Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Marathon of Thanks, Part 2

Psalm 100:1-5 A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.


~ Mommy, Peter, Paul, Mary, Beth

~ new used van

~ my jobs

~ good food

~ children with similar interests (that would be college football--they just froze through a game in light snow at the local university)

~ affectionate children

~ clean water

~ Bible

~ good preaching at our church

Psalm 50:23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”


~ Jesus-following husband

~ four precious children who bless my socks off

~ warm blankets making for a cozy home

~ watching It's a Wonderful Life together on Thanksgiving, after the dishwasher was humming and the pans were washed

~ Christmas books, gathered Friday at the library. As I sat on the floor at the library, browsing the Christmas picture-book section, it was amazing the feeling I had that I had just done this yesterday--but it was last year! Twelve months gone in a blink. These last 12 were among the hardest months of my life, but sitting there looking at the books, the actual speed of life flabbergasted me. Grab the children close and savor the time with them. Cuddle with more books. Set aside the phones and tablets and perfection.

Look the one life we have in the face, and view it as an hour-glass gift. And it isn't just about enjoying the children, but impacting them for Christ too--about building the relationship facilitating that. Fathers may have the greatest impact on whether a child follows Christ, but a mother's love and devotion and daily discipleship probably speak more to how a child follows Christ. Mothers are a gift.

~ His mercies are new every morning; he gives courage enough, energy enough, wisdom enough for today, and asks us to give tomorrow to Him. He asks us to give sacrificially of our time, talents, money, growing us beyond who we in our flesh could become.

~ Ann Voskamp's Advent family devotional book coming in the mail: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas (based on last year's The Greatest Gift devotional)

~ My son Paul writing his own Advent devotional. He's been busy with a clipboard, Bible, and various resources, and last night he led us in his first short devotion. He's a Bible scholar with an eye for writing curriculum--even homeschool curriculum. Maybe we'll be partners someday, and he can handle all the business stuff?

Lamentations 3:23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.


~ family

~ tree lights (Peter put the tree up early, distracting sister Mary from a serious wind/rain storm the previous Monday by filling the house with Christmas tree and ornament mess. It sort of worked, but she still wanted her throw-up bowl part of the time. Her storm phobia is far from gone, but will hopefully be dormant, giving us all a break during the snow months. Anyway, the tree, for the first time ever, was up three days before Thanksgiving. We had everything cleaned by Thanksgiving, which was good.

~ God

~ Legos

~ house

~ carpet

~ bed

~ couch

~ chairs

~ babysitting my neighbor friend


~ good food to relax with

~ hot wheels

~ brother

~ candy canes

~ Beth, that she always likes to play the games I make up

~ power of God to write Advent devotional

~ warm clothes

~ football tickets

~ pretty tree

~ playing piano, knitting

~ Jesus

~ toys


~ pretty ornaments

~ paper chain Paul made

~ paper star Paul made

~ my family

~ my sister, how she is so cute and she plays with me

~ nice comfy chairs and couch

~ working dishwasher, washer and dryer, heater

~ clean towels

~ lamps


~ my family

~ my ballet dancing (her own, not in lessons)

~ our home

~ my siblings

~ God

~ my toys

~ beautiful tree (actually, she's had her way with it, moving ornaments around, so it's pretty sorry looking right now. I let the tree be theirs and my notion of good-taste decorating go out the window, except when they try hanging lights everywhere to the point of madness. These are children who buy lights at garage sales and thrift stores, giddy for the day they can put them up. Mary's birthday is coming up and she wants a small fake tree for her bedroom, about up to her shoulder, which I will grant because it won't end up at Goodwill in less than a year like some toy will. My children's love for Christmas decor has endured year after year.

~ candy canes

~ cocoa

~ Mommy and Daddy

~ my sister, that she plays with me

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Marathon of Thanks

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Some long over-due thanks. This isn't all, but it's a start. More from the children tomorrow, when cooking isn't occupying our time.

~ Peter's had several opportunities for leadership, and he's doing me proud. He's a verse teacher at AWANA for the 3rd and 4th graders, and he's my assistant at Sunday school with the 4 year olds every other week. He prepares for and teaches the girls' science several times a week, including setting up and conducting the experiments once a week. The Lord's grace and blessing is shining upon my boy, I just know it!

~ Peter has also become a real worker, some days doing more honey-dos than he can count. He rather likes being my main assistant, since Daddy is gone so much. He's resembling a man more and more.

~ My boys are in that stage where they stop and really listen to my discipling, especially Paul, who is the better listener with the longer attention span. They especially love to talk about life and the Lord at night, when they're supposed to be falling asleep. :)

~ Dyslexia is scary for the parent/teacher to deal with, but I'm understanding it better all the time. When Mary would ask, after 3 years of trying to learn the teen numbers: "How do you write a 16 again?"--I would feel a serious wave of anxiety with even a tinge of nausea. How is it possible she doesn't know this yet? How will she ever get a job? What am I doing wrong? But now, I get it. Dyslexia is a problem with automaticity. They hesitate, think, then write--it doesn't mean they don't know it. They're just slower. I no longer panic (except when Beth asks me how to write a 10, which makes me wonder if she too will struggle).

~ Mary's reading speed and fluency are picking up! All About Reading Level 2 has been such a blessing for us. And Beth is excelling at Level 1 as well. This has been the year with the most curriculum changes. We just switched from Winston Grammar to Easy Grammar and that is working far better as well.

~ Sheila, our sponsor child from Uganda, is doing very well earning her required high school credits. Her writing amazes me; English is her best subject. Compassion kids don't typically graduate and think primarily of themselves and how they can maximize their own futures. Instead, they focus on giving back and making a success of the communities they started in. Their stories always inspire me to keep giving, and keep praying for Compassional International. Their work is just phenomenal. I pray Sheila will get into the Leadership Development Program Compassion runs, so her college fees and living expenses will be paid for while she attends higher education. I will keep mentioning this possibility to her.

~ We used to have just one older vehicle, which we shared. Then about 4 years ago my husband obtained a 24-year-old vehicle from a PA friend, whose mother has passed away and left it in poor body shape, but with relatively low miles. It was embarrassing to drive and of course as with all older cars, we had to put money into it, but it worked for us. Still, my husband didn't love driving such an ugly, old car, and he quietly prayed. He cleans a church where he is well-liked, and one of the employees, in her seventies, along with her husband, was obtaining a brand new vehicle and they decided to give our family their 2000 Toyota Sienna van for free. So for the first time we now drive two vehicles from the 21st Century--a 2003 Windstar van and a 2000 Toyota Sienna van. We have been car loan free since moving to Ohio from CA in 2005--a situation allowing me to be home with the children and homeschool. We used to have a Sienna van and we drove it to well over 200,000 miles before someone hit me and totaled it, leading to us getting the 2003 Windstar. This newer Sienna van has only 124,000 miles, so we'll likely have it another 100,000 miles or more. Yippee! The Lord is good!

