Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In The Mood for Ginger...

I love gingerbread cookies.... I didn't use to, but after finding this recipe from Our Best Bites I am addicted! In my mind, this is a seasonal cookie... so I generally only make them during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.  Since we have radically changed the ingredients we cook with during the past year, I was excited to alter the recipe and give it a shot using "healthier" ingredients.  The result????  AMAZING! And even better than the original recipe!!!!

While I am completely in the "ginger" mode, I thought that gingerbread granola sounded fun and yummy... so I thought I'd give it a try last night. However, I was planning on using my "normal" granola recipe as the backbone for gingerbread granola and I couldn't find a recipe that was similar. I didn't look too hard, (so I'm not saying that there wasn't a comparable one out there) but I went ahead and made up my own concoction. It also turned out to be amazing!!!  The recipe below shows what I did originally, but next time I will probably just do 2 cups of honey and 1 whole cup of molasses.

So in case you might be in the mood for some gingerbread recipes.... here is what I did:
Gingerbread granola... it might last us a couple of days...

Homemade yogurt with gingerbread granola and Ginger spice cookies!

Ginger Spice Cookies - (adapted from Our Best Bites)
3/4 C real butter or palm oil shortening
1 C sucanat (plus extra for rolling the cookies in)
1 large egg
1/4 C molasses
2 C fresh milled whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 Combine butter and sucanat and cream until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the egg and the molasses and beat until well mixed. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls by hand and roll in sugar.(The kids love this part).
Place on cookie sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until just set around the edges and you start to see “crackling” on the top.
Don’t overbake! They will be soft and chewy in the middle!!!!
Yield: about 4 dozen

Gingerbread Granola -
Keep in mind that we have lots of hungry kids at our house... so the following recipe is actually tripled. If you're family is not as hungry as we are, you can adjust it accordingly... :) Preheat oven to 300 degrees and place baking rack in TOP position.

12 cups rolled oats
3 cups unsweetened coconut
3 cups dried cranberries
3 cups dried apples (optional... I added some that I had dehydrated this summer because I thought  
                                they would add a nice touch...)
2-3 cups mixed nuts of your liking... (I threw in some organic trail mix I had on hand)
3 t ground ginger
1 t cloves
1/2 cup flax (optional)
3 t cinnamon

Mix above ingredients together in a large bowl.

In a saucepan melt together:
3 cups coconut oil
2 1/4 cups honey
1/2 cup molasses

Pour oil/honey/molasses mixture over dry ingredients and mix well. Dump granola onto a PARCHMENT lined pan. Spread out evenly and bake at 300 for 20 minutes. Stir after 20 minutes and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool before storing in an airtight container. You can eat it dry, with milk, with yogurt, or make it into granola bars!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our Family's Favorite Gifts....

I am much later in getting this written than I intended to be.... good grief, most people have their Christmas shopping done already... but better late than never, right? Over the years and especially as we have added more arrows into our quiver, it seems like choosing gifts becomes harder. Why? Because we don't necessarily need anything (especially more toys). And the things we want we probably already have. But we have discovered different items over the years that are durable, maintain the kids' interest over time, are educational, and are just plain fun! Here are some of our family's favorites....

MAGNATILES - We LOVE these toys! They come in solid or translucent colors and in packs of 32, 48, or 100. They are great for kids of any age and the sky is the limit on what you can build with them. We have 2 sets of 100 tiles that our kids all play with. We prefer the translucent tiles that you can see through. The kids have built parking garages, castles, corrals, roads, boxes, etc....  After the structure is built, then the kids pull out their horses, cars, or whatever other toy they can come up with to play in the magna-tile building.  As I linked up to the product page on Amazon, I did notice that the price has really increased since we bought our last set 2 years ago. I did always tend to get a better price on ebay than on Amazon, so shop around. The last time I bought a set of 100, I gave 4 of my kids each 25 pieces to unwrap for Christmas... No, they didn't fight over whose piece was whose... and ultimately, they are all stored in the same box.... but they all did have their own gift to unwrap. These are very durable, they don't take up much room when they are stored, and even the little ones can build with them.

Balance Bikes - These are amazing! My mom bought my 2 and 4 year old each one of these for their birthdays (a 12 and 16inch size)... and seeing my 4 year old now riding a pedal bike without training wheels... I am sold on these things!  In the past, my kids have had training wheels and when they were 5ish, we took off the training wheels and many hours, tears, pushes, coaching, and frustrations later... they finally figured out how to ride. The balance bike eliminates most of that. The kids learn on their own how to balance and use their upper body to control the front half of the bike by just pushing themselves along with their feet.  Once my 4 year old was balancing for a few feet consistently (of course once he ran out of momentum he had to put his feet down) I switched him over to the "real" bike without training wheels, gave him a push, and off he went pedaling away! The first time! Woo Hoo!!!! Note that we live in the country, so the kids didn't have the luxury of pavement... and they worked just fine on dirt.

Qwirkle - We got this game a couple of years ago and we just love it. It consists of 6 colors of 6 different shapes and you form a "crossword puzzle" type of pattern by playing groups of colors and shapes. This is fun for the little kids as well as the older kids.

HISSS - We got this game for the little kids/toddlers last year. I wasn't sure what to expect but it really is fun! You draw cards which each have a part of a snake on them (head, body, or tail) and lay them out to make different snakes. It does a good job teaching color matching, counting, etc... It is super fun seeing the multicolored snakes you create. Even the older kids love playing this game with the itty-bitties...

Orchard - This is another game that is great for the little kids/ toddlers. It comes in a few different sizes, we got the mini version. Essentially you roll the dice and collect the fruit from the trees. The goal is to try to collect all of the fruit before the raven gets it. The players work together to beat the raven, rather than competing against each other. Again, this is even fun for my bigger kids.

