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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!  

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.

 

Why You Need a Routine

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Have you ever noticed how exhausting a week off is? Needed a vacation to recover from your vacation? I know I have.  We have this week off of school, and I tell you I’m beat!

It’s from all the fun activities and extra projects, right?

NOPE.  Haven’t done a single honey-do, catch up or special treat.  We’ve been surfin’ the ‘net, watching too much tv, eating at weird times and flopping around the house.

It’s been the perfect week for an epiphany, because somewhere in all the hours of “free” time, I read about something called Decision Fatigue. And so much of what I’ve always believed about the power of a routine clicked on an even deeper level.

You see, whenever my kids lose their minds, or are just generally turds, I can almost always trace it to a deviation from the routine.  You’ve seen it.  The first week of summer break, Christmas, a new sport, whatever it is, it exhausts your kids and they turn into beasts, until you return to your regular routine or the new norm is established.  But I never extended that to myself.  I’ve been impatient, cranky and exhausted this week, even though I’m not “doing” anything extra.  Or am I?

Here’s the deal.  When you stick to a routine, you get into habits.  The joy/curse of a habit is it is effortless. When I let my good habits (in this case it’s following the school routine -with built in household chores) run my day,  the decision is already made.  I don’t have to think about every little thing.  I’m going to get up, space out and drink two cups of coffee, then the screens go off and the music comes on. Breakfast then chores then math, copy work, circle time, literature and lunch.  I don’t even have to think about it.  I get no push-back from the kids.  It’s EASY!  

Here’s what some smarter-than-me folks have said on the topic.

“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”  – Samuel Johnson

“We are all mere creatures of habit.  We think our accustomed thoughts, make our usual small talk, go through the trivial round, the common task, without any self-determining effort of will at all.  If it were not so– if we had to think, to deliberate, about each operation of the bath, or the table–life would not be worth having; the perpetually repeated effort of decision would wear us out.” – Charlotte Mason

“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.”
–Charlotte Mason

I know you’re wondering what my point is and it’s this:  If you’re exhausted for “no reason”, and you’ve ruled out health/sleep issues, it may be Decision Fatigue.

Here’s what you can do :

  • Set up a routine to follow until you don’t have to think about every little thing all day.  (I know, setting up the routine initially requires some decision making, but it will lighten the future load on your decision making muscle, so it’s going to pay off!)
  • Use a checklist for your new routine until you no longer need it.
  • Make your decisions ahead of time, or early in the day if you know you’ll be going off your regular routine.
  • If you don’t like the idea of living by a timer, at least decide what you’ll do first, next, then, last.  (Notice my list earlier in the post didn’t say “8-8:32, drink coffee, 8:32-8:45, chores” etc.  It’s just knowing what to do next)

As for me, I’m planning now for the rest of my “days off”, and looking to Monday with eager anticipation.

And that is something I never thought I’d say!

 

The Ultimate Sensory Toybox

Lately I’ve been noticing a trend in parenting.

We’re convinced that our children aren’t getting enough “sensory play”, so we manufacture opportunities to feel a new texture, hear a new sound or absorb a new odor–yeah, I said absorb a new odor.

You know you’ve made the essential oil play dough.

Me too.

With Sparkles.

We’ve all seen the Pinterest boards. We’ve all made the busy bags, paint squishy thingy-dealys, and pop bottles full of beans. The’re fun. And they’re super handy for the plane ride, or for seriously inclement weather, or for preschool rooms where a dozen sets of fingers must be kept out of mischief.  They have serious applications in occupational therapy.

While they definitely have their places, and may be very important for kiddos who struggle with various sensory disorders, it’s been slowly dawning on me that for most kids these things are almost completely unnecessary (I say almost because there will always be waiting rooms and airplane rides).

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But how will you make sure your child is adequately stimulated, you ask?

Friends, I’m here to tell you, there’s something better out there.

You know, OUT THERE.

Where there is no electrical outlet for your glue gun.

If we all just let (or even force) our children outside in good weather, AND in bad weather, with and without shoes, coats, hats and toys, EVERY SINGLE DAY, I promise they will get all the sensory stimulus they need.  They will even learn some stuff.  They will learn how much water makes a mud which will squish sloppily through the fingers. Maple leaves smash into a delightful green slime.  Water from a hose laying in the sun is HOT!  Falling on the rocks can hurt.  Balancing on a slippery log, or steep porch rail requires concentration.  Twigs from the cherry tree are bitter.

