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The Tarnished Teapot



Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17



Last Build Date: Thu, 08 Sep 2016 04:26:58 +0000

 



Let the Annual Fast Begin....

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 19:15:00 +0000

I know I certainly don't contribute to our little blog very often anymore. But, just for the record:

My neighbor, Lisa, and I are continuing our annual Lenten fast from: digital media.

(I know, right?! GASP. HOW WILL WE SURVIVE???)

For the answer to that question, and a great sum-up of why we do this, please see our very first year's recap.

The nature of my fast changes year to year slightly, mostly because I'm in school right now pursuing an information science degree and it's all online. I HAVE to be on the computer/internet regularly.

Therefore, this year's focus/rules are as follows:

  • One focused email time in the morning and one in the afternoon; no more checking/responding throughout the day.
  • Social media ONLY as it relates to class (I'm taking a social media class, so there is some significant activity related to class.... It does NOT include this blog, though). No Google reader. No new blog posts on anything save Literaritea (it's been my test ground for several assignments). No Pinterest browsing. 
  • No... gulp... online shopping.
  • No internet searching. (and this ... big gulp... includes the local library's online catalog)
  • No internet activities that aren't completely necessary (for instance, I'm allowed to continue banking activities but will not be searching for new advance review copies of books to read through netgalley)
In general, I'm going to make a concerted effort to single-task: to pay attention to the moment, to not surf the web whilst I should be folding laundry, to not delay getting dinner ready because I want to catch up on my Google reader, to miss opportunities to enjoy spring because I'm hunting down the perfect birthday present online. It's so easy to get sucked into the online world and end up wasting precious time.

See you on Easter!



A Day in the Life of....

Tue, 10 Jan 2012 16:33:00 +0000

I think it's fun (and reassuring) to get a realistic peek into other people's lives, don't you? So often we go to someone's house (when they've had advance warning), and everything looks spanking clean, the kids are scrubbed and dressed, and dinner's wafting inviting aromas from the kitchen. Or, perhaps you see blog pic after blog pic of super cool decorating niches, artsy "simple" DIY projects, or simply someone's masterful schedule. It's important to remember that you're still only seeing a slice of life. Maybe they clean up good. And maybe, their lives look a lot like yours on a normal day. Here's how mine's gone so far:

Have you had a shower?

YES!!

Is the kitchen floor clean?

YES!! Cleaner than it's been in... maybe a year.

Is the bathroom clean?

YES!! It's ALL clean at the same time!! (except for the mysterious poop-colored stain about potty height on the WHITE shower curtain...)

Are the children clothed and happy?

YES!!

Are they watching TV?

YES!!

Is the laundry done?

If by "done," you mean it's been through a complete washer and dryer cycle, then the kids' laundry is done. If by "done," you mean that it's actually been folded and put back where it goes, then "no."

Are the breakfast dishes cleaned up and table wiped off?

Um.... no. In fact, in our super heavy duty cleaning of said kitchen floor, we also tackled the abyss under the sink and all that "stuff" is on my counter and I can't even see the breakfast dishes anymore... I know they're in the sink somewhere.

Is it lunchtime?

YES!!

Do you have lunch plans?

If by lunch plans, you mean a coupon to some delicious fast food restaurant around the corner, then maybe.

Can you throw together something from your existing pantry/refrigerator supplies?

Of course. But that would be a heck of a lot easier if I could see my kitchen counters and access my sink. But. tummy. doth. protest. need. lunch. now. no. time. to. keep. cleaning.

Are you going to resist the urge to eat out today?

YES!! (but only because we're already planning a Salsaritas run on Friday....)

And the TV show is over and Mommy must return to the fray.



New Year = New Blog Routine?

Thu, 05 Jan 2012 15:07:00 +0000

Hah! Who am I kidding? Carrie and I each have three kids ranging in age (collectively) from 6 months to age 9. Carrie's are spread out and include the bookend ages. Mine are clumped in the middle. In addition, we have hard-working hubbies, outside commitments (hers is a new Tupperware business, mine is grad school), and at least part-time homeschooling commitments.

So, I don't anticipate too much new writing on this poor little blog space of ours. However, we frequently make comments such as the following when we talk on the phone:

"I should put that on the blog!"

"I've been  meaning to write this up for the blog."

"Maybe we could have a new feature on the blog."

And so forth.

But this year, I'd really like to record more of my thoughts on this handy virtual space, if for no other reason than to have a record for my own bad self of all my musings. So, I'm going to get out the real teapot behind our "Tarnished Teapot" title and give it a good polish. It is indeed tarnished.

And I'm going to try to slow down a bit this year (hah! I can hear those of you who know me laughing uproariously at this). By slow down, I mean that I want to take the time to do things right: write important dates down, put stuff up where it goes when I'm tidying up, completely clean the kitchen at night (which, by the way, my hubby does an excellent job of when I'm in class 2 nights/week), blow dry my hair, etc. I probably won't be up to date on my Google reader, won't read as many books outside of classwork, and won't be cooking very elaborately.

But hopefully, I'll spend more time outside, keep the house in better shape, and not forget as many important school things for my daughter (like show-n-tell!). In order to facilitate putting stuff back where it goes, my hubby and I've been engaged in massive house decluttering (including parts of the attic!). We've made some fun discoveries, made huge donations to local thrift stores, and re-evaluated how we want our house to serve us. Stay tuned!



Grammie: Serving by Waiting

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 11:58:00 +0000

My husband's grandmother ("Grammie") went to be with her Lord and Savior this past week. She lived 87 years on this earth despite several health conditions that were predicted to shorten her life. I've often thought of this poem in reference to her during the last few years--it's a poem by John Milton that he wrote when he discovered he was going blind. Blindness, in the 17th century, usually meant the end of a person's active career. Milton went on to write Paradise Lost after he became blind, illustrating that one needn't be active in the traditional sense to serve the Lord.

