Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year's Goals v. New Year's Resolutions

I think New Year's Goals are important. The week after Christmas can be a good time to sit back and reflect on life, what needs to change, what needs to be maintained, etc. I always make goals as opposed to resolutions; the more concrete and measurable, the more likely you will follow through! Here are some examples of the difference:

Resolution: Lose Weight
Goal: Lose 10 pounds

Resolution: Eat Healthier
Goal: Eat 3 servings of veggies/day; drink 8 glasses of water/day

Resolution: Get in shape
Goal: Walk three times a week; run 5K in February; etc.

Resolution: Manage finances better
Goal: Balance checkbook every month; stay within stated budget; make a budget by end of January; file taxes by end of February;....

Resolution: Be a better mom
Goal: Read to my kids 30 minutes a day; go outside every day; pray with my children before bed every night; ....

Resolution: Keep in touch better with friends
Goal: Send birthday card for all birthdays on calendar; call 1 long distance friend/week; etc.

Resolution: Be more spiritual
Goal: Read Bible 15 minutes/day; Pray 15 minutes/day; do one Bible study with friend or group at church

It might help to think of different categories before making your goals. Once you have your categories defined, think through your ultimate priorities for those categories. Then, make some measurable goals. Categories might include: finances, health/appearance, spiritual health, family, home/property maintenance, etc. (These categories are inspired in part by Kathy Peel's Busy Mom's Guide--our current featured resource).

Happy Goal-Setting!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wrapping Presents for Toddlers

Toddlers are still rather clumsy at opening the big gift-wrapped (taped and be-ribboned) boxes, so you might consider the following options:

Gift bags with lots of tissue paper; the sparklier and crinklier, the better--especially if a 1-year old will be opening it

Boxes where the lids come off and on easily; the Dollar Tree carries a nice little box set where 1 little box can fit inside the other. These provide endless sources of amusement for little folks who like to put things inside containers. A gift of socks becomes oh, so interesting and delightful when wrapped in one of these little boxes. The boxes are decorated, so you won't need to wrap it further.

Boxes gift-wrapped with minimal tape and a bow stuck on the outside instead of a ribbon wrapped around the gift.

For bigger gifts, just put a big bow on top of the item, unwrapped!

Another point to ponder: little folks often get overwhelmed with lots of presents, especially multiple toys/books. If you have a gift from a relative you will be seeing before Christmas, go ahead and let the child/children open the gift in the presence of that relative. Carrie and I used to get to open a present on Christmas Eve and/or one earlier in the month as well, especially if it was Christmas related (like fun socks).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What About Santa?

Someone made a comment about what we do about Santa. Well, Betsy hasn't really gotten to that point yet...her kids have been so young. With an almost 6 yr. old, we know about Santa. This is what we do, what you can do, and who Santa really is.

Santa originated from St. Nicholas, a real 17th century bishop from the Turkey area today. He responded to the idea of God's gift of love, and gave away money to the poor. BUT he would do it secretly so no one would know. When everyone finally found out, he reminded them that God is the source of all goodness. Some children still leave their shoes out the night before St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) in hope they will find treats in the morning left by a secret giver filled with the love of Jesus.

Hence Americans now have Santa. Santa is based off a good person, so there is not really harm in knowing who Santa is. How you approach it is up to you:

1. Betsy and I grew up believing in Santa, as do a lot of kids and we turned out ok :-). How you handle the let down is up to you.

2. My husband didn't want to lie to the kids, so how we have approached it is more of the Santas don't bring the presents, but they can help mamas and daddys know what to get for Christmas. We will get our picture taken with him and still read The Night Before Christmas. It is still fun, without the lie of him bringing presents. And they enjoy Santa as a good, fun person. We also explained to our oldest this year that there was a real Santa (St. Nick) years ago, which is why Santa is still around today. But it doesn't take away why we really celebrate Christmas. (Although I wish I could hone in on the good behavior thing :-)).

3. Don't do Santa, and don't do what we do above. Just tell your kids that Santa is not real, just a lot of kids think he is. (But you may want to warn them before they break your neighbor's child's heart.) A lot of families don't do Santa, so it's not as big of deal any more. But it wouldn't hurt for them to know where Santa originated, because he was a good person trying to spread God's love.

4. Or come up with your own holiday meaning and tradition. Combine what you like, but throw out what you don't. There is no right or wrong (except keeping the real meaning of Christmas!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Corinthians 13 Christmas Version

Wish I got this earlier!

Author Unknown

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling
lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just
another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all
that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits
me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes,
attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata,
but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china
and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful
they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but
rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will

But giving the gift of love will endure.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures
all things.

Love never fails.

Merry Christmas!

"And Peace to Men.."

Luke 2: 14

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Probably one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, especially this time of year. In my husband's Bible study they all prayed for peace this coming week...all reiterating that with family all around, there is usually one family member who pushes everyone else's buttons. So I took a new look at this verse.

The angels proclaimed peace to men who have favor. My study notes say this is a deep peace, the peace of knowing the savior. And peace does not go to all men, just those with whom he has favor, i.e. not everyone knows the savior and can have true peace.

It also doesn't say that everything will go right. There are people out there who don't know true peace and can train wreck a good holiday. And just because you may have true peace doesn't mean a child won't get sick, you won't get in a wreck, or other tragic things might happen like the death of a family member.

BUT it does say we can have peace. That in the process, we can have a deep peace knowing the Savior is taking care of us and watching over us. That He knows what is best. I have even heard others say, and have experienced "the Peace that surpasses all understanding." He was born a baby so he could die for our sins and give us true everlasting peace.

So on this holiday season fast approaching, I leave you with this:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

Friday, December 19, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: 1 Samuel

My friend Sarah and I are studying 1st Samuel together this school year. I have to confess that it didn't sound all that exciting before we began. I stand corrected! The Old Testament is always relevant to our lives because it all points to Christ and shows us how God interacts with his people. 1st Samuel is no exception. It is worth a reread if you haven't read it in a while!

What has stood out to me in nearly every lesson are the following:
  1. God is holy (read his warnings and then fulfillment to Eli and sons as a start...)
  2. God is sovereign
  3. God ordains authority (Rom. 13 relates here)
  4. God's authorities on earth deserve our respect because he put them there (Rom. 13 again)
  5. God protects his people
  6. God is trustworthy
  7. It is God's place to seek vengeance on our behalf; He is the Judge
  8. God listens to the prayers of his people
  9. God sees the hearts of men, not the outside; he seeks men/women after his own heart
  10. Christ came to earth in an unassuming manner, just like David's own anointing from an unassuming beginning; Christ is, of course, in perfect communion with God the Father, but David does foreshadow Christ's kingly role and the seeking after God's heart that is perfectly exemplified in Christ.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making a List and Checking it Twice...or Three Times...or Four

Traveling over Christmas with little ones in tow? Hear are some tips to make pre-trip days go a bit smoother.


Life is very unpredictable with little ones in the house. You never know when someone will get sick and have to be run to the doctor or something will spill and necessitate another load of laundry or the Christmas presents will get unwrapped prematurely and need to be rewrapped or...

