Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mom Fail

WEEK 15!

My 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life is almost over.

I'm currently basking in my post holiday endeavors.

Basking might be an ambitious term.

I have spent a few weeks days trying to get my act together.

My act is apparently on vacation until further notice.

I've decided to embrace the crazy...I'm throwing tinsel on the whole mess and calling it a party.

It's tough to come to terms with our expectations. It's especially difficult for us mommas out there.
My sister and I were talking about this just the other day.

Mom Fail.

We were talking about all the candy and cookie making my mom did back in the day. Divinity, fudge, peanut brittle, toffee, sugar cookies, Mexican wedding cookies....

My mom was not a stay-at-home mom. She was a Respiratory Therapist. In fact, for several years she was head of her department. This meant she would work double and triple shifts if needed. She took college courses on the side and even taught art classes.

I am a stay-at-home mom and consider it a triumph if a green vegetable shows up at supper.

How did she do it all?

If I were to ask her, I'm sure she would say, "I just did it."

I can't tell you how many times I have felt like a complete FAILURE when it comes to parenting. It seems all the more vicious to be because we worked so hard and waited so long to become parents to this beautiful boy.

I have lost my temper too many times to count.

I don't feed him the right foods.

I feel like I am struggling to school him the best I can (homeschool mom guilt).

He is growing up in this uncertain and scary world and all I can do is fuss at him to pick up his room.

Maybe I'm not alone. I have a feeling I'm not. The point is that there is a lot expectations we put on ourselves. We feel inadequate compared to those other moms out there.

You know the ones. They have spotless homes. Their kiddos are adjusted, well-behaved and learned all of their multiplication tables before the 2nd grade. They never get impatient with their families. They always look put together and classy.

My house has it's moments. Most of the time, I'm just happy we can find the toilet paper. And today I spent the whole day running errands in my workout pants, one of The Muffin's old t-shirts and mismatched socks.

And don't get me started about my parenting and homeschooling mom skills.

Here is the thing.

There are some things that I want to improve on. Nothing wrong with that.

Then there are those things that I just need to let go. We all have those things. And the truth is that we are missing life because our expectations are simply unreasonable.

I know you have heard this one.

"Spending quality time with your kids is better than spending quantity time."

Of course, there is truth to that statement. However, our quality time spent with our family members doesn't have to be all about epic adventures and awesome stuff.

Our kids just want US.

This week your challenge is to let some of the Mom Guilt go. If there are things that need to be addressed make a plan to do just that. I don't want to give you the impression that I think it's okay to be a Mom Slacker. Sometimes we do need to step it up.

On the other hand, we need to simplify our lives. Focus on those little moments and times with our kids.

We have to let go those expectations that things have to bigger and better for our kids.

I have struggled more with what I haven't been able to provide for Josiah.


I realized maybe I was overthinking the whole thing when, just recently, Josiah provided me with a whole dissertation on why it was cool to be an only child. He doesn't want a house full of kids. He is  perfectly happy with the way things are.

This week your assignment is to choose one activity to share with your child(ren). It doesn't have to be awe-inspiring...it just needs to be time shared together.

Let me know how it goes.

You can catch up with my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life Series here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Review: The Pilgrim Adventure

We love history around here.

I think I’ve might have mentioned it a time or seven.

What I love most is when I can include great literature into our history lessons.

This past year, I was blessed to review great Science resource (which obviously has nothing to do with history).

The creator of Fantastic Unit Studies, Sue Kilbride, has also written an excellent historical fiction series called Our America Series for kiddos ages 10 and up.  

She was gracious enough to send me the first book in the series, The Pilgrim Adventure, to review.  

It sure wasn’t I expected.

For one…there is time travel involved.

Sign me up!

The series revolves around twins, Finn and Ginny. In The Pilgrim Adventure, the twins are living with their aunt and uncle. Their parents disappeared mysteriously and it was discovered that they went missing courtesy of the time machine the twin’s Uncle had invented.

