Friday, February 25, 2011

Overdue

A couple of weeks age, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I was coming across someone talking about the importance of taking time to reflect or retreat. In addition to this article by Stephanie, and the follow-up post on here, it seemed like several other people were thinking about this subject. I was certainly getting the message, but I wasn't acting on it. It's true that I was going through an unusually busy stretch with my work from home and some other commitments, but rushing around made me see my need for a retreat even more. I just didn't know how to "fit it in."

Then on February 11, my daily reading in Jesus Calling said, "Trust Me enough to spend ample time with Me, pushing back the demands of the day . . . You will find that you can accomplish more in less time, after you have given yourself to Me in rich communion. Also, as you align yourself with My perspective, you can sort out what is important and what is not. Don't fall into the trap of being constantly on the go."

That was the final push I needed. Immediately after reading that passage, I told Eric I needed to schedule a retreat in the coming weekend. I had to adjust some of my to-do items to make it work--I ended up running to the grocery store in the evening, instead of the morning as I'd planned, and I also woke up early to fit in my workout before the kids woke up. I know it takes extra effort, but once I was seated in my quiet space with warm drink in hand, I truly felt myself relax. I am refreshed by taking time to write, read and pray, and I hope I won't wait so long to do this again!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Our inaugural family night: For the Birds

I've been wanting to be more intentional about doing things together as a family, and I was wondering about planning some theme nights, but I wasn't sure where to start. When I told Monica, the queen of themes, about my desire, she asked what some of my ideas were. I mentioned that I had a list of some things I've been wanting to do with Nathan, and one of those things was to make bird cupcakes (the name I gave them), using sunflower seeds, peanut butter, etc. She suggested I revolve our other activities around that theme, so I ran with it!

The "bird cupcake" recipe came from The Tightwad Gazette, but I have to say they didn't turn out as expected, because they were quite crumbly. I'm sure the birds won't mind, though, and Nathan definitely enjoyed helping in the kitchen. In planning other bird-related activities for the evening, I remembered we had some sheets of bird stickers I'd tucked away, so I pulled those out for the kids to make pictures on construction paper. I also found an ostrich paint with water picture for Natalie to work on while Nathan and I mixed the cupcakes, and I came across some colorful bird printouts that I'd saved from a library storytime. (Sometimes it's good to be a packrat!)

I was thrilled with how the plan for our family night was shaping up, and I saved the best activity for last. Thanks to my friend, Erin, for sending me the link to this fun bird hunting game that our kids LOVED. (FYI, I printed the bird sheets in black and white and colored them in with markers.) Eric and I took turns hiding the bird pictures around the house, and Nathan and Natalie had a blast looking for them. We did it 3 times! While they were waiting, we sang songs that had birds in them ("His Eye is on the Sparrow" and "Rockin' Robin"--those were the only two I could think of since singing was a very impromptu addition to the night's agenda!) and we watched some funny bird videos on You Tube. They wanted to stick some of the bird pictures on themselves, as you can see in the photo above.

I was surprised that all of these activities lasted just an hour, but we didn't spend a dime, and the kids were clearly thrilled. When we were done, Nathan asked when we could do it again! It certainly won't be a weekly occasion at our house, but I do look forward to planning more of these themed family nights in the future!

Friday, February 18, 2011

What's your design style?

In the past year, I read a fun article in Real Simple magazine that talked about individual design styles, and a design expert suggested doing the following things to determine your unique style:

1. Look at your furniture, noting which pieces are favorites, and which are not.
2. Gather items that are special and beautiful to you.
3. Think about places you love and why you love them.
4. Look for common threads of design, colors, shapes, materials among the things you treasure.

After thinking about the above questions, check out the examples below, and see which one suits you most.

Modern Graphic (edgy, contemporary, abstract): pieces like the Eames lounge chair, this funky coffee table, or this silver furniture set.
Sophisticated Classic (elegant, feminine, traditional): pieces like this bronze wall mirror, this pedestal table, and this fancy chandelier.
Cozy Casual (warm, natural, weathered): pieces like this comfy sofa, this rustic coffee table set, and this pretty table lamp.
Vintage Eclectic (variety, layers, lots of details): Think Persian rug mixed with a brown velvet settee and this painting.
Which of these descriptions most aligns with your tastes and preferences? If none of these fit, how would you describe your style?

Note: You can also take a quick decorating style quiz on the Real Simple site by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

Until yesterday, we'd never really done anything as a family to celebrate Valentine's Day. I wanted that to be different this year, so I planned a few special treats throughout the day.

In the morning, I served heart-shaped muffins with pink milk (which, unfortunately, the kids did not like!) I bought two little mailboxes for a dollar each and filled them with valentines (including some mailed by other family members) and a few goodies. One thing I gave them was swirly crayons I'd made from the many broken bits we'd accumulated. I tried making them heart-shaped, but they didn't really turn out that way! At Eric's place, I set a couple valentines (one made by me, and one made by the kids) and a rare treat: a package of Twizzlers.
For lunch, I made heart-shaped quesadillas, apple slices, heart-shaped finger Jell-o, and these (Thanks, Mom!) for dessert.

