Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 3

Standard

In Part 1 I wrote about the presuppositions we hold on children and their sin nature, and how this influences our parenting.
In Part 2 I wrote about what scripture says about raising our children.
Here, I have some practical applications in how to train, guide, and love our children on a daily basis, giving them opportunities and ways to work and play in a God honoring manner. These aren’t the only ways to do this, but they are some that have worked beautifully in our home, when I apply them faithfully, because, lets face it, no Mama is perfect! I’m still growing and learning myself, and this is written as much to me, as it is to anyone.

So how can we practically apply scripture in our daily lives training, teaching, and loving our kids?

  • Don’t put your children in the next room to watch TV so you can clean and bake undisturbed (full disclaimer, I STILL struggle with this, and catch myself doing this.) Invite them to bake bread with you, fold laundry with you, make beds with you, wipe sinks while you clean the toilet, sweep the floor while you tidy up. I am NOT talking about slave labor here, but age appropriate training and exposure to the value and satisfaction of work. For instance, my 2 yo uses the dustpan to sweep the dust into the trash after I sweep the whole floor. My 7 yo likes to sweep the whole floor herself. My 2 yo only puts clean silverware away (after I’ve removed all of the sharp stuff, of course.) While my 7 yo usually   does the plates and cups, and my 5 yo usually does the plasticware. Each child has a job that varies based on their abilities.
  • Reward hard work with *positive consequences.* This keeps consequences from becoming a bad word. My 7 yo rushes to finish her school and chores, because she knows once she has done them, she gets to go outside to play, or choose one 1/2 hour show to watch. If she rushes too much, and does them poorly, she knows she will have to work with me to learn how to do them properly. So she doesn’t rush too much. My 2 yo, for instance, only has to complete the chore, I teach her as she goes, and we work together. They know that once work is done, good things come. Things like free play. They also keep their playroom clean now, because, as my 5 yo put it. “It’s no fun to play in a dirty playroom. I can’t find my toys!” They also LOVE to do kitchen chores with me, because a clean sink, a clean counter, and a clean stove means we can BAKE! Baking means…. brownies, muffins, fresh bread, you name it. I always bake enough to meet our needs, plus that initial “taste test” for the hard workers.
  • Don’t overwork your children. Work is not a distasteful thing. Lets not make it one. Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it age appropriate. Give them chores they have a stake in, chores like putting their own laundry away.  I have an agreement with my 7 yo. She is expected to help with dishes, laundry, and tidying, because she lives in our home. My flower garden, however, is purely for my pleasure and beauty. If she weeds *MY* flower garden, I pay her money. She has the option to say “no” to that chore, as it is really mine. She also has the option to name payment, within reason.
  • Work CAN BE a natural consequence. I’m not a proponent of work as punishment, but if a child is careless, or downright naughty, I do allow it to be a consequence. For instance, my 7 yo stole $5 from my 5 yo. She worked it off. A single Aunt offered her a “job” folding her laundry. We did one load a week, to the tune of $1 per load, and at the end of 5 weeks, she had worked off her debt and repaid the $5 she stole. That was a natural consequence.

As you train, guide, nurture, and love your children, remember that as God has a purpose for our lives, and as scripture is explicit in giving us good instructions for a productive, happy life, so we as parents should teach our children about our God of order, beauty, and righteousness. We should be an example of the blessings of obedience, and the beauties of grace, and mercy in our own lives.

We are a living example of what God can do in our lives by Grace, and every day is a day to show them firsthand his work in our hearts and homes. Paul said it best in Ephesians 2:8-10 :

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Advertisements

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 2

Standard

In Part 1 we discussed the presuppositions we make about our children and their sin nature. I also came to the conclusion that a child centric lifestyle is harmful, and not right from a scriptural perspective. The best place we can find how we ought to raise and guide our children is in God’s Word.

So am I saying our children need to be little automatons? Slaving away daily in submission to my own will? Nope. I’m not saying that either. What I am saying is this:

Daddy working out a science experiment with Emma.

