Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 and Done

Image credit:  Flickr


On October 1st, I slapped up a post on a whim, announcing that I'd decided to just write something every day for the entire month.  I suspected I'd be sorry I took on the challenge, and I'll be honest - I've been looking forward to the 31st.  A lot.

I don't really know if I accomplished my goal of really writing every day.  Some days it felt more like I was just reaching to get anything at all entered into this space in order to hit "Publish" before midnight.  But I think what October did for me was to prove that I can write more frequently than I do.  I really do want to.  And I learned that I'll survive if I post something that isn't even close to meeting the overly-harsh judgment that I reserve only for myself.  That was really good for me.

Now I'm done, and I'm glad.  But I hope the little lessons and habits developed during this month will stick.  I'd like to be a little more fearless.  And I have some ideas for what that could look like.  Will I venture there?

Time will tell.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Halloween Conundrum


Image credit: Flickr


Every year on Facebook I see a couple of things in the last week of October:  I see lots of pictures of cute kids in costume off to trick-or-treating, and I see status updates in shocked disbelief that some Christians dress their kids in cute costumes and take them out trick-or-treating. 

I get it.  I do.  This is a controversial thing in the evangelical world.  I have friends who love Jesus and love Halloween, and friends who follow Christ and can’t stand anything to do with October 31st festivities.  It’s something we’ve discussed and worked through in our home too.  And while I’m not interested in the least in opening up a debate, this is where I come out on Halloween at this point:

  • The origin seems somewhat muddled to me, with different sources giving varied histories and credit to several people groups for everything from the time of year in which Halloween is celebrated, to the customs of pumpkin-carving and gathering candy from neighborhood homes.  Most everyone agrees that some form of Halloween has pagan roots, and that over the centuries, both Christians and groups that deal in the occult have each snagged parts of the celebrations to meld with their customs and make it their own thing. 
  • It would be pretty hypocritical of me to avoid Halloween based simply on its roots in paganism.  To that end, I would also need to avoid the use of most Christmas décor (and cease celebrating it on the 25th of December), come up with alternate months of the year to make up my calendar, and refuse to attend churches that place their clergy person behind a pulpit. 
  • Focusing just on Halloween, if I were to avoid it altogether, what all does that mean?  Just no trick-or-treating?  No pumpkins on the porch?  No pumpkins that are carved?  Can they be painted?  Can I buy candy in the month of October?  What about when it’s 75% off?  Can my children play dress up?  Can they just not dress up on October 31st?  Is the church down the street that’s having a “Fun Fest” on the same night with costumes and candy “observing” Halloween?  Or are they not, because it’s held at a church and called something different?  Where’s the line?  (I’m not being a bit sarcastic … these are seriously the questions I start to ask when I go down that road.)
  • I believe that spiritual battles exist, and that we are to be wise and discerning.  We talk about this with our kids.  Just the other day Maya turned off a My Little Pony episode because it contained a lot of talk about spirits in a way that she knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with, and didn’t feel right to her either.  We definitely don’t brush these things aside.
  • I know and understand that there are people who use Halloween as a day to engage in some seriously dark spiritual practices. 
  • I also know and understand that for most who participate in modern-day Halloween events, the intent and focus is fun and family.
  • I believe my God redeems, that the earth is His and everything in it, and that He looks at the heart. 

And you know what?  Even for those who’d agree with every single point I just made, we could end up at completely different places as far as how we do (or don’t do) Halloween.  I’m okay with that. 

Here’s what we do:  We carve pumpkins, but we don’t do Halloween décor.  Our kids can dress up as something cute/nice, and we will take our Disney princess and Buzz Lightyear to the Trick or Treat Main Street put on by the downtown businesses on Wednesday afternoon.  We don’t do scary, creepy, bloody, monsters, witches, etc.   We don’t do evening trick-or-treating either.  The Main Street thing has a broad daylight, family/community feel, with primarily very young kids dressed as princesses or ponies and walking from the coffee shop to the bookstore to have a piece of candy dropped in their bucket.  It’s nice, and it feels to us like a way to stay within our own comfort levels with the holiday. 

I don’t claim for one single second to know what the over-arching “right” answer is on this.  I love my friends who go all-out for Halloween, and those who firmly avoid it.  To me, this is just another one of those complicated areas where grace and respect are due as we all do our best to sort it through and follow God’s lead. 


Monday, October 29, 2012

Perspective



I've started a few posts today, but can't get images like this out of my mind.  


Praying for my friends (and families of friends) in the path of the storm.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This Weekend

This weekend we celebrated.  Cheered a birthday in the family (he's internet-private, but I'll give you a hint ... I'm married to him), and welcomed a friend and mentor back from being gone too long on a journey of a lifetime.

This weekend we worshiped.  I felt for chords on an old piano keyboard, gathered with other imperfect musicians, practicing not-quite-enough but giving what we had.  My daughter bent and swayed, lifted hands and sashes high above her head, dancing with a group of other precious girls; they moved the crowd to tears.  

This weekend we feasted.  On tacos and pizza and fantastic barbecue.  On flan and French toast, popcorn and donuts.  We sipped coffee with family and brunched with friends in comfortable floor-circles in the church lobby.

This weekend we lingered.  Walked the aisles of a toy store just for fun, read chapters from stacks of books, and pulled out board games.

This weekend we prayed.  Sat in a circle with teammates and friends, laughing out loud and wrestling through decisions, blanketing it all over with prayers both fervent and hushed, silent and spoken.

And this weekend, Noah prayed at bedtime, 

"Thank you, God, that I got to hold a baby bunny today."


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Links 10/27/12


Image credit:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net




Happy Weekend!  Here are a few fun finds from my week ...



Incredible work in photography.

National Geographic Photo Contest 2012



Sally Clarkson offers beautiful perspective on the fleeting days of raising children.

