Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing...True to Your Word, You let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction...You serve me a six-course dinner...You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life. --From Psalm 23, The Message

Monday, November 16, 2009

Responding to World Religions

As you encounter other world religions, I thought that this site might offer you some specific, well-articulated responses from a Christian vantage point.

The insights into Islam were helpful to me!

http://www.lightshinesindarkness.com

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quote (that I stole from Ross and Taya)

“Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes...” -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A few gift ideas for the one who has everything

1) Purchase a few great-smelling potted herbs (rosemary and basil are a great start!), and replant them in a basket for an instant herb garden. Cover the soil with some craft moss for extra polish.
2) Send them a fresh evergreen wreath for the season (I like jillstwigwreaths.com).
3) Consider a personalized embosser for readers who loan out their books, or people who make their own stationery--just press it into a plain piece of paper or envelope. A personalized stamp is good for the cook who loves to give out her recipes. Expressionery.com often has 40% discounts.
4) Give a free date night or free babysitting. (Give ME housecleaning! Ha, ha!) Or as my mom did, give a puzzle, a Starbucks coupon, and a coupon for free babysitting--a date in a box!
5) Give a memory and an experience: Invite them out to a nice dinner you'll pay for, or for kids, give them a season pass to the zoo, tickets to a play, train tickets...the sky is the limit!
6) Give a coupon book. Since I'm bad at asking for things I need, my husband gave me coupon vouchers for a run to Starbucks, a girls' night out, a massage--all with an expiration date so I was motivated to use them!
7) Give to someone else. Worldvision.com has a catalog to give everything from a goat to fresh drinking water to job education for women, and you can give the gifts on behalf of someone else!
8) For the person overseas, send them an herb garden in an envelope--packets of seeds tied with a ribbon.
9) Give for a year--in a magazine subscription (Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Fine Cooking, Fine Homebuilding--it can be quite personalized!).
10) Give handiwork. Calligraphy, collages of your kids, great framed photographs of family members, lavender bath salts (kosher salt + lavender oil in an old Bell jar), homemade greeting cards...
11) Give a CD of songs that celebrates your relationship. (Pay for the songs.)
12) Give a kit to do something: a home spa kit; natural cleansers (I've done one post on these) in a caddy with microfiber cloths, etc.; a kit of things, with tickets, to enjoy stuff in their area (peanuts for a baseball game with a hat, etc.); a gardening starter kit; soda, microwave popcorn, and a DVD for a movie night; a mixing bowl, spoon, some spices, and a couple of favorite recipes; a pedicure kit.

Monday, November 9, 2009

DIY Baby Food 101

This is for all you new moms out there. I'm not a nurse or dietician, so feel free to prove me horribly wrong. :)

It's a ton cheaper to make your own, so hopefully this can help make it doable for you.

A few general principles (if you already know this stuff, I’m totally not trying to be condescending!):
· Baby food is basically a soft fruit or veggie, or a cooked hard one, pureed with a little water in a blender or food processor (a few are soft enough, like bananas, to just mash up in a food chopper).
· Don’t cook if you don’t need to; that takes away nutrients. Save the water you cook it in to add to the blender, to keep some of the vitamins.
· Don’t feel like you need to add salt or butter (and definitely not honey, since they can’t have that till 1). Just like for toddlers, you’re training them how to eat for life, and they’re not used to having the taste of that stuff anyway, so they don’t really need it. But I don’t think it’s horrible for them if you just use the leftover veggies from your own dinner.
· To preserve it, just pour the blender contents into ice cube trays, then save the frozen cubes in labeled Ziplocs. Three cubes are thawed in about 45 seconds in my microwave; our six-month-old has two to three cubes per meal right now.
· If it’s a thinner consistency when you pull it out of the fridge or thaw it, just add a little cereal.
· Rice cereal makes it go further (i.e. makes it cheaper), is more filling, and adds some vitamins. Soon, graduate to whole grains so that he starts to like the taste of whole grain stuff (much healthier).
· You can eventually combine a few together, like bananas and strawberries or pears, or the mixed frozen veggies. But at first you want to serve them something solo for a day or so to isolate any allergies he might have.
· For ideas, look at the baby food aisle in the store (they have ingredients on the back if the name of the food isn’t clear about what’s in it).
· You can eventually try some more exotic stuff: mangoes, avocadoes, etc. A little more expensive, but if teaching your little guy/lady variety is important to you, it may be worth the extra cost.
· I tend to think that frozen vegetables are less processed, less salt, and generally healthier. But our pediatrician advised that we could use canned fruit as long as it was preserved in juice, not syrup.
· Around eight months you can add meat to the blend (I just used what we had for dinner if it wasn’t to seasoned or spicy! I want them to be able to transition to table food without too much trouble), but if you’re feeling more cautious, you can always cook a chicken breast and throw it in there. Spaghetti works fine too.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Educational ideas!

