Monday, September 10, 2018

The Freedom to Be

It's certainly been awhile since I've stopped by here.  Things have been crazy busy and, quite honestly, writing has not been the top of the priority list.  **GASP!!**  I know, right?  So I'll give you a quick synapsis of life over the last two years before I get into what really brought me here. (has it really been two years!?!)  We are still working on the house, though we should be able to move into the actual house part this November.  We're still continuing on the whole homeschool journey, kind of meshing the relaxed, unschool approach with specific goals set by the kids and quests (i.e. project-based learning) to get them into some deep learning they love.  We are currently in a entrepreneur quest that is getting them prepared for the upcoming holiday fair season.  Speaking of entrepreneur, we bought a school bus transportation business for the Tok School, ironically taking kids to and from school.  Oh, and we've had our sweet, last baby boy Finnegan.  He seriously has brought us so much joy, it's unimaginable not having him here.  I might just post an article on how we overcame whooping cough naturally when he was two months old last fall.  That just about catches you all up, which brings me to the post.
Yesterday I was working on the computer while the 6 and 3 year old were watching some cartoons.  Some beautiful music comes on between the obnoxious cartoons and I become enthralled with this commercial.  It's gorgeous with kids running through the forest, playing with their dogs, stating statements like 'We could train dragons or rocket to mars?'  It was poignant and breathtaking and had me cheering as the child's voice said, "Give us the freedom to be, so that we could be anything."  I'm shouting in my head, "Yes!" thinking finally someone has gotten it!  This has to be a movement rising up to champion our children and the unique genius inside of each and every one of them.  While it's not a movement, GoGo Squeez Applesauce sure has it right.

What would happen if we gave children the freedom to be?  What if they had the ability to chose the direction of their day?  Pick the things they were studying?  Write their stories as they see fit?  Would life fall into chaos?  Probably, at least for a bit.  But people in general don't like operating in chaos.  Would they never learn to diagram a sentence or dissect an earthworm or figure out the secrets to calculus?  Maybe, maybe not, but are those things vital to being a productive, morally conscious, passion-driven person?  Definitely not.

The last two and a half years have found us struggling with this thought, questioning the philosophy of our homeschool and the school system at large, and coming to some answers.  Yes, children need the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.  But are we really teaching our children to learn when they sit at the kitchen table crying over their homeschool writing program in frustration or struggle through two hours of math homework after putting in a full day of 2nd grade in school?  Or are we teaching kids that they just don't measure up?  Are we pushing our kids to go through curriculum whether they understand it or not to get through the grade level and take the test, though they haven't mastered the concepts?  Why, with so many adaptive learning programs that children can do independently at their own pace, would we accept this mode of operation?  Setting our kids up for failure?  Squashing their creativity?  Suppressing their genius?  Sal Khan has an amazing video on this concept.  So, let's think about what's truly important.  There are better ways out there, we just have to trust our children and give them the freedom to be.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Video Tour of our House

So, I've had people say that they'd love to see our house.  Before I left I did a quick impromptu video tour of the place.  It's not much, but it's home!

Until next time, God Bless!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Awake, O sleeper!

One of Alaska's first signs the the sun has returned for spring.

At around 4 o'clock yesterday morning, I was sitting in the recliner next to Maddox's bed, nursing him back to sleep, when I heard the most beautiful noise that I haven't heard in a very long time.  No, it wasn't quiet, silly.  It was the sound of birds greeting the morning sun with song.  As I sat there listening to them sing their praises, I realized I  couldn't remember the last time I had heard the birds sing.  When I step outside our door at 8:30 in the morning, the glorious song of four hours earlier is gone.  Possibly the abundant noise of a busy house overwhelms the sweet music of the birds during the day.   I've also never noticed much singing during the frigid months of winter.  Maybe they're too busy surviving in their little bodies to worry much about song, or maybe we don't have enough nests around our place for us to hear them during the winter?   Maybe it's too much darkness for them to sing brightly?

That beautiful music got me to thinking.  What else have I been missing because I've been sleeping?  What had God been wanting to shine on me, but I've been too focused on the things pleasing to man (i.e. mom) rather than God?  Since starting this whole autonomous experiment thing, I've spent a lot of time researching education, it's purpose and what I'd like my children to grow up experiencing.  I'm becoming more and more convinced that allowing children to choose their own direction in their everyday learning will give them the skills and passion necessary to be an adult who chases their dreams rather than settling for the norm.

