Author Archives: Mama

Mother Culture Monday #5

Finding Time

How about writing the final post in my Mother Culture Monday Series a week late at 7:40 pm?  Sounds like someone has her act together, huh?

Honestly, that is exactly the point.  It’s EASY to let little demands and big demands, (even joyful demands on time are demands) get in the way of taking time to grow our own bodies, minds, and souls.  As I’m writing this, I’ve already stopped twice to read to my two year old.  If we are deliberate about taking time when we can, all the little times we can’t take a break won’t stack up and weigh us down.

I know there are a LOT of those little things waiting in line, and it can be hard to put them on the back burner, indeed some things simply CAN’T be set aside for later.  (insert 20 minute break to put the kiddos to bed) 

Here are a few suggestions for finding time to read, think, pray, exercise or whatever it is you need to be your healthiest, and incidentally most effective, self:

CAUTION: You will be tempted to use the time you carve out to catch up on chores.  Unless the chores being undone causes you physical distress, DO NOT use this time for laundry, dishes, or cleaning out the closets, or at least do so extremely sparingly, and only in preparation for actually being able to relax next time.  

  • Set a bedtime for your kiddos.  Make it one to two hours before you are ready to drop dead, and guard it fiercely.
  • Enforce a daily quiet hour/nap.  (My big kids read, sleep, daydream, or pray, the baby naps)
  • Instead of raptly watching your little athlete at practice, either take a walk, a class of your own, or just read in the waiting room.  (Honestly I’d feel bad about this one except that the waiting area in my kid’s gym has a terrible view of the gym floor, so even if I watched I’d only be catching glimpses of my budding gymnast.)
  • Swap half an hour a day (or two hours a week—whatever you can manage) with a neighbor mom.
  • Send big kids out to play.  My Bigs were shocked last summer when I told them to explore the neighborhood for half an hour while the baby napped.
  • Send the kiddos out for a walk with Dad.
  • Take Grandma up on the offer of an afternoon off.
  • Set up a safe play area where you can let the kids play while you are nearby, but not necessarily “watching”.
  • Hire a teenage Mother’s Helper to entertain the kids for an hour while you read or soak in a bubble bath (or both!)
  • Get your family on a routine, so that they aren’t shocked by your daily “Mother Culture Minute”, but stay flexible and willing to snatch a minute when the opportunity arises.

Thanks for taking time to read and ponder Mother Culture with me.  I hope this series has got you on the path to taking better care of yourself, as a soul, as a human, as a woman, and as a mother.

What would you add?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, or catch up with me on Facebook.

 

 

 

Mother Culture Monday #4

Can I be honest for a minute? I’m having a hard time replacing “time wasting” with Mother Culture. But that is exactly WHY I need to be more deliberate. The nature of my time wasting habits (internet/facebook) is definitely making my brain dull. I don’t want a dull brain. Today I took the proactive step of removing email and facebook from my tablet, so that when I’m using it for a legitimate reason (homeschool math, reading kindle books to the kids, playing music) I don’t get distracted by the time-wasters. This way I’m not bringing the distractions with me when I step away from my desk, and into my role as a human and mother.

Now, onto our final definition for (Mother) culture from Merriam-Webster.

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a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time popular culture
c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization
d : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic

That is a lot to chew on.  There are so many ways to be a mother, and more yet, to be a “good” mother.  I suppose for the purpose of our discussion we can default to those things which all mothers have in common; The Culture of Motherhood.

Get a group of mothers together, no matter what religion, socioeconomic status, or nationality and you’ll find that we all desire that our children be healthy, well adjusted, and smart.  We all hope our children know how much we love them.  We all hope our children will grow into respectable adults.  We are all trying hard, and we all worry we’re falling short.

We may speak different languages but we’re saying the same things:

Quit pulling your sister’s hair!

Brush your teeth!

Eat your veggies!

I love you!

Isn’t that idea kind of edifying?  You are not alone, and that “pinterest perfect” mom at story hour, is probably just as tired and insecure as you are.  Perhaps you could strike up a conversation.

