Friday, June 20, 2014

Why I support MLM and Network Marketing Distributors

There is this big taboo in our society today for some folks. Just saying the word makes people cringe. Ask someone to go to a home party and instantly the recoiling happens. I personally think it is a shame.

I don't support MLM and network marketing companies just because I am part of one. I have supported those people in that business for years before I ever got involved myself, for many good reasons.

First, let's address the elephant in the room. I have heard it over and over again.

"They just want to make money off of you."

Well, I have news for you.

Starbucks just wants to make money off you.
Target just wants to make money off you.
Your gym just wants to make money off you.
The author of your book just wants to make money off you.
Hollywood just wants to make money off you.
Your favorite blogger, just wants to make money off you.
Heck! Your doctor just wants to make money off you.

The fact of the matter is, everyone is out to make a buck. That's how we live and survive. We find a demand for a product and/or service, we market that product to potential customers and then we sell the product and make some money. It's how the world turns.

There are so few people in this world that will offer you  and the entire world, anything without expecting to get paid for it. Why? Because we all have to make a living and feed our family. However, most Network Marketing distributors really do have a desire to help people find a great product, in addition to wanting to earn some extra money.

Which brings me to my next point.

Who do you want to support when you buy products?

I support the Network Marketing mother for one good reason; she's working to support her family! Many Network Marketing people are stay at home moms, or someone just trying to help their family make ends meet. I would much rather buy a higher quality product from a mother and help support her business so that she may support her family and stay home with her children, than to buy a cheaper product at Wal-Mart. I would much rather support the college student trying to work their way through college, holding down a full time job, and selling a product through network marketing so that they may not be in debt upon graduation, rather than getting what I want or need at the local big chain company.

Here's the thing. Someone who is selling something as a home business, isn't just selling air or junk. It is a product or service that they believe in, they love, and they want to share with others as well. Most times it is a product you can buy cheaper somewhere else, but the quality is much better, and you can just consider that it is supporting your local small businessman/woman.

Another very important reason I support network marketing is that is it vital to our economy. These kinds of businesses have been around for decades. "There are over 2,000 Network Marketing firms distributing over $30 billion a year in goods and services in the U.S. alone... $110 billion worth of goods and services are sold worldwide each year in this industry." -The Four Year Career by Richard Bliss Brooke

Lastly, these people don't just sit around and make money off you. If you know someone who is successful in Network Marketing, they have worked their toosh off to get there. These people not only work to find new customers for the product that they love and believe in, serving the role of CEO, Marketing Executive, and customer service, but they also support a team of people trying to do the same. This means they may spend hours answering questions, emails, text messages. They may travel far and wide, without getting paid, to support their team members' first party or class. These people work hard, just like all the other people out there working to build their own small business. Only  they do it with their kiddos by their side while managing a home and family at the same time. But! It beats being a cashier at the local gas station!

So next time you come across a Network Marketing or MLM product and distributor, smile and pat them on the back for working hard, just like you do. Consider whether or not the product might be a help to you, and consider supporting your local people, and local families, over a big chain company. And stop saying, "They just want to make money off you," unless you're going to say the same thing to someone when they ask what restaurant you would recommend. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Choosing Curriculum Part 1

You’ve made the decision to homeschool, and you've learned what NOT to do when choosing your curriculum. So now, let’s talk about what you should do.

I have several homeschool friends from all walks of life that have each taught me something different. I take all those lessons combined with my own experience and give you;

How to Choose a Curriculum
 Part 1

Before you ever start making any buying decisions, you must engage in two pertinent and non-negotiable tasks.

1. Figure up your homeschool budget.  This will not only include your curriculum, but your supplies, your trips, your printer ink and paper, and monthly library fines (Forget it, you will pay fines. I have not figured out a good system to avoid late fees. If you are reading this and you are able to avoid it, please reveal your secret to the rest of us!)

2.  Most importantly! Pray over your budget, for wisdom and guidance as you look to find just the right curriculum that fits into your budget. Pray for what you want or need and wait for God to provide according to your budget!
So why worry about a budget at this point? Figure it up, because it is vital to picking out curriculum. I believe an average amount spent per family is around $1000 per school year, and this is fairly conservative.

