Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Goals for 2011

Can you believe it's 2011????? Seems like the year 2000 just happened. Crazy.

I prefer to make New Year's goals to New Year's resolutions--more specific and measurable which means more chance of meeting them. Over the years, I've also learned that less is more: the fewer, more important goals you make, the better the chances of reaching them. The list below might look like more rather than less, but this is kind of like a to do list for the whole year; not so much in reality. So, here are a few of my more important goals for 2011:

  • Do Hebrews study with my friend Sarah and keep up with my weekly Thursday Bible study.
  • Lose 5 more pounds (and, um, re-lose a couple of the pounds I already lost this fall)
  • Get moving/be active at least 2x/week
  • Buy some new clothes and get my hair cut! (this might not seem like a needed goal for most, but it's been a while since I bought some new clothes and since I got my hair cut... I find that I can coast for a LONG time, but these are both urgent needs now. And, I need some new jeans to wear with my super cool, stylish new jacket that the hubby got me for Christmas!)
  • Kids memorize 10-15 more catechism questions
  • Kids memorize remaining ABC verses (we're on "G") and keep up with Sunday School verses
  • Train kids in chores: specifically, helping with emptying trash, meal prep, kitchen duties, and bathroom cleaning (they already help pick up toys and put up their clean laundry)
  • Go camping at least once in our new tent!!!
  • Do something each week that is family-oriented (play games, watch a movie together, picnic, etc. We're much better about this in warmer weather)
  • Go on a date at least once a month
  • Go away for at least one trip by ourselves this year (we've managed this each year except the year our twins were born)
  • In-house date night the weeks we don't go on a date out
  • "School" 3-4 days/week with daughter (and boys tagging along); this is through the end of this school year. We're not sure what the plan is next year. She's learning to read and we do some informal math. That's all that "school" involves.
  • Keep up with my own schooling (I'm taking one class this spring)

  • Keep up with Fly Lady's Zone cleaning in general, doing quick basic house cleaning each week and focusing on one area in particular each week
  • File all paperwork, pay all bills, etc. within 1 week of reception
  • Keep my kitchen counters clean! (I worked hard to declutter them, only to have the holidays re-clutter them)
  • Finish kitchen redo!!! (this is a biggie!!)
  • Finish upstairs bathrooms redo!!!
Estate: (a ha ha ha ha.... if only... this is referring to our yard and exterior home)
  • plant a modest garden
  • tidy the front yard: keep up with weeding and such
  • maintain big trees as needed (just had one taken down and two "cleaned out"--there are several more we need to keep an eye on)
  • tackle the screened in porch: needs repainting, but we're dragging our feet big-time on this one
Well, that's it--if we do all of those things and nothing else, it will be a great year! Definitely some things to work toward, but I feel that these are reachable and will help keep me focused.

What about you? Any New Year's Goals you'd like to share with the peanut gallery?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Organizing and Loving What You Have

I am probably the only one on the planet (who celebrates Christmas) who is spending time this week painting kitchen cabinets and organizing closets. I mean, c'mon, lady... don't you have presents to buy and/or wrap, decorations to put up, parties to attend, better things to do???

This is what happens when you spend a semester back in school with little to no time to attend to the daily pile-ups and cleaning chores. It's so bad now that I'm compelled to attend to it. Well, it's not out of control, but I know what's coming in a few weeks to my children.... So, if I don't want things to be completely out of control, I'd best create a space NOW for that new Play-doh tool set, those new toy workbenches, new games, new puzzles, .....

In case you're inspired to tackle some home improvement and organization NOW, during the busiest time of the year, let me offer some suggestions I have learned the hard way:

1. Per Fly Lady's suggestion: only take out what you can put back in an hour. In other words, work on one closet shelf or one set of cabinets or some other small amount at a time. At the end of an hour, you should be done--including having put all the rejects into their newly appointed places or bagged up for trash or Goodwill... NOT piled on the dining room table. Then, if you don't get anything else done this Christmas season, you'll at least have refrained from creating more mess.

2. Focus on urgent needs first: our arts and crafts storage areas are the likely recipients of new gear from Christmas presents as well as the most likely culprits of out-of-date, used-up, dried-up, torn-up supplies that can be trashed. The kids' clothing closets? Don't need to worry about them right now.

3. Strategize: how are you planning to use this particular space or storage area? We've been homeschooling our daughter some this year (hybrid pre-K and K), and there are a couple of books we use daily. I don't need to have them laying around when there's a nice, handy cabinet right next to the table we use. Instead, I'm reorganizing that cabinet so that there's room for school stuff and, um, the baby-books-yet-to-be-finished-even-though-the-"babies"-are-three-and-a-half-years-old can be moved to my closet shelf upstairs....

4. Love (and Use) What You Have!!! Storing some priceless goblets? Use them. So what if one breaks. At least you're enjoying them in the meantime rather than keeping them out of sight for who knows how many years to collect dust. Objects were meant to be used or admired or, preferably, both--not stored indefinitely out of sight.

5. Focus on giving items at Christmas that be used and admired, or objects that promote creative playing and crafting and doing rather than hoarding. What are we requesting or giving for Christmas? My husband has already bought his major gift: a new tool for his woodshop that he's using to make some Christmas presents. I requested for my in-laws to frame a very cool authentic King James Bible page they'd given us the year before. We're subscribing to a few magazines (or people are subscribing for us), giving our kids things like library tote bags, Play-doh tools, games that all three can play together, puzzles, etc.

