Are You Set for Emergencies?

In the past week, the Southeast has endured a hurricane - some people experiencing additional flooding while having not recovered from the previous hurricane.  Here in Central Texas, we are getting water logged with flooding and suddenly cold temperatures - from the mid-90's to mid-40's, while the northwestern part of Texas is already getting near-freezing temperatures for the highs.

We had a tornado near us on Tuesday of last week (10/9/18).  Unfortunately, the local emergency management system didn't work right that day.  Even though I have a land-line phone which should automatically receive a phone call for such an emergency, the call did not come through that day.  No cell phones that were signed up for EMS alerts received them.  An email was sent out - but most of us got it 2 hours after the fact.  (Thankfully, we were okay, but it is frightening to think that we had no way of getting an alert that day.  Living in the country, we can't hear tornado sirens.)

Nonetheless, we took inventory of bug-out-bags.  The girls have grown and the temperatures have dropped, so it was time to make sure we had clothes that fit for the right season,  We also checked key emergency supplies and verified that the snacks are still in good shape.

We did know more rain and much colder temperatures were coming before they hit Monday.  Hopefully everyone took note and got their firewood in.  The flooding was not quite expected, however.  We are on alert for roads and bridges to flood.  Many areas have low-water crossings that flood easily.  Even so, one of the main rivers through the county may crest at 30' today - which will close some major roads, limiting access to communities.

It is a good time to remember to have plenty of food on hand to last a couple of weeks or more for everyone - especially things that can be prepared without electricity should the power go out.  Also, check to make sure that everyone has enough medicine on hand should roads but cut off due to flooding or snow.

Some people also experienced phone and Internet outages with AT&T's outage on Monday.  If you are not currently signed up to get emergency alerts, do check with your local emergency management service to make sure you can receive alerts on your phone and emails.

Check your supplies and be safe.

Succeeding At Homeschooling

A couple of my friends shared this post today:

I wanted to applaud the author, Bethany Ishee, and add a couple of my own thoughts to hers:

One of the things I love most about homeschooling is re-learning the science or history I learned incorrectly in school. I knew in fifth grade that not everything they taught in school or that my teacher said was always the truth after Mt. St. Helens blew and there were several aspects of that eruption that did not match with what was taught. For example, that it took millions of years to petrify trees, and some other misinformation regarding mountain formation.

There were things I went to research to tell the girls for history that I had been taught - only to find those things totally untrue. If we are willing to learn, we continue to learn and grow, and sometimes have to unlearn. For example, not only did Marie Antoinette not say, "Let them eat cake," she was not referring to the first, burned loaf of bread from the oven, and she did not say, "Let them eat brioche." The phrase was one penned by Rousseau in Confessions when Marie Antoinnette was only nine and published later when she was twenty-six, eleven years before her demise.

There are things I teach my girls at young ages telling them, "I don't expect you to remember this exactly, but just to plant a seed so that when you are exposed to this later, you'll have some recollection of it so it is easier to grasp when you are older rather than it being a totally new concept." They appreciate that they get to learn some new things that they don't have to memorize or be tested on at the time, but that they get to experience and experiment with at a younger age for fun.

Some people struggle with spelling. I struggle with dates - especially battles in wars. As an adult, I had new books I could read that I didn't know about in school, new media available to help present the history in a new way, etc. These things gave me a fuller picture of history than I had in school. Textbooks can only teach so much, it takes experience and practice and immersion to learn many things. What things are most important depend on what one's goals are.

This cemetery in Georgia was important in the Civil War. I didn't know anything about it until my husband's uncle was interred there.

If we succeed in generating a love of learning, the learning won't end with us. If we succeed in teaching diligence and discipline, their continued ability to apply themselves to learn those things they need for their career or just for a hobby and enjoyment will propel their success. If we succeed in giving them a can-do attitude - or at least a willingness to try new things attitude - they will grow and have new experiences that add to their quality of life and to the depth of the person they are.

Woohoo! I'm a "North Country Farmer" Guest Tonight

I am honored to be a guest tonight at 7:00 pm CST on Scott M. Terry's "North Country Farmer" radio show, even though I am in the south. :-) To listen in tonight or listen later, go to: Country Farmer Radio Show.

