The Season of Yesteryear

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This past weekend marked year seven….seven years ago Little Boy came quickly into the world…all 8lbs 2oz…chubby and already needing a haircut. Joy and celebration marked his entrance. We celebrated him with balloons, cake, his favorite foods and gifts. Little Boy is a constant reminder of restoration and that life has many little moments to savor and treasure. And above all else….Joy does come in the morning!

Reflecting on his birth cannot come without reflection on all the other circumstances swirling around his joyous entry. Life seemed to quickly spin out of control with no grace for catching ones breath.

2007, seemed to be a year of much celebration….The husband and I welcomed our third child at the dawn of the new year. We purchased our first home. Along with a huge celebration for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Old friends, and family gathered to bestow blessing and cheer. Four children and their spouses, twelve grandchildren, all dressed in the colors of fall…standing in a row….to witness the renewal of vows that carried through half a century.

Thanksgiving was glorious, complete with snow. White graced the ground that winter. December came and so did the flu. Thinking the stomach bug was lingering a little to long…finding I was pregnant with child number four. A little overwhelmed and excited, Christmas came and went.

January 2008 was all abuzz. Last year was good, business was booming, baby number three came and number four was on the way, a new house….it was going to be great in 2008!

Only after two weeks “great” came to a screeching halt. My dad calls informed me he was taking my mom to the hospital…fever of 104..she was talking crazy.

Running test…lots of phone call…second opinions…breast cancer….stage 4…chemo the only option…she says “no”. Trip to California for other treatment options, mid February. An then both parents coming to stay in Texas for six weeks for alternative medicine. Belly growing bigger…trips to the doctor each day for mom…some improvement…cancer looked to be retreating. My dad decides to go home to prepare for mom’s return. Six weeks came and went, mid July sneaks in the heat, and so does a bad case on pneumonia for mom. It was as if someone flipped an hourglass over and we watched as each grain of sand slipped through, so did her health and life.

By the end of July my emotions frazzled…I started to experience labor pains. August 2 rolled in in the darkness and so did Little Boy. He decided to come in such a hurry without the help of the midwives, leaving delivery up to the skills of my visiting aunt.

Friends came to bring food, gifts, warm wishes and to snuggle with our new bundle of joy. Having a baby around seemed to lift even my mom’s spirits despite her fragile health. And then…. almost as if Little Boy’s birth was a cam in the storm….the winds began to howl and blow…shaking us to our foundations.

Several days after our new arrival, my aunt, Little Girl, who was 18 months, and I went to run some errands. While loading everyone into the shopping cart, Little Girl took a tumble….head first. Weeping…managements concern…no lumps or bruising appeared. Waking the next morning to my dad’s return, not realizing that it would be the beginning of the end. That evening, my mom requesting a trip to the bathroom, was unable to stand…. calling the ambulance to come take her to the hospital…never to move her legs again. Within 24 hours of being admitted, she coded and was resuscitated. Hospital called…the request to please come quickly….change in status, I noticed Little Girl’s eye turning in….unable to straighten it. Finding a sitter, I quickly rushed off to the hospital with my dad, unsure of what we would find. ICU…ventilator…doctors and more doctors…consultations….no hope…should call in family to say goodbye. Bone weary, and emotionally depleted, I went to pick up Little Girl from the sitter. Only to find her eye worse and the sitter extremely concerned. Calling the doctor, promptly finding I needed to take her to the emergency room, CT Scan inconclusive, brain tumor could not be ruled out…needed to schedule an MRI.

I felt as if a hurricane had come to sweep me away…to be honest…at times I wish it would have.

September 8,2008 came and so did graduation day for my sweet momma….suffering complete…good fight of faith fought well….she went to be with the lover of her soul.

The next day, sitting in a different hospital, Little Girl, weary of doctors, gets the report of no tumor but additional testing needed.

As grief and exhaustion settled in, we packed our family, my dad, and aunt and headed to Ohio for final goodbyes.

As I write this, my heart swells with gratitude, for the spirit of comfort and how we were kept through a very traumatic season….this was just a thumbnail sketch. I write this story today, only because today I have so much hope and my heart is filled with joy. There may be someone reading this, who has or is walking through a very difficult season….even a hopeless season. But I want to speak courage to your heart, weeping may be for the night, but joy comes in the morning. You will be better because of this challenge as long as you do not become bitter. I realize that sounds a bit cliché, but it is truth.Four Seasons Glass Wall Art: Anne Nye: Art Glass Wall Art | Artful Home

History has a list on its resume, of individuals and cultures that faced trauma, adversity. and heartbreak, yet they made their mark in History for the good….not allowing the difficult season to dictate who and what they became. History also has the list of those who allowed bitterness to be their companion and only perpetuated their bitterness in the form of pain and suffering on others.

