Lessons Learned from My Mother

Last week, I shared with you the Lessons Learned from My Father.  While many of the lessons learned from my mother are similar, today I share with you the wisdom I have gained from her.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is, and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Bell

lessons mother


I learned to be myself.

One of the most important lessons I learned from my mom was to be true to myself. I struggled a lot through school battling with peer pressure and bullying. I was fortunate to have a mother who understood what I was going through and who really listened to me. She was always there to comfort me when I came home in tears. She was always there to pick me up when I failed.

Above all, however, she encouraged me to stand up for myself and not succumb to peer pressure.  “You are beautiful. You are loved. Don’t let their jealousy change who you are as an individual.”

I learned the fundamentals of leadership and service.

My mother was always eager to help. She was my 4H leader as well as a room mom, volunteering to help in the classroom whenever necessary (building floats for the annual Cranberry Festival, holiday parties, etc.). Through her example, I learned the value of leadership and volunteering.

Leadership capability is a pretty accurate indicator of success in an individual. Leadership skills include proactivity, responsibility, empathy, creativity, vision, and public speaking skills. As I stated last week, kids learn by osmosis.

In other words, they will copy what they see us doing. As parents, we can help nurture leadership qualities in our children by giving them opportunities to take responsibility for themselves and their pets and by encouraging them to lead discussions in small groups like book club, and to share their talents with others.

thankful mother

Connection Traditions

I learned the importance of a family meal.

Growing up, we sat down to dinner together most every evening. It was a time to come together and discuss what was happening in our lives. We discussed plans for the weekend and concerns for finances when money was tight.

Countless studies have shown the positive influence that sharing a meal together as a family has on children. Of course, when I was a child electronic devices were unheard of, but today they are a huge distraction. Consider these suggestions for connecting with one another around a meal:

  • First: no TV, no cellphones, and no tablets.
  • Begin with grace. If you’re not religious, have everyone share something that they’re grateful for that day.
  • Family news: everyone takes turns sharing something positive and negative that has happened to them during the day.
  • “Got any stories?” This is a tradition that Patrick and I have had for a few years. Each person is expected to bring something interesting to the table that they’ve read or heard during the day.

I learned the value of preparing home cooked meals. 

Every August, my brothers and I would accompany my mom to Dillard where we would spend the day picking fruits and vegetables.  We had only a small garden ourselves and the farms in Dillard provided us with the food we would need for the next year. Doesn’t sound really exciting, but we all looked forward to it.

We were always a stinky, hot mess by the time we were done. Mom always stopped at Bear Creek on the way home so we could cool off in the water. For this reason I love little side adventures and unexpected surprises when traveling.

When we got home, she would spend the next week preserving and canning the produce we brought home. It was such a joy to come home from school to see rows and rows of delicious canned peaches and spicy beans that lined the counters.

I learned the importance of holiday traditions.

Instead of setting out the Easter baskets by our bed or in the living room, my mom always created a fun hunt for them. Adding a scavenger hunt to anything turns it into an awesome, memorable tradition. I’m not sure there’s anything more fun as a kid than a scavenger hunt.

On Christmas Eve, my mother would bake our favorite dishes for a buffet style meal and invite our neighbor Mr. Cole, our grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles to our home. The following day, we would load the car and drive to her parents where we would spend the day with our extended family.  I’ve always attributed Christmas with a huge family gathering as a result.

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How about you? What lessons have you learned from your parents? What examples do you hope to provide for your children? Share in the comments. 🙂

Lessons Learned from My Father

As the mother of two children, I find myself in the position to which many of you can relate. I want to create a close-knit, fun-loving family and raise children with upstanding character.  My father recently sat down to write his will and he shared it with me and my brothers. I have thereby been giving a lot of thought to the gifts my parents have given me.

My parents have given me more than could have ever dreamed. They taught me life lessons. These next couple of weeks, I want to highlight some of the lessons my parents taught me that I believe made me who I am today. Today I begin with the lessons learned from my father.

“He didn’t tell me how to live;
he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
~Clarence Budington Kelland



I learned not to depend on a traditional job as the only means of securing the future.

It might be difficult to say this to your kids if this is what you’ve been doing all your life, but times are changing and it’s becoming increasingly clear that we must learn to adapt and find multiple streams of income, and even embrace entrepreneurship. The traditional “one job till retirement” model is not working anymore, so get out of denial fast and let your kids learn about entrepreneurship.

Growing up, my father worked as a saw filer in a local lumber mill. He made good money but to help make ends meet, he did a number of other things as well – he hunted to put food on the table, he operated a small sawmill of his own (which he built himself – as pictured here in this post) and did small jobs for people or trade good with other skilled workers (we had farm fresh raw mild for several years in exchange for firewood).

