Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

What is your New Year's Resolution for 2010?

Mine is to take better care of myself. It sounds funny, but I have forgotten how to rest. Not working part time is even better than I imagined, it gives me time to take care of myself. My husband may be doing great in his stroke recovery, but I do not think I ever really started to recovery from the ordeal myself, who had time - Mr. JP was born soon after his strokes and I started looking for part-time work soon after he was weaned.

Moms in general have a hard time taking care of themselves, and when we do, guilt sometimes follow. Rest in the right proportions is as important as exercise and eating right. While we think of others first, you need to take care of yourself too. Besides blogging of course, reading (esp. my Bible) and exercising have been recent ways I have found to relax and recover.

After being sick and tired so often, I have gone to drastic measures and cut out all Diet Coke. While we do have a pretty good diet and I shop at Trader Joe's, my diet could use improvement. Does anyone have a good book about diet (not dieting) for a busy mom? Should I drink whole, skim or soy milk? I hear so many conflicting reports, so I could use a tried and true book recommendations. My main problems are breakfast and lunch.

Please post your New Year resolutions!

Have a Blessed New Year!!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Beast (TV)

Perhaps the "unplugged Christmas" is referring to the unplugging the TV. Why when we get together with our extended family that we can think nothing better to do with each other then sit around the glowing screen? Sure, it is a long day, so watching a movie together would be fine. But does it have to be on ALL day?

In our own house the "beast" (aka the Television) lives locked up in it's cage, it is our only beast. We regular let it out for about an hour or two a day, and feed it Discs and VHS tapes. Occasionally, we will use it's ears to view our good channel. So, how is it that we have not been able to do the same out at family get togethers? It robs us of face to face connection and does not do much in the way of relationship building.

Some times technology brings us closer together, and it improves our lives. Facebook may help me send pictures to my brother in Kazakhstan, my brother-in-law in Japan, my Welsh childhood pen pal and my friend in Bosnia all instantly at the same time. However, it can never replace face to face contact. TV works in the same way. It allows us to go places we may not go other wise, but at the same time it can asourb a whole generation of men.

Do you guys have any ideas? What activities do you do with extended family on holiday gatherings?


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gingerbread Pancakes

Here is a Christmas morning tradition at our house - Gingerbread Pancakes

You can make them round like regular pancake or use a spoon to make them in the shape of gingerbread men.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Non-Consumable Christmas


The thought of the avalanche of toys coming our way during the next few days makes me weak in the knees. Where am I going to put it all?

To off-set this problem, I try to ask for or buy non-consumable presents for my children. My favorite is to ask for memberships. This year for Christmas my children will receive memberships to the Zoo, Children's Museum and Natural Science Museum. It is a gift that gives all year long. Often, the one who gives the membership will join us on the outing at least once. Also, I make it a point to verbally remind the kids that so and so is the reason we get to enjoy our day at the Zoo. Most of the memberships are also national, which means it will say you a lot on vacation. Finally, more children you have, well you can just do that math. There is no way to store or play with all of those toys, and it gets very expensive for your relatives or they end up having to buy something cheap. This idea can be more economical, especially if you can get them to chip in together.

What are other non-consumables that make good presents?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Homeschooling and Government Control

Recently I had a customer ask me (who knew I homeschooled) how it was going for us. When I replied, "Well." She asked if the government comes into my home to make sure everything is to standard, as if home school has some correlations with DYFS. I would like to think the best, and that she was only curious. Since other homeschoolers will probably at some point face this question, I though I would give the points I quickly rattled off, as well as a few more I did not have time to give. As an ambassador of home schooling, it helps to have answers ready. Besides, having answers will make you feel more confident in your choice because you WILL have days where you question your choice to school your children at home.

  • If the government is going to spend the people's money, they should do a great deal of scholastic research on the effects of homeschooling regulations. Some studies have already shown that the IOWA test scores show there is no difference in performance of children under strict home schooling laws verses students under more relaxed laws. There has also been studies done on the effects of the parent's education. However, the most eye-opening statics I have heard about is on race. Can you tell me why there is no race racking apparent in homeschooling, while there is in public schools? HSLDA has a 2009 Homeschool Progress Report with lots of statistics.
  • If you wanted to be a smart mouth, you could verbally rejoice in the fact we do not live in a socialized or communist country where the government has to take care of you because they think you are too stupid to do it yourself. I love America's freedom, it is what makes this country great! Why in the world do people think the government should tell how to raise your own children is bizarre to me (with exception of abuse of course). What America needs to do is improve the character training in their schools, so we create good parents of the future. An involved PARENT is what makes the difference in a child's education.
  • You can point out that there are kids that graduate from public school, who cannot read. What was no child left behind for in the first place? Right, for those kids whom the school system failed, even with their certified teachers and regulations. This one really stumps them.
  • What about the tenured teacher that comes to school everyday and just talks about their personal life? Sure, there are only a few of them, but we have all had them. My parents were both teachers, so this is not a hit against all teachers. Teachers desire more respect than they get in America. My point is there is always a bad apple, despite tons of regulations. Most public, private and home schooling teachers do a good job. The bad ones can easily fake it for a day or a portfolio.
  • Why should homeschoolers need to be certified if private school teachers are not, as in my state. This point depends on your states laws for private schools, they vary from state to state.
  • Here is one I just learned. Finnish schools do not give standardized testing, nor do they give grades/marks until 13 years of age. Yet their students make Finland one of the top ranking countries in the world. So, I am not sure what good it would do to have all homeschoolers forced into IOWA testing, as it has not made American students top of the class by world standards.
Generally, as more and more is being known of the outcome on homeschooled children, these sorts of questions give way to more positive comments. However, there will always be a group of individuals that seek government control over the population. It is a philosophy, a way of thinking. Homeschooling and private schools both bypass complete government control, thus becoming a target to be controlled. Perhaps when homeschoolers prove what good citizens they become, people will realize the senselessness.

The points I made above are given a little more flippant than I would normally speak. Just because someone lacks knowledge about homeschooling is in no way enough of an offense to bite their head off. I am opinionated, but I mean all I say in a friendly form of debate, which can be hard to detect over cyberspace. Also,we have CHOSE to have our children take the IOWA once in second grade, but we use it as a tool, not a master. HSLDA has many more points I am sure, they are experts at defending homschoolers' rights.

What point could you add to the list?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas for your Neighbors

Cannot remember how I rabbit trailed to this blog post, but it has some great ideas for those little gifts for neighbors and such. We always give the children's librarians a small gift, it would be nice to do something different next year. This December I have been sick so much that I have not so much as baked a cookie, but I am going to print these ideas out and put them in my holiday binder. These ideas are not just "cheap,"I hate going cheap with giving. The gifts ideas are very thoughtful, on budget and useful, though there are some I would not give myself. I love when simplicity and goodwill are combined.

