Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happenings Today...

My 15 yr old is seeing an orthodontist for the first time this morning. My oldest had braces and to tell you the truth, I'm not looking forward to this. :(  But he was born with a condition that makes orthodontia medically necessary so...here we go! 

Later, my 17 yr old son is teaching art class to a group of our homeschooling friend's kids. He does the class in the dining room while the moms and I get to visit in the adjacent family room so it is a nice chance for us moms to fellowship.  That's it for today. It is going to be a full one, so I'm off to start it!

Have a wonderful day in Christ!

This is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Football Today!

Our whole family is parked in front of the tube today to watch the most exciting football games of the year for our family, because we have lived in 3 out of the 4 states represented. (I've personally lived in all four!) 

Right now we're watching the Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots. After that, we're watching the Seattle Seahawks vs. San Fransisco 49ers. So exciting! :) 

And I'm not much of a football fan! ha. But my husband is and it is fun to watch these games with him. We are hoping that the winners today will be the Broncos and the Seahawks, who would then go head to head at the Super Bowl. Woohoo!! :)

Who are you rooting for?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dinner Tonight

Tonight's dinner will be ready around 5:30-6pm. Which is perfect since I just found out my husband will be home from work right around that time. 

There are some yummy aromas coming from the "Crockpot Cashew Chicken" I am making for dinner tonight. Googling the recipe will bring up several choices but they all seem to be the same. I used chicken thighs instead of breasts because that is what I had thawed.  :-)

The recipe calls for stirring in the cashews right at the end, but I just stirred them in early because I would like their flavor to incorporate into the dish. I'm going to serve it over rice with minced scallions and parmesan roasted green beans.

This is supposed to be similar to a dish on an Aisan menu so I can't wait to try it!

I'd love to hear what you're fixing for dinner tonight, if you care to share!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Big Manly Lunches

I am married to a wonderful man who loves home cooking. He has graciously and enthusiastically eaten every creation I have ever come up with from the beginning of our marriage 18 years ago.  In fact, if it hadn't been for his encouragement and enthusiasm, I don't know if I would have had the courage to keep up with my culinary pursuits. But I did and I've improved greatly. Ah, the love of a good man!! Subsequently, I've made my husband 99% of the lunches he's taken to work from the beginning, too. But it is always challenging to think up something different and new. In other words, not boring! :)

More often than not, it's been the typical american lunch: sandwich, veggie, fruit, chips, cookies. Sometimes I make him different kinds of wraps. Every so often I would fill a hot thermos with stew or soup. But not as often as I'd like.

Tomorrow my husband begins a big hotel remodel and he'll be commuting an hour each way. So tonight I prepared him his lunch and breakfast so he'll be all set for his early rise at 4:30am. He leaves at 5:30am and waiting for him in the fridge for breakfast are my famous Berry Cream muffins and a ham and cheese quiche.

For his lunch, I made him Waldorf chicken salad on a bun, dill pickle, and some chocolate chip cookies. For extra snacking, I packed him some extra quiche, extra muffin and some of the chicken salad on a bed of greens. He'll be a long ways from home and I want him to have more than enough food to tide him over till dinner.

How about you? Do you send your husband off to work with homemade food and if so, what are your favorite ideas? I would like to pack him some stupendous lunches in the coming weeks to look forward to each day and I'm looking for yummy ideas! I'm going to try to put in some little notes, too.

Meeting Homeschool Laws

Depending on which state you live in, you could be over-doing it when it comes to meeting the requirements of state homeschool laws.

For example, there are currently 10 states which haven't ANY laws regulating homeschoolers at all. They don't even require a letter of intent to homeschool at the beginning of the school year.  This is the way it should be in every state. The reason I believe that, is because children are given to parents by God. The government would like us to believe that they have authority over our children. But children belong to their parents and are in subjection to them alone by God's design and command.

As you think on that, let's glance at learning and education for a second. Education heavily influences who a person will turn out to be. That is why the government seeks full control in this area. Since homeschoolers aren't in public schools (government indoctrination centers) the only control the government can get comes by means of testing.

Many, MANY homeschoolers go the testing route. Is there anything wrong with tests? No, I don't have any gripes against tests. They can even be fun, when you're prepared for them.  What are game shows but grown up pop quizzes? It's fun to test your knowledge. The bad comes from taking a test when you don't have to just because govt asks you to. If you don't have to be tested, then why do it? It is like paying 20% sales tax when the law only mandates 8.4%.  Which is a bit nuts.