Let’s be in the ranks of those who rise out of the ashes of past seasons with beauty, and joy as our strength, wearing gratitude and praise as the latest fashion, so we can take our place as encouragement and strength to others who come behind.

Painting by Artful Home

When I Grow Up

20150614_122338 The roses on the trellis are spectacular in their dark pink glory. The geraniums, and all the purples, reds, yellows, and pinks showing off. It’s just as I remember. A different house, but the keepers are the same, The air lacks the suffocating humidity that Florida possesses…dry air…hot sun…are swift to jolt my memory and remind me of who they are.20150614_122346

Walking through the back door into the house…sights and smells are just as I left them neatly tucked in my memory seven years ago.

The Keepers of the house, kind and welcoming, are perhaps a wee bit greyer, but that simply means they are wiser. Their hospitality, warmth, nurture and love are just as I remember as well!

20150614_122357Scents that stir….teasing the taste buds..as if to whisper…”Come on, Wake up, we are about to celebrate!” Taste buds coming to life are not disappointed in the least, remembering well the flavors they enjoy.

Soft, friendly and silky she greets me at the door…”Come play”, she beacons, with a stuffed squirrel complete with a squeaker hanging from her mouth. The dog, Jamaica, is quick to become my friend.

The Keepers, Coach and Momma as I shall affectionately call them are of the highest caliber of individuals. Coach…who is inspiring and compassionate, generous, encouraging, fatherly, and full of good council…seems to be the same as when I packed my bags and said good-by last. Quickly and easily we pick up where we left off, where last we saw each other. Advice, council and prayer is always good when Coach is offering them.20150614_123825

And then there is Momma…I think I have heard myself say on several occasions since walking into the house… I want to be like you when I grow up! Strength, stability, grace, love, compassion, creativity and safety are simply a few words that come to mind as I write about her. Godliness, standards, protection, council all belong on the bio of who she is. I have known only one other individual such as Momma in my lifetime. I supposes the earth can only handle two of the caliber at the same time. There is something deep in her that inspires me to want to love, nurture, bless, create and like her. She creates safety…safety for one to simply be themselves without air or false pretense….to simply be me. She should start a restaurant and call it “LOVE MADE FROM SCRATCH”, because it not only sums up her talents in the kitchen, but her life as well. Her love is like a homemade meal made from scratch…it is food to the soul and nourishment to the body!

When I Grow Up….I want to look like her!

Building a Home Library

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about Creating a Read Aloud Household. Today, I want to share some ways you can start building a home library.   Our local library isn’t the greatest, and I am horrible at returning books and usually end up with large fees. Buying books has just been our way of avoiding paying for something I can’t own. Research also suggests that children surrounded by books in the home do better and go farther in school than those who don’t have books at home, regardless of a parent’s education level or income.

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Start with a good list. Browsing on Pinterest will result in several great book lists (try searches like “top read alouds,” “book lists for girls,” “book lists for boys,” etc.). I love the books suggested on Simply Charlotte Mason, too. The Mensa for Kids list is also a great place to begin.

 

Don’t feel like you have to buy all at once. I slowly add to our library as I find books. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, add books to your total to give you free shipping. Make buying books a kind of priority. Set a goal (like purchasing one book per 2 weeks, etc.), and aim to achieve it. If you drink Starbucks 2-3 times a week, you are already spending enough to have purchased at list one book. Books are also given here as presents and rewards.

 

Buy used. It amazes me how many times I find great deals on used books. I shop Better World Books often, and they frequently send out coupon codes. I also check out the book section in our local kids consignment shop and can usually find at least one gem for an incredible price.

 

Put books everywhere within reach. You can find at least one book in every room in our house. You can even find books in our cars. Making the books available will increase the chances that your child will pick up a book to read it.Photo

Project Bins

I have a serious issue with adding in hands-on activities into our daily school schedule. If I don’t have all of the supplies in one place, I just know it will not get done. We have made some HUGE changes to our homeschool this year, and incorporating hands-on projects is one priority I have for each day. I knew I needed to do something to help me stay organized and have less of a reason to say “no.” While shopping at our local craft store, I noticed they had 12”x12” clear scrapbook storage on sale for $4 each (plus my 20% educator discount). I came up with the idea of creating Project Bins for the areas we do a lot of hands-on work in.