I need hardly mention that you should make a list of needed organizational items for your Christmas decorations if you've had to hunt all over the house and attic for your tree topper, lights, and ornaments. Then, after Christmas, acquire those organizational tools and pack your decorations up efficiently for next year.

What are your strategies for organizing your home or giving intentional Christmas gifts?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Christmas really is just around the corner now, despite the fact that retailers have been displaying their Christmas decor for MONTHS now. Are you rushing around frantically decorating your house in preparation for Christmas parties and guests? Already mulling over your Christmas menu? Making Christmas gifts? Trying to hit sales for some Christmas gifts? Stressing over the budget?


A few reminders as we enter this busiest of seasons:

1. Don't forget about true hospitality--When you decorate your house, remind yourself that hospitality is still the important thing, NOT entertaining, during this season. A warm cup of hot cocoa and some (storebought) cookies on a paper plate can still hit the spot, even if you don't have any Christmas decorations up.

2. Don't forget your family--THEY need your love and attention as much as the school teachers, the preacher, the far off relatives for whom you're frantically finding presents.

3. Don't forget the reason for the season--watch for opportunities to share with your children about the first Christmas, even if they occur when you had planned to clean the oven before your company arrives or you are mixing up wassail for your party or you have 18,450 gifts to wrap before tomorrow morning....

4. Don't forget that our to do lists are largely self-imposed: don't have enough time/money for photo cards to 90 relatives this year? Send an e-mail with attached photo. Don't have time to make rolls from scratch? Sister Schubert makes a mean dinner roll, and she stocks hers in the grocery freezer section. Don't have enough money for teacher gifts? As a former teacher, trust me on this: a truly heartfelt note about why you are thankful for or appreciate your child's teacher will mean the most.

5. Don't forget that the details matter...and they don't: give your house a good cleaning this week and don't sweat it the rest of the month. So what if a little dust piles up. Turn the lights off and the tree lights on and NO ONE will notice. But do take the time to make some cookies with your kids or drive by neighborhood Christmas lights one night or sing some Christmas carols....

Monday, October 4, 2010


My husband and I watch fewer and fewer mainstream TV shows. In addition to the usual violence, foul language, and sexual content objections, we're tired of watching husbands and wives yell at each other and belittle each other, gay relationships portrayed as normal--or even better and more well-adjusted than their straight counterparts, conservatives and Christians portrayed as dummies, the general lack of respect for one another, and humor that's always at someone else's expense and/or sexual/crass in nature.

Enter psych: a delightful comedy/drama in which a "psychic detective" named Shawn Spencer and his buddy, Guster, solve crimes... hilariously. Shawn is really just extra observant, but he plays it off like he's psychic--which often adds to the humor. This show airs on USA, which we don't get, but you can watch it via or get it through sources like Netflix.

Why do we enjoy this series? Several reasons:
  1. Funny
  2. crime scene/mystery without blood and guts
  3. portrayal of a Christian (Gus) that is subtle and simply part of his character--not the basis for wise cracks, put downs, or making him look stupid. It's only after watching multiple episodes that you realize he is a Christian (or is supposed to be one).
  4. portrayal of great friendships: Shawn and Gus are in their 30's and have been best friends since grade school (incidentally, Shawn is white and Gus is black. There is also no homosexual overtone--both men are interested in women.)
  5. portrayal of normal family relationships, to an extent. Gus lives with his parents, whom we never see. Shawn's mother left early on, so she's not central to the storyline, but clearly he and his father have a relationship that's normal--sometimes rocky, sometimes loving, but never bitter/hurtful/truly disrespectful. That is, their disparaging comments towards each other aren't the source of the humor on the show.
  6. Sexual content is at a true minimum; language occasionally erupts, but again, fairly minimal.
  7. Violence happens in the course of taking down a criminal, but it's rarely drawn out, nor is it excessively bloody or gratuitous.
  8. Women are portrayed as competent in their jobs (the two main females hold higher positions in the police force than do Shawn or Gus), but still retain a feminine persona.
We should support shows like this! It IS possible to produce fun family shows that aren't dumb or watered down. You don't have to have married couples fighting, gratuitous blood/violence, sexual innuendo, and crass humor to make a show worth watching.

What are your favorite TV shows?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Denial and Procrastination

This blog post is pure procrastination in action...and denial of all the work I *should* be doing. Ever have days like that? I'm tired, fighting off a beastly cold/sinus thing (and gaining more sympathy for my sick kids), slightly cold from the damp, cold weather outside, and very much not in the mood to do my homework or the weekly ironing. So, instead, I'm drinking a cup of nice hot tea, rambling on this blog post, and waiting for some chocolate chip cookies to come out of the oven....

Sounds like much more fun than ironing or homework, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, I'm too mature not to know that my cold will only get worse--probably about 5:00 when my class starts--and that the ironing won't do itself. (sigh) So, I'm going to be a big girl, surf the web while I finish my tea, and then get up and be productive. I think I'll set a timer: if I work hard for an hour, then I will take a wee nap. After all, I could probably get everything done in that hour if I put my mind to it.

Ever have days like these?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Suffering and Euthanasia

In a little more than 48 hours, we will be taking one of our cherished labs to the vet for her final nap. She has cancer in nearly every major internal organ. We know it's the right decision, but, when you've cared for and spent time with such a social animal for nearly 10 years, it's like bidding farewell to a member of the family.

It's been interesting to mull over the reasons why we, as Christians, can euthanize our pets and why the same decision holds such different moral weight when it comes to humans, especially when it's the same "disease." In our current society, many people are blurring those lines. Some people spend thousands just to grant an extra month or two to a beloved pet (like the veterinary specialist is urging us to do) while others advocate for "putting people out of their misery" when someone is faced with a rapidly progressing terminal illness.

