Friday, October 31, 2008

Tonight's Plans

Grace and I were supposed to go to our church carnival this evening while Todd supervised a high school football game. However, she's been acting fussy all day and she didn't want to go to the playground (!) this afternoon. She also slept for a long time during her naptime. When she woke up, I heard her moaning in her bed. Her forehead was very warm, and a 102.3 degree fever was shortly confirmed. Oh, well.

Unfortunately, I had to get her dressed and drag her to the pharmacy to get more Motrin (I should always keep this stocked!). So, we're having a quiet evening at home. I did pick up a couple of bags of candy at the pharmacy in case we had some trick-or-treaters. So far Grace has enjoyed seeing a few kids stop by. I decided to let Grace eat whatever candy she wanted since we had to cancel going to the carnival, but she really hasn't wanted that much. I'm sure it will be a different story when she starts feeling better!


This is an update on our open house last weekend. Alas, NOBODY showed up. I'm not sure how it was advertised, because we never saw the notice in the "Open Houses" section of our newspaper. I assume the realtor advertised it somehow or she wouldn't have spent two hours wasting time in our home.

She wants to schedule another one in two weeks. The Dallas Cowboys won't be playing, so more people will (potentially) be out looking at houses. We've also scheduled it a little earlier in the afternoon.

I'm not going to stress myself out getting ready for the next open house. Thankfully, the detailed cleaning (baseboards, ceilings, windows, painting, etc.) is done and I can just maintain it with my normal housecleaning schedule.

I am continuing to pray that God will give us patience during this whole process. Eventually, some family is going to really enjoy purchasing our home, and so we must wait for God's timing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why I Like Barbie Movies

Over the years I have watched a lot of children's movies. Many movies (including new releases) are available at my local library. I am able to check it out, preview the movie at home, and add it to our collection if we like it. This is how I first saw a Barbie movie. I checked out Barbie in Swan Lake from the library.

Over the next few weeks, I checked out The Princess and The Pauper, Barbie in the Nutcracker, Barbie as Rapunzel, 12 Dancing Princesses, and Barbie as the Island Princess. These movies are now part of our collection.

I can't believe I'm going to say this (because I LOVE Disney), but I much prefer Grace to watch the Barbie movies over most Disney movies. With the exception of Belle (Beauty and the Beast) and Cinderella, many of the main characters in Disney movies are rebellious, disrespectful to their parents, and selfish. Ariel (The Little Mermaid) and Nemo are the worst. They are constantly telling their parents "No!", disobeying, and giving attitude. Nemo even proclaims at one point, "I hate you!" The crazy thing is at the end of these two movies, their dads actually apologize for being "wrong." Their dads were presented as being overprotective and overbearing. Nemo and Ariel never apologized for being disrespectful, dishonest, disobedient, etc.

The Barbie movies that I have seen have been wonderful. The Barbie character often has an evil guardian or authority figure. Despite being treated poorly, Barbie's character is always respectful, obedient, and kind. Another added bonus is the wonderful exposure to classical music, especially in Swan Lake and Nutcracker. Also, the dancers are professional ballet artists who are looks so real!

My favorite one is The Princess and The Pauper. This is a musical, and Kelly Sheridan does an excellent job of singing as Barbie's voice. It's not just for girls.....the little boy that I babysit LOVES it!

Another problem with some Disney movies is the prevalence of "Class B" bad words such as stupid, shut up, idiot, hell (Lightning McQueen in Cars), gosh, etc. I just don't like the way characters talk to each other, especially in the more modern Disney movies.

When I allow Grace to watch a movie, I usually let her pick what she wants to watch. If she picks a Disney movie, I often interject things like, "That wasn't nice." "She disobeyed her daddy." "He shouldn't say that word." "What would be the right thing for him to do?", etc. I'm trying to use it as a teaching tool while letting her enjoy the stories.

I don't mean to come down too hard on Disney, because it has truly been a wonderful source of entertainment and teaching for children. We enjoy Disney toys, dress-up, books, and puzzles. I just think parents should be mindful of what our children watch. If something is inappropriate, we should address it and not ignore it. Otherwise, our children will think it's OK to act like Ariel by talking back, arguing, etc. And, if you haven't already, check out the Barbie movies for clean and fun entertainment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Optimism of 3-yr-olds

The following conversation took place this morning:

Grace: Guess what, Mama?

Me: What?

Grace: We're going to Chuck E. Cheese's today!

Me: No we're not, honey.

Grace: Guess what, Mama?

Me: What?

Grace: We're going to McDonald's today!

Me: No, we're not, honey.

Grace: Guess what, Mama?

Me: What?

Grace: We're going to the playground today!

Me: Yes, we are!

Grace: I knew it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homeschooling In America

I came across this article on this blog. Basically, the crux of the article is that Obama does not believe parents should have the choice to homeschool children. I believe that if Obama is elected, he will push legislation to make it very difficult or impossible for parents to educate children in the home. Obama and other democratic nominees have long been in the pockets of the NEA and other teacher's unions. They wish to eliminate school choice, close charter schools, and eliminate home schooing.

This is such a difficult issue for me. I can honestly see both sides of the issue. However, God commands us to "Train up a child in the way he should go." It is a parent's job to decide the best way their children should be educated. For some, this is the public school. For some, private Christian schools. For some charter schools or private schools. For others, homeschooling. My opinion is that we should have the CHOICE. We know what is best for our particular child, not the government.

I have been a member of a teacher's union. My husband is currently a member of a teacher's union. We are aware of the fact that these unions are VEHEMENTLY opposed to school choice and homeschooling. However, we made the choice to be a member of these unions for our own protection (liability insurance). While a member of the union, I was pretty vocal about my political beliefs. We did NOT support the same political candidates that were endorsed by our union. I often called Austin and respectfully expressed my concern about certain candidates that were endorsed. I still do....I did it yesterday.

Now, the other side of the coin. As a school counselor, one of my responsibilities was completing educational testing on students who had been homeschooled and were now enrolling in the public school. I used the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The ITBS is a nationally recognized exam that is nationally normed every three years. It is a thorough test and gives a pretty good indication of a student's knowledge. There are several parts to this test, given over separate periods of time. I used most sections of the test including: Vocabulary, Word Analysis, Language, Reading Comprehension, Math Computation, Math Problem Solving, and Listening Skills. The administration in our school would examine the testing results and we would use it as a guide to determine if the student was academically ready to be placed in a specific grade level.

Here is what I found: Out of HUNDREDS of students that I tested over a period of seven years, there were less than 20 students (that's being generous) who showed an academic readiness for the grade in which they were enrolling. We realize that every student does not have good test-taking skills, especially those who have been in a homeschool situation. So, we often asked the parents to provide evidence and examples of the child's learning. Our thought was if we could see evidence of learning on grade level in their homeschool assignments, we would consider that when deciding to place the child in the age-appropriate grade level. Of all the parents I requested this evidence from, only TWO families were able to deliver. Most parents got very uncomfortable, couldn't answer direct questions about their choice of homeschool curricula and were "unwilling" to let us review the child's work. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the academic learning that was taking place in their homeschool situation was minimal to none.