If you find yourself on the lower end of that number, you will want to look into more conservatively priced curriculum. Buying the full set of BJU or Abeka, brand new, for each kid, is not going to be easy, although possible, on a tight budget. So here are a few guidelines to follow if you are on the lower end of the budget.
1.      
  • Consider a free online curriculum like Easy Peasy All in One Curriculum or Ambleside.  Even if you use it as a supplement or just for a couple subjects, they are both fantastic and free resources which could lead you to even more free resources.


  •            Look for used curriculum. There are several fantastic sites to find used curriculum including eBay, and homeschool classifieds. Ask around at your local homeschool group if they have an annual book sale or put it out on a email loop or social media that you are looking for used curriculum. You can also find some good deals at garage sales, or on some publishers’ websites. There are blog swaps and giveaways. I once won an entire flannel graph set I could never have bought myself from a blog giveaway. It is still one of my little ones’ favorite school activities.


  •         Consider non-consumable curriculum. Workbooks or paces are examples of a consumable curriculum. These can only be used by one child and must be bought again for each seceding child. However, non-consumable curriculum is most often something that can be used again and again, with only a small purchase of an inexpensive packet of worksheets or notebooks to accompany it for additional children.  It may require a large purchase up front, but can be affordable as time goes on. This is a good way to go for a big family, especially if you can find the non-consumable items used at a lower price.


  •          Check out your local library. Many libraries carry a good deal of homeschool curriculum. Some areas even have libraries devoted to homeschool curriculum.


  •          Consider swapping with a friend. A friend of mine uses Life of Fred and has been buying the middle school level books while I have been buying the elementary level books. We have worked it out so that we swap our books to help save each other money, approximately a savings of $200 for each of us. Another advantage I have found to this method is that I am more likely to stay on schedule since I know she will need the books we are using very soon.


  •      Use resources like www.paperbackswap.com. I love this site and I get a great deal of our readers from them. You post books you no longer want or need and when someone requests that book you mail it to them free of charge, paying only the shipping which is usually no more than a few bucks using media mail. In return you earn a credit per book that you can use to request other books people have posted.


  •          Use free earning sites like Swagbucks. I spend some time working on earning my Swagbucks, but it really is like a job for our homeschool budget. With my Swagbucks I can earn Amazon gift cards and use those to purchase curriculum. I have bought hundreds of dollars of curriculum using my Swagbucks, and all it cost me was a little of my time.


None of these tasks are going to be easy or quick. It takes dedication, prayer and time to shop around and find what you want that fits in your budget. There are days I feel like all I've done is sit at my computer and search. But in the end it is worth it when I have just what I want without hurting our family’s budget.  And when I pray about it, God always gives me just what I need.


If you are a homeschooler on a tight budget, please share with us your best tips and tricks for sticking to your budget and getting the most out of your curriculum and homeschool.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I Might Want To Homeschool, But I Have Some Questions

So maybe you are mulling it over in your head, or you've just come past the point of saying, "I could never homeschool," to the point of saying, "Maybe I could homeschool." But, you still have questions and reservations that need to be answered before you retreat to your original belief or move forward to your next thought, "I'm gonna try this homeschool thing out."

When making that all important decision for our family we went through each step of the process asking all the questions trying to gain some peace and confidence in my abilities. Almost every homeschooler went through these phases.

At least once or twice a year someone comes to me and asks me questions about homeschooling, and just like every other homeschooler on the planet, I am ready to flood their mind with every bit of information I have gained and retained over the last 5 years, which always overwhelms the one on the receiving end. It's alot like a new parent; everyone has some piece of advice for a new parent. They can simply make the statement, "I am so tired," and a flood of advice will fill their mental inbox from every parent, new and seasoned.

The same thing happens with new or almost new homeschoolers.

To be less overwhelming, and to make answering these questions easier for me, I have compiled a series of blogs to help the new homeschooler, to answer some of those questions without overwhelming the one in that very difficult stage of beginning a new and intimidating adventure. So here is the first of the series.

I Might Want to Homeschool, But I Have Some Questions

1. Where do I start?

I always tell people to go directly to Homeschool Legal Defense Association. At HSLDA you can get a ton of information on topics such as getting started, testing, curriculum, and organization. You can also find a link to your state's laws and organizations which will give you further information.

Here's the thing: Don't ask me what you must do to homeschool unless you live in my state. Every state's laws are different ranging from no regulation at all up to heavily regulated standards. At HSLDA you can follow the link for your state and read exactly what you need to do.