Settlers of Catan - Last year was our first experience with European board games... and WOW! We love them.  This game has become my husband's favorite and each time it is different. Our 7 and 10 year old are even able to play (it is my 10 year old's favorite game too).  There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you have played a couple of times you will be hooked! The game has several expansion packs to add on to the original and also a 5 and 6 player add-on that increases the board size.  I will let you go to the link to read more about the game/strategy... but rest assured.... your family will love this game! It takes about 45 minutes or so to play.

Ticket to Ride - This is another European board game that we love! There are US and Europe versions. Essentially, you are building train routes across the US trying to get the most routes completed, the most points, and the longest track. This one is a bit simpler to learn than Catan... 5 and 6 year olds on up to adults are able to play this.  I had a game night last year with a couple of my friends and each of them loved it so much that they bought one for their families.  Again, you can't go wrong with this game. We have loved European games so much that we are trying out some new ones for Christmas this year...

Lauri Toys - This company has a variety of great toys for toddlers/preschoolers. They are "foam" and depending on which toy... they help teach, colors, shapes, fine motor skills, building, letters, creativity etc... We have the shape and color sorter, peg set, travel set, and lower case alphabet set. These are great for entertaining the little ones during school time.

Vision Forum 18" Dolls - Want an alternative to the "American Girl" doll? Then this is your doll! Yes, they are pricey (so are the American Girls), but they are very nice. Last year we bought our 5 and 6 year old girls each a doll. (We also bought them an outfit and book set...). They were told that they needed to take care of them. Here we are, a year later, and the girls play with them nearly every day, and both dolls still look like new. Unlike other dolls that have been at the bottom of the toybox for months, these dolls have maintained their "elite" status.  Not to mention that you support a Christian company by ordering them. If you watch, you can get great deals too, they frequently go on sale.

Bicycles - Here is our philosophy on bikes.... go to a bike store and get a good one... especially if you have multiple kids that will be growing into them.  We have Trek and Specialized (mostly Trek though because that is what our local store carries).  We have found by experience, that the walmart bikes have completely worn out by the time 2 kids have used them. Whereas the better quality ones perform better and last longer.  As our oldest child outgrows a bike.... he moves up a size and the rest of the bikes are passed down to the next-in-line.  (That being said, we did buy a Trek for our 6 year old this year. They have a 6 speed, 20 inch that is a perfect bike for learning to shift on. The grandparents and aunts all chipped in to be a part of this gift to help with the cost.)  You can also look for used Trek (et. al.) bikes. We bought one used from our neighbors and some specialty shops also sell used bikes and/or have trade in plans. Our local store takes Trek trade ins and gives you 40% of your original purchase price towards the purchase of a new Trek... This is a great deal!!!!!

Trampoline - We bought our trampoline when our oldest was only 2... sure, probably kind of early for that sort of thing... but 8 years and a bunch more kids later, the trampoline still stands and is still a favorite play thing. The kids jump on it, kick balls around on it, seek refuge from the dog on it, read books on it.... we love our trampoline!  We got the large size that is sold at Sam's, I have never regretted getting a big one.

Well, this is certainly not a comprehensive list... but these are some of our top picks! Other things we love are family experiences: zoo, Cosmosphere, museums, etc...  Happy shopping and enjoy the season. I don't know about you, but I am so thankful for online shopping and the convenience of getting my lists completed without having to fight the crowds!!!!

We pray that you all have a wonderful Christmas season and spend time increasing and abounding in your love for our Savior!!! We have a Savior who loves us, died for us, and atones for us... and that is the Good News! Merry CHRISTmas!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Meeting with the LORD...

Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the LORD. (Exodus 34:4-5 ESV)

On Thursday mornings (at 6 a.m.) a couple of ladies and I get together to study God's Word.  We have studied many different topics over the last couple of years. Last week we listened to this sermon by John Barnett on Daily Devotions.  We listened to it several months ago too, but a refresher never hurts. It is a great little sermon about hearing from the Lord and having a meaningful quiet time. This morning I was reviewing my notes and was reading in Exodus. This part of scripture really spoke to me and came alive with application.  Now, I am all about going "deep" into the Word and to the original languages... but there was no need for that this morning. Going "deep" has its merits, but a lot of time, the application and meaning is so plainly laid out that it is mind boggling. Today was one of those days where the simplicity is just stunning. So... if you are expecting a grand exposition of scripture... I'm not your person, and this is not your post...

I hear from God much more clearly when I have a pen and a journal in hand. Or rather, I pay more attention to God's promptings when I write them down and meditate on those scriptures I've journaled about.

Moses was prepared to hear from the LORD. He cut 2 tablets of stone. They were blank slates prepared with the anticipation that the Lord would fill them up.  I have never cut tablets of stone, but I imagine that the process takes time and patience.  As far as I can tell, God had created/cut the first tablets (Ex. 32:16  The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.) If so, I'm sure Moses was all the more careful to create the tablets to look as close to the original as he could. At any rate, I should not think it so hard to "trouble" myself to find an appropriate notebook or journal and pen to bring with me to meet with the LORD.... to be prepared beforehand and to expect that God will speak with me. (And for Pete's sake, when my journal is getting filled up.... get to Hobby Lobby and get another one!)

And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded...

I believe giving God our first fruits also includes our time. In tithing our money, we give off of the top (or give to God first). I should give God the first of my day as well.  And in order to do that, I need to get up earlier. A simple Bible search on "early morning" yielded many, many examples of people rising early in obedience to the Lord to hear from Him and worship Him. These were people who were far more busy and distracted than I am.  (I mean, really! They had to raise their dinner, catch it, kill it, clean it, and cook it... all before eating it!  Very often they had to do this! They also didn't have dish washers, washing machines, vehicles, etc....  These people were BUSY!) So the excuse of "I'm too busy to have a good quiet time" is just not going to "fly".  We are NOT too busy. And if we are too busy, we are filling up our days with unnecessary and/or ungodly things. Repent and simplify! Part of my being a "living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1) means that I should sacrifice some of my sleep in order to meet with the LORD. Having communion with God that yields fruits should give me convictions and truths that I should spend my day meditating on. If my time with God is in the evening (habitually), then it leaves me little time before bed to meditate on the truths Jehovah has shown me.

