Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Mighty Cistern, the “Gold Standard” of Water!


Water water everywhere… unless you live in California. Wish I could send some rain your way guys and gals. Readers are asking, “How do we collect and use water on The Shepherd Hobby Farm?”

We have an older well which we do not use often because of a high sulfur content (smell is the worst part of it) and a huge cistern which is AWESOME for us. One has not truly felt soft water until you have bathed in rain water. To some that may sound luxurious… to others, downright weird and unsanitary.

What is a cistern? Quite simply it is a vessel used to store water, usually a reserve of rainwater collected from a roof or other catchment area. People have been using them for hundreds of years. Our cistern is a simple cement “vault” type box buried underground about 30 feet from our house. We have buried piping hooked up to all the down spouts from the gutters of our house and garage (working on barn roof).

Why collect and use rain water? Did you know that rain water is known as the “Gold Standard” in water quality? It is more oxygenated, is naturally pH-balanced, and is free of chlorine and additives (  Yup, it’s all those things and best of all, IT’S FREE! No water bill, I love it!

So what about the rain barrel projects that so many people are posting? Those are great starts and certainly worth the effort for things like watering gardens and flower beds. However, they only hold an average of 50-55 gallons of water whereas a roof system with a cistern will catch and hold thousands gallons of water. “Also, rain barrels often run out of water during the summer, when outdoor water usage is highest and rainfall is at its lowest. Cisterns can ensure you have water for outdoor use all summer long. Another benefit of cisterns over rain barrels is that rain barrels are typically used for outdoor water usage only. Cisterns, however, can be used for both indoor and outdoor use and can either significantly supplement indoor water use or completely replace it” (Earth Our cistern is used for everything in our house except cooking and drinking water.

How does a cistern work? They can be either above or below ground and as mentioned before ours is below ground and when filled to the brim holds approximately 12,000 gallons of water.  Cisterns usually collect rainwater from a roof through gutters and downspouts which funnel the water into the cistern (this is how ours works). The water can be drawn out of the cistern through gravity or a pump can be used to provide increased water pressure (we use an electric pump that is housed in our garage). A simple hose bib can be connected to the cistern which allows a common garden hose to draw water directly from the cistern (we do not have this but know of some folks with smaller cisterns who do). The cistern can also be configured to run the rainwater into the house once it has gone through a series of filters (depending on if the water will be used for drinking water or for non-potable uses such as toilets, washing machine, etc.) We have a simple triple screen filter box the water runs through just before it enters the cistern. Once the water leaves the cistern it is pumped through a sediment filter and another cartridge filtration system in the house before it makes it’s way into any pipes destined for our use.  Cisterns have an overflow pipe so that once the cistern is filled, the excess water is properly drained away from the house.

Is there any maintenance? Yes there is. We have monthly filter changes and cleanings which cost about $5 (we buy the cartridges in bulk and manually clean the triple filter screens) per month. We also check the gutter guards each month to ensure they are in place which helps prevent debris going into the downspouts. Once in a while we also choose to sweep off the roof but we know many people who choose to let a stiff wind do that job for them. I just like excuses to climb around on the roof.

About 5 years ago we went through a severe drought and our cistern was emptied by our usage. We used the opportunity to lift the man hold type cover and go down in to clean out the cistern “vault.” I got an up close and personal view of our cistern and it was amazing. It is actually a two room “vault” with a 5 by 3 foot walkway through each “room”. We cleaned some mud from the bottom and sent it up the ladder to the light of the day in buckets. There wasn’t much and it created some amazing dirt for a patch of flowers that grew there in the summer.

Soooooo what if we are in a drought and get NO RAIN? Or perhaps a certain hobby farmer turns the hose on to fill the horse water trough and forgets it is on and drains the entire cistern onto the horse paddock ground overnight?  It’s happened and we still needed water to live comfortably so we chose to have a water delivery service (the folks who fill swimming pools etc) come and delivery 4,400 gallons of water for $140.