This is my biggest and most important piece of advice to you. Unless you are talking to someone within your own state, do not ask "What do I need to do?" Invariably, you will get an answer that sounds something like, "Well, we had to [do something to remove the kids from school] and must continue to [meet the state's laws]."
If you don't live in the same state, none of these things may apply to you and could only cause unnecessary anxiety.
Talking to someone who is familiar with your state's laws and homeschooling organizations is primary. Otherwise, confusion is sure to follow and the last thing you need in making such a big decision is to add to the already confusing amount of information you will and need to obtain.

2. What about testing and providing information to the state concerning our schooling?

Again, this requirement depends upon your state. In my state, there is no reporting or testing required for homeschooling families. HSLDA again is the best place to go for that information. Start your inquiries out on that website and begin to pour over what will be required of you if you make the choice to homeschool.

3. What about extracurricular activities like sports, art, and music? I don't want my child to miss out on the fun things in education.

The answer to this question lies in your geographical location. Most states' homeschool organizations have smaller organizations all over the state that will provide different sports, arts, and music. My children have been involved in band, choir, soccer, basketball, and art classes. We live fairly close to a major city, therefore the majority of activities are within a reasonable distance for us to participate. However, we have never needed to drive to the city for activities as we have always found them within our smaller communities.

Many churches and communities provide community sports or other extracurricular activities. Of course, the disadvantage is that it will not be provided through the school, but rather most likely will require a tuition or fee.

On the other hand, I have observed most often that the cost of community or homeschool sponsored activities are usually cheaper overall than those of public school sponsored activities, which often require the student's to purchase expensive uniforms and conduct multiple fundraisers, requiring more time from parents to conduct fundraisers in the form of concession stands or fundraising events.

Another option is to participate with local public or private schools. Some schools allow homeschoolers to participate in their extracurricular activities, some do not. You must contact your local school administration to find out if it is permitted in your area or not. If it is not, consider going to the next school board meeting and presenting it as an option to the school board, with convincing evidence as to why it would be beneficial to the school. It might be a good educational challenge and lesson for your children involved, to work for their activities within a political arena.

Some community organizations to look into that will provide extracurricular activities are churches, homeschool co-ops, the YMCA, community colleges, libraries, and community centers.

Your last option may be to set it up yourself. If your child wants to take painting lessons and you know a painter, consider talking with that person and working out a small homeschool class that will make it worth their while. The advantage to homeschooling is that you can participate in extracurricular activities during the day, and many people with special talents are more than willing to hold a one hour morning class once a week and earn some extra money.

4. What about graduation and college?

Again, you must always check with your state to find out what is required, but some information is general information.

You will need to keep track of your student's subjects and credits during high school in order to create a transcript, just as a public school would do. Once all the state's requirements are met, (yes, you will need to meet the same requirements in high school, that a public school student would need to meet in order to graduate) you may issue a high school diploma to your student.
Most states' organizations hold some sort of graduation ceremony that you may be part of. You will need to check with your state's homeschool organization to find the details.
Unless your student has been educated with an accredited school/curriculum, that can issue an accredited degree, your student's degree will not be an accredited degree. However, that makes it no less valuable to colleges. In fact, colleges gladly embrace homeschool students.
I once read an article about a family that puts their homeschooled children in college around the age of 12. Their 21 year old daughter is the youngest doctor in the country, having started college at 12 years old. Their philosophy is, if these kids are going to be taking these classes at home anyway, they might as well take them at college and receive college credit for them.
For most colleges, an ACT or SAT score is what determines the student's ability to enter college level classes, not an accredited high school diploma.

In addition, to answering your questions here, I have a bit of advice for those who are still trying to make the final decision. 

1. Think long and hard about the why. Why do you want to homeschool? The why will ultimately help you make up your mind. The why will tip the scale of indecision toward homeschooling and taking on the massive responsibility that goes with it, or it will tip the scale far away from that kind of responsibility.
Once you decide to take the plunge, the why will be your carrot every day through the first year and beyond, to keep going and keep trudging through.  Determine your why in the beginning.

I would bet that almost every parent that is asking the above questions, have already determined the answer as to why, and it is compelling enough to push forward. However, the fear of the unknown is holding you back, so these questions become your focus. But if you determine that the answer to the question "why homeschool?" is critically important, you can work through any of the difficult and scary unknowns that lie ahead.

