Monday, October 3, 2016

Ministry Monday: Just When You Want to Quit




Let's be honest.  Ministry is often inconvenient.  How often have we been excited to begin a new ministry (whether we are founding it or joining it), only to find ourselves dragging months or years later with little of the original enthusiasm left.  We see little fruit and we wonder, What is the point? We are tempted to quit, thinking our time could be better used elsewhere.

I was reading in Jonah this morning and that is the very thought process that Jonah seemed to have had when he first ran away from the ministry God assigned to him.  He just "knew" he would make the long journey, make a fool of himself walking and shouting warnings around the city of Nineveh - for nothing!  No smoke, no fire, no hailing brimstone.  Just God's patience and mercy.  Again.

Week in and week out, my children, other teens and I trek into the city.  We are the minority out there - in color and in lifestyle.  We walk in with our skirts (girls) and short haircuts (boys), holding our Bibles, carrying song signs and, in general, looking odd.  We sing loudly.  We play hard.  We sit and listen to the children try to say verses with words they can barely read or pronounce.  Sometimes months go by without any of them getting saved.  For weeks we can have children in Kids Club who do nothing but cause disruption and bring down morale.

We sometimes begin to wonder what we are doing.  Should we keep going?  We all have school, jobs, families....so many other things that would be, seemingly, more productive.  We use up gas and money.  We put more miles on our already well-used vehicles.  We get rained on and snowed on.  We are just plain tired.  Why bother?

Then it happens.  A ten year old boy gets saved.  A twelve year old girl sits with her leader longer than required just to ask more questions about this man Jesus.  An 8 year old asks for a Bible and his face lights up when his leader writes his name in it.  THIS is what it's all about.

This is why we drive.

This is why we put one foot in front of the other when we feel like we can barely go on.

This is why we smile one more smile.

This is why we sing the kiddie songs.

This is why we try to work through the disruptions and get to the hardening hearts of the pre-teens.

God is patient.  God is merciful.  Yet, we, so often want to see things happen now, just like Jonah.  We tend to get bent out of shape when our eyes see nothing but the mundane routine.  Our faithfulness is challenged.  But, when we wait, when we stay faithful, we see the fruit of what God has been doing all along.

Today, we are to leave for the city in one hour.  It's been a long day of school.  It's cloudy out and just a nice day to stay in and cozy up with a Bible study and cup of cider.  I'm tired.  My son's face is swollen from a bee sting.  But there's a soul waiting for us in the body of a child.  A soul that God is working on...though we may not see it.  All we need to do is obey our patient Lord and go.

And so, we will.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Foodie Friday: School-Morning Breakfasts

I slept in this morning.  I really, really slept in!  I am sitting here at a little after 8:30 in my robe and pjs, with my morning coffee and a biscuit.  I have been in almost constant motion for about a week, getting up early, going to bed late and I think if finally caught up with me.  Which is kind of amusing as today I am writing about delicious breakfasts first thing in the morning!

At the beginning of this school year, one of my goals was to have breakfast ready for my children most mornings.  Yes, some days, this includes cereal or bagels; but even then, I usually try to have those items set out on the table for when the kids come down in the morning.  Many days, I try to have a yummy, home-made, filled-with-love kind of breakfast such as muffins, pancakes, quiche, scones, etc.  These breakfasts mean planning ahead and early mornings.

On school mornings, I am up at 5:00.  (We do four-day school weeks with a homeschool co-op on every other Friday.  Today is neither a school or co-op day, hence the luxury of sleeping in.)  This is the time I can get last minute breakfast prep done and read my Bible in the rare-quietness of my home.  Usually, I figure out what I want to make for breakfast a day or two ahead of time and get as much of the recipe together the night before.  Pancake batter is mixed and refrigerated, muffin batter is mixed, put in muffin cups and refrigerated, biscuits and scones have the dry ingredients together the night before so I can just add wet ingredients, roll and cut the morning of.  Yes, I could bake everything ahead of time, but there is just something about fresh-from-the-oven.  Don't you agree?

Today, I share two of the breakfasts we enjoyed this week:  Blueberry Croissant Puff and Biscuits with Pumpkin Butter.

One of the reasons I like baking things early in the morning, is so that it's ready for my farmer-husband when he gets up.