Can we drink the water from our cistern? According to Earth Systems NW, “Rainwater can be used to meet all your water needs whether it’s outdoors for your garden or indoors for washing and drinking. Rainwater can be turned into potable, high quality drinking water by using a series of filters.” We have had our water tested and it is safe to drink but the filters needed to give me constant peace of mind often leech chemicals such as chlorine into the water to ensure sanitation. Therefore, we use a filtered 5 gallon water cooler system for drinking and just buy the refillable 5 gallon jugs which provides us with instant ice cold and super hot water at our fingertips (it’s one of the few luxuries we use… another is our Keurig… what can I say, I’m spoiled in some areas).

Ya all have any other questions about cisterns? Ask away J

Lovin’ the rain!


This is how we roll…

I’ve had quite a few questions lately about “how” we school. Here goes…

The list of what I DON’T like to chat about so insanely short so it’s no surprise that when someone brings up education, animals, hobby farming, soap making, woodworking, parenting, fun fruits, underwater basket weaving… ummmm seriously the list could go on FOREVER… the point being that I like to chat to both learn from others, learn with others, and teach others. That premise is the foundation for every aspect of our schooling here at The Shepherd Hobby Farm.

The key is this: Learning never ends. It is not confined to a classroom, the kitchen table, or the library. It is a neverending and infinite amount of knowledge at your fingertips as you live your days and nights. Kids can learn something from everything! heck, everyone can learn something from everything!

If you would like to “label” our homeschool style it would closest resemble “eclectic unschooling.”

We started this homeschooling journey in 2010 and did the whole “classroom at home” type schooling to begin with. Strict schedule with a 6th grader and a 1st grader made our school day go from 0730 to 1400 with lunch at exactly 1115. Everything was structured, curriculum was in place (in the beginning my husband and I pieced it all together from various resources), and I was the type of teacher who wouldn’t accept work if it was sloppy or lazily done. Over the years we relaxed a bit as our kids started catching on to things rather quickly and their work ethic began to develop way beyond “doing just the minimum to get by.”

I started getting frustrated with watching my boys learn about things in the “curriculum” (we have settled on Alpha Omega LifePacs for many of our years and really like them) and when something lit their curisoity beyond the subject at hand feeling like we coudln’t chase the rabbit trail because we had to stay on task with the curriculum.

This last year we tried something new. We bought their curriculums from Alpha Omega as usual but math is the only thing we stuck to as far as “by the book”. We also did plenty of math in real life situations but the curriculum was our foundation.

For science we enjoyed exploring every question and experiment that popped into our heads and would go through the Alpha Omega curriculum and work with the material that interested the boys. I found that when left to their own discovery they willingly opened up the curriculum while at the same time exploring the world around them. Microscopes were a huge love of our 10 year old son this year so we spent many days and nights exploring microscopes and doing experiments involving the micrscope. Thank you to my amazing husband for the endless finger pricks and blood samples so we could play “forensic pathologist.”

Last year our 15 year old son took a composition class through a great friend of the family (she teaches many homeschool kids) and he’ll be taking it again this year. Our 10 year old will also be taking a composition class with her. This is what distinguishes us from some other unschoolers. We do still mandate that our sons do a couple things in the educational realm that they aren’t necessarily huge fans of. They both would rather not take the composition class (there’s h…o…m…e…w…o…r…k **GASP**) but it is good for someone other than mom and dad to set their eyes on our boys’ writing. I mean seriously… you all see how I love my run on sentences and complete and utter disregard for ending sentences with prepositions. Should I really be the only one teaching my boys how to write? I think not. Besides, their composition teacher actually makes things quite fun, though it’s like pulling teeth to get either boy to admit it.

We take time at every opportunity to learn. The boys have taught me just as much, if not more, than I have taught them. They LOVE being the experts in things and sharing their knowledge with their parents. For this they research and research some more. We greet their knowledge with excitement and listening ears. We want to know what they know and this makes them want to know more… it’s a weird and really cool cycle!