With that in mind, what is really at issue with annual testing? Why am I against it?  Because the government wants their nose in our homes and our homeschooling. So any child who's test scores don't measure up, has to be enrolled in public school.

So...what am I getting at?  Read the fine print in your state's homeschooling laws! The best place to do this is HSLDA. We have been members for years and I appreciate so much what they are doing for homeschoolers. They have a page that simplifies the laws in clear concise English and makes them easy to understand. They also provide forms to print out for those who need to register a letter of intent to their local school district.

We have lived and homeschooled in three different states and each one had an option for evaluations instead of testing. This is the option that most closely represents freedom. The person doing the evaluation is the next hurdle. Check them out before hiring them.  Do they believe that parents have total authority over their children. Or do they believe parents should we be monitored? Whose standards do they believe parents must held up to — God's or governments? 

The evaluator's beliefs will reflect how they assess your homeschool and your child. By the way, who do you think is really under the magnifying glass where homeschoolers and testing are concerned — parents or children? The parents. We are the ones running our homes and teaching our children. Governments are adamantly opposed to this because they are adamantly opposed to Jesus Christ. Anyway, that's one woman's opinion. :)

Here is the million dollar question: Should the government have any control over parents and their children? The answer is no and again NO.

This means that any teacher who's conducting homeschool evaluations needs to fall on ONE side of the fence. She either believes that the government has the right to stick their nose in  —  or they do not have that right. 

If the evaluator believes the government SHOULD be Big Brother to homeschoolers, then steer clear of that assessor/evaluator or else be ready to be scrutinized, interviewed, inspected, examined and thoroughly probed. They will require you to meet in person, bring your children, bring their "portfolios" and samples of their school work from the year.  This is what many people think is supposed to happen with evaluations/assessments.

But I'm here to tell you that is NOT SO.

Most states with homeschool regulations in the area of annual testing include options. Usually there is more than one option so you need to read them closely.  Remember this when you go to meet the requirements in your state for "testing" : IF IT DOESN'T STATE SOMETHING SPECIFICALLY, THEN IT IS NOT LAW.

In other words, if it doesn't state that evaluators/assessors must MEET with you and your children in person, then by law, you're not required to do so.  If it doesn't state that you must bring physical proof (papers, portfolios, tests, reports, essays, photos, etc) of your child's education, then by law, you're not required to do so. 

The reason for my position on this is that parents who do MORE than the homeschool law requires, are encouraging laws that don't exist.  Do the least required to retain the maximum freedom. If you like tests, then test your kids at home for your own or their own edification.  

Remember the other areas that the government would like to poke its long nose into. This is one area that homeschoolers have been giving them and it's time to take it back.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mirror, Mirror

That's what our children are: a mirror of us, the environment we provide, the patience we give, the love we share, the attitudes we carry.

My kids are getting older so when one of them (both mid to late teens) has an attitude problem, I first look at my own attitude. If my own attitude checks out OK, I then consider what the cause might be and pray for them. 

Teens have a lot hormones to deal with and need a measure of grace and patience. My boys are usually very gracious, obedient and loving.  But as a mother, my goal is to have their hearts. I want to demonstrate that their hearts are safe with me.

It's a process of continually building a loving relationship that starts when they are born. Love is not a sugar mama. Love is not trying to make them like you by giving them what they want. 

Love is seeking their good will even if it crosses their desires. When you come across a broken fence, seek to mend it quickly.  It begins with repentance on our part as parents. If our attitude is impatient, rude, or the least bit unloving, kids have amazing radar that picks up the slightest unjustness and they will mirror you.

I've made my share of mistakes and I've had bad days. And my life has been a process of learning to seek wisdom, understanding and knowledge. But praise God when we call out to him with soft hearts — repentant hearts— he is quick to forgive and faithful to mold us into the likeness of Christ.

If a believer is not bubbling with joy on any given day, something is wrong. A Christian's life is marked by joy. When your life is hid with Christ in God, and you have the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, your joy is indomitable. The knowledge that he paid it all is the reason I am joyful. 

Wife and mother - do you have joy?  Are you excited about what God is doing in your life?  If not, start praying and ask God to help you get your priorities straightened out.  Reading Titus 2 and Micah 6:8 are good places to start. 

A frog who lives his whole life trying to fly will always be disappointed. Get an understanding of the role that God designed you to fulfill and you will soar to new heights of joy and fulfillment in your life and your family will flourish under your care. 

Vows and Promises

As I read my Bible this morning, I came across a passage on the topic of making a promise or vow to God. After reading it, I am positively convinced that no one should ever vow to God. It effectually calls anyone making a vow to God a fool. And it is taken very seriously. Check it out:

Ecclesiastes 5:4-6

When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools:pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error:wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands.

