Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey

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For the Children’s Sake Friday: Week 1

When a baby is picked up, spoken to, and loved, he is starting his education as God planned it.  For all our lives we are human beings, in an active state of learning, responding, understanding.  Education extends to all of life.  In fact, an educational system that says, one bright summer’s day in the dawn of my youth, “There, Now you are educated.  This piece of paper says so,” is doing me a gross disfavor.  The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened.  He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything fully.

~For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, pg.8


The Charlotte Mason Method of Homeschooling

~painting by Lee Kaula~

Over the past months I’ve been mulling over my educational philosophy.  For several years I’ve been burned out and paralyzed as I tried to live up to some kind of rigid, artificial, school-at-home homeschool method I imagined was expected of me.  It felt grueling and lifeless.

This past semester I backed off from a few subjects, focused strongly on the 3 R’s, prayed, and observed.  I was inspired by some unschooling blogs.  While I know unschooling is definitely not the right choice for us, reading about families who educate this way helped me understand a lifestyle of learning and exploration.  Soon my kids were spontaneously asking, “Can we research this?”  “Will you help me look this up?”  “Let’s read a book about that.”  I felt refreshed and freed.  I started doing creative learning projects with the kids, and school became fun again—maybe really fun for the first time!

Right before we left for Christmas vacation, I stumbled on a community of blogs influenced by the Charlotte Mason method of education.  I’m familiar with Charlotte’s methods, but it’s been a long time since I considered them.  (Her method is summarized at Simply Charlotte Mason this way:

“A method of education popular with homeschoolers in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits.”)

   Reading through these blogs felt like answered prayer.  This philosophy seems like the best of both worlds—excellence in education combined with the grace and freedom to cultivate a life-culture of learning.

I had been praying about which books I should take on vacation.  (Don’t laugh; yes, I think God cares about little things like that!) At the last minute, I grabbed For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, which is about the Charlotte Mason method.  All during our week away, as I read, my heart kept saying “Yes, yes, yes!”  When I read the book years ago I didn’t understand it.  This time around it made sense.  I guess timing is everything.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not too interested in being a Charlotte Mason purist.  In fact, I had her original homeschooling series, read it, found it too much to wade through, and sold it several years ago.  At this point I’m satisfied with a synopsis that gives me the heart of her philosophy, alongside the ideas of others who are putting them into practice.  We’ll still be an eclectic homeschool, but I look forward to seeing how some of Charlotte’s ideas play out as we continue our journey.  Already I have some just waiting to be put into practice during the next part of the school year.

In light of all this, I have two announcements.  One is that I plan to have For the Children’s Sake Friday each week, to share quotes from the book that I find inspiring.  Also, I will have a related giveaway soon.  Stay tuned!


Internet Safety for Kids (and the Rest of Us)

~painting by Frederick Lufkin Freer~

My 11 year old is learning to navigate the internet.  My husband and I have been extraordinarily cautious with how much we have let our kids be online, but the internet is here to stay and it’s an essential part of how our culture operates, so it’s key that she learns to be safe and smart online in this strange new world.  Here are a few things we are doing and teaching her.  Feel free to jump in with your thoughts and ideas!  I know you all have lots of wisdom to share!

Use an internet filter.  I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to protect your kids from things they may stumble across (or search for) while online.  No internet filter is perfect, but we’ve been very pleased with Net Nanny.  Not much gets through.  We also take advantage of all the safe search and security settings available on other devices.  Our home computers, handheld devices, and Netflix on the Wii all must be accessed with passwords.  Our kids are not allowed to be on a device that has unfiltered, unrestricted internet.  There’s too much perversion too readily available.

Keep your computer in a public place—no internet access in bedrooms or other hidden places.

Don’t share personal info.  We tell our kids, “Don’t sign up for things without Dad and Mom’s permission, don’t give your real name, don’t tell where you live, where you are, where you go, when you are going on vacation, what your personal habits and routines are,” and so forth.  The kids know that they can’t post their picture publicly.  It’s easy for a predator to piece together personal info and figure out who you are and where you live.