The quick, and most often given, answer to this is that we believe humans are created in the image of God and have a soul; therefore, the decision to terminate human life is not in our hands. Over and over in Scripture, we see this played out, beginning right away with Cain and Abel. "An eye for an eye" and similar statements in Scripture illustrate the grave penalties for trifling with human life. It's the exact same reason we advocate for the life of the unborn. It is not up to us to determine the length of any human's life on earth.

What we don't talk about as much is that the suffering often attendant on the final years of life is also important--for humans, that is. Again, we look to Scripture for our source. Paul urges believers to count it all joy, James reminds us that suffering produces perseverance, Paul suffered from a thorn in the flesh, Jesus is held up as our example--that, in our suffering, we might emulate him. Since we are spiritual beings, there is a higher purpose for our suffering than there is for animals. By sparing my dog the dreadful pain that is surely coming her way quickly as her cancer metastasizes, I know I am giving her a gift. She does not have a soul, she does not have a faith that can be enriched by suffering, she is not made in the image of God. I believe the Lord cares for His creation; after all, not a sparrow can fall to the ground without his knowledge. But we are allowed, as stewards of that creation, to spare His (non-human) creatures unnecessary suffering. In contrast, when we seek to hasten the end of a human's life--even if it is rapidly and painfully approaching--we are denying them and those near to them the promised benefits and rewards of suffering. The Lord sometimes uses those final days to open someone's eyes to His truth. Sometimes, it's those watching a loved one who have their eyes opened. Sometimes, those watching are simply encouraged to fight the good fight and press on as their loved one demonstrates true faith under great trial. Whatever the purpose, we can trust that our God is sovereign, that He loves and cares for His children, and that He has walked this road ahead of us.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Treasuring the Moment

Well-you all know I am frequently absent from the blogging world ;-). It's been quite a year for us. But isn't it always. Through all the chaos of the past year (homeschooling, husband traveling, husband having back surgery, volunteering with youth, you get the idea) there are so many days that I have felt like throwing in the towel. Then at a baby shower for a woman in our church, and through a great book on prayer we went through this summer in our study I have learned of a new idea to gain a new perspective on the trying days.

The idea is to simply make a journal of good things. Especially with our kids. As Christians we can even go a step further and see how God is using them and working in their life. The woman who first mentioned it said she got a journal and would write happy moments of her daughters life. She would try almost daily. The end result was that she was able to look at the good things and memories and not the day to day turmoil of life. Even if it was simple and small. It could be Suzie tied her shoes herself, or Johnny didn't complain about green peas, or Jane made me laugh so hard doing xyz, etc.

The prayer book idea was deeper, but a similar idea. It was to keep a prayer journal. Not necessarily everyday, but when you could. The end result being that through the trying times, you could look back and see the story that God was weaving, and how He had provided and cared for us through the process. And it's all one big story.

So as we are all beginning a new school year (mine REALLY kicks into full gear this week!) try to pause and jot down the good times, so when you hit the bad times, you have something to re-focus on!

Monday, August 23, 2010

17 Years and Counting!

Today (August 23rd) marks the 17th anniversary of when my husband and I met: August 23, 1993. We met at a dinner for the scholarship program for which we had both been selected the year before as high school seniors. We were freshmen; he was 18 and I was 17, and we were instant friends. We met, incidentally, jogging back up to campus from the professor's house at which the dinner had been held. Neither of us enjoys jogging. I thought a small history of our relationship, the significant memories/accomplishments/moments, and the big events would be worth recounting. Numbers relate to year of acquaintance; clearly the Lord was at work.

