Yes, It’s True…

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We’re moving up in the cyber world, folks!

I’m happy to announce that I’ve revamped my blog and you can now find my homesteading adventures here.

PLEASE be sure to subscribe!  I could sure use the traffic… besides, it’s makes me feel important!

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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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.

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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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

Barn-Hop

Food for Thought…

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Yes, I can see it now.  My husband will be standing in front of me waiting for that huge pat on the shoulder.  I would say belly rub, but he gets very sensitive about me using that term.  Not sure if it’s because of the dog reference or because his belly is fully large enough for a good rub.  Anyway, I digress…

This past week my husband was able to make a quick trip home for a few days before heading back out to sea on another ever-so adventurous trip patrolling our waters.  Every time my husband returns home he has a ritual.  He denies it, but this absolutely happens:

  1. As we pull in to the drive way he is in immediate bliss at finally being home, much like being at peace.
  2. He inspects the bird feeders, which are never full when he returns.
  3. He makes his round inside the house, ensuring all is safe and that no major work is required during his stay.
  4. He looks out the window, checking out the bird feeders again.  He will mention that he must make a trip to the local feed store – this happens within 15 minutes of being home.
  5. As I am known to keep our kitchen counter full of clutter during his time away, he’ll make note to clean it up.  This, in my opinion, is pointless.  I can guarantee you I’ll be back to stacking up the mail, keeping the kids Ovaltine, and any other non-perishable food item at arms length.  He fails to see that a trip down to the basement is like taking a trip across town… I won’t do it unless I absolutely have to.
  6. My husband will say, “Did you feed the birds while I’ve been gone?”  My standard response is always, “No.  They’re fine”
  7. His mind is now turning, almost panic stricken.  Finally he says, “I’ve got to feed the birds.”
  8. Forget bringing in his sea bag full of dirty laundry.  Forget taking a nice hot shower after days on end in a steel box.  Forget sitting down and just relaxing for a change.
  9. Darling husband is out the door to save his wild birds from absolute despair… he is headed to the feed store.
  10. A half hour later a 50-lb bag of sunflower seed sits in the back of his truck… along with some suet and corn for the squirrels .

Did you notice the common theme of the list above?  It’s all about the birds.

During his recent trip back home I nagged him about this ritual.  After a few minutes of vehemently denying that steps 1 – 10 actually occur, he finally caved.  Once he acknowledged his ritual, he proceeded to tell me how important it was to feed the birds.  As he rambled on and on I looked out the window, I thought to myself, “what is it about those darn birds?”  I’ll tell you what it is…

Wild birds are an integral part of the ecosystem and serve many important purposes.  Here are some of them:

  • Insect and rodent population control
  • Distribution of seeds that leads to forest conservation
  • Food sources for bird predators (I’m not too keen on this thought, but that is the natural cycle of life)

Birds are one of the most populous life forms on the planet, and that biodiversity leads to a richness of life and beauty. The incredible numbers of bird species demonstrate amazing evolutionary adaptations, even back to the early dinosaur days. And although I am not an avid bird watcher they teach us how to adapt throughout the world.  And this, in turn, can teach us how we can begin to adapt our own behaviors to live in our world, rather than to force our world into an artificial and unsustainable mold.

When we first moved in to our home not a single bird visited us.  It was a shame, especially since we are surrounded by trees and have an excellent location for birds to come and visit.  My husband kindly reminds me of this at least once a month.  Since the day we moved here my husband has loyally kept the birds fed.  And if a storm is approaching you can be sure those birds have a stockpile of seed outside for them to bring home.

Throughout the years I’ve seen many different birds visit our home.  From pesky blue jays, chickadees, wood peckers, morning doves, cardinals, orioles, finches, rose breasted grosbeaks, brown creepers, hummingbirds, hawks, owls, and even the simple sparrow.  And my most favorite of them all…  the pileated woodpecker.

It’s early morning, and the sun just came up.  My husband has been gone for a couple days now, but the feeders are still full.  I figure in another week when I look outside the feeders will be empty.  It will be at that moment when I will finally cave in and make that trek to the feed store.

I can hear the birds singing already.

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