Don’t mistake online interaction for real friendship.  Recently I joined a forum using all my normal caution.  Most of the people on this particular forum were my age and younger—many of them in their late teens and early 20’s.  I was blown away by how much personal, personal info they shared with total strangers, how quickly they trusted each other, and how few inhibitions they have about meeting in person.  I guess I have been naïve, but apparently this is part of today’s internet culture.  These people grew up with the internet and this is how it’s done.  I believe genuine friendships can spring from online encounters, but more often I think it promotes a false sense of intimacy.  Personally, I can think of 3 people I have “met” online that I have one-on-one contact with after 10 years of internet use, and then only after YEARS of very cautious and careful online observation.

Remember, anything you put online is there forever.  Even if you delete it, it’s cached or archived somewhere.

No secrecy.  My husband and I have all passwords to any accounts our children have.  We also have each other’s user names and passwords for all accounts.  We have access to each other’s accounts, whether email, forums, or Facebook whenever we like, although truthfully we rarely do—the point is that we are free, honest, and open with each other about our online lives.  We don’t hide our internet histories from each other.  We discuss the sites we visit and what we read.  We don’t have secrets.  Secrets destroy lives, families, and relationships.

What about you?  How do you teach your children about internet safety?  How do you keep yourself safe online?


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Best Sugar Cookie Recipe

Need a super-easy and really delicious sugar cookie recipe at the last minute?   Reposting from the archives!

1 cup coconut oil (I’m guessing softened butter would work just as well, or its evil twin, Crisco)

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

5 T. water

4 t. vanilla

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

3  1/2 c. all-purpose flour, chilled (I keep mine in the freezer.)

Cream coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Add egg and water, mix well.  Mix in dry ingredients.   You are aiming for dough that’s the consistency of stiff play dough, but not crumbly.

Roll into 2 smooth logs.  Roll logs in granulated sugar.  Wrap in waxed paper and chill completely.  (Actually if you use flour from the freezer like I do, you sometimes don’t have to chill…)

Slice into 1/4″ slices and place far apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from pan immediately.  Enjoy with a glass of milk!


Creamy Turmeric Tea: A Yummy Anti-Inflammatory Drink!

I learned some time back about the reported amazing health benefits of turmeric (the bright yellow spice used to flavor curry).  In fact, I’ve personally used it for its apparent anti-inflammatory benefits, instead of NSAID drugs (which come with a boatload of true and scary warnings on the label).  But to tell you the truth, turmeric was just plain nasty mixed with water–although it worked!

Then I ran across this recipe for creamy turmeric tea.  The name is something of a misnomer, because it really is a warm, spicy-sweet, comforting, delicious drink.  It’s become a new favorite at our house.  It tastes nice AND it’s good for you!  Click on over and try it, you’ll like it!


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Advice I’m Glad I Took as a New Mom

I started having babies young; I was just 21 when I got pregnant with my oldest.  I’d never given any thought to a philosophy of mothering.  I had taken care of younger siblings and I had babysat a lot, I knew I would breastfeed and be a stay-at-home mom, but beyond that I was pretty clueless about pregnancy, birth, and mothering.

Early in my pregnancy I was surprised by a call from an old family friend, a mom of 8.  She had simply called to encourage me, and she probably still doesn’t know how that simple call changed the course of my mothering career, simply because she had brought things up that I had never thought about.

She showed me that I needed to be intentional in how I handled pregnancy and birth.  She encouraged me to be nurturing and responsive to my new little baby.  Here are a few things she shared that I’m so glad I put into practice as a new mom:

Eat healthfully and exercise during pregnancy.  Now I know that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and clean proteins with limited sugar is best.

Prepare for birth by practicing conscious relaxation.  Go limp, like a rag doll.  Practice this till you can maintain this state of relaxation for a long period of time.  She sent me a book on the Bradley method of childbirth, which in my opinion is the best way to approach natural birth—or any birth, for that matter.

Shoot for as little intervention in birth as possible.  My friend had all home births.  I was having a hospital birth, and she reminded me that Jesus was in the hospital too.  I needed to have a clear idea of what I did and did not want and be willing to stand up for those things, within reason.  I wrote a birth plan to clarify these wishes to my doctor and hospital staff.

