Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 2

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Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 2

Haven’t read Part 1? Check it out here: Where I realize that my children can’t be kept from sin, but they must be taught how to respond to sin.

Knowing my children have a sin nature, from the moment they are conceived, is an important part of teaching them the gospel. The first part of understanding the gospel is seeing that we are indeed sinners in need of a Savior.

I often get very frustrated with modern parenting that operates from a standpoint of the idea that the child is a blank slate. They are sinless, and if we can juuuuuust get things right, they’ll improve the human race. This thought, however innocuous it might seem, at its core sees man as a Savior. Not Jesus. It assumes the if the children can be raised properly, man can save itself. And I am ashamed that I used to believe this, wholeheartedly.

“But I don’t believe THAT!”  I had once said to myself. In word, I didn’t, but I was inadvertently teaching my kids this. When we discipline our children, we tell them a LOT about themselves, ourselves, and their relationship to God. I am far far FAR from a perfect parent, and I have a lot of mistakes to undo in this area.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Take for instance, a popular cartoon, Daniel the Tiger. I recently watched an episode with my children on “sharing.” There were lots of pretty songs about sharing blocks, and how we’ll all be happy if we just share! But the premise of the episode was clear, and repeated over and over and over again. Share, because if you do, it’ll feel GOOD.
Sounds great, right?
Nope. Not so right. Without realizing it, we often teach our children that doing good feels good. And that We ought to do good for the sake of feeling good, or if there is something in it for us.

But is this scriptural? Is doing good about feeling good, or is it about something bigger?
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Jesus is clear here, doing good is about giving God glory, not fulfilling our own desires. At its heart, selfishness is the root of all sin, putting ME first, making ME God. It is at odds with Jesus’ own commands.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)

I used to say this kind of thing to my child:
“If you share with Emma now, she’ll share with you later! Or, what about a trade! You give her what she wants, and she’ll give you something you want!”
We are teaching children that good is only worth it, and is only good, if they feel good.
But this is a selfish premise, we are feeding our children’s selfish sin nature. We are teaching them that their feelings, their wants, are more important than what God says is right. We teach them that feelings, and their satisfaction, ARE God.
And, crazy as this sounds, I was also feeding my own sin nature. I mean, it is MUCH easier to have Ava bribed into stopping the crying. Hand everyone the toy they want, and nobody gets hurt, right? Well… sort of. There is that moment where Ava’s selfish desire can NEVER be sated, because it isn’t about the toy, it is about ME, about how I feel, or what I want.
See what I was doing here? By feeding this selfish nature, I was feeding a beast, one that just got bigger, badder, and all around worse. For the convenience of today (less screaming) we are sabotaging the character of tomorrow, and losing a very important teachable moment to share the gospel.

I now do this instead:
“I’m sorry, but that is Emma’s property, you may not have it unless she says yes.”
Oh good. There is an out, Emma could say yes!
But Emma says “No.”

Uh oh. Cue the tantrum.

Yes, this does mean more work for me, but which is more important, an easy, fun, confrontationless time with my child, or teaching them right from wrong? Teaching them to follow Christ’s commands: To love the Lord your God, with all your heart, your mind, and your soul, and your neighbor as yourself? Christ neatly summed up all the laws in the Old Testament in this little nugget. My job is not to teach my children to love themselves (selfishness) But to love God, and those made in his image, more than self.

In part 3, we’ll get into how this kind of teachable moment often does lead children straight to the gospel.

Teaching the Gospel to my Children: Part 1

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Teaching the Gospel to my Children: Part 1

My children are not sinless. Would that it were so, but they are not. And if there is anything I’ve learned as a Mom, it is that my job is not to keep my children from sin, but to teach them how to respond to it.

