Friday, January 28, 2011

Accepting responsibility, and an attitude of thankfulness.

Having my Grandmother living with us has taught me a lot. A lot about my Grandmother. A lot about accepting responsibility for our situation in life. A lot about having a good attitude, and yes, a lot about thankfulness.
It is very hard sometimes to really see our part in our own lives. Let's face it, as much as we may want to whine about how awful certain situations are, we are directly responsible for a huge portion of our own lives. Take for instance an abusive and/or alcoholic spouse. Well, you married them - it can't get any plainer than that. We don't really have forced marriages in this day and age, at least not in this country, so we are the only ones we can REALLY hold responsible for who we married.  "But", you say, "I didn't know he drank/was abusive before we got married." Generally speaking, there are at least a few little clues about a person's true personality that show through, usually more than a few. We just tend to try to excuse them away when we don't want to accept them.
Okay, what about situations like having a parent die. Certainly the child cannot be held responsible for that. True. I'll give you that one, but we've all heard the saying that our lives are 10% what happens to us and 90% what we make of it. I know that as children it's much harder to see things clearly or adapt well, and some children do not have good examples from which to learn, but all these things can be overcome if the adult starts to accept his/her responsibility for their own lives. We can't possibly go back and change how things have happened in our lives, but we can pick up the pieces and try to make something redeemable from them.
Constantly bemoaning what has happened in our past; not wanting to accept that, at least as adults, we have had a share in most of the situations that have shaped our lives, will leave us angry and bitter.
Part of growing up is learning to accept responsibility for all of our decisions and actions. It's hard to be objective about ourselves. It's painful to admit that the reason your child is whiney and difficult is because you're not effectively training him/her, or because he sees an example of whining in you. As adults our whining usually takes the shape of complaining, but it's really the same thing. Sure, we all need to get things off our chest from time to time, but how often do you do that and in what way? A very wise women told me once, years ago, that she had tried to develop a habit of taking stock of her own attitude/behavior when she started to notice behavior problems in her children. She began to see a pattern of them acting out more when she was going through problems with her own attitude. Maybe she was resentful of a decision her husband made, or maybe she didn't want to accept something God was trying to teach her. Her rebellion sparked rebellion in her children. She didn't ignore the behavior issues in her children, she corrected them, but often it was after she admitted to them that she was setting a bad example and started correcting her own behavior. That kind of personal honesty and responsibility is hard and I've got to admit I fail miserably at it sometimes, but I do try to keep it in mind.

The other big part of all this is learning to have an attitude of thankfulness. It's hard to be thankful in some situations, but we can try to develope a habit of looking at the situation through a different pair of glasses. Yes, getting sick and having to be in the bed when you've a lot to do can be tough. Having to deal with a broken limb, or even the loss of a limb is difficult. The loss of a job, or losing your house to flood or fire is awful, but when you get right down to it, you can always think up how your situation could have been (in many cases, much) worse and try be thankful that you are not in that type of situation. Sometimes our difficulty in dealing with a situation lies in assumptions we made. My grandmother is having a hard time dealing with having to live with someone else. Her biggest problem with this is that she thought she would always be able to take care of herself. That was a pretty resonable expectation when she was younger, but to think that you will always be able to take complete care of yourself, no matter how old you get, is not at all resonable. And there are all kinds of situations that may necessitate someone requiring help at a much younger age. We are given no guarantees in this life. And no, having faith in God will not prevent things from happening to you, though it can help you deal with them.

I am not ignorant of how terrible life can be. There are plenty of situations where someone's life has been completely ripped apart by circumstances totally beyond their control. This probably happens more often with children because they cannot have control over the circumstances of their lives, but there are exceptions to everything. For the vast majority of us though, our lives have not been all that horrible. Even if we have had some terrible incidents in our lives, it is nothing compared to what some people have had to deal with.

I may have rambled a bit in this post, but the bottom line is this: One of my biggest prayers that has come out of this experience is that I want to watch my attitude as I grow older. That I do not want to waste my life focusing on how things didn't go as I wanted or expected, and making everyone around me, as well as myself miserable because of that. I'm not complaining about my grandmother, I just truly want to be a good example to my children and grandchildren as I grow older. Showing them, through example as much as words, how to be thankful in all things. I also want to be pleasant to be around. Lets face it, as parents, sometimes our children do not want to be around us.:D It would be nice if, once we are no longer "the heavy", they actually enjoyed our company.

