Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nothing New

This song won the Grammy for song of the year this year.

I love the line in the beginning that says, "Now in the morning I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own."

What a visual that is.

It's a visual we can all grab hold of in these uncertain times. Most of us know people who have lost their possessions, lifestyle and livelihood in this crumbling economy.

Every time I hear this song, I think of this verse:

"You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house." (Haggai 1:9)

There is nothing new under the sun, indeed.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Soaking It In

"Sooo," my agent asked me yesterday on the phone. "What do you think?"

He was referring to our book, to the reality of actually holding it in our hands after the long wait.

"It's very cool," I told him. Then I went on to describe how my 14.5 (the .5 is mucho important) yo daughter came in and saw me reading it. She shook her head and asked me: "Mom, why are your reading your own book?"

I explained to her about memory loss and aging. She gave me a blank look and left the room.

My agent didn't think it was silly that I was reading my own book. "It's kind of like holding your baby after it's born. You've got to check all the little fingernails and toenails, the little creases in the neck. You've just got to soak it in after the long wait."

I thought that was a very eloquent way to put it. So, that's what I am doing these days-- soaking it in. Enjoying the satisfaction of holding the book that I put time and effort into. Imagining the people who might read it, hoping to find the answers they are looking for in these uncertain times. Praying they find the courage to make the changes, stick to the commitment, and enjoy the blessings of living financially free.

(To learn more about the book, go to this link.)
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Great Resource For Observing Lent As A Family

Today is Fat Tuesday, which means Ash Wednesday is tomorrow. Will you observe the Lenten season in your house? For most of us the word "Lent" means giving up something. But it also means a time of preparing our hearts for observing the significance of Easter. How can we do this in a way that involves our whole family? I am happy to alert you to a FREE resource that CurrClick is offering this week that will help you do just that. I just downloaded my free copy of Miiko Gibson's ebook Lent Activities For The Family and I am very impressed. To get your free download just in time to begin tomorrow, go to this link and click on the blue "free download" button. But hurry, because this is a limited time offer!
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Home Again

Just to let you know, I am back from my weekend trip.

Still fighting that cold I was fighting-- not being incapacitated by it, but also not feeling normal.

My time with the ladies of Highland Baptist in Raleigh, NC was great. Some really cool things happened there and I was blessed to know God allowed me to be a part of it. On Friday night, I had some great time with my friend eating dinner at The Chop House Restaurant and talking for hours, catching up on each other's lives. She is in the throes of life with three young children; I was in her shoes ten years ago and tried to remember what that was like. My friend also snuck away from her home demands and came to see me speak, which was such a blessing for me to have her there.

All in all it was a great trip and I am so glad I went.

Now I am home resting up and preparing to leave again for PA on Friday. In the meantime, I am glad for time with my kids and am so happy to hunker down in this place called home.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

A Prayer For Your Family

Welcome to all of you who stop by after reading today's devotion about the whitening process. I am leaving today to share with a group of ladies at a brunch in Raleigh, NC. I plan to stop and visit my oldest friend in the world this evening (we met the first day of Kindergarten!), then on to the event tomorrow. Your prayers are appreciated! I have had a cold so I would especially appreciate prayers for my voice! You guys are always so faithful to pray and I appreciate it more than you know.

While you are here, be sure to scroll down and visit some of my other entries this week. I posted a fascinating interview with a busy wife, mom, homeschooler and author, Cara Putman. She inspired me and I know she'll inspire you!

Finally, I found this and thought it is a nice print to download, print off and post on your refrigerator. For homeschoolers, it would be a great prayer to include in Circle Time. For busy women on the run, it would be a great print to post on your bathroom mirror and pray as you get ready in the mornings.

(I am not sure I would keep the praying woman image, but she is easily cut out!)

Enjoy! Happy weekend!
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Circle Time

What is it?

Should I do it?

Are my kids the right ages to do it?