Some days, I feel so frustrated, as if I’m banging my head against a wall. Why can’t they just STOP SINNING?! But then I realize, I am no better child to my Heavenly Father. I often find myself doing things I don’t want to do, and in the midst of sin saying to myself. “Whoops. I shouldn’t have done that…” I struggle with many sins, the worst of my vices being laziness. It is tempting to waste my time in trivial pursuits of pleasure, rather than keeping tabs on the mundane reality of Motherhood and Homeschooling. I’d much rather lay in bed all day, reading a book, than doing canning and related food prep, changing diapers, reading lessons, vacuuming carpets, mopping floors, and decluttering, making supper, baking snacks from scratch, or any of the other sundry chores I may need to finish in one day’s time.  I do my best, but some times I find myself failing miserably, easily distracted by the procrastinator’s best friend, facebook.
Some days, I’m spot on, finishing the things I ought to, on time, well done, and I have a cozy, warm, clean, and good smelling home waiting for my husband when he gets home from work. Other days, not so much. So if I, an adult, still cannot completely avoid sin, despite the fact that I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt I will be happier when I do right, how can I expect this of my children?

I don’t know why you don’t just do as I say. You’d be much happier if you stopped doing this wrong!”

I hear these words, or similar ones coming out of my mouth sometimes, or lingering in my heart, and I cringe. I think of that parable, the one of the man who owed a debt to the King that he could never repay. The King released him of his debt, but when the man went on his way, and another man who owed him a paltry sum was passing by, and the first man demanded this paltry debt be repaid. No mercy for the man who owed him so little, he pressed hard for the money. The King heard of this, and brought him back, angry that although GREAT mercy had just been showed to him, he could not show a small amount of mercy to another man.

I am that man. My children owe me nothing. In comparison to the debt I owe to Christ, they owe me crumbs. And yet, I demand payment, and I demand it now.

I have learned, that I cannot demand that they stop sinning. And to do so only frustrates me, and frustrates them. And as Ephesians 6 points out, we are responsible to God, and not an authority for our own gain, or agenda. Frustrating our children is not in our job description. Teaching them, guiding them, nurturing them IS. Our job is not to eradicate sin, or to keep them away from it, but rather to respond to sin rightly. I do my children no favors when I demand a sinless life from them, and I do them even worse when I shelter them from sin, assuming it is only acquired from bad music, bad company, bad atmosphere, or whatever else troubles me. I can stand beside them, as they meet sin head on, and model for them how to respond to it.

This requires so much more integrity than merely trying to isolate them from sin. In isolating them from sin, I take the blame off of them, and off of myself. In being aware of their sin nature, I admit there is a sin nature in me. This takes an uncomfortable amount of humility.

To begin to teach my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, I MUST admit one thing first:
I am a sinner. I gave birth to sinners, and the only answer to that sin is the gospel.

How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

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How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

Disclaimer:
I am far from perfect. I mean, I can barely keep myself from pilfering my kid’s chocolate stashes, and even then, a piece or two goes missing on my most stressful days. Anything I write here is first written because I NEEDED to find out how scripture addresses my shortcomings. So here is a glimpse of my dirty laundry.  This isn’t a matter of me peering into your junk closet, so much as it is an airing out of mine.

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

So before I even begin listing ways to keep yourself from going batty, I have to say the number one way to maintain sanity in the midst of Motherhood is to get in God’s Word.
I often think if I can just talk to someone over 3 ft. tall, I could have a little sanity rub off on me. Or if I could just get a run in, I could regain some sanity.Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. More often than not I am disappointed. I need something to talk about with another grown up, and frankly, they’re not all that into how many diapers I can change one handed while pouring milk and solving a math problem. Running does me no good if I have nothing to think about. A blank mind drives me even more crazy! First and foremost, sanity begins with wisdom, and wisdom comes by hearing the Word of God. So before you try any of these *tricks* Get a little time to read, listen to, or reflect on God’s Word. It is the one way I often forget, but most need to get some sanity when I’m ready to lose a marble, or 12.