Daddy working out a science experiment with Emma.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ESV)
I know I refer to this scripture a lot. Like here, and here, and here. But that is because it is a lot of what I do, day in, and day out.
As Proverbs says, our job, as parents, is to train our children. Training our children the value of work, and that play is a natural consequence and result of hard work, is more appropriate than teaching them that play is owed to them.

  • We need to be Intentional– Letting our kids play indiscriminately isn’t training them. “A child left to himself brings his Mother to grief.” Proverbs 29:15  We need to give our children goals, purposes, things to do, places to go, We can’t allow them to determine what is right for themselves, but we need to intentionally expose them to what is good, true, and right. Does this mean we need to be on top of them every minute of every day? No. This leads to my next point:

    Playing with their new baby brother.

    Playing with their new baby brother.

  • Teaching discernment is the first part of training, and the last part too. In fact, it is a constant thing when they are young, as it gives them skills later on in life to meet sin head on, with wisdom, and knowledge. In Hebrews 5 Paul talks about discernment as something that is a result of constant training and practice. It is something we must do with our children from cradle to adulthood, and never stop. They need to see us using it, and we need to teach them how to use it, and practice it with them. Proverbs 2 gives us a beautiful example of a father speaking to his son on this subject: “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
  • We need to walk beside our children as we train them to do new things, and we need to expect them to work at skills as they go. As soon as my children can walk, they begin to have chores. Why? I want them to know the value of hard work, and practice it often. Isaiah puts it like this: “To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” It is a constant action, something that is block on top of building block. The best way to do that is to follow the practical instructions in Deut. 6, do it daily, in everything you do with your children.

    Playing together outside.

    Playing together outside.

  • We need to be educated. Proverbs says: “The companion of fools suffers harm.” If we don’t want our children to be fools, we need to seek wisdom ourselves. How can we teach what we do not know? Where to look for this education? Everywhere in Scripture. God has given us all instructions for a productive and just society in his word. EVERY word is profitable.
  • We need to be gentle, loving, and nurturing. Ephesians 6 reminds us that we need to raise them in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” and not to frustrate them. This doesn’t mean we always have to accede to their whims, so much as we need to be careful that what we require of them is in God’s Word, without adding in our own wants. In other words, the parent who is disciplining their child for “being annoying” (guilty!) rather than for “breaking God’s law” is frustrating their child. There is no consistency to my feelings as a parent. My annoyance is an ever changing yardstick. God’s Word is ALWAYS the same. Do not kill, Do not lie. Do not steal. Give to the Poor. Obey your parents.
  • Training them the value of work, and appropriate priorities begins day one. Proverbs is chock full of wisdom on this one. If we are lazy, our needs can’t be met, Work produces good things. Work allows us to bless others. Work has an eternal value to that end. Work glorifies God. Work feeds us, there is a direct relationship between our willingness to work, and our ability to provide for ourselves and our family. Working as a team is better than working alone. I could go on and on about this one.
Practicing writing words.

Practicing writing words

In conclusion: When we say “Oh they’re only kids, just let them play.” we are assuming that training them for adulthood is something that only happens when they either enter, or get closer to adulthood, and not a lifetime proposition. My children do play, they do have fun, but they do so with an understanding of what God expects, what he provides, how we personally fit into his plan, and that everything has a goal, a purpose in a world made by a God of order.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss some practical applications of scripture in teaching, guiding, and training our children.

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 1

Standard

Heavy statement, I know. But when we say “Oh, just let them play, they’re only children!” we do our children a disservice.
Disclaimer: I am FAR from perfect on this issue myself. This is just as much a Series aimed at me, as it is to anyone. This does not mean I’m opposed to play either, just that I’m opposed to play without a purpose, or play without discernment.

So why do I think this? Let’s unpack this statement.

