Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Little Series

I've been enjoying a series of articles written by Rachel Jankovic on the subject of homemaking and mothering. They are just too good not to pass on so I decided to give you all a series of links to check out if you so desire. Rachel writes in a very candid, real sort of way about the challenges we all face as mothers yet she does so without coddling. She's refreshing, challenging and very engaging. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I have. She's actually written a ton of articles. These are just a couple of her most recent ones. You can find the rest of them over at the Femina blog.

Ungraceful Parenting

Let's Get Specific

When the Milkshake Runs Low-My favorite

Potent Comfort

How Do We Love Thee? Let Me Count Some of the Ways...

Monday, November 28, 2011

It Has Begun...

Advent is here.

The waiting has begun. The short days and dark nights remind us of the darkness the world lay in before Christ came.

Creation was groaning for its Savior.

These weeks leading up to Christmas tell the Christmas story. It's cold. It's dark. We need the Light.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it....The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:1-5, 9

We remember that wait. We internalize it as best as we can. And we rejoice in the hope that comes in knowing that He did come. He did make a way for our salvation through His death on the cross.

It's time to remember. It's time to wait with great expectation. Soon enough, it will be time to celebrate.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope your day is full of laughter, turkey, family, pie and thankfulness. As we say in our house, "God has been good to us, let us give thanks!"

From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Great Resource

As you all know, my husband is a math nerd. Well, as much as I love him, I'm not. I'm actually an English nerd and love great literature and creative writing. As much as I respect his mathiness, I also wish to impart the love of reading and the magical mystery of story into my children. When I was a little girl, I read myself to sleep every.single.night. I'm not joking. And to be honest, I have so many great memories of those times.

I've been attempting for awhile to get my hands on some good literature for my kidlets but they're all at different levels and so it's been a bit precarious. It's also hard for me to sift through what's good on my own. Sometimes having too much information (i.e. the internet) is not helpful!! But then I remembered a book that had been plugged on the Femina website awhile back that was all about children's literature. It's called, Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt.

First of all, let me say this, I bought the book for practical reasons because it had an annotated book list in the back according to age groups. But what I didn't expect was that I loved the actual book itself. It was SO inspiring.

Gladys actually does a great job of explaining why good stories should be at the center of a family culture because they speak so much to a child's heart and are truly instructive. I've seen this with my own kids already. Often when one of the children is trying to demand their own way, we remind them of Veruca Salt from, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, whose Dad did not love her and simply gave her everything she wanted. They know it's wrong. They know because they felt her ugly attitude in the story. This is just one example. Literature offers tons.

Also, there are so many books I read in childhood that I'd forgotten about. Her book lists helped jog my memory and in doing so, brought back such pleasant memories. My parents always encouraged us to read and for that I'm very grateful! There were so many books on the book list that I hadn't read. So that was helpful too. However, her narrative about why reading is important was probably my favorite part. The book lists were practical. The narrative was inspirational.

So if you're like me and you're trying to come up with good books for your little ones to be reading (or for you to be reading aloud), check out this book. Get it on amazon for a couple of bucks (that's what I did). You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I'm not a sprinter. I'm a distance runner. Give me a cool, brisk morning and I'm gone for miles. But throw a shorter distance of sprints at me and I feel like I'm going to puke--quick!! But really, without working sprints into your running schedule, you'll never get faster. Sprints increase speed and build endurance which only enhances and strengthens your distance. They're essential to good running. Yet still, I'd much rather run distance. However, as much as I love a good long run, after running for awhile, I get tired. And tired is what I've been lately.

We're pretty close to the end of Steve's semester with Texas A & M. We're so close we can see it and after this class he's very, very close to halfway done (technically he's half done, halfway through next semester-it's complicated). That means that we can look at it as if we're going downhill instead of still climbing uphill. Yet the months of work and wear is also starting to show and our family is in need of a little respite. Some of the wheels of our normally well-oiled machine have been threatening to come off. This is how it always is at the end. I can usually see the finish line but it still looms far enough off in the distance to create a bit of discouragement.

But this is the point in a race when sprinting is a must. Any good runner knows that when the finish line is in sight, it's time to sprint no matter what's left.

When the finish line is dangling close, there are all sorts of things to complete and that finishing requires a big push. So what it really means is that it's go time...not coast time. Even if my muscles are straining, it's still time to take it up a notch. However, since we've already been huffing and puffing for awhile, strength starts to wane and it takes a lot of discipline to finish well. This is where we're at.