With that, I'm going to completely honest with you...I struggle with this mom-business.  In Ephesians 5:1 and 2, God tells us to "be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  I love my children intensely.  I love being able to stay home with them and experience life with them.  But do I imitate God in my interactions with them?  So many times during the day I hear myself speaking to one of them in a voice that's harsh or impatient.  I find myself wanting them to immediately act the way I'm expecting them to act and listen to what I'm saying to them, then not truly listen when they are talking to me.  I don't think Jesus would've talked to the disciples with sarcasm or impatience when He had to, once again, explain what He was talking about to them.

I've definitely improved in my attitude and interactions with my children.  We are no longer bogged down and stressed with the unnecessary deadlines and guidelines that came with curriculum-based learning.  We've had much more fun, hugs and kisses, exploring new and exciting things, and having deep (and not-so-deep) conversations about everything and nothing.  But I want more.  I believe God wants more for our family as well.

Ephesians 5:8-9 says "for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.)"  I feel like the birds as the sun is rising wanting to sing out in praises, but I also know there is still darkness I been reluctant to let God shine upon.  Or maybe it's more that God is gentle and merciful in His exposure of our darknesses.  Maybe He's more like the sun that rises slowly on the horizon.  It's not one minute dark and the next bright.  The sun is a gradual, patient yet strong force, searching and seeking out the darkness until it's chased it all away, pushing it over the edge of the earth.  That's what I pray God does to me.  That He continually and mercifully and patiently reveals my darkness to me, so that I might "discern what is pleasing to the Lord" and take "no part in the unfruitful works of darkness."

You know, the Bible says in Ephesians 6 that chidden are to "obey your parents... for this is right."  I wonder if it'd be easier on our children to obey, if as parents, instead of focusing on the verses in chapter 6 about children, we focused on chapter 5's message that we are to "walk in love."  What would happen within our families if we took the directions in verses 19-21 to heart and "address(ed) one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (emphasis mine).  Now I'm not saying we should go around singing everything like we are in an opera (though we had a few hours we did that one day and had loads of giggles).  However, think about when you are worshipping God, really truly calling out to Him in song, whether out loud or in your head.  For me, when I sing to my Lord, He fills me with joy and peace and love and acceptance.  What if we took that attitude, that feeling God infuses into our spirit and, through His guidance, interact with each other in the same manner?  If we uplifted one another, gave thanks for one another and mutually submitted to each other, parents and children alike, out of our love and respect for each other and God?  What would that do to our families?  I'm telling you...the light just reached over the horizon and exploded into that dark part of my soul, creating a paradigm shift within me that I'm not sure how to follow.  But I'm up for the challenge, one step at a time, as I walk as a child of the Light.  Will you take the challenge with me? Until next time:

"Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you."
Ephesians 5:14b

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Dream of a Child

The other day we were spending some quality family time building a deck flooring for our temporary tent arctic entry that extends into our future home.  It was a day full of laughter, strategizing, measuring, sawing, screwing, and problem solving all while working together as a team.  Pretty special day if you ask me!

During the prep work for the flooring, we were set to the task by the boss man of leveling the ground which we attacked with shovels and a rake.  When Tucker got to a particularly hard section of stubborn ice he couldn't break up, Stretch directed him to the pick ax in the storage tent (we have a lot of tents currently on our property.)  After instructions in safety for others and toes, Tucker decimated the ice block within a few minutes.  He then decided the random spilled concrete patches around the area needed destroyed.

After some much needed further slow motion form and movement tutorial from Stretch, which was impressive and had my heart pitter-pattering *wink,wink*, Tucker was off with a vengeance.  After decimating every possible patch and several large rocks, he decided that he'd make a good miner, which we wholeheartedly agreed with.
That got us talking about mining and the wonderful people we know who mine.  I asked him what kind of miner he wanted to be.  Of course, he replied that he'd be a gold miner.  We briefly talked about the different type of gold miners and how a pick ax operator would be an important skill for either type.  We also talked about whether he'd want to work for a mine or own his own.  After thinking not so long, he decided he'd own his own.  Here's approximately how the conversation continued:

Tucker: I'd like to own my own gold mine when I turn 13.

Me:  13, huh? (At the time, I wondered at the seemingly random age thrown out there, but as I think about it in my 10-year-old son's mind, it make sense.  Most of the 13-year-olds we know are incredibly capable individuals who would be able to do just about anything physically and intellectually they wanted to if they put their effort to it.  Plus it's an attainable age that makes the dream realistic.  So...13 it is!)

Tucker: Yeah, 13.  Could I own my own mine at 13?

