January 30, 2010

6 on Saturday

My sweet friend Susie often posts a "10 on Tuesday" on her gorgeous blog. I loved the idea of sharing random tidbits about my life, since I don't always get to sit down and journal on my blog as frequently as I might like. But I am afraid to lock myself into a commitment I can't keep. So I decided random numbers on random days would work just fine for my random blogging schedule. Here goes...

1. It's too stinkin' cold outside to run. (How cold, you ask? Try single digits and teens...low 20's being the high for the day.) I borrowed some fitness DVDs from my friend and neighbor Chris and have been doing segments of them early in the morning. They are perfect for my current phase of life--I can get in a 20-30 minute workout before Lucan is ready to nurse and be up for the day. I do miss the days when I could nurse him at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and put him back to bed! But at least I'm burning some calories, which is more than I can say for the early mornings around the holidays.

2. We're on a new grocery shopping schedule. The plan is to majorly shop every 3-4 weeks. I made a big run on January 8 and just went again today. The current menu plan extends through February 25. Between a couple of Sam's Clubs stops and a quick trip to the commissary after work, Ted fills in the gaps with needed fresh produce and milk, etc. I have an amazing husband.

3. I've calculated that I could shave a half hour off my commissary shopping time if everyone else stayed OUT of the store. What do you think the odds are of that happening? Yeah, pretty slim, I know. So I'm thinking about skipping the produce section and making a beeline for the canned and dry goods--that's where everyone hogs all the aisle space, making decisions I've already considered BEFORE walking into the store. If I can zip my two carts up and down those aisles faster, then I can take my time with the produce selections and still come out ahead.

4. It's that time of year again--time to seriously start working on the Commission youth camp Bible study. I can hardly believe this will be my 10th year to do this. Though our whole clan won't be making the trek to Idaho this June, I love that I can stay involved in this way. Prayers for God's clear guidance would be most appreciated.

5. Ted recently downloaded the entire season of Survivor: Australia for us to watch on my laptop. (Since, you know, we have all this free time to fill up.) AMAZING. Seriously, this was the best season ever. We didn't start watching the show until Survivor: All Stars and have seen every season since. It's a guilty pleasure, I suppose--TV that doesn't involve sports is typically forbidden in our home. People are just so INTERESTING.

6. I absolutely love that we are a family who loves to read. All of these books are from the library, a place we frequent.

January 28, 2010

Planning Ahead for OCC

We've been a bit stir crazy of late. The kiddos caught the nasty cold Ted brought home last week. (I've so far stayed healthy, which is a first...I credit my chiropractic treatments for helping my immune system, because I'm not doing anything else differently!) So today I decided we needed to get out of the house. P.E. was not an option, however, as I didn't want to send the boys into fits of coughing from all the running around; plus it didn't seem like a good idea to get Kenna's runny nose within 10 feet of any people outside our family.

So we went to the Dollar Tree. Now, I'm not one to bundle up 5 kiddos and run amok through town just for kicks, and those who know me understand I really don't like shopping for fun, either. But our trip to the dollar store had a purpose. One of our family goals for this year was to plan ahead and pack 20 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We took an idea from The Sharing Org and decided that a little bit of planning can go a long way toward being able to give more at Christmastime. Our goal is to shop once a month for items to go in the shoe boxes. We've already set aside some money to help with the shipping charges for the boxes as well and have added a little extra to our Christmas budget. This is a worthy cause--how easy is it to touch a life and have the opportunity to share Christ's love with kids who need to know they matter to God?

This is our first batch of loot. It was also my first time in this Dollar Tree--wow, that store is huge! And remarkably busy for a Thursday afternoon! I had told the kids ahead of time that they would be able to choose one item for themselves. I have to be honest, we just don't typically buy things for our kids. I guess one reason is that we really aren't much for shopping, LOL, but also we have just never gotten in the habit of buying "a little something" for them. I'm not about to change that, by any means! The kids know if they want something, they need to save their allowance and any money gifts they receive so they can purchase it themselves. But it was so fun to announce a treat ahead of time and watch their faces as they walked up and down the aisles, trying to choose carefully what they would spend their dollar on.

I was proud of them--they were very well behaved, had remarkable self-control, and made good choices regarding their selections. They didn't just grab the first thing they saw (which is good, since we came to the candy aisle first, yikes) but waited until they had looked through aisles of interest. Tobin chose a Disney heroes coloring and activity book. He's back on a coloring kick these days. Arden chose a package of two nerf balls, perfect for our sports boy. Charis chose pretty paper for the computer so she can print out stories. And Kenna, after loading up with about five different objects, finally settled on a package of bubbles, which works for me because she has actually asked several times this month if she can have bubbles. I let her blow them at home with Lucan crawling around trying to figure out what was happening to the things he was trying to grab!