Moses rose early and went...

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

Do you have a place to go and meet with God? Maybe it is a couch, or closet, or chair, or church... I have tried at times to stay and study in my bed, but I seem to fall back asleep when I do that.  I don't recall that pattern ever being portrayed in the scriptures. Moses went... Jesus departed and went.... Where do I go? What kind of place should I seek? In Ex. 34:3 (No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout the mountain), Moses was to come alone and present himself to God. Mark 1:35 said that Jesus went to a desolate place.  It seems that our "place" should be one where we can be alone and undisturbed and not distracted. I have little kids, so leaving my house isn't the best option, but there are places in my house where distractions and interruptions are minimal.... especially early in the morning...
If early morning doesn't work, this might be the only way to minimize interruptions around this house!!!

 Moses rose early, and went... and took in his hand 2 tablets of stone.

Moses went prepared, taking with him the blank slates in expectation of God filling them. When I come before God and expect him to speak, He always does. And even more-so when I come with pen and paper in hand, ready to record what He gives me. It may be simple or complex truths. It may be a rebuking for something I said or did... or did not do. It may be a call for intercession on behalf of someone. But whatever it is, usually it requires me to make a choice to respond in obedience or to turn and go my own way.  Throughout the day I meditate on what the Lord gave to me and what a blessing it is to share with someone about what the LORD opened my eyes to.

Lastly, we see that the LORD proclaimed: The Lord, the LORD, a god merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Ex. 34:6-7a).

These qualities/charcteristics of God are so worthy to meditate on. How can I not worship Him? And proclaim His goodness? To one who has been so patient with me: a grave sinner and transgressor of the law... He has pardoned me. He is faithful, gracious, merciful, and abounds in love. And to think that I would value sleep or other worldly things consuming my time above meeting with the all-powerful creator??? Woe is me!

Ex. 34:8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

And so shall I!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The beauty of technology!

Let me preface this post with this: I am not advocating an abdication of time spent teaching your children in a "hands-on" fashion. I am not saying that you should use technology as a "babysitter" either.  That being said, technology can be a wonderful tool or servant in our schooling/parenting routine!

I am sure that many of you probably have figured out this cool little tool. But I have just discovered it, and in case I am not the only one who has been in the dark.... I want to pass on this invaluable information!

I was chatting with a fellow homeschooling mom at church last Sunday, sharing with her my current woes of being behind on a read-a-long book we're doing for school. I have been reading "Augustus Ceasar's World" as part of our history. This book takes quite a chunk of time each day. I did not realize that our curriculum (that we sort of follow in spite of adding many of our own things) recommended reading aloud "The Bronze Bow" too. By the time I realized this, we were like 100 pages behind the schedule. Each day's reading in this book was also taking up a huge chunk of time... especially when you are in "catch-up" mode.  As I was sharing this with my friend, I mentioned that it would be great to have as an audio book, but I didn't want to buy one. She (in her great wisdom) told me that there are virtual libraries where you could "check out" the audio books and play them on a smart phone (or computer, or mp3 player, or kindle)!

What a concept! Think of the possibilities! For free! So today, I went to our local city's virtual library website (where I already had a library card #) and signed up for a virtual account. I downloaded the app for my iphone (also available for android platforms, PC's, laptops, and Mac), I then browsed the titles in search of my book, and I downloaded the book.  I have 21 days to use it, at which time I can recheck it out, or just return it... (I'm assuming that it "returns itself" but since I'm a newbie at this, I don't know for sure... I can let you know in 21 days!)

Think about the possibilities of this handy little tool! Again, I do not plan on using this method to become my only source of reading aloud to my children. But in my current situation, I was able to play 2 chapters over lunch today while I got caught up on making butter and mozzarella cheese.  As I was talking to another homeschooling friend about this today, we thought about the opportunity to "read" during time in the car. Our family tends to be on the road a lot. I have tried using that time to read to the kids while Byron is driving, but it is quite laborious reading loud enough for everyone in the 3rd row to hear... especially over the diesel engine in our excursion or in our 4.5 door truck....

This truck has been great in transporting around our ever-increasing family! Check out

So having the option of using my iphone to play the read aloud and utilize the driving time as school time sounds like a great idea to me!  (In case you have a cassette player in your vehicle, you can get the cassette adapters for less than $5 at walmart. You connect one end to the headphone jack in your phone/kindle/ipad and the cassette end inserts into the cassette player. Then the audio is played through your car speakers.  Alternately, you can get an FM transmitter that will transmit via your FM radio to your car speakers.)

If you haven't figured it out, I'm quite excited about this! But on a similar note I'll just share another tidbit of info.... I have an app for my iphone called Bible.Is.  You can read the Bible on it in many versions, but what I love it for is the audio Bible.  When I have a Wifi or 3G connection I have access to a DRAMATIZED audio bible.... yes... you actually get to listen to the Egyptian plagues with locusts and frogs croaking in the background! The kids love it. Occasionally we take a break from our "normal" Bible reading and listen to the dramatized ESV Bible instead.  I'm sure there are more apps out there that do the same thing, but this is the one we are familiar with.  I am also able to use this app in the truck.

What are your favorite techno helps???? Please post and share!!!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Train up a child....

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 4:6-9

These are only a few of the many scriptures that apply to parenting. Truth be told, the Lord has much to say to us as parents; He does not send us out "blindly" as we strive to raise our children.  I have heard many people say that "Kids do not come with an instruction manual." I would beg to differ. We have God's Word which is readily accessible in our country. We have a whole 66 books in which the Lord has spoken to us.  The question is, do you use your manual? Most people do not. Most people would rather turn to the newest "self-help" book, talk show host, or whatever friend who will listen to get advice in raising their children.

