spring cleaning in july — part 1

School starts next week for us.  It feels way too early for school to start.  When I was in school we didn’t start until after Labor Day.  Then again, we didn’t get out until June was more than half over.  I’ve always loved the start of school because it is a chance to begin anew.  With Muf starting real school this year (as opposed to just hanging out with Thomas and I and listening when he feels like it) I’ve determined that I’ll need to have my act together if we are going to enjoy this school year together.  One of the things I really wanted to do was to have our home in complete order before the start of school.  Keeping things in order is sooo much easier when there is some semblance of order in the first place. 

About a month ago, I warned the kids that we were going to spend a whole week cleaning.  Then about a week ago, I reminded them and asked for their input on how they would like it to work.  They decided it would be best if we did a little each day rather than tackle everything all at once.  They also decided they would prefer that we all worked together rather than dividing up rooms between us.  My job was to put together a list of everything that needed to be done. 

I am happy to report that things went swimmingly today as we spiffied up our front room and main hallway. 

This was our list —

Dust the ceilings, walls, corners, windows, and baseboads.

Dust the blinds (woops — missed that one, we’ll have to get it tomorrow).

Dust and clean the ceiling fan.

Wash baseboards, door casings, window sills, and walls.

Wash windows and doors — inside and out.

Dust and clean mirror and all decorative items

Empty bookshelves and dust off books.  (Dust is a HUGE issue in Arizona).

Dust and polish furniture.

Move all furniture and dust, vacuum, and mop floors.

Vacuum out furniture.

Wash and iron slip covers (washable covers are a must when you combine six kids with white couches — call me crazy but I love white.)

Tah-dah — just don’t look to closely at the furniture, the covers are currently drying, but they’ll be back on before the week is over.

ImageI have to say, our home is usually pretty tidy, but it’s nice to have it really clean.  There’s just something so satisfying about a job well done.  The kids were awesome.  I think the promise of ice cream when we were all done kept us going when the fun started to wear off — just a little tip.

Tomorrow is our great room (our family room, dining room and kitchen are all grouped together).  Thanks to all the help I got this morning, I’m actually looking forward to it.

 

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a brilliant idea

Every now and then, I actually have an idea that makes total sense to more than just me.  I had one of those the other day, so I thought I would share.

If your house is anything like ours, you have a ton of these hanging around.

ImageOf course we use them for canning (once in a blue moon that is), but they also are great for storing leftovers — no yucky plastic, hurray.  A while back, I discovered they also make the perfect drinking glass.  They’re just the right size and pretty tough.  Muf dropped one on the ceramic tile this morning and there was nary a crack.  You can also buy these cool screw on lids so your water is instantly portable.  Seriously, I love these things.

What I don’t love is not knowing which glass is mine.  You see, we have at least seven people in the house that drink water all day long — we live in the desert you know.  It’s bad enough having a bazillion cups on the counter all the time, but it’s even worse when no one knows which cups is theirs.  It’s not uncommon for one person to have multiple glasses on the counter because they have forgotten which cup is theirs.  Pretty soon we have a full dishwasher full of nothing but drinking glasses.  Here’s where my idea comes in. 

I found these great little hair elastics at Wal-mart for a couple of dollars.  I think it came in a pack of 36 (some huge number) in a variety of colors. 

ImageNow all we do when we need a new glass is slip on an elastic in our assigned color and we’re good to go.

ImageI’m sure you’re thinking after a week off that’s the best you can come up with?  And the answer is yes, trust me, this is big in our house.  Oh, and I did roast the butternut squash yesterday and it was DELICIOUS.  Unfortunately, I was so excited to eat it, I forgot to take a picture, so you’ll have to wait until we have it again to get the recipe.  Don’t fret though, we have a ton of them, so I’m sure you won’t have to wait long.

our week — 29 july 2013

It’s nice to be back — I had a little staycation from the blog last week.  It wasn’t really planned, life just got in the way including a trip to the ER with Hayden (he picked up Giardia on his scout trip.  I’m happy to report he’s totally fine now).  It didn’t help that it’s been so hot and muggy around here that it’s been hard to get excited about doing anything.  That being said, there have been a few things going on that are worthy of note.

