“I Will Never Homeschool”: The Background

never homeschool

I feel like the longer I homeschool, the more I could talk about it, so this first post will be the history, if you will, of our decision to homeschool.

A little background. When I was in a kid in school, I knew some people who homeschooled. A few were good friends of mine, but my mind couldn’t grasp how anyone could successfully school at home.

Try as I might (and if I’m being honest, I didn’t try at all), I couldn’t fathom not going to school. I was a student council member (still have the t-shirt), I was in pep club – heck, my senior year, I was the MASCOT. I loved the socialization of school. Continue reading ““I Will Never Homeschool”: The Background”

The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions To Ask Your Kids Every Night (Guest Post)

A few years ago, I signed up for the 31-Day Challenge: a challenge to blog every single day for 31 (consecutive!) days. Through that process, I came to know Christine. While we’ve never met in person (yet!), we have always felt connected. I’m so pleased she agreed to guest post for me and share with you on the Mind Mumbles blog. I’m honored to know her, I’m blessed to call her friend, and I’m thrilled to introduce her to you all today. I know you’ll love her as much as I do. ~ Val

The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions To Ask Your Kids Every Night

 

This post was first shared on Her View From Home (www.herviewfromhome.com )

I love my kids, but by bedtime, I’m just exhausted. At 8pm, my patience shuts off. It’s like I have some sort of glitch in my mommy code, or maybe I just missed the patience upgrade with each kid or something? Continue reading “The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions To Ask Your Kids Every Night (Guest Post)”

Autumn Weekend Staycation

autumn weekend

autumn weekend

I had told Little Miss to stay in her bedroom until 7:30 the next morning. Hubs was working an overnight shift (yuck) to cover for another employee, and I was going to be up late taking care of things around the abode. I knew she’d be up early but I told her to stay in her room and read so I could have a chance to sleep in a few extra minutes.

Not only did she emerge much earlier than 7:30, but she woke Little Man up as well.

Certainly not the start I wanted to my weekend.

I was running from the time I got out of bed, and had been awake over an hour before I realized I hadn’t had any coffee yet. How was I getting so much done?! It’s one of life’s great mysteries, and small miracles.

I got everyone fed and cleaned up after, got them in their outfits for the day and tasked them with entertaining one another. I started the process of canning the black beans I had set out to soak the night before.

After Hubs was done with work that morning, he drove to the church parking lot to snooze a bit before the men’s breakfast event. It was something I half-suggested, half-hoped he would be able to do, and he did it. I wouldn’t have. But he’s a better man than I am, so he did.

The black beans were well on their way to prime deliciousness for future use when he walked in, totally wiped. The kids had about worn each other (and their mother) out, so it was time for the weekend treat: television.

Don’t judge me.

I’ve never liked plopping my kids in front of the television, and I rarely do – but sometimes a mama’s gotta get stuff done, and the t.v. just happens to have some pull in order to make it all happen. I grew up on television and Taco Bell and still managed to turn out pretty functional, so I have really high hopes for my kids.

We had planned to drive to one of the Minnesota state parks that Saturday, but because Hubs worked overnight, changed our plans to be closer to home and hit up our favorite pumpkin patch instead. While the beans were canning and Hubs was snoring, however, the storm clouds moved in. It didn’t look promising for an afternoon trip to the patch. I love the pumpkin patch and all the activities the kids partake in. The carriage rides, the corn maze, the animals (especially the animals) – I love it all. My favorite part, though, is choosing my very own pie pumpkins from a local grower.

It’s the simple things.

Tell me what’s more amazing than an entire vine of pumpkins growing from a single seed, producing these beautiful, tasty pumpkins, and being able to turn them into a delicious dessert (and roasted seeds for snacking). All from one seed! If an entire crop can yield from a single seed, surely God created me to do so much with the gifts and talents He gave me.

