Friday, October 30, 2009
Because we have soccer practice on Thursday nights, I have been using my crockpot on a weekly basis. We don't get home until late and it helps to have dinner already cooked when we walk in the door. Any kind of soup is an easy thing to do in the crockpot. I usually just throw in whatever ingredients I have around, but here is the recipe for what was on our menu this week:
1 lb organic ground beef, cooked
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1/2-3/4 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
6 cups organic beef broth
salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in crockpot. Let cook 2-3 hours on high. This can also be done on the stove, letting the ingredients simmer for about an hour, but the pearl barley must be pre-cooked for this method.
Every time I make this recipe it is slightly different. I have been known to replace the barley with already cooked rice that I have leftover in the refrigerator. I just add it towards the end of the cook time so it doesn't become over cooked. I also add in a varying amount of vegetables based on what I have around. I even throw in frozen vegetables if the need arises.
For this week, our soup had pearl barley, frozen vegetables, and a bit of zucchini and kale I had in the refrigerator.
Another recipe that I do in the crockpot that is NOT soup is chicken for tacos. When it's time for dinner, I just dice up the other items we like on tacos and warm the tortillas.
Crockpot Chicken Tacos
chicken (I usually throw in some frozen chicken breasts--maybe 3-4)
1/4 cup water
1 package of taco seasoning
Combine ingredients in crockpot. Cook on high for 2-3 hours. When ready, take two forks and shred meat. I have also used this for feeding a crowd. I dumped in as much chicken as my crockpot would hold, doubled the water and then dumped in a bunch of seasoning. This did require more cook time though, more like 4 hours.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
My children being the ones who make lunch did not just happen. It took work on my part during the summer. One of the biggest problem areas in our school schedule last year was that I couldn't seem to break away from school and make lunch at the same time. Imagine that...I couldn't be in two places at once! So I took a look around at the very capable hands of my children and began to train them to take this over for me in the current school year.
Each day during the summer, I set aside the time to bring a child alongside me in the kitchen to learn how to eventually do it themselves. Of course I want my children to learn kitchen skills anyway because it will benefit them into adulthood, but this is one of the avenues in which they are getting there. Each week I worked to be less and less of a participant in the meal making and eventually just stood there for advice.
Now that the school year is here, I have made up a schedule of who makes lunch on what days. It looks like this:
Monday - The Negotiator
Tuesday - Mini-Me
Wednesday - Littlest One
Thursday - The Talker
Friday - Daughter of Purpose
Obviously since DOP is only 5-years-old, I do most of the work on Fridays, but I purposely put her on Fridays since I seem to have a bit more time on those days.
I also made a large print list of lunch options that hangs on the side of my refrigerator along with who makes lunch on each day. This way the kids can do what I do when I meal plan, they can go straight to the list and pick something that is acceptable and available. It looks like this:
Top Ramen Soup
Beans with hot dogs
Pot of Oatmeal
Each of my children seems to have taken to a certain food item and I pretty much know what to expect on each day for lunch. When my parents come to visit on Mondays, they know that The Negotiator will be making Top Ramen Soup. On Tuesdays when we fly in the door from Biblestudy, I can bet my life that we will be having Mac-n-Cheese made by Mini-Me. The Talker is random, but Littlest One tends to be into making Cinnamon-Sugar Tortillas lately. Frankly it doesn't matter to me what they fix, I'm just happy to know that lunch is being made and I can have the freedom to get a few extra things done or help someone with their schoolwork. It helps there to be more of me to go around. That's a win-win for everyone!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I am going to attempt to explain to you how I make sure our family has enough to eat for 2 weeks at a time. It has a lot to do with lists. I have lots of lists on the side of my refrigerator.
First off, I have a continual list going of what we are out of or will run out of by the time I go shopping. Here is a sample portion of what is on my list right now.