  1. Clean something. Half the time the reason I’m unhinged is because the mess without is contributing to the mess within. Start at your feet, as my Mom says, you will be surprised how quickly a determined attitude, a large trash bag, and a tote of clorox wipes can make it a LOT better!
  2. Take the kids for a walk. A little sunshine never hurt anybody, and this is a free, and easy way to get out of your house, and your head! Plus it is a good relationship builder if your kids are driving you NUTS.
  3. Lower your expectations. Being a perfectionist doesn’t make you more perfect, only more stressed. Check your expectations first with scripture, then with reality. Ex: My children are overly energetic, and I’m tired and headachey. Scriptural expectation: obedience. My expectation: absolute quiet. So where should I fall on this? Perhaps giving them an instruction that allows for quieter activities, and expects obedience. I can’t expect them to sit, hands folded, absolutely still until I’m satisfied. I’ll get a bigger headache just trying to maintain an impossible standard of behavior. I *can* expect them to eat a snack together, read or color, and find a quiet activity if those don’t suit them.
  4. Work first, play later. I know, the last thing you want to do when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and insane, is work. But I think better, feel better, AM better when I’ve got my work done. Sitting down and selfishly goofing off while obsessing about all the work I HAVE to do only stresses me out more. Don’t procrastinate. DO. You’ll cherish your free time much more!
  5. Pamper yourself, just a smidge. This is not a blank check for selfishness, just a reminder that a little bit of niceness goes a long way. When I want to pamper myself, I plug in my fragrance plug. The sweet spicy scents that I like help me to focus, calm down, and move on. Doesn’t hurt either when my house smells awful, like children gone wild.
  6. Ambiance.  Make your home a HOME. Pop something easy, sweet, warm and spicy in the oven, and something warm and savory in the crock pot. My favorites are Beef Stew and Apple Crisp. Both are easy, and take 10 minutes prep, tops. Beyond that, put on some soothing music, and have a cup of tea.
  7. Manage your emotions, Mama! Angry? I used to play music to suit my mood, but I found that angry music only feeds my selfish anger.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.” If you are angry, don’t sin in your anger. Take a moment, why are you angry? Is it because the kids forgot to flush the toilet AGAIN? Count to ten, breathe, quote a Proverb, (Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.) and then call a family meeting to address the issue. There. Done. Manage your emotions. Don’t let them control you, because by giving them free rein, you are allowing yourself to be deceived. “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” This only leads to more sin, which will, naturally, destroy peace and joy in your home.
  8. BREATHE! “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  Take a minute before you act in anger, frustration, or whatever else. Don’t plod on into a bad situation you know is only going to get worse. Ex: I was tempted to lose it when I found out the girls slathered glue all over the playroom in the five minutes it took me to put Isaiah down for a nap. I looked, confiscated the rest of the glue, and walked away. I took the girls up to the bathroom, calmly cleaned them up, and went back to washing dishes, as I had been prior to nap. Once I was cool, calm, and collected, I peeled the dry glue off of the plastic surfaces, and told the girls the new glue rules. I didn’t tell them the new glue hiding place though. That is my secret to keep! There. Unpleasant frustration sidestepped. Breathe Mama!
  9. Be Busy/Get Bored. Whatever you have too much of, balance it! We’ve found a nice happy medium (until the next crisis comes along.) We have a few ministries we’re involved in that suit our family budget, schedule, and schooling goals. We also leave days where we can chill, explore books, backyard, garden, and just BE. Just say no if you are overstretched. Nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you do everything. And nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you don’t do everything. Your responsibility isn’t to impress the world, but to love your husband, love your children, keep your home. (Titus 2) DO that, and nothing more, and nothing less. If it doesn’t fit into that ministry (and really, that is a LOT of leeway!) don’t do it.
    Example: We’ve found meals ministry to be easy, fun, and helpful. The children enjoy making the meal for another family in need. We’ve also found a local ministry that we count as a school day, it involves a morning outside in the sun, harvesting food, enjoying nature, and then a park/play time afterward with the other homeschooling families we’ve met there while ministering.
  10. Last but not least: PRAY. Pray without ceasing. Rejoice Evermore. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

There you have it! May you remain sane through all the spaghetti flinging, broken china, tough spelling lessons, transitionary moments, sibling rivalries, and remember that our strength is in the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

Is Canning Cost Effective?