Having a good group of Mothers to fellowship with does MUCH for the mother’s soul.  Whether its your own mother, your sisters or a local mom’s group, I can’t say enough good things for spending time with other mothers, hearing their stories and sharing yours.  I know that I always walk away from visits with other mothers with a full cup.  I hope that I can fill theirs in return.

The one caveat to all this motherly fellowship is that you need to be sure not to compare, and critique yourself too harshly against mothers who appear to be doing it better.  In truth they may be have it all together today, but maybe yesterday their kids had frosting sandwiches for lunch, (points to self).  Do borrow the good ideas other moms share with you, but don’t use another mother’s public persona as a checklist for your failings.

You are the mother your children need.

 

Well, I’m all out of Mother Culture definitions for you, and I think by now we’ve all had a good chance to mull over what it means and how it can help in each of our homes.  Next week I’ll move on to some nuts and bolts of how I get a few minutes to grow myself each day, even with a busy toddler in the house.

 

 

Mother Culture Monday #3

Welcome to Mother Culture Monday #3

How did you do carving out a few minutes for yourself this past week?

I did some time wasting, but for future reference, I’d like to be more intentional about my “Mother Culture Minute” and do something that really feeds me. The goal here is to do something to grow on, not just to take a break and space out, or worse yet, put energy into something that isn’t a benefit to some aspect of your being. (ahem…I will be the first to admit I have a little Facebook problem, which does have some benefits, but is mostly just a drain on time and energy)

Let’s take a peek at Merriam-Webster’s third and fourth definitions of “Culture”.

3. expert care and training (beauty culture)

4. enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training :  acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills (a person of culture)

The word “training” comes up more than once.  I take that to mean that culture can refer to education.  In this case it can be self-education via reading, listening to lectures, practicing new skills, or for those of us who are really good at carving out time, taking a class.

What specifically should we be reading, listening to and practicing?  Well that depends on your lifestyle, and values, but here are some thoughts.

“The mother cannot devote herself too much to this kind of reading, not only that she may read tit-bits to her children about matters they have come across, but that she may be able to answer their queries and direct their observations. ”  Charlotte Mason

The above quote is in reference to Nature Studies, (which I highly recommend even if you are not pursuing a strictly CM education for your children) but I think it can be applied across the spectrum of your family’s interests.  To paraphrase Miss Mason, your children will adore you for knowing what they want to know.

“The wisest woman I ever knew–the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend–told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, “I always keep three books going–a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!” That is the secret; always have something “going” to grow by. If we mothers were all “growing” there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls.”     The Parents Review Vol, 3 no. 2

I think it’s important to not only read and practice things that fill our “Mothering Toolbox”, but also things that fill our own cups.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Read scripture
  • Read inspirational fiction
  • Read inspirational non-fiction or biographies
  • Take up a handicraft in which you make something beautiful
  • Write in a journal
  • Write REAL letters to friends
  • Garden
  • Exercise
  • Prayer and meditation

As to reading, one note for myself is that I want to lean back toward hard copies rather than Kindle versions.  The feel and smell of a real book adds to the experience for me, aside from the dubious effect of too much screen time.

What will you do to fill your cup this week?

 

 

 

Mother Culture Monday #2

Thanks for coming back for more Mother Culture!

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Let’s dig right in, and take a closer look at the words Mother and Culture.

Click below to find out what Merriam-Webster says:

Definition of Mother (alert… one definition is decidedly naughty…I don’t know why they included it)

Definition of Culture

Did you make it through all that?

I’ll admit I only skimmed it.  Study skills, y’all.

We can use each definition as a lens.

In this case Mother means just what we first think; Mother, Mommy, Mama, the lady in charge of the kiddos

As for culture, this week we’ll focus on definition 6, and think of Mother Culture as the process of cultivating living material.

Do you feel alive?  You should.  Read on.

The reason I’m choosing this lens first is that the primary purpose of Mother Culture in CM’s approach was to prevent burnout.  Yes, even in the good ol’ days Mothers were prone to burn out.

How do we cultivate ourselves in order to prevent burnout?

First we have to decide it’s absolutely necessary, because I bet you’ve thought this:

I don’t have time for myself.  

