Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I See What You're Saying

The lovely Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee is hosting "I See What you're Saying" today.
Since I am the procrastinator extrordinaire, I did not do a video ahead of time, (and today I don't feel so hot..or look it). Instead, I was inspired to put up a snippit of my darling 3 yr old.

Let me explain, Linda blogged about her dislike for musicals sometime back (I know!) and introduced my family to the Food Court Musical by Improv Everywhere. I laugh every single time I see it...with out fail. All my children know all the words and sing them at odd and random times, which also causes me to laugh. But the best is my daughters anti-napkin song...

Maybe next time I'll put myself in the video. But for today, just trust me, she's way cuter. =)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Miracle...alternatively titled, God always provides.

It was December, 2004. I'm sure of the date because I was pregnant with our fourth child. I tend to catagorize major life events around where we lived or which children were/were not born yet. I'll have to amend this dating system, because barring a miracle, we are done having kids. Regardless, I will always remember this moment in time with crystal clarity.

We lived in Central Florida, a part of Florida that had scoffed at hurricanes because "we're so far inland." Perhaps those scoffers needed to study a map a bit closer as the state isn't really all that wide and is surrounded by water! This year, all of Florida got a wake up call to the destruction and far reaching effects of hurricanes...even to inland counties. Four storms crossed the state that year, all of them crossing with in miles of one another and with in the short time frame of 2 months. It was the only time in history that four storms affected the same state.

The finances at the small church we were serving at were greatly effected. In order to give them the stability they needed, my husband volunteered to work gratis for a time until the financial footing of the congregation could be restored. We were serving in a support role (Family Pastors) and the Senior Pastor gratefully agreed to this arrangement. Two months later, we had burned through what little saving we had and my husbands free-lance design work was not enough to feed the family and pay the bills and we still were not back on payroll. Clearly, something had to give. Either he needed to be released from the position so that he could pursue full-time free lance or he needed to be paid for his time at the church.

After meeting with the pastor, we found the finances just were not there for us to continue in full-time ministry at the church. He agreed to a severance package of what we understood to be two months of pay (Nov/Dec) and we set a date for our last Sunday sometime in November.

The first week of December rolled around and I pulled into the parking lot to pick up what would be the third of four checks (two months, paid twice monthly). I walked into the office of the book-keeper and she tearfully told me that she made out the check, but the pastor told her that we had agreed to TWO PAY PERIODS severance pay, not TWO MONTHS and would not sign the check. I assured her that this misunderstanding did not take God by surprise and we would be fine. I walked out to my van and bawled my eyes out.

Knowing that the church was indeed dire financial shape, my husband chose not to push the issue or seek clarification, rather to trust God to provide. Easy for him, he did not manage the money every month!! I knew the mortgage payment was already past due by a few days, we had no groceries and only $60 in the bank. It was the first week of DECEMBER and I had three little boys to make Christmas happen for. Although we only purchase three gifts for them anyways, it still wouldn't happen at all without some money from somewhere.

On top of the stress and pressure this would naturally put upon a mama, I was 5 months pregnant. Talk about weepy and emotional! I remembered all the phrases and verses about how God provides and sustains and tried very hard to meditate on them, but circumstances kept choking out what little hope I could scrape together. I shared our situation with a few friends in our homeschool support group, not hoping they could take up an offering, rather sincerely desiring prayer for my doubting spirit.

A few days went by and although we'd recieved a few bags of groceries, the mortgage was still unpaid and there didn't seem to be any hope that my husband would pick up enough work on such short notice to make ends meet. I was desperately trying to hold myself together in spite of our bank account. Peace eluded me, I couldn't sleep, I was nervous, restless and irritable. With a deep need to find some solace, I picked up a book I had purchased over the summer and headed to the bathroom (the only room in the house that little boys can NOT follow thier momma into). The book, "Praying God's Word" by the lovely Beth Moore.

It fell open to the chapter on Unbelief and as I read her devotional opening to the chapter, I identified with her story. She talked about how when God wants to get your attention, it seems that you will hear the same message in several different ways. The Sunday morning sermon, the scripture reading on the radio station, an encouraging card from a friend...I have had that happen several times to me. She shared a particular time in her own life when the message seemed to be on "Believing God" and how she was offended that God would continually prompt her spirit with such a message. After all, she had grown up in church! Of course she believed in God! I understood her indignation, as I grew up in church myself. The Holy Spirit checked her and said, "I didn't ask if you believed IN me, I wonder if you BELIEVE ME. Do you believe I will do what I say I will do? Am I able to deliver on the promises found in the word?"

Wow. Immediately upon reading those words, I was deeply convicted. I had such familiararity with God and his promises that I was cavalier about how much he truly cared for my little family! I found as I reflected on where I placed my trust, I was very dependent on those paychecks for provision instead of realizing who was ultimately in charge of making sure my husband got paid!

In Beth's story, she too was convicted and prayed the prayer of the man in Mark 9:24, "Lord I believe, Help my unbelief!" I began to weep and seek repentance for not trusting God to take care of us and our needs. But then in an impatient moment of humanity, I said, "I want to trust you, I do! I know you will take care of us, I do! But could you just give me little sign right NOW, that would help me know it so much better."

God is so sweet with us and our childish ways. Speaking of children, mine were clamoring outside the bathroom door with important, life altering questions like, "Mom, can you come out and fix us some lunch?" "I hear you crying in there, are you hurt?" "Can you make him give me back that toy!?" Reality crept in on my stolen moments with the Lord and I began to close the book to come out and take care of thier little crises when a small, yet thick and heavy, business sized envelope slipped out of the book into my lap. On the front was scrawled our family's name in blue ink. While I wondered what this was, I also was trying to think when I might have slipped it in the book. You know...when someone hands you something and you slip it in your Bible or purse to open later? I couldn't remember ever being anywhere with that book, in fact, I hadn't even looked at that book almost since I first had purchased it. It had been on a bookcase in my bedroom. I hadn't loaned it out, so it was a real mystery where the envelope came from.

