Monday, July 31, 2006

Paula Deen Review and Giveaway

I loved the idea of giving away a book or something like Lady Laura and Lindsey and Mary did. Especially since I even received a free book from Mary, I sort of want to pay it forward.

I have here in my hot little hands, the July/August Cooking with Paula Deen magazine. It is still all new and shiny, and I would love to send it to someone (in the U.S., I think). If you are interested, please leave me a comment. Make sure that your email address is either formatted to be read when you leave comments, leave me your email, or I can even contact you on your blog. I will do a drawing on Friday (cut off at noon EDT) and send it out if you are the lucky winner.

I received an offer in the mail for a free copy of this magazine, and a continued subscription if I didn't cancel. I think that I will cancel, mostly because it's $19.98 for 6 issues, and that is steep for me. I love cookbooks and cooking magazines and cooking websites and shows. I'm already receiving Everyday Food (which I got cheap on ebay), and I check out several cookbooks a month from the library, so I think that I don't really need another cooking magazine.

After flipping through it, it does have a lot of recipes--great Paula Deen recipes (I use many of her show recipes, and love them, and conveniently save them online at foodnetwork.com in my own personal recipe box). They seem easy to follow and tasty. She also has many other features, that look like they are regulars--some Southerner profiles, decorating articles, and pics and recipes from her cute sons.

Speaking of her sons, I just watched Road Tasted on Sunday, and it was okay. What I liked better was Bobby Flay's Throwdown which came on right before or after that. Seeing all these "new" shows reminded me that blogging really has taken over from idle TV watching, which is okay.

So, if you want a chance at the magazine, leave me a comment here.

Parenting in Philippians

With my children I seek to obtain first time obedience. That's what I want, but that's not always what I expect. This is what you might hear in our household on any given day:

"Amanda, when you're finished with your lunch, put your plate in the sink."

Ten minutes later, after she's left the table and plopped down in front of the TV, or flipped open her latest read, "Amanda, I asked you to put your plate in the sink."

Ten minutes after that, "Amanda, I'm not going to ask you again to put your plate away."

I am the weak link in this chain. If I really expect her to do it, it is my responsibility as a parent to put down my book, turn off the computer, or stop doing my own chores to watch her and address it as soon as she gets up, by either applauding her obedience, or making sure that she does obey right then.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Philippians 2: 12 - 13

Fortunately, God is not the weak link. He is working in her and in me to act, and even to will (which I interpret as my desire to act) on His good purpose. The working out comes when I choose to do what's right, even getting others to hold me accountable if necessary; when I pray without ceasing for the wisdom to parent rightly, when I put aside what is hindering my spiritual growth.

But these disciples of Paul's not only obeyed while he was watching, but even more when he wasn't. Isn't that what we truly desire our kids to do? If they have some serious working out of the non-obedient sort, I want them to do that with me. I went them to obey "even more" in my absence, and I think to some extent, they do. Amanda knows that if she is at a friend's house, she should be on her best behavior, really putting into practice what she knows is right.

My ultimate goal in parenting is to give them enough to go on so that they can make responsible and moral choices whether I'm watching or not.

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Sunday afternoon when I was working on this, I know that Amanda didn't know what I was writing about, so she couldn't have been staging her behavior just to make a good showing in the blog post, so may I brag on her a bit? I asked her to go get the mail. She hopped up and headed out and asked me if I would tell her who won. I forgot that she was watching the Food Network Challenge on Celebration Cakes, and it was in the last two minutes when they were about to announce the winner. Well, of course, I told her that she could watch the winners and then do it, but I did thank her for her quick obedience. Trust me when I tell you that both of us usually behave much more like what's described in the opening scenario. It looks like we are both learning.

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This is second in a series on Philippians. Come back all this week for more.

Day 1: Praying from Philippians
Day 2: Parenting in Philippians
Day 3: Standing Out in Philippians
Day 4: Self Confidence in Philippians
Day 5: Strength and Gentleness in Philippians
Day 6: Peace in Philippians

Day 7: Showing Concern in Philippians

Birth Story Website

Kailani pointed me over to Karate Mom's new birth story blog. I had worked up a draft of Kyle's birth day, but it includes some details that an unknowing reader might want to avoid, so I never shared it here. So, if you're not squeamish (it's not that bad), go over and read about the miraculous entrance that Kyle made into this world, and stick around and read some others if you're so inclined.

It's really a beautiful site, including pictures (yes, of little Kyle, too). Anyone is welcome to submit stories, whether you have a blog or not.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Praying from Philippians

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
I thank God for you who has partnered in the gospel in spite of
  • your own personal trials
  • lack of appreciation for your work
  • apparent lack of results in your work
  • busy schedules in your own household
  • personal sacrifice of time and money
  • women who don't prepare their personal Bible study lessons
  • children who talk and wiggle during Bible stories
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion
You give me confidence of God's work in you as you
  • give up those cigarettes for good.
  • sacrifice your desires for those of your family, friends, or the church
  • persevere in faith through pain and loss
  • live as a sexually pure single adult
  • keep dignity during an unwanted divorce
  • forgive more and complain less
  • accept His sovereign plan for your life during good times and bad
until the day of Christ Jesus.
I wait for the day of Jesus' return as
  • death claims earthly loved ones
  • moral decay creeps further into our world
  • poverty is rampant in many countries
  • wars are fought that no one wins
  • right is relative and no one is wrong
  • teens search for acceptance in drugs, alcohol and sex
  • kids grow up too fast, but don't grow into adults fast enough
Philippians 1: 3 - 6
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This is the first in a series in Philippians. Come back tomorrow and each day (for at least the next week) for more applications from this book of the Bible.

Day 1: Praying from Philippians
Day 2: Parenting in Philippians
Day 3: Standing Out in Philippians
Day 4: Self Confidence in Philippians
Day 5: Strength and Gentleness in Philippians
Day 6: Peace in Philippians
Day 7: Showing Concern in Philippians

Observations from the Tour

The bloggy tour of homes, that is. I was surprised how much I liked it. I often have this desire in me to wrap things up (maybe get the last word?). I've been known to write silly poems recounting friends' weekends or retreats. So, here's my recap of the tour. . . .

People really came! I had 59 people (and counting) who actually left comments which our gracious hostess BooMama encouraged us to do. Judging from my sitemeter, which tracks visitors, I've had over 400 extra visitors over this weekend to see my home. It did take time, but I commented everywhere I went--which was over 100 of them. I wanted to visit them all, and maybe I'll take some time to over the week, but the list is now up to 212 or so over at BooMama's place, and unfortunately life has to go on.

The blogworld is so big! On the tour, we "visited" homes in Australia, Spain, Japan, UK (England and Ireland), Canada, Indonesia, the South, Texas (because Texans and real Southerners know that TX is just different), the West, the Southwest, the NW, the NE. Big homes, small homes and apartments, and even an RV. Maybe it was the tone (again set by our gracious hostess BooMama), to "give God the glory for whatever," but people really did. Very few apologies. There was the occasional reference to small, or an explanation that "we've done nothing to this room yet," but happy. And that makes me glad. We should be happy with what we have, be it much, or not so much. As one who has been more financially blessed than some, it's probably easier to say, but I do remember back to the first few years of our marriage, where our combined income was not much at all, and we were happy then (and would've stayed happy if it had stayed there).

I don't know about you, but I wasn't just looking at pictures of homes, I was looking at headers and sidebars and all sorts of stuff. Most visits were just a one time thing, but there were a few sites that grabbed me, either with details included in their home tour, or something I learned from reading their sidebar, that made me say that I'd return to look around and bookmark them in my blog folder. And I think I've had a few return visitors from the tour to my site myself.