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2 years ago I was terrified to do canning. I thought it would be expensive, difficult, and that it would not be something I could do with 3 children under the age of 5 in tow. I managed.  But was it expensive? Is it cost effective? The answer is: no. Not conventionally, but my husband has a knack of making ANYTHING cost effective! Here are some of the ways we’ve made canning cost effective in our home:

  1. Never Buy Full Price.  First rule of all penny pinchers! We found a variety of ways to do this:
    Buy in bulk. Grocery stores are not the place to buy your produce, if you want to be cost effective. We buy ours at the produce auction, in bulk. (Last haul was $35 for 200lbs of produce, mostly peaches, nectarines, with some tomatoes, and green beans thrown in.)
    Work hard. Growing your own produce is another way to cut costs. Also, swap with friends, family, or neighbors. I cannot begin to count how many times we got free plants, or swapped produce with someone who had a prolific tomato plant. My husband has an arrangement with his Brother. Allen’s brother and his wife have 2 apple trees. They don’t want to harvest the whole lot every year. So Allen picks the apples, his brother’s wife picks out the ones she wants, and Allen brings the rest home. Didn’t cost a cent, but it did cost some work. The apples pictured are only SOME of what he brought home. I’d already made roughly 12 pints of apple butter and apple sauce.
    Shop around. Don’t just go to Wal Mart to get your canning supplies. Allen found out the Dollar General near our home was cheaper. This way we saved on gas AND canning supplies. Double win! Remember that your jars and rings are reusable. The first year might seem like quite an expense, but every year after, all you really need to buy are the lids, and those run $2-$3 for 12.
    Buy used. Allen found me two water bath canners for a song at an auction. Yes, they were used, but who cares? Its only water. Be careful though about buying used jars. Check for nicks, scratches, and imperfections in the glass, it could end up costing you in produce later, if the jar bursts in the canning bath.
  2. Skip the gadgets, doo dads, and tools. All you really need are the jars, the water bath canner,
    22240

    Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

    rack, a jar lifter, a knife/peeler and a few bowls and pots for cooking. In my experience the gadgets don’t ever work as well as you think they do, or process as fast as you think they will. They’re fun the first couple of gos, or can be good when your hands need a little bit of a break, but nothing can replace a knowledgeable person on the business end of a knife. It is faster for me to core, peel, and slice apples myself than to use this gadget. (pictured)

  3. Be humble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people up their calculation of the “cost” of canning by factoring in time spent. How much is your time worth? My time is worth whatever I want it to be worth, and it is worth it to me to have low sugar preservative free foods for my children to eat.
  4. Consider your habits. Do you only eat canned veggies? Or canned tomatoes? Those are cheap at the store, and so it might not be a better option to can them yourself, if that is all your family eats. But there is the other group of items to consider, do you eat a lot of pie filling? Canned fruit? Pickled items? Jams and Jellies? It may be more worth your while to can if your pantry is usually full of these more expensive items.
  5. Limit your expensive ingredients. It does not cost much to buy the produce, if you are careful about where, when, and how you buy/get it. But you can spend a lot on things like pectin or sugar. Try to make sugar free applesauce with apples, Don’t do a ton of Apple Butter or Pie Filling, if the cost will be prohibitive. Also, buy bottled lemon juice. It goes farther than the lemons themselves, and makes for a more stable acidity content. You know what you’re getting, and it costs less.
  6. Do big batches. It takes a LOT of energy to heat up the water bath canner. Try to manage your canning so that electric and energy is not wasted.

