Saturday, March 30, 2013

In Which Children's Lessons Provide Hours of Merriment!

As part of our school work for kindergarten, we do once-a-week notebooking - a Charlotte Mason type of work in which the child chooses a topic (from amongst those studied that week) and narrates the story back (or writes about a certain topic studied).

Right now I copy down what our 6yo has to say on his chosen subject (in later grades he will write on his own), and then he illustrates it. The things that he writes are absolutely hilarious! I had to share this one with you.

Just in case you can't read it, here is what he wrote:

"Beware of Death Worm"

"The Mongolian death worm has tentacles. It uses them for stinging and then it eats. It has lots of venom. It could kill Grandpa in eight minutes. The death worm is huge - that's why it has so much venom. It lives in the desert. If you are ever in the desert, watch out for the death worm. The End."

In case you're wondering, the Mongolian Death Worm is a mythical creature of antiquity that was mentioned in a "most dangerous animals" book. For some reason he was fascinated by it!

Sometimes DH and I get his essays and read them together for sheer enjoyment. Kids are hilarious!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Makes a Great Blog: A List of Tips!

I am, of course, writing this list of "how to blog well" tips because I am such a wonderful blogger and am ready to bless the world with my overflow of knowledge!

Stop laughing! I mean it!

No, in all seriousness - I am not writing this post because I am a great blogger, but because I read lots of great blogs!

In the years that I've been a passionate blog reader, I've had time to compile a list - what makes me click on a blog post, and what makes me pass one by? Some of those qualities are truly "content qualities," but many are, sadly, purely "appearance/presentation qualities" - i.e. how a post is presented to the world rather than actual content. Psychology 101, here we come!

And so, in no particular order, here are some "great blog characteristics" that I have compiled based on my own observations. Enjoy!

A Good Lookin' Blog - A few months back, I noticed that I had started to read a blog in my reader much more frequently than I had before. What had changed? Improved content? Nope - the content remained the same, but she had upgraded from a blah-and-boring background to a new-and-improved and visually appealing background. Voila - I found myself reading more often. The moral - looks matter. Pathetic, but true.

Length of Posts - Moderate or long posts = great. Super-short or marathon-length = not so awesome. (Super-short often means a lack of content, while marathon-length is apt to lose reader attention span. If you have something marathon-length to say, it helps to break it up into Part 1, Part 2, etc.)

Bring on the Links! - Lots of links within your posts to past posts or other pertinent sites or other bloggers' posts.

Short Paragraphs - This is a well-known technique. Short paragraphs make for easier reading! In fact, a while ago I gave up on one blogger who wrote in solid-block format (no matter how long her post, it was all in one unbroken paragraph). Regardless of content, it was exhausting to read.

Grammar, Spelling, Etc. - We all make mistakes, but grammar and spelling really do count. I have to admit, I do tend to click past blogs that begin, "Your not going to believe what their saying about..." Quality matters!

Clarity of Purpose - It helps to know the purpose of a blog. Is it a family blog? An issue-based blog? A short statement of purpose (and an intelligible blog name) help to focus your audience appeal and clarify your purpose in blogging.

Good Post Titles - If one thing makes me skip past a blog post, it is a vague or uninteresting post title! (Unless you're a friend or a really good blogger, in which case I read 'em all!) Example of a bad title: "Peer-Reviewed Studies, June 2011 to July 2012." When I see that, I've already scrolled past! Now, as to how to write an interesting title... I'll get back to you when I've found that out.

Decent Post Frequency - There's nothing more disappointing than finding a great blog... and then realizing that its most recent post was April of 2007! Blogging regularly enough to keep a blog active is a definite plus.

Social Media - Social media share-buttons on posts, or a Facebook group for your blog - huge pluses in gaining readership, and in being able to interact casually with your audience! (Unfortunately, the latter is often a huge time commitment over and above the blog itself, which is one reason that I don't do this. But if you want to grow your blog, this is the way!)

Pictures - I find that I am many times more likely to click on a post that has a picture attached to it. Again, this is not content-related but is instead purely a presentation issue.

Author Bio and Picture - I like to feel connected to the author, which is hard to do if the blog author is anonymous or unidentified! A page with author bio, picture, and contact information is a huge plus.

Sidebar Link Lists - Link lists on the blog sidebars (to past posts or links outside the blog) is a huge plus in garnering reader interest and providing more information for your readers. Keep it updated! (Again, I need to do this.)

Civility - Nothing is more likely to make me click "unsubscribe" than vulgarity, profane language, irreverence, or the like. Everyone differs in her tolerance for this, but it's a huge turn-off for me.

Evidence of Work - Readers appreciate it when bloggers have truly done their homework, putting their minds and their hearts into their posts. Lazy blog posts will lose readers! For example, a blog post that consists only of, "So, everyone, what do you think of President Obama? Discuss!" just won't work. Links, quotes, discussion, etc., are needed to make it work and obtain greater readership.

What would you add to this list, gentle readers?