I wanted our evening meal to be a little fancy, so I lit candles and set out beautiful red heart placemats my grandma made. We had baked ravioli, green beans, and heart-shaped garlic bread for supper.
It was a fun day, and I'd like to make the morning mailboxes and the "fancy" evening meal an annual tradition.

Nathan also brought home plenty of goodies from his preschool party. Look at this cute alligator valentine box he made!
Lastly, Eric and I had a fun date over the weekend. Our annual Christmas date had been canceled in December due to a blizzard, and then my birthday plans were altered due to the funeral in Michigan, so this was a Christmas/birthday/Valentine's date. =) After a delicious supper here, we headed to one of our favorite places to browse.
I suggested we each pick out a few things for the other person to read, and I don't know if it was more fun to select items for Eric, or to see what he chose for me. In case you're curious, I selected a fantasy baseball magazine, a hunting and fishing magazine, a book on how-to-do just about anything yourself, and a dog training manual (I actually meant it as a joke, but Eric did check it out!) What he picked out for me to look at: an Indian cookbook, Time magazine, a book about crafty people who blog (totally made me think of Monica!), and a book of 365 ideas for creative projects. This was really fun, and the only bummer was that the bookstore closed at 9 and we ran out of time. I'd love to do it again sometime.
Hope you all had a special Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Instructing a Child's Heart

Thanks to my sister-in-law, Kristin, for loaning me Instructing a Child's Heart, the companion book to Shepherding a Child's Heart.

The explanation of the book's title offered by authors Tedd and Margy Tripp is that "Instructing a child's heart is not simply transfering data from parent to child. It is impressing the heart with truth." "We should impress truth on the hearts of our children, not to control or manage them, but to point them to the greatest joy and happiness they can experience--delighting in God and the goodness of His ways."

The book challenges parents to give children "big truths they will grow into rather than light explanations they'll grow out of." As an example, they explain that when addressing a child who hits other people, you don't just say "That's not nice;" rather, you explain that we are made in God's image, and as such, we need to be constantly striving towards righteousness.

This book convicted me many times of my tendency to be short-sighted in dealing with problems with my children. The authors urge us, "Don't think survival--think kingdom!" They also argue against the popular theories of behaviorism, which is something I often subscribe to. "The temptation," the Tripps write, "is to substitute the behavioristic methods of the culture for the power of the Word of God and the work of His Spirit in the hearts of our children." "Manipulation of behavior through rewards or punishments will never touch the stony heart. Only grace can change the heart."

In continuing their defense against behaviorism (which includes bribing, threatening, guilting, negotiating, rewarding), the Tripps assert that even though it is popular, and sometimes effective, it obscures the gospel. "When we can use incentives or punishments to get the behavior we want without God and His redemption, we are teaching our children that they can live in God's world without Christ and do just fine."

Other noteworthy quotes from the book:

"When a child is arguing about whether or not it is legitimate for a parent to make a request, that child is not submitting. If that child has to be 'sold' on what must be done, there is no true submission. When a child delays obedience or responds when convenient, there is no submission . . . When a child is challenging a parent's authority, or asking why in a demanding ton, that child is not submitting. Submission means responding to God's authority by cheerfully doing whatever is required."

I appreciated the book's concise definition of foolishness: It's asking "What will please ME?"

"How does a child learn the fear of the Lord? To answer that question, let me ask another. What would my children do if they knew there was hidden treasure in the backyard? They would dig up every square inch of the yard to find the treasure. Learning to fear the Lord comes through searching as one would search for hidden treasure. God will not hide Himself from those who earnestly seek Him." See Proverbs 2:1-5.

"Discipline is primarily an opportunity to remind our children of their need to repent and believe in Christ, and of the forgiveness and provision available from God through Christ."

The final quote I want to share is the powerful conclusion of the book: "The power of grace in the gospel will cleanse us, forgive us, change us internally and empower us to be all that we need to be to instruct the hearts of our children . . . Come to Christ each day knowing that you can do all things through Him who gives you strength."

Overall, I found this book to be challenging and convicting, and I would recommend it if you are interested in learning more about biblical parenting. Has anyone else read this book?

Note: This is the first book I've finished in 2011. I don't recall ever keeping a list of the books I'm reading, so I decided it would be a neat thing to record, even though it will be a much shorter list than back in the day! My intention is to post the list of books I've read on here at the end of the year, offering a giveaway where the winner can select a book from among the list of titles. You only have to wait 10 1/2 more months for it. =)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Random

It's been an unusually busy week, but I have a few random things to mention, and thought I'd throw together a little post.