My dad was frugal. He would repair broken machinery himself and sometimes engineer his own parts for the mill or our vehicles. His ingenuity was remarkable. He even holds a patent for a breakaway top guide for a circle saw. He is indeed a Renaissance Man.

I learned how to live within my means.

Stop buying things you don’t need and accumulating stuff. Kids learn by osmosis. In other words, they will copy what they see us doing. As parents, we need to show them what smart buying is all about.

My dad had a budget and always stayed within it. There was little wiggle room. Your budget can include calculated indulgences, of course, but the point here is you can’t teach good personal finance if you don’t at least try to practice it yourself.

I learned the process of earning and losing money.

Growing up, there were periods when my dad was unemployed.  The mill would shut down due to environmental pressure. We didn’t earn an allowance. Instead, my dad encouraged us to work for money.  He also hired us kids to do tasks around the house and mill – painting signs, digging post holes, shoveling sawdust, etc.

I also learned that making money is not always associated with exchanging time for money but associated with creativity. We learned to leverage our skills to create something of value. Instead of the usual lemonade stand, my brothers and I sold crafts on the roadside.

My youngest brother was really into things with engines.  When he was about 8 years old, he saved up his chore money and purchased a used go cart.  He made repairs and improvements and later traded that go cart for a 3-wheeled ATV. This trend continues to this day and he is now a successful small business owner of an auto restoration business in Eugene that specializes in classic cars.

my father

Connection Traditions

Traditions offer numerous benefits: they strengthen your family’s bonds, enrich the life you share together, contribute to your children’s well-being, and create lasting memories.  Connection Traditions are the small things you do every day, monthly, or even annually to reinforce family identity and values.

I learned the importance of a bedtime story.

Children who have parents that read to them regularly typically do better in school and have larger vocabularies than children who don’t. Reading with your child will not only make them smarter, but it’s a great way to bond. There’s something really comforting about hearing your dad read aloud to you.

More often than not, however, my dad would share stories of his youth. “Tell us about when you were a kid, Dad!” is to this day a common request. My dad is an incredible story teller. He keeps us enraptured with his tales of boyhood adventure – even the tales we’ve heard time and again.

I learned the importance of a special Saturday/Sunday morning breakfast.

Lots of families have special Saturday/Sunday morning breakfast traditions. For some it’s pancakes or cinnamon rolls, for others it’s a giant breakfast casserole. Dads and breakfasts just go together, so work on coming up with your own specialty. Breakfast need not be a solely in-home tradition, however.

I still lived at home when I was in junior college but my dad was working in Eastern Oregon. He was thereby home only on the weekends and he thereby got to taking my brothers and I out for breakfast each Sunday. When I later transferred to Oregon State University, I wasn’t able to come home as often. He then started meeting me for lunch in the Quad each Monday.  I have such fond memories of those meals.

I learned the joy of the annual camping trip.

We went camping every year in Central Oregon. It was where my dad had grown up and he thereby had many fond memories of the open Ponderosa Pine woodlands and the river running through town.  One summer, we even drove to Yellowstone National Park – a trip that I will never forget.

Inspire a love of the great outdoors in your kids by taking them camping at least once a year. If you find a campsite you love, return to it again and again as you build special memories around that place.

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Are there family traditions that you cherish? What skills or values did your father impart? Share in the comments and join me next week when I share the lessons I have learned from my mother.

Top Pinterest Boards to Explore Cultural Heritage

What does the word heritage mean to you?  In can mean different things to different people.  Essentially, heritage can refer to anything inherited from the past.

In my mind, heritage is our ancestral culture. Our connection to our ancestors and our past. The traditions that are passed down with each generation.  The language of our great grandparents and our distant relatives today.

cultural heritage boardsToday, I would like to step away from my usual focus on science to share with you some of my favorite Pinterest Boards for exploring cultural heritage.  Amongst these diverse boards, it is my hope that you will find activities, lesson plans, and a wealth of resources to help bring your own ancestry to life.


Family History & Genealogy


American Culture


Faith Culture


Global Culture


Military Culture

How About You?

Do you have a culture, family history, or heritage board you would like to share?  Please read the guidelines here and then link up below.

  • Link up to 3 Pinterest boards. Make sure you use the exact URL to the board, not to your profile or index page. You can add any board sharing activities, lesson plans, and resources to explore cultural heritage. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  • Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  • The linky will be live for one week (closing Thursday, July 24th at 6:00 EST).