Following my own advice: Adding a picture, even though it is totally irrelevant to the article. Aren't you feeling more likely to read this post now? 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Getting Radical On Y'All

Lately, an article that I read several years ago has come to mind - check it out:

Conversations of a Husband and Wife

Most of you probably know (from the absurd frequency with which I quote from it) that this is one of my favorite blogs. I love it. But when I read that particular article, I found it a bit... extreme. Okay, yeah, sure, I get the whole Christian "submission thing."
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:22)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Got it.

But... this blogger took it a bit too far, in my never-to-be-humble opinion. She wrote:
"I sat down in this chair last night, pen and paper in hand, lists of questions on my mind. I needed his input. I needed guidance. I needed to sit under authority."
You're kidding me, right? Sit under my husband's authority? Get his advice when my own mind is just as bright as his, thank-you-very-much?
"I must be honest, some of the things that were on my mind involved him and perceptions I had about his priorities and the priorities of our household, but I knew I could not come into the conversation with both guns blazing, throwing accusations at him and trying to control the outcome of his answers.
 "I consciously put myself under his headship and what followed was an amazingly insightful and blessed conversation that took a load of burden off my back and reset my focus as the lady of the home."
This was a bit much for me at the time. I had come to accept wifely submission as a reality of the Christian life - you know, that after a long and vicious fight over [issue A], I would grudgingly give in and do what he wanted, all while giving long, exasperated sighs to let him know that I was only submitting because I was such a good wife, even though he was wrong and I was right.

But to seek his advice? To sit under his authority? To purposely ask for his input, direction, advice - and what's more, act on it?

Thank you, but no.

However, over the past few years, I have come so far with this issue, and I'm so glad that Amy had the guts to tackle it on her blog. I so needed to hear wisdom on that subject from a godly "older woman" (she is older in faith, if not in age).

I am now in a place where I actively put this advice into action, and it is such a blessing in my life. When I have issues that perplex me regarding our home, our schedule, our homeschool, or our life in general (and at least one of the above is usually a subject of confusion at any given time!), I have learned the habit of going - not to my friends or the internet - but to my husband. And the Lord has richly blessed this. Even when I feel that I have more "head knowledge" than my husband does on a certain issue, God blesses my efforts to respect and honor my husband as my (and our family's) federal head.

Additionally, I see my husband grow by leaps and bounds in his efforts to lead our family well as he sees me respect him and value and seek his opinion. When men are respected, they will move heaven and earth to be worthy of that respect.

Life is just better when I do things God's way.

In the same vein, I read another article several years ago that has been sitting on the back burner of my mind ever since. Go read it. (I'll wait.)

Submission and Silence

I found myself absolutely fascinated by Anne's discussion on the topic of the following verse:
“…women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).
Like most people, I have glossed over those verses without much thought, other than the occasional, "Okay, that was weird. Whatever." But as I have grown in my Christian walk, I have learned that the Bible was meant to be taken seriously. There are no irrelevant parts to the Bible, and we do ourselves a disservice by dismissing or ignoring any of God's inspired Word.

But seriously? Women keep silent in church? Not ask questions, but ask their husbands at home? You've got to be kidding! While it is absolutely clear in Scripture that women are not to teach in the church (i.e. be pastors or teach from the pulpit), I had never really paid attention to the "silent in church" bit.

But God said it. And He doesn't say things that He doesn't mean.

So over the past half-year or so, I have attempted to put this into practice! In other words, when I have a question about the sermon, I have made a conscious effort not to ask the pastor/teacher about it (or to look it up on the internet), but rather to save it and ask my husband at home. "So, hon, when the pastor at church today said such-and-such, I wasn't sure about that. What do you think?" etc.

And again, I have been blown away by how much this simple act of obedience has blessed our family!

When I come to my husband and ask him these questions, I can visibly see him grow spiritually as he realizes how much I trust him and his opinion, and how much I am relying on him (instead of another man or the internet) to answer my spiritual questions. I could never have anticipated how much spiritual growth would be occasioned by simply trusting my husband to answer my questions.

Again. Life is just better when I obey God's Word and do it His way!

Sometimes I don't understand the why of obedience until after I've obeyed (and sometimes not even then). Sometimes it takes a long time to see the blessing of obedience. As we tell our six-year-old, "Obey first and then ask for an explanation." But every time, God honors His Word, and He honors our family when we obey it.

I love watching how God leads and develops our family toward Himself. 

Be blessed!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Gross, the Violent, and the Really, Really Painful: Moments of Parenting Reality

I've already written about the diaper that changed the world - a moment of parenting reality that took three loads of laundry, an entire morning, and a half-hour seance with the garden hose to deal with. In that same vein, I am pleased to introduce another entry in the ongoing "Grossest Parenting Moments" contest!

{Please skip the first part if you are currently nauseated!}

This occurrence dates to a few months back, to yet another Sunday morning at church, when both my husband and I were each holding a baby (our usual modus operandi).

