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(single parenting)

Learning to be a helper

Every morning when it’s fine… and some mornings when it’s not… the girls and I head out to the backyard to hang laundry. Amelia  has already done the wash, Millen fetches the basket of wet clothes up from the basement, and Arianna flits around like a very excited little butterfly.

“Help you? Help you?”  she asks, the “you” becoming progressively more high pitched and emphatic with each repetition.


Once we’re outside, Millen takes her job of sorting through the laundry very seriously, all of the tee shirts first, then dresses, pants and skirts; all clothing of one type hanging together so we have a neat and orderly looking clothesline. Undies and bloomers go on the middle line, safe from the prying eyes of the neighbor boys. This is very important, especially if you’re Millen.


Arianna starts out calmly. She takes the tee shirts from Millen and hands them to me. One at a time. One at a time… but then the excited little butterfly part of her personality rears its adorable little head and she starts running around through the wet wash, hiding behind the leggings. And then, in a fit of hilarity she pushes over the laundry basket, grabs a handful of clothing and throws them high into the air.

Oh my.


And when I say, “Oh Arianna!” in a terribly disappointed and shocked voice, she runs away.

Oh my, my, my.

And then, when I call her back, around the end of clothesline she goes, giggling and smiling flirtatiously back over her shoulder in what, she mistakenly thinks, is a terribly winsome way.

Oh, my goodness me.


I take her by the hand and walk her back to where I was standing. “We come when we are called,” I tell her. We pick up all of the laundry from the grass and we look carefully to see if any has gotten dirty.

“Sorry DeeDee,” she says, and I give her a hug.


And then we get right back to work.


Did you know that clothespins are extremely fascinating?


And really rather tricky to operate? Millen gives her a few pointers


Before we know it, the baskets are empty, the laundry is drying on the line, the clothes are oh-so-beautifully pinned, and we go back inside.


Our work here is done.

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Relevant 11, Post #1 (Otherwise entitled: But first a little history)

I started blogging to keep from going crazy.

After working outside of the home for several years, I was finally able to return to my career, homemaking. Those had been some long difficult years and I was deliriously happy to be home again, baking bread, sewing dresses, homeschooling the kids. There was not one ounce of me that regretted leaving my professional life behind, and not one single morning I didn’t wake up flooded with relief and gratitude for being home. But I soon discovered a Great and Terrible Truth about being a stay-at-home-homeschooling-single-mama: YOU’RE ALONE. You might never have contact with another adult all day long, all night long, day after day. From Sunday services until Wednesday evening Bible study, and from Wednesday night until Sunday morning, it’s just you and those adorable, irritating, frustrating, heart-melting offspring of yours. I took the kids to every free activity in the county, secretly hoping there’d be another mom there to chat with. I found myself sharing my weekly meal plan with random strangers in the grocery store. It was sad girls. Very very sad.

Clearly I needed help.

I needed someone to talk to, someone who appreciated the delicious soup and crusty bread I made for dinner, and by that, I specifically mean the kind of someone who didn’t not so secretly prefer hot dogs. I wanted someone to swap laundry tips with and share my excitement when everyone in the house woke up in the morning with dry beds. I wanted someone to commiserate with me when I noticed the dirty pair of underwear under the dining room table five minutes after the ladies from the Missions Committee left. I wanted someone to tell me it’s not that bad. I wanted someone to tell me… well, it is that bad, but it’s okay anyway. And I wanted to tell other women those things too.

So that’s what I was looking for when I started blogging… a simple back and forth with a few other women, a few good recipes, a few good laughs. I found it, oh yes I did. And I was captivated by the creative potential of this sport called blogging. I discovered that I loved writing. I loved choosing a moment out of my day or a thought out of my head and sharing it like a snapshot sent out into the world.

I discovered how much fun it is to make people laugh. And I found how very ready people are to open their hearts to you, once you open yours to them

…or once they hear about your Dirty Underwear Under the Dining Room Table Incident
mostly depending on whether they have a D.U.U.D.R.T.I. of their own,
I suspect.

So yeah, blogging turned out to be quite the hoot. I made friends who inspired me and enriched my life. I got some killer recipes, and I shared a few in turn. But it never occurred to me that blogging was anything more than fun, something I did for me. It was an indulgence. It felt a bit selfish and I felt a bit guilty. There were so many other things clamoring for my attention and emotional energy. things that seemed… I don’t know.. somehow more Deep and Meaningful and Godly…

…or sumthin’ like that.

Go HERE for part 2 of my Relevant series… where I YIPPEE! actually talk about the conference. Well… kinda.