I make lists for everything leading up to a big trip. We'll be leaving Saturday and won't be coming home until the following Friday--7 days away from home--that's a lot of packing to do! So, I make lists for the following things/events (then I don't have to remember anything on my own):
  1. What to pack: clothing/toiletries
  2. What to pack: gifts and stuff
  3. What to do: (i.e. take dogs to vet, pack, clean out car, etc.)
  4. What to eat: don't want to have much perishable food left in the house, so I've made a menu of what our options are and what we need to eat up--it includes breakfast for dinner so we can use up our eggs!
  5. What to do for the house: lights on, thermostat down, hold mail, etc.
Then, I check off as many things 2 days before the trip as possible--again, you never know what's going to transpire on the day of. For instance, I've arranged for our lunch stop on Saturday, packed the kids' clothes, put in an order to h0ld our mail, done all the laundry, planned the menu, wrapped all the presents and grouped them in my room so they can't be touched, booked the dogs in the doggie hotel (actually, that was done before T'giving since our vet books up quickly), etc.

If you're prepared and nothing unusual happens the day before the trip, then you just have bonus time: read some Christmas books, go to a park if it's nice, make and decorate some sugar cookies for your host (the grandparents most likely), or just watch a fun Christmas movie. Your kids will look forward to trips if you aren't stressed out the day before and running around yelling at them.

Childishness v. Disobedience

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp is an outstanding book--Carrie's most recent post gave a great segment of it on communication with children.

Another reminder in that book that I've been mulling over with a friend of mine recently is the difference between childish behavior and defiant behavior. When children are young (i.e. toddler/preschooler), it's very important to discern whether or not your child is being childish (accidentally knocked the milk over when he reaches for his fork) v. defiant (knocking the milk over intentionally after you told him not to touch it). Sometimes it's a hard line to draw, but more often than not, I think we react to simple childishness in ways that are more appropriate for defiance/disobedience. The communication steps Carrie referred to in her post are great for this: would the time when your child knocks the milk over be a time for censure? (for defiance) for warning or instruction (for childish behavior)? for encouragement (accident and the child is upset)?

I've been thinking through my New Year's Goals (a whole post coming on why I make goals instead of resolutions!), and one of them is to slow down so I can really train my children well. Part of that slowing down means I will take the time to think through my children's behavior more instead of simply reacting the same way all the time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Communicating To Our Children

Well, I wish I could say I came up with this...but no. This is actually taken from a book, Shepherding a Child's Heart. A friend in a Bible study sent this to us and she keeps it posted around her house with big Stop signs to remind her before she acts out of hand:

Rich Biblical Forms of Communication

Encouragement Correction Rebuke Entreaty

Instruction Warning Teaching Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:14

Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak,

be patient with everyone”.


Encouragement:Children need communication designed to inspire and fill with hope & courage. Help them assess the reasons for disappointment; help them understand the promises of God. You can help them to find courage, hope and inspiration from God, who draws near to the brokenhearted and contrite.

Correction:Correction gives your children insight into what is wrong and what may be done to correct the problem. Correction helps your children to understand God’s standard and teaches them to assess their behavior against the standard.

Rebuke:A rebuke censures behavior. Sometimes a child must experience your sense of alarm, shock and dismay at what he has done or said. Followed by instruction, encouragement and prayer.

Entreaty:This communication is earnest & intense. It involves pleading, soliciting, urging and even begging. An earnest pleading for a child to act in wisdom & faith. It is reserved for use in cases of great import. Proverbs 23:26

Instruction:Instruction is the process of providing a lesson, a precept, or information that will help your children to understand their world. Children need a framework in which they can understand life. King Solomon’s proverbs are a rich source of information about life.

Warning:A warning is merciful speech. A warning faithfully alerts us to danger while there is still time to escape unharmed. An alert parent can enable his child both to escape danger and learn in the process. Warning preserves. The warning is an application of the sowing and reaping principle that we find operative throughout scripture.

Teaching:Teaching is the process of imparting knowledge. Teaching is causing someone to know something. Sometimes, teaching takes place before it is needed. It is often most powerfully done after a failure or problem.

Prayer: Our most penetrating insights into our children will often come as they pray. Hearing you pray will communicate your faith in God to your child

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12 Days of Christmas

This is a fun 12 days of Christmas version. Enjoy.

12 Days of Christmas Song

Interesting Nativity Facts:

Well, I have a major cold, still haven't sent out the Christmas cards, and got sprung with a surprise appraisal on a very messy house. So, I thought I would just jot down some fun Nativity facts that you may or may not know (since the brain isn't going to produce anything else of value!)

1. We don't know if Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. It never says in the Bible. However, if she WERE to ride on something, it probably was a donkey because they were cheaper.

2. The Bible also doesn't specifically mention that they stayed in a stable. But where else do you find a manger.

3. I wonder if the shepherds abandoned all their sheep when they went and saw Jesus, or left someone behind to watch them...poor fellow who got left if that's the case.

4. They do say a new star was in the sky that night, and that the wise men noticed. They were Magi, which means they would know astronomy (not astrology as some thought).

5. There weren't just 3 wise men. Actually the Bible doesn't state how many there were. It was just plural, meaning more than one. They brought 3 different types of gifts which is where the 3 comes from. (Interesting...those are some of the same spices used for burials of kings I think. And they used to use them around the Tabernacle for sacrifices and to annoint the Tabernacle.)

6. The wise men probably came when Jesus was closer to 2 years old.

7. I wonder if Mary walked to Bethlehem and that's what put her into labor?...could have been part of God's plan.

8. "Santa" didn't appear until the 19th century. Which means he wouldn't be found kneeling at the manger. (Sorry for whoever likes those decorations.)

9. The day Jesus was born does not start the "A.D." (Anno Domini) System of dating. He was probably born between 7 and 2 B.C. But it is the basis for which A.D. was started...(maybe the Magi helped with that? Hhhmmmm....)

10. This is NOT necessarily the day that Jesus was born. It was just the day set aside for it, probably corresponding with a Roman festival or Winter Solstace.

Merry Christmas...Go ahead and make a birthday cake if you would like :-).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Advent Book

If you are looking for a great family tradition, this is a fabulous book. My parents gave us this several years ago, and the kids fight to open the doors. Each day you open a door that tells the story of the birth of Jesus. I found it on Amazon.

Wednesday Equals Wash Day

So, when you move all your laundry needs to one day, as I have done, your house undergoes an interesting makeover on the Big Day. I decided to let the kids enjoy the myriad baskets of laundry since it would all be clean and out of reach by the end of the day. Anyone else's house ever look like this?

Wednesday Equals Wash Day

So, when you move all your laundry needs to one day, as I have done, your house undergoes an interesting makeover on the Big Day. I decided to let the kids enjoy the myriad baskets of laundry since it would all be clean and out of reach by the end of the day. Anyone else's house ever look like this?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free Advent Coloring Pages

These are pages that your child can color, one for each day in December. They have scripture on the bottom of each one telling the Christmas story. This is a fabulous site with lots of free printables, craft ideas, etc. I have used it a ton.

DLTK's Advent Coloring Pages

Monday, December 8, 2008

Present Blunders

Ok, this is totally to make you all laugh and feel a little better about yourself. I'm not even that old! (I had Betsy practically in tears...). So, last week was tiring and rough, especially Tuesday, when I told my darling (HAH!) 5 yr old to stay in his room till Daddy got home. So my hubby let me escape and go finish painting a teacup for my niece's birthday (that was in October!). Well...almost done and the lady says "why don't you date the bottom." Sure says frazzled brain. Well, it was for this past October (2008) and her birthday is in the 20's. What I put was 10 (got that right)-18-2009. Don't ask....just laugh till you cry. I don't even know the brain malfunction to come up with that. I'm not dating things any more!! (I messed up the twins date on their cups too....)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Season of Advent

This past week I have found myself in a state of tiredness (left from Thanksgiving, cold, etc.) and a little stressed over the Christmas presents not gotten, and realized I am doing the very thing I swore I wouldn't do this year.