So, mission accomplished. We got out of the house, shopped for other boys and girls, and found inexpensive treats for the kids. They are already making plans for our next trip to the Dollar Tree...

January 26, 2010

Lost in Translation

Tobin was at the dinner table with Ted and me, sitting for a time out after aggravating his sister (again). As part of our discussion about his behavior, I talked about Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

I emphasized Tobin's own part in keeping peace in the family, mentioning the phrase "as far as it depends on you" several times. We ended the discussion, and he left to go play.

As he entered the next room, he shouted, "The world depends on me!"

Sigh. Abstract thought...concrete heads.

January 25, 2010

Obviously the Slaves Need More Training

It was sweet, really; Kenna watched me working with the older kids, teaching them how to deep clean the bathrooms. I guess she wanted in on the action. I wasn't fortunate enough to catch her in the act, but this is the result of her "cleaning" the mirror in the kids' bathroom using a sopping wet sponge.


Upon getting out of her crib after a non-nap, I sigh, "Kenna, you didn't sleep, did you?" She squints her eyes, puts her thumb and index finger very close together, and informs me she DID sleep, "A yittle, tiny bit! A really tiny bit!" Um, yeah, right...


We were being silly when I tucked her into bed for her nap a few days ago. I don't know how we started the game, but I was asking her silly questions about body parts, such as, "Do you have 3 eyes? Do you have 5 arms?" and so on. I asked Kenna if she had 4 heads, and she started to say no, then stopped, looked puzzled, and pointed to her forehead. Oops! She got me! Guess she does have a 4head! ;-)

January 21, 2010

January Pictures

Here are a few snapshots from January. For descriptions of the pictures, and to see more photos, view the album on Facebook.

January 20, 2010

Life with Lucan

Checklist for MLK, Jr. Day: Purchase cabinet latches. Install cabinet latches. Prepare to finally work in the kitchen without tripping over bowls, lids, etc. Marvel at how quickly Lucan is growing up. Consider for one moment allowing him full access to the cabinets because it's too cute to see a baby's rear end sticking out while his top half is completely inside the cabinet. Instead, take pictures and proceed with Plan A.

Isn't he adorable? Don't you just want to kiss those sweet cheeks and nuzzle his fuzzy head? Or is it just me?

Homeschool Skate Day

In Las Vegas I took the kids to Homeschool Skate Day just a few times. It was fairly crowded, and there were a lot of older, confident skaters, way bigger and faster than my little ones. (At the time Charis, Tobin, and Arden were little!) Now, in Ohio, I've started taking the kids to the Homeschool Skate Day once a month. In December our co-op did a gingerbread house contest in conjunction with Skate Day, and that was great fun. This month I offered to take along a couple of Amy's girls, since she has younger ones that need a nap during the skating time. She kept Lucan for me, which was a huge help, and he even got a nap while we were gone.

Kenna was excited to skate with Charis's old skates now that Charis has roller blades. Kenna enjoys scooting around at home with the skates on, and even though they are much too big for her, she does a lot better with them than she does with the adjustable skates they have at the skating rink. So I decided to go ahead and bring Kenna, even though Amy offered to keep her along with Lucan.

The girls and I had a blast! This was my first time skating since I was pregnant with Kenna. I did convince the boys to go around--Arden went around once, and Tobin went around 5 times. It was like pulling a statue along; they held my hand and stood stiff as a board the whole time while I skated! At least they tried it. They usually prefer to run around and watch people playing video games or even play themselves, assuming they have enough allowance money to buy some tokens.

Kenna did quite well, and I was able to go back and forth amongst the kids, holding hands and helping out as needed. It was pretty good exercise for me, too. And hey, nothing says "socialization" quite like doing the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance with a big group of people.

P.E., check. Now back to our regularly scheduled homeschool...

January 17, 2010

The Ticket System

A few months ago I got the idea (thank you, Lord!) for an incentive system for the kids that would encompass their schoolwork as well as chores, attitudes, initiative, etc. The inspiration came from a roll of tickets that was sitting on my counter after a stamping event. I've often used tickets at workshops to encourage guests to be involved in my presentation, to come on time, to bring friends, etc. I figured if they were incentives for women, they might also be for kids!

This idea percolated in my brain for awhile, and I finally typed out a ticket redemption chart that hangs in our kitchen eating area. Also in this area, on the bulletin boards, are envelopes with Charis, Tobin, and Arden's names. This is where they keep the tickets they earn throughout the day.

