This Week’s Project Download…

You would think that with  my husband home I’d be able to get a lot more done with the the extra hands.  No such luck.  However, I am happy to report my husband took on a couple of projects this past week.  He busted out his muscles and did quite a bit for us!  Thank you, deary (insert belly rub)!

The weather was great this weekend.  The kids spent both days outside, ALL day.  One of the things I love about our little homestead is that the kids can go outside and literally play to their hearts content.  They can bike up and down the road with no worries.  They can trek in to the woods and explore.  This weekend they set up a plank headed towards the pond so they can put some chairs out and, as my daughter says, “chill”.  The best part of the weekend… all of our neighbor kids were out four wheeling together.  Everyone had so much fun!

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I have a love/hate relationship with my brother-in-law.  He is extremely free spirited and will show up at our house on a whim.  I hate that.  My kids love him to pieces, and there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for my kids.  I love that.  So, I accept his quirkiness and feed him a ton of food every time he shows up for a visit.

A few months ago, while my husband was away at sea, he shows up to the house.  As he is playing WWF with the kids my daughter’s bed breaks.  She has been sleeping on a bed held up by a few old books.  This week my husband made a bed frame for my daughter out of pallets.  Some may think it’s a bit cheesy, but she loves it!  He put black lights under the slats that creates a glow in the dark effect at night for her.

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Speaking of pallets… we have a bunch of them.  A trip to a box store proved pay dirt.  We’ll be making a potato bin as well as a lettuce/herb garden.  I’ll be sure to post pictures once they are built.

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The tree house flooring is near completion.  The kids are quite eager to finally get their bean bags inside.  My daughter created the first sign for the tree house.  I hope that in a couple more weeks all will be done and the kids can spend countless hours hiding away.  I am hoping for this tree house to be the ultimate reading room for them!

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My reading was very poor this week.  I’m trying really hard to finish a book I had been so excited to read.  Unfortunately, my progress has been slow.  I am bound and determined to finish it this week though!

A couple of weeks ago I read “I Funny: A Middle School Story” by James Patterson (yes, the same James Patterson that writes thrillers – he also writes children’s books).  It was a quick read about a boy, Jamie Grimm, who wants to become the world’s greatest stand-up comedian.  Jamie has a lot of personal obstacles but keeps a wonderful sense of humor.  He decides to enter a contest called The Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic.  I found myself cheering Jamie on the whole way.  He is an extremely likable boy who is amazingly strong.  Not only was this book clever and funny, it was heartwarming.

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Life’s Lesson… What is Winning Worth…

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Ahh… not only is spring around the corner, it’s Pinewood Derby time.  The Pinewood Derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in the Boy Scouts.  Cub Scouts, with the help of parents, build their own cars from wood, usually from kits that contain a block of pine, plastic wheels and metal axles.  Truth be told, I didn’t know what the derby was until last year when my son joined the Cub Scouts.

The derby came right at a time when my husband began a 2-month patrol.  If you ask me (and him), horrible timing.  I panicked.  I have no clue how to build things, let alone build things that are suppose to move.  A neighbor offered to have my son build his car with their son.  At first it sounded appealing but after a lot thinking I knew this was a project my son and I needed to tackle on our own, even if dad wasn’t around.  In the end, we did it!  My son and I built a derby car!

At one point in the building phase I considered making a Facebook status that said, “who needs a man when a tool-deficient mom can do this?”  But I quickly remembered the kind old man at Lowe’s who quickly showed me how to operate my dremel tool in 10 seconds (I tried for hours at home and couldn’t figure it out).  I remembered the YouTube video (featuring a man) showing me how I’ll sand and polish the wheels.  Last, but not least, I remembered the numerous emails back and forth to my husband asking his advice.  And, most importantly, I reminded myself that this project was not about me, but about my son.  About us working together.  So, instead, I kept my lips sealed.