Embracing Serving Our Children, Because Time Goes Quickly



I was going to embed this clip, but didn't want to accidentally spoil the moment for anyone who hasn't watched yet ... but OH MY GOSH, Parks and Recreation this week!

Parks and Rec awesomeness



This recipe is fantastic.  I serve it with roasted root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc. cubed and tossed in olive oil and kosher salt).

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken with Mixed Greens



This article made me giggle.

How Happy are Clams?

Friday, October 26, 2012

This is my brain on empty.



It's Day 26 of this 31-day experiment, and after an overwhelming week, I'm feeling nearly out of things to say.  A few random thoughts to offer on this Friday evening:



  • Why have we not watched Deadliest Catch before now?  We are completely engrossed.  Also?  I am thankful that Mark just works with computers.  And also?  I am now hungry for snow crab.  



  • Yesterday it was almost 80 degrees, and this weekend it might snow.  That's about all I have to say about that.



  • ATTENTION PLEASE:  I did something crafty and it ended well!  Bought a big, plain men's T-shirt at Target and used this tutorial to turn it into a scarf.  It took me, like, 20 minutes and turned out very cute.  Plus, it required no sewing and the only tool I used was a scissors.  Very Laura-friendly.  



  • Apparently the "Angry Whopper" is back at Burger King.  I always shudder when I drive past that sign, because I don't enjoy the thought of eating something that sounds like it's mad at me.



  • Is the election over yet?  No?  *sigh*



  • Whenever I ask Noah what flavor he'd like his birthday cake to be, he tells me "bunny".  I realize he means he wants a bunny-shaped cake, but it's still slightly disturbing.



  • Mark's birthday is this weekend, and we have two family gatherings to celebrate the event.  I'm making dessert for both, and he requested flan ... and flan.  So, double-flan weekend it is.  



  • My brain is done thinking now. 



Good night!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Few New Favorites





As a general rule, I don't do home sales parties.  Don't host them, don't attend them.  The rare exception being a Pampered Chef event, because the kitchen gadgets get me every time.  But recently it seemed I couldn't go anywhere without hearing people rave about something called Norwex.  Finally, two friends whose opinions I trust (and who I know have similar aversions to sales parties) both cornered me and basically said, "No, really.  You have to see this stuff."

The concept drew me in.  Cleaning cloths and supplies that could get your house sparkly using just water?  Since we'd watched a documentary about the horrific contents of most cleaning products found on the store shelves, I'd stopped buying them altogether, so the Norwex pitch was extremely intriguing.

I agreed to go to a party.  I bought things.  And I'm not one bit sorry.  The first afternoon that I cleaned our bathroom sinks, counters and mirrors with the microfiber cloth and polishing cloth, I pounced on Mark when he got home from work, dragging him around the house shrieking, "Look at this! I did this with just water!  JUST WATER!"  I'm using the dryer balls and not buying fabric softener anymore.  I bought the magnet ball that goes in our dishwasher and am now using about half the detergent I once did, and only have to use a supplemental rinse agent (we have hard water) about every ten times I run it, rather than every single load.

Basically, I'm hooked.  Norwex = yes, please.


* * * * *





We have succumbed to Keurig.

It feels a little bit like we're cheating on our French press.  We loooooooove our French press.  And still believe that it makes the best cup of coffee we've had here at home.  But I'll admit, we also love the Keurig.  It's fast, it's easy, it makes the exact right amount every time, and it makes decent coffee.  We're still sorting through K-cup varieties, as there are some that have been disappointing.  But there are some we like a lot, and we bought the re-usable filter thing so we'll be using that a lot with our own coffee anyway.


* * * * *




I bought this today and hung it up right away.  We love Chicago so much, and just reading the names of some of our favorite spots in the city makes me smile.




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To Race and Rest



Everything is a race to him.

He's four years old, so he's non-stop motion and lives to be the first to cross whatever finish line can be invented.  I've grown accustomed to his little arm instinctively thrown to the side as we walk down flights of stairs, blocking whoever would dare to take them faster.  To giving in and sprinting down city sidewalks, because I love to hear those belly laughs.  I've run more in the past few months just playing with him than I have in all the years since my high school track and field days.

Today the weather time-traveled back to summer and we threw open the windows to drink it in before it's gone.  It was a piano lesson day for my girl, and while she sat happily at the bench with her teacher, my little racer and I went for a walk.

"Let's do three things, Mommy!  Only three."

"Sure.  Which three?"

"Let's do some looking at leaves, and some running around, and let's lay down in the grass."

Okay, then.

The leaves were everywhere, raining red and orange and crunching yellow under our feet.  Every so often, he'd point out a finish line at a tree or bench, count down the start, and we'd take off.

Laughing and out of breath, we came to a grassy spot and sprawled out side by side.  His feet rested on my propped-up knees and his head rested in the crook of my arm, fingers (as always) twirling through that mop of blond hair.  A lazy breeze picked up a leaf or two, everything else as still as the brilliantly blue sky. In the middle of a harried day, the only soundtrack to this moment was the low hum of a distant lawnmower.  The "pause" button ... where is it?

A little head popped up then, his face inches from mine.

"Mommy?"

"Yes, Noah?"

"Let's get up and race again"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Like watching paint dry.

Image credit:  Flickr


Well, I was going to post something deep and reflective today.

But then I painted our kitchen.

If you're wondering why I'd even bothered planning to write something deep and reflective on a day that I knew I was going to paint the kitchen, it's because I didn't know I was going to paint the kitchen until I woke up today, looked at the kitchen that I've been wanting to paint for about five years now, and suddenly decided that today was the day.

So the kids and I traveled to the lumber-scented land of Lowe's this morning after music class.  I perused paint samples while they brought me every brush in the store one by one, asking "Do we need to buy this one, Mommy?"  It was special.

We made our paint selection, grabbed a couple of brushes, trays, and rolls of tape and went up to pay.  In my head, I'd honestly thought I'd probably be able to paint the kitchen for about $30.