Remember those little tiny watermelons I was so excited about last week?  Well check them out less than a week later — can you believe it.  My mouth waters every time I walk past them.

ImageWe pulled out everything from the garden that is no longer producing and planted some corn.  We used a few seeds we had left over from last year, but the majority of the seeds were harvested from last year’s crop.  Planting our own seeds is big for us — now if we can just get them to grow.  The garden’s looking pretty bare.

ImageWe harvested a bunch of butternut squash and the last of our sunflowers.  I haven’t gotten the seeds out yet, they’re still sitting on our patio table.

ImageI may just leave them there.  It’s nice to have a little snack waiting for us when we go out in the evenings for a sit.  Okay, that’s probably the lazy in me talking.  I really should get them taken care of.

As far as the animals go, the big event this week was moving the baby chicks (not so baby anymore) into the main chicken run.  We’re on day three and so far, they’re all still alive.  That’s big — in case you didn’t know, chickens are mean.  There’s a reason hen-pecked and pecking order have a negative connotation.  Anyway, the babies spend most of their time hanging out under the shed, but every now and then they wander out for a spell when the big chickens aren’t looking.

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That’s about it from around here.  I’m going to grill our fresh butternut squash tonight for dinner.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

our week — 23 jul 2013

I can’t believe July is almost over.  I’m pretty sure I make some sort of similar comment every time I post about our week.  Sorry.  Not too much going on around here.  We did receive a little relief in the heat department.  Temperatures have finally settled back down into the low 100s.  I think we even had a high in the 90s this week.  Sad that 98 degrees is reason to celebrate.  Anyway, relief came because of some much appreciated rain.

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How can you not play in the rain when it comes only five or six times a year (okay, maybe a few more times, but not many.)

We picked the last of our pumpkins this week, I think the goats are enjoying them the most.  (Speaking of goats, we’re drying up Cyclone in preparation for her hopeful delivery this fall.  We’re already missing the milk.)  Got off track, back to the garden — our butternut squash is still not quite done and has oddly started producing again.  The leaves are still as green as can be.  Same is true with our sugar baby watermelon plant.  Much to my surprise, I counted eight new little watermelons starting to grow.  Hurray.

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Joy’s little babies are getting so big.  This past week, they began to eat solid foods.  They started with fresh veggies and are now nibbling at the rabbit feed.  Joy is by far our sweetest rabbit, and her babies have all had her temperament.  They love to be held and handled.  Eve’s babies on the other hand are more like her — not really into people and a bit mischievous.

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The baby chicks are not babies anymore.  They are so big.  It’s time for them to move into the big chicken run.

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Introducing new chickens is tricky.  Chickens are not nice.  Bad timing for our older chickens.  Egg production is getting pretty low.  I’m not sure if it’s the temperatures or if they are done with the whole egg laying gig.  When we first started this little homesteading project, I thought there was no way I’d be able to harvest the chickens just because they stopped laying.  I would feel too much like the mean farmer’s wife in Chicken Run who wants to turn the chickens into chicken pie when they stop producing.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I totally understand the idea that farm animals are not pets.  When they stop producing, their time is up.  For the record, I still don’t like the farmer’s wife.

On the family front, our big news for the week is that Thomas learned how to swim thanks to an excellent teacher, dad.  Hurray for Thomas.

Oh, and I have to include this picture of Muf in his new goggles (note to self, do not wait until the end of the season to buy goggles — your choices are very limited).

ImageAm I the only one that thinks he looks like Elton John?

woops, missed something

This morning as I was trying to do a little organization project, I realized I totally left out wellness and medical supplies from my preparedness list (probably because this is where we need the most work right now, and I’ve subconsciously blocked it out so I don’t have to deal with it).  We’ve got a few things down, but it’s nowhere near what we’d like it to be.  Perhaps if I were a little more organized. 

See this container — these are my essential oils, well most of them.  I have others scattered throughout the house.  Go ahead, you can say it — what a mess!  I know, it’s a pain trying to find anything, and sometimes, I don’t even bother, it’s not worth the hassle of looking.