Blueberry Croissant Puff

This is a recipe which actually needs to refrigerate overnight, so planning ahead is essential.  It hardly takes any time at all - which is one of my top requirements for most recipes - and most of my family loved it!  (I got an "it was ok" from my 11 year old daughter.)  I used a package of mini-croissants from Aldi.  No use buying large, expensive croissants when you'll just break them up!  This recipe warms up nicely and could even be used as a dessert.  It's the fruit and eggs that make it breakfast-worthy.  :) 

Ingredients
  • 3 large croissants, cut up (about 5 to 5½ cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Place croissant pieces in a 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with blueberries.
    3. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer until well blended. Gradually add milk, beating well after each addition. Pour evenly over croissant pieces. Let stand 20 minutes or soak overnight.
    4. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes or until set in center and golden brown. You may want to cover it with foil for the last 10 minutes if the tops are getting too browned.
    5. Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar.
    6. Variation: Instead of baking in a square pan bake individually. Place croissant pieces evenly in 10 (1/2-cup) ramekins; sprinkle with blueberries and pour cream cheese mixture evenly over croissant pieces. Let stand 20 minutes. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until set in center and golden brown.
Notes
This can easily be doubled in a 9X13 pan.  (Which is what I did)


I use baskets as often as possible.  Biscuits, butter, jam and baskets - nothing says "farm breakfast" louder!

A few years ago, I began making apple butter.  It was something my brother loved and I guess my husband had a liking for it, as well.  I never cared for it so, obviously, I never thought about making it!  I came across a recipe or two that looked easy enough and I had great success.  So, when I came across this recipe a few weeks ago for pumpkin butter, something I had never heard of, I was intrigued and challenged.  Again, this was a huge hit!  It makes quite a bit, so it will keep my large family satisfied for a time and it would make a great little gift for someone.

SLOW COOKER PUMPKIN BUTTER

PREP TIME
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
Author: 
Serves: 6.5 cups
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 (29-oz.) can AND 1 (15-oz.) can Libby Pumpkin Puree (NOT Sweetened Pie Filling)
  • 2½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ⅛ tsp. ground ginger
  • dash of salt
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a 3-quart or larger slow cooker add all the ingredients and stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours, stirring once at the 4 hour mark.
  2. After the cooking time is complete add the pumpkin butter to a blender, add the lid on and pulse. It will be thick, and you may need to stop and stir the pumpkin butter in the blender to get it moving. Pulse until you have the desired puree.
  3. Cool in refrigerator. Serve cold.
  4. I put the extra pumpkin butter into canning jars, give as gifts, but I remind my friends that it needs to be refrigerated. Could also be put into the freezer.

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My favorite recipe for biscuits can be found at kenkatschke.com (no, I have no idea who this man is, but he makes some mean biscuits!)   If you follow the link, you will find it to be a sweet blueberry biscuit.  While I do make those, I have found that leaving off the glaze and leaving out the blueberries gives me some of the best biscuits I have ever had!
Note:  Do not, under any circumstances, use almond milk over cow's milk.  It makes for the toughest biscuit known to man.  And, it's doubly-embarrassing when you serve them to guests.  Don't ask me how I know.

Farm-House Biscuits 
(re-named by yours truly)

Ingredients:
2 Cups Flour 
1 Cup milk
1/3 Cup sugar
5 T of butter
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


Directions: 
Freeze butter. Preheat oven to 450F. Mix salt, sugar, flour, and baking powder in a bowl and sift. Add the cold milk into dry ingredients and mix. As dough begins to form, use a cheese grater to grate your frozen butter evenly over dough. Fold dough, and knead… repeat until all butter is spread evenly throughout dough. (If dough is too sticky to handle, add ¼ Cup flour.)

Roll out dough. Cut out biscuits using a mason jar or cup.   Place on un-greased cookie sheet or cake pan. 

Place in oven and bake for about 7-12 minutes (until golden). Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave, and paint finished biscuits with pastry brush. 

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May you enjoy these recipes - even if you don't get up super early in the morning.  We all know that breakfast is wonderful any time of day!
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hey, Mom!


Hey, Mom!

I know you hear that countless times a day.  Sometimes, you want to just ignore it (and, if you're like me, sometimes you do).

But, I think this time, you may want to listen.

Hey, Mom!

You're doing a great job.  

You probably don't believe that.  On your best day, you may think you are doing an "ok" job.  Most days, you probably wonder why God even gave you children.  Or, why did He give YOU to your children.

Am I the only one who has ever thought that?  "Lord, why are my children tormented with me as their mother?"

But, God chose YOU for them.  And you, even while you doubt, are doing a great job.  How do I know?

