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How to expand the skills of your children

Tuesday, 17. March 2009 by Renee Ellison


Your objective in educating your children is to keep pressing out the edges of their mental abilities.  Work at this relentlessly, until you come to the outer edges of their brains and capacities and they simply are not capable of any more (at age 25 or so!).  The LORD said to “take dominion” over the earth, and He meant to the EDGES of everything – including educating your children.

Let’s look at how to do that with your oldest daughter first, just as an example.  This will show you how to move a child from area in which she is competent into a new area in which she is presently incompetent, so that she can expand into competence in many areas.

Let’s say your daughter is terrific at cooking.  She has that skill down.  Conquered.  You might have her now work herself out of a job.  Have her train both of her next younger siblings simultaneously.  In other words, stand there in the kitchen and DO nothing, just tenderly and patiently tell the younger ones how to make the meal and watch them, oversee them, until they “GET IT”.  She can still be head cook for many meals, but she might now do it less and less as all the children get trained in it more and more, down the line.

She should train them cheerfully and humbly like this: first she SHOWS them, then she does it WITH them, and lastly she just watches and verbally corrects them, on every single step, from cracking an egg to boiling oatmeal.  Have the two younger siblings rehearse and practice this same meal night after night, or every other night, or one week’s worth followed by the same menu next week, until they can do it with no elder’s supervision.  Then they can turn around and teach it to the next child.

Your second- and third-born children NEED this skill now, and your oldest needs to move BEYOND it.  As soon as they can master making seven evening meals (if they’re boys, this training will be helpful if their wives have babies and they need to cook all the meals for several months), then go find a new area where your oldest needs to be challenged and get her progressing on IT.  If the neighbor plays piano/flute, get them to teach her.  It doesn’t matter WHAT, just SOMETHING she has never done before.

Your oldest may fight you or balk simply because it takes her out of her comfort zone, but don’t give in to her.  Get her on the same page with you, mentally, by telling her how awesome you want her to become in EVERY area.  Get a local lady to teach her sewing, perhaps.  This lady can come to your house so that you can oversee the way that she tutors, in case you need to course-correct in some way.  If no one can come to your home, then get a sewing BOOK from the library or order it online and have it shipped to you, and have her go through it page by page until the new skill is conquered.  Obtain several books on additional topics for her to learn concurrently, or have her watch/get trained under other PEOPLE doing different skills.

She could also begin to write essays on Biblical topics, or persuasive papers on topics such as: What was the matter with the way Solomon ruled?  What was good about it?  Compare and contrast King David with King Ahab, discussing both similarities and differences.  Have her write on what she KNOWS WELL, whether it be Biblical topics, family topics, or historical topics.  Writing essays is vital to developing organized THOUGHT … which is needful for every major decision in life.  Every emerging adult needs to develop an organized logical brain, capable of thinking through things from many conceivable angles.  The final goal by the end of high school is to have your children read challenging, complex material; write essays competently on a variety of topics; and speak persuasively.  These are life skills, refined, cultured skills, God-intended skills.

Then correct these essays WITH her.  This is only ONE area to develop in becoming a brilliant capable adult.  There are scores more.  If you don’t want to have to dream up all of these areas on your own, using a curriculum will help considerably.  ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) covers all of this in a sequential, thorough curriculum, which we have found to be one of the easiest to use.  ACE has relieved millions of parents of this burden of doing it all yourself.

Over a million children are currently using ACE world-wide in 135 countries, enabling those children to gain the basic foundation that EVERY child needs.  This is not a luxury, it is a necessity.  Military families’ children and missionaries’ children have used them for decades now, to answer THEIR moms’ problems.  Mamas were never meant to have to figure our all of these mental disciplines from scratch.  The LORD wants your children educated even more than you do.  That is why decades ago he raised up two faithful old missionaries (a husband and wife team who were educators) to write this God-honoring program extremely well, putting in tons of hours, and field testing it and re-writing it over and over to perfect it, so that mothers everywhere could be relieved of this UNIVERSAL burden.  Using this curriculum (or any curriculum) frees you to teach your children valuable domestic and life skills…as many as you have time for!

A personal reflection about marriage

Sunday, 15. March 2009 by Renee Ellison


Every person arrives at marriage with a fully developed hard-drive which ya ain’t gonna change.  It takes at least 15 years of marriage before you discover that is what you are dealing with…a hard drive.  No rewiring manual.  So if ya can’t CHANGE it, you have to switch marital strategies in your brain and heart to UNDERSTAND it, adjust and adapt.