Who needs a playhouse?

When they are new at playing in the actual world, it may take practice and getting used to, but before long the little tykes run, jump, climb, squish, smash, sniff, and build until their little sensory banks are full.

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Then they come in the house (hosing them off before you let them in is optional) and probably take a nap.  Do you know what that means?

YOU can take a nap too!  

You don’t have to seize the opportunity to bedazzle a rain stick for them, because they went out and heard, felt, tasted the actual rain.

Am I saying you should toss your busy bags?

NO!  Like I said before, they have their place.

But let’s also not attempt to do the job of nature with any number of clever doodads.

It’s just too sad.

Are There Gaps In A Charlotte Mason Education?

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I was recently chatting with one of my oldest and dearest friends who also happens to home school. We were gabbing about homeschool, curricula and perks, when the question arose as to whether I thought there might be gaps in a Charlotte Mason education. My first response was, No, I didn’t think there were gaps.  After a few seconds I added that if there were, I didn’t care, which I suppose sounds rather cavalier.

But I’ve given it plenty of thought since then and can easily understand how it might appear to be a rather fluffy education, for those who haven’t seen the whole picture, or even most of the picture , and it’s a huge picture.  I’ve spent many, many hours reading, listening, pondering and praying over how to best implement CM in our home, and I still don’t have it completely figured out.  In fact when I first started reading her Homeschoool series, I thought it sounded an awful lot like unschooling.

Wow.  I was wrong.  The method, applied the way Charlotte Mason intended, is anything but fluffy, and in fact, is extremely rigorous.  There are books on the first year list (that’s roughly first grade) that I’m intimidated by.  And I’m a genuine book worm, folks.

But yes, there will be gaps.

There are gaps in any education.  It’s simply impossible to cover everything your child could ever possibly need to know.  Public schools, private schools, boxed curriculum, online curriculum, unschooling and homeschooling will all have gaps.  What those gaps are will vary depending on your philosophy of education, and your goals for your child.   Is your intent to homeschool start to finish?  Do you intend to return to public school at a later time?  Are you concerned with your child being able to answer questions correctly, or ask his own questions and find answers?  Are you more concerned with technology, life skills, the ever important SOCIALIZATION?  Do you have a struggling student in a particular subect?  There are too many variables to make a given curriculum fit every student without gaps.  Indeed what may be a “gap” for one, may be another’s redemption.

Isn’t that why many of us homeschool to begin with?

As for my children, I recognize that when we fully implement CM this fall, they will not be learning the same things at the same times as their public school counterparts.   Since I have no intention of sending them back to school any time soon I’m not worried about that.  They will be learning to appreciate the Bible, history, literature, music, art, nature, and pursuing their own interests as well.  If I feel they are missing an important point or skill I will try to find a new way to present it, heck, if I have to I just may print out a worksheet.  There are no Charlotte Mason police to come and shut us down.  They will each learn and practice Math and Reading at their own pace and level, until they are able to pass a college entrance exam.  And then they’ll go to college and learn some more. Or they might not.  I am genuinely unconcerned about it.  I expect bumps in the road.  I expect attitudes to flare, ground to be lost, regained, and I expect to occasionally feel a deep urge to flag down the school bus.

I’m ready to take it as it comes, gaps and all.

 

Only In Winter

And in the morning the pipes sent forth a mighty gurgle, and the toilet flushed slowly, and Mama said “If it’s yellow, it’s mellow” and it was yellow, but it was not mellow.

Because it’s a proven fact that septic tanks only ever get full in the winter. And the lid is somewhere under all of this:

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And goodbye cloth diapers, and hello laundromat, and paper plates.

Crossing our fingers that light usage and a big bottle of Roebic will limp this thing until spring.

If not, I guess we start digging.

Update 1/28/2016

Helpful hint for those of you on septic systems: The septic tank pumper guys just left, and they were able to narrow it down to two brands of toilet paper we use when they pumped our tank. They said they could tell it was either Charmin or Kirkland (costco). Those two brands do not break down as well as they should and they end up clogging your baffles, preventing fluids from moving through the system as well as they should. Guess what I have two huge bricks of in the basement? Kirkland TP. Good thing Costco takes returns!

I think I feel a blog post about comparison shopping TP brands comin’ on!

Unwelcome Critters! The unofficial scoop on head lice.

