Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Memory Lane on Beth's Birthday

Yesterday was my sister Beth's birthday. She and I have a rather large age gap between us, so as I was growing up she was mostly out of the house. However, because of that I remember the times we had together so much more clearly. They were special and have been burned into my memory.


So here goes. Memories for Beth ...

- "hundreds" of bottles of nail polish lined up on your bedroom shelf in the basement.
- The "puddle" I found when I went to wake you one morning. Our basement had flooded. :)
- Hours and hours of swimming together in Hawaii.
- Hearing the news that you were engaged to Steve. It was just after a violin concert of mine.
- Coloring with you. You were always the best colorer!
- You teaching me to drive at the UCONN campus. I think I was only 13! (And scared to death!)
- You and Tim coming back all sweaty from long runs together.
- You suntanning on the top of the roof.
- Playing tennis.
- The dinner cruise in Hawaii.

- Your short military haircut.
- Bragging to my friends that I had a sister in the ARMY!!
- The rainbow balloon you got for your graduation. And how badly I wanted to keep that balloon!

- The night you taught me how to shuffle by making a rainbow with the cards.
- Your orange room - complete with orange record player.
- Visiting you in NY and hiking with you, Mom and Shawn.

- Your latest visit to our house and the sweet hours of conversation.
- Feeling so grown up at your wedding in my pink gown.
- The little white Gund bear that you gave me from Korea. Mercer was my favorite bear all the way through high school.
- Getting letters from you when you were away.
- Christmas mornings.
- Meeting Shawn for the first time. I remember wearing a mask because I had been sick. But I also remember being amazed that you had a child!
- Snuggling with you.

- Your rock hard muscles once you joined the army!
- Going with Christy and David to visit you in MO. And what a great hostess you were!
- Eating fresh pineapple at your house on our first morning in Hawaii.
- Great fear that you and Steve could possibly be deployed to Desert Storm in Iraq.
- And great thankfulness that you weren't!
- Abby holding your hand at Sea World.

- Hearing you laugh in the back seat of the van as you took silly pictures with the kids. :)
- And many, many more ....

Beth, you are a tremendous blessing in my life! I'm thankful for you every single day. I love you and look forward to many more years of precious memories.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Craziness!

It's been quite awhile since I last blogged. After blogging every day during the month of November, December hit and I found I was suffering from blogger burnout. I'm finally beginning to feel a desire to return though.

As difficult as it was to blog daily, I can say that it really helped me to see the delightful and teachable moments in each day. That's what I've been missing lately. Those moments are still happening, but I'm not taking the time to notice them.

So, what have I been up to? You guessed it ... Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! Cards, shopping, wrapping, sending packages, parties, cleaning, baking, planning.

I think I'm about done though. Hooray for me! Shopping is definitely done. I may yet pick up a pack of silly bandz for one child's stocking because I recently learned that he LOVES them and actually wears them all day ... EVERY DAY. However, aside from that, I'm done shopping.

I've started the baking, so I'm not very concerned about that. I have a bit more to do and a few plates of cookies to hand out to neighbors and the garbage and mail men. And in terms of food, I've ordered our Christmas roast.

My cards are all done and now I can just sit back and revel in the joy of receiving cards in the mail each day. Did I mention that getting cards is one of my favorite things about the Christmas season?

We've been working on Christmas carols with the kids and I'm really enjoying playing the violin on Sundays. In fact, this Sunday is our special Christmas service and we have some really awesome music planned. I can't wait!

What else ... cleaning will never end. But that doesn't change with the Christmas season. And we've had our last Christmas party.

All that remains is to revel in the joy and peace of Christmas. This year I'm determined to really center my thoughts and studies on the cross. Typically we think of Christmas and focus on baby Jesus. Rightly so, but as in this picture I recently found, the manger was shadowed by the cross.



The cross was his focus, his goal. I cannot consider the Christmas season complete without also bending my own knee at the cross. Stopping for a long, honest look at what Jesus did for me. Starting with coming as a baby, journeying to the cross, and ending triumphantly by conquering the grave. Hallelujah!

Amidst your own Christmas chaos, don't forget to take time to really reflect on the true reason we celebrate. It's worth so much more than all the other trappings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Birthday Tribute

It's my brother's birthday today. Which means that I'm thinking of him a lot and enjoying some reminiscing too. We've had some good times. :) So, here's to you, big brother. Happy Birthday!

I remember ...
- sledding. I always felt safe on our big hill with you nearby.
- wearing your old tshirts to bed. I used to dance around my bedroom as I listened to the record player, clad in one of your old shirts that went at least to my knees.
- watching you put on all your hockey gear.
- Boris the snake. Lots of memories of him. Like the time you brought him in for show and tell, the guests who never failed to look scared when Boris was brought out after dinner, watching with fascination as he ate little white mice.
- laughing as kids at Lakeside tried to guess your age. :)
- meeting your sweet wife, Sarah, and being filled with joy as I saw how happy you were on your wedding day.
- visiting you in Tempe, Arizona.
- going to the Peter Pan show with you in Tempe.
- the Grand Canyon
- you heading off to Nana and Papa's for "second dinner".
- You and Beth coming back from long runs.
- Watching you eat cold pizza. Yuck. And cold Ravioli out of the can.
- Measuring your forearm and my thigh and finding they were about the same size!
- asking for advice on how to witness to my friends
- thinking how cool it was to have the waterfront director as my brother.
- thinking how UNcool it was that said brother made me do much more than others for my swim test each year.
- Clam digging in PEI.
- tremendous thankfulness for your renewed health.
- playing Pitch. Somehow you always seem to win. Even going so far as to get a 4 bagger with 10 high!
- You teaching me how to play 52 card pick up just after I turned 5.
- Me crying until you had to pick up those 52 cards.
- Playing pool with you in the basement of the M's house.
- seeing you with your head all wrapped up after your bike accident.
- you taking me to McDonalds for milkshakes just after my blood drawing for Lyme Disease.
- watching you play with our young relatives in Sweden.
- your motorcycles.
- your visit to my concert on our band trip to Philly.
- the way you used to trick misbehaving boaters by saying you couldn't see well when in fact you had perfect vision.
- picking rocks.
- seeing you play with my children.
- youth group and playing "eat that food".
- your sense of humor and how frequently you have tricked your gullible sisters.
- and of course, indian sunburns!

I love you, Tim! Here's to many more years of memories.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blog Survival!!

I did it!!!

I set out on November 1st to blog every day for an entire month. To help motivate me, I registered with NaBloPoMo. It's really not about the prizes for me, but rather was a genuine test to see if I could even possibly do something like this.

And today I can say that I have officially blogged each day! Not always exciting or wonderful posts, but something each day.

Will I do it again? Perhaps. Do I plan to blog every day for the rest of the year? No. But I have learned something from this experience.

It has helped me to look at the noteworthy happenings in each day. To view circumstances and events in a new light. And, it's taught me that I can persevere and even have the self control to do something daily.

So, what's next? Well, I'll continue to blog as I have things to say. But I'm thinking that next up is the goal of exercising daily for a month. Tomorrow is December 1st. I can surely exercise each day for one month. Although I will give myself a bye on December 25th since it's not only Christmas but also my birthday. A double reason to take that day off. So here I go. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Monday, November 29, 2010

You say potato...

After driving for hours and hours in the pouring rain and the dark, my brain is pretty much mush tonight. However, we're home safe and sound and I must say I am so very thankful that the temperature stayed above freezing so we drove only through rain and not ice.

However, because of said brain mushiness, I'm doing a simpler blog post tonight. NaBloPoMo ends tomorrow and I'm not about to blow it on one night of exhaustion!

When we travel we love to have good recommendations for hotels. We've done much traveling over the years - almost all of it with kids - and have had some great experiences. And some really terrible ones.

I'm pleased to say that this weekend was one of those great hotel experiences. We stayed at the Drury Inn and found their service to be excellent. The rooms were clean and comfortable. The bed was nice to sleep in. But more importantly, the food was great! They provide a complimentary hot breakfast just like many other hotels. But what sets the Drury apart is that they offer a complimentary "dinner" buffet and free adult beverages. Plus they have soda, coffee/tea, and popcorn available at all times. The dinner was a buffet of mac and cheese, hot dogs, chicken strips (which were delicious!), minestrone soup, salad and a plethera of chips. I haven't yet been in another hotel that offers this service and for a tired family that is trying to live on a budget, this was a huge bonus for us.

Two other hotel chains we've always been happy with are the Courtyard Marriott and the Hampton Inn. Either of those is a good choice for traveling families and both have nice suites like the Drury that allow enough space for six people.