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See this box — this is the organizer that I found at Costco (okay, this isn’t the exact one, but it’s pretty close) thanks to Jillee

ImageSee this drawer — a nightmare I know.  I’ll just leave it at that.

ImageAnd now look.  Everything is neat and tidy and I can find everything in an instant.  Love it. 

ImageThere is a point to all of this.  Don’t forget that organization is key to preparedness.  Having everything you need is great, but if you can’t find it when you need it, it’s pretty much useless.  Happy organizing. 

now that i’ve come out of the closet

Confession is so good for the soul — it feels good to have everything out in the open.  Thanks for sticking with me.

I read a post the other day over at Alt-Market.com regarding the upcoming societal collapse.  While the author made some interesting points, he was rather harsh in his approach, and I believe he left out some important preparations we need to make in order to not only endure, but endure well what appears to be in our future.  So what’s on my list?  I’m glad you asked.  I’m by no means an expert, but I hope the things that I have learned over the last several years will be of worth to someone.  I can’t cover everything in one little post, but you can at least start thinking about it.

Make God part of your life — There is a God, and He is in control.  If you haven’t yet established a relationship with Him or if you feel like your relationship is lacking, work on it.  It’s like any other relationship, it takes work.  Everyone comes to know God in a different way — do what you need to do — read the scriptures, pray, meditate, go to church, serve others.  He is the only one that will be able to grant us peace when everything falls apart.

Take personal inventory  — If there is anything in your life that you’re doing that you know is not right, stop it.  Easier said than done, I know.  Maybe you have a hidden addiction, maybe you struggle with anxiety or control issues, maybe you’re just a jerk.  Whatever it is, take the steps to be at peace with who you are.  I know that life is going to get hard.  Drop the baggage now so you will be able to focus on the really important things when the time comes.  Oh, and don’t forget your physical self as well.  If you’re carrying a bit too much weight (this includes me) work on getting it off.  Increase your level of physical fitness.  Who knows what our bodies are going to be required to do.  Get a jump start.

If you’re married, make sure you and your spouse are a team — Similar to the last recommendation.  If you and your spouse are struggling, work it out.  Be there for each other.

Have some food storage — Most Americans have less than a week’s worth of food on site.  The last place I want to be when the world comes to an end is Wal-mart.  You’ve seen the video clips of people getting trampled on Black Friday over televisions and scooters.  Can you imagine what it will be like when food becomes scarce?  If you have some money stashed away spend it now on some food.  Money will not help you if there isn’t any food to buy.  If you don’t have any extra money, find it (in your own budget, not your neighbor’s pocket of course).  I feel like we’ve been really blessed temporally.  We don’t have money to throw around, but we have sufficient for our needs and some of our wants.  That being said, we’ve definitely had to make sacrifices to build up our food storage.  If you don’t have food stored and you don’t feel like you have the money, ask yourself is there something you can do without right now to ensure that you will have what you need in the future.

Make sure you have some water — I’ve heard people say that in a pinch, you can drink the water out of your toilet.  I don’t really care to get pinched.  Lucky you if you live somewhere that has flowing creeks and underground springs.  We live in the desert.  Yeah, not so lucky.  A couple of water bottles isn’t going to do it — not even a case.  You’ve got to think big.  If you have the space, 55 gallon barrels are the way to go.  If you don’t have the space, get what you can.  Make sure that you also have a means of water purification.

Have a gun and know how to use it — Not too long ago I said, “I never want to have a gun in my home.”  Then it changed to, “I hope I never live in a time where I feel like I need a gun in my home.”  Now it’s “I’m really glad we have a gun in our home.”  Having one is not enough.  Make sure you know how to use it and care for it.  Make sure you teach your children how to respect and use guns.    Oh, and don’t forget the ammunition.  Guns aren’t quite as useful with out it.  Ammunition is hard to find right now, and I really don’t think it will get much easier.  I hate to say this, but good luck.

Make sure you have quality shoes and clothing that will last — Don’t be stingy in this area.  All of the adults in our family have good, high quality hiking boots.  It’s crazy to buy super expensive boots for the kiddies, so we went the Goodwill route.  We’re lucky, every other Saturday is half off day.  We have boots in a variety of sizes for the kiddies.  I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $3.  I’m talking $80 boots here (who pays $80 for kids boots?).  Same thing goes for clothes.  I love my Old Navy jeans.  They fit perfectly, but let’s be honest, my second hand, not very cute Levis are going to last way longer.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to care that my jeans don’t fit quite right when the world is falling down around me.