Grammie wasn't blind--yet--but her eyesight was failing, she'd been unable to drive for years, had difficulty walking without assistance, and was completely dependent on others for many ordinary things.... And what did she do? She prayed--for everyone she knew. She mothered and grandmothered people. She kept in touch with people, and she testified of the Lord to people. To me, she's a great example of Milton's reminder that "They also serve who only stand and wait."

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."



Some Great Resources for Polishing Your Family

Sun, 20 Mar 2011 11:30:00 +0000

(This post was scheduled and written before my internet fast...)

In case you'd like to circumvent the massive Easter bunny and chocolate chaos by giving something...um... more spiritual for Easter, consider the following books/resources. All have made a tremendous impact, for the better, in our children's lives and have been terrific tools for helping train them in the truths of Scripture. There are more and hopefully Carrie (and/or our parents--in the comments section) will weigh in with others.

  1. ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt (ages 4-7; Bible memory; book)
  2. Big Truths for Little People by Ken Taylor (ages 2-4; Bible memory; book)
  3. Hide 'em in Your Heart, vols. 1-2 by Steve Green (all ages; Bible memory; CD's)
  4. The Singing Bible by Focus on the Family (all ages, especially preschool and elementary; Bible stories; CD's)
  5. Hymns for a Kid's Heart by Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolmuth (all ages; hymns; book and CD)
  6. Beginner's Bible by Zonderkidz (preschool and early elementary; kids' Bible; book)
  7. Big Picture Story Bible (preschool and early elementary; Bible story book)
  8. Psalty Kids' Praise CD's (yes, you can still get them, and yes, kids still love them!)
What are tools that have been helpful for YOUR family?



A Lenten Fast

Wed, 09 Mar 2011 11:54:00 +0000

Well, it's that time of year again, folks: the Lenten fast from the internet. (gasp!)My neighbor Lisa and I fasted from the internet last year with a few slight allowances. It was such a rewarding experience that we've decided to do it again! I thought I could pull off a TV free summer, but that didn't go over so well. However, we definitely are redoing the Lenten fast. Why?The internet can be such a boon to folks like us: stay at home moms of young kids. When those kids are sick in the winter and/or you're stuck at home for lengthy nap times, the internet is a nice breath of fresh air. Surf some other mom blogs, check out book reviews on amazon, look for what's on sale, check email, find a new crafty project to while away the home hours.... But the internet can also be a MAJOR distraction from what's really important in life and, I'll tell ya, kids don't know the difference between something "important" (like balancing your checkbook online) and something "just for fun" (reading a blog) when you're staring at that computer screen. They just see a parent not engaged with them. Occasionally, this is fine. But it certainly doesn't need to be your modus operandi while you should be spending time with them. And, we've all been there: "how can 2 hours have gone by???!!" It just sucks your time away.Last year, in brief,Lisa and I logged much more face to face time during our fast than we had previously, got so much more done around the house because we used those little 15 minute time slots throughout the day to be productive rather than check email,enjoyed spring and spent more time outside,felt less stressed,spent more time with the Lord, andthoroughly enjoyed it!This year is already a bit different. For one, I haven't spent days frantically printing things that I "might" need whilst on the fast. I broke some bad habits last year that I've never really picked back up (lots of mindless surfing on the web, for one). And, I'm in school--via the internet. So, my fast will look different this year, too. But it's really crept up on me--no counting down the days, no wondering what in the world I would do, no--I learned some really great things last year:The library is still an outstanding place for information,Kids can look at library books with you and/or you can sit in the same room looking at a book and it's not as "unengaged" as when you're staring at a computer screen,Not that many people email me--checking it once a day is really more than enough,Nobody "needs" my blogs and nobody will really miss a 40 day absence,The internet is only a tool--not a way of life.So, my "rules" for this year:Check email once a day (morning).Perform online banking functions.Access already saved recipes (via full tummies primarily).Perform school-related duties*.No checking the weather (I'll have to just wait and see or ... go outside!). No checking the sales on kids' clothes, shopping for miscellany, finding out a craft project.... Nothing. *And, I've picked a paper topic for my next assignment that actually involves... personal interviews. (gasp!) I'm going to try to do those via phone, not email. I'll still be doing significant research online, but this will break it up.Next week is my spring break and all of my family (but me) will be gone this weekend: could have been prime time to do a little blogging or surfing or what have you...but it won't be happening here! I won't even be attending class virtually or doing as much homework. Instead, I have a couple of books I want to read, some time scheduled with friends I don't see often, and a LONG list of house projects. I've even reserved some cookbooks at the library, hoping I won't need to access my saved internet recipes much.In case you're interested, here are our reflections on our experiences last year: this blog and Lisa's blog.[...]



Hymns for a Kid's Heart

Mon, 07 Mar 2011 13:47:00 +0000

(image)
Hymns for a Kid's Heart by Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolgemuth is a great resource to check out for your family. My mother-in-law gave my daughter this as a 5-year-old birthday present, and we've all enjoyed it immensely. It's designed to be an aid to teach your children 12 great hymns--each hymn features the melody sheet music, all the verses to the hymn, a Bible verse, a devotional page, and a short story about the composer. The book also comes with an audio CD. To date, my kids--especially my 5-year-old, can sing all 4 verses of "Holy, Holy, Holy" and are working on "This is My Father's World." They request the CD every morning (and this has been going on for about 6 weeks now!), and we are trying to do about one hymn every month. Check it out!