Here are some ways the kids can earn tickets:
* One ticket for completing school checklists. (They have an appointment with me at some point during the day during which we review their written work.)
* One ticket for completing "funvelope" activities. (I'll post about checklists and funvelopes a different time.)
* One ticket for saying the Bible verse of the week without looking during our breakfast review time.
* During school review times, I give a ticket for volunteering to share something we learned during the day (often around the dinner table so Dad can hear).

The great thing about giving tickets away is that it's completely arbitrary--I haven't tied myself to a particular system, other than giving a ticket for completing school work. I sometimes give a ticket for getting 100% on a math test--but not always. I sometimes give a ticket for answering, "Yes, ma'am" and coming immediately when I call--but not always. I sometimes give a ticket for doing something without being asked--but not always. You get the idea! I don't necessarily want the kids to EXPECT a ticket for doing a good deed, but I do want to recognize their efforts and inspire them to look for ways to help out, be polite, etc.

So, basically, I give tickets for anything I want to encourage.

Likewise, I take away tickets for anything I want to discourage. Yelling at your sibling? Bring me a ticket. Didn't come when I called? Bring me a ticket. Neglecting your chores? Bring me a ticket. Left a pencil on the table for Kenna to find and color on the wall with? Bring me 10 tickets. Grrr. (Just kidding, but that does happen more often than I want to keep track of, sigh.)

So, what to do with all the tickets? Here are some of the privileges that the kids can "buy" with their tickets:

1 ticket = 1 piece of candy
(This came after Halloween, ugh.)

3 tickets = extra snack
I was tired of the kids always asking for food. They get one approved snack, and if they're still hungry, they pay for more food with tickets! Encourages them to eat a decent meal at breakfast and lunch time. :-)

3 tickets = bike break (No one has taken advantage of this lately, LOL.)

5 tickets = 15 minute break from school; game time with Mom; or trampoline time.

10 tickets = 1 hour or less DVD in the afternoon; 1/2 hour computer time in the afternoon; stay up and read one hour after bedtime (from 8 - 9 p.m.). (So if bedtime is late, say 8:30 instead of our normal 8:00, they don't have the option of buying this privilege. Or if we have to get up early the next day, they have to wait to buy this privilege.)

15 tickets = attend Homeschool Skate Day; go to Chick-Fil-a for lunch; go to the Boonshoft Museum.

20 tickets = Go to Young's for lunch.

Note: Whenever there is an outing away from the house, EACH kid has to have the specified number of tickets. Charis has been known to give her brothers a few tickets so we could make it to Homeschool Skate Day, since Charis is always rolling in extra tickets. The boys tend to spend theirs for computer time as soon as they rack up 10 tickets!

Ted and I do put limits on the number of times they can redeem tickets for DVDs or computer time. We don't yet have the physical objects ready, but we plan to have "Media Chips" to give out so that there is a set number of hours per week for media time. When they turn in tickets for game time or whatever, or if they play the Wii or video games at a friend's house, they will have to cash in media chips as well. Ted and I just haven't had a chance to discuss a reasonable total per week. But basically I try to limit it right now to 2-3 afternoons of computer games or DVDs, plus our Friday night movie night.

I'd be glad to answer any questions about this system if you have any. Hopefully I've covered the basics. We've used it for several months now and are happy with it, and I think the kids are, too!

Extra Service Opportunities

Someone asked what the other jobs I have available for the kids are. I love putting them on index cards instead of assigning them on a chart, because I can always think of new tasks that the kids really could be doing instead of me! This way I can add the cards to the box. Here are some of what is in our "Extra Service Opportunities" file:

* Use spray cleaner to wipe inside and outside of microwave, top and front of stove, and front of dishwasher.
* Shred papers in Mom & Dad's room. (I just pile them next to the shredder--it's so loud I don't like shredding during naptime, since Lucan is right over our room!)
* Pick up all toys on the main floor.
* Scrub the kids' bathtub.
* Put all toys in the playroom back into their PROPER containers.
* Clean out the Suburban--all trash thrown away and all other items put where they belong.
* Vacuum Mom and Dad's room and bathroom.
* Vacuum the playroom.
* Vacuum the office.
* Clean off the trunk [a landing zone in our house] and put everything where it belongs.
* Straighten the Shoe Wall and straighten the laundry room.
* Wipe down sink and counter with cleaning wipes in Mom & Dad's bedroom.
* Empty all bathroom trashcans.

I also have some repeats of weekly chores, such as vacuuming the family room, cleaning the kitchen floor, etc. Things that really should be done twice a week (but don't always get done). I know more tasks will end up in this category, and eventually--once the kids are trained to do weekly chores properly--they will have to do one task from the weekly file and 1-2 tasks from the extra file per day. But for now they have one weekly task per day (Monday through Friday), with extras happening when they need something useful to do (i.e. they are fighting or driving me crazy) or when they want to earn tickets.