We met people with no kids, one or two kids, three or four, and up. Birthed, adopted, different races and nationalities, and kids' rooms from baby nurseries to teen hangouts. And of course we saw pets--doggies, kitties, and even birds, not to mention all of the animals that God provides in our own backyards. Most people consider their surroundings home as well, so we got lots of pictures of backyards, front porches and decks.

We want people to like our homes. Even if we aren't happy with them, even if they aren't a decorator's paradise, we want people to find something of value there. My heart really did swell with the comments (be they honest or just something nice). So, thanks for visiting and showing what you love and even what you aren't so happy about at the moment.

BooMama's proposed a Holiday Tour next in her own little wrap up, so who knows what kind of response that will bring. Thanks BooMama for a great idea and making this big bloggy world a little smaller, for at least one day.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Summer Recipes

Tonight we are going to a nice grill out, or pig out, as it was named, with grown up friends. I made Amy's Potato Salad. The recipe called for "as much garlic as you can handle." I am pretty sure that she really didn't mean as much garlic as I could handle, because I can handle a lot. I think I ended up adding four fat cloves, and I used over four pounds of potatoes. Also, I added all the dressing while the potatoes were still warm. She didn't specify that, but I have made a similar recipe this way. I liked this recipe a lot.

I also made up a nice corn and tomato combination. I got some fresh corn (from the store) and some farmer's market tomatoes. I cut the corn off three ears and microwaved the kernels to get the raw off for about one minute (**see below for some ramblings about raw corn). Then I just diced the two large tomatoes and mixed the two together with some salt. I don't even usually remove the seeds. The Color Code taught me that the seeds have a lot of the nutrients, and once they are gone, there isn't much tomato left sometimes.

My garden has produced more weeds that have gone untended, but we have harvested green beans. I have a few small green tomatoes on my Early Girl plants, and the others are flowering. The jury is still out on the corn. I have over 40 plants out there, and I'm just not sure what's happening. I hope that I am able to harvest at least one ear.

**ramblings about raw corn: I think that my Granny, my maternal Grandmother's mother, called raw corn Jesus corn. Am I delusional or has anyone else ever heard of this? We didn't go to her house in Mississippi often, but at least every other year. I remember playing with doodle bugs in the dirt, and husking corn and shelling black eyed peas on the porch. I'll ask my Mimi about this.

I Really Love Books

One of my favorite things is books. No, not just reading, but books themselves. I love reading them, browsing online and reading about them, walking through the aisles of a bookstore or the library, or perusing my own collection. The thought of a free book, or a basket of books purchased for a pittance at a thrift store or book sale, has truly been known to give me heart palpatations.

I always have several books "going" at a time, usually one fiction and several non-fiction of the Christian discipleship, parenting, adventure variety (those are three separate categories, but they could be one big one, couldn't they?).

I've been reading a lot of fiction this year, but I've also gone months and months without reading any. How can that be? How can I be so fickle as to abdandon something I love so much? There are so many hours in the day. What is it that I truly want to spend them on? By figuring out what my favorite things really are (and what the important ones are, too), I can evaluate how I'm spending my time. The important things are my family and my Lord. I know that there are many "shoulds" that go along with those two priorities, and so I try to squeeze them in (although housekeeping for my family still falls way behind some of my other loves that I will mention next). My leisure time is then spent reading or blogging (both reading and writing). What has happened is that I have let other interests fall by the wayside, like TV and Blockbuster online rentals. Just last night, Terry and I were going to try to tackle at least the first half of , which has been sitting here for weeks because he is not at all interested and it's three hours long (I'd welcome feedback if anyone has any). It started getting later, and he had his weekly sports news to catch up on, and I thought of the pile of books by my bed, and so we read. If I had chosen to pop in a DVD, I would not have finished The Living End. This is my first read by Lisa Samson, who Dianne recommended on the book meme thing, and wow, I feel like I have found a new friend in her books. I know that I will be reading many others. This book is literary and thoughtful, funny and sad and life-affirming, all at once.

Here are some books that have stuck with me. I won't call them favorites, because I never do so well on choosing favorites. It's like choosing a favorite child or something. They come in roughly chronological order of my first encounter with them. Since I'm wordy, and a bit opinionated, I will let you in on what I like about each pick, too.

Mandy by Julie Edwards. I read this book as a child, and actually remembered details about the plot. I thought that having a secret place all my own would be the coolest thing ever. I came across one in a used bookstore (thump, thump), and I figured that it was about time for Amanda to read it. We read it aloud, and she, too, was pulled into the story just as I had been. It was so wonderful to share it with her.

It and The Stand by Stephen King. I actually don't generally read horror anymore, although I've been tempted to pick up the Stand again, especially since I've seen it listed on others' favorite lists. King is a great writer and he makes a world of fantasy become quite real. In fact, I was in high school when I was reading It, working as a (don't hit me) telemarketer. We got a ten minute break every hour, and I would go out into the lobby and sit and read. I even remember reading this book while driving the car on the way to work, and maybe home, although it would've been dark making that a doubly stupid choice.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell . I have never really seen this movie. I'm sure it's been on while I've been in the room, but I've never been a fan. I read this book in the car (while Terry drove) driving to Yellowstone National Park. It struck me as a masterpiece. That was over ten years ago. I should maybe read it again, as well.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. This was another book that just really stuck with me. The story is of a fateful climb up Mt. Everest, and I learned so much about climbers and what motivates them and the sacrifices that they make to do what they do.

A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George really changed my outlook on being a wife and a mother, under the tutelage of God. This merits a reread as well.

At Home in Mitford (and the whole series) by Jan Karon. I love the quirky and real characters in these books. They have all become like dear friends. It reminds me how to live as a person of faith in this world, and what life would be like if everyone thought of the good in others and the good that they could do for others. It also makes me chuckle, but I think I'm an easy laugh.

The Color Code got me excited about eating fruits and vegetables. It's a neat way to try to get a lot into your family, and last summer, Amanda even got into counting up her colors. We have strayed and need to start making that a priority again.

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. I breezed through this book last summer. It is a fictionalized account, but based heavily on Prentiss' own experiences. It follows one woman from age 16, in 1831, through motherhood and beyond. It is written in journal form. Deep thoughts such as sanctification and good works and why and how we should do them are tackled in this book as well as the transforming power of change that can occur when we submit to God.

It seems that I have added to my own "to read" list by thinking through these. I hope that you have found one or two you might want to pick up, too.

**I have provided links to either amazon.com, or Christianbook.com, based on price. Christianbook.com is often cheaper than amazon.com (for example, Stepping Heavenward is $3.99. Can you buy anything for $3.99 anymore?, and for some Christian study resources, their selection tops amazon by a mile.

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The Blogging Chicks Carnival has been trying out some themes. Click the picture link on Sunday to read more about Favorite Things.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Welcome to my Home!


My very non-bloggy friend (and you know who you are) was telling me what she liked about some of my recent posts and added, "I don't really like all the blog talk, though." I answered honestly, "Yes, I know you don't, but all the other bloggers do." Don't correct me if I'm wrong, bloggers, because I like it, and it's my blog.

Anyway, I know that even Danielle will love the Bloggy Tour of Homes. She hasn't seen my home here in Connecticut, so I am welcoming all my bloggy friends, as well as real life friends, to take a look. You can click the picture link up there to see the original idea if you'd like. BooMama's idea was to let us "see" where each of us lives, but also to give God the glory for what we have, be it 500 or 5000 square feet. I like that idea. Click here to visit other homes on the bloggy tour.

