Category: Uncategorized

Where We Are June 2012

On the house front we have a buyer– maybe.  Have to get a “dye test” done for the sewer and if that needs work then the buyer is walking– so still no idea when we will have to move and just waiting on God.

Otherwise all is well and the Lord has continued to provide enough for the coming month.  It has been so awesome to see where the money comes from each month– some from book sales, some from website stuff and art sales, some from ads, some from donations, but regardless it is just enough eacah time.

The kids are busy and happy and growing and learning and just plain awesome.  We got to go meet up with some fellow Christian unschoolers yesterday at Old Bedford Village which was so much fun despite the heat.  I am thinking that is another post though.

The Christian Unschooling group I run (now with the help of 11 wonderful ladies) on Facebook is growing by leaps and bounds with roughly 20 new people a WEEK and all sorts of conversations ranging from basic unschooling and Christianity questions to health to prayer requests to who knows what (today’s big question was about coffee– best type of coffee maker and coffee because one of the kids wanted to know so Mom asked.:))  It takes a lot of time and energy to keep up but it is amazing to see what God is doing and I am so grateful for my small group of admins who help me keep it kind, gentle, and away from the danger zones.

I AM remembering to post recent pictures of the kids but mostly just to my Facebook page for the blog since I am on Facebook for the group all the time and am able to quickly upload them there now (used to be nearly impossible for me to upload pictures to Facebook, plus their policy about photos used to be squiffy).  So if you want to see where we have been and what the kids have been doing and learning  you can find the pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/untraditionalhome?

Also, I have been updating my Etsy shop with all the art I have sitting around that never got posted (still have Sherwood Showdown paintings to post but otherwise  I think I have them all up there and decently organized).  Lots more geeky stuff for sale plus art from Shamus’ book: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ElasahArt

Where We Are May 2012

It has been a long month full of paperwork (house related stuff) and illness. Shamus, Es, and Rachel still have whatever this sickness is and I just really got over it finally yesterday. This is probably more rambly than usual as I have been dealing with the remains of the illness (headache that won’t just go away) and have been spending much time pondering things in my head rather than out loud.

Issac built castles with the boxes for packing.

We are still working on selling the house. Finally have all paper in for possible short sale and now it is a waiting game. People keep looking at it but no offers yet. We have gotten a letter from one of those companies that buys houses offering to buy it but we feel we need to wait on God on this and not try to jump the gun and go with a quick solution.

Enjoying taco salad out with great-grandma.

We are also continuing to prayerfully consider an RV. We would really like to be able to travel to conventions (which would help sell Shamus book and get his name out) and the kids and I just want to travel and see the US in general (what better way to homeschool?) An RV would give us a cheap place to live, allow Shamus to travel while giving him a place to work and be comfortable and home, it would allow us the freedom to go where we want to go but be back home with family as needed. We need to wait for the Lord on this as well. We don’t want to get something that won’t run, doesn’t fit our family, or has had pets so we are prayerfully watching and waiting.

Headband from Japan-- gift from unschooled friends in Japan

We have also decided not to sell our stuff but rather to give it away where it is needed. We have prayed about this a lot and feel strongly that we need not attempt to sell everything but instead rely on God to provide. I am trying to decide how best to put my art for sale since we don’t want to store it. The paintings of the kids will mostly go to family as interested but I have the dragon and bunny paintings plus illustrations from the game and book that I would like to sell. Have considered ebay but looking at sales results I don’t think that is the best way. Considering just putting buy it now buttons directly on my art page (http://elasah.com) or just putting things up on Etsy. I don’t keep up with Etsy enough to really get sales that way so am not sure. I have however spent the last few days updating my art site (http://elasah.com) and Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/ElasahArt) with more art so hopefully some things will sell.

Cool Japanese stuff from friends.

The Lord has been providing, mostly through sales of Shamus book. The initial sales were good though they have tapered off and it will be interesting to see how the Lord continues to provide. We have an added monthly expense for Him to provide for (in order to do short sale we have to pay a certain amount each month– nearly as much as the original mortgage which we didn’t pay because we didn’t have it. Thus far He is providing and we trust Him to continue.

