Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Season of Change

Well, here we go again!  It would seem that we are going to be having another season of change.  Joe and I have talked over our family's financial situation and come to the realization that we need to make changes.  They won't be easy, but are necessary.  Joe has been working a job for 2 years now at very low pay so that he can be home with the family more.  Well, it isn't working out anymore.  Prices are going up and the income isn't keeping up with the increases in the costs.  We have looked at it from every possible angle to find a different answer that would keep Joe home but there is only one option.....Joe is going back to truck driving.
Joe has 6 years of experience as a truck driver and loves the work.  It is the only professional training that he has for employment.  Over the past two years, he has enjoyed being home, but also has felt like a fish out of water.  In rural areas, there are not very many options for making a good income.  You have to commute to where the jobs are.  A common problem is that the fuel costs for commuting can be high enough to become yet another financial burden to the family.  You are left having to make tough decisions to take care of family needs.
We have done the truck driving jobs before and so we know what to expect.  My father and most of my uncles were truck drivers, as was Joe's Dad.  Joe and I used to team drive for a trucking company years ago until I was nearly 6 months pregnant with Abigail.  Then Joe went out on a truck without me for another 2 years.  We are both used to Joe being home each night.  The kids certainly are used to Daddy being home.  Abigail was 2 years old when he left truck driving and Micah has never experienced Daddy being gone for a long period.  This will make it a tough adjustment for the kids especially.
This time around, Joe is planning to work as a solo driver.  He won't be training new drivers as he did before.  Finding a co-driver to team up with is also a challenge.  Team driving is similar to a marriage.  You have 2 people living for an extended period of time in very close quarters.  If there is a personality conflict or you have a co-driver who is lazy about his driving, it can be just a stressful as an unhappy marriage.  It is difficult to find a co-driver that shares your work ethics and also has a personality that matches well with your own.
It will be hard at first for me to get used to Joe being gone again.  Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to be canning up some meals for him to take along.  Then, once he is on the truck, I will continue to get meals stocked up in the pantry.  When I first did this a few years ago, we found that Joe's food bill for the month dropped to $150 per month with his taking home canned soups, stews, and other meals in the canning jars.  He would heat the food up in a small "lunchbox" cooker.  It is called a lunchbox cooker due to it looking exactly like a black lunch box with an electrical cord that plugs into the 12 volt (cigarette lighter) outlet in the truck.  Joe would buy small foil bread pans that fit inside the cooker to heat the food in.  The pans then became the dish he would eat out of.  Even with the cost of the foil pans, the overall cost was far less than Joe having to eat at the truck stops.  Not to mention the home canned was much healthier too!  On average, he took 48 pint jars of food with him each month.  He also had a gallon size plastic jar of homemade granola and plenty of dried fruit trail mixes.  For his first few days out, I always sent along some fresh baked cookies and some homemade flat bread.  He loved it!
It is going to be very different this time when Joe leaves out on a truck.  Not only will I have Abigail, but now there is Micah.  We have the blessing of having sold our sheep, so I won't have to worry about tending them & being attacked again like before.  The only animals that we currently have is our dog and a few chickens that were given to us to free range.  The chickens simply eat the bugs that they find while scratching the soil and roost in the trees near the house.  The only somewhat difficult part of Joe's being gone will be changing out the propane tanks & taking them to be filled.  One 26 gallon tank lasts about a month.  We are looking at the option of setting up 2 filled tanks with a regulator in between so that when one tank gets low, I can switch to the second tank without having to disconnect anything.  This should give me plenty of propane to last until Joe gets home again. We can't have home delivery as our tanks hold far less than what the 100 gallon delivery minimum.  This other method should work just fine.
The kids and I have been in a routine now that will continue to work well after Joe goes out on the truck.  I think the hardest part will be the loneliness that will be felt.  While I do know more people than I did when he drove before, it isn't the same as having him here.  One person referred to a trucker's wife as being a stay-at-home single parent that gets a paycheck twice a month.  I have to admit that in many ways it can feel like that.   One way that I helped to combat the loneliness was to have lots of pen pals.  Having those letters to read & to write to others were great.  When I felt lonely, I could go back and read them again.  Joe was always great about surprising me with postcards or other mail while he was gone.  Of course there is also his text messages & phone calls.  Another way that I found peace was to spend more time in the Bible and also listening to recorded sermons.  Whether the sermons came from the church we attended at that time or through another sermon tape ministry, they were a wonderful uplift to my heart.  One of my favorite resources for recorded sermons are the ones from Charity Ministries.  They are an Anabaptist (Mennonite) organization that provides the sermons for free.  You can either download an MP3 recording or you can order a free tape/CD to be mailed to you.
It will be interesting to see where the Lord leads us this time.  He never takes us to a place that is boring.  He does however always takes the road with us and never leaves us to flounder on our own.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Preschooling With Micah

Wow! I hadn't thought about doing this so soon, but I am so glad that I have chosen to do so. This past week, I have been incorporating Micah's therapy into Abbie's preschooling time. Abbie is on such a routine with her preschooling that it is not hard to add Micah into it. I set Micah up at the kitchen table across from Abbie and as she works on her file folder game or other project, I help Micah. What a huge blessing this is. Prior to now, Abbie would get a bit jealous of my therapy time with Micah. Now, I am able to help them both at the same time without any negative responses from either of them.