Me: Probably.  However, maybe what you'll want to do is talk to our friends about coming up for the summer and interning at their mine.  That way you'd learn what is needed to mine beyond a pick ax, and you'd get to see if you truly like mining.  Then, if you still want, maybe our friends would help us get you a mine that you can own when you are 14.  How does that sound?

Tucker:  Do you think they'd give me some of the gold we mine?

Me:  Well, you'd have to work that out with them when you negotiate the terms of your internship.

Tucker:  Cool.

Very.  It's amazing to me that when you give children room and time to dream and explore, they find a world of opportunities available.  When they aren't stressed with quizzes, tests, and homework, they find that they actually love learning new things.  I never would've thought Tucker would be so interested in mining, and when we were stuck in our rut of getting all the school work done, I may never had realized that.  The kids now spend their time doing the things they truly enjoy and are finding that their interests are a heck of a lot more varied then we originally thought.  Sure, the boys still are obsessed with anything superhero related and can't get enough of Minecraft, but now we're also excited about bird biology and gold mining along with other interests.  So, while we are waiting for 13 to come along, we'll maybe go for a few visits with our friends.  Maybe find some exciting videos or books about mining (if there are any).  And who knows....maybe my 14 year-old-son will find enough gold to buy his little mama something nice.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Rare Day of Domestic Divaness

Today was an incredibly busy day full of extra domestic duties.  Normally a day will involve cooking, keeping track of the kids, cleaning (hahaha), dishes, etc., etc.  Today had extra measures of June Cleaver.

This morning started out with the normal breakfast, getting dressed (jeans today--probably going into town) and drinking my coffee.  Titus has been sick and hasn't been able to participate in the weeks activities, so I told him we could do any project he wants today.  He decided he wanted to do an art project and after looking through all the boxes upstairs, I realized the bulk of our art supplies hadn't made it here yet.  So, into the suburban we go for a trip to one of our three store facilities-Stretch's shop.  Off to home again.
Upside down pineapple bundt cake

Then came the fun stuff.  This Sunday we have a potluck after church so I needed to make some food.    I stumbled across a box of acini de pepe just waiting to be made into frog eyed salad.  However that particular salad has both gluten and eggs in it, so definitely not something I can partake in.  Since I always take something I know I can eat so I don't starve before I get home...I made a gluten free, egg free upside down pineapple bundt cake, because lunch can totally consist of just cake!  If it turns out as good as it smelled, I'll get you all the recipe.  So there my kitchen was with breakfast dishes, lunch dishes, and the insane amount of dishes it takes to make two potluck dishes.  Then, just for the fun of it, I made a new sensory bin with the big bag of oats that Maddox so thoughtfully dumped out onto the floor for me.  With that project done, we are on to the next activity.

The three younger kids and I went outside while the cake was baking to do a little yard clean-up.  Since we don't have a yard, just dirt that's been dug up by the bulldozer, yard clean-up consists of taking big branches and roots to the burn pile.  During this time, I realized that I haven't unpacked my cake plate with the handy bundt cover.  Now remember, we have three places we store our stuff at the moment since the house is just too small, two tents here at the property and the basement of Stretch's shop.  After frantically searching through the tents and coming up empty, I realize we have to go back into town.  The timer goes off, the cake cools on the counter and we load everyone back into the suburban and head into town.

Digging through the boxes at the shop is more times then not like a treasure hunt.  You aren't real sure which box contains what, so a systematic digging is in order.  After looking through the most hopeful boxes and then moving onto the "Please Lord, let it be here!" boxes, I come up with a war cry of success, shaking the cake plate high above my head in triumph.  Then, loading everyone back into the suburban, we head on home.

When we get home, Maddox goes down for his nap and the middle two kiddos and I start on our art project.  We made mandalas.  Titus and I both decided we needed to work on our drawing and symmetry skills.  Titus and Sadie painted their's with watercolors, which turned out absolutely beautiful.  I put my coloring on hold until I can sit for a bit.

While the little artists cleaned up their mess, since good artists must take care of their supplies, I washed the mountain of dishes so I could create more dishes needed cleaned.  With that task done, I went onto making dinner.  Tonight was Pan Roasted Lemon Chicken, which was absolutely delicious, and a super yummy salad.  While that was cooking, the littles and I took a nice walk around the drive.  The mud puddles are especially nice.
Pile o'dishes

With dinner served and scarfed down and dishes done, I was able to sit out in the sun with the hubs while the kids and dogs ran around like wild animals.  Then back inside for a quick vacuum of the floor (there was still oats lingering around).  Now I believe I'll relax and watch Pippi Longstocking with the kids.
Pan roasted lemon chicken

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Encouragement of a Child

My Biggest Encourager

The other day I was driving with the children to my chiropractor appointment an hour and a half away.  Normally the kiddos sit in the back watching whatever movie they decided to watch, but this time Sadie picked Dora *gasp of shock* which Tucker isn’t too fond of.  He decided to sit up front with me and chat. (I’m planning on telling Sadie to pick Dora every time!)

