30 January 2015

Mothering From Scratch by Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo

Motherhood doesn't come with instructions. Some moms read all kinds of manuals and take classes, some have the benefit of being an older sister or an aunt and some moms just fly by the seat of their pants from the very beginning. To complicate things, there are several different stereotypes floating around in cyberspace, telling moms how to parent, or how not to parent. Which one is right? In Mothering From Scratch, by Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo, the beauty and joy of motherhood are explored from a different angle - you. Emphasizing the strengths that you, as a mom, bring to the table, and showing how to take condemnation out of areas of weakness, Means and Helgemo walk through ways to embrace who you are - as a person and a mom.

I really enjoyed Mothering From Scratch. Means and Helgemo gently remove the pressure from today's mothering by exploring ways to highlight what I'm good at as a mom. The most encouraging chapter for me was the chapter about dreams not spoiling. Sometimes as moms we have to put our dreams on hold, and that's okay, they aren't going anywhere, and in the meantime, precious time, energy and resources are being invested in our offspring - who will grow up and go somewhere. Peppered with encouragement and wisdom, this book is definitely at the top of my list of recommended books for moms.

This book can also be used as a small group study. At the end of each chapter are questions for reflection and application. I would definitely recommend this book to be used for a group study. The questions could bring about some great discussion and personal growth as a mom and a woman in Christ.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

23 January 2015


It's not just military members who have service-oriented hearts. When they marry, it seems service members typically married like-hearted women who have a desire to serve their community and use their gifts and talents as they are able to help those around them.

Sure, our brave men fly off into the fray of battle, or offer support to those who are fighting, but the people they leave behind are offering just as much support to each other.

In the military, some spouses have a little name for this community: Sister-wives.

I'm not talking about wife-swapping or  polygamous relationships. We call each other sister-wives because we are military spouses who are reach out to support and care for each other in this transient lifestyle we call the military. Sometimes when a spouse reaches out to a fellow spouse, they don't even know that person; sometimes they are close friends.

It's not uncommon for our husbands to be away for days, weeks or even months at a time. During those times, we have each other over for dinner, watch each other's kids during appointments or just hang out giving moral support.

It's not just the times when we are alone with our kiddos that support is offered. It's in the every day, in the mundane. It's in encouragement and a smile to a young mom struggling with her toddler and infant; it's in the kind words from a retiree to a young spouse to hang in there; it's in the parade of jogging strollers being pushed down the sidewalk of base housing; it's in the play dates; it's in the park days sitting in the shade of leafy green trees; it's in the bundled walks to school; it's over spouse get-togethers of a shared meal and a glass of wine; it's in the text messages and Facebook comments; it's in the meals brought; it's in the shoulder that's being cried on and it's in the celebratory cheers.

Every once in a while though, a major life event causes sister-wives to encircle another spouse and shower her with support and encouragement on every level with love and compassion. At a moments' notice, childcare - including over night stays, carpooling to and from school and all that goes with watching other people's kiddos - is put together, meals are coordinated, the dog is taken care of, prayers are spoken, and meanwhile encouragement abounds throughout.  Cards are tenderly colored by mil-kids, visits are made and even laundry is done so that the milspouse won't have to worry about it when they come home.

I have been on the receiving end of such love and care, when I was on bed rest with Flower and was hospitalized for pre-term labor, among other times. I was blown away by the care and love I received from everything to friends watching my kids to meals being brought. I was also so incredibly thankful to have such amazing women in my life (and still am!).

Today I had the honor of serving another milspouse in such a fashion. Watching other milspouses come together and quickly (within two hours via email) coordinate care for three small children for the next 10 days was absolutely amazing and humbling.

I feel so honored to be a military spouse; to be part of this amazing community where people reach out and help each other so that person won't have to worry.

As military spouses, we don't have family nearby that we can call up to help us out in a pinch. But we do have each other. The amazing support that sister-wives give each other helps us to carry on and through our lives, through the good, the bad, the really hard, and the every day.

15 January 2015

Thoughts on Grammar

Classes officially started today and things are going well! Mostly. I've actually already finished all my work for this week in one class - just have to get going with reading The Hobbit.