Last year was a very different Christmas season for our family. The weeks proceeding were filled with chaos, stuff, stress, etc. Then Christmas Eve, into the wee morning hours of Christmas day, my husband and I sat in a hospital room hearing the news that our baby boy had died at 16 weeks into the pregnancy. On what should have been a joyous holiday, we were in a state of shock. However, as we spent hours in the hospital with all the procedures, I was so struck with the fact that this is WHY Christ came to earth. To rid us of all the pain, suffering and sin we have to deal with. I had never experienced Christ's birth in such a real way before. And had never slowed down as much as I was forced to then to really think.

The Advent season is usually the 4 weeks preceding Christmas, or the day we celebrate Christ's birth. Wikipedia defines it as: "the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus." It's the excitement of children, counting down the days. It's the realization that we are a blessed people with a loving God, who cares so much.

In light of advent, I have quit school (we home school) for the season, and will be spending time with my boys. Last Christmas, I would have gladly said "come quickly Lord." But I have two little ones who need to also want the same. So we may not buy or make a gift for everyone we know, or run ragged to every event. But we will enjoy what we will do, and hopefully they will catch the true Christmas spirit-the season of Advent, and understand why we celebrate. My hope is that amidst the chaos, you will too.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Busy Day in the Life Of...

Today was an exceptionally busy day--the actual schedule didn't have much on it, but when you factor in the three small children.... All you moms out there can show this to someone who thinks you don't do anything all day. There's also an interesting news article being circulated on this same topic and my friend Alicia posted it on her blog. I certainly have many days where we are "just" at home and the workload feels very different. But this is a good example of any day where I might have an errand scheduled.

Actual scheduled items: 3-year old check up at the doctor at 10:30 a.m.; Christmas party at 6:30 p.m. No biggie, right? Read on... (Times are approximate)

  • 7:00: I wake up, shower, get dressed, etc.
  • 7:30: Get kids up, dress boys (the Dynamic Duo henceforth)
  • 8:00: Help get hubby out the door, give kids milk and dry cereal to tide them over, let dogs out,....
  • 8:30: Feed kids: scrambled eggs, toast, clementines; check email while kids are eating; call Alondra (my friend who was planning to keep the boys in addition to her own 4 children during the Elf's 3-year-old check up); put diaper bag and sippy cups in car
  • 9:00: Herd kids upstairs and deposit in boys' room; quickly wrap hats and mittens as early Christmas gift from "Mimi" (one of their grandmothers); give presents out and take pictures for aforementioned, absent grandmother; try hats on and boys' are too small; add hats to bag of Target returns/exchanges
  • 9:15: Bathe the Elf
  • 9:45: Start the car (it was 25 degrees outside...); change Dynamic Duo's diapers; bundle kids up; answer phone; herd them downstairs (which means I make two trips, carrying a boy each time); grab Target bag and purse; herd kids to car (again, 2 trips)
  • 10:00: Leave; run by neighbor's who just called and drop off Christmas goodies (pecans and almonds)
  • 10:15: Arrive at Alondra's; unload kids, diaper bag, sippy cups; give final instructions (yes, the Dynamic Duo can eat anything you want to give them for lunch)
  • 10:30: Arrive at doctor's right on time--truly amazing! I even managed to have her Christmas gift with us--more pecans--but forgot the Elf's urine sample; thankfully she actually could pee in the cup this time! (please, those of you who know me, no comments on peeing in the cup issues! :) )
  • 11:30: Leave doctor's and head for Target; returns and exchanges at Target (including new hats for the Dynamic Duo)
  • 12:00: Get gas at Kroger (so cheap today!)
  • 12:15: Chick-Fil-A drive thru for lunch for the Elf and me; 3 milkshakes to split between 6 kids and two adults--thank you gift for Alondra!
  • 12:30: Arrive back at Alondra's; divvy up milkshakes and slurp them down (inhale chicken sandwich)
  • 1:00: Pack kids back up in car; thank Alondra; drive home singing and making funny noises to keep the Dynamic Duo awake
  • 1:30: Unload kids; herd them upstairs; change diapers; try on new hats and take more pictures; put Dynamic Duo down for naps
  • 2:00: Upload pictures and send to absent grandmother; check email; put on White Christmas for the Elf
  • 2:15: Start something for kids' early dinner; Wrap white elephant present; gather Christmas party stuff (white elephant present, appetizer stuff, Christmas gift for hostess/friend, sheets and pac-n-play)
  • 2:45: Chat with friend on phone while picking up stuff around the house
  • 3:00: Another neighbor stops by to return a borrowed tablecloth and leaves with her gift of pecans (almost done passing those out!)
  • 3:15: Pin and hem fleece blanket for the Elf's Christmas present
  • 4:00: Wake Dynamic Duo up; change clothes/diapers; herd downstairs
  • 4:15: Early dinner! Load car up with all the miscellaneous stuff needed for evening party (including snuggly sleep aids!); Call friend and ask to borrow pac-n-play for evening
  • 5:00: Load kids up into car (after bundling up in fleeces and new hats); Have frantic phone conversation with equally frantic fellow mom/friend
  • 5:15: Leave (actually it was closer to 5:30--the time I said I would arrive at the friend's house I was borrowing the pac-n-play from)
  • 6:00: Arrive at friend's house and pick up pac-n-play
  • 6:30: Arrive at friend's house who was throwing party; Begin unloading food, kids, gear
  • 7:00: Set up pac-n-plays while hubby (who met me at the party) watches kids; set out food; get snacks for kids; decide boys are tired and begin bedtime process for them
  • 7:30: Dynamic Duo is quiet in their respective pac-n-plays and the Elf is watching a movie with the same kids the boys played with earlier in the day! The Dynamic Duo made a few peeps throughout the evening, but in general we got to relax and have a good time with friends
  • 9:30: Kids' movie is over and we begin to pack everyone/everything up
  • 10:15: (yes, it took 45 minutes to gather sleeping toddlers, dismantle pac-n-plays, load up car!) We left the party; Kids were all asleep in minutes.
  • 11:00: Arrive home and begin unloading--3 trips up our stairs, once for each kid (usually hubby helps with this, but he stayed at the party--he'll have kid duty tomorrow morning when I head to a ladies' brunch all by my lonesome!). Take off kids' jeans and put on softer sweats, but leave them in their same shirts/sweaters for sleeping!
  • 11:30: Write this because it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
  • 11:45: Head to bed (oh... should feed the dogs I guess)
What do I do on the days we are at home? Laundry day might include 6 loads of laundry; a trip to Kroger for weekly groceries on "Errand Day" takes 2+hours counting loading/unloading time--that does not count putting the groceries up once we get home; a trip to the gym for a 1/2 hour workout takes 1 1/2 hours; story time; playing outside; feeding kids;.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Top Five Consumable Gifts

Consumable gifts include anything that the recipient can consume. Food and drink pop into mind immediately, but this category also includes art supplies, gift certificates, classes, magazine subscriptions, etc. Why are consumable gifts fun to give/receive? They are often something the recipient really enjoys and is constantly in need of (think: an avid scrapbooker will always appreciate more fun paper and stickers; a golf aficionado will enjoy taking a class or two to brush up on his skills); they show some thoughtfulness on the giver's part; they don't clutter up the house!