Hairdresser

The girls playing “Hair Salon”

Firstly, as an Early Childhood major, I’ve read a LOT of expert opinions on play. “Play is the child’s work” is the prevailing opinion in the early childhood world. I’ve studied all sorts of things, mostly stating that play is something we ought not to limit, guide, or contain. But that we should feed children’s ability to play by listening, repeating back, and providing materials, encouragement, or opportunity.
This is built upon the idea of a “blank slate.” That every child is born perfect, and only sullied by their environment. This presupposition leads us to let the child direct the play, and follow along, allowing their pure spirit to teach themselves. We are only there to facilitate experimentation. Any kind of negative response is only limiting them, and any wrongdoing on their part is because we are deficient as teachers, parents, adults. I used to believe this wholeheartedly, and constantly found myself puzzled because I was doing everything right, so WHY did the children in my care persist in doing wrong? I felt like such a failure, and I ran out of tools quickly. I just couldn’t keep a perfect enough environment to produce a perfect child. It took a long time for me to say: “This isn’t right.”

Why? I knew scripture says this:
Psalm 51:5 ESV “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Romans 3:23 ESV “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 5:12 ESV “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

We are born with a sin nature. Children are born with sin in their hearts. As Proverbs says: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” We need to avoid this child led form of play because it is giving free reign to the natural sin in their hearts, without turning them from it.

Adam and Eve aren't the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

Adam and Eve aren’t the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

This is why I think that allowing them to play without a purpose, without guidance, and without goals isn’t the best we can give them. We teach them to make their own rules, morals, goals, and outcomes. Under it all, we’re telling them that to trust, obey, submit, and to learn from others mistakes is wrong, that experience is king and the source of true wisdom, and to disregard rules is right and good. The underlying truth we communicate frequently is that nobody really loves you enough to want what is best for you. Selfishness is the only way to survive, and thrive. We teach them to “follow your heart” “Do what is best for YOU” and to “get rid of anything or anyone that doesn’t serve YOU.”
I think that after 2 generations of this approach to child rearing we are seeing a society that is making its own laws, its own morals, and disregarding authority, except the individual authority of man. And I don’t think it is too much of a leap to say that a lot of our gleeful declarations of “Don’t be afraid to break ALL the rules!” in nursery school are now finding purchase in the hearts of young people, who “call evil, good, and good, evil.”
“But studies show…!”
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditi
cutefilleron, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
As Christians, our authority isn’t the philosophy of fallible men, but God’s wisdom. Proverbs says the beginning of wisdom is the Fear of the Lord. Paul says that “ALL scripture is profitable for reproof and instruction in righteousness.” We know where to go if we need to know what to teach our children, and how to raise them.
I always have to bite my tongue when someone says: “Too bad they don’t come with an instruction manual!” Oh but they do! In God’s Word! Who better to look to on how to raise, train, and teach them, then their creator?

(Want to know where I’m going with this? Check out Part 2)

Establishing Homeschool Routines and Another Budget Meal

Standard

Spelling lesson.

Spelling lesson.

As this school year begins (we began on Monday.)  I am staring last years inadequacies down. I know a lot of it had to do with being demonstrably pregnant for a large portion of the year, and it being a difficult pregnancy, not in terms of health or complications for Isaiah, so much as in terms of managing 3 young children, and MY health throughout.

So this year, I am determined to juggle things with more aplomb. Not to say that I will be the perfect Mom, Wife, and Teacher (Ha!) But that this year I will make a more concerted effort to meet some goals.

School books just aching to be cracked open!

School books just aching to be cracked open!

 
This year’s goals:

  • Be more organized
  • Set a schedule
  • Follow a routine
  • Be more organized
  • Keep the house fairly clean
  • Be more organized

See the pattern here? I’ve got years of bad housekeeping habits to break. I’ve never been a dedicated full time Mom and Home Maker before last year, and I am determined that in this chosen career I WILL hone my skills. But goals are nothing without a plan, and so, we’ve implemented a plan for about 2 weeks now, with some success. This past week has been that plan integrated with school, so in 2 weeks, I feel comfortable sharing how we ‘Manage it All.’

