Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Philip Update

To those who have been praying for Philip, just want you to know he's much better today. He's still in the hospital, but we're so grateful for his improvement. Things are looking up.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Blessings

Blogging will be light to nonexistent for the next two weeks. In the meantime, I pray that whatever kind of Christmas you find yourself having, that the peace and joy of Jesus will be with each of you.

(Image from Plan59)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Urgent Prayer Request

I know that many of you who read my blog also know (either personally or virtually) my sis and brother in law who are missionaries to a remote and isolated Indian reservation. Their sweet little baby Philip is very sick in the hospital with pneumonia. Please join me in lifting Philip up in prayer. Pray, too, for grace and encouragement for Stephen and Leah, and also for Ethan, their oldest, who doesn't understand what's going on. Thanks everyone.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Just a Few More Days...

Billy and the big kids are running a few errands...Sarah is asleep...And what I really want to do is curl up in a sunny spot for a really long nap. But instead I'm going to finish some last-minute Christmas sewing and make cookies.

(Image courtesy of AllPosters)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Simplify the Holidays


SouleMama links to this great article on simplifying the holidays. I enjoyed it--hope you do too.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Apron Power Contest


Barbara Curtis is having an Apron Power photo contest. I probably won't participate, since I don't typically post pics of myself, but I'm really enjoying the other entries. Click here for details.

Yay!

After a week or so of categorizing old posts in short snatches of time while I put Sarah to sleep, all my old posts are categorized. I can promise you I was relieved when the Family category outran Blogs and Blogging. I was a little concerned there for awhile!

Works for Me Wednesday: Alphabetizing Spices


No, it's not a joke, and the funny thing is that I'm not (let me emphasize not) one of these super-organized people who fits the spice-cabinet-alphabetizing stereotype.
I cook just about everything from scratch, and I cook a lot, and I just got tired of never being able to find my spices.

I got two little cheap plastic lazy susans from Wal-Mart and lined the jars up alphabetically. I found a bunch of spices I didn't know I had, and now I can find any of them in a second. Works for me!

WFMW hosted by Shannon

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dangers of OTC Meds


FDA wants sterner pain reliever warnings

The dangers are real! Be careful!

Last-Minute Homemade gifts




This week a friend wrote and asked me for ideas for inexpensive homemade gifts for Sunday school teachers and the like. Those little things can add up. Below is part of my reply, unedited. I figured we might not be the only ones who need to come up with many small gifts on short notice.

************

This year I'm just going to make a huge batch of tea cakes, you know, cut out sugar cookies. That will be our gift. I'm going to put them in a brown lunch bag with some pretty ribbon and a card. They are relatively inexpensive to make. Let me know if you need a recipe. Your girls could handle this for you.


Also, do the girls sew at all? Handmade ornaments are a great gift. I'm thinking something along the line of felt hearts or stars with blanket stitch around the edge and ribbon to hang them by. Blanket stitch is very easy and adds some pretty detail. Here's a tutorial:


She has an example of an ornament she made, but to me that's way too complicated. I'd stick with just a simple shape. You could trace your shapes from a cookie cutter. You could make a whole lot of ornaments from a yard of felt.


Actually I'm looking around at some pictures and you wouldn't even have to use blanket stitch. Just a running stitch in a contrasting color would be fine.
For the girls in my ss class I'm making cocoa mix, bagging it, and putting it in dollar mugs from the dollar store. That can get a little more expensive though.


This blog has some great, simple craft ideas:Kiddley


And I've been wanting to make some of these felt flower pins. They are so cute. They would be nice for lady teachers. Veeeery easy. Instead of the french knots or whatever they have in the middle, I'd put a pretty button.


One more idea: Last year one of my Awana moms got a big container of the little foam ornaments from the dollar store and had her little boy decorate them with glitter glue. That was his gift to all his teachers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Someone Is Watching You, And It's Not Santa

Elizabeth has been listening to the story of George Muller on her Story Hour cassettes. Muller was a pastor who cared for many hundreds (if not thousands) or orphans in England in the 1800's. It's said that he raised over 8 million dollars in his lifetime by prayer alone, never asking for a single penny.

After about the sixth time through the story Elizabeth asked, "Mama, do you do that? Ask and you shall receive?"

It's scary to know that our little ones watch us so closely. It's also challenging. Billy and I want our kids to see real, authentic faith in us; not hypocrisy. I pray that when my children grow up they will be able to say, "My parents walked what they talked." I want them to see that I don't just know about Jesus, I know Him as my Savior and dearest Friend, and I believe He can provide for all my needs. I want my children to see that I believe that if I ask, I'll receive. Times like this, all I can pray is, "God, don't let me mess up!"

Whew!

This afternoon, as part of my whole-house decluttering effort, I cleaned out my pantry. What a relief. Now I don't have to throw the oatmeal box in and quickly close the door so nothing falls out. June Cleaver I am not. The pantry was more like Fibber McGee's closet.





Sunday, December 17, 2006

Retro


Hmmm, I didn't realize retro could mean so many things. Maybe I should clarify the statement below where I said I love anything retro. That should probably be "anything from the 50's". More or less. Or "a lot of things from the 50's". Retro seems to be a pretty ambiguous term.

Who I Am


I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and images and what certains icons or symbols say about people. In particular, I’ve been thinking about my blog and what someone might learn or assume about me in a passing glance. What impressions I’m leaving. How I come across. Is it accurate? Is it who I really am? I try to be honest, but I still realize that unless we know someone well, we really only make judgments and assumptions about them based on our own perceptions.


It got me to thinking about who I am. Here are a few things about me that may or may not come across here on Charity Grace. I’m a young wife, a pastor’s wife. I’m the mother of 3 small children. I was homeschooled and I homeschool my own kids. I grew up in a large family (5 children) and I hope to have a large family of my own one day. I’m not a Baptist, I’m a Christian whom God has placed in a Baptist church. I grew up in the country and some day I’d love to live in the country again. I like to cook whole, natural foods for my family. I’m a full-time homemaker, something I’m so grateful for. I love to stretch a dollar. I’m passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding for my babies. I’m into old stuff, especially anything retro. The only retro thing I can think of that I don’t like is furniture. In that regard I’m more into some blend of shaker and craftsman styles. I live in the deep South. I grew up near the Mexican border. I love to craft. I’m an incurable girly-girl, and I love pink (surprised?), nail polish, lipstick, skirts, and dangly earrings.


If you’ve made it through this self-absorbed laundry list, congratulations, because I’m about to let you in on a little secret. That’s not who I am. Those things are not where I find my identity. Those things are not what I’m about. They are just frou-frou.


Here’s who I am: a Christ-follower. A child of God. Period.


If all those other things were stripped away, who I am would still remain. Because who I am is about the heart. And who I am is—or should be—reflected in my character. (Yes, I know, scary.)


If I find my identity in my lifestyle, the center of my being is on shaky ground. A lifestyle can be gone in a moment. If I find my identity in my family, I’ll be lost when my nest is empty. If I find my identity in my home décor, then I will feel uneasy when I’m not able to decorate my house just the way I want it. If I find my identity in crafting, arthritis or failing eyesight that could come with age would throw me into depression.


If I find my identity in Christ, I’m free. Free to embrace whatever He gives me and however He leads me. Free to just be his girl, trusting in His love, at peace with His plan. I don’t have to lean on the crutch of external categories. It’s not that I don’t love and enjoy God’s gifts in those areas of my life, or that they aren’t important, because they are—some more than others. But they don’t define me. If He leads me to spend my life in a high rise apartment where I develop a penchant for modern art (perish the thought!), who I am does not change. If I discover that by some surprise, He has only chosen to give me 3 children, I’m the same. If I never get to buy anything old and quaint again, it’s OK. At my center I’m secure. Because it’s not about me. It’s about Him. And He never changes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

God's Truth

My missionary sister has a great post up today about truth. Go take a peek. And don't forget to support and pray for the missionaries you know!

Frugal Friday: Herb Tea in Bulk


We drink lots of hot tea in the winter time, but those little boxes sure get expensive! Recently I bought half a pound of red raspberry leaf, peppermint, and spearmint from The Bulk Herb Store. It’s around $6 per pound (depending on what kind you get), and a pound of dried herb is a lot of tea.

