Thursday, March 14, 2019

#parentingtruth - Spring Break

This week I'm taking a Spring Break from the #parentingtruth series. Don't worry, I'll be back next week. This week our 20 year old has Spring Break from her college courses. While we will not be making a trip to Florida (bummer) this week, I think it is important to spend time this week with her and her younger sister, just having fun.

That in and of itself should give you a #parentingtruth to mull over this week. Life travels by quickly, and soon, those little kids will be adults, and you'll be wondering how many more times you can spend time with them before they move out. So today, this week, I'm choosing to hang out with my kids, instead of typing.

If you have the chance to spend time with your children this week - take it! Hug them now, and they'll still want to hang out with you when they're grown. :)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Hebrews 5:14

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Where I've been for two months... thoughts from Carol

This is a post you won't find pinned on my Pinterest page or shared on Facebook. Today I'm sharing a little about the life behind the writing you see here on Home Sweet Life. So this is just for you faithful readers, as a thank you for sticking around and reading what God gives me to say.

Life is a ever-changing journey

We see that change when babies are born, when our grandparents die, and every day in between - if we are looking.

Our lives here at home have been changing a lot here in the past few months. After almost 16 years, we ended our homeschool adventure when our youngest daughter graduated in December. That was a wonderful chapter - okay - book - in this story of our lives.

But with that change came all sorts of other opportunities and adjustments. 

I read a quote recently that said "We walk past 1000 stories every day, a writer sees at least 50 of them." I could have written you fifty stories every day about the things that were changing, if I had the time. :) Instead, I decided that it was more important to be involved in the stories than to tell them, so I have been writing less here on the blog for the past two months or so. Thanks for being patient with me.

In the past year, God has been impressing some important truths upon me. But before I share those, let me back up a little bit. For 2018 God told me my word for the year was going to be LOVE. Oh, some days that was easy, but other days it was really hard. When it came time to think and pray and see if there was a new word for this year, the answer was no, I still have much more to learn and experience with the word love, so the word of the year continues.

Many of you know that my Mother-in-law passed from this life into the next at the end of October. The end of last year was spent serving my family in a deeper and different way, as I tried to ease their grief in the only way I know how, by being the hands and feet of Jesus. This was yet another lesson in how to love others and accept love in return.

As last year rolled into this one, I knew there were things that God was telling me to write, but I was struggling to set aside the time to get them down on paper, or typed into the computer, and out of my head. So I stuck with my commitments to my newspaper column, a couple of guest posts and the weekly #parentingtruth post here on the blog.

I'm not trying to re-invent myself, as I know a lot of recently-retired-from-homeschooling moms do, because I have a fairly good idea of who God wants me to be right now - today, and when He is ready to change that, I know He will tell me. 

So, as I embrace this new season in my life, and in the lives of my family members, I have found a freedom to choose to put some of those thoughts about those particular truths God has been showing me aside for sharing at a later date. I have notes, oh so many notes, and ideas, and random thoughts that still need mulled over. They will mostly get shared here, I'm just not sure when. So I will underpromise and hopefully overdeliver and they will come as they come. I might even just decide to take a week off for a Spring break - if Spring ever arrives - LOL!

As I've been thinking about what truths to share with you, here is the one that keeps coming to the front, so I will share it with you today. If you think a friend needs to hear it, you can share, and if not, then you readers will be the only ones who read it.


Marriages need cultivation.

In the past year I have seen multiple marriages fail within my larger circle of acquaintances. These thoughts are not a judgement of those failings, just some personal observations I want to share, and hopefully some encouragement for you to think about your own marriages, and how you might choose to cultivate them this year.

This year Kurt and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Just so you know, he hates it when I talk about him here on the blog, so I won't. :) I'll talk about me.

Marriage has been almost nothing at all like I thought it would be when I was a teenager. Parenting hasn't been anything like I thought it would be either - just in case you're wondering. That's why I started the #parentingtruth series.

Marriage is not about give and take, it is about giving, and growing, and sacrifice, and being strong when you need to and giving way to the other's wishes when needed. Marriage is not 50-50, it's about 125% from each person. Our marriage has never been perfect, no one's is. But it is always worth fighting for!

One thing marriage has taught me? God still has a lot of refining to do in me. When problems arise in our marriage it is never 100% my fault, but is never 0% my fault either. God has shown me that a quiet answer does turn away wrath, and that iron sharpens iron. There are other things He has shown me, but those what you need to hear today.

You might think you have a wonderful marriage, but you still need to cultivate it. Likewise, even if you have a terrible marriage, you still need to cultivate it. I think ours falls somewhere in the middle - like most of the marriages of our friends - and it needs cultivated, daily.

So for the past two months, I have been making extra efforts to cultivate our marriage. At this time of year that mostly means going birdwatching with Kurt. Something I usually enjoy, but can struggle with in the winter, because frankly, I do not like being cold.

Yesterday we went on a birdwatching expedition, and then we went grocery shopping. It was a short birdwatching trip, only about 3 hours, because the wind was cold and biting, and we were trying to beat the rain.

