Our First Homeschooled Child Graduates from High School: College Bound

When she started out homeschooling, we felt like we had a lifetime ahead of us. Certainly any thoughts of high school, graduating from high school, or possibilities of heading off to college, just seemed like….another lifetime.  It was something I would always be prepping for anyway, for someday. But, it was so far off. And there was a whole lot of living, loving, and learning to do, in each day, between now and then.
01_2005_As-First-Year-Homeschool And we did a whole lot of all of those things. But like any of the most precious times of your life, in what seems like the blink of an eye……

Well, here we all are.  On the other end a lifetime, I guess, with the oldest of our four children. With our first homeschooled child. The one we always called our ‘Trail Blazer’.  She is graduating from high school, and definitely college bound.
We’re here at the end, and yet, a whole new, beautiful beginning.
[Read more…]

On the Topic of Dignity and Privacy – Our Kids’

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I know you’ll hardy be able to even fathom this, but I was not an easy kid to raise.  No, it’s true. Not from the time I was little, all the way through my teens and early 20’s.  My mother even had a nickname for me: ‘Mouth’.  And no, she wasn’t likening me to Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger.  She was referring to my frequent fresh-backtalkin’.  My mouth seemed to have a mind of it’s own, and it was pretty sharp, blunt and quick-witted! Or I thought so, anyway. My mother; well, she wasn’t so impressed.

I wasn’t clueless about the stresses my parents were under all of those years. They suddenly found themselves raising 5 complex kids, had great financial struggles, and were dealing with a host of other issues including health, extended family matters, and the frustration of trying to make dreams come true, for us all, out of nothing.

Knowing all of that at the time, I clearly was not clueless. I was simply….selfish.  Too wrapped up in me, myself, and I, to make their role as parents any easier.  Instead, I made it all so much worse.  I honestly, don’t even know what I would do with me, if I was my parent. (Although in her moments of sheer frustration, my mother did vocalize her wish upon me, a time or two, that I might have a kid just like me, someday.) I can only imagine the frustration and hurt I must have built up in my parents, on some days. My mother in particular, since my father worked so many hours, and my mother was the one there, trying to raise us the best she could. I was enough to handle on my own; never mind that there were 4 other kids being raised, besides me.

How did she manage? Where did she turn to vent, when she had ‘had it up to here’! ( I can still see her today, referring with her hand to that level juuuust over her own head. ).  I know she had some good friends (who also had kids) who she had over, who she had coffee with, and she was always shoo-ing us back outside because they were ‘talking’. Or, sometimes, I’d see the curly cord from that horrid green colored phone on our 70’s wall-papered kitchen wall, snaked through the crack in the doorway to the pantry, where she was talking to someone. Maybe even crying.  [Read more…]

Old/Antique Bottles


My family and I live on the south shore of Massachusetts, now. But I (Laura) was born and raised out in western MA, in the city of Westfield. Most times when I go back home to my parent’s house, my father urges me to take anything in the house that I want, for myself. “Anything at all”, he stresses.  I most always dismiss his invitation because, frankly, I want everything to stay there, just as it is.  Forever, really. But at least, for as long as possible.

You see, my mother passed away in 2005.  It’s so hard for me to believe it’s been that long already.  But what’s harder for most others to believe, is that my father has kept everything in the house, just as it was when my mother was there.  He even keeps it clean. Vacuumed, dusted, the dishes done; everything. You’d think she was still there.

It’s a 100 year old 3-story, 2 family house. Walking into that house, [Read more…]

It’s the Chicken Coop Reveal!

Finally, we are ready to show you the chicken coop that has been in the works for 2 months!
We know many of you have been waiting to see it, and we have to tell you, we’re pretty darn excited to show it to you!

PLEASE NOTE: There are many photos in this post, so please give them time to load.  Then at the end there is a link to even more photos that I thought some would like to see, such as early stages of the coop being built (for those who may have missed it on Facebook), the inside of the coop, and and a closer look at some of it’s other cool features.

So, as lots of people know, I have wanted to get some chickens for so very long!  Michael has always said I could, but the time was just not right for a long time, while we got the inside of our home finished, our property set up as we wanted it, and ready, etc.
It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve been living the little dream now, of having chickens, since we got 1 day old chicks about a week into July of this year.  Chicken-keeping has been as fun and exciting as we ever thought it would be!

01_building-of-chicken-coop
All I ever wanted or dreamed of for my someday-chickens, was a small and very simple coop. But, Michael really goes all out when he gets brain-storming. He’s very creative, ingenious, and handy in craftmanship, and well, he got sketching, as always. The detailed features also grew as he built it, and it has been pretty amazing and exciting to see it all come to life, built from the ground up, from what stared as little possible plans on paper.