Next post: Our ticket system.

January 16, 2010

Our Little Cheerleader

Kenna was calling encouragement through the front window to Tobin, who was sweeping the remains of the Christmas tree needles off the porch. "Go, Tobin! You're a good worker! You're doing a good job!"

When I went out to get the last stubborn needles swept away, she also hollered out to me. "Yay, Mommy! Go, Mommy!"

I think I could get a lot of housework done if I have a cheerleader behind me all the way, LOL!

January 14, 2010

Systems and Schedules

After taking so much time off in December, I was greatly anticipating the return to a regular schedule. Life just goes so much more smoothly around here when things are predictable. Breakfast whenever you want it and lounging around in pajamas all day sounds nice, but the bickering and short tempers that seem prevalent on schedule-less days outweigh whatever sense of relaxation there may be. (And let's face it--relaxation may happen for the kids when we don't have school, but not for Mom!)

I knew we'd need to tweak some things with our schedule, particularly when it came to chores. Now that we're getting close to finishing our second school week in 2010, I think I can safely say that we're doing fairly well. The house is staying cleaner than usual, and we're actually caught up with school work despite having January 4 off as a family day and January 8 off as a snow day. We've also had play dates and run errands, and my sanity has remained intact, so that tells me we're definitely on the right track, LOL.

Today I'll just write about our new approach to chores. This is something I was praying about for a long time, knowing that we needed to get the kids more involved with household tasks. Chore charts were just not working for us. We might stay up with them the first couple of days of the week, but inevitably life would put us behind. Then there was the matter of inspection--if that didn't happen, then there was no accountability. And what about training the kids to do harder jobs and to do a BETTER job? That needed to be taken into account also.

So here's our new system--for now. I'm sure it will change, but I'm pleased with it so far. I have an index card file box with two main categories: Weekly Service Opportunities and Extra Service Opportunities.

Weekly Service Opportunities are tasks that I want done every week. Thinking in terms of 3 kids working each day, I grouped like tasks in sets of three. Ideally, of course, 3 kids will do 3 tasks every day, Monday through Friday. When the chore is finished AND inspected, the card goes to the back of the stack. If we have a crazy day and don't have time for chores, no big deal. We pick up where we left off. (However, I always have the option of moving the cards around and placing ones at the front of the stack that I want to be sure we get done!) Here are the tasks I've set up for this section:

* Deep cleaning bathrooms
1. Kids' bathroom
2. Guest bathroom
3. Basement bathroom

* Vacuuming
1. Vacuum library and entryway
2. Vacuum dining room
3. Vacuum family room

* Vacuuming
1. Vacuum boys' room
2. Vacuum girls' room
3. Vacuum Lucan's room

* Vacuuming (see a trend here?!)
1. Vacuum stairs from 2nd floor to main floor
2. Vacuum stairs from main floor to basement
3. Vacuum or sweep tile in kitchen and eating area

* Quick clean bathrooms (same 3 as deep cleaning)

In addition to the Weekly Service Opportunities, the kids have Extra Service Opportunities. These are additional tasks that I'd like them to do weekly or bi-weekly, but ones that won't cause my stress level to rise if we don't get to them.

There are two ways these will get done:

1. Kids are driving me crazy and need to be gainfully employed. They will be sent to the chore box and may choose any one of the first 3 cards.

2. Kids want to earn extra tickets and choose any of the first 3 cards. Once the task is complete and inspected, they earn however many tickets are indicated on the card.

I guess this leads to our ticket system! I'll have to post that another day...


Any mom enjoys seeing her children show improvement in areas that have been weak. Thus it is with considerable pride that I announce the latest laundry score for our son Tobin.

Last week's underwear count: One.

This week's underwear count: Three.

The days-per-pair average is dropping! We are making progress!

January 11, 2010

Adventures with Kenna

In today's episode, Mom does extra chores when Kenna tries something new in the bathroom: using the toilet brush holder as a potty! While the small container does indeed hold #1, unfortunately there is nowhere for #2 to go except on the floor. But not to worry; Kenna is a resourceful child and "cleans" the mess herself, leaving the new "potty" in the center of a poop-streaked floor for big sister to find later. The plot thickens when Baby Lucan pukes on the carpet right as Mom is on her hands and knees cleaning the bathroom floor.

However, in a charming twist later on, Kenna melts Mom's heart by carrying around her "Baby Jesus" (a lump of clay she has rolled into an oblong shape) while patting, cooing, and singing to it. All is forgiven as Kenna is tucked in bed for a long-awaited two-hour nap.