A side note about beans: I have a ridiculous bounty of dried beans in my cupboard. I’ve canned 11 pounds of beans already and probably have more than 10 pounds still to be prepared in my cupboard. I love beans. A lot. But the funny thing – that’s not really funny at all – is I’m the only one in our family who likes beans.

Obviously, they have no choice but to become bean lovers over the course of their life, because I doubt I can put away almost 25 pounds of beans by myself. That’s not the kind of achievement I want to be remembered for. / End side note.

Another small miracle occurred that day – it didn’t storm. Not until much, much later. We headed out to the patch-o-pumpkins, and it was one of the most splendid times I’ve ever spent there. It wasn’t crowded. It was windy enough to keep the bugs at bay, but not to send us flying. Even though it was past nap time and a few meltdowns made an appearance, it was an enjoyable outing to be sure. It’s one of my favorite annual traditions and that outing solidified why.

Everyone napped afterward. Everyone went to bed that night completely content and completely tuckered out. It was lovely. So very lovely.

So far, I’m really enjoying fall. And I’m thanking God I’m able to.

How To Be A Camping Family

Camping

Camping

For those of you who want to know how to be a camping family, here’s your helpful list:

Go camping.

 

That’s it. That’s seriously all you have to do. For some reason, however, it has been Y E A R S since I went camping last. This is wrong on so many levels.

I grew up camping. We camped all along the California coast and Wyoming mountains, and several of my near-and-dear memories are from camping as a family. Up into my early 20s, I was even organizing camping trips with others. The time I almost died hiking to the top of Boulder Basin was a camping trip I organized. Then, we just…didn’t camp.

It isn’t like we didn’t have camping equipment, either. We did. Even after we had Little Miss and I vowed to give her a childhood of outdoor experiences, we never went camping. It’s a little tougher to find decent camping areas close to home here than it was when we lived in Wyoming, but even living in Wyoming wasn’t enough to get us out of our married home and into the wilderness.

This year, I decided, was going to be different. Little Miss and Little Man were going to grow up with as many camping memories as I could give them, and it was going to start now.

Except somewhere between our move last year and organizing storage, we lost our tent. Or “lost” it. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying he wasn’t exactly broken up over the fact we couldn’t find our tent.

We borrowed a tent (and a couple of bed rolls) from some friends of ours, though, and we forged ahead with planning. Well, I forged ahead. My husband couldn’t understand why my camping desire, which had been dormant for so many years, suddenly seemed insatiable. “We’re not a camping family.” he said.

Au contraire.

I did as much of the prep work myself as I could, to alleviate any burden from anyone else having to wear themselves out before leaving for the campground. I was so proud of myself for everything I remembered and packed. I also couldn’t find my husband’s sleeping bag. Turns out it was “lost” somewhere with the missing tent.

After I loaded up our minivan with our essentials, we had to make a pit stop at the store to buy my husband a sleeping bag. Thankfully, it ended up being less than even what the sale sticker said it would be.

We chose a campground close to home. For our first excursion as a family, not knowing how the kids would do, I thought we’d better be able to get home if we absolutely needed to. Once we arrived and found our reserved spot, we got the kids out and set to work.

This is where our first crucial lesson was learned. In the future, we cannot let Little Man out of his car seat until we have set up the tent. As soon as his feet hit the ground, that kid was gone. Every direction, in, around, on top of, or through every single thing he could get to. Had it not been for the good Lord providing a very friendly family with outgoing children camping right next to us, who could help us corral our children, Brent and I might still be trying to set up the tent in between our tag-team efforts of rounding up Little Man.

After the tent was set up, I got everything we needed situated inside of it, and easy-as-that TWO HOURS HAD PASSED. I couldn’t believe it. Between chasing the kids, setting up, and getting everything ready to prepare our dinner, it was well past our normal dinner time. I roasted some hot dogs and while Little Miss praised my camp-cooking abilities, hubs was disappointed I didn’t bring ketchup. But YOU’RE WELCOME FOR ME COOKING YOUR DINNER OVER AN OPEN FIRE.