Super Simple Chocolate Wacky Cake

Oh my. We have been on a bit of a wacky cake kick. We love the classic cake, but we’ve been playing with the recipe, and have some variations that are to die for!

Actually “we” is a misnomer. I hardly get involved at all anymore. This cake is so simple that my daughters (8 and 10 yrs) are able to make it with zero help from me.

No need to prep the pan or dirty a mixing bowl!

No need to prep the pan or dirty a mixing bowl!

It’s about a 35 minute process which makes it perfect for short notice company, sudden cravings on a busy weeknight, or when your kid tells you about the bake sale the morning of the bake sale. And it doesn’t need to have any fancy ingredients. You likely have everything you need for the basic recipe in the cupboard right now.

Let’s get started!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grab a cake pan.  I use 9×13 Pyrex, which yields a thinner slice.
You’re going to mix your dry ingredients right in the pan, no need to grease it first.

In the pan whisk together:

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour
1/3 C Cocoa Powder (mileage may vary by brand-I use toll house)
1 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add:

1 tsp vinegar (I use ACV)
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 C water

Mix wet and dry ingredients well and spread evenly in the pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Variations:

Substitute melted coconut oil for the vegetable oil, and add 1 C shredded coconut for a tropical twist.

Substitute orange extract in place of vanilla for orange truffle cake.

Substitute cold coffee on place of the water for a mocha cake.

Use your imagination.

YUMMY!

Mother Culture Monday

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So, today I was feeding my sourdough starter, and I made a seriously Charlotte Mason quality connection.

Mother Culture;  you have to feed it, or you run out.

If you’re not a hardcore CMer you’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about and how it applies to you.

What the heck is “Mother Culture”?

First let’s talk about what it is NOT. It is not a formula to be the perfect mom. It’s not even a clear path, or a collection of tips to being a good mom. The “perfect mom” doesn’t exist, and there are many, many excellent moms who never gave Mother Culture a second thought.

Here’s one of the many things Charlotte Mason had to say about Mother Culture:

“There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth. When babyhood is over and school begins, how often children take to proving that their mother is wrong. Do you as often see a child proving to its father that he is wrong? I think not. For the father is growing far more often than the mother. He is gaining experience year by year, but she is standing still. Then, when her children come to that most difficult time between childhood and full development she is nonplussed; and, though she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might, if she, as they, were growing”.

Essentially it’s caring for ourselves as well as we care for our families, intellectually, spiritually and physically, so that we have something left at the end of the day, to come back on tomorrow.  (Just like we feed our sourdough starter–which is literally a mother culture–MIND BLOWN–so that we always have some for the next baking.)

Simple, right?

Uh…hello?  Still with me?

Look, I’m not even sure what I’m talking about here.  I have a LOT to learn, and I’m sooooo tired!

I suspect that’s the whole point!

So I’m inviting you to join me as I study up on what this whole “Mother Culture” thing means for our lives, our families and our communities.

For the next few Mondays I’ll share something CM said, or a link, and chat about how it shakes out in my life.

Who’s in??

Who’s in charge here?

This is going to start out like a political post, but if you’ll bear with me I think I can bring it around, to NOT a political post.

And since it’s rather a rant, it won’t be my best writing. I pay the hosting, I can lay an egg now and then if I want to.

Here’s some background info that you may not be aware of:

I’m brown.

I came from a broken home.

I’m pretty sure my absentee father –who I’ve never laid eyes on– was “undocumented”. (That’s code for ILLEGAL in case you didn’t know, and I HOPE the reason I’ve never met him is that he was deported; it’s better than thinking he ditched me by choice.)

I grew up desperately poor.

I was responsible for my little brother, and a latch key kid at eight or nine.

I was often unsupervised as a child.

I even had a real, live bully in junior high.

Sounds pretty rough, right?

According to the leftist rhetoric, if anyone were going to be oppressed, it should have been me. But guess what?

I’m not.

Being held down never even occurred to me. What did occur to me was working hard.