30 Neighbor Christmas Gifts Ideas

My favorites ideas are the # 14 chocolate covered pretzels and #25 frozen lasagna.

This year I got Grace's art and dance teacher each an Amaryllis bulb with a pot to brighten up their house this winter. What ideas can you add to the list?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Socialization not a Problem

Washington Times Op-ed—Socialization not a Problem

Follow the link above for an excellent article on socialization and homeschooling. They mentioned a very interesting Canadian study.

The results do not surprise me because I have know a number of homeschooling families whose children are now entering the "real" world. However, it is nice to know that what I see in my circle is generally what is happening else where. Another reason it does not surprise me that homeschooled children are doing well socially is that homeschoolers are so much apart of the community. They are very active, and love to learn. Since most homeschoolers want to build character in their children, they often serve in the community. I also notice from going to large homeschool conventions, that homeschoolers are in general very partriotic, which makes for a good citizen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rosie Turn In Your Rivets

This is my last weekend working at CLC Bookcenter. During the past year, I have worked between 10 to 20 hours a week at night and on Saturdays. Now this season has past, and it is time to return to my homely duties. My main job in life is training my children to become God honoring adults (we personally do this through homeschooling) and running a peaceful household. I may not get many pats on the backs, nor any honorary degrees, but those are just things of this world. They are not to be compared to our heavenly reward or even just the joy one receives from serving God. Oh, and by the way, I do have a concentration in Women's Studies, so do not think I am just dumb conservative being suppressed by men. My "main job" mentioned above is one of ways I think is important to impact the world, and I LOVE my job.

The main reason for me getting a part-time job in the first place was not to go on a family vacation, but to pay bills. The company my husband works for as a software engineer cut all overtime, even on red hot projects like my husbands, which are usually have immunity. My husband applied for many part-time jobs, as well as I. Finally, I got a job first. We had enough for paying our monthly bills, but if something extra, like a car repair or health expense, came up, we did not have the cash ready.

Another big reason was our desire to live without debt except for our mortgage. Our long term goal is to be completely debt free. While we have not reached our short-term goal yet, I can see how much more we have each month when you lower your overhead by paying off debt. We have not started any paperwork yet, but we would love to adopt. By paying off our debts, we will be able to make that financially possible.

The plus side to working was that I no longer felt hopeless and anxious about our finances. While the job did add stress, it was actually less stressful working than not. And believe me, homeschooling is hard enough without adding a job. Just google homeschooling burnout mom and see how many hits you get. Surprisingly, I have found lots of home school moms work part-time. Their families just need that little extra paycheck. Additional bonuses were that I learned a lot to help me grow in my faith because I was working in a Christian bookstore. As well as, improving my time management . I am looking forward to using this on my extra time.

When you tag-team work (sharing caring for the kids with your spouse while the other works), it is important to make a extra conscious effort on your marriage. I must say, we probably talked more often with my job because we would chat in the kitchen when I got home from work. Also, I noticed my husband had a greater appreciation for me being home. This was also true for my kids.

Some people told me that the job was good for me because it would give me a break. Working is not a break. It was nice to talk to other adults, be in an adult environment, but if I want a brake I will do something refreshing or at least lock myself in our bedroom. It was not fun to get behind on housework and homeschooling preparations.

When I took the job, we thought Saturday afternoon and evening would not upset our household that much because we usually had outings or did cleaning projects in the morning. However, I soon found out how physical the job in the bookstore would deplete me so, that I would need Saturday morning to recover from working Friday night. The house has suffered a lot too. I just could not do it all.

Another negative side was that working in retail, I would catch so many viruses - no matter how much hand sanitizer I used. Whether this is from a low immune issue or not, the results are troublesome either way. This is the reason I have quit before reaching our goal, my health has really taken a toll for the hard work. Lots of people work hard, some people just do not have a constitution that can handle it. It is just getting to the point where my paycheck is being handed over for doctor visits and medicine. It makes much more financial sense to stay home, and work at stretching our dollars even more. We have had a very strict budget and have paid cash for everything from the start of our debt free goal, there is no cappuccino habit or eating out a lot. However, I can use the additional time to make improvements, many money saving tactics require time.

Now, I am looking forward to supporting my husband in his career. He works a ten hour day now overtime has been reinstated. That means when he is at home, he needs to rest, recuperate and spend time with the kids. I need to take care of the house so he can keep up with the heavy work load. Houses do not clean themselves, nor do kids - or at least not without heavy training. Not that I am saying stay at home moms do not work hard, especially homeschooling moms. I am saying the situations are different.

Looking Forward . . . Excited about my free time. Hoping to improve my health. Glad to have more family time before the kids grow up and have families of their own, and our sweet, little family times are just memories.

Rosie the Riveter
(poster at top-J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!", commonly mistaken to be Rosie the Riveter)

Photo is of Ms G. and I at CLC Bookcenter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Lunch Date

Finding a good time for a date with your husband can be hard. Paying for a baby sitter can get expensive. We have been able to solve these problems by going out on a lunch date.

My mom, who is retried, lives about 1 hour away. She usually tries comes once a week to play with the kids and help with laundry. I know, she is just wonderful. Often she comes because someone in the house has a dentist or doctor's appointment. If it is my husband or I that have the appointment, it is very easy to meet for a lunch date. My mom is already here, so there is no expense of a babysitter. She does not have to come at night either. Lunch is also a less costly meal than dinner.

Sometimes it can be hard to schedule one of these dates, but it works out wonderfully when it does. Besides being important for your marriage, a mom needs that break without the children. One of the best parts is getting to eat my food warm! It is so nice to talk to my husband without being interrupted.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santa Claus at Our House

When embracing the world, we as Christian are always questioning ourselves - how much world is in the world, but not of it? Santa Claus is one of those puzzles. At least he is based upon an actual Christian, St. Nicholas. The problem comes into play when the secular world hijacks Santa, morphing him into a God like figure. Santa is portrayed as knowing when you are good and bad, as being omnipresent. Celebrating Santa in more on the Happy Holidays side of the season, and fears Christians into viewing him as a distraction from Jesus, the real star of Christmas.

Is having your kids sit on Santa's lap bad? Should you donate all your Santa decorations to Goodwill? Could you proudly pronounce, "We do NOT do Santa." If you want to ban the jolly fat guy, that is completely your choice, but here is what we do at our house. Only you can pray and discern what God would like you to do in this matter. Santa is not a matter of orthodoxy.

All the mythical characters are explained to our children as being make-believe. The Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa included. We explain make-believe is fun, and anything can happen there. I must admit that Disney World is one of my favorite destinations, it is the ultimate make-believe environment. It oozes magic. However, wishes and magic are make-believe, they do not make things happen (Mr. Rodgers has a great book on this if you can find it). Dreams are great to have, but real is real and make-believe stays in make-believe.