The list goes on, but what I want to point out is that even though my list will be huge by the time I start my menu planning process, I do not buy everything on it. I will take a look at what NEEDS to be bought for the next two weeks and buy only those items. But I write the item down and transfer it over to the next week's list because I don't want to forget that we are out and will need it next time we want to cook with it. If I write it down, I don't have to try to remember anymore, thus freeing up more brain space. That is needed! So there are items on my continual list that will not be bought this time around because they are not a priority. For example, if I am not going to make anything with chicken broth then why buy it? Or the bleach tablets for the toilet have been on the list for a few weeks because I have deemed them unnecessary temporarily--I can scrub the toilets a bit more often--in order to afford more food items.
Throughout the week leading up to grocery shopping, I am also making notes on a separate list of things I notice that I could make for the next time around. I've already noticed that I have what it takes to make steak quesadillas because I've got some steak already cut and in the freezer. Tortillas and cheese are always in bountiful supply at our house so that is a shoe-in for next week. I also add things that I think of that I haven't made for awhile. Jotting these notes down throughout the week makes it so that I am almost done preparing for next week before I've even started. On my list for possibilites next week, I've already got down:
That's 10 of 14 days already thought out. If my brain freezes at this point, I either dig into my recipe box or pull up the file I have on my computer that has listed all of the possible things I could make. I took the time to do this one day and it has blessed me a million times over. It takes the thinking out of menu planning.
A side note of another list that is on my refrigerator is similar to what I did above for dinners. I made a list of all of the possible breakfast, lunches and snacks. Again, it takes the thinking out of "what do I make?"
So I'm ready to make my menu for 2 weeks. Where do I start? The first thing I do is take a look ahead at our calendar to see how many actual dinners I will need to make. If we're planning to eat dinner with friends or something of the sort, that is one less dinner I have to plan. I also take a look at how many nights we will be home and how many we will need to rush out the door. I try to plan more complicated dinners when we have the time, not when we're rushing out the door to Aw*na or wherever. Can't forget to double check whether I need to bring a certain food item to an event or maybe even take a meal to someone. I want to be prepared in advance for that.
Now that I know how many dinners I need to plan, I take a look around at what we have already available. That is how Pumpkin Soup and Tortilla Soup got on the menu. They are leftovers from another night that I stuck in the freezer. The frozen steak led to the Steak Quesadillas. I also try to balance our menu so that we don't have too many pastas or too may soups or too many of a certain type--like Mexican food. I look to see that I have a have a lot of corn tortillas so what can I do with those? Basically I try to make up our menu based on what is already available, not just making up a menu from scratch with obscure ingredients I will have to specialty buy. That would cost more money.
So now that I've got a list of what I can make based primarily on what already exists in my pantry then I begin to make my real grocery list. I now map out my stores and list what I truly need from each store to make sure that I have what I need to make these meals on my list. Again, asking myself to only put down the items that are needed, not just fill an empty spot on the pantry shelf.
After I've completed the list of items I need to make dinners, I make sure that I've got what I need for lunches, any baking I'll need to do, breakfast and snacks. Any other items, like tioletries will also be thought through in the same manner. Bar soap is on the list right now. Yes indeed, my husband will run out before the next cycle so that is a must buy this time, but even though I am near the bottom of it, I think I can get buy without buying laundry soap until the next cycle. Why buy it now if I don't need it now?
Do I map out exactly what we will eat on each day? No, not really. I just keep the master list of meals available to choose from. This way I have the flexiblity to choose what I want to make that day, but because of that list and the work that I've done, I don't need to start from scratch each day. I hate standing there in the kitchen and wondering what to make. Now I just consult my list and I'm off! I do have to say though that I do try to make the dinner decision the night before. That way I can pull meat out that needs to be defrosted or any other ingredient that needs prep work. It makes my job all the lighter when I think ahead.