Don’t forget sanitation  We all poop, be prepared to dispose of it properly.  I might add for your own comfort, have a stock of toilet paper on hand.  Just saying.

Grow a garden — Canned food will keep you alive, but eventually, it will run out.  What will you do then?  There’s a learning curve that comes with gardening.  One of the reasons we started a garden now was to get higher up on that curve before our survival depended upon it.

Build a community — None of us is going to be able to do this alone when the time comes.  Find people that share your views or that are at least open to your views.  Barter your skills and goods.  Better yet, just be nice and offer to help.  I’m a big believer in karma.  About a month ago, Greg and Thomas went around the neighborhood sharing zucchini with anyone and everyone.  Within a couple of days, we had peaches, nectarines, onions, and seeds.

There you have it.  Ask another prepper and you’d probably get a different list.  That’s why it’s so important to have your own list.  This should give you a good start.  Our list is constantly evolving.  There are still things we want to add, but if the end of the world came tomorrow, we wouldn’t be in a state of utter panic.  How nice is that.  I’d love to know what you’re doing to prepare.

i have a confession

I’m not really a hippie.  I do some things that hippies do (like I just bought this awesome peasant shirt from Old Navy that totally makes me look like a hippie), but I don’t really have the hippie mindset.  I do hippie things because I want to be prepared to take care of my family when the poop hits the fan.  Yup, I think the American Empire (developed over the last century in complete opposition to the nation established by our Founding Fathers) is headed for a fall and fast.  Don’t ask me when, I sure can’t tell you — I don’t think it will happen tomorrow, it could, but I don’t think it will.

Wait, it gets worse, I’m what some commonly refer to as a conspiracy theorist.  I even have a tin foil hat — just kidding — the hat part, not the conspiracy part, that’s true.

There, now you know.

I haven’t always been a conspiracy person.  In fact, I spent most of my professional career as part of the establishment working on Capitol Hill.  So what happened?  It all started when some friends of ours suggested that we watch Food Inc.  I thought as a vegetarian, I really wouldn’t learn anything new, I already knew that the food eaten by the typical American was pretty nasty.  What I didn’t know what that the actual system is corrupt to the core.  My eyes were opened in a way they never had been before.

Greg and I had chatted a few times about the evils of the Federal Reserve, but truthfully, I kind of brushed it aside.  I was an insider — I knew how things really worked.  Or did I?

My next step was to read None Dare Call It Conspiracy by Gary Allen and that changed everything.  I began to question things that I had come to accept as fact.  I did some additional research and found that the “facts” weren’t always factual.  I was ticked.  I felt betrayed.  Not very nice feelings, but thankfully, those feelings led to some really good things.

Life at the Randall home changed a lot — and I’m not just referring to the little farm we set up in our backyard.  Our total mindset changed.  More so for me than Greg, he’s always been on the right track, it just took me a while to join him.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not just sitting around waiting for the end of the world.  We are preparing for the future and enjoying every minute of it.  Well, most every minute, there are days when I am not as joyful as I should be feeding the animals or cleaning up their poop.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that the fight between good and evil is very real.  Figuring out the good from the evil can sometimes be tricky.  There are so many voices out there competing for our attention.  Who can we possibly trust?  Thankfully, the answer to that question is easy.  We have a loving Father in Heaven who knows the end from the beginning.  He will help us know the truth and give us the strength to accept it and act upon it if we allow Him to.

There you have it.  I hope we can still be friends even if you think I’m a weirdo.

our week — 15 july 2013

This summer is flying by.  I can’t believe we are less than a month away from school starting.   So many plans made, so little accomplished, or so it seems at times.  Oh well.

Life on the homestead continues to revolve around handling the heat.  The garden looks pretty ragged.  We have a few pumpkins and butternut squashes left to ripen and about half of our sunflowers are not quite brown enough to pull yet.  It’s kind of fun walking our your door and snacking on a sunflower seed or two that you plucked out of your very own flower.