We continue to rely on Him rather than the government and He has been faithful. Just the other day we had several checks we had been waiting for suddenly go through just in time to make the mortgage payment that had to be in that day or we would go straight to Sheriff sale. We have also had numerous small miracles– free vitamins, $10 off coupons for new stores accepted at the only store that carries the butter we use, things like that. God continues to provide and take care of us in wonderful ways.

Watching the raw milk coming directly through the pipes from the cows (who are being milked during sell times.)

The last few days it has rained while the sun was still shining. Usually we are in the perfect location for a rainbow (they appear just over the hill from us nearly every time it rains). I look forward to them as the Lord has used them many times in the past to remind me that He provides and will continue to take care of us. However the last few days there have been none. As I was driving home from getting milk in the pouring rain with the sun glaring directly in my eyes I had a revelation.
Sometimes we can’t see the rainbow because we are in the midst of it. I am sure those around us could see a rainbow and I am trusting that He will continue to use our current situation and how He takes care of us to give others around us hope.

PAX East

IMAG0028
The show floor from the sky bridge that you walk across everytime you want to get to a panel room across the building on the same floor as the last panel you saw.

We just got back from PAX East last night.  God provided that we had the money to get there, sold all the books while there and therefore had the money to get home.  Go God!!!  And thank you to the random gift givers who helped us get there.  You all are awesome!!!

Escapist Movie Night
The Escapist movie night panel, L-R: One of the dudes from the new show "Space Janitors", Shamus, Movie Bob, and the crew of Loading, Ready, Run: Matt Wiggins, Kathleen De Vere, Graham Stark

We got to find out how quickly Shamus’ book would sell out and wish we had brought more.

IMAG0033
Blankety Blank Panel which was hosted by Susan Arendt (NOT in the photo), in photo : Russ Pitts, an ex-reviewer who wrote a book that I can't remember the name of, Kathleen De Vere, and Movie Bob

We saw some amazingly funny panels (like the LLR panel and those that the Escapist creatives including Susan Arendt and Movie Bob were involved in). We got to meet some more cool people to add to the list of cool people we already know (like Russ Pitts and James Portnow along with a slew of Shamus’ readers and some really awesome indie game developers) and see friends we hadn’t seen for a year (like Susan Arendt and the LLR crew) .

IMAG0089
James Portnow of Extra Credits among many other things.

We got to see some incredibly thought provoking panels which I am still pondering and percolating posts thanks to (namely two that included James Portnow and were on topics close to my heart– one on Gaming and Education and one called the Genre Divide about rethinking why people play certain games and how games are divided into genres.)

IMAG0075
Girls Like Robots (a pretty fun indie game.)
23-P1110328
A very cool concept for a rpg that my kids are really looking forward to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/JoshuaACNewman/mobile-frame-zero-rapid-attack

We got to see a ton of amazing indie games and some cool AAA games.

04-P1110308
Shamus crashed while waiting.

We got tired and hungry and sick of granola bars (thanks to the convention centers ridiculously huge symmetric layout where you have to go down a level and cross a sky bridge to get between two panels on the same floor and expensive food–$7 for a HOT DOG.)

IMAG0014
In front of the convention center-- parking was in rear and you had to walk a quarter mile of wind tunnel just to get in a door.

We got stuck in 2 hours of 5 mph traffic and only got lost in Boston once (last year we managed to add a half hour of wrong turns onto every single trip and this year we were saved mostly thanks to paying close attention, avoiding the roads we knew we had trouble with, and Josh’ excellent sense of direction.)

14-P1110319
The audience at the Escapist movie night panel.

God’s Provision and Where We Are March 2012

You might say we are in a tight space,  but we have been there before and God is providing and now that all family members know where we are and what is going on, at least in part, I can share here what is going on here.

The house is up for sale (current potential sheriff sale date is in early May.  We are praying the house DOES sell before then or that they push back the date –still in the reams of paperwork that it takes to figure all this stuff out.)  The house has a lot of issues (that we can’t afford to fix– one of the reasons we didn’t even attempt to sell in the past) and there are a lot of houses up for sale in our area so it is definitely a buyers market and there are NOT a lot of buyers though we have had a lot of showings.)