As we grow older we should do all that we can, whenever we can, but we should also be able to accept, with dignity, any help that may be needed. Let us grow old gracefully, fully accepting the fact that our lives were, for the most part, under our own control, and that we are responsible for the outcome. Let us always, always remember that we are an example to others and that we want our children, granchildren and great-grandchildren to enjoy our company. This has become one of my prayers.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter Jammin'

Nope - not exactly the rock out session you may have thought when you saw the title.
Simply put, we ran out of strawberry jam, so I spent part of the day making some from my stash of frozen strawberries. I also decided to try out a recipe for spiced blueberry jam since I still have frozen blueberries. My jam session today nearly depleted my supply of strawberries, but there's still plenty of blueberries for muffins.

I've never thought about keeping a pantry list describing what I canned for the year, but I saw it as a suggestion recently on the blog site Food in Jars. Upon reading the comments I discovered quite a few people who also ran out, or are very low on strawberry jam. I guess there'll be a whole lot more strawberries finding their way into jelly jars this spring. At any rate, the pantry list sounds like a great idea. I'll have to keep track next year so I can better approximate what I'll need to can each year. I already know a couple of things that I won't bother with this year - my hubby didn't like the Italian Style diced tomatoes, and the Salvation Jam was just okay; certainly not worth the trouble since there are so many other jams and jellies we like much better. On the other hand, there are quite a few new things I'd like to try to can this comming season - ketcup and barbeque sauce are at the top of the list.

The other thing I managed to learn today was how much grain is too much to put in my grain mill. Thank goodness I run it in the garage. Then again, if it had been in the kitchen I would probably have caught my mistake a little sooner. :D
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I've been plugging away at my sewing lately. Perhaps inspired by the sewing class I'm teaching. Well, not entirely. I was sewing up until shortly before Christmas, and then put it aside while I finished up some knitting I was doing for gifts. Now I'm back on track. I finished up a dress that sat around for a few weeks, half done, then got around to some mending. The next thing on my list was to get started on Beenie's quilt. She's so excited. I took her to JoAnn's to pick out her fabric a couple of months ago - she was duly warned that sewing might not begin immediately, but they had their fat quarters on sale for $0.99 ea., so I couldn't pass it up. Next we picked out a pattern from Quilter's Cache ; free quilt block patterns, with wonderful instructions and pictures - gotta love that. She picked the Ranger's Pride block. A bit more involved than anything I've done before, but I was game, especially after I saw that instead of sewing a bunch of little triangles, you sew squares that are cut and opened to form triangles. Can you tell I've not been quilting seriously for very long?
Most of the fabric already cut up into squares and rectangles.
Pardon the poor picture quality - I was the photographer. I should stick to sewing.
Next, you draw diagonal lines on half the blocks - I chose the
lighter fabric to draw on for obvious reasons. Stack the
one with the line on top of the right side of a patterned square.
Then you line up your presser foot to make a scant 1/4"
seam down one side of the line...
turn the square around and repeat down the other
side of the line.
Cut down the line you drew...
and press open the square, pressing the seam to the
side of the patterned fabric.
Last thing, clip those little corner tails off. I don't know
what you really call them, but corner tails seemed an
apt description. Isn't this just the neatest way to make
a double triangle square?
At least I thought it was great 'til I got to thinking about how many of those little corner tails I was going to have to cut.          1008!! Nope, not a typo  -  1008.       It's a 12 inch block, so it will take 42 blocks to form the quilt. 4 of these large squares per block.  8 of the small squares/block. 2 corner tails/square. Equals 1008 tails.
Oh well - I still think it's pretty neat. I'm sure it's much better than trying to piece that many little triangles.
It's great when you start to see the pattern come together.
Yep - it's still great.
Three blocks almost done.
The first completed block.
The first four laid out to give you an overall idea of the pattern.