Well.  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

So, now I knew I was really going to have to get this room painted today, since I hadn't exactly told Mark I was planning to do it, and now we had actually purchased paint.  I only kept my intentions secret because I know him well enough to be certain that it would stress him out far less if I would just pick a color and get it all done and put together before he had time to dread the project.

And I did.  I didn't sit down all day, but the kitchen has two new coats of paint and everything was back on the countertops and up on the walls (just barely) before Mark walked in the door this evening. I'm happy, he's happy, the kitchen is a lovely bluish-gray, and I'm going to crash on the couch now amid some lightly lingering paint fumes.




Monday, October 22, 2012

And then I saw myself as an old man.

Yeah, you read that right.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


A few weeks back Mark announced that it would soon be time to switch the operating system on our computers to Windows 8.  And as with any time I learn of a new technology update, I threw a small tantrum.  Every single time he installs updates or new software on my laptop, something weird happens.  He denies this, but he works in IT and I'm pretty sure they're obligated to deny stuff like that.

The real problem, though, is that I like what I know.  My computer needs are simple:  I want to log in and see my familiar icons, click them to maneuver around in the exact way I'm used to maneuvering, and do the very same thing the next day.  REPEAT FOREVER.

Mark delights in teasing me about upcoming shake-ups to my techno-status-quo.  Part of it is to gently acclimate me to the idea that a change is inevitable, and part of it is because he sort of likes to see me flip out.

Him:  "Did you know that in Windows 8, the desktop isn't the same?"

Me:  "I don't want it."

Him:  "Actually, there's no Start menu on the desktop."

Me:  "I DON'T WANT IT!"


Earlier today, our friend Justin posted something on my wall, and my near future passed before my eyes.

This will be me.





Want to know the worst part?  After I watched this with Mark tonight, I asked him, "So, seriously ... how do you get back to the first screen after you open something?"

He won't tell me.  Apparently "that's part of the fun".

I DON'T WANT IT.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sock Missiles and the Boring Game

Image credit: Flickr


I recently started teaching Sunday School for the upper-elementary age kids. That age group is totally up my alley, plus these kids are so much fun!  And speaking of fun, this morning as part of our lesson, they got to hurl balled-up socks as I ran through the room trying to dodge them.  (Temptations being thrown, you see.)

When they dawdled through copying a list of the first few books of the Old Testament, I casually mentioned that they might want to pick up the pace, folks, because in our activity afterward they were going to get to throw things at me.

(Commence super-speed writing.)

Sample reaction of elementary-age girl:  "Really?  Because at my school if we threw something at the teacher we'd probably get sent to detention ..."

Sample reaction of elementary-age boy:  "Awesome!  How hard can we throw?"

Let's just say I was thankful our classroom is on a different floor than the others, as I dashed and squealed repeatedly through the room being pelted with fleece missiles thrown by cheering children with surprisingly accurate aim.

Then I held up a bedsheet, telling the kids that it represented the Word of God.  (One girl:  "How is an old sheet supposed to be the Word of God?"  Me:  "Um ... maybe you didn't see the clothespin-fastened sign here that says 'Word of God'.")  The sheet deftly deflected the socks as I placed it between me and the barrage of ammunition on the way across the room.

I wondered if the lesson would really land.  But later, all the kids wanted a turn to be the temptation-dodger and they were each getting mercilessly nailed with socks until one smart 4th-grader grabbed the sheet and threw it over her head as we were counting down.

"OH MAN!", one of the boys complained.  "She's using the Word of God!  We can't hit her as well!"

I may or may not have jumped up and down at that point and yelled, "EXACTLY!"

(We were all a little wound up.)

* * * *

Meanwhile, Mark was in charge of the younger children downstairs.  One little boy was in a mischievous mood and kept requesting to do things that were "boring".  ("I want to sing a boring song."  "I want to read a boring story."  You get the picture.)  Well, Mark can be mischievous too, and finally asked, "Do you want to play a boring game?"  Surprised, the boy answered yes, so Mark sat a chair facing the wall and told him that the boring game was played by sitting and staring at the wall without moving.

Well, not to be left out of anything called a game, the other children protested that they weren't getting to play too.  So Mark let them all play the "boring game".  This is the picture he posted to our church's Facebook page this afternoon.



The kids are excited to play the boring game again next week.

So, that would be Mark for the win.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Link List 10/20/12


LOVE.  Dads sing "Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid.







HA!  Christmas is coming soon enough.  We'd all better brush up on our carol lyrics ...







HOORAY for the new Golden Globes hosts!

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host the Golden Globes



BOOM.  Jen Hatmaker weighs in on the election as a Christian, pro-life Independent.  I am grateful, and I applaud her bravery.  One commenter told her that by not aligning with a party, she was sitting on the fence with the devil.  (For real.)
As children of God, we should be unthreatened by secular power.   The Law was never able to bring redemption, and it is still insufficient to make all things new.  The healing and hope and goodness we long for is realized fully in Jesus, extended through His people despite hardship or distance or the passage of time or the changing of guards.  No political party can see it through or take it away.  It was finished on the cross, and the discussion is over.  
The Election:  Thoughts from a Christian Independent 



YUM.  These are baking up for breakfast right now.  I predict much rejoicing.





Friday, October 19, 2012

Another frivolous "Pick Five" list game!


A few months back, I threw out a random question:  If you could only eat five foods for the rest of your life, what would you choose? 

These are things I actually think about.  Consider sending help.

Anyway, in the same vein, I have a new just curious inquiry to pose.  Play along again?


If you could only watch five television shows for the rest of your life, what would you choose?


As before, there are some guidelines to note:

-  First of all, this is not a desert island-type situation.  You can go about your normal life, but these five shows would be all you would ever see on any TV screen.  Go to a friend's house?  Nope, only these five.  Check in to a hotel?  Sorry, the room will only play the ones on your list. 