You are worried.  You are stressed.  You are running fifty different directions - sometimes physically, sometimes mentally.  And why?  For your family.  You want to take care of them.  You want to keep them healthy.  You want them to be happy.  You want them to be independent, strong members of society - even if they are only just two years old today.  You just know that whether you feed them homemade mac & cheese or boxed mac & cheese will determine their entire future.  Only moms know this stuff.  No one else cares like mom.  YOU care.  And, you are doing a great job.

Hey, Mom!

God sees you and He is loving you.

He is rejoicing in your victory of not screaming at your child over the marker on the wall.

If you're like me, you did, indeed, scream and God is holding you as you cry over yet another failure.

He sees you running around the kitchen trying to get dinner fixed before the kids start another argument.  He's holding you up - that's why you aren't falling into a heap.

He hears you telling your daughter, yet again, to pick up her room.  He smiles slightly as you come closer to understanding what He goes through with you.  He's not vengeful, just hopeful that this will give Him a closer relationship with you.

Hey, Mom!

The one who doesn't think she is pretty enough for her husband at the end of a busy day with toddlers...

The one who passes her wedding portrait on the way to put laundry away and pauses a moment to wonder where that girl with the romance in her eyes went....

The one who tries to repair her teenage daughter's broken heart over a lost friend...

The one who sits in the hospital with a child recovering from surgery...

The one who has just ordered pizza for dinner for the third time this month...

The one who just looked at the scale and has no idea how she's going to lose those ten pounds...

The one who agonizes over her son's future...

The one who is balancing school and/or career with motherhood....

The one whose 3 year old just had a full-blown tantrum in the grocery store...

The one who relives that one mistake over and over again...

The one who goes to bed dreading tomorrow...

The one who is homeschooling her children but wonders if they really are better off...

The one who is not only caring for children and husband, but for aging parents and grandparents...

The one who stays busy so as not to have time to face the inner torments....

Hey, Mom!

Yeah...YOU...

God loves you and He is right there with you.
                   
You're doing a great job.
                                                  
You're beautiful in all that crazy mom busy-ness.  
                                                                                                                         
It's going to be OK!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ministry Monday - Kids' Club



About six years ago, our church began an after-school ministry, a "kids' club," in one of our suburban school districts.  It proved successful and so we began another kids' club in a city recreational center on Monday afternoons.  Youth desiring to minister in the suburban outreach needed to be a minimum age of 15 years old.  As I did not have any children of that age at the time, we were not involved.  I loved the idea of this ministry - teaching kids from different backgrounds the Bible and about the love of Jesus, playing games with them and building relationships with the goal of them beginning a relationship with the heavenly Father.  However, I could not leave my own children who needed those things in order to teach other children.

I remember clearly the day I was talking to the leader of the Kids' Clubs and found out that the city ministry had no such minimum age.  I could bring all seven of my children.  Obviously, my then-3 year old and other little ones would not be able to teach, etc., but my older kids would be a help.

So it began.  Every Monday during the school year, we load up our van, drive out of our farm driveway and trek into the inner-city.  Over the years, we have come to know and love many children - some of whom have stuck around while some have left the program due to moves or getting caught up in the city crowds.  We have had our joys and our heartbreaks.  Some children have challenged us with their attitudes while others have quickly won us over with their sweetness.  We've talked to kids considering suicide, spoken with kids whose parents are in jail, we have experienced one of our clubbers being in a serious accident and seeing his recovery.  Each of these children have stories - broken homes, broken lives, but they shine with childish hope.  They come searching for love and we are there to give it to them and introduce them to the Giver of unconditional, unending love.

Some of my older children are no longer able to minister on Mondays due to their increasingly busy schedules and adult-hood overtaking them.  Yet, my once-little ones are now old enough to become leaders and more active helpers.  From the first day so long ago, however, even my youngest children ministered in their own way.  They were (and still are) the same ages as some of our clubbers.  My children would sit and listen to the lessons, sing the songs, and learn the verses - all the while encouraging their city-peers to do the same. "Hey, that kid is doing it...so can I!"  My littlest one would often capture the attention and smiles of some of the little girls - ministering in spreading joy.

Ministry on Monday afternoons has become a way of life for us.  Our 12-passenger van is almost always full as take other young people who also desire to serve in the Kids' Club.  This transporting of ministers and feeding them afterwards has become a ministry in and of itself.

Being a mom is my main ministry.  Nothing should come before it.  Yet, when I can minister with my children - actively teaching them to minister to others - this is the highest calling.