My public speaking students get to do a little "turnabout is fair play" tonight and critique my speaking skills, including counting my ah's and um's. I better be on my toes tonight! :-)

The topics tonight will include:

  • "Homesteading mistakes: Yeah, we've made a few" a la Queen's "We Are the Champions" theme in my head as I write this.
  • Know what you and your spouse both can and are willing to do - and what you can't do or aren't willing to do
  • Gardening alternatives for bad or rocky soil
  • Preparing for spring storms or summer wildfires
I hope you join in - or listen later if you can't tonight.

Edit: I am terribly sorry about the feedback on the line. I have contacted my phone company today to get that issue resolved. 😓

Tammy's Ranch Dressing Mix

When I first began making ranch dressing mix from scratch, I started with the ranch dressing recipe from Self-Reliance by Jamie:

I still LOVE her taco seasoning mix and onion soup mix recipes and use them regularly, although we personally find the sugar in the onion soup recipe unnecessary.

Unfortunately, while the ranch dressing recipe was one that others I knew used (because they would send me theirs and it was the same), I didn't care for it as much as the store bought because of the overpowering onion flavor it had.

I tried and experimented and came up with my own recipe which follows. (Please note: different brands of garlic powder have different strengths. You may prefer to start off with a tablespoon less garlic powder and increase by teaspoons as you make up the batches. And just add a bit more garlic if needed  to your prepared ranch dressing as needed.) We like it this way.

Following the recipe as is makes a great dip when refrigerated. If you are not using it right away and want to serve it as a dressing, add 1/2 cup of milk to the mix. If you are using some now and then refrigerating the rest for later, just add milk as needed to thin the dressing.

Without further ado, Tammy's Ranch Dressing:

In a 1/2 pint mason jar, measure the following ingredients:
6 Tablespoons Onion Powder
16 teaspoons Garlic Powder
14 teaspoons parsley (4 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons or 1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons)
8 tsp salt (2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
(Put a decorative lid, bowl, and instructions for a gift at this point if desired).
Put your seal and ring or mason jar screw-on lid on, then shake well to distribute the ingredients equally.

Here is the video for making the Ranch Dressing Mix, plus a bonus of my Season All mix for seasoning proteins such as fish, poultry, pork, and beef.

1) For immediate use on salad or for a dip if refrigerating for a few hours:
Use 2 Tablespoons of above mixture in 1 cup of mayonnaise and 1 cup of plain yogurt. Whisk together to mix well. Use immediately and refrigerate the rest.

2) For later use as a salad dressing after being refrigerated:
Use 2 Tablespoons of the ranch dressing mixture in 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 cup of yogurt, and 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk together well. Refrigerate.

3) Use the dressing mix on it's own in ground meats for hamburgers.

4) Make your own version of ranch, cheese, and bacon coated meat by mixing the ranch dressing mix with shredded cheddar (or your favorite cheese), and either homemade bacon crumbles or store bought real bacon pieces. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put all the ingredients along with black pepper, a bit more salt and garlic powder, and turmeric if desired in a one gallon zip top bag. Put 1-2 pieces of raw meat in the bag. Shake to coat the meat. Put on a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicon protector. Repeat for each piece. You can either put the remainder, if any, in the refrigerator to use within a week to two weeks, or just distribute the remainder on top of the meat. Bake thawed meat until it is at 160 - 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the type of meat. (Always use a meat thermometer to ensure the moistest meat that is done to the proper temperature.) This is great for boneless chicken, pork chops, etc.
Date: 11/20/2016 of recipe.
​Publish date: 8/21/2017

Computer Science Curriculum

In searching for a middle school or high school computer science curriculum for your student here are some points to consider:

1.      Does it include a basic history of computers? This should include:
    The first computer programmer – Ada Lovelace (pronounced “Loveless”), a woman, and the daughter of Lord Byron, the poet
    The first computer designer, Charles Babbage and “Babbage's machine”
    At least some brief history of the development of computers through the years.
2.      Does it include computer terminology?
    What constitutes a “computer?”
    A definition of computer components:
    Hardware versus software
    Hard copy versus soft copy
    Personal computer versus mainframe and mini-computers
    Closed system versus Open system computers
    Filenames and file extensions
    Central Processing Unit (CPU)
    Graphic Processing Unit (GPU), particularly important for children wanting to be game developers or testers
    Random Access Memory (RAM) – a bonus would be to understand sequential access from a historical perspective
    Read Only Memory (or ROM)
    BIOS (Basic Input / Output System)
    Hard disk and floppy disk
    A brief discussion of SCSI, IDE, SATA devices and the pros and cons of each
    Attaching devices using: USB, Firewire, PCMCIA, and PCI slots
    Operating system – What constitutes an operating system? Examples of modern operating systems such as UNIX, Microsoft® Windows, Apple's iOS, LINUX, Android, and others.
    Understanding office productivity software:
    What is a word processor? Topics should include fonts, styles, margins, page layout, heading, footer, header and body styles, margin justification (left, center, right, and justified or newspaper-style margins), numbered outlines, bulleted text, setting tab stops, inserting tables, using spell checker, thesaurus, and word and character count functions.
    What is a spreadsheet, including terms for rows, columns, and cells? Topics should include functions and formatting for dates, numbers, currency, and text. Ideally, the curriculum will also include some best practices, including using an apostrophe character (') in front of the numerals for a zip code to indicate that it is a text number, not one on which mathematical calculations will be performed.
    What is presentation software?
    What is publishing software?
    Drawing and photo editing software examples should also be included. This should provide information about the various types of images and the pros and cons of each, basic drawing and picture editing terminology, and possibly some more advanced drawing and editing examples and tools. Adobe Photoshop is a really excellent product for creating some more advanced images and budding graphic designers. Learning to create icons is helpful for the budding computer programmer. / web designer. Animation creation and editing software is a great tool for anyone interested in movie making or game development.
    Ideally, the curriculum would give examples of when it is best to use each type of product, along the lines that one could use a screwdriver to beat a nail into a wall, but a hammer is more efficient; however, if one needed to screw a screw into a board, a screwdriver works much better than a hammer.
    Communication protocol, for example:
    DON'T TYPE IN ALL CAPITALS OR THE READER WILL THINK YOU ARE YELLING. I had a customer contact me who was typing her rĂ©sumĂ© in all capitals. This is a very unprofessional way to create a  rĂ©sumĂ©. Additionally, some spell checkers may not catch mistakes when typing in all capitals, hence the reason the woman called.
    While we are on the topic of  rĂ©sumĂ©s, extra large fonts or extra wide margins used to allow one to fill a page when one has little to no work experience is unnecessary.
    Don't use multiple exclamation points!!!
    Do use correct spelling and punctuation, especially in professional communication.
    Networking terminology:
    At a very minimum, modern terminology should be covered to include:
    CAT-5 cable
    MODEM, router, bridge, brouter
    Hubs and switches
    TCP/IP and IP address
    Network Interface Card (NIC)
    Local Area Networks
    Ethernet and WiFi
    Transfer rates
    Dial-up, DSL, Satellite access
    Internet, world wide web, intranet
    Servers and client computers
    Peer-to-peer networks
    There are many other networking terms that could be included, but these are the most important for students at this stage
    Internet access
    Browser and examples of browsers
    Internet safety. This should be a special topic to help your child learn how to protect himself or herself on the Internet. This is a time that would be especially good to reinforce house rules and go over the potential dangers of the Internet. Examples include: Not using last names or creating a pseudonym, do give out phone numbers or addresses, do not tell the name of the city you live in, the name of the teams played on or where they play, the color or number of the jersey worn.
    Viruses, adware, and malware: What are they? What kind of damage can they do, and how do we protect our computer and our information?
    Web sites and types including web page, web logs (aka “blogs”), stores, and search engines
    Electronic mail (e-mail)
    Web hosting
    Hypertext markup language (HTML)
    Dynamic HTML (D-HTML)
    Extensible markup language (XML)
    Style sheets (CSS)
    The curriculum should include examples of each and directions for creating these.
    What you see is what you get (WYSIWIG)
    FIFO and LIFO (First in / first out; last in / first out)
    Graphic User Interface (GUI)
    Computer Programming
Note: Before beginning the computer programming section, your child should have successfully completed the math topic of converting between binary and decimal . If your math curriculum includes converting between binary, decimal, and hexadecimal, that is a bonus.
    Why do we call computer glitches “bugs?”
    What is “machine language?”
    An understanding of different types of programming languages and types. This should include the difference between compiled and run-time, or interpreted, languages, the pros and cons of each, and examples of each type of language, not necessarily between the programming languages themselves. An example of a compiled language is C++. Examples of interpreted languages include script languages such as JavaScript and VBScript. An example of a programming language that is both a compiled and interpreted includes Visual Basic as it compiles to an intermediate language (IL), then converts the intermediate language to machine language at run-time.
    Object-oriented programming
    For Microsoft® Windows programming, one should also have an understanding of the registry and globally unique identifiers (GUIDs).