History lesson... in a tutu and tiara... This is how we roll.

History lesson… in a tutu and tiara… This is how we roll.

Firstly- Routine does not equal SCHEDULE. I am a seat of the pants kinda gal. I haven’t yet mastered the art of the type A personality. Being child no. 4 out of 6, I was always the clown, more interested in pleasing people in a puppydog sort of way than actually accomplishing much for the sake of just accomplishing things.  I am not the woman to have an excell spreadsheet with a seperate spot for each child. We have a routine that factors in each child’s needs, and quirks. It is flexible enough to accommodate all of that, Mostly because I can’t be bothered to write it down in specifics. Too tedious. I know the baby naps in the AM, while we do supervised lessons. No need to write it down. He’ll change it when he no longer needs 2 naps, and we’ll find something else for him to do during that time. We’ll tweak our schedule to accommodate everyone’s needs. I don’t mind. I know too much tweaking occurs when we attempt to control every detail. There is an art to flexibility that helps children to adjust. Too rigid, and we have to change too often.
Our Daily Routine

Our daily routine is simple, because that is what makes it so flexible.

  • Wake Up
  • Breakfast
  • School-Language Arts
  • Snack
  • School-Reading with Mom time- (Supervised lessons, can be inside or outside. Morning nap for babies.)
  • Chores (While Mom preps lunch)
  • Lunch
  • Finish Chores
  • Quiet Contemplation (Naptime)This is how we do.
  • Outside Play
  • Dinner Prep (Kids play outside with Dad.)
  • Set Table
  • Dinner
  • Family Devotions/Family Time
  • Bedtime

In instances where our day is derailed due to a Dr’s appointment, play date, piano lesson, or money earning ventures, we scoot the chores to directly after breakfast and either a.) Bring school along to said event, or b.) Do school when we get home in place of “play with Dad time.” or directly after dinner during Family time.

Chores are as follows (Again, we keep it simple.)

Mom: Supervise-Train, Polish up undone items.

  • Load Dishwasher/Do Dishes
  • Switch Laundry Loads
  • Cook Meals
  • Vacuum/Mop w/Sarah
  • Clean bathrooms w/Emma and Ava
  • Litterbox w/Sarah
  • Tidy Kitchen w/Ava
  • Clean own bedroom/nursery-inspect, correct, and assist with children’s bedrooms.

Sarah: (7)

  • Unload Dishwasher
  • Sweep Floor (kitchen)
  • Tidy Bedroom/make bed
  • Tidy School Books/Living Room
  • Fold/put own laundry away
  • Clean Litterbox

Emma: (5)

  • Wipe table after meals
  • Unload Dishwasher
  • Tidy Bedroom Room/make bed
  • Tidy Schoolbooks/Playroom
  • Take out Trash w/Mommy (Bathroom cleaning)
  • Put away own laundry

Ava: (2)

  • Help Mommy Tidy kitchen
  • Unload Silverware (dishwasher)
  • Clear plates off of table, put in sink
  • Wipe out sinks w/ vinegar cleaner (Bathroom cleaning)
  • Put away own laundry

As you can see, I’m not a huge worrier when it comes to dusting, washing windows, etc.  It gets done when it does, mostly when company comes, and in a fit of  “AHHHHH! They’ll see the DUST!” At this point in the game, I’ve got a LOT of littles, and I don’t want to unbalance my Bigs with work that doesn’t matter right this moment.

Let the obsessive vacuuming begin!

Let the obsessive vacuuming begin!

I want to teach them diligence, but rather than barking orders over a child who is trying NOT to break the precious family photos whilst wielding a rag full of Pledge, I just dust when company comes, and that is often enough to keep it from getting obscenely thick and dirty.  There are also a ton of unlisted stuffs, like the normal things you do when you clean a room regularly, like wiping the counter, cleaning the toilet, etc. The children are always welcome in a moment of curiosity/boredom, or if their tasks are done early, to work alongside me to learn a new task. A lot of this isn’t done in a “list” fashion. We just have a period of “LET’S RACE!” While lunch is cooking/heating up. We tend to spend roughly 20 minutes a day power cleaning at each meal. Most of the kitchen cleaning is done directly before meals, and other cleaning done at appropriate moments, general tidying as we go (Living Room is always tidied prior to nap, bedrooms prior to breakfast for instance.)