While I pondered the questions of where did this come from, who had my book, and what was inside, I opened the envelope.

Oh my friends, God is so sweet. Remember my asking for a sign? Inside that envelope was a STACK. OF. CASH. As I counted it out, I began to simultaneously weep with greater repentance and yelp with shock and surprise. I remember getting to $300 and thinking, "There's still more in my other hand!!" It was $500 in cash. We have never figured out the earthly person that placed it there, for all I know, it could have been supernaturally planted there by angels at my point of need. What I do know is that God provided for us the most miraculous month ever.

I love how the Body of Christ responds to needs. God began to prompt friends and aquaintances to minister to us in ways as simple as bags of groceries and as marvelous as money in Christmas cards. Black garbage bags showed up on our doorstep full of gifts for the boys. We came home one evening and there was a tree propped in the corner of the porch. Over the course of the month, we received over $2500 in cash, gift cards, and checks. About $1700 of that was anonymously given, including that first very miraculous $500.

God seriously showed up and helped me overcome my doubts and unbeliefs in the area of provision that year. What is truly astounding to me is how patient God is with me. Would you believe I STILL struggle sometimes with trusting God to supply our needs?! When this happens, I not only take the time to reflect on scriptures and promises to the contrary, but I take the time to remember how incredibly he met our need in December of 2004. It always builds my faith and blesses me to remember. I pray that it has blessed you too. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Tour of Homes

Merry Christmas friends! Today the fabulous BooMama is hosting her annual tour of homes and I quickly snapped some pics to upload to the blog. This sounds simple and fun, but that would only be if you are not technologically challenged. Of course, I have nearly lost all Christmas cheer just snapping these photos because my husband loves to change the settings on the camera and I prefer to point and shoot. I did manage to get a few decent photos...so for your holiday perusing, welcome to our home.

My sweet and simple nativity scene on the coffee table in my front room. I try to keep the main thing the main thing.

The stocking were hung by the chimney with care. Next year, I plan to do up my mantle with a lovely garland, a la The Nester. I found LOADS of pine garland at the Salvation Army thrift store this weekend for 25 cents a bunch. I bought it all!! Two garbage bags full.

I love this little piece of decor. I was in a knock down, drag out Dirty Santa ornament exchange a few years ago and I emerged victorious. It was worth fighting over because I think it is just precious. =)

Because Christmas Classics are a favorite of mine, Rudolph and Clarice score a special spot of the mantle. I wanted to start a whole collection of this village, but you know, I decided to use that money to feed the kids instead.

This is our little chalkboard countdown calendar. My kids love keeping up and counting down. Except the three year old, she just asks everyday if Santa brought her a dollhouse yet. I hope he comes through or she is going to be very disillusioned. My resident artist drew some additional pictures on the chalkboard, because it wasn't festive enough for his taste.

Here is the tree in all its festive glory. Some folks like a themed tree, I prefer a more simple tree with lots of memories and special ornaments on it.

Like these special personalized ones purchased from Bronners Christmas Wonderland by my sister-in-law for the kids one year. Good thing that they are hand-painted (which means you can retro-date them), because we have needed to replace one almost every year since she first bought them. Their lovely, handblown very fragile nature lends themselves to very careful handling. Clearly a conspiracy for repeat business.

I hope you have enjoyed a little peek into my home. I wish you all a very blessed and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I clean up pretty good.

Here we are all ready to go to the corporate holiday gig. I love this time of year, so many fun parties to go to and all kinds of reasons to get dressed up. =) We are standing in front of our bargain tree from Walmart. You just can't beat $20 for a live Fraser Fir!!

What kinds of holiday events are you going to this year??

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some thoughts for Holiday Cheer

We all know the story about Santa. He lives on North Pole along with his wife, elves and reindeers. Elves help him to process requests of millions of children who write letters to Santa every year requesting for toys and other wishes, to help him determine whether these children have been good or bad, to fulfill the wishes of all good children and make requested toys for them. On Christmas Eve, Santa wears his famous red suit with white snow-white trimmings, puts all the toys on his sleigh and nine reindeers are attached to the sleigh to pull it. The bright red nose of Rudolph the Reindeer acts as an indicator to tell the direction.