The twins decide to find their parents and take off on a fantastic adventure.

They wind up aboard the Mayflower!

This isn’t the run of the mill historical fiction story. The author does a terrific job of painting a true and sometimes painful picture of our history. I think that we become so fixated on the picturesque scene of Native Americans and Pilgrims sharing a Thanksgiving feast that we forget the hardships these folks experienced.

The Pilgrim Adventure also tries to clear up some of those historical fallacies we’ve come to accept as truth (say it ain’t so, Squanto!).

The book itself is an easy read. I think it’s a nice length and moves along quickly.

I am not going to give too much away, but obviously Finn and Ginny don’t find their parents in Plymouth. The Our America Series moves along and we are treated to more adventures.

Sue has also provided a collection of FREE activities to accompany each of her books. And true to form…they are all engaging, hands-on experiences.

This collection of books are excellent additions to any American History study.  We look forward to continuing the adventure! 

Sue's website (Funtasticunitstudies.com) is a great resource for homeschoolers. Be sure to check out her other products. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Use Your Words: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It’s Week 14 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series.

Week 14!

This was a bugger of a week for me.

I have been struggling with a few health issues.

It’s hard enough when one has personal “stuff” going on, but it appears as if the world has gone crazy.

This past week a young man made threats to blow up a college campus. This happened to be the college my niece attends. Thankfully, local authorities acted and the young man was found and taken into custody. There was an explosive device found. My heart aches for this boy. What drives a kid to such desperate acts?

It’s hard to watch the news nowadays.

There seems to be angst, tragedy and mayhem at every corner.

We have to understand that there has always been evil in the world. But it sure is hard seeing it in action.

I think we often get confused about what Living a Beautiful Life means.

It doesn’t mean living a life free from conflict or difficulties.

It means living a beautiful life despite those conflicts or difficulties.

It means that you aren’t consumed with circumstances or expectations.

You learn to take each moment as it comes and develop a beautiful attitude in midst of the “whatevers.”

Let’s look at this moment in time. What is in your heart right now?

Chances are there is some sort of anxiety. Maybe some doubt or disappointment.

I want to talk about words just for a minute or two.

When Josiah was a baby he babbled constantly. His babble was also very specific.

“Ducky, ducky, ducky, ducky…”

That is all we heard.

“Ducky, ducky, ducky, ducky…”

There eventually was a “momma and dada,” but you can imagine our surprise when, at just over a year old, he came toddling in to tell me the phone was ringing while I was vacuuming.

And it wasn’t just any old conversation.

“Mom! AT&T is calling!”

Apparently, he associated the phone ringing with AT&T (who says there is no power in television commercials) and he spoke in such this little man voice. 

Life was never the same again.

When I taught little bitty kids I would often have to admonish them to "use your words" instead of the grunts, facial experiences and squeals that are associated with toddler speech. 

Think about what kind of words come out of your mouth throughout the course of the day? What kinds of words do we allow to penetrate our souls?

For myself, I find the Word of God to be a much needed balm in times of trouble.  I also find comfort in reading about other folks who have overcome great challenges.

This week I want to challenge you to fill your life with beautiful words.

First, ask yourself this.

Are you just babbling? 

Are beautiful words coming out of your mouth? Are your conversations encouraging? Are you proclaiming God’s goodness?

Consider measuring every word that comes out of your mouth.

Let’s talk about what kinds of word we are filling our hearts and minds with. 

Do you have a favorite scripture? A favorite song?

Write them on note cards and post them around your house.

Above our TV I have one of those vinyl Scripture murals. It is found in Isaiah.

The extended version goes like this.

 Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31 (NKJV)

I can tell you that my family has needed that constant reminder of God’s promises in our lives. 

You can catch up with my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series by clicking on the banner below. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

She was loved...

Do you have someone that has made a profound difference in your life?

I am fortunate to have been blessed with a few of those folks.