Since our tea ball/infuser has larger holes, which leak little bits of the looseleaf tea into the water, we’ve been making ours in the coffee maker. I put the tea in the tea ball, and then put the ball in the filter, just as I would to make coffee. Voila, no floating tea leaves.

This tea will last us a long time—probably till we’re tired of it. It’s far more economical than buying boxed tea already in tea bags. Check it out!

(Frugal Fridays hosted by Crystal.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Breastfeeding Blessings

Sarah is still not over her stomach virus, which started Sunday night. She seems to feel pretty well during the day (although her appetite isn’t up to snuff), but especially at night she’s struggling with the not-so-fun elements of the virus.

This is one of those times that I’m so grateful for breastfeeding and the way God has designed mother’s milk to meet her baby’s needs. Although Sarah has lost a lot of fluids and hasn’t been able to keep much down, she is staying nourished and hydrated because she’s still nursing. I attribute a lot of her energy to this as well. I’ve heard that when a baby gets sick, a mother’s body automatically begins producing antibodies in the milk to combat that particular illness. My kids are rarely sick before they wean, and when they are it usually doesn’t hit them very hard. Normally by the 4th day of such a virus, a toddler would be weak and worn out. Not so Sarah. The unpleasant elements are more a nuisance to her than anything, a brief interruption before she can run off and play again. She seems to be on the mend now. I’m confident that breastfeeding has helped her get to this point. Not only has it provided comfort, but fluids and calories to make sure she gets healthy as quickly as possible. Breastfeeding works!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Crafty Evening

Sarah is still not over her stomach virus, so I stayed home from church with her. While I'd much prefer her not to be sick, it was still a golden opportunity to work on some simple gifts I've planned to make the kids. It's hard to make them anything as a surprise because they are ALWAYS around. That's something I wouldn't trade for the world, but it sure makes it hard to be sneaky.

While Sarah didn't let me get too much accomplished, I did have an hour or so while she slept to cut and snip. Now I'll probably have to spend time every evening between now and Christmas sewing after they are asleep. It will be fun though. I'll try to post pictures of the finished products, because these gifts are so very simple. However, making them in threes is pretty time-consuming!

Hopefully this virus will be overwith soon and I'll be able to come up with some more productive posts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

By the Way

The pic below was found at the absolute best site I've ever seen for retro images, Plan59. I had such fun looking around there yesterday. I heart the 50's!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Test

Just trying this to see if the pic is huuuuuge. Isn't this the cutest little retro couple? And aren't you just dying for a pink oven? (OK, I'm serious about the couple, kidding about the oven. Although it would be step up from the avocado green one I had till recently.)
Who knew beta would be such fun? And can you tell All Posters is my new best friend? Just trying to add an image. All new to me.

This one is perfect because it's a chilly, drizzly day. Sarah has thrown up 3 times since midnight. She's asleep now, and I'm very tired. The older children have been occupied watching old movies while I try to collect myself. Somehow in spite of all my activity, not much has gotten done. One of those days. Maybe a nap would help? Like I have time for that. :) Ah, well...These days are part of life. But I really must see what I can get done in the next few hours so this day is not a total waste. Off to wash some dishes and fix myself some lunch...The babies have already eaten. Elizabeth asked for fruit salad and green salad, "Because I want to eat something healthy." Now she is asking me if ranch dressing is good for us. What's with the obsession with health food lately? Oh wait, she asked for mac & cheese for breakfast...So she's not too obsessed. Excuse the stream of consciousness today. My brain is jelly.

Blogger Love

Well, I'll be staying with blogger, almost exclusively because of the new labels feature. I was about to become a Wordpress girl. But I love being able to categorize my posts. I'm working (slowly, in those little moments while I'm getting baby to sleep) on labeling all my old posts. My, how organized I feel!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Maybe My Blog Roll is Fixed

Spent awhile re-creating my blog roll from memory while I nursed Sarah to sleep. It was a sort of awkward endeavor, but when else will I have time to do such an insignificant yet time-consuming task? It still feels like someone is missing though. I'm tired and absentminded today, so if you were on my blog roll before and I left you out, please know that it's just an oversight...Speak up and I'll gladly add you back. Or I might remember which ones I'm missing in the middle of the night, as so often happens with these random bits of info.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

HEEEEELP!!!

I switched to the new version of blogger and now only a few of my links are showing up. How do I access my old template and fix this?!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Frugal Friday: Paying off Your House

No, our house is not paid off yet. But I recently read Laine's letter about how her large family paid off their home in 17 years, on a small income at that. Regardless of whether you're trying to pay off a home or not, this has priceless information on saving money.

Frugal Fridays hosted by Crystal

Eating an Elephant

Recently when Elizabeth has been faced with daunting tasks I've taught her the old proverb, "How do you eat and elephant? One bite at a time."

Now when she's overwhelmed I'll ask her, "Baby, how do you eat an elephant?"

"Bite by bite," she replies--her translation of what I've told her.

In one of my favorite books ever in one of my favorite series ever, The Fields of Home by Ralph Moody, Ralph's Uncle Levi tells him, "Slow and steady goes far in a day." Ralph discovers that careful, steady work is more productive than hasty intensity.

Over the past couple days I've faced a mammoth job, and that refrain has gone over and over in my mind. Slow and steady goes far in a day. And I remember that you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

So here I am taking a short break from elephant-eating. And now I'm off to keep up a slow and steady pace so I can FINISH THIS THING!!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pre-Christmas Declutter

As I did last year, I'm decluttering everyone's bedroom before Christmas. This year I'm taking it to the next level and decluttering every room in the house. So far I've done all 3 bedrooms and the school/tv/computer room. That has resulted in 8 or 9 bags of items to donate and probably the same number in trash. Where in the world does this stuff come from?!! The amazing thing is that the rooms still seem full. That is scary.

In any case, it's wonderful to see each room become orderly and less cluttered. I know that new things will be coming into our house over the next few weeks, so now we won't be as overwhelmed by it. After Christmas I'll probably do another declutter. If you haven't yet, let me encourage you to join me in decluttering the house for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Celtic Prayer

From the Celtic Book of Prayer:

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.

Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.

This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Good at Grammar

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

For the Farmgirl in Me

I've recently discovered a few new farmgirl resources.

First is the blog Farmgirl Fare, which is supposed to be a food blog but mostly has beautiful farm pictures for each day. Love it.

Then my husband stumbled across In My Kitchen Garden and he knew right away that I'd like it. Lo and behold, it's a companion blog to Farmgirl Fare. More beautiful pictures, more wonderful information.

Through Apron Thrift Girl I found MaryJanesFarm Farmgirl Connection. And I also found the Homesteading Today forums. I don't have time for message boards, really, and the farmgirl thing is a distant memory and future hope, not a present reality...But I'm keeping these forums in mind for reference later. Even when I just get ready to plant herbs in pots.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Frugal Friday: Christmas Dinner Soup

I did this with our Thanksgiving leftovers, and I probably will do it again after Christmas. It's a good way to use up those turkey bones with little bits of meat still clinging to them and all those dabs of leftovers.

Boil turkey carcass to make broth. Strain broth (very important, you don't want any tiny pieces of bone in your soup) and take any remaining meat off the bones. Set meat aside.

Chop up whatever veggies you have on hand--carrot sticks and celery left from a relish plate, a potato, an onion, whatever. Cook veggies in the broth. Season with a of salt and pepper and herbs. I used thyme because it compliments poultry nicely. Add a can of green beans and the leftover chopped turkey. Then stir in leftover cornbread dressing and cook for a few minutes. This gives it a nice body and flavor. You could also add mashed potatoes at this point.

Serve with fresh bread. Or if you really want to get into the Christmas dinner theme, cranberry muffins.

Frugal Friday hosted by Crystal

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Randomness from Here

Since I'm on a bloggy roll today, I'll tell you what's going on here.

The temperature dropped sharply in a matter of a few hours, and went from breezy and balmy this morning to cold and rainy this afternoon. I had a wonderfully productive morning. I got my closet and bedroom cleaned out, resulting in two full bags of trash (!!!) and two full bags of items to donate. Funny thing is, it hasn't been long since I did that. Amazing how things pile up.

Now Sarah is asleep and Elizabeth and Silas are laying down for a rest, listening to the Story Hour tapes my mom gave me, that I used to listen to when I was little. Anybody remember Aunt Sue and Uncle Dan? It's such fun to see my kids enjoying them as much as I did.