Santa parks his sleigh on the roof of the household, climbs down the sleigh, look for the right gifts, climbs down the chimney of each household, laugh in his famous way 'Ho! Ho! Ho!', drink and eat the milk and cookies kept for him by the children and keep the requested gifts for them under the tree, fill the stockings, come back up and sit in his sleigh. He is to do all this and more in one night! There are some things which make us doubt, whether Santa Claus really exists or if he does, whether he is really alive or is he dead already. Here are some reasons why we have our doubts:
  • No one has ever seen flying reindeers, except Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves, of course. However, since there are over 300,000 species of living organisms that are unclassified (though they are mostly insects and germs), we can give them benefit of doubt.
  • According to the Populations Reference Bureau, there are about 2 billion children (defined as under 15) in the world. Assuming that Santa caters to Christian children only and do not bother himself about children of other religion, he still has 15% of the above children population to think about.
  • 15% of 2 billion means 300 million children, which is certain an enormous workload, even for benevolent and kindly Santa.
  • Let's assume that there are about three children in each household and at least one of them is good. Thus, Santa has to visit 100 million homes during Christmas Eve.
  • Let's assume Santa starts distributing gifts, starting from 5 pm to midnight (which makes 7 hours). Since earth rotates and there is a difference of full 24 hours overall due to different time zones, we can say that Santa has 31 hours to finish his work. We can also assume that Santa works from East to West to use this time difference to his full advantage.
  • Visiting 100 million homes in 31 hours means that Santa has to visit 896 homes per second.
  • Thus, he has about 1/1000th of a second to do everything mentioned above such as parking his sleigh, looking for the right gifts, climbing down the sleigh and chimney, binge on snacks, fill the stockings, come up again and rush to his next stop.
  • Even if we assume that all households are distributed evenly throughout the earth for convenience of Santa and Santa Claus works non-stop for 31 hours (both of which are very big assumptions that are almost impossible!), Santa has to travel about 75.5 million miles in 31 hours and 650 miles per second.
  • Now the fastest man-made vehicle moves at 27.4 miles per second and normally reindeers can run at the speed of 15 miles per hour. 650 miles per second is 3000 times faster than the speed of sound.
  • On an average, each toy for a child weighs about 2 pounds; the sleigh has to carry over 321,000 tons plus the Santa with his big belly and his reindeers.
  • Known reindeers can only pull 300 pounds at once. If flying reindeers can pull up to 3000 pounds, about 214,000 reindeers will be needed to pull Santa's sleigh, which means sleigh must carry over 353,000 tons.
  • 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second in the air will create enormous friction and Santa, his reindeers and his sleigh will instantly burn to death, just like meteors that occasionally enter earth's atmosphere.
Thus, we can safely conclude that if Santa ever existed, he was dead when he attempted his seemingly impossible project for the first time and is no more alive.

I found this little gem during my frustrating search for Christmas trivia games for play at my upcoming cookie swap. It was a bright spot in an otherwise fruitless search. (O Google, why are you letting folks promote sites now??! Searching is all wonky. ) Too good not to share. Thanks World of Christmas for a good giggle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful...a bulleted list with SOME pictures.

It's been just over a year since we relocated from FL. Sigh. I have been thinking a lot about the last year and all the changes it has brought about in our lives. And of course, what I am thankful for. Some of these items are things we almost take for granted, so I really wanted to concentrate on them...and some, well they are just a little bit hokey. Cause I am all about keeping it real.

In no particular order, here is what I am thankful for...
  • Healthy kids. With healthy appetites!! So healthy that my 13 yr old son is a half-inch shy of 6 ft. Remember in elementary school when that half a year mattered? As in, "I am 9 AND A HALF." That half-inch matters to me. As in, "You are not six feet tall. The height from your shoes doesn't count." I might be a little bit sad about my son growing up. Maybe.
  • Fall. After 10 years in FL, I love the crispness of Fall. My children have never experienced fall before and I love hearing them breath in the crispness of fall and comment on the brilliant colors of the leaves. My 9 yr old is especially outdoorsy and experiencing the wonder and beauty though his eyes makes me positively giddy. =) The worst thing about fall is that while the weather stays cool and mild for a few months before the real cold sets in, the leaves are only at their peak for a week or so. Look Fast...
  • In spite of the economy, my husband not only has a job, but actually got a pay raise this year. God is good.
  • A tan. Yes, you read that right. LOL Okay, I really don't have one now, but this summer was marvelous. It is HOT in FL!! TOO hot to be outside in the summertime, in my opinion. So we spent our summers mostly indoors in the nice, cool air conditioned house. This last summer, we spent a lot of time at the pool. Because friends, it isn't too hot to be outside here in the summer time. Sure, we had some hot days, but overall, it was a very pleasant summer. We swam so much that the kids actually moaned by the end of summer (We're going swimming again?!) That meant that for the first time since I was a silly teen who bathed in Crisco and laid out on the roof, I actually had color that did not come from a spray can. Here's the proof.
Can you see that stripe on my back? Those are real tan lines. LOL
  • A really big house with room for everyone and all their stuff. While it's not ours (we rent right now), we are enjoying the space immensely. All their messes means that they are enjoying the space as well...and that they need to be better trained. But that is a post for another time. =)
  • My DVR. Because we will be driving to Grandma's house while the Macy's parade is on and it breaks my heart to miss it. The kids and I plan on watching it when we get home. It won't be the same as seeing it live, but I love it too much to miss it. Someday, I want to see it live and in person. The closest I have ever come is the little Macy's parade at Universal Studios. Which was such a big deal that I called my mom and my sisters on my cell phone to yell, "I am at the Macy's parade! They have the balloons and everything!" Only, it's not really cold in FL, so it was only quasi-real.
What are you thankful for this year? I hope everyone has a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. =)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I love the library. I love books. I had hoped to pass on a voracious love of reading to my kids...this is free reading time after our trip to the library. You may not be able to see the titles, so let me share with you the literary classics that they selected.

Oldest son is reading "Calvin and Hobbes."
Middler is reading "Walt Disney Comics~Donald Duck's Adventures."
Youngest son is engaged in "Star Wars Comics."

Clearly, I am raising child prodigies. Hope you are all feeling better about what ever your kids are picking out at your library. =)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chain Letters

This has been a week or so of chain letters. I got one in the mail that said if I would just send $1.00 to the 6 people on this list, make copies moving all the people up the list and add mine to the bottom, with in a few weeks I would have at least $250,000! Most people make more!!! wha?!

I'm not a fan of chain letters. I remember very distinctly the first time I was ever exposed to one. I was in about the sixth grade and a young lady in our church brought over an unmarked envelope she received in her mail that day. She was very distraught over the contents and wanted some pastoral perspective. I remember my parents reading through and reassuring her that curses wouldn't reign down on her life if she just burned the silly thing up. I don't really remember how she responded, but I remember my dad's general disgust with the concept. He shared a liberal dose of perspective with me that day...

