Friday, September 25, 2015

Food Fight and Gluten Free Spaghetti

What do food and power outages have in common?  God doesn't waste anything, and He can even provide an amazing lesson about food through a power outage. For a delicious, nutritious recipe, and the rest of the story, just click here:
 Food Fight and Gluten Free Spaghetti

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Growing Pains and Taming the Tongue

We had just completed the second week of school, and the second week of a whole new kind of personal stretching for everyone in our family.
Two mornings a week, we wake up at 6:00 (an hour earlier than we are used to) and begin the day by interrupting my husband's morning routine. Like clockwork for over seventeen years, Rich has gotten up, showered, and prepared for the day without interruption. This year everyone else needs hot water and bathroom time at that hour. And so begins the early morning dance of sharing, and caring, and working together to get seven people cleaned, dressed, fed,  lunches and books bags packed up, and the whole crew out the door.
Besides the seven people who need to prepare for the day, we have a litter of eleven puppies, two grown Golden Retrievers, a toy Poodle, and three cats that must have care first thing each morning, and that care has to fit into the routine of getting everyone ready and out the door by seven thirty a.m.
Lunches have to be prepared the day before. Breakfast plans have to be made and set up to ensure a quick morning escape from the house.  Book bags need to be organized, and each day someone has to remember to bring piano bags to practice during study hours, and/or take to piano lessons in the afternoon.
The tentacles of personal growth reach each of us in a variety of ways. 
Each day we are learning a new stretching exercise of some sort and the other day I experienced one of the most effective personal challenges I have faced in a while.  It was one of the few precious mornings we have at home, and I had a plan for my younger boys.  Armed with a list of things we needed to accomplish, I rolled out of bed, showered, made breakfast and sounded the wake up call for the troops.  I was motivated and excited to spend time with my little men, and had visions of quality time with them dancing in my head. We were going to snuggle up, coffee in hand, and have our Bible and scripture memory time. After that I planned to help them with puppy chores and then assist them with completing the assignments from their first piano lesson, check their math home work, and do some history with them as we cuddled up to read another chapter of "Little House on The Prairie" We were going to laugh and talk, as we prepared lunch together, and after lunch, I had more cozy, sweet, moments planned to spend with my boys doing a reading and English assignment before we left for choir practices.
I had the best laid plans, and yet...God's design for our day trumped my rosy idea of how things should go.  The plans I made weren't bad, but the lessons He had for us all, were more important than academics or cozy cuddle time.
James 4:14-15 says
"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."
 The first wrench thrown in the works was a bad attitude on the part of one of my boys. It hit me hard between the eyes with a resounding THUNK!  As I stood there blinking, my awareness of the clock ticking away the time I so valued was illuminated.
One and a half hours later, my plan was finally incorporated. At that point it seemed secondary and minor in comparison to the discipleship time that took place with my son for a full ninety minutes.