During the singing, I looked over at my husband and realized several things at once. Firstly, that the baby he was holding needed a new diaper. Secondly, that said diaper was not just "wet." Thirdly, that the baby in question had stuck his hand down his diaper... and was now blissfully rubbing the contents of that diaper into DH's beard while DH, completely unaware, was focused on the singing.

A few frenzied pokes to the side made him aware him of the situation, and we immediately and hurriedly evacuated the premises for a very long family clean-up time in the bathroom.

Ah, parenting. It's those Kodak moments that really get you.

Though, in reality, this reality moment was much less gross than the other! And far easier to clean up.

Moving on to our next cameo...

This past week, I was busy working when I turned around and, to my horror, saw our toddler eagerly putting himself into a situation of serious danger. Ack!

The next few moments are a blur in my memory, because they happened so quickly. However, I have a vague memory of throwing down what I was doing and leaping across the room, knocking said toddler to the floor (and thankfully out of danger).

In the process of flinging myself thus, however, I took the full impact of the fall (which happened on our tile floor) on both knees. How I landed on my knees I'm not sure, but the result was, of course, sudden and excruciating pain. I found myself sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth and wishing vaguely that my birth doula could be there to talk me through the waves of pain.

If you had wandered into our house at that time, you would have seen a very puzzling sight - me sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth while holding a crying toddler, listening to the sound of our dinner burning on the stove (and unable to do anything about it).

We stayed on the floor for about half an hour, until I could finally get up, but my knees still hurt! Furthermore, one in particular has burst out in the most amazing bruising that you've ever seen in your life. I'd post pictures, but I'm opposed to posting pictures that gross on the internet, LOL!!

And there you have it. Parenting, the real story. Before we become parents we dream of cuddling with affectionate babies, cooing lullabies to infants, reading classic books to wide-eyed grade-schoolers. Yes, there's that... but the real story of parenting also includes beards rubbed with unmentionable substances and time on the floor dealing with excruciating pain. That's life for ya.

Anyone else have some of the down-and-dirty moments of parenting to share?

Yes, this is the guilty culprit (one of them, at least). 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Outsourcing My Brain (Part 1): The Beauty of Meal Planning!

As I move further into parenting and home education, I find that planning ahead is becoming more and more essential - it's gone from "fun" to "necessary" to "I'd better plan ahead or we're all gonna die!" (or something like that). I begin to understand why mamas of large families are so very organized - it's a survival tactic!

One area that is a huge blessing to me is meal planning. If I plan our meals - things go well. If I don't plan our meals - then I find myself at dinnertime, trying desperately to  figure something out for us to eat, while surrounded by three cranky children (and a yowling cat). Again, it's about survival.

In the past, I've tried sporadically to plan our meals, but now I do it religiously - every week. Though I know of several families who have meal rotations (so that they only have to do the planning once, and then rotate through pre-planned week schedules), I have never been able to figure out how to make that work - our meals have to work around our ever-changing school and home schedule. So for now, it's an every week task.

I started out planning our dinners, then moved to adding morning and evening prep tasks. Recently, I've added breakfasts to the plan as well. With all of that planned, I really can forget about the whole thing! I just check it a couple of times a day to keep up with the various tasks, and I'm set. With all that is going around here - care of three young children, school lessons, housework, etc. - it has been an incredible blessing.

Here's what my planning sheet looks like right now:

[Click to enlarge]

After it's been filled out, it looks something like this:

[Click to enlarge]
As my life gets busier and busier, with more and more tasks added to my daily schedule, having various lists to streamline and organize my days and weeks is an essential part of the plan. I'll try to share some more of them as we go along!

What lists do you find essential for keeping your sanity during the busy days of parenting, housework, and home education?

Have a wonderful and blessed weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Aggressive Plants, Deadly Arachnids, and Scorching Heat: What's Not to Love?

After all, "It's a dry heat!" Right??

I've spent some time thinking about this topic - the various virtues of the Phoenix valley - for a very specific reason. The reason - I never wanted to live here! It's hot, dry, and rain-free, and my love is for the weather of the Pacific northwest - cool, cloudy, and rainy. So Phoenix is not really my kind of place!

But you know what? God placed me here! Not in Oregon or Washington or England or Scotland. Here. Furthermore, I may be here for the rest of my life! (Which would be fine with me, as a matter of fact - I very much dislike moving!) That being so, it is a case of needing to learn to have a spirit of gratitude for God's provision - and a "learn to love it" attitude. 

With that in mind, here are all the things (in no particular order) that I love about Phoenix! 

Hospitals & Doctors - You hope never to need them, but when you need a hospital or doctor, we have them by the thousands. We have three hospitals within ten minutes of our house! 

Naturopathic Doctors - Probably due to the naturopathic medical college in Tempe, our area abounds with wonderful naturopathic doctors and naturopathic medical resources. Love it. 

Museums & Attractions - We have wonderful museums and attractions in the Phoenix valley! From the Musical Instrument Museum and the Firefighters' Museum, to the Phoenix Zoo and the Arizona Museum of Natural History - hundreds (I'm guessing) of things to see and do. We haven't seen even a small fraction of what there is to see here!