With the advent of electronic communication, chain mail has evolved. It is for this reason I'm not a fan of the e-mail forward. On the occasion I *might* feel the need to forward, if at any point in the articles history someone has tacked on a goofy, "Send this to 10 of your friends and make a wish...it will come true in 20 minutes" I will edit that part off. I know that wishing and forwarding combo doesn't really work because the Publishers Clearing House people have never knocked on my door and I have never won the Dream House off of HGTV. Clearly, between various forwards (worth passing on) and the official entry into those sweepstakes, I should have won many times over. I have yet to be ambushed with a large check or cameras at my front door. (which is probably actually a good thing since I am sometimes in my PJ's til around noonish. I know, shocking.).

I dislike the inspirational ones even more. LOVE the stories! Often they are moving, thought provoking and encouraging. Just don't go ruining the whole thing by tacking on a spiritual guilt trip ("if you love Jesus you'll forward this to everyone on your list" or a slight alteration of the wishes...only it says "PRAY for twenty people you know and look for your miracle tomorrow" or some other such nonsense.)

Since I dislike the concept of forwards, but I love meeting new people and sharing tips, tricks, gifts, etc., I have been sucked into trying 'nice' chain letters. You've seen them...most notably, the recipe swap.

Yeah, I tried this. I do like recipes and fun is at the top of my list of ways to spend my day. Here is my favorite reply, from my sister. (my paraphrase)

No one likes chain letters and we don't all need new recipes. Frankly, I am overwhelmed with the ones I already have. Take me off the list, I will not be participating.
She was only slightly less snippy.

And even though they are illegal via the postal mail service, I rec'd *this* one and gave it a whirl. I'll have you know that I did not get a single, solitary reply. None, nada, zip. And I purchased some very cute towels for the exchange!

So last week when a friend offered up the Holy Grail of baking chain exchanges, what was a girl to do? I'd never even heard of Amish Friendship Bread. The premise is a little different in the baking world, a chain is when you are given a starter which you must care for and feed until it's ripe enough to bake. But before baking, you split it off and share your starter with other non-suspecting friends. Of course, the same kind of folk-lore that I detest exists even in the baking world. Attached to this recipe were dire warnings with eternal consequences. Okay, not really eternal.

What it did say that I could NOT use any metal mixing utensils or bowls. Um, hello...recipe writer, I'd like you to meet my lovely kitchen assistant, my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Metal mixing bowl and beaters. If metals out, then so is the completion of this recipe. Clearly, I could not listen to that warning.

After sizing up the recipe and seeing that the list of ingredients included instant pudding mix, I was pretty sure that this did not start with a sweet old Amish woman. After all, I have read Beverly Lewis' books and I know they are simple people and don't do buttons, zippers, or other inventions of convenience so instant pudding would most likely NOT be on their shopping list or a stock item in their kitchen pantries.

Never-the-less, I was intrigued by the concept. SOOO, we gave it a whirl. We fed, mushed and took good care of that starter for 10 days. Then, in my general kitchen fashion, I threw caution to the wind and adjusted the recipe for my tendencies. I did not follow the recipe exactly (reduced the sugar and substituted applesauce for oil), I completely ignored the warnings (used metal bowls and beaters) and I baked the whole thing in a bundt pan rather than loaf pans. It was DIVINE.

Here is a great blog where I researched all about variations and how to make a starter if you have no Amish connections. I decided not to share my starters as there are so many cool ways to use it! And one of the commentors gave mathmatical ways to reduce your starter production so that you are not everrun by too many, but you can still bake your bread when you want to. I am very excited to try my hand at the sourdough bread mentioned in the comments.
With the Holiday season upon us, I see this recipe and starter as a chain letter I can embrace with enthusiasm. That's sayin' something folks!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Brain Dump

For the last few weeks leading up to this election, I have had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Kinda like that feeling in Jr. High just before you get your grades back...and you KNOW that you could have done more...better...and now, you have to take that D home and explain it to your parents. Ah, Jr. High. I was so blissfully unaware of politics then.

I have had a lot rolling around in my head today and you all already know that thinking too deeply can wear me out, so I am just mentally exhausted. Never-the-less, I wanted to post a couple of thoughts before I return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

No matter who you voted for, this is a historic election. In my own parents life-time, discrimination based on skin color was rampant. No matter that I do not agree with his policies or ideologies, America elected his first black president.

I am encouraged by the fact that many people see that glass ceiling shattered, yet saddened that it had to be someone who is so very liberal. Maybe the most liberal in the whole democratic party.

In reading through many different posts and comments after the election, I heard this sentiment expressed more than once: "I didn't want to let the abortion issue be the only issue that I considered. After all, Roe-v-Wade hasn't been overturned yet after eight years of conservatives in charge. What could they do now?" "After eight years, they haven't made a difference, so it really doesn't matter."

To make such blanket statements is to completely disregard all the small steps that have been made towards making abortions more difficult to get, thus protecting many sweet babies. For example, the Ban on Partial Birth Abortions or the Parental Notification Acts in many different states. Barack Obama is on record saying that he will immediately enact the National Freedom of Choice Act which will effectively wipe out all the state level protections and subsidize abortions with tax dollars. This is so very sad to me.

For a lot more perspective, pop over to author Randy Alcorns blog. He is so much more eloquent than I am, and he has lovely photos of babies to boot.