Family Meetings: Encouraging Healthy Lives

Creating family traditions encourages strong roots and a healthy life. This takes time and practice. Traditions are sacred because they promote exchanges that strengthen bonds of love and intimacy and build the kind of confidence that will carry your child through this world.  One of the most beneficial traditions that we have established are family meetings.

We have been implementing family meetings for many years.  We started when the kids were little and though our agenda has evolved, we have always assured that everyone gets a chance to speak and share his or her opinions.

family meetings

Family Goals & Core Values

My husband is a hospital administrator … thus, it is not surprising that one of the first things we did when we implemented family meetings was to create a family goal statement and list of core values. I share ours with you here – but you will certainly want to develop your own.


We are committed to being happy and enjoying a more simplified life; and agree to hold each other and ourselves accountable to attitudes and behaviors that support those outcomes.


In our family, we value the following:

Caring/Compassion: We care deeply for our family members and friends, our pets too. Love, caring, and kindness are important to us.

Having Fun (including music, art, self-expression): Laughter and smiling, sharing good times, are part of our family life and are essential components of our humanity.

Our family practices its values in the following ways:

Caring/Compassion: Cooperating, helping, being supportive, listening respectfully, and having good manners are all ways that we show that we care.

Having Fun Playing games and spending time together in and outside of the home, swimming, and adventuring are some of the many ways we have fun.

Meeting Agenda

We meet on a regular, monthly basis and utilize an agenda.  If you have ever attended a formal business meeting – you have an idea of how these work.  I love it because it assures we cover all topics and helps us to stay on task.  The kids love it because they are treated like adults.  My husband and I both play the role of Secretary – taking notes and listing action items for future reference.

We open each family meeting with an inspirational quote.  We then go around the table and discuss the meaning of the quote and how it is applicable to our lives.  In 2014, we will begin to reflect on the meaning of these quotes in more depth.  The kids will be asked to write an essay each month sharing what it means to them.

  1. Values Observed
  2. Review action items from last family meeting
  3. What things went well in our family this month?
  4.  What things could we improve in our family?
  5. What things will you commit to working on this coming month?
  6. Committee Reports (Vacation Plans, Education, Curriculum Needs-Upcoming Opportunities, & Finances)
  7. New Business – As noted on white board
  8. Adjourn

We engage the kids in discussions about finances and budgeting.  They are asked to contribute to our decisions about vacations and educational opportunities.  For example, the kids have expressed interest in attending both Fish Camp and Heritage Camp this summer.  We thereby discuss the cost of attending as well as logistical issues including conflicts with swim meets and family events.  Because the kids have all the information and are a part of the discussion, they take ownership in the decisions that are made.

Additionally, the kids are expected to earn their own monies. I’ll be sharing more about this in a future post – but essentially, the money they earn is used to buy gifts for their friends (if invited to a birthday party) or to purchase things they want.

Family Five Share

In addition to our regular family meetings, we have also implemented what we call Family Share Five whereby the kids are asked to give a formal presentation of what they have been learning in homeschool.  They are expected to share examples in at least five areas (Reading, Writing, Handcraft, Music, and Memory Work).   Not only is their dad more aware now of what we are learning – but he also provides feedback for ways they can improve their public speaking.

Does your family have regular family meetings?  Tell us how about your style and approach to family meetings in a comment below. 🙂

Are We Too Busy?

I have come to believe that my generation is just too busy.  Our children are rushed from one activity to another with hardly the time to breathe between.  Some time ago, I came across a post or link on Facebook (I honestly can not recall) that discussed the glorification of busy. I wish I could find that post now, but The ‘Busy’ Trap is another great article that touches on the same topic.  Ooohh .. the words in these posts hit me like a ton of bricks.  It feels like everywhere someone is ‘bragging’ about how busy they are .. rattling off their to-do list with pride.  I admit, I have been guilty of this myself but I have made a conscious effort to combat this tendancy.

When I’ve encouraged friends to join the Sons of Norway lodge or invited them to join us on our Roots & Shoots outings, the common response is we are just too busy.  When I have tried to make plans with family to get together for holidays or even just because, there is always something else that keeps them away (if they have kids, it is frequently sports or school).

When did busy become synonymous with value?  Are we too busy to connect with others and to make a commitment to community and family?  I fear we have lost our balance.

are we too busyAvoiding commitment

Most Sons of Norway lodges celebrate the holiday season with an annual Jultrefest. This past weekend, my family and I drove to Central Oregon to visit friends and to attend Fjeldheim Lodge’s annual dinner.  So many people wish to attend the dinner at Fjeldheim that for the past several years, they serve three consecutive dinners (80+ people each night) – complete with a Santa Lucia procession, singing of carols in Norwegian and English, recitals by the children, and a visit from Santa.  It is a beautiful evening and a highlight of our holiday season.  It is no wonder that so many people attend.