And then I started working on my other class. Introduction to Grammar. Grammar . . . . yes . . . well, honestly I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to grammar. I know basic stuff, you know what I mean, you're, your, there, their, what a verb is, etc etc. 

Going into the class I felt fairly confident. And then I started on the notes and the little self assessment quizzes and it all came flooding back to me: staring at multiple choice questions that ask the difference between a pronoun and an adjective. Between an antecedent and something else - see I can't remember what all that grammar stuff is called. And drawing a complete blank. It all looks like the same thing to me. Just being honest here . . . I do know what a verb is - that one I have down pat. All the other ones - yeah, I don't know.

Why? Because every single year in English class, starting in fifth grade - I remember that yellow paged grammar book very well - I drifted off and day dreamed during grammar lessons. I would smart back to reality at the exact moment the lesson ended and I would be completely lost. I'm good at looking like I know what I'm doing or talking about when in reality I have no clue, so I never let on. And I guessed on tests. Every. Single. Year. All of them.

Wait you say. You like to write. You're writing a novel. You've been writing a blog for years. What about all those high school and college essays? Your mother is an English teacher. (Oh, you didn't know that? Well, now you do.)

Well, I really don't know how to answer that. How did my grammar faux-pas get by the teachers? Past readers?

Yeah, I'm not really sure. Maybe it's intuition that I know how it all works when it comes to writing, but I don't know the actual names and definitions.

All I know is that when it comes to naming parts of speech and how what functions where - I am completely clueless.

And this class is standing before me and graduation. I think I'll be hitting that text book pretty hard and frequently.

I've been issued a challenge and I intend to rise to the occasion.

Wish me luck! And please, please pray for me. :)

13 January 2015

Don't Wait

I'm listening to the snow melt off the roof: drip, drip, drip. Most of the snow on the ground has already melted, even though we are still under a Winter Weather Advisory. Really, it's the best of both worlds - snow, but temperatures are warm enough to keep the roads clear. I love waking up to softly falling snow, the world bathed in gray light as the clouds descend to meet the ground and ensconse the earth in a chilly, white blanket.

I've been reminiscing quite a bit lately about the importance of not waiting when you feel a prompting to do something. Last month I learned a very important, and painful, lesson on acting on intuition immediately because life is too short. Sometimes you only get one opportunity to do something and then it's too late.

It all started when I awoke in the middle of the night in mid November after having a dream. In the dream I was back on the Farm where I used to ride my horse and work, taking care of the horses and leading trails. The years that I spent on the Farm were truly some of the best of my life - a wondrous time of being around  horses, working and learning about life. I love the dreams where I am back in the open, green fields riding Billy, my horse, down to the pond, or galloping down the field, or riding through the sunlit woods of the trails. Unfortunately, those dreams don't come around that often.

However, after this particular dream, when I woke up I felt an incredibly strong urge to get up and write a letter to the owners of the Farm to tell them how thankful I am to them for all that they did for me. They showed me so much kindness in a very turbulent time of life (when my parents were going through their divorce and each of them moved several times and I changed schools a few times). They taught me how to work hard and take responsibility in life. They gave me a tremendous amount of responsibility and challenged me to do a good job.

So I got up, went downstairs, turned on the living room light and sat down in my "office" [one end of the dining room table] and wrote out a very heartfelt letter pouring out my gratitude to them. It may have been fifteen years since we moved from Virginia to Florida and I had to leave the Farm, but the feelings were fresh in my soul and the memories came flooding back to me. I finished the letter and left it on the table, fully intending to mail it off in the morning.

Only, I never did.

The letter ended up in my basket, though not forgotten.

I kept thinking about it and how I needed to mail it off and I felt a sense of urgency, but I didn't act. I let the busyness of life - getting kids up and dressed for school in the morning, taking care of the house, schoolwork, etc - get in the way.

And then one afternoon in early December I was scrolling through Facebook and a friend whom I rode and worked with on the Farm posted a memorial obituary to the owner of the Farm on her page.

My heart fell through the floor. Tears sprang to my eyes at the loss of such a wonderful, generous man.

And then to my horror I realized the scope of my inaction: he would never read that letter I wrote. It was too late.