And now back to your regularly scheduled mom blog.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get out and Vote

So, today is the big day. Election day. I have stayed out of the political fray here on the blog mostly because it requires a good bit of deep thought to craft a well written political essay. Thinking that hard gives me hives. I'd much rather just chat about it within my comfortable circle of friends...and read, read, read the news and some of my favorite blogs on the topic.

So I have formed some very specific opinions and I imagine you have too. I am just here to remind you to GO VOTE. It's that important. Plus, if you go to Starbucks and tell them you voted, they'll give you free coffee!

God Bless America!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fifteen Years Ago...

Fifteen years ago, this morning, I was getting ready to say my vows. A flurry of hairspray and special friends, dresses and makeup...Lots of preparation for such a big 'day.'

I have heard many times since (and I would concur) that all the preparation that goes into that big day is somewhat stressful and way over rated. I do not want to diminish the value of that special day for I am as girly as they come. Feeling princessy and beautiful is one of my favorite things to do...and it happens too few times in our everyday life. BUT, the same everyday grind is so much more important in the grand scheme of things. Our everyday little, insignificant, everyday choices are a composite picture of who we are.

After fifteen years, 9 different homes (not including that dump of a temp location in FL), 8 cars, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 4 kids (dogs and cats are gone, but we liked the kids!), 14 fish (easy pets), career changes, church changes, times of plenty and times of want, homeschooling, and more...

I love my husband and the life we have built. Our struggles and the choices made have shaped our character and by God's grace, we have learned and grown from them. By todays standards, fifteen years sounds like such a long time but I hope that we can put those standards to shame. I looking forwards to countless more years with my Mr. Wonderful.

Happy anniversary honey, I love you very much!

**yes, I did take pictures of my wedding pictures as scanning is a technology that eludes me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Recurring Dream

In our uncertain economic times, there are many families tightening their belts and eating more beans and rice. The prices at the grocery store are truly frightening! How can we continue to eat AND pay the bills and maintain our standard of living?

These are probably new questions or some, but I am familiar with those concerns. For some reason, money and I...we don't get along. We have always scrimped and saved, scratched and clawed to have a little extra, only to frequently end up in the hole. We don't live extravagantly, we love shopping at thrift stores (and OH, how I miss all my thrift stores in FL!!) and though it is a very difficult discipline for me, eat at home as often as possible. I have tried...and failed at couponing. I do try to shop the loss leaders and buy produce in season or at the farmers market. We don't carry (much) extra credit debt. Basically, our month to month expenses are just to survive and pay the bills!

The point of all this depressing money talk is that it weighs on my mind. Like a pesky, overbearing and nosy neighbor the thoughts are always with me. They mess up a night out with my husband (Can we afford to eat out? Could we get an extra dessert?). They rear up when the seasons change and my kids need new clothes or shoes. They show up when someone mentions a good cause I could really get behind and support, if only we had the extra funds.

They are with me, even in my sleep...

I do not generally dream. I know some people say that everyone dreams, and perhaps that's true. As a general rule though, I do not remember dreams (except when I was pregnant. Those were some doozys!) if I have them. But this one, it is so funny and when we are stressed about finances, I wake up with these pictures in my head.

As a homeschooler, we take frequent field trips as a family. We go do fun things together as often as possible. It's one of the reasons I have chosen to homeschool, to encourage a family bond and build unity. In this dream we are visiting an orchard. There are rows and rows of beautiful trees. The air is crisp and cool. The guide is wearing a flannel shirt and overalls is explaining the various kinds of trees growing there, only he sounds strangely like one of the teachers on a Charlie Brown cartoon. As I am listening, my daughter keeps bringing me pennies. Bright, shiny new pennies. The thought crosses my mind, "Surrounded by nature, hmmmm. An odd place to find so many new pennies."

A strong gust of wind causes the trees to rustle and the sunlight explodes into a thousand copper rays. As the brilliance dances in every direction, I realize my boys are shaking the trees...and pennies are falling to the ground like a drenching summer rain. (who said homeschooled children are always well behaved?) The realization hits me, THESE ARE MONEY TREES! I begin to run towards the children, yelling as I go, "They're not ripe yet!! Don't pick them! Wait for them to bloom into dollars!"

Unfortunately, this is where I always wake up. If only I could manage to sleep long enough to get DIRECTIONS to that lovely place as well as when the trees would be in season. Ahhh, I wish the answers to all our money woes were that easy...

In other news, according to my e-mail in-box today, I may have won the Irish Lottery. With two red-headed children, perhaps our Irish ancestry is paying off.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Perhaps I'm underpaid...

Is THIS what they are paying babysitters these days? My goodness, babysitting is a virtual goldmine!! What does it come out to in your neck of the woods?

My son (Red Cross Certified) has a bright future ahead. Anyone need a sitter?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The song I can't get out of my head...

Just wanted to share with you so that you could walk around singing this too. I was introduced to this about a week ago and it has been playing on the record player in my brain ever since.

I know I lost most of you young ones with that reference to a record player. My birthday is pretty close and I am getting old, thus the reference to something we had around our house when I was a kid. Google it kids...

Without further ado.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Homeschooling With a Purpose

This is a re-post from my old blog. I think re-reading articles like this are important at least once a year.


I had the opportunity to speak to a group of new homeschooling moms a couple years ago. The article below grew out of what I shared. For me, it is good to read this (and other really basic articles) at least once a year to encourage my spirit and help me set the course for the year. I hope it encourages and challenges you as well. =)


If you are a homeschool mom or dad, I want to ask you a question:

Where are you going?

Do you have a specific, clear purpose and direction for your homeschool and ultimately for your children and family? What goals do you desire to see your children reach while they are under your care? If you haven't thought this out before, now is the time to do so.