Heaven gained one of those precious ladies this week. I knew that she had been ill. She had battled for years. Yet...the news of her loss has left me with a sense of emptiness.

It has been a long time since I have sat at her knee and been blessed with the honest wisdom I needed to hear. Though I can sure point to a variety of times in the past several years that I  needed it...

She was there during some of the most difficult battles of my life.

She was the one who told me that it wasn't sin for me to ask for help when I struggled with anxiety after my car accident.

She often reminded me of my resiliency...when I felt anything but resilient.

She and her family made me one of their own. They laughed when I laughed and cried when I cried. They let me hug on their babies when I struggled to find one of my own.

There have been so many times through the years when I would be experiencing a trial and remember something this wise lady had told me.

I can't even imagine what her beloved family is going through. She was their cheerleader, their wise sage...

It isn't surprising that 100's of friends and acquaintances simply referred to her as Momma Scotta.

I am encouraged that one day we will see her again in Heaven.

In the meantime, I am inspired to follow a little in her footsteps. To speak plainly with compassion. To help those I love to know I am on their side. To live life with plenty of hobbies, passions, people and love.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Your One Thing: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It's Week 13 of my 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series.

This week has found me in a tizzy. I am trying to find my Christmas season stride.

With little success.

Do you ever get tired of being "every woman"?

We are told that we need to be crafty, stylish, an excellent hostess, an ambitious employee, a marvelous cook...And notice I haven't mentioned anything about being a loving wife and mother.

I think many of those things are perfectly reasonable goals to have.

But Good Grief! ...Does it ever take a lot of work.

By the way. The Muffin and Josiah tell me that I say "Good Grief," a lot.

Moving on.

This week I am challenging you to chose ONE thing this Christmas season.

Well. Maybe not quite ONE thing in the literal sense.

But let's not make life more complicated than it already is.

Our goal is to LIVE a Beautiful Life. Simplify your life. Take care of yourself.

When life gets complicated, crazy and just a little busy, it soooo important to take a step back and make things easy for yourself.

Have you ever heard "a jack of all trades, but a master of none?" Let's slow down and concentrate on doing just a few things with excellence.

It might be easier than you think.

This is your challenge for this Christmas season.  Make a list of every party, occasion and potluck you will attend in the next few weeks. Look through your tried and true recipes and pick ONE (or two) thing that will be easy to put together.

This is an example of some of my list.

The Muffin's Work Party: Monkey Bread
The Muffin's Work Dinner (they eat a lot): Corn Casserole, Salted Caramel Apple Cake
Church Christmas Potluck: Corn Casserole, Salted Caramel Apple Cake
Youth Small Group Christmas Party: Monkey Bread

You seeing a pattern here?

Your other challenge is to look through your closet and make sure you have a snazzy outfit to wear to all of those Christmas activities. For example, my ONE outfit will make the rounds to a special evening at a show in Branson (we were blessed by a sweet friend), our church Christmas service and anywhere else I want to put on the ritz.

If you tend to practice the "One thing" philosophy consider updating that outfit; especially if that outfit has been your go-to One Thing for a number of years. Don't get stuck. The purpose is to feel beautiful. If you are still wearing your party dress from 20 years ago....You might need to revisit the whole thing. My party dress from 20 years ago was a size 6 and had puffy sleeves.

This philosophy is not just to be practiced during the busy Christmas season. There will be other times of the years that tax your energy, your creativity and your patience.

For us homeschooling momma's it might mean that we need to back off. Maybe we need to just concentrate on good literature, steady math practice and copywork. It might mean that we need to do less outside the home and spend more of those minutes and hours together.

Applying the "One Thing" trick doesn't mean that your turning in your creativity card. It simply means that you are using your creative energies for dreaming, for sharing and for rest.

You can read more of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life Series by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

11 Must See Christmas Movies

My friends.

I am up to my neck in yarn, hot tea and a plethora of unfinished Christmas projects that need my attention.

You should also see my laundry pile.