2. Talk to homeschoolers and ask your questions, but be ready to be overwhelmed with answers and information. It's important to find one veteran homeschooler in which you have great trust, that lives or has lived and homeschooled, in your state. Spend some time with that person. Visit their home and see how they school. But always remember, you are not that person and no matter how incredibly awesome and organized they are, or how incredibly unorganized and all over the charts they are, you will not be them. Do not base your ability or inability to homeschool on their ability or inability to homeschool. You will homeschool your way, not theirs. But it is good to see what a day in the life of a homeschool family looks like, if for no other reason than to determine how you do NOT want to do it.

3. Read and study your state laws, organizations, and what it can provide to you on your own, even though you may learn and talk to other homeschoolers. Talking to homeschoolers is important to get a good idea, but researching these things on your own will give you a deeper understanding.

4. Don't fret and worry about curriculum until you've made your final decision. That in and of itself is a huge undertaking, to which I have committed a couple more blogs. The first of which is "What NOT To Do When Choosing Homeschool Curriculum". Enjoy!

If you are a veteran homeschooler, tell us some of the initial questions you get asked, and how you answer.
If you are considering homeschooling, and have a different question than the ones presented here, please feel free to ask!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Jesse Tree, Days 1-5

Every year I stop doing "school" with the kids at the beginning of December and take the month off to do enjoy our usual busy December schedules. I swap out scholastic studies for Christmas studies, which is usually some sort of advent.

Last year we did Truth in the Tinsel and I really loved it. This year I wanted to try the popular Jesse Tree.

I found Ann Voskamp's version for free and started planning. Although I am thoroughly enjoying her version, it is a bit poetic for children, and I will probably try to find another version for the future. But for me, it is heavenly.

I decided to do this blog series to help out other Jesse Tree adventurers out there. We are using the Little House series as our basis for history, studying the Civil War, Westward expansion, etc. I wanted to have a Christmas like the Ingalls would've had, where we make all our ornaments. So I had this great idea to use our advent ornaments and make them all.

Everything I searched online was not what I wanted to do, as far as ornaments go. Ann's comes with printable ornaments, but I wanted my kids to do more than just color and cut out a picture. Other's were made from felt or sewn together. I don't sew, and I needed projects that my 2yo and my 12yo could both do and enjoy. I needed kid friendly crafty ornaments. So I made up my own as we went along. Almost everything I used were things I keep in my craft closet for school. But it is all fairly cheap and easy for the non-crafter, like myself.

Day 1: It is Advent. Come 
Ornament: Jesse Tree

I made the decision that our actual "Jesse Tree" would be our Christmas tree.

Day 2: Life Begins as a love story.
Ornament: Creation



For day 2, the study of creation, I gave the kids a pile of craft supplies and told them to create anything they wanted, just like God created all of heaven and earth. I told them they could use any kind of material they could dream, sticks, leaves, Legos, cotton, mud, or whatever they wanted. My oldest Lego master made a stocking out of Legos. We had a snowman, and a clown. It was fun to see their creativity come to life.

Day 3: Where are you?
Ornament: Fruit or apple with a snake. 


For this ornament I made dried out apples and orange slices. I sliced up apples and oranges top about 1/4" thick, soaked them in lemon juice and salt for a while, dried them off and sprinkled the apples with a little cinnamon. Then I  put them in the oven for a few hours on 250F. I recommend punching a hold in them before drying them out, it's much easier.

After they were dried out I gave them to the kids to string and create a snake to put around it. This one was made by my oldest. He used felt and a pipe cleaner to create a snake.

Day 4: Saved.
Ornament: Noah's Ark



This was a fun day to do Noah's Ark because it was snowing all day long. I had found on Pinterest a preschool activity using press 'n seal on the windows to make a stained glass portrait. So I used it for the rainbow. First we made origami boats. out of brown construction paper.  We have large windows in our living room so I taped the press 'n seal to those windows for each kid. I gave them all different colors of tissue paper to rip apart and make a rainbow while they watched it snow outside. My oldest was smart enough to overlap red and yell to make orange, and red and blue to make purple, since we didn't have those colors. 
Once they finished their creations, I placed another piece of press 'n seal over the tops, cut out the rainbow shape and taped the rainbow to the boat. They turned out pretty good. My second choice for a rainbow was to use water colors. 

