Home Comforts

Room in a historical Bohemian village

Whether or not you homeschool, your children are watching and learning your attitude about homemaking.  If you’re like most moms, things get a bit messy at times, especially in our minds!  We need a bit of decluttering, a little refurbishing, direction, and refreshment.  I give you the beyond-anything book, Home Comforts.

Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, is one of my two favorite books on making home a haven (the other is Alexandra Stoddard’s Creating a Beautiful Home). Cheryl (she is a friend even though we’ve never met) has done her homework. A former attorney, she’s very diligent and disciplined, and has the intelligence required to make a good job of homemaking.

As this book is over 800 pages long, and covers anything and everything you can think of, I can’t begin to do it justice here. But as an example here’s a quote from the chapter on home cooking: “Good meals at home satisfy emotional hunger as real as hunger in the belly, and nothing else does so in the same way.”

Cheryl goes on to discuss how and why not to use cookbooks–I am vindicated! I believe a recipe is only someone else’s creation, certainly nothing written in stone. Of course, if Julia Child wrote it I will pay attention. But someone telling me to make pumpkin cake without salt, or that you don’t need all those walnuts in your oatmeal raisin cookies? I don’t think so.

As usual, I am loving the sound of my own horn tooting, and it’s time to get back to the marvelous book at hand. Home Comforts covers anything and everything you might ever want to know about homemaking.  You will be sorry when you’ve turned the last page, and if you’re like me, determined to read it again.

And to share it with others, especially family.

Do you want to excel at the high and highly rewarding calling of homemaking?  This book, so aptly named, will inspire and gladden your heart, and perhaps best of all, it will convince you that what you do at home truly matters.

It’s “Raising Mannerly Children,” Not, “Ignoring Aggravating Miniature Terrorists”

Note:   This picture was taken Mother’s Day, 2015, but I am pairing it with an article written in 2010, as I consider it worth repeating.

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The Importance of RAISING MANNERLY CHILDREN cannot be overemphasized. Manners are, in essence, simply the thoughtful consideration of the needs and wants of others.

The Golden Rule is so named because if you learn it, all else of value follows.

And if you don’t . . .

A life of misery–for you, your child, your child’s spouse and children and coworkers, neighbors–is what’s in store if you don’t teach your children manners.

Or, let’s look at it another way: Teach your children to think of others and they will naturally have manners.

This is an ongoing task (see the article’s end for how to begin with ease and quick results), but the rewards are commensurate with the effort.

Seth, (a 10-year-old), has an excess of energy, and sometimes tears through the house like a dervish. Recently he raced past the girls and me, who were having a pleasant conversation, yelling and brushing against us.

It was time for conscious parenting. Time to heed that little voice in my head that said, “Stop what you’re doing, stop having a nice chat with your girls, and deal with this.” So I stopped.

IT’S MY JOB.

Not fun, but necessary. I will not be the mother of a hellion, who thinks the conversations and happiness of others beneath his time and consideration.

Yes, we all know someone like this. An adult. Not a pretty picture.

Remember: If you don’t care enough to teach your child to be kind and considerate, who will?

But how?  Where to begin?  An excellent place to start is with Munro Leaf’s books, those loved and still remembered by my kids–Manners Can Be Fun, How to Behave and Why, and How to Speak Politely and Why.

Fun, funny, great illustrations, and effective:  Munro Leaf.

Beautiful Outlaw – A Book for all Reasons

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One of the many beauties of home education is the time to read, and to share great books.  When I bought John Eldredge’s Beautiful Outlaw for my son Benjamin, I wasn’t worried about his not reading it.  Even if he didn’t read it, someone at our house would.  This I knew from experience.

Not only did Benjamin read the book, and quote from it often, he urged me to read it.  I don’t think I’m unique in liking to pick my own books, and being somewhat resistant when people insist I read something.  But since Benjamin is not the insistent sort, and because I know John Eldredge can be trusted, I picked up the book.

I would breeze through it, job done.  Wrong.  I savored this book–reading a bit and smiling and stopping to consider.  As I neared the book’s end, I slowed down.  I didn’t want this journey with John Eldredge and Jesus to end.