So what did we cultivate?




Agreeing to sometimes disagree

Do those sound like things you need to cultivate in your marriage?

We talked, about all sorts of things, some of them life changing, some of them mundane, but we talked. After 16 years of homeschooling, sometimes all I want is a quiet place with no words, no expectations, and no books. Shocking, right?

But because I know my marriage needs cultivated to grow, or to even survive, I went birdwatching instead of locking myself in a quiet room.

How were we rewarded for cultivating our marriage?

Maybe our marriage will survive, or even thrive the year. But more importantly, we can know that we were obedient to God's call for husbands and wives to love each other. Nothing is guaranteed in this life, so I am choosing to be thankful for all of the small things in our lives, instead of stressing out about the big things. 

And just in case you are wondering, we did talk about setting aside time each week so I can get back to this writing God has called me to. :)

For all of you other birders out there, here is just a short snippet about  our expedition today...

When we arrived at our destination, I asked Kurt if we could stop at the bathroom first, because I knew it was going to be brutal windy once I got out of the car. He finally acquiesced, and after four tries of bathrooms that were all still locked for the season, we found a just-cleaned port-a-pot. Kurt was a little dismayed because he wanted to go to the eagle's nest first, and the bathroom was in the opposite direction. 

After I was done, we turned around and headed back into the park, and almost immediately spied one of the resident eagles, not near their nest, but in the trees by one of the locked bathrooms. LOL! So you see, sometimes it pays to humor your wife. :)

After watching and photographing the eagle for a while, we got back in the car and set off to find some ducks. Now, I will admit I am not good at identifying ducks. That's okay, because Kurt has been working on ID-ing all of the ones he has seen already this year, and so he told me what they were. Since it is time for ducks to migrate through Indiana, we saw several kinds that were new to me, including Redheads, Lesser Scaup, Gadwell, Ring-necked duck, and some female Bufflehead.

Then, after I was way too cold, we headed back to the car to warm up and eat our provisions (snacks). Of course I ate the pudding first and my healthy snacks last - haha, must have been my frozen brain. 

Finally, Kurt drove us towards where the eagle's nest is, and along the way we saw a lovely blue heron, and lots more ducks. On the frozen surface of the lake near the nest, we got to watch on of the eagles eat a HUGE fish. 

After that we went grocery shopping. Maybe not the glamorous end you expected from our birdwatching date, but still fun, because it is something we rarely do together. On our way home it began to rain, but my spirit was not dampened. I had spent time cultivating my marriage to the man I love, and I saw some new birds too.

What might you discover if instead of ignoring your marriage today you cultivate it?

Love my friends, it needs to be our word for every day, not just a year.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 9 - Learning to Read

parenting truths, learning to read, read aloud time

Somewhere along the way an expert decided that all children should be able to learn to read well between the ages of five and seven. Today’s #parentingtruth is just me - dispelling that myth.

Most children in America learn to read between the ages of five and nine. The idea that a child is behind if they are not a proficient reader by age seven is a new one. Forty years ago when I went to Kindergarten, we were all learning our ABC’s together. Yes, there were a few kids who had gone to Preschool and already knew their letters, but I lived nearest the country elementary school, and not one of the city ones, so most of us had spent the previous year playing in our backyards and swinging at the park, not focusing on letters.

Sometime the summer before I started school, my parents, or at least my Mom, had gone to the school and our soon to be teacher suggested that they help us work on trying to learn our ABC’s before school started. You see, there is a HUGE world of difference between the 1970’s version of “try to learn” and the 2010’s version of “must know.” Did you know that there are school today where you cannot enter Kindergarten if you have not already mastered your letters, numbers and colors? Then what is the point of Kindergarten? Somebody stop that Merry-go-round now because it surely does not sound like a fun ride to be on!

So here I am today, telling all of you parents, that it is okay if your child has not become a fluent reader by age seven, or nine,… or even eleven. Each child is different, and it is up to you to decide if your child is meeting their potential. It is not up to a random standardized test to decide of their reading fluency is acceptable.

I think we all hope our children will learn to read at an early age, but that does not always happen. With our second daughter, it took a lot longer to learn to read, and then even more time for her to consider herself a good reader, than it did with her older sister. Reading is a subject where it is perfectly fine to be about average, but also okay tone slower than average. Your child will learn to read when they are ready. So stop pushing reading and get back to encouraging them to have fun as kids.

Here is the exception to the no pushing rule: if your child is being lazy or rebellious about reading, just to be a pain in the backside, then get to the heart of the matter with their attitude. Once that is dealt with, learning to read will be easier on both of you.

Now, about those encouraging activities. Read aloud to your children. Often! You can take them to the library and let them look at the covers of picture books and choose some to have you read to them. You can choose a few more books that look like they would be fun to read: silly stories like The Was an Old Lady, or stories about talking animals. You can choose some books that will challenge you as you read them aloud, like Dr Seuss. You can even choose a few books that you think might be a bit advanced for your children to listen to and appreciate, because you never know what subject might encourage them to listen well.