0. We were both selected as Maclellan Scholars at Covenant College. I was told by some friends that a friend of a friend of a friend from Greenville, SC, was going to be part of the program. This was my future husband, but I didn't know it at the time!
1. We met. We had lots of core classes together, the Maclellan Scholars class together, and mutual friends in common. He started dating another girl....
2. I don't remember much from this year. The first semester, I was working 15 hours/week in the admissions department, taking 18 hours of heavy classes, logging 10 hours/week for a youth ministry practicum,.... I also had a roommate who underwent some trials of her own which spilled over into my life. I think we worked the Madrigal Dinners together this year (he played trumpet and I was a "wench"). The second semester I left and went to the Czech Republic for a semester....
3. Friendship renewed. He'd broken up with his girlfriend, we continued to have the Maclellan Scholars class together, and he went to China for 6 months. I think we both were a part of the Madrigal Dinners this year, too.
4. He transferred to Clemson, and I moved off campus. We saw each other on weekends when he came to town. He was dating another girl, and I even put her up for one of the visits to town. Can you believe it?! :)
5. I continued to work at the college, and he continued at Clemson. I met his grandparents for the first time (they lived pretty close to campus). We started talking on the phone a lot since he was doing alternate semesters in Johnson City for a co-op (and was very lonely). One memorable event at the beginning of this year was a picnic we had by the river downtown; we hid an old key we found up under one of the bridges.
6. More of the same.... I believe at this point, I actually started making a trip or two to his neck of the woods.
7. I worked at the college one last year, and he finished up at Clemson. This year, I told him we were too close as friends. We needed to move one way or the other: were we going to date? were we going to be friends forever? I also refused to meet the latest girl he had gone on a date with.
8. He began master's work at Ga Tech, and I started a master's program at Hollins University in the summers. I also started teaching high school in a local Christian school. This is the year things started to pick up... He told me he had "something to tell me," came up mid-week, we went out, and he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me! We had never officially "dated." We got engaged that summer. Oh--we also got our dogs at Christmas of this school year; we weren't even engaged yet.
9. We spent the school year engaged. I had an elaborate countdown chain around my classroom, and my students really got into it. He sent me a GORGEOUS bouquet of roses to my classroom on Aug. 23rd that year. It happened to be parent's night, and all the moms were nudging their husbands and pointing them out. Very funny.
10. We got married, finally! Our mothers had been praying for this for YEARS. He was still at Ga Tech, so I got a teaching job in Atlanta. We bought our first house. At the end of this school year, he finished his master's. In between years 10 and 11, we went on a terrific road trip with his sister and her husband--we toured the National Parks out West.
11. PhD work had begun in earnest for dear hubby. I continued at the same school. I finished up my master's.
12. I took a new job at a school closer to our house. We joined Smyrna PCA that year and worked with the Pioneer Clubs on Wednesday nights together. Halfway through the year, we found out that I was pregnant with our first child!
13. Aside from getting married, this was our biggest, most eventful year to date: this is still on a school year calendar and all of this happened in the first "semester"--moved cities/states, hubby started as college professor, I had our first child, he defended his dissertation, he graduated with his PhD.... Oh, we also renovated an old house that year.
14. Couldn't cruise yet. At the beginning of this "school year," we found out I was pregnant again. Around Thanksgiving, we found out that it was twins... The boys were born in the spring and life spun out of control for a bit. We celebrated our 5th anniversary at the end of this year.
15. A blurry year full of baby and child care, long work hours for hubby, and so forth.
16. New job for hubby, daughter is potty trained, boys are beginning to be potty trained... light at the end of the tunnel. This was a hard year with long hours for hubby (and long hours for me!).
17. We are starting to really enjoy our kids, finally. Everyone is potty trained, no more sippy cups haunt the kitchen counters, everyone can communicate in English, we can even go hiking and play games! We got a grand piano this year and hubby has entertained us all in the evenings. It's like having a soundtrack to life.
18. We don't know what this year will hold, other than the fact that I start school this year. We just can't stand not to have someone in the academic calendar :). But it's wonderful to look back on such a long history together. We've logged a lot of hours together, we've been through some rough times, we've weathered some serious stress together, we've stood with each other through several close family deaths, we've gotten to know each other's siblings even better, we're getting to know our nephews,....

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here We Go!

School is beginning in earnest for both Carrie's family and my own. We've been doing a K4 type curriculum for my daughter--started it in July since it's SO HOT and then we can take a break come October and enjoy the weather/outdoors more. Carrie just began homeschooling her family this week. I start school next week--I'll be doing an online library science program through the university in town.

What does all this mean for our everyday lives? Routine, routine, routine.

For my family, this means we'll go back to my each-day-of-the-week-plan in which each day has a different major chore allocated to it. This has served me well during the past couple of years. I've changed days around as needed, but here is how this year is shaping up:

Monday: Laundry; Tidy up from weekend; empty trash; last minute homework...
Tuesday: errands
Wednesday: homework--my classes are Tuesday night, so I'd better plan on getting going on Wed just in case something comes up during the week!
Thursday: Bible study and office odds and ends in the afternoon (correspondence, business/banking, etc.)
Friday: Library story time and clean-the-house day; wash linens/towels
Saturday: Home improvement day and/or family fun day! Work ahead for Sunday (extra food prep and so forth)

More important than this is my renewed desire to complete each task when it's begun. How many times have you started cleaning up the kitchen and run out of steam before you get to the crockpot? It's still sitting there in the morning, isn't it? Or, what about wiping off the table after lunch? Putting up the clean laundry? Dealing with the (junk) mail right away? Vacuumed, but left the mopping for another day? Put up ALMOST all the toys....

Last year, on "Earth Day," my husband brought home a little magnet from his work that was supposed to inspire us to care for the earth. In reality, it's helped me deal with household needs in a more timely fashion. Here it is:

If not now, when? If not me, who?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kids' Clothes: Provision and Hoarding

Over the years, I have been amazed at how the Lord has provided clothes for my children. As the fall/school year approaches, we parents start evaluating our growing children's wardrobes and searching out the next round of clothing via store sales, consignment sales, hand-me-downs, and so forth. Since I can't pass on hand-me-downs within my own family (one girl and twin boys), I am fairly diligent at searching out bargains and clothing sources--especially for the boys.

For my daughter, though, I've hardly had to buy anything! When she was a baby, we had some friends who kept us stocked with the bulk of her wardrobe up until around age 2. Then, a neighbor and I started swapping clothes (she had daughters on either age/size of my daughter). That neighbor's younger daughter started catching up to mine in size, so that well of hand-me-downs began to dry up. Another friend, whose daughter has received our daughter's hand-me-downs, was given several large bags of clothes from a friend. Those clothes are too big for her daughter, so we get to use them in the interim! I'm amazed at how the Lord has provided such tremendous sources of clothing without me asking or knowing from where the next batch would come. The latest batch of 3 huge garbage bags full arrived yesterday and I realized that I don't need to search out much of anything for another YEAR; we'll need to round up a new white t'neck and some tights... that's about it.