~ I wrote over a week ago about hormones and migraines, and indicated I that was trying Naproxen this month post ovulation to day four of cycle, to try to prevent menstrual migraine (200 mg every 12 hours). Wow! What a difference. I highly recommend this for anyone struggling with menstrual migraine or PMS. Not only did this eliminate menstrual migraine, but it eliminated PMS and bloating as well. I only felt a tinge of nervousness a couple days before day 1 of cycle, which is a miracle. The NSAID inhibits the release of prostaglandins, the hormone leading to all the trouble. I'm not sure why Naproxen works better than ibuprofen, but possibly because it comes in a 12-hour dosing, ensuring that there are no break-through symptoms? The stubborn headaches I had were when I missed the dose by a few hours. (I write this all casually but this has been a many-years prayer request and I'm grateful for the opportunity to research the Internet, because my doctors haven't helped.)

Note: I should add that younger women would probably only need Naproxen 3 or 4 days before menses to 3 or 4 days into menses. My headache cycle is longer due to perimenopause. The idea is to prevent the onset of symptoms, so start the regimen just before you normally would become symptomatic, and continue through one day past the usual duration of symptoms.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends! Bless you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Forgiveness: The Fits and Starts

There's a picture on my fridge of my mother and step-father, and honestly, sometimes when I pass by there, I have to cover it up. Not a day goes by that I don't struggle with boundaries--with the neighbor kids and their problems, regarding church work, regarding almost any endeavor. I hate getting involved in endeavors that weren't worth my time, or that are worth my time, but end up stressing me and my family because I can't decide where the boundaries should fall. I hate constantly wondering how much of my efforts are from God, and how much from my dysfunction.

I hate that my children don't know a loving grandparent, and when I read picture books about grandparents, we all get a far off look in our eyes, and a tear in our hearts. It's always been that way.

I hate that when one of the kids wakes me up in the middle of the night, I can't get back to sleep because of stress--often caused by boundary confusion. I then think of my mother, her drinking, her denial, her making me the villain, and my step-father, her chief enabler, making me the villain.

And next, I experience an awful thing: a bitter heart. And I hurt for the millions in my position.

The picture of my mother is there as a reminder of the commandment to forgive: forgiveness is for God, and for me, and I must do it. I must look at the picture of the elderly, pretty woman, and imagine her as a young child, still incapable of hurting me. I must let go of the notion that I deserved better, and remember that somewhere along the line, she felt that same way. 

I must remember that each time one of us, as children of God, chooses something other than God to spend our allotted devotional time on, that God himself feels the same way...I deserve better.

One of the reasons we have Compassion children is that I believe children deserve to live in dignity. They deserve a childhood. I grieve for the child I once was, and for the childhood that never was. Like Miss L, our twelve year old neighbor, I was mature beyond my years. Life took the child right out of me, and the way I experience everyday life is different because of that.

There's no method to redo a loving, healthy family. We get one chance.

Forgiveness, I'm learning, is never done. Having a clean heart, one free of bitterness, is a life-long endeavor. Because I denied these issues for so long, I'm late in peeling away the layers. Maybe some day I'll be able to pass by that picture, which I will always keep there, and quickly transform the woman into the little girl, and have a genuine love for her. Someday maybe I'll never have to cover it again. I get there sometimes now, to a feeling like love, but then the roadblocks in my life that her choices set up hit me again and the love is gone.

Love is a journey--one we all must diligently continue.

In Christ, all things are new, but the fullness of our glory as Christians won't be here. The last layers of our pain won't be removed here.

I ask you, Jesus, to let your glory shine on my weakness, on my hurt. I offer it up; let it work for you here, and thank you that someday it will be no more. I will be as a child in your perfect arms.

I beg there to be a day my extended family claims you as Lord.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dear Diary: Thank you

I have a long overdue gratitude post to write. All I can say in defense is that it was a long summer and fall.

But first, I want to express some heartfelt thanks to you, out there, either those reading anonymously, or otherwise. It occurred to me today how much of a diary my blog truly is. This may seem strange, but I don't have people I actually see in real life read here. Or even people I know, other than the few people I've met through this blog and email with (currently 3 wonderful ladies). Most bloggers have their families and friends reading and commenting, but in my case, I truly write anonymously. All sorts of reasons make it comfortable to do so.

It would take a great deal of effort to write heartfelt content about what life and the Holy Spirit are teaching me, with an added burden of wondering who might be hurt by it and want to punch me the next time they see me. I don't want that responsibility--I'm not thick-skinned enough, and I'm not of the opinion that anonymous is shameful. And besides, I've given up all thought of ever being a writer.

Firstly, I want to be a very present mother and grandmother, and that wouldn't fit with attempting to write and market professionally (remember I hate social media, for one?). Writers are plentiful and many talented people have the time. And secondly, my spiritual understanding from the start of a post to the end of a post is often very different. I write to think, not to entertain or inform, though sometimes I try to share something helpful. Some people talk to think. Some ruminate in their heads.

But this is more than a diary because of you. You have been my support through the last five years, and I'm so very grateful. I have felt loved. No one has ever written me something mean, no matter how many times they might have been tempted. The Internet can hurt, but you, readers, have loved, in the absence of me having an extended loving family.

Thank you for being a blessing!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Father & Son Clash, Wife Resents Husband

I've already written my post for today, but I wanted to take this downtime opportunity to write a post I've contemplated writing for a long time. It has been delayed because the Lord had to work on sinful things in my heart before I could write with perspective.

I'll bet you've heard plenty of stories about fathers who allegedly treat their sons badly, and of wives who abhor their husbands because of it. Personally, I've never heard such stories about a father's relationship with a daughter.

What gives? Why is this such a hotbed issue in marriages? And why always over fathers and sons?

A woman we casually know divorced almost two years ago, mostly because of the way her husband treated their son. From her perspective, her husband didn't understand the son, he didn't try to nurture him, develop a bond, discover what was wonderful and unique about him. I can't say for sure, but she probably feared the dad was ruining the son, who was artsy, highly intelligent, and somewhat effeminate.

There were other marital issues, but this loomed largest. She complains about it to her girlfriends at work to this day. (She's an office worker in one of the buildings my husband cleans, and she used to be part of my now defunct homeschool group. I'd met her once back then).

Two years out from the divorce, does her son feel "rescued" from his "vastly inferior" father? No. He has a contentious relationship with his mother. Now 16 years old, he blames her for the divorce.

My husband and son have a contentious relationship. My husband has, if not bonafide ADHD, enough symptoms to make it pretty close. My 12-year-old son has moderate ADHD and OCD. These two are more alike than they'd like to admit and they clash. Neither sings the other's praises, and neither has much grace to offer the other.

My husband loves to read to the boys at night. In fact, it's how he contributes to our homeschooling effort. He does the read-alouds that go with their curriculum. If anything gets in the way of this time, my husband is disappointed.

However, it's also a challenging time because Peter, like most ADHD children, interrupts every 3 sentences or so to ask questions or make comments. My husband then, also having ADHD, has no patience for this; he has a short fuse. About every 5 minutes I hear, "Stop talking!" He doesn't have the discipline skills to come up with a strategy to get Peter to self-monitor, so every night it's the same thing. Neither learns from their mistakes, which is characteristic of ADHD.