Now I must be off to make sure that I don't squander the rest of my day...

Scripture Memory for Kids

I have to say this is not an original idea. My mom used this technique with us growing up. I've just modified it since my kids are in Awana, a structured Bible memory club.

As an Awana leader I notice that a lot if parents aren't working with their children to learn their memory verses at home. And I understand. While it's noble to say that parents should be helping their kids memorize scripture, the truth is that it's really hard to find time for the amount of drill necessary to make it stick, especially when you have a non-reader.

I've been writing their verses on index cards and putting them at their places at the table. Since we eat meals together, this is a great time to review their verses each day. Growing up, we read/said our memory verse as soon as the prayer was over, before we began to eat. I'm not quite that consistent, but I've found that having the verse in front of us reminds me to have the kids say it a number of times through the week. Usually before the week's end, they can say it by heart.

I usually write 3 at a time and paper clip them together. Index cards work better than keeping their Awana book on the table (where it might get damaged), and if I do several at one time, it's easier to not get behind.

It only takes a few minutes for me to copy their verses, and then a minute or two each day. This takes so much intimidation out of the idea of scripture memory! Absolutely painless!

Advent Chains

If your kids are like mine, they are already asking, "How many days till Christmas?" Of course, a traditional way to count down is to use a lovely advent calendar with little windows to open each day. For some reason this has never worked for us. Either I forget to buy a calendar, or the windows get torn off, or we forget to check it each day.

I've seen some beautiful ideas for homemade alternatives around the blogosphere that range from 24 envelopes with a holiday activity inside, to 24 stockings, and so on.

However, I'm into easy. Simple. When I make things too complicated, they just don't get done. So I'm recycling the paper chain idea. Each of my kids made a paper chain with 24 links, out of old wrapping paper. Each day during December they get to tear a chain off, and they have a visual idea of how many more days till Christmas.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ten Ways to Bless Your Pastor

Here's a little something I wrote over a year ago; it's been languishing in my files. This seemed like a good time to share it.

*************

Christmas can be both a joy-filled and extra-stressful time for those in ministry. It can also be a great time of year to show your pastor special love and support. Through the years, here are a few ways dear church members have blessed us, both at Christmas and all year long.

1. Be his friend. Guys, your pastor needs buddies just like anyone else. Invite him to go golfing or hunting with you. Kid around with him.

2. Befriend his family. Ladies, take his wife out to lunch or shopping. Support his kids. Go to their ball games or recitals, and remember them on special days.

3. Give him grace. Remember, he’s human, too. He will make mistakes just like anyone else.

4. Show hospitality. Invite his family to your home for lunch after church, or take them out to eat. Sundays are a crazy day in most ministry homes. Your pastor’s family will appreciate not having to worry about lunch sometimes, and they will also appreciate the social interaction.

5. Encourage him verbally, as well as with cards and letters. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting and deliver encouragement when you feel compelled to do so. You don’t know what all he has had to deal with through the week, and often a word fitly spoken will give him the boost he needs to keep going.

6. Give practical gifts. Fresh garden vegetables, fresh game if you hunt, home baked or canned goods are usually welcome treats. One year a deacon’s wife made each of us a fleece blanket. Several years later, we still use them daily. Cash or gift cards are nearly always a good choice.

7. Let his wife be his wife. Remember that her first priority is to be your pastor’s help and support at home. Don’t expect her to act as an unofficial associate.

8. Watch for special needs. If he has unexpected medical bills, his freezer or vacuum cleaner bites the dust, or his couch is in tatters, look for ways to help. Not everyone will be able to do this, but if you’re blessed financially, helping to meet these larger needs are some of the best ways you can bless your pastor. Even if you don’t have an extra abundance to share, keep his family in mind when you have hand-me-downs to give away or when you’re able to give your pastor a good deal on something you’re selling which he needs.

9. Be a peacemaker. If you disagree with him or are offended by something he says or does, talk to him personally rather than taking it to others or leaving the church without seeking to make amends. This will help everyone avoid huge amounts of hurt and division, and it will promote unity in the Body.

10. Include his family in yours. Many pastors’ families give up the opportunity to live close to their relatives in order to shepherd flocks far from home. Often they aren’t able to spend holidays with family, and they miss out on extra grandparent help when they needs a hand with home improvement projects or a babysitter so mom and dad can go on a date. Look for ways to be the family of God to your pastor; be there for him when he needs it most, even in the simple things. Include them in your holiday celebrations. Adopt your pastor’s family and be a stand-in grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Love them at Christmas and always!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back!

Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did. We spent time with my family and Billy's family during Thanksgiving week, and the kids had loads of exhausting fun. They are still wiped out. For that matter, so are we. But it was wonderful. My brother was in from Wyoming and my sister and brother in law and little nephews were in from South Dakota. This is the first time my whole family has been together for a holiday in years.

Now it's time to unpack, clean up, and recuperate from a week's break.

More later.

P.S. Thanks to all of you who left sweet comments while I was on my little break. I appreciate them all! :)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Links Updated

It really bugs me to follow links from someone's blog roll and find out that they have blogs listed that haven't been updated in years. So I cleaned up my blog roll this morning while nursing the baby, adding some new links and removing some that aren't active or seem to be winding down. I left a few I consider to be in limbo in hopes that they take off again. :) I changed links on some recent moves, correctly alphabetized a stray link that somehow was out of order, and changed the name on Valerie's blog. How long has it not been Take Joy?! And how did I not notice that I had it listed under the wrong name?!

Brief Blog Break

I probably won't be posting any this week as I take time to enjoy family and friends.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Driscoll Responds to Critics

Here

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Do I Have In My Hand?

Many years ago I received a (now defunct) magazine for Christian women in which the editress (OK, spell check says there is no such word…female editor) frequently exhorted us ladies to ask ourselves, “What do I have in my hand?” The idea was to be creative with what we had rather than feeling that we had to buy something new, or even new supplies to make something. While the magazine went down a sad road and eventually disappeared (as far as I know), the question stayed with me. I still often ask myself, “What do I have in my hand?”

Honestly, I don’t get out much. It’s not that I can’t; it’s just more practical not to. I don’t know when I’d have the time to get out more. And I love staying home. Going out with three tiny children is hard, and in this day and time, especially in an urban setting, a little dangerous. Also, it’s cheaper. So I’m home a lot. Consequently, I frequently find that I won’t be going to the store for a few more days or weeks, but I have a need or want at the moment. Maybe it’s a meal; maybe it’s a craft I want to make. Maybe I need a gift for someone, or a costume for my kids. Asking, “What do I have in my hand?” has saved me money—probably a lot of money.

Recently when I needed a baby gift, I raided my stash of fabric scraps, downloaded a free bib pattern from the internet, embellished it (OK, I bought 75 cents worth of embroidery floss), and had a gift in hand.

I’ve always thought that I wasn’t a very creative person, but I find that the more I have to be, the more I am. Necessity is the mother of invention, you know. I also get wonderful, inspiring ideas from other bloggers. They have no idea. Thanks to all of you who post beautiful pictures of your crafts.

Sara at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly is learning how to ask “What do I have in my hand?” in a big way (although I don’t think she uses that term). She and her family have joined Compact, a group of people who have committed to not buy anything new for one year, except for what her family needs to live, like food. She outlines it more on her blog. As I understand it, it’s not against the rules to shop for, say, a needed coat at Goodwill—you are just not supposed to buy anything new. One of Sara’s goals in this adventure is to pay off her student loans.

Imagine the money you would save if you didn’t buy anything new for one year. While I don’t see my family going to that extreme any time soon, I admire Compact members and their example inspires me to waste less and ask, “What do I have in my hand?” In this way, I can help my family and steward well God’s gifts to me.

Nontoxic Cleaner

I remember reading on Anna's blog that baking soda was good for cleaning stovetops. This interested me since I'm allergic to the scent in many cleaning products. Today as I was getting ready to scrub the stove (one of the things on my least fave jobs list) I remembered what she had said. I also remembered that I had some lemons in the freezer, and how acid and soda fizzed, sort of like scrubbin' bubbles. Hmmmmm...

Maybe this is old news to some, but to my surprise, lemon juice and soda cleaned my stovetop better than ANY cleaner I've ever used. The grime and burned-on food literally wiped away. I had to use some elbow grease on some of the worst places, and there are a few tiny spots that didn't come completely clean--but it's way cleaner than it's been before using regular cleaners.