Another factor to consider is the type of homeschool children I was testing. Most had been in public school previously, left for one reason or another (usually discipline-related), and were now re-enrolling after a couple of years. So, my personal data is much different from what what national data says about the academic success of homeschool children. See this article for evidence of excellent college preparedness in homeschoolers.

I tell you my experience of dealing with homeschooled children to provide a reason why so many educators feel strongly against school choice. It is VERY sad to see children whose parents do not take the God-given responsibility seriously to educate their children. Many of these "homeschooled" children were left at home alone all day while their parents worked, having no supervision at all. However, I DO NOT believe that all parents should be punished because some refuse to take their responsibility seriously.

The laws here in Texas concerning homeschool governance are not restrictive. Parents are not required to provide annual educational evidence of growth to school officials. Homeschool children are not required to take part in the state testing program. However, if school personnel feel that a student is not being served by homeschooling, the district truancy officer has the authority to visit the household and request evidence of education. If the evidence is not satisfactory, the truancy officer can refer the parent(s) to the court for truancy charges. This almost never happens. Our truancy officers are busy enough chasing all the public education students who don't show up for school.

As you can see, the issue of school choice is complex. I can sympathize with educators who feel that all children should be enrolled in a school. They have seen children who have been disserviced by homeschooling over and over again. It is frustrating for teachers to try to re-teach all the concepts that were lost during the student's haitus of "homeschooling."

However, this does not change my opinion that parents should be free to choose homeschooling for their children. I have met so many families over the years in my churches and personal circle of friends that do an excellent job of homeschooling. It is so evident in their children. It is a wonderful way for Christian parents to instill sound and Biblical teaching! There is such a wide array of excellent curricula, homeschool co-ops, and resources for parents. If Obama is elected, I pray that legislation will not be successful that will restrict or eliminate the right of parents to homeschool.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tradition of Halloween

I recently heard that Halloween is fast becoming the second most celebrated holiday in America, only behind Christmas. Parents are spending huge amounts of money on elaborate costumes for their children. Churches and community organizations are hosting carnivals that rival Six Flags. Adults are buying costumes and attending lavish parties. Everyone is buying special Halloween decorations, candy, and bakery items. Old warehouses and buildings are being converted into haunted houses that draw huge crowds and charge outrageous entry fees.

You can read about the history of Halloween here. Consider the following quote from this Wikipedia article on the history of Halloween.

The imagery surrounding Halloween is ...... a rather commercialized take on the dark and mysterious. Halloween imagery tends to involve death, magic, or mythical monsters. Traditional characters include ghosts, ghouls, witches, owls, crows, vultures, pumpkin-men, black cats, spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, and demons.[11]

I realize that what I am about to say will not be very popular with many of my readers. However, I am going to respectfully give my opinion on the tradition of Halloween and how we celebrate it (or don't celebrate it) in our household.

We don't enjoy the traditional images that are associated with Halloween. We don't have witches, ghosts, skeletons, or any other scary images in our homes or on our person. As we have studied the history of Halloween, we have come to realize that there is nothing in it that we wish to promote. We don't watch horror movies or even pretend to be scared by ghosts, spirits, or monsters. We just don't feel there is anything to be gained by making light of scary and disturbing images.

That being said, we do allow Grace to partake in some of the fun traditions of the holiday. We allow her to dress up in sweet and cute costumes (princess, bunny, ladybug, etc.) and go get candy at friend's houses in our neighborhood. This year, we are attending the carnival at our church where she will play games, win prizes, eat candy, and play in bounce houses.

I know it might seem a little hypocritical to allow her to participate in some of the fun traditions of Halloween when we disapprove of the holiday. However, this is the balance that we are choosing for our family. Above all, we want to educate Grace about the most important reason to celebrate October 31st: Reformation Day.

Reformation Day is the day that Martin Luther posted 95 Thesis on the door of a Catholic church in 1517. He did this to take a stand against the unbiblical practice of indulgences that was being promoted by the Pope. This act started the pathway to the Protestant Reformation. This is such a huge part of our church history, and educating Grace about Reformation Day will be a major part of our October 31st celebration.

I cast no judgment on families who choose to celebrate Halloween to it's fullest. The purpose of this post is just to communicate how we celebrate Halloween in our family. However you choose to celebrate, I hope that all of my readers have a safe and happy weekend spent with loved ones.

Menu Plan Monday

Monday - leftover BBQ

Tuesday - Harvest Moon Macaroni, Green Salad

Wednesday - leftovers

Thursday - Multi-grain french toast, bacon, fruit

Friday - Grilled chicken, wild rice, roasted veggies

Saturday - leftovers

Sunday - dinner with friends

The Harvest Moon Macaroni was recently featured on 30-Minute-Meals with Rachel Ray. It is a sneaky way to get kids to eat butternut squash. When made with whole grain pasta, it is a healthy vegetarian meal. I'm not going to tell Todd or Grace it has squash in it...we'll see if they notice!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Open House

This afternoon was our open house. We left to spend time with friends, so we have no idea how many people came and looked. The realtor was supposed to be here at 2:30, but she had not shown up by the time we left at 2:50. I prepared fresh coffee and left a platter of homemade cookies on the kitchen island. All the hard work I've put in over the past couple of weeks cleaning and organizing really shows. It almost makes me not want to move! Almost.

When we got home after 5:00, we saw that the realtor left some papers for us on the counter, so we know she was here. However, the coffeepot was still full and the cookies looked untouched. Not a good sign.

Oh, well. It just takes one person to buy a house, right? It seems that God is always trying to teach me about patience. Maybe one day I'll learn!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Living Simply Saturdays

Today's post on living simply has to do with an effective way to organize toys in households with preschoolers. We only have one child in our home, and we struggle to stay on top of random toys scattered throughout the house. I can imagine that it is even more challenging with multiple kids of different ages!

For me, the key to keeping toys neat and tidy is in the storage. Every toy has it's place, and Grace knows where it goes. The larger toys go in the toybox. The books go on her bookshelves. For toys that have several small pieces, they are stored in individual Ziplock bags or plastic bins. I also have a medium-sized plastic storage box that contains all random, smaller toys (figurines, costume jewelry, Happy Meal toys, etc.).

The other key to keeping toys neat and tidy is in the access. The boxed games, Ziplock bags of toys, and storage boxes are kept out of her reach. She only has immediate access to her toy box and books. If she wants to play with a "special" toy, she must first show me that she has cleaned up her toy box and books. When she finishes with the "special" toy, she must put it back in it's storage container and give it back to me.

This method is particularly effective when I babysit other kids in my home. They quickly learn that in order to play with a new toy, they must first clean up the other toys. The result is a neater and more organized home with less things to trip over!