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Dancing Queen has one each for history, art, and math, as well as a bigger container for science. Both history and art bins house all of the art supplies and instructions for the current art projects we are working on. The math bin holds the manipulatives and game supplies we need for the week (Dancing Queen requested a math bin this year). The science one is a bit larger, because it holds supplies for any labs we will be working on. The Hulk has only one bin for now, and it is his Preschool Bin, otherwise known as his Letter of the Week bin. I toss in all of the activities and supplies we need. He really enjoys doing school with his big sister, so it is imperative that I have fun activities he can be working on near me while I help Dancing Queen with lessons. His bin also holds a list of the different activities I put in there (otherwise I tend to forget about all I wanted to do).

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Putting the bins together is not hard work, either. Friday, after our school day is complete, I go through our materials for the next week and make a list of any supplies we may not have in stock. When I run errands on Saturday, I make sure I pick those supplies up. Sunday night, I sit down and put together the bins. The assembly takes me anywhere from 20-45 minutes. Those minutes are time well-spent when we are able to simply pull out a bin and easily start a project. I keep the bins in our school closet, and Dancing Queen knows that if she has free time (normally when The Hulk is napping), she can grab a bin and start working on a project. I have tried to make the bins as independent as possible so she has that opportunity.

Ponderings of a Mother’s Heart

As I sit here blogging away…Big Boy practices a piece of music on the ivories…a little too rushed for my taste, but at least he is practicing. Big Girl, Little Girl, and Little Boy sit snuggled up in front of the TV playing Minecraft. Rain is pouring down, thunder cracking, electric going out for a few minutes. Adventures of slow and relaxed to be had on days like this….a winters pace, mid summer.

Just returning home from a trip to the grocery store, cleaning out the refrigerator, putting away newly purchased items, my mind reviews a struggle that’s been going on in my heart for quite some time. There is nothing like molded food to get one’s thought processes going! That struggle is this….what does it look like to be a mom in todays society? It seems to be getting redefined. I feel as though, at times I am losing the battle to remain a nurturer.

Standing in line, the shelves grace pictures of The Royal Princess, the new baby princess, and the latest gossip that lives in her world. Then there is the man who is now a woman, poised in a provocative stance. And what really did kill Joan Rivers? This inquiring mind doesn’t want to know.  She was a person, she deserves a little privacy even in her death. After a morning of looking at the masses in their swim suites, some leaving really nothing for the imagination, I wonder, is there any such thing as true femininity left? The language my ears hear would make a sailor blush. Has it all come down to women gaining freedom so they can be even more sexualized, disrespected, even in death, and gossiped about in a moment of motherhood? Is it ok for women to look like men and men look like women? The lines of femininity and nurturing are being blurred…or are they?….or do I simply need to adjust my perspective…perhaps what I need is a new pair of perspecticles. This is the struggle that seems to be constantly in the peripheral of my mind. I realize that there has always been a battle over the value of women and their roles even all the way back to the beginning of time, in The Garden of Eden.

Do I want to try to make my pre-menopausal body, that has miraculously created four healthy babies, into something that looks like what is on the cover of the magazines?  By the way…how many promises of lose thirty pounds in ten days have I seen now:) Or do I embrace my widening hips and extra padding as comfort for my crying child or squoosh for the snuggler? I know that perhaps this all seems like ramblings…but I would venture to guess that thousands of women think similar thoughts regularly. As if the check out lines aren’t enough…now we have Pinterest.  Please do not get me wrong….I LOVE PINTEREST. It’s an amazing tool for ideas, but ever so sneaky. It can begin the thought process of man, why don’t I have abs like that 25 year old that only has one child…I do the same work out??? Or why doesn’t my house look like that, or why can’t my kids dress like that…or..or..or!!

So in order to still my mind and encourage my heart, I looked up what nurture means. Is it out of style? Or too old fashioned? Maybe it is. This is what the online dictionary said nurture means – to feed, to protect, to support, encourage as in a period of training or development, to bring up, educate, something that nourishes. Well if feeding and protecting, educating, supporting and encouraging are out of style then we are all most miserable! I felt super excited about these definitions!! Rather than getting discouraged by what I see, I have decided to stand out from the crowd. And be a NURTURER and be FEMININE. I am bringing nurture and femininity back…(chuckle). I realize that there are all kinds of amazing moms out there that nurture and protect, but they sometimes seem hidden from the mainstream view. I say we start a movement…cover up our bodies so no one else’s husband has to struggle with impure thoughts. Speak honorably, without crude language. Leave gossip to the tabloids…they are better at it anyways, who needs the drama? Rather than wasting our time wishing for houses, husbands, wardrobes, and bodies that are Pinterest worthy, lets use what we have and make the most of it….but above all else, lets lay aside the stressed out, high strung, helicopter, smother mother persona. Lets be protectors, educators, supporters, encouragers, and feeders of our children’s souls…Making them stand out in contrast to the fabric our society has become. Equipping them to stand tall and with confidence. Becoming the world’s problem solvers and solution creators. Leading with integrity and with honor, in return causing them to become leaders of integrity and honor.  I would love it said of me, when I am 120 years old and I graduate, that I was a depositor into the souls of the next generation. A depositor of grace, love, generosity, identity and joy. My eyes have seen and my heart has felt the ache for the generation of kids whose adult parents have been withdrawlers, creating deficits within the souls of their children. Once that deficit is created, its a real challenge to recover ones soul from always feeling like they are missing something, incomplete.