I more than bereft. I was remorseful in a most painful way. I had the opportunity to send him a note of gratitude for the wonderful impact he made on my life that still reverberates today, and I didn't send the letter. On this earth, in this life, he went unknowing my true feelings.

I knew, when I woke up in the middle of the night, that I needed to write that letter. Only the Holy Spirit could have prompted me so strongly to do something like that. The Lord knew He was going to call the owner home very soon. But I didn't follow through.

I wrote a card to his wife and included the letter that I wrote, explaining what had happened. I don't think I can apologize enough for not sending that letter sooner.

If you ever have a strong urge to do something, don't wait. Do it. Call that friend. Send that letter. Give that gift. Life is so short and you never what kind of impact your words and actions might have. And sometimes, if you wait too long like I did, it might be too late.

12 January 2015

Almost there . . .

**I wrote this post on Friday, so even though I'm posting it on Monday, just pretend like you're reading it last Friday . . .

It hit me today . . . I am almost finished with my Bachelor's degree.

Honestly I've tried not to think about how close I am to finishing over the past year because there are usually so many uncontrollable factors in my life . . . small kids, military lifestyle, health and so on. Uncontrollable factors can lead to a dropped class in my experience . . .

I took two classes last semester and honestly, I really loved them (Literary Works of C. S. Lewis and Creative Writing I). Most of the time it didn't feel like college courses - reading and writing are things that I love to do. The way the classes were set up, other students would read each other's works and then critique them, as if they were instructors. At first, I felt really, really nervous about this aspect of the class - every time I submitted an assignment, I experienced a tweak of electric anxiety that shot through my body in anticipation of classmates' feedback. In the end though, I really liked hearing the feedback, positive and negative. I was sad when the class came to an end . . .

And then, a day after my classes ended, my intersession class started - World Literature II. An intersession class - over Christmas?!? you might think. Well, I knew, more or less, what I was getting myself into. I spent quite a bit of time analyzing and hypothesizing about the spring semester (we are due to PCS sometime soon, if we can ever get orders - and I don't know when) and in end I decided to take a class required for graduation over Christmas. That way, in case we move during the spring semester, I'll already have it finished and won't have to worry about it.

What I didn't count on was getting sick . . . for over a month. The weekend before the class started, also known as the busyiest weekend of the entire year, I got sick. Really, really sick. Actually, I ended up in the ER after I got so dehydrated my fingers started doing weird things . . . the on-call doctors' exact words were "Go to the ER - right now." And that was how I started my intersession class - knocked out on Phenergan, nauseous and in pain. Except that my symptoms didn't abate. (Actually, I still have them . . . just not as bad.I have some tests done and they were all negative - chalk it up to stress??)

So in between reading and analyzing fifteen short stories, I waded through nausea, avoided any type of food except soup and crackers, and wrote and wrote for the class. Actually, I really enjoyed reading the stories and analyzing them. (This is where I write about how glad I am that my husband didn't have to work very much over Christmas so I could sleep the Phenergan off and work on my class. He was awesome!)

The class was so busy that I couldn't really see the forest for the trees, until I was finished. Which, officially, was yesterday. I completed my project and the last few small assignments, sat back and basked in the contentment of completion. It feels so good! (Until classes start back up Monday.)

This afternoon, as I thought about my upcoming classes, I thought about this small fact: I have two, count them: one, two, classes until I am finished. I will graduate in May (barring something horrible happening to cause me to drop my classes). I am so close I am holding back anticipatory excitement at wearing that cap and gown and walking across the stage having completed a major life goal: graduating from a University.

In the meantime, I have to complete a grammar course (grammar is not really my thing - something about daydreaming every single year through that part of English) and Literary Works of J.R.R. Tolkien - reading The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings in eight weeks. (Wait, haven't you been reading LOTR for the past year, you ask? Yes, and I just finished it! Now, I get to read it again - Yay!!!)

I am excited to start my courses and get going, I am nervous about my ability to finish well, and I am apprehensive about some major life event happening that will cause further delay. I am also trying really hard not to think about starting a Master's program - have to finish first! And we have no idea where we'll be living in the fall . . .