I'm not going to take the time to go into an indepth word study here, but look at the language used in the above scriptures: "Train up", "Bring them up", "Discipline", "Instruction", "Teach them DILIGINTLY"... The terminology here does not indicate a passive role for us parents in raising godly offspring. It is quite the opposite. We are to have an intentional, active, planned, and systematic approach in teaching our children the scriptures. In addition to that, the scriptures should be such a part of our own lives that we should recognize the Lord in our daily activities and use those moments to teach our children even more about Him.

If my plan was to run a marathon, I would have to "train".... "diligently".  I would not be able to complete the race if I only ran on Sunday mornings and the occasional Wednesday evening.  Even if I ran twice on Sunday and every Wednesday it would not be enough to prepare me for the race. The same applies to teaching our children the scriptures and correct Biblical doctrine. A couple of times a week for an hour here and there will not cut it. Furthermore, it is not the church's job to teach your children about God. It is your job. So, where do you start?

Most people probably did not grow up with parents who modeled what the previous verses instruct. If you grew up with that model, give thanks and praise to God, then tell your parents what a gift that they gave to you! But even if you did not have that model, ignorance is no excuse and it is not "bliss". ...because you have ignored my counsel and would have none of my reproof... Prov. 1:25; As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passion of your former ignorance... 1 Peter 1:14; The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent... Acts 17:30 Your first step is to acknowledge that you have fallen short in obeying His commands and repent. (The Lord gives grace to the humble). We must humbly admit that we were wrong and need His help in bringing up our children. We need to ask for His guidance and wisdom in understanding the scriptures for ourselves, as well as wisdom in teaching them to our children.  Then, it is time to get busy in studying the Word.

Thankfully, we have the Spirit to help us in our understanding of the Word. God has also provided us with mentors, pastors, and other Godly people to help guide us. Pray that He would bring a mentor into your life. These "mentors" can also come in the form of books (just make sure that you are careful in selecting your sources and that you are a "Berean" (Acts 17:11). There is a lot of false theology available... even and especially in the "Christian" category). 

I recommend that you read through the Bible systematically. There are many reading plans available for free online. (I prefer the chronological plan.) In January, all of my independent readers (9, 6, & 5) began reading through their "Bible in a Year" plan. This is something we will always be doing in our home. Each time you read through your Bible, you learn more and are even more familiar with the Word. I have read through the Bible many times and each time, something "new" speaks to me. God's Word is living and active and I love that! I also recommend that you start memorizing scripture.... a lot of it! Memorize verses that will help you in areas that you are prone to temptation in. (Psalm 119:11). Memorize with your children! I could spend a lot of time on this subject too.... but......

.....What I really wanted to talk about on this post is catechism (note... this is not the same thing as catholic sunday school which is what most readily comes to mind when "catechism" is mentioned).. So what is "catechism"? It is a guide in Q & A format designed to teach fundamental principles of religion. When we "catechize" our children, we are teaching them to memorize the answers. When they have learned it well, they will have a good, thorough, understanding of the Christian doctrine.  Richard Baxter (a puritan preacher) visited each of the families in his congregation annually and examined them by evaluating how well children and parents knew the catechism. According to "A Quest for Godliness; The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life", Baxter claimed to have more outward signs of success in demolishing the kingdom of darkness among his church members through this practice than through all his public preaching to them. In other words, teaching our children a catechism is a good tool to use in passing on the Christian truths. 

How does this work? As we ask our kids the questions and teach them the answers, we also talk about those answers and use scripture to support them. My favorite catechism questions have to do with the 10 commandments. Being just a summary of God's law, their requirements are so much DEEPER than "thou shalt not kill...." When we study them more in depth, we learn what the 6th commandment requires, forbids, and allows for. When we study the 7th commandment, we learn that it also forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.... not just "don't have an affair"...  So in going through the questions, we gain (and give our children) a much broader understanding of who God is, what the scriptures teach, and how we are to live.

There are many catechism resources available, but these are some of our favorites:

      Truth and Grace Books (TAG books) - These little books are a great, concise, asset to help your little ones memorize verses, memorize catechism questions, and memorize hymns. Book 1 is for ages 2 through the 4th grade. Book 2 picks up from there (grades 5-8), and subsequently book 3 continues for grades 9-12. The books are set up with goals for each year and spaces to "sign off" on once the requirement is completed.

       Wesminster Shorter Catechism - This book contains all of the Q & A's as well as great commentaries, scripture references, illustrations, and discussion questions.  We use it in combination with Training Hearts Teaching Minds.

        Training Hearts Teaching Minds - This book takes each question and spends a week (6 days) expounding on it in the format of a family devotional.  If you go through the book as written, you will complete it in 2 years.  The devotionals are short, and our family works through it at a bit faster pace than that, but you are free to customize it to your family.

         Westminster Catechism Songs CD's - This is a new, fun item we just added to our library.  The artist has 4 cd's in which she covers all of the questions, setting them all to catchy tunes on her guitar.  My kids have so much fun singing them... I just had to post a video of them being silly to share!

 So I encourage you to start today in studying the scriptures with your kids!!!!  What are your family's favorite scripture helps????

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Planning for Peace

I have been trying to sit down and give attention to this blog for several days now... to no avail. I could blame it on having a newborn, but honestly, he hasn't really been the issue. Things have been hectic with all of the normal daily things we need to accomplish, school, fruit harvest and canning/dehydrating/freezing, making decisions on the house we are re-doing, cooking, and whatever else spur-of-the-moment things that tend to frequently pop up unexpectedly.  It seems like we have been off of a "normal" daily routine for weeks now. Maybe this is the new normal... I hope not!

During these super-busy seasons of life, I am more prone to get irritated at inefficiency.  I have noticed that when I have 4 or more of the kids working together on a particular chore, they tend to get distracted easier (especially the 2, 4, and 6 year old). They also have a tendency to not display brotherly affection towards each other (remember our key verse this year: 2 Peter 1:5-8... the 4 oldest kids have this memorized now). So ultimately what happens is that the task which could easily have been done in 15 or so minutes takes an HOUR! With the 7 and 10 year old arrows (children) doing the most work. An example of this would be cleaning up the kitchen after a meal. Actually, it is almost exclusively in this chore where we have had issues.