Tips and Tricks:

  • Chores in tandem with major home events, such as meals, or Naps. This makes them a regular part of routines, not something to be thought of independently.  Dishes as a part of mealtime is a natural segue, and ensures clean dishes for the next meal.
  • Work alongside your children, teach them each task, and guide them kindly through it, by either repeating the tasks with them, or by giving them an example, for instance: “When I wipe the sink, I swipe like *this.*  Your turn now!”
  • Begin the work yourself, and the children will work too. Don’t start by announcing “time to clean!” Then the onus is on them. Lead by example, Mamas. Once you’ve begun to clean yourself, if they’re not on board, that is the right time to use verbal reminders.
  • Check in frequently with Bigs, during tasks until completed. This keeps them on task, and avoids the hours later discovery that someone lied about making their bed.
  • Allow children to clean creatively! Sing while you work, dance while you work, groove, boogie, whatever! Or, in our house, laundry folding is a coveted job, because the laundry folder may watch an episode of I Love Lucy while folding laundry, with one caveat- If there is no progress from commercial break to commercial break, the show gets turned off instantly. I’ve only had to do that once.
  • Break it up. Let them do a set of chores with each home event allows for it to seem like a smaller task, and more manageable. Don’t give them a whole list, give them a task, one at a time, and they won’t feel overwhelmed. I know my oldest (7) is beginning to love lists. This rule *may* change in her case, but when it comes to training littles, keep it short, keep it sweet, keep it simple, and keep it predictable (aka, we always do dishes after the meal.)

On the subject of deep cleaning:
With so many Littles, and still learning Bigs, deep cleaning (dusting, baseboards, deep decluttering) is usually something I do late at night, or while the children are folding laundry together, etc. We do a weekly “deep clean” where I focus on one room, not the whole house. I’d LOVE to do the whole house as a deep clean, but I can’t get that far in one day! I’m usually interrupted by nursing, or some other need. One room takes an hour or two, and I can move on to the next room next week! Yes this is an issue, as far as the whole house being clean at once, but it is just how it has got to work for now! I have one CRAZY spring cleaning week once a year as well, where my Mother In Law takes my children to VBS, and I spend a 3-6 hours every day that week going whole hog on one room! By the end of the week, the whole house is MUCH cleaner!

                                                                                                   And now…. For the Thrifty Recipe!

Image credit: Kalyn's Kitchen http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2010/12/recipe-for-baked-mini-frittatas-with.html

Image credit: Kalyn’s Kitchen

I love making this on days I am tired and busy. Deep cleaning days are a good time to make this. It is easy and healthy, not to mention this is obscenely cheap and can be made with whatever is in your fridge at the time.
(For a different recipe than the one I posted below, the inspiration for my version, and the source of the photo: See Kalyn’s Kitchen’s Fritatta recipe made in Muffin Cups!)

Garden and Cheese Fritatta– Heat oven to 350 F
For our family we use 1 dozen eggs EASILY. But the recipe can be made with 4 or more. Just adjust veggies to match portion sizes.

Fry veggies in Olive oil. (I use combos like Broccoli and garlic and carrots. Or zuchini, onions, garlic. Or peas, carrots, tomatoes, garlic. This part is usually free, because this is usually done using whatever we get out of our garden.) Whatever veggies you have in your fridge/garden, toss them in a pan with olive oil. Fry til clear, or tender.

Put veggies, salt and pepper to taste, in bottom of casserole dish. Meat can be added to the pile here too, I like bacon crumbles, sausage crumbles, Pepperoni etc, any leftover meats you have that need using are great for a bit of extra flavor. But it tastes just as good without them!