Day 5: Living By Faith
Ornament: Abraham's Tent



I made this one easy for the kids. I just took a piece of black, or whatever color they wanted to use, construction paper, folded it in half and they had a tent. However, that was not good enough for them. One child made an octagonal tent (not pictured). The top picture is from my 7yo. He added a starry sky above and some tent pegs to the side and glued the whole thing to a piece of cardboard. The second picture is from my 10yo. He glued pipe cleaners to the edge to make it stand up better. One of the best things about this project is that I have seen so much of their creativity come out, and I love giving them the freedom to make it the way they want it. I just give them the ideas and the tools. 





Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Burdens, Yokes, Grace, Mercy, and Finally Rest


Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and my load is not hard to carry. Matthew 11:28-30


 This passage of scripture has been heavy on my heart for over a week now. My good friend first brought it up to me last week in regards to being a mother that cares for her home, her children, their education, and a hard working husband in addition to our call to minister to others. 

Quite often I vent to several different ladies (and they to me) of our frustrations, with one part of life or another. Most often we vent about our children and our parenting, or failure to do so. It's funny how our short and long texts can range from every emotion of rage and anger and desire to give up, to brokenness, shame, guilt, and on to joy and overwhelming blessedness and happiness. As Mama's who have chosen the hard long road of staying home with our precious little treasures we call our babies, life is much like a roller coaster of ups and downs. 

We pray consistently for each other. We pray for strength, endurance, perseverance, patience and guidance. If you can think of it, we've probably prayed it for each other. 

Last week one of those friends brought this verse to mind. She talked about how our children are not our burden, but God's "burden". Of course they are NOT a burden to us, but the work that comes with our choice to raise our children at home is most often burdensome when we let it be. 

Sometimes Most of the time, we are weary and burdened and heavy-laiden with menus, cooking and cleaning dishes, grocery shopping, changing diapers, correcting behavior and the perpetual trash can that I once referred to as my floor. Everyday I step on Legos, trip over remote control cars, and find my seat (or earthly place of rest) on the couch is occupied by a plethora of dolls and stuffed animals sitting down for tea.

 Then there is their education. What a burden it can be when I lose sight of God's plan for their education versus the world's plan for their education, or the burden of comparing my homeschool life to the life of other homeschoolers that seem to have it all together, organize for fun, and manage to raise little geniuses while I struggle to get my 7 year old to write and read his own name. The burden of keeping up with the Jones's homeschooler family is too much to bear. 

My friend reminded me that when I surrender my children and all the work and responsibility that comes with them, to God, He will not only give me rest, but take care of it all.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

I commit to my Father, and their Father, the children He has so graciously lent to me for a time, and the raising, caring for, nurturing and educating of these precious treasures into adulthood.  

A couple days after our discussion of this verse, a man called into the radio station and began talking about the burden his church placed on him. He was so burdened with religion and the pressure to do what was right and not what was wrong, and so condemned for his mistakes, that he was driven away from the rest and grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. One of the DJ's explained that in Matthew 11:30, Jesus was speaking of the burden of religion that the Pharisees had placed on the people. 

You see, in Jesus' time religion said, because it is the Sabbath and God has told us to rest on the Sabbath and keep it holy, you cannot move a chair across the room or you have sinned. 

The rules and regulations religion placed on the people were too burdensome to bear. Jesus had come to give us rest from such burdens. 

This morning I thought more about what Jesus means in those verses and how they mean so very much to me. Religion has not burdened me, but I have burdened myself, all my life. I burdened myself with the need to get along with everyone no matter what. I burdened myself with the need to be successful at everything I attempt. I burdened myself with service to religion, not God. I placed one burden after another on myself. Until at last God sat me down in the form of illness and said, "Shhhhhh. Be still. Know ME. Not religion. Know ME."  For months, that eventually turned into years, I had to sit and be a failure at everything I attempted, including my most precious job of mothering. Two years later I see how burdened I was with religion, and I have discovered how easy Jesus' yoke truly is. I threw off the burden of a perfect house, perfectly behaved children 100% of the time, perfectly homemade meals (a hotdog or cereal for dinner really is okay now and again), and began giving myself as an offering of service that does not completely drain me as my efforts in teh past had done.