These are the questions I had when I received a review copy of Circle Time: Plan The Best Part Of The Day. As I scanned the list of topics the book covered, I found that all of these questions-- and more-- are answered in this new ebook offering by Kendra Fletcher, mom of 8 and homeschooling guru who makes her home on the web over at

This succinct little book offers ideas, forms and resources for implementing a circle time in your home. You will be inspired to start your day with your children intentionally-- finally tackling those various things you want to do "someday." Things like memory verses, flashcards, art appreciation, learning old hymns, etc. Using Kendra's "Circle Time Wish List," you will learn how to tailor your family's circle time to fit your unique needs. After reading the book, I realized I have been doing something like Circle Time for awhile with my kids. But Kendra inspired me to take things up a notch and designate the time more consistently. I love her idea of creating a "Circle Time Binder" and plan to work on that in the near future.

Want to order your own copy? Just click on this link. Since it's an ebook it will come right to your inbox-- no waiting and no paying shipping! Thanks Kendra for creating such a valuable resource for homeschool moms!
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do The Next Thing

When I was a new mom, I often felt overwhelmed by my circumstances. The crying, the whining, the mess. I would look around at it all and just want to sit down and have a good cry. At some point during all this, I heard Elizabeth Elliot speak on the concept of "do the next thing." She talked about how, after her husband Jim died, she would have been overcome if not for this simple concept. When her emotions would start to run away with her she would simply ask herself what the next thing she needed to do was. And then she would do it. And then she would do the next thing, and the next, and the next. And all those little "next things" made up her days.

I adopted this principle and began to whisper to myself, "Just do the next thing." Sometimes the next thing was change a diaper, or start dinner, or return a phone call. Even now I move through my day doing the next thing. Sometimes my next thing is to school the children. Sometimes it's to tidy the house. Sometimes it's to sit down and hammer out an article I have due. Whatever it is, I focus on that one task until it's done. And then I ask myself what's to be done next.

I always knew I learned this concept from a godly woman, but I never thought about this concept being from God. My reading in My Utmost For His Highest has helped me see that it is indeed a spiritual truth that God wants us to learn. Consider these two quotes:

"We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power... and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him."

"When the Spirit of God comes, He does not give us visions, He tells us to do the most ordinary things conceivable... whenever God comes, the inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things-- the things we would never have imagined God was in, and as we do them we find He is there."

Chambers referenced the scene with Elijah where he is running from King Ahab. He is hungry and tired and very depressed. In that scene God sends an angel to him who says simply, "Arise and eat." (I Kings 19:5) What was Elijah's "next thing" he needed to do? Get up and eat something! Sometimes just moving forward in the most basic way is all God needs from us. With our obedience comes the solution we are seeking.

I hope this thought helps someone out there who is feeling overwhelmed and even depressed. What "next thing" is God asking you to do? Get up, do whatever it is, and find Him there.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Interview With Cara Putman

One of my favorite writer blogs to keep up with is Cara Putman's blog. This homeschooling mom of three, part time law lecturer at a university, and novelist is quite a dynamo. I was curious as to whether she had any advice for those of us who struggle to find a balance. She was kind enough to do an interview here for us. I hope you enjoy learning from her. She has inspired me for sure!

Cara, thanks for joining us today. Please tell us a little about yourself:

First, thanks so much for having me, Marybeth. I was so honored when you asked.

I’ve been married for 13 years to a wonderful man. Eric, a boy from Indiana, and I, a girl from Nebraska, met in Colorado when we were 18 and 16. I’ve always said only God could pull off something like that. We were pen pals and long distance phone call buddies for four years. Then we both graduated from college in 1994 and found ourselves in the same corner of the country. We started courting and five months later were engaged.
Eric is an incredibly patient man to be married to someone like me. He says I’m the speedboat zipping around his ocean liner. It’s a great description. I race through life, from project to project, and absolutely nothing fazes him.
We have three children with one in heaven. Abigail is eight and in third grade; she’s our gymnast. Jonathan is five and in first grade; he’s our Lego king. And Rebecca is nine months and our delight. I’ve homeschooled since Abigail was 4 and ready mentally for Kindergarten, but not ready age-wise. Since I was homeschooled, it was very natural to step into homeschooling our children.
I’m an attorney who lectures in business law at a Big Ten University. I also write books, am active in our church and American Christian Fiction Writers. I have a hard time saying no because I love to help others, but have learned with homeschooling that I need to set some boundaries – I’m not great at it, but trying to be more intentional.