On one day, we got out the finger paints and I let the kids have fun. For Micah, I taped the paper to the table so it wouldn't get knocked off and frustrate him. Keeping in mind that Micah has issues with his hands getting sticky or dirty, I knew this was possibly a big mistake. I wanted to start working to help him understand that it is okay to get dirty hands. I put a dallop of yellow, red, and blue finger paints on his paper. Then I took his hands and smeared them just a little in the paint. At first, Micah simply looked at the paint on his hands as though he was not sure what to think about it. He must have decided that it was harmless because he started wiping his hands back and forth across the paper. The painted design looked like a rainbow by the time he was done. His time painting only lasted a few minutes, but for that brief moment in time, he was enjoying it.

Another issue that I am beginning to take charge of is his inability to feed himself finger foods. He seems to not have the desire to feed himself. I can let him sit in front of some fruit loops (his current favorite cereal) and even though he is hungry & crying, he won't even attempt to feed himself. I got him up in his high chair at the table and put a 2-sectioned dish in front of him. It is a small plastic container with 2 compartments. I put a handful of fruit loops in one section. While I had his attention, I slowly picked up the cereal one piece at a time and placed them in the other section. Once I had them all moved over, I repeated the process to place them all back in the other section again. All this time, I was quietly explaining to Micah what I was doing. It is surprising just how attentive he can be at times! If you can capture his interest, he really pays close attention to what you are doing. After I finished, I stepped aside asking Micah if he could do it. The first day didn't work out so well. He grabbed handfuls of the cereal and threw it to the floor. On the second day, after watching very closely, he carefully moved all the cereal to the other section one piece at a time. What a blessing! He saw what I wanted him to do and responded correctly! He only did it once all the way through, moving all the cereal pieces, but it was a big step up from simply throwing the cereal onto the floor. I left him to play with the cereal and noticed that he tried to grab a small handful and bring it to his mouth. He forgot to open up his hand, thus the cereal never made it into his mouth. Micah got very frustrated and threw the cereal down. I fed him the remaining cereal and he was quite happy again. I know from watching him that it is only a matter of time before he figures out how to get that cereal into his mouth.

The Lord is blessing us so much. Each week, we are seeing Micah learn a new skill or make a small step of progress. I am grateful to the Lord for allowing me to watch and take notice of the changes. It fortifies me during the hard days when Micah has trouble coping with changes to his routine. I thank the Lord for Micah and all of his personality quirks! Through Micah, I am learning to be a better Momma to both him and Abigail. I am learning patience and am finding the beauty in the smallest of things.

I realize that Micah is not handicapped at all. I have been. I have been handicapped with my preceptions of what a happy child looks like, with my ideas of what is acceptable in the world's eyes, and in my attitude towards the old saying that children are a reflection of their parents. In raising & working with Micah, I find that he is working with me much more than I with him. He is teaching me lessons about the Lord's loving acceptance of each of us for who we are. Micah shows me every day that the things that the world finds to be critical for our lives may have absolutely nothing to do with what the Lord finds to be important. The Lord doesn't care if Micah can feed himself fruit loops. He does care about whether or not Micah is loved and accepted as he is. He cares about whether or not we teach Micah about the Lord. To the world, Micah has a lot of areas to be taught and corrected in to become "socially acceptable", but it means nothing! Yes, we want Micah to grow into as independent of a young man as possible so that he will not have to be completely rliant on others. More importantly though, he needs to be taught that he was created by the Lord just as he is. The Lord has a purpose in mind for Micah. Through Micah, the Lord can be praised when Micah can declare to others "I may have autism, but look wat I am able to accomplish through the Lord's grace and blessing!"

Preschooling Micah is definitely going to be teaching him skills and information that will prepare him for homeschooling. It is also blessing me as I watch him grow and gain skills through the Lord's help. I'm learning to not set in my mind any limits on Micah. The only limits that he will have are the ones he sets upon himself. Through the Lord, we all are able to achieve the highest reaches of our potential. We only have to remember that it is through the Lord that we are able to do all things.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