Grace rarely fusses about cleaning up, and she actually enjoys picking up her toys and singing the clean-up song. I can only pray that this trend will continue through adolescence!

For more Living Simply Saturdays, visit Keeper of the Home.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why Preschoolers Lie

There's a lot of information out there in the psychological community about why young children lie. I came across a recent article here. Most professionals will tell you that children don't lie on purpose, they are just being "creative" and promoting their own "reality." If faced with an uncomfortable situation like being accused (rightfully) of breaking something, they will convince themselves that they didn't do it as a defense mechanism. Professionals will tell you that this is not malicious, but just a developmentally appropriate thing for 3-yr-olds to do. Ironically, this psycho-babble is a lie in itself. It is a desperate attempt for the psychological community to reinforce the misconception that children are basically good and innocent.

Here's the truth: according to Proverbs 13:22, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight."

Since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, the heart of man has been sinful. It is natural (i.e. "developmentally appropriate") for kids to lie because the heart of mankind is sinful. How parents and caregivers choose to deal with the lying will either teach the children how to honor God with their honesty OR reinforce the habit of lying.

Psychologists recommend that parents not accuse the child of lying. It might hurt their self-esteem! Instead, parents should help the child right the wrong (clean up the mess, make restitution, etc.) without specifically addressing the lying. If, however, the child admits their guilt without lying, they should be praised and the consequence should be lessened or elimiated altogether. What a mixed message this sends to children! Why should we be afraid to confront the issue of lying? Children need clear messages and clear teaching. If lying is an "abomination to the Lord" it should be clearly taught to our children that lying is sinful and will be dealt with in a disciplinary manner. Of course, all discipline should be done in the spirit of love and obedience to God's commands. (See this post and this post for more information on discipline.)

Another issue raised in the psychological community is that focusing on lying stifles a child's creativity. There are plenty of opportunities for kids to develop their creativity without lying or telling stories that make people believe something that never happened. If a child enjoys telling wild tales, we should encourage them to act out their "pretend" stories with toys or write fictional stories. We should not, however, go along with obviously false stories by providing an emotional reaction (laughter, amazement, pretending to believe the story, etc.). This reinforces the behavior and encourages the child to exaggerate stories to get positive attention from other people.

Above all, the best way we can teach our kids about honesty is to be honest ourselves. I will admit that I love to tell a good story. Sometimes I find myself exaggerating just to make my point. While writing this blog post, I have been convicted that I need to watch myself and be honest in all my dealings and storytelling. Grace is only three years old, but she watches and listens to everything I do. What a great responsibility we bear as parents!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Food Allergies in Children

I read a recent post on dealing with food allergies in children. I've always been sensitive to the dangers of food allergies. When I was working outside the home, my job responsibilities as a school counselor included writing accommodation plans for children with acute allergies. More than once we had to call an ambulance and administer Epipens to children who had been accidently exposed to allergens in our school...usually at lunchtime.

When Grace first started eating solid foods, we discovered that she had an allergy to eggs. I had given her scrambled eggs, and she broke out in hives all over her face, neck, and torso. Her lips grew to 10x the normal size. It scared me to death, but our doctor reassured me that most children outgrow this allergy. Unfortunately, she has not. I am thankful, however, that her reactions thus far have been in the mild-to-moderate range of severity. Her throat has never closed, and her breathing has never been interrupted. I am also thankful that her reactions seem to be contained to products that contain raw eggs or products that have a high concentration of eggs (quiches, custards, omelets, french toast, some ice creams, etc.).

Through the years, she has also reacted with hives/swelling to some dogs, cats, and sterling silver products. We're considering allergy testing in the future, but in the meantime, we are able to keep her away from allergens. She wears an allergen identification bracelet in the church nursery when they eat or cook. We have no pets in the house. I got rid of all silver in the house (platters, baby spoons, serving pieces, etc.) and packed away my silver jewelry after Grace got in my jewelry box and had a particularly bad reaction.

I've heard horror stories about children who had mild reactions to allergens, then suddenly experienced anaphylactic shock out of the blue. We pray that God will continue to protect Grace from this type of reaction. I want to encourage everyone who reads this post to be mindful of children around you who experience food allergies. Don't complain when your child's school or daycare bans certain products from your child's lunch to protect other children. Many children with severe allergies (i.e. peanuts) cannot even be in the same ROOM with peanut products without experiencing a reaction.

The New York Times reported yesterday that food allergies in children are on the rise. To read this article, click here. It's good for everyone to be aware of the potentially fatal effects of food allergies in children.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Marvelous Salad

Last night, I attended the Ladies Night Out dinner at my church. It was a great event and a sweet time of fellowship. I saw old friends, met new friends, and spent time with lots of wise ladies.

The dinner was delicious, too. We had parmesan-coated chicken with broccoli salad and wild rice. This was the first time for me to eat broccoli salad....I wasn't too excited at first because it was RAW broccoli. I have just never enjoyed the consistency of raw florets. However, this was a DELICIOUS salad. I enjoyed every morsel and wanted more.

Does anyone out there have a recipe for broccoli salad? It had purple onions, crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese, and other things that I couldn't identify in the low lighting. (maybe raisins?) Anyway, the dressing was light and slightly sweet. I searched the internet and found several recipes, but I wonder if anyone out there has a tried-and-true recipe they can recommend?

Another Reason I Want To Move

For the past five years, we have been listening to incessant howling from our neighbor's dog. Over the years, we have yelled (at the dog), laughed (at other people yelling at the dog), and fantasized about all sorts of delightful torture to inflict upon this dog.

I first realized how bad the howling was when I was pregnant with Grace (four years ago). I was suddenly put on bedrest and forced to spend all day, every day at home. I listened to that dog howl all day while it's owners were at work. I will refrain from telling stories about certain friends and family members (who will remain nameless) who have visited me over the years and how they reacted to that dog.

When I was nursing Grace, up every couple of hours during the night, praying for her to stay asleep long enough for me to sleep, I can remember listening to that dog and praying for God to have mercy and shut him up. I even bought expensive dog bones and threw them over the fence in the middle of the night so that dog would have something to do besides howl.

This morning, as usual, that dog started howling when it's owners put him outside at 7:00 this morning. After 30 minutes of incessant howling (I'm serious), I heard my next door neighbor start yelling at that dog to shut up. I won't repeat everything he said because this is a (mostly) G-rated blog. Of course, within a few minutes that dog was back to howling. Even though my alarm wasn't set to go off until 8:00, I was wide awake, so I got up and started getting ready. I peeked out my second story bedroom window just in time to look down and see my other neighbor, an elderly woman in her bathrobe, open her back door. She walked over to the fence and yelled, "This is your five-minute warning! I have a gun and I know how to use it!" (I never figured out if she was threatening the dog or it's owners). She trudged back to her door and went inside, slamming it shut. I gazed back to the accused's home and saw their back door quietly open just long enough to let that dog back in the house.