Parks - When I was growing up in Southern California, parks (in my mind) were definitely classified as "dirty, scary places that I would never even think of wanting to go to." Ick! But here in the east valley, the parks are wonderful - safe, clean, attractive, and fun. And there are lots of them! 

A Cleaner and Prettier Living Environment - Cleaner and prettier than my area of Southern California, that is! Of course, that's not saying much. Pretty much anywhere is - my home county was recently classified as the "dirtiest place in the U.S." Yup, it's true. When we went back to visit this summer, my first thought was, "How on earth did I manage to live here for twenty-odd years?" Phoenix has cleaner air, prettier communities and freeways, far less traffic, and is just a nicer and more attractive place to live. 

The Desert! - I'm not a desert rat, but the desert is beautiful! Especially on a fall or spring evening - mmmm. I love the desert! Add in cool weather and a beautiful sunset, and I'm one happy camper. 

Monsoons - If you haven't yet seen a monsoon, you should join us for one! Gorgeous! Best lightning displays in the country. We always go out onto our patio to watch the rain and the lightning show - and to look for spadefoot toads, which only come out during monsoons! Love those summer storms!

Homeschooling Laws - Unlike other unfortunate states, where the government does its best to usurp the rights of parents by interfering heavily in home education, Arizona has awesome homeschooling laws which promote a healthy homeschooling culture. God grant that it stay that way. 

Homeschooling Community - We are still getting to know our awesome homeschool community, which here in the valley is large and thriving. We have met so many amazing people!

Birth Community - Phoenix, especially the east valley, has a large, active, and thriving community of birth professionals, with lots of professional associations and community events, and I have greatly enjoyed getting to know this community. 

Community Resources - I've always wanted to live in the country, but I have to say that living in the city is definitely convenient - we have any and every resource at our fingertips. 

Midwifery Laws - Though they're in a state of flux at the moment, Arizona has excellent (not the best, but still excellent) homebirth midwifery laws. Thanks to those laws, we have had three legal and safe homebirths with several of the valley's wonderful certified professional midwives. 

Wildflowers - Reverting to the desert - Have you ever seen desert wildflowers? They are splendid! Which reminds me - we need to get out and see them!

Blooming Palo Verdes - I am waiting anxiously for these - they are a beyond-gorgeous sight. 

No Natural Disasters - Monsoons are dramatic, but they rarely do serious damage (and they're fun!). It is nice not having to dread hurricane season or flood season. 

Christian Community - We have discovered a large and wonderful community of Christian believers here in the valley, many of whom are now lifelong friends and have a very special place in our hearts. 

The People in General - We have made so many friends here (store clerks! neighbors! church friends!) and really enjoy getting to know the wonderful people of Arizona. 

Okay, my lovely readers! What do YOU love about Phoenix? Or about a place that you live (but which wasn't your first choice)? Bring it on! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Surprise of the Century: Kids Actually LIKE the Stuff

If there is one word that could strike utter boredom into my heart as a student, it had to be the big, bad, very-very-dreadful...

~ Poetry ~

Oh my. I'm already yawning.

Anyone else out there who felt the same as a student? Poetry was something one had to do for the good of one's academic soul, but it was tedious, tiresome, and something to be hurried through so that one could get back to the good stuff.

Not to say that I didn't occasionally run across a bit of poetry that thrilled me to the core. It did happen - occasionally. But mostly it was something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

When our Sonlight curriculum arrived last year, it included daily poetry readings from two volumes of children's poetry. *Sigh*. But we did it, and much to my surprise, our son seemed to enjoy it. (Weird.)

This year, though we did not keep going with Sonlight, I figured that I'd better keep going with daily poetry readings. Because it's good for us and we're going to suffer through it even though it's a big waste of time! 

We used one of the same volumes that accompanied the Sonlight course, "The Llama Who Had No Pajama," and since we were not following a pre-set schedule, we just wandered at random through the book. Imagine my amazement when I found, to my surprise, that our 6yo loved poetry. Not just "liked," not just "patiently endured with a good attitude," but passionately adored the stuff!

In fact, later in the year I actually had to set limits on the amount of poetry we read so that we didn't spend all day on it. "Okay, here we go - remember, only ten pages! No more!" (Seriously - we read ten pages of poetry every day. No joke.) He adores it.

And, to my surprise - I adore it too! I am every day realizing that poetry can be fun, and it is an incredibly valuable learning tool. (Not that I didn't know all of that in a theoretical sense, but I am now seeing it lived out before my eyes.) And because we re-read poems all the time, both of us are also learning a vast amount of poetry - and are incorporating it into our everyday conversations, both as-is and embellished! Wow!

And so... I am a convert. A poetry convert. Memories of my own experiences with school-time poetry still make me yawn compulsively, but I am coming to realize that poetry doesn't have to be torture - it can be a joy. And I intend to make it a joy in our homeschool time.