Our oldest son is a history lover like his father and can whittle away entire days on end with history documentaries and books. Our youngest is currently into rock samples and Minecraft. We only use our TVs for DVDs/Blu Rays and video games so the boys aren’t wasting away in front of endless hours of mindless programs. There are a few TV shows that we like such as The Andy Griffith Show, A Team, Dirty Jobs, Duck Dynasty, and Star Trek so we get those on DVD and often watch them as a family. Honestly, there’s A LOT you can learn with Dirty Jobs! These shows tend to get our curiosity stirred and lead to further research on all sorts of subjects.

So today, what happened today? Was it a school day? Yup. What did the boys learn? Well… this is how we rolled…

0730 Oldest son (15) is up WAY before usual becuase he is excited about going to the Sonrise Coffee Shop to download a new computer game that his dad purchased for him (we only have internet at home through the limited tethering for our iPhones). I ask him to wake up his brother (a job that is quite challenging as our youngest son thinks 1000 is “up early”).

0800 Client picks up her dog that we have been boarding for the past 9 days and I ask our youngest son to count the money and figure out how much she paid me “per day” of boarding her dog. I leave him to his calculating to go brush my teeth. I return downstairs to find out youngest son paid oldest son $1 to do his calculations so he could go back to bed. I talked to youngest son about his lack of obedience but kinda great ingenuity and he says he’s practicing his “delegating skills”… seriously, where does he learn this stuff?

0830 Oldest son is chomping at the bit to head out but a quick hair check by mom leads to the simple fact that my boys are completely unaware that they have backs to their heads and there’s hair back there which would like to see a comb once in a while (they both have long hair because they don’t want to “wait forever and chat” in a barber’s chair. Yet, they list Floyd the Barber as one of their favorite Andy Griffith characters… weird). We talk about how in the old days the barber shop and beauty parlor is where many people got the up to date news because there was no such thing as social media etc. Hair check fail leads to teeth check (both boys are in braces so I’m a little OCD about teeth cleaning right now) which surprisingly they both pass (not with flying colors though).

0845 We load up into the Sienna mini van (woohoo, soccer mom wannabe!) and I ask Jackson how big his game is that he has to download as we drive up our lane. We see a family of wild turkeys, we sit and watch a few minutes, and oldest son Googles “how long a family of turkey stays together.” We then debate for a little bit about whether or not a wild turkey tastes as good on a Thanksgiving table as a farm raised turkey. I have him look at the wild turkeys and he admits that yes, the breasts of the wild turkey aren’t as plump as the farm raised ones but we wonder if the meat tastes better. Probably tougher we all agree but stronger (maybe better) flavor. Any turkey hunters out there help us out on this? I also explain that almost all farm raised turkeys have to be artificially inseminated because they are unable to mate naturally (to produce fertile eggs) due to their size that farmers have bred them for (big big big).

Oldest son gets us back on track when turkeys have passed with a simple , “9GB.” I just give a, “Huh?” as I have no idea what he’s talking about. “Size of my game mom, it’s 9GB”…  and we go back and forth figuring out how long it will take to download based on edtimates of internet speed at the coffee shop. If speed is x then it will take y minutes to download the 9GB game. Youngest son, x minutes equals how many hours (with minutes left over)? No calculators but scratch paper is fine (though they both treat scratch paper like a vampire does garlic). We chat about the possibility of maybe starting each van ride out with a prayer. We will all think about it… We pass construction that we take our best guess at because none of us are quite sure what hey are tearing up the street for and putting small piping in all over the place. I want to stop and ask a guy who seems to be in charge but the boys say, “maybe on the way back” in unison… I don’t think they really care nor have any intention of reminding me to stop and chat with the guy in charge on the way back.