The kids ran. And ran. And we chased. And chased. Finally, when story time by the fire wrapped up at 9:30, it was time to call it a night. We got the kids and ourselves inside the tent seconds before the heavens opened up and poured rain for the next several hours. The rain was noisy, the trains passing the campground were noisy, and the snores in the tent were noisy. I think – if I did my math correctly – I got seven minutes of sleep that night. Coincidentally, while I slept those seven minutes, I had a dream we were all being evacuated to a Century 21 realty office (which doesn’t exist anywhere near the campground in real life) because tornadoes were about to rip through the campground.

It wasn’t the most restful night I’ve ever had.

The next morning was freezing cold, misty, and windy. We dressed in layers and I cooked us breakfast over the fire again. Hashbrowns, eggs, mushrooms, and cheese. It was delicious. I boiled water so we could burn our mouths on sub-par camping instant coffee, and it was a big success. I’m just now feeling the roof of my mouth again.

That morning, my bathroom visit introduced me to an entire herd of daddy long leg spiders, most of which were congregating by the one and only hand dryer in the restroom. If you know anything about me, you know I struggle mightily with anything that has more than four legs and/or wings.

I can’t.

I won’t even go into detail about how I maniacally lit a tick on fire after it fell from a tree on my hand at the campsite. Die, devil bug! 

I let my hands air dry in the freezing cold wind that morning. After breakfast, we didn’t see much point in sticking around to suffer in the cold much longer and started the process of packing up. As we buckled our seatbelts to leave I exclaimed, “We did it!” and hubs replied, “Yay!” I added, “One night!” He laughed.

I assure you, however, this was the first of many camping trips we’ll be taking as a family. You can’t beat the memories made or the times shared, and I’m thrilled and excited to be able to do this with my kiddos.

We ARE a camping family.

But I am keeping a ready-flame with me at all times. Beware, devil bugs. Beware.

Making Moments Count: A Manifesto

MakingMomentsCount-A Manifesto

Prior to 2013, I thought I had life figured out. My marriage had overcome some serious obstacles, our oldest daughter had overcome her dramatic entrance into the world two months prematurely, I was (slowly) climbing the corporate ladder, building skills and leadership capabilities, and knew our life was headed toward a picture-perfect happy ending.

Then in April of 2013, our second daughter was stillborn.

No warning. No idea. No explanation. No realization it was possible.

Everything I thought I knew became obsolete and our priorities, dreams, and desires took a dramatic shift.

I quickly realized I didn’t have much of anything figured out and in reality, was barely getting by. I thought I was successful, but I had only fit into the corporate mold others had created for me. I believed my marriage had overcome obstacles, but in hindsight, we had simply dismissed resolving them. I thought I had been working toward the life of my dreams, but instead, I had been working toward the fruition of someone else’s dreams for me.

It took the death of our daughter to make me realize my marriage, my relationship with Little Miss, and any relationship or successful venture I was working on building and maintaining, was a façade. I was ill-equipped to leave any lasting legacy because I believed I had reached my ceiling in my life’s potential.

And still, after my entire world had been turned upsidedown, I was expected to fit into the mold that had been created for me. Life was not certain or guaranteed, and what was supposed to be a celebratory season in our lives was wrought with tragedy and despair. When my world came crashing down, it exposed the weakest points of the foundation I had built my life upon. It also revealed, however, the ways I could strengthen and rebuild.

Life and its precious moments were too important. I realized – after intense mourning, continual grieving, and whole-hearted seeking – I hadn’t been living. None of us had been living. Our family was surviving. One grueling day at a time.

Some things got worse before they got better. I had to learn to fight for a better marriage, rather than accept fighting as the way to be married. I understood my husband and our relationship was the foundation of our family, and of our future. If our relationship was broken, so were the lives of our kids, the legacy of our stillborn daughter, and the promises we vowed to one another when we said, “I do.”

