the hope and healing that she and her husband had experienced, confirmed my belief that with God, all things are possible.

Another aspect of the book that was so similar to Love After Marriage, was Jennifer's realization that her childhood wounds had affected her marriage. In The Unveiled Wife, she comes to realize that the events that had happened while she was a little girl, had affected her adult life in profound ways. This is a principal that I believe God is revealing to His worldwide body so that we as Christians can enter into greater levels of freedom as believers.

The Unveiled Wife, by Jennifer Smith, is a lovingly transparent story that is filled with hope, as well as being an incredibly helpful resource for marriages everywhere.

Click here to read the first chapter for free. 


About The Book:

Discover the deeper, closer connection your heart has been longing for!
As a young bride, Jennifer Smith dreamed of closeness with her husband—of being fully known and loved. But their early years together were marked by disappointment and pain. What am I doing wrong? Jennifer cried out to God. Why is this happening to us? It was as if a veil divided Jennifer from her husband, and from God—a barrier that kept her from seeing clearly and experiencing the fullness of love.
How did Jennifer’s marriage survive? What did she and her husband do when they were tempted to call it quits? And how did God step in during their darkest hour to tear down the veil once and for all?
The Unveiled Wife is a real-life love story, one touching the deep places in a marriage that only God can reach. If you are feeling disappointment or even despair in your marriage, the heart-cry of this book is: You are not alone. Join Jennifer to learn how God can remove your own veil and lovingly guide you to a place of spiritual transformation, true intimacy, and lasting joy.
“Whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away….” 2 Cor. 3:16


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Homegrown With Children

I have always loved gardening. It could stem from spending my early childhood on a farm, where my siblings and I would race through acres of peas, harvesting a few for a snack, or, crouched together in the weeds, watch our mother gather in wispy stalks of dillweed.

Even as a young wife, we had a garden. My strong husband gathered chunks of broken concrete from the side of the road that we proceeded to fashion into a patio, complete with a beautiful slab of harvested granite that we used for a bench. Soon, baby tears and moss filled the cracks and a lovely plum tree grew in the corner of the small, fenced in yard.

Whether we lived in a condo, a suburb or on sprawling country acreage, we grew a garden. It might have been simply a few pots on a terrace, but always we have grown a little patch of food and flowers.


It has been natural to involve my children in the process. Sometimes it is a chore in exchange for a reward; "You fill up this bucket with weeds, and then you can swim", are words I have uttered many times. Sometimes though, their excitement about the process takes over and they stake a claim on a spot of land in order to plant some of their own seeds.


Seed planting time is upon us again. For a fraction of the cost of buying plants at a nursery, I can start tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from seed, so that when the days get long and warm, the plants are ready to put in the ground. My two youngest children saw the box of seed packets come out of the cupboard and eagerly joined in the fun.



I used empty egg cartons as planters for them. The type made from paper are ideal, as they will simply dissolve when planted, leaving the roots of the small plant undisturbed. The foam carton is fine also though, it will just take a bit more finesse to transplant.

I had some extra seeds which I gave them to plant. Some years, I will let my children start a variety of seeds, but with the time we had available I simply gave them each one type. They may have shared a little which will make the sprouting a fun mystery. I think I can tell cilantro and chamomile apart. I hope.


We typically plant open-pollinated seeds. This means they are not GMO. This also means that I can save my seeds and replant next year. I often have squash and tomatoes volunteer from previous years,  and my poolside becomes a small jungle of cherry tomatoes which have volunteered from previous years.

The only caution on using open pollinated seeds is that my squashes seem to be cross breeding. I started the year with zucchinis and pumpkins and by the next year I had a strange monster of a cross that we nicknamed pumpkini and promptly shredded for zucchini bread. We also planted melons and cucumbers but then ended up with some strange, sweet vegetable that looked like an oversized armenian cuke.



Aside from the discovery of new breeds of vegetables, there are so many benefits to be gained while gardening as a family. My children love vegetables. They love tiny carrots fresh from the dirt, and home dug potatoes, discovered like buried treasure. We learn to work as a team, and we see the wonder of Creation on display in so many lovely details.

Gardening can be hard work, but it is work that is so rewarding, and the rewards multiply when you have a few small friends to work with.

Our favorite seed companies;
Bountiful Gardens

Peaceful Valley Farms

A Great Book on Gardening With Children-
Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children 

This post contains affiliate links.





Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hearts and Pom-Poms



I love holidays, but I am no Pinterest mom. I like the idea of crafting with my kids and enjoying celebrations, but I am honestly not interested in adding the work of elaborate preparations, nor the expense of elaborate decorations, to my already full life.

          
             

This year, we have tried to make Valentine's day special with a few small celebrations. A pink drink party with cookies and popcorn, a crafting time, and a special story are all small ways that we have made this grey month a little, well, pinker.


                

The funny thing about crafting is that even the big kids, and the grandma, when faced with a table full of glitter glue, pom-poms and doily hearts, got excited about joining in. Crafting and creating is a sweet, media free way to spend quality time with the ones you love. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Just put out the supplies and let imagination take over.

            



Or Pinterest. I did let my little girl look up Valentine's cards on Pinterest and the one that got her really excited was the buggy crown. After she was finished, she gave it to her little brother, who promptly declared that he was ant-man. I don't know what cute little ladybugs and bees have to do with a super hero, but it made sense to him.

        

Celebrations don't have to be hard. This year was pretty simple. Dollar Store craft supplies and Trader Joe's heart shaped cookies with pink grapefruit soda were the high points of our celebration, but it was indeed a very fine celebration.

How do you celebrate Valentine's Day?
This is how one of my favorite writers celebrates. Simple and Fun, Flower Patch Farmgirl

Sharing with Casey Leigh's link up



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fun With Early American History

In our homeschool this year we have been studying Early American History. We have created bows and arrows while learning about Native Americans and cooked over an open fire. We sculpted clay maps of the United States and made tiny walnut shell boats. We studied about the Revolutionary War and the children learned how to sing The Shot Heard Round The World. We have also read some wonderful books. These are a few of our favorite books this year.

               In 1492

 



   

There are many other Early American History books that we love, such as Carry On Mr Bowditch and the Little House on the Prairie series but we are skipping those this year to read a few books that we haven't read in a while.



We have also been working on our timeline, both our hallway wall timeline and the book that my 3rd grade daughter is keeping. We love the Homeschool in the Woods timeline figures. They are well done black and white line drawings which are easy to color. Timeline work is a great task to keep kids listening while I read aloud. I also have the children color or draw pictures for their narration sheets.

For our project day we joined with a few other families to create tin can lanterns in honor of Paul Revere. Unfortunately, I didn't read the instructions very well. After our project day, I read the above post which suggested emptying your tin can of the contents, filling it with water and then freezing it so that when you go to poke the holes the can doesn't collapse like ours did. 

              

We also drew silhouettes of the children, which was also a bit harder than I had imagined! Try keeping a 6 year old boy still while you draw their profile. Not easy. This is a good project with girls. Older girls. Oh, and make sure you buy 11X17 paper because fitting a child's entire head onto a regular size sheet of construction paper is also a bit difficult.


One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is reading to my children and talking about books. I get to sit and sip coffee and we all get to learn about new people and places. On the flip side, projects are not my favorite aspect, which is why I try really hard to find people to co-op with so my children can learn from other mothers who are hopefully more creative than myself.


                 

History is my favorite subject to teach, I love learning about the past with my children and through the use of maps and timelines, connect people and stories with their place in time. There are many things to love about homeschooling, and learning history with my children is one of them.

This post contains affiliate links.

What are your favorite resources for teaching history?



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fun With Thrifting

9. That is the number of people for whom I am in some way responsible to clothe and feed. Granted, several of my children are earning money, but now that we realize how expensive college is, we are asking them to sock away any extra money toward those expenses while we pay for day to day life. 

This large number in our home means that we need to be creative about how we provide for household needs. The list at times seems very long. Food, clothes, shoes, housewares and toiletries are all constantly being worn out, used up and otherwise consumed. 

Although consumption is a fact of life, since we care about living within our means and helping the poor, we don't want consumption to become our life. In order to live for more than just consuming more and new products, it is important that we make two principles a priority for how we meet our needs for stuff.

One principle is to evaluate every need. Do I need more home decor? Do I need more clothes? Do I need more dishes? Keeping my home and my people looking nice is important to me, but it is also important to do justice. 

With that in mind, we try to make do with what we have, whenever possible. Making my house pretty might involve cutting down some greenery from outside, or moving furniture around, or using paint on hand to refresh a room or a piece of furniture. 


Thrifted cups
My library table is one example of this. It was in a shed when we bought our property and I simply cut the legs down and repainted it with paint from a previous project, in order to dress up my library a bit.