How did you get started as a writer?

I’ve always loved to read and actually started two novels as a young teen. My mom let me call them English. While my daddy assures me they are on one of the computers in the basement, I hope they don’t find the light of day. Then I started college, got married, started a career and went to law school. The dream of writing didn’t die, but got shelved. Then Abigail was born and we moved to Indiana. It was starting from scratch for me, and I began to check out books on writing mysteries from the library. Then I started working at a local firm and had our son. The dream got shelved again until April 2005 when I insisted on going to a booksigning at our local Christian bookstore, Carpenter’s Son. I didn’t know then why I was so determined, but there I met Colleen Coble. For reasons unknown to me, she took me under her wing.
That fall I attended my first ACFW conference. I had a partial suspense manuscript and tried to soak in everything I could. I left the conference with three invitations to submit to editors. I followed up on those, and received my first contract at the ACFW conference in 2006. That book, Canteen Dreams, was my first printed and the ACFW 2008 Book of the Year in Short Historical.

How did you get started homeschooling?

It honestly started when my four and a half year old had started reading, knew her alphabet, basic math, etc. I knew if we held her back until she was technically old enough, kindergarten would bore her. And I wanted to walk her through those early steps. I was working three days a week, so it worked well to homeschool her on the other days. Then she hit first grade the next fall, and I knew I had to decide whether to homeschool or keep working. After finally listening to God, I decided to step back from the active practice of law. At the same time, I’d started teaching a course here and there, and then received my first contract.
Jonathan was even more ready for school and raced through Kindergarten in 3 months. We’re now doing first grade. I love watching my children learn. And know God teaches me so much as I interact with them. Just last night Abigail and I had a long conversation based in part on homeschooling. She knows I’m not perfect, but she still wants to be homeschooled. Each year we reevaluate, make sure it’s what we are still supposed to do. But the tentative plan is to homeschool them until they are 16 and then integrate them into a community college or university, much like I did.

How do you juggle the calling to homeschool with the calling to write?

I don’t get a lot of sleep. Seriously, my prime writing time begins after 8:30 when the kids are in bed. When I’m under deadline, that means I have to write until midnight or later. I treat writing like a job and focus on word count. I track it in a spreadsheet, so I can track whether I am being faithful to do what God has placed before me.
I still need to get better at juggling it all. Find that right balance. But this system has worked for the last two years.

When do you find time to write?

Very carefully. It’s usually late at night and I guard that time jealously.

Do you have any outside help?

Not consistently. Hence the late hours. However, I’ve had friends and a wonderful mother-in-love that help when I’m in desperate need of time during the day to write. I’ve also used a mother’s helper one summer – even a couple hours at a time during the afternoon once or twice a week was a gift when I was under multiple deadlines. And I’ve learned to ask for help before I’m under the gun.

If you could name one thing you do to keep yourself balanced, what would it be?

Hop on the treadmill with a good book. I love to read, and I need the stress relief of exercise. Both help me cope.

What advice would you give a homeschooling mom who has a dream she wants to pursue, yet still wants to homeschool?

Ask God if the dream is from Him and if the timing is right. If it’s from Him, but He says wait, then focus on the other things He’s put in front of you. But if He’s said wait, then start doing little things to prepare. Study the area. Take classes if you need to. Prepare. Because when He says now, you may find yourself running to keep up with Him!

That's excellent advice to leave us with, Cara. Thanks for stopping by. You all make sure to stop by her blog and thank her for sharing with us today, ya hear?
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Monday, February 16, 2009

For Love Of The Crock-Pot

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know about my love for the Crock-pot. In fact, I love it so much, I have gone through three just this year! How does the saying go? You always hurt the ones you love? Yep! That's true in this case.