I realized if I claimed to believe God is the giver of life, I needed to start living as such. If I wanted to get anything out of the life He could make possible for me, I had to start investing in it. I might not have the chance to do what made me happy later on – as “later on” may never come.

It became my mission and passion, then, to guide others in seeking and finding the life they were designed to live, embracing the freedom that comes from fulfilling our calling, and making each moment count. I want to equip others to make moments count in the ways I never realized they could. I want to help pave the way for strong marriages, strong families, and stronger faith.

This is what I write. This is how I teach. This is why I’m making moments count.

Want to make your moments count, too? Join the Insider’s Club (all it costs is your email address) and receive tips, challenges, and insight into making your life’s moments count.

How to Ruin a Friday Night in 10 Simple Steps

I’ve shared before how I have no sense of style, and I used to tell people “I got dressed in the dark” when really I just didn’t have a clue what went together or how to make an outfit. Lately, though, I’ve been taking careful care in applying the fashion tips I’ve learned from dear friends over the years, and start piecing myself together.

How to Ruin a Friday Night in 10 Simple Steps

It was because of some newfound pride in an outfit I wore today, that I started the domino effect of ruining our Friday night. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what happened, and how you can recreate the same experience.

1. Have your five-year-old take a picture of you in said outfit. This in itself proves challenging. Yes, I mean make sure I’m in the center of the picture, not that the frame of the picture cuts through the center of me… 

2. Decide you’re too cute to stay home and cook on this frigid Friday night. Make plans in your head to go have dinner out with the whole family.

3. Email picture to your husband and say something cute like, “Hey, wanna have dinner with this gal and her kids?” and give up on cooking altogether. Notice in the picture your hair is a little wonky. Run it under water four minutes before you leave, so it will freeze nice and solid when you walk outside in North Dakota in January as you prepare to dine in public.

4. Choose to meet your husband at a restaurant that doesn’t have childcare. Why do restaurants not have child care? Make a mental note to one day open a restaurant that has child care. Make sure said restaurant is also super popular at 5:00 on a Friday. Try to find one on a busy intersection.

5. As you wait for a table and your youngest starts screaming and throwing a fit because he doesn’t have free reign of said restaurant and your husband says, “I should probably just take him home and you and Little Miss can eat”, talk him out of it. Tell him “Once we’re seated, he’ll settle down” and believe it. Because apparently you’ve forgotten the last six years of parenthood and dining out.

6. When the child doesn’t stop screaming once you’re settled, order food right away for the children like it will magically make everything better.

7. When the children’s food arrives and is also nothing like you expected, make sure it’s so hot it will take another 30 minutes to cool enough for your fit-throwing-child to be able to eat it. Try to keep your child from dipping various limbs in ketchup.

8. Make sure you order something spicier than your taste buds can handle, and be miserable the entire time you’re eating.  Eat only with one hand, as your other is gripping the leg of the fit-thrower, keeping them in their high-chair. Make sure your eating arm is being held on to incessantly by your well-behaved child who feels like she can only eat dinner if she hugs you every 3.2 seconds.

9. When the fit-throwing child settles down and is distracted by others in the restaurant and taking on a pleasant tone, take that to mean he has turned a corner, and you should order dessert. Act surprised when suddenly, he reverts back to his fit three seconds before your dessert arrives.

10. Insist on eating more of your dessert than will fit in your stomach, simply for the fact you long to enjoy any single moment from the adventure out. Leave the restaurant feeling worse than when you walked in. Apologize to your husband for your great idea.


Tonight was just about as bad of a family outing as I’ve ever experienced. I enjoyed getting home. That was the highlight. I enjoyed walking through the doors of a place I shouldn’t have dared to leave tonight to begin with.

I would have saved time and experienced the same degree of pleasure if I had simply thrown a $50 bill in the garbage disposal. Next Friday, I might still look like I should be out and about, but we’re staying in. And I’m making popcorn for dinner.