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Many of you who follow us on Facebook  were able to see some progress photos of the coop that we shared, as we began to build.
The photo above was as far as we took you before we decided that anymore might ruin the surprise of the final reveal.
Especially when we were getting ready to stain it with color!  We figured many would be most curious about what color we’d choose.
(I mean, that’s an important and fun decision that needs to be made, I think.)
I considered many colors, but there was really one that was always just how I imagined my someday-chick-coop in my head, and while I looked at other colors, I just never could let go of that original image in my head go.
We hope you love it as we do, but it’s really o.k. if you don’t.  (We still will.).

And now for our 97% finished coop . . . . . .
[Read more…]

Going All Natural In a Toxic World

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 It’s been oh-so quiet here on the blog, for too many reasons.  Not excuses, mind you. Just reasons that quite obviously have taken priority lately. To briefly name them:

 The summer just hasn’t been a crafty season for me. I think I just want my studio done already, so I can be organized and inspired in my creative custom space! You have no idea how close it is.

 Of course, I’ve been very busy with the kids and their agendas. Most notably, getting Alexis Grace ready for her television commitment as co-host with Fr. Reed for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio providing live coverage of that massive event via satellite, at the CatholicTV station.  We stayed nearby the television station throughout the week for convenience, and it turned out to be a wonderful week all of us. Of course, the whole summer has been busy, in a fun and relaxed sort of way, as it should be with kids in the summer.

 Personally, I’ve also been investing my time in something I had a very sudden and very real urge to do, and that is to dig deep and learn more about and understand my faith, Catholicism,  to the core. So I have been studying so to speak, and am really learning even more than I knew there was to learn, and falling deeper in love with my faith, in the process.

But more than any of those things, I believe I haven’t been writing much for the blog here because I am have been all-consumed and so passionate about making some real changes in our lifestyle of living. To put it plainly;

I am on a heart-driven mission to detoxify my home and more importantly, my family as much as I possibly can.

And that, my Friends, has been a whole new education and very eye-opening experience. 

I’ve been fascinated and shocked by the amazing and encouraging differences I already see happening, with the changes I’ve made. Things I didn’t even know would be effected.  I imagine in time I’ll start sharing more specifically exactly what changes I’m making.

But today, I just want to kind of share the bigger picture with you, and focus more on why I’m making all of these changes.  I reckon some will think I am cRaZy, and that’s fine. Others may have no interest in this such overall health-related topics, and/or are the type that would just rather not know such truths. I can respect that, if that’s how you feel. The reality IS scary to think about, the changes do take effort, and it’s a personal decision. But from what I’m noticing locally and across the internet, many will be right there with me, so to speak.   Knowing exactly where I am coming from, and making many of those same changes themselves in their own families, if not all for the same reasons.

So to start, some may be wondering, “What toxins?”  Well I’m talking about the innumerable toxins that are in our everything. In our food, drink, personal care products, cleaning products, and even in our vitamins and medications! I have always known there were questionable ingredients in this and that. I haven’t been completely oblivious all along.  I’ve always been one to mostly shop the outskirts of the markets, avoid processed and pre-packaged foods, etc. I’ve known about certain very unhealthy ingredients that throw up a red flag for me, and have been wise enough to look for short lists on packages that list things of which I know exactly what they are.  But once I really started getting concerned about more and researching the matter, I have been horrified at what my family has been exposed to. Horrified.  And freakin’ mad, frankly!!  I had to wonder how and why these thing are even acceptable to be sold, when we are ingesting them or absorbing them into our bodies?

Toxic Stamp Shows Poisonous And Noxious Substance

One would think….the FDA or someone, would not allow harmful ingredients (such as known carcinogens: Definition: car·cin·o·gen -/kärˈsinəjən/; noun;any substance or agent that tends to produce a cancer.) to be put in many of the items we buy in stores every day, right?  Oh-yes-they do.
*Did you know, that there are many ingredients in our every day food, that is banned in other countries, because of the harmful health risks of them?*
  But the United States, God bless our country, is a whole different ball game.  And while it’s a whole different rant-post, the things many don’t know about and should, are a big ugly circle of those we depend on most for our healthcare, and it all comes down to money, and making as much as they can. At OUR expense, of not only our money, but our health, and in many instances, the ultimate price of our life.  It’s hard to stop there for now, but I will.

 But I will share more personally today, the basic reasons I am so determined to spend so much time researching, educating myself, experimenting, and discovering a whole new way of living for my family: from what we eat and how we prepare that food, to personal care from head-to-toe, to what we use to clean our home. 