So I'm tickled to hit 3 birds with one stone--this cleaner is cheap, effective, and doesn't give me a headache or panic attack. I'll be using it again!

Fruit Juice Sweetened Fruit Cake

One thing I really missed when I had to swear off sugar is my Grandma’s Christmas fruitcake. After a few years of doing without, I came up with this alternative, based on her original recipe. It’s basically a lot of dried fruit and nuts held together with a spicy, orangey batter. If you like fruit cake you’ll like this, and it’s a whole lot more healthful.

1 c. olive or other vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 cups white or whole wheat flour
1 ½ c. dried pineapple, chopped
1 ½ c. dried papaya, chopped
1 ½ c. dates, chopped
1 ½ c. raisins
3 c. broken pecans
1 t. baking powder
2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. allspice
1 t. cloves
1 1/4 c. thawed frozen orange juice concentrate

Heat oven to 275. Line 2 large loaf pans with lightly greased brown paper.

Combine oil and eggs. Beat well. In large bowl, combine 1 c. flour with fruit and nuts. Mix remaining flour with other dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients alternately with orange juice concentrate. Pour batter over fruit mixture. Blend well. Turn into prepared pans. Place pan of water on lower oven rack. Bake 2 1/2 -3 hours or till done. (Knife will never come out quite clean.)

Cool on wire racks. Seal in bags and let age in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks if desired.

Frankly, I think the aging in the original recipe has something to do with putting brandy on top, which I never do. I think it would be just fine un-aged if you don’t use liquor.

Also, you could probably use any combination of dried fruit you like. I'll probably add some dried apricots this year.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

'Cause I'm Sure You're Just Dying to Know

My favorite homemaking job: Vacumming. It's very relaxing. Next in line would be sweeping, and also cooking, when I'm not under time constraints.

Least favorite homemaking job: ironing (maybe wouldn't be so bad if I weren't so far behind), followed by washing dishes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

One of Those Weeks

So far it's been one of those weeks--and it's just Tuesday. It feels like it should be Friday, at least. Late nights, last-minute changes of plans (well, that was last week...good changes...but threw this week into chaos...), recalcitrant children, a very tired mama, a messy house, and laundry stacked to the ceiling. It always amazes me how quickly I get behind, just when I think I'm catching up.

Oh well. This too shall pass! Meanwhile I'll stay thankful that I have so many wonderful blessings, even when I feel overwhelmed! :)

Back to your regularly scheduled cheerful programming.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Accidents

Over the past couple months I've heard several people say, "I was an accident," in regards to their conception. One added, "That's what my mother has told me all my life." Seeing the brokenness, the despair, the lack of self-worth in the lives of one of these people in particular makes me wonder...Could this sense all one's life of being and "accident" contribute to such destructive behavior, such a devastated life?

No, I want to say. You aren't an accident. You were planned in the mind of God before you were conceived. You are precious. You are worthy.

I'm not a quiverfull diehard...However, it grieves me to see the surprise of an unexpected child viewed as an accident. Furthermore, that any child would be raised with the understanding that they were an unwelcome intruder into a carefully planned family--how sad.

I can't think of a good way to wrap this up, it's just something that's been on my mind lately. Let's welcome these precious little ones for what they are--blessings, eternal souls worthy of celebration.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Out and About

My sister has some good post-election thoughts up.

Rick Capezza tells about all the pro-life democrats who won.

TulipGirl is on hiatus...Or is she? I'm glad I kept checking every day, just in case!

Lindsey is doing a week of modest and feminine dress at her blog. So refreshing to have someone enjoy looking like a lady without being legalistic about it. (Today she's in track pants and a pink t-shirt.) Lindsey is adorable, and I love her girly outfits since I'm all about skirts myself.

Mrs. Cat has some great "waste not want not" tips up today. I've been working on not being so wasteful, so these were very timely for me.

Anna at Pleasant View Schoolhouse (a beautiful blog) has pointers for working with a beginning seamstress.

Mrs. Wilt has moved! Check out her new blog.

Yes, I admit it. I'm mostly reading homemaking and craft blogs right now. For those of you who enjoy something different, maybe the pendulum will swing one of these days soon.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where Have You Been All My Life?

One Hour Crafts

Mark Driscoll is Right

I don’t like conflict and I usually steer clear of controversy, but I can’t help but weigh in on the brouhaha that’s ensued over this statement by Mark Driscoll:

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.


I honestly can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s so controversial. Because it’s by a man? Does that automatically make him a male chauvinist pig? Because he suggests that a sloppy, frigid wife could leave her husband open to temptation? Good grief, hasn’t anyone read I Corinthians 7:1-5? What is so scandalous about this?

To say that Mark Driscoll is pointing the finger at Gayle Haggard (who seems to be a lovely and godly lady), or that he expects women to look like 20-year-old supermodels, or that he’s giving men a free pass, or advocating some kind of wild chandelier-swinging experience, or that skinny women are the only ones who wouldn’t be offended by this, or that he doesn’t think pastors/men should treat their lives with love—all are reading a whole lot into what Driscoll actually said. Am I really the only one that’s not offended, and in fact actually agrees with him? Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of marriages wrecked in part by the kind of carelessness and frigidity he describes. It’s foolish to say that a woman has no responsibility in keeping her husband satisfied so that he’s not tempted by the pretty little hussy who’s all too willing to meet his needs. Read Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. That kind of girl is out there, waiting for your man to show up with his defenses down.

Yes, husbands should be faithful in the worst of circumstances—even if their wives do “let themselves go” and kick them out of the bedroom. Husbands should love their wives no matter what, because we’ll all have times when we’re more attractive than others. I’m glad mine loves me when I’m 9 months pregnant, when I have rooster hair, morning breath, and no makeup, when I’m fatter or thinner, whether I’m too stoic or too emotional, and all through the Hades that was hypothyroidism. But this doesn’t let me off the hook of being all I can be for him--body and soul--and meeting his needs to the best of my ability. Trust me, I’m no Victoria Osteen, but I firmly believe that we wives, especially pastor's wives, should do the best we can with what we have, and make sure that our husbands are fulfilled.

Girls, we need to stop being so all-fired sensitive. Can we just take this statement at face value? Let’s keep our guys happy!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Affecting the Culture

Ransom Fellowship has been such a great help to me and enabled me to see my place in our culture in a fresh light. This article is no exception. A quote:



For nearly twenty-five years, evangelicals have been politically active. Large sums of money have been raised. Political PACs and think tanks have been formed. Elections have been won—even as far as the White House. Nonetheless, American cultural life has continued to decline over the same period. What was considered scandalous when aging Boomers were in college is now regular programming on family TV. We have not been effective in influencing culture.


This statement is in the next paragraph:

Cultural change requires changing minds and hearts. It cannot be forced.


The entire article is well worth reading. I don't agree with every statement, but the points give great food for thought.

Yummm...

Since I've been craving Reese's Peanut butter cups, it's no surprise that I'm drooling over this recipe. Oh. My.

On an opposite note...My sis has a great post up about how to eat healthfully even when you're far from a major health food outlet or coop.

And check out the great new blog Real Food Revolution for more inspiring ideas about why and how to eat well.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Frugal Friday: Bean Day

One thing my mom did growing up during lean times was to have beans once a week. Saturday was bean day. Now I do the same thing. I cook a big pot, usually on Mondays when we're recovering from the weekend, and then we have leftovers for lunch a couple days after that. It's cheap, it's good, and it's predictable. Plus, it's nice to have a day when I know that I can just put a pot on to simmer and I don't really have to cook!

Frugal Fridays hosted by Crystal

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Beta again?! Help!

Went to update to beta, only to find that the little update button is gone...Have a missed a window of opportunity? How do I update? Help! (Yes, I'm a technological ignoramous.)

Apparently I've been left behind. Oh well. One day.

Advent for Evangelicals

Lindsey has started a new blog, Advent for Evangelicals. Looks delicious, especially if you love this season! I'll be taking advantage of her wonderful resource this year. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ahem!