The word "promise" is used in the King James Bible exactly 50 times and each time it's God doing the promising.  This got me to thinking, what is the essence of a promise?  Why do some people feel so compelled to make promises - whether to God or other people?  I think it is a clear indication/acknowledgement of the person's intent to "make" themselves do something that they find very difficult to do or to make up for some past failure.

They feel the need to make their intention "official" and that by promising/vowing/swearing it somehow that will force them to keep their word. These people are often lying to others and to themselves. God's word says to "let your nay be nay and your yea be yea."

The essence of a promise has one crucial element that makes it a foolish and impossible thing to endeavor upon: knowledge of the future.

Who is the only one with knowledge of the future?

That's right. Only God. We can biblically conclude that the only one who is capable of making a promise and keeping it, is God. And any person who makes a promise - especially to God - is being a fool and does not have complete understanding of the seriousness of what he/she does.

The good news is that blood-washed believers have an advocate with the Father in his Son, Jesus Christ.  Whenever we have done wrong, we can repent and asks forgiveness. Repentance, by the way, is a change of mind, direction and path, not just "feeling sorry".  Repentance is making a 180° turn around. So if a man were walking North heading for a cliff and then repented, he would turn around an walk south.

Our walk with God is lit by the Bible. Reading his words in the Bible is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What Kids Need

There is nothing that compares with the joy that a child can bring. My heart felt like it was bursting at the seams with the birth of each one of my children. Children don't bring a set of instructions, but God has written his laws on the hearts of men so that we know instinctively what to do with our babies.  

Today I want to share a little of what I have learned over the years concerning loving a child the way he/she needs to be loved. What kids need can be quite different from what a parent wants to give.

Everyone knows that in infancy, all babies need nourishment (mother's milk is best!), warmth, attention, enrichment, snuggling, sleep, etc. Every normal parent instinctively wants to provide their children with the best they can possibly give. 

One of the needs every child has (beyond food, shelter, clothing) is boundaries.

Children don't understand how needful boundaries are anymore than they understand how needful green veggies are. And they can react to them similarly sometimes. But in general when boundaries exist, their world feels safer and they instinctually love the enforcer of those boundaries. The sooner you start implementing boundaries, rules and limitations for a child, the better. An infant soon needs boundaries. 

Mothers must grow a thick skin in order to establish who is the boss - and it isn't the child. It doesn't matter what his age is.  If he's living under your roof, eating your food and enjoying your provisions, Mom and Dad are the boss.

It is simply a matter of deciding how you want your children to behave and knowing that your influence will determine whether you get sweet darlings or monstrous tyrants. Do you want your child to whine, beg, demand and scream?  No parent in their right mind does. But it's happening all around us. I can't go anywhere without hearing it.

I helped in a co-op of homeschoolers for 3 hours a week and one hour I help with preschoolers. I love preschoolers. I worked as a preschool teacher for 5 years before I was married and I know how the little darlings tick. And truly, they are so much fun! 

But the parents and the lead teacher in that co-op were all SO clueless when it came to giving these poor children what they needed. Boundaries. Firm, consistent, calm and loving boundaries.

I have written before about the modern mother's vicious cycle of questioning her children. So after being in a roomful of preschoolers and watching them interact with their mothers and a teacher (who is just another homeschooling mom) I've come to the realization that this problem is more like a terrible plague! How did it come to this? 

I suspect it started many years ago with latch-key children who lost their mothers to her 'career' and quickly learned to fend for themselves. They became experts at microwaving food, watching tv and imitating their peers. But what that generation produced was a bunch of women (and men) who know very, very little about parenting. And a functional home life.  And being a wife since, sadly, many of those mothers also ended up divorced.

But I'm very encouraged to see a whole new generation of women emerging who want to stay at home with their children and learn the domestic skills they were never taught and to raise their children the old fashioned way - with mom at home.  Sometimes I see a look in their eyes of quiet desperation as if to say, "How do I do this? Is it supposed to be this hard? My children are out of control!"

The answer is, no, it is not supposed to be that hard. The problem isn't out of control children - they are just a reflection of their parents and environment. The problem is out of control parents. 

Good parenting (and being a good wife) begins by looking into your own heart and pulling up every ugly, bitter root and throwing it out. Bitter roots start with a bitterness toward the Lord. Often from something bad that happened in your life and somewhere inside you are mad at him..