I have only tried about half of these (many of these we're not ready for yet!), but some of them were too good not to pass on to someone!

1) Take a vinyl shower curtain and draw a big calculator on it. Let the kids jump around on it to practice their math facts. We may try this out with sidewalk chalk on our porch before I invest in the $5 curtain...

2) Check out this idea. Thought it looked really cool as a fun project to make; a geodesic dome out of rolled newspapers (no, I do not know what geodesic means. Maybe I should ask my kindergartener). http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/geodesic-dome-785150/There’s a video on it, too, at http://familyfun.go.com/.

3) A guessing game: Hold a handful of change behind your back and reveal both the number of coins and the total sum: “I’ve got six coins that equal $.54.”

4) Let them “order” an food from a restaurant’s menu (find them online) with a fictional amount of money. Or take it a step further, with philanthropy: Look at World Vision or Heifer’s online giving catalogs, give them an amount of money to spend, and see how different groups of kids would choose to designate their money to give away! Could be some of their first introductions to kids who are poorer than themselves, the idea of giving charitably, and the idea that if we give to certain projects, those projects keep giving—like a cow to a family who has to give its calf to another needy family.

5) Halloween candy science: soak various candies In water and heat them to see how they’re affected by moisture and temperature: http://www.candyexperiments.com/. Can also make bar graphs and use other methods to record observations.

6) Try http://www.funbrain.com/ and http://www.mathplayground.com/ for some math and language games.

7) Have you ever heard of the game Equate? http://www.amazon.com/Equate-The-Equation-Thinking-Game/dp/B00004U1RA It's an equation-building game that's a lot like Scrabble for numbers. Looks cool.

8) Roll dice, and have the kids get coins equivalent to what they’ve rolled (Put 4 quarters, 3 dimes, 2 nickels, and five pennies per person in the middle). As players amass money, they must trade in smaller coins for bigger ones. Race to $1. Once they get good, add a rule that says players lose a nickel for a missed trading-up opportunity. We play a simpler version: get the coins equivalent to what you've rolled; keep score by writing on your "writing to 100" placemat. Builds skills in counting money, adding numbers on dice, adding two-column numbers, and writing numbers.

9) Have them pick a place in your state or the U.S. they want to go, and research a) what roads to take to get there, b) things to do when they get there, c) a place to stop and see along the way, etc.

10) Label the bottoms of plastic Easter eggs with the parts of speech, then label the tops with words that apply. (It's harder than it looks to think of words that aren't both nouns and verbs!) Student matches the bottoms with the correct tops.

11) Label popsicle sticks with the names of a geometric shape: 4 sticks in one color that say "square", 3 in another color that say "triangle", etc.; work up to dodecagon! Have them make the correct shape. For preliterate kids, just put dots on the end (three popsicle sticks with purple dots on both ends, for example, could be put together to make a triangle).

12) We like to practice math facts with the addition version of this: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=math+gear+fast+facts. I actually alternate between these and Brain Quest questions, and my son can build up to certain rewards.

13) I have him go "shopping" by labeling your pantry goods with "prices". We work on counting money and addition. Not there yet with subtraction!

14) Here's a couple that posted on MomBlog.

I actually found most of these in Family Fun magazines someone gave me; $10 for a year’s subscription. I think I might end up subscribing just for the educational ideas!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Family Pics

Family pictures (after which I took these) were actually fun last night! I know it had something to do with Guitar Hero and cupcake decorating afterward... Guitar Hero confirmed my sneaking suspicion that, at my core, that I'm not really that cool. I am okay with that. I think.



































bride-to-be








My sister Jenn's mother-in-law, from England

groom-to-be

Yes, I see this face frequently.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

After a delay: new pics!























Classic dress-up picture!


The oldest was learning to count money this week, so I put pricetags on our pantry stuff and they went "shopping."






Baden's first picture of me.

Loves to spray anything. To death. A couple of days ago I wondered if he drew all over the wall, the door, and the washer and dryer with pencil so that I'd make him wash it all off.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Great reminder for me

"A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable. Is it not the hypocrisy that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees?...Yet this is what we often do in childrearing. We demand changed behavior and never address the heart that drives the behavior." (Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child's Heart, 1995).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What moms can give

I have occasionally been troubled by Jesus' words about the "widow's mite". Here's the story, so you know what I'm talking about:

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)



Now, those of you who know me also likely know I am notoriously penny-pinching to the point of being ridiculous, and much of it is driven by my theology: I don't think that being wasteful is wise or loving. I think that dollars are important because they're used for kingdom stuff (by the way, I think that includes things like feeding my kids!). And I also believe that wealth can be as toxic as it can be good.