What does all of this clothing provision teach me? In addition to the obvious "trust the Lord" aspect, it also has freed me up from hoarding my children's clothing. I have a Rubbermaid bin in the attic with 0-1 year clothing--for both genders--and also which includes miscellaneous crib bedding and so forth. That's it. If the Lord sends us another child, I'm sure he will provide for any wardrobe holes! I kept a few gender neutral things, the handmade things people had given my children, and a few very special outfits. That's it. The others I have freely passed on. SHARE THE LOVE people. Pass on those kids' clothes and don't worry if you don't get them all back or if some clothes come back in poor condition. If you don't anticipate a need for your children's clothes within your own family, then pass them on to others who can use them. Loan them or give them outright. I have even fewer clothes for the other ages--mostly because so many people are using our kids' clothes! Some come back to me and I look around for who else to loan them to.

Could I consign these clothes and make some money? Sure. I've done that once. But I decided that it's far more satisfying to pass these clothes on free of charge to people I know who can use them. After all, I didn't pay for most of them in the first place. And I know what tremendous benefit it is to get a giant garbage bag full of clothes in my child's next size :).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Poetry for Children

My kids and I really enjoy reading children's poetry books/anthologies together. It's a great way to introduce little ones to a potentially hard subject ahead of them in school. Our latest favorite is Sunflakes compiled by Lilian Moore. Terrific, kid-friendly rhymes and poems about ordinary subjects (spaghetti, the ocean taking your sand castle, and so forth) by well known contemporary authors. Check it out on your next library trip!

(For other recommendations, see my Poetry for Children Literaritea Post)

What's your favorite poetry collection? What is your kids' favorite?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

8 Years and Counting... (Or should I say 16 years?)

Daisypath Anniversary tickers

My wonderful hubby and I celebrated 8 great years of marriage yesterday. We're working on a much longer history than that and, on August 23 this year, we will celebrate knowing each other for seventeen years. That means that I will have known my hubby for half of my life! Quite a landmark, isn't it?

I've been thinking about the unique little world that marriage creates. There are things that my husband and I enjoy, find amusing, think alike on, know about, have experienced, and so forth that no other 2 people in the world can share. Pretty neat, isn't it, when you think about your unique life as a couple? In honor of our 8 years of married life, here's a list of 8 things we have in common--when you take the list as a whole, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone else who shares all 8. I'm writing this off the top of my head--I'm sure I've left things out! I need hardly state, I hope, that we love each other and share that!

(In no particular order)
1. Our faith

2. Our families and our children: the 3 musketeers (and our first "children"--2 large, lovable labs)

3. Our friends: Too many to list! But they range from folks we've known most of our lives and their spouses (Ken and Melanie, Kevin and Betsy, Leah and Norman, and so on) to folks we met in college (like Todd and Liz, Andy and Lynn, Dave and Meadow, Sarah, Kathy and Brian, Heather and Mark, Heather, and so on) to new friends (Todd and Karen, Philip and Bridgette, Curt and Sara, Lief and Stephanie, Lisa and Jonathan, and so on)

4. Our quirky TV interests: Monarch of the Glen, Corner Gas, Ballykissangel, Hamish Macbeth, the new Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Chuck, Hidden Hills (a nice little sitcom that aired the first year we were married), Psych, The Office, and so on.

5. Our varied musical loves: everything from Rachmaninoff, Bach, Joplin, Gershwin, Dvorak, Debussy to U2, Eddie from Ohio, Alison Krauss, Wynton Marsalis, etc. (too many to list, really)

6. Our trips: Outer Banks, Grand Canyon and related parks, San Francisco, Biltmore/Asheville, Charleston, Greenville, Memphis, Delaware, and others.

7. Our trials: (these really bring you together, don't they?!) Things like grad school, tough jobs, sickness, multiples (as in twins), budgeting, moving, deaths in our families, etc.

8. Our joys: (so many common interests) Hiking, gardening, culinary experiences (especially ethnic and/or regionally interesting), discussing religious/ethical/intellectual issues, good music, cooking, education, Scotland and all things related, Hobnobs, travel, being out in nature, museums, games (board- and card-), homemade blackberry jam, .... this list could go on and on and on.

What is unique about your little world of marriage?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Screen-Free Summer!

We're off to a great start for our screen-free summer: my kids are watching Super Why on the TV while I type up a blog post. So much for TV- and Computer-free summer starting June 1st, right?

I was without phone/internet for a few days last week and didn't have a chance to finish this over the weekend. So, I opted for one more morning in front of media screens. But this is it! Our rules for this summer ("our" being the kids and me during the day):
  • email checking in the morning only
  • no blog surfing, recipe surfing, blog reading, blog posting, web surfing,....
  • business transactions allowed (we bank online, do library stuff online, etc.)
  • TV will be an event in which all will participate, not an activity to keep kids occupied while Mommy cleans up the kitchen, types a blog post (ahem...), or other worthwhile pursuits
  • some blog maintenance will be done (indexes updated and so forth; if you subscribe, you may receive these updated indexes.... I don't know).
I hope everyone who reads this little blog of ours has a wonderful summer. Carrie may post some things (and there are a few posts of mine still in draft form that I may get around to), but it will most likely be pretty "quiet" on the teapot. Check back once a month or so. Maybe we'll get enough free time come August (ha ha ha ha ha... nearly spit my tea out on that one) to post on a more regular basis.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to get back to the basics this summer with your family. A friend of mine and I are studying the Westminster Confession of Faith together (we're such nerds, aren't we!?), and it's been a rich, rich study of the fundamentals of the Reformed faith I claim to believe. I'm enjoying working through the Children's Catechism with my children. We've been learning the great memory verses on Steve Green's Hide 'Em in Your Heart CD's and learning some of the older Bible songs that I learned as a kid ("Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart" anyone? How about "I am a C-" or "Deep and Wide" or "The B-I-B-L-E"?). We've also been spending some great family time eating ice cream (in a cone!) on the back porch, singing while my husband plays the piano (in the midst of his vast, beautiful repertoire of Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Gershwin, Joplin, Bach, Beethoven, etc., he plays a great "Jesus Loves Me"), and going on walks/hikes together (sometimes we even take our 100-pound laboradors!).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TV-Free Summer (Gasp!)