Stay tuned and see how it turns out! And wish me luck and please pray that I can finish [well]! Thank you! :)

03 January 2015

Blogger Shout Out

A good friend of mine recently joined the blog-o-sphere, and I thought I would put a link up to her blog. She is a wonderful writer, and her posts are funny, heartfelt and very touching.

You check her out here: Life Under Grace

Her latest post is about her husband proposing to her - so head on over and read it! :)

01 January 2015

Happy New Year! Recap of 2014 AND I'm doing resolutions this year . . .

Happy New Year Everyone!

Out with the old, in with the new! I, for one, am very glad that 2015 is here. 2014 was a fairly rough year, okay some of it was downright awful, but there were some wonderful highlights in there that helped to balance things out.

If I had to summarize 2014 in a phrase, it would be "life would not be livable without great friends". I am so incredibly grateful for the wonderful friends that God has placed in my life - who comforted me, who held me accountable, who helped me out, who celebrated life with me, who walked the daily grind of life with me, who listened, who shared, who spent time with me, who were there for me. You guys know who you are and I am so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you so much!

For a quick recap on 2014:

January - Mike was scheduled to deploy and was gone for over half the month for training. Except for how much the kids missed Mike, I thought the TDY went fairly well. You can read about that here and here.

So upset that Daddy wouldn't come out of the screen when we Skyped.
I also started going back to school after a five year hiatus to finish my bachelors through the University of Central Oklahoma (online).

Little Man started going to pre-school at the base CDC two mornings a week. Little Man and Flower started attending Explora's Grow A Scientist Program, AKA Science Camp.

Little Man's wonderful teacher

Butterfly was still attending Speech and Occupational therapies and did really well.

February - Mike was gone for half the month for more training. The two weeks of time sandwiched in between TDY's was really wonderful though. Except for all that anticipatory anxiety - that sucked.
The kids each got to pick out something from Build-A-Bear and Mike made a voice recording for each of them to have while he was gone.
March - We found out that Mike's deployment was canceled! Yay! We celebrated Butterfly and Little Man's birthdays and Mike's parents came in to town and we had a nice visit. Life continued in the normal fashion, which was wonderful.

April - More wonderful, cherished family time. I enrolled in fall classes.

Butterfly went to the theater several times during the spring, at both Pope Joy Hall and the KiMo theater. She loves the theater!

Here we are at the KiMo theater waiting to see the Shakespeare and Tchaikovsky ballet
May - I finished my first class with UCO!

Road trip #1! I had planned on taking a few road trips while Mike was deployed and decided to go ahead and take those trips anyway after we found out he wasn't deploying. When a dear friend is moving to Alaska, you go see her before she leaves - so we did! I also got to catch up with some wonderful friends in Colorado. You can read about that trip here, here, here, here, here and here.

June - life got really crappy. I'm not going to go into details: I'll just say it wasn't pretty and I'm still feeling the ripples from this situation.

Butterfly and Little Man also started ABQ BioPark's Nature Beginnings class, AKA Zoo Camp!

The busyness of summer started -lots of park days and fun in the New Mexico sun. I probably didn't wear enough sunscreen, but I had a great time hanging out with my friends.

July - my Dad came out and we rode the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad again! (That would be Road Trip #2). We stayed at Conejos Ranch in the same cabin we stayed in the previous year.

The Conejos River
The beloved cabin
The Cumbres and Toltec 489 steam engine preparing to leave for the day in the Chama rail yard.

The following weekend, we drove down to Carlsbad Caverns and toured the caverns (Road Trip #2 continued). The whole vacation was wonderful vacation and it was so great to have my Dad out for a visit.

Check one off the "life-time" bucket list - I've wanted to visit Roswell since I saw "Independence Day" way back in 1995.

The Natural Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

Maybe I'll get around to writing a post about our visit this year!
Mike re-enlisted for another six years after surviving Force Reductions, you can read about my feelings for the reductions here. Yay for staying in the military!

Zoo Camp continued and finished the last week of the month.
We took an amazing and super fun trip down to San Antonio, Texas to visit Sierra! (Road Trip #4). We had so much fun exploring the San Antonio area visiting the Alamo, the Riverwalk, Natural Bridge Caverns and more! You can read about that trip here, here, here and  here.

August - Butterfly finished up Speech and Occupational therapies and then started Kindergarten!