I must admit that I sadistically wished I could have witnessed that old lady taking a shot at that dog. Perhaps another day.......

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Today's Plans

My plans today include cleaning the baseboards, washing windows, dusting, and cleaning doors. My sweet friend Joy is coming over to help me. (Love you, Joy!)That just tells you how sweet she is. I hope she still likes me after she sees the coating of dust on my ceiling fans.

She advised me (wisely) to not go overboard getting ready for our open house lest I become wildly disappointed if nobody comes. I guess I shouldn't get my hopes up too much considering the state of the housing market and the fact that the Dallas Cowboys are playing Sunday afternoon. (Only in Texas would a real estate agent call and change the time of your open house because the Cowboys game starts at noon).

Tonight, I'm looking forward to the women's fellowship dinner at my church. Todd is taking Grace on a "date" while I enjoy time with friends. This is two nights in a row that Todd has done something special with her....last night, they went to get ice cream and walked around the pet store while I did some things around the house. It is so nice to have Todd at home more now that he has switched jobs. Our landscaping has never looked so good! But seriously, I love that we spend time eating dinner together most nights and do things as a family on the weekends.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Political Cartoon of the Day

Menu Plan Monday

Monday - Chicken Enchiladas, Spanish Rice

Tuesday - Todd/Grace go on date to McDonald's while I go to Ladies Night Out at church

Wednesday - leftovers

Thursday - Chinese Stir-Fry with Beef/Vegetables, Brown Rice

Friday - Homemade Pizza, Salad

Saturday - leftovers

Sunday - dinner with friends

Today I'm including my favorite recipe for Chicken Enchiladas. It is so quick and easy! To save even more time, I use a rotisserie chicken from my deli for the cooked and chopped chicken.

Chicken Enchiladas

3 c. cooked and chopped chicken
2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. green onion, chopped
12 tortillas
1 c. taco sauce

Combine chicken, 1 1/2 c. cheese, sour cream, and onion. Soften tortillas by dipping into oil (hot). Top each with 1/3 c. mixture, fold in 1/2, arrange in dish. Top with taco sauce and remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Southern Living 2007

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is That Gas I Smell?

Someone (I'm not sure who....but I have my suspicions) spilled gasoline on our garage floor. The smell has completely permeated our entire house. We've opened windows and doors to let it air out and evaporate....the smell is still intense. It's like it's coming through our air vents! I just knew someone was going to say something at church today about the way we smelled. Thankfully, no one did.

I'm just praying that the smell is gone before the Open House this weekend. I mean, who would want to buy a house that smells like the Diamond Shamrock?

And, understandably, I'm scared to light a scented candle.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Living Simply Saturdays - From Clutter to Clarity

Today's post on living simply has to do with matters of the heart. I have not read the book From Clutter to Clarity, but I have read a recent post on some of the subjects discussed in the book.

I have never considered that a life of disorganization and clutter could be a matter of the heart. I guess I've always just considered it a personality "quirk." There is a part of me that does not mind disorganization and clutter. This scares me a little as I consider what this means about my heart. Most people that come to my home compliment me on how clean and nicely organized things are. People assume that my home looks like this all the time and that I am a well-organized person by nature. How untrue! I must FORCE myself to stay on my house-cleaning schedule because I feel that it is my responsibility as a homemaker. I MAKE myself come up with ways to organize the clutter and "stuff" that we continually seem to accumulate. It is a constant struggle for me....I must always remind myself the calling I have been given as a wife and mother....the commitment I made to Todd....the thankfulness that I have a husband who supports the decision for me to be a homemaker.

Consider the following quote from Nancy Twigg's book:

In his thirty-three years on earth, Jesus provided the ultimate example of living simply in a complicated world. He was not status conscious or materialistic. He was certainly busy, yet he took time to rest and rejuvenate. Jesus knew his purpose in life and focused all his energies in that direction. He proved it is possible to keep our hearts grounded when everything around us is topsy-turvy.

How true! While living his life, Jesus did not strive to build an Earthly kingdom, resplendent with power, material possessions, and wealth. He reminded us that our treasure is in heaven.

The choice to live simply will only get harder as Grace gets older. School activities, extracurricular activities, church activities, and a host of other time-consuming and money-consuming activities will be added to our schedules. Our challenge as parents is to keep our priorities in order, learn to say "no" when appropriate, and always provide our home as a restful oasis for family and friends.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Open House Scheduled

I heard from my real estate agent today, and (so far) nobody has expressed an interest in our house. It's officially been on the market for two weeks. We didn't expect to sell quickly, but it's still hard to be patient! We are so ready to move closer to Todd's new job. Since his new school is more in the country, we're looking forward to a quieter neighborhood and less populated areas.

We have scheduled an open house for the weekend after next, and there are several things I need to do before then such as:

*clean the baseboards
*wash and re-hang the draperies
*dust the wooden blinds
*steam clean my dining room chairs
*reorganize the pantry (to make it look bigger)
*self-clean the oven
*try to figure out what that smell is in the garage....
*re-paint the kitchen....maybe?
*more stuff I just can't think of right now

Sounds fun, huh?

Does anybody have any tips or suggestions for how to make an open house extra-special and memorable?

Political Cartoon of the Day

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I love fall. It is my favorite time of year. The leaves are starting to turn (yes, we do have a FEW trees here in Texas) and there is a distinct chill in the soft breeze.

Fall makes me reminisce of football games at my alma mater, Samford University. Putting on my band uniform and warming up on the quad in preparation for our march into the stadium. Flirting with my future husband. Gazing at the beautiful portrait of fall colors on Oak Mountain.

When I step out my front door and feel that crispness in the air I think of warm cotton sweaters. Crackling fireplaces. Hot cocoa. SEC football. Anticipation of the holiday season to come.

Thank you, Lord, for fall.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Political Cartoon of the Day

Outing To Big D

Grace and I spent the day today with my dear friend Joy. We drove to a cute little boutique book store in Dallas to pick up something she had special ordered for her husband's birthday. It rained all day long, and we both forgot to take our umbrellas, so Grace thoroughly enjoyed splashing in the puddles and walking in the rain! We were all three completely soaked by the time we got back in the car for the drive home.