The attitude that exalted itself above my plans that morning was an attack on my authority as he directly opposed my instructions, refusing to do them. It was strong, powerful, mouthy, and personally very challenging to me.
Our pastor has been going through the book of James for the past year, and he had just given a challenging message on James chapter 3, three days before my little mommy/son power challenge. I had been praying about and meditating on it, heavily under conviction about my reactions to stress, and the words I apply to difficult situations.  As my boy dug his heals in, refusing to work with me on even the lowest level, I stood there biting my lip, silently praying, as the realization hit me that this was application "go time." It was time to put feet to my convictions and it was tough.  I was amazed at the calm tone to my voice, as I asked him a few heart probing questions and then left him to think  alone, while his mama did a little battle on her knees.
James 1:5 says "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him." 
On that morning I was physically drained, mentally "done" and just craving some positive time with my kiddos. I don't know about you, but it seems like each time God has a lesson for me, He allows me to be in this exact mental and physical state. When all of my own strength is stripped away, He fills the scene with His presence and reminds me just how much I need him. I can do nothing in my own strength and wisdom. I am one hundred percent dependent upon him. Any illusion I have of my own capability and autonomy is just that.....a fabrication of my imagination. When I am feeling my best, it's easy to just "do" whatever needs to be done in the moment, but when my physical well runs dry, it becomes crystal clear just how weak I really am. As I prayed, I relaxed. There's something about going to the foot of the cross and laying your burdens there, that is just amazing. The more I poured my heart out to God, praying for my son, asking God for strength, seeking him for wisdom, the more my thoughts began to flow in a clear, concise, trickle, and it wasn't long before there was complete clarity regarding the problem. Fellowship with my son is important, and that includes discipleship training. Especially when attitudes are heavy with anger and confrontation. I found comfort at the throne of grace that morning, and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to lay down my own agenda, and do what was best for my son. We needed time together to talk and work through the problem. We read James 3 together and went through the scripture carefully, slowly, breaking it down. We talked about the power of the tongue. We talked about how we all hurt others with our tongues, and we talked about how easy it is to hurt others when we are hurting, or scared, or insecure. We also discussed responsibility for our actions in spite of circumstances. If whatever is in front of us to do seems overwhelming, our response is very important. We have a responsibility to God and others for the way we speak to them and respond to challenges. Earlier, when my little man  first became obstinate, I alerted his Dad to the struggle. Now I shared with our son, that Daddy would also be talking with him when he came home from work because we both love him very much. I prayed for him, and after that he was ready for his mother's "rosy, cozy, agenda" and his attitude was solidly improved. Interestingly enough, when Rich came home that afternoon and checked in with our boy, he also pulled out James 3, unaware that we had studied that together earlier. It was awesome! Watching them talk and read that together solidified my trust in God's faithfulness more than ever. It was powerful. The effect on our son was amazing.
I shared this experience with a close friend the next day, and I loved what she said. She told me that if she didn't plan time for discipline into her day, she became frustrated when teaching moments came up, but if she remembered to allow for extra time to work through attitudes, seeing them as opportunity for teaching, then that was just part of her agenda rather than in the way of her agenda.
Teaching our kids actually IS the agenda and that includes necessary character lessons.
Those character lessons aren't just for the kids, though. They are tools God uses to refine me, as well. They remind me daily of how much my character needs to be molded, and shaped to be more like Christ. The temptation to buckle under the pressure and say things out of anger and frustration is intense, and each time I don't give into that temptation, there is proof that God is faithfully at work here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Puppies, Potty Training, and Home Schooling

Raising puppies is one of the best hobbies for our family. Our kids have learned a great deal about how to care for animals, train puppies, and they are developing a strong work ethic based on tough commitment. It's one of the best things we have done as a home school family.

Each day begins with taking the puppies outside to do their duties, feeding them and their mom and grandma breakfast, cleaning the kennel, and keeping them on schedule throughout the day. The kids help take the puppies out to go potty every two hours, and feed them their meals three times a day. They help clean up  messes, assist in weighing them, keeping records of their growth, and bathing them once a week.
We introduced them to a duck wing yesterday.
Birdy dogs, they are!
Our puppies are almost five weeks old already. The time has flown by and they are growing like adorable little golden weeds!
Every day they are learning new things. Watching them wobble around on their little legs with their fluffy little bodies makes us smile and laugh. They bark in their tiny little bark voices at each other, playfully tugging at the tails, and ears of their litter mates.  


 We had a big party in the yard with all the canine relatives and Grandma Tessa enjoyed nurturing her granddoggies even allowing them to faux nurse on her.


 Dallas enjoyed meeting the adoptive family for little Doc


 These little puppies loved the bird wing and played with it, carrying it around the yard.

 They are curious about everything!


 Playing "follow the leader" with their mother







 Grandma Tessa playing nursemaid.


Tessa receiving some affection from her grandpuppy


 Do you think I can fit in this pipe?






We are trying out a new potty training technique with this "toilet" area in the pen. The puppies are doing very well with it, and are not using the rest of the pen to do their duties during the day.

 Grandma Tessa guarding the pen




 Nap Time!




Stay tuned for more puppy posts in the coming weeks!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Five Ways To Make The School Year More Peaceful