Here are the top five consumable gifts my husband and I have given/received:

  1. Classes: These are so much fun to receive. We've taken cooking classes and woodworking classes and given cooking classes and golf lessons. Photography classes, art classes, stained glass classes, cake decorating classes, the sky's the limit! Check out local hobby shops, cooking stores, and the internet. We've found that $40 is a good ball park number for most of these.
  2. Food and drink: Whether homemade, from a gourmet store, or simply a well put together basket of goodies, food and drink are always appropriate. Give a nice gift of Omaha steaks, put together your own scone mix and include a jar of lemon curd, buy a nice bottle of wine, make up some spice mixes, make your own jelly, .... the options are endless! This might be especially nice if you know someone on a restricted diet (gluten free, for instance). Hunt down something delicious that is on their allowed diet!
  3. Hobby Supplies: Consumable supplies are anything the recipient uses up. Batteries, film (does anyone still use film?), art supplies, scrapbooking supplies, cake decorating supplies, model train supplies--even "boring" items like tape, glue, and carpentry pencils come in handy for those people on your list who are in their "shops" all the time!
  4. Magazine Subscriptions: Does a child in your family love animals? Does someone love to cook? What about woodworking? Is your mother a gardener? There are endless magazines devoted to micro-specialties. If someone you know is interested in a particular area, a magazine subscription in that field might be the perfect gift.
  5. Stationary: It's easy to buy nice, blank cards from an invitation store and "monogram" them using your home computer. You can also buy handmade cards from someone you know who stamps or embellishes cards. Even a big variety box of birthday cards would be a welcome gift to a shut-in who enjoys sending people birthday greetings. Individual cards get very expensive. You might consider including some stamps or writing the return address or some other small favor if you are giving these to someone who could benefit from that assistance.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Making Christmas Presents--Jalapeno Jelly

I won't bore our few faithful readers with accounts of all the Christmas gifts I've tried to make, but this one is such a good illustration of why I must start months ahead of time to finish anything these days. Making Jalapeno Jelly seemed like such a straightforward process; if you'd like the bare bones recipe for normal people, see full tummies. If you'd like to see what this process is like with 3 young children, read on.... Remember, it only takes about 2o minutes "active time" to make this.

Rewind back to late May: I planted my garden. I got such a late start because of aforementioned toddlers, so, the salsa ingredients I planted failed to mature all at the same time. (Read that as: hundreds of jalapenos, few tomatoes, and no bell peppers....) So, I was stuck with tons of jalapenos and decided that everyone was getting jalapeno jelly for Christmas this year! Genius, right?

August: Didn't have time to actually make the jelly, so I chopped up all the peppers and froze them.

Fall: bought all supplies for jelly making (pectin, jars, etc.).

November: Realized in a panic that I was planning to take all Christmas gifts for hubby's side of the family with us to Thanksgiving since we might not see them at Christmas. Time for jelly making (and finishing other Christmas presents, making shortbread, etc.). So, the day for jelly making arrives. Here's my day:
  • Breakfast: while kids are eating, I retrieve all supplies from basement and other places. Pull peppers out of freezer. So far, so good. Oh--I fished out my big canning funnel from the kids' toy bin and gave it a good washing.
  • Mid-morning: wash all jars and lids. Set big canning pot and stock pot on stove.
  • Lunchtime: while kids are eating, I start jars sterilizing (takes FOREVER for water to boil in my big pot) and blend up peppers. Realize I'm 1/4 cup sugar short and SPRINT to neighbor's house with my key, purloin some sugar, sprint back (all in the rain), and make sure kids are still alive and well on planet Earth.
  • Naptime: Well, only 2 of the 3 kids was napping (long story). But, still, the odds are in my favor. So, we begin the actual 15-20 minute process by placing pepper/vinegar/sugar mixture in pot on stove and turn the burner on. This only has to come to a rolling boil and boil for a few minutes...
  • AS SOON AS I TURN THE BURNER ON: Twin A (the lucky one downstairs with me) has a dirty diaper. Might not be cause for immediate attention on a normal day, but this was the first one in a couple of days. Move pot of pepper mixture off burner and tend to diaper.
  • Wash hands and begin again. This time I make it to the point when I'm actually pouring the hot mixture into the hot jars and daughter starts screaming bloody murder (upstairs in her room). I screw hot bands on hot lids and hot jars (burning my fingers) and throw them all into the pot and race upstairs (scooping up Twin A). She'd gotten the mini blinds cord around her neck.... (sigh). Yes, it could have been bad, but this time it just scared her (and me). We spend some time comforting and snuggling and discussing why that's not a good idea to do EVER AGAIN. Then, we all three march back downstairs just in time to take jars out of water bath. Did I decide to do the needed second batch that same day? Nope... We'll save that adventure for an evening when kids are in bed and hubby is at home.
  • Verdict: 6 half-pints of beautiful and tasty jelly; 3 safe kids; 1 pooped mom.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Enjoying the Holidays

This year, I'm 100% committed to enjoying the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving: my all-time favorite holiday. What could be better than a day with family and friends, gathered around the best meal of the year, and thanking the Lord together for his abundant blessings?!

But I digress. Here's what I'm vowing "publicly" to not do during this holiday season:

  • Complain about dealing with other holiday shoppers (we're big fans of,, and other sorts of internet dealers!)
  • Complain about the weather (after all, that's partly why these holidays are so much fun--we get to snuggle up next to the fireplace!)
  • Complain about my waistline... ahem...
  • Complain about "all that I have to do"
  • Throw a big Christmas party that involves lots of work beforehand
  • Stress about getting the perfect gift
  • Plan lots of homemade gifts (I am working on a few that I've been working on... and they're almost done! No more after these are finished!)
  • Plan to decorate my house as if it was going to be pictured in Southern Living
  • Complain about traveling over the holidays
Here's what I'm vowing to do:
  • Enjoy teaching my 3-year-old more about the real meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Enjoy giving gifts of all shapes and sizes to people of all shapes and sizes
  • Enjoy sending out our Christmas cards because it reminds me of all the many friends and family we have
  • Enjoy eating the luscious holiday treats... in moderation
  • Enjoy spending time with friends and families
  • Enjoy making sugar cookies with my daughter (and decorating them!)
  • Enjoy raking leaves and other fall-ish outdoor activities with my kids
  • Enjoy sitting before the fireplace with my husband (even though we'll be telling our kids "Don't touch" the whole time since they LOVE the fire screen...)
  • Thank the Lord for such wonderful reminders of his grace in our lives and Jesus's ultimate sacrifice on our behalf!
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top Five: Holiday Gifts for Teachers

Well, gift-giving time is fast approaching, so it's time to start throwing ideas out into the blog world! You might consider giving your child's teacher a gift this next week as a thanks to him or her for his or her hard work! Christmas gifts abound, but Thanksgiving gifts are quite rare. Just a thought! I wrote a little post a while back on great gifts for teachers that work any time of the year. Below are some new ones that seem particularly suited to the holidays (remember, in my five years of teaching middle and high school, I received many, many holiday gifts of various sorts...this list comes from experience! I also have my fair share of random trinkets, ornaments, candle holders, etc....).