No, we have no idea where we are going.  Looking at our current financial situation, poor credit, and random freelance income combined with aneeding a completely mold and dander free place big enough for the 5 of us to  live and work, well, finding a place around here isn’t likely.  Also our families all have pets so that is a no go.

One of the things we are prayerfully considering is an RV– IF the Lord provides one that suits our needs (within our budget, big enough for our family, self-contained since our minivan couldn’t pull a big enough one, everything functioning and low maintenance since neither Shamus nor I is good with fixing vehicles) then that would be awesome.  The kids and I love to travel and love to be able to come home to family.  Shamus loves to stay home yet wants to be able to go to conferences.  The cost of living in an RV works well with our freelance income and the cost per month is within our means.  So far we have found a few that IF we had a check come we could afford and look to suit our needs so the idea is not too far out there.

Otherwise the Lord would either need to increase our freelance income or provide a place to stay for low rent or free until such a time as He does that.

We are currently at the “in-between checks” stage of the freelance life.  We just used up the big check we got back in November (and thanks to the Lord’s intervention in various ways we were able to extend it slightly further than expected– we expected to run out and need more in January and we just hit the end of it here in March– which is amazingly awesome.)  We have money we are waiting on from various sources and we know we will get it soon though whether soon is this month or next month we don’t know.  So, THAT is interesting. 🙂

In the meantime the Lord has provided for us here and there in all kinds of cool ways.

Currently we have just enough in the bank to make it to PAX East in a few weeks (we have to go this year for various reasons or we would back out knowing money was tight).  Since we plan to move soon we thought it best if we used up the food we have instead of buying lots of other groceries of the type that the family prefers.  In the process the Lord has extended our food supply in amazing ways.  We have had more than a few “stone soup” type meals: The last few grapes, the last banana, the about to go bad Mandarin oranges, and the pears I found in the bottom of the fridge behind something else made a wonderful fruit salad.  The broth I made from the last chicken in the freezer, plus the last bit of several bags of vegetables made a wonderful soup.  While searching the freezer for something else I found a lb of ground beef and made that up for Shamus (he is allergic to chicken).  While searching for something to go with noodles and meat for him I realized that the jars of red peppers in oil that I bought by mistake (was supposed to get fermented and missed that fact when buying) made an amazing “spaghetti sauce” that the family couldn’t tell from tomato sauce (which they can’t eat anyway so that was pretty awesome.)

The Lord has also extended the money we have when I do buy at the store– over and over again when I have gotten to the cash register the price has been way below what it should have been– either because of $15 off coupons given out because there is a new store in town or because I miscalculated or because the food was mis-priced.  This week I was able to supplement the food we hav eat home for the week by spending only $30 (I make everything from scratch and we buy our meat, eggs, and milk from the farm and our weekly grocery budget is usually around $200-$250.)

Also a wonderful group of friends, who knew a little bit about what was going on, pulled their resources and sent us $150– which has basically provided gas and groceries for the last 3 weeks and probably the next 2.

So it has been pretty awesome to see and while Shamus and I have been here over and over again since 15 years ago when we married and had a grocery budget of $10 a week the kids are getting a much needed reminder of God’s amazing provision.  It has spawned numerous conversations about how sick the Israelites must have gotten of manna (and how God did not appreciate the whining and complaining :)), God’s promise of provision, God’s plan for our lives and how He shows us which direction will be best for us.  The kids are old enough to remember past instances of this but it is a good reminder and they are doing better about it this time around then in the past.  We have plenty and they know it. 🙂

Also the Lord has blessed them in new exciting ways.  Rachel has had work recently so has been able to buy the things she wants instead of feeling deprived.  A friend who has been to Japan has given her info on a Japanese missions trip each summer which has further fueled her passion to GO.  The same friend is giving her a copy of Rosetta Stone Japanese (which is a cool God’s timing story in itself– a whole day flipped upside down and inside out just to get us outside the thrift shop at exactly the moment this friend was leaving.)  Family members have randomly stopped by and given us some of the kids favorite foods without even realizing that things were tight (we generally don’t advertise the fact wanting all provision to be obviously and clearly from God plus we don’t like people worrying.)  Issac is getting to stay with his best friend while we are at PAX East (the family is going out of their way to meet us and pick him up which is so cool.)  A neighbor out of the blue gave us a full working computer (it just needs a decent graphics card and it will be awesome for the stuff Essie does– and this happened the day after Es sent her Eee pc off to a fellow Christian unschooling family who needed a computer.  Her Eee pc no longer suited her needs and spent most of its time in her desk while she waited for a turn on the bigger laptop that can run Blender and Gimp so finding someone who needed a computer just for writing and communicating and being able to bless them was awesome.)