It's been a while since I have had time to sit down and write a post on my blog and I have missed it!
The fall season is soon to be upon us and with summer winding down, we have been occupied with some rather significant projects in our home in preparation for a very full season.
People often ask how I manage to home school and be organized. No job is easy. Not everyone is called to the same mission in life, and not everyone's way of doing life will look the same. One of the best nuggets of wisdom I cherish when it comes to raising children is just be who God created YOU to be. If you plug into the power source that created you and ask Him for wisdom, the Bible says in James 1:5, that He will give it to you. So my response to this question would be to ask if you have consulted your Creator to determine what mission you are designed for and have you asked for wisdom to do that mission?
I am happy to share what works for me, but just understand that the way I do things may not work for you and that's okay. You aren't me. You are "you!"
 The number one, most important point I want to make, is that everything really does go back to the scripture for me. It is the standard by which I measure everything. Do my decisions and the way I do life, measure up to the plans God has for me? Am I walking in obedience to Him? Am I applying what I learn from my time with Him?
 Five important things to remember as wife and mom are:
1. Ask for wisdom
2. Seek God for strength for each day's task.
3. Spend time gearing up for each day's mission by reading God's Word regularly, meditating on it, and applying it.
4. Remember you can't do any of it in your own strength. Philippians 4:13
5.Remember to count it all joy.
As wives and mothers, we really do have the responsibility for setting the tone in our home. If we grumble often, guess who we are teaching to do the same?  Count it all joy. It's easy to say, but tough to apply, but so important and especially when you are experiencing a really hard time of personal stretching. We all know that life is full of opportunities for growth and stretching through trials and pain. There really is joy in the toughest of moments, and we can stop and count the blessings around us when we are tempted to grumble. I find this to be one of the most challenging aspects to life, and I have failed miserably at it many times, but when I apply it, it makes an amazing difference in everything.
There is a sixth thing that helps keep our home running smoothly and makes my job doable and that is order.
Order is very important to me. I need simple organization. I need things to be easy to find and use. If things are organized jobs get done faster and more efficiently. This summer we have been on a mission to pare down on all the extra, unnecessary, stuff and to arrange every room, closet, drawer, cupboard, desk, etc. in the most simplified way possible. We have almost completed this project and the results make the effort well worth it! I love my home again and I feel like I have a brand new space in every inch of the house, except the laundry room....which is next on my list.
Every room is neat and tidy. The closets have only what is absolutely necessary stored in them. The kitchen drawers and cupboards are wonderful. I can find even my smallest kitchen tools with ease without all the extra clutter surrounding them, and this makes kicking off a new year of home schooling our kiddos much less daunting to think about. I don't have before pictures, and I don't even have "after" pictures of all the rooms, but here are a few pictures of a couple of the rooms we have been working in.
The living room is now arranged in the most practical, yet comfortable way for our family.
This is one view of the living room, from the entry way.

We created a family room/piano studio out of our former bedroom. This way when Natalie has piano students here, she can close the door and there is access to a bathroom right off the piano studio. This room is right off of our living room and makes much more sense for daily life, for hosting company, and for Natalie's needs as a piano teacher. We love our new bedroom, which is at the opposite end of the house where we are enjoying much more privacy. The girls used to have our "new" room, which is a smaller master bedroom with a better closet in it than we are used to. They have now moved into our former guest room, and the former den has become an office. This means the huge computer armoire is not taking up massive space in the dining room anymore. We have moved it to the space in the living room where the piano used to sit. It has been repurposed as my new school supply cabinet and charging center for my lap top. PERFECT! It has loads of storage, and closes up neat and tidy, not to mention it is Amish made and beautiful.
The piano studio...just a couple of shots. On the wall across from the couch there are two closets and a smallish flat screen T.V. mounted on it. The kids can play the Wii, and we can work out in there. Our weights and workout equipment are stored in the small walk in closet along with extra food and water storage. This house does not have linen closets or coat closets, so we use the second closet for coats and piano teaching supplies. The door next to the couch leads into the bathroom.

Natalie created a " grand staff" on the white board and mounted it next to the piano for teaching purposes. When the door is open, the white board isn't noticeable, but it's a wonderful, practical tool and she found the perfect place to mount it out of the way for daily use, but easily accessible for piano teaching days. She did a great job setting up her studio. Her desk is all organized with everything she needs for teaching and for studying/doing home work.

Another view of the living room with my new school supply armoire/old computer armoire in the background. It's the larger of the two.

The dining room, free of the bulky armoire. It feels huge!
The former den and new office.
I had no idea how wonderful it would be to have an office. When I am busily writing, or one of the kids needs to do an assignment that involves the computer, the noise level is at the other end of the house. We keep the door open for accountability, but the noise is minimalized greatly with the office located away from the living areas of our house.

We have a really active schedule this year. Having a clean, easy to manage house that is pared down of extras makes it much more doable to have so many things going on. With three teens in the house, two elementary aged kiddos, and occasional litters of puppies, we are on the go a lot.
The kids are all enrolled in a really good private school this year. It's a perfect blend for our family as they attend school two days a week where they get all of their assignments for the week, and we supplement the high school kids with a few subjects under the direction of their teacher. The younger boys are taking math at the school and the rest they do with me.
When we come home after school/piano lessons/choir practices/youth groups/Awanas/debate and speech club, etc. there is an easy space for everything and everyone is required to immediately put their backpacks, coats, etc. away and clean out their lunch bags.
I love fresh, new, starts and brand new school years when I feel like things are in order. It's such a cleansing thing for me.
Speaking of fresh, new, things....I leave you with a little puppy spam!