Each of us, at one time or another, has a day when we just have trouble finding the bright spots or blessings in our lives.  Whether we are going through financial struggles, health issues, family difficulties of any kind, we all are susceptible to feeling a bit down.  I was reading a dear friend's Facebook page and she reminded me of an idea that helps to refocus our outlook in life.  It is called a Gratitude Journal.
Gratitude Journals are simply a little book where you take a moment each and every day to write down one thing you are grateful for.  The entry can be as long or short as you feel like writing.  The blessing or item you are grateful for may be as simple as not losing your temper during a child's tantrum. Some days, you may find a much larger blessing to record.  The journal doesn't have to be fancy.  A spiral notebook or a blank book/journal from a dollar store will work just as well as a fancier one.  You could leave the book plain or dress it up to suit your own style. 
The purpose of the journal is to help us to refocus and see the blessings of the Lord in our daily life.  It is so easy to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the worldly things and our own situations.  By taking a few minutes to ponder on how the Lord blesses us each and every day, we stop looking at the trials in our life, but start realizing the joys and blessings.  Even on the worst day of your life, there are blessings from the Lord.  We only have to look for them.
During the times when we feel alone or very worn down from our trials, we can take out the journal to read and remember how the Lord blesses us each day.  Over time, we develop an attitude of gratitude towards the Lord that strengthens our relationship with Him.  How can a person feel lost or separated from the Lord when they acknowledge daily the ways that the Lord has blessed them?
I am thinking about starting one for both Abigail and I.  Each night before we do bedtime prayers with with her, Joe asks Abbie about her day and is teaching her to thank the Lord in prayer for all that she enjoyed that day.  It will make a nice little book to give her when she is much older.  When she is old enough to write on her own, she could do it in her own writing.  By teaching Abbie from a young age to look for the Lord's blessings, I hope to help her in developing her own relationship with the Lord.  It has been a long time since I have kept a journal.  It is long passed time for me to do so again.  This journal will be a good start. 
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ol' Time Homemaking Skills - a Lost Art?

In earlier generations, our ancestors had to be resourceful to survive.  In many cases, our ancestors had to make due without the benefit of having a store nearby to purchase their supplies from.  As the people moved westward into less populated areas, a trip to the store could literally take days to get there and back.  Our ancestors had to find ways to manage without the convenience of being able to buy everything they needed.  The homemaking skills utilized back then are very different that they are today.  Now, many of the basic skills that were taught to the daughters are now becoming lost or are relegated to the status of being a hobby.
Young girls learned many skills by the time they were of marrying age.  They were taught to garden, preserve the harvest, tend livestock, soap making, candle making, sewing from patterns that they learned to draft themselves, tend the home, cooking & baking over a fire, knit and/or crochet, butcher their livestock and any animal that was brought home after a hunting trip, and how to preserve the meat through various methods such as salting, pickling, smoking, and drying.  Many young girls also learned to do needlework such as embroidery and quilting.  It was common especially in the pioneer era for the women to make a bed mattress filled with straw.  Bed pillows were often made from the chicken and other bird feathers that had been carefully cleaned and stored after butchering.  It took a long time to save up enough feathers to make a pillow.  I have heard stories of pillows also being made from straw.  Women helped their husbands in the field if there was no son to aid him.  They learned how to handle draft horses to pull the plow.  All in all, their workload was enough to make most women of today feel spoiled.  What of those homemaking skills?  How many of them would be a blessing and benefit to us today?  For those who are trying to become self-reliant, nearly if not all of those skills would be valuable. 
There is a resurgence of people wanting to learn these skills.  That is the good news.  The problem is that there are less people with the knowledge who can teach the next generation.  Some of the skills, such as knitting & crochet, are hobbies that are easily learned.  You can find books, websites, and even videos that teach these skills.  Soap making and candle making have become both hobbies and for many women, a way to earn an Income.  Food preservation is nearly becoming a lost skill.  Though the supplies and information for doing it is still available, less people are willing to take the time necessary to learn and to home can or otherwise preserve food for their pantry.  To my dismay, I know families who only store enough food for about a week in their home.  I wonder what they would do if an emergency came up or weather was bad in the winter, making them unable to go to a store.  
I will admit, there are a few of the old homemaking skills that I look at today as being in the "nice to know" category.  Learning how to butcher various animals is one skill that would be nice to know, but knowing I get queasy just from cleaning a fish, I doubt that I personally would use it unless I absolutely had to.  For me, the crocheting is simply for my enjoyment.  I make items for the home and family that have more function than just being decorative.  Knitting is a skill that I would like to learn. 
One of the benefits that the skills have for us today is that with some of them, you can earn a little extra money for your family.  Baking bread is something that I have done in the past to earn a little.  If you are able to crochet, knit, make soap or candles, sew or quilt, you can make items to sell at craft shows or sell from home.  If you are good at any of the skills, you can also make money through teaching them to others.  Community Centers and community colleges often have classes for adults to learn various skills and handcrafts. 
Whether you live in the city or in a rural setting, many of these skills can benefit and bless you & your family.  You can utilize the skills to bless others also.  Numerous charities would welcome handmade items for their clients.  You can find them by doing a web search online.  Many children's hospitals, women's shelters, and homeless shelters would welcome things like blankets, afghans, knitted or crocheted socks, hats, mittens, or slippers.  If you enjoy sewing baby diapers, there are organizations that may be interested in donations of those for new moms who cannot afford to buy cloth diapers.  A hospital can often use donations of baby blankets or baby buntings.  It is amazing how many young women forget or do not have one for taking baby home in cool or cold weather! 
The main point is to find the skills that you are able to do and learn them well.  You may never "need" that skill, but the knowledge will be there in case of an emergency.  If you find a skill that can be used for charitable purposes, consider making a few items to donate for those who are in need.  The Lord blesses each of us with talents.  Find yours and then prayerfully consider where you may best be able to use that talent to bless others.
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