You see the whole idea of the Pinewood Derby is to encourage a bond between a boy and his parent/guardian.  They should work  together.  And, yes, they should build a car that looks cool and goes fast.  But the overall focus should be on fun and growth.  Right?!?!  At least that’s what I think.  However, I get the distinct impression that the derby is more about dad’s flexing their muscles desperately attempting to out race every other grown man.

I have worked hard with my son.  My son drew his design and was very adamant that his design was “the one”.  When it came time to saw I did the work.  But he helped sand and he painted.  He guided me every step of the way, down to the “x marks the spot” carving he wanted on his car.  It truly was a project he was 100% involved in and had 100% input.

These past few days have been an overflow of emotions.  I’ve broken down in tears three times… all over this damn derby car.

It all began when a fellow parent posted pictures of his son’s derby on a social media site.  Looking at the car I immediately knew it was a car completely made by the parent.  As I looked at that car the only thing I could think of was how much my son will be disappointed because his car didn’t look as “cool”.  I began to obsess at how I could just do something to make his car better.  And as awful as it sounds, I even contemplated buying a car on eBay.  Thank goodness for my husband and my wonderful kids.  They quickly snapped me out of this horrible funk.  However, it led me to do some research and reading on the whole concept of competitive parenting, parents taking on their children’s assignments as their own.

Did you know that a recent study found that up to 70% of kids will plagiarize, cheat and pass off others works as their own before they graduate college?  The study suggested that kids are under greater pressure than ever before to succeed, and that they have a greater number of daily stressors than any other generation.  It’s a tough world out there, I get that, but does this mean parents need to start doing their children’s work for them?  Don’t you think that by doing more for our kids we are actually doing less, creating the inability to learn about life’s lessons on their own?

This derby has inspired me to create a rule in our house:  Projects will be done by our kids.  My husband and I buy materials, advise and even make suggestions.  We encourage the kids and guide them but we also make sure they take ownership of the project/task.  They need to learn how to develop skills to complete a project from beginning to end.  This new rule came at a time when my daughter was also assigned a project in school.  Sh needed to create a poster on why our family loves Maine.  It was a family project.  My daughter insisted I come up with all the reasons why we love Maine.  I helped, but I left the rest to her.  And guess what?  She came up with the best reason why our family loves Maine, on her own!

Whether it’s a derby car or some other project, when parents give their children sufficient guidance and freedom to let their imaginations soar (without imposing their own viewpoints or worse, taking over entire projects) we give our kids the confidence and self satisfaction that helps them grow into secure, assertive adults.

I like to think I chose the high road on this one.  Was I tempted to cheat after seeing all of those pictures of glossy pieces of wood and glue?  Hell yes I was, but I didn’t.

We did this together and made the most of what we have, time and love.

And that is what I love the idea of living simply, and the whole homesteading movement.  I think perhaps Robert Frost was right.  Choosing the road less traveled may very well make all the difference in the world.

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**At the completion of writing this blog I came across a movie on Netflix, “Down & Derby”.  It’s a comedy that satirizes the desperate behavior of parents who compete with one another through their children.  It was a hoot to watch… and made me thankful I never went off the deep end.

**To read Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” click here.

This Week’s Project Download…

Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like nothing was accomplished, yet it was so busy you were relieved it was over?  That was my week.

Between a snow storm, power outages, homework, after school activities, and doctor’s appointments it was a hectic week on the homestead.  I wasn’t able to get many projects started, or even finished for that matter.

The derby car is still a work in progress.  I only have two weeks to get it all done!  A lot of painting and priming to do, and then it’s on to the wheels and axles.

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I had to hollow out a couple eggs for my son’s school project this week.  He is making ‘cascarones’, eggs filled with confetti and broken over a friends head at the completion of Lent.  My son’s class will fill the eggs with birdseed instead and break them over their class tree.  He will enjoy this project so much!  Thanks to YouTube I quickly learned how to blow out the eggs and empty them out.