I finished a post that was in draft, and it showed up below the post I wrote yesterday. So scroll down if you want to read about aprons!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

I’ve been blogging for one year today. What a joy it’s been. I have to confess that although blogging is really the only thing I do for myself, I still sometimes feel guilty for the time I spend doing it. Yet I can’t think of many things I’d enjoy more. I’ve always loved to write, and a year’s worth of blog entries has yielded a host of starts for more serious work (I hope). I love the simplicity of a low-tech life (although I don’t really lead one), but I have to say that the internet, and especially the blogosphere, are two things I’m so grateful for. In today’s fractured culture, blogs have become a network that provides something like old-time community wells, where women met daily and shared their lives with each other. How fortunate I feel to be able to meet, via their blogs, women who love homemaking, crafting, wifing and mothering, homeschooling, and vintage goods as much as I do, and who can share their wisdom, ideas, and inspiration with me.

Blogging has been a wonderful way to keep in touch with friends and family too. In fact, I need to say Happy Birthday to Valerie, who first introduced me to blogging. So Happy Birthday, my friend! Thank you! (By the way, you’ll be getting a card in the mail soon…Late, I know, but it’s coming…)

Some goals for my blog this year:

Update to Beta.

Pictures. I still don’t think I’m comfortable posting pics of my kids, but if I can ever learn to use the digital camera, I want to post crafts, garage sale finds, home improvements, and projects. Blogs I read who post pictures of those things are so inspirational.

Develop a more specific focus for my blog. It feels sort of scattered to me.

Be more faithful to post family updates.

Post more regularly. It’s been more hit and miss than I’d like.

Read the book Blog.

Thanks so much to my little readership who makes it so much fun to put my words on the web. You’ve made this first year a delight.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Aprons

Lately I've become a fan of vintage aprons, largely due to their popularity among these adorable Suzy Homemaker/crafty bloggers who make them look so cute. In truth, I've always been an apron girl. My mom made me 5 aprons when I married, and I've worn them so much in the many hours I spend in the kitchen that I've begun to wear them out. Aprons are practical, and especially in the 50's, so very pretty.

A few weeks ago I found two vintage aprons at a garage sale for just 50 cents apiece. I almost passed one up because it had been stored improperly and had small mildew spots all over it, as well as a rust stain. However, it was in excellent condition, and once I washed and ironed it--well, it's perfect. It's reversible, pastel plaid (soft pinks and lavenders) on one side, and sheer pink on the other. It's beautifully sewn.

The second is a tea towel apron, quite worn from use, but still very pretty. Somehow its rather tattered appearance just contributes to its charm. I like to imagine the mother who wore it as she cooked for her family so many years ago. Maybe I'll get the hang of this picture thing and post pictures of my finds one of these days. In the meantime, Elizabeth is very fond of modeling my new aprons. She's even more girly and old-fashioned than I am, if that's possible.

Recently Turkey Feathers recommended The Apron Book, which does look delightful. I'd love to get my hands on a copy. I smell and obsession coming on...Hmmm...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Frugal Friday: Frugal Clothing

I'm re-running this post about frugal clothing from my single-income family series. Frugal Friday hosted by Biblical Womanhood

******************

This week my kids and I went shopping for clothes, since they seem to have sprouted up and nothing fits anymore. We ended up with probably 30 outfits among the three of them—overalls, dresses, pajamas, some lovely boutique outfits. And we didn’t spend a penny. You see, we went shopping in our stash of hand-me-downs, most of which I didn’t spend a penny on to start with.

I know a lot of people say it’s not worth it to hang onto clothes because they take up too much space, yada yada, but in our case keeping clothes has been a lifesaver. I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I have bought clothes for my kids, and even fewer times that I’ve payed full price.

Unless you have special clothing needs (like special dress clothes or work attire), with careful planning, I believe that a family of six should be able to outfit the troops for less than $500 per year. And I don’t mean that they should look like they came out of the rag bag.

Here are a few tips for saving money on clothing.

Pray

I learned this lesson one day when I almost absently breathed a sentence prayer, “God, Elizabeth sure needs some new shirts.” Actually I planned to go buy her some…But by the end of the day, someone had given us a big bag of hand-me-downs that included a bunch of shirts in Elizabeth’s size. Now when we have a clothing need I pray *first*!

Have Faith

Another time, when Elizabeth was a baby, we were on a trip to visit family and she had outgrown all but two of her outfits. I asked Billy if we could stop at Wal-Mart on the way and pick up some clothes. As we got closer to our planned stop, he said, “I just don’t have a peace about doing that.” I kind of inwardly rolled my eyes and thought, so what do you expect this child to wear? Well, when we got to my mom’s house—you guessed it—there was a big box of hand-me-down baby clothes from an old family friend. Guess God showed me!

Always Accept Hand-me-downs

Don’t be too proud to accept hand-me-downs. People ask me frequently, “Would you be offended if I offered you some hand-me-downs?” This question just blows my mind. I always say, “No way! We love hand-me-downs at our house!” I don’t feel obligated to keep them all. I sort through them, keep what’s appropriate (or what I like), store what they might grow into, and donate the rest to Goodwill, or pass them on to someone else who can use them.

Of course, you have to have at least a few friends and acquaintances in order for people to offer you clothing. This is one of the very practical reasons it’s beautiful to be part of a community of faith. God uses us to meet each others’ practical needs. And honestly, the hand-me-down clothes I’ve gotten are usually way nicer than what I’d be able to afford if I were buying clothes from the store. Sarah and Elizabeth frequently wear dresses and outfits that would cost $50 to $80 new, and in many cases I wonder if they’ve ever been worn before.

Shop Thrift and Consignment

You have to pick through things at thrift stores, and some stores are better than others, but you can find amazing deals there. Just be choosy. You can find up-to-date styles, brand names, and even clothes with tags still on. One of my brothers got an expensive navy blazer to wear to my wedding at Goodwill for 99 cents. I hear that you can really find good stuff if you shop thrift and consignment shops near upscale neighborhoods. I don’t thrift as much as I should, but it’s something I may do in the future.

Learn to Sew

Anyone can learn to sew simple clothing. Especially if you buy fabric on sale, you can make garments at very low cost. Wal-Mart usually has a dollar-a-yard table with pretty cotton prints. If you bought a couple yards and made a knee length cotton skirt (so nice and cool for summer), you’d have it for less than $3. Add an inexpensive or thrift store shirt and a pair of cheapo flip-flops, and you have a stylish everyday outfit for a little of nothing. Plus, by choosing styles carefully, you can imitate a much more expensive look.

Shop Clearance Racks

Learn to shop off-season. Soon summer clothes will be going on clearance. Wait till they hit rock bottom prices (late August, I’m guessing) and then buy pieces for next spring and summer. Same goes for winter clothes. It’s usually not too hard to guess what size a child will be the next year, so sometimes you can do this for kids too. I have a nice shirt I got on clearance for $3 about 6 years ago, that’s still one of my favorites.

Stick to a Classic Look

It gets expensive to buy trendy clothes only to have them looking dated by the next season. Make classic pieces the foundation of your wardrobe, and then add inexpensive trendy accessories if that’s the look you like. That way you aren’t out much on transient styles. Buy classic shoes in neutral shades that will go with everything.

Be Content

Be happy when someone gives you hand-me-downs even if they are not the exact styles you might have chosen. Don’t fall prey to the “must-have” mentality. Keep your wardrobe simple and let go of the clothing habit, if you have one. A small wardrobe is much easier to maintain anyway.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Works for Me: Cheap Gifts

I have a lot of people to shop for at Christmas, and quite a few to shop for throughout the year as well. One solution: dollar stores! I've found lovely gifts, comparable to what I'd buy somewhere else, for a fraction of the price. In fact, I found two gifts last week for only $3 each. At any other store I'd have payed around $10. So don't hesitate to check out the dollar store for wonderful gifts. Just remember to remove the tags!

Works for Me Wednesdays hosted by Rocks in My Dryer

Lessons in Hospitality

This week we went to visit friends we haven’t seen since Elizabeth was two. (She’s 5 now.) Although we were only able to stay for a few hours, we had such a refreshing time. Billy and I were talking about it when we came home and concluded that it is because our friends are so genuine. What you see is what you get. They didn’t apologize for the house or the food (as I’m always tempted to do when I have guests), they simply welcomed us and made us feel special by their delight in our company. When we left our hostess said, “Thank you so much for making time for us today.” They had loved, served, and gifted us, yet she expressed gratitude that we came to see them.