Breastfeed right away.  Follow baby’s cues and feed her as often as she wanted to eat.  Don’t use a pacifier.  Breastfeed for at least 2 years, while baby’s brain was growing the most.

Hold and snuggle baby and respond to her cries.  This is a baby’s only method of communication.  Cuddle and comfort her.  Holding and loving on her would not spoil her!  God designed babies to need many hours of touch and snuggles each day, and he designed mamas to meet that need!

Sleep with baby.  Co-sleeping did not work for us, but it was a relief to know that it was OK to bring baby to bed if I needed to.

These principles helped me establish a solid, nurturing relationship with my baby that carried us through some tough times later.  I’m so thankful for an older mom who was willing to pass her wisdom on to me!  It saved me untold grief!

Did you have an older woman who guided you through pregnancy and the days of new motherhood?  What did you learn from your mentor?


Read Aloud Thursday: The Newborn King, Frosty, and Rudolph

Linking up this week with Three Thinking Mothers for their Christmas book roundup.  I wish I had time to write about all my favorites!

Beautiful, pictures, simple text, clear message.  And you can find it cheap on Amazon.  I have the board book version which is great for little hands.

We got oversized versions of these classic Golden books at a library book sale a few years ago.  I’m a sucker for vintage illustrations, as evidenced by the many I use on my blog!  These just make me happy.

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Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper, Ergo Baby Carrier, and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste: My 3 Fave Baby Products!

I’m pretty minimal when it comes to baby supplies, but after going around the baby block 5 times, here are several products I have found to be well worth the investment.

Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper

I know co-sleeping can be done safely, but it has never worked for us. I’ll admit, this littlest wiggle worm spends more time in the bed with me than not, but it’s not my preference.  On the other hand, I nurse my babies during the night for quite a while, so I like them close.  The Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper has provided the best of both worlds.

It straps nicely to the side of the bed (strap runs between the mattress and box spring in a simple but effective design) and has a bassinet layer for when baby is tiny and immobile, which you remove once baby gets bigger.  It is so nice to not have to climb out of bed multiple times a night, to be able to reach over and put my hand on the little one while he sleeps, and just to feel like I can keep a close eye on him, all the while having our own space in the grown-up bed.  (Theoretically, ha!)

Pricey–but well worth it!

Ergo Baby Carrier

I tried several different slings and baby carrier, and the Ergo wins hands down.  Every other one I used pulled on my back and shoulders so much that I had to quit.  The Ergo distributes weight over your hips instead, making for a very comfortable and practical carrier, even as baby grows heavier.

The benefits of babywearing are untold for bonding between mom and baby.  I like to have my little babies in a carrier because it discourages random strangers from touching, kissing, or scooping them up without my permission.  (It amazes me that people feel free to do this.)  The Ergo has also saved me many, many times when baby needed to be close but I also needed to have my hands free.  It’s a pretty sweet feeling to be doing dishes or laundry with a warm baby asleep on my back!

The one downside for me is that I’m too uncoordinated to put baby in by myself.  For the front carry I have to have someone snap the buckle in the back, and for the back carry I have to have the kids help me.  I’m not sure how anyone would get a baby in the back carry position on their own—but apparently it can be done.  It would probably help if I had watched the how-to video that comes with the carrier.

I will add that I have only used the Ergo once my babies got a little bigger.  There is an additional infant insert for very tiny babies that I have heard good things about, but I don’t have any experience with it personally.

Again–this costs a pretty penny, and my frugal self rarely shells out this much for an item I’ll use for a short time–but the Ergo is worth every penny!

Boudreaux’s Butt Paste

I don’t know if this is available in all parts of the country, but you can get it from Amazon.  This magical diaper rash cream beats any other one I’ve tried, and it even smells fairly pleasant.  There is nothing worse than to have a red-bottomed baby screaming in pain, and Boudreaux’s has come to the rescue lots of times.


So those are my favorite 3 items for baby!

What about you?  What baby products would you hate to live without?

For more baby encouragement, check out my Babies and Birth categories!