  • We all enter marriage blissfully thinking, “At last, I’ve hand picked someone who will understand me, for days without end, and will emotionally nourish me, sigh…oh bliss.”  But what we find out somewhere into the marriage, is what God intended it for all along.  It was HE who hand-picked the idea of marriage, for HIS purposes, not ours.  Marriage is really God’s crash course in learning how to understand and ardently love someone ELSE…to mature into godlikeness.  It is a steep drive up a long hill to learn to be selfless.  It is a graduate course in maturity.  It is thoroughly and absolutely all about learning how to cherish another person, through thick and thin… ending with even their old age incontinence.  Whew!

  • The great key to marriage is to constantly look at life throuh your mate’s point of view.  Solves almost all problems.  Understanding WHY the person is responding/acting that way leads to tendernesses galore.

    For more on this topic, order Renee’s book, Growing Marriage—and listen to Kevin Swanson’s interview of Renee on Generations Radio.

    Filed Under: Spiritual tips

    Two basics of successful parenting

    Friday, 13. March 2009 by Renee Ellison


    Punchline first:  A child has two gaping needs that only you can fulfill in the beginning.  One is to be loved; the other is to matter.  If you see to it that both these needs are fulfilled, childhood misbehavior will virtually MELT away.  How do you parent to these ends?

    Raising outstanding godly offspring is a PRIVATE, deep, hidden work that happens behind closed doors.  It means saying “NO” to almost everything else for a number of years…even many social activities.  It means becoming OCCUPIED with your children…consumed with them.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34)

    A mother may be physically with her children day in and day out, but her mind may be continuously distracted somewhere else.  The great surprise in raising children is coming to the realization that they have the same full emotional world with all of its concerns and misgivings and challenges that you carry…only they can’t articulate it as well.  Think of how huge your own world is…and what goes on in your brain just about YOU, every day.  Well, it is just as huge to your child.  Every child is as you are now…barely able to see past himself!  And this doesn’t go away.  It grows and grows.  It is what being a human being is…a waltz with the infinite nature of being made in the image of God.

    To begin to win his heart you must begin to see life from HIS point of view, as well as your own.  Is there something in his day to challenge him, to excite him, to occupy him meaningfully?  Is he noticed, cherished, valued?  The small conversations between you two now are the privileged entrance to the adult conversations of tomorrow.  Are you investing in a future best friend, or do you view this present seeming trivia as non-consequential, a distraction from people whom you’d RATHER talk/be with?  For a child will eventually go where he is EMOTIONALLY nourished.  Your best defense against the appeal of outsiders is a good OFFENSE.  Love your children better than the other guy does!

    Bonding with mom and dad is hugely important to emotional stability for all of life.  When children are infants there should be tons of skin-to-skin contact and touch.  There needs to be lots of eyeball-to-eyeball warm loving talk/chatter/cooing.  MORE.  And as they grow, there needs to continue to be appreciative godly touch (for their sake, not your own), augmented by warm, loving verbal bravos – “Atta’ girl, you can do it!” “What a guy, terrific!”  The message needs to be loud and clear to each of your children that “You are the apple of my eye”—exactly as the Heavenly Father gives love to YOU every day.  Just because there are thousands of people in the world doesn’t diminish His love to any one of them.  Parenting is a crash course is spilling love everywhere, continually… becoming godlike.

    Parent your children as you feel the Heavenly Father parents you as an adult.  Take note that when He disciplines you, He NEVER withdraws from you…He is still right there… a humble prayer away.  He puts His own pressures upon you, but continues loving dialog with you in the darkness.  Get your children steadily under your arm, firmly by your side, looking at life together.  The perspective is, “WE are looking at this challenge TOGETHER”—whether it be the child’s own individual challenge or the family’s collective challenge.

    This concept is only a continuation of the way you first greet life together.  When you bring a new baby home, it is optimum to have your previous baby by your side while someone brings in the new addition.  Your family greets the new child TOGETHER… conveying the warm message that this is OUR baby, not a replacement of you.  And through the years, you need to keep the message coming.  For example, “This stranger or friend whom we are now talking with is not a replacement of you.  This person is an enrichment to both of our lives.  Sweetie, come sit quietly WITH US; we WANT you.”


