Monday, March 17, 2014

Chores Are Such a Chore

I love it when things in life knit themselves together.  I watch it happen often in our learning.  For instance, on Sunday our minister spent some time sharing about his trip to Israel.  Last week, our history focused on the life and death of Christ and early Christianity.  We are reading Ben-Hur.  It all seems to be tied together.  Those links are made in our lives and our brains without real effort or orchestration.  I love it when that happens.

The same thing is happening since I read The Power of Habit.  One of my things on my list for 2014 was to create a chore system for the kids and me that worked.  As I read that book and thought about what I really want it occurred to me that I'm trying to create habits in my children.

My old method of assigning chores was to give each kid a chore for a week (wash dishes, load dishwasher/unload dishwasher/put clean dishes away, sweep and vacuum floors/wipe table and counters, take out trash and recycling).  At the end of the week there would be a big discussion over who did or didn't finish the last of the dishes/floor/garbage and how to make it "fair".  That was a weekly issue. 

The other issue was the quality of work.  Because each child only kept each job for a week they could blame faulty results on the child who had done the job prior to their tenure.  There was no real incentive or accountability for good work or poor work.  And really, there wasn't time to train for each job and expect mastery.  By the time they understood the responsibilities and techniques of a job it was time to move on to the next job.  They didn't repeat a job for three more weeks.  All learning and skill was lost.

I've often thought that teaching kids how to do things is much harder than just doing them myself.  So many times I can get something done faster and better on my own than if I farm it out.  If I do something myself I know it's done correctly and meets whatever standard I've set.  I also know that it truly is done and won't require extra work or supervision or fussing later.

The catch is that my purpose in raising my children is to train them in the way I would have them go.  Or better yet, in the way God would have them go.  To me this means that I am not striving to have good children.  My effort is focused on creating outstanding adults.  Because of this future focus I know that I must equip my children. Equipping takes time.  It takes energy.  It's a chore.

In light of my purpose and what I learned about building a habit I decided I needed to revamp the chores at our house.  Rather than assigning a chore each week I determined that each child would do one chore for a month.  In that month's time they would be able to master each job.  While it might be tedious to do the same thing for a month, there would be no confusion over who had which responsibility.  Once they were trained for each job so thoroughly they wouldn't have difficulty remembering what to do the next time the job was theirs.  Training once and making it stick was a feature that really appealed to me.

Miraculously enough the new system is working.  I'm afraid to say it yet but it seems to be true.  I always know who is responsible and so do they.  They are able to do the jobs and take pride in them.  There is no question or debate or irritation about who should or shouldn't have done what.  This new habit is forming.  At our house, chores are not quite the chore they were.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Monday Munchies: Vanilla Scones

Yes, I am aware that it's not Monday. I am listing this recipe as a Monday Munchies because I think it will make it easier for me (and hopefully, you) to find it later.

I make these on a regular basis. They are a favorite at my house, especially when I add chocolate chips to the recipe. Yesterday I took a basket of these scones to an event and was asked for the recipe several times. Surprisingly, when I looked for the recipe online I couldn't find it. So, by request, here is my recipe for vanilla scones.

Vanilla Scones

3 c flour
1/3 c sugar
2 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c vanilla yogurt
3/4 c add ins (dried fruit, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, nuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add butter, and blend until mix resembles coarse cornmeal. Add yogurt and any add ins.  Mix gently to create dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and divide into two parts.  Pat each dough half into a circle about 7" round, not quite 1" thick.  Cut each circle into 8 wedges and place wedges, slightly separated, on baking sheet.  Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

If dried fruit is used plump the fruit by covering the fruit with warm water and letting it stand for 10 minutes.

In a pinch you can substitute any flavor of yogurt for vanilla.  You can also substitute up to 1/2 c sour cream for the same amount of yogurt.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Creatures of Habit

And so time keeps passing and writing is not a priority.  I want it to be a priority.  In my happy imaginings I am a writer.  Sadly, in reality I am not doing any writing.  It's difficult for even the greatest imagination to conjure a writer where no writing is taking place.