I also have big plans for the future! I have heard it recommended to have a "poet of the quarter," and we may take that approach in later years. For now, we are just making use of the excellent volumes of children's poetry that came with Sonlight, as well as others that we already have.

Have I ever mentioned that home education is an adventure? I never could have guessed how much learning and growing would be involved - for me! And I love it.

What surprises have you found in your home education journey?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why My Parenting Skills Need to Be Better than My Gardening Skills!

I found the following Spurgeon quote in my latest copy of "Above Rubies":
“If any of you think that you have a perfect child, you will find yourselves grievously mistaken—the time will come when you will discover that evil is lurking there as it is in you, the father, or in you, the mother—and it will only need a suitable opportunity to display itself! It will scarcely need fostering by ill companions—but even in a godly household where the atmosphere of piety abounds—sin will grow up in the child as naturally as weeds grow in a garden that is left to itself.”—1901, Sermon #2734
This post really struck me - for several reasons. Firstly, as I have before stated, it has been a source of constant amazement to me how hard parenting is. I had always assumed that it was something of a side job. "Hey, I run an international company, lecture at the garden club, and teach judo. Oh-and-I-have-two-wonderful-kids-at-home." Something that just didn't take much time or effort to do well.

Boy, was I wrong. Parenting is a day-in-day-out, 24-7 job that requires an incredible amount of time, prayer, and constant effort. It is the most challenging thing that I have ever done - and the one with the most potential for either good or disaster (I'm praying for the former).

Secondly, this quote resonated with me because of its applicability to my front planter - which at the moment, happens to be occupied by an extremely neglected garden. I've already written about how bad character traits or habits in children are just like weeds, and the similar analogy to a neglected garden is just as apt.

Neglected gardens just don't happen! Or rather, they happen, but they happen badly. Our "garden," at the moment, consists of lettuce gone to seed, moth-eaten undeveloped cabbages (not sure what happened to the "cabbage" part of the cabbages), chard that never grew because I forgot to water it, and micro-carrots (less than an inch in length) that didn't grow properly because we didn't till the ground well or thin them when we should have.

What a mess!
 I'm sure the analogy isn't hard to draw!

I don't mind having a neglected garden - I can always start over (or just nuke the entire thing and plant groundcover). But I would mind very much if my parenting went the same way. Though I may or may not do a good job, I want to try, try, try to do the best I can. Watering, weeding, feeding, and constant efforts to do my best - that is what I want to do, and what I need to do. This is the biggest job I will ever have, and I want to do a good job.

At this point, it's hopeless. Bring on the mower. 

 "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame." 
(Proverbs 29:15)

The Best Days Are When the Babies Come!

About seven years ago, DH helped a friend out with our church's College and Career Group. Since then, most of those "kids" have married... and are now having babies! Isn't life wonderful? (I feel like a grandmother!)

The mama of the latest baby to be born has just posted her birth story of little Stephen's birth, and I have to share - it is a lovely birth and a beautiful retelling. Kudos to her wonderful birth team, and congrats to this wonderful family! I cannot wait to see how this lovely family develops over the coming years.

Baby Stephen's Birthday!

I love this:
"I'll spare you any gory details, but I just want you to know that everything they say about potentially puking or peeing or being otherwise indecorous is entirely true. It is also true, though, that if you've got a good support team (for me, my husband and my doula) and an understanding medical staff (in our case, a midwife and nurse), labor can be a good memory, despite the discomfort and pain."
So very true!

Congratulations on the birth of your first little one, Kate!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Action Needed NOW to Protect Arizona Homebirth Rights

Hello, everyone! Listen up!

Arizona homebirth midwives (CPMs) are currently in danger from proposed legislation that would make practicing legally impossible. Quoting a local midwife:
"As you all know (as I state it in the Informed Consent for an Out of Hospital Birth document), all midwives are required to submit a 'quarterly report' for each client we've served. However, just today I received an 'updated' quarterly form from the state department of health. They are requesting that we begin using this new form for every client since January 1st, 2013... Included in this 'updated' quarterly report is a section that specifically says, "Formal Arrangement for Medical Backup" and asks for the physician and hospital name as well as who we have standing orders/prescriptions for O2, pitocin, vitK, and eye ointment. 
"I am officially seriously terrified - if they are drafting official documents including this requirement, combined with the lack of public comment being scheduled at the next meeting....I am SERIOUSLY, for the first time, wondering if I will have a job after this summer."
In summary: This legislation would require Certified Professional Midwives to have formal physician backup arrangements for all clients. Backup arrangements are nearly impossible to obtain, meaning that this would form a Catch-22 effectively putting Arizona midwives out of business, and Arizona homebirthers without birth attendants.

What can we do to help?

Please send a letter to Will Humble, Office of the Director, asking that this legislation not go through. Following is a sample note - please do not copy and paste (we need individualized communications), but feel free to use this as a jumping-off point:

Director Will Humble:
I would like to continue to have access to homebirth midwifery in Arizona. Therefore, the proposed section on requiring a backup physician in the proposed rules/regulations MUST be struck! Please do not make midwifery illegal by maintaining that requirement!
Thank you.