I don’t want to paint too proud a picture of myself. I was a typically bratty kid, and I had some advantages; a level playing field, if you will. Public school. Financial aid for community college. A big loving family.

Except for the latter, I’m pretty sure those are things that every American still has access to.

I’m not saying there aren’t obstacles.  What I’m trying to say is that if I can overcome obstacles, like being a poor minority, so can anyone. We don’t lack opportunities in this country,  what we lack is gumption.

Now I’m not saying don’t stand up for yourself.  I’m not saying don’t be kind.  I’m not saying don’t help.  I’m not saying if you need help you’re somehow flawed. I’m saying that help is already available. I’ve used it.  I didn’t have to throw a fit to get it, and neither do you.

It comes down to locus of control. Who’s in charge of your life? I hear a bunch of young people saying in not so many words, “My life, My choice, My rights; Your responsibility”.

That’s an external locus of control. Let me just say, if the government is in charge of your life, you’ve put them in charge.  And don’t even get me started on your right to feel a certain way (safe is the word that comes to mind). Nobody gets to choose your emotions for you.  If being different makes you feel unsafe, my guess is there’s no legislation that will change that for you.

The good news is that we can change our locus of control.  I think the current buzz phrase is “adopt a growth mindset”.

I don’t have an eloquent wrap up.  So I’ll finish by saying this isn’t a politics post. It’s a parenting post. I’m not going to waste your time by telling you how to parent, or how your parents went wrong. I don’t know you. I’m not an expert. I’m just a small town poor girl, who turned into a not-oppressed woman, who has exactly the life she wanted, because she didn’t wait for it to be legislated for her.

This guy does have some credentials though, and some great advice if you want to raise kids with an internal locus of control, who face challenges head on, rather than seeking safe spaces.

https://www.circeinstitute.org/podcast/commons-12-building-sturdy-children

Happy Saturday

My Great-Grandmother’s Commonplace Book

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“Our Wedding Day, August 1 1912, Humbold Sask” Henry and Eliza eloped in an ox-drawn carriage in Saskatchewan. She was age 15

I never knew my great grandmother. But looking through her commonplace book, I know I would have admired her. And she probably would have been puzzled by, but tolerant of my my wide-eyed enthusiasm for doing things the hard way. I can almost hear her saying ,”For pity’s sake, just use your microwave”!

What is a commonplace book anyway?

It was your great grandma’s Pinterest; a scrap book of notes, ideas and clippings related to the interests and every day life of it’s keeper.  I was lucky enough to stumble on two of my Great Grandma Eliza’s in my mom’s basement, and Mom was nice enough to let me have them.  They are full of frugal recipes, garden tips, measurements (did you know 15 lbs are in a peck?), home remedies, and housekeeping tips.  You know, mom stuff.  My kind of stuff.

11259348_611568168946949_7970244153906018005_oGrandma Eliza was born in 1897, and she married in 1912.  Her commonplace books appear to have been started in the the early 1900’s.  The earliest date noted in either book is 1915, but entries don’t appear to be chronological.  I suspect she “filled up” the pages, and then came back later to add more in leftover spaces.  It even looks as though her daughter, my Grandma Dolly (given name Hazel, my youngest is her namesake) added a note or two.  One is mostly handwritten in a record book, and the other is mostly cut and pasted into what appears to have been a school notebook.  You can see bits of History and Math peeking out from between the pasted-in articles.  I love that.

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Her recipes and tips reflect the thrift of the day, and the articles she clipped feature women making do and rising above.  One clipped article features a Mrs. HG who found herself widowed and without an income on “the shady side of fifty years”.  But she did have the family home free and clear.  She sold a piece of jewelry and purchased three tables and twelve chairs, which she used to convert her front parlor into a dining room.  She offered a luncheon of baked beans, green salad, bread, and her neighbor’s fruit preserves for fifty cents, and having such a low overhead was able to support herself nicely thereafter.  Such an inspiration!  I love that even so many years ago, my great-grandmother was interested in many of the same things I am today; frugality, good food, and creating a warm home.

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Calves Brains With Potato Balls and Tomatoes. YUMMY!