I've just finished a book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  It speaks to how strongly routine without concious thought and intentional action controls our everyday behavior.  There are so many every day behaviors that I would like to change.  I'd like to exercise and write.  I'd like to make sweets into special treats not every day expectations.  I'd like to clean house on a routine so that it wasn't overwhelming. I'd like to be encouraging.  That's a lot of change.

The good news is that habits can be changed.    The other good news is one change often leads to other changes. A positive new habit often has a domino effect. One good change leads to other good changes.

As I review my list of things I'd like to change, I think that exercise is the biggest ticket item.  I know it will benefit me.  I know I will like the results.  I know I am stubborn, hate exercise, and need a large push to be successful with this one.  I've failed to incorporate regular exercise into my routine many times before.  I've also been successful many times before.  There are long periods in which exercise was a part of my life.  The trick is to figure out what made exercise stick and what caused that period of routine exercise to be disrupted.

Today is Fat Tuesday.  Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent.  I think this is the perfect time for reflection and concentration on a change of habit.  Turning my physical activity into an act of worship might just be an intentional act I can turn into a habit.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Glance Back and a Good Look Forward to 2014

Here is my look forward to 2013 from last January.  It's a pretty extensive and exciting list.  I accomplished a lot of that list including daily time with God, reading 52 books, eating and cooking good food, making my marriage a priority, going on a Disney cruise, and maintaining a debt free lifestyle while increasing savings.

There are also some areas where I didn't quite make my mark.  My bee hives are a wreck.  I didn't accomplish my goal with Operation Christmas Child.  I don't have a working system for jobs, family time or serving others.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I'm going to revise, edit, adding and subtracting to make a working plan for 2014.  It might also be a great idea to look at this list more than once a year to remind myself of my intentions for the year.

1. continue to spend daily, personal time with God.

2. read at least 52 books.

3. develop a community relations team for Operation Christmas Child by adding one member and one event from each of my target counties.

4. participate in sustained physical activity/exercise at least three times each week.

5. maintain a healthy diet, heavy in fruits, veggies, and healthy choices.

6. continue to provide my family with meals that are healthy and, as much as possible, home made.

7. date my husband and nurture a relationship that will last for another 25+ years.

8. pray with Rob and for Rob daily.

9. create a planned family night each week.

10. enjoy family meals as often as possible.

11.  celebrate Kady's graduation from high school.
12. SHOOPA!
13. provide opportunities and encouragement for family time that is physically active.

14. continue to pray for and with my children each day.

15. nurture closer relationships within our family by providing quality time, activities, and opportunity for interaction.

16. provide quality, personally matched education for each of my children.

17. continue to look for the best curriculum and educational opportunities for my children.

18. encourage reading, writing, independent learning, and personal growth in my children.

19. develop a plan for chores, jobs, compensation and cooperation that works for our family.

20. maintain a debt free lifestyle.

21. increase retirement contributions to 15%.

22. continue at current level of charitable giving.

23. continue college savings for all four children.

24. celebrate our 25th anniversary

25. be intentional about sharing time with friends.
26. complete one family act of service each month.

27.  develop five year plan for the farm which includes raising turkeys, chickens, and grapes.

Reflections on 2013

Another year sped by while I was busy living.  How does that happen? 
The older I get the more I realize how necessary it is to take a moment to reflect.
I was being pretty ugly to myself this morning.  It's way too easy for me to beat myself up with the momentary discontentment rather than keeping my eye on the real accomplishments.  In order to help myself out the next time I come at myself with that particular board and to get myself over the current episode of mud wallowing I offer this list of  reflections and accomplishments for 2013:

Personally, I read more than 50 books, many of them classics.  I spent time with lots of people I love including each of my family members, the Keegans, the Barnes family, cousins, and friends.  Through various activities I became acquainted with new people.  I hope that many will become friends.  I celebrated life in big ways with parties and pig roasts and joyful reunions.  I skiied, traveled (Richmond, Snow Shoe, St. Augustine, Louisville, St. Augustine, Washington, D.C., Tybee Island, Grand Caymen, Mexico), snorkled, climbed ruins, road trains, served God, my family and others.  It's been a wonderful year!
Professionally, I taught 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th grades. I raised and harvested over 100 chickens.  Hatched, with the help of an incubator, five turkeys for harvest.  Raised and harvested two steers.  Helped raise two sheep. Sold dozens and dozens of eggs.  (Yes, I had some help with all this but it's a valid accomplishment.) I continued my volunteer role with Operation Christmas Child attending a connect conference that gave me an amazing picture of God's work in this ministry.  I joined the leadership team of Cornerstone Co-op as their junior high coordinator.

Spiritually, Rob and I started sharing a daily Bible study and prayer time.  We are learning more about God and each other with each lesson.  We also are learning to support and hold each other accountable. 

Emotionally, I continued to nurture relationships with my husband, children, sisters and parents. I consistently took part in several groups outside my family including a book club, homeschool co-op, and church groups.  I desire to find a few close friends and am trying to identify those women.  I have met several new, interesting, challenging, fun women this year.

Physically, I lost 20 pounds over the course of this year.  I am making better smaller food choices.  For my family, I am being very conscious of the choices I make for them. We are eating more "real" food.  I'm buying non-gmo grain products.  I'm being very intentional in what I serve and eat.  A glass of water before each meal has worked wonders.

Reading List 2013

The Iliad by Homer translated by Robert Fagles


The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

The Truth About Style by Stacy London

Someone by Alice McDermott

Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Safe House by Chris Ewan

The Hero's Lot by Patrick Carr

A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse by David Ferry

He Who Saw Everything by Robert Temple

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Gilgamesh: A Verse Play by Usef Komonyakaa & Chad Gracia

Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee

The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh

The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

The Complaints by Ian Rankin

Die Trying by Lee Child

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Killing Floor by Lee Child

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde

Disobedience by Jane Hamilton

The Good Mother by Sue Miller

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Frank

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Lost in a Good Book (A Thursday Next Novel) by Jasper Fforde

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M.L. Stedman

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde

Legend by Marie Lu

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger

Tear Down the Walls! A History of the American Civil Rights Movement by Dorothy Sterling

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Falling Home by Karen White

Showdown Trail by Louis L'Amour

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Thirteen Days/Ninety Miles: The Cuban Missile Crisis by Norman Finkelstein

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

One Shot by Lee Child

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine

Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eve LaPlante

Elsewhere: A Memoir by Richard Russo

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett

Prairie Tales by Melissa Gilbert

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Disney Fantasy Cruise 2013: Costa Maya

Our activity on October 29 was a trip to the Chacchoben Maya ruins.  We were a little concerned when we received our event tickets because our tour start and stop times were outside the times that the cruise ship was scheduled to be in port.  Since we booked the excursion through the Disney cruise lines we chose to let them do the worrying and we'd just do the enjoying.

Upon arrival in Costa Maya, we boarded our tour bus and spent an hour bus ride to the ruins.  The bus was comfortable and seeing parts of Mexico outside the tourist area was interesting.  Our guide was fairly knowledgeable, especially about the plants in the area.
We were impressed with the Chacchoben Ruins.  It was pretty amazing to take a step back in time and see, up close, structures that were built thousands of years ago.  A tropical rain storm in the rain forest seemed like the perfect addition to our adventure.  It dampened our clothes, not our spirits.  We dried quickly and enjoyed the rest of our day.  We even found great souvenirs at the Chacchoben market.  I was especially thrilled with the hand made hammock chairs we bought; one for us and one for Mom and Dad.
The time of human sacrifice is long gone despite what Rob and the kids seem to think.

S11 took along some teeth to bury at the ruins.  He hopes that years from now archeologists will be confused when they find them.

This is a building site that has yet to be restored.



Our return bus trip got us to the pier with very little time to spare.  All the shops were closed and we were one of the last groups to go aboard before the ship sailed again. 
W

We ordered room service and enjoyed a snack as we dressed for the evening show of Wishes.