Saturday, June 28, 2008

Good Morning World

Things I should be doing:

cleaning the kids' bathroom
vacuuming the upstairs
getting dressed
planning meals for the next week
reading my bible

What I am actually doing is obvious, I guess. Doing it while finishing off my coffee.

My wonderful Mom-in-law will be here in a couple of hours, and I am not very prepared. I was telling Kevin yesterday how 'comfortable' (lazy?) I'm feeling about preparations. I looove having Martha to visit and want her to feel welcome and comfortable. So, my plan is to welcome her to our house as it normally looks and hand her a basket of laundry as she walks in the door. Just kidding. I will clean the scary kids' bathroom before she arrives. She has always made me feel completely un-pressured when it comes to cleanliness and organization. She is one of the most easy-going and contented people I've ever met. So she makes a wonderful house guest. Can't wait to see her!

Also, I think that for those interested, let's read The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, beginning whenever you can get your hands on a copy. I think it will be inspiring.

I'm off to find some bathroom cleaner.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Reading Program--for Grown-Ups

Hey, I have a question for you: Would anyone be interested in reading a book together and discussing it as we go? I have a few books on my nightstand that I haven't gotten to, or, I'd be happy to take any suggestions from you. Here's what I have:

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Defending Your Faith

The Age of Opportunity (courtesy Boyd and Michelle)

One I don't have but have been wanting to read:

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God (love that title!)

What do ya think? (Dianna, I expect to hear from you! ;)

Please Don't Grow Up

Each of the older kids has their own savings account, into which they're required to put 20% of their money. We started helping Keely and Noah set up an 'envelope system' after I read America's Cheapest Family and shared their ideas with Kevin. Prior to that, the kids had one of the Money Matters banks, with 3 compartments: store, church, and bank. We felt it was time to teach them slightly more detailed money management, so we broke out the envelopes. Keely's breakdown is this: 10% church, 20% savings, 50% Thailand (her own idea), and 20% fun money. Noah still has the main three categories, the difference being that he is able to see how much money is in each envelope; with the bank you kindof never know. We also help the kids 'divide' their money periodically--which is also a great way for them to begin learning percentages!

Yesterday on the way to swimming lessons, Noah mused, "I'm saving my money either for a house or a car. I think I'll probably buy a house, though, 'cause you can always drive me around." Be still my heart! Of course your Mama will always drive you around.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Couple More Party Pictures

I know the cake looks very plain, but it's actually black-and-white for a reason: it had four different colored layers inside...get it? Like the movie? It begins in black and white then changes to glorious technicolor? :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We're Off to See the Wizard

Friday night was Keely's birthday party, for which she chose a Wizard of Oz theme. It was so much fun to see her excitement about all the planning and preparing, and then see it all come together. She and her friends had a great time, as did I and my friend Dawn...and then there's the friend Keely and I share: Sara. :) There was crafting, picture-taking, quiz-taking and prizes to distribute, The Movie to watch (partly), presents to ooh and ahh over, cake to consume, and more playing.

Happy Birthday, sweet Keels. I hope you made fun memories to visit in years to come.

Gas Saving Tips

Doesn't OPEC realize that the more they hold out on us the bigger the blow-back? We Americans are a sleeping giant and you can only kick us around for so long. Personally, I think this is a good thing (no, not $4+ per gallon). I think this 'crisis' will force us to look into alternatives that we should have done years ago... I remember my Dad tellin' me stories when I was growing-up in the eighties about inventors who came up with alternatives to the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) only to be 'silenced' (interpretation: throw big bunches of cash at 'em) by the all-powerful oil lobbyists. I thought my Dad was just being 'Dad', but now I think he was right (that's happened to me a lot over the years!).

I work in the technology industry. You can't tell me that we don't have the ingenuity or the money to come up with something better than the ICE. Why haven't we? While you're thinking about that, you might want to check-out the DVD, 'Who Killed the Electric Car'. Oh yeah, and here are some gas saving tips while we wait (reprinted from the 5 Star Shine Newsletter):
Simple Tip #1

Always buy gas at the coolest times of day. Early in the morning or late evening are your best bets. Gas expands and contracts based on temperature. Simply put, it takes
less gas to fill up during the coolest time of day than it does the hottest.