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy. Proverbs 12:20 (emphasis mine)

During my quiet time several weeks ago, the Holy Spirit really spoke to me through this verse... plan peace! Now this isn't rocket science! In fact, I have been planning peace for years during various activities. When my children are reminded how they are to behave during church, I am planning for peace. When I tell them what is expected of them during grocery shopping, I am planning for peace. When we lovingly, Biblically, discipline them, we are planning for peace. But let's face it, our children are born into sin. We do not have to teach them how to lie, steal, whine, be selfish, etc... they are born that way. We are to train up our children in the way they should go; even when they are old, they are will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Training our children in the way they should go IS planning for peace. Training requires WORK, DILIGENCE, and DISCIPLINE on the part of us as parents. We can not "parent-from-the-couch" and expect the results to be optimal.

So what does it look like to PLAN PEACE? First of all, we need to recognize that "plan" is a verb and requires you to be intentional in order to carry it out. It is an active process, not a passive process. You can not "do nothing" and plan peace. You have to think and plan, and then follow through. Satan will do what he can to prevent you from obeying the Word of God, so the most important step in the process is prayer. I have a list of scriptures and biblical promises written down that I routinely pray through... this scripture is one of them. By doing that, I am enlisting the power of the Holy Spirit to help me plan for peace. He gives me patience, wisdom, energy, and whatever else I may need to glorify God in my parenting each day. Do I regularly fail? Yes... but He does grant me new mercies each morning; and by His grace He lovingly convicts me of my sin, training me each moment so I am better equipped to train my children.

Next, I try to identify areas during the day that aren't peaceful. I will use the example of kitchen cleanup: how can I make that time more peaceful, efficient, and loving? There are several things that can be done here, and what may work for one day, week, month... may not work for the next. Also note that some of the things that work for us may not work for another family.  I have found that reminding my "arrows" of 2 Peter 1:5-8 before beginning the task keeps them focused on acting more loving. (Col. 3:23 (Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men) and 1 Cor. 14:40 (Let all things be done decently and in order) are other verses that we commonly use. Another thing that we have found is on some tasks, having 2 kids working in an area at a time is more productive than 4 kids. So there have been times where I have a cooking helper (or two) who help with meal prep and clean-up before the meal and the rest of the kids clean up after the meal. If each child has an area they are responsible for, things go smoother too. When we are at "the farm" where there is no dishwasher and the dishes all are done by hand, the kids have a great system worked out with 4 jobs: washer, drier, "hander" who hands dry dishes to the child sitting on the counter, and "put-awayer" who sits on the counter so he/she can reach the cabinets. My kids also tend to be joyful in their work if there is music playing, so turning on the CD player and listening to praise/worship music, Westminster catechism questions set to music, children's hymns, or even Peter and the Wolf will boost everyone's mood (and speed). Making the chore into a game with a time limit can be fun too. I love watching them race the clock and work together to beat the buzzer. (Note: not all of these ideas are implemented at the same time on the same chore...).

Remember that parenting is training... even for the little ones. My just-turned-four year old can fold and put away laundry all by himself. My just-turned-2-year old is also included in these chores. She has been helping with household chores since she could walk. Don't let the little ones off of the hook; they WANT to help. Training them young is planning for peace too. They are able to fold towels/wash clothes, put silverware away, help unload/load the dishwasher, dust, etc... even when they are 1 year old! Yes, it requires more time on your part as the parent, but you are training them up and planning for peace.  Planning for peace does not mean that you sit your kids in front of the TV while you take care of household duties. Sure, it is easier and may be more peaceful for the moment, but did that train your kids in godliness?

Don't forget to praise your kids for a job well done. We tend to point out the negatives and forget to mention the positives. We need to train our kids to have a Godly attitude towards work and each other, and we need to have Godly attitudes as well.

What about planning for peace in your marriage? Do you tell your husband how much you appreciate him when he gets home from work? Do you show him respect that comes from your heart? What are some things you can do to make a peaceful relationship?

This list certainly is not exhaustive. It contains a few ideas of how our household plans for peace. Do you plan for peace? Have you ever thought of planning peace? What works in your home? There are many aspects that this verse can be applied to: parenting, marriage, work place, friendships, church body... I encourage you to prayerfully evaluate areas in your life that need peace!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Birth Story....

Now that Kaser is a week old, I have finally found time to sit down and write about the birth! We praise God and celebrate this new little life He has blessed us with. Each pregnancy is such a blessing that we do not take for granted. In the last 10 years we have had 11 pregnancies. Five of those pregnancies have resulted in our womb ushering a soul directly into heaven (two being back-to-back prior to child #5) and six of those pregnancies the Lord has seen fit to bless us with the opportunity to parent on this side of eternity.  We praise Him both for the good and the bad. We miscarried just prior to getting pregnant with Kaser, and the Lord used that experience to really speak to us about the preciousness of life. The Spirit enabled me to carry out what James tells us to do: Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds.... Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I surrendered to God's will and used the experience to strengthen my faith knowing that I was becoming more like the image of Christ by not parenting that child than I would have by parenting him/her. That being said, God in His sovereignty opened up our womb shortly thereafter and Kaser's life began.

We found out almost immediately (at 13 weeks) that we were having a boy. I had a sonogram at the Pregnancy Center and yes, at that point in gestation it was pretty obvious...  I was blessed by PSC to have 3 sonos in those first weeks, what a wonderful thing to see his little heart beating when he was too small to physically feel moving around. It gave me great comfort!