We get to chatting, and I’m telling him about how we are going to go to the National Cattledog Trials in Meeker, Colorado this summer.  We talk about what they do during those trials, how we are probably going to be camping for hopefully three nights and how I’d like to use the trip to also do research for a series of novels I have rolling around in my brain. 

Tucker looks at me and asks, “Like in books?  You want to write books?”

I reply, “Yep!  I’d love to write books.”

Tucker then asks, “What’re your books about?”

I then spend the rest of Dora telling him all about the series of books I’ve been writing in my head for the last two years or so.  We talk about the history of the military in Meeker, what it would’ve been like to live in that area in the 1850s, what it’d be like to time travel…all very interesting and engaging. 

When Dora was done and I finished giving him a synopsis of the series, Tucker looks at me in all seriousness and says, “When you finish writing them, I want to read them.  It sounds really cool!”  Coming from my non-reader, that was the best encouragement I could’ve ever gotten! 
Following his dreams of entrepreneurship

It also got me thinking.  If I’m too afraid, unorganized, unmotivated, etc. to do the things that I have a passion for and dream of doing, how can I expect my children to embrace the things they are interested in with zeal?   If I'm not willing to go beyond myself and my discomforts, can I honestly expect my children to?  I’ll be honest, I’ve been hesitant to put my thoughts down because, as great as they are in my mind, do I have the ability to convey that in print?  Tucker reminded me in his nonchalant way, that if I never try, I’ll never know!  So, for my dreams’ sake and, more importantly, my children’s, I’m starting the process of becoming a novelist.  I’ll keep you posted when you’ll be able to read my first book along with Tucker.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stovetop, Gluten-Free, Egg-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

My little baker read correctly.  The title "Stovetop, Gluten-Free, Egg-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake" may win a prize for longest title with most commas, however I have a killer cold and couldn't come up with anything catchier.  I bet you didn't realize you could make a cake on the stovetop.  I know I certainly was very, very skeptical (in fact, we had ice cream just in case it didn't turn out.)  But when your wood cookstove's oven door is missing and the propane oven hasn't been hooked up yet, one has to experiment, especially when you have pumpkin that needs to be used and company coming for dinner.  Enter the stovetop cake.  What made the experiment even more exciting is that I don't have a lid for my big cast iron (which I will be remedying as soon as possible!), so I had to create one, and halfway through the recipe I realized I was out of both white and brown sugar!  Yikes----I just love experiments!!!  Without further ado, the recipe that surprisingly turned out quite delicious!

Stovetop, Gluten-Free, Egg-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
equivalent of 2 eggs replacement (this time I used Ener-G Egg Replacer -- 16 oz
but also use One 1 lb Bob's Red Mill Organic Gluten-Free Whole Ground Golden Flaxseed Meal)
2 cup Cup4Cup flour Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour, 3 lb (or your favorite gluten-free blend)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg, mace & ground ginger
2 handfuls of chocolate chips

Make your egg replacer so that it can sit for a bit.  In a 10 in. or 12 in. Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet 12-Inch melt butter and oil over low heat.  For me that was on the opposite side of the firebox towards the front of the stove.  v;Remove from heat and stir in molasses, maple syrup, pumpkin, and vanilla until combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  Stir egg replacer into the skillet mixture until well combined.  Add the flour, making sure it gets mixed thoroughly.  Toss in the chocolate chips.  Give it a quick stir and place back on the low heat.  Cover with a lid (I used a piece of foil and a cookie sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it is firm to the touch.
Makeshift lid with foil and cookie sheet 

I needed to rotate the pan halfway through since one side was cooking faster than the other.  Also, mine took a little longer to bake.  My hypothesis is it took longer because the lid was not a true fit.  I'm positive with a cast-iron lid that fit the pan, the cake would've cooked within 20-25 minutes.
Not too bad!

M stole mine...and yes, that's sunshine you see!!!

This post contains links to my Amazon store which gives our family just a bit of play money for those educational things the kids find intriguing.