Scratching Away at the Frost

Remember taking off your mittens as a child and scratching away at the frost on the window? afrostwindowchildUsing your warm hands to melt a small, clear space through which to peer?

Figuratively, I still do that. I gaze through a little hole in frosted glass at those around me. And only allow them the same size hole to peer in at me.

From that vantage point, I can see someone that has it “all together” and become envious. Kids well-groomed and walking calmly behind mother’s grocery cart. House tidy and neatly arranged. Everyone contented. At least that’s the way it looks through that little hole in the frost.

I can also cast judgment when things seem to be “crashing down”. A young boy kicking the van tires in a parking lot meltdown. Countertop covered in dishes and muddy tracks across the floor. Their world in chaos. At least that’s the way it looks through that little hole in the icy window.

If you were to step inside my home, you may be surprised. Especially if I’ve only let you peer in through a tiny opening in the frosted window of my life. What you think you know of me may not be true…a frosty window

How many people know what life is really like on the inside? In this culture of social networking, we often don’t truly know one another.

Sometimes we don’t LET ourselves be KNOWN. We keep to ourselves. We don’t open up. And sometimes we don’t ACCEPT what is revealed (either in ourselves or in others). The truth is more than we wanted to see or hear or deal with. It’s better left alone. Or is it? You can’t love somebody you don’t really know.  Without authenticity is loneliness.

I’ve come to realize how quickly I form opinions. Coming to a conclusion when I don’t have all the facts.  I have to stop myself and repeat one of my husband’s favorite lines… “Everyone’s got a story”.

“Every single person you encounter…has so much more going on inside of them than you’ll ever know. But once you get to know a person, once you get to know their story, you’ll be amazed at how much you like them. Once the external layers are peeled away, you’ll begin to understand that we all struggle and wrestle with a lot of the same things, and once you realize that, it makes a huge difference in how you relate to people.”*

It’s true, isn’t it? When you get to know someone – when you open up and begin being honest about life – you find yourself becoming much more gracious in your interactions. When you let the frost on your window totally melt away, or better yet just open the door and let someone come right in to your life, you are able to finally be real.

Becoming deeply connected to others allows you to relate in a meaningful way. When you truly get to know someone and let them know the real you, “you’ll be amazed at how much you like them.”

So as 2013 begins, I encourage you to make it your goal to let someone in to your life… to connect below the surface…. to establish a meaningful relationship.

We never know what struggles we may face down the path a ways or even just around the corner. But whatever lies ahead, I can guarantee that you will weather the storms and delights of life much better if you aren’t walking down the path alone.

 

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-* except from Simmer Down, Mr. C  by Scott Bitely (pg. 143)

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Wassailing

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas… But it’s just a dream, because the truth is that the ground is brown and bare! Oh well – Merry Christmas anyways, Friends! Jesus birth can be celebrated no matter the conditions outdoors!

Snow or not, the air temperature is frigid, so a hot cup of wassail is in store!  Cold days and warm drinks are a fabulous pair. (Although large snowflakes drifting from the heavens would definitely add to the ambiance!)

When I slipped out from under my warm bed covers this morning and pulled on my robe, I went to the kitchen and mixed up a tasty little wassail recipe. And I’m happy to report that it’s been a big hit with both the children and adults in our home all day long today. I found several recipes on-line and used them to come up with this original (based on what I found in the house!). It just may be a new Christmas day tradition.

Christmas Wassail

In a crockpot, put the following:

6 oz. concentrated orange juice (1/2 a can)

64 oz. of apple juice (1/2 gallon)

2 cups of cranberry juice

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup cane sugar or honey

1 teaspoon of each of the following- nutmeg, ginger, and allspice

½ Tablespoon of cinnamon

Let it simmer for 2 – 3 hours before serving. Leave on ‘warm’ all day long! Leftovers (if there are any) can be kept in the fridge for 4 -5 days and reheated. In my opinion, it’s delicious!

As the old wassailing carol goes, love and joy come to you both today and in the coming year!    -A happy homemaker

Here We Come A-Wassailing

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you
a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

 

Get To Know Your Monkeys

Christmas Break is just beginning.

In less than a week, you’ll be singing along to “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas” and will really mean it when you get to the line “Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.”

Why is it that soon after beginning the break we’ve been looking forward to that we start to go NUTS because our kids are constantly underfoot with “nothing to do”?!?!?

Could it be because “Jane Goodall knows her monkeys better than I know mine”?

Rather than bemoan the fact that you have to figure out how to keep your chimpanzees contented over break, use this time to get to know them better (not just keep them ‘busy’!).

I’ve always enjoyed being a people-watcher. Now, as a mother, I have learned to become a child-watcher. It really does amaze me that so many people living together under the same roof can be so extremely different! But different doesn’t mean bad and shouldn’t mean annoying! It’s just different.

Ask God to help you become a better student of your child(ren). Watch carefully, ask questions and learn each child’s strengths and areas of weaknesses. (But watch your perspective when it comes to areas of weakness. Look long term. Decide if, down the road, the weakness will be a huge deal (tendencies to lie or cheat) or not (messy room)? )

Put more energy and time into developing their strengths this vacation. Find areas that they enjoy and excel or are gifted in. Invest – WITH your child – in that area. I’ll bet that, if you do that, your down time together as a family will be remembered with great fondness… and will probably be what they remember most about this Christmas break. Yes, even more than the presents under the tree!

Merry Christmas to you AND to your little monkeys!

