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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Mooing over Milk…

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When I was a little girl living in Japan I remember my mom had glass bottled milk delivered to our doorstep.  At that time there was no relevance to it.  As a teenager I thought it was so “uncool” to have some old Japanese guy deliver milk by bicycle to our doorstep.

Fast forward to today and I can’t believe we actually had milk delivered that way!  It was way cool!  If only we could get our milk delivered that way again.

Even though we can’t get personal milk delivery where I live I am lucky to have a local dairy farm a few miles from my home.  That is where I purchase my milk.  And, yes, it comes in glass bottles!

Aside from the “coolness” of having your milk in glass bottles there are actually many advantages in doing so.  Here are some of them:

  • Glass milk bottles can be sterilized and reused multiple times.  We return our milk bottles to the dairy farm for a refund on the deposit we pay for the bottle.  
  • The dairy farm sells milk in half gallon, quart and pint sizes.  I often keep a few bottles at home for multiple uses.  I use the pint bottles to hold paint brushes.  The quarts make great vases for my favorite flower, sunflowers.  The half gallon bottles make great sun tea in the summertime.  Even my husband uses the pint bottle for his early morning coffee while he commutes to work!
  • Like I just mentioned above, glass can be recycled indefinitely.  Plastic, on the other hand, degrades during the recycling process and cannot be reused in the same manner.  Yes, tetra pak milk cartons can be recycled, but they are not accepted by most curbside recycling programs.  Some research I’ve found suggests that a majority just end up in landfills.
  • Plastic is made from petroleum, and its manufacturer is highly polluting.  Research suggests that one 16 ounce bottle generates 100 times the toxic emissions as making the same bottle out of glass.  Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
  • There has been a lot of chatter lately about chemicals leaching from plastic.  It is extremely worrisome when that very plastic holds our food.  Glass, on the other hand, is known to be safe.
  • If you buy milk in glass bottles chances are you are buying local.  Buying local supports your community.  Buying local typically supports small local business.  Bottom line, buying local is just better.

There are many more reasons why I think buying milk in glass bottles is beneficial.  But, when it comes down to it, I just love the nostalgia of it all.  So, even if the above weren’t facts I’d still buy milk in glass bottles.  Knowing that it is much better from an environmental standpoint just makes me much happier with my choice.

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop.

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This Week’s Project Download…

Good morning all!  A day late but… I hope everyone had a very Happy Easter!

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This year I lost my daughter to the Easter Bunny tradition.  Although it was sad I was happy she could help mom and dad, and shop for goodies for her little brother and baby sister.  Of course, she got to pick out her own basket goodies as well, which worked out well in her favor.  I always add toothbrushes and toothpaste in the kids baskets.  It never hurts to remind my little ones about the importance of dental hygiene!

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This year I also added books.  My daughter got “Middle School:  My Brother is a Big, Fat Liar” and my son got his very first Magic Tree House book, “Dinosaurs Before Dark”.  Unlike his artistic sister my son is very factual.  Both are very excited to start reading their books!

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This week was more of a planning project week.  It’s finally warming up enough where we could open the tree house back up.  We still need to put down some simple wood flooring and finish the roofing.  Right now it looks like the tree house will have a metal roof, which will end up being a lot nicer than the roof we have on our house!

The kids love it.

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Our veggies are finally starting to sprout.  We can’t wait to finally put them in the ground!

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This past week I read “Anya’s Ghost”.  I found out about this book from my daughter’s teacher who has a blog of her own, The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog.

This was my first time reading a graphic novel and I must say the graphics are excellent.  It is a novel for young teens, especially girls.  The story is quick and speaks about social anxiety, body image, friendship, and ghostbusting.  The main character, Anya, smokes which I did not like at all.  But, all in all, it was a a quick read and was a good graphic novel to read.

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Mucking it Up in Mud Season…

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When I first moved to the New England 14 years ago I had never set foot on the East Coast.  Yet I had this odd fascination with the East Coast lifestyle.  Somehow that lifestyle seemed much more fitting to me.  Living a majority of my life overseas in Japan, I was also fortunate to live in places like California, Guam and Hawaii.  Pretty awesome, right?  Even with those wonderful opportunities I missed something… I never truly experienced  the change of seasons.   So when I met my husband I was lucky to discover he was from Maine… which eventually led us “home” to raise our family on our beautiful mini-homestead.

Spring is a tricky time in Northern New England.  Yes, spring officially starts in March, although you really don’t reap the warmer temperature benefits until much later.  But, in all honesty, there never really is a true spring up here.  It’s mud season.  This is when all the snow and ice melts. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. More often, we get a wintery mix and erratic swings in climate. Nature is at its most capricious.