What a privilege to, if you will, have a conversation with a free thinker.  A radically Christian radical.

When a book speaks to an 18-year-old young man as well as to his mother, there’s something going on.  When I love a book, yet can’t quite bring myself to part with it, there’s something going on.  And when a book changes and clarifies my thinking in a way that electrifies my joy in Christ, well, I just have to rave.

Tea Cozy?

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You may think a tea cozy is a quilted teapot cover, and if so, may I recommend the knitted pineapple cozy found in Jane Brocket’s inimitable The Gentle Art of DomesticityBut I’d like to introduce the idea that a tea cozy is also a gathering of bliss wherein tea plays a part.
My first tea party was at friend’s house, and it was given in honor of our dolls, with a tiny painted metal tea set.  The dolls had tea (water) and raisins, and were quite happy with their fare.  After all, they got to sit at a little red wooden table in matching chairs, and be served. To this day, that is one of my all-time favorite teas cozies.
Such cozies may occur on quilts in the backyard with toddlers, peanut butter and crackers, a great book(s), and of course, tea.  Tea may be nice and hot in a thermos if fall is hinting at winter, or it may be iced to be enjoyed with berries picked alongside the road as you hike to a clearing under a nice big oak tree.

Other lovely tea cozy ideas include but are not limited to::  making breakfast special with tea, history teas, tea parties on a budget, literary teas, dress-up teas, teas on the balcony amid falling snow, slumber party teas, If-I-Could-Travel-Anywhere teas, Christmas teas, and tea parties for no particular reason (I think of these as conversation teas).

The only rule for a tea party is:  Conversation must be kind and intelligent.  Tea is a most excellent place to teach etiquette, and in fact when the kids were small I often brought a favorite etiquette book to our gatherings, Manners Matter by Hermine Hartley.

Now if you don’t have etiquette books, tea sets, knitted tea cozies, and a variety of gourmet teas, don’t be discouraged.  Have a coffee cozy (I use swiss water decaf mostly when having coffee with kids), or serve milk and cookies and call it a milk.  A milk?  Maybe a milk cozy.  If it’s cool outside, heat the milk and add honey and maybe some cinnamon and nutmeg.

There are endless possibilities, but the bottom line is simply this:  always be on the lookout for a tea cozy opportunity.  Bliss!

School by the Creek

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One day, a few years back, Seth and Rebekah asked to go to the creek and “do school later”.  I said they could go, paper and pencil in hand, and to bring back something they’d written–a story, a thought, a drawing, poetry.

Here is Seth’s offering:

I have a cathedral of willows over my head

The sound of the creek in my ears,

A hoodie under my back.

I will try not to fall in the creek.

Ack!

All this comfort, all this wonder,

I’ve claimed a little nook.

Yet all the while I wish I’d brought a book.

Rebekah wrote me a love letter, and some of her thoughts, as well as this “Spring Poem”:

The creek laughs happily over stones

I hear birdsong and breezes.

But something else is talking –

Tis neither wind nor birdsong nor the creek.

Tis Spring.

School in the Trees

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Remember field trips–the best part of school?  It didn’t matter where you went, just that you got to go outside!

Since the kids were small I have seized opportunities to go outside–school on a quilt in the back yard; school as we pulled the littlest child on the biggest quilt in the red wagon.  We didn’t call it school as we ate dusty blackberries picked from the roadside to enjoy as we read Timothy Tattercoat by Maryel Chaney.

But oh, the lessons learned. Years later we didn’t call it school when we climbed and scooted and grunted our way to the top of the tallest rocks in the mountains behind our house, and stood reaching for the sky and talking of dreams.

I certainly don’t call it school when I demonstrate the ultimate in relaxation.  Sometimes, no matter how enthralling the book I’ve chosen to read on my quilt atop an aspen leaf/pine needle carpet, I fall asleep in the sunrays shining through the trees.  Whiling away afternoons celebrating the short but glorious Rocky Mountain summer is a lesson in, well, does it always have to be a lesson?

There is nothing difficult about any of this “schooling” – watching butterlies and humming forgotten tunes, telling stories of my childhood, experiencing my children. Perhaps more than wondering what the lesson is for my children, I should consider the message:  Life is wonderful.