Santa is magical to my children because he lives in their imagination. My five year old told me the Tooth Fairy lives next to Santa Claus. Last year we sprinkled reindeer food on our lawn, the kids loved it. They nervously sit on Santa lap and with a joyful smile, as they whisper their wishes for toys. We enjoy movies like The Polar Express. Every year we think about doing a Santa sighting on Christmas Eve, but the suit never materializes. I feel my children have fully enjoyed the "magic" of Santa, while we have been able to be honest with them. Learning what is real and what is make-believe is an important lesson for a child. It in no way crushes their childhood.

What we have not done is give Santa Claus God like characteristics like I mention above. If they say in a movie that Santa knows when your are naughty or nice, I verbally remind the kids that only God has that power. We also do not tell the kids that Santa brings them presents. If they want to make-believe that Santa does, that is fine. Santa is not used as a leverage for getting good behavior either. Children should focus on honoring God, not pleasing Santa. Decorations depicting Santa are not banned in our home, but I do not think we have any other than a Santa hat. We do try to use decorations that point to Christ in Christmas.

There is a line between being honest with your children and only telling them what they need to know. Personally to me, saying "Santa is real" is a falsehood. I cannot see how a falsehood honors God, in fact I would say it is braking a commandment. The smart kids will figure it out pretty early anyway. You have more of a chance of prolonged magic if you let Santa live in make-believe. It is much easier to answer, "Mommy, how can Santa be in so many places? Anything can happen in make-believe, my sweet."

I would just like to add that it is the way you walk out Christ daily in your life that matters most in raising Godly children. Issues like Barbie dolls, Trick-or-Treating, and Santa are just side shows. Pray. Seek God. Seek wise council. Listen and leave the mommy worries at His feet.

Do you "do" Santa? How do you handle the issue? I like to hear other people's perspective on the matter, even when they are completely against mine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Kids Say When You Are Sick

I love when you are throwing up in the kitchen sink and one of your kids asks you for their computer time. Do I look like a person that can go turn on the computer right now? Or the 3 year old asks, "What are you doing Mom?"

It is also cute when you are bend over the sink yet again, coughing your lungs out, and your little guy comes up and hugs you on the legs. Or your 8 year old comes up to you and rubs your back. Children are a blessing even when you are sick! Their cute faces and hugs cheer me up!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blogs Full of Ideas

Here are some other blogs by home schoolers:

Homeschool Creations
- I love her school room and workbox system ideas. At a later day I will have to post about the workbox system.

Confessions of a Homeschooler - She is a busy bee. Lots of ideas and print outs. Another user of the workbox system.

Both are very creative and have far more ideas I could every read or have time to do. Thought some might find them helpful.

UPDATE ADDITION - Here is a blog about living debt free:
Cent to Get Debt-Free
Love the menu post. I find making a healthy, thrifty, tasteful meal my kids will eat is a challenge. Can use all the help I can get. I find you have to be careful of mixing thriftiness and food planning because the quality (health wise) of food often suffers. For example, Capri Suns are about $1 cheaper than other juice boxes, but they are no better than sugar water and are bad for your teeth.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finding Great Books on a Favorite Subject

Before I became a mother, I worked in couple of libraries. So, I thought I would pass along my list of ways to find great books to feed your child's interest or supplement their curriculum:
  • Find a book about books - There are lots of books that contain book lists and how to get you child to love to read, check your parent's help section in your library (this may be located in the children's section). Honey for a Child's Heart and How to Get Your Child to Love Reading are two examples. My library has a reference book titled A to Zoo by Carolyn W. Lima and John A. Lima, which divides children's picture books by subject. I have more titles if you need them, I must admit I sort of collect them.
  • Find one at the library and you should find more in the same area (non-fiction ). Quick Catherine, what is the Dewey Decimal number for orca whales? Every subject has it's own number. Ask the librarian, she probably has it memorized.
  • Use Amazon or Barnes and Noble's website. Besides subject, you can narrow it down by age group as well. Then you cut and paste the ISBN # from store to the library's website. This is also very helpful to find what is available in audio books and for music (esp. when studying music of a historical period). Not to mention, when you search a subject, the most popular books come up at the top of the list. Usually, not always, a popular children's book is a good book.
  • PBS Kids has some great websites - Reading Rainbow has a great book list. For example, my son was interested in bats. I knew about the book Stellaluna, thought they probably did an episode on the book and I was right. Reading Rainbow has a book list for each episode and their books are high quality.
  • Your library's search engine should be able to do a search in a specific area of the library, like easy reader non- fiction and easy reader fiction for picture books (including non-fiction videos). It is probably under an advanced search option. If you cannot find that as an option, ask the librarian at the Reference Desk. They love to help you, I know because I have worked at the Reference Desk. We love to help the sane people:)
Please add to the list if you have some more ways to find books by subject.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Blog - Priority1Mail

Hello!

I began a new family blog, and this time Matt is co-authoring with me. It's called Priority1Mail and this is our vision:

"Think of a shoebox full of letters brimming to the top with a lifetime of memories. How priceless and sentimental! Our blog was created with that idea in mind. We want to etch the ever changing moments of our lives into a place where they'll never fade. We want to leave a legacy of faith, and the events that shaped them, for our children and perhaps our childrens' children.

The number "1" in Priority 1 Mail has meaning and significance. It refers to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We pray that the letters we write will reflect Him, our #1 priority.

Along the way, we hope this humble race we run will be an encouragement to you as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3)."

I'd love it if you hopped over to take a look, and let me know what you think.