Maybe planning out a menu for 2 weeks is a bit overwhelming to you, but it certainly can be done on a weekly basis too. To be honest, if I could get away with it, I'd shop for a whole month at a time if I could! What I hope you take away from this is that a bit of planning now will bless you later. It will save you money and you'll take less trips to the grocery store, thus saving on gas. Savings on time and money all around! I'd say that would make one wise Mama. Now you'll have more time to spend with your children and husband. I think they'll like that. :)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
We do our best to eat food as close to the way God made it. In today's society, I guess you'd call that organic. We have not always eaten this way, but about a year ago, we began the process of ridding ourselves of processed foods, dairy with hormones and produce with pesticides. It's a long story how we arrived in that place, but it was something that was a long time coming for our family. I knew it was what was right for our family, but I felt overwhelmed at the task because of the size of our family. Knowing that organic foods are more expensive, I didn't know how to do it on our budget. So for a long time I didn't do anything about it because I didn't know where to start. Ever felt like that?
Let me just say this, changing our eating habits has been a process and I had to stop using our family size as an excuse and to instead see it as a challenge to be conquered. I have had to figure out where to cut back in some areas in order to compensate for the slight increase in food costs. For example, in order to afford raw milk we've had to decrease the amount we consume. We've learned how to eat less meals with meat in order compensate for the higher priced meat when we do have it. We buy very few pre-packaged snacks, which tend to be higher priced for convenience, instead I make things for my kids to eat for snacks or they grab a piece of fruit or vegetable.
We've had to change some of our habits to include making a run to the Farmer's Market every Saturday. I personally have had to create more time in my schedule to make things for my family to eat--either to be there when they want it for breakfast/snacks or the increase in time it takes to prepare a meal.
None of this has been without its challenges and we still have not completely arrived. As you can see from our menu that a quick Top Ramen soup has not quite left us yet. Nor have hot dogs. I haven't taken the time to find a replacement for Top Ramen, but in time it will disappear. The hot dogs have just been replaced with a better option, but I still desire for it to eventually disappear also. Other things were easier to replace as they needed to be replenished, like bleached white flour has now been replaced with whole wheat flour. Some things have been replaced as I have learned new things. Instead of oil, I use applesauce or plain yogurt in my baking or instead of sugar I use honey in my baking. Simple little things, but over time it has brought the changes we desire.
As I stated above, this has been a year long process so think about the ages of my children when this began...9,8,7, 6 and 4. Some people like my friend, Dorina, have had the blessing of being able to feed their children this way since the beginning and their children know no different (although Dorina herself was not raised this way so she's had to take this journey too). Take a look at my children's ages again...yep, they know the difference and it hasn't been easy. They know what McD*nald's tastes like. They know what Cheet*s taste like. They know what Kr*ft Mac-a-Roni and Cheese tastes like! The one who knows what he's missing the most is The Driver. He's got over 30 years of tastes to change. HE has definately been my biggest challenge, but he has also come a long way. He still misses his midnight snack of Hot P*ckets and Cool Ranch D*oritos and can't help but dip into those every once in awhile, but he is now my biggest supporter.
Let me encourage you with this, according to the USDA, (Thanks, Kendra!)our family should be spending $934.50 per month on groceries, and that’s on the thrifty (lowest possible bracket) plan. What I actually spend on eating organically for our family is about $540 per month. Even if I'm generous in what I buy and come out to $600--I'm still well under what the USDA says the average family our size should be spending. I'm not saying all of this to do anything other than to encourage you that it IS possible to eat organically with a large family if you're willing to put in a little work.
So what the heck does all that have to do with a simple Stroganoff recipe?! It was to give you a little background on why I make as much of our food from scratch that I can. Yes, it's much easier to dump a can in and call it good, but doing it from scratch is healthier and it saves us money when I make it myself. As you can see from a snippet into our schedule, to eat healthy you don't have to be elaborate. I've had to learn how to convert our "old standards" over to a healthier version. Grilled Cheese sandwhiches are still on the menu, alongside burritos, tacos and Chili Boats, but now it's just with homemade chili or homemade refried beans. It's all possible, it just takes time and a choice. So on to Stroganoff!