    And then the child needs to see that you are continuously placing before him small incremental academic challenges: anything that stimulates and enlarges the brain’s capacity…so that life has LUSTRE to him.  So, he can become skillful (i.e., CAPABLE), fearless in any new setting, a contributor to life.  Mental stimulation is vital to becoming a FULL human being.  A child needs to know that it matters that he even exists—not just to his parents, but to a larger world as well!

    There is nothing so intoxicating as learning something new, if it is done right (in small enough increments), and personally becoming MORE than you were yesterday.

    Copious amounts of stimulation is what is needed.  If you don’t provide access to this in this wholesome way, your children’s need for it will be met in devious ways or by aimless daydreaming, or via the first leap out of the home possible, or through inordinate, continual absorption in thinking about a future far-off marriage.  Home must be subtly and continuously EXCITING..a place of ongoing education.  If children’s heads are veritably spinning with the next great challenge TODAY, they won’t have TIME to think about a maybe “better” future, or life in someone else’s home or in some other place.

    Keep the carrot dangling in front of your children.  Say “NO” to everything else until this is happening on a continuous, routine basis.  Say “NO” to even more things.  Concentrate.  Focus here for no regrets.  You’re dealing with childhood dynamite.  There is only a short fuse, and you only have a few years to make sure it goes off in the right direction.

    Marriage: an exercise in crawling

    Friday, 26. December 2008 by Renee Ellison


    One of the outstanding feats of Christ is that He set His heart to love the unlovely…and SUCCEEDED!!!  No irritating personality type is outside His warm embrace.  He looks at love as a personal challenge, only.  He knows that love is all about what HE is capable of, not about the other guy.  Growing and exhibiting his own muscle of love, regardless of what comes back to him, from the unlovely…is His sole ambition.  He is God, and His determined, inexhaustible love amidst ALL circumstances and outrageous personalities is the essence of Who He is.  He is dogged on the issue.  Love WILL find a way.

    It is vital to view the daily dynamic in our own marriages in the same way.  Marriage MUST go through disillusionment, in order to hit rock bottom.  It is only on all fours, nose to the ground, rooting around on our knees, that we begin to look for a different source of love.  At last we discover it in Christ.  And to our surprise we find that it is not at all what we thought.  Love is not at all about GETTING it, but about GIVING it.

    All of life is a process of disillusionment, a fall from what we THOUGHT life would deliver, to a profound personal emotional bankruptcy.  And the sooner we hit rock bottom, the better.  If we look at marriage as a source of romance and tender understanding, we’re gonna be in trouble.  But if we look at it as a CHALLENGE to love, to find HIS grit, perseverance, triumphs multiplying within us, then we really begin to LIVE.  Life is a LESSON, not a resort.  The final Judgment will be personal examination day.

    To draw upon His love and express it at impossible moments, at contrary times, at 6’s and 7’s, causes a strange kind of inner joy to emerge in our souls.  We find that this was, in fact, one of Christ’s entire purposes for marriage.  The family is the great leveling place at the foot of the cross.  No one struts at the foot of the cross; our own contrariness and our constant impetuous demands for satisfaction take a beating there.  We cower under His great drops of blood and rise up to try again…to stick with the journey.  To jump ship makes us weak.  To take up the oars, muscle into the wind, and arouse love within us makes us great in the end (Psalm 18:35: “thy gentleness hath made me great”).

    Imagining that there is a more pleasing personality to relate with all day, is a trap.  There is none.  Regardless of the attractive cover, the same story is inside each book.  “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

    For further reading on this topic, see 7 Womanly Secrets to Marital Harmony.

    Filed Under: Spiritual tips

    Transforming Christmas depression into joy

    Wednesday, 24. December 2008 by Renee Ellison


    Did you know that William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation made all the Puritans work on Christmas day in the 1620s?  They considered it a totally pagan holiday.  (Click here for a straightforward account of it.)  We ARE extremely glad the Messiah was born—we just choose to remember that at the time of year when it happened (i.e., in the late fall—at the time of Sukkot, which is likely the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday in North America).  We dislike what the Christmas holiday has become: a consuming focus on want, want, want and obligations to give to meet those perceived needs.  It makes scores of people super depressed.  It centers on everything they don’t have.