On second thought. Don't look. Hide your eyes. It's not a pretty site.

I thought I would sit down with my hot tea and share a list of some of our FAVORITE Christmas movies evah.

Watching Christmas movies is one of our traditions. We consider ourselves aficionados of the whole Christmas movie genre. I am often in shock when I hear of someone who has never seen one of the classics.


So here 'tis friends. Take my list and learn. Find one you haven't seen before ...or enjoy one you've seen a thousand times. Assemble the Fam and heat up the hot chocolate.

This isn't an exhaustive list. These are the ones that will get played more than once (or twice) during the Christmas season (and possibly in June). These are the ones that have an honored place on our movie shelf.

And now...in no particularly order.

1. It's a Wonderful Life

It is surprising to see how many folks have not actually watched this one all the way through. What? You have something against Jimmy Stewart? Angels? Cute little girls named Zuzu? It is possibly one of the most encouraging movies in the whole wide world. I may or have may not seen The Muffin cry during this one.

2. The Rankin Bass Christmas Collection

I've included the whole shebang here. Surely you've seen at least one of these. We like to watch them while we are decorating the Christmas tree. Rudolph, Frosty, Santa Clause...The Little Drummer Boy is The Muffin's favorite...they all much loved familiar characters. The other night we watched an old movie with Burl Ives. It was a drama. I have to tell you it was disconcerting to hear his voice in that context. I kept expecting Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius to bumble (hah!) through the scene.

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Our favorite Muppet movie. And possibly our favorite version of The Christmas Carol.  This music is precious. This clip is One More Sleep Til Christmas. Michael Caine is terrific as Ebeneezer Scrooge. I am almost positive that this when Dickens visualized his tale he imagined it just the way. By the way...it is one of the most faithful versions.

4. The Santa Clause

Tim Allen all squishy and red. That is all. Actually, The Santa Clause 2 is The Muffin's favorite of the Santa Clause movies. He's a romantic softy and likes the love story.

5. White Christmas (my favorite)

Bing Crosby had liquid gold in his voice. And I adore Rosemary Clooney in this one. She was one of my tribe....The Alto. This movie has romance, loyalty, patriotism, fabulous music and buttermilk (which happens to be The Muffin's favorite beverage).

This clip is loverly.

6. Elf

There are very few Will Ferrell movies that we've been able to enjoy (sorry Will). We like to keep things more PG (emphasis on the G) at our house. But this movie is precious. And who doesn't know about the 4 main food groups? Candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup...this is my kind of elf.

7. The Polar Express

So sweet. And visually stunning. The final song by Josh Groban cannot be missed. We have actually purchased a few copies of this one over the years. Josiah loved this movie when he was a Little. He watched it over and over. I even created a little unit study around the book and movie. 

Here it is. The Reason for the Season.

I love this simple retelling of the Birth of Jesus. Of course, there are a few liberties taken, but I think it's beautiful.

9. A Christmas Snow

This is a new one to our collection. This is a GREAT family movie. It's theme of forgiveness is one we all need today. We first discovered it when it was streaming for free on one of the instant video services. It isn't on either Amazon Instant Video or Netflix this year.

10. Miracle on 34th Street

I couldn't let a Christmas movie list go by and not have a shout out to this one. There have been quite a few versions made of Miracle on 34th Street. My favorite (and the one I linked to) is the oldie, but goodie starring Natalie Wood and Maureen O'Hara.  I recently realized something that made this movie even more of a special one. Do you remember when Kris speaks Dutch to a little girl when she is waiting to stand in line to see him? This movie was made in 1947...just a few short years after the end of WWII. If you remember your history you might remember that The Netherlands declared neutrality at the beginning of the war. Hitler invaded the small country anyway. One of my favorite books on the planet is "The Hiding Place"....A book about Corrie Ten Boom. She was not only Dutch, but she was a Christian and an active member of the Dutch resistance. She was sent to a concentration camp. Can you imagine what our country and the world had just experienced? It makes this movie so much more poignant.