My favorite part is when Jesus says, "LEARN from me." He wants us to learn his gentleness and humbleness. He didn't say look at how well respected I am among my peers and be like me. Or look at how perfectly I build furniture as a carpenter. Be perfect in your occupation too. No, he said learn from me gentleness and humbleness.

Today I read about the young man who took a gun to school in Colorado this week. The title of the news article said something about how his parents are heartbroken. 

I took a minute to take myself back in time, to before Jesus' time on earth. Those parents were instructed by law and by religion, to kill their disobedient children. Imagine being the parent of a child who murders and injures others, or being the parent of an unwed teenage girl, like Mary. 

My heart broke. I would have no children if I were held to the law. I wonder how those mothers felt as their children were condemned to death, without any grace or mercy. They must have felt a burden that I cannot imagine. 

When a child is brought into a family, the love a mother carries is supernatural, and divine. It is so fierce that an army cannot stop her God-given instincts, just like God's love for us. 

Despite the deep, passionate love a mother possess, she cannot make her child behave 100% of the time. I don't care how good your parenting philosophy is or how much you do to protect that child or to ensure their path is without rough spots, obstacles or even barriers, you will fail, and sometimes you will fail in a big way. There is not a parenting philosophy that is without pitfalls, because just like their mother and father, that child has a free will to choose. And choose he will. 

I can't imagine if all I had to offer my imperfect, sinful children was a world of burdensome rules and consequences without mercy. Just like the parents of that child in Colorado are heartbroken, the heartbreak would be so much worse without mercy, without Jesus to take our burden of rules, mishaps, mess-ups, and religion upon himself and give us in return, rest. 

Rest, peace, free of worry.. 
Mercy, not to be given what you deserve. 
Grace, to be given what you do not deserve. 

The most perfect rest came in the form of a tiny baby 2000 years ago in a little town of Bethlehem. 

Merry Christmas! Praying you find your rest and your peace this Christmas in Jesus.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mama's Boy

It's been a whirlwind 48 hours. Just a little over 24 hours ago, my step father and I put some finishing touches on my grandmother's new "house", that is the garage that we renovated into a small apartment for her.
She and my mother pulled into the drive to settle her in permanently after my mother has been away taking care of her for the last 2 months in Texas.
It was an exciting day, to finally come to the end of this long process of renovating and have them officially home.
They were accompanied by my brother and my uncle in his pickup and trailer hauling a small portion of my grandmother's belongings. It was a fun evening and morning, with the family milling around and talking and catching up. Then it came time for my brother and uncle to go back home to Texas.
I watched as a son sat with his mother and told her goodbye with tears in his eyes. I realized it was the first time in his 60 years that his mother would be more than a couple miles down the road. And they talked, and they cried together.

I saw a little boy saying goodbye to his mother, and even at 60 years old,  with her, he was still her baby boy. I looked at my own baby boys, growing so big, so fast.

My heart ached for him. And for her. And I saw the evidence of the deep, deep bond between a mama and her boy. And I hugged my boys a little tighter and prayed that my uncle will come back to see us soon. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Best Chocolate Cake and It's Secret Ingredient

Last week, I went to my grandmother’s house to prepare to move her to Oklahoma to live with us. My heart ached to see the once strong and independent woman, in all her frailty and need for constant care.
I took a day and went through her house, to look for trinkets or memories I might want to keep. I found a memory in every closet and every drawer, on every shelf and every photo album. It was difficult to see how much life had passed both for me and for my grandparents.

Then I came to her cake cover. There it sat in her ugly, 70’s, china hutch plain and unattractive, but so very meaningful to me. I don’t eat cake… anymore. I don’t have any need to fill my already overcrowded home with useless things like a cake cover. But I couldn't help but sit and stare at it as the memories of the last 35 years came flooding back, especially the ones that included that cake cover and my chocolate cakes.

I never could contain my excitement on the 7 hour drive to Bovina, Texas tosee my grandparents. Mom and Daddypa were the most stable and loving things in mine and my brother’s life. And I cried every time I left.

At just two years old, my parents had divorced. My brother was 8 years old and our world was a mess. My mother had always stayed home with me, and now she was gone. My dad took my brother and me to Mom and Daddypa’s house and there we stayed for almost 2 months while my parents relocated and settled down to separate lives.

During that time I was loved and cared for and given security in a world where all my security had been lost. 