Greg, Thomas and Muf got a head start on our fall garden this week by planting some jack-o-lantern pumpkins seeds.  The goal is to have them ready to go just in time for Halloween allowing the kids to have a little pumpkin stand.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Anyway, check these babies out, they were planted four days ago.  Holy cow.

ImageThe animals are doing well.  We’ve been exploring some alternate food sources for everyone and even gave the baby chicks and goats some free range time.  The chicks had a blast, but it came to an end after just a few short days when they discovered the sweet potatoes. Boo.  The goats are loving chomping on the bermuda grass in the backyard.  Muf however isn’t so happy,  Nightingale ate the one and only orange on his orange tree.

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He got over it though and is back running around with the goats in his new chicken shoes (all the kids have a pair of shoes that are dedicated for use in the animal run — goats and chickens poop A LOT).  They were a great $1.50 Goodwill find.

ImageSpeaking of Goodwill, Thomas also got this first bike.  I love half off day at Goodwill.  We only paid $7.50 for it, and it’s actually a decent bike.  Now, if he can just learn to ride it (with shoes on of course — he wasn’t actually riding here).

ImageOne last little tidbit on this week because it’s so cute.  We read scriptures together every night as a family.  Aren’t Greg’s dollar store reading glasses cool?

ImageMuffa thinks they are.  So much so that he keeps his sunglasses with his scriptures so he can be just like dad and wear them when he “reads.”  ImageLast night, Muf insisted that his baby bunny have her own scriptures so that she could read as well.  Greg would read a couple of words, then Muffa would repeat them, followed by baby bunny repeating the same words with Muffa acting as voice.

ImageI think it took us five minutes to get through that single verse, but hey, Muffa sat still and actually read with us.  Can’t complain about that.

the best hairspray ever

ImageOkay, maybe not ever, but all things considered, it’s pretty darn good.  Have you ever tried reading the ingredients on your hairspray bottle.  You can’t even pronounce half of them.  Thanks to a quick startpage search I found this super simple, incredibly frugal alternative at Organic Authority.  You probably have everything you need right in your cabinet.

Homemade Hairspray

1 cup hot purified water

4 teaspoons evaporated cane juice (sugar)

1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

3-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

fine mist spray bottle

Heat the water to just under a boil.  Add sugar and stir thoroughly to dissolve.  Add the vodka and cool.  Add your essential oil, put it in your spray bottle, and you are good to go.

Just a couple of notes —

1.  I use vodka (yes, I keep some in the house, don’t tell my bishop.  Seriously, the most time consuming part of this project was remembering where I hid the vodka), but you can also use rubbing alcohol (although it’s not exactly hippie friendly) or just omit it entirely.

2.  When using the hairspray, let it dry completely before fooling around with your hair or you’ll mess up your do.

I was amazed when I first tried this out.  It works great.  I use it, the kids use it, the goats use it before shows (just kidding).  Seriously, it holds really well and it comes right out with just a simple brush of your hair.  No nasty build up that requires special shampoo.  All for about five cents a bottle (maybe 10 if you use the vodka). 

taking back mealtime — part 3

I know you all have been waiting on pins and needles for the third and final installment of taking back mealtime.  Sorry, I’ve been knee deep in trying to get ready for the new school year.  Anyway, in part one, we talked about the whys of taking back our family mealtime.  You can read the post here if you missed it and want to catch up.  In part two, we covered planning and preparation.  You can find it here.  Today, we’re going into the trenches — the real nitty gritty of our mealtime. 

Letting everyone know of your expectations is really important.  Mealtimes are mandatory in our home.  The best planned mealtimes are of no value if no one shows up.  Of course there are always exceptions, but the general rule is – you are at the table for breakfast and dinner unless you clear it ahead with mom and dad – having to work, okay, playing with friends, not okay.   We had total grumbling when we started this one.  Now, no big deal.  Remember, you are the parent.  You get to decide what is best for your kids.  Mealtimes are what’s best for us. 

