Sunday, May 24, 2009

Remembering The Past....And Looking Ahead

Our day started with an amazing church service this morning.  It's Memorial Day and we have been attending Park Crest Assembly of God for a couple months now.  The sermon taken from 1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 18.  The following is from the NASB.
 13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of  the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.18Therefore comfort one another with these words
When I think about those who have gone on before me, I miss my grandparents so much.  I so wish they were here today to see my beautiful sons.  If only I could have even just an hour, I would take it gladly.  However, I am so comforted and thankful that I will not be without them forever.  In fact, I am only without them for a short time and will spend forever in their presence because of Christ!  Praise the Lord! 

The actual sermon this morning was shorter than usual to make time for a video of pictures and stories from the members of the congregation who past away in the past few years.  The pastor apparently started this Memorial Day tradition a few years ago by gathering as many pictures as he could find of members who had already been called to their heavenly home.  As each picture was shown with their dates of birth and death along with a short description of their lives, I wondered...."If my picture was on that screen, what would they say?"

I believe that God speaks to His people.  I believe that God has been speaking to me about what He has for me and my family.  I believe that He has a mission for our family to carry out.  My desire is for people around me to know my heart and love for the Lord by the fruits of my life.  I hope that one day when I am gone, if my picture is in front of a church full of people, they will have evidence that I lived a life devoted to Christ and His calling for me and my family.

Doug and I are praying about the specifics of what it is that God has for us to do.  However, we both believe that it involves children.  Pray with us that we will be united in our vision and that we will step out with the Lord in faith and courage when it's been revealed to us what path we should take.

I'm so thankful for His love and grace, his patience and faithfulness!  God is good!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keeping Track of Memories

My boys are the sweetest creatures - a good part of the time, anyway. I haven't done
such a great job keeping track of them. When Jackson was born, I set out to scrap every
moment. We have pictures galore of him. Boxes full of pictures fill even larger boxes in the
basement, just waiting to be carefully placed into beautiful scrapbooks.

When Carter came along, I was busy with Jackson and took pictures, but not as many. I also
bought a business which took every spare minute of my time. Therefore, there are pictures
of Carter, although not multiple boxes full. No scrapbooks of Carter have even been started.

Then there was Harrison and it has been a blur since then. He's got a few pictures and I don't
think a scrapbook or baby book has even been purchased for him.

Knowing how fast time is flying by, I am so aware of all the things that have happened and I
don't have anything written down. That's not true. I do have some, but not much at all.
I'm going to start blogging about the kids to help get it
written. Then, when there's time, I'll go back through all the pictures and try to put things
together. I'll keep track of the posts by child, which will hopefully help me in the end.
This may mean more than one post a day, depending on what is happening. Hope you enjoy
reading about them.

The pictures above are Jackson on a fire truck in West Plains. He was 3 and he was on his
very first field trip with his preschool. Harrison is with Nana just after he was born.
Carter is a dragon for Halloween in October of 2007. He was 2 1/2.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Homeschool Planning

I have been busy in my spare time (ha!) planning and getting ready to homeschool.  I think we are going to end up being an eclectic bunch.  What I really love most about the idea of homeschooling is that we will really be able to cater to the kids' individual interests and needs.  Because of my experience teaching and owning The Teacher Store, I am pretty familiar with a lot of curriculum.  However, there are still several things out there to learn about and I'm having a great time reading and exploring.
Jackson is a good student and on target academically, so there isn't really anything to worry about at this point.  That makes life easier.  When I asked him what he wanted to learn about, he told me oceans and Spanish.  So, we'll be starting in the fall with thematic unit on oceans.  We'll incorporate our reading, writing, math and science, of course,  into the ocean theme.  I'm going to use Jeanie Fulbright's Young Explorer Series: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day for the backbone in our science discussions and activities.  We'll supplement with books from the library and other things as well. 
I'm going to try to take him to The Summit for Spanish classes each day, if they are available.  I taught at The Summit this year and they have a great K-4 Spanish program that Jackson loves.  Hopefully, we can take advantage of their expertise in that area! 
We've got Sequential Spelling, Horizons Math and Shurley English to cover the rest of language arts and math.  For social studies, we are going to focus on American history and symbols.  Of course, we won't be glued to any of these sets of curriculum.   I'll change it up and add lots of stuff along the way.  I think we are going to have a great time!  I'm excited to have the opportunity to do what I love most with the kids I love most in the world.  It's a great feeling as a teacher when you know you have done your job and your students "get it".  I'm really looking forward to having those experiences with my own boys.
We will also study one artist and composer at a time.  I'm thinking we'll stick with the same ones for six weeks or so, but we'll see how that goes.  We'll do these activities as a family whenever possible, so that the younger ones get lots of great exposure.  Actually, Carter and Harrison will be able to participate with any or all of our activities as much as they can and as they are interested.  I can't imagine what they'll learn just from being with their older brother.  I'm excited to see what progress we'll make!
I've been doing quite a bit of reading about Charlotte Mason, who was an educator in England at the turn of the 20th century.  One of her primary focal points was spending a large amount of time outside studying and observing nature.  We are going to try to incorporate this as well.  Hopefully, our time outside exploring will encourage the boys' natural curiosity and help foster their scientific minds.  I think they'll enjoy it.  I need to gather up some field guides to keep handy.
I think it's a good plan to start with.  And, of course, another benefit of homeschooling is that if it doesn't work or if we're not happy - we'll change it!  Some of you may be wondering about our social interaction, but that's too much for one post.  Tomorrow, I'll tell you about what we'll be doing when we're not at home. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Garden Pictures - May 18