Beat 1 dozen eggs, pour into casserole dish, covering veggies with beaten eggs. (veggies should be barely covered, but covered nonetheless.) salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: Put a bit of grated cheese on top of the eggs. Mozzarella, Cheddar, whatever floats your boat.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes (time may be adjusted for less eggs.)
During last 1-2 minutes, turn on broiler, til golden, and cheese is bubbling (if cheese is used.)

Serve HOT!  This is your entire meal in a dish! Great with garlic bread, toast, or nothing else at all! It is filling, warm, and very healthy! Not to mention, super frugal! Enjoy!

Eating Well on a Tight Budget

Standard

Eating well on a tight budget isn’t as hard as it sounds. It just requires… creativity.

For instance, my husband bought one of these:
A Sweet Italian Sausage Round. It was roughly 2-3 lbs of meat. He bought it for $1.99 a lb.
I wanted to make this last for 3 meals.
pepperonion

Meal #1
I didn’t have money to get new ingredients, and some of my pantry staples were already claimed for two planned meals, one for a party, and one for my daughter’s birthday supper of choice. So I have to get more creative here. I made up my own recipe. Now that I’ve been cooking for nigh unto 6 years as a married Mama, I’m a bit better at this than I once was. Still learning though! But this one turned out fabulously:

I started  with the sausage. Before starting to use it for any meals, I cooked it for an hour at 350. It dries it out a bit, makes it crumbly and crunchy. JUST how I like it! If you like it more moist, cut your cooking time by 15-25 minutes, and ramp up the heat, maybe to 425, for 30 minutes.

Everything but The Kitchen Sink Summer Garden Pasta
Makes 8-10 servings. (Enough for our family for 2 meals. Dinner, and lunch the following day usually.)

1 LARGE freshly picked Zucchini, sliced as needed.ttar_zucchini_v
4-5 cloves fresh garlic (Finely diced)
3 LARGE garden tomatoes (coarsely diced)
2-3 tbspns Olive Oil

aprox. 1 lb (pre-cooked as mentioned) sausage, cut into medallions.
1 lb mini bowtie noodles
Salt/garlic salt to taste

Drizzle Olive Oil into large, deep skillet. Turn into medium/high. (remember, the sausages are already cooked through, so we’re just heating up and flavoring.) toss in medallions and diced garlic cloves. Stir to coat,
Add in Sliced zucchini, and diced tomatoes.  Add water (Enough to steam veggies and stew tomatoes a bit. Don’t stress over the skins,) Put lid on skillet, and cook on medium, for about 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and zucchini is clear. About the time it takes to boil the noodles in another pot.
Once noodles are boiled, drain. While draining noodles, remove lid from veggie skillet, allowing the water to boil off a bit, and the “sauce” to thicken. Salt to taste, using table salt OR Garlic salt. I did a mixture of both.
Add noodles. Toss. Serve with buttered bread and green veggie, such as broccoli or salad.

Meal #2

Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. Need I say more? 🙂 Everyone had one “link” This used almost 1 lb. A bit less.

Meal #3

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
(I got this from Allrecipes, but I modified it a bit to suit our needs. Makes 2 large and 1 medium pizza crusts. Enough for one meal for our family, plus lunches the next day.)

3  .25 oz. packages of yeast ($.79 at Aldi!)
3 tsp White Sugar
3 cups warm water pizza

Mix, let stand 10 minutes till frothy.
Add: 6 tablespoons oil
3 tsp Salt
7 1/2 c. flour

Mix til smooth. Let sit 10-20 minutes in bowl. 10 is fine.
Turn out onto floured surface. Knead. Separate into 3 rounded balls. We used 2 large pans and one medium, so I separated the dough accordingly.
Cover pans in light dusting of corn meal or flour. Spread dough into pans (Keep your hands well floured to prevent sticking and tearing of dough.)
Use desired toppings (we used sausage medallions, Pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. I like to throw in green peppers and onions for veggie power!) Bake until cheese is golden and bubbling. Aprox. 15-20 minutes.