Following are some options for computer science resources:
Software development web sites to look at:

Compiled versus Interpreted Languages

Visual Basic: Compiled or Interpreted?

Access: Visual / Access Basic is Both a Compiler and an Interprer

Computer Tutorials, specifically Visual Basic tutorial

Visual Basic Tutor

XML Introduction

Internet Security

We've all heard how important Internet Security is. Maybe you or someone in your family has had information compromised, credit or debit card information stolen, your identity stolen, your computer crash temporarily or even irrecoverably, or had someone stalk you or your children because of another person gaining access to personal information. The problem, sadly, is pervasive in today's society. If your information has been compromised or you have suffered through one of these circumstances, please feel free to comment on what you have done to rectify the situation and how you work to prevent this in the future.
How can you protect yourself and your family?

  1. Make sure you have a current Internet security system. An Internet security system includes Anti-virus, anti-adware, and anti-malware products as well as means to detect and protect your computer environment from people who are sniffing to detect key information traveling through the Internet.

I have been using anti-virus programs beginning in around 1995. Working in an industry where we shared information internationally among co-workers and customers, we had to be particularly careful about ensuring we had no viruses. While we had anti-virus products on our local computers, we learned the hard way that we needed a secondary anti-virus program of a different sort to ensure that our data files were not sent out with viruses attached. The secondary anti-virus scanner we used was PC-cillin by TrendMicro.

I also worked for a company that created corporate Internet security software. One of the lessons I learned from that experience is that no anti-virus or Internet security software will be 100% secure. The reason is this, someone has to originally invent a virus or other malware. Until it is invented, it cannot be tested for and identified. It is very similar to human illnesses. If the disease has never occurred, there are no tests to identify the disease until it causes harm. Once that happens, companies create tests to quickly identify the specific type of germ that causes the disease, not only that, but these tests can be broadened to identify mutations of those germs that may occur.

That is what anti-virus software programs do. They identify a pattern or marker in a computer virus. Once that happens, they can broaden the scope to find copycat viruses that could cause harm.

When I began my own computer consulting business in 2002, I found that while many people had anti-virus software, there tended to be four specific problems:

(1) They let the anti-virus expire and it did not have the latest virus definitions to catch problems

(2) They purchased a product that stated it would protect from adware and malware, but the product installed without protecting the person's computer by default and finding the setting was hidden, not something that a regular person could do.

(3) Someone accessing the computer went to websites that are known for problems, including pornography sites, some gambling sites, and even those sites that look like so much fun and create so much trouble on one's computer. I even had a corporate customer who insisted on allowing users to install and use a program that had a variety of smiley faces when this was a known malware product. As I was, in turn, a customer to my customer for the type of service provided and the business had the information of thousands of customers and their sensitive data, I refused to allow that as it would send information to another site. Many times, in order to access those types of web pages that cause harm, one would have to override the anti-virus settings. Once the virus is on the computer, they deliberately disable the anti-virus functionality to protect your computer.

(4) The person installed or used a factory installed anti-virus, even one that they maintained, that simply did not do the job well and did not keep up well with the viruses, adware, and malware. One of my business customers continually had problems with her computer and adware, though she kept the anti-virus software up to date. I kept having to fix her computer. I checked for the problem with the anti-virus software company she used (a high-profile common anti-virus company that is commonly pre-installed on computers), another well-known anti-virus company, and a third that I had consistently had luck with. Only the third, TrendMicro could properly identify the problem and provide a solution for rectifying it. That has consistently been my experience the past 10 years of providing computer consulting and computer support. As she had just purchased a renewal of her existing anti-virus software, she kept it. A short time later, I happened to be in her office when her computer started acting up again. We got her data transferred to another computer in the nick of time. Her computer completely and irrecoverably crashed. She had to purchase a new computer to replace it. At that time, she changed and opted to use TrendMicro's solutions.