In Christ,
Catherine

What to Do With Little Ones

Just to add to Peace and Preschooler's post that I blogged about yesterday, here are some of my own helpful hints:
  • We did not school during afternoon naps. My kids all stop napping at 2, and my last baby only cat-napped his first year. Also, I need the afternoon for a refreshment time or I become mean mommy/ice wife. Some children learn better in the morning, and some in the afternoon. That is the beauty of home schooling.
  • At one time I had home schooling in the playroom, but now I have home school for the 3rd grader in the dining room, leaving the playroom (downstairs) free for my noisy boys. I also do kindergarten in the playroom, while the 3rd grader is independently working upstairs. My children actually suggested their school spots, by trying their reasonable request I made an improvement to our school day. Everyone's home and children are different, so each mom needs to prayerfully ask God for a creative solution for her own family. Do not forget to ask your husband, God often uses them to solve our problems.
  • When I had an infant, I had a circuit, which went something like this - bouncy seat, baby gym, blanket with toys, different baby gym. This would buy me about 30 minutes, maybe more, I just remember it was long enough to do math and phonics, subjects that required my full attention and two hands. After the circuit, I could easy nurse or hold the baby ( I love to hold my babies a lot!), while helping the older one with their other school work such as handwriting or making a graph like the picture of Ms. G above. There are so many more activities you can add to the circuit, like entertainer, highchair, playpen and swing.
  • Giving the Kindergartner or the Preschooler computer time provides a peaceful time to teach one on one with an older child. As a bonus, the toddler usually likes to watch them play on the computer. Just set the timer, I have accidentally given twice as much computer time as I wanted to.
  • Toys are not just kept in our big playroom downstairs, we have play spaces spread through out the house. While most of the toys are either in the playroom or their bedroom, sometimes I take a stored toy out to the living room. Some educational toys are kept in the dining room (which also functions as our school room). The living room has some Magna Doodles stashed next to the TV, and the kitchen has a drawer of kitchen toys. I must confess, we do have an insane amount of toys, but I do try to create a toy library. Someday I will make pictures for them, like a catalog. Well, maybe I get to do if for my grandkids!
  • Less is more as toys are concerned. Children tend to entertain themselves better when there is empty space. Keeping your home that way is a constant challenge, but it is well worth the effort. Children like a change of scenery, they enjoy playing in different spots during the day. If you have those spaces ready, they choose to change themselves when they start to get board. You may have to teach this skill to some children. When they act up out of boredom, assist them in recognizing that feeling and ask them questions to let them choose for themselves what to do next. Some people find it helpful use a schedule for toys and activities.
  • A Kindergartner can play outside by themselves if you have a fence with a secure lock. I can easily watch my son from the dining room and kitchen windows, while teaching my daughter.
  • There is a dear mom at my home school co-op who has 8 kids and a husband who is a Marine. Once I asked her how she dealt with the little ones, she told me she has special toys for school time kept on a rotating basis. This hint I had heard many times, so I asked how successful was it? How long did it work? She said about 15 minutes. So, keep helpful hints in perspective, do not expect wonders, and remember you are not alone in your struggles!
  • When the older child complains that they want to play like the younger ones, I remind them that they did those things when they were little. Now they are older they have both more privileges and responsibilities. They need to learn now life is hard work. Do not feel bad for them, but you may want to pray for a joyful spirit for them!
  • Remember that this is just a season, older children can be a great help. You will have older children sooner then you can imagine. Just look below how fast my baby grew, my then toddler is now the kindergartner, and my kindergartner is now a 3rd grader!Children are hard work, but they are a BLESSING! What a better way to spend your time, than raising a new generation of strong Believers in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What Did You Do Before There Were Older Kids to Help

Here is a great post I found on Peace and Preschoolers called What Did You Do Before There Were Older Kids to Help. The more experience moms of larger families have always told me that one of the hardest season of motherhood is when there are many little ones. While I am still in this stage, I can see if the Lord blesses us with more children, it will get easy with older children to help. However, figuring what to do in the meantime without losing my mind would be helpful. Home school conventions often have a workshop about this subject. Every little hint helps, so I hope you find this one useful. Tomorrow I will post some of my own.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gossip Gabbing and Flattering Friends

After reading my Daily Bread devotion, I felt inspired to write a post about gossip. It is for certain we have all gossiped at one time or another, and what I mean by gossip is saying words that are damaging about another person who is not present. The story could be true or not. At least, that is what I mean when I refer to the word "gossip" in this post.

Proverbs 16:28 talks about how gossiping can separate friends. It is not just that it hurts a friend when they find out what bad things have been said about them, but when a friend tells me bad things about another person - I begin to wonder, "What do they say about me to other people." A gossiping friend is a friend I cannot trust (Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 20:19), and so it puts a strain on the relationship. There is awkwardness when we get together.

The Bible warns me not to believe them when they speak kindly to my face because their heart is full sin(Proverbs 26:25). I think perhaps gossiping and flattery may be mirror traits. Flattery may be a person's way of encouraging others, but I cannot see a persons heart. Could it be deceitful? Somehow a compliment without heart makes me feel worse, not better. Perhaps I just assume it is flattery because they also gossip to me. When trust is broken, you cannot accept that person at their word. This is a result of sin, and is no way a judgment, nor is it to be repressed. No one needs to be a doormat.

It is always ideal to think the best of others (so if you know me, do not think I am talking about a specific person as a way of venting). It may have been a misunderstanding. I think differently then most people, so I have probably unwantingly communicated a bad message with a good heart. Even if they did make a mistake, we are all on a journey, so we have no right to judge them. Exiling a person from your life is not the answer either, but the Bible is clear that spending time with them can be dangerous. Bad morals does corrupt good company. More so, these relationships tend to be toxic, leaving us drained or torn down after a meeting. If I am going to meet with a gossiping girlfriend, I ask my husband to pray for protection for me, and I pray the same for myself - as well as my words would be honoring to God. Sin is always exposed eventually, so no need to take revenge yourself. We serve a just God.

If we have been talking badly about someone behind their backs, it is a good idea to go and apologize to the person you spoke to (not about). For example, if I spoke badly about my husband to a girlfriend, I would tell my friend I am sorry for speaking in a way that was disrespectful to God. This will work to restore trust between you and your friend. Also, if your friend is a Christian, you can get accountability out of it as well. We often think of gossip hurting the person who is not present, but it hurts the person you tell as well - whether they are aware of it or not.

Thanks to Catherine, Hope and Sara, who are friends who always leave me feeling encouraged! Thank God for all the kindred spirits and those who belong to the race that knows Joseph! If you get what book series this reference is to, comment your answer.

The painting above is titled "The Gossips" and is by Norman Rockwell.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Simple Christmas

Like most area's of my families' life, Christmas needs to be simplified as well. Every year I try to make it more simple so that we can draw closer to Christ. This is just my own opinion, but I think less is more for the holidays. It makes more fun and enjoyable for all.

This year to simplify gift giving I gave all the Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles the same present, which was a photo album from Shutterfly. The grandparents will receive a large album and the Aunts and Uncle ( our brother and sisters ) a small 8 X 8 album. The project only took me a few nights thanks to Shutterfly's storyboard feature. It also helped that I regularly upload my photos during the year. All the albums are identical, so I only had to make one. This makes a good present because it is not something they can buy themselves, and there is not too much else for me to get them because they buy what they want for themselves.

One thing we are doing again this year that has worked very well in the past is that each child only gets 3 presents from us and there is 1 large family present. Their relatives give them their presents at different times, so this is pretty much all they open on Christmas morning. For the three presents, my husband and I give one large ($30 tops), one medium and one small. This allows us to take a slow pace and open one present at a time, watching another family member open their gift. Limiting the gifts really helps to make Christmas morning more enjoyable.

How do you simplify Chritmas?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Preschool Resource

My dear friend told me about a website called Preschoolers and Peace. I am excited to use some of her resources. Thought it may be helpful to others too. What to do with those darling preschoolers is always an issue when you home school. It must be out of necessity, but women who are blessed with many children seem to have really good ideas of how to manage life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

After Thanksgiving Sales

A homeschooling mom I know had a smart idea of buying what her family needs for the whole year on Black Friday. The thought makes me dizzy because I hate crowds and lines, but it does sound like a good idea. However, I cannot figure out what I would purchase. Our clothes are bought January, February, June and July, or bought used, or gotten for free. I only buy sheets and towels every few years.