 -  I had a hard time deciding whether movies would be permissible in this completely fictional scenario.  I'm going to go with no.  But another week we'll do a movie list.

-  Yes, I realize my rules are completely arbitrary.



Here are mine!


1.  Friends




My favorite of all time.  Plus, there are 10 seasons, and even though I have nearly every episode memorized, I could easily watch them all many times over.


2.  Scrubs



I'm choosing Scrubs, because not only is it one we've watched through many times around here, but there are plenty of poignant moments to balance out the general hilarity.  (The very last scene of Season 8, where J.D. walks through the halls of Sacred Heart one last time?  Maybe one of my favorite television moments ever.


3. Gilmore Girls



I'm new to this one, but I already know it deserves a place on my list. Between the quirky small-town characters, complex relationships, and Amy Sherman-Palladino's incredible scripts, I know this is a series I could revisit often.   


4.  Survivor



I'm not exactly sure why, but whatever.  With 25 seasons now, even the few that I would like to strike from existence would leave plenty of enjoyable viewing.  I know some people lament the premise of a show where lying and manipulation are tools to secure a million-dollar prize.  But I think long-time fans of the show recognize that the outside-the-game aspects of throwing strangers together to use teamwork and build relationship in order to survive has some incredibly redemptive elements that outweigh the back-biting.  Relationships are formed that become more important than "winning", character is revealed through moral dilemmas, and - more often than you think - the most dishonest, manipulative players do not, in fact, end up with the check in the end.




5.  You guys.  I lose at my own game.  

A ridiculous amount of thought later, I simply cannot pick.  Do I go with the feel-good nostalgia of The Cosby Show or The Dick van Dyke Show?  Pick something from the Food Network?  An all-time favorite drama like Lost or ER?  A total cop-out like Today or Good Morning America so there would be a new episode every single day?  Arrested Development, which is BRILLIANT, but only lasted a tragically-short three seasons?  Something current that I enjoy, but might not love so much in the future? 

I give up.  



You go now!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Just because it's been awhile.




A year ago at this time, Megan and I were up to our ears in e-mails, Skype chats, chapter outlines, first drafts, research notes, and deadlines.  We were taking temporary breaks from other commitments to focus more closely on this project, and praying fervently over every step in the process - that God would be in it and over it and have His way.  

Just over six months ago, our book was released by Civitas Press, leaving the confines of our computer screens and throwing open our hearts to anyone who cared to read.  It was both thrilling and terrifying, the latter eased by tremendous encouragement and cheerleading from others.  Friends and family who believed in us, fellow moms who believed in the message of our book, writers and bloggers who welcomed us into their spaces; sharing our words and writing reviews themselves that left us awestruck.  Sally Clarkson writing our Foreword.  I mean COME ON.  

We talked and wrote and linked about this book so much in the first month or two after it's release that I think we reached our own limit of saturation with it all.  Megan and I are perhaps the world's worst self-promoters, so we're often a little reluctant to go there, as evidenced by our near-silence on all things Spirit-Led Parenting in the past few months.  

The truth is that this book has had a measurable "success" that has exceeded our expectations.  But far far FAR more important and impacting to us than any sales numbers or screen shots of our book enjoying a moment on bestseller lists has been the response that was the very reason we wrote the book in the first place.  The e-mails from complete strangers, moving us to tears with their words of gratitude and how God has used our stories to bring freedom in their own lives.  The woman whose name I don't even know who stopped me on my way to the sink in a public restroom to say, "I read your book.  And it gave me hope and peace.  I want to thank you."  I would have hugged her but I hadn't washed my hands yet.  

Those are the reasons that - as Megan and I spoke about over Skype last week - we know we should ... you know ... mention this book sometimes.  Because if we believe (as we do) that God wrote this message on our hearts before we put it to page, then we should continue to share it.

So we're making plans for some new ways of introducing Spirit-Led Parenting to new parents and parents-to-be.  We're excited to see what God will do, and are still stunned and humbled by what has taken place already.  


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When Friends Disagree



I'm posting at Grace for Moms today on friendships that bridge differences.  Join me there?

We live in an age where a simple Facebook status update can launch a firestorm.  Where the comment section of a blog post – even one not expected to be controversial by the writer – can blow up in vitriolic debate.  Where relationships are broken with an e-mail rant or a “hide” button because we just can’t see eye-to-eye on this thing or that thing, and so how can we live life together?

Read more at Grace for Moms ...






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I'm blogging every day this month with all of these brilliant people.  It's my ...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Homeschool Newbie, Volume Two


Image credit:  Flickr

It’s been nearly two months since my last post about our first year of homeschooling.  Back then I was all, “Oh wow, I can’t believe how much I like it!”, which seemed a little bit eye-roll worthy even to me, since we were all of one week in

We’re on fall break this week, but will begin Week 10 of our 36-week school year next Monday.  More than a quarter of the way to the finish line! 

Do you know what?  I still can’t believe how much I like it.  

We’ve fallen into a comfortable routine now, so here’s an idea of what a typical homeschool day looks like for us:

  • I’ve learned that starting with math is best, since it’s Maya’s least favorite subject, and the whole day flows better if she can just knock that one out early.  We’re doing a lot of pre-multiplication stuff at this point, along with larger-scale addition and subtraction.  (Math is not my favorite either, so I'm very glad to have a workbook that comes with a pretty detailed guide!)


  • After she’s finished with math, we usually move on to language arts.  Indiana’s core standards are extremely LA heavy, so we concentrate a lot on those concepts too, in order to stay on track.  Although Maya is in second grade, we’re using a third-grade LA curriculum and there are still things I’m adding in order to cover everything in the second grade common core.  We’re doing a lot with parts of speech, so it’s a fairly common occurrence these days for me to quiz her while we’re driving.  “Wow, look at those beautiful leaves falling gracefully from the tree branches!   Hey Maya – what was the adverb in that sentence?  Adjective?  Prepositional phrase?”  (She’s probably going to get annoyed with that soon.) 