Come on in. . . .

If you walk down the hall, you will see where I blog.


BooMama also said "don't be afraid to show us the real deal." Well, this desk is conveniently in my kitchen, but it's usually a bit of a mess. So, just like when "real" people come over, I straighten a bit. This is the straigtened up version. It can get much much worse.


Because I have a laptop, I also enjoying blogging here on the porch,



or here in my favorite chair in my bedroom.

I am veering from the instructions, and showing the rest of my kitchen, before I show my living room, because even though I'm not organized, I am logical.



One thing that I am very thankful about in this kitchen is my sink. We just redid the countertops, and got a new undermount sink. When it was installed, I realized that it was deep. Oddly deep. But the great thing is that there are dirty dishes in there right now, and you really can't see them! A bad thing that I've just figured out is that I can't really get behind the really deep sink to unscrew the drawer handles to replace them with my new hardware that is on the other cabinets. They are fake drawers, so I have to go from inside the cabinet. Any tips?

On to the living room:



It's small, but I like it. We (meaning the kids during the day) watch TV here, and hang out. There are toys. It's not pristine.

Fifth photo is "my choice," so I'll show you my library. It's connected to the living room by a large opening (which also has sliding doors are never closed). I just redid this room. It was a "nothing" room, with a random sofa. But with some cheap shelves that I bought at Costco, and the little secretary desk that I got for $10 or $15 at a tag sale, it's a den/study/library. I love the term library, but the name is just not sticking. Now we use and enjoy this room for reading and Amanda uses the desk for homework sometimes.



Thanks for looking, and come back any time!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Imitation

. . . is the highest form of flattery, right? I was reminded of this phrase when I came across this old post when I was doing my categories.

But last week, I was reminded by my children that imitation is the highest form of conviction. My seven year old daughter was sitting beside me at the table eating lunch, when I heard, "Ooooh, I am so mad," uttered with furrowed brow and through clenched teeth. Unfortunately, that sounded too familiar. Even more unfortunately, I am usually saying it to her, when I've reached my level of frustration with disobedience or careless acts, which lead to messes or crying little brothers, or saddest of all, out of my own frustration with being bothered. What was making her so mad, you might ask? Her fish sticks kept coming out of the coating when she was trying to eat them.

Convicted.

I have been reading Building the Christian Family You Never Had (and I plan to post a full review when I am finished), but from it, I have learned that although I really had a perfectly fine upbringing for which I am thankful, there are things that I have to acknowledge that were problems, such as yelling as a normal mode of communication. I have to deal with them through daily prayer and lean only on Jesus' loving arms and ability to make my reactions like his, before I not only damage this generation of children I am parenting, but the next as they imitate me as they raise their own children.

I am not afraid to apologize for speaking out in anger. An apology assures Amanda that I know that she does not deserve to be spoken to in that way, but it doesn't take away the damage done by harsh words. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit brought me under conviction about this, and so now when I do it, I immediately repent, and feel saddened by my sin. I don't know if I felt that sorrow five or six years ago. So, I've made progress. With God's help, I even have to apologize less than I did last year.

I'd love for the cycle to stop with me. I'm so thankful for forgiving children, understanding friends who don't judge me harshly, because they've either been there or are struggling with their own parenting imperfections as well, and for God's grace that helps me not to feel so mired in sin that I just give up instead of pressing forward.

Mission Completion!

I'm just quoting Little Einsteins again. I do know grammar. Even though I sometimes write like this (with a period before a conjunction instead of a comma. What is even anyway? I don't think it's a conjunction). I digress.

I love surfing the other Works for Me Wednesday tips each week, and I've tried to implement one or two things that very day, instead of just thinking, "Oh, yes, I should do that." Last week, I jumped right into some Reverse Cleaning. It is working with mine and dd's cleaning issues. I've been trying to think of fun outside stuff for the kids to do outside in the afternoons, because it's not a blazing furnace here in New England. Today I resolved to continue the summer fun with this tip at Frog and Toad Are Friends. Before I go on, let me digress again to say that I love that name. It makes me happy when I think of it, reminding me of a much-loved childhood book with such a happy name. I told Amanda that I got this idea from a blog, and she asked, "Which blog?" as if she has any context of my blogs at all. So I told her, and asked her if she liked the name. "You know I do," she answered, grinning shyly, "because I have that set of books!"

So, while Kyle napped, Amanda made finger paint.

Then, I sent them outside with newspaper, to go at it.

True confessions: This account of the story is told through rose colored glasses. All of these things did happen, but she got very tired of stirring the mixture as it was cooking, which took a little while to thicken. I made her keep at it, reminding her how proud she would be that she made it all herself. Then when we were going to actually use it, Kyle really didn't like to touch it. Amanda drew one little picture, and then was done. The slip and slide beckoned.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Calorie Saver

This is just a quick tip for this week's WFMW. I was very busy yesterday getting my categories up, which is something that I learned at WFMW, and it was so satisfying. Yes, blog tinkering definitely works for me.

On to the tip about cutting calories. I do not like fat free salad dressings. When I examine the lower fat ones that I like, I find that they are almost as high in fat and/or calories as the full fat versions. I read this tip on a Weight Watchers board years ago, and I love it. Use balsamic vinegar to cut the fat in your regular dressings. It is fat free and virtually calorie free and is much milder and flavorful than regular salad dressings. I first heard it suggested with Ranch dressing. That sounded gross, but now my daughter and I both like "balsamic ranch." I usually put a little of the regular dressing on, and then sprinkle the balsamic over, which thins it, and I mix it all up. I also find that it's easier to do this in a very large bowl, instead of on a plate. When our Ranch bottle starts to get low, I just pour some balsamic in and shake it up and we get every last drop out.

It sounds weird, and a little gross, but it works for me! Click the picture above to link to more ideas at Shannon's site.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Blog Personality

I don't know if you are like I am, but I have many different types of friends, and I've come to view my regular blog reads like friends with different personalities. Let me introduce you to some of them:

The Best Friend: I turn to her to give it to me straight, and she usually does. Her writing is warm and personal. Reading this blog is like having a chat with a friend. It probably covers many topics of interest to me, because we're alike in so many ways.

Supermom: Does she really do it all? I think she does. She doesn't brag about it, but it's just who she is. I learn from her, and if she uses her powers for good and not evil, I am encouraged by her and not condemned.

The Mentor: She's been there and done that. She could be a mom whose children are a little older than mine, she could be a more mature Christian, or just one who has already faced the current trial that I am enduring.

The Little Sister: I might be a mentor to her. I might sense something in her that needs my encouragement as a reader. I am proud to see her growing and developing.

The Black Sheep: This blog is nothing like me, and maybe that's why I am attracted to her. I read to open my eyes to new experiences and viewpoints. She isn't so extreme as to offend my sense of right and wrong, but she makes different choices, and I learn from them. She might even be a "he" in this case.

The Situational Friend: In real life, this could be the fellow soccer mom, or church committee member. The common activity or event is what makes you friendly. This blog generally covers a particular subject: frugal living, books and reading, or recipes and cooking. I turn to her when I want to be inspired in that area or get more information about a specific interest.

The Class Clown: She's always good for a laugh. She doesn't take herself too seriously, but sometimes she'll surprise you.

And then we even have the blog friend of a friend. Just as there are people you really enjoy when you see them at your friend's home, we get introduced through a post or reference by one of our good friends or her comments on posts that we also enjoy. Sometimes we just come across them in this way now and again, but often they end up becoming our very own friends as well.