0900 We make it to the coffee shop and park next to a parking meter. I ask youngest son to figure out how many coins it will take to keep the meter going for an hour. Nickel at a time he puts in coins until it reaches 1 hour and figures out it takes $.25 for an hour of parking. We discuss what parking meter money is used for, what happens if you don’t put money in the meter, whether or not we would want the job of “meter maid”, and why there is a 2 hour limit on parking in that spot. Luckily today I know all the answers to these questions and I don’t have to Google a thing!

0910 We step into the coffee shop and…

to be continued…

Folks, this is a taste of what unschooling looks like. This is our life. We talk a lot, we read a lot, we listen a lot, we pray a lot, and we watch those around us A LOT!


~ Jhenna

Oh and seriously… how we roll… toilet paper is always over, never under. Get it right people!


Potty Training Your New Dog

Potty Training Your New Dog

Potty Training Your New Dog

It suddenly dawned on me this morning (as I watch our own 9 month giant German Shepherd puppy romp around in my kitchen with his best buddy, a Rottweiler that we board here once in a while) that I have not written a single post on dog training! What, how is that possible? I have trained dogs on a professional level for almost 15 years and haven’t written a single post about it yet, unacceptable!

Here you go… I decided to start with the basics.

Potty Training Your New Dog

I’m going to explain the way I have potty trained every one of my own dogs (7 in the past 16 years) and explain the thinking behind each step so you have a better understanding of where I am coming from.  These steps pertain mostly to puppies but towards the end I will tell you what are the very minor differences when dealing with an adult dog. If you have an adult dog who suddenly seems to have “regressed” in this area, have your vet cjheck for kidney function or an urinary tract infection issue.

Step 1 Make sure you do not have any known carpeted areas in your home where other pets (or children) have soiled repeatedly. If you do and it is urine, you will most likely have to replace that part of the carpet and pad underneath and treat the subfloor with a product that seals any odor (ask for it at Home Depot or Lowes, it’s a paint). Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and some will find that spot in a heartbeat even if you have used “all the best cleaners” to get it out. Others won’t and you don’t have to worry about replacing the carpet but you don’t know which type your dog will be. You are welcome to take your chances with just cleaning and not replacing the carpet but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Step 2 Get a kennel before you bring your dog home. Get a kennel that is big enough for the dog to lay comfortably, stand up fully, turn around, and sit comfortably but no bigger. You don’t need the Taj Mahal of kennels for a small or medium sized dog.  If you are getting a puppy, get a kennel that will fit them as a full grown dog. There are kennels you can purchase that have the divider to make it smaller in the beginning and those are perfect! If you can’t get those you can always make your own divider or just put a big box in the back to cut the kennel size down.

This kennel will act as your dog’s den and safe place. Most weaned dogs will not make potty messes in the same places that they sleep (their “den”) which is why you want it just big enough to comfortably fit them. If it is any bigger then they will have room to make messes on one side or in one corner and still have room to sleep or hang out in a different area of the kennel. That folks, defeats the purpose of kennel potty training.

The kennel should always be a happy and safe place for them. A place where they get special things or treats that they don’t otherwise get, a place they can go if they are frightened or just want to be left alone, and a place they go when you can’t keep an eye on them so they don’t get themselves in trouble. Never use the kennel as punishment. When they are in their kennel they are off limits to kids and try to make them off limits to other animals in the home. You don’t want them to be teased or messed with when they are in their “den”.

Step 3 Get new dog. Woohoo how exciting, a new dog in the home! Ooh ooh I’m even excited for you, I love new dogs! Did you get a cute adorable puppy? Did you find a great dog needing a home from your local shelter? Did a pup “follow” your kids home from school (with them hanging onto the rope that just happened to be tied around their neck)?