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Man to man

Noah, age 4 with Grampa

I love how the two of them are walking in perfect step.

You wanna know something I really appreciate? I mean really really wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-with-a-warm-feeling appreciate? I appreciate the men who have taken the time out of their busy lives to encourage and mentor this boy o’mine. My own dad has been amazing with Noah. Our pastor is wonderful and the men in our church have been unfailingly kind (and/or FIRM as the situation may warrant. erryeah.) There have been fellows who pray for Noah and serve as quiet examples of integrity and commitment. Knowing that a man is praying for one is a very powerful thing for a boy Noah’s age. Words from a man carry extra weight somehow. Why is it that I’ve quoted Colossians 3:23-24 innumerable times with barely a blip on the boy’s radar screen… but two minutes after reading this in an email from Mr. Josh he was outside reshoveling the front walk? hmmm….

I know many times school work is no fun. I didn’t enjoy it very much when I was young. But, I would encourage you to do your best work in your school work. Don’t do your best for yourself or for your mom; do your best for the Lord. Everything that we do should be for Him and His glory. If our work (school, snow-shoveling, etc.) is done for anything less than for our Heavenly Father we will eventually grow tired of it and begin to do poor work. As a result we will look like a poor worker but, also, our God will look unworthy because we represent Him.

Thanks Josh.

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Seize the day

Valentine’s Day. Single women all over the country despise it. I used to dread it myself. When the kids were really young, I’d just pretend it didn’t exist. As they got a little older and that strategy no longer worked, I’d do something like maybe buy the cheapest, smallest, most unobjectionable box of those classroom cards. I’d help the kids scrawl their names across the back, let them hand them out to a few friends and call it a celebration. But as for me and the actual day… denial was the name of my game. O yeah.

But then one year Amelia turned into the craft aisle of the department store and caught sight of the Valentine hoopla and was utterly smitten. Not with any boy you unnerstand, but with the hearts and the lace. The pink! The glitter! Oh my! So I grudgingly bought a modest amount of the stuff, brought it home and helped the kiddos make cards for a few family members. It was fun… really fun. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. So the next year we made a few more cards, and then I made sure to stock up on supplies at the clearance sales afterwards. The year after that we had the first of our annual cookie decorating shin-digs. And now, I think February is one of my favorite months… all because of Valentine’s Day.

Over the years we’ve done all sorts of things in these weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. One year I decorated a big Love Notes jar for middle of the dining room table and we memorized Philippians 4:8. I put a pink glitter pen and some heart shaped sticky notes in a basket and encouraged the kids to jot down whenever they noticed a sibling doing something particularly nice. By dinnertime on Valentine’s Day, everyone had a whole pile of happy little notes to read. That was fun… I’m thinking I might resurrect that Love Notes jar this year. I am of the firm philosophy that one can never have too many hearts, at least in February. We have heart-shaped burgers with heart-shaped rolls, heart-shaped muffins. Did you know that strawberries cut in half are heart-shaped? Well, kinda heart-shaped. There’ve been years when I’ve decorated our house with pink streamers and balloons. One year I made the kids all special Valentine’s shirts. Ahhh.. anyone else remember the days when puffy paint and polyester sweatshirts were practically haute couture? But seriously now, there are just so many ways to have fun.

Well, now that the kids are older I’ve been thinking. The girls create with materials so much more sophisticated than construction paper and glitter glue these days. I’m guessing the hours around the dining room table littered with snips and scraps and stickers have gone by for this generation. Of course Millen would take joy in whatever we do, but Noah? Well, of late he has taken the view that pink glittery hearts are an affront to Godly manhood everywhere. So I’m thinking the way we celebrate the day will be changing too. I’m thinking this year’d be a good time to begin sharing the love to folks outside of our usual circle. Maybe we’ll take a few carefully crafted homemade cards and go visit a local nursing home. Maybe I’ll invite one or two other single mamas over for quieter version of former our cookie decorating bash. We’ll make enough goodies to share and then maybe we’ll box ‘em all up and deliver them to a lonely someone or two.

Like I said… so many ways to have fun. O yeah.

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OK… one thing you need to understand about being a single mom is that money is always an issue. It’s the worry that that wakes us up out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night; the one that makes our palms go clammy and our throat dry. It’s that sick worry that hits us in the pit of our stomach at the most unexpected times. The truth about not-enough-money might be the only thing we’ve ever lied to our kids about. It’s always playing in the back of our minds. It’s always there. Nagging.
Alrighty, now that we’ve got that unpleasantness out of the way, on to my post (and don’t worry, you’ll be smiling at the end. I promise.)