In the coming weeks, I will discuss more about being involved in ministry while being a mom. I will delve a bit more into our Kids' Club ministry as well as our Monday evenings, homeschool group, coffee-dates, moms' breakfasts, etc.  In the meantime, I would love to hear how you minister with your children.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

First Day of School 2016





We have just finished our THIRD week of school and I am just now getting around to blogging about our first day.  Does that tell you anything about my lack of time?

No, I'm not running hither and yon.  For once in my life, I am busy AT home.  I think I have become more of a keeper AT home than I have ever been before and it's keeping me busier than ever.  At the same time, it's keeping me pretty happy and more contented, as well.  But that's another post altogether.

Back - way back - like three weeks back - to our first day of school.

While I normally prefer to get a good night's sleep on school nights, I stayed up late the night before getting things ready for the moment my children walked downstairs. No balloons or confetti - just little things to let the kids know it was a special day and I was thinking about them.


 I made muffin batter and got it all set so I could just scoop and pop (scoop in muffin cups and pop in the oven) in the morning.  Since the first day, I have made sure the downstairs is straightened up, the kitchen orderly, and breakfast (or the plates and fixings) are on the table along with a sign announcing the breakfast of the day.  I am attempting to give the kids much more variety in their breakfasts, and with more forethought and planning, I am able to limit cereal days to just one or two days a week.   I tried a new recipe for the first day of school - pancake bites - which, I believe, went over pretty well.  I would definitely add sausage and/or bacon, to a few next time.


I bought these mini-chalkboards for our daughter's graduation party this last June.  I can't tell you how many times I've used them for picnics to label food and now I have found a new use - encouraging notes around the house.  


Reminders to be joyful - even during their computer math & science classes. :)


Nothing like brushing your teeth in the morning with a sign of hope!

I got up around 5:00, went downstairs, got the muffins in the oven and read my Bible, taking the muffins out when they were ready.  I then went upstairs (once my husband got up) and worked out and got ready for the day.  I came downstairs in time to eat breakfast with most of the children.  

At 9:00, we all sat down to sing, share what we learned in our individual Bible readings that morning, and continued reading from a book we had been reading about heroes of the faith.  At 9:30, we began our academics.  I had written a schedule for each child to follow.  This is a new thing, but it has been very helpful in organizing time on a shared computer and classes when some children need me more than others.  

The routine we used that day has held so far and we are finishing school around 2:00 or 2:30 each day.  I make sure I plan little to no events during our school days so we can just relax and get the school done without a time limit hanging over our heads.  

Our first day, in fact, our first weeks, while not without their stresses, have been among some of the best school days we have ever had.  I am praying that the rest of our year goes so well.

How was YOUR first day?  

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday Scripture, Sayings, and Suggestions: July 30, 2016



It's Saturday.  I've missed our weekends together.  This weekend finds me organizing and getting ready for my Tennessee vacation beginning Thursday!!  My brother, mom, my oldest son and I will be traveling to the south to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of some very dear friends of ours. I am very much looking forward to spending some time with the dear family members I am traveling with along with these friends who stuck close to us when I was a kid during our darkest times.
But, before I get all nostalgic....

Scripture
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
Isaiah 6:3

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

Sayings




Suggestions


Time with God: The Time-Warp Wife
My quiet time is one of my favorite times of day.  In the summer, I have more time to just read, study, pray and commune with my God.  Most mornings, I meet with God at our picnic table with a cup of coffee.  Some mornings, I am up in my bedroom or at my desk - still with a cup of coffee.  I have always gleaned so much more from my daily Bible reading if I write, so I have several notebooks full of verses and treasures God has shown me through the years.  
At the beginning of this summer, however, I discovered the Time-Warp Wife and her Bible-Study Journal and Prayer Journal, both which will last 6 months.  Inside the Prayer Journal there is a spot to write out your prayer for the day, a spot where you ask God to teach you something specific that day, and an area to write your requests.  The Bible study journal has daily pages in which to note what you have read that day, list attributes of God, three things for which you are thankful, and a large section to write what you learned that day.  This has been a different way for me to do my quiet time, but I am loving it!
Beginning a few years ago, I enjoy taking the extra time I have in summer to really delve into a Bible study.  Enter, again, the Time-Warp Wife.  I had just finished reading Ecclesiastes when I came across her 6-week study of the same book.  I am learning much about how to live a life for God that counts for eternity.
If you want to add depth and renew your quiet times with God, I highly suggest these resources.  As I bought all three books from Amazon, I just perused her website for the first time as I wrote this post.  I am bookmarking and will be a frequent visitor!!


