Friday, April 15, 2011

The Lightning Bolt

Easter is almost here.  Many people across the country will flock to churches for their biannual visit.  Others will steer clear and mention, "If I stepped foot in a church, I'd be struck with a lightning bolt."  This lightning bolt thing has got me thinking.  Lightning Bolt?  God?

We are enjoying the last few pages of the final Percy Jackson book in the Rick Riordan series.  These books have been great read-alouds.  The kids and I have learned quite a bit about the characters in Greek mythology, their strengths and also their weeknesses.  We've learned about gods, demi-gods, monsters, and mythological locations.  One thing I've learned is the lightning bolt belongs to Zeus.  The premise of the first book was about the missing lightning bolt.  It had to be returned to Zeus or war would ensue. 

As I think about God, our Creator, who loves us with and everlasting love, I'm having a hard time linking coming to Him and being struck down by lightning.  I found a verse in Matthew 28:3 mentioning lightning describing Jesus's appearance after His resurrection.  "His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow."  In Revelation 4 we're told there are "flashes of lightning and peals of thunder" which are symbolic of the awesome power and majesty of God.  The lightning described here leaves us in awe.  The sight of Jesus should stop us in our tracks with a jaw-dropping, "Wow!"

If we truly seek out God's character and the character of Christ we don't find the angry lightning bolt hurling actions of mythological god, Zeus.  In turn, we find the welcoming love found in Luke 15 in the Parable of the Lost Son.  In this story, the son requested and early distribution of his share of his father's estate and inheritance. He left for a distant country and squandered the wealth with wild living.  He lost everything.  With nowhere to turn, he decided to humbly return to his father's home to hopefully work as a hired man. 

As the son approached his father's home, his father sees him in the distance.  His father was FILLED WITH COMPASSION for him.  He didn't take out his slingshot and try to aim it toward his son or send out his servants to send the son away.  He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him!  Surprised, the son said, "Father, I have sinned against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son."  His father then told the servants to prepare for a great feast and celebration.  He exclaimed, "For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;  he was lost and is found."

This story describes what I think God does when we leave the self-centered, out-for-our-own-interests life and return to Him.  As I told the kids what I was blogging, they informed me that in the culture of the father in the Lost Son story, it would have brought humiliation on the father to "run" to his son.  It was unheard of to do such a thing, yet he risked the humiliation.  God cares so much for each and every one of us, there is no need to "save face."  He embraces us when we humbly come to Him.  True compassion.  No lightning bolts.  Just a celebration for a child who comes home to his/her Father.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Trade-off

It's lunchtime.  I just finished heating up a Trader Joe's frozen macaroni and cheese meal.  I looked down at this pitiful little black disposable container with about two cups of frozen macaroni and think to myself, "What am I doing?  This minuscule amount of macaroni costs about $2.99.  It barely feeds two kids let alone three.  I could make this for a fraction of the cost and feed the whole family a healthier option and have leftovers!"  I guess I kind of blurted out my thoughts as I was serving it to the kids.  One child then comments, "Yeah, you always say you're going to make it, but you don't."  My next comment is, "When is there time?"

How sad.  There's no time to even make homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner.  There's limited time to even make dinner many nights.  There's little time to sit down together to have dinner.  I never thought I'd be the mom to one of "those" families.  I thought I'd have sit down dinners, conversation around the table, and homemade meals.

My kids often ask why I didn't do sports as a kid.  I never really have an answer, but I'm starting to realize there's a huge price a family pays to be active and/or sports-centered.  I'm not saying having an active lifestyle is a bad thing, in fact there are MANY benefits, but there is a trade-off.  There is no way a mom can homeschool most of the day, shower, run errands, run three kids to various sports events, attend all sports events and make a wholesome dinner.  This really frustrates me!  I want to be home in the afternoons making dinner, cleaning up the house, planting my little container pots, decorating, and preparing for the following day, but it's really hard to have the best of both worlds.  I desire for our kids to have the sports experiences I didn't have, yet they're growing up having pre-made macaroni and cheese (today).  This just really bothers me!

I don't have an answer to this dilemma, and don't know that I'll find one.  Maybe I'll plan this weekend to make macaroni and cheese.  Maybe I need a day off.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Facebook Family Reunion

I'd be the first to admit the social network phenomenon, Facebook, can drain away a day's productive work time and entice the user into the obsessive nature of posting and checking status updates.  I have also realized there can be positive aspects of Facebook. 