  1. Gift Certificates for personal items: clothing stores and bookstores are the best!
  2. Gift Certificates for classroom items: many teachers buy items for their classrooms out of their own pockets. A gift certificate to someplace like Schoolbox would come in handy!
  3. Edible Goodies: I'd recommend you not wait until the last week of the semester to send in something edible. I once got so many edible gifts that I thew a Christmas party to use them all up--seriously! So, send some cookies in the first week of December or bake a loaf of banana bread or pumpkin chocolate chip muffins or scones this coming week for your child's teacher to enjoy over the Thanksgiving Break.
  4. A Meal for the Freezer! Seriously, folks, if I'd received this during a crunch week (or just ahead of a crunch week) when I was teaching, what a gift this would have been! If your child's teacher has children at home to feed, this would be a tremendous help. If your child's teacher is single or married with no kids, pack up a smaller portion. Comfort food always works: Chicken Pot Pie or Cheeseburger Meatloaf would be great options.
  5. Relaxation Rx: Gift certificate to a restaurant and movie tickets plus offer to babysit; gift certificate to Blockbuster plus some microwave popcorn and some hot chocolate mix; you get the idea!
Go thank those hard-working teachers!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Power Cooking

My friend Bridgette and I spoke at her MOPS group recently. (Check out Bridgette's great Favorite Things blog--she reviews all her favorite kid-related products, including her MOPS group!) We spoke about Power Cooking: cooking meals for your freezer, whether you spend an entire day cooking an entire month's worth of meals, or simply do a "daily double" here and there (doubling recipes here and there to keep a steadily rotating supply of meals in the freezer).

This is a great time of year to stash a few extra goodies away in your freezer. Comfort food (think chili, chicken pot pie, etc.) usually freezes well and is so welcome after a day out Christmas shopping or just in the midst of a busy holiday season. You can even freeze cookies and other desserts if you need to get a head start on holiday treats.

I'll try to get our MOPS handout up at full tummies soon, but if you're interested in Power Cooking, check out full tummies--it's loaded with freezer meal recipes, a great original post on cooking for your freezer that Carrie wrote (she used to work at one of those assemble-your-own-meals-for-your-freezer places and has lots of experience). Carrie contributed the Stuffed Braided Bread and Maple Honey Mustard Pork Chops recipes in particular. They're yummy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Teabag: In Christ Alone

No matter what your feelings were over this last week...We sang this in Church this morning. One of my favorite hymns, or praise hymns (not in the Trinity Hymnal). I hope you can relish the words as I did. It says it all!

In Christ Alone: (1st and 4th stanzas)
In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all--Here in the love of Christ I stand.

No guilt in life, no fear in death--this is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand;
Till he returns or calls me home--here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Praying for our Leaders

I must first confess that I do not pray for our political leaders or our nation like I should. It takes a big presidential election, a national tragedy, or something similar to drive me to my knees before the throne of God.

That being said, it seems that the Holy Spirit has been hard at work convicting me of this during the last few days. Carrie posted an excellent post on Monday about praying for our nation and its leaders. A friend of mine and I committed to holding each other accountable for praying for our nation regularly; specifically, she's going to be praying for Supreme Court justices (that old ones won't retire and/or that new ones appointed will be conservative) and for issues related to protecting the unborn (abortion, stem cell research funding, etc.). She'll also be praying for our president-elect. To add to these two convicting points, our women's Bible study is currently studying Acts. What was our passage this week? Paul's (Saul's) Damascus Road experience. If Paul can be saved--he who was not only persecuting the early church, but zealously persecuting believers--than anyone can be turned around by the gospel. Paul not only was saved dramatically, but he went on to author (through the Holy Spirit) most of our New Testament. Clearly, my faith is weak. I hardly ever think of praying for the salvation of those leading our country; I hardly ever think of praying that the Lord will use them powerfully for the sake of the gospel, especially if their track record/stated beliefs are the to the contrary. Imagine what could happen if the Lord convicted whoever is our Commander in Chief and that man (or woman) went on to be the kind of zealous Christian Paul was! Hmmm.... Something to think about.

And then, the final convicting moment came last night when my husband handed me a list of ways to pray for President-Elect Barak Obama that he'd received at his book club. These are excellent and should be applied to any and every Commander in Chief! You can read them here (the thoughts/list were written by Presbyterian (PCA) pastor Ligon Duncan).

So, folks, let's pray for our country and its leaders!! By God's grace, anyone can become a force for the gospel, spreading its truth. By God's grace, anyone can be convicted of sin. By God's grace, our Supreme Court justices could become Christians. Our President and President-Elect could spread the truth of the gospel. Our nation could uphold the sanctity of life--human life that is made in the image of God. By God's grace, our freedoms to speak publicly of these very things could be upheld. So, add our nation and its leaders to your regular prayer list if you haven't already done so.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


If you didn't early vote or vote by absentee ballot, then today's the day!!! Please do not let this opportunity to make your voice heard pass you by. Your vote does matter and the principle of thing matters. Many countries in the world do not allow their citizens the privilege of voting for anything, much less for a major election like our presidential race. And think of how hard our "foremothers" worked to earn this privilege for us women! Cast that ballot, ladies. Don't take this for granted. You'll also be setting a great model of active citizenship for your young'un's. I remember my mom taking this seriously when I was growing up (she still takes it seriously and voted by absentee ballot because she would be out of town on the big day--yea, Mom!).

Monday, November 3, 2008

One Nation Under God

Well, I know everyone is on pins and needles. I also think every TV will be on tomorrow night. But ultimately, it comes down to a few things.

1. God's candidate will win. And no I am not talking about Obama or McCain...but the one God wants in office. We can't know and can't predict the future of our country. The ONLY thing we have to rely on is our trust that God always knows best.

2. Pray for our country. Have you ever considered that if your candidate didn't win...God might be teaching you a little more in faith and prayer. Pray for whoever is in office. I think many of us get lax in praying for our leaders when we think they are OK. But even good leaders can turn bad....or bad leaders can turn good.

3. Pray for your fellow countrymen. I am always amazed and how patriotism is getting less and less. And that doesn't mean you do or don't believe in war. It means you are proud of our country, its values and beliefs. I think our founding Fathers would be horrified. But we can teach our children what our country was founded on, and what it stands for.

4. Pray for your service to our country. We have the privilege to vote. We have the privilege of freedom. And we have a witness to others. Why do the French always act rude to us....maybe we act rude to them. What kind of image do we give off to our fellow Americans and to those from other countries?

So pray for our Nation Under God. And pray we will be a nation under God. The founders of this country went out on a limb....traveled miles of dangerous sea....all because they wanted the freedom to worship their God. I don't know many of us today that would do the same. But they had a strong belief and a passion for that belief, and a trust that God would protect them and see them through. And our country became one of the strongest in the world. With Thanksgiving approaching, we might could learn a little about faith from our founding fathers.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Portion Controlled Candy

No, this is not a post telling you how much candy to allow your kiddos to eat Friday night.

It IS a post reminding you to stock up on Halloween candy as it goes on sale after Friday night. Why?

We don't eat a lot of candy in our house.... oh wait.... that was my original goal. We do, however, use our candy wisely. My kids get 1 Hershey's Kiss or something similar for "dessert" after lunch on Fridays--our special treat. My daughter gets a small chocolate something as a reward for having "dry and clean pants" after her afternoon quiet/nap time. You get the picture. Candy marketed for Halloween is a great source for these small bits and pieces. Candy corn, for instance, is individually packaged in small amounts--we would split one of those small packages between our three kids for a small post-lunch or dinner treat. Small candy bars, bags of Smarties, etc. are all great resources to have on hand--especially if you have a potty-training adventure just ahead of you!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Faulty Parenting

Ok, let's face it. None of us are perfect-- Sorry to burst your bubble. And having kids is one of the best ways to face all your sins. Sounds like extra fun. So I thought I would share some of our own faults with you, as an extra reminder to be careful, watch what you say, and admit we make mistakes too.

"I QUIT": Recently our older son has been spitting this out at the first sign of defeat. Especially with sports lately. It has been really frustrating. We have given all the song and dance about "keep trying", yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Not much helps. And he has no problems pulling out a dramatic temper tantrum regardless of who is around. (Mom....I don't want to hear it :-)).