Preschool Funnies

Wed, 16 Feb 2011 17:19:00 +0000

Some recent conversations in our home (E is our 5-year-old daughter; W and D are our 3-year-old twins). I should put one of these up every day--they're so funny. Are you taking time to really listen to the little people in your lives?Mommy: "I'm going upstairs to fix my hair."W (innocently): "Is it broken?"Mommy: "We're having leftover soup tonight for dinner."E: "What kind?"Mommy: "I'm afraid it's the kind you don't like." (cream of turkey and wild rice)E: "I have a good idea. To make it better, you can stir in yogurt (plain), cheese, and... some cream cheese! That's a good idea, Mommy."D: "What's green dough, Mommy?" (I have French bread in the oven)Mommy: "I don't know, D--"D: "It's broccoli!"Daddy: "What do you have in your mouth, D?"D: (tells what it is--I can't remember, but it was definitely NOT something that should have been in his mouth)Daddy: "Where did you get that, D?"D: "From my hand."W: "Mommy"Mommy: "What?"W: "Mommy"Mommy: "What?"W: "Mommy"Mommy (in a louder than normal tone...): "What?!"W: "umm..... " (apparently, he didn't have anything to say....)W: "Is it raining? Do we need coats?"Mommy: "It's only a little rainy. You'll be fine without your coat."W: "It's only a little rainy, Mommy, not a big rainy."And, finally, a conversation (one among many) in which big sister E instructs one of her little brothers in the vast knowledge of the universe:D: "The moon is the sun! I see the moon!"E: "The moon is not the sun." (with finger raised) "Listen to me: I will tell you all about the moon. The moon is a circle and it's full. The moon is light. It's a round circle."D: "OH" (like this is the most significant thing he's ever heard) "What is the sun?"E: "The sun is different." (in a funny little 'instructing' voice) "It's very hot--so hot it will burn your finger if you touch it."D: "Oh, and if I get really tall and touch the sun and it will burn my finger off and Mommy will help me and..." (I lost the rest of that strain)[...]



Acorns and Sin

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 13:33:00 +0000

(image)
The kids and I got out to enjoy the gorgeous weather yesterday and to do one of my all-time favorite gardening tasks: clearing away some of winter's dead leaves and twigs to make room for new, growing plants. I always have a Secret Garden moment where I want to chant "clear it away so the plants can breathe!"

But I was also struck yesterday with the image of the sprouting acorn and sin (no, I'm not talking about the temptation to sin after pulling up the 100th sprouted acorn...). Rather, I was mulling over how urgent it is that I pull up all sprouting acorns this week. If we wait, they'll be impossible to pull up by hand by next week. If we wait until spring is in full force, we'll have to dig them out with a shovel. If we wait longer, then we just have to live with the newest oak tree in the yard. Much as I cherish our gigantic oak tree in the front yard, the acorns it drops are perilous bullets in the fall and much dreaded vehicles of hardest-weeds-ever-to-pull-up. Have you ever tried to pull up a sprouting acorn?

Trees grow these amazing taproots that reach way down in the soil and are super strong, even in their infancy. It's a miracle of creation when you think about that tiny acorn becoming the giant oak. But it's also a terrific picture of what happens when we let sin take root in our lives, isn't it? Of what happens when we don't nip it in the bud--in ourselves or in our children....

So that's what I was mulling over as I yanked up hundreds of sprouting acorns in the midst of clearing away winter's deadness so my baby daffodil shoots can breathe, so we can see the blooming lenten roses, and so we can enjoy the purple and yellow crocuses.



Read that Bible!

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 13:20:00 +0000

Several years ago, I read through the whole Bible in one year. I attempted it another time, but didn't quite finish. Still, it was immensely rewarding to read the entire book as a whole, not to mention being in the Word on a daily basis. This year, I'm not attempting the entire Bible in one year. I'm involved in two different Bible studies, both of which use the Bible as the only text and require quite a bit of reading. Still, it's good accountability for me to have a plan and to be reading on my own--as opposed to the more academic "homework" I have for my two studies. So, I'm going to try the 5 x 5 x 5 approach listed on the Navigators' website (the Navigators are a ministry committed to the Word--terrific Bible study guides like their LifeChange series, Bible memory aids, etc.). There are three different Bible-reading plans for the year on their website--check them out and see if one fits your need this year! (There are also many, many other plans out there on the web that will take you through the Bible in various orders/methods in a year; the important thing is to be reading it!).

Do you have a plan in mind that you'd like to share or link to?



Chores, Children, and Chimes

Sun, 16 Jan 2011 15:07:00 +0000

One of my New Year's Goals this year is to be a little more systematic in training my children to do their chores. Let's see... others? Most of them revolved around continuing things we've already started or already enjoy doing. What in the world does the dinner bell/triangle picture have to do with any of this? I'm working hard at creating a peaceful home; one of the ways in which I do not contribute to that is being frustrated when we sit down to dinner. What is frustrating me? Having to yell at my family (after speaking moderately several times) to get them to all come to the table. We have a large home and sometimes kids are outside, upstairs, hubby's in the basement, etc. So, now, I will ring my triangle and then sit down! The kids are very into it right now.So far, so good on our NYG: the hubby and I have been on a great date, I bought some much needed clothes, the kids and I and the dog have been for walks at least twice a week even in the snow/ice, and my first Hebrews discussion with my friend is tonight! I realize it is only mid-January, but getting off to a good start makes it that much easier to continue.The biggest "goal" on the list that isn't already in the works is a more systematic approach to chores. There are a million resources out there for coaching families through systems for chores. You know what? This isn't rocket science folks. Kids are born into a family and that family has needs: they get to help meet the family's needs. Period. You have to figure out what your own family needs to get done, who is capable of doing it, and how that works into your family's routine. In our family, our three kids are all within 18 months of each other. That means that they're all pretty much capable of the same chores. So, rather than have one child have a particular chore every week, we just sort of all do it all.I decided to make a chore chart for each kid and divide up our chores a bit (and everyone pretty much as the same chart). I didn't put anything on there (yet) that they don't already do; most of the "chores" are even things they like doing. I figure this will help us work toward better organization. My goal is to be able to turn some of these chores over the kids entirely without my constant supervision. What are our chores?My 5-year-old daughter's:Clean up room (we're going to work on doing this daily.... ahem...)Feed dog (2 mornings/week)Set table (2 days/week)Empty dishwasher (2 days/week)Put up her clean clothes on laundry dayall of the above she already does when asked and w/o supervision; new ones/ones we're working on doing w/o supervision:Bathrooms (helping Mommy)Floors (mostly picking up objects but learning to sweep/Swiff)Trash (emptying smaller cans into bigger bag)Miscellaneous (we're calling these "zone" chores in honor of the Fly Lady since we'll work on a different area each week--dusting, mopping, wiping cabinets, etc.)3-Year-old Twin Boys' Chores (they need more supervision, but can do all of these without assistance):Clean up room (we're going to work on doing this daily.... ahem...)Feed dog (2 mornings/week)Set table (2 days/week)Empty dishwasher (2 days/week)Put up their clean clothes on laundry dayBathrooms (helping Mommy)Floors (mostly picking up objects)Trash (emptying smaller cans into bigger bag)Bringing the big outdoor trash cans back to the house after they're empty (they LOVE doing this)Even Mommy and Daddy get chore charts! And, what fun are charts without stickers??!!Basically, the week looks like this:Daily: clean rooms, 1 child feeds dog in the morning, 1 child sets table, and 1 child helps unload dishwasher, Daddy feeds dog every nightMonday: Everyone puts up their clean laundry and helps Mommy with floorsMonday: each child each week helps Mommy empty 1 indoor trash canMonday: Daddy gets KP duty since [...]