What would you buy that your family would need for the coming year?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Too Many Emails, Not Enough Time

How I reduced my email stress by 80%

This blog post above (click on title for link) is the break through I have been looking for. I have a huge problem with e-mail. For a long time, I knew I needed to do something about it. But what? I tried discipline, but my life just does not allow that much time. Then I get behind, and I feel like never looking at e-mail again. We miss out on things and I let others down, all because I cannot get grip on my Inbox.

Learning these types of solutions, like from the blog link above, really improves the quality of my life and my families.

After reading the post, I sat down that night and fixed my e-mail account to file most of my e-mail for me. I also unsubscribed to a lot of junk mail. I love the feeling of my stress level going down. It was great to wake up in the morning and not see 50 new emails to go through in my Inbox.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes


Kids say the funniest things. Don't they? I love hearing funny things from my kids and stories other mothers tell me about what their kids have said. Here are a couple funny ones. Can you add some of your funny ones to the list?

1. After hearing the story about the last supper, there was a question at the end: "Why did Jesus have to die?" Autumn (4 yrs. at the time) replied, "Because he broke the bread."
2. Autumn, "My pumpkin is growing hair!" (It was actually mold=)!)
3. My girls and I were cleaning the bathroom when my five-year-old said, "God made me a good helper." Then my almost-two-year-old added, "Jesus help me wipe potty!"
4. When I asked Autumn what she learned in Sunday school (when she was 4 yrs.) she said, "Jonah". Then I asked, "What happened to Jonah?" She replied, "He got stuck on a fish."

The Learning Gap


Recently read a book titled The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education by Harold Stevenson. I found this book fascinating. It really changed not only the way I view education, but also the way I teach my children. Here are some notes, comments and quotes:

  • When the class is too noisy or misbehaving, the teacher turns to the class leader (student) and says, "I can't teach the class like this." Then the leader turns to the students and tells them to be quiet, so the teacher may continue teaching. This has really changed the way I school. When my children have a bad attitude or are distracting themselves in some way, I state, "I can't teach you like this." If they don't have a response to that right away I also say, "I will go and do something. I want you to sit there until you are ready to be taught. I will come back soon and ask you if you are ready to learn." I repeat this until they are ready to learn. It has never taken more than 15 minutes, even with one who is very rebellious about doing school.

  • Preschool and Kindergarten years are primarily concerned with social skills, not academics. First grade is when the transition to serious student takes place, which -when you think about it - is a much better developmental age. Before 1st grade, not much is expected, scholastically wise, of Asian children except good social skills. They save that for 1st grade and beyond, when the child's mind is physically capable of learning and thinking.
  • "Experiences in Asia, where there is little formal academic teaching in preschool and kindergarten, show us that it is not necessary to concentrate on early academic preparation in order to develop high achieving children."

  • Teacher stays with the child for 2 to 3 years.

  • Asian schools take a lot of time to teach study habits and how to behave and work in a classroom.

  • Asian schools do a lot of group work, each group is made up of a variety of students - those who are doing well and those who are struggling. They help each other learn. Nor do they separate special needs children unless it is an extreme case. They do not feel any child is beyond learning and achieving good grades, as long as they work hard and have perseverance. They do not put children in a certain track base on what they think their abilities are scholastically. This has be very liberating to me, if my child does bad in one subject, we CAN catch up. Also is very helpful when Ms. G does not win a medal at an Irish Dancing competition.

  • When an Asian child gets a wrong answer or does poorly on a test, it is looked upon as telling the teacher and student what they need to learn. They believe with hard work and perseverance the child can get that answer right, no limitations based on individual intellect. They always seek improvement. If their child gets a 93 on a test, they hope and work for a 95 on the next test.

  • "By assuming that all children are able to learn effectively if they are taught well and work hard, Asians have enhanced the achievement of all their children."

  • "The worst Chinese students in mathematics received scores that were near the average for American students!"

  • Children do not do chores at home as much as US kids, their primary job is seen at being a student. However, Chinese and Japanese children clean and take care of the school property. Needless to say, there are no choice words written on their school walls because the students who have to clean it off.
  • Parents are very involved in their child's education. The child is given a study area at home. Parents are supportive of the teacher and the school. Teachers are in constant contact with parents.

  • The author attributes some of the poor world standing of American students to the fact many schools use a spiral approach. Where as our Asian counter parts completely teach a concept and then do not teach it again. In Japanese schools, every school uses the same books, so there is less difference between the educations students get. While in America, it is up the local school or teacher. Each state provides standards, but no where near the degree it is in Japan.

  • Asian elementary schools have 4 or 5 mini recesses a day and a longer lunch period.

  • "Recesses not only allow for physical recovery, they also help to make school a place where children can interact socially with their friends. Typical programming in American elementary schools does not meet children's needs for social interaction and group membership. Schools often appear to be lonely, even harsh places, and children become increasingly disengaged from school the longer they are in attendance." (This is a quote from the book, and no they are not homeschoolers to my knowledge. It is also helpful when answering the socialization issue. )

The above is not my personal opinion necessarily, though I may comment on the notes. Japan does not allow the freedom to homeschool, so I am not suggesting they are right about everything. I do think we can learn a lot from their educational philosophy and their dedication to their children's education. This was an interesting book to read, but one downside is it is old - 1992. I would love to read a more recent book comparing American and Asian schools. The author does have another book (reprinted with a new cover) titled The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World's Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom. I am looking forward to reading it.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Glasses

This morning I reminded my daughter to put her glasses on. She asked me, "Mom, what will happen if I don't wear my glasses." I told her bluntly, "You would go blind in one eye, " which is really what would happen to her. She stated, "Well, one eye isn't too bad."
Ms. G looks beautiful with her glasses on, I just wish she would believe it too. I guess she is pretty desperate to get rid of those glasses.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Personal Retreat - Update!

Hi Ladies,
I just posted about how my personal retreat went here. A personal retreat is some time away to reflect on what the Lord has for this season of your life. It was a sweet, refreshing time with Him. I feel more focused now and I just got a sense of confirmation about the work that He wants me to do at this time.

Right Start My Day

Not really quite sure if it was my husband's strokes or the arrival of number 3, staring "real" homeschooling or all happening simultaneously, but I have been fumbling my organizational skills ever since. Now that my husband has recovered so well, and the baby is really no longer a baby, I have begun to dig out of the chaos. However, when homeschooling, home life tends to spins out of control into a messy chaos because of the high level of work demanded of the homeschooling mom. My stubborn nature will not accept the "let it go, you are homeschooling, your home is just going to be messy" mentality and it just does not work. While it does not have to be picture perfect, home does need to be a functional place, a sanctuary for all members of the household - not a place of stressful mess.