I am not one to toot my own horn, but if you haven't had a chance to read my list of ideas to make fun memories with your children this summer, I suggest you go there now.  After all, this is my day to list suggestions and I listed several earlier this week! After reading, choose one thing and do it today or this week.  Then, come back and tell me what you did!


Actually, I am recommending the whole series.  Well, at least the first three books as that's all I have read.  But, I am assuming the last two books in this series are just as good and thought-provoking.  This fictional tale is about a man who has lost everything and wants to get away from all he knew.  So, he begins to walk - from Washington State to Key West, Florida.  These books are his journals recounting the people he meets, his thoughts, his struggles, his coming to terms with what God and life have handed him.
While I have not literally walked in this character's shoes, somehow, I have found myself often walking right alongside of him.  I think you may find yourself walking with us, as well.
Note: the two sayings above come from the third book in the series, The Road to Grace.




I don't believe I have ever recommended a sermon nor have I posted a video of one before.  However, today I make an exception as this is an exceptional message.  If you struggle with addiction, depression, fear, or besetting sin (isn't that all of us?), this sermon will literally change your mindset as to how you can achieve victory.  
This is a livestream event from our church, so the entire service is recorded.  If you want to hear some great singing by the preacher's family, begin around the 21-minute mark.  To go directly to the sermon, fast forward to the 37-minute mark.  Watch the entire sermon.  May you be blessed, your mind renewed, and may you win the victory!


That's it for this weekend.  I'm off to shop for our daughter's birthday tomorrow, get my house ready for a birthday dinner, organize, plan, clean...you know, all that "keeper at home" stuff!  Praying you all have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Foodie Friday - Oat Indulgence

So...I started Foodie Friday back in April.  April 29, to be exact.  So, today marks three months since I have begun this series.  Let me count how many posts this will be.

One...Two.

Yes, three months and this is only the second time I have been able to post on a Friday.  Either time, brain power, or energy has not allowed it.

But, maybe today's food is the cause for my brain power and energy on this day.  This morning, for the first time ever, I indulged in Overnight Oats.

Can indulge and oats appear in the same sentence?  Apparently so, though I never would have expected it.  You see, for most of my life I have hated oatmeal with a passion.  Thin oatmeal looks soupy.  Thick oatmeal looks gloppy (just saying that word makes me lose my appetite!).  It's either clumpy, bland, too sweet or just plain gross.  However, in the last couple of years, I have tasted one kind of oatmeal that I actually can say I enjoy.  That would be my husband's stovetop apple-cinnamon-brown sugar oatmeal.  Maybe it's the fruit.  Maybe it's the spices.  Maybe it's the love with which he makes it.  Whatever it is...it's what I believe oatmeal was meant to be.

Because of my positive experience with my husband's delectable oatmeal, I have been cautiously optimistic.  I have viewed and pinned overnight oat recipes for a while, but today, I took the plunge.  And, I have decided I will be jumping in again soon!


Strawberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats

Strawberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats
 recipe adapted from Happy Healthy Motivated
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon stevia powder
  • 1 tablespoon neufchâtel 
  • 1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/4cup skim (or almond) milk - I used almond
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional - I opted out
  • 5-8 large strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
Recipe
  1. Place all the ingredients - except for the chopped strawberries - into a medium bowl and stir until everything is totally combined.
  2. Layer the overnight oat mixture into the jar with the strawberries. You can do as many layers as you like.
  3. Place in the fridge and leave for at least 4 hours to chill before eating.

I mixed this up last night after dinner.  It took me about 8 minutes to get my ingredients, mix them, layer them in this cute jar and get into the fridge.   While the oatmeal mixture was a bit bland, it wasn't gross.  I also discovered that most of my neufchâtel was at the bottom layer.  Next time, I will mix it in better.  However, the combination with the oats and strawberries was divine!  I ate this two hours ago and I am still not hungry - which is a bit of a miracle for me!  

Try it and let me know what you think.  Have you had overnight oats?  What recipe would you recommend?  Would love to hear so I can add it to my breakfast menu!