So that's what I've been up to - you know, along with all the other mundane stuff like grocery shopping, paying bills, cooking, and washing clothes - oh, and school. Much to the girls chagrin, I've not forgotten that.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I am to start teaching several of the ladies, and some of their daughters from our church how to sew.
I feel uniquely unqualified to do this.
I know, I sew a lot. I've sewn a lot of different things. I've been sewing for years now, and yet I still feel unqualified to teach a class on sewing. Now why is that?
I think I feel that way because I have never been taught how to sew. For the most part I have muddled through, and I do mean muddled, on my own. I have picked up a few pointers here and there, but the vast majority has been learned by doing it wrong, tearing it apart and starting over.
I don't know why we have such a mind-set about "professionals" in this country. I don't want to make it seem as though they have no place, they do, but we need to keep in mind that they are just people. Absolute trust in professionals, thinking they are the only ones that can do something, is one of the things that makes people doubt they can teach their own children. It also makes other people doubt that you are capable of teaching your own children. It's not that I felt qualified to teach when I started homeschooling my own children, it's just that I was so opposed to institutional learning (and we could not afford private tutoring) that I felt I was the best option for my children, despite the lack of any professional training in that area. People fall into this same trap with doctors. I have gone to the doctor, been diagnosed improperly, given the wrong medication (which caused an awful reaction because it was the wrong med.), and had to go back, just to be told by someone else that I had exactly what I suggested to the first one was wrong. The problem was so bad by the time it was diagnosed properly I nearly had to quit nursing in order to take the medication that they suggested was the only one that would work. I pitched a fit, made them come up with another solution, and as a side note, got them to refund all the doctors fees I paid. In my opinion, it was bad enough that I was having to spend MUCH more money on medication than I would have had too, not to mention all the addtional time (and discomfort) it was taking to cure the problem, than if the first one had just listened more carefully, asked a second opinion, or done just a bit more research into the problem. I also sought help from someone who knew about herbs in order to use those remedies along with the prescription to help solve the problem. I have also had to insist a doctor care for me during a miscarriage (I didn't know for sure I was miscarrying, but I did know something was wrong). I had none of the typical warning signs that something was going wrong, so he attempted to brush me aside and it was only at my insistance that he looked into it more and discovered the problem. I'm not saying that we shouldn't use doctors, obviously I do, but we should trust ourselves more, and understand that the professionals we look up to are just people. Yes, people who have had specialized training, but still - just people. They will make mistakes. They will be tired, or ill, or going through personal problems that will keep them from being at the top of their game. They will be influenced by their training, which may, or may not have been all that great. We have to remember that when we are trusting someone, we are trusting everyone else that taught them, along with all of the expierence they have gained on their own. We need to understand that just because something works on paper (which is really just something working in theory), it doesn't mean it will work in real life, but that many people have been trained to think that it will. Many's the time my father has had to make adjustments to a blueprint because the engineer, who had not actually worked with whatever it was they were working on, didn't understand how things would react when put in different situations.
Bottom line -  Professionals are important, but they should just be one aspect in whatever it is we are doing. We need to educate ourselves with regard to whatever we are undertaking. We need to trust our instincts. We need to talk to other people, but remain objective about the things we are told. We need to learn how to do things for ourself and teach those things to other people, especially our children. Some people naturally teach a bit better than others, but when it comes right down to it, if you know how to do something you can teach someone else how to do it. People have often been shocked when I would tell them that I let one of the older girls teach the younger ones some aspect of their schoolwork, or on ocassion an entire subject, but if the older one knew about the topic why couldn't they pass that information along? Plus, it became a great way for me to see exactly how good a grasp the older one had on it. I know I learned a lot, about a lot of things once I started homeschooling my children.
Learn. Learn everthing you can. Learn some more, and then teach someone else. post signature

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Might as well learn it now.

Here Ri is learning how to cut Superman's hair.
She's been very nervous about the whole thing.
In fact, I had to cut it while she watched the first time.
It's fairly simple; he just likes it buzzed off really short.
This is her second time doing it pretty much on her own.
That boy has so many cow licks (especially in front) that
cutting out around his ears is one of the easy parts.
This is his "long" winter haircut. The summer one has his hair practically shaved off. If you look closely to the right hand side of his head you can just make out some of the hair sticking up from a particulary obstinate cow lick in the front. Believe it or not, but that hair is the same length as the rest in that shot. I showed her how to trim that down and blend it in better.
One more trick up her sleeve with regard to the care of her future home and family.
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Monday, January 3, 2011

I know it's past Christmas...

but I just had to share this.