Shamus’ book is selling well though not nearly as well as Shamus had hoped (though VERY, VERY well for an indie author in a new genre.)  And he is working on a new book (in a different genre of course.  Sigh.:))  He has been very inspired and therefore writing on the new book nearly constantly which is a blessing in itself.

Shamus’ asthma had started acting up again very suddenly– we think we have finally tracked down the cause but also a friend blessed us with some Young Living Essential oils to try and he has been using the R.C. one on his chest twice a day and it has REALLY helped.  So that is another awesome blessing.

I am sure there are many other things that the Lord has been doing but those are the ones I can think of at th emoment (we have been so busy that this is the first time I have had a chance to write in a while.)

God is so GOOD!

Book

As soon as I say I am intending to post more often things get super busy here and I can’t.  Shamus’ book, The Witch Watch, is almost finished and ready for print editions to be available.  Since I am doing all the formatting/final proofing plus much of the marketing and web related stuff (aside from him posting about it and that sort of thing) I am super busy preparing it for print.  We have the proofs here and I am going over them one more time, adding any edits to the various formats, and getting the author site and his profiles on the various distribution channels all on the same page.  You can read Shamus’ take on it all on his site (in case you missed it).  Also here is the author page we have set up where links to the books already for sale plus information on the various versions and whatnot is available.

This morning Shamus and I went out for coffee in order to get away from computers and get on the same page regarding the business side of all this.  As we talked we realized how much the Lord had been preparing me for this aspect of the job, from working on author websites (I have dealt with authors more than any other webdesign client) to working on illustrations and proofreading for Splashdown books and just having a wide range of experience with various writers and books.  This just served as another reminder that we are going the right direction with all of this, despite the financial set backs.

Halving it All

A recent question on the CU Facebook group got me thinking about my experience with too much stuff and how God got a hold of me– which is why our house is no longer cluttered and it is actually easy to find what we need or want and keep it clean.

I have always collected things.  Old books, lots and lots of old books, vintage toys, rocks, vintage clothes, you name it.  When I was a kid my floor was completely covered with stuff and intermingled with toys and books and clothes were fossils, lots and lots of fossils collected from our limestone driveway. When I went to college, I packed up most of my stuff and moved into a teeny tiny dorm room.  It was covered in stuff all the time.  When I got a job as a nanny and moved out I took ALL my stuff with me– most of it never got unpacked– boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff.  And I still couldn’t keep my trailer clean because I had too much stuff.  Same happened when I got married.  And then proceeded to move multiple times, and I took everything with me.  When we finally settled down here 11 years ago  I had boxes stacked in every closet, more books than shelves, the kids toys and clothes overflowed every possible nook and cranny.  The floor was constantly overwhelmed with our stuff.  I couldn’t keep up with the basic chores because I was dealing with 3 little ones (Issac was born 10 months after we moved in) and we had too much stuff.

Shoes
Too many shoes? We figured out that they only wore about 3 pairs of these each. Most didn't even fit!

Probably around 2004, definitely in January, God clearly told me to get rid of half.  I don’t remember the verses I read at the time nor how exactly nor what (and the journals are packed up at my in-laws so can’t check.) However it was very, very clear that He wanted me to get rid of half of all of it.  Some of this stuff had never been unpacked since I first moved out to become a nanny 10 years earlier.  Most of it I had held onto out of fear– what if I need this at some point in the future.  That was how my family had always done it– when I had Rachel my mom handed me box after box of my own clothes and toys from when I was small.  My grandmother saved bread bags instead of buying ziplocks.  It was just how we did things.  How could I possibly give this stuff up?  It just wasn’t done.  But half of everything stayed in my mind and stuck with me.  I needed  get rid of half of everything and I needed to start now.  (And mind you Shamus had been wanting me to get rid of stuff for forever.)