    ‘Tis a far cry from sitting in a chair and worshiping Him in spirit and in truth—feeding on Him, meditating on some nurturing portion of scripture, and being caught up to the heavens with satisfaction in Him.

    For the past ten years, we as a family have occupied ourselves with some delightful project that day and been happy as clams.  I get to sew.  And we all sit around the table and do our projects right next to each other, and hug each other lots.  We love being with one another, producing.  On some years we have met up with our materialistic relatives and neighbors later in the day.  They usually have long faces and are depressed, because they spent the morning tearing through presents and then sat on their couches depressed—because things can never satisfy.  Things are like leeches saying more, more, more.

    I did the same thing when I taught school—worked my little ones ‘til the day and the hour school closed—and because they were producing, they were the happiest kids in school.  The others walked around with sugar in their guts, aimlessness, and depression.

    Blessings on alternative plans, to fight off the ways of our increasingly pagan world.  For further info on this, you can download our ebook, Why We Got Off the Christmas Bandwagon.

    Filed Under: Spiritual tips

    Wish you or your daughter knew how to sew?

    Wednesday, 17. December 2008 by Renee Ellison


    Do you always look longingly at others who know how to sew?  Never have time to learn, or no one around to teach you?  Now your wish can come true!  Start with these two helps from here at HomeschoolHowtos.com and then move on to the DVD sewing series referred to below, and you’ll get a full garment sewing course, all without leaving home!  Winter is the perfect time to take advantage of those cold dark months and learn a new skill.

    Tips available from us:
    Very valuable beginner information, tips and tricks right from the get-go!
    Beginner Sewing Basics: Why sew? Plus a checklist of sewing skills to conquer (available as a downloadable e-book or in print)
    Simple Sewing Solutions for Busy Moms (DVD)

    A referral:
    I’ve discovered the neatest set of SEWING DVD’s that would be absolutely perfect and exciting for both you and your daughter.

    She (or you) would be an EXPERT after working through this series, because it covers every aspect of garment construction.  Over the past six months, in an effort to develop and provide sewing help for moms (just like I’ve tried to do for cooking in years past), I’ve been researching various sewing instructions put out by various companies.  I’ve ordered them through libraries, bought some, and studied through all of them.

    By far the BEST series out there is put out by Margaret Islander.  She is an older lady, with a very cheerful spirit and an excellent teaching gift…step by step, totally understandable.  She used to be a factory seamstress and learned all their tricks and then modified them for home machines.  Later she started a sewing school for basic sewing as well as couture sewing (fashion, ultra refined stuff) and pattern drafting.  Her tips are REMARKABLE and save tons of time.  Eager would-be seamstresses take to all of this stuff like fish to water.  If you get them for your daughter, don’t plan on seeing her for months, she’ll be so engrossed in them and excited!!!!!!

    I would start with her DVD entitled Shirts, Etc.  After viewing this, you (or she) will be able to make EVERYONE shirts that look like a professional made it.

    These are the names of all of the instructional sewing DVDs in this series:
    Industrial Shortcuts
    Shirts, Etc.
    Pants, Etc.
    Galaxy of Sewing Techniques 1, 2, 3 and 4 (four separate DVD’s)
    Easy Zippers (demonstrates all zipper types, with professional results)

    You can just rent them far cheaper than purchasing them—at www.SmartFlix.com—or purchase them from Islander Sewing Systems (phone 1-248-889-5091), but they are pricey.  The first DVD—Shirts, Etc.—costs $79.00.

    If your young seamstress (or you!) want to actually make a shirt while watching the Shirts, Etc. DVD, you’ll need a shirt pattern…any old one that you might have from Granny or your mom will do.  If you don’t have one, then order the Dress Men’s Shirt Pattern directly from Margaret Islander.  If you DO obtain the dress shirt pattern, the instructions will perfectly match the exact pattern that she is using…but not a big deal either way…a shirt is a shirt.

    The main thing is to teach your daughter to conquer a pattern and then use the SAME pattern over and over and over until she is an expert at that one, then switch to a new one.  A long time solidifying foundations in developing ANY skill, makes for zooming later.  (Even in cooking, train her to make the same seven evening dinners over and over, until they become mindless…absolutely none of us were taught this fast track to homemaking expertise…and wandered around in the domestic wilderness of trial and error for years!)  When she gets married, she’ll have seven meals conquered from day one!