What a lesson. May I welcome my guests with as much joy and grace.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bread

Each of my brothers and sisters had a special talent or two (actually more, but…). When Leah canned fruits and vegetables, her jars never broke and every one sealed. Samuel is mechanical and good with his hands. Levi plays the guitar. Hannah makes jewelry.

Now I’m not quite as gifted as they are (I don’t think), but I do have a gift for making bread. When everyone else’s loaves were small and hard, mine were tall and light (umm, usually). I have no idea why. In the same way that Leah could turn out dozens of perfect jars of tomatoes or Samuel could put a enigne together, I had the touch for making good bread. For awhile, before I married, I made most of the bread for the family, six loaves on Saturday. It’s something I continue to enjoy. I hope that if you don’t make bread, you’ll be inspired to try it too. It’s such fun!

Bread making tips

Making bread is really quite simple. The only essential ingredients are wheat, water, and leavening. Something sweet to grow the yeast is good, and oil keeps it from being so dry. Salt gives flavor.

The process is more important than the ingredients. I measure my water, but beyond that I don’t measure anything when I make bread, especially flour. My first attempts at bread baking with measured flour were pretty bad. I forced the dough to take as much flour as the recipe called for, and it was too stiff, which resulted in dense, flat bread. You want to make sure your water is sufficiently warm to activate the yeast but not so hot that it kills it. And you want to make sure that you’ve added the amount of flour that makes your dough stiff enough to handle, but still soft and almost sticky. Don’t let it over-rise or it will be crumbly with a strong yeasty taste.

I used to make it all by hand in huge batches, but these days I’m busier and use a bread machine—but only to mix the dough. I also use my kitchen aid mixer.

Variations

I stick to a basic recipe and simply vary it as I choose. The possibilities are endless. Most often I just make a loaf , or a batch of crescent rolls. I make the rolls by rolling the dough into an oblong shape, cutting into triangles, and rolling the shapes up from the large end. Once in awhile I make cloverleaf rolls or a French loaf.

Sometimes I make raisin bread, sausage bread, or jalapeño bread. Again, I roll the dough out and spread it with my fillings of choice (cinnamon raisins and nuts, sausage or peppers and cheese, or whatever). Roll up from the short end and put in the greased pan. I usually slash the tops of these so that the filling is visible as the bread rises. It looks nice and it also doesn’t get mixed up with regular bread.

Sometimes I add things to the basic dough. My favorite is to mash up a leftover baked sweet potato and include it with the water. I have to add a little more flour to make up for the extra moisture, but it makes the bread fluffy and moist, and it doesn’t dry out like regular bread. You could also use any kind of cooked winter squash such as pumpkin (probably about half a cup for the following recipe), or you could use mashed potatoes. I’ve also added nuts or sesame or sunflower seeds for a bread with more texture. Several times I’ve included a small amount of rolled oats to the warm water, and then brushed the tops of the loaves with egg white beaten with water and sprinkled the top with oats. That makes a very pretty loaf.

I’ve been making bread since I was about 12, so that’s been 16 years. (Wow…) Practice makes perfect, and it’s something that brings me a lot of joy. My kids prefer my rolls to any store bought bread, and it’s so much better for them.

Basic recipe

Following is my basic recipe. This will make a 2 lb. loaf in a bread machine, a large loaf in a pan, a long French loaf, or 12-18 rolls.

1 ¾ c. warm water (almost hot to the touch)
1t. salt
1 T. honey
1 T. olive oil
1 T. dry yeast (I buy mine in bulk from Sam’s)
Around 4 2/3 c. whole wheat flour (to start with, sometimes more—enough to make a soft dough. I use Prairie Gold/white wheat flour for a lighter whole wheat bread.)

Mix salt, honey and oil into the water till salt and honey are dissolved. Sprinkle with yeast and mix. Let stand for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 minutes the mixture should look different--it should be pale and sort of fluffy as the yeast begins to work. You might even see little bubble explosions on the surface.

Add flour to make a soft dough. Knead by hand or in a bread machine or mixer with dough hook for 15 minutes. If you’re kneading by hand, sprinkle flour on the counter as needed to keep it from sticking too badly. Don’t add too much flour though.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Put in a warm place (like by the stove with a pot of beans cooking, my favorite) for about an hour. Dough should double in size. Punch down with your fist. Form into whatever shapes you want. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes (big loaves) or 20-25 minutes (rolls). Remove from pans right away. Enjoy the fruit of your labor! Wouldn’t this be yummy for Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Two Sides to Santa

The holidays will be here soon, and with Christmas comes Santa. (Well, Jesus, of course, but you know what I mean.)

I was raised with Santa Claus. I think I realized he wasn’t real when I was about six, and shortly afterward I put two and two together to deduce that if Santa wasn’t real then neither were the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. I never thought my parents had lied to me; rather, that it was just a game played for fun. And it was fun! Oh the suspense of waiting, listening for jingle bells and little hooves on the rooftop! We had a large stone fireplace, so it wasn’t hard to imagine Santa getting into our house by traditional means to leave all those beautiful presents under our tree.

It also never occurred to me to question whether my parents had told me the truth about Jesus either, as the argument goes. Not once.

So I don’t regret that I was raised with the Santa myth. Actually I love Santa. I not only like the story of St. Nicholas, but all the fun that comes with The Night Before Christmas and images of the jolly old elf himself. Some of my Christmas decorations have Santa themes. Santa doesn’t bother me a bit.

All that said, Billy and I agreed together not to tell our kids that Santa was real. We haven’t made a big deal about it one way or the other, we’ve never sat them down and said, “Now listen, kids, Santa is fake.” When it came up we’ve just said matter of factly, “Daddy is Santa.” We don’t have a problem with other families doing Santa, and remembering how much fun Santa was, we don’t want to ruin it for those children. So we try to help our kids not spread to the wind that Santa is a myth. We haven’t implied in any way, shape, form, or fashion that it’s wrong to participate in the traditional Santa game. We’ve just handled it in a low key way.

We’ve even wondered a time or two if we did the right thing, especially when we see the horror in the eyes of grown-ups when our kids say, “My mom is the tooth fairy,” or “My dad is Santa.” Maybe that’s one reason we haven’t dealt with it too extensively—because while we aren’t prepared to tell our kids something is true that isn’t we also have half hoped that they would believe on their own.

So I was totally taken by surprise when Elizabeth realized this week that some parents tell their children that Santa is real. Her eyes grew wide. With dismay in her voice she asked, “Why do parents tell their children something that isn’t true?!!!”

When I relayed the story to Billy, he said, “We did the right thing.” While I wasn’t the kind of kid who was bothered by this game of make-believe, we have a child whose faith in us would have been shaken. She’s the kind of intense, emotional, inquisitive soul who would feel lied to if we told her Santa was real and then she found out that he isn’t.

All-in-all, I think Santa has to be a personal decision for each individual family. If you’re comfortable with the Santa game, then I say go for it. But if you feel a little uneasy and decide against it, your kids won’t be warped. In fact, as in our case, it might save them a lot of confusion. So use charity and wisdom as you decide with your spouse what’s best for your family.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Home Birth in Louisiana

Kristin gives a heads-up to her Louisiana readers. The state board is set to put even more restrictions on home births in a state that already has a lot of restrictions.

I've never had a home birth, but my sister has had two. State restrictions are one factor that forced her to choose an unassisted home birth (it's illegal for a midwife to deliver at home in SD, where she lives). Due to their remote location and limited hospital access, in addition to their desire for a home birth, their options were limited. I'm strongly in favor of home birth, and especially because of my sister's experience this is close to my heart. Women should have the option to safely deliver their babies at home if they so choose.

More Yummy-ness

Clarice at Storybook Woods has a yummy-sounding recipe for orange-mustard pretzel crusted pork chops. I'll have to try it. I usually use shake-n-bake, but the same old thing gets old after awhile. I think Clarice is right, baked sweet potatoes would go perfectly with these.

Hot Chocolate Time

Ever since temperatures cooled earlier this week, my kids have been hounding me for hot chocolate. Everything in the store contained high fructose corn syrup (which I try to avoid) and most of the recipes I found called for Nestle Quik or coffee creamer. Finally I found this one, courtesy of Food Network, and adapted it slightly. Adapted version below.

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
2 t. cornstarch
Hot water

Mix well. Fill a mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Store the rest in an airtight container.