Cousin Uncle Travis

It isn’t the most becoming title, but he wears it graciously, and today I’d like to share a little about our beloved Cousin Uncle Travis.

Travis is my husband’s cousin. I first met him when he was about 14 years old and I was engaged to Brent. All I remember about first meeting Travis was how fast he talked. He was like an auctioneer. I never had any idea what he was saying, I just knew he seemed really enthusiastic about it.

Say -Pinochle!-One of my favorite first memories of Travis is the picture that was taken at Brent’s and my wedding where Travis is the only guy excited about catching the garter – and he was enthusiastically lunging for it while others were hunkering in the background, with their hands folded. It makes me laugh even thinking about it. I would show it to you, but we got married in the prehistoric era, before digital files, and I don’t feel like combing the garage for our wedding album and messing with the scanner somewhere in the storage shelves. But trust me – it’s a great picture.

In 2009, Travis moved from small town North Dakota, in with us. He was attending college nearby, and we were fairly cheap rent. If I had only known how much food the kid could eat… Travis moved in exactly three days before I found out I was pregnant with our first child. So yes, you may begin to feel sorry for him now. I was nauseated, I was exhausted, and I was irritable. And then I got pregnant. Ha!

After a couple of months, and we don’t blame him, Travis moved out to room with some college-aged friends of his. One thing I admired about Travis was his heart for the Lord. He was always wanting to learn more and do more, and he was constantly running around from social gathering to social gathering to surround himself with other believers. He would still periodically come over for dinner and good game of pinochle, though. (Don’t worry – I didn’t know what pinochle was, either, until I was going to marry Brent. In order to become an official member of the family, I had to learn how to play. My life hasn’t been the same since. Learn how to play and then come over. I’ll make kuchen.)

When Little Miss made her dramatic entry into this world, she had a first cousin named Travis, and we felt it would be a little confusing explaining which cousin we were talking about. Thus, he was stuck with, and graciously adopted the name “Cousin Uncle Travis.”

Some of my favorite visits with Travis were when he would stop by the bank where I worked. It seemed our deepest life-topic conversations took place in my office. His wisdom surpassed his years, and I don’t think there was a single time I wasn’t encouraged after he stopped by. Most of my fondest memories center around conversation and pinochle. There was one time Travis and I were pinochle partners, and we had the largest negative score most people have ever seen. We couldn’t catch a break, and were losing badly. We had a lot of good laughs, though, and there aren’t many times I lose and laugh about it.

Over the years I’ve been able to watch Cousin Uncle Travis grow into one of the most genuine souls I’ve ever known. He is transparent in his faith, transparent in his struggles, and transparent in his heart for others. It’s sometimes hard for me to realize this is the same kid I couldn’t understand once upon a time. He doesn’t talk as fast today, but his brain still works at break-neck speeds, and he is always on the go. He’ll be leaving in a matter of days to return to Taiwan to teach others about Christ…for five years. Taiwan is a long way from home, and five years is a long time. But he’s excited, he’s called, and he’s being obedient in going.

As much as I’ll miss our nights of pinochle, and his complimenting my cooking (which is so gracious of him, because his mother is one of the greatest cooks around), I can’t help but feel a sense of tremendous pride for him. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a man who has grown in the love, light, and leading of Christ, and not only has he grown up in it, but he’s now heartily pursuing the spread of that message.

He went from being a relative by marriage to an integral part of our family. Cousin Uncle Travis, we’ll miss you as you are over in Taiwan, but how exciting to know and witness how God has called you to His work. I’m not sure it holds any weight, but daggumit, I’m honored to know you.

If you’d like to support Travis in prayer or financial gift, drop me a note and I’ll put you in touch with him.