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Flexibility, Adaptability, and Having a Plan

{image: pinterest}

For all you planners out there, I’m one too. I grew up in a structured, disciplined family who rarely deviated from The Plan.  Thing is, most people don’t have that luxury and when I entered real life, where plans were more fluid, it threw me for a loop.  Any change in plans paralyzed me.

Tell me I’m not the only one?  Surely there are a lot of us planners out there who don’t do well with a change in the agenda!  Anyone who has children (or for that matter, a husband or any other person in their life at all) knows that plans often crash and burn and things don’t go the way we think they will.  This is a lesson we should learn in childhood, but for us planners—well, maybe it takes us longer.

I had to learn a little grace, to be flexible and adaptable, to not be a slave to my plans, and to keep a plan B tucked in the back of my mind.  Here are a few strategies that helped.

I might.  “I might go shopping on Saturday.”  “I might go to the beach next summer.”  I stopped telling myself all the things I WOULD do, and began holding plans more lightly.  I learned to not get my heart set on certain plans.  Certainly it’s important to be thoughtful and prudent, especially if our plans affect others, but I needed to learn to be realistic as well.  I can’t predict the future, so I needed to learn to see upcoming events in the context of that unknown.

Bigger vision.  In my small world, plans had always been huge.  Everything was a big deal.  I learned to not take my plans so seriously.  The world was bigger than my plans and it would not come to an end if those plans needed to change.  I learned to see my plans against the grand scheme of life. Would it really matter a year from now if the Christmas menu changed or if we had to unexpectedly run errands today instead of mopping, or if we spontaneously went to lunch with friends instead of doing laundry?  Probably not.

Don’t force it.  Planners can fail to walk by faith.  We can force our lives to conform to our plans without considering whether, perhaps, God is guiding us in a different direction.  This rigid way of approaching our plans can get us into trouble.  If God wants us to do something else, at the very least we may be missing out on something awesome he wants us to do or receive.  At worst, we may walk into a disaster because we are being led by what we want and not letting God talk to us about what he wants.  Call me silly, but I believe God talks to us about those things.

Plan B.  We don’t want to be slaves to our plan Bs either, but this was key in helping me to change my mindset.  We might go to a party tonight–but if we aren’t feeling well enough then I’ll watch a movie and knit instead.  We might work in the yard today–but if we can’t get to it, I will clean out the closet.  This saved me from lots of disappointment, and it also saved me from hours of sitting around going, “OK, that didn’t work out, now what?”  I kept an alternative in the back of my mind so I didn’t get my heart set on just one thing.

Don’t tell the kids.  Once we had children, I had to learn a hard lesson.  We’d tell them about plans in advance, then something unavoidable would come up (a funeral, illness, rain) and they would be crushed.  Of course, as discussed above, they have to learn to deal with disappointment, but life was an emotional roller coaster because they were disappointed too often.  I had to remember that we can’t predict the future and as a mom I had to limit the amounts of disappointments I allowed.  Now if we are doing something exciting, we tell the kids the day before or the day of, with a qualifier, “We are planning to—if it works out.”


I’m not an excessive planner any more.  In fact, if anything, life usually feels like I’m flying down a muddy slope by the seat of my pants, slipping and sliding all the way.  I wish sometimes that I could plan a little more—it’s all about balance, isn’t it?

What about you?  How do you balance the need to plan and be prudent with the necessity of being flexible?

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Social Media Behave! Day 4: If Everyone Else is Doing It

I only have a moment, so let me scratch out a couple quick thoughts.

Today, Laura encourages us to just say no to some social media.  Just because it’s the latest, coolest thing does not mean we have to participate.

I think I have done OK with this.  I try not to even start something that is going to suck too much time with minimal reward.  And I have quit sites that I feel are not beneficial.

Some things are for a season.  That’s something we forget we can do, don’t you think?

And we don’t have to sign up for everything.  I have never gotten into Twitter, for example.  I know a lot of people love Twitter, it can be an awesome tool, and I am probably one of the last 3 people in America who does not Tweet.  And maybe one day, maybe even tomorrow, I will find that Twitter is worth it.  But that day isn’t today.

A site only has as much power over us as we give it.  We are adults who hopefully have some modicum of self-control.  **Note to self.**