This is an exciting time for sure but first things first…don’t take things too fast. If you have a dog that is old enough to walk on a leash take them for a 45 minute walk around the neighborhood the second you get home (yes, even before you show them the inside of their awesome new home). This helps burn off excess energy, establishes you as the leader, and helps them become familiar with their surroundings so if they happen to run off they have a better chance of making their way back to you. If you have a puppy, play in the yard with them for 30 to 45 minutes or take them on a 20 to 30 minute walk if they are leash trained. Give big praises if they potty and assign a command word to it. For example, when your dog goes pee you can say something like “tinkle” (make sure it’s the same every time). For now, just say the word each time they do their business, you’ll see why later. We use “potty” (#1) and “poo” (#2) here at The Shepherd Hobby Farm.

Step 4 Take your pup inside and show them the room where their kennel is as well as their water bowl (probably thirsty). For now shut the doors to other rooms so the dog isn’t overwhelmed and open to getting out of your site and having an accident or getting into something. Let them get to know their limited inside surroundings a bit (keeping a constant eye on them for signs of potty behavior… circling, squatting etc.) and then attempt to lure them into their kennel with a treat or a special toy. The first couple times may require TONS of patience. If they go in allow them to come right back out if they want. This is showing them that the kennel isn’t a trap. Reward them a lot when they go into the kennel (treats, petting, kind words etc.) and say/do nothing when they come out.

After they have been in and out several times (when they are comfortable with going in) shut the door. Count to 5 and open the door (they may come out if they want). Repeat the exercises of in and out with an open door. Look at you, you’re a dog trainer 🙂

When they are once again comfortable with going in give them a special toy or bone and a treat, shut the door and walk away. If they settle down quickly let them relax in there for 15-30 minutes for a pup and 30-45 minutes for an adult dog. If they whine and carry on wait for them to settle down (noise and behavior needs to be quiet) and then open the door and let them out. Continue the exercises of in and out and do the whole process again. Make sure if you have a pup you are stopping ever 15 min or so to let them go out and go potty. Set timers if you need to because time may fly by!

Step 5 The serious training begins! Your dog is somewhat or completely comfortable in their kennel, this is a huge step, congrats! Now the potty training gets put into full swing and if you follow the instructions your pup will be housetrained so very quickly (some as short as 3 days while others take a week). Here’s the rules, only 5 and they are simple. They serve a purpose and they are not to be taken lightly if you want success.

Rule 1 Pup is in kennel unless they are going out to potty or actively being played with.

Rule 2 Active play means someone responsible has their full attention and eyes on the pup the ENTIRE time they are out of the kennel for active play. Play play play. Get them worn out!

Rule 3 You go out with pup every time for potty. You cannot just turn them loose in the backyard to go potty, you need to be next to them to give them the biggest celebration and rewards when they potty.

Rule 4 While your pup is out for active play encourage them to drink as much water as you can.

Rule 5 While your pup is out for active play take them out to potty every 10-15 min (longer for an adult dog of course). Set a timer if you need to. For puppies you may need to pick them up and carry them to the door to go out.

Step 6 Set up the potty routine. This is what it looks like and this is how it should be done every time… Take your pup out of the kennel (Never make a big deal of taking the pup OUT of the kennel even though you may be excited to play).

Take pup out to potty. If they go potty say your command word (“tinkle” or whatever you chose), give tons of praise (you are right next to them so this is easy), a treat, lots of petting, whatever your pup loves. Give them a drink of water regardless if they go potty or not.  If they do not go potty (make sure you give them some time to try… most dogs go potty better after they have moved for a bit so walk them around in a small area ) take them back to their kennel and give them praise as you lure them into the kennel with their favorite toy or treat.  Shut the door and try again in a short amount of time (15 or 20 minutes). Repeat same process if they do not go potty again.

If they do go potty then it’s play time! Bring them in and play play play actively for 10 to 15 minutes. Lots of water during this time. At the 10-15 minute point take them out to potty. If they potty then it’s another play session! If not then into the kennel (happily, with a treat, toy etc.).

What if they go potty but you have to go somewhere? Actively play with them for just a few minutes and take them back out to potty. If they don’t potty then into the kennel and you can go do what you need to do. If they do go potty (amazing, I know, sometimes they just live to mess up our plans) then you have to actively play for a minute or two and try again. The active playing is the super reward for going potty.