January 10, 2010

The Difference Between Girls and Boys

Dear Grandma and Grandpa K,

Thank you for the Gone Camping puzzle and the white tiger and the Spider-man hat. I hope I see you soon! I love you!



Dear Grandma & Grandpa K,

Thank you for the scarf. I sleep with it every night and wear it whenever I go outside. It's so fuzzy!

Thank you for the Dorothy doll. Kenna has taken a liking to her, and I have not made a "home" for her yet. I'm very excited with my idea to make clothes, a dresser, a lamp, and a room for her!

Thank you so much for the gingerbread kit. I am excited to start. I don't know when I can start it though. I'm having too much fun doing OTHER crafts.

How are you doing? Are you having fun? I am! I hope you can visit again soon. I miss you. Grandma, I have some things I would like to sew on the sewing machine. I hope you can help me with that sometime soon.

I love you and miss you both. Hope you are having fun!


Your granddaughter,

P.S. Write to me soon please. I love to get mail, thought I almost never get any!


P.P.S. I forgot to say thank you for the color by number. It was so much fun! I got to do Kenna's because she's little, Tobin's because he didn't want to, and I finished all of them except Arden's. He is doing the dog and cat one. I love you!


Arden's Dictation Assignment

Last week one of Arden's Language Arts activities was to dictate an essay about a pet he would like. This is the paragraph he dictated to me, with a couple of questions on my end to keep him going. I thought it was cute. :-)

I would like two dogs, one a girl, and one a boy. I want the girl one to be in the family because I like baby puppies, and they might like my stuffed animal Ruff. [I want a boy dog] because I'm a boy and all my stuffed animals are boys. [The dogs] are the same color as Ruff. Baby ones like to stay in my room. I would like making them play fetch with one of our balls. The grown-up boy one would be Bill, and the grown-up girl one will be Sally. I'd have Bill, and Charis would have Sally.

January 07, 2010

Really? That's All Ya Got?

I've been doing laundry on Thursdays the last few weeks instead of our typical Saturday wash day so that we could avoid doing laundry over holiday weekends. I decided I rather liked getting it out of the way before the weekend arrived, even if that meant I was on my own instead of having help from Ted.

So I was merrily plugging along, enjoying a wintry, snowy day with the kids while moving through the laundry at a rather amazing pace.

Soon it dawned on me WHY I was finishing up so quickly.

By the time I had folded all of the items, Tobin's clean laundry pile consisted of one pair of pajamas, one pair of underwear, and three pairs of socks.


Kenna seems to have worn enough clothes for 3 little girls, though, so perhaps that counts for something?!

(And as a side note, it is worth commending Tobin for listening to us in at least one regard--we had been begging the boys to PLEASE wear their pants more than once, as they were both going through them at an unreasonably fast pace. I'm not sure how that translates into "stuff your dirty underwear and shirts back in your drawer and wear those over and over and over," but I guess you never know with boys. Note to self--start paying attention to what the boys are wearing every day!)

January 06, 2010

Just What I Needed

I'm guessing every mom understands the uncanny ability children have to sense the exact moment when Mom gets on the phone. It seems no matter how frequently we work on "phone manners," things fall apart when I have someone on the line. (This is why I truly despise being on the phone. In about 18 years I will have all the time in the world to talk on the phone, but by then I'll probably be in bed catching up on my sleep.)

So anyway, the phone rings this afternoon, and somehow, even though I'm attempting to work in the bowels of the basement, the boys come charging into my stamp room, waving their light sabers. (WHAT about a ringing phone inspires light-saber swinging, I ask you??) The call is from a downline member needing to ask some business questions. I put the boys off with a raised finger for awhile, then head upstairs with them following right behind me. I finish the phone conversation, trying to shoo away the boys with hand gestures and frowns, which of course is completely ineffective.

After I hang up the phone, I announce, "Whatever it was you were planning to ask me while I was on the phone, the answer is NO."

There is no response to this. Tobin and Arden simply look at me, unfazed. I'm puzzled. Weren't they going to ask me some all-important question? I am too curious to walk away, so I ask them.

"We weren't going to ask you anything," Tobin says.

"Then why in the world were you following me around so closely?"

"Because we wanted to guard you, Mom!"