Yesterday, both Steve and I were tired. Both of us felt the pressure. And both of us were annoyed. We don't often get out of sorts (it's just not our way) but pretty quickly, we realized that our moods and present circumstances were the perfect medium for an argument. Instead of me heeding the warning signs, I decided to dive head first into the fray to let off a bit of steam. Because I deserved it people. That's right.

After nearly ten years of marriage to my husband, you'd think I would know that isn't a good idea (nor is it loving either). Steve can withstand a lot from me at times pouring on patience when I'm being a bit silly, but patience was not a virtue readily available last night and I quickly found myself in a whole heap of trouble. Trouble that I started and knew pretty quickly I needed to repent of.

In an effort to keep short accounts, which is a staple in our home, I quickly sought him out to explain my frustration and seek forgiveness. My problem wasn't really with him. More with a need for some rest. He of course, felt the same too. Our family rides on his shoulders along with all of his other responsibilities. We're quite a bit to carry just by ourselves. And not to sell myself short, I carry quite a bit too as his helper and can find the race wearing at times. Who doesn't? That's just life isn't it?

We have a pretty small house and with the children still awake, finding a place to talk by ourselves wasn't easy. We finally just huddled in our room and shut the door to sort things out. And sort them out we did.

While this was going on, there was a literal circus taking place right on the other side of our door. I remember thinking, as we were restoring fellowship, "I cannot believe the craziness that's going on literally two feet away from us. Thank God for that door!" You see, the children knew we were in there. And they wanted in too. All they knew though, was that we had told them to stay out, just for a few minutes until we were done talking. They could hardly handle it.

The whole time we were talking, Joshy was singing John Jacob Dingleheimer Smith and Can You Feel the Love Tonight? (not at this moment-no) at the top of his lungs. Caleb was keeping time to the music by banging his gun right against the door on the upbeat. Ellie decided she was not to be outdone and was wailing at the TOP of her lungs chanting, "Mama! Mama!" in the most pathetic tone creating an off-tune sort of harmony with her older brothers. And Isaac, who being the oldest was probably more onto our disagreement than we would've liked, kept interjecting worriedly with "Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy." like a repetitive set of background vocals.

It was absolutely comical.

And we ignored it.

Because, those four precious hooligans causing all that racket on the other side of the door depend on us to sort things out, to make things right, to restore fellowship. It's up to us.

After talking, we opened the door to let them in and they all spilled through the doorway like a row of dominoes right on top of one another. But their joy was evident. We were back on track and all was right with their world and ours as well.

It reminded me yet again, our strength is small. God's strength is enormous. We might feel tired. But God carries us. We're all grown up now. Our children are depending on us to make the right choices. Staying on the same team when the pressure is mounting is important. Seeking forgiveness is key.

Focusing on the sprint with our eyes on Christ is paramount. Only He can make us fly like the wind when our strength is gone.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remember Who You Are

And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." Acts 2:38-39

It's Friday again...beloved Friday. The beginning of the weekend, when fun things happen. One of those happy activities is what the boys call "Cleaning Day". Before you all puke from disgust thinking my boys are begging to help me dust like good little children, hear me out...Cleaning Day for me, means a movie for them. Once they've done some things to help (I do require some work), I put on a little cinema to help pass the time while I mop and clean bathrooms. It's a win for me because I need the little hands occupied while I deal with the dirtier stuff and it's a win for them because it's usually been a bit since they watched a movie.

So...this morning they were watching the Lion King, courtesy of my parents (thanks guys!). First off, I know some people have problems with Disney films. I think most of them are fine...just my opinion. Yet there are some thematic things to deal with since their mantra is mostly about believing in yourself and all that garbage. If we believe in ourselves, we're pretty much headed for ruin...but I'm digressing. I think, as parents, we don't necessarily have to be scared of these themes. We can talk about them ya know. Our kids do have to live in the world. And there are some great stories in Disney films too!

Anyhoo, as I was mopping the floor, I was listening to a part in the movie where Rafiki, the baboon, was telling Simba not to run from his past but to remember his history...to remember his family...to remember who he was. His Dad had been the king, and his grandpa was the king before him, and so on. Simba needed to remember who he was...he was the rightful king even if he didn't think he was worthy of it. As the scene continued on, I started thinking about how it was a beautiful picture of the kind of faith heritage we're trying to leave to our children.

First of all, when I start talking about a faith heritage, some people automatically think that means that we're trying to save our kids with our faith. Hear this, both Steve and I don't believe that we can do anything to save our kids. That's God's work. But we will do everything we can to point them to Him. I think most Christian parents feel this way; it's just that we don't always go about it in the same way.