Maybe your blog friends have different personalities than mine, but I'll bet you have a few of these in your bookmarks or in your bloglines, too. Check out My Personal Favorites in my sidebar for some of mine.

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This is my entry in this week's Carnival of Beauty, the Beauty of Blogging. Check out the other submissions on this topic this Wednesday over at relevantblog.

I Have Categories!

To quote the Little Einsteins, "Mission Completion!" I feel so empowered, and so blog savvy. It was a good bit of work, but I'm glad that they are there. So, if you haven't been visiting my blog long, or you want to take a stroll down memory lane, hop over to the sidebar and check them out.

Oh, and it's official--I'm a Mommy blog. A whopping 39 posts are in the Family and Motherhood category, although a fair number of those are me analyzing my role as mom, or other just sort of general info about who we are and how we got that way.

The second most entries occur in Walking in Faith, at 21. These entries very much reflect who I am and where God has taken or is taking me.

Digressing has 13 posts. I hadn't originally included an uncategorized category (now there's a misnomer), because I figured if it didn't fit somewhere, it didn't bear repeating. But there's a little mismash in there on TV, thoughts about myself (that didn't fall into the role of Mom) and some other random thoughts.

Blogging about Blogging comes in close behind at 12, and it seems like lately I've been writing even more about blogging.

Like Blogging, my Love of Books has been trending upwards. Only nine entries, but most of those have been in the last few weeks, and I'm pretty sure that there are many more to come.

Tips and Advice
are things that I shared for Works for Me Wednesday, or other bits of family or general advice.

Most topics only fell into one category, but some did overlap (a definite spiritual application to a definite parenting issue would appear in both categories). I did not make a favorites category, but instead I used a mark of ** in the listings to denote my favorite posts or ones that you seemed to like, or ones that just seemed representative of who I am and what I have to say here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Restorative Retreat?

Restorative: adj. Having the power to restore
Restore: verb To bring back to an original condition

I thought retreats were supposed to restore a person. To get her recharged and ready to keep battling life. I had even been journaling about that very thing last weekend when I was enjoying a couples' getaway without children.

After returning to whiney children and the drudgery of household responsibilities, I am rethinking this. I am not returning to normal life with a renewed energy. I am not tackling it with gusto. My children? They didn't seem to really miss me, which is a wonderful thing as far as leaving them in the future (guilt-free). They had a fun and busy weekend with our sitter, who let them stay up late and was probably more permissive than mom and dad. My husband had to remind me that my two year old, especially, needs time to return to accepting his normal routine (cheerfully).

My dinner tonight? I have prepared one of our favorites, black bean and chicken tostados, but I can't drum up the excitement that I felt about our varied and delicious buffet dinner Friday night, which we ate outside overlooking the beautiful hills of New Hampshire. I do have Oreos in the cabinet and the freezer is restocked with ice cream, but I will not be able to glory in the spread of desserts that was there that evening. Honestly, we could have started and finished at the dessert table. A wonderful treat, but if it was everyday life, not only would none of my clothes fit, but perhaps even that abundance would become commonplace?

I guess that's one thing that makes a retreat so wonderful. It is glorious simply because it's a break from the ordinary. But I think I have to be careful not to read more into it. You see, while I am retreating, life is continuing on as it always has and will continue to. I am being brought back to my "original condition." I enjoy being a mom. I enjoy my kids. I enjoy cooking (but not cleaning) for my family. Experiencing restoration will not necessarily propel me higher and further, but it will clean off the dust and cobwebs and make me shine. Maybe a better word for original is ideal. It implies a standard of perfection--something to strive for.

So, will I keep retreating? You bet! I know that for me, these pockets of time when I can have some reflective time to see what needs to be changed and what is actually working well, and rediscover myself as a person or my husband as a man and a best friend is actually very important. I think that I had anticipated appreciating my daily life more after retreating, but perhaps it is my daily life that makes me appreciate my retreats even more. By living in a vacuum for a time, maybe it does make me strive for the ideal condition, instead of the dusty cobwebby one: Children who are obedient and well-rested. A mom who is patient and responds in love. Dinners prepared with love for my family, and even household chores done with respect for them and my role as wife and mother. If all else fails, I can always retreat again.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sharing History

Last week my husband's grandmother visited us. She's always had a wonderful memory and is always good for a story. Driving in the car one afternoon, she told Amanda about how her grandparents were from Mississippi and decided to go to California in the late 1800's--in a covered wagon! She said that her grandmother told her about all the wild animals they saw on the way. They didn't like it in California. Everything was too expensive. (Well, some things haven't changed). She said that on the way back they took a boat--around South America--and it took about six months. Her grandmother shared those stories, not knowing how much things would have changed by the time her granddaughter became a grandmother.

Most families and friends have stories that they tell and retell. Our family histories begin to take on a type of folk lore: The time that mom left someone behind after stopping for gas, the really bad meal that a teenager experimenting in the kitchen created, the camping trip where it rained for five days straight. Old friends can't resist recalling the time that the men on the church softball team fought with the umpire, or the pranks that were committed within the halls of the college residence hall, or the year that they let their kids get burned bright red on the first day of a week long beach trip.

This weekend we were blessed to be able to get away for a kid-free weekend with some friends. We enjoyed sharing meals, quiet moments on the porch reading and chatting, some game playing, and a standing Spades challenge. We learned more about each other's family histories (and folk lore), some funny stories and some sad memories. But most importantly, we began to collect the stories that we can share with our children and with each other: watching and listening to the loons, swimming in the lake in the rain, warming by the fire in July, canoeing, cooking and eating together, winning and losing games, and being comfortable enough to do absolutely nothing.

I love sharing history--both the history that I am living now, and the perspectives that those who have lived much longer than I have can bring to life for me. If they don't share, or I don't listen, it fades away. I want to be able to claim the good times and the bad, to learn from them, and most importantly remember how wonderful life really is.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Biblical Fiction

The genre of Biblical fiction is sometimes appealing to me, but sometimes a bit dangerous. I have to remind myself constantly, "This is fiction. Even if it features Bible characters or themes, it is not the Word of God."

I've just finished The Red Tent. Honestly, this book was not at all dangerous to me. It did feature Biblical characters, but they are not portrayed at all as the Bible does. In fact, there are some points in the story of the sons of Jacob, told from the viewpoint of Dinah, that completely contradict the story that the Bible tells. So, for me, this was a good thing, reminding me at every turn of the page, "It is indeed fiction." It didn't at all cause me to question the truth as presented in God's word, but it didn't confuse me either, by subconsciously adding facts to the real story presented. I was initially drawn in to the storytelling. The prose is rich and descriptive, "My heart is a ladle of sweet water, brimming over." "When the air was sweet with spring and the ewes heavy with lambs, my month arrived." (I also had to include this quote because there is much talk about women's cycles, which is the context of the Red Tent). "His ambition and his heart were at war, and his face showed the division in his soul."

The story of Jacob and his wives and children is interesting. The thing I love about Biblical fiction is the background and context of the culture that it gives me, which does enrich my study of the Word. Since I had just studied the real story in Genesis this year, I didn't worry as much about confusion. If you are reading a fictional account of a Bible story or character, I would recommend starting, and maybe ending, with the source, as a constant reminder of what is fact versus fiction.

Even though the first half of the book really captivated me, the story began to drag. In fact, until the very end, where it sort of picked up again, I lost interest in the characters and the plot. I could have lived without finishing it (although I can never let myself do that). So, I sit firmly astride the fence on a recommendation of this one. I think I'm glad I read it. Any other opinions out there?