This is no special recipe, just what I've come up with for our family to replace the canned version. It started with a basic white sauce. I've never written it out before so we'll see how I do.
1 lb organic hamburger
1/2-1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small onion, diced
butter for sautéing
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup raw milk
Sauté mushrooms and onion until transparent. Set aside in a bowl for later use. Brown hamburger in a skillet and set aside for later use, but keep it in the skillet.
Make a basic white sauce by melting 2 TBsp of butter in small saucepan. Stir in flour. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly. Once sauce is thickened, add mushrooms & onions. Also add in salt & pepper. Stir until combined over low heat. Pour this sauce over the cooked hamburger that is in skillet. Warm on medium-low heat. While it is warming up, add sour cream to mixture. Heat until warmed through. Serve over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Last night I baked a few things for easy, portable breakfasts. In reality I typically do this every Saturday night because I am not a morning person. Baking these types of things allows my kids to get up and feed themselves breakfast independently. A little work Saturday night blesses me all week long.
One other thing I've done today is something I do almost every week. I soaked about 5 cups of pinto beans last night. This morning I rinsed them, put them in the crockpot (I have a very large one), added water up to the top (chicken broth is good too), a sliced up onion, some garlic, salt, and diced green chilies. This makes a huge pot of beans that we will use all week long. Typically, I freeze half and use the rest for the current week.
I took a look in my pantry and here is what I came up with for the week:
Banana Bread w/ Chocolate Chips
They also have these things available to them for breakfast (most of these are at the end of their boxes, but I'm hoping there will be enough to get them through the week!):
Tr*der Joe's Os Cereal
TJ Cereal Bars
Nature's Path Organic Fruit Toasters
They will have these things available for lunch (fruit alongside it for as long as it lasts!):
Annie's Organic Mac-n-Cheese
Top Ramen Soup (plus frozen vegetables & eggs)
Beans (from the crockpot) with hot dogs
Sandwiches (Peanut Butter, Banana & Honey or Egg Salad)
Dinners until Nov 1:
Sunday, October 25
Burritos (with beans cooked in crockpot)
Monday, October 26 (Field trip day)
Lunch on this particular day will be sandwiches, chips and fruit.
Not sure when we will return so we may scrape up enough to go to In-n-Out Burger for dinner, but if not I will probably throw together one of our lunch options together in a hurry.
Tuesday, October 27 (Take one child to choir)
Hamburger Stroganoff served over Kasha (a grain we grew to love while in Russia)
(I make my stroganoff from scratch because the MSG in canned Cream o' Mushroom soup gives me headaches)
Wednesday, October 28 (AW*NA night)
Scrambled Eggs w/ Tortillas, Cheese & Olives Skillet
Thursday, October 29 (Soccer practice so something that can cook in the crockpot)
Whole Wheat French Bread
Friday, October 30 (Life Group at our home)
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Saturday, October 31 (Pumpkin Patch Carnival at church)
Beans & Rice (We try to have this once/week to stop & meditate on what others around the world eat daily.)
Fruit (if there is any left at this point)
I tried to link the recipes for these items that I could. If you want the recipe for any of these items, please comment and I will try to post it later this week. I also will have to do some further thinking about what to serve on that last night, November 1st. I'll get back to you on that one...
Also later this week I will write out the snacks we conjured up, how I menu plan and grocery shop for two weeks at a time, how I stretch what we eat, and how our lunch system works. Got go make some of the beans from the pot into refried beans for our burritos for dinner!
Friday, October 23, 2009
With that in mind, we both will be purchasing milk this weekend. Other than that, not a thing will be purchased. I will keep you posted this next week as to what we scrounge up to eat each day. I hope you will join our challenge because what Mama doesn't need to save money and learn how to be a wise steward of what God has given to her?
For the record, I have not been in a grocery store since Sunday, October 18, 2009.