Simple Tip #2

Be sure you have the proper air pressure in your tires. This is huge. The less pressure in your tires, the more friction your tires create on the road. This also means
your engine has to work harder to maintain your desired speed when driving. Your tires lose a little air pressure every day. So, over the course of several weeks, your
tire pressure could be off significantly thereby costing you valuable gas mileage. When added up over the course of a year, you could be looking at a savings of few hundred dollars just by maintaining proper air pressure in your tires!

Simple Tip #3

Fouled spark plugs, a dirty air filter or a clogged fuel filter will all have a direct impact on your gas mileage. Have all of these checked every time you go in for an oil
change and have them changed if necessary. Replacing a dirty air filter alone can improve your gas mileage by as much as 10%. At today's prices, that's a savings of about $.33 per gallon!

Simple Tip #4

Slow it down a little. Did you know that cars get about 21% more gas mileage at 55 mph than at 70 mph! It's true.

Simple Tip #5

Remove any excess weight from your trunk. Heavier vehicles require more energy to move, so carrying around excess weight will also affect your mileage. Empty out your trunk(or even your backseat) of unnecessary items. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk will reduce your fuel mileage by 1 to 2 percent in the typical vehicle. If you have a roof rack, only use it whenever you need it. Not only does a roof rack add extra weight, but it also increases the aerodynamic drag on your vehicle.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's A Sickness

They say the first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting you have a problem. So, this is my public admission. When you hear what happened, though, you can probably not blame me for 'falling off the wagon'.

The kids and I were at Hobby Lobby picking up some last-minute supplies for Keely's birthday party, and as we were leaving we decided to 'run' into Goodwill, which is right next door. We made our way back to the children's book section, and started looking. There were so many good books! Books for school, American Girl books, fiction and nonfiction. Biographies, Thomas the Train books for Joseph, board books. Before I knew it, our cart was filling up to the point that I had to remove Joseph from the cage--I mean cart--because he was getting buried. So, he was unleashed to run around in the clothes racks like a little wild monkey while I tried to keep one eye on him and one eye on the precious mother-lode and at the same time answer four kids asking, "Can I have this one?"

We finally cleaned all the good books out of the shelves, and went up to the check-out. A teenage boy eyed our cart and said, "How many do ya think you have?" "Oh, I didn't count. I don't mind counting them real quick." He warily waited a minute and said, "Let's just say you have 40." "Are you sure?", I say. He's already ringing up 40 books. I forked over my debit card, assigned everyone someone else's hand to hold, and we left.

I counted the books as I loaded them in the car. Grand total? Eighty books. For $21.04. Can you understand my sickness now?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Gospel According to Rick Warren

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ESV.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Saw What I Saw

Snapshot Post

Listening to Sara Groves downstairs, loud enough to be heard up here, and Annesley wiggling in her sleep behind me.

Learning to be patient with myself and others, trusting Him and resting in His promise to complete the work He begins in His children.

Thankful for so many things! My sweet and godly best friend and husband, my precious children, the gift of God's beauty in the everyday things.

In the kitchen ....Not so inspired right now. Last night we had chili-dogs. I confess I was not in a cooking mood when I planned meals for this week.

Sewing ....I have come to the conclusion that I cannot force myself to like sewing, as much as I'd like to like it. I just don't.

Wearing a green cotton shirt and casual skirt with large green and blue flowers on it. I have discovered a new favorite store: Banana Republic outlet. Kevin just loves to hear all about the money I'm saving him. :) It's twisted logic, I admit.

Reading Basic Christianity, by John R.W. Stott. Just finished Nam Vet by Chuck Dean.

Hoping to be suddenly motivated to tackle my ironing when I get up from the computer.

In the yard and garden I just picked the first strawberries off our little potted plant. Finally got some annuals planted in the front by the walk.

Praying for growth and revival in our church, unsaved friends, and for wisdom and patience for myself and Kevin as we love and train the kids.

Looking forward to seeing my dear friend Dawn at church tonight and talking and laughing with her.

I think I hear someone calling my name...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Timely Quote

A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself."

---A.W Tozer

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Project: Procrastination

I wrote about my painting project in the kids' bathroom a while ago, and I'm still not finished with it, but when the mood strikes, I add a little here and there. The animals are copied from the kids' shower curtain. These are the only pets my poor deprived kids currently have. Here's the work in-progress.