ImageWe set the table.  Sometimes the setting is nicer than others, but setting the table reminds the kids that sharing a meal together is important.  You are important.  My mom lived alone for several years after all the kids moved out of the house, but she always set the table for herself.  I love my mom for that and for so many other reasons. 

I never met my paternal grandfather — Grandpa Don.  He died before I was born.  My grandmother didn’t talk about him much, but there is one thing I do remember her saying about him and that was that he didn’t eat, he dined.  In our home, we dine, we don’t eat. 

It’s not uncommon for meals to last two hours in our home when nothing else is pressing, not because we have so much food on the table, but because we talk throughout the meal, and we continue to talk long after the meal is over.  There are a few rules that we go by – we don’t talk over others, we don’t whisper at the table, and we take turns.  No phones at the table, period.  If the phone rings we don’t answer it (unless it may be one of the kids calling, in that case we see who is calling and answer it if need be, otherwise, it can wait). 

It’s amazing what can be discussed when you actually talk.  We learn what the kids did at school, what they are being taught, who likes who and who did what.  We talk of everything from current events to our ancestors, politics to religion.  Our children are going to learn values, the question is whose values are they going to learn.  Our values cannot be learned unless they are taught and the dinner table is the perfect place to teach them. 

As moms (and dads too for that matter), it’s really easy to get caught up on the day to day realities of our lives, but there is a whole world out there affecting everything we hold dear.  One of the things that I like to do is a quick review of the big headlines of the day.  The Drudge Report is awesome for that.  Our discussions have frequently led to the kids jumping on the computer to learn more about a given topic.  In addition, some of our best family home evening lessons have taken place during dinner.

The changes we made took time.  It’s funny, when we first started down this road we told the kids they needed to ask to be excused from the table.  They thought it was absolute torture when we said no.  Now, I find that it’s usually me or Greg that says, okay, time to clean up or time to start the day.

One of the other things we really like to do is invite people over to share a meal with us.  Breakfast, dinner, doesn’t matter.  Start small, invite some missionaries over.  Invite a new family that just moved into the neighborhood, a co-worker.  We have made eternal friendships through this simple act.  In addition, your children will have a chance to truly practice their manners and hosting skills.  I love that my kids ask our guests if they would like something to drink as soon as they come in without being prompted (most of the time anyway).  They know how to carry on a dinner conversation and ask questions.  I like my kids and all, but they are nothing super special – they have just had practice. 

As I’ve said all along, things are not always perfect.  I am not always perfect.  Sometimes, my kids have a pre-breakfast snack of peanuts and raisins and then eat reheated pancakes while watching Ultimate Cat, their favorite documentary on big cats, as I finish up a church assignment.  Once in a blue moon, we actually stop off at Little Caesars on the way home – not that Thomas doesn’t ask every time we pass it.  More often than not our meals are also filled with — “elbows off the table, finish what’s in your mouth before you speak, and napkins in your lap.”

I want to close out this series with a couple of quotes.  This first one is from Elder Richard G. Scott during this past General Conference. 

“Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures.

The ideal place for that peace is within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord Jesus Christ the centerpiece” (For Peace at Home, April 2013).

Here’s the whole talk if you’re interested.  It’s a good one.

And one more from President James E. Faust from his talk in the October 1990 Conference.

”As societies as a whole have decayed and lost their moral identity and so many homes are broken, the best hope is to turn greater attention and effort to the … next generation—our children… Somehow, some way, we must try harder to make our homes stronger so that they will stand as sanctuaries against the unwholesome, pervasive moral dry rot around us. Harmony, happiness, peace, and love in the home can help give children the required inner strength to cope with life’s challenges. Barbara Bush, wife of President George Bush, a few months ago said to the graduates of Wellesley College:

“’But whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children, they must come first. You must read to your children and you must hug your children and you must love your children. Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.’” (Washington Post, 2 June 1990, p. 2.)

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Thanks to Katie at Live Craft Eat we have this quote in our front room.  It fills me with hope and reminds me of my great responsibility. 

Whether you are young or old, living by yourself or with others, just starting out or feel like things are wrapping up, you can make your home a refuge from the world.  I promise you that making mealtime a priority will allow the Spirit of the Lord to touch all who are in your home in very real and positive ways.