While my kids were playing Flashlight Tag outside, Daughter of Purpose came inside. She said she doesn't like that game. The dark got in her way.
While eating lunch one day, The Talker said, "It's my apple's birthday today so as a gift I am not going to eat him." Very creative excuse.
Just last night Daughter of Purpose says to The Driver, "Dad you should marry mommy. But you have to marry in the closet because it's disgusting cause you keep licking each other."
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Honestly, it hasn't been the whole day that was rough. It was just this one moment when a particular child that has mastered how to push my buttons--pushed the right one to make me blow my top. I did the right thing, placing this child in their room while I took a "mommy time-out" until I got my head back on straight. However, I still spent the next few hours kicking myself for letting this child get to me.
It was during these few hours that the Lord began to give me some insight into how my relationship with this child parallels my relationship with Him. I have a love-hate relationship with these insights. They are painful, but yet healing. He gently rewound my day for me, back to where I was patiently doing a Bible devotion with my children early this morning. Interestingly enough the topic was on Ephesians 2. He reminded me in the first few verses that I was not so perfect myself (like I needed help with that one), but this is the part that stood out to me:
"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved."
He went on to remind me in verse 8 that the grace given to me was not by anything I had done to earn it, but instead that grace is a GIFT. It was given freely.
Through Ephesians 1:8 and Romans 5:8, He reminded me that He LAVISHED this grace and mercy on me WHILE I WAS STILL (still am) A SINNER--not when I got it all right.
"Lord," I thought, "I get so frustrated that I've failed again. I am mad at myself for letting this child make me so angry. I want to do right, but why can't I? Why can't I master this? Why can't I seem to offer her what she needs instead of my knee-jerk reaction?"
That's when He replied to me, "Let me give you a look into how I see this child that is so tough for you. All she really wants is a Mama who loves her and offers her grace & mercy when she hasn't measured up. Just like you, she knows the right thing to do, but yet sometimes can't seem to do what she knows she should do."
OUCH! I'm not sure He could've made that anymore painful. I got His message loud and clear. So I dusted off and tried again. I accepted His forgiveness and relished in the bath of mercy and grace that I so desperately needed. I then went to my Daughter of Purpose and offered her the same that He offered me--love, grace and mercy. As much as I hate the moments when I fail, I have to say that those moments of reconciliation are sweet.
Thank you Lord, for using my children to teach me--even when it hurts.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
As my own words echoed in my head, it got me thinking about the memories that have been created that are worth repeating with my husband. What instantly comes to mind is the Christmas that our family didn't have much money for Christmas so The Driver and I decided to not exchange gifts with one another. The decision was made so I checked him off my gift list and moved on to the next gift. Do you know what the stinker did? He showed me up in a huge way! I had absolutely nothing for him and he took the time to write me a long love note. He took the Proverbs 31 passage of scripture, going line by line and wrote of why he believes me to be a Proverbs 31 woman. Can you believe that? I was a mess when I read that and I treasure it as on of my greatest gifts. Again, money is not needed to create memories.
We used to be good about going out on a date every week, but that got costly between dinner and a babysitter so we had to get creative. Most Wednesday nights after we've gotten home from AW*NA and the kids are tucked in bed, The Driver and I have dinner together. Yes, it's a bit late to be eating dinner, but it's a chance for us to eat in peace and enjoy each other's company. Sometimes we heat up the leftovers of the kids dinner or sometimes we splurge and The Driver picks up some fast food as a treat for us to enjoy. Of course I'm usually starving by the time we get the chance to eat together, but it's so worth it! Just now as I was typing this, I took some proactive measures since it's Wednesday and ate a bowl of cereal. By something as simple as eating a bit later, we've created a memory that we both look forward to repeating week after week.