Just looking out my door I can see the soft ground peeking through the melting snow.  It’s soft, it’s squishy… it’s mud.  And at this homestead it means a lot of dirt dragging in the house.  Not only from my kids, but the dog and, worst of all, my husband (sorry, honey, but it’s true).  Mud season also means it’s time to put up those heavy winter coats and break out the spring weather wear.  Fleeces for chilly mornings and evenings, rain coats for the slushy mess, and muck boots to trek out in to the yard or, as in my kids case, just play.

Mud season is probably the most dreaded season of the year.  Yes, even more dreaded than winter.  However, it’s the price of living in Maine. Our winter brings fresh snow and bright blue skies; autumn has the most glorious foliage and summer, with moderate heat and low humidity, is perfection. Spring does not really kick in until May, and then everything blooms at once. I love living in a place with all the seasons, even if I’m counting the days to daffodils and tulips.

When I think about it mud season is not all bad. There are no crowds. Days are getting longer. Shovels rest while snow piles shrink. Empty beaches are beautifully surreal. The sidewalks around town are finally clear of ice.  We’ve been hibernating all winter so throw on a pair of your mud boots and enjoy the outdoors!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop.

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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…

It was another whirlwind week here on the homestead.  And this morning it was tough programming the kids to wake up earlier than normal because of daylight savings time.

I am proud to say that the derby car is complete!  Just in time for the races this coming weekend.  Just some minor sanding and paint touch ups.

I’ll have a special blog post on this project and my many lessons learned.

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I didn’t have time to do many projects this week (I’ll get to that in a minute).  I was able to make a peppermint citrus scrub though.  It is extremely easy to make.  You can use sugar or salt, both will gently exfoliate the skin.  The cooling sensation of the peppermint oil helps soothe itchiness, and the coconut oil (or another other oil you choose to use) moisturizes.  I like the citrus because it is very invigorating and immediately wakes you up and has a wonderful clean, spring/summer scent.  We definitely need that up here in Northern New England!

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Here’s how to make the scrub:

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar or salt.   (I personally buy the cheap stuff since I won’t be eating it)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil .  You can substitute olive oil, almond oil, apricot oil, avocado oil, or even use a combination.  
  • 2-4 Tablespoons orange zest.  You can also use lemon or grapefruit zest, it’s really your preference.
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable glycerin.  I’ve read it’s optional, but it does add extra moisturizing properties.  
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil.
  • 10-15 drops orange essential oil, or any other citrus of your choice.   

Instructions:

Mix sugar, oil, zest, and vegetable glycerin together. Depending on what type of oil you use, you may need to add more or less to get the proper consistency. Make sure there is enough oil to make the sugar stick together, but not so much that it is floating on top.

Gradually add in the essential oils until you’ve reached the desired scent. It may take more or less, depending on the type of oils you use.

Store your sugar scrub in a glass container.  I put mine up on the kitchen window sill.  The great thing is that this scrub also makes an awesome gift, especially in the summer when we’re all out in the garden getting our hands dirty!   Just rub a small amount of the scrub on your hands or body and rinse with warm water.  

Honestly the sky is the limit on this scrub.  You can add any scent and oil you choose.  I think my next one will involve lavender and rosemary.  

This week I really had to focus on my daughter and her school work.  I was so nervous about her learning and study habits.  Thankfully, everything turned out just fine.  I just need to ensure I stay on top of her and encourage her.  She has been reading “My Life as a Book” so I read it as well.  I must say this has been of my favorite books she’s brought home so far!  Maybe it’s because the main character reminds me of a cross between her and her devious brother!

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The kids enjoyed a wonderful few days with dad as he made a quick visit home (thus the lack of projects I could complete – there was too much excitement at home).  Unfortunately, the visit was short lived and he’s out patrolling our waters again.  It’s only for a few weeks and he’ll finally be back home for a decent amount of time.  Just in time to get the garden going!

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Be the Gardner of Your Mind…

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This morning as I sat in front of my laptop thinking about my next blog I received an email reply from my father.  A brief rewind…  my parents are in the process of preparing for retirement.  We have convinced them to leave sunny San Diego and come here to Maine, at least part-time.  Things are now starting to progress and we are now preparing to build an attachment on to our house.  There has been a lot of  discussion back and forth on design, location, etc.  The hottest of topics… a garage.

This was the dialogue this morning…

Husband (via steel maritime vessel):  “What about a carport instead of a full walled garage?

Me:  “No way the old man will agree.  He has to wipe down his car every day.  He’ll have a hellava time doing it on days like today.  (We got another foot of slushy snow).

Husband:  “What if we got horses and hitching posts instead?”

Me:  “I’m in!”

Father:  “There’s always a smart ass in the crowd.  We can always say the hell with it altogether and there are no worries.”