Now that I have two posts, I guess I can officially call this a series.  Look for the third installment next week...or in three months from now. ;) 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summertime Fun (links included for ideas)


Ah!  Summertime!  As a homeschool mom, this is the time of year when I can "just" be a mom...and not the mean teacher.  Instead of cramming my kids' days with schoolwork, I can fill my kids' weeks with fun things to do.  Oh, we still have chores to get done, projects to complete around the house, and I have schooling  to plan for next year.  But, among my top priorities is spending these months having fun with my children.

This year, my three oldest are usually absent during our daytime excursions as they are working.  This fact, along with the fact that the two oldest have now graduated and my third child will begin the dual-enrollment program at the local college this year causes me to face the reality that these years are passing quickly.  I could fill my summers with gardening, housework, household projects, canning, etc., or I can fill my summers making good memories with my children before my nest is empty.

Today, I am giving you some ideas to make the most of these days.  It doesn't have to cost you a fortune to make memories...just some time, gas, planning, and a whole of of smiles.

First, plan in advance, especially if your activity will take you away from home for much of the day.  After being out in the sun and/or playing all day long, the last thing you want to do is come home to spend another hour or two fixing dinner.  Plan an easy meal such as wraps, subs, a quick pasta dish for that evening.  Don't forget that CrockPots are great for summertime meals as well.   I also make sure our home is tidied before we go anywhere.  Often, being gone for a few hours makes every one just a tad cranky; walking into a messy house that needs to be cleaned or having unfinished chores that need completing will make for a potentially miserable home-coming.  Let the kids know the night before what your plans are, what time you intend to leave, and that their chores are expected to be finished by that time.  My kids are all old enough to help pack lunches, if need be, and get whatever items together that we need for the day.



BEACH DAY:  Try a beach you have never been to before.  Pack a large blanket, a beach bag with towels, sunscreen, and a book for yourself, a picnic basket with snacks and sandwiches, and a cooler full of ice and cold drinks.  Get to the beach as close to the time it opens as possible, grab a good spot, lay out your blanket, slather the kids and yourself with sunscreen and watch them play in the water.  Around here, the legal swimming areas are roped off with lifeguards closely watching.  This allows me to lay in the sun and read a good book or even get some school planning done.  Plan on spending 5-6 hours if the day is hot!

Local friends: Hamlin Beach is large and each family has quite a bit of space to spread out.  However, this year we have taken the drive and have had a new adventure at Kershaw Park in Canandaigua.  There is more grass area than beach to spread out your blanket and your neighbors are a bit closer, but the water is extremely clear, warmer than Lake Ontario and the boats and hills around you make for a fantastic view all day long.



BOWLING:  This is the first year we have participated in the Kids Bowl Free summertime offer. Follow the link, find a participating bowling center in your area and sign up your children - at no cost!  Each week, you will receive your coupons with which to redeem your free games.  At my local bowling alley (I go to Oak Orchard Bowl in Albion, NY), my kids can bowl two free games three times a week, if we wanted!  For a one-time fee, I also can enjoy discounted bowling.  All we need to pay for is shoe rental which is only $2.00/pair.  So, something that would normally cost me $40-plus, only costs me $10.  Not a bad deal and a great thing to do on those hot or rainy days.  If you get other friends involved, you can all go together.  I have one friend whom I cannot wait to bowl against!




NATURE TRAILS AND PARKS:  This year, I am trying to find new parks for us to explore.  Most of my children are growing out of the playground stage, so I need to be a bit more creative.
Somehow, I have lived in this area my whole life, yet I have just heard of two parks just this year.  One we have already gone to and loved and the other is on our summer bucket list!





Local Parks:
Last week, the kids and I went for the first time to a place called Corbetts Glen.  This is a short nature trail with a stream winding alongside and small waterfalls.  As the water is not deep nor the current fast, the kids are allowed to wade and splash a bit.  What a hidden treasure we found this place to be. We will surely be returning with a picnic lunch before the summer ends.

My husband and I enjoyed a beautiful day in Watkins Glen State Park last fall for our anniversary.  While it is a couple of hours away, it is my hope to spend a day there with my children this summer, or even a Saturday this Fall while Daddy is spending long hours harvesting.  It would be great to take the kids to the Glen Curtiss Museum on our way, as well.

Chimney Bluffs State Park is a very cool place that I also just learned about this year.  This, too,  will be an all-day trip as it is almost 90-minutes from my house, but I know the kids will love this geological wonder.

Pineway Ponds Park: While most of my kids are "too old" for spray parks, my three youngest still enjoy going to the one nearby on hot days when we just don't have the time for a full beach day.