Growing up in an military family, I've made and lost many friends over the years.  Facebook has allowed me to find these friends and reconnect.  I've been able to reconnect my mom with some of her long lost friends by finding their children on Facebook.  Occasionally, I find an acquaintance who is in a similar life situation (homeschool mom, Christian, etc.) and we develop a friendship based on our common interests.  It also allows me to quickly update family and friends in a concise manner.  I know it's not as personal as a phone call, but sadly, some days all I have is a couple minutes.

All of this leads to the latest of my Facebook great moments.  A story.

Long, long ago in a land far, far away lived a dysfunctional American family.  In this family were a group of young cousins.  These young cousins gathered at their grandparents' house and played.  They made a couple memories together.  Suddenly, one day they were gone.  Never to be seen again. 

Over 40 years passed.  There names had been changed.  The memories faded.  Life continued on, but for one girl the memory of these lost cousins would not fade away. 

As a young girl, growing up she would lay in bed awake praying for every member of her family by name, wondering where they might be, hoping they would one day meet again.  As she got older, sadly her hope began to fade.  She quit praying for the miracle that they would one day be part of her life.  She quit praying for them by name.  She got on with life just like everyone else.  Time passed.  She thought of them maybe a couple times a year, but there were no faces to the names, no hope of finding them.  Just an empty void.

Facebook enters the scene.  The girl begins to think about family and friends lost over the years and these cousins come to mind.  She wondered if they'd be on Facebook.  But how would she find people with different last name than their given name?  Think, think, think.  At one time she knew their new last name.  Like a gift from God, she remembered.  That night, about eight months ago, she took a chance.  What did she have to lose?  She had already lost these precious family members.  Completing a name search on Facebook she found all three of her long lost cousins.  She looked at their photos.  They looked familiar. They have a family resemblance.  She sent them messages letting them know they were her long losts. 

Two of the three responded.  First reactions: shock, surprise, anger.  Defenses were up.  They had a new life.  What did they need from this girl they knew nothing about?  She brought back bad memories for them.  Time doesn't heal all wounds, but maybe these cousins could have a friendship restored.  There were no promises other than to be a "Facebook Friend."  That was good enough for the girl.  She had found them. 

The months passed and they messaged her they'd like to meet.  Joy.  The meeting was planned.  What would happen?  Would they like her?  She wasn't worried.  She knew the situation was in God's hands.  He was the architect of this gathering.  He would bridge the lost years and rebuild the relationship.

They met at Disneyland.  Perfect.  Safe.  There would be entertainment if the conversation dragged.  It didn't.  The air was filled with stories, lost history, and current events.  Slowly the defenses were let down and the laughter took over. 

They spent three days together.  The cousins and kids got to know each other.  Another brother came to join the reunion.  Laughter erupted all evening. 

Prayers were answered.  These three cousins have been reunited.  They will not be separated.  One cousin commented on the 40 years lost, "What a waste."  Yes.  Time lost without family is very sad, but time will no longer be lost or wasted.

I thank God that He restores relationships.  I am blessed to have these two men and their families in my life.

Day 1- I'm not sure he's too sure about this whole thing

Cousin, his wife, and me

Cousin Littles

The Long Lost Family

Sweet times

Great People!

Capt. Humorous


The kids with Capt. Humorous

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Celebrating Birthdays

This year I told the kids we weren't going to go crazy with birthdays.  In the past, I've planned, organized, and stressed about elaborate parties that make for great memories, but leave me overwhelmed and the kids are left expecting bigger and better the following year.  When one birthday is over they seem to immediately begin talking about the next one.  It's not that I don't want to celebrate my sweet, precious children, I just don't want to add additional stress and expectation. 

Birthdays used to be a gathering of friends, a couple games, cake and ice cream and gifts.  We'd get dressed up to go to the party have an afternoon of fun with friends and then go home.  I think moms were expected to bake a cake, plan a couple games, namely pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and that was it.  You knew you hit a big time party if there was a pinata.

Nowadays, the gamut of parties fills internet websites.  I've known moms who created and painted barnyard scenes from huge cardboard boxes, hired professional entertainers, and built castle backdrops for princess parties.  I've created versions of television game shows for the kids to participate in, enlisted friends to help in pampering for spa parties, and the list goes on. 

Ususally, I have a lot of energy for the first family birthday in April, but run out of steam for our last June birthday.  My precious June birthday boy.  He has great birthdays, but they're usually to movies and then maybe a pool party.  They are more of the low key parties with a lot of fun, but not as much planning and preparation.  He's never complained.