Sometimes though, what you need will not be already in some random shed on your property. 

This brings us to the second principle, buy used. When what I need is not at hand, my next step is usually hitting up a thrift store. Although the smell of a thrift store can sometimes turn my stomach a bit, the treasures that are available are such fun to discover. 

Take my new boots for example. I had been wanting a pair of low heeled booties, and sadly, the man made material on my four year old Target specials had begun to peel. True, I could have just stuck with my other boots, but I really enjoy being creative with my wardrobe. 

Doing justice doesn't have to look dowdy


Enter a nice big thrift store in a neighboring town. I ran in there one afternoon with my younger children and discovered exactly the boots I had been looking for, in leather, no less. Along with the boots, I found a couple of good books and a beautiful cotton sweater to replace a worn and pilled acrylic sweater.


The new boots and sweater, but sheesh my head looks small for my body!
The other great find on that particular day were several soup bowls which matched the ones that my mother had handed down to me several years ago. My family is hard on dishes, it seems we break something at least once a week. This is just one more reason that I am thrilled to replace them for .59 each at a thrift store, instead of buying easily broken Ikea dishes or whatever Target is selling.


Thrifted, everything but the darling girl.

Whether your goal is to get out of debt, give more money to the poor, or avoid supporting unethically produced clothing; buying less and shopping at thrift stores are a few savvy strategies for accomplishing your goals.

For more ideas on living on a budget, check out my book, Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget.
Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget


For another great post on thrifted clothes, check out the lovely, Flower Patch Farmgirl

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goal Setting For A New Year



I love Christmas, but as soon as the day is past, I am ready to get organized for the new year. In the past, I would wait until New Year's Day to put away the Christmas ornaments. This year, by the Monday following Christmas I had put away my decorations, organized the school baskets and painted a new-used table for our school area. 

The downside of all this productivity was that by New Year's Eve, instead of feeling all festive, I cuddled up in a cozy sweater, hardly bothered to apply makeup and showed up at a party for just a couple hours before heading back home to bed. I was even a little taken aback when I arrived at my fellow homeschool mom's house for the party and saw her looking beautiful and bedazzled, complete with lipstick and a sparkly sweater. I think the premature start on New Years productivity completely sapped my party spirit. Note to self, give yourself a little time for fun.



Goal setting and productivity is a form of recreation for me though, which is why I look forward to this day of evaluating the goals I set in the previous year, and setting new ones. As I look over last year's list, I see that many of the same goals will be recycled for this season. Partly because they are important, and partly because I really didn't make them into a habit last year.

I am still loving the system taught by Colleen Adams which you can find explained in detail here. The short story is that, instead of trying to make A, B and C goals, or just a big list of general goals for the year, Colleen's method has you break down your goal setting into eight different areas. Also, instead of making goals for the whole year, these goals are meant to be for a shorter time period, such as three months.

The goals I set don't always turn into habits; I may have to keep rewording some of the ones that are the most difficult for me to become consistent in. Exercise, for instance, is just so easy to relegate to a low place after laundry and social media. That is why it keeps getting put back on the list. The upside is that bed making and closet organization are becoming consistent so that they can be dropped from the list.



Making goals and working towards them, while remaining flexible to the Holy Spirit, is one small step towards an orderly life and a civilized world.
As a starting point for your 2015 goal setting, I have included my goals for the first three months of the year, in each of eight areas.

1. Self Care
Exercise 5 days a week
Drink 6 glasses of water per day

2. Spiritual Life
Daily Bible copy-work
Spend first 30 minutes of the day in prayer and Bible study

3. Intellect/Emotions 
(for me right now, these are some goals with my kids)
Weekly nature walk and journaling
Teach chore consistency with children


4. Relationships
Weekly date with my honey
Work on eye contact with my children
(I do a lot of listening while working, but kids need eye contact)

5. Time Management
No phone/computer until priorities 1, 2 and 3 are done
Family Bible time by 8:30 a:m

6. Nest Management
Monthly deep cleaning
Library redo (tile, flooring, window)


7. Uniquely You
(This might mean weekly pedicures, or more time spent on self care, 
but those aren't my top priorities right now)
Weekly blog post
Improve photography

8. Financial Stewardship
Make a list of accounts
Make some money

God has plans and purposes for each one of us, and as we seek His face, He will give us inspiration about those priorities that He wants us to focus on. 