Some works that I found dangerous were Francine Rivers', Lineage of Grace series. I really enjoyed these books. The descriptions of the customs and culture of the time were wonderful. But it did follow the basic theme of the Bible, and did point to God's redeeming work in the characters' lives (something which Anita Diamant left completely out of The Red Tent). It was hard to separate fact from fiction at times. The background of the characters was enhanced and embellished, because it is fiction. So, I had to remind myself of the real story, and try to absorb the culture into the context as I read the Bible, and yet not add those little embellishments into my memory of the story. I believe that I have read all of these, and Unveiled, about Tamar, and Unashamed, about Rahab were my two favorites.

Another of my favorites in this genre is Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes. This is the story of Mary and Joseph. I learned much about Jewish courtship and betrothment. Again, a little dangerous, but it's such a familiar story that my knowledge of the details wasn't compromised. This is a great book to read when you are pregnant. Mary becomes like a fellow sister sharing something with you (although hopefully none of you will give birth in a barn). There are two sequels to this book, and I did read them, but the first is the only one I've reread.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Getting What I Deserve

The last couple of days I have been feeling a little discouraged and guilty about some poor choices that led to some problems. I deserve them, because I made the choices, so I have to suffer the consequences.

I took my grandmother (in-law) to the airport Tuesday, and dropped her curbside, as she requested. That's how she always travels; that's how I usually drop people off. Kyle is an active two year old and there are many places I'd rather be than waiting in an airport with him, and on top of that Amanda was sick. As I drove off, there was this thought in the back of my head that I really should have parked and seen her in and made sure she was checked in and everything. I found out two hours later, when I was home, that her flight was cancelled. Ugh! I felt badly. My husband felt badly. I couldn't shake it. But it was done. She is so easy going that she didn't even call me to come get her (which also made me feel badly). She said that Amanda needed to be resting at home, which was probably true. The airport takes about 2 hours to get there (because of some bridge work) and an hour and a half to get home, and she didn't want to bother us. By the time I talked to her, her flight was rescheduled and she was resting in the airport hotel waiting for her flight the next day.

The other thing has to do with Amanda's sickness. She has an infection on her skin. Should I have taken her to the doctor sooner? It was the weekend, I didn't think it was infected, and when it got bad, we took her. She felt pretty poorly Monday and Tuesday, but she's much better now that the antibiotics are working. I am dealing with her suffering and she causes me to suffer with the melodrama over brushing and fixing her hair, since the rash is right near her scalp behind her ear.

The next time I take an old person or a young person to the airport, I will make sure that their plane is taking off. I need to accept her lack of condemnation, Jesus' forgiveness, and get over it. But I knew that in both of these cases, I had some responsibility there that I somehow shirked, with unfavorable results. But there's a point when I just have to say, "lesson learned," and move on.

But then I got something I didn't deserve in the way of encouragement from the Lord, from those of you out in blogland, from real life friends. . . . I am not usually very sympathetic to people having pity parties, but Tuesday night I was having one! Wednesday morning, I awoke to find an email from Iris at Sting My Heart saying that she wanted to use my post in her Christian Women Online blog post for Thursday. She liked what I had to say, it touched her, and she was able to springboard from it for her own post. That was encouraging to me as a blogger, because I do hope that the words I am putting out there reach someone in some way. I love the CWO blog. It's encouraging and highlights Christian blogging women, so check it out for yourself.

The point I reached is that God is so much more generous than we can imagine. There's no way that I would have expected such a bold answer to my lame pity party of inadequacy in the blog realm. It was undeserved, but it was appreciated, and maybe it was needed. I really want to feel confident in the work I'm doing, regardless of "results," and I want to continue to let God lead me. The ironic thing is that the post that Iris linked to, Do You Need a Tune Up? was what I wrote that night when I was trying to forget my troubles and remind myself of the gift that God has given me, and the wonder of being able to write in the blogosphere and be read by anyone at all. It's a gift. Deserved or undeserved, I love it.

Reading with a Young Child


I have a very busy two year old boy. One of the first ways he would actually sit in my lap for any longer than one hug took and sit still for any length of time was for me to read him a book. I don't know exactly when he started being a good "reader." I know it was before two, probably around eighteen months. I still remember his face (and still glimpse it occasionally) as he backed into my lap, sat down, and waited expectantly for the magic of the pages to unfurl.

Here are a few tips that make reading enjoyable and educational:

1. Pick books that are appealing to both of you. You might appreciate the style of the art, or the rhymes, or the humor. He might appreciate the subject matter or the animal sounds.

2. I love the simple stories and beautiful art of Eric Carle's books, specifically The Very Busy Spider (one of Kyle's current favorites) and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and the follow up Polar Bear. . . . What Do You Hear? which were Amanda's favorites years ago.

3. Speaking of animal sounds, books with sound effects and animals are big hits, guaranteed to hold their interest and teach them something new. How do you think so many toddlers know that a cow says moo and a dog says woof?

4. Ham it up! You might not be a classically trained actor, but here's a place where you can let it all hang out, so make sure you can moo with the best of them. The sound of a child laughing or the look of an enraptured smile is worth a little melodrama.

5. If you have trouble being silly, read some Sandra Boynton. Her verse is good and silly and kids love it (and it's a little sappy for us moms to enjoy, too). We especially like Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! and Pajama Time!

6. Change your definition of "reading." When we first started reading together, he was very interested in turning the pages. If the pages had more than a few words, I just didn't finish the sentence if he was trying to turn the page. That's okay. He has a longer attention span now, but if he is ready to turn the page, I usually turn it. He is getting to a point where he no longer wants to sit with me when he's in his room before nap. But he still wants me to read. So, I read to him while he plays with Little People, or goes through his other stacks of books. Other times during the day if he brings me a book, he actually sits still and follows along. So, instead of forgoing the reading time, because he's not doing it "right," I have adjusted it to fit his needs.

7. Take advantage of the new "sights" you come across in the books, instead of just reading the text. Take time to ask the child, "Where's the monkey?" "Which ball is red?" "How many flowers are there?"

8. Don't be afraid of repetition. You may not like it, but they do, and I think it's probably good for their little brains. We've been reading the same three books at naptime and bedtime for a week (with no waning interest yet). He can recite the phrase that repeats throughout the one of the books. That's language development right there. If you think that you are both ready for something new, put away the favorites out of sight for a little while.

9. Let the child finish the sentence, and even point to the words. She will learn that the words go along with the sounds. Some nice ABC books and 123 books, which are boring to me, and do not generally follow along my tip number 1, are great for teaching new words, and reminding them about letters and numbers. Once you've looked through them a few times together, these become great books for her to "read" alone by pointing to the picture and saying the word.

10. Build into your day times for reading aloud. I am guilty enough of delaying naptime or bedtime until the last moment. Then when he wants to read (more than one or two books), I balk. Even a reluctant reader will get used to this as part of routine. They may wise up to the fact that wanting to read delays bedtime, but that's okay if you move bedtime up a few minutes to allow for this.

11. Make sure books are always available. I'm a big fan of board books. They don't rip and the pages are easy to turn, so they become toys. There's a bin of books in his room, a basket in our study, in the car, and even in his bed.

12. Just say "yes." He will bring me books throughout the day. I often say no, but I am trying to say yes more often. I haven't clocked it, but I'm sure it doesn't take me more than three or four minutes to read one of his books.