    The following is the best way to proceed with acquiring the sewing skill.  Have her watch the entire DVD totally through, once, so that she gets a good overview of where she is going.  She can watch it while she eats supper over several nights.  Then go back and watch it section by section…stopping the DVD to actually DO that section on her own garment construction.

    (Buy some cheap 100% all cotton fabric off a remnant table…maybe even an entire bolt for her to learn off from…she needs to work out all the bobbles before using expensive fabric…this is cheap TRAINING fabric.  Wash the whole bolt at once and cut it up in three-foot sections, fold and stack to use on project after project…avoid stripes or checkered squares, which she would have to match up).

    Because the DVD is all VISUAL, there are no detailed, technical things to read…nada!!!  It is all just sheer fun.

    There is just no doubt about it, that becoming an expert cook and seamstress makes a gal a very, very, very capable woman…an asset to any household.  These two skill areas need to be incrementally improved constantly, by all of us women, so that we can eventually do them on the backstroke while TALKING with OTHERS, at the same time!  That’s the goal!  I once knew an 80-year old woman who STILL didn’t know how to make basic oatmeal, and another woman, age 60, who had no sponge by her kitchen sink, or under her sink…go figure!

    If you or your daughter are interested in this skill, these sewing tips could give you REAL tools, which would help you in SERVING others in a confident and excellent manner.  It could be a wonderful next step in your domestic education.

    The Better Late Than Early debate for teaching young children

    Sunday, 14. December 2008 by Renee Ellison


    A mom wrote: “At what age did your daughter start learning piano?  I think it said four years on the Quick Piano description.  Is three too young?  One of my aunts was talking to me about a book called, Better Late than Early.  Michael and Debi Pearl seem to advocate that approach as well (their children didn’t read till they were 8-10, if I correctly remember reading that).  My three-year-old LOVES learning as much as I can teach her, though, and thinks age three is a great time to start reading.  So, does the same go with piano?  She also wants to learn to type, but I do think learning to read and write first could have its benefits.” smile

    I replied,
    Yes, I’ve read all that “better late” stuff…but they didn’t have your daughter or mine as a child!!!  I finally came down to “you’ll know WHEN to do WHAT by the child’s response.”  If you have a child who shows no interest, and doesn’t respond when you feed them beginning tidbits in any area then you don’t bother going down that road, just yet.  But if you have eager beavers, trying to read cereal boxes, and street signs, then you go for it!  You could start your daughter on BOTH piano and typing programs from us, right now.  She could just learn her alphabet letters right off the keyboard, which by the way, a young child we taught did…it was amazing.  She learned the letters in her FINGERS..just multi-sensored it one more level from the get-go.

    Now here is the rub.  It is really a question of the MAMA’s fatigue level.  To teach children at very, very, young ages extracts a pound of flesh out of mama.  If you wait, you can teach the very same thing in three hours that took you three months to teach when the child was younger.  BUT, it does make the days very exciting for the child to nick away at all the topics, just inch by inch, from wee ages.  If you have an eager child, they absolutely LOVE this stuff…and beg you for Wal-Mart workbooks, etc.  Always only do a little bit, quit before they really want to, and you’ll have them lathering at the mouth to learn.  AND we DID find that the early neuro-networking patterning catapults them into success later, far beyond their years.  For example, we patterned our infant daughter everyday in ballet positions; her Dad moved the feet while I moved the arms into those positions.  When she took ballet, she was a natural, far ahead.  Same with all sorts of plant and animal flash-cards, etc.  Ten years later she pointed out an Indian paintbrush to me on a hillside—and she had never seen one since she saw me show her a picture of one on a flashcard when she was six months old.

    The opposite of Better Late…is all of the stuff out of the Better Baby Institute in Philadelphia.  But that’s a topic for another time…

    Problems of grading children (or grownups, for that matter)

    Sunday, 26. October 2008 by Renee Ellison


    How does God judge in the end?—taking into account original IQ differences, sweat factor, family upbringing, physical and mental handicaps, motivation, parameters of unique personality, circumstances, and the moral unshakable law of God.  Then we have King David, neck deep in sin, being called a man after God’s own heart because he refused self-delusion when finally confronted (almost none of us are capable of this, even WHEN confronted) and came to the right and only table for help, etc.  Whew.