I do have to give two big thumbs down to the Hyatt. I stayed in one this fall and was so disappointed. They have a beautiful facility and very comfortable rooms, but you pay out the nose for it and don't even get breakfast! The amount of money spent on a room at a Hyatt is too daunting for most families and with no family friendly amenities (except a pool) it's really not worth it. Oh, and the valet service for your car is downright terrible. Park on your own for sure!

Just my two cents worth. Hope it helps you on your next trip. Feel free to leave your comments on favorite hotels. We're always looking for good places to stay on our travels.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

St. Louis

We're out of town this weekend, so I'll keep this short.

We have come to the fair city of St. Louis because Josh was asked to preach at our former church. It is the church we attended for three years while in seminary. It's where all four of our children were dedicated, where Josh interned, where we made friends, did ministry and were ministered to.

Today, we were greeted by many old friends. Several we have kept in touch with through Christmas cards, emails and even visits. It was such a blessing to be back at our old stomping grounds and for Josh to preach a powerful sermon to people we love and care about.

We've also had the opportunity to hit a few of our favorite restaurants for meals. Last night we went to a great little place called Fitz's. It's right in the college area of town and has it's own soda brewery. They make excellent root beer and have great hamburgers too. Today, we headed to another favorite - Stir Crazy. It's a stir fry restaurant and we have always loved eating there. Of course, the best part of our meals was the fellowship with good friends.

Last week a study came out saying that St. Louis has the highest crime rate in the U.S. Don't be fooled into missing this gem of a city though! St. Louis also has lots of free family activities, many beautiful parks and lots of culture. It's definitely worth the trip.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Standing Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding

As promised, here is our traditional Christmas meal:
Standing Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding.

(pic from recipesfinder.com)

I grew up eating this meal every year on Christmas day and I now carry on the tradition with my own family. Oh my, it's wonderful!! Just thinking about it is setting my mouth to watering. I will warn you that a rib roast is expensive, but for once a year, it's sooooo worth it!

You'll need:
a 1-4 lb standing beef rib roast (with bones)
4 eggs
2 cups of milk
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour

(You may want to purchase this beef cut from an actual butcher. However, if you request it ahead of time, your grocery store can get it for you too. It's always best to request it in advance and then pick it up a day or two before you plan to cook it. These roasts sell quickly around the holidays.)

Place meat, fat side up, in a roasting pan.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Bake roast uncovered in oven at 325 for 3 hours.
Remove meat from pan; cover with foil to keep warm.

Pour 2T of pan drippings from roast into each of two 8X2 inch baking pans. Set aside.
Set oven to 400 degrees.
Beat eggs on low speed for 1/2 minute. Add milk; beat 15 seconds.
Add flour and salt; beat 2 minutes or until smooth.
Pour batter over drippings in pans.
Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve. Serve immediately with roast.

Makes 8 servings of pudding.

This is such a very rich meal, but goes so well with mashed potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce, applesauce and all the other holiday favorites. Enjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas is Coming, The Goose is Getting Fat ...

Today begins Christmas season at our house. We'll head out soon to chop down our Christmas tree and then will spend the day listening to Christmas music as we decorate the tree and house. I love this day. And even though we'll be out of town for the rest of the weekend, we just had to fit in our annual tree day today.

In honor of the day, I've answered several questions about the holidays. Happy Christmas season!!


1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Both! Egg Nog on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. Hot Chocolate every day. And coffee is the favorite. Not just any coffee: Caribou Decaf. Ahh, my body relaxes just thinking about it!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa doesn't come to our house. It's not that we've ever really told the kids he's not real, we just don't talk about him. So, they know that all gifts come from us or other family members. And, all are wrapped! We sort of pretend stockings come from Santa, but the kids know that although Santa is fun to pretend about, he's not real. We really just don't mention him and they are none the worse for it.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I have a dream of putting up beautiful white lights outside, but it rarely happens. We often string up one tree, but this year we are even lazier and don't want to go out in the cold to do it. In the house we use color. You just can't get any better than sitting in a dark room with soft Christmas music in the background, and gazing at the beautiful colored lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Umm, yeah. Any reason to kiss my man is a good reason. :)

5. When do you put your decorations up? ALWAYS the day after Thanksgiving. Gotta get the benefit of the whole season!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Besides cookies? I'd have to say our traditional meal of standing rib roast and yorkshire pudding. See tomorrow's post for the recipe.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? Seriously doubt it's possible to pick one. Could be the Big Wheel when I was four, or my first Cabbage Patch Kid, or having family around, or seeing my kids' excitement, or taking communion at the stroke of midnight on Christmas morning. Choose one ... any of those will do.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? When I saw a price sticker left on a toy in my stocking. Santa has elves. He doesn't need to shop.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? As a kid I did. And my kids do now. But as an adult I like to save all my gifts for the big day.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? With lights, sometimes ribbon, lots of old, cherished ornaments, new ornaments for each child each year, and of course a tree skirt.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Mostly love it. Just hate shovelling it. I'll forever be indebted to the person who can convince my husband to buy a snowblower. I think we're the only family in Wisconsin without one.

12. Can you ice skate? You'd think so. But after years of lessons, I'm still about as good as my husband was on his first try.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I'm not sure that I could choose a favorite.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Celebrating and worshiping Jesus Christ.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Ha! I'd have to say birthday cake since that's the only dessert I've ever had on Christmas. Christmas is my birthday.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Every single one of them. We have them as traditions because we love them. If I had to pick one ... reading the Christmas story from Luke before opening gifts.

17. What tops your tree? A crown of thorns. To remind us that Christmas is about Jesus - who came as a baby, but didn't stay a baby. He came to die on the cross for our sins. Remembering that needs to be a central part of celebrating Christmas.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Absolutely giving. That's why I love having my birthday on Christmas. I get to give gifts, not just receive.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I could never, ever choose. I love just about every single one of them!

20. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum? Definitely yum. Especially as an after meal mint.

21 Favorite Christmas Show? Cartoon: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Oldie: Miracle on 34th Street. Fun: A Christmas Story. Newer: Elf or the Santa Clause.

22. Saddest Christmas Song? Lyrics: Mary Did You Know? Melody: Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming (although I love this song).


These questions were all borrowed from Missy at It's Almost Naptime (http://itsalmostnaptime.blogspot.com ) Check it out. The answers are mine, but feel free to copy the questions and make up your own answers. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Day of Thanks

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good ...

Giving thanks today for:
- Salvation by grace through faith
- A warm house
- Turkey sandwiches
- Four beautiful, healthy and amazing children
- A husband who encourages me to flourish
- A supportive and loving church family
- Remembrances of God's grace in my life
- Family members sought out by God this year
- Restored relationships
- A healthy marriage
- Joy in the hard times
- The Bible
- Laughter
- Seasons
- The mix of chocolate and peanut butter
- Friends far and near
- Light at the switch of a button
- Sweatshirts
- The ability to homeschool
- Knowledge
- Wisdom
- Discernment
- Rocking chairs
- Children who cuddle
- Indoor Plumbing
- Telephones and computers for keeping in touch
- And again, I come back to grace.

God's abundant blessing has yet again been poured out in my life this year. I don't deserve a bit of it, but through his unmerited favor I am blessed beyond measure. What a gracious and loving God I serve!!

Happy Thanksgiving. Remember to give thanks to the One who made you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Teachable Moments

I love teachable moments with the kids. And I love that I learn so much during those teachable moments. We've had two in the last 12 hours that have especially struck me.

Last night I read the Princess and the Kiss to my kids for the first time. You can find a link to it in this post. Honestly, this book is so contrary to what I grew up thinking and doing, and yet it's so very much what I want for my own kids.

We had a great discussion after reading the book. As we all huddled together on the couch, we talked about how special it is that God has given us the gift of a first kiss and how important it is for us to be choosy about saving it for our mate.

The boys picked up on the part where the young farmer comes and asks permission to talk with the princess. I hope that I planted good seeds in them as we talked about the need to respect not only the princess, but also her parents by asking first before talking with the princess. And especially before asking her to marry.

Abby wondered where her kiss was. In the book it's depicted as a beautiful treasure. As I pointed to her lips, she shyly smiled and said, "Oh. I know about that kiss." And so we talked about her saving that kiss for just one man.

We talked about how easy it is to give your heart away and how important it is to guard it. And we thought about how special it is to give a really treasured gift to someone. But how that gift loses value for the recipeint if it's also been given to many others. I'm excited to continue using this teaching tool with the kids.

This morning, Josh started devotions by telling the kids our newest roof news. We've been saving for quite some time and had enough to get it done and then found out that the quote we were given didn't include labor. So, back to saving.

Josh posed the question to the kids, "Should we be worried that we can't get the roof done before winter?" In unison, the kids answered, "No. God will take care of us!"