I would be remiss if I did not mention one other thing. You can also create free memories worth repeating with your husband by having sex with him on a regular basis and seeking ways to spice it up while you're at it. I hope that just the act of having it is not creating a memory because it's so infrequent for you. What I'm saying, Mama, is to get your booty busy with your Man and make sure he remembers why you are His Woman! Initiate it, come with a good attitude, light some candles, play some music, come up with a new idea or wear a new outfit. Whatever you've gotta do to create memories--do it! Remembering that this memory creating opportunity is free ought to keep a smile on your face! I will tell you that from my experience that those times I have put an effort into the times with my Man--he remembers, oh yes, he remembers!
I want to clarify, I am not perfect in this area. The Driver and I have had many a discussion about how I have this ability to set my mind on learning a new skill and then read about it, research it, talk about it, seek advice on it, work on it and then, "WA-LA!" I've taught myself a new skill. He often wants to know why I can't seem to put that much effort into increasing my knowledge and skills into what he likes to do--play in the bedroom! So you see, we don't have it all worked out perfectly, but we do continue to press on and work at creating memories worth repeating whether it's in his realm of impressionable memories or mine. What matters is that we keep trying.
I could list off a few more specific memories, but the thing that strikes me the most in relation to creating memories worth repeating with my spouse is that the greatest gift I can give my children is a good marriage with their dad. It's all interwined. I create memories with my husband and in turn it blesses my children. Some memories happen by chance, but it takes a deliberate effort on my part (and The Driver) to create opportunities for those memories to happen. Dear Mama, make sure that you are going beyond just creating memories with your children. Make the effort to create them with your Man too.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
One of the things that I have had to figure out by trial and error is how to help my children manage their screen time. If it was up to them, I'm pretty sure they would live like the people in the movie "W*ll-E", continually staring at a screen. I'd like to have a face-to-face relationship with my children so I've tried things from jars filled with marbles to symbolize each time they are in front of a screen, a sticker chart, to a ticket system, to giving them a set amount of time each day. I recently read of a mom that pays her children $7 at the beginning of each week. Each dollar represents an amount of time that is paid to mom for screen time. If they manage to not use all of their dollars, they can keep the dollars at the end of the week. I don't know about you, but I don't have a money tree growing in my backyard. I don't have $35 dollars per week to dish out.
I've learned that with five children to manage, I will loose my marbles trying to help them keep track of making sure they move their marbles to the appropriate jar. I've also learned that if the computer or TV is on, then they all participate. So while one child does the computer or watches TV--so do 4 others. So if each of my children gets 1/2 hour of computer use per day then they really get 2 1/2 hours. I didn't like this idea. I also didn't like the fits that were to be had when the timer went off, signaling it was the next person's turn. Inevitably, someone always took longer than they were supposed to and computer use ended up sucking more time from our day than it was intended to. Anyone else ever get tired of feeling like their life revolves around when TV shows begin and end? Screens were controlling our life and I was going crazy try to manage it all.
I now have a system in place in our home that works well for us--with 5 children. It's really quite simple and I wish I'd figured it out much sooner. It dawned on me that I have 5 children and there are 5 week days. Hmm...maybe I was on to something. I decided to assign a child to each day. They know they can only do screen time before school in the morning and after their school work is done each day. So that basic rule laid out, they each get a day to pick what we watch, do the computer or even sneak in a bit of DS time. It doesn't matter to me which one they choose or if it's a combo of the above. As long as it is their day and it stays within the perameters. This is how simple it is:
Monday - Littlest One
Tuesday - The Negotiator
Wednesday - Daughter of Purpose
Thursday - The Talker
Friday - Mini-Me
Now all I have to do is remember whose day it is and the rest is set in motion. They really are pretty self-monitoring with this simple system. No one seems to have a problem because they know what to expect and when. They know their day will come. I am happy because I feel like the screen time they get each day is managable and I am not losing my marbles trying to keep on top of it all.
Clarification: TV is the only choice before school. After they have completed their school work, there is about 1 hour- 1 1/2 hours that they can control what screen they use. Usually at about 1 hour, I begin encouraging them to turn it off and go outside to play until chore time at 5:00 pm.