The bible says that God "scourges" every son whom he receives. This means when we're adopted into his family, he doesn't treat his 'real kids' any different than his adopted ones. In fact he's forgotten which is which. So when bad things happen, it tries us and tests us. Have you ever tried something? Sure, we all do. We wonder if the milk is spoiled so we test it by smelling it. We try a new gadget we bought to see if it works. If it doesn't, we send it back or get it repaired. 

Don't just say you believe in the LORD. The devils believe and tremble.  Do you obey him? 

Pray that God will keep your heart tender. 

We grow closer to the Lord in times of trouble. And when he is faithful during the storms of life, which he always is, we come out on the other side having experienced his goodness and faithfulness. Then when the next trial comes, we remember that the Lord is faithful and we're more patient in times of trouble. Troubles are really blessings in disguise.

Praying that the Lord will help you pull up every bitter root in your heart toward him is step one. Then while you're at it, let go of bitterness completely. For every other person in your life. Do a Bible word study on bitterness. 

When we have bitterness brewing in our hearts, we're not fooling anyone. They can "smell" it!  It is evident in facial expressions, reactions, body language,  So get rid of it and replace it with the Word. 

Reading the King James Bible has produced pronounced fruit in my life unlike any other Bible 'version'. I am continually amazed at how God works in my heart through his Word.

Giving children the needed boundaries is only affective if your heart is free of bitterness. 

If you listen to Dr. Phil or Oprah or psychologists, you are getting man's philosophies. God's word is sharper than any two edged sword. There is no soul that his skillful surgeon's hand cannot fix. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.  A true believer can smile and be cheerful knowing that the Lord is working things for good to them that love him and are called according to his purposes.

Speak to your children with kindness. Show appreciation when it's genuine. 

There should be a calm air of expectancy that they will mind you. Don't give them what they whine for, beg for, fuss or fight for. Doing so only reinforces the ugly behavior. Kids have tremendous self preservation instincts that kick in when their best interest is at stake. They'll catch on quickly. This is the key to gaining their obedience. But you must also gain their respect.

The wise mother will not turn everything her child does - good or bad - into a stage production. As women, we are more emotional and our tendency is to dramatize. Resist it. Giving a child an unwarranted attention one way or another can cause their self importance to swell to unwieldily heights. Not good! Kids must know they are loved and important but they must learn that life is about serving and giving to others. Their focus must be constantly pointed toward the needs of others.  Beginning in your own home and then spilling over onto others.

Teach them young what Christ Jesus said - that in order to find your life, you must lose it, for the Lord's sake.

There's so much more I could say but I am trying to write a post not a book! :)  I'll just sum up. Children want and need your love -  and your love is communicated by loving them enough to give them boundaries, rules and limitations.  

They will need to live within societal boundaries all of their lives and training them when they're young to accept and be thankful for the home that your husband provides for you all is where it all starts.  Give them boundaries, exhibit genuine thankfulness, peace and joy and they will mimic you. 

Does it sound like I've just encouraged you to do the impossible? Ask the Lord to make the needed accommodations. He is able as long as you are willing.  And yes, it is a miracle. When we abide in the Lord, trust him and seek him, he comes in and sups with us and miraculous things happen. He knows who trusts in him. He really does. And he changes us from the inside out.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Warm Memories

In order to live a successful life, you have to live it. 

Sounds simple enough. But over the last century, and especially the last decade, media (television, cell phones, internet, blogging, social media sites, texting, email, iPods, kindles) has gone from the back seat to front and center. They are the new normal and they constitute much of the activities the average person spends time on. 

The problem is not with the usefulness or relevance of these devices or the services they provide, (as a homeschooling family, we sometimes use the internet for educational purposes) but in how much time away from real "living" any one of these can steal. 

If I'm not careful, I can spend hours reading online because there are so many interesting places to "visit". Pinterest is amazing. I love to read about homemaking, looking up recipes, decorating ideas, etc.  But I have to be careful or else I'll wind up spending too much time. 

Thankfully, I don't do any social media (never have) because I have seen how addicting people say it is. Plus there is the security issue. But mostly, I knew if I did it, I'd be too tempted to check it all the time.  For what? So I can tell hundreds of people I hardly know what I'm doing at the moment?  It's not for me. 

I've begun to wonder...what will life be like for people who are heavy social media users are in their twilight years? To quote a classic movie, "Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories." So much of their time will be "virtual" rather than real. Will their "warm memories" consist of "likes" on Facebook? Or spending countless hours contriving photo posts for Pinterest?