New Year's Goals for 2011

Wed, 29 Dec 2010 20:01:00 +0000

Can you believe it's 2011????? Seems like the year 2000 just happened. Crazy.I prefer to make New Year's goals to New Year's resolutions--more specific and measurable which means more chance of meeting them. Over the years, I've also learned that less is more: the fewer, more important goals you make, the better the chances of reaching them. The list below might look like more rather than less, but this is kind of like a to do list for the whole year; not so much in reality. So, here are a few of my more important goals for 2011:Me:Do Hebrews study with my friend Sarah and keep up with my weekly Thursday Bible study.Lose 5 more pounds (and, um, re-lose a couple of the pounds I already lost this fall)Get moving/be active at least 2x/weekBuy some new clothes and get my hair cut! (this might not seem like a needed goal for most, but it's been a while since I bought some new clothes and since I got my hair cut... I find that I can coast for a LONG time, but these are both urgent needs now. And, I need some new jeans to wear with my super cool, stylish new jacket that the hubby got me for Christmas!)Family:Kids memorize 10-15 more catechism questionsKids memorize remaining ABC verses (we're on "G") and keep up with Sunday School versesTrain kids in chores: specifically, helping with emptying trash, meal prep, kitchen duties, and bathroom cleaning (they already help pick up toys and put up their clean laundry)Go camping at least once in our new tent!!!Do something each week that is family-oriented (play games, watch a movie together, picnic, etc. We're much better about this in warmer weather)Marriage:Go on a date at least once a monthGo away for at least one trip by ourselves this year (we've managed this each year except the year our twins were born)In-house date night the weeks we don't go on a date outEducation:"School" 3-4 days/week with daughter (and boys tagging along); this is through the end of this school year. We're not sure what the plan is next year. She's learning to read and we do some informal math. That's all that "school" involves.Keep up with my own schooling (I'm taking one class this spring)Household:Keep up with Fly Lady's Zone cleaning in general, doing quick basic house cleaning each week and focusing on one area in particular each weekFile all paperwork, pay all bills, etc. within 1 week of receptionKeep my kitchen counters clean! (I worked hard to declutter them, only to have the holidays re-clutter them)Finish kitchen redo!!! (this is a biggie!!)Finish upstairs bathrooms redo!!!Estate: (a ha ha ha ha.... if only... this is referring to our yard and exterior home)plant a modest gardentidy the front yard: keep up with weeding and suchmaintain big trees as needed (just had one taken down and two "cleaned out"--there are several more we need to keep an eye on)tackle the screened in porch: needs repainting, but we're dragging our feet big-time on this oneWell, that's it--if we do all of those things and nothing else, it will be a great year! Definitely some things to work toward, but I feel that these are reachable and will help keep me focused.What about you? Any New Year's Goals you'd like to share with the peanut gallery?[...]



Organizing and Loving What You Have

Tue, 30 Nov 2010 19:11:00 +0000

I am probably the only one on the planet (who celebrates Christmas) who is spending time this week painting kitchen cabinets and organizing closets. I mean, c'mon, lady... don't you have presents to buy and/or wrap, decorations to put up, parties to attend, better things to do???This is what happens when you spend a semester back in school with little to no time to attend to the daily pile-ups and cleaning chores. It's so bad now that I'm compelled to attend to it. Well, it's not out of control, but I know what's coming in a few weeks to my children.... So, if I don't want things to be completely out of control, I'd best create a space NOW for that new Play-doh tool set, those new toy workbenches, new games, new puzzles, .....In case you're inspired to tackle some home improvement and organization NOW, during the busiest time of the year, let me offer some suggestions I have learned the hard way:1. Per Fly Lady's suggestion: only take out what you can put back in an hour. In other words, work on one closet shelf or one set of cabinets or some other small amount at a time. At the end of an hour, you should be done--including having put all the rejects into their newly appointed places or bagged up for trash or Goodwill... NOT piled on the dining room table. Then, if you don't get anything else done this Christmas season, you'll at least have refrained from creating more mess.2. Focus on urgent needs first: our arts and crafts storage areas are the likely recipients of new gear from Christmas presents as well as the most likely culprits of out-of-date, used-up, dried-up, torn-up supplies that can be trashed. The kids' clothing closets? Don't need to worry about them right now.3. Strategize: how are you planning to use this particular space or storage area? We've been homeschooling our daughter some this year (hybrid pre-K and K), and there are a couple of books we use daily. I don't need to have them laying around when there's a nice, handy cabinet right next to the table we use. Instead, I'm reorganizing that cabinet so that there's room for school stuff and, um, the baby-books-yet-to-be-finished-even-though-the-"babies"-are-three-and-a-half-years-old can be moved to my closet shelf upstairs....4. Love (and Use) What You Have!!! Storing some priceless goblets? Use them. So what if one breaks. At least you're enjoying them in the meantime rather than keeping them out of sight for who knows how many years to collect dust. Objects were meant to be used or admired or, preferably, both--not stored indefinitely out of sight.5. Focus on giving items at Christmas that be used and admired, or objects that promote creative playing and crafting and doing rather than hoarding. What are we requesting or giving for Christmas? My husband has already bought his major gift: a new tool for his woodshop that he's using to make some Christmas presents. I requested for my in-laws to frame a very cool authentic King James Bible page they'd given us the year before. We're subscribing to a few magazines (or people are subscribing for us), giving our kids things like library tote bags, Play-doh tools, games that all three can play together, puzzles, etc.I need hardly mention that you should make a list of needed organizational items for your Christmas decorations if you've had to hunt all over the house and attic for your tree topper, lights, and ornaments. Then, after Christmas, acquire those organizational tools and pack your decorations up efficiently for next year.What are your strategies for organizing your home or giving intentional Christmas gifts?[...]