Today has been a busy one.  It is the last week of school, so I've been busy in my classroom trying to get it cleaned up and paperwork finished.  Jackson had a baseball game earlier this evening, so I've barely had time to get the garden watered.  I've had a few people ask me how the garden is doing, so I thought I'd try to get a few pictures posted so you could see.
To put it all together, we took the big clumps of grass out with a shovel and then laid weed cloth down.  Doug made the boxes out of untreated 2x8 pieces of lumber cut into 4' lengths.  He used deck screws to screw them together, and that was it.  The lumber was about $6 for an 8' board.  So, each box cost approximately $12. 
We filled the boxes with Len's mix of cotton burr compost, rice hulls and a potting mix.  To this we added the specified amount of Len's Essential Elements, which is the nutrition for the plants.  I like this mix because it utilizes mostly cotton burr compost, which is a byproduct of the cotton industry.  Rice hulls are a byproduct of the processing of rice.  Our hulls actually came from the Riceland plants in Arkansas.  We are recycling natural products, which benefits everyone.  The cotton burr is also a good source of nitrogen. 
Putting them together and filling them was very easy.  Doug built the boxes and I did all the mixing.  It took less than 2 hours to finish them both.

This is a shot of the two 4x4' squares we put together.  Don't build anything larger than 4' wide if you can help it, because it becomes hard to reach across.  You can see here the PVC frames we will use with a plastic covering in case of frost or extremely bad weather of some sort.  It could also be used with shade cloth in the heat of the summer if need be.  We used T-posts and electric conduit for a frame where we will add wire fencing for vining plants a little later.   The fencing we bought has 7" squares, so you can easily reach through.  We'll attach it to the frame with zip ties.  


The first picture shows the first bed I planted.  I used garden twine and nails to mark off my one foot squares.  In the second box, I decided it wasn't that big of a deal and I could just "eye-ball" it.  So far, we've got summer squash and zucchini, cucumbers, okra, broccoli, bell peppers, oregano, cilantro, basil and rosemary.  I also sprinkled a few marigolds here and there to ward off a few pests.
The battery in my camera died before I got shots of the tomatoes.  I have five different varieties of heirloom tomatoes that I am really excited about.  They all are growing really well.  My bean plants got hit pretty hard by the storm last week, though.  They are up on the deck and I'm not sure if they'll make it or not.  We'll see what happens.
One of the things I wish was different is the fact that there is grass growing right next to my boxes.  I would prefer there to be mulch or a walkway of some sort.  However, we are just renting here and I am trying to avoid as much expense and investment into the property as possible.  This will do for now.  Maybe next summer, we'll have a new house and an improved gardening system. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Square Foot Beginner

Well, I've never been good at growing things - not even house plants - let alone vegetable gardens.  However, in an effort to be more organic, healthy and frugal, I've undertaken a gardening adventure.  A good friend of mine and I attended a gardening workshop with Len Pense late last fall.  We were interested in learning about gardening with organic, raised beds.  
We did just that as we listened to what seemed to be a "too good to be true" plan of gardening.  It involved raised beds filled with a growing medium that Len had created.  We looked at Len's beautiful gardens and heard about amazing results.  However, Len builds his beds with concrete blocks.  My friend and I were a little concerned about how were were going to transport and build these beds by ourselves.
With a little more investigation, we also found Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  It seemed like a plan very similar to Len's, but with beds that were easier to build.  So we decided to blend the two plans by building beds according to the Square Foot method and using Len's formula for a growing medium.
So far, I've got two 4x4 foot beds with frames built for plastic covering as well as the climbing plants on the north side.  I ventured out of the plan and used plastic tubs to plant my tomatoes in, which are staked and will be caged a little later on.  I also had my husband build long, narrow boxes for the deck.  I have a frame on the deck, which I'm hoping to use for climbing plants, which hopefully will provide us with some shade later on in the summer.
I'm thrilled with the results so far!  I've planted just a few of this and that to see what works best for us.  In the 4x4 boxes, I've got broccoli, okra, summer squash and zucchini, bell peppers, oregano, basil, cilantro and thyme.  On the deck, there is more of the same plus zinnias and green beans.  The beans took a beating in a storm a couple days ago, so I'm not sure if they'll recover or not.  We'll see what happens.  
So far, I am loving this project!!  Everything looks wonderful and it has been so easy!  If I can do this - ANYONE can!  It hasn't been a cheap project, but I think that in time it will pay for itself in groceries.  I'd love to add more even this year, but since we are renting I've decided to wait.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's A Miracle

Today is Mother's Day and I am sitting in a quiet house, which doesn't happen very often!  Doug has put Harrison to sleep for a nap and Jackson and Harrison are downstairs playing.  I'm feeling very blessed, sitting here thinking about what the past year has been like for us.