Hmmm. I didn't realize I was a VIP in need of light-saber-wielding bodyguards, but hey, I think that means they love me. :-)

January 05, 2010

Constant Contact, Part 2

(If you haven't read part 1, I encourage you to scroll down and read that first. :-)

So here I am again at the computer. But today I sit down and type not because I'm desperate for an escape (although I confess that does happen frequently around here). In fact, I have had an unusually blessed day. We began our homeschool routine again after what seemed like an eons-long break, and though I re-entered the scheduled arena with some trepidation (how much attitude and bickering will I face today?!), I report with great joy that today has been an AMAZING day with my kids. I'll write more later about the little ways we're trying to improve daily life around here, but I note all this at the beginning of this particular post because I want to validate (for myself at least) my "screen time," as we call it around here.

Constant Contact is a part of our culture, whether we like it or not. It's not only Facebook, though that aspect was the one that got the most attention in my first post. The newspaper can even be a source of Constant Contact for me--last year I became nearly obsessed with the political scene and spent way too much time pouring over the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Blogs also captivate me. I enjoy keeping our family blog up-to-date since far too much happens for my to physically scrapbook it all. And I enjoy reading friends' blogs and humorous or inspirational blogs as well. When I visit a friend's blog, I try to leave a comment, just a little something to let her know I'm reading her posts. I know I enjoy reading people's comments, and it makes me feel my efforts benefit others as well as myself. But...back to that prideful spirit! As someone noted in one of her comments on that post, that, too, can put a blight on an otherwise uplifting activity as we seek validation from human sources. Darn this selfish flesh!

Sometimes I long for the simpler days of history, before technology so completely pervaded people's lives. I wonder, if I lived a couple of centuries ago, would I have taken more hours in my day to appreciate what was around me? Would I still have a to-do list miles long? Would I still long to escape my responsibilities for a day or two now and then, or would I be more content? A drawback of Constant Contact is realizing there is so much out there--to do, to read, to watch--and developing an insatiable desire to be a part of it. My own "addiction" is, according to the strictest definition of the term, probably better described as a distraction for me; a dangerous one, to be sure--I'm raising soldiers in Christ's army, a task that demands my full attention! I've seen folks who post status updates literally several times an hour and comment on everyone else's updates obsessively. (How DO those people deal with all the notifications?!) While I'm considerably far from that level of "addiction," the burden on my heart is very real to be a good steward of ALL of my time.

So I ponder this idea of Constant Contact, and I realize that there are actually two forms of Constant Contact that I want to make sure I DO incorporate into my life.

First and foremost, I want to be in Constant Contact with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. "Pray continually" and "draw near to God" are commands I need to take to heart in 2010. I love the story of Mary and Martha, the sisters who both loved Christ but showed their love so differently. I think Martha's to-do list was probably a lot like my own.

* Plan the menu
* Prepare the food
* Cook the meal
* Clean the house

But right now, it's Mary's to-do list that interests me. Mary was definitely an NLM (non-list maker), in my opinion. But humor me for a moment. If she DID write a list down, it would be pretty simple.

* Find Jesus.
* Sit and listen to Him.

Sounds good to me! So why can't I slow down and do that?! Probably because I'm too busy squeezing in some Constant Contact with things that don't really matter during my already-full days.

That brings me to my second desire for Constant Contact, and that is with my family. My instinctive reaction to the sentence I just wrote is to laugh out loud long and hard, having just spent a few weeks holed up in the house during very cold weather with very active children who had, apparently, very little to do other than drive each other and their parents crazy. But hear me out for a moment...or rather, listen as God Himself speaks through Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

This passage has long been our family's call to homeschool the children God gives us. Talk about Constant Contact! How else can we teach our kids to know and love God? Every part of our day is to be infused with informal lessons about God, from the time we wake to the time we go to bed. If I'm not in Constant Contact with my children, I simply cannot obey these commands to the fullest, and I miss out on some of the greatest blessings God has for me. So while Constant Contact with 5 kids 9 years old and under from a human perspective sounds like a prescription for disaster, it is in fact a necessary part of training the next generation in righteousness.

I'll repeat what I wrote in part 1: I am writing DESCRIPTIVELY here, not necessarily PRESCRIPTIVELY. Doubtless there are godly Christian parents who are not homeschoolers who are nevertheless doing a fine job of training their children in godly ways. They use their time with their children wisely and follow Deuteronomy 6's instructions to speak of God and His precepts and character as often as possible. I'm not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do regarding their family situation, just as I didn't intend to declare Facebook evil. :-) I'm simply sharing what God has laid on my heart. I hope it's beneficial for someone else.

May you be in Constant Contact this year with the One who loves you most!

January 04, 2010

Yummy Soup Recipe to Share

I was planning to do my "Constant Contact, Part 2" as my next post, but since I have spent quite a bit of time on the computer preparing for this school week and balancing our checkbooks, paying bills, updating the budget, etc., I am loathe to spend any more time staring at this screen! Instead, I will copy and paste a FABULOUS soup recipe that we enjoyed at my mom's house over Thanksgiving. Ted and I liked it so much we made it for our New Year's Eve soup. (We like to have soup for Christmas and New Year's Eve dinners.) It makes a lot, so we finally finished it off today for lunch. (It may not have lasted so long if the kids actually ate soup, ha!)