You can send your physical letter to:

Will Humble
Office of the Director
150 N. 18th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85007

You can fax your letter to:

(602) 542-1062 (Fax)

You can email your letter to:

You can also leave a comment on Mr. Humble's blog.

Thank you, my friends!

Inspiration, Encouragement, and Great Ideas - What More Could I Ask?

This past weekend, we had the incredible opportunity to attend a conference given by the Maxwell Family (see their blog here). We were so excited! I have read several of their books ("Managers of Their Homes" and "Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit") and absolutely loved them, and we were eager to hear what they had to say on the topics of marriage, parenting, and education.

We weren't disappointed! We had so much fun!

Both of us came away from this conference encouraged, inspired to try new ideas (like family devotion time), and edified by the wisdom of this awesome family. I hope that we are able to hear them again some day!

Listening to Terri and Steve Maxwell. 

Due to a last-minute babysitter cancellation (i.e. the grandparents couldn't come), all three kidlets came with us. This presented definite challenges (a cranky 3yo, a not-yet-learned-to-sit-quietly toddler, and a 6yo who was less-than-enamored of having to sit through multiple speaker sessions), but we made it through and had a great time.

No, these aren't good pictures... but hey, they're all I have. 
DH and I have decided that we want to attend as many family and homeschooling conventions and conferences as we possibly can. Each one that we have attended has been an amazing experience that has so benefited our family! We are incredibly excited about the upcoming yearly Arizona Families for Home Education Convention (note the incredible first-timers' discount and free pre-convention mini-conference). We want to absorb all of the great teaching that we can.

Goofing for the camera. 
If you ever have a chance to attend one of these events, please take advantage of it! We'll see you there!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Celebrating the Moose's First Birthday!

Last month, we celebrated Baby Moose's first birthday! Wow, this year has flown by! The Moose (or rather, the ex-Moose, as he is now decidedly normal-sized) has been such a sweet, cheery, easy baby - an especial joy to our family. His first year has been absolutely wonderful.

We put off the actual birthday celebration for several weeks so that we could have grandparents down - a good thing, as Moose spent his actual birthday in a seriously bad mood due to an intense super-teething time. He actually teethed eight teeth at once! Is that not crazy? So he was fairly miserable.

Thankfully he had cheered up immensely by the time we actually got around to celebrating his birthday, so we had a fun birthday time!

Unfortunately, shortly before birthday time, the Moose had received a singing Veggie Tales board book - and his entire attention was wrapped up in that book. Presents? Cards? Cake? Whatever. Give me the Veggie Tales book. But we tried!

He did gain some interest in cake-eating, needless to say! He is the first baby to actually get birthday cake on his first birthday. With our first, I was absolutely no-sugar-before-age-two, and our second had too many texture issues. (I've kind of given up on that no-sugar thing.) He enjoyed it!

I made a family favorite for his cake. It's not all-natural, but it's delicious! Sometime I'll have to try to figure out a healthier recipe to replicate it.

Ada's Angel Food Cake Pineapple Frosting

1 20-oz can crushed pineapple
1 3-oz package vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Cook crushed pineapple, undrained, and pudding mix together until translucent. Cool to room temperature. Fold into whipped cream. Use to frost Angel Food Cake. Enjoy!

Here's to all the coming years as we enjoy having Moose as a wonderful member of our family!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Moment of Parenting Hilarity

Last week, we were at a social gathering having lunch with friends. As usually happens during such functions, the baby toys that we have stuffed into the net side-pockets of our diaper bag started "wandering" as they were appropriated by various passing toddlers. We're used to this, and we just round them up when it's time to leave.

Close to the time when we would start wanting to head for the car, a wee little man toddled by, holding one of our baby toys. DH pointed to him and turned to me:

DH: Hey! Is that one of ours?
Me: Mmm.... I don't know. I think so. What do you think?
DH: I guess so.

We turned back to our table companions, only to find them all with rather flabbergasted looks on their faces. As you probably guessed, we were referring to the toy, but they all thought we were referring to the child.

Yes, it would be pretty bad if we couldn't tell our own children when we only have three!

We've been laughing about that one ever since.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Little Things Here and There

Hi, everyone!

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful month! I wish that I could check in more often. But alas, just as I am growing more and more fond of using blogging as an outlet, my available time is plummeting. I find that there is work enough to keep two of me busy around the clock, and it just never seems to stop.

However, I am going to squander a few minutes that I ought to be using for something useful and give a quick update on our family! Without further ado, here is a supremely disjointed conglomeration of the big and the small, the important and the irrelevant - all the things that are going on around here!


Spring has come to Phoenix! I usually dread it, as a harbinger of doom ("doom" being our heat-blasted summers that take up eight months of the year around here), but I am doing my best to enjoy it. Isn't our little tree lovely?