Author's note: I do not receive any reimbursement or benefit to recommending TrendMicro's products. I recommend them solely based on my experience in using them in the course of the past 10 years as a computer consultant.

At this time, I recommend more than an anti-virus solution, but an Internet Security solution that can help protect you and your family from going to a web site that seems harmless, but has reports of spreading viruses or other malware to those who go to the page.

This type of software also provides a firewall between your computer and the rest of the Internet world. There are hardware firewalls that can be installed between the Internet and a switch or hub, and firewalls that can be installed just inside the local area network, and software firewalls that are installed directly on a computer. For home users in a peer-to-peer network (there are no server computers), an Internet Security software is sufficient.

Do not allow anyone on your home network that does not have current anti-virus software installed. If “John” comes over to visit with “Sam” and wants to bring his computer and hook it up to your network so he has access to the Internet, make sure his anti-virus software is current and that he has the latest signatures updated before doing so. You do not need a compromised computer compromising your home computer network.

2.      Secure your Internet access device. Modern MODEMs that you will receive to give you access to the Internet for DSL, satellite, or cable connectivity generally come with secure authentication codes, specifically those with Wi-Fi capability. Make sure to keep your network secured. Otherwise, you can have people driving by, neighbors in your apartment complex, or others who can gain access to your home network and networking devices.

3.      Use secure passwords for EVERYTHING. If your personal computer does not have a secure login password (8 characters or more including upper and lower case characters, special characters, and numerals), make one. This can keep little Johnny from coming over and playing on your computer and putting “neat stuff” on there that can cause your computer to be anywhere from lethargic to entirely crashed. It can also help to prevent others from accessing your computer remotely. There are a variety of reasons why this is not entirely foolproof, but there is no point making it easy for someone to hack your computer. Unless they really want what you have, if it is too time consuming, they will move on to someone who is easier to hack.

One of my customers used a small local company's Internet service. They provided radio-based Wi-Fi in the community. Each company or family that used the service received a radio antenna to attach to their home to access the Internet. Sadly, this service was entirely unsecured. I could browse to “My Network Places” and see people's home computers, shared printers, access their computer and more. That was really scary. (No, I did not hack the computers, but someone who had a desire to do harm could readily have done so. It was an open door invitation.)

If you can see other people's computers that are not your computers from My Network places, if you do not have a firewall, they can see yours as well. This would be a critical time to purchase a hardware firewall that went between the Internet and your local area network at home so that you could share files and printers with your family, but not with all your neighbors.

4.      When sharing a computer, make sure that each person has their own login and password, preferably a reduced permissions account, not Computer Administrator. You may even want to give yourself (if you are the computer guru in the house) a reduced permissions account for yourself to use whereby you could not accidentally install malware on your computer, and a Computer Administrator account for installing software and updates on the computer for the family to use.

If you work somewhere that only certain people have access to the Internet, do not give them your password to access the Internet, even if you want to be nice. Recommend the local library or other such source for them. One of my business clients only allowed certain people access to the Internet in order to protect the data they had and their network. One employee wanted to help out a young lady who needed to register for classes at a local junior college and gave her the password to access the Internet. She told him afterward that while she was there, she installed a weather-monitoring software for him because she thought he would like it. This was not her computer. This was not authorized software for the company. Within a short time, his computer started failing. His was one of two computers in the company that had certain critical data and applications on it for the business. His computer had to be completely reformatted and reinstalled just because the man wanted to be nice and helpful.

5.      Do not use a business's autodraft feature for withdrawing funds from your account if at all possible. While the company may make every effort to secure your information between your computer, across the network to their server, and try to vet out employees who may have any criminal background, there are still times when someone gets through the cracks. Once your data is stored on their servers, it is there for someone to gain access to. While a hacker may work to gain access to personal information from outside of a company, it is far easier to do so within the company.