Christmas is Coming!

Mon, 29 Nov 2010 13:10:00 +0000

Christmas really is just around the corner now, despite the fact that retailers have been displaying their Christmas decor for MONTHS now. Are you rushing around frantically decorating your house in preparation for Christmas parties and guests? Already mulling over your Christmas menu? Making Christmas gifts? Trying to hit sales for some Christmas gifts? Stressing over the budget?

RELAX.

A few reminders as we enter this busiest of seasons:

1. Don't forget about true hospitality--When you decorate your house, remind yourself that hospitality is still the important thing, NOT entertaining, during this season. A warm cup of hot cocoa and some (storebought) cookies on a paper plate can still hit the spot, even if you don't have any Christmas decorations up.

2. Don't forget your family--THEY need your love and attention as much as the school teachers, the preacher, the far off relatives for whom you're frantically finding presents.

3. Don't forget the reason for the season--watch for opportunities to share with your children about the first Christmas, even if they occur when you had planned to clean the oven before your company arrives or you are mixing up wassail for your party or you have 18,450 gifts to wrap before tomorrow morning....

4. Don't forget that our to do lists are largely self-imposed: don't have enough time/money for photo cards to 90 relatives this year? Send an e-mail with attached photo. Don't have time to make rolls from scratch? Sister Schubert makes a mean dinner roll, and she stocks hers in the grocery freezer section. Don't have enough money for teacher gifts? As a former teacher, trust me on this: a truly heartfelt note about why you are thankful for or appreciate your child's teacher will mean the most.

5. Don't forget that the details matter...and they don't: give your house a good cleaning this week and don't sweat it the rest of the month. So what if a little dust piles up. Turn the lights off and the tree lights on and NO ONE will notice. But do take the time to make some cookies with your kids or drive by neighborhood Christmas lights one night or sing some Christmas carols....



psych

Mon, 04 Oct 2010 14:29:00 +0000

My husband and I watch fewer and fewer mainstream TV shows. In addition to the usual violence, foul language, and sexual content objections, we're tired of watching husbands and wives yell at each other and belittle each other, gay relationships portrayed as normal--or even better and more well-adjusted than their straight counterparts, conservatives and Christians portrayed as dummies, the general lack of respect for one another, and humor that's always at someone else's expense and/or sexual/crass in nature.

Enter psych: a delightful comedy/drama in which a "psychic detective" named Shawn Spencer and his buddy, Guster, solve crimes... hilariously. Shawn is really just extra observant, but he plays it off like he's psychic--which often adds to the humor. This show airs on USA, which we don't get, but you can watch it via Hulu.com or get it through sources like Netflix.

Why do we enjoy this series? Several reasons:
  1. Funny
  2. crime scene/mystery without blood and guts
  3. portrayal of a Christian (Gus) that is subtle and simply part of his character--not the basis for wise cracks, put downs, or making him look stupid. It's only after watching multiple episodes that you realize he is a Christian (or is supposed to be one).
  4. portrayal of great friendships: Shawn and Gus are in their 30's and have been best friends since grade school (incidentally, Shawn is white and Gus is black. There is also no homosexual overtone--both men are interested in women.)
  5. portrayal of normal family relationships, to an extent. Gus lives with his parents, whom we never see. Shawn's mother left early on, so she's not central to the storyline, but clearly he and his father have a relationship that's normal--sometimes rocky, sometimes loving, but never bitter/hurtful/truly disrespectful. That is, their disparaging comments towards each other aren't the source of the humor on the show.
  6. Sexual content is at a true minimum; language occasionally erupts, but again, fairly minimal.
  7. Violence happens in the course of taking down a criminal, but it's rarely drawn out, nor is it excessively bloody or gratuitous.
  8. Women are portrayed as competent in their jobs (the two main females hold higher positions in the police force than do Shawn or Gus), but still retain a feminine persona.
We should support shows like this! It IS possible to produce fun family shows that aren't dumb or watered down. You don't have to have married couples fighting, gratuitous blood/violence, sexual innuendo, and crass humor to make a show worth watching.

What are your favorite TV shows?



Denial and Procrastination

Tue, 28 Sep 2010 18:13:00 +0000

This blog post is pure procrastination in action...and denial of all the work I *should* be doing. Ever have days like that? I'm tired, fighting off a beastly cold/sinus thing (and gaining more sympathy for my sick kids), slightly cold from the damp, cold weather outside, and very much not in the mood to do my homework or the weekly ironing. So, instead, I'm drinking a cup of nice hot tea, rambling on this blog post, and waiting for some chocolate chip cookies to come out of the oven....

Sounds like much more fun than ironing or homework, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, I'm too mature not to know that my cold will only get worse--probably about 5:00 when my class starts--and that the ironing won't do itself. (sigh) So, I'm going to be a big girl, surf the web while I finish my tea, and then get up and be productive. I think I'll set a timer: if I work hard for an hour, then I will take a wee nap. After all, I could probably get everything done in that hour if I put my mind to it.

Ever have days like these?



