Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grammie: Serving by Waiting

My husband's grandmother ("Grammie") went to be with her Lord and Savior this past week. She lived 87 years on this earth despite several health conditions that were predicted to shorten her life. I've often thought of this poem in reference to her during the last few years--it's a poem by John Milton that he wrote when he discovered he was going blind. Blindness, in the 17th century, usually meant the end of a person's active career. Milton went on to write Paradise Lost after he became blind, illustrating that one needn't be active in the traditional sense to serve the Lord.

Grammie wasn't blind--yet--but her eyesight was failing, she'd been unable to drive for years, had difficulty walking without assistance, and was completely dependent on others for many ordinary things.... And what did she do? She prayed--for everyone she knew. She mothered and grandmothered people. She kept in touch with people, and she testified of the Lord to people. To me, she's a great example of Milton's reminder that "They also serve who only stand and wait."

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some Great Resources for Polishing Your Family

(This post was scheduled and written before my internet fast...)

In case you'd like to circumvent the massive Easter bunny and chocolate chaos by giving more spiritual for Easter, consider the following books/resources. All have made a tremendous impact, for the better, in our children's lives and have been terrific tools for helping train them in the truths of Scripture. There are more and hopefully Carrie (and/or our parents--in the comments section) will weigh in with others.

  1. ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt (ages 4-7; Bible memory; book)
  2. Big Truths for Little People by Ken Taylor (ages 2-4; Bible memory; book)
  3. Hide 'em in Your Heart, vols. 1-2 by Steve Green (all ages; Bible memory; CD's)
  4. The Singing Bible by Focus on the Family (all ages, especially preschool and elementary; Bible stories; CD's)
  5. Hymns for a Kid's Heart by Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolmuth (all ages; hymns; book and CD)
  6. Beginner's Bible by Zonderkidz (preschool and early elementary; kids' Bible; book)
  7. Big Picture Story Bible (preschool and early elementary; Bible story book)
  8. Psalty Kids' Praise CD's (yes, you can still get them, and yes, kids still love them!)
What are tools that have been helpful for YOUR family?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Lenten Fast

Well, it's that time of year again, folks: the Lenten fast from the internet. (gasp!)

My neighbor Lisa and I fasted from the internet last year with a few slight allowances. It was such a rewarding experience that we've decided to do it again! I thought I could pull off a TV free summer, but that didn't go over so well. However, we definitely are redoing the Lenten fast. Why?

The internet can be such a boon to folks like us: stay at home moms of young kids. When those kids are sick in the winter and/or you're stuck at home for lengthy nap times, the internet is a nice breath of fresh air. Surf some other mom blogs, check out book reviews on amazon, look for what's on sale, check email, find a new crafty project to while away the home hours.... But the internet can also be a MAJOR distraction from what's really important in life and, I'll tell ya, kids don't know the difference between something "important" (like balancing your checkbook online) and something "just for fun" (reading a blog) when you're staring at that computer screen. They just see a parent not engaged with them. Occasionally, this is fine. But it certainly doesn't need to be your modus operandi while you should be spending time with them. And, we've all been there: "how can 2 hours have gone by???!!" It just sucks your time away.

Last year, in brief,
  1. Lisa and I logged much more face to face time during our fast than we had previously,
  2. got so much more done around the house because we used those little 15 minute time slots throughout the day to be productive rather than check email,
  3. enjoyed spring and spent more time outside,
  4. felt less stressed,
  5. spent more time with the Lord, and
  6. thoroughly enjoyed it!
This year is already a bit different. For one, I haven't spent days frantically printing things that I "might" need whilst on the fast. I broke some bad habits last year that I've never really picked back up (lots of mindless surfing on the web, for one). And, I'm in school--via the internet. So, my fast will look different this year, too. But it's really crept up on me--no counting down the days, no wondering what in the world I would do, no--I learned some really great things last year:
  1. The library is still an outstanding place for information,
  2. Kids can look at library books with you and/or you can sit in the same room looking at a book and it's not as "unengaged" as when you're staring at a computer screen,
  3. Not that many people email me--checking it once a day is really more than enough,
  4. Nobody "needs" my blogs and nobody will really miss a 40 day absence,
  5. The internet is only a tool--not a way of life.
So, my "rules" for this year:
  1. Check email once a day (morning).
  2. Perform online banking functions.
  3. Access already saved recipes (via full tummies primarily).
  4. Perform school-related duties*.
No checking the weather (I'll have to just wait and see or ... go outside!). No checking the sales on kids' clothes, shopping for miscellany, finding out a craft project.... Nothing. *And, I've picked a paper topic for my next assignment that actually involves... personal interviews. (gasp!) I'm going to try to do those via phone, not email. I'll still be doing significant research online, but this will break it up.