Monday, October 19, 2009
The Navigator did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in her faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.
That is the prayer of my heart.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Making pies with Mo and sharing the results.
We spent the larger part of our day exploring a local pumpkin patch. Running through the corn maze, hiking up to the train ride, the kids riding in the animal car of the train, playing in the playhouse, going down the slide, swinging in the giant swing, looking for frogs, taking lots of pictures and of course, picking out a pumpkin. The fun didn't stop there. We all went back to our home to cook and bake up some fall themed food. Pumpkin Soup, Chicken with Apples, and Apple Cupcakes with Marshmallow Topping. You can find those recipes here. We certainly could've done those things on our own, but when we do them with friends it just adds more of a "remembering factor." I'm pretty sure my kids won't forget yesterday, nor will I.
As I've been reflecting back on yesterday, it got me thinking about those things we've done with friends that have now become "tradition" because they were memories worth repeating. Take the pie making time with my friend, Mo. It started out innocently enough. I cannot make a pie to save my life so I asked her if she would educate Mini-Me on how to make a pie. Well of course all of the kids wanted in on it since they all got to make their own personal pie and now they merely hear the word "pie" about this time of year and you can bet what comes to their mind...pie making with Mo!! They won't let this season slip by without getting in their "pie time" with Mo. Don't worry...they made sure I got this one on the calendar early.
Another one that comes to mind started with the same family, but a different motivation. Last Christmas when neither of our families had money to exchange gifts, Mo came up with idea of doing something together in the midst of a busy holiday season instead. So we bundled up and walked up and down the streets of a nearby place where all of the houses are lit up. When we were done, we came back to our home, served up some hot chocolate and let the kids each decorate their own Christmas cookies. They had a blast! Another memory that the kids have asked to repeat.
Money or not, memories worth repeating can easily be created. What strikes me about these types of things is that when my kids think of certain seasons of the year and the memories that come with it, they don't remember the toys they got (or didn't get). What they remember is the joy of doing something of value with people they love. Perfect.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Lord, I ask that my children would be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God's mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The way I see it, teaching gratefulness cannot be done without teaching compassion at the same time. They go hand in hand. I am always on the look-out for opportunities for our family to show compassion which leads to gratefulness in my children—well actually all of us. My children need to know what they have to be grateful for by seeing and experiencing that there are people less fortunate than they are. The Driver and I need to be reminded as well.
One year as we were in the process of adopting my daughter from Eastern Europe, we collected packages of underwear for the Ukrainian orphans because clean, new underwear for each day is something we so easily take for granted.
This past summer we traveled to the country of Haiti helping to get an orphanage off the ground. We went from having book knowledge about the statistics of Haiti to making it a regular part of our life to eat beans & rice for one meal each week—meditating on what it would be like to have one meal per day that is only beans and rice. We were impacted by Haiti in many ways, but one of the ways that seemed to remain on our minds the most was how many people do not have something as simple as a pair of shoes, yet they walk for miles. In contrast, we have shoes overflowing in our home and drive everywhere. Witnessing life in Haiti has caused us to be grateful for the food, clothes, the home we live in, paved streets, the car we drive, but especially for the shoes on our feet. We came home and began collecting new and gently-worn shoes from our friends and family to ship back to our friends in Haiti. In a few weeks time, we collected 475 pairs of shoes.
It is evidence to me that gratefulness is in the hearts of my children when I see them give up their Nintendo DS savings for the orphans in Haiti, give up a pair of their own shoes right off of their own feet for someone who needs a pair, put on a Hot Chocolate or Lemonade Stand on the street seeking to raise money for an orphan, or to willingly (and with excitement) dump out their piggy banks so they can contribute all they have to a fundraiser to bring another orphan home. They understand that to even have a family is something to be grateful for.