When husband walks through the door at 7 PM every night, I look like I've been through an epic battle, and I have. I'm drained emotionally and I can barely manage a smile. Husband resents Peter for doing this to me. He can barely manage a hello for Peter, but for the other kids he does much more.

This disdain for Peter breaks my heart, and I think he should be capable of more grace than that. Peter didn't ask for a disorder that makes him question his salvation all day, or that makes him feel in deep sin if he brushed past my bra that was hanging to dry on the chart paper stand, or that makes him cringe as he sits next to his sister to teach her science.

He didn't ask for ADHD that makes him interrupt and have trouble sitting still at meals, and makes him follow me around and talk incessantly and ask for dogs incessantly. He didn't ask for a mind for which the grass is always greener on the other side because he can.  never. get. enough. stimulation.

Since the concussion that occurred in late August, both his ADHD and OCD are worse, but his academic status is back to normal. Just getting out of bed and doing it all again another day is challenging for Peter some days. My husband does get that I think, but if he gave it too much thought, he would get too mad at God.

You have an ideal picture in your mind of the father you want your husband to be, but remember, your son doesn't necessarily have that same image in his. Think of the story I relayed above. The woman's son wasn't complaining about his father. She was. When she divorced, the son wasn't mad at his father for upsetting his mother. He was mad at his mother for breaking up their family.

From the gossip in the office, it appears the son still isn't complaining about his father.

My own husband's father was far from stellar, but my husband spends two hours every two days on the phone with him, despite my husband working 54-hour weeks, on his feet doing custodial work. His dad is almost 92 and lives alone and needs these phone calls.

My husband bears his father no ill will, despite the fact that his father never said I love you to him, never once affirmed him, never asks about our kids, never even asks how my husband is, etc. The list is long of what this father never did for his son or with his son. (I should say there's some mental illness present.)

My point is, don't get in the way by forcing your ideal view of a father down your son's throat. The ideal father is just that...ideal. He exists, but mostly he will come out of a generational Christian home, or from the fruit of a long-standing discipleship relationship.

The other thing to remember is, what kind of dad did your husband have growing up? If you must judge his fathering, judge it based on the modeling he had, not on your ideal. Even if he's heard plenty of sermons on what a Christian father should be, it's hard to drop the patterns he grew up with.

My husband is an amazing father considering the lack of affirmation he grew up with. I am astounded at what the Lord has done! He comes home and never takes a minute to himself.

Yes, I wish he viewed children as a blessing and not as a stresser. Yes, I wish he didn't view his work as a relief from the stress of his children's problems. He and I view children differently, and that is one of the main things God has taught me. Read on to see what else I've learned.

What God has Shown Me:

~ It's not a triangle

We have to stop thinking of the problem as a triangle involving father, son, and mother. Instead, think of a vertical line image. Each of us is responsible to God for our relationships. I answer to God regarding my relationship with my husband, and my husband answers to God regarding his relationship with his son. If I make my husband answer to me regarding his relationship with his son, many things will go awry. That triangle reality is not biblical and we need to avoid it.

~ Don't Underestimate Your Son's Maturity

With you out of the way, your son will likely have the maturity to realize that yes, my dad has some issues, but all in all, he's a great guy. He'll love him, warts and all. As a tween or teen, your son will encounter some dads out there far worse than his own, and from that, some perspective will come. He may also encounter a few who seem better, and that's when your own maturity will come into play. Start building up his father in his eyes, if you haven't already done so. Learning to count our blessings always helps when the grass looks greener elsewhere.

~ Emphasis The Perfect Parent, Our Heavenly Father

My son and I have had conversations about his father, but not since the Lord has given me new perspective. I've explained that the lack of patience stems from his father's ADHD tendencies. Now, my conversations about parents focus on the fact that all earthly parents are flawed. We can never get it right. We can never love as perfectly as we'd unselfishly as we imagine we should. I ask that my children please look to their heavenly father for perfection, not to us.

I tell them that mommy and daddy get tired, frustrated, cranky and punchy. We say the wrong things, or the right things the wrong ways. Sometimes we fail to say things that need to be said. Sometimes as sinful as we parents are, we assume our children should be perfect and keep their rooms nice and be nice to each other and do school work without griping.

~ It Could Be Jealousy

Women tend to be devoted mothers, but not devoted wives once they become mothers. My husband misses me. He will miss me until the kids move out and he finally has me back. He loves his children, but they took me away, so in a sense, I think some men are jealous of their children (maybe more so of sons, because they have special relationships with mothers?).

If this might be the case, the answer is to concentrate on honoring and serving our husbands. I know energy is not limitless, but even making their favorite dessert, wearing their favorite bedtime thing, trying to go to bed at the same time they do once or twice a week...whatever. Doing one kind thing a week for them to start would make a difference.

God is a jealous God for his bride, The Church. The husband is jealous too for his bride.

~ Someday, The Children Will Be Gone

If you make your entire marriage about your husband's fathering skills, what will you do when the children are all gone and you and your husband hate each other, but don't believe in divorce? Nurture your marriage if for no other reason than that God expects you to live with this man forever. There is no way out, my Christian friend. I tell you, there are good things about the man sitting across from you. Find them out and give thanks for them.

~ Trust God to be the Making of Your Son

Even if things are really as bad as you allege, trust God to be the making of your son. Be a Christian soldier of a mother. Concentrate on that.

Really, do children succeed because of parents, or in spite of them? God can redeem anything for his glory, and he often chooses the worst examples of sin from which to shine his glory. Didn't the line of Christ include prostitutes?

~ Concentrate on the Plank in Your Own Eye

We women can be bossy and critical and as such, we keep missing the planks in our own eyes. Humble yourself before the Lord and get off your husband's back. I actually have way more flaws than my husband, if I'm honest with myself. There, I said it. Thank you, Lord, for the courage to do so.

~ Encourage One on One

If you get involved at all, let it be to encourage one on one dates between father and son. My husband and son get along well when it's just the two of them. Last time the two of them went to the park alone, my son told me later that night how much he loved his father. Warmed my heart. ADHD always minimizes in one-on-one situations.

I remember having to send this severe ADHD first grader down to the principal's office back in my teaching days. When I'd go to the office to use the bathroom later that day, the secretaries would say how charming the little boy was. Oh, how I wanted to roll my eyes. He retired me from teaching. This is the same boy who pulled a knife on two kids when he was in the second grade.

Yes, ADHD kids are charming all right...when they're one on one with you. It's when they have to compete for attention that they have problems.

~ Pray For Your Husband in All His God-Given Roles

One of the most loving, sacrificial acts of the mother and wife, is prayer.

Bless you, friend, if you struggle with this in your home. Trust God.

Better Than Black Friday

I've never done a Black Friday in my life, but you can bet I'll be doing a Giving Tuesday this year.

Please, let me tell you about it?