Wherever you live, talk to friends, run a Google search to find some new place to explore  in your area that you have never heard of before.

LIBRARY DAY:  Most libraries in our area have summer reading contests.  I have a love-hate relationship with these things.  It is difficult to keep track of how long each of my children reads and some of them would read inside all day long, if I let them.  We don't get a lot of warm sunny days up here in the North, so I often have to kick some of my kids outdoors.  However, when we have a quiet day at home, if it is raining or extremely hot, or when it is time to wind down, having a good book to read from the library is essential.
Most weeks, we get to the library one day for a couple of hours.  The kids turn in their hours/book titles from the last week and pick up a new contest form for the coming week.  They select new books, read, and get some computer time.  (Yes, I am one of those bad moms who allows their children to play games on the computer at the library.  Due to the lovely weather of the season, this computer time is usually all they get as they are expected to be playing outdoors at home.)
We tend to go to three different libraries regularly so we don't get bored with the same one time after time.

COUNTY FAIR: Nothing screams "Americana" like the good old county fair.  We have several in our area each summer, but we usually are able to make it to just one.  The one we choose, the Orleans County Fair, just happens to be this week.  We will probably head over there sometime this week, pay the $5.00 for the carload and walk around to see the farm animals (because, apparently, we don't do that enough at home!), eat some junk food, and drive home. If we decide to go Friday evening, we'll watch the fireworks and the greased pole competition.  You laugh, but it's intense and a whole lot of fun!  In years past, we have paid for them to have all-day passes for rides, but I think we'll skip that this year in exchange for a day at the.....

AMUSEMENT PARK:  I know I will probably get my citizenship and my mother card revoked after admitting this, but, we have never taken our children to an amusement park.  *GASP*  I know they are facing years of therapy because of this, but it's true.
Frankly, amusement parks cost way too much money for a family our size.  Not to mention, spending the day in a crowded place, trying to keep track of all of the little ones, spending more money to feed them, and possibly cleaning up vomit after a ride just hasn't appealed to me.  Until this year.  No, I still don't want to clean up vomit, etc., but I do not think we are in danger of that any more.
After looking at the prices of all day admission to the closest (and most affordable) amusement park (Seabreeze), I found that it is only $7.00 more than the passes at the fair.  Hence the reason we will not ride the 5 rides at the fair this year.  To make it affordable for myself, my plan is to take my youngest three to the amusement park the one week in August when the three oldest girls are at camp and their older brother is sleeping during the day.  I know I will get flack for this from my older children, but I will just remind them of the many things they have been able to do while the younger ones missed out.  Because, you know, that's what moms do...make annoying points like that.
So, again, I am not a huge proponent of amusement parks for so many reasons, but it is a new adventure that is on this year's list.




ICE CREAM FOR SUPPER:  I remember when I first did this.  I believe I only had two children at the time and only my oldest was old enough to even eat ice cream.  I can't remember if my good and godly friend and mentor, Dawn, gave me the idea or if, after feeling guilty and I admitted I had done it, she admitted she had done it several times!  Either way, whenever I do this, I console myself and ease my guilt by reminding myself that Dawn has done it, too!
Anyway, giving my kids ice cream for dinner is truly a rare occurance and one that only happens if we have been gone all day and are on our way home from a fun activity.  Whether they eat if for supper or not, ice cream is a great ending to a fun adventure.  No, it is not economical or practical to do it every time; but once in a while, look for a fun ice cream place close to where your adventure for the day is and plan on taking the kids there.  A place that is unique to the area and makes homemade ice cream is always a fantastic option.

A few of our favorites for our local friends:
Abbotts - Spencerport or the original in Charlotte
Cafe Mac - Spencerport (Hershey's ice cream. Huge sizes)
Pittsford Farms Dairy - walk on the canal, see the Sam Patch, feed the ducks
Cheshire Farms Dairy - Canandaigua (we just discovered this place last week - OH MY!)
Lugia's - (Perry's ice Cream) only because it's a Rochester tradition.  We rarely go as the lines are so long
Esther's Old Thyme Market - Brockport (Turkey Hill ice cream)

While I have tried to keep this post filled with cost-efficient ideas, don't forget to set some money aside for an occasional visit to zoos, museums and mini-golf places.  Annual passes are great for large families and a great thing to tell others when they are looking for Christmas gift ideas for you.  

How are you spending your summer?  I would love to know! And, please, give us some of your ideas for fun things to do with your children.