13. Make a goal to read a certain number of books or minutes to your child each day. If you don't have a target, you are sure to miss it. I really believe that if they grow to enjoy books as toddlers and preschoolers, that they have a better chance of staying interested in reading as they grow up.

Along those lines, accountability and a little competition is always good for me to do what I know I should be doing anyway, so I'm thinking of hosting some sort of read aloud challenge. I missed Mother Reader's 48 hour reading and blogging challenge, but followed it on Jen Robinson's Book Page as she participated (you can read an article written about it here) but it's something I would have loved to try to do.

Does this sound interesting to anyone? I'm going to do it myself for sure, and report back. If others are interested, I'll write up some guidelines and set a timeframe (I'm thinking the first part of August for myself). Each person would need to commit to one day of reading aloud. We could log our time spent and blog about what kind of difference it made in our days.

And remember, reading aloud isn't just for pre-readers. If I can come up with 13 relevant things to say, I will focus on reading aloud with the older child next week.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Carnivals and a Home Tour

Something New:

Coming July 28-- Would you like to know more about my home? Would you like to share yours? Click for more information:
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Carnivals:
I am participating in one carnival this week, the Carnival of Beauty with the theme of the Beauty of Play. My post on Unfinshed Works is featured, as well as several other good entries.

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I do not have a post in these carnivals this week, but I am linking to them.

Dreams theme:
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Posts about family life:
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Speaking of links, I changed all my links to the nice maroon text.

I'm working on joining a couple of blogrolls and providing my own personal blogroll as well in the sidebar. Check it regularly for my newest reads and faves.

Help for Pet Owners


I have a very sweet dog.

She is furry.

Furry dogs shed.

I also have carpet. Black dog hair shows up on light carpet. Specifically on the stairs. Which I don't like lugging my vacuum cleaner up and down.

This Sweepa works great! I bought mine at a home improvement store, I think. I just use the rubber brush on the stairs. It gets up much more hair than the vacuum ever did. It also collects all the hair and dirt on the wood as well. I just sweep all this into my hand, and throw it out (or fashion another small dog out of it if I'm feeling crafty).

Click here for all the other great tips of the day:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Do You Need a Tune Up?

Every time I go to get my oil changed, the mechanic brings out the air filter in my car for all to see. He shows me how dirty it is. He tells me I should change it. I don't know whether or not to trust him, and I think that he's probably charging too much to replace it, so I tell him that I'll ask my husband about it.

How's your filter? You know, the one that is in between your head and your mouth?

Very young children have no filter. That is why you often hear them saying loudly, "Mommy, why does that baby have a bandaid on her eye? What's wrong with it?" or "Look, that man doesn't have an arm!" I'm not sure that these are bad things. They are usually making accurate statements, backed with curiosity, which is generally something to be encouraged. They just need a little tact.

They get a little older, and still haven't mastered the full use of the filter. We bought a birthday gift for my daughter's friend, James Herriot's Treasury for Children. I had asked Amanda if she liked it, and she said that she loved it. She already had one, but now she and her sister could each have their own, and they wouldn't have to fight over it. Now that's honesty (because this friend is a wonderful and generous big sister), but no filter. And maybe no tact, either. I actually find the honesty refreshing, and I am beginning to wonder if much of our "tact" is just an excuse to lie--little, white ones--but lies nonetheless. I mean, how many of us answer "no" to the question on the other end of the phone, "Were you sleeping? Did I wake you up?" in the name of tact?

In our middle years, I think we fully understand the filter. We don't always use it. Sometimes circumstances or bad moods or selfishness rip a hole in it. Hopefully we realize the need for a replacement part when it seems to be clogged or overpowered by something else, because we also understand that words hurt. The filter also acts as a cushion.

Ah, the late years. Years of filtering for so long earns you the right to say just what you want. Fortunately failing health--mental and physical--causes those around you to give grace. Maybe you have earned it. I know that I choose not to argue with my grandmother. She may be wrong, but she's not going to give up, and I can quietly be right without arguing and getting us both worked up. The loss of filter comes out in unpleasant ways, such as being overly critical to people who are in the service industry when a line is too long, or a meal isn't properly served, but I have also experienced the compliments from the older generation that come out without a filter. They probably lack tact (No thoughts of "What will the others think if I say that I always thought that she was the prettiest one"), but they come from the heart.

Honesty, with a good strong filter installed by the Master Mechanic, probably is the best policy. If it's mean, selfish, thoughtless, inconsiderate, rude or hateful that holy filter will keep it in my head, and out of my mouth. If I keep going for regular tune-ups, the filter might even start to work between my heart and my head as well.

I Corinthians 13: 4 - 7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily-angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It Only Cost a Dollar

I don't think Dollar Stores are as popular here in my part of Connecticut (probably because of higher rent). But the Michael's where I shop has this $1 section. It kills me every time I go in there, but little notebooks are always great to have on hand: Amanda likes to have her own around, and I have to carry one in my purse for all the ramblings going on in my head. That's what I bought this one for. It has 100 lined pages, it's about 3 x 5 inches, and contrary to what it looks like, it's softcover, which won't add unnecessary weight to my purse. Trust me, my purse is heavy enough.

In addition to all sort of journals and notebooks, this section has all sorts of packs of 8 notecards as well. For one dollar! If I purchase them somewhere else, even cheaply, they are at least $3, and you can spend up to $8 or more.

Target has the Dollar Spot as well, too. It's the first thing I see when I walk into my Target. Even more dangerous, because this stuff beckons me with, "This is worth way more than a dollar!" For example I did buy these cute painted board animal pictures that are about 5 x 7 inches for Kyle's room. They were one dollar each. And I don't remember if I bought the curtains first, or the pictures, but the curtains have an olive-y strip that ties in with the animal colors and the obnoxiously blue wall.


Nonetheless, it seems that any time I'm at either of these stores, I spend at least $5 in this section. So, "only a dollar" adds up. What's more, none of this is anything I "need." At my last trip to Michael's, they had a few baskets of the previous one dollar merchandise for half price. Yes, that's fifty cents! Why, you can't even buy a Coke for fifty cents anymore. So, I did buy one pack of notecards, and two CDs. I haven't listened to them yet, but one has music on it, and the other has 3 Bible stories. I was thinking that I didn't really "need" the notecards, as I have a large stash of previous $1 purchases, but I do use them, and fifty cents. . . .

Well, I couldn't pass it by.

What has been your best dollar find?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Unfinished Works

As I was putting some things away in the basement, I spied Amanda's spiral notebook that I bought her to start our joint story. She took it down there to show her friends on July 4th, and it obviously hasn't been touched since then. I will say that this week has been full of Vacation Bible School in the evenings and soccer camp in the mornings, so there's not a lot of extra time for creative endeavors. However, even if it remains unfinished, that's okay.

The spiral notebook served it's purpose. She did some creative writing, we shared an activity together, and it filled some time for several days that she did not spend watching TV. She has proudly shared it with friends, her dad, and her great-grandmother.

As I put away a craft book that she had bought before school ended, and looked at all the craft supplies in the basement as well, I thought, "What is it that prevents me from actually saying yes when she asks to do one most of the time?" This book has some pretty grand undertakings, and I don't know that she would want to complete them after cutting and shaping (boring but time consuming), and waiting for the paint to dry before it was time for the finishing touches. So what?

So what if she doesn't finish them? Is the purpose of making a desk storage caddy really to store her stapler, pencils and tape in a convenient yet cool place on her desk? Not for me. The purpose of crafts in the house is for her to occupy her time and maybe find a new talent or skill. If she doesn't finish, I think I'm okay with that.