As part of DH's set-up for his new business, we needed a headshot! We searched around trying to find a deal, but the cheapest we could find was a $50 package through Groupon. No way! So we headed out and did our best with point-and-click, and DH's sweet sister did some remote cropping and shading for us - voila! Not bad for someone who can barely hold a camera without breaking it!

We were pretty pleased with the results, and we saved $50!


Our "garden," i.e. "the place we sprinkled with seeds and then promptly forgot," actually produced something - mini-carrots! Fun!!

Don't be too impressed; these puppies are about one inch long each. 
Next time we plant a garden, we need to make it in an area that we actually frequent so that we don't forget about it again. (Or rather, as usual.)


Our 6yo's latest science passion is.... (drum roll, please!)... starfish! This calls for some starfish crafts! Hurray for glitter and macaroni noodles!

Directions here for this easy and fun craft! 
I also want to try another easy starfish craft - cutting starfish out of sandpaper and then painting them!! That will be a fun one - or we might even try making our own "sand paper" with real sand. (That will be an outside craft!)


After seeing this awesome-looking peppermint playdough on a friend's blog, I knew we had to try it! Wow, this is great stuff! We tinted it green, and it is uber-fun. Did you know how easy it is to make playdough at home? (See the recipe here.)

It smells and feels wonderful! Yum! 

We finally finished our snowman door hanger - it only took us a month and a half to work through the steps! (It was an easy craft - we just procrastinated.)

Cute? Yes! 


And for a brief interlude, I wanted to share a few awesome articles with you!

Michael Farris's "Ten Lessons I've Learned From Thirty Years of Homeschooling." An awesome read! Michael will be the keynote speaker at this year's Homeschool Convention in Phoenix, and I am so excited to hear him speak! I am also excited because he is the wife of Vickie Farris, author of "A Mom Just Like You," which is a book that changed my life - and which I reread at least annually.

If you are even considering homeschooling, please consider joining us at this year's convention! The convention is truly the highlight of our year. We have a wonderful time bonding as a couple and learning invaluable information about home education, home culture, and parenting, and we come home refreshed, energized, and having had a marvelous time. I think we would attend even if we didn't homeschool, just for all the wonderful information and parenting/family seminars! Check out "The Seven Reasons Why You Should Attend the Convention" (and register for the giveaway of one free admission!) - we'll see you there!

A similarly awesome article: "Ten Things That Helped Me Through 28 Years of Homeschooling" by Kathie over at Character Corner - awesome article. Check it out!

Does anyone else out there start drooling at the phrase "book list"? My goodness, I love book lists! I adore introducing our children to the awesome literature that is out there. My own personal book list (for ages preschool through young adult) is at 47 pages and growing, and it's really only in the beginning stages of development. I love finding new books to add to it! Try out these two book lists: The Art of Manliness's 50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men and Simply Charlotte Mason's Twaddle-Free Literature by Grade Level. Excellent resources!


Moving on...

So, how is our family doing?

The 6yo is eating like a raving maniac, and is growing before my eyes. Usually I cannot tell when one of our children is growing, as the change is so gradual - but this time, it seems like he is getting bigger by the day. Right now I can't even clean up one meal/snack before he's out in the kitchen asking for food. Wow!

The 3yo with special is has gone from "the easiest child in the world" to a real challenge... all for reasons that have nothing to do with the usual challenges produced by 3yo. More on that later. He is still the most lovable Chublet in the world, however!

The 1yo is now an official toddler, meaning that he is getting into everything and is hearing "No, no, don't touch" approximately 100 times per day. However, I am determined to do a good job teaching and training, despite the exhaustion that this age produces, so we're off into the land of toddlerhood! Prayers appreciated!

DH is working hard on developing his business, and that is quite an adventure! Even more of an adventure is learning to work at home with a 6yo who has absolutely no concept of the fact that Daddy needs to get some work done instead of spending the whole day with him.

As for me, I am working, working, working. And working. Home, children, laundry, food - repeat, repeat, repeat. I'm finding that I'm struggling to make the next jump to the level of work required in this stage of parenting. I rather feel like I did after our first was born - "I can't get anything done!" But this too shall pass, and I will look back at this time - at some time in the future - and wonder how on earth I could have had trouble keeping up.

And with that, I had better close! I have a three-page list of blog topics that I would like to tackle, but they will have to wait. In the meantime, love to all! Have a wonderful weekend, and let me know how you all are!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How to Save Money (When You Don't Have Any Choice)

As of this month, we are entering our fifth month of unemployment! As I've mentioned before, we're really enjoying unemployment - but unfortunately, it comes with one big drawback, namely no money. A slight impediment to financial progress, for sure!

However, even that is teaching us lots of good lessons and drawing us closer together as a family! Specifically, it has been a tremendous blessing to have both DH and I on board with non-spending. Usually one or the other of us is trying to spend and the other is trying to save, which can definitely be a drawback and a source of conflict - now that we are drawn together in the "spend no money" mode, it's been a great way for us to grow as a couple.