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Working From Home: The Best & Worst of Both Worlds

When I became pregnant with Little Miss, I agonized over ways I could quit my job to stay home with her. The truth is, it wasn’t affordable. We were in debt up to our ears, and needed my income (and then some) to make sure our monthly expenses were covered. For four years I prayed nightly for the opportunity to work from home.

When I was pregnant with Little Man, I had a Divine appointment of sorts, that led me to working part-time, from home, for some friends of ours. The four years from the first utterance of my plea to stay home had given us time to significantly pay down debt, and live on less. Even though that job didn’t pan out long-term, God had already set a plan in motion. I’ve been working from home for 15 months now, and He has absolutely been faithful in all the details.

It is something I wanted. It is something I still want. It is something I thank God for everyday.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

WORKING

There are many times I, and others, have fallen prey to the “I work part time, from home. I now have a lot of extra time.” mentality. The truth is, I have no extra time at all. Working from home doesn’t allow for set times of each day to be and stay focused on work. There are meals to cook. Groceries to buy. Rooms to clean. Toilets to scrub. Laundry to wash. Dry. Fold. Put away. (Shudder) There are kids to feed. They want to be played with.To be held. To snuggle. They want to throw blocks in my face and drool on my one exposed area of skin. They want to play games and read books and wrestle and help. Lord, they want to “help” with everything.

I have friends who assume, as I probably would if I didn’t know better, that I can just uproot and meet for coffee or lunch or shopping trips. After all, if I can make time in my day for a dentist appointment, I obviously have the same flexibility for everything else everyone else wants to do. I only work part-time after all. It’s not like I’m in an office 8-5 every day.

So what’s the big deal?

I’m only working part time. But it takes me twice as long to get the work done some days. I work part of this hour, part of that hour, part of the kids’ nap times, part of my breakfast, part of the evening, part of bed time… There are a lot of parts to working part-time.

I don’t remember the last time I finished a cup of home-brewed coffee while it was still hot. Sometimes on the weekend, Hubs will get us a special latte and he’ll look at me with minor disgust when mine is sucked dry in 10 minutes. I don’t get to do the whole “savor the flavor” thing anymore. I chug my coffee. I’ve lost half my taste buds as a result.

I’ve answered conference calls while simultaneously wiping the post-nasty-duty bottom of my son. I’ve missed door buzzes from the UPS man or the FEDEx guy, because my phone is just out of arm’s reach and I can’t leave Mr. Adventure on the changing table to answer it.

I’ve run the dishwasher with seven things in it, because five of those seven were the only bottles we have, and they were all dirty at the same time. I’ve run the dishwasher twice in one day because I had that many dishes I’d allowed to pile up next to the sink.

I’ve sat in the shower and cried because it was the only thirty seconds I have to myself in a day. If I don’t have a child on me, I’m in a webinar, or a web meeting, or on a joint call. Even this extrovert needs her space once in a while.

I’ve looked at the clock and thought, “HOW IS IT ALREADY TIME FOR DINNER?!” and all of the meat is still in the freezer and no one wants tuna. Again.

Today, my beloved son has cried nearly incessantly. It doesn’t matter that I’m trying to write sales copy that was due a week ago. He wants his mama, and he hates my keyboard and the attention it requires of me.

No, it isn’t easy. Not by a long shot. It isn’t glamorous by any means. I can spend all the time in the world getting ready for my day with hair and makeup and perky business clothes. By dinner time, I’m wearing meal remnants of three people, I’ve got hair falling out or into various areas not defined by the elastic ponytail band, I’ve got Tammy Faye Baker mascara happening, either because I’m crying, or children are crying on my face.

Not every day is like this. Thank the Lord above. Working from home, however, can really be the worst of both worlds. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I have an opportunity to spend precious time with my kids, and exercise my creative side from the comfort of my home. I love my children more than anything. I also happen to love the work I’m doing more than I’ve ever loved a job before. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Therefore, I really have the best of both the working mom and the stay at home worlds.

Most importantly, I thank God for both. Even on my worst days, He is my best refuge.