A conversation that could have been silly banter back and forth quickly turned sour and negative.  This quick email exchange made me realize that it’s easy to fall prey to negative thinking.  Having negative thoughts can cause a fog where it’s almost impossible to loosen up, have fun, and see the brighter side.

Negative thoughts drain you of energy and keep you from being in the present moment.  The more you give in to your negative thoughts, the stronger they become.  On the contrary, a small positive thought can have the same effect blossoming into a beautiful outcome.

As we all know when we start to have negative thoughts, shifting our focus to something positive is much easier said than done.  But, I have found, it’s the only way I can personally get turned around.  Nothing gets me moving in the right direction more easily than “choosing” to look for the silver lining in my life.  Frankly, I just don’t have time to be or deal with a Nasty Nelly.

I’m not saying everyone should walk around happy all day long, skipping down the street, whistling show tunes.  I’m also not saying that happy thoughts is the cure all for every ailment known to  mankind.  What I am saying is that if we all just lighten up just a little bit we can avoid going down a path that can be potentially painful and unnecessary.

It wasn’t long ago where “I chose” to see the worst in everything.  If I had to pick a phrase my husband would use to describe this time it would be the “duck and cover” period.  He even got the kids in to it.  When he would calmly say, “Hey, I think it’s going to be a full moon tonight” it was code speak for, “Mommy is going to go bug crap crazy soon.  Seek cover.”  To this day if my kids see a full moon I can hear them whisper, “uh oh”.

Fortunately for me, my third child was born, and “I chose” to re-focus on my family and home.  As a way to reinforce my newly acquired outlook I decided to start a blog and began to enjoy the life around me.

Here are some things I do to help overcome negative thoughts, perhaps they’ll work for you, too:

1.  Meditate or do Yoga.

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My favorite is hot yoga.  When the husband is away I do what I can at home, especially  with a little one.  Even listening to meditation music at night before bed does wonders.  I’m blessed I have two older children who, believe it or not, dim the lights, turn on the music, take the baby, and just let me relax.  Who cares if it’s only for 5 minutes before the crying and fighting starts.  5 minutes is better than nothing!  Meditation and yoga helps me stay present – the only moment, the most important moment.

2. Smile.

We all gotta do it.  It really does help change your mood and relieve stress. And, believe it or not, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.

3. Surround yourself with positive people.

When you’re stuck in a negative spiral, talk to people who can put things into perspective and won’t feed your negative thinking.  Whether it’s a Facebook group I’m part of, fellow bloggers, or a neighbor, surrounding ones’ self with those who encourage and support me in my goals keeps us positive.

4. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive.

You don’t know how many times my husband calls/emails and tells me his schedule has changed and won’t be home when expected.  The old me would instantly freak out and get mad.  And, yes, perhaps, a few threats of divorce.  What I failed to see is that the change was not his doing.  So, as a family, we make do with the cards we are dealt, and remain thankful for our strong family unit that is fortunate enough to live in a beautiful state.

5.  Don’t play the victim.  You create your life – take responsibility.  

If I am unhappy with a situation I think of what I can do to change it.  We always have the choice to make change happen.

6.  Help Someone.

Every so often I like to take the focus away from me and do something nice for another person.  I admit, though, my husband is much better at this than I am.  When the Nemo blizzard hit I plowed the driveway of an older couple up the street from my home.  I am no expert snow plower… I only took out a small tree, a flower bed… then there was some sod… hmm, I digress.  I did what I could.  In the end, my neighbor was happy(ish), and I felt great about myself.  It’s addictive.  Choose to help someone else.  Random acts of kindness last forever and make us feel great about who we are.

7.  Remember that no one is perfect and let yourself move forward.  

It’s easy to dwell on mistakes.  Learn from them and move forward.  I always remind myself that my mistakes led to where I am today… my family, this home, this present life surrounded by nature and clean air.

8.  Sing/Dance.

I’m an awful dancer, and even worse at singing.  But when I do it I feel great.  Singing to “Call Me Maybe” in the car with my kids, or dancing in front of my baby while she’s in her bouncy seat… it’s an easy way to cleanse, providing quick, and cheap, stress relief.   

9. List five things that you are grateful for right now.

When things are really crazy I stop, breathe, and appreciate what I already have. Here’s my list: My husband, my children, my home, my health, and my new found path in life.  This week I am also especially grateful for electricity.

10. Read/Write.

Whether it’s a book, positive quotes, keeping a journal, or writing a blog.  Reading and writing is an amazing outlet.  Just writing this blog has already made me forget the emails I exchanged with my father this morning.  I was able  to go back and write to him as if nothing had happened, in a normal tone.

In the end… remember this…

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop

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