So I started.  I started small.  I looked at the coat rack and my pile of coats– I still had winter coats that I had had in school, and ones that had been given to me by family members who were getting rid of (being the only married kids in the family with the only grand-kids- EVERYONE gave us stuff.) So I looked through my coats and got rid of half.  Those all went to the thrift shop.  I realized I could suddenly find the ones I wore with no problem, instead of knocking everything down every time I tried to grab one.  Then I went through my shirts.  I got rid of the ones that didn’t quite fit, the ones that weren’t flattering, the ones that I didn’t really like to wear.  By the time I was done I could close my drawer.  And it went on from there.  I got rid of half our dishes.  Half our books.  Even half our food (turns out we had a whole lot of stuff in the pantry that had been bought that we couldn’t or wouldn’t eat– that all went to the food pantry in town.)  I went through the old paperwork and got rid of the surplus (which was more than half and went to the burn pile.)  And so, in the matter of about 6 months, I had gone through the entire house and gotten rid of half of everything.

IMG_1403
This train only left the house this year as Issac decided it was time to share it with someone else. Much of the rest in this picture, taken in 2006, is long gone. By that time we had a lot less stuff though not near as little as we do now.

It ended up being a good thing (or you could consider it God blessing us) because in August a friend started dropping stuff off at our house that they didn’t want (she was cleaning out her house) and suddenly we had more stuff– some of which we really needed or had been wanting.  And then my parents, who  were divorced both remarried, combining multiple households and started dropping off stuff THEY didn’t need.  And a neighbor started dropping off things her grand-kids didn’t want.

Issac does Kung Fu with marker sticks in our fairly simple living room. The kids pitch-in and help get rid of because they like being able to find the things they enjoy.

Pretty soon I was in the habit of going through, only keeping what we would really use, and getting rid of the rest, recognizing that God clearly WAS and would continue to provide what we needed, when we needed it, and we didn’t need to hold onto all that stuff.  Because that was all it was.  Stuff.  Even the things with sentimental value were just things, things that were getting in the way of my peace, of our family’s peace, even in the way of my relationship with God because I wasn’t trusting Him, I was trusting stuff.

So now we keep the clutter down, regularly going through and getting rid of, and focusing our time on better things than maintaining stuff.  Less clothes=less laundry, less dishes= people will rewash instead of leaving the dishes to pile up, less toys means the kids can find what they really want to play with, less stuff we don’t use means we can focus on what we DO use.  All in all halving everything was the beginning of a much healthier lifestyle for all of us and God continues to bless us as we willingly pass on the things He gifts to us.

Website related question

I realize a lot of people no longer use RSS feeds and many use Facebook to follow posts on their favorite blogs.  So, my question to you (given that I plan to continue posting more frequently): Should “An Untraditional Home” have a Facebook page?  Would that be helpful?

Interview with Issac

Interviews continued.  If you missed the first one: Jennifer over at Path Less Taken has been interviewing her kids.  I did that  several years ago with all three (here) so I decided to do it again and see how things had changed.   I started with Rachel which is here, Essie here, and now Issac (who was the hardest to pin down– he doesn’t like to be put on the spot. His initial answer is always I don’t know, then when he thinks a bit he answers.)

Issac does Kung Fu with marker sticks.

1. What is something Mom always says to do?

Nice to meet you, Hungry. (In response to his constant “Moo-oomm, I’m hungry”)

 

2. What makes Mom happy?

If I make her tea or clean up the living room.

 

3. What makes Mom sad?

I’m not sure.

 

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

Jokes or tickling.

 

5. What was your mom like as a child?

I don’t know, I forget.

 

6. How old is your mom?

37

 

7. How tall is your mom?

2 ft taller than I am. (a foot off– I am 1 ft taller.)

 

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

Painting

 

9. What does your mom do when you’re not around?

I don’t know because I am usually asleep.

 

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?

I have no idea.

 

11. What is your mom really good at?

Painting.