Anyway, I got this article from one of my eloops and thought I would share it with you, as it summarizes the many benefits of Crock-pot cooking. If you have one but don't use it, I urge you to get it out, dust it off (even better, wash it off) and put it to work for you. Armed with a few good recipes, your Crock-pot can be your best friend in the kitchen. There is nearly nothing so satisfying as getting to about 4:00 in the afternoon and knowing that dinner is already taken care of.

If you need some good Crock-pot recipes to get you going, check out A Year Of Crockpotting. This blogger vowed to use her Crock-pot every day in 2008, and she documented all the things she did. She even has the recipes archived in the sidebar according to chicken, beef, etc.

My Crock-Pot: Mean, green, $30 recession-fighting machine
By Jeff Yeager

What if I told you that I have a special Recession-Fighting Machine and that it cost me less than $30? In fact, you can probably find one at a local thrift store for a lot less than that, or the odds are pretty good that you may already have one hidden away in your kitchen cupboard. If the status-appliance of the last decade was a $10,000 Viking gas range, then the good old-fashioned Crock-Pot - AKA "slow cooker" - is the kitchen appliance du jour for today's tight economy.
My mom still has - and recently drafted back into active duty - the avocado green one with the funky paisley designs that I fondly remember her serving up a myriad of lentil concoctions from in the 1970s.

I guess those were relatively lean times too, at least for our family, but I'd be hard-pressed to name a time in my life when I was any happier. Maybe I'm just waxing nostalgic, but that Crock-Pot is no small part of the slow-cooked memories from that simpler time in my life that I still cherish to this day.

Save Energy Crock-Pots, particularly today's models, are energy-sippers compared to most other cooking methods like a traditional oven, stove-top, or toaster oven. Slow cookers use just 100 watts of electricity, which means that if you use it once a week for eight hours at a time, it'll only cost you about TWENTY CENTS a month in electricity!

Save on Groceries Slow-cooking is the key to transforming inexpensive, sometimes tough cuts of meat into tender, fall-off-the-fork morsels. Chances are that the least expensive cuts of meat in your butcher's case are perfect for the Crock-Pot. And of course Crock-Pots are perfect for cooking beans and other legumes, among the healthiest and least expensive foods you can eat. Check out the 1,400 slow cooker recipes at

Save Time Slow-cooking is even faster than fast food! Most Crock-Pot recipes involve only a few minutes of prep time - maybe chopping up a few veggies, stirring together some basic ingredients, and then turning on the slow cooker and forgetting about it. Forgetting about it, that is,until you return home after a hard day's work and you're greeted by that heavenly aroma of a home-cooked meal ready for the table.

Save on Dining Out While you can cook smaller portions in a Crock-Pot, most of today's models hold anywhere from four to eight quarts. Cook a full pot, and even for a large family you're likely to have more than one meal's worth of a dish. Freeze the leftovers or serve them again later in the week, or package them in small containers for lunches.

Save Your Health Because very few Crock-Pot recipes call for adding extra oil or using grease, most slow cooking dishes are relatively low in fat. Professional health writers Chet and Josh Day share some particularly healthy - and delectable - slow-cooking recipes.

Save Your Sanity There's no denying that these are stressful economic times for most Americans. Rarely has comfort food been so essential. We may not be able to afford the kind of luxuries you buy with money, but maybe we afford something even more valuable: The luxury of slowing down and enjoying a delicious slow-cooked meal with family and friends.

As my mom always says, "The only thing more important than what's on the table is who's sitting around it."
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Break From Tradition

Yesterday was a great Valentine's Day for us. And folks, that is rare. You see, I used to get all worked up about this most romantic of holidays. In fact, when we were dating, our first fight was on Valentine's because I was so disappointed. I was not setting a good precedent.

For me, part of being married has been learning to let go of my expectations. I learned to go into the day focusing on others and not on what I am getting out of the deal. Then anything that happens is a pleasant surprise... and anything that doesn't happen is not a huge disappointment. One of the ways I have done this is to plan a family celebration. I always make red food-- spaghetti, Cherry 7Up, etc. The kids love it and look forward to it every year. I always serve a heart-shaped cake for dessert and we just have a fun family time. No pressure for Curt to produce anything-- he can just enjoy having his family gathered around a special, memorable meal. It relaxed things a lot around here.