Flower celebrated her birthday!

The whole family started going to Science Camp together every other Saturday morning - it's a favorite with the whole family!

College classes for me started again and I took two classes in the fall semester - both of which I absolutely loved.

Little Man and Flower started going to preschool at the base CDC two mornings a week.

September - life continued per the current norm. I celebrated another birthday with great friends.

Without these amazing ladies, I might be writing an entirely different post today.
Mike and I joined a small group from the chapel and took a trip together to the Grand Canyon (Road Trip #4).

The group from the base chapel.

October - Mike and I celebrated our seventh anniversary with a family dinner to McAlister's.

And of course, who can forget Balloon Fiesta! When in ABQ . . .

Life continued as normal.

Amazing friends - we head to the park every week together!

Another wonderful friend!
Yet another fabulous friend!
November - super busy month with lots and lots of lots of cooking - for people, for Mike's squadron, for the Chapel, for Thanksgiving and so on.

Mike and I started attending a weekly Bible study on Sunday nights, with a rotating schedule for hosting. So far the study has been really good and I've enjoyed the learning and fellowship time.

Thanksgiving with some of great friends, who also attend Bible study with us.
December - enter the Christmas season! Lots of Christmas busyness - lots of Christmas parties and events, lots of shopping, lots of days where excited kids asked "Is today Christmas?". It was an exhausting, but fun, month.

The kids' Christmas pageant at the Chapel (that I missed because I was in the ER)

Mike and I at the squadron Christmas party

The squadron spouses ornament exchange.
I completed my two classes and enrolled in an intersession class over the Christmas break. I'm two thirds of the way though it - almost done! It ends Thursday of next week.

Lots of sickness - I've been battling some stomach-related thing for three weeks now. The plus side, I think, is that I've lost five pounds. I've had some tests done and an ultrasound on my gall bladder - just waiting to find out the results and hopefully come to a resolution that ends with  no more nausea and pain.

And that brings me to now: New Year's Day. The first day of a brand new year. I've got a few things I've been wanting to do, so I might as well make them resolutions.

Resolution #1 - make a monthly cleaning schedule and attempt to stick to it, emphasis on attempt.

Resolution #2 - pay off debt - almost there! I'm putting this as a resolution because I feel like it's doable - take that as you will. No credit card debt here, or vehicle loans, just student loans left.

Resolution #3 - run in two 5K races or a 10K race this spring

Resolution #4 - finish my clothing project - I started this last spring and purged quite a bit of stuff from the house, mostly in a mommy market sale - a great way to pay off some of that student loan debt, but I'm not finished yet. Maybe about 3/4 of the way, but not 100%.

Resolution #5 - Blog at least once a week. I'd actually like to start blogging more often than that, but I'm keeping it real over here.

Resolution #6 - read at least five books off of my 100 Books to Read in your Life list, which you can see here.

Okay - I'm going to stop there - I think six resolutions is plenty to keep me busy. :)

So what are your resolutions? Did you reflect on 2014?

Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold

By definition, a disciple is a professed follower of Jesus Christ. Sometimes living for Christ is hard; life brings up questions, concerns, doubts and fears. What about living for Christ in marriage? How do I raise my children in Christ? Sometimes deeper, theological concerns are raised - baptism, the second coming of Christ, salvation and the Holy Spirit. And then there are the commands issued to believers in the Bible: living by the fruit of the Spirit, loving others, and living in purity among others. Of course, believers have the Bible to read, but sometimes a more pragmatic answer is needed, by someone who has lived a life for Christ, shepherding other believers along the way.

Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold is a book that offers answers to all these concerns and much more. Through a compilation of letters, writings, sermons and teachings, Discipleship covers these topics through the candid lens of a fellow believer who has lived life a life for Christ to the best of his ability. Alongside each writing is an underlying Scripture that points the reader to the basis of truth in Arnold's writings.

I thought Discipleship offered wonderful insight into a broad range of topics and most of the writings were very helpful. I would offer a word of caution that readers always refer back to the Scripture that is offered alongside the writings and discern for themselves what the Lord is telling them through that passage of Scripture. While there were a few articles that I disagreed with, I would still consider this book a wonderful tool to help one live for Christ in everyday life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”