Let me start this post with a rant.

We are farmish people. We like critters. We consider a certain amount of dirt good for our health. We like the idea of our kids digging in the mud. You can tell by looking at us. We are almost never totally put-together and spiffy. But there is one little line I just have to draw when it comes to filth.

Head lice.

I hate those guys.

They are constantly going around in our kids school, and we’ve caught them more than once.

Naturally, we treat our heads, wash all of our clothes and bedding, vacuum all the rugs and furniture, comb, comb, comb for nits, and repeat. It’s a lot of work, taking all the necessary steps. It’s exhausting for me, painful for the kids, and absolute murder on the drain field, not to mention the pocket book.

When we’re sure we are lice free, we re-enter society. We send our kids back to school, where they pick up a fresh case and bring it back home.

AAARRRGH!

Okay, it’s not that they bring it right back. It’s usually a while before we make the fatal mistake of forgetting the anti-lice detangling spray, but It’s maddening. It’s embarrassing. It makes me itch just thinking of it.

Most schools have abandoned the “No Nit Policy” citing information such as this.

So we’re just supposed to be OK with our kids getting lice on a semi-regular schedule? I’m not.

In case you’re new to the wonderful world of cooties, here’s the scoop.  This is not the official scoop, which I happen to think is part of the problem, but the real dirt.  This is what I’ve learned through our own experiences and by talking with other moms.

  • Your children may complain of itching for several weeks before you can visually see that they have lice.  This has been true both times my kids have had it.  They started itching, and I checked, and re-checked,  but saw no evidence of lice, then one day BAM, full scale visible-to-the-naked-eye infestation.  GROSS
  • Your child may not itch at all…ever.  You may just stumble upon the grisly discovery when you decided to do a french braid.  GROSS!
  • When another parent lets you in on the news that there is lice going around (because your school probably won’t) you’ll do a check, naturally.  But again, you may not see any lice or nits.  They are very hard to see, especially in the early stages of an infestation.  I’ve had parents tell me that they never would have seen the lice or nits if it hadn’t been for using the comb “just in case”  Here’s what they look like by the way.
  • You may see red dots, but no lice or nits, and think to yourself, oh no wonder Junior is itchy, he has a nasty rash.  News Flash: that nasty rash is lice bites.  Sorry.
  • Whichever treatment you use, the comb is KING!  The plastic ones are just okay, the metal one is the one you want.  (not an affiliate, but maybe I should be.)Since the majority of the OTC treatments do not kill nits, you will need to do several nit-checks with the comb after your initial treatment.  I’ve taken to doing them every single time I wash my kids hair.
  • Sitting outside in the bright sun is your best hope for seeing the nits.  Yes, that’s right.  You’re going to have to go out on the front porch and let all the neighbors watch you nit-pick your kids head.  HOORAY!
  • Don’t forget, we now have super-lice!  That’s right, many of the lice in our communities are now resistant to treatment. Please refer to “The comb is KING”.   HOORAY!

I’m well aware that this is something most families with school aged children will deal with at least once, but I’m pretty annoyed at the frequency with which it’s happening in our neighborhood.  I feel that the treat and return policy is a major player here, and could very well be responsible for Super Lice.  It makes perfect sense that if you can’t return your child to school, and get back to work yourself, until your child is nit-free that you will be extra vigilant and make darn sure you’ve gotten every one of the buggers.  On the other hand if you can treat your kid and get back to school and work the next day, it’s very easy to get swept back into being a busy parent, and forget the subsequent nit-checks.  Now you have the most resistant nit hatching into a new stronger louse.  I agree with the folks at the National Pediculosis Association;   a couple years of this and it’s easy to see why we now have Super Lice.  GROSS.

Please people, when the cooties come to town, whatever your school’s policy, I’m begging you to check, treat, and make darn sure your kids are lice and nit free before you send them back to school, daycare, sports and church.

Thank you.

What have I missed, Mamas?  Please feel free to add your advice in the comments.

Autumn

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She’s one of ours!

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Reading books and making messes. . .

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We went for a day hike at the Cascade tunnel, the site of the Wellington Disaster.

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Fairy mushrooms

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Concrete snowshed installed after the Wellington Disaster

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Leaves on Steven’s Pass just beginning to turn.

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Our Camp Fire club visited the Stormy Creek Preserve.  Some of our members had built this fun structure during summer swimming excursions, and were excited to see it still standing.

