Monday, April 15, 2013

Stopping By, Checking In, Stepping Out

Hello, dear readers!

A few quick updates.... but first, my latest zero-carb cooking project - CHEESECAKE

As a matter of fact, it was awful. But then again, we run up against one of the unbreakable laws of the universe: Cheesecake is cheesecake.  Does it matter if it was terrible? YUM. I ate it anyway.

Besides, it grew on me. Let's pause briefly while I go get the last piece. Mmmm.

Okay, so back to what we were discussing. Or rather, speaking of rabbit trails, I have to mention that this is one of my favorite times in the Phoenix valley - time for the blooming of the palo verde trees! Huzzah! You have not seen true loveliness until you have seen a desert palo verde dripping with millions of brilliant yellow blooms. We stopped on the way to church today so that I could snap a few pictures.

Gorgeous? Yes, gorgeous!

Okay, enough rabbit trails! Get to the point!

Yes, the point, albeit an unpleasant one: Although I am currently bubbling over with various blog topics that I am eager to share with you...

Yes, they're all covered with notes and ideas for future blog entries. 
... at this point I feel that I am called on to take a blogging break. I don't want a break, but I've felt that I need to. And so, with that, I am planning to shelve blogging (*sob*) until at least the end of April. After that, we'll see. If I feel that I need to go on a longer break, I can... but hopefully I'll be back to writing at that point.

In the meantime, I'll be preparing for a really exciting new series that I want to share with you, tentatively titled "Plain and Simple." You've already read the first entry, in which I discussed why I love having only one car, and I'm planning to continue the series as a journal of my journey into examining the modern American life (read: frenzied, harried, stressed-out, and exhausted) and determining which parts of that lifestyle we want to alter or discard in our quest to develop a quiet, peaceful, family-centered life - more like that of pre-techie rural life or modern Amish life.

In this series, I plan to examine:

(1) Activities - Which need to go, and which do we need to add?
(2) Habits - What ways of life and ways of doing things should be adopted?
(3) Technologies - Which truly benefit us, and which cost more than they are worth?
(4) Mental and Spiritual Disciplines - What has to be developed and nurtured for a peaceful life?

I am very excited about this journey, and I am already experimenting with several life-changes which will form the first entries. Look for this in a couple of weeks (or months... whenever I get it started).

In the meantime, have a great couple of weeks, and I'll see you all in May!

From last week's desert adventure - we caught the last of the wildflowers! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Going Counter-Culture (Again) and Loving It (Again)!

Have you ever noticed how fun it is to be counter-cultural? To swim against the tide, and make decisions that go against the cultural gods of "the way we've always done it"? I tell you, ladies, it's addictive! Once you start down the path, it just snowballs - in delightful and surprising ways.

One counter-culture decision that we made earlier this year was the decision to reduce from two vehicles to one. This was not made in order to be counter-culture, but just to save money - (1) to save on insurance payments, (2) to save on gas and upkeep, (3) to avoid having to make (more) costly repairs to get the car to pass smog, and (4) to be able to use the sale money as additional income during this season of non-income.

It was rather a reluctant decision, based on need rather than desire, and I expected that it would be an inconvenient nuisance - and that we would be a second vehicle as soon as possible. Of all the money-saving decisions and changes that we've made recently, this one was the one I dreaded.

To our complete surprise, both DH and I love having only one vehicle! No joke! We have laughed over this, as it was such a surprise, but going from two cars down to one has been just awesome. I don't know if we'll ever buy a second vehicle again.

Now pick your jaws up off the floor, and I'll explain why! Here are all the reasons that having only one car rocks:

(1) Money Issues - As anticipated, having only one car saves us in gas, in insurance payments, and in repair and maintenance fees. Score!

(2) Freeing Up Driveway Space - This sounds funny, but it's true! Our driveway is where our son rides his scooter and where the kids love to play. It's prime real estate, but having two cars really clogged it up! With only one car, the kids have plenty of room to play, and we never have to hear, "Mom! Can you move the car so I can ride my scooter?"

(3) Freeing Brain Space - This is odd, but true - it feels so much easier to have only one car to worry about! One car to repair, one car to maintain, one car for oil changes, one car's records to keep. It clears up so much mental clutter! Not to mention that I am much likely to go wash one car than I am two!

(4) Family Benefits - Right now, I would normally (i.e. back when we had two cars), be at a homeschooling moms' night out. However... DH needed the car, so here I am at home! Yes, I missed an event - but what we also missed was a frantic night of trying to get everyone ready to head out the door in different directions, and all the stress and irritability that go with it. Instead, I have spent a wonderful and relaxing night here at home, planting squash and watermelon in the backyard with the kids! Yes, I lost... but what I gained was greater than what I lost.