The weekend prior, we attended our local lodge Jultrefest.  Though only one night, there were over 90 people attending.  While these numbers may seem impressive, the lodge officers like myself know that it gives a false sense of involvement.  Look around the room and the faces are essentially strangers.  As children or grandchildren of members, this is the only lodge event they attend all year.   They do not see the value in joining the lodge themselves or they simply do not want to commit. It saddens me because the lodge is a wonderful place to connect generations – for the elders to share their knowledge and skills with our youth.  Yet lodges are closing all over the country as their memberships dwindle.

Are we too busy to commit?

Courtesies forgotten

The simple act of writing a thank you note is also a dying art.  I know I stereotype here – but it seems to me that few people in my generation take the time to write notes of gratitude and thereby teach their own children this grace.  We have attended many birthday parties over the years and have received a note of appreciation from the child only rarely.  When one was received – would you be surprised to know that it was a homeschool child? I’ve spoken with other adults ~ members of the lodge, my own parents, and in-laws ~ and they confirm they seldom receive thank you notes, even from their own grandchildren.

Are we too busy to express our appreciation?

I plan numerous enrichment opportunities for local homeschool families – art shows, living history presentations, science fairs, and nature walks.  In an effort to plan ahead and make the events as memorable as possible (I love to create buttons, clever programs, and certificates for the kids), I ask that the families RSVP at least two weeks in advance.  I receive so few that I have in fact cancelled events thinking no one was interested – only to receive a wave of calls lamenting my decision and begging me to reconsider.  There have even been times when my kids and  I show up only to discover we are the only ones.  This is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to the kids.

On the other hand, I have also been surprised by guests arriving when I was quite unprepared.  At a lodge dinner recently, a family I wasn’t expecting showed up, late no less.  In addition, it wasn’t the mother and son who came, but the father who I had previously never met (the mother arrived an hour or so later).  I was so thrown off, I didn’t know how to react.  As a result, my husband (who due to a work obligation was expected to arrive after dinner) was not able to sit with us when he arrived a short time later.

Technology today makes staying in contact with others so easy.  Why then is it so difficult to respond to invitations in a timely manner?  Are we too busy?

Are We Too Busy?Reaching out

Each year, our local lodge takes part in an annual multicultural faire at the local mall.  The event is coordinated by the county Sheriff’s office with booths throughout the mall representing the many cultural groups and organizations in the community as well as a stage for entertainers (dancers, musicians, and martial arts demonstrations). My daughter stayed with me at the faire all day – from 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.   My son volunteered from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  He went home with his father after the grand march.  On our drive home later that evening, I asked my daughter why she chose to stay with me.  Her reply was, “I wanted to stay because I wanted other kids to see that kids are part of Sons of Norway, too.  I thought that if they saw me having fun they would want to join, too.”

I love that she is so dedicated and so aware at such a young age, yet it saddens me.  How can we encourage today’s youth to get involved?  How can we show them the value of reaching out and connecting with others?

Are we too busy to get involved?

When we first moved to California, my son made repeated efforts to maintain a relationship with a boy he perceived to be a close friend.  He wrote letters, sent postcards, and even mailed a gift in a clever package.  Sadly, he never received a reply in acknowledgment. In time, he lost interest in writing knowing that his extension of friendship was not reciprocated.  Relatedly, we mail over 100 Christmas cards every year to friends and family.  We receive less than 20.

Are we too busy to reach out to others in friendship?

Growing apart

When I was growing up, I remember fondly family gatherings for birthdays, holidays, and any reason just to spend time with one another.  In the summer, we had annual family reunions whereby we got to meet and get to know the families of my parents’ cousins – our extended family.  My mother has 6 siblings and I thereby have many cousins .. most of whom now have children of their own.  Christmas and Thanksgiving were huge … my grandmother’s house was literally overflowing with loved ones.  My husband has similar stories to share of gatherings and traditions.

Today, the only contact I have with most of my cousins is on Facebook.  Reunions are rare and poorly attended – for many, as jobs take us away from the communities in which we grew up, it is just too far to travel.  Holiday gatherings with my parents and my brothers are short – we typically can find only a short window to meet for a meal at a restaurant; thereby there is little feeling of warmth and comfort.  This is due in part to distance – I live 6 hours away from my siblings.  Partly, due to circumstance – my parents divorced shortly before the birth of my eldest and we thereby haven’t really grown accustomed to the change.