Next week is my spring break and all of my family (but me) will be gone this weekend: could have been prime time to do a little blogging or surfing or what have you...but it won't be happening here! I won't even be attending class virtually or doing as much homework. Instead, I have a couple of books I want to read, some time scheduled with friends I don't see often, and a LONG list of house projects. I've even reserved some cookbooks at the library, hoping I won't need to access my saved internet recipes much.

In case you're interested, here are our reflections on our experiences last year: this blog and Lisa's blog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hymns for a Kid's Heart

Hymns for a Kid's Heart by Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolgemuth is a great resource to check out for your family. My mother-in-law gave my daughter this as a 5-year-old birthday present, and we've all enjoyed it immensely. It's designed to be an aid to teach your children 12 great hymns--each hymn features the melody sheet music, all the verses to the hymn, a Bible verse, a devotional page, and a short story about the composer. The book also comes with an audio CD. To date, my kids--especially my 5-year-old, can sing all 4 verses of "Holy, Holy, Holy" and are working on "This is My Father's World." They request the CD every morning (and this has been going on for about 6 weeks now!), and we are trying to do about one hymn every month. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Preschool Funnies

Some recent conversations in our home (E is our 5-year-old daughter; W and D are our 3-year-old twins). I should put one of these up every day--they're so funny. Are you taking time to really listen to the little people in your lives?

Mommy: "I'm going upstairs to fix my hair."
W (innocently): "Is it broken?"

Mommy: "We're having leftover soup tonight for dinner."
E: "What kind?"
Mommy: "I'm afraid it's the kind you don't like." (cream of turkey and wild rice)
E: "I have a good idea. To make it better, you can stir in yogurt (plain), cheese, and... some cream cheese! That's a good idea, Mommy."

D: "What's green dough, Mommy?" (I have French bread in the oven)
Mommy: "I don't know, D--"
D: "It's broccoli!"

Daddy: "What do you have in your mouth, D?"
D: (tells what it is--I can't remember, but it was definitely NOT something that should have been in his mouth)
Daddy: "Where did you get that, D?"
D: "From my hand."

W: "Mommy"
Mommy: "What?"
W: "Mommy"
Mommy: "What?"
W: "Mommy"
Mommy (in a louder than normal tone...): "What?!"
W: "umm..... " (apparently, he didn't have anything to say....)

W: "Is it raining? Do we need coats?"
Mommy: "It's only a little rainy. You'll be fine without your coat."
W: "It's only a little rainy, Mommy, not a big rainy."

And, finally, a conversation (one among many) in which big sister E instructs one of her little brothers in the vast knowledge of the universe:
D: "The moon is the sun! I see the moon!"
E: "The moon is not the sun." (with finger raised) "Listen to me: I will tell you all about the moon. The moon is a circle and it's full. The moon is light. It's a round circle."
D: "OH" (like this is the most significant thing he's ever heard) "What is the sun?"
E: "The sun is different." (in a funny little 'instructing' voice) "It's very hot--so hot it will burn your finger if you touch it."
D: "Oh, and if I get really tall and touch the sun and it will burn my finger off and Mommy will help me and..." (I lost the rest of that strain)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Acorns and Sin

The kids and I got out to enjoy the gorgeous weather yesterday and to do one of my all-time favorite gardening tasks: clearing away some of winter's dead leaves and twigs to make room for new, growing plants. I always have a Secret Garden moment where I want to chant "clear it away so the plants can breathe!"

But I was also struck yesterday with the image of the sprouting acorn and sin (no, I'm not talking about the temptation to sin after pulling up the 100th sprouted acorn...). Rather, I was mulling over how urgent it is that I pull up all sprouting acorns this week. If we wait, they'll be impossible to pull up by hand by next week. If we wait until spring is in full force, we'll have to dig them out with a shovel. If we wait longer, then we just have to live with the newest oak tree in the yard. Much as I cherish our gigantic oak tree in the front yard, the acorns it drops are perilous bullets in the fall and much dreaded vehicles of hardest-weeds-ever-to-pull-up. Have you ever tried to pull up a sprouting acorn?

Trees grow these amazing taproots that reach way down in the soil and are super strong, even in their infancy. It's a miracle of creation when you think about that tiny acorn becoming the giant oak. But it's also a terrific picture of what happens when we let sin take root in our lives, isn't it? Of what happens when we don't nip it in the bud--in ourselves or in our children....

So that's what I was mulling over as I yanked up hundreds of sprouting acorns in the midst of clearing away winter's deadness so my baby daffodil shoots can breathe, so we can see the blooming lenten roses, and so we can enjoy the purple and yellow crocuses.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Read that Bible!