For us, we want their history, their story to be based on The Story, the Gospel, namely Christ. Everything possible, in our family, will be built upon that rock. We'll do our best to teach them how to pray, how to have faith, to sup at the Lord's Table, to study the Bible, to seek forgiveness when needed and most importantly the ins and outs of the Gospel. We won't hold them back because they're small. We want them to learn now what it means to be a Christian and we'll include them as much as we can in our worship. We're not going to wait to do that until we're positively sure they have faith. For we don't know that we'll ever be able to know that for certain. That's for God to decide. So that's what we're striving for at least, though we fail along the way. This is their faith history.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Luke 18:15-17

And then there is their actual, physical faith history. They come from a family that believes in Christ. Their grandparents believe (and generations before them) and have incredible faith; we, their parents, believe and we want to pass that faith on to them. Now when they grow up, they may wholeheartedly embrace that history as their own and again, that will be God's saving work or simply evidence that He already has saved them. Or they may walk away.

We can only pray that God will save them. And that if they do walk away, that God will chase them down. But for us and what we're responsible for, their history will be about believing. And if they do wander from the faith, you better believe we'll be there telling them, "Remember who you are. Remember where you come from. Remember your history." And we'll pray for them.

Of course now, when our children are small, they all say they believe (minus Elle that is). They all know why Jesus came and what He did. They all understand that they sin and are in need of grace. But I can't peer into their hearts. It's not up to me to judge their faith. It may not be as mature as mine, but Jesus Himself talks about the kingdom of God belonging to little children. And we all know that God does what He pleases. If He wants to save my kids at a young age, He can do it. I don't doubt that for second. So when they say they believe, I don't doubt it. And in the meantime, I can only water the seeds planted deep inside...it's up to God to make them grow.

"I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." 1 Cor. 4:6,7

And that fruit will be apparent over time.

Remember who you are...

They are ours. And we, their parents, are Christians. They are growing up amidst a rich faith heritage. So we will do our best to fill their history up with Christ and trust God to do the rest.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Best of Both Worlds

Some mothers really don't want their kids having sugar. I can respect that. I don't really want my kids gorging on it either. Yet at the same time, I personally don't think it's a big deal (within reason that is). Everyone knows what it's like to be around kids that are fed the stuff like it's their last meal or something. However, desserts are treats. They are delightful. And I feel like a child's younger years should be sprinkled with their goodness. A little bit here and a little shake there makes a happy child, let me tell you. And this mama loves to make these little treats. It's probably because I'm biased. I LOVE treats myself. It's my one weakness.

But that's why I love this recipe. Yes it has sugar...both white and brown. Yes it has butter (two whole sticks). But it has some other redeeming qualities like tons of oatmeal, heart healthy nuts and lots of raisins. What's not to love? I have searched high and low to find a good oatmeal cookie and this one wins hands down every.single.time. Gone are the dry, rock solid "healthy" cookies. Welcome the best...moist, chewy, flavorful oatmeal cookies. We love them around here.

And I'll let you in on a little secret why they're the best...it's all in the raisin soak.

But we'll get to that. It sounds complicated but it's not.

So here it is. A healthy, yummy and full of sugar dessert. If you don't like sugar, just look the other way and remember how the oats are helping lower your child's cholesterol. If you don't care, except to keep desserts to be consumed in moderation (like me), then simply mix as directed and be happy about the smiles that will soon be on your children's faces. We all have our methods and each one is different and acceptable. So here is my perfect oatmeal cookie, the best of both worlds.

Oatmeal Cookies
Hot Providence
By Lisa Qualls

3 eggs, well beaten
1 c. raisins
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. oatmeal
3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional and I don't put them in because I'm cheap)

Combine eggs, raisins and vanilla and let stand for one hour, covered with plastic wrap. This is the raisin soak and it helps the raisins plump and get so ooey-gooey and yummy!!

After an hour, cream together butter and sugars. Mix dry ingredients together (except the oatmeal) and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture. Mix well.

Blend in egg-raisin mixture.

Once incorporated, add the oatmeal and chopped nuts if you're using. Dough will be stiff. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned.

Be happy. They're "healthy" and yummy.

Eat a couple, pass them out to your family and see the smiles. I never met a kid who didn't like an oatmeal cookie.

Monday, November 7, 2011

On High Horses

Excerpted from one of my favorite little books of poetry...Sketches of Home by Suzanne Clark.