Aside from giving a glimpse at the sort of things Grandma Eliza was interested in, her commonplace books offer useful information.  Okay, I admit I’m not likely to need directions for maintaining a kerosene cookstove, and honestly, I’m not keen on tasting calves brains with potato balls.  But you can bet I’ve tried her method for cleaning and seasoning cast iron with great success!  And my girls, who have been learning about proper tea etiquette, will be very interested in the article she clipped on Table Service In The Home.11217604_611568282280271_1343129495048705349_o

I’m inspired to start keeping a commonplace book of my own.  Yes, I know my great grandchildren will probably be able to look back on my facebook, pinterest and even this blog if they are interested, but how much more valuable to have a book to hold in their hands, leaf through, and use as a resource for “old timey” wisdom?

Oh and as a side note, as I was putting my girls to bed this evening, the two year old asked “Mom, where’s my notebook?”  Yes, she actually speaks that well, and her notebook was jumbled in her covers.  All three of my daughters adore notebooks and journals. My husband is a serial note-booker, so I always figured they got it from him, but now I realize that they may have come by some of those tendencies on my side as well!

How about you?  Do you keep a “commonplace book”?

Special thanks to my mother and cousins for filling me in in dates and details of Grandma Eliza’s life, and for the wedding photo.  I would love to hear from any of you who have more stories to share!  

Venison Pasties – A Christmas Tradition

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First things first. You’re going to want to bookmark this recipe. Trust me on this. You do not want a Google search for “Pasties” on your browser history.

Now then, moving along.

I really enjoy sharing old traditions and starting new ones with my little family. One of our newer traditions is having the extended family over for Venison Pasties on Christmas Eve.

Never heard of Pasties? If not, I’m guessing you live somewhere west of the Rockies. And you’re reading it “paste-ees”, which is not correct.  I like my in-laws, but I do not invite them over to swing festive reindeer booby tassels for Christmas. It’s p-A as in apples-sties.

Pasties. Handheld meat pies, traditionally from Cornwall, and particularly popular in the mid-western US. Think hot pockets, but good. Wiki has a fascinating history of the pasty here.

On to the recipe.

I typically double this depending on how many guests I’m expecting, and I make them smaller since we have them with other finger foods, cookies, candies and general Christmas gluttony.

I also mix up the filling, and pie pastry the night before.  This is not necessary, but since I’m making so many at a time, I like to minimize my work the day of.

You will need:

One double pie crust recipe, prepared and chilled

1 pound venison, cubed

2 med potatoes peeled, and cubed

1/2 C rutabaga (I find it easier to grate rutabaga than chop)

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot (adding carrot is strictly frowned upon in Cornwall, but we like it in WA)

Salt and Pepper

6 tsp butter

egg wash to brown tops

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix meat, veggies, and seasonings in a bowl.  Divide pastry dough into six balls and roll into six-inch circles.  Place about one cup of filling on each pastry, and top with one teapoon butter.  Fold pastry over and crimp edges.  Pierce pastry tops with a fork and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush tops with egg wash and bake for about one hour.  My mother in law grew up in Wisconsin, and she says these are “perfect” every year!

I usually only make pasties at Christmas, but they do also make a great lunch on the go, or make ahead for a busy weeknight dinner.

I hope you enjoy this taste of our Half Acre Christmas!

photo credit: The Richards

<ahref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/92873332@N00/103774533″>A taste of home!…</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>

What Am I Going To Tell My Children?

I see a lot of folks asking what they should tell their children.  Regardless of who you voted for an whether or not you felt you “won”, I believe you should tell your children this:

  1. Tell them that you love them.
  2. Tell them that we can only control our own behavior.
  3. Tell them that we don’t need anyone to tell us its okay to be kind.
  4. Tell them that we live in a fallen world, but we don’t need to wallow in it.
  5. Tell them that in a democracy, the pendulum swings both ways.
  6. Tell them that this is where we are now, we may be somewhere else tomorrow.
  7. Tell them that they can change the world by good deeds, but never by whining.
  8. Tell them to pray for our leaders, that they may have wisdom and fortitude.
  9. Tell them that you love them.