This past week we celebrated the first of the family birthdays.  We do have an outing planned later in the month with friends.  It's kind of a big deal, so I'm not sure how well I'm sticking to my new plan, but...

On the day of the birthday, we greeted our girlie with much celebration!  She had been counting down daily for about the last fifty days.  She's our countdown girl.  Countdown to everything.  Now that the "official" day has past, she's counting down to her party with friends.  Then we'll begin counting down to Easter, then to other family birthdays.  The good news is she always keeps me on my toes and she is the one if the family who ALWAYS knows what the date is.

The boys woke up and made her a buttermilk pancake breakfast.  Love those boys!  Blessing their sister...AWESOME!  After breakfast we headed out to Barnes & Noble.  Kids who love to read, love books for their birthday.  And moms who love to read LOVE to wander around the kid section at Barnes & Noble checking out what is new.  We had a Groupon to spend and an Educator's Discount Card so the kids found many wonderful books.  (Note: if you're a homeschool family, parents qualify as educators and can get the discount- well worth it!).

Kids can also sign up for Kids' Club.  It's free and there are special rewards.
Our book purchases
Here's the collection of books we brought home.  My sweet husband reads to the kids every night and has read them the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull.  This is the last and most recent book that they haven't read yet.  I don't know about this series, but my sweetheart and the boys have enjoyed it.  The boys also found and autographed book by Brandon Mull from the new series Beyonders.  They were so excited!  My kids, so excited about getting an autographed book!  Love it!  We also purchased Book One from The Cronus Chronicles The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu, Hank Zipzer The World's Greatest Underachiever Niagara Falls, or Does It? by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick (Newbery Honor book to go along with our Civil War study), The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester, Book One of Warriors Series Into the Wild by Erin Hunter, and lastly for the Birthday Girl, her pick was Athena the Brain by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams from the Goddess Girls Series.

After purchasing the books we strolled over to Starbuck's.  When my Grandma was visiting four months ago, she introduced the kids to a Carmel Frappacino with extra carmel and whipped cream.  Our girl has wanted one ever since.  So, for a late morning treat she was able to purchase her decaf fancy Starbuck's drink.  And when the barista heard it was her birthday he offered it to us at no charge.  Blessings!


After our Starbuck's treat and a little schooling she chose to enjoy her birthday lunch at In-N-Out. 

She finished her day off with a softball game.  It was a full day and I think she felt the love.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Civil War- Books, Books, Books

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is having the opportunity to casually read books that I missed out on as a child/young adult.  Being under pressure to read for a book report or a test is not the same as curling up on the sofa and leisurely soaking up the characters and setting of a well-written novel or taking in the beautiful illustrations of a children's book.  When we are focused on a unit study, I try to gather many books about the era including picture books, biographies, historical novels, and fiction.  We also have to look for books that are suitable and enjoyable for the wide range of children in our family.

This morning we read Abe's Honest Words The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Doreen Rappaport and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  It was a beautiful picture book with thoughtful quotes from our 16th President.  We had a little four year old friend join us for our early morning studies.  We introduced her to Abe, showed her his face on the penny and planted our "Abe Lincoln" tomato seeds so she could take home her own little memento of our morning together.

After our little friend left, we picked up where we left off in our Harriet Tubman biography.  I've had this book since I was a very young girl and have NEVER read it.  We're learning so much about Harriet.  She was a bold, strong young girl with a purpose in life.  One of my favorite lines from the book was following a tragic event in her life.  After being hit in the head with a two pound weight and enduring months of painful recovery she realized, "...she had fought against slavery and survived.  She was no longer only a piece of property, like the horses and cows who dumbly did Master's bidding.  While still a slave in form, she was in spirit a human being and a free woman." 

Another book the kids enjoy is from the "You Wouldn't Want to Be...." series.  We began reading them last year when doing our Revolutionary War study.  Currently we have, You Wouldn't Want to Be a Civil War Soldier- A War You'd Rather Not Fight by Thomas Ratliff.  These books are fun, similar to a comic with colorful illustrations by David Antram.  There's actually quite a bit of great information in them.  These books invite children in to read them.  Each section is short, humorous and educational.