You will find after time(a couple weeks, maybe a month or two) you can simply say your command word (“tinkle” or whatever) and they will potty on command. Super convenient when it’s raining, freezing or super hot out or you are traveling and there’s a million new smells to smell and you just want to get back on the road. Darn those truck stops and their enticing smells to dogs lol!

That’s it folks, it’s really that simple. Pretty soon your dog will start going to the door to tell you they have to go potty and that’s such an amazing feeling! When your pup goes to the door and looks up at it, take them out to potty. If they go potty then another play session. If not then into their little den for some rest.

What ifs….

Yup, there’s always what ifs.

What if my pup has an accident in the house…  If this happens, give them a quick, short, “NO” and get them outside immediately (even if you have to pick them up mid stream) and let them finish their business out there giving tons of praise as they do (yes, I know your temper may be rising at this point, get control of yourself!). This is the ONLY time you are able to have them go into their kennel after they finish going potty outside (if they do) because you have a little mess to clean up.

With our pups we could often see the signs that they were about to potty and get them out in time. When going poo dogs will often start sniffing the ground in a circle pattern and then of course start to squat. If you see this take them out to potty just to be safe. Remember, if they don’t go potty and you have to have them go back in their kennel you can always get them back out to try again in as little as 5 to 10 minutes 🙂 Most all pups will squat to pee as well but usually give little warning signs so just watch for the squat and take them out often as a precaution.

When pups are young I suggest play time not be on carpet if possible (easier to clean up in kitchen etc.)

What about feeding… feed them in their kennel. If they won’t eat their food, take it out and offer it again in a couple hours. Young pups should be fed at least 2 times per day but more little feedings throughout the day is much better. We would keep a day’s worth of food in a Ziploc bag and every time a pup went into their kennel they not only got treats and a toy but also some of their food.

What if I don’t have time to actively play with my pup after they go potty… If you can’t give them even just 3 minutes of play then you really shouldn’t have gotten a dog that needed to be potty trained. Remember, at the beginning of every play session and at the end of every play session pup goes out to potty. It’s ok if a play session can only be 3 minutes but you better be sure you’re getting a lot of play sessions in a 24 hour period if that’s the case.

What if my pup whines in the night to go potty… get up and let them out. Yup, they can be a lot like babies. The play sessions should be a lot more low key but they still get an active play session even if it’s 2:00am. Once again, this can be a 3 minute play session and then when they go out to potty at the end of that 3 minute play session they probably won’t go potty and they get to go back into kennel. The only thing I change about night sessions is I only offer a little water once or twice in the night.

If you have an adult dog who needs to be potty trained the only difference is the amount of time you can actively play before having to take them to potty. A little puppy can only go 10 to 15 minutes at most before pottying while an older dog has a bigger bladder and more control so they can usually play a little longer. Often times you will get wore out before the dog is worn out. Adult dogs need more “active” type play which is often best started outside with fetching etc. and then wrapped up with fun play inside before you take them out at the end of the play session to see if they will potty. If they don’t then back into kennel. If they do then more active play (doesn’t have to be super long if you have other things to do).

What if my pup has an accident in their kennel… clean it up. Do not scold the pup. NEVER scold the pup in the kennel unless you are disciplining bite or nipping behavior. Look to see if the kennel is too big. Were they able to poo or pee and then get away from it? If so then the kennel is probably too big. If not then you probably dropped the ball with not getting them out enough to potty. When a pup wakes up from a nap they almost always have to go potty, watch for that.

You might be saying, “Jhenna, you sure are asking us to pay A LOT of attention to this dog.” Yes, yes I am. For potty training you need to make it your whole and total mission to devote your energy and time to the matter at hand for it to be trained in quickly and assuredly. Put in the work now to save your carpets and floors down the road.


Have any other “what if” questions for me? Let me hear them! I’ll answer the best I can.