 

12. What is your mom not very good at?

Tripletown

 

13. What does your mom do for a job?

Paint

 

14.What is your mom’s favorite food?

lettuce

(Apparently I like salad a lot.:))

 

15.What makes you proud of your mom?

When you finish a painting.

 

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?

I don’t know.

 

17. What do you and your mom do together?

Board games

 

18. How are you and your mom the same?

We both make weird faces sometimes.

(Weird=silly)

 

19. How are you and your mom different?

Your hair is longer.

 

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

You listen to what I am talking about.

 

21. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?

Um, to the computer.

(First kid who got this close to right– essentially unless I am taking a road trip my favorite place to go is “home”.:))

Provision-y stuff and an Octopus

Rach proudly holding the homemade marzipan octopus she sculpted.

We are busy cleaning and packing plus doing Hanukkah (not to mention family Christmas stuff.) In the meantime God has been blessing us in a variety of ways, including the above marzipan recipe which makes it much cheaper and thus lets Rach sculpt to her hearts content.

It's a Calvin octopus.
Some cool God stuff that has happened:
  • We managed to get rid of 6 garbage bags full of sheets, blankets, and books– which means less stuff to pack!  YAH!
  • The kids have been a great help with packing things up, especially since I keep getting minor injuries that are forcing me to stop and rest.
  • We bought the kids 1 gift for each day of Hanukkah and it has been so peaceful and enjoyable.  Instead of a pile of presents the kids are really focusing on their one gift and enjoying it, which has been a huge change of events.  In the past a stuffed Mario or book would have been tossed aside when the bigger, cooler gifts come out but this year they are enjoying each to the fullest.
  • The peace that Hanukkah has brought has especially blessed me as I normally go crazy during the holidays, preferring to hole up in a corner with a book and avoid all the chaos.  This is especially good considering all the other stuff going on.
  • The Lord is continuing to take care of us financially.  We have been waiting, praying and trusting and He is making our money go much further than we could have imagined.
  • I got a God-gift today (usually around the holidays and my birthday the Lord blesses me with something that is exactly what I wanted, something just perfect that blesses me in a huge way– I always call them God-gifts…because they are obviously a perfect special thing just from Him to me.)  Today, Rach and I ran to the thrift shop to drop off the bags of stuff.  While there we were checking for something she was looking for and while she was looking at something else she ran across a food processor in the wrong spot.  We had just been talking about how little time this one has left (I have burned them out in less than a week and our current one is used and was missing the shredding/slicing blade.)  The one she found was a perfect match to my current one (which was a thrifted gift from a friend) and it included a non-broken bowl and the blade I needed.  This means I can use the current one till I burn it out and have a backup.  Plus I now have two bowls and mixing blades!  We are all so excited because I have been wanting to make sauerkraut and other ferments again and really needed that blade (due to my RA cutting and grating are pretty much out so without a food processor that works well I can’t make a lot of our foods.)   Someday we will have the money to get me a good one again (I killed my Bosch after 9 years of daily use) but for now I have a backup that does what I need!  So excited and blessed that God would provide this for me in such a way (and I think the kids are as excited as I am– we all love God-gifts and get excited about them together).
  • The sign is up in front of our house to let people know it is for sale.  Today someone stopped and asked about it (we are appointment only because we are all home all the time and I am not sure if we will have sheets to give out or not– we don’t right now which is what he was asking for.)  I am just feeling really encouraged that someone is even interested at all.
  • When the bank called today they suddenly said that we DON’T have a sheriff sale date.  Not sure if it changed because the house is now for sale for real, if he just didn’t see it, or what but he was pretty sure we didn’t have a date for sheriff sale which is interesting because last week they said January 6.  Either way we are encouraged again that something is happening and God is moving.
  • After the thrift shop Rach and I ran into the grocery store nearby to pick up a few things we needed.  On the way out they had a huge pile of excellent boxes (banana boxes and egg boxes which are super strong.)  I had totally forgotten that  when I had called they said Thursday was their shipment day and that they just put them on the ledge in front for people to take.  So Rach and I filled the minivan up with boxes and we now have plenty (I think) for what we need.