11. The Nutcracker Ballet

So. Full disclosure. It could be that I am the only one in the house that considers this one to be a Christmas masterpiece. This version of The Nutcracker Ballet was made in 1977 and stars Mikhail Baryshnikov. When I was little (I was 5 when it was made) it would come on PBS. It was one of our "must watch programs." I have seen other versions and I don't think it holds a candle to this one.

I also have another confession. We don't have this one on the Christmas movie shelf. However, I plan to soon rectify that very soon. But I have DELICIOUS news! The video I have embedded below is from youtube...AND it is the whole production. Sigh. Just perfection.

I hope I've encouraged you to start your Christmas movie binge watching, RIGHT NOW!

Friday, December 4, 2015

I'm featured today at Family, Faith and Fridays!

I happen to be especially fond of Servicemen and women. The Studly Muffin is an Air Force Veteran and a good portion of his family served, as well.  One of the precious gals who serves on The Schoolhouse Review Crew with me (in fact, she has just been promoted to one of The Crew leaders) is a military wife. Michele's hubby flies helicopters for the Air Force and they have just moved to Nebraska. She decided she needed a month or away from her blog (the delightful Family, Faith and Fridays) to concentrate on her new home and her hubby (who just came home from a deployment). I offered my rambling  writing services. Today you can go check me out. My article is basically the directions to make cute little Snowman Soup baggies and I offer a little doodled bag topper download to Michele's readers...which might be you.

Head on over! You can click on the banner below to get to Michele's series, The Gift of December. Click HERE to go to my post specifically. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Light One Up! 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

I can scarcely believe it, but it's almost Christmas!

And it's Week 12 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series.

You might notice I'm a bit late. Which means you will be blessed with 2 Learning to Live a Beautiful Life posts.

Yay! Just consider it an early Christmas present. Aren't you excited?

I'm not suffering from a case of sarcasm AT ALL this week.

The truth is that I could do with a few days in the comfy corner of the couch. However, my house doesn't clean itself (ding dang it!) and my guys like to eat. So I am adjusting my expectations and trying to get a little done at a time.

We often find ourselves stressed to the max during this time of the year. Life doesn't slow down...it ramps up at warp speed.

I challenge you to take some time to slow down and purposefully plan those cozy nights at home that not only make memories, but keep the stress level down just a bit.

For the rest of my series I want to provide some very doable and practical challenges.

The challenge for this week is really simple.

You ready for this? You might already do it on a regular basis.

Here it is!

Light a candle every day (or at least every day you are home).

I love candles. I even include them in my housekeeping routine. After deep cleaning my living room my final act is to light a candle.

I think they provide a peaceful atmosphere. If you enjoy scented candles they help with a little aromatherapy. I personally like candles that smell like something is baking in the oven. Floral candles remind me of my spring allergies so I try and stay away from those.

My favorite candle of all time is the Home Sweet Home candle from Yankee Candle. Of course, it is frequently out of my budget so I have had to find other alternatives when I am candle shopping. Sometimes I have even purchased a few of my favorite smelling votive candles.  I think where there is a will there is a way!

Currently, I have a wonderful smelling candle sitting on my bookshelf.

It is unlit.

The Muffin bought it for me and asked me not to light it until we put our Christmas tree up. He's a sentimental softy. Because it was a day that required a lit candle in the house, I brought out a few of my little votives and set them on my coffee table.

Here is the thing, my friends. Living a Beautiful Life means that we pay attention to those small moments in our life. We learn to love those little moments. Something like lighting a candle might seem insignificant in the whole scheme of things. We can't get trapped into thinking that life happens in big, sweeping gestures. If we make those small moments special the "whole scheme of things" become clearer. We find contentment in what we already have.

And sometimes lighting a candle just makes us feel cozy inside.

Nothing wrong with that!

You can read more of my 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series by clicking on the banner below.

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