Once my mother and dad had a life in a whole new state, 700 miles from Mom and Daddypa, we went to join them. I was scared all the time. There was not one daycare or babysitter that I liked. My mother tried church daycares and one babysitter after another. But every time she left me, I could feel the pain well up inside me, as if I had swallowed a dagger that was trying to make its way out through my throat dragging my heart with it.


Those years were hard and painful for all of us.  My mother worked hard to provide a nice home for us, and I know she missed her days with my brother and me.

My parents did their best in a bad situation. However, I was a volatile and unstable little girl in desperate need of security.

Mom and Daddypa were just that for me. We spent every summer with them, and all our holidays too. I have more memories of Mom and Daddypa as a young child, than I do of my parents.

Mom told her friends that her and I got along so well because she did whatever I wanted. It was true. She was there with me every second of every day. She held me in her lap and read Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel to me. She would carry me around and I would play with the little gold flower bud necklace around her neck that Daddypa had given her.

In the afternoons Daddypa would come home from the farm and take a nap. Sometimes he would play “Go Fish” with me or hold me in his lap while we watched old TV shows like “I Love Lucy” or his favorite westerns with John Wayne. In the fall, it was his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.

After he went back to the farm, Mom and I might mow the grass or go grocery shopping, where she would always buy me ice cream sandwiches.
After dinner, Daddypa would settle in for the evening and Mom and I would walk down to the school running track, sometimes with her friends and sometimes with just the two of us.
I loved to play in the “sandbox” while she walked around, 4 times. Sometimes I would walk with her and we would talk.  Sometimes other kids were there playing in the sandbox too and we built tunnels and castles in the sand.
On the evenings when it would rain, Daddypa and I would sit on the front porch and watch the  heavy, summer raindrops fall on the smooth concrete driveway. It washed away the smell of manure and cows and brought the smell of rain and dirt. The sun would shine down through the rain and make the entire earth look as if it was glowing orange. He’d sit beside me, his legs crossed and his arm around me, telling me how good the rain was for his crops, or how lightening formed. I still think of him when I smell rain and dirt mixed.

Some days, most days, Daddypa would take me out in his old, brown, Dodge pickup truck that smelled like West Texas dirt. He’d drive down the road not going more than 5mph with the windows down. That’s what I miss most about him, the way he loved to just take life slow and enjoy it. We’d stop at the local gas station and Gaylen, the owner, would tell me I was so spoiled I was rotten, like a rotten egg.  I didn’t know how right he was. Then Daddypa would buy me a coke and candy bar, usually a snickers and Dr. Pepper because that’s what my brother always got. 

But of all the memories of the place that was more of a home to me than anywhere else has ever been, my chocolate cakes are the greatest memory of all.

Every time I would get ready to go, I would talk to Mom on the phone and she’d tell me, “I've got your chocolate cake made.”

When I was younger it was all homemade and the most wonderful deliciousness to ever enter my mouth. The best part was her homemade frosting. She made the best chocolate fudge frosting. As I got older she started making her cakes from a boxed cake mix, but her frosting was still homemade, so it was okay and I couldn't tell the difference.

Every time I went to her house, she made me a chocolate cake. She didn't make it for my brother, she made it just for me. I don’t remember a time, even up into college, that she didn't make me a cake. I always had a cake, until she couldn't cook anymore.

I would walk into the house, and there sitting on the dining room table would be that chocolate cake waiting for me, under her cake cover.

Today, it’s not the cake that means so much to me. It’s the love that each cake represented. I was a mess. I was insecure and afraid, but one thing I could always depend on was that Mom would make me the most wonderful chocolate cake. Just like her and Daddypa’s love. It was always there. They always took care of me and loved me.  They always kept me safe. I never  felt afraid with them. I never felt insecure with them. They were my rock and my safe place.


Daddypa has been gone 15 years this December and today, I prepare a new home for Mom.  She will come live with my mother and me and we will care for her until we say goodbye to her as well. I don’t make or eat cake anymore, but I am keeping the cake cover to remind me how much love I have had in my life, much more than I deserve. I will let it serve as a reminder that all they really did to give me what I needed was love me more than anything else. When caring for her gets to be more difficult, I will have the cake cover to remind me why I care for her in her greatest time of need, because she cared so greatly for me in my greatest time of need.