Several years ago, I read through the whole Bible in one year. I attempted it another time, but didn't quite finish. Still, it was immensely rewarding to read the entire book as a whole, not to mention being in the Word on a daily basis. This year, I'm not attempting the entire Bible in one year. I'm involved in two different Bible studies, both of which use the Bible as the only text and require quite a bit of reading. Still, it's good accountability for me to have a plan and to be reading on my own--as opposed to the more academic "homework" I have for my two studies. So, I'm going to try the 5 x 5 x 5 approach listed on the Navigators' website (the Navigators are a ministry committed to the Word--terrific Bible study guides like their LifeChange series, Bible memory aids, etc.). There are three different Bible-reading plans for the year on their website--check them out and see if one fits your need this year! (There are also many, many other plans out there on the web that will take you through the Bible in various orders/methods in a year; the important thing is to be reading it!).

Do you have a plan in mind that you'd like to share or link to?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chores, Children, and Chimes

One of my New Year's Goals this year is to be a little more systematic in training my children to do their chores. Let's see... others? Most of them revolved around continuing things we've already started or already enjoy doing. What in the world does the dinner bell/triangle picture have to do with any of this? I'm working hard at creating a peaceful home; one of the ways in which I do not contribute to that is being frustrated when we sit down to dinner. What is frustrating me? Having to yell at my family (after speaking moderately several times) to get them to all come to the table. We have a large home and sometimes kids are outside, upstairs, hubby's in the basement, etc. So, now, I will ring my triangle and then sit down! The kids are very into it right now.

So far, so good on our NYG: the hubby and I have been on a great date, I bought some much needed clothes, the kids and I and the dog have been for walks at least twice a week even in the snow/ice, and my first Hebrews discussion with my friend is tonight! I realize it is only mid-January, but getting off to a good start makes it that much easier to continue.

The biggest "goal" on the list that isn't already in the works is a more systematic approach to chores. There are a million resources out there for coaching families through systems for chores. You know what? This isn't rocket science folks. Kids are born into a family and that family has needs: they get to help meet the family's needs. Period. You have to figure out what your own family needs to get done, who is capable of doing it, and how that works into your family's routine. In our family, our three kids are all within 18 months of each other. That means that they're all pretty much capable of the same chores. So, rather than have one child have a particular chore every week, we just sort of all do it all.

I decided to make a chore chart for each kid and divide up our chores a bit (and everyone pretty much as the same chart). I didn't put anything on there (yet) that they don't already do; most of the "chores" are even things they like doing. I figure this will help us work toward better organization. My goal is to be able to turn some of these chores over the kids entirely without my constant supervision. What are our chores?

My 5-year-old daughter's:
  • Clean up room (we're going to work on doing this daily.... ahem...)
  • Feed dog (2 mornings/week)
  • Set table (2 days/week)
  • Empty dishwasher (2 days/week)
  • Put up her clean clothes on laundry day
all of the above she already does when asked and w/o supervision; new ones/ones we're working on doing w/o supervision:
  • Bathrooms (helping Mommy)
  • Floors (mostly picking up objects but learning to sweep/Swiff)
  • Trash (emptying smaller cans into bigger bag)
  • Miscellaneous (we're calling these "zone" chores in honor of the Fly Lady since we'll work on a different area each week--dusting, mopping, wiping cabinets, etc.)

3-Year-old Twin Boys' Chores (they need more supervision, but can do all of these without assistance):
  • Clean up room (we're going to work on doing this daily.... ahem...)
  • Feed dog (2 mornings/week)
  • Set table (2 days/week)
  • Empty dishwasher (2 days/week)
  • Put up their clean clothes on laundry day
  • Bathrooms (helping Mommy)
  • Floors (mostly picking up objects)
  • Trash (emptying smaller cans into bigger bag)
  • Bringing the big outdoor trash cans back to the house after they're empty (they LOVE doing this)
Even Mommy and Daddy get chore charts! And, what fun are charts without stickers??!!
Basically, the week looks like this:

  • Daily: clean rooms, 1 child feeds dog in the morning, 1 child sets table, and 1 child helps unload dishwasher, Daddy feeds dog every night
  • Monday: Everyone puts up their clean laundry and helps Mommy with floors
  • Monday: each child each week helps Mommy empty 1 indoor trash can
  • Monday: Daddy gets KP duty since Mommy has class tonight!
  • Tuesday: Daddy takes trash to curb; each child helps Mommy with 1 bathroom (we have three)
  • Wednesday: daughter helps Mommy with miscellaneous chores; boys help bring big trashcans back from curb
  • Thursday: nothing extra
  • Friday: All help with floors, general pick-up
  • Saturday: Nothing extra
  • Sunday: Nothing at all except Mommy and Daddy feed the dog! We're even taking a break from cleaning our rooms....