I had never had my credit or debit card information stolen until I decided to save a few dollars with my insurance company and allow them to autodraft from my card. This meant storing my account information on their servers. Within the month, my account was used for two small, but unusual drafts. Fortunately, the bank's credit and debit company caught this and called me. I canceled that card immediately and got a new one. I thought at first this was a different business that did this based on some information I received from the person, though I had not had a problem in five years with that business. I canceled that account with that business that I thought caused the problem right away. I then tried again with the insurance company and kept an eagle eye on my bank account. The same thing happened. I contacted the insurance company. They assured me that they had no reports of problems and that they secured people's data. I tried a third time. Again, within a short time, the same thing happened. This time, no other business at all had the account number. I disabled the autowithdrawal capability with that company.

6.      Protect your identity. Do not use your real name if possible if you are Absolutely do not use your children's real names in public forums.

Why We Homeschool

It all started in 2003 when I married my dear husband who had two boys. He had reared them for the past few years with the help of his mother while he worked. She passed away in 2001, so it was up to him to do that by himself.
The boys were typical boys – they loved everything outdoors and did not like sitting still for long.
They went to a small school, but were making poor grades. They just hurried through their assignments so they could be done with them, but they were not learning the material. When children bring home C's and D's from school and they have a class of 10 or less children they are simply not doing their school work.
At this time, the school had a no homework policy. Everything was done in school, so a parent had no idea how the children were doing until report cards came out unless they checked up on the students. I wound up doing the latter. I required DS2, we'll call him “Lucky Charms,” to bring home his history and science each day so we could review the material and ensure he comprehended it. I could not get the math teacher to send home assignments to practice and review. The English teacher was another story.
In doing this, his grades got much better – from a C to an A in science. We would stay up from the time he got home until 8:00 pm each night going over homework. When I was blessed with extra consulting work that meant I was not home right when school let out, he conveniently forgot each night to bring home his books. His grades plummeted. Strike 1.
He's a cutie. He has these blue eyes that can beg better than any little puppy ever thought about. One weekend, he begged to go to a wrestling match with a friend. Where is your report card? “They didn't hand them out,” said he on Wednesday. “I forgot it at school,” said he on Thursday. On Friday, he brought me a report card, from the previous six weeks. Did I mention he's cute and could beg well? So, against my better judgment, I let him go. I went to the school Monday to get his report card and discovered why the excuses came. I also learned that he had informed his science teacher that he would not be able to study for Monday's science test over the weekend because he was going to be at a friend's house. (This is before I gave him permission, but do you think he felt he had me wrapped around his little finger? Yep.) Boy, oh, boy, was he in trouble after that one. Strike 2.
Strike 3 came when we studied history and the end of chapter assignment told him to “summarize” a section. In 7th grade, he did not know what the word “summarize” meant. That was ridiculous.
When I took into account that he was not learning his math well, we were working together until 8:00 pm each night, and I could not work outside the home on any significant project because he simply did not have the self-discipline and foresight to recognize what he was doing to himself and his future, we decided to homeschool.
It was not easy, but he learned a great deal from that. We both did.
DD2, Pumpkin, was not quite one when we began homeschooling. She was blessed with getting to grow really close to her older brother during this time. We read a great deal together. By age three, she was helping me mix ingredients in the kitchen and help wash dishes. She also began reading by that age. At age 9, she is a voracious reader and reads large chapter books on her own.
DD3, Sweet Pea, is also home schooled and began reading at age 4. For the younger two children, they are able to work more on things they enjoy and take the time they need to master more difficult items. For example, handwriting was a huge challenge for Pumpkin because she was so ambidextrous. After watching each boy write with the hand that he did nothing else with, one right and the other left, I gave her the time to get comfortable. She has some of the most beautiful cursive penmanship I have seen in many years, particularly for a young person.
In addition to these reasons, we are able to focus on the love of God through Jesus Christ and teach Biblical lessons and values.
These reasons and more are why our family chose to homeschool and continue to do so.