I found a book in the boutique that I have been searching for a while....The Picture Bible. I grew up reading The Picture Bible as a young child and teenager. To this day, when I think of stories in the Bible, I visualize the pictures in this great children's book. I paid a few dollars more for The Picture Bible in this cute boutique than I would have on Amazon, but I wanted to support the small business. Hopefully Grace will enjoy it as much as I did as she gets older.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I Learned Today

I learned the following random facts while caring for SEVEN (that's more was added) preschoolers today by myself:

1. A ratio of seven-to-one is bad.
2. Daycare workers are underpaid.
3. I need to get over being embarrassaed at the condition of my house when parents come pick up their kids after a 7-hour tornado.
4. Cinderella lives in New Mexico and rides the subway to come visit us in D/FW.
5. Pooping is contagious. When one kid poops, everybody wants to poop.
6. Batman wants to marry Cinderella, but Superman will not give permission because Cinderella is his girlfriend.
7. It is perfectly OK to turn on a Disney movie when things start to get out of control with this many kids.
8. Some kids just don't understand the meaning of the word "no." (Or, they aren't MADE to understand)
9. Only one kid ended up with his underwear on the OUTSIDE of his pants.
10. You really must count out individual Goldfish when giving snacks to preschoolers.
11. I'm thankful the realtor didn't call today to request a house showing.
12. Preschoolers don't get sarcastic comments.
13. Little boys don't always aim well. (ahem)
14. I needed to steam clean the fabric on my dining room chairs anyway.
15. Even I get tired of singing.
16. Boys like transformers, and girls like costume jewelry.
17. Mr. Potato Head is gender-neutral.
18. At this age, cliques have already started to form.
19. Clean faces are overrated.
20. I deserve to be taken out for dinner tonight!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Say A Prayer

I think that I'm losing it. I have agreed to take care of SIX children in my home tomorrow. Three girls and three boys ages newborn, 2, 3, 3 1/2, 4, and 5 years old. I have conducted and directed over 250 teenagers at once as a band director, but the thought of six preschoolers terrifies me.

I'm sure I'll have some interesting stories tomorrow.......

Preschooler Quote of the Day

Grace and I were playing around this afternoon. I was chasing her around the house and "getting" her. She turned the tables and started chasing me. I let her catch me while shrieking, "Help me! Help me!" In all seriousness while shaking her head she stated, "Daddy can't help you...he's at work. Only GOD can help you!"

Menu Plan Monday

Monday - leftover Minestrone Soup, breadsticks

Tuesday - Beef Burgers, Green Bean Fries, Baked Beans

Wednesday - French Toast, Eggs, Bacon

Thursday - Potato and Sausage Stirfry, Green Salad

Friday - leftovers

Saturday - Husband's Delight Casserole, Green Salad

Sunday - leftovers

Husband's Delight Casserole is my absolute all-time favorite meal. If I knew I had one meal left on earth to eat, this would be it! As far back as I can remember, I requested this casserole from my mom on every birthday. When I make this casserole, I often double the recipe and put one in the freezer for later. It freezes beautifully. Here's the recipe:

Husband's Delight Casserole

1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t. salt
Pepper to taste
1 t. sugar
2 cans tomato sauce
12 oz. package egg noodles
8 oz. sour cream (I use more)
8 oz. cream cheese
Grated cheddar cheese

Brown onions and ground beef. Add next 5 ingredients. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Cook and drain noodles. Combine cream cheese and sour cream. Grease a 3 qt. baking dish. Put in a layer of noodles (1/3), cheese mixture (1/3) and meat (1/3). Repeat 2 times. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. This can be frozen for later, but don’t add grated cheese until ready to bake.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sunday Afternoon

Todd is taking Grace fishing again this evening since she enjoyed it so much yesterday. It gives me a chance to rest and catch up on my blogging. I tell you, this blogging can become addictive. I really have to limit myself, because I could start stalking lots of interesting blogs if I had nothing better to do. I try to read/write blogs just when Grace is asleep or otherwise occupied. But, I'll admit I often find myself wandering to my laptop then forcing myself to turn around and do the dishes!

I've added an activity to my Sunday afternoon schedule that seems to make the "resting" part of my Sundays a lot shorter now. A few weeks ago I auditioned for a contemporary adult musical vocal ensemble at my church, and I made it! I was actually surprised I made it, and so far it has been a lot of fun. I've never been a huge fan of contemporary praise music in the church, but this group thoughtfully chooses songs that are worshipful and doctrinally sound. The group sings occasionally during the morning worship service as a "special", but mostly at community events and special concerts. Our director is even looking at taking a mission trip this year somewhere close by, so it'll be fun to see where that will lead me.

Todd thoughtfully took Grace fishing so I could get a cake in the oven. Tomorrow is a school holiday for Todd's students, but he must attend staff development. To make it more bearable, the staff is having a huge potluck lunch, and Todd was asked to bring a dessert. I can smell my Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake in the oven right now. Paula Deen would be proud that it contains three, yes THREE, sticks of butter. Just for fun I'll include the recipe below. If you don't keep bourbon on hand, you can substitute milk.

Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake

1 1/2 c. butter, softened
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
3 c. sugar
6 large eggs
3 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. bourbon
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 c. coconut, shredded

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until just the yellow disappears. Sift together flour and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with bourbon, beginning and ending with flour. Beat batter at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Pour batter into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes until done. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

*Garnish with powdered sugar glaze and shredded coconut.

Southern Living 2007


Tonight after dinner we went fishing in the pond in our neighborhood. Todd found a Barbie fishing pole at Walmart the other day and couldn't resist buying it for Grace. She had so much fun learning how to cast and reel it back in. She actually got pretty good at it! We didn't catch anything, but it was fun anyway.

Political Cartoon of the Day

Living Simply Saturdays - From Clutter to Clarity

In honor of Living Simply Saturdays, I'm posting on the most recent way I am moving from clutter to clarity.

I've made several posts recently about cleaning out and organizing my home in preparation for putting our home on the market. I have been determined to get rid of everything that takes up space that we don't actively use, and that does not have an important future function. (For example, we don't use our fine china, but it does have an important future function).

In preparation for a huge garage sale, I started with my closets, moving everything that was not useful into the garage. I had saved every single art/craft project that Grace had completed over the past 3-4 years. I narrowed it down to 1-2 per year. I sorted and organized all of Grace's clothes into plastic bins labeled by size. I cleaned out my kitchen cabinets. Did I really need five 9x12 casserole dishes? Many things had been given to me after loved ones had passed on. Cake platters, baked bean pots, dishes, etc......they were just gathering dust. I have the wonderful memories in my head of watching my grandmother ice her coconut cake on that platter....I don't need to save the platter to remember. Because Grace is allergic to silver, I sold a few silver pieces that I was storing in my china cabinet. All of Grace's baby stuff (crib, highchair, swing, etc) was labeled and organized for sale.

It was harder when I went through Todd's stuff. It's hard for him to let things go. I mean, that 12-yr-old computer monitor might be useful some day, right? But we managed to clear up a lot of storage space, including the attic. Now, the only thing in my attic is Christmas decorations! This was all very time consuming and tiring, but the end result has been SO worth it.

Who knew that I had over $700 worth of "stuff" to sell at my garage sale? And, the new organization of my home is worth almost more to me. When it comes time for us to move, I am positive that we have eliminated one U-Haul truck worth of "stuff." It's so nice now to open my closet doors and easily find what I was looking for.