Hi, My Name is Jhenna and I was Defeated…

Hello everyone, I’m Jhenna. I’m not an alcoholic, cutter, anorexic, or compulsive liar. I am quite simply a wife and a mother of two boys who admits that I have been defeated. It’s not a flashy or dramatic story as is the case with many other support group stories but it is mine and that has to count for something. Worn down, stressed out, deflated, depressed, disillusioned, discouraged, tread upon and exhausted.

It has shown vibrantly through my actions, words and overall demeanor in the past. My kids have taken the brunt of it because they are the “blessed” ones who have spent the most time with me. Their “Mommy, mommy, mommy…” answered with a drawn out, exasperated and completely unkind “WHAT?” Their response without skipping a beat, “The sky is blue and you are pretty. Why does the dog’s booty smell icky… can I have an apple with no outside and the red berries?” And me, what was my response “Oh that’s cool, now go play while I finish this email.” This was my life for too many years when my boys were young. No time or patience for their inquisitive and many times frustrated minds.

I would escape to 12 and 24 hour shifts at work (Air Force) just to be free from their constant demands, stories, ramblings, requests for seemingly endless conversations and the neverending bottoms and noses to wipe.

I was active duty military for much my sons’ lives up until my youngest was 5 and oldest 10 years old. They saw me treat everyone I met with a big smile and glad conversation while they got the leftover, tired and worn out mom.

There were always spurts of “fun mom” with trips to the movies, parks, Sea World, East Coast, West Coast and everywhere in between but they never got my consistent best. Nope, that was saved for acquaintances, coworkers, strangers and friends. My husband didn’t even get my best. God surely didn’t get my best. The worst part… I willingly gave everyone who mattered the least in my life my best, and happily even! How screwed up is that? Totally.

What changed? How did my priorities straighten out? How did my life turn into God first, husband second, kids next, and everyone and everything else lining up there after? I was defeated. Spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally I was knocked out and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me and for me.

To be rebuilt… to be reborn… one must be broken down, one must die to self. I didn’t get any seconds or minutes in heaven so don’t look for me to write a book about it (can you sense any sarcasm?). In fact I don’t remember many of the particulars about the time I was steadily broken down but I do remember the loneliness, the shame and being very aware of the utter depravity that is born into all people, myself included. It was all very clear and apparent. I saw how my behavior and demeanor affected my relationship with those I loved most… God, my husband, and my dear children.

I was yelling and God took my voice so I could yell no more. For some time after my stroke my face was numb and I couldn’t speak well. I slurred, stuttered, and became so frustrated that I just didn’t talk when we were out in public unless I had to. However, at home, in the safety and loving arms of my family I kept at that whole talking thing. Practicing, hoping I would regain some feeling in my face, tongue and jaw muscles and finally sound “normal” again. One night I was giving my son a bath and I asked him “D-d-d-d-do you w-w-w-w-a-a-a-nt a w-w-w-w-ashc-c-l-l-o-o-th?” He looked at me and simply asked “Why did you say washcloth 3 times mommy?” I cried. I was so frustrated and did not see why this was happening to me. After I recovered feeling in my face, tongue and jaw muscles I had already seen how my kids responded to a slower speaking mother who uttered fewer words and orders. A mother who took 5 minutes to get out the words “what do you want for breakfast?” but didn’t give up getting that sentence out. They flourished in patience and understanding at the tender ages of 2 and 7 years old. I quit yelling, I patiently listened as they told and asked me things (not all the time, God knows I am not perfect and you all should know the same). I asked follow-up questions and became interested in what they were interested in. I faked it at first but then I became sincerely more interested as their faces lit up when we followed all those rabbit trails together!