First , my husband and I did something really out of character last week: we bought a van on Ebay! What?! I know. But all of the details have worked out amazingly, thanks to Eric's siblings. His sister and her husband picked the van* up at the dealership near their Chicago suburb, and then it was driven back here by Eric's brother who was headed this way from Michigan! Any other proud Odyssey owners out there? Anyone else willing to admit to buying a car on the INTERNET?!
Second, I had the opportunity last week to help out at the Compassion table for this tour. If you're a sponsor, I would encourage you to consider volunteering at one of these concerts or a similar event. I'd thought about doing it for years, and finally decided to dive in!
Third, and I told you this was random!, do you remember when I showed you this map of our family who's scattered all over the country? Well, my aunt who used to live in south Florida, recently moved to the South American country of Chile. I hadn't done anything yet to change her location, but I just noticed it had been sort of taken care of for me. On its own, the string fell and is now pointing south. You can tell I'm tired right now because I actually thought this was funny and decided to take a picture!
So, as I said, just wanted to check in with a few random things. Feel free to comment, of course, although I understand if you don't really have anything to say after reading all that! =)

*Sorry the van pic isn't the best. It was -2 outside, and I didn't really want to stand around getting the best angle. I realize the paint looks messed up, but I assure you it's just shadows! The van is in excellent condition.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Get in shape, girl!

Hooray--I made it through my second year of doing the pantry challenge! However, I have to confess that I went $15 over the half-budget amount. We use cash, so I'm not quite sure how I did that since we keep our money divided into separate categories, but the receipts clearly indicate my higher total. I'm a little disappointed, but I can still be proud of how tight I reined in our January food expenditures. I debated for quite awhile about where to send the remaining money, and decided to split it between World Vision Micro, an exciting program that gives small business loans to people in impoverished areas, and World Vision's Haiti hunger fund.

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And now onto my February challenge. I've gotten very slack about working out, and the long winters around here certainly don't help with that. My goal is to exercise 20 days out of 28--essentially 5 times a week. I am going to put a star on my calendar for the days I follow through, and my accountability will be to post the calendar here at the end of the month. I put this challenge under the stewardship category, because it's clearly important to take care of the physical resources God has blessed us with!

Does anyone else remember the fitness-inspired toy line called "Get in Shape, Girl?" I totally loved that stuff as a kid!

Finally, I have to tell you about something awesome I just came across--the Give: LOVE project! You donate to a great cause (helping children around the world who are victims of trafficking), and then you download super cute valentines that were designed just for this project. I'm all over that. Hope you'll check it out!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

32

I've completed both of my January challenges, and will post both a pantry follow-up and my February challenge on Friday.

I am proud to report that I got rid of 32 things before my 32nd birthday. In fact, I ended up with a list of 35 items!

I tend to be a packrat about some stuff, so this challenge proved a good catalyst for getting rid of a few things I'd held on to for a long time! For this challenge, I recycled, gave, pitched, thrifted, and consigned. Here are a few of the items I no longer own:

*I threw away a bag of gift bows that has been driving me crazy. I've stored the bag of bows underneath the guest room bed, and Natalie discovered it there over a year ago. It became a favorite toy of both kids, which I was OK with--for awhile. But then all the bows started getting really ratty, and I would find them in random places, and I decided I was done. I rarely use bows on presents, so I'm glad they got a lot of enjoyment out of them!

*I parted ways with this sweater that I've had since early college--ahem--over 10 years ago. Here's a pic of me wearing it circa 2000. I hope whoever buys it will wear it for another 12 years! *I went through all of our medicines and toiletries, and threw out a bottle of calamine lotion that expired in 2007. The consistency was a little strange, and for a couple bucks, it's clearly time to buy a new bottle!

*Though it was difficult for me =), I finally threw out two favorite pairs of socks that had LARGE holes in them. My mother was appalled with my sorry hosiery at Christmas, and gave me three new pairs of these cuties for my birthday.

*My friend Sara has passed on all kinds of goodies to me over the years. (In fact, Sara, I'm wearing that pretty coral cardigan today!) Last summer, one of the things in her stash for me was a cheese grater. Now, I've never been a big fan of grating my own cheese, so it's a chore I've been willing to avoid. However, the thought of a free grater made me think I might *someday* grate my own cheese, zucchini, etc. On my birthday, when I was wrapping up this challenge, I came across the grater, and I debated for a minute about whether or not to get rid of it. Imagine my surprise when a few hours later, I opened a box from my parents to discover this. I've already used it to shred and slice lots of carrots--so handy! Maybe I'll even use it to grate cheese sometime. Thanks to my mom's grate (ha!) timing, the hand grater became item #31 on my list!

This was a fun challenge, and it may become an annual tradition. Although, that will definitely be a lot more difficult if I'm still doing it at age 70! =)