My neighbor, Lisa, and I did a Lenten fast from the internet that was incredibly rewarding, eye-opening, and convicting. (I wrote about it here and she wrote about it here--both are worth reading, I think.)

She and I have been mulling over the ramifications of the greater peace and less stress we experienced, the increased joy in the small things, and the restorative quality of the activities in which we engaged during the time we had hitherto been online. The result? her challenge to me to go computer (internet) free during the summer and my growing interest in having my kids go TV free during the summer.

I don't want my children to grow up addicted to the TV, to think that the TV is what you do when you are "bored" or when you're "tired" or whatever. I want them to first think of books, playing outside, sitting quietly, playing a game with their siblings, etc. They're too young to even consider playing on the computer as a way to pass time, but that's just around the corner. I want to encourage them to develop good habits and skills NOW about how to pass the time constructively and in a way that restores them, not in a way that sucks it out of them.

Anyone else in with me for this challenge? Here are my rules:
  • Summer consists of June, July, August
  • I'm not going to be super-Nazi here and say they can't watch it at others' houses, the gym, and so forth
  • If someone is genuinely sick and truly lying around all day, then we can pull out a movie
  • If it's pouring down rain and has been for more than a day, then we'll consider it.
  • If they're watching TV, I'm going to watch it with them
How many times do you let them watch their favorite Super Why! or Disney movie by themselves while you clean up, talk on the phone, etc.? I do it often--I trust the content of what I let them watch by themselves, so I figure it's a "safe" activity while I get something done. But they LOVE it when I sit and watch something with them. It's instantly more of a family activity. And, I bet it will make me think twice about turning it on. If I don't "have time" or want to watch it, I'll work extra hard to find something else in which to engage their interest. That's going to mean less phone time, more creative employment of my children around the house while I clean (they can/will clean with me), and more thoughtfulness about the whole process in general.

I'm working up to it. Our former schedule was Super Why! regularly plus Dinosaur Train on occasion in the mornings and a movie in the afternoon after naptime ("movie" was generally limited to about an hour, but there were many times when it stretched beyond that!). That's WAY more TV than I ever expected to let my kids watch and there have been some legitimate uses of it with my three young ones. However, they now play pretty well together and are getting much more creative and imaginative. I've been weaning us off as follows: aiming for TV free mornings for a full week and letting the afternoon be whatever. Then, working off the afternoon by cutting back on time first. We'll go cold turkey soon, here!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Derby Day and Tradition

This past weekend was the Kentucky Derby--a long-standing ritual for many in Kentucky and the world of horse racing. For those of us who grew up reading The Black Stallion, we can envision the race and root for the underdog. Derby Day is full of ritual and tradition, from the big hats the women wear to the race to the mint juleps, Kentucky Hot Browns, and Derby Pie people eat.

How do traditions start? The best traditions are not manufactured or created; they simply grow over time, encompassing new people and new aspects with each new celebration. This year, we are having our final Derby Day party with some beloved neighbors who will move out of state in 10 days.

Our Derby Day tradition started a few years ago (no one knows exactly what year) and was merely a response to some musings about the grand Kentucky Derby tradition and the desire to try a real mint julep. We watched the race just to lend some credibility to our mint julep toast and the tradition was off... running down the track... rounding the first curve.... You get the picture.

Each year, we've added something to the festivities (first, we added Derby Pie... the world's easiest pie to make; second, we added Kentucky Hot Browns--also easy to make; this year, we're adding some extra neighbors). One thing has remained essentially the same: none of us follow horse racing, so we pool our combined ignorance of the race and its contestants while we gather around the TV for 2 minutes of glorious horse racing fame. We raise our mint juleps high, cheer on whoever is the underdog or has a fun name, marvel at the strange world of horse racing and the tiny jockeys, let the kids eat while we chat, and then finish our meal--thoroughly enjoying the good company and the fact that this has become an annual tradition.

That's how the best traditions are: they are organic and grow along with your family. Don't waste too much time creating the perfect experience that you then hope to replicate each year with exactitude. Just go on vacation, celebrate a holiday, do something fun. Let the good times roll and cherish the moment. If something is significant enough to repeat, you will find a way. It might even be better the next go 'round!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shameless Indoctrination

A young child's favorite question is "why?"

Do you roll your eyes to this nonstop question, or do you take the opportunity for what I refer to as "shameless indoctrination"?

The first "why" gets answered with a matter-of-fact statement that is creating the default setting for my child's beliefs about God, the world, themselves, and morality. The second "why" gets a more general answer to the effect that either "God tells us in the Bible" or "because I said so." End of discussion.

But let's unpack that first opportunity for shameless indoctrination (and, shameless indoctrination doesn't need a why question to be practiced; it's just that the why question provides SO MUCH opportunity since it occurs SO FREQUENTLY).