***Just noticed that the original also calls for salt, which I inadvertently left out. I also left out the cayenne pepper called for in the original, on purpose.***

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Worms at Work

I've always wanted to vermicompost. Talk about effortless. While I can't seem to get it together enough to start a worm bed, in California they apparently can...In offices. Sounds good to me. I wonder if Billy and his assistant would mind some worms hanging around the church so I can have compost...Ummm, I think I know the answer to that question!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On Independence and Independent Spirits

On her blog, Barbara Curtis kindly answers my question about chores for little ones. Here she provides a link on her web site for jobs appropriate for children, broken down by approximate age. I’ve been thinking for awhile that I need to stretch my children a bit more in their responsibilities, and this is probably the nudge I needed to make it happen.

In her article Full House, which she reposted today, Barbara states that one lesson parents should learn is to encourage self-reliance. I remember when I was a teenager, a young mother I knew stated that she was helping her 4-year-old learn to shower alone “because I want to help my children be independent.” I looked at her like she had four heads. Why in the world would a mother want her children to be independent?!!

I understand better now. At the time, I had been greatly influenced by a movement that feared what they called “an independent spirit” in their children. An independent spirit was to be avoided at all costs. The problem was, I discovered with time, that the term or even the principle of an independent spirit is nowhere to be found in scripture. What I learned about most parents who lived in terror that their child would develop an independent spirit is that they kept them close and somewhat helpless so that they could maintain control. This vaguely defined independent spirit manifested itself in children (usually young adults) who didn’t feel a need for their parents to manage every part of their lives, who might desire to live away from home, who had differing opinions and even convictions from their parents. In short, what was termed an independent spirit was usually a desire to grow up, to think for one’s self, and to have one’s own relationship with God. Fear, control, and manipulation turned these qualities of independence and responsibility something to be squashed. Looking back, it’s a scary teaching, one that has ruined a lot of lives, or at least contributed toward rebellion and broken family relationships. In trying to avoid an independent spirit (again, which is not even in the Bible), many parents have pushed their children away.

Do I think that young people should fly solo with no accountability? Of course not. The Bible shows beautifully again and again that we are created for family, for community, for togetherness. God places parents, pastors, mentors, and friends in our lives for guidance and counsel, and the Body of Christ should be characterized by love, mutual submission, and unity. But this kind of unity never means that we should all look like we were dumped from the same mold, or that one person should control all aspects of the life of another, or that differences in opinion and conviction should not be tolerated.

The nearest thing to this idea of an independent spirit that I find in the Bible is rebellion. Rebellion is wrong. Rebellion is acting against the will and counsel of God. Rebellion is pushing away reasonable boundaries and standards. But simply to desire one’s own home, to change a hairstyle, to ask for time alone, to live on a different schedule, to have a strong difference of belief on any peripheral issue (an aside: these peripheral issues are more varied than most of us would like to admit)—these things are not in and of themselves rebellion. Nor do they indicate an independent spirit. It’s simply part of the diversity grace allows us, even that God delights in.

Teaching my children to be independent has become almost a necessity. Sure, I could keep doing everything for them. But that’s all I’d have time for, and they would never learn to do anything for themselves. I understand that in time this will translate from physical responsibilities to spiritual independence as they learn to live in relationship with God on their own.

"Parenting," Barbara says, "is one job we should be working ourselves out of each day." Helping my children become independent will not give them “independent spirits,” I now know from the Word of God and from seasoned parents. Instead, it will help them become strong, responsible, capable people who can think for themselves and discover God’s will for their lives.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Garage Sale Goodness

For two weeks my 3-year-old, Silas, has asked for a shovel.

"Mama, I don't have a shubble. Can you get me a shubble?"

"Mama, I want to dig, but look, I don't have a shubble."

"Mama, please, please get me a shubble."

Friday morning he started in again. "Mama, me and sister don't have shubbles. We need shubbles. Will you please buy us some shubbles?"

I said, "I think you need to talk to Santa Claus about that."

"Who Santa Claus?" he asked.

"Who do you think?" I said.

He grinned. "My daddy."

A short time later Billy came in and said, "Let's hit some garage sales."

The first was around the corner from our house. An old man and his wife who have collected things for years. Heavy blue mason jars, champaign glasses, ancient rotten baby dolls, marbles, antique hammers, ax handles, handkerchiefs, vintage china, cast iron. And on the ground, two short shovels. Old and a little rusty. Tips worn from many hours of use. Thick sturdy handles, just the right length for little people.

"Mama, look, shubbles!"

The shovels came home with us, of course. Silas dug in the back yard all day. The next morning before breakfast he was at it again.

God cares about little things. He cares about lost sheep and small birds. He cares for 3-year-olds who dream of dirt and shovels.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

All Around the Blogosphere

Thought I'd share a few cool things I've seen in my varied readings in the bloggy world...

My sis and fave blogger is on an internet sabbatical for the month. Waaaahhhh...

But TallSkinnyKiwi is back! I was thinking with amusement the other day that it's a good thing TSK is a guy. If I named my blog "Tall Skinny American", as a woman...Well...Everyone would hate me. And it would be a lie. But a guy can categorize himself that way without causing offense. I find that funny.

SouleMama has an awesome fall scarf idea. She's so creative and prolific that I'm just amazed...Especially since she's the mama of three littles like me. How does she do it all???!!!

Mrs. Wilt has posted some great ideas for laundry room organization. I'm inspired. My laundry room is, um, a black hole. That's as far as I want my true confession to go. Maybe one day it will look like Mrs. Wilt's.

Ever wondered how to strike through text? I have. Mommy Dearest from Home Sweet Home tells how. Does it work? Let's see. Yes!!!

Works for Me: Diaper Rash Solution

Wow, I just checked Shannon's Works for Me Wednesdays, and before 7AM there are already 40 people participating. Did I say WOW?!

When my oldest was a baby she had fair, sensitive skin and frequently had severe diaper rash. Sometimes, no matter what I did, I couldn't get it to heal. She would scream in pain. I mentioned it to a friend at church, and she said, "I know what you need."

"What's that?" I asked.

She looked a little uncomfortable. "You won't like the name," she said. I guess I gave off a pretty prudish vibe at the time. "It's called Boudreaux's Butt Paste."

That night she sent over a tiny sample of the stuff, and the next morning my baby's stubborn rash was virtually gone. I was sold, and I've used Boudreaux's Butt Paste ever since, always with results far superior to any other diaper rash cream or product. It's so good, the name doesn't even make me cringe. I don't know if it's available nationwide, but I do know that it's sold in many states across the South. If you can't find it where you live, order some. You won't be sorry!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My Story: How I Met Jesus

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.


I was raised in a Christian home and knew from an early age about Jesus: that He was God’s son, God come to earth, that He died on the cross to take the punishment for my sins, that he was buried and rose again the third day, that He was in heaven now and I could have a relationship with Him. I knew the lingo, the songs, I had memorized the scriptures, I was steeped in Christianity.

When I was five, I heard my younger sister run down the hall shouting, “Mommy, Mommy, I just asked Jesus into my heart!” Not to be outdone, I quickly bowed my head, said flippantly, “Jesus-come-into-my-heart,” and then ran down the hall. “Mommy, Mommy, I just asked Jesus into my heart!”

I banked on that insincere, competitive prayer for a long time. It’s funny how we think, so often, that salvation comes from some kind of evangelical sacrament such as praying certain words or walking the aisle. I had asked Jesus into my heart so I must be OK. The thing was, I was a rebellious and miserable little girl. I was compliant and well-trained enough that I didn’t give my parents too much trouble, but I can’t describe in words how miserable, bitter, and angry I felt inside. I was the same competitive, selfish person I had been before I said my flippant little prayer.

When I was 12, some pressures came to bear in my life that caused me to jump from riding on the coat tails of my parents’ faith to a dependence on my own. The thing is, I found that I didn’t have any. As I said, I was miserable, and I knew somehow that things weren’t right between me and God. I didn’t know what it was. I thought I knew Jesus, but then from time to time I questioned it. During these times of question, I prayed over and over for forgiveness, just in case. After all, I believed. I did all the right stuff, more or less. I was a pretty good little girl. No one else doubted whether I really knew God or not. But I couldn’t shake this feeling of being pursued. At the time I felt pursued by doubt. Now I know that it was the Hound of Heaven chasing me down until I let Him catch me.