We have done a gingerbread creation every year for about 6 years now. We serve it at the party for my mom's side of the family, which is why it wasn't done this year until after Christmas (our party was on the 1st).

The first four years we did pretty standard houses, but last year I saw a picture of a kit someone had out for a gingerbread train, and decided it would be neat to do one of those; my step-father loved trains. I didn't buy the kit - I came up with the design for ours myself, but I thought it looked pretty cute.
We had the train running through Santa's campground.
See his feet sticking out of the tent?
My personal favorites that year were the fire - made from melted red and orange Lifesavers (we've done the melted Jolly Rancher lake before), and the black M&M's that I used for the coal car behind the engine.

This year I wanted to do something a little different again so I got the idea of doing Santa's workshop. We may have gone a bit over-board.
Here's the outside. Obviously the sleigh and the two reindeer aren't edible, but aside from those and the sack the "coal" was in, everything else was edible. The cotton candy "snow" on the roof compacted down (as I thought it might) and looked much more like slightly melting snow by the time everyone showed up. The "bricks" were some kind of flat, sour, gummy thing Bree found and had the idea for using as bricks. When we didn't have quite enough to cover all three sides, she's also the one who came up with the idea of "painting" the top (with thinned-down royal icing) and just using the bricks under the window to mimic a mixed medium of siding and brick you see on some houses. T.Lynn was responsible for making sure our lime slice bushes had snow on them.
Here's the inside. The sack of coal (black bubble gum) is just to the right of the door. The curtains are rainbow Twizzlers. I'd never seen them in rainbow colors before - at least, not that I remembered, though hubby tried to convince me otherwise.
The overall dimensions of the board are 22&1/4" squared, so there was quite a bit of candy stuck down for the floor and walkway. If you can't tell, the floor is peanut brittle and the walkway is made of candy pillows. Beenie did almost all of the work on the walkway and the chocolate covered pretzel forest on either side of the shop. She also came up with the idea for the lollipop lights for the walkway.
The windows were a clear, hard candy we melted down in the same way I've melted Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers in the past. You can just make out the corner of one of the toy solider's hats on the other side of the wall through this window. The hardest part was trying to make them fit in the window. It's much easier to do the fire (let it melt and break it up - it will create shards that look like flames) and the lakes because they don't have to have a definate shape. I ended up melting them, scoring them while they were still hot and Kay broke them carefully along the score once they were cool. One of them did crack, but that's okay. It didn't look too bad in the finished product. Besides, according to Ri, Santa's house is really old; you have to expect the occasional need for repairs.
The elves, toy soldiers, and jack-in-the boxes were all white chocolate Bree and I molded. T.Lynn constructed the work benches.
Santa's bag is made from white chocolate modeling candy - basically a mix of chocolate and corn syrup. It's filled with all kinds of candy.
I made one for the sleigh too. After all, Santa can't fit everything in the sleigh in one trip. Beenie put a few bits of the "snow" in too, as if it had blown off the top of the workshop.

But hands down, I believe my favorite this year was the globe. You did know Santa had a globe right? This was another of Bree's ideas. She found this mottled blue sucker and got the idea for the globe because she thought the mix of blues looked like the ocean. She dyed a little of the royal icing green for the continents and piped them on herself. Africa  (on the left) was one of my favorites. But then, I really liked Austrailia and New Zealand as well (Really - she remembered New Zealand - yay for geography studies!). I think she did an outstanding job, especially considering the medium she was using (she hasn't done much cake decorating), and the size of the object she was working on. And the ice caps - of course Antarctica kind of got swallowed up in the icing that was used to attach it to it's candycane stand, but hey - it was there, and it still kind of looks like Antarctica is morphing out of the base.
An aftermath shot.
They still came and snagged a bit more off the wreck site before it was completely done away with.
To be honest, I cringe at the thought of that much sugar, not to mention the corn syrup that must be in all that, but I don't think once in a while it will hurt them all that much, besides, we do reign them in - they can't eat it all in one day. And, I only do this at the party that has the most children - you know, so my niece, nephew, and all my cousins' kids can join in on the sugar rush (and take some of that candy home with them!).

The girls are already making plans for next (ahh - this) year's creation. Apparently it will be Santa's vacation retreat in the Bahamas.
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