But that didn't happen yesterday. We broke tradition (much to the chagrin of our children, I might add) and went to the Love and Respect Marriage Conference... along with 2900 other people. Friday night and half of Saturday was spent learning how to better meet each other's needs. Did you know that men need respect more than they need love? And yet the culture pushes love, love, love so much that women miss the very thing their man needs. We need love, but to get the love we seek, we must respect our husbands-- the love is born out of the respect we invest in him. The conference taught about how this cycle works from both partners' perspective.

This is a compelling message that isn't being taught... but should be. My eyes were opened to some of my past mistakes and some great perspective for how I can handle things in the future. We women put so much emphasis on love and miss the very thing our husband craves. I have to say, if you get a chance to go to one of these, by all means DO. You can have a great marriage or a failing one... you will learn either way. I can't think of a better way to spend Valentine's Day and I am SO glad we went. If you don't have access to the conference, they do have cd's and dvd's and books, etc. you can purchase at their website. If you are struggling in your marriage, I would strongly encourage you to get these resources and make the investment of time to listen to them. Even if you aren't struggling, this is something worthwhile to learn. It will change the way you see your husband... and that's a good thing.

After the conference, we went to pick the kids up (God bless my mother in law for being willing to invest in our marriage and give of her time to keep them for us) and headed home for a brief rest before the evening portion of our very full day began. The kids got to go to a Valentine kids' night out at a local dance studio, owned by my friend Jackie. They had a blast playing games, making crafts, eating pizza, and watching a movie. While the kids were occupied, Curt and I snuck off for dinner, some hot tea at Barnes and Noble, and a movie. Then we raced back to pick up the kids.

It was a full day, an exhausting day, but a great one. I hope yours was wonderful!
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Children's World Museum Field Trip

One of my favorite things to do as a homeschool mom is to come up with great field trips we can go on. One reason is that it's great for the kids to experience life rather than just learn about it in a book. (That's the lofty reason.) The other reason is that we have fun on field trips and I can come home and count our time as "school." (That's the just-keeping-it-real reason.)

The field trip we took this week was no exception. This newly opened museum houses the personal collection of a couple that traveled the world over. They had so many interesting things to share, they decided to turn the collection into a museum. We got to see two different exhibits. We saw "Toys And Games From Around The World" and "Charlotte's Sister Cities." The kids also got to make a craft. They made a carp kite, which is something that they do in Japan in honor of Boys' Day. (My son loved that idea!)

Below are some pictures of our day... after we finished at the museum, they had some picnic tables our group could have lunch on. We enjoyed a windy picnic (perfect for flying carp kites) and then we let the kids run around in a big grassy field while the moms talked about everything from the intricacies of marriage to curriculum planning. All in all, it was time well spent. I recommend a visit to The Children's World Museum if you live in my neck of the woods!

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Big Moments

So, this is a photo that is worth a thousand words if ever there was one... My son got his license today. This is him getting in the car ALONE to drive himself to the orthodontist. He was so happy and excited, he even stopped long enough to pose for a picture. I told him years from now he will treasure this picture. He will look at it and remember what it felt like to take this step-- to be so happy to be that much closer to full-fledged adulthood. (Before he knew what full-fledged adulthood actually was, that is!)
This is just one moment frozen in time, but what a big moment it is... for both of us.
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Monday, February 09, 2009

Daybook Entry

Outside My Window ... a beautiful, taste-of-spring day

I am listening to... My children hollering "Ahoy Matees" at each other. Not sure what that's about. Apparently, it's hysterically funny.

To Breathe Deeply... regular time on the treadmill is a wonderful habit.

I am thankful for ... children who are healthy enough to run and laugh and play, no matter how loud they are when they do it.

From the kitchen ... baked chicken drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Mediterranean sea salt mixture, served over lettuce with cut up strawberries and a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing-- yum!

I am wearing ... a turquoise blue polo shirt and jeans

I am creating ... writing projects as always-- P31 devos to write, an article I am mulling over for Money Matters, and my column for Christian Women Online, and of course that novel I have been picking up and putting down since July.