I especially like how Debra Bell puts it in her book, THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO HOMESCHOOLING:

"It (vision) will give you confidence that you have made a wise (logical and prayerful) decision and not a foolish (whimsical and presumptuous) one. Then you will have the faith you need to press through the tough times (which are guaranteed to come)."

Not only will a clear purpose serve as an anchor to hold you steady in those tough times…it is also a compass to give you direction in the sea of choices available to homeschoolers today.

The Measuring Stick

The Bible says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18). The new American Standard says, "the people are unrestrained." Do you know what it is to be unrestrained? I do…

  • When I don’t have a clear vision guiding my decision making process, my life become chaotic…
  • I wander down paths with no destination…
  • I become "double minded and unstable in all my ways" (James 1:8), rethinking decisions over and over again…becoming weary and discouraged.

Taking the time to make goals not only gives me direction, but becomes a measuring stick for all I do! Goals give me parameters I need for assessing all the options available to me, including:

  • Which educational approach to use
  • Which curriculum to buy
  • What playgroups to join
  • What support group to attend, etc.

My story

Let me tell you little about my self and our arrival at this journey we call homeschooling. I always knew I would be a "stay-at-home mom," primarily because I knew the importance of laying a solid moral foundation during the "formative" years. We never considered public schools an option, but being full time Youth Pastors, we sort of assumed our kids would attend the "church school." I pretty much scoffed at homeschoolers—they were a strange bunch. The homeschoolers I had met grew their own gardens, baked their own bread and even ground their own wheat! They seemed too eccentric. I was sure that they were unbalanced somehow.

Full time youth work gave us the opportunity to see lots of "good" kids from "church families" who lacked a solid Biblical foundation. This was very disheartening…how did this happen? I’ll tell you: Parents have (unknowingly, in some cases) abdicated their rights to train up their children spiritually, morally and academically.

These jobs are left to the "professionals"…teachers, youth pastors, children's pastors, etc.

As our family grew and as my oldest neared "school age," I began to doubt that even a good Christian school would be able to impart to him the values our family held dear. This became glaringly obvious during a time Eric and I were leading a small group of post-high schoolers. These were all GOOD kids—many in church from the time they were born—but they all believed in evolution (in varying degrees). I was stunned! This is a foundational truth of our faith: WE ARE CREATED by a loving creator…in His very image. I think that was the turning point for me. I knew I would be joining the ranks of the unbalanced, hopelessly eccentric homeschool movement.

So, I began to think about WHY we should homeschool. What's the PURPOSE? Here are some of ours.

Godly Character/Biblical Worldview. Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 12:12–13.

"My son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

We feel very strongly that if we merely raise our children to be bright, articulate, creative, intelligent, etc., but do not pass on to them a revolutionary and infectious love for God that impacts every area of their lives, then we have failed in our calling as parents.

In other words, we are committed to raising our boys to be world-changers. We want our boys to be passionate about Jesus and to be able to share Christ with others in a way that is both articulate and culturally relevant. We have always thought that our first job as parents was really to be "pastors," and that parenting is really discipleship in its purest form. We want to teach them to know truth so that they can easily recognize counterfeit.

  • Eph 6:4—Bring them up…nurture and admonition
  • Duet. 6:6-9—These commandments…teach them diligently…
  • Prov 22:6—Train up a child…
  • Jer 10:2—Learn not the way of the heathen

Love Learning/Academic Excellence. There are many different learning modalities and personality styles. So it makes sense that children learn at different rates and speeds. Unfortunately, the current school system is unable to reach every child in the classroom. It simply cannot be done. The current system actually (though not purposely) stifles creativity and crushes innovative thinking. It forces children into a "one-size fits all" mentality.

Consider the clothing rack—one size does NOT fit all! If it won't work with clothes, which we both design and create, why should we expect it to work with children whose personalities and styles are as unique and mysterious as the God Who created them? Since we recognize that each of our boys is unique, we are committed to teaching each one as individuals, thus preserving their uniqueness and inquisitive natures. Schooling this way produces critical thinkers, kids who look for answers rather than waiting to be spoon-fed. This also serves as an esteem builder, as we strive not to compare one to another. Children who a re nurtured in this kind of environment love learning and often excel far past their public school peers in academic achievements.

Family Unity. As I type this, my boys are doing what they usually do: They are playing together, using their imagination and engaging in lots of "give and take." They truly are best friends. They love one another deeply and stick together. Even though they are still little, I want to nurture that love and friendship each day. We truly want our boys to grow up as best friends.

We also want them to be strongly parent-influenced, not peer-influenced. Children from strong, stable families are more self-confident and are typically stronger leaders. By making a time investment now, while they are little, I believe we will avoid a turbulent adolescence because of our commitment to family unity and shared values and vision.

Final Thoughts

Parenting is hard—but homeschooling is even harder! I think we do a disservice to our children when we attempt homeschooling without being strongly compelled, highly motivated, deeply convicted, and purposefully driven.

That's why we've taken the time (and continue to take the time as a matter of course) to talk about, write out and discuss our goals. These experiences help corral us and keep us going in tough times. They give us direction in a plethora of choices. They keep us grounded…

"And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it" (Habakkuk 2:2).

Father, Thank you for the blessings of our children. Thank you for the privilege we have in teaching and training them to love and serve you. Help us to realize the futility of such an enormous task without your help and without a vision to give us direction. I pray that tonight your sweet Holy Spirit would challenge anyone who has not yet thought about the clear purpose and direction for their responsibility and calling as parents. I pray that You would impart to them a sense of clarity and a new vision for their families. And may their children grow up to be men and women whose lives are dedicated to the Kingdom of God and the Good News upon which it is built!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Great Stromboli Disaster

Some time last week (or month...I can't keep track of time), Carrie over at The Gremlin Wrangler posted a lovely tutorial on how to make stromboli. It was inspiring. All the melty goodness, pepperonis and pizza sauce and....heavens to betsy, bacon! I checked my pantry, made note of what I was missing and did a quick grocery run. Dinner for our family had been planned.