I could write an entire post on this issue alone but much is personal.  I feel though that we have lost not only our sense of cultural identity and community, but also our sense of family.  I feel lonely.  I miss the closeness we had as a family growing up.  I miss gatherings with family to share in our successes and celebrate the children’s milestones. I miss my family.

Are we too busy to stay connected with friends and family?

What is important is balance

I realize that finding balance is difficult.  I certainly don’t have all the answers.  As a homeschool mom, we have to juggle our activities and make occasional accommodations in our schedule.  I make service learning and volunteering a major part of our curriculum.  When opportunities present themselves, we talk things over as a family and weigh our options. We have made sacrifices, passing on swim meets and formal lessons to connect with family and friends. As we strive for balance, I will keep reaching out but I can not do it alone.


Our Summer Bucket List for 2013

As summer is now upon us, many of our friends have been asking to our plans for the coming months.  While they have plans to visit family, to go camping, or embark on a family vacation, we tend to stick closer to home.  Surprised?  Our summer is packed with activities as usual but 2013 seems to be a summer of fun close to home and I am grateful. So without further ado, I present our 2013 Summer Bucket List.

summer bucket listCounty Fair

Our summer was kicked off with activity right away with the county fair that took place in early June.  We had set aside projects throughout the year specifically for fair and others (namely our Junior Feature Booth) required planning and a group effort.  Our Barnesklubb worked hard to put together a booth that communicated our numerous activities over the course of the year and we were delighted to learn we had been awarded a blue ribbon.

Summer Nature Studies

We will continue to join our Roots & Shoots club for monthly outings as well as enjoy observing, sketching, painting, or researching topics of interest as they come up. We follow along with Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenges, but allow our own interests and discoveries to lead us as well.


We go camping every year for Independence Day.  We have a blast and take part in a variety of activities while there – white water rafting, making s’mores (who doesn’t make s’mores when camping?), frisbee golf, fireworks, fishing, and even gold panning.  My goal for 2013 is to go more often – even someplace local.  I’m aiming for Mt. Lassen as it is relatively close and we have yet to truly explore this area well.

Play Flashlight Tag

I saw this on Colleen’s list (@ Raising Lifelong Learners) and couldn’t resist adding it to our own.  I haven’t played flashlight tag since childhood myself – I need to introduce my kiddos to this fun game.  They would love it!

Lake Days

When we first moved to Northern California (Aug 2011), we were at the lake every week.  This was in part due to the fact that someone in our local homeschool community planned this outing regularly. However, we soon came to realize that we were frequently the only homeschool family there. Though our intent to meet other homeschool families wasn’t fulfilled, we had a fabulous time.  The following summer our lives got busy with scheduled activities and we spent less time at the lake.  We really missed this so this year I vow to return to a weekly lake day.

National Moth Week

Between July 20 and July 28, in backyards, woods, and fields around the world, citizen scientists will be setting up white sheets and lights for the second annual National Moth Week.   This global science project began a year ago to encourage the public to observe and document one of nature’s most diverse creatures. We’ll be joining in this year for the first time and are excited to take part.

kayak tourMoonlight Kayak Tour

A moonlight kayak tour is available for free – though reservations are required two weeks in advance. As expected, spots fill very quickly. We were never quite able to make this happen last year, I’m hoping 2013 will bring us luck.

Junior Olympics

Each year, USA Swimming establishes time standards, or cuts for each of its major meets; designed to encourage age group swimmers to step their swimming up to the next level. We swim year round and thus both of the kids have been aiming for a time standard that will enable them to swim in the Junior Olympics.  At our first summer meet in May, both kids achieved a JO Cut in several events.  The JO meet takes place in July so you can be assured we’ll be spending a lot of time at the pool.

Oregon Loop

Since we moved, the kids and I have also made it a tradition to make a loop through Oregon to visit friends and family while DH enjoys some boy time on an extended motorcycle trip.  Though our swim meet schedule puts a little pinch on our schedule, we plan to continue this tradition this summer as well.  We’ll pack in as many activities en route as time allows – tide pooling, letterboxing, berry picking, hiking, beach combing, etc.


We love letterboxing and regularly incorporate it into our nature outings and hikes.  If you are not familiar with this past time, I encourage you to read the post I wrote for Curriculum Choice a few years ago, Creativity & Nature Study. We have found 114 letterboxes to date .. our goal by summers end is to up that to 125.  We’d also hoped to take part in a letterbox gathering, but thus far I haven’t seen one planned for the local area.  Perhaps I need to coordinate one?  Hmmmmm

What are your plans for the summer?  What activities do you enjoy with your family?   Do you have a Summer Bucket List?  Join me and link up at iHomeschool Network.