Notes for substitutions or changes follow.


3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
3 14-oz. cans chicken broth
4 cups half-and-half
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup salsa
1 can creamed corn
6 boneless chicken breasts, cooked
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 pkg dry fajita seasoning
3 tbsp cilantro
tortilla chips
shredded cheese

Saute garlic and onion in butter. Add flour and stir well for one minute. While stirring, slowly add broth and half and half. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Add remaining ingredients (except for chips and cheese) and heat for 15 minutes. Serve with crumbled chips and cheese.

* Instead of half and half, I used evaporated milk and skim milk.
* Mom used regular corn instead of creamed corn.
* Mom used taco seasoning instead of fajita seasoning. Both ways were WONDERFUL!


January 03, 2010

Constant Contact

I receive emails from a few sources (businesses, charities) that make use of a service named Constant Contact. Though I haven't tried it for my own home business, I know enough about it to understand that its goal is to help clients quickly and easily keep in touch with their growing lists of people interested in their products or services.

Over the past week, I've been thinking about this phrase..."Constant Contact." And, being in the middle of a 10-day "fast" of sorts from a popular online social network, I began thinking about "constant contact" as it relates to our current culture.

You see, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I got involved with it just about a year ago, fascinated by how quickly my "friends list" began growing. I was writing on virtual walls and receiving messages from people I haven't seen in years, even decades. (Doesn't that make me sound old and wise?!) It was amazing, really, to quickly catch up on people's lives, learn about their spouses, kids, jobs, ministries, and passions. I could find reason for inspiration, encouragement, wisdom, and laughter while reading status updates. I found myself praying for people in other states as they posted details about sicknesses, pregnancies, job losses, and so on. Each day I wanted to "tune in" and read the rest of their stories.

More than that, I wanted to share my own stories. Like making 3 trips to the hospital before finally being admitted for real labor with Lucan, or waiting for orders for our next assignment, or finding Kenna sitting in a mop bucket spreading bubbles on her head. It was fun to read people's comments about my updates and to know other people were interested in my mundane, daily life.

Soon I began thinking of life in status updates, wondering how best to phrase my witty observations about our activities. I updated my status several times a day and followed everyone else's status as well. I also wanted to view videos and photo albums, and of course I had to add my two cents' worth to everything that caught my attention and made me laugh...or think.

The positive aspects of being a Facebook junkie include quickly and easily sharing photos, videos, and updates with family and friends. As a military family, we live far away from many of our loved ones, and digital pictures and videos help us reach across the miles and keep them involved in our lives.

But there's definitely a downside to all of this Constant Contact...how quickly it can turn into an obsession, an addiction, a distraction. I began realizing that if I didn't log into Facebook at least 2-3 times a day, there were going to be more status updates, photos, and videos than I could possibly keep up with (gasp!). And somehow I felt obligated to read what everyone else was posting. I'd even follow links to articles or blog entries posted by friends whose opinions I valued. And slowly I began to realize that while I was keeping "in contact" with people in other states, my contact with my own family was not all it should be.

Let's face it. Keeping up with 300+ people is a daunting task. (Keeping up with my own family of 7 is a daunting enough task!) And really, do I need to know what everyone on my Facebook list is doing every minute of the day?

Constant contact. It's too much. Too much time and (often) too much information. Why should anyone outside my immediate family need to know what I'm doing at any given moment?

The fact is, we're living in a Constant Contact culture. I never saw a single episode of Jon & Kate Plus Eight, yet I somehow know more about the sordid details of their lives than I ever wanted to know thanks to society's obsession with their family. I don't follow golf, either, but...you guessed it...Constant Contact through a variety of media outlets is responsible for ensuring We the People can form strong opinions about the actions of Tiger Woods. I haven't jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, and I don't plan to--frankly, I'm getting sick of all this Constant Contact.

In taking some time away from Facebook, I've asked myself some hard questions, and I have to confess I don't really like the answers. One thing I wondered was, why on earth do I feel so compelled by this Constant Contact? And really, is it so wrong to want to keep up with old and new friends? What about family?

I prayed about it, but not as much as I should have, because I could sense where God was leading me with this. The answer nagged at my heart and soul, and I didn't like it. No one likes to see him or herself unfavorably, but the light of God's truth shines so brilliantly we can't help but see what needs to be changed when we hold the mirror of His Word up to our souls.