So God's been working on me these last few years on simply being GENEROUS. Being filled with faith, that is, rather than fear and selfishness or even my own occasionally idolatrous competitions with myself about money I'm saving--idolatrous, that is, in that money can become more important to me than loving people well--getting them good gifts, for example, or not using (gulp) expired food, or spending time looking for a deal that I could be spending on something more eternal.

Mind you, I am still a frugality nut. But God continues to teach me that this need to conserve runs deeply in my personality, and though it is good, can be a serious weakness. The Word talks about what sacrificial giving looks like pretty extensively. And God's teaching me that not only with my money, but also with my time, my energy, and other resources He gives--very richly, I might add--I can still sow generously.

But I digress! The other night, I was pooped beyond pooped. But my husband had been struggling with something, and when I saw him, I knew what would be emotionally and physically healing for him: A massage, however amateurish mine might be. Grant it, I tend to overextend myself. But in this moment, I believe the Holy Spirit brought the story of the widow's mite to mind, which I'd been reading to my kids the night before in a bedtime story. The message I got: I can give my mite, too.

When I am completely, utterly out of resources as a mom...which is a lot...God, I believe, sees the mites that I give. And in that, I can love Him lavishly. I can love other people lavishly.



P.S. I was right about the massage.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Will saves the day

I came up into the kitchen tonight and everything smelled like Shout. Will had been sitting on the washer in the laundry room watching his brother race on the Cars website. When I came in, Will had the spray bottle in hand; everything in the pantry was drenched with stain remover. “It was on fire!!” he explains. Ah. Imaginary fire. Good thing we had the Shout handy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't you mean "AWANA"?

Mommy: Will, are you excited for AWANA tonight?!

Will: YAAAAAY! I love Iguana!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Educational websites

In celebration of the new school year, thought I'd share some of our favorites! Baden loves anything on the computer (I think we've bought Reader Rabbit in every version), so we've found a lot of good stuff.

http://www.nationalgeographickids.com/
The animal videos, maps, and facts are great. Note: Some of the videos mention a species evolving--a good conversation starter for us.

http://www.betweenthelions.com/
Great for early reading skills and other reasoning skills.

http://www.caillou.com/
Not as specifically educational, but has some great outlets for creativity (make your own house, choosing your style, windows, furniture, etc.) and problem-solving.

http://www.filefolderheaven.com/
www.filefolderfun.com
I Google "free file folder games" frequently and now have a host of great file folder games Baden loves. The printing and cutting out can be laborious, but is really rewarding.

http://www.eduplace.com/kids/mw/
Houghton Mifflin's math games that are an extension of their curriculum.

www.bbc.com/science
We like the organs game, the space jigsaw puzzle, and some others.

http://www.starfall.com/
Wonderful for a whole spectrum of reading skills, an online calendar time, and other games.

http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/clf/index.htm
Organized by subject, this wheel has games for everything from Spanish to science.

http://www.sesamestreet.org/
So many fun games for toddlers thru kindergarten, teaching health skills, singing songs, reading skills, sorting, you name it.

www.nickjr.com/playtime
Preschoolers love it: Learning with Dora, Diego, and other characters they see, well, everywhere.

www.wordworld.com
Based off the brilliant PBS show, this has some innovative early reading activities.

I'm sure I'll be adding more soon, so check back when my memory (or my Google toolbar) is fully functioning.

Pics from the boys' trip to Houston

It's an annual trip now--to Grandma and Grandpa's in Houston! This year Will got to come with Baden and Dad. These are the grandparents' faves. More to come!





















The Breakthrough

This morning, Baden asked, "Can we do some school before Robyn picks me up for Comm. Central [his one-day-a-week co-op that he loves]?"! Yes, Baden! Yes, we can!

He likes it! YAY!

Monday, August 3, 2009

First day of school!

John took Baden to Comm. Central today, a classical education co-op. He’ll go all day Monday and I’ll teach him the rest of the week (our Plan B after not selling the house…but trusting it’s God’s plan A). We’ve been busy over here trying to make it even more fun than public school. So here’s a pic of him, his dad, and his NASA backpack!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I forget

As I was reminded this week in church, I forget to pray and to advocate the unborn. Who knows what our world would be like 30 million lives later: Would we have a cure for cancer, or aids? Strategies for world hunger...or national healthcare?

Thought this short clip was worth watching from John Piper.

The latest installment...
















Thursday, July 23, 2009

Great Piper article: Birth control

Thought some of you would find this interesting! I thought it was pretty well stated.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More pics!

Washing the dishes that were thrown into the hamper and covered with clothes that were the victim of potty training.









Jack's introduction to hazing.

Our handsome little man!


This is classic. I'm dragging this out at rehearsal dinners.




A recent surge of girlness! It's great!

Well, not ALL girlness.


Mastering the art of the fake smile.