What do you know about India?

Nearly 1 in every 3 newborn deaths in the world occurs in India. (Facts and stats courtesy Compassion International)

Every year, more than 2 million children under age 5 die in India — most from treatable and preventable causes including malnutrition and dehydration. Nearly half of those children do not even survive their first year.

This year, Giving Tuesday's goal at Compassion International is funding a Child Survival Program in a small community in Gujarat, India. The goal is $25,000. 

About Gujarat, India:

~ The average woman is just 18 when she becomes a mother there.

~ She has four children.

~ More than 70 percent of the mothers give birth in their homes.

~ Their children are malnourished.

~ They are surrounded by illiteracy, alcoholism, child labor, child marriage and abuse.

Those first years are filled with dangers for these vulnerable children. They face the threat of disease and abuse, lacking a strong start to launch them into childhood.

Your gifts will:
~ prepare moms with training to help care for their babies
~ help mothers learn to read and write
~ give children a safe place to learn and grow
~ ensure lifesaving medical care for babies and moms
~ proclaim the hope of God to families living in poverty

Pushparani’s first child was born the color of a bruise. He was one of the 30,000 babies in India each year who don’t survive their first day. And then, less than a year later, Pushparani buried another child, this time a daughter who lived for just two months.
Pushparani and her son Ishu
Then, a third pregnancy. But this one would be different. This time, Pushparani had the support of the Child Survival Program that had recently opened in her community.
Every moment of this pregnancy Pushparani felt cared for and loved. She was well-nourished and went to regular prenatal appointments. When the time came to give birth to her son, she did so in a hospital, surrounded by friends who had prayed her out of the darkest place of her life.
Pushparani held her son in her arms, her little Ishu. Ray of light. A reminder of God’s promises.
“I owe what I am today to Compassion’s Child Survival Program,” says Pushparani. “Had I not been in the Child Survival Program, I would have ended my life. And now, I have big dreams for my son, Ishu — dreams of a healthy, happy child with hopes of the future. It did not seem possible before, but now I am filled with great hope and my dreams for my son will become reality. I look upon God and I will hold on to my dream.”

In Jesus' name, please care for the children of India by Tuesday, December 2, using this link, and going to the donate now button. 

I thank you, all the mothers of India thank you. 

We are correspondent sponsors to a child in India, a delightful young lady almost eleven now who has been a part of Compassion for 3.5 years. Compassion International has served her and her family very well, giving her Jesus, love, nourishment, a sense of belonging, safety, hope, and a future. When she entered the program she was an average student, and this year, for the first time, she was rated above average in her school work. Her letters are full of joy and she writes of Bible studies and a hunger for spiritual truth. I write her every 3 to 5 weeks, and she writes about 5 times a year, filling us with joy. She remembers what we like, what happened to us, what we pray for. I can't imagine my life without her, and I can't imagine her life without Compassion International. This organization is a gift from God. We write to four children, all of whom are living changed lives.

Their Child Survival Programs are second to none in bringing Jesus and hope.

Your gift to the Child Survival Program is a one-time gift.

Sponsoring a Child

If you would like to sponsor a child (ages 3 to 19) through Compassion International for $38 a month, click here. Writing letters to your child is of utmost importance in breaking the cycle of poverty. The love and attention in your letters affirms them and tells them they matter, whereas poverty screams the opposite.

If you write online using the links provided to you when you open a Compassion account, you'll be able to write very long letters and include scripture and easily upload pictures. If you use the letter forms Compassion sends you, you are limited to short letters.

There is a longest waiting list at the sponsor link, or you can scroll through all the pictures to choose your child. Older children are chosen less often, and almost always wait quite long.

We sponsor Sheila from Uganda, who is almost 15, and she writes the longest letters, in English in her own hand. We are correspondents with Raphael in Burkina Faso who is 15, and he writes the shortest letters, but they are sweet. We sponsor Nelson in El Salvador, almost 11, and his letters get longer and more abundant all the time, so I can't say boys always write the shorter letters. I feared as Nelson got closer to puberty his letters might get shorter, but no, praise God!

If you choose a very young child, it takes far longer for the give and take to develop, as dictating a letter to you will require them to develop an attention span first. Thus, in the early letters they will circle things about themselves on pre-made forms and draw you a picture.

I just wanted to give you some idea of what to expect from the different ages. My advice is, sponsor one preschool child, one elementary, and one teen! You won't be sorry and God will return the money to you manyfold.

Someone just gave my husband a used van for free--a 2000 Toyota Sienna. Give and trust is our motto. The day he got the van, the door broke on the driver's side on his old car (his extremely old 20+ years car). How's that for timing? And it happened to be the same week we did Operation Christmas Child. There's no doubt, you have nothing to fear when you give.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How Do You Know If a Child Is Saved?

Although several weeks ago our neighbor boy asked Jesus to come into his life, we have not seen spiritual fruit. His grandmother picks him up from our house at 9:30 or 10:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Following tonight's pick-up, I mentioned to my husband and to my boys that I doubted he had truly become a Christian.

When I open the Bible or a missionary book, he doesn't want to listen. When we have our Saturday Bible study, he begs to play with the Snap Circuits our son Paul got for his birthday (we refuse).

Spiritual hunger just isn't there.

When I became a Christian at age 31, I asked questions of my friend Phyllis--the fellow first grade teacher who brought me to the Lord--before school started most mornings, at recess, after school, at her house during Bible study, and on the weekends over the phone. I read my Bible for hours and listened exclusively to Christian radio. I lived and breathed the Lord because I was on fire and simply couldn't get enough.

Not an inkling of that hunger is evident in our neighbor boy, so I don't know what's in his heart.

My comment was ill-timed. It made Peter very depressed, despite my explaining what I'm sure he already realized: We cannot save Landon. We can't even save ourselves. It is the Lord's decision.

But I reminded Peter that Landon used to come here only twice a month for Bible study and a couple times a week to play outside, and now he comes 10 hours a week to participate in our family ways (even some he didn't bargain for). And it was all orchestrated by God. We have to trust that God has a plan for this young boy's salvation.

Peter listened to me, but still he went to bed dejected and I was sorry I'd even spoken. For all his difficulties and challenging behaviors, you can't ever say my Peter doesn't care about souls. His sensitivity toward the lost astounds me. I don't know what the Lord will do with it, though I remember every time Peter reads a missionary book, he feels somewhat scared.

"Mommy, the Lord is calling me to be a missionary, but I want to be a farmer."

(They all still call me Mommy, thank goodness.)

I never get too concerned, and only say, "Then you'll be a farmer out on the mission field. That's not too big for God."

I happen to know that the traditional route for missionaries is long and expensive, with lots of college, but people like Katie Davis just up and go to Uganda and start non-profits at 19 years old, and adopt 13 orphans while they're at it, skipping college and missionary credentials altogether.

To Peter the question of his friend's salvation seems so simple, at least for now: "But Landon believes that Jesus died on the cross for his sins."