First things first with this blog post series, when my day starts with a chaotic morning, it leads to a chaotic day. So I have decided to make a reasonable list of what I need to start my day off right:

(1) Personal Bible and Prayer Time - Well, that is a no brainier. I am sure we have heard a million illustrations why we need to put our "God" time first in the day. Reading God's Word makes me stay close with God, and makes me better equipped to follow His ways. Prayer is extremely important. Pray for Godly characteristics in your husband, your children and in yourself, and this will leads to peace in your household. Ask God for what you are lacking in your character that you will need to get through this day (i.e. patience). Oh, do not wait for that picturesque picture on the front of you devotional book, chances are that will not materialize unless your children sleep late. Besides, it is actually a good idea that your children see you pray and read the Bible. Though a quiet, contemplative place is always ideal, work with what you have at this season of your life. The house will be all too quiet, quite all too soon.

(2) Clean Play Space - Who wants to play in a mess. The children need to be trained to clean up after themselves (lengthy process), especially before bedtime. A welcoming play space will create time for you to clean the other areas of the house while the children busy themselves. Remember, never work on more than one habit at a time with your kids. You will lose focus and so will they or at least that is my experience.

(3) Clean Table and a Clean Floor

(4) Dishwasher and Trash Can Ready - The dishwasher needs to be ready for the day's dirty dishes to avoid pile up in the sink. Similarly, the trash can needs to have room for the day's trash. The kitchen sink and the dish drainer should be empty.

(5) Washed, Dressed and Ready - I have got this one covered at least. I cannot stand to stay in my pajamas.

(6) Beds Made

(7) Laundry Cycle Started - Dirty clothes need to be collected in a central location and carried right off to the laundry. A load a day keeps Mt. Washmore at bay!

(8) Look at Calendar

(9) Start On Time - Wake up on time and start school on time. Your whole day hinges on waking up at the right time and not ignoring the alarm clock. I find I have to wake up 2 hours before we start school to get everything done on my "right start list" completed on schedule. The "right" wake-up time really depends on many factors, and only you can figure out what time you need to set alarm clock for. Noah Webster and Ben Franklin both stressed the importance of going to bed early and rising early.

This is probably the hardest on the list for me. When I wake up in the morning, I feel sick, stiff and exhausted. Once, I get out of bed and start moving, I feel much better. It is just getting motivated to get up. If I starve myself of a daily portion of refreshment time, it is easy to binge on it and stay up too late, which makes things worse. The only solution I can think of is to have my husband physically pull me out of bed while speaking scripted words of encouragement like, "If you start late, you will be behind all day." My husband spoils me, so this will take some discipline. Getting to the bottom of my health issues will help, but who knows how long that will take. I need something to put in the works now or I will continue to run in this cycle of stress, which I know is not good for my health or immune system.

Updated Addition:
(10) Homeschool Work Ready - Since I use the workbox system, this means to fill their boxes from My Father's World curriculum. School runs so much more smoothly and joyfully when I prepare the work before school starts - not running as I go.

(11) A Good Breakfast - It is hard to focus when you have not had a balanced breakfast.

There is a line. On one side you learn to let things go and not to be a perfectionist, control freak, and on the other side of the line you need to deal with the chaos because it limits your abilities to be accessible to God and to have a good quality of life. What are we here for but to show God's glory during joyful life.

Back to the practical, it would be better if I could do some of these tasks the night before. I must plan to get behind, or what I really mean is I must plan catch up moments into my schedule because I will get behind - that is life. The goal is not to be perfect, only God is perfect, but the goal is to use my household as a vehicle of God's purpose. If you add too many things to your right start list, it will be impossible to complete it. Keep things simple and basic.

Your right start list may look different then mind. Everyone is dealt a different hand. If you have a list like this, share your version of the list. I often learn a lot from seeing how other people handle life.

My first post on this subject of regaining chaos was SOS Week and SOS Week Part 2. Click on the links to read those posts.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Top 10 Character Tips

Here is an excellent article from the November ENOCH newsletter. I would personally like to thank Chris Klicka and his family for all their work in supporting homeschooling. During his life Chris has written some excellent books on homeschooling. He went home to be with the Lord in October. If you follow the link above, there is a short paragraph on Chris before this article. Make an investment of your time in reading the following article. Not only is it very well written, it has very practical tips on building character in your kids, and my favorite - books suggestions!

I would also like to add it to my list of reasons to homeschool - I would have never read this article in a homeschooling newsletter, nor would I even know who the author was or read his books.

TOP 10 CHARACTER TIPS

By Chris Klicka

During the presidency of Bill Clinton, a slogan was oft repeated: "character counts." Deep down we all know that one's character is not simply a "personal thing" but it affects his whole being and affects his work and every area of his life.

The importance of character training in our children is paramount. As parents, we cannot shirk our duty before God, for it states in Ephesians 6:4: "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord." Our children need to be taught to develop a Christian relationship with Jesus Christ. Simultaneously, we need to teach them to love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their mind, because this is the greatest and foremost commandment. I John says that if we love God, we keep his commandments.

There is no doubt that character training is a vital aspect of our home schooling. The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 22:15 that, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child." In the book of Romans, it's made crystal clear that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Therefore, it is necessary to train our children diligently. This requires discipline and much repetition to instill in our children a proper godly character which will benefit them and those around them for their whole lives.

As a father of seven children, presently from the ages of 4 to 14, I've seen how essential strong character training is for our children's lives and for those around them. Here are ten practical tips that I have compiled that may help you build good character in your children.

1. Read and Teach the Bible

The laws of our country and the true moral laws throughout the world have their origin in the Word of God. By the Word of God we can learn the difference between right and wrong. Training our children to read and love the Word of God will be the single strongest ingredient to building good character.

In our family I have found that following and obeying Deuteronomy 6 is the best and most successful way to teach my children the Bible and good character. This passage states that we are to teach God's commandments and principles to our children all the time so that in verse 2, "they might fear the Lord" and keep his commandments. In verse 6 it states that these commandments must be "in our heart" and furthermore, we must "teach them diligently" to our children virtually all the time. The passage explains that we need to teach these principles to our children when we "sit in our house and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up." We must also tie them to our foreheads and our wrists and write them on the doorposts of our house.

When I rise up, I spend time teaching each of my children individually the Word of God. Before I lie down, I have family devotions, where we corporately worship God and I train my children in his principles which are intricately involved in forming their permanent character and transforming their heart. As my wife and I go through each day, we train our children all along the way through homeschooling. On a regular basis I bring different children to work where I have opportunity to instill the Word of God to build their character as we commute and spend time together at the office. Also, we involve our children in the different tasks and errands that we run so we have more time to teach them when we "walk by the way."

We literally post the Word of God on our doorposts. On each entrance to each room is a small card with a calligraphy Bible verse so that the Word of God is before our children at all times. They see us not only teach them but live the Word and tell others about the Word as we carry it around with us in the form of Bibles and tracts in our pockets and purses.