Sauce for pizza:
Mix:
1 can Tomato paste
2 cans of water
1 tsp salt
1 tbspn sugar
spices as desired (I use an italian blend plus sweet basil and garlic powder.)

Put all ingredients in saucepan, heat and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread on Pizza dough, then add remaining toppings.

There you have it! 3 frugal easy meals that are delicious, nutritious, and just plain good eating! Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Great American Discontent

Standard

I have been struggling lately. As a Mom of many children, having to make financial sacrifices daily, and living in a standard very different from the American Norm, I’ve been comfortable. I knew there would be no single bedrooms, everyone would share. I knew we would not eat out often, I knew that we would face snippets of cut corners here and there in large family life. It just is the reality, that in the America that has 2.5 children per household, our life would be far out of the norm. Hand Me Downs galore, shared bedrooms, a “restaurant meal” that I didn’t cook meaning pre made pizza from walmart, or a crock pot meal somebody else delivered. I KNEW this would be the case.

But then things looked even ‘worse’ than I’d imagined. God has given me a hard working husband who puts everything on the line at his job. He works so hard that when he comes home, there is nothing left of him. Does this mean he gets a promotion as reward for his labor? No. He isn’t the extroverted type who can “lead” or be “manager material.” As a result of this, I’ve had to let go of my dreams of “one day” things getting easier. The more real this became to me, the more I mourned the loss of a future I’d expected. A future with a larger home to fit all of our incoming children, with a more comfortable means, where the day to day struggle of meeting the bills is no longer a constant anxiety, and where my friends stop saying “One day, things will get better.” because they already HAD gotten better. I even tell myself sometimes, “One day, things will get better.”

But I don’t think they will. So I sat down last night and cried over that. Cried that my husband works so hard with so little reward for his efforts. Cried that other people seem to have it better than we do, and cried because I felt God owes me a blessing.
Then I realized. God owes me NOTHING. Nothing.
I am a sinner. saved by grace. How can I expect anything? How can I expect things to “get better?” Is my problem my husband’s humble job, and our meagre budget that just squeaks by each year? Or is my problem my attitude?
I read Proverbs 5 today and something hit me squarely between the eyes.

Drink water from your own cistern,

flowing water from your own well.

Should your springs be scattered abroad,

streams of water in the streets?

Let them be for yourself alone,

and not for strangers with you.

Let your fountain be blessed,

and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;

be intoxicated always in her love.

Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman

and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,

and he ponders all his paths.

The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,

and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.

He dies for lack of discipline,

and because of his great folly he is led astray.
(Proverbs 5:15-23, ESV)

I always hurried through this chapter, thinking “it doesn’t apply to me. He is obviously talking to a man.”  But I saw something today. A principle, one I have NOT learned. Why am I looking to other places for happiness? For comfort? Why do I think my life would be so much better if my husband only earned a little more money and we could live comfortably like other people. There it is: “like other people.” I need to be drinking from my own well. Not looking around at everyone else’s.  My problem isn’t this lowly situation we’re in, it is my discontent in it. My assumption that things are hard because we don’t have what I want, or what other people have, or think we ought to have.
I looked at it in a different way after reading this chapter. Are we really so poor? No. Not really. Our home is in good repair, we have indoor plumbing, clean water, plenty of food, working electricity, and 2 cars. We are RICH. Monetarily, we are SO blessed! SO SO VERY blessed! No one in this home suffers from a medical condition that cannot be treated, if we only had money. No one in this home is starving, or deprived. Why am I ordering my thinking and my life on the AMERICAN DREAM? The American dream doesn’t matter. The American idea of what we should own, do, pay for, and have, isn’t important. Here I am inwardly despising my husband because he isn’t going after what Everyone else thinks we ought to have. I’m listening to the wrong crowd. So now is my challenge. Time to stop being so discontented, and to enjoy, be thankful and grateful for what we DO have, and to rejoice in it! To be GLAD for where God has placed us. I will replace my “We don’t have…” with “Thank you LORD!”
So much for the Great American Discontent. Time to rejoice evermore.