I took my laptop to the kitchen for easy access to the recipe and we carefully we set out all of our ingredients. My very curious and overly helpful three year old wanted to join me for dinner prep. I acquiesced.. (another big word for my friend JoAnna).

I decided to bump up the nutritional value of said recipe by substituting SOME of the white flour with wheat flour. I knew this would change the texture and consistency of the crust some, but also know this makes dishes more filling and nutritious. So, we measured out the flour into a separate bowl. I let Daci do the scooping and dumping (can you say messy?). What I didn't consider when making this simple switch was that the volume and consistency of our dough would increase, a lot.

The dough grew and grew, encompassing not just the dough hook, but the flat top and even the spring. Possibly the worst part though, was that the kitchen aid attachment on the front top of my mixer was not firmly attached and after some vigorous mixing, it fell off into our dough. Which then caused the mixer to go all wonky and bumpy and throw flour all over the counter and surrounding appliances. This caused a ripple effect in that my helpful three year old became a quaking, shivering blob of "It's very noisy! Make it stop, mommmy!!" Much screaming ensued (she hates the blowdryer too...anything besides her that makes shrill noises is positively frightening).

I took the bowl from the mixing stand and tried to find the missing piece. You'd think finding this big piece of metal would not be very difficult, indeed, even simple. However, the dough was like quicksand and for all my mixing and stirring, I would get a glimpse and plunge my hand in to come up empty, time and again. Time is getting away from us, hungry boys are coming through the kitchen wondering what's for dinner and why am I playing in a vat of play-doh?

"It's bread dough." I correct, rather tersely and gesture to the beautiful pictures on Carrie's blog. "Wow, that looks good. Can I help, too?" "NO" I say through gritted teeth. With great determination I plunge in again for that missing mixer part, fairly certain that baking it into the stromboli and offering a prize for the winning slice would not go over well with the family.

Finally, I fish it out and we move past the tears over the noise and onto tears over using all the flour up and having no more to dump and scoop. Between her dumping and scooping and the wonky mixer, I probably had a whole cup of flour on the counter, floor and surrounding appliances.

Hungry teen passes through wondering what's for dinner. I gesture towards the laptop and draft him to lay out the Roulpat so that I can do some kneading by hand since the dough has grown up past the dough hook attachment onto the actual mixer itself and I love my new mixer too much to sacrifice it to the pizza gods.

By this time I am so flustered and frustrated (and hungry) I am just trying to hurry to finish. The three year old is no longer interested in helping, but thank God the crying has stopped. Now, she is enjoying licking the flour off of the countertop. Although I told her she wouldn't like it, there are worse things she could be licking (like say, batteries), so I let it slide.

I spread the dough out and although I followed her directions, I have enough for TWO strombolis. Thank goodness I grabbed extra sauce and cheese! In my hurry though, I used only one bag of cheese, completely omitted the bacon and frankly, not enough sauce either.

Here is my finished project. Notice the time on the stove. I started this project at 4ish. Clearly, I just need to go to Carrie's house next time.

LOL, Carrie just added an addendum to her blog that explains why I ended up with two loaves. And it has nothing to do with wheat flour! I inadvertently doubled the recipe because her original document listed double the amount of water. Since I am not much a of a measurer , I just added flour until I got the right consistency. No wonder it was eating up my Kitchen aid!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Miracle Monday~Woo Hoo!!

Today's miracle is that after my husbands one year anniversary at his current workplace, he requested and received a significant pay raise.

After reviewing our budget, we saw that we were falling a little short every month just to meet basic necessities. We pored over the budget to see where we could make some cuts, but we really don't have a lot to cut. We live pretty much on what he brings home to pay for basic needs. Without a lot of extra debt (like car payments, excessive credit cards, etc), we don't need much, but the stress of higher prices for simple things like food and gasoline have taken their toll.

So knowing that he had a yearly review coming up, he added up our expenses and came up with a $$ amount. He also did some research on what e-learning professionals are paid these days and found that he was underpaid. We put out a prayer request to many people.

Synergystically, it all worked together to help him come home today with terrific news. He got the raise. All that we asked for and even more great things and changes were approved for his department which will make his job a more pleasant one.

Praise the Lord, he is so gracious and provides every single time!!

Monday, September 15, 2008


Over and over, the Lord told the Israelites to 'remember.' Remember what He had done for them, remember where they had come from, remember His provisions. I don't think God needed the reminder, it was for their own sakes that needed to constantly take the time to ponder and reflect on how big God is and how not big their problems were.

I am a lot like the Israelites. I have a tendency to grumble and complain, or worry instead of rest in His provision. I need to take the time to consider all the great things He has done. I'm not talking about the beauty of creation or the marvel that is a growing child, although those are certainly worth reflecting on. I am instead thinking of the very specific ways He meets both our needs and sometimes even our wants. It is in this reflection that we are reminded that He does take care of us, sometimes in very unexpected ways. It is also this reflection that passes on to our children the very personal nature of our God and His relationship with us.