I’ll be honest, canning isn’t all roses and Unicorns. Some downsides of canning:

  1. You’ll have no life. It really takes up a lot of time and energy to can. I spend most of that time on the couch, peeling apples, peaches, or whatever else. Helps me not to be bored, plus it is nice time with my kids, watching their favorite Disney movies together.
  2. Your house will be a wreck. Canning is messy. It makes a lot of dishes, and you have no time to do much more than take a few minutes to swish some clorox in the toilet, tidy the house a bit, and hope nobody comes over to see you, in your sweatpants, hair slapped back in a hair tie, and covered in apple sauce.
  3. You don’t come out unscathed. Nicks, burns, and blisters, Oh My! If you are like me, you’ll sustain an injury, or eight.
  4. Your muscles will be angry… Believe it or not, canning requires massive amounts of fine motor skills, and large motor skills. You’ll have achy muscles from head to toe, despite the fact that most of your canning hours will have been spent on your bum, peeling stuff.
  5. Your house will be a myriad of smells. From fabulous (Apple Pie Filling!) To dreadful (Apple pie filling mixed with pickled jalepenos? Ew.)

Canning is mostly a lot of hard work. So the question is, is it worth the work involved? If not, then it will never be any kind of effective, cost or otherwise. It takes a lot of time and effort to peel, cook, clean dishes, etc. If you are up for all the elbow grease required, then happy canning!

Homeschooling and Dad

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Being a Mom, a homeschooling Mom, whose full time “job” is to raise, teach, and nurture my children, my husband works long hard hours to support this endeavor. This is our first ministry. Training our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

So how, considering these hours, does Dad get in on all the homeschooling fun?
Well, we have a variety of ways, during the weekends he has time to play with them, take them to work alongside him in his endeavors and hobbies (feeding the bunnies, working in the garden/backyard, going grocery shopping, worshiping in church together, doing ministry together etc.)

Despite all of these wonderful things we can do as a family on the weekend, we found that the children missed his input during the week, and by the time he came home, and other concerns took over, we neglected to communicate about our children’s needs, habits, and how he could address them.
So, we’re trying something new.

This is our new behaviors chart. With a bit of duct tape, some dowel rods, and colorful twine (all found around the house.) I used a small portion of my Thirty One home organizer that I had yet to find a use for. (My friend, Emily, is a Thirty One consultant, and this was one of my fabulous hostess perks.)
I taped the dowel rods on, labeled with each child’s name, and when that child disobeys knowingly, or is insubordinate (for instance, if I ask them to put away their toys and they say “No! I won’t!”) I tie a ribbon around the dowel rod. When the dowel rod is full (5 ribbons) Daddy will talk to them when they get home. He might pray with them, instruct them with scripture, come up with a new consequence, and follow up in the following days to be sure the behavior is improving.  Or, if their dowel rod is empty, he might take some time to reward them for that, like a solo trip to the store together, or an hour to play a board game together. Something simple.

Here is what I don’t use a ribbon for, if a child just needs correction, and then follows through immediately. Like so:
Child 1: But I want it!
Child 2: No! You may have it later!
Child 1: *takes toy*
Child 2: *Cries* Don’t steal my things! Please give it back!
Child 1: *is thinking*
Child 2: Mom! I asked her to give it back! She took it!
Me: Did you steal?
Child 1: Yes.
Me: What should you do?
Child 1: Give it back.
Me: Then do what is right.
Child 1: *Gives it back.*

I don’t tie a ribbon for this. It was solved Biblically (as per Matthew 18) and after the whole thing, the child who was offending was disciplined, and expected to apologize. We usually use a form of restitution (Give them a turn with one of your toys for awhile now, plus returning the toy in question.) to discourage stealing. In this case, when confronted, the child immediately did the right thing. Ribbons only get tied when they have to be reminded several times for the same offense, or when they refuse to correct their behavior on their own.

The reason we implemented this is because I am a forgetful Mom. I know, I’m no supermom! I need ways to remember, otherwise it gets lost in the heat of the end of the day. He walks in the door, tells me about his day, I give him the important messages (Aka: The guy called back about those tires you wanted to buy.) and when I finally do get a moment to tell him about our day it is either out of proportion and not accurate (Our day was HORRIBLE! They were naughty all day long!) or an incomplete picture (we went on a field trip. I’m whooped.) This forces me to recognize that one moment in the day does not a bad day make, and provides accountability for the children and myself.
At his suggestion, we also did something else: Posted a child friendly version of the 10 commandments and other scriptural principles that apply when dealing with other people.