One must have sunshine, freedom, and little flowers.
-Hans Christian Andersen

Summer Character Books

I picked up these books at the home school conference to go through with Keely and Noah this summer. I love the Tiger and Tom book; the language is old-fashioned and beautiful and the stories are powerful. I've been convicted about certain issues while reading and discussing them with Noah. He really enjoys the stories, too, which I suppose is much more important than if I enjoy them. :) The study for girls is very practical. Each lesson ends with a study of a bible character and how he/she displayed or lacked the character trait discussed in the lesson. Keely and I look forward to 'doing our bible study' together, though it's not always consistent.

What about you? Do you use your summertime to do special things with your kids that are hard to fit in during the school year?

The Pirates of the "I Don't Care-ibbean"

Two weeks ago the kids had their spring program at church. It was a really cute script about storing up treasure in heaven, and the songs were great. I was singing 'Treasures on earth, everybody look at me, it's my measure and this all that I really wanna be?" for weeks along with the kids. Here are some pictures for those interested grandparents. :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reflections on Motherhood

Tomorrow, my firstborn turns 10. I laugh when I remember my thoughts about other moms when Keely was an infant. Oh, she has 7, 9, 12 year-olds. Her kids are older. She's really in a different stage of life. And, foolish as I was, I sought out other mothers who were in the exact same stage of life as I was. It was good in many ways. Those friends were not yet tired of discussing scheduled feedings, sleeping through the night, and postpartum emotions. We passed each others' kids around and appreciated them in all their cuteness. (Dana and Ann, I get misty thinking about those days! :) I can't help but wonder, though, what wisdom I missed out on because I didn't recognize what experienced moms could offer.

So, here I am, reflecting on the changes motherhood has wrought between the ages of 21 and 31.

Then: Tunnel-vision. She's a little doll that'll stay little forever, or so it seems.

Now: 10 years is nothin'. It's flown. And in another 10 she'll be all grown up.

Then: It is extremely important that she is coordinated and clean at all times. Daily baths.

Now: Well, Keely is starting to take charge of her own hygiene and fashion, but for the other littles, I am happy with clean. And that's a relative term.

Then: All vaccinations are scheduled months in advance. Fevers and coughs prompt quick calls to the doctor.

Now: I actually called my doctor's office yesterday to find out what shots we are due for Annesley. I have no idea, really, if we've missed a 'well-baby' appointment. I am so distracted, people.

Then: I never leave the house without my suitcase--I mean diaper bag-- loaded to the gills with clothing changes, snacks, sippy cups, and toys.

Now: Ahhh, we've got some diapers and hand sanitizer in the van. And doesn't the absence of toys and constant stimulation produce some valuable character quality in a kid?

Then: I fear doing the wrong thing. What if she doesn't ever get the "eat-wake-sleep" thing down on the right 3 hour rotation? Am I giving her enough mental stimulation during the day? Will she get enough protien in her diet? 'Cause she really hates that cat-food smelling baby meat...

Now: I fear doing the wrong thing. What will I do when she succumbs to peer-pressure to sin? How can I train and disciple her to be a godly young woman, when she sees my failures and inconsistencies daily? How can I love and relate to her as our relationship changes and grows through the years?

Then: (Inwardly) I'm a pretty good Mom. She comes when I call her and looks people in the eye.

Now: (Inwardly) Lord, pour out your grace on my children!

I think marriage, motherhood, and homeschooling are the three most refining things I've ever attempted. The Lord has been faithful to humble my proud self-reliance again and again, and I am so thankful. And, if anyone reading this is under the impression that having 4 or 6 or 10 kids makes you an expert, I say "Ha!" Be careful if you think you stand, lest you fall, right? I'll share an embarrassing and terrifying tidbit with you: Last week I actually lost Joseph in McDonald's. And, worse yet, found him outside.

What a long post. To conclude my rambling thoughts, I'll quote one of my favorite verses:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Our Sunday Tradition

I bought Kevin the DVD Planet Earth for our anniversary, and it has turned out to be a gift to the whole family. We watch a few minutes together every Sunday night, and all the kids really look forward to it. The scenery and animal life are truly awe-inspiring, and we are prompted to marvel at God's amazing creativity and variety. From mushrooms with "lacy skirts", to cicadas that hatch once every 17 years, to breathtaking waterfalls and gorgeous mountain vistas, this is a series that I think everyone would enjoy. There are several parts that have had us giggling, such as the mating dance of a Bird of Paradise and the Mandarin Ducklings plunging out of their birthplace in a tree knot.