Oh, how that warmed my heart! But, such a pat answer was not enough for Josh. He wanted to find out how they knew that God would provide. He asked the kids for evidence from the Bible.

They cited stories such as when Jesus fed the 5,000, Jesus calming the sea during the big storm, Jesus healing the leper. We talked of how God clothes the lillies and provides for the birds and yet loves us even more than these. We discussed Jesus' words about the wise man who builds his house on the rock, and the difference between the wise man and foolish man's houses.

And we talked about how important it is to be faithful with what God gives. How the Bible says we should not be indebted to any man and so instead of borrowing money for the roof, it would be better for us to wait until God provides the funds for us to fix it.

And God has provided. He has provided loving friends from the church who know how to do roofs and are willing to help us out. We have enough saved for the materials, so first thing in the spring, we'll get the roof done. God cares. God provides.

And as my son said, God's big enough that if he wants to, he could even keep the rain and snow from hitting our roof. :) True, very true.

So as for me and my family, we will trust the Lord.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Evening Pick-Me-Up

Tonight I'm reliving some of the funny things my kids have said. These particular quotes never fail to bring smiles to my face and warm fuzzies to my heart. :)

"Hey Mom! It's Mickey Mouse on the Disease Channel!"

After a hamburger was dropped on the floor just before serving dinner, my two year old looked around, decided that Mom was the only family member missing from the room and said, "That's Mom's piece". Shocking!

While learning a verse about bearing with one another in love, we asked my daughter how she could bear with her brothers in love. She answered this way: "Well, I guess I'd go out in the backyard ... and dig a hole ..." She heard "bury" her brothers, not "bear with" her brothers!

After asking my son to try using the potty for what seemed the hundredth time on our first day of training, he looked at me with big, sad eyes and said, "No, Mommy. You break heart!" The poor child was just so tired of the potty that I was breaking his heart. Oh, how that pierced mine!

"Look out below!!!" One of the many things our youngest has shouted while using the potty. It's always an experience for the family when he heads to the toilet!

"The Lord is my Shepherd. He makes me lie down in Green Bay pastures."

"The Lord is my Sheperd. He makes me lie down in green pastures. Hey, Grandpa lives in green pastures!" (Grandpa lives in Green Bay, he's not yet out to pasture!)

One day we mentioned having a vague memory. My son asked what vague meant and I said "fuzzy". He thought about that and then declared, "Oh! I have vague arms!" He does have very hairy (fuzzy) arms. :)

"Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies. Asses, asses, they all fall down!"

As one child played with his favorite bear, I heard him say, "Bear, let's go ask that old man over there." They left the couch and walked to the table where "Old Man" Dad was sitting. That was a blow to Dad's ego!


Ah, yes. Kid speak has got to be one of my favorite things in the world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Best Chicken Noodle Soup. Ever.


(photo credit: bettycrocker.com)

I love this Chicken Noodle Soup recipe. I'm going to give unmeasured directions because I think it's so much better when you make it how you want it. And it's the kind of soup where you can dump in whatever you want. Enjoy!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Shredded Chicken (turkey works well too)
A pot full of chicken broth (some water is okay, but the less water the better)
Chopped Carrots
Chopped Celery
Frozen Peas
Egg or Rotini Noodles
(Anything else you want to dump. Frozen corn works really well.)
Italian Spices. If you want to be more precise, use a bay leaf and fish it out at the end.

In the pot combine the noodles, chicken, spices, broth and all but the frozen veggies. Heat to boiling and cook until the noodles are soft. Add in the frozen veggies for the last few minutes of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!!


One tip: If you cook a chicken and shred it, save the drippings from the chicken and use those as your broth. The yumminess factor goes up dramatically! :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Surpassing Greatness

Have you ever been blown away by your kids? Yeah, me too.

In fact, it happens on a fairly regular basis. Frequently my kids do or say something that just amazes me with their maturity.

Today I had one of those moments. After our small group, my oldest (age 10) pulled me aside and asked me to pray for him. I said I'd be happy to and then asked what specifically I could be praying for.

Here was his response: "I just feel like as I get older I'm doing more unrighteous things. I don't think I always use my time wisely and I don't like that I really only worship God on Sundays. I should do that all week long."

WOWZERS!! Where did this kid come from??? I fought back a huge grin of pride as I seriously told him that I would be praying for him and offered to do so right then and there. I gave my own heart a stern talking to as I listened to him pray, realizing that I have much to learn from this intelligent, spiritually sensitive boy.

Josh and I have always prayed that our children would surpass us. Not just in what they accomplish, but in who they are in Christ. But our faith is so small that we never imagined it happening by 10 years of age! God is indeed good.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Square Two - Almost starting over

I had been waiting for this day for a full year - at least. And it didn't turn out to be at all what I had hoped for.

Last fall Josh and I began seriously thinking of and planning for our 3 month long sabbatical that will take place this coming summer. We spent countless hours praying, talking, researching and making plans.

We found out about a program that offers grants for pastors going on sabbatical. We eagerly and painstakingly filled out the application. That application forced us to map out our three months TO THE DAY - and included us settling our route of travel, our expenses and the church's needs and expenses caused by our absence.

It was a whole lot of work. But we submitted the application back in late May confident that we had done the best we could and had a fair chance of being awarded a grant.

This week we received word. We did not get the grant.

{sigh}

So now we are back to square two. I can't say square one, because we've decided on what Josh will study during our sabbatical and we have some ideas. But our dream of traveling the west in an RV for three months, visiting churches and seminaries and seeing many national parks with the kids has come to an end.

Am I disappointed? You betcha. Frustrated at the thought of starting over? Definitely. Angry with God? No. I want to be. My heart cries out at my lack of understanding in this.

And then I'm reminded. I'm reminded of the fact that God has never failed our family. That even when things look extremely difficult, He provides with abundant blessing. So much blessing, in fact, that we look back fondly on our times of hardship.

I'm reminded of our job search a few years ago. How when we felt at our lowest and our dreams were shattered, He was just gearing up to give out the greatest surprise!

So right now, even though I hurt, a large part of me says, "Okay God. Show me what you're gonna do. Because I bet it's something even better than what I can imagine."

I'll keep you posted on what happens. Without a doubt it'll be worth writing about.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Savoring the music

I began teaching music to our homeschool group this fall. And surprisingly, I like it!

I'm not surprised by enjoying the music aspect. Rather the teaching 50 kids for two hours aspect.

I think I had forgotten my love of teaching music. It's what I trained to do. And when I decided to study to be a music teacher it was because I wanted to instill a love of and appreciation for music in kids.

Wednesday I taught this group for the second time. And it was so fun to see kids get excited about what they were learning. It was enriching to encourage children in their musical pursuits and to start dreams in others. Several parents are now telling me that their kids want to start instruments. Yay!

Unfortunately, music is one of the first things cut in public schools when the budget shrinks. In homeschools, music can be non-existent if the parents don't pursue it with their children.

So, although I began the fall dreading my task, I've come to embrace it. Nothing feels better than instilling a love that you have into a young life and watching it grow. Bring on the next class!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Step Back

I'm letting go. And it's a really good thing.

I've been involved with our church nursery since Josh and I arrived here four and a half years ago. It has been a great privilege and joy serving alongside so many other men and women to bless the children and young families in our church.

And it's been quite a ride! In the summer of 2007, we set out to completely redo the nursery. We knocked down a wall to enlarge it. We had a custom changing table made. We spent hours painting and desiging. The church family purchased new toys off of a baby registry. We created a policy manual and began training volunteers. We put stringent safety measures in place. We added a few new roles.

And now, the nursery runs well. It's a fun place for little ones. It's a bright, inviting and playful area. And it's well stocked with delightful volunteers.

Except for me. I was not delighting in the nursery anymore. It had become a drudgery to me. Which was a very important warning. Whenever ministry becomes a "have to" instead of a "get to" you need to take a step back and evaluate. As I did so, I realized that I had served in the way God had called me to and that I now needed to let someone else step forward. Someone who had the vision to take it to the next level and to lead it through the next few years.

We've searched for quite some time and we finally found our new leader. I have officially served in the nursery for the last time, I have done my last nursery schedule and I've trained my last batch of volunteers.

Now it's time for me to focus on other areas. All of my children now sit in worship with me. I need to focus on teaching them to worship especially since Josh can't sit with us. As our church continues to grow rapidly, it's necessary for me to be in the sanctuary meeting visitors and helping Josh's ministry.

Will I ever serve in a nursery again? Very likely. I love children. I enjoyed the nursery. And when my children are old enough, I'll be happy to serve other young families by watching their children as others have done for me. But for this season, I'm done. It's with a sigh of contentment that I move forward, knowing it's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Atheist Song

I'm no atheist, but this is pretty funny. Enjoy.