Suffering and Euthanasia

Sat, 11 Sep 2010 17:47:00 +0000

In a little more than 48 hours, we will be taking one of our cherished labs to the vet for her final nap. She has cancer in nearly every major internal organ. We know it's the right decision, but, when you've cared for and spent time with such a social animal for nearly 10 years, it's like bidding farewell to a member of the family.It's been interesting to mull over the reasons why we, as Christians, can euthanize our pets and why the same decision holds such different moral weight when it comes to humans, especially when it's the same "disease." In our current society, many people are blurring those lines. Some people spend thousands just to grant an extra month or two to a beloved pet (like the veterinary specialist is urging us to do) while others advocate for "putting people out of their misery" when someone is faced with a rapidly progressing terminal illness.The quick, and most often given, answer to this is that we believe humans are created in the image of God and have a soul; therefore, the decision to terminate human life is not in our hands. Over and over in Scripture, we see this played out, beginning right away with Cain and Abel. "An eye for an eye" and similar statements in Scripture illustrate the grave penalties for trifling with human life. It's the exact same reason we advocate for the life of the unborn. It is not up to us to determine the length of any human's life on earth.What we don't talk about as much is that the suffering often attendant on the final years of life is also important--for humans, that is. Again, we look to Scripture for our source. Paul urges believers to count it all joy, James reminds us that suffering produces perseverance, Paul suffered from a thorn in the flesh, Jesus is held up as our example--that, in our suffering, we might emulate him. Since we are spiritual beings, there is a higher purpose for our suffering than there is for animals. By sparing my dog the dreadful pain that is surely coming her way quickly as her cancer metastasizes, I know I am giving her a gift. She does not have a soul, she does not have a faith that can be enriched by suffering, she is not made in the image of God. I believe the Lord cares for His creation; after all, not a sparrow can fall to the ground without his knowledge. But we are allowed, as stewards of that creation, to spare His (non-human) creatures unnecessary suffering. In contrast, when we seek to hasten the end of a human's life--even if it is rapidly and painfully approaching--we are denying them and those near to them the promised benefits and rewards of suffering. The Lord sometimes uses those final days to open someone's eyes to His truth. Sometimes, it's those watching a loved one who have their eyes opened. Sometimes, those watching are simply encouraged to fight the good fight and press on as their loved one demonstrates true faith under great trial. Whatever the purpose, we can trust that our God is sovereign, that He loves and cares for His children, and that He has walked this road ahead of us.[...]



Treasuring the Moment

Mon, 30 Aug 2010 01:10:00 +0000

Well-you all know I am frequently absent from the blogging world ;-). It's been quite a year for us. But isn't it always. Through all the chaos of the past year (homeschooling, husband traveling, husband having back surgery, volunteering with youth, you get the idea) there are so many days that I have felt like throwing in the towel. Then at a baby shower for a woman in our church, and through a great book on prayer we went through this summer in our study I have learned of a new idea to gain a new perspective on the trying days.

The idea is to simply make a journal of good things. Especially with our kids. As Christians we can even go a step further and see how God is using them and working in their life. The woman who first mentioned it said she got a journal and would write happy moments of her daughters life. She would try almost daily. The end result was that she was able to look at the good things and memories and not the day to day turmoil of life. Even if it was simple and small. It could be Suzie tied her shoes herself, or Johnny didn't complain about green peas, or Jane made me laugh so hard doing xyz, etc.

The prayer book idea was deeper, but a similar idea. It was to keep a prayer journal. Not necessarily everyday, but when you could. The end result being that through the trying times, you could look back and see the story that God was weaving, and how He had provided and cared for us through the process. And it's all one big story.

So as we are all beginning a new school year (mine REALLY kicks into full gear this week!) try to pause and jot down the good times, so when you hit the bad times, you have something to re-focus on!



17 Years and Counting!

Mon, 23 Aug 2010 11:30:00 +0000

Today (August 23rd) marks the 17th anniversary of when my husband and I met: August 23, 1993. We met at a dinner for the scholarship program for which we had both been selected the year before as high school seniors. We were freshmen; he was 18 and I was 17, and we were instant friends. We met, incidentally, jogging back up to campus from the professor's house at which the dinner had been held. Neither of us enjoys jogging. I thought a small history of our relationship, the significant memories/accomplishments/moments, and the big events would be worth recounting. Numbers relate to year of acquaintance; clearly the Lord was at work.0. We were both selected as Maclellan Scholars at Covenant College. I was told by some friends that a friend of a friend of a friend from Greenville, SC, was going to be part of the program. This was my future husband, but I didn't know it at the time!1. We met. We had lots of core classes together, the Maclellan Scholars class together, and mutual friends in common. He started dating another girl....2. I don't remember much from this year. The first semester, I was working 15 hours/week in the admissions department, taking 18 hours of heavy classes, logging 10 hours/week for a youth ministry practicum,.... I also had a roommate who underwent some trials of her own which spilled over into my life. I think we worked the Madrigal Dinners together this year (he played trumpet and I was a "wench"). The second semester I left and went to the Czech Republic for a semester....3. Friendship renewed. He'd broken up with his girlfriend, we continued to have the Maclellan Scholars class together, and he went to China for 6 months. I think we both were a part of the Madrigal Dinners this year, too.4. He transferred to Clemson, and I moved off campus. We saw each other on weekends when he came to town. He was dating another girl, and I even put her up for one of the visits to town. Can you believe it?! :)5. I continued to work at the college, and he continued at Clemson. I met his grandparents for the first time (they lived pretty close to campus). We started talking on the phone a lot since he was doing alternate semesters in Johnson City for a co-op (and was very lonely). One memorable event at the beginning of this year was a picnic we had by the river downtown; we hid an old key we found up under one of the bridges.6. More of the same.... I believe at this point, I actually started making a trip or two to his neck of the woods.7. I worked at the college one last year, and he finished up at Clemson. This year, I told him we were too close as friends. We needed to move one way or the other: were we going to date? were we going to be friends forever? I also refused to meet the latest girl he had gone on a date with.8. He began master's work at Ga Tech, and I started a master's program at Hollins University in the summers. I also started teaching high school in a local Christian school. This is the year things started to pick up... He told me he had "something to tell me," came up mid-week, we went out, and he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me! We had never officially "dated." We got engaged that summer. Oh--we also got our dogs at Christmas of this school year; we weren't even engaged yet.9. We spent the school year engaged. I had an elaborate countdown chain around my classroom, and my students really got into it. He sent me a GORGEOUS bouquet of roses to my classroom on Aug. 23rd that year. It happened to be parent's night, and all the moms were nudging their husbands and pointing them out. Very funny.10. We got[...]