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A trip to the grocery store for fresh Italian parsley got me cilantro instead (apparently I have no idea what either look like).  I’m not a fan of cilantro so it is in a handy mason jar growing roots.  The cilantro sits nicely on my kitchen window sill, along with the basil, mint, bamboo and aloe so I guess it’s a keeper.

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I did make another batch of elderberry syrup and vanilla extract.  We go through about a 1/2 pint of elderberry syrup a week.  The extra vanilla extract will stay down in the basement until the holidays.  It should be extra yummy by that time, and a gift our neighbors will surely enjoy!

As far as reading…  I’m old school… I still love the feel of the paper in my hands.  This week I didn’t have much time to read so I settled for a Kindle book, “Wait for Me” by Elisabeth Naughton.    Mystery, heartache, joy and, yes, a bit of passion.  I don’t care much for the cover of the ebook though.  The cover gave me the impression the story would be “fifty shades’ish”, but that was not the case.  It was a quick read and I enjoyed the story.

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This week is an exciting one at the homestead.  My husband is making a brief stop home and will be here for a couple of days.  The kids don’t know so they will be extra surprised to see him!  As quickly as he arrives he’ll soon be back out on the steel boat patrolling our ocean.  We take what we can get!

Which reminds me… I better buy some bird seed!

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May the Force be With You…

DSC_1858 I don’t know about you but I am so ready for winter to be over!  Don’t get me wrong, I love New England and its change of seasons.  But we’ve had a storm every week in February.   I’m done with the snow, the slippery roads, the power outages.  I’ve especiallyhad it with the snowsuits, gloves, hats and boots laying on the floor, surrounded by a pool of melted snow.  Spring, where are you?!?!  Please hurry!  For if you do  not quickly arrive on my doorstep I am afraid I may have to use the utmost of powers… the Jedi mind trick.  You know, like in Star Wars. The mind is a powerful thing.  Perhaps I, Obi-Wan of this homestead, can exude my force…

Mother Nature:  Are you ready for more snow to fall?

Mama Jedi:  *waving hand* There will be no  more snow. 

Mother Nature:  There will be no more snow.  

Mama Jedi:  You will bring us Spring now.

Mother Nature:  I will bring Spring to your doorstep now.  

Mama Jedi:  Move along.

Mother Nature:  Move along.

Okay, so maybe I’ll just continue with wishful thinking.  But, regardless,  I am going to do whatever I must to get the spirit of Spring going!

This week I started on some spring cleaning.  This concept is pretty foreign to me.  Being half Asian, and growing up in Japan most of my life, this type of cleaning happens at the end of the year.  To me, it makes more sense to purge the old at the end of year, beginning a fresh new year.  However, now that I live in New England, I guess I can understand why spring cleaning is a must. You’re holed up in your house all winter, dust bunnies collecting around the wood stove, the air not circulating enough because of the tundra outside, stashing cardboard boxes down in the basement because you dread walking it to the end of your driveway for trash collection.  (Note:  I do not cite these examples based on first hand experience)

I so get it now.

Spring cleaning has arrived at the homestead.  I am getting rid of all the “junk” accumulating around me.  If we don’t use it, if it’s lost in the abyss of my kids closet, it’s gone.  Although I’m sure I could make a decent chunk of change, I am not big on selling things.  Instead, I choose to donate as much as I can to our school, local clothes pantry, local children’s hospital, Goodwill, and churches.  It’s an act that the whole entire family take part in, and enjoy.  There are others out there less fortunate that could use something as simple as a jacket, or great picture book.  The notion that my son gets excited about his once favorite fire truck going to another boy puts a huge smile on my face.

A few more rooms to tidy up.   One last snowman, that is it.   And then I expect the snow to melt away very soon.

Yes, Mother Nature, I am speaking to you.  I’m itching to get my hands dirty!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop

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This Week’s Project Download…

Happy Sunday!  It’s snowing at the homestead this morning.