Remembering September 11, 2001: A Life That Was Changed

Today, we remember all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 as well as those who signed up to serve our country in answer to this tragedy and have lost life or limb or who have subsequently suffered mental illness. We pray for our world and for our leaders. We pray that our children and our children's children will not know this type of tragedy.
We each have our own stories of this day in 2001. Many of us were changed from the inside because of  it. I know I was.
My job to that point required working long days and weekends. We all missed time with family and friends and many of us missed time with God all for temporary purposes – software that would be outdated quickly and working hard to earn the things money could buy.
What I learned that day is how little things mean, but how truly important people are. I think we all called (or tried to call) our family and friends that day to tell them we loved them and how important they were to us. We all loved a little deeper and showed more kindness and compassion toward those we encountered than we might have ever shown in our lives.
On September 11, 2001, while I had already begun to dimly recognize this and was in the process of moving back to be with friends I truly loved and cared about, the actions of that day showed more completely that what I was doing had no lasting importance. I was focusing on the wrong things in life. What I was doing was not wrong, but my attitude was. I was NOT living out my life's mission.
God calls us to be in relationship with Him first. He calls us also to be in relationship with one another. It is not that we should not work, but that our work should honor God and that we should seek to be in a right relationship with God and with one another. God gave us the Sabbath Day for that purpose. I had not been to church in years at that time. Thankfully, God called me back to Himself.
In Revelation, we see that God allows disasters with the hope that His people, that all of us, will turn back to Him and call on Him. We read that it doesn't happen much. Thankfully, it does happen at least to some degree because I am one whose life was turned around through these events. I am certain that there are many others, as well.
The loss of life of so many that horrible day breaks my heart. The families and friends of those whose loved ones perished that day brings a sadness beyond words. We must remember that day and those who died for their sakes and for the sakes of their families. May God grant them peace and fill them with His love.
As God worked on me subsequent to that day, He allowed me to marry and I have been a stay-at-home mom for nine years. I had my own business, but my children came first because I learned that day that the legacy I leave with them is not for a few days, months, or years, not even for a single lifetime, but for many lifetimes to come through their outreach to others. They are my mission field.
Computers are fun. They are my personal hobby and business venture; however, God is my all-in-all. My family, my friends, and my community are those I seek to love and serve and share God's love with because that is the legacy I truly desire to leave behind. That is my mission. This is why this blog is “Mom's Home Mission.”
How did your life change with the impact of September 11, 2001?

Getting Out of Debt 2: Budgeting for Needs and Wants

Is your budget tight? Ours is. It has been for years. It is getting better, but I have noticed that after doing without for so long, there is a long list of things that we need or high priority wants that can really make saving a difficult challenge.
To help us in this endeavor, I created a spreadsheet to allow us to prioritize those important needs, wants, dreams, and includes blessings, as well.
I started the spreadsheet with just prioritizing needs and wants for the family. A priority 10 need was life or death – or close to it and it went down from there. For example, I prioritized Sweet Pea's swimming lessons at a 10 and Pumpkin's at an 8 because Sweet Pea had never had swimming lessons before and loved the water, but Pumpkin had had swimming lessons. It was important to have Sweet Pea learn to swim for her own safety.
I “had” to add a Blessed item to Wants and Needs after we were blessed with God's provision through our friends for things we needed. I highly recommend including this for those times that there is no way you can do what you need to do on your own, but God comes through for you as a reminder of God's love and provision. It has certainly been helpful for us. It is especially helpful to be reminded of these things if you have just encountered a downturn in your family income. It is so easy to try to fix it or figure it out on your own and be self-sufficient, but when you realize that your best efforts cannot do what God can do, it is humbling and ever so helpful to strengthen you in doing what you are called to do and remain faithful to Him.
Please feel free to use this for your own benefit. I hope it proves helpful to you. To use most effectively, highlight the active cells, choose Data, Sort, then sort by Need/Want – ascending; Priority – descending; and Cost – ascending. It works out nicely this way in that your blessings are listed first, followed by “done” items, your needs next, wants come third, and dreams (Zzzz) are last. It is also nice because if you have two competing priorities, the least expensive one comes first so that you feel that you are making progress.
How do you prioritize your needs and wants in your family's budget?