    During my many years as a teacher in public and private schools, I used to have such a hard time giving out grades.  They were a nightmare for me.  Keeping a gradebook was a tyranny.  I literally had sleepless hours at night about what was and wasn’t in my gradebook, and why.  And when it WAS all in there, mechanically recorded, I later sometimes fudged—wanting to motivate rather than to clobber a student. 

    I COULD have given out grades the FIRST day of school as the children walked through the classroom door (“that is an A student, that one an F student”)—just by the way they walked and carried themselves.  It was a foul arrangement from the get-go.  How do you grade a five-year-old who can’t even find the front door of the new building, because his one room shack/home was quite a bit smaller?  Rue the day it was ever invented.  It turned school systems into labeling agencies, and industrialized institutions of straight-jacketing, where nobody fit.  “To grow” is the only thing that matters, and sometimes even that is impossible, for a child in the grip of autism or an older person in Alzheimer’s, for example.  A job for God, to be sure.

    Coping with cold weather: tips for chilly women

    Wednesday, 15. October 2008 by Renee Ellison


    Up north here, winter is coming, so batten the hatches!  When you weatherproof a home, you cover the holes.  So, too, the body!  The main place heat escapes is through the head (especially if you have a small brain) and the feet (especially if you have holes in your toes).

    The head: Wear stocking caps to sleep in, or Polar Tec hats that cover your ears.  (Warms up your dreams and blocks out all sound…add eye-patches for a total blackout.)  Wear them inside during the day, too… the stocking caps, that is, not the eye-patches.  (Warning: if someone comes to your door, they’re apt to say, “Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize that you were just leaving.”—to which you answer ?????).

    For outside daytime, think “Russian Czar hats” with fur that sticks out in front of the hat.  I used to rip this off from hats, considering it a nuisance, not knowing what it was for.  In a less aesthetic moment I discovered that the added fur moves the cold further out in front/away from the face by about two inches (one of the few splendid ideas the Russians have had).

    The feet: Wear two layers of socks: a comfortable non-itchy thin inner sock, covered with a heavier wool sock (unless, of course, you LIKE that itchy feeling).  Wear flat-heeled thin tall leather boots all the time (high heels were invented by men); this adds additional warmth UP the leg.  Or, wear ankle-high tennis shoes with thicker insulation, or any thick shoe.

    Wear socks to bed.  Fill hot water bottles and place them at the children’s feet as they go to sleep.  My mom used to sleep with a hot brick from the fireplace wrapped in a thin towel during cold Wisconsin winters.  (Heroically, you could use older, iffier, hot water bottles in your OWN bed.)

    Stay warm at night (this is a time when you don’t need to heat your entire house):  Sleep with two pillows.  Set one pillow against the wall standing wide-ways at the head of your bed, providing another thick layer of insulation against the wall.  (Move these extra pillows to the center of the bed if you’re having a marital spat and need a demilitarized zone for awhile.)  Wear long underwear for pajamas, to cover with a quick robe when the children are around.  (Forget about looking attractive at night.)  Silk long underwear can’t be beat (SierraTradingPost.com has it for about $18 for top or bottom.  For reasons mentioned below, we recommend just getting the bottoms).  And switch to flannel sheets when chilly nights have arrived!

    Create your own heat:  Become a heat combustion engine yourself.  Exercise vigorously under the covers, sing vigorously, clean house vigorously, do daily vigorous walks and callisthentics, chop wood.

    Stop the leaks in your house: Sew heavy curtains to put over your doors and windows…i.e. add shower rings to your spare thick blankets or sleeping bags and hang them over doors and windows.  This makes your house look ghastly, but it drops your heating bills HUGELY.  (Now is the time to come face to face with the fact that people always care more about how their OWN home looks, than yours.)  Insulate windows with Reflectix® Bubble Pack Foil Insulation ...it comes in large rolls at most major hardware stores, in the plumbing section.  [Email us if you’d like to read our price comparisons for this insulating film and look at pictures of the panels in place.]  Cut it into sections that you can reinforce with yardsticks stapled or taped on as handles to set them into the window at night and remove when the sun is shining.  Work with the elements, to take advantage of solar gain on sunny days; caulk around the exterior of your windows and check for leaks around doors (beef up the draft excluders if the cold air is sweeping under the door).