There are a few sad parts where animals get eaten by other animals, and so far we've seen frogs and squirrels mating (much less uncomfortable than the camels we saw at the zoo yesterday that were, um, in the mood for love) but it isn't, in my opinion, focused on too much or too explicit for little ones. There are some references to evolution and the million-year old earth idea, but we've just used the opportunities for discussion with the kids.

Watching this series and seeing God's incredible creation has caused us to lift prayers of thanksgiving to our amazing God of unlimited power, creativity and goodness.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is not speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Blackmail Picture

I know, I know....but it's really just too cute not to share. :)

A Day at the Zoo

Today we went to the zoo. The weather was warm and muggy, but the overcast skies and wind kept us comfortable. And thankfully, the Kansas City Zoo has been undergoing some major, much-needed improvements; in the past some parts of the zoo were run down or not laid-out well. Some of the improvements include a new otter exhibit, a lorikeet cage where you can enter and feed the birds, and a beautiful new carousel, which Rowan particularly enjoyed. Here are some pictures from our day. (Keely spent her morning volunteering with some friends for Alex's Lemonade Stand, in case you're wondering where she's hiding.)

Friday, June 06, 2008

How Observant

Last night we went over to our friends Dan and Becky's house for some delicious burgers and so Kevin could look at their sick computer. Keely, the little bookworm that she is, was already looking forward to visiting Becky's Childcraft books (anyone remember those?). After dinner, she brought one of the volumes over and pointed out that a certain illustration looked very similar to the pictures in one of her favorites from home, Caddie Woodlawn. We searched through the illustration credits to find the illustrator's name, and wrote it down. Lo and Behold, she was right!

I'm impressed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

An Idea I Stole

I saw this idea on a website months ago and thought it was so cute. I picked up these frames at Goodwill for $1-4, painted and sanded them, commissioned some artwork from some excellent artists-in-residence, and now my laundry room is a happier place to be.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Guess What I'm Doing This Week

A Worthwhile Read

I just finished reading The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian. This is not a feel-good book, as one might guess from the title, but a very thought-provoking and worthwhile look into how Americans have bought into 'corruption disguised as freedom'.

Kupelian looks at different areas of evil in our society one by one, and clearly and concisely explains how we have swallowed lies that, if unchecked by truth, will likely usher in the fall of our nation. Sounds dramatic and conspiratory, but in reality, the claims of the book are documented, shocking truths. Gay rights, multiculturalism, sexu@l obsession, abortion, and a few other issues are discussed. I know that we do need to be shocked, in a sense, into action; I don't think the author's intent was to titillate. However,
there were parts of the book that I couldn't stomach, so I skipped over some of the descriptions he included.

These kinds of books often leave me feeling extremely sad and helpless; the problems are so big, and I am just one measly little person. I was so excited to get into the last chapter and read what Kupelian offered in the way of a solution. I was quite surprised and excited to find that he had some very strong and timely words for Christians, and for the Church. It's hard to pick one reasonbly brief quote, since there are so many good things said in the book, but here's one:
The compartmentalization and trivialization of Christianity into a mantra of belief--but separate from works, from obedience to God's laws, and even more fundamentally, separated from basic honesty, integrity, love of truth, and true repentance--has ushered in a generation of shallow, ineffectual, and invisible Christians. Fortunately, in America there are also many deeply principled and committed believers who have stood firm and held back the tide of atheism from fully sweeping over the land. These Americans love the truth, but they are, sadly, in the minority, which is why the marketers of evil have been winning the war for America's soul.
Yet, it is precisely this affinity for truth--the kind that is sometimes painful and always humbling because it exposes us to our own pride and folly--that is the cure, the antidote for the toxic marketing campaigns that have poisoned American culture, including many of her churches.
Kupelian also touches on the misguided attempt of the modern church to look as much like the culture as possible (with the noble intent of reaching the lost), and how, in the process, Christianity loses its distinctiveness and authenticity, looking instead like a sad rip-off of American culture. That's a can of worms for another post altogether.