  • Our favorite part of school is when we can snuggle up together on the couch to do her daily Bible reading, scripture memory verse(s), and devotional.  A lot of really cool questions come up during this time.  “Mommy, why did God have to have a ‘chosen people’?  Doesn’t He love everyone?”  “If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross, would God still forgive us for our sins?”  The big questions can be intimidating, but I love that she's thinking so deeply.


  • Then we open up her read-aloud book, currently Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat on Monday-Thursday, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald on Friday.  Both of those are really fun.  Maya also takes a chapter from her own reader, which is one of the Third-Grade Detectives books right now. 


  • In our history lessons, we’ve started through early civilizations, and have been in ancient Egypt now for a week or two.  Thankfully, she and I are both fascinated by history, so we both enjoy delving deep into cultures and events. 


  • Three days a week in science, we’re studying animal species on each continent.  Then on Thursdays we do some experiments, and Friday a study on how things are made. 


  • For spelling, I use the 10 words offered by our curriculum, but add five more from the second-grade high-frequency word list used by our school system.  We practice them every day of the week, with a goal of having them mastered by Friday. 


  • I also have her do some creative writing a few days each week, sometimes giving her a subject or goal (include a sentence using alliteration or a homophone), and other time just letting her make up her own assignment. 


I’ve become more comfortable with mixing things up and staying flexible with the way we work school into our days.  While we generally have a good chunk of time to devote to school, we’re also often doing spelling in the van while running errands, or fitting science into the afternoon if we’re running short on time in the morning with other activities.  We have a homeschool group of other families from church that meets one morning a week, and Maya and I almost always do “field trip morning” at some point too, where we load up our books and papers and head to the coffee shop to do school on location. 

I definitely know that one likely reason this is going so well is that Maya’s personality fits so well with this type of format.  So although there are the requisite groans about school and some whining regarding math, she does enjoy what we’re doing, which helps tremendously.

Yes, there are definitely evenings where I’m not as excited about pulling out the next day’s study books, and days when I think about how much I could get done if she were in school all day.  But for the most part, this experiment continues to surprise all of us in a really great way!



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I'm blogging every day this month with all of these brilliant people.  It's my ...


Monday, October 15, 2012

Halfway-ish


Image credit:  Flickr


Whew!  So, it’s day 15 of this 31 days madness.  And here’s a status update of sorts:


- I’m a little sick of hearing myself talk.

- I panic daily about my next post topic because oh my gosh, I have nothing!

- But then something always comes just in time.

- This has been a very good discipline for me.

- I don’t always enjoy discipline.

- I’ve been forced to let go of (some of) my perfectionism, and that is a huge deal.

- I’m watching a “How It’s Made” about potato chips, and can’t take my eyes off the screen.  They just had a salt shower. 

- Sorry, where was I?

- Sometimes I start to whine about how writing every day for a month is harder than I thought.  Then I remember that my pastor just spent 30 days walking 500 miles through northern Spain (finishing yesterday) and I tell myself to get a grip.

- I’ve been so grateful for the supportive comments and encouragement to keep going.  Thank you!



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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seven Days Each Week


Image credit:  Flickr

On weekdays, I’m up at 6:00 (-ish).  Gearing up for the day, bleary-eyed and coffee in hand.  I kiss Mark goodbye and he’s off to work in the dark before the kids stir. 

They wake and straggle out to the living room, stuffed animal tucked under an arm, and snuggle up for a morning hug.  I quickly try to finish whatever project is on the screen in my lap. 

Breakfast is made, cereal poured into bowls, toaster loaded and eggs cracked quickly over a frying pan.  They eat and I’m continuing to tinker at the laptop or I’m unloading the dishwasher to fill it again.  There’s laundry calling out for the washer, and I should probably push the dryer button again to touch-up the quickly-wrinkling load from yesterday. 

I answer an e-mail and post a few Facebook comments.  Hit “Publish” on a blog post that I’m not quite happy with, but it’s time anyway. 

We get dressed and ready for the morning, beds made and teeth brushed.  I realize I haven’t actually eaten anything yet, and make a note to grab something later.  It’s time to get Noah to preschool, or maybe all of us to music class or homeschool group. 

There is schoolwork to do and errands to run.  Home for lunch and the oasis of afternoon rest times.  Then there may be dance class or piano lessons.  Dinner to prep and that laundry should really get folded now. 

Mark arrives home and the kids come running.  We sit down to dinner and it’s nearly dark again.  Board games and bath times, then bed for them and we crash on the couch with work stuff and Netflix. 

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On weekends, no alarms are set.  Mark is home, and we all yawn awake and meet in the living room whenever it happens.  iPhones, iPods, and iPads are out and everyone is snuggled up with apps and blankets playing games together, this moment brought to you by Apple. 

I make my way to the kitchen with a new recipe or an old favorite, and soon the house smells like maple and bacon, pumpkin and cinnamon, vanilla and apples.  It’s 9:30 before breakfast is on the table, but nobody minds.  Kids are laughing with syrup-covered faces. 

There are detours on the way to getting dressed for the day:  books, play, projects.  At some point we’re all ready to head out for some slow-paced errands (Saturday) or church (Sunday).  The afternoons are for more playing, more resting, more tinkering.  Saturdays we’ll have dinner out or in with family, Sundays we’re hanging out with our small group or others in our church family.  Both evenings we might fudge bedtime a little bit. 

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Joy and thankfulness well up among both the fun, focused, fast-paced days of the week; and the free, fluid, family-time weekends.  Each one a gift preparing us for the other.





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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekend Link List 10/13/12

It's still Saturday, so this post counts!  ;)  Here are just a few things that caught my eye this week:


As a former marching band-er, this makes me so happy.






I can't pass the General Mills monster cereal display this fall without hearing the 80s commercial jingle in my head.