The tricky thing is, I told him, I believed that same thing for as long as I could remember--even as a child--but I didn't become a Christian until age 31. All those years, I was trying to earn my own way to Heaven by being good enough to pay Jesus back.  To me, it wasn't a free gift. By golly, I could do it. I could be good enough. Failing miserably I was, but trying stubbornly nonetheless. Every time I would fail in my single adult years, I would stop going to church for a while. The whole time I never had any personal relationship with God, or the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The key question is, how wretched do you perceive yourself...without Jesus? Are you humble enough to accept that without him you're as filthy rags? Have you known the failure of trying to be good in your own strength? Are you a defeated wretch?

We humans are a haughty people at our core. The Cross sounds good and all. Jesus sounds wonderful and all, but to get to that terribly humbling place...well...that's another story.

You can't really receive Jesus until you accept your wretchedness...your failure.

That's why not every person who says a salvation prayer makes it to heaven.

Little children accept the Gospel easily, but still, there must come a time as they mature when they realize how wretched they are on their own.

As parents we fail all. the. time. God doesn't shelter us from our failure. We feel the let down.

Children fail all the time too. We can't shelter them from those uncomfortable feelings. We have to let them feel the full brunt of their own wretchedness, so they see their need for a Savior. Then we take them into our fold, leading them to the Cross.

The entire Old Testament's emphasis on the Law wasn't to condemn, so much as to point us to our need for a Savior. There is no one righteous.

I won't wake up in the morning to hear a brother sweetly singing his sister's praises, no matter how much I counsel (that would be the Peter and Mary battle of wills around here).

Even my Paul, who is "practically perfect in every way", like Mary Poppins, is full of pride about his relative goodness in relation to his siblings. If it isn't outright naughtiness, it's pride. (Thankfully, Paul is learning to recognize the pride.)

1. In my view, a sure sign a child is saved is when the child expresses some awareness of his own wretchedness.

Do they ever get to a point when they want to go before the Lord and get some relief of their guilt burden? Do you see a joy afterwards, a freed soul? A Christian is free and grateful. 

2. Do they ever repeat aloud what the Holy Spirit is saying to them? 

The Holy Spirit is surely holding conversations with a saved child, and you will likely hear about a number of them.

I'm going to turn this over to some expert pastoral views, but before I do that, I want to say that I believe sanctification, which follows salvation through the years, is the process by which we slowly give up our own way by making Jesus our Lord. When we are first saved, we may understand our own sinfulness, but are we ready to give up our own way? Usually not. We still want to see the movies we want to see and hang with the people we want to be with, and wear the hot clothes that look good on us. We want to spend our money the way we see fit, and buy the largest house we can afford. The Lord slowly changes all that, and the process is called sanctification. It's giving up our own way, and making Jesus our Lord, not just our Savior.

Expert Views: How do we really know if a child is saved? 

Some good minds have been asked this question, and I'll share their responses below

  • Does the child show a growing love for God?
  • Does the child demonstrate love and concern for others?
  • Does the child have a growing appreciation for God’s grace?
  • Is the child learning to pray and spend time alone with God?
  • Does the child have a sense of their own sinfulness?
  • Does the child demonstrate new spiritual desires?
  • Does the child continue in their faith over time?
Rick Gamache, Senior Pastor of Sovereign Grace Fellowship, regularly asks these questions of his children:

  • How are your devotions?
  • What is God teaching you?
  • In your own words, what is the gospel?
  • Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?
  • Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
  • What’s daddy most passionate about?
  • Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
  • Are you aware of my love for you?
  • Is there any way I've sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
  • Do you have any observations for me?
  • How am I doing as a dad?
  • How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?
  • Does my relationship with mom make you excited to be married?
  • (On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationship with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationship. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

To Soothe Overwhelm

Do what you can, do it well, and trust the Lord to take care of the rest.

I read that sentence on Marianne's blog today and it soothed me. Each day I want to get so many lessons done, but I don't ever succeed.

Marianne goes on to write:

Slow and steady does in fact win the race.  A little learning every day adds up to a lot of learning over time.  Your faithfulness to do what you can will be rewarded.  Do what you can, do it well and don’t fret about what didn't get done.
I know that for me as the productive type, I like to get stuff done.  I like to check off the boxes so I can coast for a bit.
 Get child reading – check.
 Instill a Biblical worldview – check.
As if these things don’t take years of daily instruction, testing and trying to really do well.
 I am teaching myself to let go of the notion of finishing.  Not only is the notion that I can finish parenting, schooling, or cleaning and then coast for some extended period of time absurd as a mom of 8, it is flawed for several reasons.
My work as a wife and mother will never be finished (and likely, at least for some time, my home will never be entirely clean).  Jesus calls me to be about the business of blessing others with my talents.  If not my family, as it is now with my full house, then for others in need.  God has blessed me with gifts so that I can give them away to others.  That is not something that ends when the kids turn 18 and are finally independent or when I turn 65 and can officially retire.
Marianne Sunderland, a 20-year homeschooling mother, has seven children with dyslexia. Her oldest is a prodigal son--the same son who at 17 sailed around the world alone. Her second oldest, a daughter, tried to sail around the world alone at age 16, but her boat suffered storm damage, leading to her rescue in the Indian Ocean. Their family was widely criticized for that the world over, due to their daughter's age and the expense of the rescue.  

Marianne has known harsh ridicule; she has been despised. She has been tested. As a mother she has loved and challenged her children, believed in them, let them run with the talents and bents God gave them. She has celebrated their strengths, and worked tirelessly to remediate their weaknesses. 

I look at her challenges, and her story, and I see the conclusions she's come to. Nothing matters except God and what he wants from our day. His agenda is not what we would naturally want in our flesh, but as I say here ad nauseam, our lives are not our own. He wants us to live for bless others with what he's so graciously given us. 

I've come to the same conclusions, based largely on having challenges facing me each day that are bigger than me, my husband and my children. If I made my life about me, it would be a big fat failure, devoid of all meaning. I rather like meaning; I must have it. It's why I get up everyday.

The more challenges the Lord heaps on you, the more you want to run to him for your meaning, because you sure ain't getting it from the world, in your sorry condition. The world will ridicule you and say it's all your fault, and if only you would just do better, you wouldn't have all these problems. 

It's all stacked against you, but the Lord holds you up, and sometimes even makes you triumph. You see him more clearly than ever before, and you feel more grateful at your core than ever before. All because your challenges are so insurmountable.

I feel every day so overwhelmed with what God has given me to deal with in these wonderful children. I look at how much trouble Beth is having with numbers and I wonder if she also has dyslexia and I cringe at the thought.

Already Peter and his issues drive me to my knees daily. There is just so much; every child has particular issues.

But for Marianne it is the same, and she has eight children. If she can do this everyday, I certainly can too. She, a wise woman, further along than me, says "Do what you can, do it well, and trust the Lord to take care of the rest." You can bet that's advice I'm going to take.

Along with that advice, I've come to conclusions about our appointment schedule, which has for a couple years gotten in the way of our schooling.