If we don't record it and share it, how will THEY be able to remember? By recording and sharing our own personal miracles, we build our faith, the faith of our children and the faith of other believers.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as we have found ourselves in a financial bind. It's probably a story reflected in many homes across America, more out-go than income. If we were taking lush European vactions, it would be pretty easy to see where to cut the fat. However, that's simply not the case. We are just stretched every month to make ends meet. This is where the provision/miracle part fits in. I bet that I if I were in the job market and all our kids were in school, we might be more comfortable, but we'd have less family unity. And that is simply not worth the trade-off in our opinion. We strongly feel like God has called us to homeschool our children and that for our obedience, he will bless us. In fact, we have seen in the past over and over again.

For example~In moving from sunny, temperate FL to TN, clothing has become something of a budgetary need. In FL I could get away with shopping once a year (w/an occasional thrift store trip now and again) as the seasons there are hot, hotter, hottest, a little cool. Here though, we have real seasons and need real coats, jackets, winter clothes. Add to that the fact that my oldest son is now taller than his father and we have a real clothing crisis on our hands. Enter my sweet neighbor who called and wondered if I could use a few things for Nick. Someone had given her some things and they wouldn't work for her son, so she thought of us and passed them on. She brought over three garbage bags of clothes! Not all of it is usable, but it is a good start on what could have been a major dent in the monthly budget.

See, it's a minor miracle! Right in our every day surrounding, they are here. What's your miracle this week? Thank God for his faithfulness and write it down. It will be an inspiration to you and others. =)

In keeping with God's provision and miracles, THIS POST by author Sally Clarkson is truly awe inspiring. You will be blessed by how God knits the tiniest details together in a beautiful mosaic of gracious provision.

I was inspired to share this by joining Beth at A Mom's Life for here Miracle Monday Meme. Do you have one to share?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In case you haven't seen them...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago

Seven years ago, I was a hopeful young mother. I was in my first year of homeschooling my oldest son who was six at the time. Coming up right behind him were his younger brothers, four and two years, respectively.

We were in our first home and scheduled to re-finance. The appraisal was scheduled for Tuesday morning. We were nervous and hopeful that our home had appreciated some in the short time we were there. I'll never forget when he (the appraiser) arrived. He had sort of a shell-shocked look on his face and didn't even really greet me. Instead he said, "Are you watching the TV? News? Do you know what's going on?" Just prior to his arrival, my husband had called with the terse message, "Turn on the TV."

I motioned the appraiser towards the Living Room and together we stood in front of the TV and watching in utter horror as the second plane hit. I looked across the room to my boys playing cheerfully with LEGOS and wondered what kind of world are they going to grow up in. So small and happy and unaware of the pure evil that exists just outside our door.

The appraiser did a cursory walk-through our home and stayed probably longer than he intended. The images were difficult to comprehend or pull away from. They are still with me today. I choose to remember. To forget would be to void all the lives lost that day and the many who have fought and lost their lives since then protecting us all from another 9-11.

I am ever grateful for our President and his leadership as well as our Military, Local Police and Fire-Fighters who fearlessly put their lives on the line to help preserve ours.

Click here for a complete list of lives lost that day. I imagine that time has helped some, but for many families today will still be difficult. If you feel led, say a prayer for them...and GOD BLESS AMERICA!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Six Quirky Things

Let me just say, the Heart of the Matter Conference was just sensational. But, after five days of workshops (yes, five.whole.days.) I am on information overload. Add to that the PMS factor, and you've got one very frayed woman.

So, instead of posting about all the terrific things I learned or scriptures that encouraged me (those are coming my friends, soon) I decided to play along with my friend Dianne (who was also at the cyber-conference and now knows my deep seated need for attention...perhaps my first quirky thing?) and post Six Quirky Things about me. It's a lighter, less serious way to make sure I put up a new post for my one groupie and a few others who pop by now and again.

In no particular order...

  • I am addicted (like, I may need an intervention addicted) to the card games on my cell phone. This is perhaps a direct result of the fact that poker cards were not allowed in my home as a child. I'm not kidding. I think I know now why they [cards] are sinful.
  • I absolutely loathe and detest morning. I firmly believe that mornings would be better if they started later...so around here they do. Please don't call before 9 am. Seriously.
  • I am a 'frugal failure.' I have tried and failed multiple times to clip coupons and save money. I have joined coupon clubs, the grocery game, buyer clubs, etc. The know-how just eludes me. I have been reading frugal/couponing blogs lately, perhaps with some handholding and step-by-step instructions, I'll actually 'get it' someday. Whose blogs do you read? Where do you find your best tips?
  • I am a direct sales junky. I love parties and meeting new people and shopping. Direct sales makes all this possible in just one night!! I have currently become intrigued with health and wellness and I think I represent the best company for meeting new people, having fun and making money while helping people feel better and make money too. And it's CHOCOLATE....Healthy Chocolate. I'll bet you didn't think those two words could happen in the same sentence...neither did I. Drop me a note if you'd like more information. =)
  • I love make-up. Sometimes, when I am positively down and out, a few minutes in the make-up aisle looking at all the pretty new colors makes me feel happier. It's even better if I can come home with some new nail polish or some other sparkly. =)
  • I desperately desire to be organized. I am such a resource gal that if you come to me with questions about how to better organize your life/kitchen/children's chores/laundry room/meals/homeschool I will rattle off suggestions like nobody's business. I read books on this stuff like they may not be here tomorrow...heck, I consume books on this subject...yet...there are no systems/routines/organization/plans/standards around here. What is the disconnect?!
Just so you know, I do not, nor do I pretend to have it all together. Be comforted my friends. It's just after two in the afternoon here and I am curled up in my favorite cotton PJ's blogging from my bed. It's good to be me. Even when PMSing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

This is still under construction (but isn't it pretty so far?!). If you'd like to read me at my current blogging home, go to www.homeschoolblogger.com/HSmom0f4