Two recipes I've come across that are on my VERY SOON list to try:

Chocolate Cream-Filled Vanilla Sugar Doughnuts  - Joy the Baker

Cinnamon Apple Muffins - Mel's Kitchen Cafe




Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Kristen Howerton, Mary DeMuth, and other incredible people/writers were in Haiti this week with Help One Now.  Which made for some incredibly moving insights into a country that is abounding in both despair and hope.

Mopping Haiti  (via Jen Hatmaker)

4 Myths about Haiti  (via Mary DeMuth)




Happy Weekend!

Friday, October 12, 2012

5 Things I Don't Like, that You Probably Do Like. (Or some other more clever title.)

It's Friday, the sun is shining, and Fall Break looms gloriously on the horizon for next week.  What better time, then, to be vulnerable with the internet about my oddities.

Today, it's a list of things that I find either unfavorable or perplexing, even while the majority of planet Earth seems to find them utterly delightful:



Image credit: Flickr

Orange Juice

It's a morning staple for many people, but for some reason I don't enjoy orange juice at all - particularly in the morning.  From concentrate or not, pulp or pulp-free ... doesn't matter.  And the weirdest thing about this aversion?  I love oranges.  And grapefruit juice.  Strange.



Image credit: Flickr

Vera Bradley merchandise

I don't get it.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm no trend expert (don't ask me my views on skinny jeans).  But every single time I see a VB bag I think, "Seriously?".  It's as if everyone around me is speaking some sort of fashion language that I can't interpret.




Image credit: Flickr

Anne of Green Gables

If you need me, I'm huddled over in the corner with my eyes squeezed tightly shut and arms over my head to brace myself as I add this one to the list.

I don't really love Anne of Green Gables.

I know, I know, I know.  I KNOW.  I'm sorry, and clearly I'm way out here on my own in this opinion.  Also, I should note that it's been years since I've picked up the books or watched the movies.  And that as Anne gets older, I tend to follow her story with more interest.  It's hard to pin down exactly what the issue is, but for some reason (please don't scream ... remember that this post is about things that admittedly make me very strange) I find the series a little bit ... depressing?  (eeeeeek!)

Don't worry, I will introduce my daughter to Anne and her adventures in a few years.  And who knows ... maybe I'll have a total change of heart as I read and view these stories through the lens of my current point in life.

(Once again, I'm sorry.  The rest of you are probably totally right on this one!)



Image credit:  Flickr

Scrapbooking

I have so much admiration for moms with rows of scrapbooks for their kids, and I know those kids are going to grow up to appreciate those beautiful records of their lives so, so much.  My children will not be among those fortunate ones, however.  I've (sort of) tried my hand at this, but with a severe lack of artistic ability and also a major streak of impatience, it's a lost cause.  My talented friends attend day-long scrapbooking parties and arrive home to announce, "I got 9 pages done today!  Hooray!"  And all I can think is, "Nine pages in 9 hours?  Kill me."

My kids will have albums.  With pictures slipped into sleeves.  Amen.



Image credit:  Flickr

Movie Theaters

There is absolutely nothing that appeals to me about the movie theater experience at this point.  (Okay, except for maybe an occasional longing for super-fake-buttery popcorn.)  With inventions like DVR and Netflix Streaming, I have no desire to sit in an only-slightly-comfortable seat among lots of strangers in an often freezing room with super-loud speakers and no "pause" button.  Not when I could sprawl on the couch with my husband and a blanket, with the freedom to fetch snacks and take bathroom breaks at our leisure.

(And yes, those last couple of sentences made me sound like an 82-year-old.  Turn down the volume and fetch me my afghan, Mabel!)

We'll still trudge out to the occasional kids' movie (i.e. Disney films we've seen a billion times but look, now it's in 3-D and digitally remastered!)  But beyond that?  No thank you.  


Okay, so there it is.  How about you?  Anything you loathe that everyone else loves?  Anything I've listed here also on your list?  (Please?)  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

This busted shelf holds some lovely recipes.

I opened one of my kitchen cabinets on Tuesday to find this scene:




So.  Either I have a few too many cookbooks, or our shelving is not made of the highest quality wood product.

I'm going to guess that both of those things are true.

Anyway, to observe the occasion of my broken cookbook shelf (and since all of those books are sitting piled up in my dining room staring at me until the shelf situation is rectified) I'll offer a few recipes today that make me feel all happy and autumnal!



Ham, Cheddar, and Vegetable Chowder

[This is definitely a comfort food soup, what with all the milk and cheese.  It's hearty and delicious and perfect for a chilly fall evening.]

4 cups water
4 cups diced potatoes
1 cup sliced carrots
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped onions
salt & pepper to taste

6 T. butter
6 T. flour
4 cups milk
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 lb. deli ham, chopped
1 can cream-style corn

Bring water to a boil and add vegetables and salt & pepper.  Boil 20-30 minutes, or until veggies are soft.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large saucepan and stir in flour until smooth.  Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until simmering and thickened.  Gradually add cheese, stirring to melt and combine.

Add cheese mixture to veggie mixture and stir.  Add ham and cream-style corn and heat through.


Cinnamon-Swirl Bread

[This one is from the cookbook that - with it's 1027 page - likely did that shelf in:  The New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  One of my very favorite places to find fantastic recipes!]



1/3 cup whole milk
4 T. unsalted butter, cubed
1 envelope instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/4 - 3 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Filling
1/4 cup sugar
5 tsp. ground cinnamon
milk for brushing

Glaze
1 large egg
2 tsp. milk

Heat the milk and butter in small saucepan (or in microwave) until butter is melted.  Cool until lukewarm.

Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over the warm water.  Add sugar and eggs and beat at low speed to blend.  Add the salt, lukewarm milk mixture, and 2 cups of the flour; mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended.  Switch to dough hook and add 1 1/4 - 1 3/4 cups additional flour gradually, kneading until dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Turn dough onto a work surface, kneading in additional flour to form a smooth, soft, elastic dough.  Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until doubled.  Mix cinnamon and sugar in small bowl and set aside.