I made two important decisions this week: I withdraw us from speech and psychology appointments. The psychologist turned out to be a pretty disorganized practitioner. I felt we could make better progress using the Talking Back To OCD book, which is highly organized and systematic, as opposed to driving two hours round trip and spending two more hours in the office once a week.

As far as speech therapy for /th/ and /r/ goes, I felt the kids had come far enough that I could fix the remaining issues myself.

We will still have periodic appointments for the kids' chronic issues. In fact, Beth's arthritis is getting worse, so we may have to resume physical therapy appointments if the recent increase in the chemo drug doesn't take care of her joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. 

Remediating dyslexia is hard work and it requires plenty of time at home, and this is my life. I love my children and I love teaching. I love a one-piece life where it all blends together. It's so hard fought, but God gives me instinct in how to love my children, train them, celebrate their strengths, remediate their weaknesses, and counsel them. Not to mention, he's also had very good practitioners write books to help me.

I can't do it all everyday, as Marianne reminds me, but I can do some things well, steadily, and I can trust the Lord with the rest.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Fertility, Hormones, Headaches, Oh My

A little endometriosis and fertility advice below, but otherwise, this is a perimenopause & migraine post.

Did you know there are entire blogs devoted to perimenopause and menopause? That's how big an issue it is in a woman's life. Mine is a small blog with mostly anonymous readers; I can't even guess how many of you are in your forties, but if you are one of those lovely ladies, read on.

My research taught me that a woman will start skipping periods after a big hormone surge--kind of a last hurrah. Last month was my worst headache experience yet, so I thought "The last hurrah. It's here!"

But alas, on day 13 my ovaries performed as usual--something which used to be a blessing to me (feeling that familiar pain in my side). This time I only dreaded the headaches to follow. (At this phase, I do not ovulate every month now, but the cycles come at regular intervals, still.)

Researchers have recently pinpointed the one symptom that signals the start of perimenopause--perimenopause being a phase that, on average, lasts four years. That symptom is a change in flow--usually heavier. Some women begin this phase in their late thirties, and some women not until their late forties or early fifties.

I had endometriosis in my teens and twenties, characterized by heavy, painful periods, but a couple years after I married and started my family, I was either pregnant or nursing and experienced few to no periods for 10 full years, during which my endometriosis disappeared.

If you have endometriosis I recommend you nurse as long as possible and try to conceive your next baby as soon as signs of ovulation return, so as not to allow the disease to make a comeback. Monthly periods allow endometriosis to continue to grow. Continue this sequence--pregnancy, long-term nursing, pregnancy--until you've completed your family.

I actually think a women is very fertile in the window right after her ovulation resumes during nursing, which can be anywhere from 6 months to 18 months, or sooner for some women. You can nurse while you are pregnant for as long as your baby is interested, as long as you monitor your diet for adequate nutrition.

In my forties--around forty-five I think--I thought endometriosis had returned, but in fact, those symptoms were the start of perimenopause. Around that same time, I began to get powerful mood swings and surprisingly strong anger flashes, but those are gone now.

The next phase was these migraine headaches that go for days and days. Now I can't wait for the whole thing to be over, although when hot flashes come I might feel differently. I imagine those will add some laundry and much aggravation. I get hot and cold sometimes during the winter, but it seems to be more related to patterns of inactivity while schooling the kids, mixed with frenzied chore time.

I nursed my last child until I was 47, so my experience with estrogen levels in the forties was probably unusual. My youngest daughter has an autoimmune disease, so she needed the antibodies from breastmilk longer than most children do.

On Migraines and Hormones

I've perused many articles to find headache answers, but most focus on hormone replacement therapy, which is dangerous, in my view. My mother had a small cancerous breast lump removed in her sixties, partially because she was on hormone replacement therapy for over 10 years. She also has been a heavy drinker and smoker for years, and has been sedentary but not overweight. The hormone therapy is known to cause breast cancer. My mother has had no recurrence since, thank God. She has five sisters all older than her, none of whom have any breast cancer. Her mother was also clear, and lived free of any cancer up until her death at 88.

Headache/Hormone Connection: Female migraine sufferers typically get more headaches before and after periods begin. That is when hormone levels are falling. Again in perimenopause, estrogen levels are falling, so headaches are present more days per month.

My research has led me to a few remedies, some of which might bring hope to you:

~ Focus on other migraine triggers, since you can't do much about the hormone trigger: adequate sleep, same wake and bedtimes, keep blood sugar levels steady, avoid hunger, avoid stress (ha ha), exercise regularly, stay hydrated, don't smoke, cut back on caffeine and alcohol

~ Dietary supplements: feverfew (not during pregnancy or nursing), butterbur, B-2 (riboflavin), co-enzyme Q-10, and magnesium

~ Try naproxen (Aleve) during the days you get the worst hormone headaches. This has been proven to cut back on the headaches because it inhibits the release of hormone (same reason NSAID's like ibuprofen work best for menstrual cramps). It is typically prescribed for 2 days before the flow and for 3 days into the flow, Of course NSAID's come with side effects, but doctors say for this small window we aren't to worry. My window of headache days would be higher than the five mentioned above, but I plan to try this for this month and see what happens.

Here is an excellent summary from the American Headache Society on treating Menstrual Migraine:

If you've had no success with your headaches, I recommend you take this article to your doctor for discussion. In reading it, I discovered that my doctor didn't prescribe Topomax for me correctly. In both the first and second attempts, the dose was too low. Here is the full article, most of which I've pasted below--but do go to the link for the rest of it, so you can read about preventative methods and print it out for your doctor. And if your headache status changes because of anything on this article, could you share that with me, please? It might just help me and others. Thank you!

Menstrual migraine is divided into 2 types:

1. Pure Menstrual Migraine: migraine without aura that occurs exclusively
during the 5-day perimenstrual window of -2 through +3. This affects
approximately 14% of female migraineurs.

2. Menstrually Related Migraine: migraine without aura that occurs during
the 5-day perimenstrual window of -2 through +3 but occurs at other times
of the cycle as well. This is present in approximately 50% of female
migraine patients.