Here We Go!

Sat, 07 Aug 2010 19:51:00 +0000

School is beginning in earnest for both Carrie's family and my own. We've been doing a K4 type curriculum for my daughter--started it in July since it's SO HOT and then we can take a break come October and enjoy the weather/outdoors more. Carrie just began homeschooling her family this week. I start school next week--I'll be doing an online library science program through the university in town.

What does all this mean for our everyday lives? Routine, routine, routine.

For my family, this means we'll go back to my each-day-of-the-week-plan in which each day has a different major chore allocated to it. This has served me well during the past couple of years. I've changed days around as needed, but here is how this year is shaping up:

Monday: Laundry; Tidy up from weekend; empty trash; last minute homework...
Tuesday: errands
Wednesday: homework--my classes are Tuesday night, so I'd better plan on getting going on Wed just in case something comes up during the week!
Thursday: Bible study and office odds and ends in the afternoon (correspondence, business/banking, etc.)
Friday: Library story time and clean-the-house day; wash linens/towels
Saturday: Home improvement day and/or family fun day! Work ahead for Sunday (extra food prep and so forth)

More important than this is my renewed desire to complete each task when it's begun. How many times have you started cleaning up the kitchen and run out of steam before you get to the crockpot? It's still sitting there in the morning, isn't it? Or, what about wiping off the table after lunch? Putting up the clean laundry? Dealing with the (junk) mail right away? Vacuumed, but left the mopping for another day? Put up ALMOST all the toys....

Last year, on "Earth Day," my husband brought home a little magnet from his work that was supposed to inspire us to care for the earth. In reality, it's helped me deal with household needs in a more timely fashion. Here it is:

If not now, when? If not me, who?



Kids' Clothes: Provision and Hoarding

Wed, 21 Jul 2010 12:07:00 +0000

Over the years, I have been amazed at how the Lord has provided clothes for my children. As the fall/school year approaches, we parents start evaluating our growing children's wardrobes and searching out the next round of clothing via store sales, consignment sales, hand-me-downs, and so forth. Since I can't pass on hand-me-downs within my own family (one girl and twin boys), I am fairly diligent at searching out bargains and clothing sources--especially for the boys.

For my daughter, though, I've hardly had to buy anything! When she was a baby, we had some friends who kept us stocked with the bulk of her wardrobe up until around age 2. Then, a neighbor and I started swapping clothes (she had daughters on either age/size of my daughter). That neighbor's younger daughter started catching up to mine in size, so that well of hand-me-downs began to dry up. Another friend, whose daughter has received our daughter's hand-me-downs, was given several large bags of clothes from a friend. Those clothes are too big for her daughter, so we get to use them in the interim! I'm amazed at how the Lord has provided such tremendous sources of clothing without me asking or knowing from where the next batch would come. The latest batch of 3 huge garbage bags full arrived yesterday and I realized that I don't need to search out much of anything for another YEAR; we'll need to round up a new white t'neck and some tights... that's about it.

What does all of this clothing provision teach me? In addition to the obvious "trust the Lord" aspect, it also has freed me up from hoarding my children's clothing. I have a Rubbermaid bin in the attic with 0-1 year clothing--for both genders--and also which includes miscellaneous crib bedding and so forth. That's it. If the Lord sends us another child, I'm sure he will provide for any wardrobe holes! I kept a few gender neutral things, the handmade things people had given my children, and a few very special outfits. That's it. The others I have freely passed on. SHARE THE LOVE people. Pass on those kids' clothes and don't worry if you don't get them all back or if some clothes come back in poor condition. If you don't anticipate a need for your children's clothes within your own family, then pass them on to others who can use them. Loan them or give them outright. I have even fewer clothes for the other ages--mostly because so many people are using our kids' clothes! Some come back to me and I look around for who else to loan them to.

Could I consign these clothes and make some money? Sure. I've done that once. But I decided that it's far more satisfying to pass these clothes on free of charge to people I know who can use them. After all, I didn't pay for most of them in the first place. And I know what tremendous benefit it is to get a giant garbage bag full of clothes in my child's next size :).



Poetry for Children

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:07:00 +0000

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My kids and I really enjoy reading children's poetry books/anthologies together. It's a great way to introduce little ones to a potentially hard subject ahead of them in school. Our latest favorite is Sunflakes compiled by Lilian Moore. Terrific, kid-friendly rhymes and poems about ordinary subjects (spaghetti, the ocean taking your sand castle, and so forth) by well known contemporary authors. Check it out on your next library trip!

(For other recommendations, see my Poetry for Children Literaritea Post)

What's your favorite poetry collection? What is your kids' favorite?



8 Years and Counting... (Or should I say 16 years?)

Wed, 09 Jun 2010 19:04:00 +0000

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My wonderful hubby and I celebrated 8 great years of marriage yesterday. We're working on a much longer history than that and, on August 23 this year, we will celebrate knowing each other for seventeen years. That means that I will have known my hubby for half of my life! Quite a landmark, isn't it?

I've been thinking about the unique little world that marriage creates. There are things that my husband and I enjoy, find amusing, think alike on, know about, have experienced, and so forth that no other 2 people in the world can share. Pretty neat, isn't it, when you think about your unique life as a couple? In honor of our 8 years of married life, here's a list of 8 things we have in common--when you take the list as a whole, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone else who shares all 8. I'm writing this off the top of my head--I'm sure I've left things out! I need hardly state, I hope, that we love each other and share that!