I appreciate my mom helping me do most of my organizing while they were visiting us on dad's sabbatical. My challenge now is to keep things clutter-free and organized. This challenge is working against me because I am a procrastinator by nature, but I'm working on my heart in this area as well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Political Cartoon of the Day

Todd's Adventure

Last night, Todd was taking a long time to get home. I had dinner ready, and we were just waiting on him to walk through the door. Around 6:00, he called me from his cell phone to tell me his car (which is actually my car...we switched for the day...another story) had just stopped working while he was driving down the interstate. All the lights went out and it just shut down. Thankfully, he was in the right lane and simply coasted to a stop on the side of the road.

He immediately called GEICO and asked for a tow truck. They said it would be a couple of hours, so he grabbed his laptop and walked about one mile down the interstate to the next exit. When he called me, he was at McDonald's. Grace and I met him there for a late dinner, then let Grace play on the playground until the tow truck guy called and said he was at the scene.

We are so thankful that God protected him when the car stalled and when he was walking down the interstate. I wish I had a picture of him in his suit and tie, carrying a huge laptop bag down I-20. I never did figure out why he didn't just ask me to pick him up at his car?

The jury is still out on the health of our van......

Work Ethic in America

One of my biggest pet peeves is the lack of work ethic in many of today's workforce. I get frustrated with laziness, incompetence, and a general lack of concern about performing well on the job. A lot of this has to do with today's "I don't care" and "whatever" attitude that is so rampant among young Americans. Instead of hard-working and loyal employees being the norm, these exceptional employees are now the exception.

I'm posting about this societal problem today because I had several negative experiences yesterday:

1. When I went to the Disney store to present my receipt and pick up my pre-ordered copy of "Sleeping Beauty", I also purchased a cute shirt for Grace that was on the clearance rack for $2.79. The cashier unhappily bagged my purchase, then went back to gossiping with her co-worker after I turned to leave. I got about 20 feet out of the store before I started getting the feeling that the cashier hadn't given me my movie. Sure enough, the bag only had the shirt I bought. I turned around and walked straight back to the checkout counter. The same two girls were still talking and looked annoyed that I showed up again. I explained that I had given her my receipt for the movie, but had not received it in my bag. The girl that had just "helped" me less than one minute ago declared that I hadn't given her a receipt. Oh. yes. I. did. I reminded her that the receipt I gave her was stapled to a 15% coupon that I had used on my purchase. She reluctantly gave me a copy of the movie while the other employee glared at me like I was some kind of professional con artist.

2. From the Disney store, we went to Payless Shoes to find a pair of black Sunday shoes for Grace. I made my way to the "size 9" section to find that there were plenty of "8 1/2"s and "9 1/2"s, but no "9"s in the "size 9" section of the particular style I wanted. An employee was walking by, so I asked her if there were any more shoes in the back....the size I needed was not here. She quickly told me, "Nope, everything's out" and walked off. Since so many shoes were organized incorrectly on the shelf, I decided to search other sizes to see if a "9" was hiding somewhere. A different employee walked by and asked if she could help me. (There are excellent workers out there!) I explained that the size I needed was not available, and I was looking to see if it could be hiding in another area. She said, "We just got a new shipment in that's being unpacked in the back....let me go check for you!" I said, "Oh, another lady told me that everything was out." She replied, "Who said that? (I pointed) Oh, her! She just didn't want to go check." Thankfully, she found the exact pair of shoes I wanted in the back.

3. We ended up eating dinner last night at a McDonald's on the interstate next to where my husband's car broke down on his way home from work. (More on this story later). Anyway, I placed the order while Todd entertained Grace. I waited a few minutes, then received my tray of food. I noticed that they had put fries in Grace's Happy Meal instead of the apples I ordered. I asked the cashier to switch it out for me, and she did. I picked up the tray to walk off and realized that my chicken sandwish was missing. I asked for it and she added it to my tray. I picked up my tray to walk off again and realized that she hadn't given me my cups for our drinks. I had to wait another minute since she had wandered off from her station, but someone in the back asked me if I needed anything and got my cups for me.

4. I'm not going to even write a lot about my local post would take much too long. Let's just say that if you need to mail a package, expect to stand in line for at LEAST 30 minutes because the service is so slow. I have never seen human beings move so slow and without concern for the customer in my life. And you'll wait even longer if there is a new Avon catalog out to distract them.

These are just a few examples....stuff like this happens all the time. I'm sure that you have had similar experiences. I don't THINK that things used to be this way, but correct me if I am wrong. Those of you who are more "mature", do you feel that the workforce is less caring/competent than, say, 25 years ago?

I'm not sure what the solution is....but, it scares me for our future. Paul warns against a poor work ethic and idleness in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. Proverbs 6:6-11 addresses the same issue. As a Christian, one of the first ways we can witness for Christ is by being an honorable employee. It will be noticed by un-believers. They will wonder what motivates us to work hard and perform honestly in our business dealings. Often times, it is the way to open the door to share our faith.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Two-Minute Warning

Today Grace and I went to the mall to pick up a pre-ordered copy of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" anniversary edition. (Thanks, Mimi! We'll bring it with us next time we go to Clinton). Anyway, before we went home I let Grace play on the mall playground for a little while.

While watching Grace play, I started a conversation with a mother sitting next to me. After we had talked for a while, it was about time for Grace and me to go. When Grace ran past me, I stopped her and told her that she had two more minutes to play. My new friend laughed and said, "Does that really work?" I told her that it had really been helping Grace change activities without fussing since I started doing it a few weeks ago. I give her a two-minute warning when we're getting ready to stop doing something she really enjoys like a playground, bathtime, before bedtime, etc. For kids, there's something about knowing what is coming and having time to prepare that helps them have a better attitude about a change.

After I talked positively about this technique, I started praying that Grace would be sweet and obedient when the two minutes were up. Thankfully, she was. When I told her the two minutes were up, she immediately came over and put on her shoes. She happily waved and exclaimed, "Bye-bye playground! I'll see you later!". My new friend was amazed and told me she was going to start the two-minute warning technique today.

I wish I could say that Grace was always this sweet and obedient when leaving a playground! I am thankful, however, that she usually obeys without fussing, especially when I give her a two-minute warning. This technique helped me greatly when I was a school teacher, and so far it's equally effective with Grace.

Of course, there are times when I can't (or forget to) give a two-minute warning....Grace is expected to obey swiftly and sweetly during those times, too. But, I have found that those two minutes of final play somehow help prepare her heart to obey me with a good attitude.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Preschooler Quote of the Day

This morning, Caleb and Grace were playing hide-and-go-seek. The shrieks of delight kept getting louder and louder until I finally said:

Me: "Kids, you are both screaming too loudly. I need you to be quieter please."

Caleb: "But, Miss Jo Jo, we are just EXPRESSING ourselves!"

Grace: "Yes, Mama, we are "SPRESSING" ourselves!"

Importance of Seasoning

Everything I learned about cooking I learned from my mom's kitchen and the Food Network. One of the most important lessons I have learned is the importance of seasoning every layer when cooking.