After the rise, punch dough down and turn carefully onto work surface.  Press into an 8 x 6 inch rectangle and roll with a rolling pin into an 18 x 8 inch rectangle.  Brush dough liberally with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Beginning with short end, roll up tightly, pinching ends and seam to seal.  Place seam-side down in a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until dough is 1-inch above the top of the pan.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together egg and milk and gently brush top of loaf with egg mixture.  Bake bread until golden brown, 30-35 minutes.  Remove bread from pan and cool on its side.


Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

[I just came up with this recipe today, and oh my word.  Think Dairy Queen's pumpkin pie blizzard ... only better!]

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
4 1/2 cups half-and-half

Combine ingredients in saucepan and heat over medium to 160 degrees, stirring constantly.  Set pan in a bowl filled with ice water and stir to cool slightly.  Chill thoroughly.

Bake a pumpkin pie using your favorite recipe (or buy one, I guess), and coarsely chop about 1/3 of the pie, including crust.

Freeze ice cream according to freezer directions.  Five minutes before the end of the freezing cycle, add the chopped pie.  Continue to mix/freeze until pie is incorporated.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Four-Year-Olds are Thankful For

Image credit: Flickr


So far, this week has been completely nutso for me.  Mostly the good kind of busy, but enough that I was wiped out by the time we were tucking kids into bed last night.

Noah has a standard prayer he tends to repeat every time, and I'll admit that I'm sometimes only half-listening as he rattles it off.  He tends to get hung up on questions about what he should pray for and how it should go, and I've given guidance along with frequent encouragement that he can just talk to God without worrying about structuring his words.  But he's four, and there is safety in repetition.

This time, though, he told me he had a new prayer.  As he spoke, slowly and thoughtfully, I could tell this was straight from his heart.  It was simple, unaffected by phrases overheard and grown-up suggestions.  Most striking to me - it contained no requests whatsoever.  Simply thanks.  And as is often the case, a moment with my child was how God chose to gift me with a dose of perspective and gratitude that quickly dismissed the bad attitude I'd carried just moments before.

Thank you God for this good day.

Thank you for my nice and comfy bed that I can sleep in.

Thank you that in the morning the birds are chirping chirp chirp and the sun is shining.

At least I think so.

Because it's the morning time.

And thank you for making toys for kids to play with.

And for making me my Legos.

And thank you for making babies like Baby Hannah and Baby Emery.

Thank you God

Amen

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Brothers-In-Law Request Greek Food

You know those times when someone randomly tells you they're coming over for dinner on a particular night, and then they also choose the menu?  

No?

Oh.  Well, maybe you haven't met my husband's youngest brother.





This is Matt.  

He's an engineering student at Purdue University, but he was home this weekend.  So, at a family gathering on Saturday, he walked into the room with this statement:

"Hey Laura, I was thinking.  Monday!  Gyros!"

(Translation:  Could I come over for dinner on Monday evening?  And could that dinner consist of gyros?")

Matt was fortunate in this case for a couple of reasons:  1.  I also enjoy gyros.  2.  I have a soft spot for college students, particularly when they've mentioned eating a lot of canned soup, and when they've recently informed me that the three-week-old cookies they'd made were still good.  (Ack!)  

So I green-lighted the gyro plan, picked up the ingredients for tzatziki sauce yesterday morning and baked fresh pita bread in the afternoon, and we all had a lovely meal.  

Matt also suggested I note that he is single.  So, any young ladies out there who enjoy cooking and would like to feed meet Matt, send me an e-mail!  (Also helpful: an interest in learning swing dancing.)  And just think ... you'd never have to stress about what to plan for dinner, because this is a man with food-based opinions!  



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Monday, October 8, 2012

On Trust, Tricks and Attack Trains


Image credit:  Flickr


To begin with, I’m probably oversensitive about this. 

Chopping vegetables for dinner one night last week, I heard the kids playing at the train table.  Before long, Maya’s words caught my attention, coaxing as she gave voice to a blue engine beckoning one of the trains in Noah’s hand.

“It’s okaaaaaay.  Come over heeeeere.  You can stand right here by me.  It will be fun!  Don’t be scared.”

Nervously, Noah decided to trust and to move his character closer.  But then …

“Ha!  Fooled you!  I’m an attack train!  Rahrrrrr!” 

Noah was started and confused.  This isn’t the way they usually play, and I called out immediately, not even thinking.

“Hey Maya? 

“What?”

“Um …”  I was trying to figure out my own reaction.

“What’s wrong, Mama?”

“Well … I don’t really like tricking games, okay?  Can you not play ‘attack train’ unless Noah understands what you’re playing?”

“Okay.  But why don’t you like tricking games?”

I stumbled through an answer, but didn’t really have the words.  Mulling it over since then, though, I know how I should have responded …

Why don’t I like those games?  That’s a good question, honey.  And I’ll try my best to explain.  You see, as much as I love to laugh and joke, I don't like trying to fool people.  I've just never thought it was fun or funny. 

When I was a kid like you, there was a show on sometimes called Bloopers and Practical Jokes, hosted by Dick Clark and Ed McMahon.  (They were before your time, sweetie.  In fact, they were probably before my time, so it’s okay that you don’t know who they are.)  Most of the show was about little mistakes actors made during rehearsals for TV shows, or funny things that happened on the news.  Those, I loved.  But there were also parts where they’d show a big prank being pulled on someone.  And those gave me a tummy ache.  I’d get nervous and sweaty and couldn't figure out why everyone seemed to enjoy watching something that was so uncomfortable to me. 

I'm not really talking about the kind of shenanigans that involve doing something silly to a friend's yard or car.  (When you get a little older, I'll tell you about some of the things I did in high school.  Maybe.)  That stuff - although it can walk a thin line between light-hearted and mean - doesn't usually involve trickery.