We have been analyzing this lately, trying to come up with a solution. In the process we have discovered something we have been doing. Both my husband and I can be very sarcastic, especially when we get frustrated. We realized we have probably said "I QUIT" many times out of desperation. In reality, neither of us are quitting. It's just an expression to us. But, not knowing sarcasm, we think our 5 yr old somewhere along the way picked it up. Now we are stuck with trying to "undo" it. Where is the handbook when you need it.

LYING: Ok, my 5 yr. old totally caught me in this yesterday. How humiliating!! I was trying to get the 2 yr old down for a nap, without a screaming fit. After announcing nap time, he told his big brother to "come's nap time". Well, the 5 yr old wasn't going to take a nap. So I told our 2 yr old, he would come in a few minutes, just not right now. (Remember, I didn't want an issue.) After I got back, my 5 yr. old asked me if he was going to have to take a nap. I said "no" since we had to do school. Which, he responded, "then why did you tell Gavin I would come later." CAUGHT, red handed!!

So what do we do about all this. Well, for starters, remember to apologize to your kids. Yes, we are usually right, and they are wrong. But like I said, we make mistakes too. Apologizing can go a long way in their minds. Let them see you actively working on your mistakes and situations. You will fail at can just keep trying harder the next time. And pray, pray, pray. There is nothing more humbling than being a parent and seeing all of your sinful ways coming out through your kids.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Teabag: Forgetfullness Allowed!

...But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 13b-14

I am so excited to be allowed to forget :-). It's not talking about losing memory of our sinful past (and what God has done), but realizing it is done with and settled. So are you holding onto your past memories of failure...or trying to move ahead and change your future?

The Busy Mom's Guide: A Review

The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy Organized Home by Kathy Peel is exactly what it says it is: a guide for busy moms! This is a quick read, full of helpful charts, suggestions, checklists, and strategies for organizing your home and family life efficiently.

What makes this book different from many others I've read is hard to explain. I really liked Peel's emphasis in chapter 1 on identifying priorities. She challenges the reader to make sure that she is mothering according to her priorities, not someone else's (or the media's); she challenges the reader to evaluate every area by this same standard. This simple exercise really helped me take a hard look at some of my activities and practices within the home and determine whether or not I was operating according to my professed beliefs and priorities.

Another approach I appreciated was her division of the home/family into 7 main areas; Peel has talked about her Family Manager system in other works and uses these same 7 categories: home, children, etc. This book is a quick overview of the 7 areas and what you might need to know about them. You can find much more detailed cleaning information in other places or more thorough financial checklists, but if you're a busy mom, you don't have time! This is the book for you!

My parents have known the Peels for a long time (which is how I ended up with a copy of this book), so there is a little personal connection for me here. In addition, you might want to know that Kathy Peel is a Christian. The book is not explicitly Christian, but there is definite emphasis on both spiritual areas as well as counsel that is in keeping with biblical thought (even though it is not expressly presented as such). I encourage you to skim through a copy the next time you're at Borders or Barnes and Noble (or simply order it via amazon).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Fruit of the Spirit (Self Control)

I've been "savoring" this fruit of the Spirit for quite a while now. It really is the root of so many "issues" we have in our society, isn't it? As we watch the government attempt to bail out banks, we can only wonder about the lack of self control when greed takes over and people begin to buy more house than they can afford or banks want to approve people for loans that are unwise because a bigger loan brings more interest money to the bank.

We will soon be bombarded with ads relating to Christmas and all the gifts we're expected to buy. If someone mentions a budget for Christmas (i.e. self control in spending), then that person is often considered miserly or a "Scrooge."

As soon as Christmas is over, the diet craze begins as everyone wants to start a new year off right and burn off all the pounds they put on during their holiday gluttony (gluttony is simply lack of self control when you eat and choosing to eat more and more and more and more...).

In addition to areas like budgeting and eating responsibly, there are everyday issues of controlling our tempers, choosing to clean house instead of reading a book, choosing to write a letter to a grandparent instead of playing around on the internet, choosing to file our paperwork (bills and such) in a timely manner instead of letting it all pile up, choosing to love our husbands and spend time with them in the evening instead of talking on the phone to a friend.... It all boils down to self control, doesn't it? When we can control our selves, all that our flesh desires at the expense of what the Spirit desires, then what a life we will begin to lead! It's no wonder that this is a fruit of the Spirit because our fleshly selves are powerful forces with which to reckon.

The good news is always the same: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. When we are out of control in whatever area, we can pray for the Spirit to fill us and enable us to have self control. The more we abide in Christ--the more time we spend in prayer and in the Word--the more we are in tune with the Holy Spirit. I'm learning constantly that the small daily decisions I make have such a lifetime of impact and they also get easier to make as the habit becomes more ingrained. Getting up fifteen minutes earlier to pray and read your Bible (and, for me, pray that the Holy Spirit will enable me to control my temper when my daughter makes me so mad) becomes such a part of your routine that you will find yourself longing for that time, that it actually can motivate you to get out of bed some mornings. I don't need a new diet plan for those last 10 pounds, I need some self control. I don't need a new parenting plan, I need some self control. I need to exercise self control in my budgeting, in my household management, in my time with my children, ..... I need to pray, don't I? I need to seek the Lord and his strength, his Holy Spirit, his face first.

Scripture makes it very clear that our first priority is to seek the Lord. Pray for that self control to set aside time to seek Him!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Top Five Ways to Make a Teacher's Day

If you have a child in school, then read on! This post is in honor of my fellow teachers, particularly my cousin, Sara, who's currently in the trenches as a high school English teacher (yes, English teachers DO have more grading than those teaching other subjects--I know, for I've taught them all. There are different struggles in other subjects, but the sheer volume of papers to grade for those teaching English is overwhelming. But I digress...).

Teachers work very hard at what they do. Whether your child is an angelic, straight-A student or a rowdy, struggling C- student, or simply an average, hard-working B student (or an angelic C- student or a back-talking, swaggering straight-A student or any one of a number of permutations on this theme...), your child's teacher is working hard to teach your child. Speaking from experience here, it is so much more rewarding and motivating to teach those children whose parents are "on your side." This doesn't mean you need to agree with everything a teacher says/does, but when conflicts do arise, if you have a good relationship with that teacher, the conflict will no doubt go more smoothly and good resolution is much more likely. So how do you build a good rapport with your child's teacher? Consider some of the following ways to "make a teacher's day." Again, speaking from experience, these are some of the best gifts you can give to a hard-working teacher.

  1. Send an encouraging note--recognize his/her hard work, acknowledge something said or done in class that your child enjoyed, commit to praying for him/her, include a meaningful Scripture reference, whatever...
  2. Offer to help grade or file papers: When you offer, be specific: "I know parent-teacher conferences are coming up and you must have a lot of papers to grade (file). I can stay an extra hour to help after I drop Johnny off on Friday, so have a stack ready for me!" (say it with a smile)
  3. Offer to decorate a bulletin board, get field-trip information together, or some other "service": again, mention a specific time or event ("You must have a lot to do for that apple orchard field trip coming up. I can come an hour before school's out on Tuesday to help--copy permission slips, make phone calls, etc.").
  4. Send in something edible for no reason at all: pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, a loaf of banana bread, some cookies, etc. Don't wait for Christmas.
  5. Remember your child's teacher's birthday!!!!!! What a statement that makes! A card is all you need.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Activity Bag Swap

We had our activity bag swap last night, and it was a great success! 17 ladies swapped preschool activity bags (from Preschool Activity Bags, vol. 1-2), and took home a nice, big "variety pack" full of activities sure to charm our preschoolers. My daughter has been working on some of them this morning--I can hardly drag her away! I encourage any of you reading this who have preschoolers at home to check these books out. The ideas are easy to make and really seem to appeal to our little ones. The swap was very straightforward to organize and is a great way to gather a nice collection of different activities for your children. We aimed for a wide variety of academic, play, fine motor, sorting, and recognition skills: bean bag toss, lots of ABC or number matching, coloring, tracing, bead stringing, and even an activity that involves clipping colored paper clips on matching colored squares.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: 2 Timothy 3

I am studying Acts in a women's Bible study this year, and tonight I read a passage in 2 Timothy (3:1-5--I read more...) about the "last days" in order to gain a better understanding of the last days referred to in our Acts passage. I titled this post "Savoring a Cup of Tea," but I haven't been "savoring" this passage long since I just read it! However, it brings to mind all kinds of thoughts. I thought I'd copy it here for you and let you savor it with me as I sort of "think as I type."