The Atheist Song - First hymnal for Atheists

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You're Not Ready!

I heard Gabe say the cutest thing today. He and two of the other munchkins were playing hide and "sink". As I helped him count while the others hid, he showed off his counting skills. I was duly impressed until my pride melted into laughter. As he finished counting he yelled out, "You're not ready! Here I come!" Instead of the normal, "Ready or not, here I come."

I love little kid language.

Although I laughed earlier, tonight as I sit writing this, I feel like life has said that to me today. "You're not ready, but I'm coming anyway!" Today was a tough day for several reasons. I wasn't ready for today. I thought I was, but I wasn't. And yet the seconds keep on ticking: one, two, three, four .... where can I hide from this day?

As Anne of Green Gables would say though, "Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it yet." Thank the Lord for that! Perhaps I'll be ready for life tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Raven

God often shows me who to pray for in my dreams. I'll dream of someone again and again until I realize that God is pushing me to pray for them. Once I do, the dreaming stops.

Last night I dreamed of someone from my past. I only knew her for six days, but she touched my life and taught me some important lessons.

Her name was Raven. Actually, Raven was not her real name, but that's what everyone called her. Her real name was something much more girly-sounding like Maysie or Margaret.

Raven stalked into my life one August during my late teen years. She had jet black hair cut extremely short and spiked on the top. She wore all black - a black tank top, black leather pants and loud, clunky, black boots. She had piercings in several places, wore chains on her clothing and a spiked dog collar around her neck. Raven's appearance screamed, "I don't care about you or anything else. I'm tough!"

It was a Sunday afternoon when I met Raven. We were both at a camp. She was a camper and I was her terrified counselor. How in the world would I survive a week with a girl who looked like she was going to murder me as I slept at night? And what about the safety of the other girls in my cabin? A girl like Raven didn't belong at the sweet little Christian camp that I called home. Or did she?

That week was hands down the hardest week in my 5 years on staff at camp. Raven wasn't the only girl in my cabin that had me stumped. That week, my cabin of 8 high school girls had lots of issues to work through. One was being pressured by her boyfriend to have sex. One thought she was pregnant. One had an eating disorder and was encouraged in it by her mother. One was lonely. One was under pressure to use drugs. All had the regular social issues and hurts that go along with the teen years.

How does a young and fairly innocent girl tackle issues like that? I was in over my head. And thankfully I recognized that. The only thing that I could give these girls was the hope and restoration that comes through Christ. My heart broke as their stories unfolded over the week. One would talk to me during free time as we sat on our beds in the cabin. One would open up on the front porch steps after lights out. One during chapel time. And some during our evening devotions - which were always my favorite part of the day.

Raven shared some of her story one night during devotions. She came to the camp directly from 2 months of drug rehab. I got the impression that her parents weren't ready to have her home yet and so they sent her to camp. Unfortunately, that 2 month stint was not Raven's first time in rehab. Raven wore her hair so short because she had shaved her head to support her boyfriend who had cancer. He had died. And her pain was obvious.

Raven had been pregnant twice. Both times she had miscarried. The second time she miscarried she was 6 months along and had the baby beaten out of her. Her brother stood and watched. When I met Raven, she was 16 years old.

My heart broke for this girl. There was so much more to her than her tough exterior. Several of the camp leaders held her at arms length, expecting that she would cause problems. For the first couple of days, she tried to live up to their expectations. I can vividly remember sitting with the other counselors at our morning meeting mid way through the week and passionately begging them to give her a chance. To see beyond the exterior. To look at her as Christ did. To notice the changes I was beginning to see.

Raven changed a whole lot that week. She began to smile. She had fun! She made some friends at camp. And most importantly, she recognized how desperate her life was without the Lord. In the day and a half before camp ended, she repeatedly shared with me her fear of going home. Her parents were good to her. But her friends were not. She knew just how difficult it would be to avoid the temptations to slip back into her old ways. She knew that it would be impossible to retreat from the relationships that dragged her down.

I wish I could say that I knew the rest of Raven's story. I wrote to her for several years, but never received a single word in reply. She didn't come back to camp. It's like she just disappeared.

Every once in awhile, God brings her to mind. And I stop and I pray for Raven.

I'm not the good one in this story. It took a week with someone who's appearance and demeanor scared me senseless to understand the truth. To see and finally really KNOW that God does not look at the outside. To Him, Raven was beautiful. He was showing her His love in a way she couldn't ignore. He knew of her pain, her vices, her struggles, but He also knew of her beautiful smile, her laughter, her desire to change. And I'm sad to say it took me so long to see it.

Sometimes I see people in the mall, or on the street or even at church and I look at the outside. It's then that God gently reminds me of Raven. He reminds me that every person is created by God, in His image and has beauty. He reminds me that my response can make a huge difference for good or for evil. What will my response be?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book for Parents



Here's a great little book for teaching purity to your children. Josh and I are still discussing what the dating years will look like for our children, but teaching purity really can't start too young.

Here is the author's web page. Check it out!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Toyorama

This week I helped my daughter clean out her room.

Not just clean, but sort through all her stuff, toss the extra papers and broken toys, find places to put everything, insert a hook into the wall for her purses, vaccuum and fill a trash bag!

When did we accumulate this much junk?? Her room was so stuffed with toys that we couldn't even walk! I'm thankful that she was very willing to get rid of a good portion of the excess and now everything has a place. The room is tidy, I have a great feeling of accomplishment and all is well.

But Christmas is just around the corner. And after that we have three children with birthdays in January, February and March. Much more "stuff" will be coming into our house. Ugh.

I feel that I am not doing a good job of parenting in this area. We do have way too much stuff. I admit that. In the area of toys, we've failed at the "less is more" idea. We're reading the Little House series and I don't think my kids have yet realized the implications of Laura and Mary only having one doll and a string of paper dolls or beads to play with. My kids just can't fathom that! I'm glad we have more than that, but do we really need ALL of this? Must we keep the dolls, tinkertoys, blocks, legos, puzzles, cars, costumes, coloring books, ponies, stuffed animals, games, books, star wars stuff and K'nex?

On the flip side, there are some things on which we haven't compromised. Our kids don't play video games. We don't have a Wii or an XBox. They spend very little time on the computer and lots of time in imaginary play and reading books.

But that brings me back to my point. If they play so well with their imagination and we can continuously get books and videos from the library, is it even necessary to have most of these toys? Probably not. Definitely not.

Herein lies the rub ... how in the world do you get your kids to let go of their toys so that you can encourage their "imaginations"? Offering to send those toys to kids who have few or no toys doesn't always work. Snatching the toys when the kids are out of the house doesn't work. (Well it works, but you end up with tantrums and angry children who no longer trust you.) And how do you convince yourself that certain toys are good to get rid of? Some toys are great for the imagination and for learning.

I guess the only thing to do is to teach our children - beginning today - that stuff isn't what it's all about. We need to be on guard against continuously buying them what they desire.

And I suppose it would be good to review that lesson for myself while I'm at it. As I begin to clean my own room, I'm realizing that my children have likely just copied my own behavior. Ouch, that truth stings!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Withered Trees and Drowned Mountains

This weekend will be my first real test with NaBloPoMo. We're headed out of town and I'm not sure if I'll have access to the internet. I've written my blog posts already, so I can just log on and post, but we'll see how it goes.

This morning during our devotions, Josh read from Matthew 21:18-22. It's the story of when Jesus causes the fig tree to wither and then explains to his disciples that if you just have faith and do not doubt, you can even move mountains.

As we talked over the passage with the kids, Josh had us each take a turn sharing what we would like to see God do and what we will seek to pray for in faith without doubt. Here are the requests. I think they are wonderful!

Z: That Haiti and Chile would recover from the earthquakes this past year. And that all orphans in the world would be adopted and find homes. (Incidentally, he prays this EVERY single day and has such a heart for the hurting and helpless!)

A: That her best friend Stevie (Stephanie) would come to church and learn about Jesus.

G: That Haiti would "cover" from the earthquake (of course he meant recover) and that Grandma and Grandpa Ron would be safe at their house.

D: That Charlie's family (a kid who bullied D for two years while in school) would know Jesus and that Christianity would be legal in China.

Josh: That God would convict young adults to marry instead of living in sin.

Me: That God would force Satan to loosen the grip he has on the teens in our town and that we as a family and church would know how to reach into their lives.

Boy, imagine what could happen if all believers were praying in faith without doubt, believing that in Christ, these things can happen! What are you praying for?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Surprisingly Good!

As part of our vacation week we took the kids to see a movie in the theater today. We're quite picky about what we are willing to actually go see on the big screen with them, so of course we did our research first.

Have you checked out Plugged In? It's put out by Focus on the Family and reviews movies with family friendliness in mind. I have a link to their website on my sidebar. Be sure to click over and see what they've got!