Remember how I’ve never liked April Fools Day?  How I’ve told you that it makes me feel on edge all day long?  Have you noticed that sometimes other grown-ups will joke with their kids and say things straight-faced like, “Oh, we ran out of dessert … too bad the kids don’t get any.” and it sort of confuses you and Noah because Daddy and I don’t really joke that way with you?  Or the YouTube videos people talk about where someone tells their kids that Christmas is cancelled or that their birthday present is a tooth cleaning?  You might find those things really funny, Maya, and that’s okay!  A lot of people do.   I don’t know why I struggle with that sort of teasing so much.  Maybe you think your mom is weird this way, and I’m all right with that. 

I guess it just boils down to this:  I want you to be able to depend on what I say.  To take me at my word and to know with confidence that the words I speak into your life are my very best attempt at the truth.  That my yes would be yes and my no would be no, and that it’s unquestioningly safe to trust my answers to your questions.  Yes, I’ll mess up many times and disappoint you and have to apologize, but I want you to be sure – even in those times – that my intentions are always to speak well and true to you. 

Maybe that’s why you’ve always known Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny as fun stories that we joyfully tell during special times, but as simply that – fun stories.  Why I’ve never used the “Goodbye, Maya – I’m leaving!” tactic to get you to listen and come when you’re having trouble following me out the door.  (No - parents who do things differently aren't doing anything wrong.  Not at all.  And yes, of course their kids trust them completely.  I probably just need to loosen up.)  

I want to raise you with discernment.  We've talked about how people make wrong choices, and how not everyone tells the truth, and we've worked through stranger safety.  I want you to enter adulthood with a healthy balance of an open heart and wise discretion.  (And goodness knows, I want you to have a fantastic sense of humor!)  I don’t want you to blindly believe that everyone you meet deserves your full confidence.  But I want you to believe that – to know that - about Daddy and me. 

And I want you and your brother to know that about each other.  Sure, you squabble and slam doors and know how to push just the right buttons, but you’re also best friends.  And you’re joined for life.  Sure, as you grow older there will be plenty of times that you’ll be at odds and may not be particularly close as teenagers.  But by adulthood again you’ll thank God for each other just as you do at bedtime right now.  My hope is that there will always be trust between you. 

Maybe someday, when you’re all grown up, we’ll be sitting around the table and your own little ones will be playing nearby.  We’ll reminisce about your childhood, and you’ll roll your eyes and laugh affectionately about how “Mom never let us trick each other.”  And maybe you’ll think – and probably be right – that it was all a little silly, or that I was being too sensitive about the whole thing. 

I just wanted you to sort of understand why.  Even if I don’t fully understand it myself.



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Sunday, October 7, 2012

It is cold, but we have pumpkins. (Day 7)

Winter coats were pulled out and dusted off yesterday as the clouds hung low and temperatures dipped lower.  It was Fall Festival weekend at our local orchard, and they lost 95% of their apple crop this year due to weird spring weather, so we were determined to support them with our annual pumpkin picking.




I remember one year it was nearly 100 degrees on this first weekend in October.  Maya was two, she wore a tank top, and we sweated our way through the pumpkin fields.

This year, we wore mittens.  Indiana, you are bizarre.




Noah demonstrated his inability to look at the camera while holding his chosen gourd ...


... and again while posing with his pumpkin.



Maya's pumpkin-choosing technique was much like her DVD-picking habits at the library:  wander through the entire area several times, carefully taking in allllllllllllllllll the possibilities, then pick one.  Oh no, wait!  Not that one.  Well, maybe that one.  Or maybe this other one.  Let's check all of them again.

Have I mentioned it was cold?



But we finally made it back onto the hayride, curly-topped gourds in hand.



And managed not to freeze on the bumpy trip back to the store.




Just barely.


We swallowed back the travesty of this year's apple cider prices and bought a gallon. The grocery store stuff can't even sort of compare, but I do feel like I should be rationing this jug by the tablespoon.

Pumpkins on our front stoop, the good cider in our fridge, and another year's memories made.  Fall is officially here.




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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Link List (Day 6)

We're pumpkin-picking and family day-ing, so here are a few of my favorite internet finds from the past week ...


This one's gone viral, so it's nothing new.  But goodness, it makes me laugh!






I'm a Rhett and Link fan, and in one of their recent videos they chronicle their (successful) attempt to sing Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" literally all ... night ... long.  Awesome.  (If you're so inclined, there is an actual 11-hour version of this video as well.  I have not chosen to view it, but 70,000-some people apparently have.  Bless their hearts.)







I'm a little embarrassed to announce that I did super-well on this quiz at Mental Floss ...

http://mentalfloss.com/quiz/quiz.php?q=471&p=1


... but could only name half the presidents in 8 minutes during this one.

http://www.mentalfloss.com/quiz/quiz.php?q=217

(We really had a president named Franklin Pierce?  Oooooookay.)



I made these Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes for breakfast this morning, and recommend that you do the same at your earliest convenience.  Wow.

http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/pumpkin-cinnamon-streusel-pancakes/


In more serious reading:

Heather Hendrick offers some seriously thought-provoking (and convicting) perspective on the human cost of the world's chocolate industry, and asks some great questions about how the Church should respond during this month of Halloween (or Halloween-alternative) candy madness.

http://allthingshendrick.blogspot.com/2012/10/when-church-halloween-event-is-scarythe_5.html


Amber Haines tackles the subject of mother guilt and servanthood in her usual stunningly brilliant way.

http://therunamuck.com/2012/10/03/a-study-of-chains-day-3-the-chains-of-mother-guilt/


And in seriously EXCITING news:

Megan reveals the gender of her twins!  Eeeeeek!!

http://www.sortacrunchy.net/sortacrunchy/2012/10/twins-eighteen-weeks-gender-reveal.html



Happy Saturday!



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