For several years now, I have become disenchanted with the whole gifts-at-Christmas thing. Don’t get me wrong… I love giving gifts and for goodness sakes, I love getting them too. But recently all the choosing, buying and making of gifts has become an overwhelming part of the season for me. It’s become unpleasant and I haven’t liked it. I had started to dread the holiday season. And that made me sad. So I began to think about having a gift-less Christmas. I started indulging in fantasies of an entire holiday expanse with no gifts to worry about. Nothing to buy. Nothing to make. Just calm, peaceful weeks leading up to the birth of my beloved Savior… weeks in which the children and I could spend time in grateful contemplation for all He has given us. In gratefulness for gifts already received. And in my mind, that became the better way to celebrate Him.

Fast forward to this year and a perfect storm of financial icky-ness which has left me with no money to spend on gifts. But instead of the Lord guiding me into that gift-less Christmas as I would have anticipated, it seems that we will be having one of our most lavish and abundant Christmases ever. Out of the blue and out of the dark, a group of folks from an online message board stepped forward to provide gifts and funds for our family. They didn’t know of my specific money woes this year. I don’t know a single one of these folks. I’ve never met them, have never seen them in passing. We’ve never exchanged emails or Christmas cards. We live in wildly different places and live our lives in wildly different ways and yet they were moved to express their generosity to my children. To me. And so here I am… Amazon gift lists practically empty, enough money in my PayPal account to pay for a bit of fabric and what will probably be an embarrassing overabundance of candy. And eyes that well up in tears at the most unexpected times. Pretty amazing huh?

Amazing that my longings for a “holier” celebration of Christmas were not fulfilled. It seems the Lord had a different plan. When I would have chosen to honor Him with sacrifice, He has chosen to make Himself known through joy and abundance.

Just when I think I’ve gotten Him all figured out, He pulls some crazy stunt like this.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a Christmas tree inside a heart
and Noah drew it for you.

Yes, you.
All of you… and you know who you are.

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled post…

… to announce a momentous catastrophe which has occurred in the Tomato Patch!

A few weeks ago I took down our living room drapes for a disgracefully overdue cleaning, and in the process discovered that our curtain rods had met a rather untimely end. The installment of replacement rods was put off from one week to the next as I awaited the availability of someone with an electric drill and a strong arm- our one hundred year old oak woodwork is as hard as stone. I can’t even pound a nail into the stuff, much less screw in rod brackets with any semblance of accuracy. In the meantime, I tucked the drapes, along with the valances and lace sheers into a large plastic bag and stowed them in the back hall.

Well hallelujah, one day this week the kids’ father brought along his electric drill (as well as his strong arm) and put up my curtain rods. However, in an odd turn of events, I couldn’t seem to find the plastic bag containing the window treatments anywhere. I knew I had put them in the back hall, but they weren’t there. So I looked upstairs… maybe someone moved them. I looked in the basement… maybe they accidentally went down the laundry chute. I asked Amelia… she hadn’t seen them. I asked Millen… she told me that drapes go on windows and proudly pointed to the rods her father had just installed. I asked Noah. He blinked.

“A big plastic bag… like a garbage bag? In the back hall where like the garbage bags go? Before I take them out?”

This time I blinked.

And Lo, there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the land.

So yeah, I oh-so-cleverly stored all of my living room window treatments in a garbage bag. And then I put that garbage bag in pretty much the exact place where our household trash is placed before it goes outside. And then I was surprised that my extremely diligent son took that bag out to the trash cans and then out to the curb. Several weeks ago. So yeah, that’s our living room drapes gone. The ones I made with fabric that precisely matches our couches. And the lovely old sheers that have probably been in this house since the 1940′s; they’re gone too. But hey, no prob, right? I just need to figure out how to manufacture window treatments for my absolutely enormous living room windows… out of pretty much nothing. No prob though. No biggie. YEAH

Ahhh… my life is a never ending adventure.

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OK, so I’ve assigned myself a rather long and intimidating list of goals to be accomplished in the next two weeks. The children have come up with a list of their own: fun things they want to do before the end of the summer. I‘m in charge of making sure it all gets done, and with no fatalities, if possible. While I remain hopeful, one of the major pitfalls of being a single mom, is that… well, you’re single. There is no other adult around to notice if certain things remain undone. And on the other hand, there’s no one else around to pitch in their two cents when you’re going off the deep end. No one to help things stay balanced. So I’m kinda on my own here, and my dear ladies, that’s where you come in. I need accountability, and I’m asking you for it. Between now and August twenty-ninth, I’ll be posting about my progress (or lack thereof) at working through those lists. Both of ‘em. Your job? Check up on me to make sure that I’m polishing at least one item off of each of those lists every day. If I do, then feel free to tell me how wonderful I am (I like that.) And if I don’t, then feel free to nag the daylights outta me (I hate that.)