One night, laying in my bed, I had it. I said, “OK, God, I want to get this settled once and for all.” The thing was, I really meant it this time. I was really sorry for the bad stuff I’d done, for all that selfishness and bad attitudes. I really wanted Him to take it all away. I didn’t think “OK, I’m going to really get saved tonight,” although I knew that Christianese terminology. I just knew that I was finished, that I wanted God to have the reigns, that I was through with the torment. No one told me that I needed to do it. In fact, we weren’t even going to church at the time. It was just me and God.

My life completely changed after that. You might say, “You were only twelve, how could your life have changed that much?” All I can say is that I was there, and I know it did. I went from being rebellious and miserable to happy and peaceful. One of the most notable changes is that I wasn’t lazy any more. I remember vacuuming the floors one day with a happy attitude, and my dad asked, “What in the world happened to you?” At that moment, I didn’t know. Looking back, I realize that that summer I was twelve was when I really met Jesus. It wasn’t about how much I knew or how many prayers I prayed. It was that I told Him I just wanted Him to have my life and to take over. He did. I was a different kid.

It scares me sometimes to think of the road I might have gone down if I hadn’t given in to God that day. Could I have rejected Him? I suppose so—but I just can’t imagine that happening. He pursued me with a sweet love that can’t really be put into words. He chased me till I found Him. It’s been a friendship that rivals all others. Jesus loves me, this I know.

********

This is part of the Bloggy Tour of Testimonies, hosted by Created for His Glory. I prefer the term "story" to "testimony"--story is a term everyone can understand, regardless of religious or cultural background. And this tour has some good ones. Hop over to Created and read more.

Fruitful

Everywhere I look, it seems, I see fruitfulness. All my friends and online acquaintances are near my age, most married now. It seems that shortly following the wedding, a baby comes, even among those who didn’t exactly plan to begin childbearing so soon. (This has happened so consistently among our circle of acquaintance that Elizabeth now believes that the wedding itself actually results in a baby.) And as nearly as I can tell, they are all happy. Babies are everywhere. This is a sweet time, the midst of my mothering years, with friends and family bringing forth children near in age to mine. Our gatherings and conversations revolve around pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, nurturing.

Yet I know that this is only a slice of my life as a whole. I was not a mother for many more years than I’ve been one, and one day (not too soon I hope) my days as a mother of babies will be at an end. Then, too, I hope my life will be as fruitful, but in a different way.

Right now nights run into days, hours and weeks during which I rock, nurse, soothe, wipe tears and noses, teach and train, hug and kiss, hold and snuggle, change diapers, calm fears, rub tender baby gums, dress, protect, manage, love. There’s no time for anything else. This fruitful time of raising little ones takes all my time, and it’s good. But “mother” is only part of who I am, and I don’t find my identity in bearing children. I find it in Jesus, who will one day have another kind of good work for me to do. Right now I don’t know what it is. Right now today’s assignments keep me close to home in mind and body. Yet, while I dread the eventual end of baby days, I believe that fruitfulness does not stop when procreation does.

I know this is true because I am first and foremost God’s child, one surrendered to Him, and I believe that His plan extends to all stages of life. I also know this is true because I see it true in the lives of others. And with that knowledge, I look forward to the future with hope, faithfully following my orders now, and waiting for orders that will come then. Those Christians who are (or have been) still faithful and fruitful in their later years inspire me that I, too, will bear fruit for Jesus when I’m their age. I’ll leave a legacy, not only of flesh and blood, but of Spirit, as I surrender to whatever God wants me to do in the future.

Fruitfulness. I see it now in physical birth. Later, I know that although childbearing won’t be as immediately central to our discussions, my friends and I will have conversations about this other kind of fruitfulness: whatever good work God has given us. It will be sweet. It will be rich. It will be abundant. He has good work for us to do, and the results will be, I trust, a plentiful harvest.

In light of that, here are a few older Christians who have inspired me that fruitfulness extends to all ages.

Corrie ten Boom
Brother Andrew
Denis and Margie Haack
Homer and Ruby Owen
Nancy Campbell
Elisabeth Elliot

Friday, September 29, 2006

Blonde Moment

"Mama...Mama...Mama..." My 5-year-old's whisper slowly brought me up from the depths of sleep. What time I wasn't sure...Definitely past midnight, pitch dark.

"What, baby?"

"I'm going to the bathroom to get a drink. I just wanted to tell you so I wouldn't go in there and wake you up."

Bible Study Help

This quarter my Sunday school class has abandoned packaged Sunday school literature in favor of the study of Philippians. This information from Intervarsity has been a tremendous help in crafting an engaging study and helping us learn together.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On Not Posting

I hear that if you want to build or maintain blog readership you should post at least three times per week. Well, in that case, this week was a wash. I was out of town for a few days, and spent the rest of the week trying to catch up from our break. Sometimes the work generated by "vacation" rivals the supposed R&R. It was still fun though, and finally I'm back to "normal" status, which does not in any way equal "on top of things". And forgive all the quotation marks. I know it's very bad style, but I'm a bit rushed and not too coherent tonight.

Better posting soon! Don't go away!

Simplicity

My sis has a great post up about simplifying. Check it out.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Crafty Mama

I’m a busy mama. Once upon a time, before I got married and had babies I was also an avid crafter. One of the things I’ve missed most since becoming a mom is having time to craft.

For a long time I didn’t make anything. Then I decided that I’d simply have to adjust my expectations. I don’t expect to be as prolific as I used to be, nor do I expect to have the large blocks of craft time I used to have. I also enjoy the process rather than feeling discontent until I have the finished product in hand. But the most effective way I’ve found for a creative outlet on little time is just to choose very simple crafts. If I begin a knitting project that takes a lot of counting and concentration, I might as well forget it. Detailed sewing will probably never get started. Scrapbooking—well, I gave most of my scrapbook supplies away still in the package.

Here are a few ideas for simple, easy crafts for busy people like me.

One-hour skirts. Any simple a-line skirt can be cut and sewn in just a few small blocks of time. Embellish with a few buttons or embroidery to make it look like you went to a lot of effort!

Knitted rectangular shawl.
I started my “hurricane shawl” during Katrina, which coincided with our personal storm, Billy’s emergency surgery and consequent week-long hospital stay. It’s still not quite done, although a serious knitter could probably have finished it in a week or two. But it’s been therapeutic to make something beautiful with my hands during difficult days. I just got three big balls of chenille yarn, cast on 70 stitches with size 10’s (I think) and knitted in stockinette stitch strips of varying width. When it’s long enough and I bind off, it will be done. This has been a super easy and fulfilling project, and I’m looking forward to wrapping up in the shawl on chilly mornings.

Knitted scarves. Same idea as the shawl above. Just straight knitting till it’s as long as you like it. Fleece scarves are also easy and make great gifts.

Little girls’ purses. I knitted mine, but they could be sewn as well. Basically you just need a rectangular shape, fold in half, and sew up the sides. Tack on a length of ribbon for a handle, and add some kind of embellishment like bows or buttons. Voila! So easy. These are really cute made with fuzzy yarn.

Doll quilts. A few small squares, a bit of backing, and some scrap yarn to tie it off. This project takes no time, and little girls love it. I made doll pillows to match.

Simple cards. The possibilities are endless. I’ve made Christmas cards for the past two years. Year one was big angel stickers with hand lettering. It sounds cheesy but turned out really cute. I got a lot of compliments. I think neatness and color choices were the key.

Year two, I stamped a green paint triangle with an unused kitchen sponge cut to shape, and added a star on top with glitter glue. This was really fast since I set it up assembly line style.

This year I’m using black cardstock with silver stars cut from thin dollar store wrapping paper. A few geometric shapes in red, green, or blue, and a silver gel pen, and there you have it. I don’t worry about fancy edges or lots of layers and embellishments. Another easy note card idea is a plain card with a smaller bit of cardstock on the front in a contrasting or complimentary color. Rubber stamp a small image on the cardstock, or print a single word in lower-case letters, such as “love” “fun” or “happy”.

These cards are all a bit austere and understated, but classy, easy, cheap, and quick. Plus, everyone loves to receive a homemade card.

So let me encourage you that even if you are busy, you can take a few moments every now and then to be creative. It just takes a bit of thinking outside the box and using what you have in your hand. Crafty mamas of the world unite!