Anyway, Josh and I knew we wanted to do this with the kids, but we had no clue if any of the movies out were any good. After reading the reviews at Plugged In, we chose to see Megamind.



What a great movie! We were so pleasantly surprised to find that it was not a movie in the vein of Shrek, but rather a fun, topsy turvy take on the old villain versus hero story. I don't want to give away the plot, but I can tell you that our kids loved it, Josh and I loved it and it's one we'll definitely rent later on or perhaps even buy.

So, here's a shameless plug ... go see Megamind. It's much better than you'd expect and you'll enjoy the laugh.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Son-filled diet




As we drove towards Chicago on Monday morning, my kids were thrilled with the thought of watching the sun rise. Of course, around here we have plenty of buildings, trees and traffic to compete with our sight of the horizion. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sight to watch the sky slowly lighten and to see the clouds go from red and orange to pink and purple.

Because it was so very early, we had given the kids bags of dry cereal to eat in the car. So, as we kept our eyes trained on the sky, the kids happily munched their breakfast.

Now, my oldest son is slightly competitive. I believe he thought it would be cool to be the very first one in the car to actually say, "Hey! There's the sun!" He decided that he'd better quit eating to maximize his chances of being first. He said, "I'm going on a diet unitl I see the sun."

We laughed and thought that was a pretty silly thing. I mean, really, do you even need to look to grab a handful of cheerios out of a bag? But as I sat and gazed at the horizon, his words took on a new meaning for me.

Shouldn't we all be on a "diet" until we see the Son? A diet that consists of time in God's Word, prayer, the fruit of the Spirit. A diet that leaves out habitual sin, gossip, slander, anger, a love of the world. How much better off we would be if we considered embarking on a spiritual diet! I think today is a good day to begin praying for some self control to begin a new diet in earnest. Not a food diet, but a diet that will prepare me to see the Son.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Day in the City

Yesterday, we spent the first day of our vacation week in Chicago. Gabe has always begged to ride on a train and so we decided to take the train into the city and enjoy some time at the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum.

We were in the car by 5:45 am - yes, I said AM!! - and had the joy of watching the sun rise over the horizon.

The kids were thrilled ot spend time on the train and actually did very well for the hour and a half ride. Much better than expected.



Once in the city, we walked about 2 1/2 miles to the aquarium. In hindsight, if you have a long trek and small legs along for the walk, opt to walk on the way back instead of on the way there. By the time we arrived at the aquarium we had some rather cranky children!

We tried to make the walk more interesting by stopping at Macy's (Marshall Fields). We saw all of their Christmas decorations, looked at their famous window displays and drooled over the toy section. We also stopped at Millenium Park where we had our picture taken at Cloud Gate and watched an artist work on a painting.



We finally made it to the aquarium (and did I mention that we had gorgeous weather? Almost 70 degrees in November!) and received our free admission. The hi-lights were watching the fish get fed by someone actually swimming in the tank - with sharks and giant turtles and eels! - and a very busy octopus.

Now this octopus was remarkable! Apparently, he very rarely puts on a show. But we got lucky. He came right up against the glass and spread out all of his legs. We were able to see his mouth and watch as he swam around.



After the aquarium, we went on to the Field Museum and again gained free admission. We looked at a fair amount of the museum and enjoyed seeing the diversity of God's creation.

Once we finished it was finally time to start home. Because we all had exhausted legs, we opted to ride the bus to the train station. We had our snacks and sat in a comotose manner for the ride back to the van. Around 8pm we decided that we really needed to get some dinner, so we stopped at the first place we could find - which happened to be a Super WalMart. We gathered bread, meat bites, cheese and cough medicine and headed towards the lines. Suddenly a teenaged girl raced past us at full speed. We thought perhaps she was playing a joke on some friends, hoping to sneak up on them. But then two WalMart employees came running after her and caught her just by the door. She had met up with two friends there and all three were taken into a separate room. Our guess is that she was trying to shoplift. It was an adventurous end to our day in the city!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Worth a Look

I only rarely post links to videos on my blog. But this one is most definitely worth a look.

It's a series of videos about Dick Proenneke. He set out in his 50s to live a life of solitude in the Alaskan wilderness. The first disk set of videos (a 6 part series on youtube) is a documentary that follows Dick as he builds his very own cabin - of course by first making his tools! This man lived in the wilderness for over 30 years. It is child-friendly viewing and despite the slower pace of the videos, my kids were glued to the screen.

Take a look and enjoy some of God's incredible creation!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Response to "Motherhood Madness" by Erica Jong

I read an article recently that has me quite upset. It's written by Erica Jong and was published in the Wall Street Journal. The article talks about how motherhood today has become overly burdensome due to expectations put forth by society.

I take issue with several points in this article. What I find most disheartening is that it never once mentions the joy of motherhood. To Jong, motherhood is simply a drudgery, a chore, an obligation. I pity her child! Children brought up under that view of parenting will have major psychological issues later in life.

But to be more specific, here are some of my objections to Ms. Jong's thoughts.

"You wear your baby, sleep with her and attune yourself totally to her needs... homemade baby food, cloth diapers, a cocoon of clockless, unscheduled time... Anything less is bad for baby. Parents be damned."

Such is her view of what society demands from parents. I know of parents who make their own baby food, only use cloth diapers (that they themselves wash), wear their babies everywhere and so on. But those who do so are doing it by choice, not because society has demanded it. I am raising four children. I don't make my own baby food, I don't use cloth diapers, I do wear my babies out of convenience ... such preferences have not made society view me as a failure in mothering. In fact, no one has ever belittled my decision to use plastic diapers! Plastic vs. cloth diapers, canned vs. homemade baby food, which device used to carry a baby ... such decisions are not the crux of parenting. These are preferences, not crucial parenting matters.

Jong writes of how parents experience guilt for not being perfect because of the demands society puts forth. I think perhaps Ms. Jong has done too much reading. If you take everything that everyone writes about parenting and try to implement it, you will feel a keen inability to measure up. However, parents doing the best they can to enjoy their children and give them what they need (which includes boundaries and consequences) rarely feel guilt. Parents should always be striving to improve, but should also take what they hear from others with a grain of salt. Not all advice is for all families. Not all families are the same. Not all families can have a stay-at-home mom. Not all children need the same type of education. Not all mothers feel hen-pecked by the "demands" of society.

Jong continues, "We also assume that "mother" and "father" are exclusive terms, though in other cultures, these terms are applied to a variety of aunts, uncles and other adults. Kinship is not exclusively biological, after all, and you need a brood to raise a brood."

I'm not sure about you, but I prefer that I am the only "mom" to my children. I'm thrilled that they have other adults in their lives who love them and who are well loved in return, but I would be offended if any of those adults tried to fill my role as Mother. Yes, children are enriched by having multiple relationships, but nothing can replace the role of parents in a child's life. A child will not fare better by having someone substitute as mom or dad at times. (Please hear me correctly, I do not advocate keeping children with parents who abuse or neglect, but in a healthy family, no one is better to fill the parent roll than the parents themselves.)

Dr. James Dobson writes in his book "Bringing up Girls" about two researchers named Dr. John Bowlby and Dr. Mary Ainsworth. These two were "the first to recognize that infants are highly vulnerable and easily wounded by anxiety, fear and confusion." One thing I have observed in my children is that their anxiety levels dramatically increase when they are passed from one adult to another without the comforting touch of Mom or Dad. Those with children know the incredible excitement of children upon seeing Mom and Dad after being absent from them. It's a small demonstration of children exclaiming through their actions, "These are my favorite people! No one can take their place."

Dobson continues, "It has been demonstrated further that the failure of mothers and babies to attach is linked directly to physical and mental illness of all types. The reason is apparent. If a child is regularly overwhelmed by negative feelings and stressful circumstances, her inability to cope in infancy becomes a life-long pattern. The link between maternal attachment and poor health is not merely theoretical. It is a reality."

Contrast this with Jong's declaration that such attachment with children is a "prison for mothers". She calls this a "'noble savage' view of parenting, with its ideals of attachment and naturalness."

Frankly, I find Ms. Jong's jaded view of parenthood selfish and disturbing. Whatever happened to delighting in your children? To investing in another life because it is an immense privilege with tremendous rewards, not because you HAVE to? I fear that if her view of parenting catches on we'll be left with a generation of children who feel unwanted and unloved. Children who are handed off to every other available adult just to avoid inconveniencing the parents who decided to have a child in the first place. Children who are taught from infancy that nothing matters more than keeping Number One happy and carefree. Children who grow up to view everything as more important than training the next generation.

Oh, what will our schools and homes look like then? I pray we never see that day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Resting Place

Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art;
I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee, as thy beauty fills my soul,
For by thy transforming power, thou hast made me whole.