Getting Out of Debt 1: Family Finance

Family Finance
If you, like me, are the keeper of the budget, you may know just how challenging it is to get your spouse involved in making the budget and working together. If you cannot stand making budgets and they bore you out of your skull, then your personality matches my husband's. He hates it, also.
I worked with the Crown Financial Ministries program that started with Larry Burkett. I really liked the program, but I could not engage my husband or teenage / young adult son in the matter. It made working on a family budget really challenging.
Enter, Dave Ramsey. I had wanted to take the class, but in our community, the church that offered it offered it on a night we were not available. Fortunately, one of my dear friends and her husband took the course. She offered it to her friends in and outside of her church. My husband, son, and I took the course. The first DVD of the program (this is the just older program, not the newest 2012 version) got my husband and son's attention. YEA!
Is he teaching anything different from Crown Financial Ministries? No, not really. The only “big” difference is the order in which Dave Ramsey recommends paying off debt. What Dave Ramsey does well is showmanship. This is what my husband and son needed. He gave them a reason to be interested in making a budget. He gave them a reason to save, especially showing the numbers for a young man starting to save $2000 per year at age 20 versus waiting until age 26 to do the same. Lucky Charms got that message. The only downside is that Lucky Charms is rather impulsive still and wants things “now” rather than saving, so he leans toward wanting to get a loan, though fortunately, when he does, it tends to be short-term loans. He is contemplating consequences and costs more thoroughly, though.
If you and your spouse, if you are married, (or fiancĂ©e / financĂ© if  engaged) have not yet taken this course, I highly recommend taking it. It may take time to get the program to work for your family with ups and downs in family financial circumstances, but keep working at it. You will be blessed and you will see those debts dwindle down and your capacity for providing for your needs and wants – and long-term future – increase.
What has been your most successful method for getting your family on a budget? Who inspires you?

Passionate Mama

I am passionate about my love of Jesus Christ and I am passionate about my family. When I thought about this title and writing about what I am passionate about, I asked my daughters (without sharing this title first), what they think I love the most. The answers were an emphatic, “ME!” and “Jesus!” I figured I had the title right.
I am a wife, a step-mother to two young men (though I simply consider myself their mother the majority of the time), and mother to two young girls. The aside may bother some, but there is a reason behind that aside and it is not a liberty taken lightly, but one earned through earnest prayers, much time, lots of love, counsel, guidance, concern, and worry. God has helped me guide their steps with loving church families and their grandparents. God has also shown me when it was time for me to step back and let him intervene and given me peace when He did so.
We are blessed with a lovely, Christian daughter-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren.
I began homeschooling our younger son in 2004 and have homeschooled since that time. (He did graduate from a public school with our permission. Our daughters will be graduating from homeschool when the time comes.)
Getting here has been a long journey. I have worked in the corporate world. I have had a great deal of experiences that helped me grow and learn who I really am and what matters most to me. What matters most is family – and friends who you love like family.
I have a wonderful husband with a completely different personality from mine. I am a high-strung Type A personality. He is a relaxed, easy-going Type B personality. My dad thought us getting married might help me loosen up a little.
I generally call hubby a duck – problems just roll off his back. I, on the other hand, am not a duck. Over the years of having this discussion with him, I finally came to the conclusion that God made him a duck – and that is fine, but God did not make me a duck – and both of us must simply accept that fact. I may look at him and ask, in an exasperated tone, “How can that NOT bother you?” To which he simply replies, “It just doesn't. I don't let it get to me.” On the other hand, he will look at me and ask, “Why are you letting that bother you?” I respond with, “It just does and I have to work through it.”
In life, I figure that God gives us lessons to learn. I learn by trials, challenges, and experiences. I even learn by the way I work through those trials and challenges. I have learned, for example, that it is perfectly okay to give myself permission to feel however I feel – hurt, angry, frail, lost, confused – those things that do not seem to be correct to feel sometimes. I used to hold the feelings inside until I would have a physiological issue that required me to address them. I don't do that any longer. I learned that God gave us feelings to feel what is going on around us. That is what makes me passionate and concerned and involved in this world around me.
I learned, through experience, just how valuable family is. Family is so precious. No amount of money can replace family. You can always make more money, but once time is spent, you can never get it back.
The purpose of this blog is to journey through some of these lessons I've learned and share some of these with others. I wish to be an encourager of other Christian moms in their stages of motherhood through stories, prayers, and fun ideas.
I would love your comments, thoughts, and encouragement for myself and one another. I will try to respond to requests and questions in a timely manner to the best of my ability.
This blog will be monitored. Differences of opinion with statements of why one has a different opinion are welcome. Asking for clarification is appreciated. Agreeing to disagree on a point is perfectly valid. Making assertions without having walked in someone else's shoes or getting all the details is cautioned. Unkind comments, foul language, or belittling someone else will not be tolerated.