Let the games begin.

Gals, I gotta tell ya, my printer was smokin’ this weekend. In a valiant effort to get all of our schoolwork organized for the semester, I scoured the web for all sorts of goodies. I printed out math worksheets from abcTeach (can one, in all good conscience, call math worksheets goodies? I think not, and I know that Ganeida will back me up on this one.) I found loads of printables for our new workbox system (more on that later.) Millen’s school year is going to be structured around the letters of the alphabet, so I went absolutely hog-wild at CurrClick, ordering this and this and this. Check out this one; it’s my favorite. My next step will be laminating anything that needs to be extra sturdy, then all of this paper will be sorted by weeks and stowed into each child’s expanding file. So that’s one item off my list.. umm partially done. Something tells me this is gonna be an awfully long two weeks.

And lest you worry that the children’s goal list is being neglected, let me assure you that we attended a church bonfire last night. And we brought popscicles. Yup. So that’s two down for them.
Hmmm, maybe this won’t be such a long two weeks after all.

Thanks to seekingmyLord for help in finding this nifty little ticker!

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Created for Work

Having a boy after a whole passel’o'girls has been an education in itself. I was completely unprepared for the sheer amount of physical activity a man-child requires. When he was a toddler he ran laps around the house just for the simple joy of it. As a preschooler he was outside for hours on end, and every minute of those hours was consumed with movement: climbing, hopping, hanging, swinging, run-run-running. Somewhere around the age of five or six he started to shovel snow and pull weeds. Whenever any men were here to work on the house, he’d be right in the thick of it; lifting, toting, carting trash away in his red wagon. And now, at age eleven he’s starting to do real work.

Recently somebody gave me a copy of Created for Work by Bob Schultz, and while I haven’t had a chance to read it through yet, the introduction makes it look very promising indeed. Here’s a snippet:

In the education of boys today we’ve lost the importance of work as a most effective tutor. What is the good of knowing how to read or write if a young man doesn’t have the heart to work, to produce, and to create? Boys are often forced to sit for hours, year after year, in front of books. Modern child-labor laws hinder and even prevent them from learning to enjoy strenuous work. Then after twelve to sixteen years of inactivity, folks wonder why all their teenager wants to do is sit on the couch playing games.

A boy who loves to work will master math when it’s needed. He’ll put out the effort to read what’s important. In the meantime, his interaction with things that are “actual and practical” will provide the wisdom he needs to direct him into useful pursuits, and empower him to provide for a family of his own in days to come.

Within every man is the desire to work and produce. Some men don’t even know that it’s there. However when necessity or some pressing authority pushes him into a useful position of employment his sense of work comes alive. I’ve employed many lazy boys who couldn’t imagine work as something other than a necessary evil required to gain money for a toy. However given time and proper instruction, these lazy lads have turned into dynamos working for the simple pleasure of work, disregarding the hardships and the pay.

Like I said it looks like a worthwhile read. Heaven knows I need all the help I can get raising this all-boy-boy on my own. The kid’s growing and changing so fast sometimes it’s hard to see the boy anymore for the man breaking through…

but then again, sometimes all you can see is a little boy. O yeah.

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And so he goes

I’ll just bet you’re wondering what’s inside this little plastic canister. You are, aren’t you? Well, I’ll tell ya…

Index cards. Index cards with Bible verses on them. Bible verses such as Psalm 91:11…
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

That canister is inside this backpack, along with an official Boy Scout regulation flashlight and mess kit, a toothbrush, a jackknife, swimtrunks… you know, the essentials. Inside the duffel are the extras: shorts and extra camp tees, underwear, socks, towels. Bedlinens made by mama out of camo sweatshirt fleece fabric. And all because the boy is going to camp; Boy Scout camp; for an entire week. I admit it, I’m apprehensive.

We’re all apprehensive.

But we push it down and offer it up and off he goes.

If you have an extra moment with nothing else to do this week, would you mind offering a prayer for my boy and his week at camp? While he is a very steady, self possessed kinda kid, this is his first experience on his own for this length of time. And while the rest of the camp boys are a sweet group of kiddos, they are all public schooled and so have a different way of interacting than Noah’s usual gang of comrades.

And if you still have a free moment after you’re done praying for the kid, maybe you could pray for me too. Cuz I’m gonna need it. yeah.

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