I have often given away recipes for chilis, soup, stews, and casseroles. More than once, a friend has come back and told me it was good, it just wasn't as good as when I made it. This isn't because I have some sort of magical powers or heavenly gift of cooking! I honestly believe it's because my friends weren't seasoning every layer when assembling the dishes.

I'll use the following recipe as an example....this is what I put in the crockpot for dinner tonight. Mom came up with this copycat recipe after eating the soup at Olive Garden. I revised it slightly to make it in the crock pot.

Pasta e Fagioli (a la Olive Garden)

2 tbsp. EVOO
1 to 1 ½ pound lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can Kidney Beans, washed and drained
1 can Garbanzo Beans, washed and drained
1 can Pinto Beans, washed and drained
1 cup macaroni noodles, uncooked
4-6 c. beef broth
1/2 tsp dry basil
Black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese (garnish)
Fresh basil (garnish)
Heat oil in large saucepan; add beef and saute’ until pink is almost gone; season. Add onion and garlic; season. Saute for a few more minutes until beef is cooked through and onions are tender; drain off excess oil. Empty all three cans of beans into colander; rinse and drain. Combine beef mixture, beans, tomatoes, uncooked macaroni, and beef broth into crock pot. Season with salt, pepper, and dried basil. Heat on LOW for 6-8 hours. Serve garnished with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

When I say "season", I mean salt and pepper. I suggest keeping a small bowl of kosher salt and a fresh pepper grinder in your kitchen by the stove. I don't measure things exactly....I use the Rachel Ray method. A good rule of thumb is once around the pot with a good-sized pinch of salt (about 1/2 t. for Type A personalities) and 5-8 grinds of the pepper mill.

Every time you add a new layer of ingredients, you add a new layer of seasoning. In this case, I would season the ground beef, season again after I add the onions/garlic, and season again after combining all ingredients in the crock pot. This method of seasoning allows each ingredient to fully develop it's flavor within the dish. I'm telling you....IT WORKS!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fun on the Farm

Grace had a blast today at my friend's country home. They have a beautiful farm house on about 10 acres. She had fun playing on the bales of hay, petting the cats and dogs, and running in the grass. We even caught grasshoppers and fed them to the chickens. There were some other children there for Grace to play with, so after some initial hesitation, she became comfortable and ran around exploring with the other kids. That gave me time to fellowship with my old friend and a new friend. We compared birth stories, parenting stories, relived old memories, and enjoyed watching our kids play together.

What a blessing it is for women to fellowship with one another. One of the benefits of being a homemaker is having the time to go to a friend's house and just enjoy visiting. An added bonus was being sent home with some yummy homemade blueberry preserves and hot cocoa mix!

Today's Plans

Grace is beside herself because we are going to a dear friend's home for lunch today. This dear friend lives in the country and has CHICKENS! Chickens are currently the "animal of the moment." (I'm happy that her fascination with snakes is fading).

Hopefully I'll get some good pictures and be able to post a couple.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Butter Spray Rant

I have to post about something that has annoyed me for a long time....spray butter manufacturers. Don't get me wrong....I LOVE the product. I use it on my toast, baked potatoes, vegetables, and anything else I can think of. Where else can you get the taste of butter for 0 calories and 0 fat? What annoys me is the LENGTH OF THE SPRAY TUBING INSIDE THE BOTTLE.

This morning I prepared my toast as usual, then grabbed the spray butter out of the fridge. Despite the fact that there was a good 1/4 bottle worth of spray butter left, I couldn't get any to come out. I opened the bottle and realized that the plastic tubing is too short to reach to the bottom of the bottle! Because this has happened so many times before, I have come to believe that this practice is a deliberate attempt by spray butter manufacturers to get people to buy more spray butter faster. (Then again, "Conspiracy Theory" is one of my favorite movies.)

I'll admit that I usually toss my spray butter in the trash when it doesn't spray anymore. From now on, I'll buy a new bottle, but I'll use up about 1/4 of it, then add the leftover spray butter from my previous bottle. That way I'll never waste it again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Update on my brother, Jon, in Iraq

My brother, Lt. Jonathan Malone, is currently serving an 8-month deployment with a Marine unit in Karmah, Iraq. (See previous post). As a physician, he is involved in caring for his Marine unit, as well as facilitating medical care for the Iraqi community. We are thankful that the Lord has protected him.

It is truly amazing to hear of the good things that our soldiers are doing in Iraq. While our media is consistent about reporting all the terrible things that happen, Americans rarely get a glimpse of all the good progress that is being made as we fight this war on terror.

I am providing links to two articles that describe the successes of Jonathan's unit in Karmah. (My brother is quoted in one of them.)

Article 1

Article 2

God Bless America!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Todd's First Week at Work

Todd has had an exciting first week of work. He's busted two kids with marajuana possession, caught a 13 and 14-yr-old couple having sex on the school bus, and responded to various reports of gang activity. He's gotten to know the police officer that is stationed on his campus pretty well, and learned all about the various juvenile laws and regulations related to the above-described crimes.

His favorite thing about this job is that every day is new and exciting. There's no routine and absolutely no time to be bored. It fits his personality to a tee! The saddest thing about his job is witnessing the immorality and criminal behavior that is so rampant in our adolescent society. And this is a GOOD district.

My friends, our school personnel are on the front lines of the battlefield. While there are potentially great rewards in the field of education, it is not an easy journey. Teachers are constantly disrespected by both students and parents, given unrealistic expectations to meet every child's need in the over-crowded classroom, and burdened with the emotional needs/issues of their students. And, all of this for miniscule pay.

I'm not sure what the answer is....other than a great revival in our land. I do know that Todd and I are ever-mindful of how we want to handle Grace's education in the future. We haven't made any final decisions yet, but the thought of putting her in a public classroom doesn't make us feel too confident. We don't want to bring her up in a "bubble", sheltering her from every possible exposure to sin. But, on the other hand, it is our RESPONSIBILITY to provide her a safe and nurturing environment. We've still got a couple of years to figure out what to do before she starts kindergarten. Until then, I'll enjoy teaching her at home and getting her ready for whatever the future holds.

Go See Fireproof!

I have really been looking forward to seeing the movie "Fireproof." And, last night I was not disappointed. What a great movie! This movie is not going to win any Oscars (especially in the acting department). But, it's the best movie I have seen in a long time. It was fun to be on a double date with Todd and our sweet friends Larry and Joy. The theater had a nice-sized crowd....we saw a few people from our church. Hollywood puts out so much trash these days, that I really encourage you to do whatever you can to go see this movie in the theater. We must show our support for good, clean movies with an inspiring message.

The main theme was the relationship between the star character (Kirk Cameron) and his wife. The power of the gospel was clearly presented as the way to eternal life, as well as the way to preserve marriage. I have heard that many of the actors volunteered their time without pay to make this movie. I am so thankful that Kirk Cameron is using his gifts and talents as an actor to make movies that promote the gospel. (See previous post on Kirk Cameron). He is married with six children, and he is very faithful to honor his marriage vows when making movies. I read that he replaced the woman that played his wife in the movie with his real-life wife in the final scene when they kissed. (I hope this doesn't ruin the movie for HAD to know they reconciled!)