Granola to Go

It’s hard to go wrong when you offer a healthy granola (made in your own kitchen) for an on-the-go breakfast. It’s crunchy and sweet, inexpensive and convenient. Best of all, you get to choose what is (and what is not) in the cereal!

I’ve used a few different granola recipes over the years. This one is our family favorite. Not only is it low-fat, it’s also quick and easy to make in a large batch (over a gallon of granola at a time!).

Granola – Family Sized Batch

12 cups whole rolled oats (steel-cut and quick-cooking don’t work well)

1 ½ c. brown sugar 2 c. coconut (I use unsweetened coconut chips, but sweetened shredded coconut works too)

2/3 c. frozen concentrated apple juice

2/3 c. honey

½ c. flax seed meal (opt.)

1 T. cinnamon

½ t. sea salt

Granola How-To

* Put all the ingredients in a very large bowl and stir until well mixed. * Pour the granola mix onto a large baking sheet. I use a 12 x 17 pan, coated with non-stick cooking spray or lined with parchment paper brushed with oil/butter. * Spread the mixture out as flat as possible for even baking. (You will need to bake 2 or 3 pans worth of granola for this size of a batch!) * Bake at 375 degrees F until lightly toasted (about 15 minutes). * Turn the mixture at least once while cooking to help it brown evenly. * Let it cool, and then store it in an air-tight container. * As a treat, we sometimes add slivered almonds and/or craisins to the baked granola.

Extra Info.

* There are lots of ways to change/enhance this recipe (or any other granola recipe you find). One website includes the following add-ins as options: • Dried fruit: raisins, cranberries, cherries, blueberries, figs, dates, apricots, coconut flakes • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, cashews • Seeds and grains: pumpkin, flax and sesame seeds, toasted wheat germ • Special extras: crystallized ginger, candied orange peel, sea salt, almond and vanilla extract • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom, ginger

My recommendation is that you start with the recipe above and then choose one or two add-in options each time you make a new batch. Don’t try too many at once. You don’t want to overwhelm the mix (with flavor or calories).

* Oats are naturally gluten-free—but cross-contamination is a problem. If you have someone in your home that is GF, look for a brand (such as Bob’s Red Mill) that guarantees the oats GF.

Go, go granola!

P.S. Just one more thought: How about Ho, Ho Granola!

Granola for Gifts!!

Since Christmas is only two weeks away,

why not make up a ‘family sized batch’ of granola,

include a few extra ‘add-ins’, and then package up portions

in cellophane bags, tied with ribbon,

to give to some special people on your gift list…

the mailman, your neighbor, your child’s teacher, etc.

Include a personal note telling the recipient

how much you appreciate them.

It’ll make their day!

When Mother Reads Aloud

When Mother Reads Aloud

When Mother reads aloud, the past

Seems real as every day;

I hear the tramp of armies vast,

I see the spears and lances cast,

I join the thrilling fray.

Brave knights and ladies fair and proud

I meet when Mother reads aloud.

When Mother reads aloud, far lands

Seem very near and true;

I cross the desert’s gleaming sands,

Or hunt the jungle’s prowling bands,

Or sail the ocean blue.

Far heights, whose peaks the cold mists shroud,

I scale, when Mother reads aloud.

When Mother reads aloud, I long

For noble deeds to do-

To help the right, redress the wrong;

It seems so easy to be strong,

So simple to be true.

Oh, thick and fast the visions crowd

My eyes, when Mother reads aloud.

I understand that culture offers plenty of examples to follow. Children naturally find someone they admire and then quickly put them on a pedestal to idolize and mimic. There is a difference between a celebrity and a hero, however. The former is known for being well known. The later is known for worthy actions. Children have a hard time distinguishing between the two. That’s our job. To make the distinction clear. To point out ‘what actions merit honor and which individuals deserve to be admired.’  One place to look for heroes to introduce to your children is in good books!  Children find heroes for life when mothers and fathers read, “Once upon a time…”

(Poem and thoughts adapted from The Children’s Book of Heroes, edited by William J. Bennett.)

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For some fabulous book reviews done BY KIDS, go to: bookiewoogie.blogspot.com/

It’s some kids and their dad (an author/illustrator himself), talkin’ about books!

On their blog, they say: “We love the written word. We love art. Children’s books are a place where those two things come together beautifully. Here at Bookie Woogie we pick our favorite books, review them, and create some accompanying fan art. We invite you to participate too: please chime in with your thoughts and comments!”

It’s a fun place to browse… I highly recommend it!

KIDS know which books KIDS like! 

Wonder Spray – All-purpose Household Cleaner

Here’s another cleaning recipe that you can make for yourself… It is totally safe and non-toxic. The kids and I use this on floors, walls, toilets, and countertops.

WONDER SPRAY

In a large squirt bottle, combine 2 T. white vinegar and 1 t. Borax.

Then add 16 oz. hot distilled or purified water.

(This is too avoid water spots that come with tap water.)

Secure the top and shake.

Finally add either 1/4 c. liquid Castile soap or 1/8 c. Ivory dish detergent.

If you’d like, you can scent it with 15 – 20 drops of your favorite essential oil.

(I prefer a lemon and lavender combination.)

Your new household cleaner is ready to be used!  Grab your squirt bottle, a rag or paper towel, and clean away with your Wonder Spray, Wonder Woman!

P.S. The squirt bottle selection IS important. Get one that will continue to mist your cleaner for years!  Don’t skimp on the squirt bottle… The cheap ones don’t last very long!

P.P.S. For information on where to find liquid Castile soap and the average cost, see the Earth Paste – A Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner post on my blog.