The Why’s

1)  One very important reason is for the health of my family.
Not only how we feel day to day on a basic level, but doing what I can to prevent the onset of major health issues, most especially (and prominently), cancer, of course. You may have noticed it’s more prevalent than ever. And there are reasons for that, that are infuriating but somewhat possibly avoidable if you’re proactive enough. Now I’ll be the first to tell anyone, my husband is not as gung-ho about the wealth of changes I’m making. Nor does he mind them. He pretty much just follows suit, and doesn’t carry the health concerns I do for us or the kids.  And mind you, he and I are already in our mid-40’s, and have already been exposed to the same number of years of toxins. I grew up in a 2-smoker home, and I know he grew up around it as well. Still, while the damage and outcome for us may be a done-deal so to speak, there still is the chance of fending it off, and as they say, it’s never too late to make good changes. There is also the chance of healing. Throw God’s grace in there, if it is His will, and we still have a fighting chance of living a full life, and dying a natural death of plain-old old age. If nothing else, we are setting a good example for the children. Which brings me to, the children. :) They have their whole lives ahead of them, God-willing, and I want to do all I can to keep them as healthy, happy, and toxic-free as I possibly can, for as long as I can.  And again, keeping toxins out of our system has got to just make us feel and operate better on a day to day basis, just as being polluted has got to effect our energy level, sense of well-being, alertness, etc., as well.
So, our health is certainly a very big factor in the reasons why I am making big changes around here.

2) Secondly, and probably more importantly to me, another reason I am feeling so passionate and convicted to go so much more natural in every aspect of our life, is to honor God and all of His Creation.

The-Beginning

I truly believe, with all of my heart, that in the whole of His Creation, God gave us every single thing we need to not only survive, but be well.

I want to more naturally follow God’s plan He provided us with, wherever we can, by using as many of the natural resources He alone gifted us with in the way of animals, plants, vitamins, minerals, etc.  For us, that means food, as well as medicine. (More on that in a bit.). 

3) Thirdly, as I said, the changes are not so much for us adults’ sake, but God-willing, this amped-up perspective my kid’s are growing up with, will truly become their own, and they will embrace these habits, by their own free-will, in their own independent way of living.  Because it’s not only a healthier way of living, but it’s God-honoring. And while we are far from perfect and fail often, we are all about trying to be as God-honoring as possible, in our family.

So What Am I Changing In Our Day-to-Day Lives?

Well first let me state that the changes I’m making are happening little by little, and are not yet complete.  As of the typing of this post, I have not made all of the transitions as of yet, that I am going to be. The reasons are several:  Whether I am still researching/learning the ingredients I’ll need, I’m still experimenting and figuring out how I want to try things first, or not ready to spend money on this or that quite yet until I am sure what I’m doing. (As to not be wasteful.).  You’ll understand more as you read on.

Food and Drink – As I said above, I’ve always been particular about what we eat, and even more particular about what goes into my kids.  I’m conscientious of (not) buying processed foods, avoid things loaded with all kinds of sugars, bad fats, artificial colors, chemicals, long lists of unknowns, etc. It’s a rare of occasion we ever have anything that would be considered junk in our house. We’ve never had soda in the house. (Except very recently, for that splash on top of my sangrias. ; ).  And I’ve been getting the most important produce to be organic (click to learn exactly what organic means), whenever possible. That can be more of a challenge than you’d think. We are blessed to have some amazing farmer’s markets around here, and when in season, the kids and I frequent one almost every week. We love to stroll around them, meet local growers, buy fresh, local and safe produce, and enjoy the music. Still, even what is available at the local farmer’s markets are not in any way guaranteed to be organic, or chemical/insecticide-free. So I ask lot of questions, before purchasing, to be sure they meet my own safety and high quality standards.  I get free-range organic eggs; locally when available. So, we’ve been doing respectably well. 

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STILL, I have a whole lot to still learn and understand, and there are many changes left to be made.  Probably, the more I learn, the more I’ll want to change.  I’d like to increase our organic take-home ratio, and that would include 100% grass fed beef.  The pink-squirm-filler news was enough to turn anyone off. Certainly me. And it was another instance that left me feeling ‘duped’ by the food industry, again. Now, organic beef really is more expensive, but we don’t eat it very regularly anyway, and the benefits as opposed to the risks are worth it.  We eat a lot of chicken, so we’ve been more careful about which kind we buy of that for sure, already. 

As I said, I am learning as I go.  I can tell you in the process so far, I have learned enough to be upset enough to make certain changes for sure. And yet, some of it is all too out of our control, due to non-obligations by manufacturers etc., to label foods as they should be. We do have a right to know, and that’s a fight all it’s own. But in a nutshell, my concerns and changes regarding food revolve around chemicals/insecticides, GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms), the upset with company Monsanto, and the long list of acceptable ingredients in our food that are ok’d by the FDA, and yet banned in other countries due to knowing the harm it does to health.  I’m sure I’ll go more in depth about those things, the more ‘aware’ I become, in other blog posts.