Treatment for acute menstrual migraine is similar to non-menstrual migraine acute treatment. However, many women report that their menstrual migraines are more difficult to treat. The clinical desired end-point of headache-free in 2 hours is a reasonable treatment goal for evaluating the effectiveness of acute therapy. The following is a list of commonly used treatment options: 

1. Acetaminophen-Aspirin combinations with and without caffeine (e.g. brand name Excedrin; the caffeine can potentiate the analgesic effect)
2. Naproxen (Aleve) 250 mg 1-2 every 8-12 hours prn
3. Ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) 800 mg every 8-12 hours prn
4. Naproxen (Naprosyn) Rx strength 500 mg every 12 hours prn
5. Ketorolac (Toradol) 30-60 mg IM prn to rescue (NSAID)
6. Triptans-oral; nasal spray; injectable.
a. Almotriptan (Axert) 12.5 mg every 2 hours; max 25 mg in 24 hrs
b. Naratriptan (Amerge)2.5 mg every 4 hours; max 5 mg in 24 hours
c. Frovatriptan (Frova ) 2.5 mg every 2 hours; max 7.5 mg in 24 hours
d. Sumatriptan (Imitrex) 50-100 mg every 2 hours; max 200 mg in 24 hours
e. Rizatriptan (Maxalt) 10 mg every 2 hours; max 30 mg in 24 hours
f. Eletriptan (Relpax )40 mg every 2 hours; max 80 mg in 24 hours
g. Zolmitriptan (Zomig)) 2.5-5 mg every 2 hours; max 10 mg in 24 hours
h. Sumatriptan (Imitrex) 20 mg nasal spray 1 spray 1 nostril; may repeat in 2 hours to max of 40 mg in 24 hours
i. Zolmitriptan (Zomig) 5 mg nasal spray 1 spray 1 nostril; may repeat in 2 hours to max of 10 mg in 24 hours
j. Sumatriptan (Imitrex) 4-6 mg injectable; may repeat in 1 hour to max of 12 mg in 24 hours
7. Triptan/NSAID combination such as Sumatriptan (Imitrex) 100 mg & Naproxen 500 mg (Naprosyn)
8. DHE/dihydroergotamine (Migranal)1 spray each nostril; repeat in 15 minutes
9. Butalbital-containing products with or without codeine such as Fiorinal plain or Fiorinal with codeine; not a good choice unless patient can’t tolerate the triptans and the ergots/ergot alkaloids which are more migraine specific
10. Narcotic such as Hydrocodone (Vicodin) sparingly to rescue only: 1-2 of the 5 mg every 6 hours prn severe migraine only (suggest limit max 15/month)

1. Mild-moderate menstrual migraine: OTC NSAID/combination product; Rx NSAID, e.g. Naproxen 500 mg prn
2. Moderate-severe: triptan +/- NSAID
3. Rescue: Sumatriptan 4-6 mg sq; Ketorolac 30-60 mg IM; DHE .5 mg NS each nostril; repeat in 15 minutes; DHE-45 .5-1 mg IM or IV every 8 hours


This treatment approach is ideal for many women who suffer from menstrual migraine. The majority of women report they have migraines outside of the menstrual window; however, their non-menstrual migraines are often easier to treat. Many may report that their normal acute treatment for migraine does not work for menstrual migraine. Additionally, many are afraid they will take the full allotted amount of triptan medication for their menstrual migraine which can last 3-7 days. An effective short-term preventive approach should lessen both the severity and duration of the menstrual migraine. Common short-term preventive strategies:

1. Magnesium 360-400 mg during the luteal phase of the cycle; i.e. begin around day 14 of the cycle. Limiting potential side-effect: diarrhea.
2. Naproxen 500 mg twice a day; begin several days before the anticipated onset of menstrual migraine; continue until at least day 3 of cycle. Advantage: low cost. Potential side-effect: nausea/GI.
3. Triptan (one of the 7) dosed in a bid fashion. Begin several days before anticipated onset of menstrual migraine. Use the highest dose of the triptan. May combine with a NSAID such as naproxen 500 mg. Use for 5 days in most cases. Be aware, this extended duration use of triptans is not FDA-approved and information on long-term safety is not available for triptans when dosed in this mini-prophylaxis manner. 
4. Increase does of daily preventive that the woman is already on; e.g. if on topiramate (Topomax) 50 mg hs to prevent headache, increase to 75-100 mg during her vulnerable menstrual migraine time of cycle. Advantage: the patient does not feel they are taking an unnecessary dose of their preventive during their non-menstrual time of month.
5. Estradiol patch .1 mg (name brand Climara .1 mg; Vivelle dot .1 mg) to wear for at least 1 week to prevent the drop in estradiol that is often a catalyst for the menstrual migraine; the women should apply the patch on approximately day -3 and stop when menses complete. This can be done
in conjunction with an oral contraceptive if the contraceptive is taken cyclically. The transdermal estradiol patch can also be used in women who don’t take contraception as it will help prevent the natural endogenous drop in estradiol.
6. Oral estradiol tablets the week of menses. However, they don’t give as even a level of estradiol as the transdermal patch and are only recommended if women can’t tolerate the transdermal estradiol patch. Dose: Estradiol 1 mg dose dosed qd or bid.

1. Magnesium 360-400 mg qd; Naproxen 500 mg bid; begin day 14 of cycle; continue through completion of menses
2. Triptan for 5-6 days; e.g. Frovatriptan (Frova) 5 mg loading dose followed by 2.5 mg bid for 5 days; begin -2 of cycle
3. Alternative triptan: Naratriptan (Amerge) 2.5 mg bid or ½ tablet bid for 5 days

PREVENTIVE TREATMENT --see link for the rest of this portion

This approach is ideal for women who suffer from a lot of non-menstrual migraine as well asmenstrual migraine or for women who are suffering despite optimal acute and short-term treatment. Preventive treatment can be broken into 2 categories: traditional daily preventive medication and hormonal manipulation.

Most common preventive treatment (traditional): 
1. AED’s (Anti-epileptic) medication such as topiramate (Topomax) and divalproex sodium (Depakote). For Topamax, start with 25 mg qd; increase by 25 mg/week until 100 mg or until clinical desired end-point. If necessary increase up to 200 mg daily dose. Dose bid or all at bedtime if sedation noticed. Most common side-effects: paresthesias (usually mild and transient); sedation; word-retrieval problems; appetite suppression and weight-loss.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Exciting: Shoebox Time Again

It's time to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child! This year we packed a box for a boy and a girl, and I found Target to be very helpful.

Operation Christmas Child has two resources on their site for gift ideas, and I have pasted them below. I will also tell you what I found at Target. 

I find it strange that the Operation Christmas Child list never includes Playdoh. Any children I work with are wild about Playdoh--up to 12 years old sometimes. I bring our Playdoh each time I work at church, and the four year olds play with it the whole playtime. It's hard to drag them away!

I did not look at the Operation Christmas Child list this year before we went to the store, and I see that I didn't buy enough that was specifically for school. However, a lot of these children cannot afford the fees for the local schools, unless they are in some sort of child sponsorship program. Education is not free in the third world, and without the fees children can't attend. The fees include uniforms, books, and supplies. Compassion International is one organization that takes care of all these fees and more, through their child sponsorship program.

This is the first year I did not get a stuffed animal or small doll, and I do regret that. This year I also neglected to get a toothbrush and soap. My kids were sick this week and we waited too long to go to the store. Do your shopping early, by all means, so you have time to peruse all the departments. We had a deadline to work with as we do this for our AWANA program.

You can do this on your own and drop off your box at one of the designated drop off locations, or you can build a box online and choose the toys you want to go in your box. If you do it on your own and buy the usual items, it runs about $40 to $50 a box for a tween- or adult-sized shoebox (postage is paid by our AWANA program). If you build it online, it appears to be only $25, but perhaps there is a postage fee later, I am not sure.