Scripture says the Word will not return void. As you saturate your children with the Word of God, God will have his purpose done through the application and teaching of his Word. Scripture also says that He gives the increase. Our task is to plant and water, but ultimately, He is the guarantor of the results - we're just called to be faithful.

2. Create a "Chore Chart"

Another excellent way to build character is to create a "chore chart." We create a graph with each of our seven children's names and then a list of various chores for each day of the week. From age 4 to 14, they all have to participate in the tasks of keeping the household. This helps them develop a sense of responsibility and a habit for doing these tasks. As this habit forms, this will serve them lifelong.

It is amazing how small children who are only five or six years old can empty dishwashers, sweep floors, wipe off tables, clean their rooms, make their beds, clean up the playroom, and do various tasks throughout the day for their mom. We sometimes do not realize how capable our children are and we tend to want to do everything for them because we can do it faster and better. We need to put aside those thoughts and focus on the character that is forming early with our children and help them to be responsible at an early age. As the Scriptures say, as we're faithful in little things, God will give us greater responsibility. We need to slowly increase the responsibility with our children so that they're ever growing in their ability and desire to do good deeds.

3. Unplug the Television

If you truly want to instill good character in your children, turn off your television. In our modern times, the television has steadily slid into immorality and stupidity. A large portion of what we watch on television is a waste of time at best and damaging to our character and souls at worst. Unmonitored television is a character destroyer.

Ten years ago we unplugged the cable television and have never regretted it since. The amount of family time, spiritual growth, strong character and serving one another has increased and grown in a multitude of ways since we've shut off the television.

The only way that the television media can be used to build character is through careful selection by the parents of various videos and movies that have a clear lesson and that protect our children's minds and hearts from the worldliness in our culture. We can place at the feet of television much of the destruction of the moral fabric of our nation.

4. Teach Lessons from Hardships

Have your children observe and be aware of the difficulties and hardships that you and others around you face so that they will realize that this is part of life. It is terrible to see a child who has been shielded from all the hurts and suffering and persecution in the world to then personally face such problems as an adult and have his faith shattered. As my wife struggles with the incurable disease of ulcerative colitis and I with multiple sclerosis, we make sure our children understand that we still have joy. We explain that God gives and takes away and that we need to accept both good and ill from his hand, knowing that all things work together for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purpose. We emphasize an eternal perspective in our home so that our children realize that this earth is just a temporary place where they need to fulfill the mission that God has given them for their lives, but they can't be too attached to it. As our children form this eternal perspective, they can be honest, gentle, kind, faithful, have self control, and many of the fruits of the Spirit, regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in.
We also spend regular time explaining the suffering that the persecuted church is going through around the world so the children will realize that Christians do face many tribulations as the Scriptures say, but that God is with them and will comfort them, and will ultimately deliver them - if not in this world, then in Heaven for eternity where there will be no more tears and no more sorrows. I recommend Voice of the Martyrs newsletters (Bartlesville, Oklahoma, (918) 337-8015, http://www.persecution.com) as on of the best sources of information on the persecuted church. The ministry was established in 1967.

5. Read Biographies

Read biographies of Christians to your children. We have found that a book called Courageous Christians: Devotional Stories for Family Reading, (Moody Press; Chicago, IL, 2000), which has over 70 short stories of strong Christians of the past and present, is a wonderful and powerful tool for giving examples to our children of those who overcame. As we study the men and women of the past and present we explain all the many character traits that made these people what they were and how God was with them every step of the way and empowered them through difficult circumstances and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This "great cloud of witnesses" is an example to our children and gives them heroes and heroines to imitate as far as they in their lives imitated Jesus Christ.

6. Teach Proverbs

Another way to instill character in our children is to specifically teach the book of Proverbs. In Barbara Decker's book Proverbs for Parenting: A Topical Guide for Child Raising from the Book of Proverbs, the book of Proverbs is arranged according to subject matter. This is an excellent way to teach our children character traits of truthfulness, diligence, faithfulness, good business practice, service, love, courage, and virtually every important Godly character trait. If you are able to do nothing else on this list but teach your children Proverbs, you will build good character in their lives as they internalize these principles. Memorization and repetition is key in this process to burn these truths into our children's consciences so that if they grow up and turn away from God, the Word of God and Proverbs will be so ingrained in their hearts and minds that they'll turn back one day.

7. Mission Trips

Go with your children on a mission trip. There are many opportunities in our churches today for taking one to two week mission trips. This is an awesome way to have a hands-on experience in building character. It teaches our older children about the needs of the world. It helps them appreciate and be thankful for all the many blessings they have in the United States. These mission trips can be in the form of going to Mexico or some other poor country to minister in God's name in practical ways such as building, painting, cleaning, dispensing medicine, et cetera. Other mission trips can be your own family vacation where you take time to pass out tracts to those you meet and talk to them about the Lord. For your children to see your faith in action helps them to realize that your faith is real and the message of your teaching is real and practical.

We sent our daughter Bethany with some good friends from our church on a mission trip and she had her eyes opened with a new appreciation for the blessings that God has given her in her life. Most importantly, she has realized the incredible blessing of eternal life and she has developed a heart and desire to return to the mission field one day.

8. Bring Your Children to Work

As fathers, we have learned many of the important character traits to be good and faithful employees. Possibly we have started our own business. Either way, bringing our children to work is a tremendous opportunity to teach our children many character traits involved in being a faithful employee or good employer. Explaining to our children the many responsibilities in the workplace helps them to develop a vision for the future for themselves. It gives them purpose for the training that they're undergoing at the moment. They begin to realize the importance of math as they see its application in the field of engineering or carpentry or accounting. They begin to understand why their mom is so persistent in teaching them these concepts and this knowledge repeatedly. They have their eyes opened to what is necessary to provide for a family or for their own sustenance. They can develop a solid work ethic as they observe you and others in the workplace. Be sure to take time to point out what's around them so that your children can learn. When I take my children to the office they spend a certain amount of time doing their homeschooling but then I also explain to them what I'm doing and why and what others are doing around us.

Moms can bring the children to the store with her to help them understand and develop the character traits of frugality and wisdom to know what to buy and what to avoid. Moms can include their children in understanding what paying bills is all about and show them the need for filing and organizing. Children will develop a vision to be successful in this life.

9. Be Involved in Ministries

Assist neighbors and be involved with ministries. Youth have much time on their hands. They usually look for a good time. As a result, they don't redeem the time and waste much of it. An old adage says that "an idle mind is the devil's workplace." Keeping our children involved in serving and reaching out to others is an important way to keep them busy while building strong inner character traits.

Across the street we have a lady who has had deaths in her family and suffers from cancer. My children go over there periodically to minister to her and to bring her baked goods. A family needed help with painting and one of my daughters was able to assist in preparing the house for their move.