Nurture goes a long way. I have found myself surrounded not only by my children, but neighbor children, students and my children’s friends….they all love kindness, food, encouragement, support, and a good joke or two. Lets bring nurture back in style.

Words are Seeds

The sun….waking…its golden rays beginning to spread across the meadow in its warmth and glory…causing the shadows of the night past to scatter. Warmth could be felt on the face of the Psalmist as he begins to pluck the strings of his harp. His voice, soft and soothing to his keep, bleats of contentment responding to the sound they hear. His heart swelling with joy from the sights of the morning….he sings these words: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

Words are seeds or weeds, sow carefully.

What kind of harvest do I want to have? What kind of future, hope, destiny, marriage or even finances? It is determined in the here and now with the kind of seed I am planting. What kind of future do I want my children to have? The power is in my word.

I can recall a time in my life, I caught myself sighing loudly, my ears would hear these seeds..”I am soooo tired.” Actually I wasn’t tired, but do you know what happened? Can you guess? I became tired. My words sowed the weed of weariness. Fear somehow grabbed hold of my tongue and caused my lips to speak its ugly lies….you can guess the result…A FEAR WEED.

There appears to be at times, a battle over which type of seed is sown…fruit bearing seed or a weed bearing seed. Today is the day that I plant for a future harvest….so I must choose carefully today which seeds will be planted.

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As a child, I spent many hours attached to the hip of my dad, an avid gardener. I can recall two very important elements to the rules of gardening. If we wanted to harvest corn…corn seed would be what was planted, if green beans were desired, it was impossible to plant zucchini and get the desired green beans. I had to plant the right kind of seed. No gardener in their right mind would sow weeds!! The second thing I can recall is fertilizing and watering the seed we planted.

Looking back at the Psalm….if words are seeds, then perhaps the meditations of our heart is the fertilizer and water. What are we nourishing our seeds with? Is our fertilizer and water going to nourish or poison our potential harvest? If the meditations of our heart are acceptable to the Lord, then a well nourished bumper crop will be harvested.

I want to choose carefully what the garden of my life looks like and what kind of fruit grows there. Sweet, tender, and beautiful – no more thorny, pokey thistles.

We all get to choose what our lives will look like. Do we want to be broke or prosperous? Do we want to be lonely or a great relationship builder? Do we want to be overweight or healthy and full of vitality? It is all determined by the seed in our mouths and the fertilizer of our hearts.

The spoken word could quite possibly be the most powerful force in the universe. Genesis tells the story of God speaking and there was light. That word was spoken at the dawn of creation, and it is still creating today. Scientist tell us that the universe is still expanding, light is still creating galaxies. He created the world with His spoken word….what if we create worlds with our spoken word? We are made in His image and likeness. What worlds are we creating with our words? Are we sowing the garden of our hearts with weed seed, growing thorns and thistles, making us all prickly and miserable? Or are we sowing seeds of life, joy, prosperity, peace and abundance in the garden of our hearts, creating beauty and endless possibilities?20150611_205716 (2)

Words are seeds or weeds, sow carefully.

Recipe – Abuela’s Coconut Cake

My mother-in-law LOVES coconut.  Whenever we get to see her, it is always a great time filled with tons of food, fun, and laughter.  As the worst cook in the family, I tend to stay out of the kitchen.  However, I enjoy baking and love to make dessert.  We had a family get-together at our home yesterday, and I was able to throw together a delicious Coconut Cake for her (and us) to enjoy.  I couldn’t find a recipe that took less than 3 days to make, so I just made my own!!

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Ingredients:

One box of Yellow Cake mix (plus all ingredients to make cake, using milk in place of water)

1/2 cup of sour cream

1 cup of coconut flakes (plus extra for topping)

1 1/4 cup of sugar

Small container of Cool Whip (I prefer Extra Creamy, but any will do)

Directions:

Prepare cake mix according to the directions on the box, using milk instead of water.  Pour into a 13″x9″ pan and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until done.

Right after you pull cake out of oven, mix the sour cream, coconut flakes and sugar and spread over warm cake.  Allow the cake to cool.

Top with Cool Whip and extra coconut flakes.  We like to toast them, but you don’t have to:)  Enjoy!!