O how great thy lovingkindness, vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvelous thy goodness lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in thee, Beloved, know what wealth of grace is thine,
Know thy certainty of promise and have made it mine.

Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus, I behold thee as thou art,
And thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its ev'ry need,
Compasseth me round with blessings: thine is love indeed.

Ever lift thy face upon me as I work and wait for thee;
Resting 'neath thy smile, Lord Jesus, earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory, sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting, fill me with thy grace.

- Jean Sophia Pigott


Today, as I reflect on the uncertainties in my life, my mind and body tell me to worry and be anxious. But the Holy Spirit keeps whispering these words into my heart and I find all of my fears and questions quieted in the resting place of God's immeasurable grace.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dinner humor

Last night's imagination-bending, silly dinner story:

There once was a horse named Crazy Legs. Crazy Legs got his name because every time he ran, he threw his legs about causing a very funny sight. People loved Crazy Legs because he was so silly.

Crazy Legs lived in a barn on top of a dugout. His owner, Mr. Sigfreid Gagenduffel lived in the dugout with his wife. But, Mr. Gagenduffel was not happy with Crazy Legs. Every morning at 5am, Crazy Legs would awaken and begin running around his barn in circles, effectively disturbing the sleep of Mr. and Mrs. Gagenduffel.

One day Mr. Gagenduffel had had enough! He marched up to the barn and placed a yoke on Crazy Legs' neck. He tied Crazy Legs to the barn and told him to "giddap". But Crazy Legs only laid down in the grass. Mr. Gagenduffel was angry and yelled at Crazy Legs to get up. Crazy Legs, who had never once spoken a word, turned to Mr. Gagenduffel and said, "I'm going to take a nap," and he promptly fell asleep.

Well, that didn't make Mr. Gagenduffel very happy. He had to wake that horse! So, he went down into the dugout and grabbed a hammer. He took that hammer to where Crazy Legs was sleeping and hammered on the pillow by Crazy Legs' head. Of course, that didn't wake Crazy Legs. So Mr. Gagenduffel went into his dugout again and this time came out with cotton balls (otherwise known as boofer balls). Mr. Gagenduffel stuffed the cotton balls into Crazy Legs' ears and hammered away again. Once again, Crazy Legs did not wake up.

Mr. Gagenduffel was so upset at this point, that he went one last time into his dugout and grabbed a pair of cymbals. He marched back to Crazy Legs and crashed those cymbals just over Crazy Legs' head. Crazy Legs was so startled that he jumped up and ran! And when he ran, it caused the barn to move. But instead of moving forward, the barn collapsed with a great crash and landed heavily on the roof of the dugout causing the dugout roof to collapse.

Poor Mrs. Gagenduffel (Gertrude to her friends) was trapped under a beam halfway in and halfway out of the dugout. She yelled and yelled, begging her dear Sigfreid to save her. Sigfreid Gagendfuffel forgot all about Crazy Legs and ran to rescue his wife. He counted, "One ... Two ... Three!" and gave a great pull. Gertrude tumbled out from under the rubble and banged her head onto the hard ground. She received a terrible bruise, but was otherwise alright.

Well, Mr. and Mrs. Gagenduffel now had no house. Instead they had to live in the rubble of the dugout and barn with Crazy Legs. And each night, Crazy Legs would thrash in his sleep with his legs kicking every which way. It always woke the Gagenduffels and they were miserable.

The moral of this story depends on who you talk to:
- Don't wake a sleeping horse.
- Don't build a barn on top of a dugout.
- Always remember that boofer balls won't wake a horse!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Success!!

I have discovered a new ability of mine through homeschooling.

When we began, I was terrified about teaching my daughter how to read. Our two oldest boys had spent their early school years in the public school system and I was afraid that I might somehow hold my sweet girl back by beginning to homeschool her in kindergarten. What if I didn't pick the right program? What if I didn't notice that she had missed something important? Would I even know if I had done it right before it was too late?

My oldest basically taught himself to read. We never had to work with him and he was reading before kindergarten. My second really struggled. He slipped through first grade still somehow only reading at a kindergarten level. His teacher said he was doing fine. I shudder at the memory of trying to begin with the basics in second grade and his frustration over poor grades and his inability to read well. Would my daughter also have that same experience?

So many worries.

Today, however, I sat with a big grin on my face as she read to me. That's been happening daily. She's now in first grade and is reading well. When she doesn't know a word, she stops and sounds it out. She has the tools to figure out most words. She loves reading and I often find her with a book in hand, cuddled up on the couch, reading to herself.

It's a side of homeschooling that I'm proud to say I now know I can handle. I'm not afraid of teaching my youngest now that I've succeeded with his sister. I have successfully passed on a love of books and a delight in discovering new stories.

Yes, I can do this!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flexibility

I've been working my way through James Dobson's book "Bringing Up Girls". Yesterday the part I was reading talked about the importance of both parents being available and committed to the raising of their children and how from infancy, our presence has a significant developmental impact on children.

One statement in particular really struck me. Dobson says,

"Before the Industrial Revolution, fathers and mothers worked side by side on farms or in family-owned businesses ... only in the last one hundred years have fathers left home all day to make a living."

Why does this strike me? Because it makes me realized just how "abnormal" our family is! My husband doesn't work from home, but he can when he needs to. And he has an extremely flexible schedule.

Take today, for instance. I ended up needing to get to the doctor this morning. Instead of dragging the kids along or Josh having to take time off to come and relieve me of the children, he simply came home, brought some work with him and had lunch on the table when I got home. Wow!

Now, I know that I'm blessed to have such a flexible, caring and capable husband. Many men, even if they could take the time at home, wouldn't be as helpful as he is. But what strikes me even more is the notion that this has a profound impact on my kids. They have Daddy around a lot. Yes, he works a full work week, but he's flexible enough to come and spend time with them as needed. He can come home if we're having major discipline issues in school. He can surprise us with celebratory McDonalds for a great day of learning. He can care for the kids when I can't.

In fact, my children are the only ones I know of that have both parents home for all three meals a day! Which is so vital to our family life. At breakfast, we set the tone for the day. We read the Bible together and talk about the day. At lunch we read a fun book - currently the Little House series. And at dinner, we review our Awana verses and when we have time we sing songs together or make up funny stories. I can't imagine what our family life would be like without these precious moments together each day. And yet, that's exactly what most families are like. Psychologists now tell you to try and have three to five meals together per week. Per week!!! When we miss two meals in one week as a whole family, we suffer.

Today, I'm thankful for the flexibility and tender care of my husband. He lets us know in millions of ways that he is always available to help and to love. I don't write this to make other women jealous, but rather to reflect on how society seems to have it backwards. Instead of spending our children's growing years endlessly working to get ahead and to have a great salary, my sweet man is spending hours with his kids, investing in their lives and trusting that God will provide what we need. He's a good man!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaBloPoMo

I heard today about national blog month - which just happens to be this month! So, I've decided to give NaBloPoMo a shot. It's a challenge/contest to blog each day for an entire month. If you blog every day in November you are eligible to win a prize at the end of the month.

I can't say that I've been overly diligent in my blogging efforts so far. Perhaps this will be the nudge I need to really get going.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Little Things

You know how sometimes it's the little things that make your day great? Today has been full of those wonderful little things.

Like sleeping in. But not just sleeping in by myself. Josh stayed in bed too and read a book as I slept. It's nice to wake up with him still there. He's such a morning person that it doesn't happen often!

And things like having lunch with a dear friend. A two hour lunch! Time to just talk and catch up and pray together. Wonderful moments.

Things like finding a spot of sunshine and sitting in it. Letting your whole body feel warm on a cool day. Yea, that's my moment right now.

And to enjoy it a bit more, I'm going to stop blogging and start dozing. What better use is there for a little patch of sunlight?