Nutritious Reading

Standard

This morning I was folding my laundry, and yelling up the stairs for my children to come down and help. (*sheepish* I know, I oughtn’t yell up the stairs… I can hear my friend now, reminding me that my Mom did that, and if I don’t want to be my Mom… I shouldn’t yell, even if it is only to get the kids attention. After all, as she says, a walk up the stairs to *talk* to the children face to face can only do us both good. Hi Mom! Love ya!) Lo and behold, mid yell, I was uninterrupted by a timid knock at my door.
And in all my holey-yoga-pants and spit-up-covered-tank-top glory, one hand full of laundry, and 2 children hanging on to my legs on either side, I opened it to find: 2 well dressed folks carrying NWT Bibles.
Yipes. Jehovah’s Witnesses. 
I suppose after 4 years of living in the bustling metropolis of Shamrock, I am overdue for a visit from them… But, behind me I have piles of laundry on the couch, children running about in their underpants, and a pile of baby stuff all over the floor. I thought, there is NOTHING that can induce me to allow anyone in my house, least of all an utter stranger. I stood in the door, bracing myself for the inevitable doctrinal confrontation, and thinking to myself, “There is no way that I, or my house, are ready for this.
They began to talk, and I mentally scrambled to keep up. I politely quoted scripture to them, made it clear I attend a local church, am well aware of what Jehovah’s witnesses are all about, and study the Bible regularly.  They were lovely, and very smiley. Not at all as confrontational as I expected. Visions of my childhood flew past, and I felt immediate regret after closing my door. I COULD have used this as an opportunity to preach the gospel to THEM, but to be frank, I was a bit rusty, I couldn’t remember the last time I read my Bible just to READ it. Not to rebut someone, make a point, or look up a specific issue. I was rusty. I have spent all of my spare time reading other things.
Not that there is anything wrong with Piper, or Calvin, or Rushdoony. They are all GOOD ways to further study scripture, but reading Francis Chan’s new book is like eating cake as opposed to an omelet with veggies in it. There is not much nutrition. It tastes good, it is good, and it gives me some calories, but really, The Bible is my main source of MEAT. I’ve been consuming empty doctrine. What is that without reading scripture first and foremost? I felt ashamed today that I lost a very important opportunity, mostly because I’ve been seeking feel good books that do all of the work for me, instead of making scripture a priority.

And once I had thought on it further, I realized it affected so many other things as well. The things I think on, speak for, adhere to, and advocate for were man made causes. Not that it isn’t a good thing to fight for the abolition of abortion, or an awareness of how our lives as Christians should impact all of life, including how we vote and act within our communities, but that I’d put these causes above the gospel. These things ought to be ways to convey the gospel, not replacements OF the gospel. In all of my passionate advocacy, and voracious reading I had neglected the source of all of these things, to a point where it was no longer more important than anything else.

I guess I realized that if our passion isn’t God, his Word, or how to live it, everything else falls apart. If we think that OUR conviction is more important than God’s Word, and OUR performance as a good Christian is where the meat of our Christian life rests, we have missed the mark. As Paul states in I Phillipians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” All of the works in the world, no matter how wonderful, when not in light of the cross, are worthless. Our intentions aren’t important, the gospel is, and if what we are doing excludes the gospel for something more important, we’ve lost the most important thing.  Ultimately, living for good works can become our idol. We cannot “save” people from whatever ails them, without first recognizing that without the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, and a realization of the gospel, Christ’s saving power, they will be saved from nothing. The gospel, then, MUST be central to everything we do, or it is useless.  And how can we preach the gospel, if we neglect the only infallible work that proclaims it in every word? The Bible is first, and foremost, our source on the gospel, and how it reaches into every corner of our hearts, and our lives.
Van Gogh The Bible