The rest of the pregnancy was quite normal and uneventful. Finally on child #6 I got a little more assertive about what I wanted the birth experience to be like. I told my OB that I would like to wear my own clothes (not that horrid hospital gown), I didn't want to be hooked up to an IV, I didn't want a bunch of cords monitoring me because I wanted to be more mobile during labor.  He was very accommodating: my clothes would be fine, he was good with a hep lock IV, he wanted continuous monitoring but they had a cordless monitor we would use... then he said: "I know how you are anyway, you will come in dilated to an 8 and have the baby in minutes..."  Oh yea, did I forget to mention that i wanted to deliver my own baby??????  Guess I forgot to ask him about that point...

I typically deliver at around 37-38 weeks, and true to form, at 37 weeks I started to have strong, regular contractions with a little bleeding. Normally, I would have gone in and they would have broke my water and we would have had a July baby.  But my husband was fairly under the weather battling some weird sickness (possibly from a tick bite since it was responsive to doxycycline) and I didn't want him to feel bad during the birth. So my thoughts were to labor at home possibly overnight and head to the hospital in the morning.  I had regular, strong (but not necessarily painful) contractions all night, but when I got up in the morning they went away.

It was another week before the contractions fell into a regular pattern again. On Tuesday, August 7th, my husband went back west (an hour away) to get some things done with water wells and cattle. (I have figured out the secret to starting labor... forget castor oil, just send my husband an hour away and it is sure to put me into true labor. With child number 5, my neighbor had to drive me to the hospital because Byron was an hour away. He did make it back for number five's birth, though.) Anyway, at about 5 pm I began having contractions. They were strong, regular, but not painful. I called Byron and told him that he might think about heading back, although I did not want to cry "wolf". After about 30 minutes they stopped. Then Kaser kicked and my water broke. I called Byron again, he was about 20 minutes away. I was not having contractions, but I was a bit scared to move around for fear of getting them started up. At this point, I was also really praying for strength for labor as well as for the baby to wait just a bit before being born. I do not take pain meds during labor but for whatever reason, I had been feeling really scared of the whole upcoming process of birth. I know I had people praying for me, but I was still not feeling as capable this time around.

Anyway, as I waited for Byron to arrive, I called the hospital and told them we would be coming in, but it would be close to an hour since my husband wasn't home and we were a 30 minute drive from there. My neighbor came over to stay with the kids until my mom came (she was an hour out too). When Byron got home, we grabbed the few last minute things that the kids hadn't already loaded in the car and were on our way.  Once we got going on our little dirt road, the contractions started to kick in and this time, they were painful. Let me tell you, laboring in a car isn't ideal, but it is better than being on your back in a hospital bed tied up with IV's and monitors.  I'm not sure at what point I came to realize that we weren't going to make it to the hospital. I recall looking at the speedometer and seeing that Byron was driving 90mph. I remember Byron calling the hospital informing them that we probably weren't going to make it in time. The lady told him to come as fast as he could, the cops were very accommodating and would likely escort us if it came to that.... I remember Byron reminding me to get a focal point. I looked up and saw an overpass and thought by the time we get there, this contraction will be over. I don't recall reaching the overpass because at that point it became clear to me that this baby was going to come... now. I debated about whether to take my shorts off yet, (how embarrassing that would be if he really WEREN'T coming). By the next contraction, there was no debating going on... he was coming.  I delivered our 7# 20" son at about 6:30pm, no more than 15 minutes after the painful contractions began (and about 45 minutes after my water broke). Everyone has asked if Byron delivered him... no, Byron was driving. He pulled over shortly after he was born. Byron had called 911 somewhere in the midst of all the excitement and the paramedics met us within a few minutes of pulling over.

It all happened so fast and seemed so surreal. After he was born, I remember thinking that I didn't even check if it was a boy or not. So I took a peek: yep, it's a boy!  Is he breathing? Yep, he's breathing. Now what do I do?????? Why weren't we taking pictures at this point????

The paramedics arrived and cut the cord. They assessed both of us and couldn't believe that Byron and I were so calm. (Well, even though it is our first "car" birth, it IS our 6th child and being veterinarians, it isn't like we haven't seen/experienced worse things...) So, yes, we were calm, cool, and collected. They transported Kaser and I in the ambulance to the hospital and Byron followed in the car. It was probably about 7 or shortly thereafter when we got there.
Look at that bruised face? Guess that happens when they come fast.

At least he didn't have a cone head!
At the hospital, they did all of the routine newborn checks. They kept asking me if I wanted pain meds (this line of questioning continued throughout my 24 hour stay at the hospital). OK, I just delivered my own child... without pain meds, mind you. Do you think that I need an ibuprophen?

All in all, the Lord was faithful! Remember how I was feeling anxious about the "labor" part? Well, it all happened so fast, I didn't have time to focus on any weakness I was feeling. This was my favorite labor and delivery and I loved the absence of medical poking and prodding. In 15 minutes the pain came and went and it was over. That's the way to do labor! He was a much easier and less painful delivery than number 5 was even though he was more than a pound bigger.

The whole gang!

Kaser catching some sun while we were hanging up a deer feeder for hunting season.

Look what Great Grammy and Papa Floyd sent us... YUMMY!!!!!
Now that we are all home and settled in, life is returning to the new normal. School has resumed, chores have resumed, and even though we haven't quite settled into the routine I would like yet, each day is a blessing and the Lord grants us new mercies each morning. I have lots of wonderful "helpers" and so many wonderful friends who have provided meals for us. We have truly been blessed.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Promised Schedule

I stated earlier in a post that I would share the spreadsheet schedule I made up for this year. I made lots of changes on the template that I was using and this seems like it will work much better for us. I did it on excel, but when I uploaded it to google docs, I converted it to the google docs format. I will enclose the links.  Note that along the bottom of the spreadsheet are different "tabs". The front page is the master schedule, then each child has his/her own pared down version of it. I have other tabs for scheduling field trips, chapter book reading for each kid, and even one to record extra spelling words on.  By that I mean this: it seems like always I am being asked how to spell ________. So if it happens to be a word I feel they should know, I record it on my "spelling" sheet and the word gets added to their list for the next week.  (By the way, we do not use a published spelling curriculum. Instead we use the 1400 most commonly used words in the English language and each kid is working through that list. If anyone is interested in a more indepth explanation of how it works, let me know and I can post about that.....)