As you can see, our family has a heart for the orphan and especially those in other countries. But what about the people right here in our own community? Aren't there people right under our own noses that need to be shown compassion? The answer is yes. We learned that in an up close and personal way this past year. Some of my children's own friends were in need right before our eyes. We had taken them many places with us and I started to pick up from their conversation that they were not being fed before we picked them up nor after they got home at night. The lack of having food was becoming a common theme--it was happening more often than not. So my kids and I talked about what to do about it. We decided that picking their friends up early and making sure they ate a good meal with us was a priority and a subtle way to meet their needs without offending or embarrassing their parents.
To be honest, that was tough to see poverty in such a real way, but I realized in this particular situation, my attitude and my actions were pivitol. This was a teachable moment. How my children respond to someone in need will play out in the way they see me do it. Even something as simple as a new Mama needing a meal after she brings her baby home or someone who recently had surgery and is bed bound. Will I see the need and will I fill it? With what attitude will I fill the need? Will I do it by grumbling and banging my pots around as I make the meal or complaining about the extra drive or will I do it with humbleness and compassion? Believe me, I've done it the right way and the wrong way.
I recognize that we have an international heart, but The Driver and I have been talking more and more about ways to teach our children compassion and gratefulness throughout the year in our own community. What about serving the homeless at a soup kitchen or even more specifically how can we help the homeless Mama with her children? What about the low income neighborhoods? What about those friends we know that need some food? We certainly never want our children to think that only people in other countries are in need. So we must find a way to teach that compassion belongs right here in our own neighborhood and even in our own home.
By looking for ways to show compassion to those who are less fortunate than us, we have learned to be grateful for what we have. I can talk about gratefulness until I am blue in the face, but my children will not be grateful until they see what they have to be grateful for by working alongside those less fortunate or working on their behalf.
Lord, give me eyes to see those who are in need and the creativity to find a way for our family to make a difference. Let my children open their arms to the poor and extend their hands to the needy because of the compassion they have for others. May they always be able to see what they have to be grateful for.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In Habakkuk 3:17-19, the prophet prayed a hymn of faith. He structured his prayer in this manner: declaring that even though something may not go well, he will still trust in the Lord. He had an attitude of trust and confidence in God even though his world was falling apart. It seemed simple enough so we decided to create our own modern-day prayers of faith.
We actually went kind of crazy with this one so here is just a snippet of what we came up with:
Daughter of Purpose, "Though my legs will not do what I want them to, yet I will still rejoice in the Lord."
The Talker, "Though reading is really hard for me, I will trust that God is in control and yet I will still praise Him."
The Negotiator, "Though I can't seem to get my spelling words right, yet I will still praise the Lord."
Mini-Me, "Although I miss my friends, I will still rejoice in the Lord each day."
Littlest One, "Even though I can't color real good, I will still praise Him."
The Navigator, "Even though I do not understand why this season persists, I am weak and tired from clinging to you with faith, yet I will get up each day and continue to cling because you are on your Throne and worthy of praise."
I also posted this on Facebook and here are the prayers of some friends:
"Even though my kids are driving me crazy and I really need a nap, I will trust in the Lord for patience and strength."
"Even though this world sometimes overwhelms me with sadness I know that God is sovereign and good and I will still praise him."
"Though I am surrounded by conflict and feel aggravated by my circumstances, yet I will still rejoice in the Lord, for His favor extends for a lifetime."
I was grateful these prayers were my mindset today, as The Driver sent an e-mail to me today letting me know how little he is eligible for in terms of grants as he returns to school next semester. I was disappointed, but this is how I responded back to The Driver:
"We hoped for a larger grant, yet we will trust that He is in control and praise Him with our every breath."
I hope these personal prayers of faith have encouraged you. It's really a simple exercise, but so worthy of your time. I encourage you to come up with your own. I'd love to hear them. What is your personal prayer of faith?
(This concept and some quotes were taken from "The Mystery of History V*lume I")