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All of the kids managed to catch frogs.

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Horseback riding at Grandma Jeanne’s house.

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Plenty of room for everyone!

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What a country baby does when Mama turns her back.  This kid LOVES tomatoes!  

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A wagon full of pumpkins is too irresistible, they must climb in and request a photo op.  

She doesn’t sleep.

I come to you today, folks, with my head hung low.

I have to ask forgiveness for thinking I had all the answers about grumpy babies.

“Jut put them on a schedule”, I said.

“They thrive on routine”, I said.

“It only takes three days to sleep train them”, I said.

“They aren’t the boss of you” I said.

And all that may be true. It certainly was for our two older daughters.

I don’t know if it’s just harder when you’re in your thirties, rather than twenties, or if having a combination of older children and babies makes it harder, but I have not been able to get this beautiful, precious girl on a schedule. I’ll start thinking things are going well; two naps a day, and to bed by eight, then BAM, she hits a growth spurt, or a developmental milestone (guess who’s fully mobile?), or starts teething, and there goes sleep out the door again.

Is it possible that my older girls did this too, but I’ve locked it away in my mind, like some kind of trauma?

As much as I hate to send my kiddos back to school, I’m hoping that the structure which comes with it will lull the baby into a better routine.

I need some sleep.

Last night I was up every hour and a half.

At one point my husband got up. He came and patted my shoulder, as the baby screamed through a diaper change and said he was sorry.   I’m certain he just came down to make sure I wasn’t shaking her.

So that’s where we are today. Since I don’t know what else I can do, I’m just going to keep trying to get her on a routine.
I know that’s the definition of insanity, but she can’t possibly be up every hour and a half until college right?

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Right?!

The 30 Day Walking Challenge

I have to admit something embarrassing.

I’ve put on almost 20 pounds since little Hazel joined us.

This is especially embarrassing, given that I only gained 10 pounds over my whole pregnancy, and was about 15 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight when I came home from the hospital.

There are a lot of factors (excuses!) involved, which I’m going to share, only because some of them really just dawned on me even though I know how it all works.

The first issue, is that I have slipped off the low-carb wagon. For me that’s bad, m’kay. I passed my 6 week postpartum diabetes test with flying colors, and celebrated with a trip to Jack in the Box. I don’t go to town very often, so thankfully fast food isn’t really an issue for me right now. It does speak to a larger problem though, which is that with my personal and family medical history I should be watching my diet very carefully.

I’ve been joyfully eating carbs, taking comfort in my normal blood sugar, and wondering why I’ve been putting on weight. Then it dawned on me… My blood sugar is good, yet I’m still gaining weight, because my insulin is doing it’s job–moving extra sugar (which  I’ve been providing!) out of my blood to be stored as fat.

The next issue is that I haven’t been exercising like I did when I was pregnant. I have a million excuses for that, running the gamut from our crazy summer schedule, to my unpredictable baby, no sleep, and the fact that it’s been 172 degrees here all summer. Okay, not quite that hot, but genuinely too hot to feel like moving much.

You know what, though? I have to do it anyway, or I’ll end up diabetic for real, and I don’t want that.

I also don’t want to be fat after the “I just had a baby” phase. I don’t want to keep holding my baby in front of my sagging belly, pretending that you can’t see the body flaws past the cute baby. (I’d need a much larger baby to hide it all!)

Most of all though, I want my energy back.

So when I ran across the 30 day walking challenge today, I decided that now is as good a time as any to jump back up on the wagon, and invite you to join me!

The plan is designed to build you up to 10, 000 steps per day, but don’t let that put you off, whether that sounds too easy or too hard.  The main thing for me is to get back in the habit of deliberate exercise every day.  No more pretending that gardening or playing with the kids is a good enough long term plan.  Those things are great lifestyle choices, but someone like me needs to exercise for exercise’s sake most days.

I’m walking today, because I don’t want to let this turn into another “I’ll do it tomorrow”, but we’ll start day one of the challenge tomorrow, since it’ll be August 1.  So you have the rest of today to find and dust off your walkin’ shoes!

If you want to join in, we can stay in touch via Half Acre Heaven on facebook. I’ll also be tracking my progress on myfitnesspal, which is free for those of you who want to join.

Myfitnesspal also gives you the option to track food choices, so it’s a great tool for keeping you on track with whichever meal plan works for you.

Who’s with me?