In our house, we have a daughter who's a mere 18 months older than her twin brothers. You can imagine that there's been quite an education concerning the anatomical differences in boys and girls, among other "life lessons." When we were changing the boys' diapers, bathing the three children, and potty training the boys, myriad questions arose from my daughter. The answer? An unapologetic statement that "God made boys and girls different. One of those differences is in the way he made them look. Girls are made this way and boys are made that way." That paves the way for future discussions of the other ways God made boys and girls different. Similarly, when my daughter stated that she was going to marry Daddy someday, I told her he was my handsome prince and she'd have to marry someone else (but Daddy would always be her daddy). She then said she'd marry me. To that, I matter of factly stated that girls don't marry each other. Girls marry boys--1 girl to 1 boy. See? Setting that foundation before they even know it's an issue in our society. When she comes face to face with homosexual "marriage," my prayer is that by then, the truth of God's Word regarding marriage between one man and one woman will be so ingrained in her little brain--the default setting, as it were--that she will not question God's standard. Instead, she'll recognize the sin in the world.

In another interchange, after my daughter had gone with my husband to buy me flowers, she said she would buy the boys (her brothers) flowers when they were bigger. I told her that was a sweet idea, but girls don't buy boys flowers. That's the boys' job; when they get bigger, they'll buy flowers for the special girls in their lives (including us, hopefully!). See? We're setting those expectations high. When she has a crush on a boy later (hopefully MUCH later) that doesn't treat her well, ideally she'll notice it because we've been laying a foundation of respect and proper treatment between men and women.

Toddlers and preschoolers don't need the paragraph answers older children and adults want. A simple statement or two is usually enough. Why not use this golden opportunity to set the foundation for God's created order? Morality, gender roles, even "religion" and "church" are being called into question and given fuzzy boundaries throughout society. Prepare your children now by given them a strong foundation in God's Word and His standards.

I need hardly point out that the Children's Catechism and Scripture memory are part of this training!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gospel Driven Discipleship

I went to a seminar over the weekend on Gospel driven discipleship. I was typing up some points for my women's Bible study so I thought I would post them here. This doesn't really do the info justice, but it gives you the main points (which are still good.)

Gospel Driven Discipleship:
(Note: reference 2 Timothy 2:1-2 and Titus 2) When the Gospel is a hole of you, it will propel you forwards.

1. Doesn't focus on outward behavior.
2. Focuses/pursues the soul/heart.
3. HAS to be spirit driven.
4. Has a willingness to walk into the darkness of our own hearts and others.
5. Boldness to speak the truth-not just give easy answers.
6. Initiate and persist (especially with younger ages/students)
7. With Children:
a. Immerse them in scripture.
b. Live it everyday.
c. Our God is not going anywhere.
d. Make your home a haven.
e. Have kids be attracted to Jesus in your life.
f. Be available.
8. Stop and listen: help those around you where they are.
9. Be sure to use the word every time. "Nothing is a stumbling block to the man who has the word of God in him." -Charles Spurgeon.
10: Other references: Psalm 78:1-4, Deut. 6: 5-9, I Thess. 2:8

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Great Silence (and the Fast)

I don't post something on this blog every day by a long shot. However, I don't usually let 6 weeks go by; I've rarely let 6 days go by without putting something on full tummies. My neighbor, Lisa, and I committed to a Lenten fast from the internet/computer this year. I'll link up to her blog reflection on our "fast" when she posts her reflections--she "interviewed" us last week with a few questions. Suffice it to say for now that we are truly glad we set aside this time and have learned a lot about ourselves, our society, and technology. I highly recommend a similar experiment for anyone reading this! In fact, it's taken nearly a week since the fast ended to even post something; I'm obviously not overly eager to jump back on the internet/blog bandwagon.

Our individual rules were different. I allowed myself more flexibility than she did. She checked email once a week and did no other internet-related activities (or, that was the plan--she'll discuss why and when she "broke" her fast in her reflection). My rules were to check email only once a day and do only internet-related activities that were absolutely necessary and couldn't be done by any other method. The primary cause of this last rule was simply that we have an internet-only bank; to pay bills and do basic banking, I must use the internet. As much as possible, I tried to stay away from my food blog--choosing to use recipes that I had in other places rather than access my stash of favorite recipes on the blog.

So, what did I learn? Here's a short list:

1. The internet/email has some definitely legitimate uses (such as the aforementioned banking, getting in touch with my hubby via email when phone is not available, etc.).

2. The internet/email is a big time waster and was not contributing to my life in proportion to its presence in my life (that is, the opportunity cost of spending time on the internet usually left a deficit).

3. Some hobbies and ways of spending time are restorative in nature whereas others are merely passive. In other words, playing the piano, going for a walk, sewing, gardening, painting, writing a letter, reading a book--all of these restore the hobbyist in ways that surfing the web and watching TV do not. They function just as well for stress relief as TV/internet does, but they also restore or give back to the hobbyist. The mind has a chance to process the day, mull over details, plan an upcoming event, wander at will, enjoy the creative process, etc. when a person is engaged in something creative or naturally related. The mind is turned off and put to sleep when internet surfing/TV watching--and when the mind wakes back up, it still needs to process everything! This leads to remarkable mental clutter.

4. Margins are necessary and procrastination is NOT. If we fill all the little 10-15 minutes spaces before leaving for an activity, between two different activities, or just a "boring" little spot with internet surfing or email or whatever, then we're not leaving ourselves any margin for error. Instead, during this past 6 weeks, if I had a 10-15 spot of time, I'd get us all ready to leave at a more leisurely pace; I might fold a load of laundry or make a doctor's appointment/phone call or empty the dishwasher or.... Then, when something did come up (a "boo boo" that needed a bandaid, an emergency trip out of town, a friend needing to talk via phone), I was ready to deal with it because everything else had been taken care of along the way. I also got a lot of little projects completed because I used those little margins of time in a better manner.

It's worth taking some time to evaluate your use of technology!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Heart Day!