What little things have boosted your joy level today?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

100 Things

1. My dream job as a child was to be a wife and mother. I am living the dream.
2. In early spring I will find patches of sunlight and sit in them. Doesn't matter where they are, I just need the sun!
3. I cannot make good sound effects for guns, bombs, cars, airplanes or anything else boys love.
4. I'm always barefoot indoors, but hate to be barefoot outdoors.
5. Cleaning bathtubs is the bane of my existence.
6. I'm a chronic list-maker.
7. My two front teeth on the bottom were knocked out by my sister as she did a kartwheel.
8. I don't have a favorite color, but will claim blue just to give a short answer.
9. My first time using a lawn mower was at age 31.
10. I craved the smell of Comet with one pregnancy.
11. When sledding at night I used to be terrified that wolves would get me.
12. I had "notes" written out for all of our bridesmaids and groomsmen at our wedding rehearsal. Yes, I'm like that.
13. I'm terrified of spiders.
14. I can't listen to classical music unless I can sit and REALLY listen with complete focus.
15. I think leaf rubbings should be a part of every fall season.
16. My parents gave me coffee in my bottle because I didn't like milk. That may explain a lot.
17. My favorite place in the world is a little camp in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
18. I didn't really learn to ride a bike until I was 10 or 11.
19. I didn't appreciate the simplicity of life with only one or two young children until I had three or four.
20. My braces came off the day AFTER school pictures were taken.
21. I eat whole tomatoes, raw potatoes and love most other veggies.
22. My best friend in the whole world is my husband.
23. I found the love of my life at age 17. I'm sure I'll be freaked out by that when my kids are 17!
24. Clean baby is my favorite smell.
25. I collect china and Kim Anderson figurines.
26. I have a very good memory. Especially about childhood events.
27. As a child I took ice skating, swimming,gymnastics, tennis, violin and piano lessons.
28. All that and I'm still not very athletic.
29. I have no cousins. Although I married into a family with tons of cousins!
30. I always try to have my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. And my cards go out the first week of December.
31. I religiously make the bed before getting into it at night.
32. A&E's Pride and Prejudice is my all time favorite movie.
33. I have a very high pain tolerance - unless it involves throat pain.
34. I love to plan and organize events.
35. Japanese food is heavenly - not sushi {yuck!}, but hibachi.
36. Loved the college years.
37. Hated the high school years.
38. Reading silly kids books with my children is a delightful way to pass the time.
39. The Smurfs was my favorite cartoon growing up.
40. The only feet I like are baby feet.
41. I once played a violin solo for thousands of people in a huge arena.
42. I believe that everyone is beautiful and if you look deep enough you'll find beauty even in those you don't like.
43. I hope to teach at least one child how to speak German.
44. We have redneck curtains in our living room.
45. I bake for fun but cook out of necessity.
46. I'm not really a morning or night person. I love sleep!
47. Packages in the mail make the whole day better.
48. My personality is the exact opposite of my husband's.
49. I love hymns.
50. I miss hearing my Nana hum as she cooked.
51. I threw up on my first grade teacher.
52. My first time at Toys R Us and Chuck E Cheese was as an adult.
53. Every year I have standing rib roast and yorkshire pudding on my birthday.
54. I want to learn how to improvise more while playing the violin.
55. I believe that punctuality equals respect.
56. I once dyed my hair orange.
57. I was E.T. for several Halloweens.
58. I love to mud dive but haven't since college.
59. I hope to someday take my family to see the Swiss Alps and Salzburg, Austria.
60. I'm a stubborn mix of Swedish and German.
61. My favorite verses are from Isaiah 43:1-3.
62. Time with my husband is essential! It rejuvenates me.
63. I love to paint my toenails, but never paint my fingernails.
64. I have never pieced my ears or any other part of my body.
65. Soccer is my favorite sport to watch.
66. My hairstyle in 8th grade was hideous. But then, who's wasn't?
67. I have paid to go in a hot air balloon, but have yet to get on the flight.
68. I deliberately work to interest my kids in shows I loved as a child - partly so that I can watch them again.
69. I had 8 Cabbage Patch Kids as a child.
70. I really don't like moving. Although unpacking is fun.
71. I have learned about all things Star Wars since having children.
72. I sent my first "love note" to a boy in first grade. My big sister helped me with the bubble letters.
73. I am amazingly calm when my children are hurt or in danger. But if the milk spills, you'd better watch out!
74. I love Pepsi. Never diet.
75. I'm not artistic. I'm crafty.
76. As a child, the only allergy I tested positive for was sawdust. Ironically, I love the smell and will put up with the sneezing for as long as possible.
77. I feel guilty whenever I pass a child's lemonade stand and don't stop.
78. I started cross stitching baby blankets for my kids. They will now be for my grandchildren.
79. After visiting concentration camps I can no longer read or watch anything about World War II.
80. Sitting in the dark with a lit Christmas tree and gentle music is my favorite part of the Christmas season.
81. Alarm clocks have the ability to stress me out faster than anything else.
82. I often dream of people that God wants me to pray for. If I don't pray for them, I'll dream of them night after night. Sometimes it's people I haven't seen in decades.
83. I've endured inducement, back labor, an epidural, no pain meds, an emergency C-section, a VBAC and a homebirth.
84. I know how to polka.
85. I miss the joy of getting snail mail instead of emails.
86. I have read every Beverly Lewis book.
87. I can't rollerskate. And I'm pretty bad at iceskating too.
88. I can remember childhood friends' phone numbers and birthdates.
89. I have a tendency to break watches. I've given up wearing them.
90. I deeply miss the ocean each summer.
91. My dream vacation is to take my kids to the camp I attended as a child.
92. Tradition is very important to me.
93. The summer before college was a defining time in my life.
94. Hearing about someone's life journey is my favorite moment in making a new friend.
95. Dvorak is my favorite composer.
96. When making a list, I will write things that I've already accomplished simply to cross them off.
97. I have large gaps in my memory for the 9 months of each pregnancy.
98. I prefer silver to gold.
99. Music can absolutely affect my mood.
100. I'm continually thankful that God teaches me through everyday moments.

Plugged In

My youngest did this today:



Yup. And I saw this as I sat across the room from where he was unlocking the outlet:



Well, not exactly. But close. There were definitely crazy sparks flying in the room!

Sadly, this is the second time I've had a child try to electrocute themselves. My second son placed a penny on the prongs of his plugged-in baby monitor during naptime several years ago and just about set our apartment on fire. A large section of the wall was black. And he later told me about the "blue lights" that scared him (sparks).

So today, I am doubly thankful that God watches my children even when I think I am keeping a close eye on them. They may be in the same room as me, yet I don't always know what those little hands are up to. But God does! I'm so glad that He cares and sees. Because His eyes never grow tired and His care is more than I can fathom.

That's a very reliable and necessary fact for a tired and sometimes unattentive mom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crippled by Fear

I have a child who is terrified of spiders. And today, that fear climaxed in his unwillingness to touch a book that had a spider on the cover. It took a half hour of work to get him to finally touch it and put it away, and that half hour was pure torture.

So naturally, I've been reflecting on fear. Someone recently made a comment about a Bible story that really made a profound difference for me.

This person was talking about the story of when Jesus calmed the storm. He had gone in a boat with his disciples and had fallen alseep in the boat despite a loud and turbulent storm. His disciples were terrified for their lives and finally woke Jesus out of desperation. Jesus got up, calmed the wind and the waves and then turned to his disciples and said, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

Now, typically when people look at this passage, they focus on the display of Jesus' power and come away with the realization that he is Lord of all creation. Rightly so. But there's another thing to notice here.

Why is it that Jesus is able to sleep through a storm that has his disciples paralyzed with fear? Perhaps he was tired. Well, likely he was. He had just been preaching to large crowd for quite some time and was likely exhausted. But even a storm can wake you from a deep sleep.

No, there's a different reason why Jesus slept. He wasn't afraid.

Well, why not? Because Jesus had complete trust in his Father! There was no need for him to fear. He knew that his days were measured out and that no storm or evil intention or angry crowd could cause him harm without his Father's consent. I can't think of a single time in Jesus' life where the Bible says he was afraid. He had no need to be.

Imagine the implications of this! I mean, really, how many times does the Bible say, "So do not fear"!! The fears that I have ultimately come down to a lack of trust in my heavenly Father. Likewise the fears my children have are a lack of trust in God.

So, my challenge today is to teach my son that trusting God encompasses all aspects of life. Even dealing with ugly spiders, or being in the dark or feeling alone. God is with us, he sees us and he's a whole lot bigger than whatever we may fear.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes ....

Ya know, you do all you can to protect your children's eyes and keep them innocent. We do our very best to keep our children from seeing images of scantily clad women and men, violence and other scary things. We moniter our kids' use of the internet and the television, we watch what magazines and books enter our home and we do what we can to distract them from seeing less-than-wholesome bilboards and advertisements.

But, there are some things you just can't plan for. Like the boy who decides to show your young daughter his privates. Yeah, thanks for doing that, little boy. My girl has been scarred and will always have that image in her mind.

To her credit, she's a smart cookie and told her brothers about it, who in turn told Mom and Dad. And as much as I am upset by this (we'll be talking with the boy's parents), just moments later I was able to marvel over her sweet innocence.

Apparently my sweet daughter has taught herself how to tie laces. We've never worked with her on it, but just from watching her brothers, she has figured it out. One smart cookie! When we found out about this new talent, Josh took her on his lap and hugged her, telling her how beautiful AND smart she is. We joked about needing to lock her up until she's 33 since she's such a sweet, smart, beautiful girl.