Additionally, not only does having one car limit us to doing one activity at a time, it also inclines us to family-type activities and errands rather than individual-type functions. It's a great safeguard against having each family member going in a different direction, and it keeps us much more family-oriented in an age when dividing the family on a regular basis is an expected (but unhealthy) norm. It also helps us to prioritize - instead of choosing concurrent activities A, B, and C, having one vehicle forces us to choose the best thing and stick with that alone rather than dividing our energies (and our family) amongst non-essential activities that lead only to chronic busyness (and stress and exhaustion).

And so... This has been a big surprise, but a very welcome one! We love having one vehicle, and the benefits have been enormous and wide-spread. It makes one ponder very seriously which of our modern "conveniences" are taking from us more than they promise and/or deliver. Hopefully this will lead me to evaluate which of our modern "advances" might be better left behind. 

Thoughts, dear readers? 

The next step!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

When Medical Mysteries Turn Nasty

Hello, dear readers!

I'd love to ask you all to pray for this sweet family who is dealing with a medical nightmare with their little girl. She is dealing with numerous conditions and a puzzling mystery of how to treat them and where to go for medical advice and help. It is extremely serious, and they are searching high and low for new options. They could really use your support and prayer! Local readers can also jump on their meal support schedule.

We pray for this family daily!

Monday, April 1, 2013

In Which I Forget a Whole Bunch of Stuff!

One of my ongoing projects as a homeschooler and as a homemaker has been to remember holidays - you know, to actually do things for the holidays rather than remembering "Oh yeah, I should have done something for that" in retrospect.

While I did pretty well for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine's Day, I pretty much fell flat on my face for St. Patrick's Day and Easter.

I started out well for St. Patrick's Day - we did this scavenger hunt (though we only got to it yesterday, several weeks after the fact) and then green pepper print painting:

Mommy's pepper painting...
... and the 6yo's green pepper painting! 

(To do pepper prints, slice the bottom off of a bell pepper and use to make prints - like potato painting! It's harder than it looks (slippery!), but still fun.)

We also made green sugar cookies, colored with chlorophyll:

However, then a cold hit our house, and everyone got sick within 48 hours - and the rest of my St. Patrick's Day plans went out the window that week. On St. Patrick's Day itself, I completely forgot to do any of the special little things I had planned (green jello, green milk, green pepper-slice shamrocks, etc.). I read the story of St. Patrick to the family during devotion time and called it a day. (Have you ever read it? It's fascinating!)

This book of missionary stories came with our Sonlight Core A curriculum. We found it too advanced for our 5yo, but it is filled with great missionary stories that we plan to read later - including the story of St. Patrick. 

Easter was even worse, activity-wise. We attended an egg hunt for our MOMS club, but that was about it. I even forgot our Benjamin's Box activity! (Next week... next week...)

However, we had a great time attending Good Friday service and having our family egg hunt and Easter dinner on Saturday.

The 1yo got to do his first egg hunt, as well!

We assigned the 6yo to help the 1yo and 3yo find their eggs before he got his (though he got them all in the end), and we were really pleased with how helpful of a big brother he was!

My culinary adventure of the day was making refrigerator rolls, which were easy to make and smelled delicious! ("Tastes good too, so they tell me!" Name that quote!) I made them in our food processor, which greatly simplified the process (though it rather overloaded the food processor).

After this full day of Easter festivities, we headed straight out to a neighbor's wedding reception, where we had a great time and stayed several hours. At the end of the day, we were tired - it was definitely a full day.

Today (Easter Sunday), we attended. two church services (sunrise service at a friend's house, and regular church later) today. Have you ever taken three young children to a sunrise service? When the alarm went off this morning, my first thought was, "This is the dumbest idea I've ever had and we are never doing this again!" But we had an absolutely wonderful time and decided we want to do this annually. It was awesome!!

After the two services, we came home in a state of utter too-tired-to-think-straight fatigue, and ended up sleeping for almost two and a half hours this afternoon. (Thankfully everyone was tired!) Is there anyone else out there who (1) loves the holidays, but is also (2) intensely thankful when they're over? I find myself in an odd dichotomy between the two.

Happy Easter, everyone! He is Risen! I hope that each of you has had a fun and blessed Easter weekend.

The eggs that we finally remembered to dye, three days after the fact!