Anyway, we had a great time, and thoroughly enjoyed our evening out.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Train in Righteousness Part II

I had some time to finish reading Ginger Plowman's "Don't Make Me Count To Three!" while Grace was playing on the McDonald's playground this afternoon. (See previous post). What a great book. It is full of practical, specific, biblical parenting advice. A couple of things I read today really struck me.

First, obedience should be all the way, right away, and with a joyful heart. In other words, our children should obey us completely the first time we ask with a good attitude. My problem is "right away." Ginger said that "delayed obedience is disobedience." I have been guilty of repeating my instructions to Grace several times and then accepting her "obedience" when she finally does what I ask. If you are a parent, does the following interaction sound familiar?

"Come here please."

[child ignores you and keeps playing]

"(Name), I said come here!"

[child looks at you, then goes back to playing]

"(Name), come here right now!"

[child looks as if she is ready to come, then decides she'd rather play]

"(First, middle, and last name), obey me now. I said to come here!"

[Child finally comes]

"Thank You!"

At times I have been SO guilty of this. Basically, I have been reinforcing her disobedience. Do I really want to have to tell her to come here four times before she runs in front of a car? Definitely not. I am going to start giving her an instruction clearly one time, and then disciplining her if she does not obey immediately. It'll probably take a lot of time at first, but hopefully she will get the message that it doesn't count as obedience unless she obeys me right away.

The other issue is "with a joyful heart." This is probably the hardest part for kids. Emotions to some degree are difficult to control. However, the way they express their emotions (their attitude) is a choice. Kids can choose to obey with a respectful attitude. As a school counselor, I can remember telling kids to "control your emotions....don't let your emotions control you." This doesn't mean that kids are to deny their emotions and keep them locked inside their hearts where they will fester and grow. As parents, we should be willing and able to listen to our kids calmly and respectfully explain their struggles. These times of communication are the perfect way to show our children their need for a Saviour and the forgiveness that comes through salvation.

Another thing that Ginger recommends is telling your child how many "swats" he/she will receive when spanked. This is a way to demonstrate that you are using self-control and not reacting out of anger. I have never thought of doing this, and I can see this as another way for me as a parent to "check" my emotions.

And, this leads me to what I believe is the most important thing to keep in mind when disciplining our children: OUR heart. Are we spanking out of anger for being embarrassed or inconvenienced? Are we administering discipline as an sinful emotional reaction or out of love for our child? I believe that this is the single, most important factor when parents claim that spanking doesn't "work." This is also a reason why spanking is not accepted by secular society.....they have never seen biblical discipline done calmly and with a loving attitude! I believe that when a parent loses self-control and disciplines out of anger it causes more harm than good to the child. It builds resentment and fear. It does not reflect the gracious mercy of our Lord. At times when I find myself responding in anger to Grace's behavior (and it does happen!), I try to remind myself of the grace that God showed by sending His son to die for me, a sinner. How thankful I am that He forgives when I sin against Him!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

That's MY Mommy!

This morning I was reading books to Grace and the 3-yr-old boy that I babysit (I'll call him Caleb). Anyway, Caleb climbed in my lap and settled down for a long story. Grace's defenses immediately went into overdrive as she exclaimed, "No! That's MY mommy!" She proceeded to climb in my lab and elbow Caleb out of the way.

Needless to say, she just isn't used to sharing me. I calmly told her that it was OK for Caleb to sit in my lap because he was our friend and Mama's lap can be shared. In her best drama queen fashion, she exclaimed, "But Mama, I'm YOUR DAUGHTER!!!" To which Caleb replied, "Yeah, but she's MY JOJO!!"

I thought back to my recent recommitment to "train in righteousness." I reminded them that God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Grace and Caleb are neighbors. They are to want what is best for each other. I told Grace that since she gets to sit in my lap all the time, she should be happy to see that Caleb enjoys that as much as she does. In the end, Grace let Caleb have the "prime lap position" while she sat next to me and held on to my arm for dear life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Struggle with Infertility

I was deeply moved by a blog post I read today entitled "Living with PCOS: Guarding Our Hearts." Many of my readers know that I have struggled with the disease of PCOS, which has contributed greatly to my struggle with infertility. Consider the following quote from this blog page:

You see, fertility (or rather infertility) is a deeply emotional issue, and it sadly affects most women with PCOS to at least some degree. It touches right to the core of who we are as women, to the dreams we held as little girls, to our desire to have a large family or to have children close in age, as well as to our sense of self-worth, our contentment, our joy, and our trust in God.

All too often, those very legitimate hopes and dreams we hold in our hearts can be given too much free reign, and what starts out as a desire for something very good quickly turns into something ugly. We covet and envy. We resent others. We become angry. We withdraw. We cease trusting God and make a desperate attempt to control those things that we cannot control. We grow disillusioned. We give up hope. We judge others, and ultimately, we charge God with the unfairness of it all.

You might be wondering how the deep desire to have children could be a sin? Didn't God command us to multiply and fill the earth? Is it sinful to desire children more than anything else? Frankly, yes. Satan can grab hold of these deep desires and turn them into idols. I spent many years of my life thinking of almost nothing else than the desire to get pregnant and have a baby. It ruled my emotions, it dominated my prayers, it ruled my thoughts. It was the first thing I thought of in the morning when I took my BBT, and it was the last thing I thought of at night. For years. You see, I was not completely trusting God and giving up my CONTROL to Him and His perfect plan. I was letting this deep desire become an idol in my life. I was seeking joy in the form of a baby rather than the exceeding joy that comes from knowing the Lord.

My grief and discontent was magnified during the times that I became pregnant and miscarried. In my head, I told myself to trust God. My sweet family and friends were such an encouragement to me during these times. However, my heart was another matter. I was dealing with anger and resentment. Why did God allow my 12-yr-old counseling client to get pregnant and not me? Was I being punished? It became difficult for me to go to baby showers and volunteer for the nursery at my church.

God gives women the natural desire to bear children. This is not sinful. It becomes sin when we do not kneel before the cross, casting our burdens upon Him who has done so much for us, trusting in His perfect goodness and love.

I'm not saying that women that struggle with infertility should not investigate and try every possible medical intervention to become pregnant. We certainly did. However, I want to encourage you to guard your heart. Come to the cross and keep your priorities in order.

Despite my sin, God chose to give us the precious gift of our daughter, Grace Elizabeth. We are exceedingly thankful for His gift, and have taken the responsibility seriously to raise her in the Lord. For me, it took a hysterectomy to make me realize what an idol my infertility had become. Today we have a sense of peace about the way things have turned out. If I could have written my own destiny, we would have a happy house full of children. How thankful I am that I have a much bigger and wiser God to trust for my destiny. I wouldn't have it any other way.