Spiritually… well, truth be told I thought I was too busy for God. I had places to be, things to do, and plenty of other self-help books to read besides the Bible. Besides, I could handle everything on my own, with my own power. I was a good person and I didn’t really care what happened after I died because that was so far off in the future. I was smart, educated and had a great family and job so obviously God was smiling on me and blessing me to the max. In all actuality I was and still am a wretched sinner in need of a savior as I cannot do all for the glory of God without the Holy Spirit working in me and through me. Yup, non believers do good things but their motives are just off. For too many years my motives were selfish. A stroke is something that puts your “I got this life thing all under control” mentality to the test.  I was shown how much I needed the strength of the Holy Spirit when I felt an absolute emptiness in my heart and began to be open to the truth of scripture.

As I was filled I wanted to know more… and more… and more. I now learn from so many knowledgeable people in my life but always fall back on the truth of the Bible. That is my help book now… not self help but rather help despite myself.

I want my boys to know the truth and love of Christ and so I teach them… I surround them with people who want to raise them up in the love and judgment of God and saving works of Christ. I model behavior, words, and thoughts that show how we give all glory to God and how when he fills us up we overflow spiritual blessing and fruits onto and for others. I love, cherish, support, discipline and teach my boys through the strength of the Holy Spirit. I strive to be more Christlike each day and when I interact with or around my kids I am consistently thinking how I can be more like Christ to show them my hunger and thirst after glorifying God.

Practically this comes across as me taking time for my family, providing for them,sharing with others, doing for others, reading my Bible, telling others about the great news of the gospel, being compassionate to others, not gossiping, praying, thanking God, showing appreciation to others and being patient when my blood wants to boil over.

I always went 150 miles per hour burning the candle at both ends… I would burn out, get grouchy, blame others and crash. Then I would pick myself back up by my own bootstraps and go right back at it with the same consequences… I don’t seem like I was too smart eh! I was physically stopped in my tracks when I had my stroke. Left side paralysis left me stuck in physical therapy for almost two years. Seriously, I was putting little golf tees into holes for more hours than I care to remember. Ever try to pick up a coin off a flat surface when your hand just won’t do what you want it to do and then when the therapist looks away for a moment you slide it off the table quick and into your hand…ummmmm, nope, me neither. Picking little itty bitty microscopic safety pins out of a bin of rice isn’t as fun when you get nauseated with the intensity of concentration needed for such a task as is usually all sort of giggles and fun at every baby shower across the country. Ooh and then the physical therapist suggests you race your 2 year old son with stacking blocks and you have to report back the next week that he beat you every time and you were serioulsy TRYING TO WIN! Yup, that deflates the ego a bit. Not just deflates it but literally pops it and then makes you sit there and watch a two year old tap dance on it. Nice. I’m not bitter at all.

Guess what though, my kids were so patient with these exercises and they learned that I had physical limitations for a while. Boys that were accustomed to wrestling, tackling, and having a blast using me as their personal jungle gym learned how to be gentle, cuddle, and just be still while I recovered. We went back to wrestling around after I had recovered enough but those lessons still resound with me and my boys. They are able to take stock of the person, situation and environment and act accordingly. I learned then that sometimes I can’t fix their problems or issues but I can just be there with them and for them. Calmly and gently letting them know that I’m here.

Just the other day my 15 year old son had a cold. He hadn’t had one since last year or maybe even longer so I lunged at the opportunity to baby him a bit with honey tea, chicken noodle soup and wiping his forehead with a cool washcloth as he drifted off to sleep. Being comfortable in these gentle moments was learned by both of us when I was being broken down. I died to pleasing and doing for myself and others and worked at doing for God first, husband second, kids third and then others.

It glorifies God for a mother to care for her children and teach them about Him. God entrusted these boys to us. I’m going to do the best I can and I know I can do better if I don’t ever try to do it in my own strength. Always say goodnight to your kids each night. It doesn’t matter how old they are, always do this. If you are away a telephone call will work just fine. Tell them they are loved, appreciated, and valued. They are made in God’s image and entrusted in your care, don’t ever forget that. Slow down, put away the phone, iPad, or laptop and take the time to listen to them. Your “sure, let me see/hear” should be much more frequent than your “hold on, mommy is busy.”