I'm assuming anyone reading this knows that Doug & I have been separated for almost a year now.  At this time last year, we were living in West Plains and had just sold a business that I was running.  Things in our house were not happy, which is an understatement.  I was exhausted, depressed and our marriage was failing. 

In July, I moved out of the house and out of town, to live here in Springfield, where I had a job waiting for me in August.  I brought the boys with me, of course, and began living the single-mom life.  Honestly, it was a relief.  I was really happy, although I felt guilty for feeling that way.  I knew the best thing for the boys was for them to have their family together.  But, even though on-lookers were wondering what I was doing when I left, I truly felt that the Lord was leading me.  The Holy Spirit had really been speaking in my heart that I needed to start being honest about my feelings and telling the truth.  The real truth then was that I wanted out.  The marriage had been failing for a very long time, and I was really tired of speaking and not being heard.  Tired of all the pressure to be a "good" wife and mom when that's not what I felt like at all.

So, I left, much to the dismay of everyone we knew.  The last year has been difficult in many ways, but I have always felt the Lord's presence.  He has taken care of us at every turn and been with me in every decision that was made.  In December, just before Christmas, I filed for divorce and felt good about the decision.  Doug and I were getting along, but felt that it was the best thing to do at that time.  The paperwork began and the arrangements started to be made.  Custody was set up, assets divided and everything was finished.  The court date was scheduled.

However, my heart was so sad for the boys.  My parents are divorced and I knew what it was going to mean for my babies, and it certainly wasn't what I had ever wanted for them.  So, I called Doug and we talked.  I told him that I would postpone the hearing for 40 days.  I figured that God had used 40 days in several scenarios in the Bible.  If he could flood the earth in 40 days, He could save my marriage if He wanted to.  Long story short - that's exactly what He did.

I told Doug that I would do whatever he arranged as far as counseling was concerned, if he wanted to go.  He hadn't been open to that before.  He made reservations for us to go to an "intensive" at the National Institute of Marriage in Branson, Mo.  It was a 4-day group counseling program, founded by Gary Smalley, which was the turning point in our journey.    That was the first week in March.

Today is May 10, approximately 60 days since the intensive.  We are still separated, still seeing a counselor who is connected to NIM, but working toward Doug moving in with us.  I turned in my resignation this past week and informed the school that I wouldn't be teaching in the fall.  I'm so looking forward to being at home with the boys.  It's Mother's Day and the five of us went to church together this morning, after the boys coming in with cards and gifts for me this morning. 

Wow.  God really is in the miracle-making business.  I'm so amazed, there aren't even words to describe it.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is nothing but the work of the Lord.  I've given you the "nuts and bolts" of a very long story with all the details missing.   God was in ever detail.  Every decision.  New friendships created.  New churches.  New sermons & worship experiences.  New jobs.  New homes.  New neighbors.  New small groups.  God was in every single one of them.  He didn't leave us - not for a even a moment.  I tried hard to listen and be open and follow....and He led us here, to May 10, 2009.  Mother's Day at Parkcrest Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo.  To a house at 3312 S. Leawood Ave. where one toddler is taking his afternoon nap and two "big boys" are working with their Dad in the garage to build mom three new garden boxes.  There are nine more "work days" (as Carter says) until I get to spend every day with the people I love most in the world.  I am so blessed... it's unimaginable.  

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Here We Go.... A New Adventure!

Well, here we go!  This mom is off and running on a new adventure.  I’m excited and a little nervous as well, I have to say.   If you’ve been on our website or know us personally, you know that we are a family of five - my husband, Doug, myself and our three beautiful sons;  Jackson, Carter and Harrison.  I am currently teaching 4th grade at a small, private school and begrudging every minute that I leave my own children at home to take care of someone else’s.  So, I think I have finally made the executive decision to quit my job and be a stay-home mom again.  

    This means a new challenge in beginning to “live beneath our wage”,  as Dave Ramsey would say.  I’m going to be searching for good deals and learning how to live and be happy with what we have - hopefully less than we have, actually.  I have lots of ideas, plans and projects.  This blog is going to be the place where I keep track of all that we are doing.  I’ll share what works for us and what we’ve tried that doesn’t.  I don’t expect to be successful at everything, but I’m looking at this as a new challenge and a new opportunity for my family and I to live the lives that we’ve really always wanted.  

    My coming home also means we’ll be homeschooling our children.  You can find out more about that venture by visiting our website, and clicking on ‘Widhalm Academy’.

    God has truly blessed us!  He is amazing and so very faithful - even in spite of us!  I’m looking forward to what He has for us and what our new lives have in store!  I hope you’ll enjoy sharing our journey!   - Jodi