I say "no" too often. Not because I don't want to sit down with her and help (although that is sometimes the reason for the no), but more often it's because I don't think that she will finish or that she will use it or be pleased with it. I really must remember that she is a child, and thinks like a child and reasons like a child. She takes pride in her accomplishments--finished or works in progress. She enjoys the process. She enjoys the beauty of play.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Oswald's Thoughts

I was reminded when I was filling out the book meme, just how rich Oswald Chambers' devotional is. Here are some thoughts that stood out to me this week:

July 11: The Holy Spirit is determined that we shall realize Jesus Christ in every domain of life, and He will bring us back to the same point again and again until we do. Whether it be eating or drinking or washing disciples' feet, whatever it is, we have to take the initiative of realizing Jesus Christ in it.

July 12: We are not here to develop a spiritual life of our own, or to enjoy spiritual retirement we are here so to realize Jesus Christ that the Body of Christ may be built up. Am I building up the Body of Christ, or am I looking for my own personal development only? The essential thing is my personal relationship to Jesus Christ. Whenever I want things for myself, the relationship is distorted.

July 13: It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever.

July 14: Never look for right in the other man, but never cease to be right yourself. We are always looking for justice; the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is--Never look for justice, but never cease to live it.

Wow. What an example. Of course I could elaborate and give my own thoughts, but I will leave it as he does--short and simple. He is such an example in always striving to focus on Christ and to keep putting others above ourselves. His biography was an interesting and inspirational book as well, if you haven't read it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Real Me

Laura posted about being genuine on her blog and hoping that her readers would find her the same if they met her in real life. I would hope that's true, and although I don't try to portray myself in some "larger (and better) than life" fashion, I know that I come across differently on my blog (because my real life friends have told me so!).

My sister-in-law said that she liked my blog, and it was sometimes funny. People who know me in real life know that I am hilarious! Okay, not really. I do have a good sense of humor, and some people do in fact think I am as funny as I think I am.

My friend Danielle (who does think I'm hilarious) said that she was glad to see that there was a mushy side to me. I myself had noticed that of my writing. Honestly, I come across in real life as not very sentimental. I am certainly not all mushy. But there is something about the introspection of writing that brings those thoughts that really are in my heart, to the surface. Also, I do think that I am becoming more that way as I get older and I watch my kids growing up.

It is also easier for me to write my true thoughts than to actually say them. Not because I do not like to talk. Because that I do. Maybe it is because I do talk so freely, saying whatever thought pops into my head, often without a filter, that my more meaningful thoughts get lost in the flood.

So, I'm not sure what the bottom line is. I think that Blog Jennifer and Real Life Jennifer are both real people. Neither of us is trying to be something that we are not, but we are a bit different. I'm sure many of you have realized that Younger You is different than Present You. And when you are with old friends and family, sometimes you are more Younger You than Present You. I think it's like that.

So, at the request of Lee, who knows both Jennifers, here's a picture of me at our pirate themed Son Treasure Island Vacation Bible School this week, looking not at all serious or introspective:

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Peer Pressure

Yesterday at soccer camp was Wacky Wednesday--wacky clothes, wacky hair, et cetera. So, we did Amanda's hair with three random braids, and two random ponytails with brightly colored (unmatched, of course) fuzzy ponytail holders. As we were walking out to the section of the field where her group meets, she didn't see much wackiness as the other campers were arriving. "Mom, what day is it? It's Wednesday, right?" I assured her that it was. "I don't want my hair this way. I want it down."

"Honey, are you embarrassed because no one else looks wacky? Look, there's a guy in your group with blue stripes on his hair. And that boy is wearing different socks."

"No, I don't want it this way. It feels weird," she said as the tears began to come.

So, I took the ponytails out and left the three braids in, while still trying to convince her that it was Wacky Wednesday, and her coach would be happy that she had chosen to participate. As I turned to walk back across the field to the car, I noticed a wacky girl heading to Amanda's group. I had walked about ten feet when I heard, "Mommy. . . . " and turned to see Amanda running towards me. She grabbed me around the waist, crying.

"What's wrong, honey? Do you want your hair back up?"

She nodded. "Everyone was saying, 'What's wacky about you, Amanda?' " So, I put the ponytails back in, gave her a kiss, and watched her return to her group.

When I picked her up and we were walking back towards the car, I asked her if she knew what peer pressure was. She didn't, so I explained that a peer was someone her age, and peer pressure was wanting to do something that everyone else did, to fit in. I told her that "Pretty soon, maybe in 5th grade, or 7th, or 9th that some kids might be smoking and some other kids will join in, even though they know that it's unhealthy and their parents have told them not to. These kids will want to do what the other kids do, not what they know is right. Peer pressure can also be positive, like if you want to do as well as your best friend on the spelling or states test, so you study extra hard." I told her that "People will use peer pressure to try to make you act like them. Maybe they will make fun of you for liking to read so much, or going to church." I concluded by reminding her to really think about why she's doing something. Is it because it's the right thing to do or something she really wants to do? Or is it just because it's what everyone else is doing, or not doing? I reminded her that she was doing the right thing and doing what she had been excited about by fixing her hair for Wacky Wednesday, but it was peer pressure that caused her to doubt herself when she didn't see others who looked that wacky.

I'm glad that we had the opportunity to discuss this regarding a safe and harmless topic, but I have to wonder what will come next. Just like it did yesterday on that soccer field when she was doubting herself, my heart aches to know that she will have to make some tough choices. I know that she will probably face ridicule for being a goody two shoes, or too smart, or not smart enough. I just hope that I'll be the one she runs to, and that I'll be there to put her ponytails in or to take them out. I hope that I can teach her to make the right choices, not just the easy ones, while I have her under my care.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tips for the Blogger


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Isn't the Blogosphere great? We get tips each Wednesday, we find people who are like us, and who we wish we were like, and what we think we are like. But there can be a lot of clutter. I am relatively new at reading and writing blogs, but I've figured out some tips that help me out. I'm sure that some are old hat, but I hope that you learn one new trick. If you have some other great tip or tool, please share it in the comments. If you are not a blogging nerd, you might just want to skip this post.

Navigation:
If you click through to a specific post page (for example, this WFMW post page from Shannon's blog), but then you want to get back to their main page, just click on the header (like my Snapshot title).

Someone asked about this last week, and I know I helped her, so, I'll share again: in order to get a link to the specific post, instead of the main page, you can click on the specific title in the recent posts section, usually found in the sidebar. That's pretty obvious, but sometimes people don't have the recent posts listed, so if you click on the time stamp, that usually brings up the address of the individual post.

Management:
There are lots of great ways to manage blogs. Many people like bloglines. I like to manually surf--it's sort of like a treasure hunt for me, "Let's see if Katrina has anything new to say today." I added a Feedblitz subscriber link to my blog (on the upper left), and I think I will add some of my blog reads to it. It just notifies you once a day, which would tell me if I "missed" anything, but wouldn't spoil any fun treasure hunts. But I still want to manage the blogs I do read. So, I have a folder in my favorites called "Blogs" and then within that folder, I have "Faves." Those are my must read blogs. Then I have one called "Trials." If I come across a blog that looks like it might appeal to me (in a WFMW link around or someone else's link), I just bookmark it in Trials. Then when I have some extra reading time, I can read more of the posts. If I end up checking it frequently, I move it to my Faves.