Some other books we've read during this study include:

Amos Fortune- Freeman by Yates
Frederick Douglas Fights for Freedom by Margaret Davidson

Dave The Potter- Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill

The Beatitudes from Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Boston Weatherford

Lincoln Tells a Joke by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer

Lincoln- A Photobiography by Russell Freedman

Bull Run by Paul Fleischman

Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation by Pat Sherman

My America- My Brother’s Keeper Virginia’s Diary Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1863 by Mary Pope Osborne

One resource I use while studying history is A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen.  It's a pretty hefty book with tremendous detail.  Throughout our study, I try to learn as much background including major events as possible and share the highlights with the kids.  The focus has to be to glean the highlights so as not to bore them to tears.

I'm finding  there are so many great book, so little time.  We'll do what we can.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Bright Ideas for Dishes

As you may or may not know I'm moonlight as an ebay seller.  It's not that I have tons of time, but I have a desire to field trip and buy something new every once in awhile and found this is one way to earn a couple extra dollars.  Tonight as I was perusing Pioneer Woman's website checking out the recipe and photos of her brother's tacos, I noticed the plate holding the tacos.  Hey, I think I have that dish in my stacks of plates.  Could it be Terra Cotta Rope by Target Home?  (I'm getting pretty good at pattern identification).  Maybe if I had some creativity, I could borrow a decorative plate from my collection, and photograph food on plates that would coordinate with the food.  But that would take a lot of time.  I'd have to wash the plate, set up the food, and then hope for good lighting.  I'm terrible at finding the right lighting.  Now I'm wondering where does Pioneer Woman store all these plates for her wonderful photographs?  Who's schooling her kids while she's taking all these great shots?  Who's cleaning up the messes so the dirty dishes aren't stacked up in the background?  Being that creative must be exhausting?  Or, she must have a TON of space and a lot of help.  Hmmm...maybe she'll one day buy just the right dish to display the latest and greatest enchilada recipe.  So far, I don't think I've ever shipped anything to Oklahoma.  Maybe next month.

Civil War- Everywhere

It's funny how when you're pregnant suddenly everyone you see is pregnant, or when you get a new car suddenly everyone has the same type of car.  Maybe the occurrences aren't any greater, but the awareness is heightened.  The same has happened for me with our Civil War study. 

I went to our local garden store in search of lima beans for a science experiment and what did I find in the tomato seed section?  Tomato seeds called, "Abraham Lincoln!"  How cool is that?  So tomorrow on the school agenda we'll plant our Abraham Lincolns" and see what happens.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Civil War Study- Johnnycakes

This year we've been focusing our history studies on The Civil War.  Last year we studied The Discovery of America, the Colonial Period and the Revolutionary War so next on the list of major American events was the Civil War.  Sometimes I feel the pressure to reinvent the homeschool wheel of unit studies, but have found many great resources online and at our local library.  I'm consistently looking for ideas to incorporate into our schooling making it not only educational, but fun and interesting.  In all too many classrooms, history is presented in a way that is forgettable, uneventful and just plain boring.  On the contrary, history is amazingly interesting and so applicable to our lives today.

One resource I found for beginning a Civil War study is from Our Homeschooling Expedition .  I don't incorporate or do every activity listed, but glean what would help us out or supplement our current study. 

Yesterday we made Johnnycakes.  We found the recipe in Exploring History through Simple Recipes Civil War Cooking The Union by Susan Dosier.  We found the book at our local library.  Apparently, people in the New World have eaten Johnnycakes since the 1600's.  They are very popular in the Northeastern United States.  We revised the recipe a bit.  Here's what we did.

To make Johnnycakes you need:

1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups ground yellow cornmeal (we used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, optional
1/2-1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter, for griddle
molasses or syrup and butter for serving

1.  Bring water to boil in the saucepan.  Pour water over cornmeal
2.  Add salt, sugar, and 1/2 cup milk in bowl.  Stir well.  Continue to add additional milk and additional water if necessary until batter has consistency thicker than normal pancake batter, but can be spread in pan to make cakes.
3.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet or you can use a griddle.  Cook over medium heat 4-5 minutes on each side.  Cook until edges are lightly browned.  Turn gently with spatula.
4.  We served sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, but the book recommends molasses, or syrup.  Enjoy!

When I made the recipe as directed the batter seemed very thick like this.  I think you need to thin it out with more water or milk to receive the desired consistency.

I LOVE this cast iron pan.  A necessity for every kitchen.  Make sure you buy the one made in USA.  The others are no good.

Yummy Johnnycakes.  Ours were thicker than those pictured in the book.  Very good!  And filling!

They turn out great on a griddle too!  Enjoy!