Valentine's Day is a made up day by the Hallmark folk, or so my husband claims. All humbug-ness aside :-), it's a very fun day to celebrate when you have children in the house. In addition to adding in a little extra romance this weekend, celebrate in some ways your whole family will enjoy as well. How?

1. DON'T spend a fortune getting them "Valentines." Come on, people, those huge Valentine's Day teddy bears and large boxes of candy ARE made up by the cards and gifts people.

2. DO show your loved ones you care by doing something extra special. How?
  • cards: make them or buy them--long distance family members especially appreciate handmade cards from their little relatives; buy or make cards for your kids
  • sweet treats: buy a small bag of pink and white M&M's or something special--it won't take much.
  • homemade sweet treats: more fun than candy is making your own heart shaped cookies and decorating them with the little folks in your life
  • heart-shapes: you can cut Jell-O jigglers, biscuits, sandwiches, etc. in heart shapes; don't limit yourself to cookies only!
  • chocolate: try some chocolate fondue for dessert or make homemade chocolate pudding or hot chocolate. Be sure to include whipped cream and sprinkles for extra special treats! You can even whip up a decadent batch of chocolate chip pancakes and top them with whipped cream.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Colossians 1:9-14

This is a terrific passage to pray through for yourself, your husband, your children, family members, friends, .... It says it all. This is one that Sharon Jaynes, author of Becoming the Woman of His Dreams, recommends praying for your husband. I pray this for my children and myself, too! I certainly need endurance and patience with joy. I'd love my children to be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and understanding. What a delight if our family all walks in a manner worthy of the Lord!

9And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Savoring a Cup of Tea: 1 Corinthians 13

Posted by Betsy

This passage is standard fare at weddings, on Christian Valentine's Day cards, and in collections of Scripture passages. But how many of us really meditate on this passage, pray through it, or seek to apply it to our own families? Paul gives us no qualifiers on this statement of Christian love. There is no "love is patient except when little Johnny is refusing for the 50th time to eat his peas." Or, "love keeps no record of wrongs except when hubby forgets my birthday again." Or "it is not irritable except when you don't get enough sleep the night before." No. Paul writes this beautiful statement of what love is with no qualifiers. Pray through this passage, asking the Lord to enable you to love those within your own home first. (Passage from ESV and copied from

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No-Frills-Limited-Selection Grocery Stove v. Huge-Giant-Super-Sized-1-City-Block-Mega Grocery Store

A new Kroger recently opened in my part of town. Yippee, right? Our old Kroger was pretty old. 40,000 square feet and certainly ample for our needs, but not for our wants (other Krogers had artisan bread, sushi counters, fresh fish/seafood, and pretty flowers). So, when the new Kroger was being advertised, I was elated: closer to my house, bigger (83,000 square feet), bulk food, organic food, better produce, etc. etc. etc.

Guess what? I shop at Aldi more than ever now. Why? I daresay Carrie would echo the following sentiments, but these thoughts spring from a conversation I had with my sister-in-law, Erin, over Christmas. She is also lugging a toddler through the grocery store, trying to feed her family healthy and economically, and doesn't want to make any more trips to a grocery store than necessary (just like Carrie and me).

Why is the huge-giant-city-block-sized grocery store not my favorite? Why do I shop at places like Aldi, the produce store down the road, and even the Chinese grocery store? Some things to consider:

  1. Smaller store means fewer choices which invariably helps my grocery budget (not as much temptation to buy things not on the list!)
  2. Smaller store means shorter shopping trip (a bonus if you're dragging young children along).
  3. Smaller store means less distraction for kiddos--not as my toys/candy/etc. to induce cries of, "Mommy, can we get that?"
  4. Smaller store means easier kid-management for the kids that are old enough to walk with you. After all, they can only get 1 or 2 aisles away and you can still them even if they're "across the store."
  5. Smaller store means more friendly staff. The same few people work there and you get more personalized attention or at the very least, a friendlier cashier. (In fact, this morning my produce store folks gave me free apples and significantly reduced bell peppers; this happens frequently. Of course, I've been shopping there roughly once a week for 4.5 years and the same folks have worked there the whole time.)
Ironically enough, Sam's is another place I don't mind shopping when I have my kids along. It's actually a similar experience to the others except that I'm doing more walking. The aisles are so industrial that there are few impulse buys targeted to kids (with the exception of the gigantic candy aisle that I avoid). I can get in and out in a predictable amount of time and am not swayed to buy (too many) things that aren't on my list.

If you're dreading grocery store shopping and/or need to find a better solution for your family, consider 1 or 2 trips to smaller stores during the week and a big stocking up trip to a mainstream grocery store 1 or 2 times a month. You might be surprised at how much better things go even though it seems counterintuitive to shop at a store with limited selection.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Philippians 2: 1-11

Posted by Betsy

Yesterday, I mentioned the need to pray through Scripture. It helps us pray for the things that really matter, for one thing. Another benefit is that we KNOW these things are what God wants. For instance, take the famous Philippians 2 passage about having the same attitude as Christ. Have you prayed through this passage for yourself? Are you looking to the interests of those in your household as you look to your own? Are you seeking to be a bondservant for those in your household? Are you putting others (in your own household) above yourself? Are you considering them more significant than yourself? I really fail in some of these areas--after all, aren't I important, too? Well, this is what the Lord has called us to be like. In this day and age of "me time," get reoriented by praying through Philippians 2: 1-11. Feel free to make pronouns more personal. Feel free to insert specific names in place of generic words such as "others." Here it is, in the ESV, copied from (a terrific resource--you can print off any passage!). I added the italics.

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
8And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and
bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.