On my iPod... Peter Gabriel's Love To Be Loved-- can't get enough of that one right now.

Towards a real education ... The Aesop For Children, my childhood edition of Kenneth Taylor's Stories For The Children's Hour (I still remember my mom reading that to me!), Poems To Read To The Very Young.

Bringing beauty to my home ... a clean master bath would be nice, and fresh clean sheets on our bed... must get to work this afternoon!

I am reading ... almost finished with Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult... it's not one of my favorites by her, but I am determined to find out what happens! I am also reading through My Utmost For His Highest each morning... I already abandoned my plans to read through different books in lieu of a devotional. I have found I really like reading some sort of daily devotional-- that paired with my Community Bible Study homework is just the right amount of quiet time each morning!

I am hoping ...that the doctor can pull a splinter from under my son's fingernail without too much pain or blood when we head there for an unexpected visit this afternoon.

Around the house ... always striving for order, yet never quite achieving it-- and learning to be okay with that.

One of my favorite things ... being totally, utterly alone, which my husband has promised to give me this evening when he takes the crew to Chick fil a for "kids eat free" night. Yahoo!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: We have a busy week! Lots of late afternoon appointments this week-- the orthodontist for one, the pediatrician for one, the physical therapist for one, the naturopath for me. A field trip to The Children's World Museum with our church homeschool group, and a Valentine's Day celebration at Monkey Joe's on Friday with our church homeschool group as well. Community Bible Study, too. And this weekend Curt and I are headed to the Love and Respect conference at Calvary Church. We are looking forward to that.. a perfect way to celebrate Valentine's Day!
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Robot Children

In my mind there lives a collection of robot children. They look just like my children but they act nothing like them. The robot children do exactly what I tell them to do. They listen when I am speaking. They are kind to each other. They do chores without being told more than once. Why? Because I programmed them to. Isn't it wonderful?

When I go upstairs to do the treadmill, I give the robot children strict instructions to do their schoolwork. I plant the youngest robot child in front of Noggin and instruct her to watch a show for a mere 30 minutes. She complies, sitting still for the entire time. She does not get down as soon as I have left the room, tear off all the couch cushions, and build a fort with her brother (who is supposed to be working in another room), completely ignoring the tv. That would be against her programming.

When I give the oldest instructions to make lunch while I shower after my treadmill time, the child immediately and efficiently whips up sandwiches for all. This child does not complain or try to bribe her brother to do the job for her. When it's time to eat, the robot children file into the kitchen, sit in their chairs, eat their lunches, and do not scarf down the Pringles and throw bread crusts all over the kitchen. They do not get out of their chairs and decide (now!) to stand in front of the tv and eat, dropping chip crumbs all over the carpet. The carpet that was, of course, just vacuumed.

When I ask robot children to do their schoolwork, they just sit right down and do it. No fussing, no whining, no asking a million questions, and no getting up to chase each other around the house screaming at the top of their lungs. They do not cause their mother to raise her voice just to be heard in the midst of the ruckus. She never has to scream, "Somebody's going to get hurt!" as they zip past her, carrying some sort of sharp object.

Yes, these robot children are ideal-- but then again, a robot child wouldn't be able to laugh or sing or exude warmth like my human children do. They might be unpredictable, uncontrollable, unruly and unstoppable... but then again, would I want them any other way? The robot children make a nice fantasy, but I would miss the reality. I know it wouldn't be long before I would want my real children back-- complete with their real mess, real noise, real attitudes, real smiles, and real moments. Every single one.
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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Backyard Bird Count

Have any of you done this before? I think it would be fun to do with the kids, and plan to do it at least one day during the count. I got online at my library and was able to reqest a guidebook for birds of the east coast-- so hopefully that will help us identify some of the different ones.

Want more information? This link tells you how you can participate. The count begins on February 13th and only runs til the 16th. So make your plans, gather your resources, and start counting!