The ugly truth is, I wasn't obsessed with Facebook simply because I wanted to keep up with family and friends. I was also obsessed with Facebook because...well...I was obsessed with ME. This came out in a variety of ways, such as wanting to see how many people commented on one of my status updates, or how people liked the video I posted or the pictures I uploaded. If someone posted something interesting, I felt they should know what I was thinking about it, too. And so on.

Furthermore, I felt I had a right to enjoy some down time (I am, after all, the mother of 5 children who are with me 24/7), which basically boiled down to spending more time keeping in Constant Contact with people I don't live with than I did in connecting with and training my children in righteousness. I used Facebook as a quick escape from Mom-duty...only all too often it became a long escape as I hopped from page to page, doing my own thing and ignoring what was going on all around me.

This article really convicted me. I just read it yesterday, and it was a God-ordained culmination of all the thoughts God has led me through over the past week or so. Oh, Lord Jesus, this Disease of Self running through my veins has got to go!

So what is the answer? I can't speak for anyone else, and I'm certainly not declaring Facebook or any other social sites evil by any means. My purpose in posting my thoughts on this topic is not prescriptive, but descriptive of what my experience has been and where I think God wants me personally to go. Certainly I could go to the extreme of saying I will delete my Facebook account and never log on again, but I don't think that's the answer.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul wrote, quoting a popular saying from the time, "'Everything is permissible for me' --but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible for me'--but I will not be mastered by anything."

Applying this to my situation, I realize that Facebook is permissible--but not necessarily beneficial. In fact, as I've already learned, it's something that I can easily allow to master me. If I can be a Facebook user without being mastered by it (obsessed by it, addicted to it, distracted by it), then Facebook is permissible for me. Otherwise, it becomes an idol in my life and must be torn down so I can put my focus back where it belongs.

More on this later...

January 02, 2010

Visit from Grandma and Grandpa

My parents drove to visit us last Sunday and survived lots of snow on I-70 plus a multitude of vehicles reluctant to drive more than 35 mph. After an exhausting day of travel, they were greeted enthusiastically at the door by Charis and Tobin, who had managed to keep themselves awake, and of course Ted and me. Everyone else quickly crashed, but I enjoyed a few hours' visit with Mom and Dad all to myself. I knew I'd have to share them later, LOL.

Monday was a family day, so Ted was off work. It was a GREAT time of hanging out (kids in their pajamas, grown-ups in their comfy clothes), playing games, eating good food, and visiting. Of course Grandma and Grandpa brought presents, so we opened those and played with new stuff. :-)

Tuesday was Mom and Dad's 37th anniversary. I made a special breakfast for them, and then since Ted was at work the rest of us piled in the Suburban and drove to Ikea. It was Mom and Dad's first time to the store, so we thought it would be fun to show them around. (Plus I wanted to get more chairs to go with our dining set since we had received some Christmas money!) Well, everyone else in Ohio apparently thought it was the perfect day to shop at Ikea also. Sigh. One thing I've learned about myself in the last decade is that I do NOT like being in crowds of people, particularly when I have to push a cart or a stroller or keep track of anyone else besides myself. I feel very closed in and claustrophobic. So, though Ikea is one of the few places in the world where I actually enjoy shopping, our outing on Tuesday wasn't the most enjoyable for me. Still, we did get Swedish meatballs, so that outweighed the cons quite a bit, LOL. Kids ate for free, which probably explained in no small way the vast crowds, not to mention post-holiday shoppers were out and about spending gift cards like there was no tomorrow. Go, people! Stimulate the economy! Just don't stop right in front of my stroller!!

Our shopping spree ended on a somewhat disappointing note as we learned the Lingonberry ice cream was unavailable. Bummer. Ah, well, we got our 4 dining chairs to complete our set (one dozen chairs, all of which can fit around our Ikea table!) and came home to find Ted already in the house. Woohoo! Short work day!

After breakfast the next morning, Mom and Dad had to head home to 'Sconsin. It was a short visit, but a very good one. I so enjoyed being able to relax and visit with them when the kiddos were in bed. I don't think we did as much of that when we were at their place over Thanksgiving--I think our lack of sleep there caused us to crash pretty much whenever the kids did! But we had fun reminiscing and laughing together. I'm so thankful we live closer to them than we have for the last 5 years so that we can get together more often.

To see more photos of our time together, go here.

Addendum to Lucan's Spotlight

You might know...

The day after I wrote Lucan's spotlight post, his first tooth popped through! We knew he was working on one, but finally it's here.

Also, that same day, he pulled himself up to a standing position beside the couch. He bounced a little, then carefully let himself down. Another first! Our baby is growing up!