After you write down your purposes for the year, be sure and find some friends to share them with so that you can encourage each other to pursue the dreams that God has put in your hearts.

The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord: and he delighteth in his way
Psalm 37:23

A few other resources for goal setting-

and linking up here for many more goal setting resources.





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bountiful Vacations on a Budget



Vacations with a large family can take some serious logistics, especially when you are trying to have fun on a budget. Many of our vacations involve camping, which is not as rustic as it sounds because we have a small travel trailer that we haul along with us, but there are a few months of the year when camping is not so comfortable.

Living on a small farm with a couple of little dogs has caused us to be strategic about getaways. It seems to work best for us to be gone for just a couple of days at a time, this also seems to work best with the varying work schedules in our home. 


With kids in college, we also are having to think about school schedules when planning vacations, something that was not an issue when all our children were homeschooled. With three of our students freshly finished with a semester of college, we took an opportunity for a short getaway. It always feels like it might be our last vacation as a family because our oldest is getting so close to being out of the home, so we are trying to make the most of these moments, and still stay on a budget.

Our recent getaway was planned a few months ago when the dates became available for Home School Days at the Monterey Aquarium. This is a fabulous program where the normally twenty-seven dollar tickets are free for the adults and students in our party. This makes a location that would normally be out of reach for us, suddenly affordable.

We also wanted to stay an extra day or so, so that we could explore our favorite tide pools in Pacific Grove, so we booked two nights at The Sea Breeze Inn.  This is an older hotel, but the linens have been upgraded and they have a family cottage that works fairly well for us, at a very affordable price. With our family size, we would normally have to rent two rooms and spend upwards of $200 a night, but this particular room was less than $150, and we were all able to squeeze into the available beds, I know some big families let kids sleep on hotel floors, but I can barely stand to see my children sit on a hotel floor, much less sleep on one.

We arrived at our hotel in the afternoon and then went straight to the beach. Unfortunately we had missed low tide, but the rocks were still beautiful for climbing on, and the salty waves and cool breezes were refreshing after the several hour car ride. 


After rock hopping along the shoreline, we went out for a pizza dinner. We had packed a few snacks for lunch, and I do mean just a few, so by the time our pizza arrived, we were like a pack of ravenous wolves. We ate at Gianni's, which was just okay. It is a cute little restaurant but we are used to ordering Mountain Mikes with a coupon or Little Caesars so the $27 dollar pizzas were a bit steep, if I was going to be spending that much, I would much rather have been eating at my sister's fabulous wood fired pizza restaurant. We ordered two extra large pizzas and had some leftovers which were promptly eaten for breakfast.

Back at the hotel, we discovered that our heater was not working. We didn't feel like moving or having a workman in the room with our big crowd, so we cranked the heat up in the adjoining room and cuddled up to stay warm. Having this inconvenience somewhat dimmed our enjoyment of the hotel however, and with the added blessing of pouring rain, we decided to check out in the morning and head home the next night after our aquarium visit. Our vacation was supposed to have involved two nights in a hotel, but our beds at home are so comfortable, and our home feels so sanitary, compared to the hotel that we decided to switch gears and just spend one night away.



After a night of rest, albeit in a chilly room, we checked out of the hotel, with the manager trying very sweetly to get us to stay one more night. We headed to the aquarium and enjoyed a few hours of wandering through the exhibits. The older three children decided to skip the aquarium and walk around town, so we had the fun of exploring with just 6 of us. Although I missed my big kids, it was nice to be able to focus on enjoying the younger four. 


After exploring the watery exhibits we ate our packed lunch and then met the big kids at Starbucks for coffee and cocoa. It was cozy to hang our there while the rain poured down outside but finally we braved the elements to get back in our big van. My husband gave us a sweet tour of the lovely old homes in Pacific Grove, while each of us pointed out our favorites. Then after an hour or so of exploring we met up with friends at Phil's Fish House for some delicious fish and chips. 


With our tummies full, we headed home into the night and crawled into our own cozy beds, determined to treat the next day like a vacation as well. Although our trip was short, it was a sweet little time of reconnecting with each other, and exploring one of our favorite created places, the beautiful, rocky shoreline. Although, we have taken cheaper vacations involving our travel trailer, and our own trailer cooked food, when compared to a weekend at Disneyland, this vacation was very budget friendly.
For more tips on bountiful living on a budget, check out my book!

What are your best tips for vacations on a budget?