    Stop the leaks in your bed:  In Medieval times, people in cold climates hung thick canopy drapes around the bed (that is where the decorative frilly foo-foo thin things that warm up no one got started) and all the family members slept in one bed (that is where glee clubs got started).

    Bathroom survival:  Line your toilet seats with fur.  Bathe in large Tupperware containers, storage bins, INSIDE the tub…using the tub only to catch the splatters.  (Cold porcelain tubs COULD make you violent.)  Preheat your bathroom to 350 degrees with a small electric heater before disrobing.

    Drink hot drinks: Put warm water in a thermos before you go to bed at night, so that when you drink water during the night it isn’t like drinking ice.  (This procedure prepares you for nocturnal picnics, too.)  Be sure that it is only WARM water…test it on your wrist before putting it into the thermos.  If it’s too hot, waiting for it to cool off THOROUGHLY awakes you at a time when you’d prefer to be thoroughly asleep.  I’ve burned my tongue on HOT thermos water, before.  Makes for parched dreams afterwards, and a foul day following.

    Drink something hot first thing in the morning…tea, coffee, hot grease…  Just have hot water ready in a thermos all day long.  If you need variety for tea choices, just use drops of essential oils in hot water all throughout the day.  Forget those tea kettles that have a one inch hole and whistle; they get rusted and filthy inside, because you can’t see inside and can’t reach in to clean them properly.  (They were invented by a fastidious neurotic.)  A lid on a pan works fine; you become an expert at pouring it with no spout over time.

    Focus the heat:  We have two little portable electric RADIATOR heaters.  Where we live, they only cost about 15 cents an hour to run.  We use these in addition to (often, instead of) the furnace for the whole house.  We take this focused heat WITH us—moving it from area to area wherever we are doing our actual living.  We set the heaters under or near the dining room table when we eat, move them to the living room right by the couches when we read, etc.  In the morning I turn them on when I first get up, and drink hot tea and sit right next to them.

    Wear layers: Top of the line are down vests and cashmere sweaters (a treasured find in thrift stores).  Wearing TWO vests works wonders.  Layer one over the other.  This frees your arms to wash dishes without dipping your huge thick coat sleeves in the water.  If your torso stays warm, the rest of you will, too.  And of course, layer layers underneath that.  I have found that I don’t like long underwear on the TOP because of the moments off and on throughout the day when I occasionally warm up.  I don’t like having to take EVERYTHING off just to cool down in these sporadic hotter moments.  If I take everything off down to a regular blouse, then I’m always modest and don’t have to leave the room to change clothes entirely.  Then ten minutes later I can quickly grab the external layers and put them all back on again.

    Read and have couch time in sleeping bags up to your armholes.  (When you walk around you’ll look like inch worms.)

    Think hot thoughts—grateful thoughts.  Join sympathies with Eskimos and Siberians.  And be utterly thankful, if you’re one of the fortunate women who got to spend the MAJORITY of your earth-life in warm places.  You’ll soon forget having had to pay these dues at the low end of the thermometer for a portion of the year.  Some people have had to spend their ENTIRE lives cold.  (I’ve found this particular gratefulness test hard to pass, myself…but ‘tis a good goal to strive for in valiant moments of nobility…i.e., when the children are watching.)

    If all else fails, cave in and move to India.

    Filed Under: Home management tips

    The reason for commitment in marriage

    Tuesday, 05. August 2008 by Renee Ellison


    One must enter marriage with the single eye of loving the other one, not getting loved.  Dashed expectations ruin marriages.  This single disorientation about what marriage actually is has caused the skyrocketing divorce rate around the world.  Marriage is the last chance to grow up…to face one’s OWN ability to get outside one’s self and love lavishly and unselfishly, expecting nothing in return.

    If one hunts for joy in marriage, it will always be elusive, like trying to catch a butterfly.  But if one’s focus is on serving and loving the OTHER one, then you will find that you are surprised by it.  The butterfly will repeatedly come and sit on your arm.

    This is why commitment in marriage is so important.  Merely living with one another results in a daily rejection at a profound level.  Commitment is what enables one to have the safety to uncover one’s own selfishness and grow beyond it.  Otherwise, without a lifetime commitment, one is always plotting how to get OUT of the relationship, for every cantankerous day between the two.

    For more on this topic, order Renee’s book, Growing Marriage—and listen to Kevin Swanson’s interview of Renee on Generations Radio.

    Filed Under: Spiritual tips