And my darling girl turned to her Dad and said, "Well, if you lock me up, you'd better lock up Mom too. Because she's beautiful and knows how to tie too!" Awww, that's sweet!

But, unfortunately, her ability to tie is not the reason we'd like to lock her up. It's so difficult to protect girls in this day and age. I recently read that 40% of girls aged 9-10 years old have tried to lose weight!** 40%!!! I have a 10 year old. And I can't imagine him being concerned about something like weight. And yet, many girls his age are. I find it just incredible that girls are getting the message from adults, TV, ads, magazines, etc. that they must look a certain way and act a certain way to be noticed. Yes, in this culture, I'd love to keep my daughter sheltered. Wouldn't you?

As much as I try though, things will seep through my barriers and my innocent girl will see them. So, my biggest weapon is prayer. Prayer that I can be a vigilant mother and prayer that my children will not be affected by the unwholesome things they do occasionally see or experience. Prayer that the things I am teaching them from God's word will have more of an impact than the things that they encounter when accosted by a friend or a ronchy bilboard. Yup, this should drive me to my knees.

** Taken from Dr. James Dobson's book Bringing Up Girls

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Clock is Ticking

I've been thinking about the statement that I heard most often as we began homeschooling a year ago. "Ali, you are giving up your life!"

Oh how I agreed with that statement. I felt that all my dreams and desires were being cast aside for the greater good. Or at least what I hoped would be the greater good. My dream of sending the kids off to school and then sitting in a sunny spot with a cup of coffee and my Bible in a quiet room was no longer something that would happen. I would never have a wonderfully clean house and time for friends to come over for a visit during the day.

Instead, my priorities and dreams have had to shift. But I don't consider this a bad thing.

Voddie Baucham's book, Family Driven Faith, has this wonderful quote: "Time is precious, and you only get one chance to raise your children. They are only young once, and they are only in your home for a short while. Once they are born the clock starts ticking, and there is nothing you can do to stop it or slow it down. Your only hope is to make the most of the time you have." I have to agree with Voddie. I can already see how quickly my children are growing up and how ridiculously fast the hours, days, months and years rush by.

So, as a parent, what is to be our priority? Here's what the Bible says in Deutoronomy 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

This comes just after the 10 commandments are given. So, we are to be teaching our children about the Lord and how to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That sounds like a full time job to me!

Now, I'm not trying to advocate for homeschooling. I think each family has to decide what is best for their children and for their family. However, this should have serious application for our family life in general and our home life specifically. What are you doing to teach these things to your children? Beyond sending them to church or AWANA? Did you know that the majority of kids brought up in the church will leave it by the time they are teens?! That means that the Church itself is not the answer. You, parent, are the one who must teach and train your children!

So, as I consider my life and look at my priorities, I must continually be asking myself if what I am doing lines up with this mandate from Deuteronomy 6. And if it doesn't, perhaps my priorities and dreams are not the best they could be. We'll all have time once our kids leave the nest. Right now, we have a short time to mold and train our children. And so I ask myself, "How can I best do this?" For me, the asnwer comes in homeschooling, family devotions, relinquishing activities that are just schedule fillers, realizing my potential as a mother by teaching my children what is most important. These are all really hard decisions to make. But will they pay off? You betcha! For there is truly no greater privilege than raising children who love the Lord. What changes do you need to make?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Marching in the Infurry

For posterity's sake, I wanted to record my son's favorite song and how he sings it. Normally when we sing this song, he belts it out at the top of his lungs and brings smiles to all around:

The Lord's Army:



I may never march in the infurry
Ride in the calorie
Shoot the atillilly
I may never zoom o the enemy
But I'm in the Lord's army (Yes sir!)


Oh how I love kid speak! I just don't have the heart to correct it. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Humble Pie

We have a good friend who works at our local Christian radio station. We love to hear her cheerful voice on the radio and always listen in when Ann is speaking.

So today, as we piled in the car and drove from guitar lesson to the grocery store, we turned up the radio and let Ann's voice fill our car.

I was particularly interested in what she was saying. She was relating to listeners a story about how her oldest child had once showed his anger by sitting outside and refusing to come in for dinner or bedtime. Of couse, as we all know, toddlers rarely stay angry for long and are often ruled by their stomachs. So the errant child quickly came in and resolved his differences with mom.

But then Ann began to share about a friend who's son showed some of the same tendencies and decided to nonverbally declare his opinion. I know several of Ann's friends and figured I might know who she was talking about. But even if I didn't, I still was anxious to hear about this stubborn child and to feel a little less lonely in my own struggle with stubborn children.

As Ann told the story, I listened carefully, waiting to have a good chuckle. She described a little boy who was angry with his mom. A little boy who chose to show his anger by ... PEEING on his mother! {Gasp!!!}

Imagine my shock!

It wasn't shock over what you think. Yes, it's horrible that a child would willfully pee on their parent to vent some anger. But my shock was that it was MY child that Ann was referring to!!!

You see, a year or so ago, just after potty training our youngest, he went through a (thankfully) very short phase of peeing on me when he was angry. You could actually see his body tense up as he forced himself to empty his bladder. Yes, you could see it coming, but never be quick enough to escape it. And I was the only lucky beneficiary of said behavior. Yuck.

I had a hearty laugh as I remembered that particular streak of subbornness in my child. And I had a bit of humility forced upon me as well. Here I was, all ready to laugh at someone else's expense, and instead the tables are turned. At least I'm glad people are enjoying the struggles I've gone through in raising this particularly ornery child! Oh my, how he enriches my life!

So thanks Ann, for the reminder of something that I really shouldn't forget (I'll make sure he knows that he deserves every ornery act that his children someday dish out!), and for the laugh from days gone by.

If you make a mom a bookcase ...




If you make a mom a bookcase ...
She'll need to clear a space for it.

And if she needs to clear a space for it ...
She'll realize the carpet looks dingy.

If she realizes the carpet looks dingy ...
She will have to clean the carpet.

And if she's cleaning one carpet ...
She might as well clean them all!

If the carpets are going to get cleaned ...
The walls should be washed.

If the walls are getting washed ...
The dusting should be done.

To accomplish the dusting ...
The clutter must be decluttered.

For the clutter to vanish ...
Mom will need a new bookcase.


Happy fall cleaning week to us! (And thanks, honey, for the bookcase.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pumpkin Goodness!

It's pumpkin season and I've decided to try cooking and freezing my own pumpkins this year. It adds such richness to any pumpkin recipe to have it fresh instead of using the canned stuff.


To cook a pumpkin:
1. Buy pie or cooking pumpkins. These are generally smaller and can be found at veggie stands and in some grocery stores.
2. Slice the pumpkin in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.


3. Place the pumpkin halves peel-side up in a baking dish and add about a 1/2 inch of water.
4. Cook the pumpkin in the oven at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.
5. Once out of the oven, scoop the meat out of the pumpkin and place in a blender or food processor.
6. Blend until smooth.
7. Pumpkin freezes well or can be kept in the fridge for about 5 days. {I had planned to can pumpkin, but read that it's not recommended since pumpkin has a lower acidity level and bacteria can grow even after canning. However, I'm not 100% certain on that, so do your own research!}

I've had several people request the recipe I use for pumpkin cookies, so here it is. This is a recipe from Josh's Grandma and is a favorite amongst all Brumbaugh men!

Pumpkin Cookies:
1C shortening
1C pumpkin
1C sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream these first five ingredients together until smooth.

Add:
2C flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix well and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. These should come out soft!

Once the cookies are cooled, make the frosting.
Frosting:
3 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp milk
1/2C brown sugar

Boil these three for two minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Then add 1C powdered sugar.

This should be slightly runny - not like normal frosting. Frost cookies and enjoy!


Of course, no pumpkin blog would be complete without a great pumpkin soup recipe. This soup really gets it's greatness from using fresh pumpkin, so if you have it on hand, I highly recommend it!

Creamy Pumpkin Soup: (Serves 8) prep: 10 min Cook: 20 min.
Ingredients:
1 ½ Medium Onion Chopped 3 Cans Chicken Broth
3 Tablespoons Butter 2 ½ Cups Sliced Peeled Potatoes
2 ½ Cups Canned Cooked Pumpkin 2 ½ Cups Milk
¾ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg ¾ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Pepper 1 ½ Cups Sour Cream
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley 4 Bacon Strips, cooked & crumbled

In a large saucepan, sauté onion in butter until tender.
Add the broth, potatoes and pumpkin; cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat; cool.
Puree half of the mixture at a time in a blender or food processor until smooth; return all to the pan.
Add the milk nutmeg, salt and pepper; heat through.
Meanwhile, combine the sour cream and parsley.
Spoon soup into bowls; top each with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with bacon.


Happy Pumpkin Eating!!!