You can lead a child to a book, but you cannot make him read. So choose books about topics that interest him or her: dogs, spiders, cartoons, legos, unicorns, etc. Having a variety of books to use for read-alouds is the key to prevent yourself from getting stuck reading the same book every single day. :)

When your child does seem ready to learn to read, remember that there are a lot of different methods to choose from. Their school may focus on phonics, or they might focus on sight words. If what they try the first time isn’t working well for them, consider trying a different approach at home. If you are homeschooling, be willing to invest in more than one curriculum until you find what works.

Here are two last things to remember when your children are learning to read. 
1- English is the exception to the rule, so don’t expect them to become fluent readers overnight. Think about ch/ck, i/y, or s/c, these are complicated for almost all new readers, so be patient.
2- If your child just doesn’t get reading, even if they say they want to learn how to read, just take a short break. You can try again in six months.

One last thing: read-aloud time should not end just because your child can read. Keep reading to them, so they understand that you enjoy spending time with them, and that ultimately your relationship as parent/ child is more import ran than their reading proficiency.

Happy Reading!

parenting truths, childhood, learn to read

Thursday, February 28, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 8 - Experiences Over Things

parenting truths, childhood, experiences over things, making memories

Today’s #parentingtruth is about valuing experiences over things. As a mom, I have often wanted to give my children gifts to express my love for them. But giving them another gift was not always feasible, or even realistic. Maybe it was because they already had too many things in their room, or because buying a present was not in the budget. The truth is most things are temporary, while experiences provide memories that can last a lifetime.

Let me tell you a story

When I was almost three years old, my family moved into the house where my mom still lives today. We had visited a few times over the summer and fall as the house was being built, and I do still have a few distinct memories of those visits. Fast forward a couple of years. On a fall afternoon, my parents took us outside and sat down in the grass in the small side yard. My dad asked my older brother and me to go search and see how many different kinds of leaves we could find in the yard. Since I was still pretty little, it made sense to wait for Autumn, when the leaves were starting to fall off the trees.

While I don’t remember how many kinds of leaves we found, I do still remember the experience. Even though it has been almost 40 years since that afternoon, I can remember my parents sitting side by side, encouraging us to go look for leaves. I remember that it was not a race, or a competition, but rather a chance for them to instill in us a love of discovering the outdoors.

What have you done with your children lately that has created a memory? Memories are the things that matter most to children. Whether you are rich or poor, you can create good memories. But a word of caution: you can also create bad memories, so think before you speak. Think about what memories you want your children to have 40 years from now. Do you want them to remember a stressed out mom, or someone who made cookies with them on snow days? Do you want them to remember an over-exacting father for whom no one ever measured up, or would you rather they remember going hiking with you or playing silly board games?

There are other practical reasons to choose to give your children experiences over things. The less stuff you have in your house, the less time it will take to clean it. I am not a minimalist, but I do appreciate it when everything has place, and gets put away when you’re done using it. Now that our youngest has graduated high school, we are doing another purge of books from the house. We still like having books, but I no longer feel compelled to have our house resemble the Library of Congress with one of everything - LOL! 

When you choose to provide your children with experiences over things you provide them with a lifetime of doing. A life of experiences can be had in any socio-economic class. That means you can be poor and still provide a wonderful, well-balanced experience filled childhood for your kids. I was the queen of doing things on the cheap. These days it is trendy to be frugal, but even back then I knew we could do fun activities without spending money we didn’t have. I would ask around to find out about low and no cost days at local museums. There were activities put on at the local college that were free or practically free for homeschoolers. It just took some effort.

I let my business contacts know that we liked music and art. One of them had a sister who worked for the local symphony. We went to the free school symphony performance multiple times. If we could not afford to pay to go to an event, we could often find a way to volunteer for it and still get some of the benefits. We went to amusement parks through the Read to Succeed program, ate free lunches thanks to Book-It, and asked for memberships for birthday or family gifts.

One of the best choices we have made over the years is to always purchase an Annual Entrance Permit to our state park system. There are a wealth of free programs through our state’s Department of Natural Resources and most of them occur at state parks. With a park pass we could pack up the lunch we were going to eat at home anyway and turn these free events into memorable road trips.

A life of experiences, a life spent doing things, is often a life spent outdoors. 

This was one of my favorite parts of our daughters’ childhoods: going outside! We lived life together, riding bikes, hiking trails, watching birds, eating picnics, searching for pictures in the clouds or watching the meteor showers. We still love to go outside together.

When you buy things, they are often for a specific person. That can be a good thing, like a wedding ring. There is nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts. I happen to really like dark chocolate and orange roses. But those are things for me, not necessarily things for sharing. 

A life filled with experiences over things is time spent sharing life together. That’s what family is about - being together. You will end up sharing the good and the bad, but hopefully most of it will be good.

Now grab your kids and your spouse and get outside! Go experience some nature together. :)