Are you afraid I’m going to turn into one of those loud, pro-active, country-travelin’, sign-holding, lunatic-advocates creating and spreading awareness all over the place?
Well I must say, me too. 😉

Natural Medicine – Now I don’t plan on banning our doctors, or necessarily absolutely forbidding physician provided prescriptions, because there is sometimes a necessity and place for scientific intervention. (A prime example would be Shane’s life-saving Epi-Pens. Should we ever need them, I can guarantee you I will use them!) But as a general rule, we have already been naturally treating a whole host of things, using more natural home remedies, before we turn to any kind of over the counter medications. I can’t recall if I was a new bride, or still dating Michael, but it was my mother-in-law (possibly to-be) who first got me pondering home remedies. She had a book on the shelf, and was often suggesting what sounded to me like the craziest things, for whatever the minor ailments. Now, I’ve completely embraced safer, more natural remedies to ‘cure’ this or that.  And I love it all now.  It probably has something to do with having children, and loving them far more than self, and wanting what’s best for them.

And in a big way, I have been getting very familiar with 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils.
OH MY GOSH, how these have changed our life! Like, don’t even get me started.  Talk about natural remedies; there is little that these essential oils cannot help with.  While no one claims they cure or heal you (well, ok…actually some have claimed they have….), they certainly have very powerful medicinal properties, and allow your body, to heal itself. And in my world, with the grace of God I am sure, too, there is no doubt He is pleased for anyone to utilize the oils of plants………..as He intended for us to.  That’s in part why God made all the various plants, flowers and trees of this world. Most all of medications, be them over the counter or prescribed, are made of synthetic components, completely man-made, in an effort to replicate the powerful natural compounds found in nature, that are scientifically proven to have vast benefits and very strong medicinal properties. And, even more bothersome; all too many prescription medications help one thing, while causing another health problem to deal with. Also known as risks and side-effects. In other words, they do harm on the flip-side. I just truly believe we are meant to use God’s Creation as the sacred basis of treatment for ourselves, for anything.  Everyone may not agree that, but I do, and I’m going with it.

Herbs for Healing

There are many, many essential oils that, when used as 100% therapeutic grades, and used properly, have very powerful, effective, medicinal, healing properties.  Not only to treat both major and minor physical conditions, but relieve pain, enable mood management, enhance mental focus, and so (SO!) much more.  I have been able to get off of a medication I thought I would need to take for the rest of my life!  Our whole family is using these essential oils now, and I can attest to the fact that they have truly enhanced the quality of our life, not only physically speaking, but the environment of our sacred place – our home.

I’ll likely be talking and teaching a lot more about them, here on the blog.  They truly are fascinating, and the amazing things we have first-hand experienced as a result of them, is something I cannot stop from telling people about.  I very clearly see and feel how well they work, and the extent of all they can do, is mind-blowing.
I know this: When my kids are asking for them, I especially know it’s not a matter of me losing my mind, or just wanting to believe they work.  They can feel the difference too, and they want that kind of quality in every one of their days, too.  I feel my whole family has been seriously blessed, to have gained the valuable  knowledge I have about the power of essential oils. I can’t learn enough about them, and that’s great, because there is a lot to learn!  The more I learn, the more I feel empowered, to keep my family healthy and happy.

Personal Care Products  Again, I’ve been so disturbed by learning about some of the ingredients that are in the products we use in our personal care every day. Ingredients that have no business going in our mouths, or slathered all over our bodies.  I’m talking TOXINS, that absolutely effect our health, and put us at great risk for diseases.  Not only will many suffer eventual health issues as result of them, but I believe no doubt, again, that they effect how we physically feel on a day to day basis.  I’m putting my foot down about it, in my family.  I am learning to make most everything I possibly can for my family, with safe, all-natural, toxin-free ingredients.  I don’t need any personal care product we use in this family to be pretty. I just need it to be safe, and effective. This is very much a work in progress, and there are many toxic-products we are still using as I type this post today. But one by one, they will be replaced.  And soon.
It’s actually been fun and interesting researching and experimenting different ways to make different things.  And this is another area essential oils have been a blessing.

Close-up of coconut oil on the wooden spoon

In Conclusion

All in all, my goal is to establish a home for my family that is nourishing in every way, from what we consume, to what we clean ourselves and our home with.  It will bring me great peace, and I pray will be all-God-honoring, to live off of not what is manufactured, but with what is not only home-made, but GOD-made. 

I hope you’ll continue to follow us, and see the various ways I go about accomplishing that.  And as I know many are on the same path as I am, I welcome your suggestions, links, experiences and thoughts along the way!  It’s always a joy to learn from and encourage each other!  I’m looking forward to lots of it, with you.
~ Laura

P.S. – Intrigued about what essential oils are, and what they can do for you?
See my subsequent post, Essential Oils-Life True Game Changer

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