This week I had one focus… derby car.  We’re slowing making progress!

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I was able to make a quick batch of homemade vanilla extract.

It’s so simple… vodka & vanilla beans.  Just add 6 – 7 vanilla beans (split down the middle and cut in half) to about 4 cups of vodka.  Store for 2 – 3 months and that’s it!  I purchase my vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I paid $23 for 4 oz of vanilla beans (about 25 – 30 long beans).  That is a lot cheaper than my local grocery store.  They had ONE bean in a glass jar for $11!

Pure vanilla extract.  Not that imitation stuff!  And they’ll make fantastic gifts for the holidays!

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This week I also started (and finished!) another book borrowed from my daughter’s teacher.  This was a great book!

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Leap of Faith…

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Life only happens ONCE.  And it is either what you make it, or what you allow it to be.  

When I began my blog I had one mission:  to be as debt-free as possible, which should allow me to stay home with my kids and take up homesteading.  It’s been a wonderful year of self-discovery, focus, education, and, yes, many sacrifices.

Though the odds seemed stacked against me, I am happy to say that my first goal has been achieved.

Last week I took the biggest leap in my journey… I quit my job.  As terrifying and nerve racking as it was I felt completely liberated.  I’m not going to cry.  I’m not fretting.  I’m not second guessing myself.  I am savoring this moment and looking forward to the future.  “I’m all in”, as my husband says.

Most folks would slap me silly for leaving my job.  In retrospect I did give up a fairly big position, full of advancement potential and salary to boot.  I am also very aware of the situation in today’s economy where there are thousands of people looking for employment who are not as fortunate as I am.  However, when balanced against my goals, after months of nail biting and angst over the decision, I surprisingly sailed out that door and I haven’t looked back yet.

Am I crazy?  Perhaps.  But I was not happy any longer.  I needed something more.

My life has taken a dramatic turn over the past few years.  I’ve always teased myself (and have been teased) that I’m the black sheep of the family.  I’m much like my late grandmother, Rosie.  These years have reinforced it.  So rather than fighting it, I choose to embrace my heritage.  I am what I am and I like to think Rosie and I would see things the same way.  I have her traits, her preferred way of life, her somewhat obnoxious attitude.  It’s “the Rosie gene” that has guided me to the realization that I must do what makes me happy in life.

When my grandmother died she was still very young.  I was only 16 at the time.  It was unexpected.  What made it most heartbreaking was that she still had so much to give, and had such a fire for life.  She always had something going on… her garden to tend, her cooking, her trips to the lake with her best friend Babe, her collections of chickens, and her old, yet cool, light blue VW Rabbit.  I would have learned so much from her.  She was just a lunch lady at the local high school who always had a waiting line because of her good cooking.

Although she didn’t make a lot of money her life was rich with accomplishment.  That is what I aspire to be.  A person beyond the flashy dollar sign and the latest gadget.  I want to downshift.  To get away from “living competitively”… job stress, consumerism, and feeling I have to live up to someone else’s expectations.  I am not okay with this anymore.  It no longer fits… if it ever did.

So, goodbye rat race.  I am going to pursue the things that enrich my soul.  For me, I am choosing to be home with my children.  I choose to live a lifestyle that may seem simplistic to some, but to me it has all the potential of the rich loamy soil in my garden.  I can grow anything with what I have.

I’ve heard life is what you make of it.  If so, I see a challenging, exciting road ahead of me.  I am going to make something I can be proud of.

And so can you…

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop

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No regrets…

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I recently read an article that listed the Top 5 regrets of the dying, created by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who cared for patients during the last 12 weeks of their life.

Courtesy of The Guardian, here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

So, in the end it’s the little things, folks.  Not the big monetary “stuff” you’ve accumulated.  Not the “status”.  Just the simplicity of life itself.

Will you have any regrets?