2 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV; emphasis mine)
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

Wow! Does that make anyone else sit up and take note?! So much here to dissect. I am not one of those alarmists that is always going on saying the end of the world is nigh. But the message here is clear: "avoid such people"! A few thoughts on some of the specifics:
  • lovers of self: enough said, right? Aren't we all?
  • disobedient to parents: another reminder of what, as parents, need to be training our children to do--obedience is REQUIRED by the Lord, not just a convenience
  • ungrateful: remember this as Thanksgiving comes around--being thankful is not just a day out of the year, but a constant attitude we should have
  • without self-control: I've yet to write my final fruit of the Spirit post, but this one is a huge one!!! How many times have you (or I) yelled at your children, eaten something you shouldn't have, skipped doing something you should be doing in favor of something you merely want to do--so many times we don't control our self and give into whatever the flesh would like to do
  • having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power: to me, this means we are going through the motions of looking spiritual (church attendance, devotions, etc.), but are not really seeking the Lord and serving him wholeheartedly. Instead, we are just doing things that make us look spiritual....
  • always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth: this is worth an entire post in and of itself. There's an information glut out there (which this blog, admittedly, is contributing to) about anything and everything. How many more parenting books do I need to read? Shouldn't I be searching the Bible for answers and seeking the face of God? This applies to all of life!
Thankfully, the end of this chapter of 2 Timothy contains those glorious verses I was required to memorize years ago in my little Christian school:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Go read that Bible!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bandanas: a Going Green Extension

I wrote a small series on "Going Green" back in the spring and thought 10 posts would be enough! But, I've just discovered a new "must" for the mom of young children who wants to reduce, reuse, and recycle: BANDANAS.

I was fretting over the high cost of cloth napkins and lamenting the lack of time I had to sew any from old fabric to a friend who was visiting a few weeks ago (her mother has made them a bunch of cloth napkins from random calico prints). We have a small stash of "family cloth napkins"--the ones I never stain treat, iron, or barely even fold. They just get dumped in the next wash cycle after each meal. I'm also running dangerously low on bibs and know that as soon as my twins begin using utensils, we'll enter into another massively dirty eating stage: after every meal, the bibs they used will have to be washed because of all the stuff that dripped on it. Finger food can be brushed off, but a bib can only take so much cottage cheese, yogurt, and sweet potato.

Enter the bandana solution: these things are amazingly well adapted to my needs!!!! At Hobby Lobby, I picked up a bunch for $0.87/each. That's cheaper than most cloth napkins. They are bigger and come in lots of kid-friendly prints. They're poly/cotton which means they won't be "bleeding" all over lighter colors in the wash. They don't wrinkle much and don't stain. They work great as bibs--simply pull two corners behind the neck and tie. These "bibs" can't be pulled off by recalcitrant kiddos; cover the entire front, neck, and shoulders of the child; and can be moistened after the meal in order to scrub little hands and faces. I made sure I got at least 3 of each of the fun prints since I have three children. I'm also thinking these will make much more interesting napkins for the kids--and, again, plenty big enough to swab down aforementioned children at the close of the meal. (I'll probably still whip out the plastic backed bibs when I serve something really "wet" like cereal with milk or soup.)

I'm going to put a few in my diaper bag and in the emergency bag I have in the car. What a lifesaver! In addition, when I got home with the new stash, my daughter had great fun "wearing" them and dressing her dolls up in them. We wore them on our heads for a little while and twirled around the room with them. They make great capes for wee ones. Oh, the possibilities....

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Resource Review: Treasures of Encouragement

Ok, if you have never read this book you need to. We just finished this book as a summer Bible study with my church. Fabulous. After each chapter there are questions to follow on a daily basis as a study. This is why the book is so good:

First: She uses so many real examples...women who have told their stories. The author herself writes from experience, having lost a son at the age of 16.

Second: If you want to learn how to be used as a tool in your church or community, this is perfect. As women we should all be encouragers, but we don't always know how to do it. She gives countless examples, practical advise, and most importantly, how to ask and know how God wants to use you. Each of us have different skills and abilities and God can use that in so many ways.

Third: It shows you how to look and see how God has used others to encourage you. It even tells you how to start a blessing book to journal ways you see him working.

This book is so great for any Christian. It doesn't matter what denomination you are, it just covers the basis of being biblical encouragers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Be Prepared!

As a M.O.M. (mother of multiples), I've been forced to adopt the Boy Scouts' motto: Be Prepared. It's great advice for anyone wanting to run errands with wee ones in tow. For this momma, here's what "Be Prepared" boils down to:

Running Errands:
  • extra diapers/panties
  • wipes
  • snacks
  • sippy cups with water
  • small car toy
  • mental readiness to pay for a treat to get us through the line at the cash register
  • mental readiness to offer and try every sample we pass in the grocery store
  • an actual meal stop at Chick-Fil-A or similar eating establishment if we're going to be gone more than 2 hours
  • mental knowledge of every bathroom we may be near--including general state of cleanliness, size of handicap stall (can it take the double stroller, my toddler, and me all in the same stall?), location in store, and whether or not my toddler has actually used that bathroom before (that ups the chances she'll follow through when we arrive there)
  • a detailed shopping list, including listing items in the order in which they will appear in any given store--the less time spent perusing the list or searching the store for something I may have forgotten, the quieter the children....
  • cheerful attitude
  • willingness to speak to people in the store (when you're pushing a double stroller full of two kids and pulling a shopping cart with the third, you ALWAYS get stopped and asked RANDOM questions)
  • energy (sometimes that means chugging a diet Coke en route to the first store)
  • flexibility (sometimes you just have to cancel an errand or buy a substitution to avoid another stop)
  • Carpe Diem! (yesterday we walked the perimeter of the parking lot to hit up 4 stores--we got some fresh air, my oldest got some exercise, and I didn't have to load three children in and out of the car 4 different times)
  • NO OTHER PLANS (we spent all morning in the same parking lot/few stores, but that was a good day's work)
If I leave the house with all of that, then our chances of having a smooth morning are much, much greater than those mornings I try something on the spur of the moment....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Teabag Verses for Students and Moms

Ok, lets be realistic. I am never going to get all these verses typed in. So I scanned them in. These are the student verses adapted to fill in your student/child's name as a prayer for them for the year. I noticed some errors from scanning...just remember they all come from the NIV translation if you are confused. My scripture verese for moms is just not coming out....have to work on it. Enjoy.