Our Ten Commandments and family rules, as per Phillippians 3

Our Ten Commandments and family rules, as per Phillippians 3

Repurposing… With a Twist!

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Repurposing is quite the buzz word these days. For a couple of reasons, I think. The current state of the economy is forcing many families to do more with less. So we repurpose all sorts of things we have, but do not use for their original purposes. A bookshelf as a shoe rack. An old sewing table for an end table. An entertainment center for a kid’s play kitchen… etc. We’re learning the value of working with what we’ve had, because even in our state of need, we are still very blessed.

So today, I’m going to tell you about repurposing… with a twist.
Ready?

Repurposing Food.
Sounds like a waste, or gross, or something like that, but it can be an oh so tasty way of not allowing food to spoil in your fridge when the price of groceries is skyrocketing higher and higher and higher!

Repurposing no. 1- Taco Meat to Chili

Tacos. Yum. For tacos you might eat: Shredded Taco Pork, Chips, tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, etc. In our house, we LOVE tacos! But so we don’t get tired of them, I take all the ingredients the next day, toss them in the crock pot with a bunch of kidney beans and some tomato paste and Voila! Chili! It is delicious, uses up the rest of the ingredients, and doesn’t overplay the leftovers!
Recipe for Taco Meat Chili
Ingredients:
Taco meat (whatever you got, this is more for flavor than weight.)
1 can of tomato paste
1-2 diced fresh tomatoes (Whatever you have leftover from tacos!)
3-5 cans of kidney beans, depending on your crock pot size.
Leftover Salsa, whatever is left in the jar, 1/2 or 1/4 of the jar. The more you use, the more kick and flavor it will provide, and the less optional ingredients you will need. If you’ve got enough salsa, you won’t need/want any other ingredients.

Optional (to enhance flavor, if salsa is not plentiful):
2-4 cloves of garlic OR a good sized dash of garlic power
1 onion, diced
1/2 diced green pepper
A handful of rice,
1 cup of sweet corn
1-2 pickled jalepenos, plus juice from jar

Directions:
Put Taco meat with a little bit of water in the crock pot (don’t cover the meat with the water. Think of it as cereal and the water as milk. Use the water accordingly.)
Dump in tomatoes, Salsa, Tomato Paste, Chili beans, and Green Peppers. If you want chili with LOTS of flavor, cut up some onions and garlic cloves and add those in. For kick, use some leftover jalepeno juice from that jar of pickled jalepenos with one or two of the jalepenos. Cayenne Pepper will do in a pinch too.
Set crock pot on High, cook for 2-3 hours. Set to low, let simmer till dinnertime, for a total of roughly 6 hours. A little more or a little less isn’t a big deal. The point is to let the flavors marry. I like to add a little bit of rice or sweet corn during the last hour, just to add a few carbohydrates.

Spaghetti Sauce Pizza
Ingredients:
Leftover Bread, stale is fine. (We’ve been known to use leftover garlic bread from spaghetti dinner the night before.)
1 cup or less of Spaghetti sauce. (We use whatever we’ve got from the night before.)
Cheese (One 8 oz. pack mozzarella.)
BONUS: if you used sausage with your spaghetti and saved a little for tonight’s pizza.
Directions
Cover each slice of bread (or half a roll, or bagel, whatever you’ve got!) with a shallow covering of sauce. Sprinkle on cheese. Bake at 425 for 16 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.

This can apply in many ways, I’ve been known to use leftover beef broth from soup to make onion gravy the next day, or leftover roast chicken bones to make stock and chicken noodle soup. I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes for Shepherd’s pie. There are many ways you can “repurpose” food, you just have to think of your leftovers as ingredients, not meals.

Bon Appetit!

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

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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.”

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

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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

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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

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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!