Having our children involved in Awana and Vacation Bible School to assist with the younger children has proven to be very valuable in teaching them to die to themselves and to give freely and without expectation of reward. No doubt you could think of a multitude of ministries and ways you can touch those within your reach. In the process, you'll be teaching your children how to truly love their neighbors.

10. One-on-On Training

Never forget the importance of individual one-on-one time in training your children and building up their character. You need to make sure you shepherd their hearts. Spend time asking them questions about how they feel about the tasks that are under their responsibility. Find out if they feel overwhelmed or bored. Discover their struggles and help them by applying the Word of God. Know your children so that you can determine if the character training is being internalized or is simply an external obedience. If it is simply external, as soon as they're out of the household the world will mold them and shape them into its image.

Homeschooling teaches what really matters. These character traits you instill in your children will be for their lifelong benefit and if they internalize them in the form of a relationship to Jesus Christ, where they want to glorify him in all that they say and do, this character training will carry into eternity so that they can be together with you in Heaven.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It is Enough to Make You Batty

On this post-Halloween day, I have a lot to ponder about this ridiculous holiday. First off, I do have the dilemma of what to call it. Some people I know call it the Harvest Festival, Fall Festival or simply the "day the Lord has made." However, I just feel silly calling it by any other name, it is what it is. Is that wrong?

I do believe God can take something the world meant for evil and use it for His glory. There are a lot of pagan traditions that we revamp for the Church's purpose - like the Christmas Tree. In some form Old Tannenbaum, had been worshiped by pagans, but the Christian Church has assimilated it into our celebration of Christ's birth. It now symbolizes everlasting life - possible through Jesus Christ. Even the time of year we celebrate Christmas was decided based on a pagan holiday. So, I think it is the heart that matters - i.e. I am not worshiping the Christmas Tree. Also, a measure of caution is a good idea too - i.e. is it honoring to God? Personally, as long as I have a Christmas Tree, I think we will have fun with Halloween in a God honoring way.

Which brings me to my next thought, if you feel God does not want you to participate in Halloween, then you should not. However, it might be o.k. for someone else, so do not judge others, but be peace-makers. This issue brings to mind the scripture of Romans 14, particularly verses 14 through 19. This is where it speaks of differences between the Jews and Gentiles in regards to food laws. Also, do not pressure yourself into not participating in Halloween (like trick-o-treating), just to appear holy or spiritual to those around you and yourself. Nor out of the pleasure we get by judgmentally saying to others, "We do NOT celebrate Halloween." Those are actions the Pharisees would have displayed proudly. We all can admit, myself included, to that uplifting feeling we get from putting others down below us. Last night I caught myself doing this silently a number of times in regards to some of the costumes I saw at church's festival. One good example that sums up the thought of this paragraph is when once, out of Christian concern for my daughter, I asked a much respected couple with older children if they let their daughters play with Barbie dolls when they were younger. The husband sarcastically replied, "Only on Halloween."
For Halloween we buy or make inexpensive costumes. After all, it is not really a wise use of our money to buy something expensive if they are only going to wear it once. I never buy a new costume unless it is on clearance - by buying next years costume this year. Playing dress up year 'round is a great way for a little one to spend their time too! Do not forget buy used, save the difference. A costume is a great item to buy used at a thrift store. Family Fun magazine always has wonderful costume ideas that are simple to make for those of us that are low on time and lack crafting skills like myself. My oldest son is fascinated by bats, so it was his wish to dress up as a bat. The costume was easy and inexpensive to make.On the "day", we have a couple from church that are close friends of ours over for dinner and trick or treat with the kids. Since their kids have out grown it, they really like reliving that phase of their life. It is another chance to build a relationships between us. We only go to the houses on our street - i.e. people we know. This takes care of the whole taking candy from strangers. This does not take much time, but it is plenty long enough for the kids because they are more excited to go to our church's fall festival. Our church has an annual festival on October 31st as an alternative to Halloween. Here they win candy, hear the Gospel at the Gospel House and see a Bible based puppet show. They also get to spend time with other kids from church and the community, as well as we get to spend time as a family. Last night it was great to see several families from our homeschooling co-op. Believe me, the kids are not deprived - I think we still have some candy from last Halloween!

Forgot to clarify what I mean by participating in Halloween. What I do NOT mean is any behavior that glorifies Satin and goes against the teachings of the Bible - like witchcraft, immodest dress or divination. What I do mean is the secular, modern version of Halloween - like trick-o-treating, handing out candy to children, and dressing up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Weeding Out Distractions

Hi Girls,
Last night I posted what is probably my last post (or at least for a long while) on my other blog Daisy and Pear. The computer has quickly become something that consumes too much valuable time. It's tempting to go on the internet instead of spending extra quality time with the girls. It's the first thing I run to after they're tucked into bed, and it has begun to steal time away from my husband in the evenings. We haven't been operating as a cohesive family unit. We only have a vague idea, if that, of where our family is headed in terms of service to the Lord. And how can we if our evenings are spent consumed with individual interests? It's time to close the laptop and have a face to face, genuine conversation with my husband. Sharing the couch, a conversation, a blanket, and some tea with my love sounds really good right about now... so much better than staring at this cold, mechanical thing.

Jesus is stirring up a desire in my heart for more of Him, and that means I need to shake off the distractions. It's never easy, and I truthfully don't want to give up my cutesy little blog. However, I was clearly convicted, I know it's His will, so how can I refuse? His plans and ways are always better than mine. His promises are good. I'm excited!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Biblical Womanhood

In a world that desperately tries to diminish and mock biblical womanhood, it is so refreshing to find ministries that encourage those of us who embrace God's picture of femininity. My absolute heroine of all time is the Proverbs 31 woman. I run to this passage of Scripture often to remind myself of the character and values that are beautiful in God's sight. The glimpse I gain into her life helps me to prioritize, set goals, and rid myself of the distractions that can so easily creep in (currently working on this one!).

True Woman, a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, has an encouraging blog and a 30-day makeover. You can read and sign the beautifully written True Woman Manifesto and receive emails with biblical teaching, encouragement, resources, and links. I signed up a few days ago. I'm woman number 10,492! I haven't gotten any emails yet though, so I may need to sign up again...? I wonder if that will also make me woman number 10,493. :)

Girltalk is another blog with a wealth of resources and information to encourage us. They've been doing a wonderful series on hospitality that has challenged me to reflect on how I can serve others with grace to reflect Christ. This is not an area that comes easily or naturally to me. I used to hesitate to have others over because I was too consumed with myself, how clean my home was, and how convenient it was for me. Do you hear that? Me, me me. But the more I look at Jesus, the more He places hospitality toward others as a priority on my heart. I'm excited to see the bits of growth that He's done in this area of my life.

Do you have any other resource recommendations that encourage biblical womanhood? Books, links, blogs? I'd love to check them out.