(In no particular order)
1. Our faith

2. Our families and our children: the 3 musketeers (and our first "children"--2 large, lovable labs)

3. Our friends: Too many to list! But they range from folks we've known most of our lives and their spouses (Ken and Melanie, Kevin and Betsy, Leah and Norman, and so on) to folks we met in college (like Todd and Liz, Andy and Lynn, Dave and Meadow, Sarah, Kathy and Brian, Heather and Mark, Heather, and so on) to new friends (Todd and Karen, Philip and Bridgette, Curt and Sara, Lief and Stephanie, Lisa and Jonathan, and so on)

4. Our quirky TV interests: Monarch of the Glen, Corner Gas, Ballykissangel, Hamish Macbeth, the new Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Chuck, Hidden Hills (a nice little sitcom that aired the first year we were married), Psych, The Office, and so on.

5. Our varied musical loves: everything from Rachmaninoff, Bach, Joplin, Gershwin, Dvorak, Debussy to U2, Eddie from Ohio, Alison Krauss, Wynton Marsalis, etc. (too many to list, really)

6. Our trips: Outer Banks, Grand Canyon and related parks, San Francisco, Biltmore/Asheville, Charleston, Greenville, Memphis, Delaware, and others.

7. Our trials: (these really bring you together, don't they?!) Things like grad school, tough jobs, sickness, multiples (as in twins), budgeting, moving, deaths in our families, etc.

8. Our joys: (so many common interests) Hiking, gardening, culinary experiences (especially ethnic and/or regionally interesting), discussing religious/ethical/intellectual issues, good music, cooking, education, Scotland and all things related, Hobnobs, travel, being out in nature, museums, games (board- and card-), homemade blackberry jam, .... this list could go on and on and on.




What is unique about your little world of marriage?



Screen-Free Summer!

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 13:46:00 +0000

We're off to a great start for our screen-free summer: my kids are watching Super Why on the TV while I type up a blog post. So much for TV- and Computer-free summer starting June 1st, right?

I was without phone/internet for a few days last week and didn't have a chance to finish this over the weekend. So, I opted for one more morning in front of media screens. But this is it! Our rules for this summer ("our" being the kids and me during the day):
  • email checking in the morning only
  • no blog surfing, recipe surfing, blog reading, blog posting, web surfing,....
  • business transactions allowed (we bank online, do library stuff online, etc.)
  • TV will be an event in which all will participate, not an activity to keep kids occupied while Mommy cleans up the kitchen, types a blog post (ahem...), or other worthwhile pursuits
  • some blog maintenance will be done (indexes updated and so forth; if you subscribe, you may receive these updated indexes.... I don't know).
I hope everyone who reads this little blog of ours has a wonderful summer. Carrie may post some things (and there are a few posts of mine still in draft form that I may get around to), but it will most likely be pretty "quiet" on the teapot. Check back once a month or so. Maybe we'll get enough free time come August (ha ha ha ha ha... nearly spit my tea out on that one) to post on a more regular basis.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to get back to the basics this summer with your family. A friend of mine and I are studying the Westminster Confession of Faith together (we're such nerds, aren't we!?), and it's been a rich, rich study of the fundamentals of the Reformed faith I claim to believe. I'm enjoying working through the Children's Catechism with my children. We've been learning the great memory verses on Steve Green's Hide 'Em in Your Heart CD's and learning some of the older Bible songs that I learned as a kid ("Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart" anyone? How about "I am a C-" or "Deep and Wide" or "The B-I-B-L-E"?). We've also been spending some great family time eating ice cream (in a cone!) on the back porch, singing while my husband plays the piano (in the midst of his vast, beautiful repertoire of Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Gershwin, Joplin, Bach, Beethoven, etc., he plays a great "Jesus Loves Me"), and going on walks/hikes together (sometimes we even take our 100-pound laboradors!).





TV-Free Summer (Gasp!)

Thu, 13 May 2010 20:35:00 +0000

My neighbor, Lisa, and I did a Lenten fast from the internet that was incredibly rewarding, eye-opening, and convicting. (I wrote about it here and she wrote about it here--both are worth reading, I think.)She and I have been mulling over the ramifications of the greater peace and less stress we experienced, the increased joy in the small things, and the restorative quality of the activities in which we engaged during the time we had hitherto been online. The result? her challenge to me to go computer (internet) free during the summer and my growing interest in having my kids go TV free during the summer. I don't want my children to grow up addicted to the TV, to think that the TV is what you do when you are "bored" or when you're "tired" or whatever. I want them to first think of books, playing outside, sitting quietly, playing a game with their siblings, etc. They're too young to even consider playing on the computer as a way to pass time, but that's just around the corner. I want to encourage them to develop good habits and skills NOW about how to pass the time constructively and in a way that restores them, not in a way that sucks it out of them. Anyone else in with me for this challenge? Here are my rules:Summer consists of June, July, AugustI'm not going to be super-Nazi here and say they can't watch it at others' houses, the gym, and so forthIf someone is genuinely sick and truly lying around all day, then we can pull out a movieIf it's pouring down rain and has been for more than a day, then we'll consider it.If they're watching TV, I'm going to watch it with themHow many times do you let them watch their favorite Super Why! or Disney movie by themselves while you clean up, talk on the phone, etc.? I do it often--I trust the content of what I let them watch by themselves, so I figure it's a "safe" activity while I get something done. But they LOVE it when I sit and watch something with them. It's instantly more of a family activity. And, I bet it will make me think twice about turning it on. If I don't "have time" or want to watch it, I'll work extra hard to find something else in which to engage their interest. That's going to mean less phone time, more creative employment of my children around the house while I clean (they can/will clean with me), and more thoughtfulness about the whole process in general.I'm working up to it. Our former schedule was Super Why! regularly plus Dinosaur Train on occasion in the mornings and a movie in the afternoon after naptime ("movie" was generally limited to about an hour, but there were many times when it stretched beyond that!). That's WAY more TV than I ever expected to let my kids watch and there have been some legitimate uses of it with my three young ones. However, they now play pretty well together and are getting much more creative and imaginative. I've been weaning us off as follows: aiming for TV free mornings for a full week and letting the afternoon be whatever. Then, working off the afternoon by cutting back on time first. We'll go cold turkey soon, here![...]