PS. For all you homeschoolers, this counts as science... but don't tell the kids! They'll just think it's fun! Check out their page for kids to help you make it a full blown unit study, complete with information, games and coloring pages.
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bootiful Craftses

As I may have mentioned here before, I am not the craftiest person. But I do like doing crafts with my kids because a) it's creative and b) they love to do them.
So the other day when I found a Klutz pipe cleaner craft kit at the used homeschool store for $4, I knew we had to give this craft a try! As you can see from the photos, they loved making the different critters, and were soon making whole families of critters and playing elaborate games with them. That was time (and a little bit of money) well spent!

The best moment of all was when I was talking about our day with my three year old. I asked her what was something fun she did that day and she replied with intensity, "When we made craftses. And mommy, they were bootiful."

I couldn't have said it better myself.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Wonderful Weekend

My weekend in TX was wonderful-- sorry it took me awhile to sit down and actually share a bit about it! I thought I would share some captured moments from my weekend at Pine Cove retreat center with the ladies of Legacy Bible Church (Sherman, TX) with you.
This just made me smile-- so Texas!

This cross overlooks Lake Palestine in Tyler, TX. A beautiful spot to sit and ponder.

Another beautiful spot-- this old church overlooking the lake was where we held our last time together on Sunday morning. Our time of sharing was filled with laughter and tears that morning before we said our goodbyes.

On Saturday afternoon, Haylee (a very cool pastor's wife if I ever did meet one!) showed us all how to make these adorable chalkboards. I liked it so much, I made two!

A get to know you game was filled with laughter.

Sometimes you need time to get off by yourself and sit and think.

But sometimes you just need to share with a dear friend.

No matter how we spent our time, we all came away filled with refreshment and great memories. Legacy ladies, I won't forget you!

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Feels Like February

It's bitterly cold out-- for the south, that is.

There are a few random snowflakes falling from the sky this afternoon. My kids are giddy at the prospect of snow-- seriously discussing what they can do to up the ante in getting school cancelled. One says wear pajamas backwards to bed. Another says sleep with a spoon under your pillow. Still another suggestion goes up for consideration: pray real hard.

I head to the grocery store alone this evening, pulling my coat tight around me as I dart through the parking lot. I play beat the clock to get in, get the goods, and get back out again. Done with my shopping, I seek shelter from the brisk wind that blows as I load groceries into the back of my van. On the way home, the weatherman on the radio says that it's going to feel like February for the rest of this week.

And then this song comes on. I am alone in the car-- free to turn the music up as loud as I want. So I do. For a few minutes I forget about cold temperatures and whether it will snow tonight. I forget about the hot chocolate and tangerine herb tea I bought to warm us. I lose myself in the promise of summer, waiting just around the corner.

And for those few minutes, it doesn't feel like February at all.
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What About The Husbands?

Several of you wrote me privately to ask about husbands and money. Some of you have husbands who refuse to tithe. Some of you have husbands who are totally checked out of the whole financial picture of the marriage, seeing "their money" as something to be used at their discretion, with no discussion needed. I will say that, at certain points in our marriage, Curt has had those attitudes. But God got a hold of him and showed him the need for change, pointing him in a new direction. While I wanted him to change, I couldn't see how in the world we were going to get there.

Prayer was a huge part of my role during that time, and patience. But, as many of you know, waiting on God to move is hard-- especially when you wonder about your family's situation or your financial future. It took time and faith for me to see changes. But they did happen.

I asked my husband to respond to some of the questions and he did. He wrote a blog post about how we had to become a team where our finances were concerned. I hope that those of you who are struggling with this will take a moment to go read it.

Don't give up! If God can transform our financial roles, then He can do it with yours!
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Monday, February 02, 2009

Noble Plans

This past summer, we moved into this house. As I wrote in today's devotion, this house wasn't our "dream" house. Yet it was the house we felt led to buy. We knew we were making the smart decision financially, but my heart (fickle as it is) was a bit disgruntled.

This house, you see, wasn't pretty. It didn't have any bells and whistles and certainly lacked the latest and greatest house stuff that we had been looking at in other homes. But we knew without a doubt that this is where we were supposed to go. And the longer we have lived here, the more certain of that we have become. And you know what? Over time I have truly grown to love this house.