Now on to what Target has right now in their dollar bins:

In the front of the store there are many $1.00 bins, but it is not all cheap stuff. I found the following things, useful for Operation Christmas Child, or blessing children in the hospital, or in shelters, perhaps?

1.  Wonderful, step-by-step learn-to-draw books, one each for farm animals, safari, sea life, and reptiles
2.  Blank sketch pads with princess covers, Sesame Street covers, Doc McStuffins covers
3. Learn-to-write pads with kindergarten lines
4. silly putty
5. marbles
6. Disney ankle socks
7. Kindergarten crayons
8. 24-piece puzzles in different themes (for 4-9-year-old category)
9. slinky
10. small fleece blankets for girls and boys (says for pets but they would fit baby to preschoolers)
11. Hello Kitty small spiral notebooks

Other things we got from the regular toy department are Playdoh and Hot Wheels car sets, with the purple cars going to the girls. We also always get smallish balls, and gummies for candy. I recommend the Twistable Crayola crayons because they will last the longest! The others will get broken and be a disappointment fast.

I get socks every year, but today as we drove home, I thought about all the third-world country children I've seen in flip flops, and I vowed to remember Operation Christmas Child in the summer when flip flops are in the stores. Perhaps they live in too hot a climate for socks? Perhaps they can't even afford sneakers? Next time I'll put in fewer socks, so I have room for a pair of flip flops.

The age categories are 2-4, 5-9, 10-14

Post Script: Oh, no! Is it too humid in the third world for Playdoh? Have I disappointed kids for four years with my Playdoh obsession...taking up room in these boxes?

From the Operation Christmas Child site:

Teddy bear, doll, soft toy, etc.

Exercise book, pencil case, pens, pencils, colouring pencils, sharpener, eraser, chalk, etc.

T-shirt, shorts, underwear, cap, beanie, sandals, thongs, etc.

Tennis ball, cars, skipping rope, marbles, musical instrument, yo-yo, slinky, finger puppets, wind up torch, etc. (No battery operated items)*

Soap and face washer, toothbrush, hairbrush, comb, hair-clips, scrunchies, etc.(No toothpaste)*

Carry bag, sunglasses, bangles, necklaces, craft kits, stickers, note or photo of yourself.

TOYS: Include items that children will immediately embrace such as dolls, toy cars, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls, toys that light up and make noise (with extra batteries), etc.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.

NON-LIQUID HYGIENE ITEMS: toothbrushes, bar soap, combs, washcloths, etc.
ACCESSORIES: t-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc.

A PERSONAL NOTE: You may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. If you include your name and address, the child may be able to write back.

DO NOT INCLUDE: Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Black Bean Soup & Modern Nutrition

For years I've been dismayed that in line at the grocery store, I've never once been behind someone who put enough real food in their grocery cart. Mostly, people buy boxed, frozen, and bagged junk. They're either too busy, too ignorant of nutrition, they don't know how to cook, or they're not interested, or all four. I'm not judging them so much as feeling sadness about how far our country has veered from former wholesome times.

If I had to guess about the trends leading to this, I'd first point to the women who entered the workforce to help out during World War II, and stayed there after the war ended, possibly due to widowhood. Next, there were women who entered the workforce after the birth control pill was introduced in the 1960's. Finally, some women began working full-time when credit card use increased during the financial boom and increased materialism of the 1980's, which enticed many into debt and larger houses, thereby forcing families into dual-career households. Rising health care costs attributed to the trend as well, as more money was taken from paychecks to cover employee health plans.

With more women trying to balance career and home responsibilities, convenience drove food industry trends, and fewer women grew up knowing how to cook. As a single teacher for nine years, I knew how to cook just a few different dishes. I loved to read, not cook. My mother wasn't interested in imparting any cooking techniques to her daughters, and I never asked for any lessons. She did a combination of convenience and from-scratch cooking.

As a "modern" woman, my identity wasn't tied up in a domestic package. I didn't feel inadequate that I couldn't cook well until I became a stay-at-home mother.

I began following cookbooks semi-regularly when my firstborn was 2 years old, but it wasn't until five years ago that I reformed my ways for good. It finally dawned on me that I was responsible for my family's health. The Lord had given me that responsibility as a keeper at home, and I needed to take it seriously for the glory of God.

You think I'm exaggerating about my grocery store experiences, but I'm still waiting for a consumer to appear in front of me who actually cooks from scratch, or cooks much at all. I guess it's the sociologist in me interested in societal trends.

But really, this post is about black beans.

Dried legumes are truly a wonder food, and Americans don't eat enough of them, although those living in the southwest do better than people in other parts of the country. I remember living in California all those years, especially in San Diego, sans husband and children, where there were fabulous trendy Mexican restaurants, especially one called El Torito, which featured a scrumptious black bean soup.

Black beans are the healthiest legume.  Here are the facts on dry beans as a whole.

I made a black bean soup last night, in a hurry to make dinner in under 30 minutes, on the first snowy day of the year, in a 66-degree house.

Easy Black Bean Soup  

Note about spiciness: Beans are very plain, but nevertheless, taste the soup after adding each teaspoon or can of a spicy item, so as not to over spice and turn your family off. The recipe below is pretty spicy, so cut the spices in half if you prefer it more bland.


4 15-oz cans black beans, preferably low-salt variety
2 small cans mild Rotel, or 2 small cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 T dried minced onion
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup chicken broth (optional, I just had some to use up)

On the side ingredients:

Sour cream
fresh diced onion
grated cheese
tortilla chips or cornbread


Pour beans with their juices into a large sauce pan. Add all other ingredients, and cook on medium heat until boiling. Turn off heat, and take out two cups of the soup and put it through a blender. Return to sauce pan and simmer soup on low about 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, diced onion, and perhaps tortilla chips or cornbread. If you don't serve with fresh diced onion, you could saute some diced onion and put that in the soup at cooking time, instead of the dried minced onion.

What About the Children?

If your children do not like diced tomatoes and/or chilies, you might put those through the blender as well to mask them. My children were not enamored with this soup, but I'm not giving up. It was mostly the look of it. It may take this winter to get them used to it.

I've noticed when we have the neighbor kids over for dinner, most of them will eat very little real food. The 9-year-old we babysit is sent over with Bob Evan's mac n cheese, hot dogs, and a banana and juice boxes, or five or six breakfast sausage links and a fruit cup, or nothing at all, and he won't eat what we eat. If we eat pasta, he will only eat plain pasta noodles. One night I made homemade chicken noodle soup, thinking certainly every child would eat that, but he said he only eats it "from the store".

I have my own picky eaters--Paul won't eat any berries or oatmeal or eggs--but I know not to give up, and not to give them substitute dinners. I should mention that the neighbor boy's grandmother has to pick her battles. She works many hours and is in her sixties, so I can't blame her for his diet; he's a handful.

We all have to pick our battles. In the summer, for example, it's more important to keep kids hydrated, then to force them to drink only water.

The best thing is never to start the unhealthy trends to begin with. When making changes, be patient and persistent. And train your kids to train their kids with best practices from the start.

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