I sing of words preposterous, of speed lemons and babloons and music to my nose (the smell of coffee). I sing of blood jumping up and down and kicking its feet, the way you once described excitement. I sing of runful and jumpful. Blessed be your verbs: "Mommy, I drinkdid a glass of water," "I wroot you a letter," "I holded on," "I bees happy." Off you go on high horses, two jesters juggling cockeyed words into my straight and narrow air.

From Caleb telling Isaac that he's, "The apple of his eye." To Joshua constantly yelling, "Mommy, I'm trying to get your attention!!" when I don't respond right away. To Isaac reading his "Sille" Story for the hundredth time to Elliana proudly announcing, "Dump!" as she pours out my water bottle on the floor.

The amount of words and language that run through this household on a daily basis is absurd yet so beautiful in its own sort of way. Everyone on their different levels.

Isaac practicing picking out verbs/nouns/adjectives in a sentence (Miss Brown, you're amazing)...Caleb sounding out simple phonetic words and lighting up that he can do it...Joshua saying the funniest thing that comes to mind in the most sophisticated way he can making everyone laugh...Ellie speaking a language only she knows that often sounds a lot like Chinese.

It's all there. Overheard. By me alone.

I'm pretty lucky to be privy to such things. I better cherish it. Write it on the tablet of my heart like a love song. It's all just too precious.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Two Outta Four...50%!

We've got another cutie in glasses. That brings the grand total to two in our house. Two pairs to keep track of and two to keep clean. Two to hopefully keep from scratches and two chubby faces to adore behind their specs.

He's still getting used to wearing them (and so am I...his face looks so different) but we're really thankful that they're helping correct his vision. His eyes were turning in quite often.

I've still got my eye on this though (hardy har har) because his strabismus came on so suddenly. I want to be sure that's all it is. Although, that is how it looks now so we'll go with it.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kinda Like a First

Something rather special occurred in our home this last Sunday night. Steve just happened to finish up his math assignment early on in the weekend so he was around more than usual. Because of this, we decided to take advantage of his bit of freedom to take Isaac out on a little Daddy date.

But this wasn't just any Daddy date. It was something we had been planning for a long time...a few months in fact.

On this special night, his Daddy took him out to ice cream to give him his first real Bible.

A few months ago, we started realizing that he still didn't have a complete Bible. Now that he can read pretty fluently, we thought it would be the right time to get him one. But where to look? Back in the day, before so much online shopping, one could just walk into their local Christian bookstore. But we don't have one in our area. So we were forced to look online. The only downside was that it's hard to get a feel for the style of the Bible without looking at it in person.

There weren't too many criteria but there were a few things we were dead set-on. It had to be a full Bible (not a shortened version) in the ESV (because that's the version we have and we wanted it to be the same for simplicity's sake). We also didn't want it to be too childish. We don't have anything wrong with kiddy pictures but we didn't want it too cartoony because hey, that's just our style.

We finally found one that got great reviews at Walmart for $16. Can you say score? Not only that but, it's put out by Desiring God Ministries (John Piper). And pretty much, my husband is in love with John Piper so...we were sold. All of the study notes throughout the Bible are written by them and so they are really well done. The pictures are realistic and not too silly either. Double win! Ha!

So back to Sunday. We'd already had an adventurous afternoon with Elliana in Urgent Care due to a cut on her cheek that needed gluing. We were all a tad tired. So we waited until it was time for everyone to go to bed. And then Steve announced, as Isaac was brushing his teeth, that he needed to put his clothes back on and come with him. He had a present in his hand. Isaac was dumbfounded. His brothers were heartbroken (but I had a little trick up my sleeve for them, so it worked out okay). And off they went.

In the meantime, I put Elliana down and then I broke out the last two cupcakes from Caleb's Reformation Day Party at school the Thursday before. All was forgotten and Joshua and Caleb were giggling over the gummy worms. I made Diet of Wermes Cupcakes in honor of Martin Luther's trial (Diet is the German word for trial; and this Diet/Trial was held in the city of Wermes, Germany).

Later Steve filled me in on their little time. They went to "Froster's"...Foster's Freeze that is and Steve gave him the Bible. Isaac was so, SO excited.

It was a special night that we'll always remember. It was kinda like a first. You see, we know of a family that took their sons through various "ceremonies" I guess you could call them, at different points of their lives. These ceremonies were intentional with the hope of teaching them how to become men who love the Lord. We've always wanted to emulate that.

So among many steps, this was just the first one. It was pretty special for us to have Steve take his firstborn son out, give him his first Bible and tell him how much it means to him and how it will teach Isaac how to live...to love God and love others.

Pretty special indeed.