Anyway, I will also post a link to a household cleaning schedule. Again, there are tabs at the bottom for different areas of the house and a detailed list of what needs to be done in each area. We focus on one area/week (in addition to the normal cleaning). This is a joint effort between the kids and me.

School Schedule/Planner 2012-2013

Deep Cleaning Checklist

So here is how I am doing the school schedule. I used to type in each week's lesson plans. I have found it easier and more manageable this year to just use the template and write in the weekly plans by hand, that way it is easier to change if something comes up.  I bought a "trapper keeper" type binder (remember those from your school days?) I have used a normal 3 ring binder in previous years, but have found that the "fancy" binder is a lot more useful.

I printed off my master schedule (several copies so I don't have to do it each week) and hole punched it and put it in the binder. I wrote out the lesson plans on it. This is my copy that I keep track of who has completed what.  Then I printed off each of the kids their own copy and placed them in a sheet protector. I use a dry erase marker to write their weekly assignments on it. Then at the end of the week, we wipe off the dry erase sheet and write the next week's assignments.
At the bottom of their sheet I write the weekly cleaning zone as well as the memory verse reference that we are working on. Each kid keeps their own schedule with their school stuff.

My spelling lists, field trip lists, and teacher's manuals are kept in my binder as well so that they are handy and I'm not always trying to track them down.

I also keep the cleaning charts each in a page protector in my fancy binder. The "zone of the week" sheet and its protector gets pulled out each week and posted on our chore chart. We try to spend 15-20 minutes a few times each week in the cleaning zone and as each task gets done, we mark it off. All of the kids help, even the 1 and 3 year old are able to do many tasks. As a bonus, they LOVE to help. It is a good thing to train your children to love God honoring work and to do it with an attitude of joyfulness. Make sure you are presenting that attitude toward your work as well.
So there you have it... the system that is currently working for us! But as with anything, it is subject to change at any moment. Also, the schedule is meant to serve me, I am not a slave to it. It works out on paper and that won't necessarily be the case each day in "real" life! I know this. But it is a handy guide. Feel free to use our methods and adapt them in your household.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Give Them REAL Heroes....

Romans 12:1-2 says: Therefore do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your MIND. Then you will be able to test and approve what the will of God is; His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Matthew 22:37-38a says: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND. This is the great and first commandment.

I imagine that you will see me speak a lot on this blog about the importance of renewing and protecting our minds as well as our kids' minds. That is a major key in being on fire for Christ or being stagnant. I will make no apologies on that one, if you do not control what is going into your mind, you WILL be conforming to the patterns of this world. Falling in love with Jesus and making Him Lord of your life requires INTENTIONAL obedience to His commands and a radical lifestyle of inputting things into your mind which bring Him glory.  How you think dictates what you believe. And what you consistently feed your mind dictates how you think. We must be feeding daily on the Word of God and meditating on it, applying it to our lives and obeying it.

I could continue, but that is a whole post topic in itself.... So, on to the point I want to share tonight.... I'm sure that the average person knows that the Olympics are taking place. Let me say that our family RARELY watches TV. If the kids watch, it is in the form of a pre-approved movie or documentary such as WWII and the Providence of God or A Night to Remember (both available through Vision Forum). Movie night at our house is "supposed" to be on Friday nights. However, maybe only once/month does that happen (especially during the summer months). That being said, we have enjoyed watching some limited gymnastics and swimming this past week. But the reason I am posting about this is because of my kids' conversations during the opening ceremony.  As the various countries were entering, here is what my kids were saying: Ecuador - That's where Nate Saint went! China - That's where Hudson Taylor and Gladys Aylward went! Great Brittan - That is England and that is where George Mueller was! Japan - That is where Jacob Deshazer was a missionary!....

I could continue, but you get the point. Yesterday, my 10 year old was quizzing the others by naming a country and asking which missionaries had gone there. It really warmed my heart listening to them! As the Olympics seem to always have a few "heroes" that spring up each time, I would encourage you to teach your kids about heroes of the faith. There are so many resources out there and my family has loved reading about, watching, doing skits, and listening to real stories of people just like them who were sold out for Christ. It inspires them and gives such deeper meaning to what Lordship means.

Obviously, one way that we renew our and our kids' minds is by reading lots of missionary biographies rather than other fiction. (I'm not saying that all fiction is bad or that we never read it... but the preference of my kids is a real life missionary story!) I love YWAM publishing, Vision Forum, BJU Press, and some of Sonlight's reading lists. This is where I primarily turn to to find wholesome reading materials. We also enjoy "Hero Tales" (there are 4 volumes in the series). I realize that purchasing books and videos does cost money. However, I feel that it is a worthwhile investment in my children and their education. Building up our personal library has been very fun and the kids enjoy reading and re-reading the books (as well as sharing them with their younger siblings).

Who are your heroes????? Who are your kids looking up to????

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Refreshed Homeschool Vision

This post is a copy/paste version of an email I previously sent to some friends. But because it sums up what I am focusing on with my kiddos, I wanted it to be a part of the blog.....  But also know that I added some things about our chore chart at the bottom that weren't in the original email...

I was wanting to share some things from my quiet time and away time that we had while camping at the farm at the beginning of July.  We began our school year again, what else are you going to do when it is 105+ out? Might as well start school. That being said, we aren't in our "full" schedule, but reading, math, and english are formally started and those subjects tend to take the longest anyway.