Scripture for Students

Psalm 119:73·74, 76
Your hands made and formed him/her; give ____ understanding to learn your commands. May
those who fear you rejoice when they see for he/she has put his/her hope in your word. May your unfailing love be 's comfort, according to your promise to your servant.
Ephesians 3:14-19
For this reason I kneel before you, Father, from whom your whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of your glorious riches you may strengthen ____ with power through your spirit in his/her inner being, so that Christ may dwell in 's heart through faith. And I pray that , being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that passes knowledge - that may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Psalm 32:8·11
I will instruct __ and teach him/her in the way he/she should go; Iwill counsel and watch over im/her. (Help me teach ) not to be like the horse or the mule, which have not understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you, Lord. (Let me remind that) any are the foes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. (May ) rejoice in the Lord and be glad with the righteous. (May he/she) sing with all who are upright in heart.
Ephesians 1:16·19
I have not stopped giving thanks for___ , remembering him/her in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give ____ the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that ___ may know him better. Ipray also that the eyes of ____ 's heart may be enlightened in order that he/she may know the hope to which He has called him/her, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Colossians 2:2·3
My purpose is that may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that he/she may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that ____ may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Philippians 2:13·16
(May realize that) it is God who works in him/her to will and act according to His good purpose. (I pray that ) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become
blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which
____ shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life in order that Imay boast on the day of Christ that Idid not run or labor for nothing.

2 Thessalonians 2:13,15·17
Iought always to thank God for , loved by the Lord. So then, , stand firm and hold to the
teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage 's heart and strengthen him/her in every good deed and word.

Jeremiah 29:11·13
"For I know the plans I have for u declares the Lord, "plans to prosper him/her and not to harm him/her plans to give a future and a hope. Then __ will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to him/her. will seek me and find me when he/she seeks me with all his/her heart.

Romans 12:1·2
(I pray that my instruction and example will) urge ______ , in view of God's mercy to offer hislher whole body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God •as his/her spiritual act of worship. (Help me to teach_____ ) not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of his/her mind. Then will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.
1 Peter 5:10·11
And the God of all grace, who called to His eternal glory in Christ, after he/she has suffered a little while, will Himself restore and make him/her strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 119:33·38
Teach ,0 Lord, to follow your decrees; then he/she will keep them to the end. Give _
understanding, and he/she will keep your law and obey it with his/her whole heart. Direct in the paths of your commands, for there he/she will find delight. Turn ____ 's heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn 's eyes away from worthless things; preserve hislher life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant so that you may be feared.
Psalm 138:7·8
o Lord, though walks in the midst of trouble, you preserve hislher life; you stretch out your hand
against the anger of hislher foes; with your right hand you save . Lord, you will fulfill your purpose for____ ; your love, 0 Lord, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands.
Psalm 141:3·4
set a guard over ___'s mouth, 0 Lord; keep watch over the door of ___'s lips. Let not hislher heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evil doers; let not eat of their delicacies.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, 7
I always thank God for , mentioning himlher in my prayers. I continually remember before our God and Father 's work produced by faith, hislher labor prompted by love. and his/her endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For I know, -'loved by God, that he has chosen you because the gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power. with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction ... And so you became a model to all the believers in _____ (city).

Colossians 1:9·12
I have not stopped praying for _asking God to fill himlher with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. I pray this in order that may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, so that will have great endurance and patience. Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified____ to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Psalm 119:65·66. 68
Do good to your servant , according to your word, 0 Lord. Teach knowledge and good jUdgment, for he/she believes in your commands. You are good and what you do is good, teach _
your decrees.
2 Timothy 1:3,6·7
Ithank God. who Iserve, as my fathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day Iconstantly remember _____ in my prayers. Ihave been reminded of ____ 's sincere faith. For this reason Ilong for ____ to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in himlher. For God did not give a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
1 Peter 5:6-9
(0 Lord, please give the grace to) humble himselflherself under your mighty hand, that You may lift himlher up in due time. (Help to) cast all hislher anxiety on you because you care for himlher. (May ____ ) be self-controlled and alert. (Remind himlher that) hiS/her enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. (Enable ~ __ ) to resist him, standing firm in the faith because he/she knows that hislher brothers through the world are
undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Philippians 1:9·11
And this is my prayer: that 's love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that ____ may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to
the glory and praise of God.
1 Timothy 6:11-12,14
____ -', Man (or woman) of God ... Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love. endurance and
gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Motherhood Transcends All Barriers

I've been musing over this lately: it seems that no matter what the backgrounds of the two mothers are, the simple reality that they both have young children is an automatic bond. I attended a Bible study this morning for the first time, and several of the women in my small group had young kids in a similar age range as mine. We immediately had something to talk about--and moved onto other subjects as well, but our children were an immediate common interest.

But what if you can't even speak the same language? Motherhood is still a bond. I went to an Asian grocery store after the Bible study since it's in the same part of town. Once we were in the (very small) store, my almost-3-year-old "helped" me push the double stroller containing her two brothers around the store. We were in the store about 1 minute when a little Asian boy came up and started "helping," too. Now, I need not tell you that it took us a while to maneuver through the cramped aisles, but my daughter and the little boy had a great time. His mother asked me in broken English about the ages of my children (and I reciprocated) and then proceeded to get my daughter a lollipop once we were at the checkout (this is after my boys tipped over a big box of mangoes or some similar fruit and she cheerfully picked them all up for me). It was a delightful reminder that mothers all have similar concerns and loves, even when our backgrounds and language are so different from each other. It was also a sweet testimony that some women are born nurterers and love children no matter whose they are--I like that my little guys had a nice surrogate Asian mother looking out for them in this little store while I picked out my baby bok choy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Activity Bag Swap

Carrie and I have been busy this week coordinating our first Activity Bag Swap. She found these great books of instructions for filling gallon-size ziploc bags with activities for preschoolers (Activities in a Bag). The books give detailed directions not only for making the activity bags, but for coordinating your own "swap." Basically, we've got 15 ladies who are each going to make 15 versions of 1 bag. At the end of the month, we'll meet up at my house and swap bags, each going home with 15 different bags. These activities are great, and Carrie and I have each made up some for our own kids already. As the school year starts up, you may want/need something for your preschooler to do, especially if an older sibling is off at school for the first time or you are trying to homeschool that older sibling. (Or, in my case, you are trying to entertain two other toddlers at the same time.)

It's worth taking some time to think through how to keep your toddlers and preschoolers constructively occupied. I'm witness daily to the dangers of idle hands...paired with busy bodies and creative brains! My goal this fall is to train my young'un's and to keep them occupied (even if that's with a quiet independent activity)--it helps keep temptation to sin at bay. For a young child, the major commandment they must learn is #5: Obey your mother and father. It's so hard for them to follow through on that commandment if they're bored, unsupervised, etc. My husband and I were talking this through last night: essentially, how can we help our children obey us (and therefore the Lord)? What sorts of things can we put in place to facilitate that? What sorts of commands should we be giving (and expecting obedience in return for) and what sorts of battles are better left unfought at their current ages? I think toddlers and preschoolers can definitely learn to obey their parents (indeed, must learn that), but I'm also trying hard to figure out how I, as a parent, can best show them how to obey me and equip them to do so. One of the cautions given us as parents is found in Paul's epistles: Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Surely that means that we need to evaluate our commands and exercise self control as we interact with our young children (my mother, sister, and husband can all bear witness to my lack of self control this very week...sigh...).

That being said, I hope having a store of constructive acitivities in bags my oldest toddler can pull out to work on will help her stay occupied constructively when I must be dealing with her younger brothers or cooking dinner or even brushing my teeth!

I should give credit where credit is due and thank my sister for discovering these activity bags!!! Thank you, Carrie!!!