More recently, I inherited a tiny bit of money from my grandmother. When we knew that the money was coming, we prayed over what we should do with it. We needed new countertops for our new (old) kitchen in our new (old) house. Yet we didn't have a peace about that decision either. The only thing that we felt good about doing was putting my grandmother's money in the bank. As the economy news worsened and Curt's company went through their second round of layoffs, I quipped to Curt, "You can't eat countertops."

Just a few weeks ago, we found out that Curt's pay structure in the next two years is going to be drastically affected by the hurting economy. Basically, no matter how you slice it, we are going to have to learn to live on less. And while we are thankful that he has his job, it is still not fun. And yet, all I could think of as I reflected on these two most recent financial decisions is how, if we will seek God in our financial decisions and truly listen to Him, He will help us prepare long before we see the "why's" of what He is directing.

This summer when we bought our home, we were very tempted to buy a house that would have required his salary plus his commission to make all the monthly numbers work. But God quickly showed us that that was not the right thing to do. And boy are we glad now! Also, my grandmother's money being in an account makes me feel much better-- just knowing we have money to pull from during those lean times or in times of emergency.

My devotion at P31 today was on making noble plans for our finances and trusting God as He leads and directs us. For a long time, we resisted this, not wanting to surrender our finances to anyone else-- including God. We wanted control of what we regarded as "ours." Worst of all, we hated to be told "no" to something we wanted. We had to learn to align our plans with God's, trusting Him to go ahead of us and desiring what He wanted for us and being content with that.

How has God been showing you the value of including Him in your financial plans? I would love to hear your stories!
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Sunday, February 01, 2009


For the next few minutes, if you choose to continue reading, you're stuck hearing the thoughts of Curt, a.k.a. "Marybeth's husband." She's been off for a few days leading a woman's retreat in Texas. I could lie and tell you that I wanted to give an update of the "goings on" of the Whalen home (not as eloquently as she would of course.) But really this is just therapeutic for me. By Sunday afternoon after three days of Marybeth being gone I start to really miss her.

So continue reading at your own risk.

The kids and I had a pretty good weekend. I took a vacation day Friday, so I got to sleep in a little. But just a little. I had to get all the kids up and make sure everyone was ready for school. Then it was time for mommy to say "goodbye" to get to the airport. That of course brought tears and gnashing of teeth. But the kids consoled me, and the rest of the morning was relaxing. I answered some email, had a couple of work calls, and generally lounged around. I think the funniest part of the day was using my 16 year old's clipper set to give myself a haircut. I had planned on loading up our three youngest kids and heading over to the barber shop, but then got it in my head that I could cut it myself. $15 bucks is $15 bucks right?

All I'll say is, it's a good thing that hair grows back. (There might be a mom of boys out there who just realized with a fright that no, unlike hair, us guys never grow out of trying crazy things like that. Sorry. It's just the way we're wired.)

The highlight of the day was meeting my dad for lunch. His 66th birthday was last week and I had called and told him I wanted to buy him lunch and celebrate. He was easy on me and suggested a kid friendly and inexpensive place. Chick-fi-A! That's what makes me love him so much. He's a selfless kind of guy and always thinking of other people. I hope to be like him when I grow up.

Happy birthday Dad...

The rest of the weekend was uneventful. Marybeth had meals all ready for me to prepare and I didn't mess a single one of them up! (Ok, one of them.) The older kids spent Friday night out with friends and we had a nice family night on Saturday watching "The Express," a movie about Ernie Davis. We finished the weekend today with some pancakes and bacon before church, and then treated ourselves to lunch at Qdoba.

And so here I sit telling you about our weekend without "mom," and in my own weird way connecting to my wife. I'm glad (and humbled) that Marybeth has the opportunity to go minister to other women. She comes home every weekend with stories of wives and moms dealing with heartbreaking issues. She has the chance to speak God's word to them, to tell them stories of all the struggles our marriage has had, and to encourage them. But by Sunday afternoon I'm really missing her. Our home isn't the same when she's gone.

Ok. I'm feeling a little better. Just hours away from her arrival! Thanks for listening. Back to your regularly scheduled programming...
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