Maybe I am old fashioned, but that is not what I call living. So to combat the strong pulling undertow of that trend, I am changing the tide and making larger deposits in my "warm memory bank".  I want to encourage you to do the same. 

This year, I want to limit and track my time on television and the computer to a preset number of hours. Maybe five to ten per week, I'm not sure. And the other is to get outside more. 

As a full time homemaker and homeschooler especially during the cold season, I am, by necessity, indoors a lot. Laundry, cooking and housework are all indoor activities so my challenge will be to be better organized in those areas to free up time for more walks, more sunrises and more sunsets. More picnics, bike rides and frisbee games. More exploring nature and taking hikes. More playing guitar and singing songs on a blanket in the grass with my kids. More enjoying God's wonderful creation. More enjoying the life he gave me. 

What about you?  Are you storing up your warm memories? 

Here's a question for the brave: how much time do you actually spend on social media or devices in a 7 day period?  There are two possible answers to that question - one is how much time you think you spend, and the other is how much time you actually spend. 

I'm going to challenge myself to keep a ledger of media time and you're invited to join me. Starting Monday, January 13th, log the time spent on computers, texting, social media and TV. Next to the time, jot down a small note by each entry on what it was used for 
 (reading the news, texting a friend, blogging, surfing, homeschooling, streaming, etc). 

A sample log might look like this:

1/27/14 - Start: 2:17pm (computer, blogging) End: 3:05pm
1/28/14 - Start: 6:45am (email, Facebook) End: 7:17am

Maybe the "busy" lives most people complain about wouldn't be nearly as busy if they took control over the time they spend on things not so important. 

It's a new year for new beginnings. Beginning with today. Make it good one! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

In The Mood...For Organizing!

The New Year always invigorates me to simplify, organize and cleanse my home of unneeded stuff. For me, I have learned to wait until I am in the mood for this because going through old belongings is riddled with emotion. And if I'm not in a no-nonsense mood, I will be far, far too sentimental when going through all of our stuff. 

For me, I have to put myself in the organizing mood - it doesn't happen on its own. In order to get in the organizing mood, I begin thinking about what I want to accomplish a month or two in advance.  I especially consider what season we are currently in and what kinds of things we can let go of.  

When we were still having children, I hung on to certain things like baby clothes, toys, furniture, etc. At one point, I even planned on saving our first son's crib for passing on to our grandchildren. But after lending it to my sister who needed it (and subsequently ruined it) I was resigned to let it go. 

Besides, most new parents want to pick out their own stuff anyway.  It was a relief to realize how silly it would be to hold on to a bulky old crib for decades for the very slim chance that it might be passed down as an heirloom. Better is the "baby box" full of worthy keepsakes I've saved for each of my children over the years. 

On January 2nd, I carefully packed up our Christmas decorations and I was displeased with how long it gook to put it all away. I got rid of what I didn't like, use or want anymore and was happy with keeping only what we really liked.  

Next, I went through everything in our basement with a fine tooth comb. Opened every box or plastic tub and took everything out. I started piles of keep, donate and trash and went to work. It took all day even with my boys help! I vowed to never let this much stuff accumulate again.  

I organized the basement last year around this time, but I wasn't nearly as ruthless. Instead, I found more boxes. :)  This time, I freed up a dozen or more boxes and created about 400 square feet of stuff that is going OUT at the soonest opportunity.  

It was a mental lift that is still going. I have been going through the stuff in bookcases and cupboards around the house, too and finding a lot of stuff that we've managed to collect up here, too.  And getting rid of all that stuff gives me the same revitalizing feeling as I would have if I'd have lost 25 pounds! ha.  I love seeing all the space that purging unneeded stuff has created. Space for living! It's wonderful.

At first, I was going to just haul it all away to the Good Will. But after seeing all that is in my "get rid of pile" I think we could make a few hundred bucks if we had a garage sale.  The down side is that if we're to have a successful sale, it must all be organized and advertised. Some things I want to sell on craigslist because it's too nice to be nickel and dimed over at a garage sale. 

We also brought our treadmill out to the family room and gave the room that was the office to our older son. So now the boys have their own rooms! They are having so much fun spreading out their stuff and making the rooms their own.  And I am loving having the treadmill out in the open where I can hop on it more often.  

I also started Plexus Slim a few days after Christmas and I have been feeling so great.  I have lost at least a couple of pounds but I am feeling super energized, too, which has been a boon for all my organizing. 

My vision for 2014 is to live simply, pare down and enjoy more of life with less weighing me down. Literally and figuratively!  :)

Happy New Year!!