A favorites folder that I end up using mostly on WFMW is "Act on." I read so many great tips, but then I promptly forget them. So now if it's something that I need to do (like getting rid of the Jello boxes and putting the much smaller envelopes in one jar), I save it right then into that folder. It's still there because I haven't done it yet, but since it's saved in there, I will hopefully do it, instead of just forgetting that I wanted to do it.

Sometimes I like to follow a comment thread. Either I've commented, and I want to see if anyone replies to me, or I want to keep reading what others have to say. I keep a separate folder in that Blog folder called "Comments." That just reminds me to check that post. Remember to use the tip about bringing up the specific entry before you bookmark it, not the main page, so that when you go back, what you were trying to track comes right up.

HTML:

You know you're starting to go over the deep end when you even know what this means (let's say it together--Hyper Text Markup Language). On blogger, you can use the compose tab, or the edit HTML tab. One of my favorite commands is "target ="_blank". When I add that to the string of text for a link (after the last "), it causes their browser to open a new window. This is good for the blogger, because they can check out your link, but not leave your site. I guess it might bug some people, but as a reader, I like having a new window opened so that I can finish reading the post, then check out the link.

I found a way to make that happen on my browser, even if their link is not formatted in that way. I learned this from my pop-up blocker. I can press the Ctrl key to override the popup blocker, when I do in fact want that window to pop up (like with spell check). So, when I click on a link in someone's blog, if I press the Ctrl key, it opens in a new window!

Do you have a cute graphic--like for a carnival or a book you are recommending? Want to turn it into a link? In your HTML code from pasting it in, replace the href= listing with the link where you want it to go. There should be that followed by the img src listing that have the same web addresss. You can change the first one, not the second one (which is actually the location of the picture). What about the Works for Me Wednesday banner up there? Click it now to see all the other tips for this Wednesday! Don't worry, I also added in my "target ="_blank" command, so it will open in a new window, and then you can still leave a comment if you want. (I made this work using a blogger link on an old post, but I'm having trouble today, so I'm going to use an image uploaded from photobucket. I'll try to post in my comments the secret to getting a blogger pic to work, or someone else can tell me).

And before you leave, you might want to save this in your "Act on" folder if there is a new tip you don't want to forget.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Seeds Sown with Tears are Reaped with Joy

A friend of mine once told me, "You seem to have learned the secret to being happy. " I'm not exactly sure everything she meant by that, but I have taken it as a high compliment. I have always considered myself an optimist, and I have always thought that I would be able to remain faithful to the Lord in times of trial, and get my strength from Him. But you never know until you are tested. I have come to realize that my optimistic outlook is just part of the temperament that God has gifted me with. I used to think that I had just had an easy life, but when I look at the reality of my circumstances, I certainly have had times of trial. Within the span of 6 months, I lost a baby early in my second trimester. My husband lost his job and started a new one. I injured myself and was physically disabled (on crutches) for several weeks after the injury and then later for a month following surgery. If you want to fast forward two years, I can also include Kyle's life threatening birth by C-section, and three months after that, yet another job change which involved a pretty sudden cross-country move with a newborn and a child starting school for the first time.

Psalm 126
When the Lord brought back the captives from Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes O Lord, like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.

The captives were now free to dream and laugh. What is it that you have been freed from? Perhaps you have experienced healing of a particular sin that has held you captive--in one fell swoop, or gradually over a period of years. Maybe God is freeing you from yourself--your pride, your self-sufficiency, your superiority.

For me, losing that baby somehow made Kyle's arrival two years later even sweeter. Sown in tears. Reaped with great joy. There was also joy in the reaping of the harvest of righteousness, a greater acknowledgment of God's sovereignty. I could say, "Although things might not now be going according to my plan, they were still going to be okay." This lesson was sown in me, and so when we did decide to accept the promptings of the Lord and circumstance and move from Texas to Connecticut, I knew that even though it seemed crazy from the outside looking in, it would be okay. It has been okay. We are feeling quite at home here. We enjoy our new surroundings and new challenges. We enjoy being able to see my in-laws more and cultivate a closer relationship with them. But of course along with that, we have mourned the loss of my family in Texas and close friendships that we left behind. Perhaps that which we left behind makes us more appreciative of what we have.

I don't want people to think that I know how to be happy. I want it to be said that "The Lord has done great things for her."

The Lord has done great things for me, and I am filled with joy.

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Please go see the other entries in the Carnival of the Psalms at MZEllen and Co. on Wednesday.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Books

I can't decide what is filling my head more this summer--reading books or blogging. I guess I will combine them both here. By the way, did you notice my new sidebar headings? I have "What I'm Reading," and "What I'm Cooking," and I will try to keep them updated.

Joshua at Quieted Waters, asked some questions on his blog, and I'm going to answer them here. Incidentally, I first linked over to him because of his great quote on Blest with Sons' site:
"That’s one reason why blogging and journaling are such rewarding ventures. They give you snapshots of your past, and yet, surprisingly often, those snapshots catch you completely off guard."
I've sort of doubted my blog name recently, but that reenforces that this is exactly what I want to capture here.

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Now--on to books and his questions:

What book(s) sparked your interest in reading? Meaning, what books first took reading from being a forced activity to being an enjoyable pastime for you?

I don't think that books were ever forced for me. I have always been an avid reader. Books I enjoyed growing up were
  • the Trixie Belden series
  • the Little House series
  • anything long (Because I was a pretty fast reader, if someone took me to the bookstore to buy a book, I would pick out a nice fat one so it would last longer.)
Which three books have most changed your life (in a practical, tangible way)?

The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George
Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God by Mary Demuth

Which three books (outside of the Bible) have most shaped your thoughts on God?

I have to say that Bible study, reading and studying God's word on my own, that have enlightened me most about who He is. But here are some Bible studies that I have really enjoyed:
  • Bible Study Fellowship -- I have done all seven studies, which has covered almost all of the Bible.
  • Cynthia Heald's Becoming a Woman of Excellence
  • My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Which book(s), if any, have you intentionally read more than once?
  • The Mitford Series by Jan Karon--I reread all of these when a new one comes out.
  • Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (I'm about to start it for my second time after just a year)
  • I am up to reread any fiction book that I enjoyed if it's been a while. I've also been wanting to reread some Elizabeth George, because I feel like her writing has really descipled me as a wife and mother.
Which three books would you recommend to a brand new Christian?
  • A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh Demoss was a great book and teaches the importance of studying the Bible, so I'd say that would be a good one.
  • Again--I go back to the Bible. I don't know of any other books that cover the basics right off hand.
  • I would also say that you should find a book related to how to fulfill your current roles in keeping with your new Christian faith. For example, books on motherhood, being a good husband or wife, or integrity in the workplace, or living as a single person. Ask another Christian in this same role what books were helpful to them.

Which three books do you plan to have your kids read? (Or - "Which three books were most exciting to read to your kids / to have your kids read?" - for those of you who already have children)

I love this question. I recently wrote about what a great way reading is to connect with your kids in Family Book Club.
  • Mandy by Julie Edwards was a magical wonderful book for me when I was in school. I still remember details from it. So my 7 year old daughter and I just read it together. She loved it.
  • We've also read a couple of the Little House books together.
  • She enjoyed the Foot Book by Dr. Seuss, as does my 2 year old son, and my mom said it was one of my favorites, too.
  • Soon I would like for her to read the Wrinkle in Time series, which I also remembered as being mesmorizing.
I didn't link to all of these books, but if you want to check them out for yourself and see what others have to say about them as well, click over to amazon.com.

I love a good "chat" on books, and good book recommendations, so if you do this on your own site, you can link here. That way we'll have a nice compilation of others who participated and a great list of books.