In that spirit, I thought that I would share some of the ways that we are saving money! Some of these changes are temporary; some are permanent. All of them have been a great exercise in self-control and in personal growth, and we're both loving it.

Ditching the Luxury Services

Goodbye, cable TV! Hurray!!! (Added bonus: Not having to guard our kids from the filth that is put into commercials. Even better!) Now when we want to watch something, we utilize our home video library, the public library, and Netflix.

Downgrading Services

Some services we still need, but have been able to drop package type or service quality. For internet service, we dropped from the mid-package to the lowest available package and are now saving $25/month. For DH's cell phone, he dropped data from his plan and is saving that cost per month.

Grocery Shopping

We have completely changed our shopping habits when it comes to groceries. We used to shop the grocery store and the produce market - we now shop the discount grocery store (where they sell outdated, damaged, and overstock) and the throw-away produce market, plus bulk purchases from Honeyville Grains and Azure Standard. (We still shop at Sam's Club.) This has been so much fun! I love looking for awesome bargains and making things work. Love this - we won't be going back.

Postponing Ideals

Like many of you, I have certain ideals in mind for our home eating habits - buzz-words like pastured, grass-fed, organic, raw, etc. But right now, those ideals are on hold. Not gone, just temporarily shelved. I'll get back to that. I am, however, keeping up with my (mostly) all-natural habits - we're not switching to junk food just to eat more cheaply.

Lowering Standards

Where we can, we're lowering some standards. For example, we went from name-brand coffee to the lowest-of-the-low generic. And guess what? We can't even tell the difference! We should have done this years ago!

Meal Planning

I have usually been pretty good about meal planning - but now I'm getting even better! I'm even adding breakfasts to the plan. And in that meal planning, I am being even more aggressive in planning low-cost ingredients, shopping sales, and using leftovers. Good stuff, and fun! (Though time-consuming!)

Amish Proverbs

I have always loved this saying: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." We're doing our best to apply this in all areas. Craft supplies? We'll find it around the house or do without. Leftovers? We'll eat them or make them into baby food. Need something? Unless it's essential, for now we're doing without.

Ditching Debt

We used some available funds to pay off debt, thus saving ourselves the interest and the monthly payment.

Downsizing Our Vehicles

Prepare yourself - we're down to one vehicle! Yes, I know - amazing. I never would have believed that we could do it. But this past January, both vehicles came due for registration - and neither would pass the smog test. After a lot of thought and discussion, DH made the decision to sell one car. I dreaded it - who has only one car nowadays? - but it's actually been great! Fewer cars to clean, more room in the driveway, fewer repair bills and gasoline bills (especially since DH's commute has been eliminated), less stress. It just requires a bit more in the line of logistics planning! Hey, if people from the 1950's could do it, so can we!

Stopping All Extras

Spending allowances for DH and myself, book purchases, fast-food purchases, travel, field trips or activities that cost money.... NOPE.

Relying on God

This is the biggest one, of course! We believe that we are following God's plan in this new venture, and we are trusting him to bless the outcome and provide for our needs along the way. And he has - in some great ways!

For example - a sweet friend contacted me and gave me all of her daughter's outgrown diapers, which provided us with diapers for one child for an entire week. (No, I don't cloth diaper. I know, I'm a miserable sinner!)

Another example - I was able to take a piano substitute position this past month, which paid for all of our car repair expenses - plus a little bit more!

There are many more examples, but the truth is that we are totally reliant upon God - as always, of course, but times like this make it even more obvious. We are so thankful for his care and provision.

If y'all have any more ideas and suggestions for saving money, please pass 'em along!

Love to everyone! Have a great night!

Lovely Birth Story From Local Midwives!

I wanted to share this lovely birth story from a local hospital with the midwives of Valley Women for Women:

My VBAC: Lincoln's Birth Story

Great story, and lots of great pictures! She concludes:
"I still can’t believe it sometimes. I had my VBAC and, aside from laboring in the tub, it happened just like I wanted it to. More quickly than I expected, but perfect none the less. It’s true what they say about natural birth too, it makes you feel like you can accomplish anything because nothing will ever be that hard again. I have truly redefined what I’m capable of.
"Also, as a side note, I want to be clear that I wouldn’t change anything about my birth. After we came home from the hospital I found myself reading something online about labor positions. Apparently hands and knees is the body’s way of turning a posterior baby. Knowing that solidified everything for me and validated every decision I made. I listened to my body and did exactly what it told me to. I trusted my instincts and they didn’t disappoint. Had I gone to the hospital earlier, I would have asked for the epidural earlier which would have forced me to push lying down. There’s no way to be sure but, I believe that laboring and pushing on all fours kept Lincoln in the right position and was the reason I was able to have my VBAC."
I have met several of the lovely midwives from Valley Women for Women, and I thoroughly recommend their practice to mamas who are looking for a positive hospital birth experience with lots of options and respect for parental choices. Though I hope to have all of our babies at home, if I ever needed a hospital birth, I would love it to be with them!

Enjoy! And congrats to this family!