I spent a lot of time praying and meditating about our homeschooling journey, goals, short-comings, strengths, and weaknesses of each child as well as myself. I especially want to be better at showing a Godly attitude to my children, even when they are mis-behaving.  Several weeks ago, while reading in Psalm 106, a couple of verses really struck me: In verses 32-33 it says: They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.  Boy, that was a convicting verse and the Spirit continues to remind me of it.  Because, honestly, when my children aren't listening, when their attitudes are poor, and when they do sloppy work, I am very prone to developing a bitter spirit and to speak rashly with my lips. So my quest this past week was to allow the Spirit to guide me in preventing a sinful, reactionary response in my attitude and behavior.  Firstly, I do want to point out that in Psalm 106:28-30, Phinehas intervened between the people and the Lord and was able to stop a plague. We (I) need to remember the power of intercession for my children (Job spent time interceding for his children too in Job 1:5).  As I identify character weaknesses in each one, I need to be writing them down and faithfully taking it to the Lord in prayer (as well as being intentional about teaching the child Biblically about overcoming the specific problem).

The Lord gave me the following verse a few weeks ago, and it is our theme this year. We will all memorize it, meditate on it, and obey it: 
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and
virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with
steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly
affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and
are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge
of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8
So the question became, how do I apply this in my own life, where am I failing, and what, practically can I begin doing today?  Prayer is the obvious, first answer to this... for wisdom, perseverance, a refreshed vision and energy for discipling and teaching my children, for an ever growing commitment to the shema:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deut. 6:4-9
I do not want to homeschool and disciple my children with an attitude of just getting done, or getting by. Satan would love to step in and steal my joy in all of this, and my children's joy too. This is such a precious time and a special gift the Lord has given us: being able to pour into our children each day, having them here to renew their minds (Romans 12:1-2). I want to maintain my passion and excitement and devotion to the task the Lord has given us as parents.  Below are three prayers that I will pray and meditate on each morning, as my day is beginning.
    Give us a fresh vision of homeschooling and
    discipleship. Grant us new mercies each morning.
    Give me patience and self control as I minister to
    my children. Help me not to display an attitude of
    selfishness, grumpiness, or frustration. Rather give
    me Your wisdom and keep my actions, words, and
    motives pure at all times. Let me wait on You and
    gain new strength, not growing weary.

            If I am not portraying a godly attitude, help me to
            let it go and take a break, give my kids a break, and
            refocus my character on You. Help me remember
            that most importantly, we are homeschooling in
            order to train and cultivate Christlikeness in our
            children. If I am not showing them the character
            traits that I'm trying to teach them, then I am failing.
            If I succeed in teaching them only what my lesson
            plans dictate, I have failed. We want our kids to have
            godly characters that are conforming to the image
            of Christ so that they may be obedient and effective
            servants of the Lord.

                        Help me to accurately discern whether my children are
                        doing sloppy work or if they do not understand the
                        concept. Give me patience and wisdom in my teaching
                        and wisdom in dealing with slothfulness and sloppy
So that's where I am beginning... prayer! Secondly, I am a firm believer in the If-Then charts from  I love them, so I decided to use that method for our most common behavior problems during school that tend to result in me not being the Godly portrait of a mom that I want to be. (I have used the charts a lot, they are posted in our kitchen, but I had never applied them to our homeschool settings.  In essence, the "rules" Byron and I set down and wrote out became our own chart for disciplining homeschool issues.  So I listed out the issues that tend to recur: sloppy work, bad attitudes, etc... and I wrote out consequences for each one. I went over the new "rules" with the kids this week, so we are all on the same page. The rules and consequences will be posted in our school area for us all to be reminded. So far, the method has worked great... yes... the kids (some of them) have already "tested" it and my response was very cool, calm, and collected. It really has helped me with self-control when dealing with "repeat offenders"!  I also set up rewards for diligent work and behavior.
There are 2 reasons for me sharing this: number one is for accountability! I give you all permission to ask me if I am increasing in my faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  My second reason is Hebrews 10:24 - And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works...  If anyone can learn from my shortcomings and weaknesses, I am glad to help prevent the same in any of you. Homeschooling is such a blessing, as is parenting, and educating our quiver of arrows in the Lord. It is a hard journey, but the Lord equips those He has called. So as the process of intentional parenting and schooling continues, I just want to encourage all of you to run with endurance the race that is set before you (Hebrews 12:1).

I posted a picture above of a chore/discipline chart that I made. I purchased a large dry erase/magnetic board from Hobby Lobby (you can download a 40% off coupon to help with the cost). I then took ribbon and hot glue to make a column for each child, a column for everybody's tasks, a "spare" column, and at the bottom, there is a space for completed tasks. I then had a bunch of magnets for putting on the back of business cards, so I printed off labels of various tasks, chores, etc. and attached each of them to a magnet.

Here is how it works: At the beginning of the day, I assign each kid their normal tasks by putting the appropriate magnet in their column: for example: Bible reading, clean out cubbie hole, etc... and I place the group chores in the group column: dishwasher, laundry, vacuum, etc...  As each task is completed, the magnet gets moved to the completed row. If I have a child with a bad attitude, sloppy work, or breaks the rules we have gone over, I move a group chore from the group column to the individual child's column. (Alternatively, I may move one of the spare tasks to their column such as run, clean wheat, dust baseboards, etc...)

So far, it has worked very well for us and because the forethought of the discipline has already been decided, I am able to discipline out of love and not out of anger.  What works for you???? Please post!

I will be posting my spreadsheet school schedule/organizer, cleaning schedule, and some other things we have implemented soon in another post! All of these can be customized to your family/house if you are interested.

Have a blessed weekend!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Entering the blogging world...

So I've considered entering the world of blogging for some time. I decided that when the Lord gave me a title, I would go for it! So now that I was given one close to my heart and our vision for our family, I guess I'll give blogging a shot! At this point I don't know how in depth I will be able to take the blog, only time will tell! I know that my focus will be on our family's walk with our Lord Jesus, family worship, our homeschooling journey, and homemaking. I have learned from so many other Godly families and I hope to inspire and continue to learn from others in this network. Hopefully later this week I will get time to post my first "real" entry.