 Right now, we're off to the bowling alley!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Early to Bed, Early to Rise....


The above picture showed up on my daughter's Instagram account the other night.  It was Saturday night and we had just finished watching Risen - a movie I highly recommend.  (Note: Our children 12 years and up watched it.  Our two youngest, ages 9 & 10, we had watching a children's movie in another room.)

Anyway, back to the picture above.

After the movie, my husband popped some popcorn and all of us hung around for a while snacking before heading to bed.  The caption on this picture was as follows:

Yes, it is after ten on a Saturday night.  Yes the whole family is still up. Yes, this is a first.  #saturdaynightparty #watamovieandeatpopcorn #donthavetogetupearlyforchurch #firstforeverything #thishappenswhenchickenpoxvisits


So much is told about our family in this caption and in the hashtags (which, by the way, are sending my spell-check into a tizzy).  We have chicken pox in the house.  In order to not expose our church family, we are staying home until everyone has them or are safe from getting them.  Therefore, we actually stayed up late on a Saturday night.  And there is the thing that makes us a bit odd in our culture...

For us, having our kids stay up until 10:00 on a Saturday night is late.  

When I was a kid, my mom had set bedtimes for us all the way through high school.  There were some rare occasions when I had a tough homework assignment due the very next day that I actually stayed up until 10:00 pm.  Weekend nights, even in college, I had an 11:00 curfew.  

While my kids aren't expected to go to bed as early as I was, they still have regular bedtimes at reasonable hours.  The younger kids go to bed earlier than the older ones.  They don't think it's fair, but that is life.  If our teenagers consistently have trouble getting up in the morning, we expect them to go to bed earlier.  

During the school year, our kids are to get up by 7:00 am.  During the summer, most of them are up by 8/8:30.  I have one who will sleep all day if I let her.  I rarely let her sleep past 9:00 am.  

I am amazed at the amount of families - homeschool families - that I know whose children are up until midnight or later on a regular basis, including the school year.  Because they are up so late, they get up late.  A lot of these kids think that getting up at 8:00 am is early, they drag themselves around until noon, and they're addicted to coffee by the time they are 16 years old.

My kids sometimes feel like they are the odd-balls going to bed so "early."  During the summer, my teens are in their bedrooms by 10/10:30 and lights out within an hour of that.  Their curfew's are 11:00, at the latest, on a school night if they are at a special church service and midnight, if absolutely necessary, on Friday nights.  While our oldest son has some leniency in this, he still texts me if he won't be home by midnight on the weekend.  

While my kids feel odd, they don't complain.  They realize that we care about their health...and their reputations.  Let's face it, not much good happens after 11/12:00 at night - whatever your age is.  Plus, they have all learned that there is so much to do and experience during the day - especially in the summer.  

My response to my daughter's post was, "This says a lot about how early we go to bed around here!  That's only because we have to get up EARLY to have fun all day long!!"

This summer, we have explored parks, taken advantage of free bowling, gone to friend's houses, enjoyed beach days, etc.  In order to do these things yet still get chores done and get home to have supper together as a family, we need to get up early.  We play hard during the day...we are ready for bed at night and usually sleep well.   

In order to get to church looking alive and ready to worship on Sunday morning, we need to get to bed early on Saturday night.  In order for us to get up and read our Bibles and seek the Lord in true quiet time, we need to go to bed at a reasonable time and get up before the craziness of the day.  Is it possible, that some of the weaknesses we see coming into the church stems from lack of routine, sleep, and time with God due to exhaustion?  Maybe sleep affects spiritual growth.  I have no science to prove it, but it is a thought.

Our three oldest kids have jobs.  The two girls have to be at work, usually, by 8:00 many mornings.  Because they are used to regular bedtimes, this hasn't been a hard adjustment for them.   Our son works the c-shift (11pm-7am).  He has to sleep during the day.  He adjusted to this schedule fairly well and is able to enjoy his weekends...however, the sleep pattern has taken its toll on him in various ways.  It's unnatural.  The best thing for him would be regular day hours so he could sleep regular night hours.  However, because he always had routine growing up, he's made a new routine for himself, which allows him enjoy his weekends and not just catch up on sleep or walk around half-dead.

I believe I am, by nature, a night owl.  Even as a young girl, I had trouble falling to sleep.  When I was in college and as a young married woman, I began to stay up later.  Up until a few years ago, I would regularly stay up until 1:00 am and drag myself out of bed around 7:00 or 8:00 am.  About a year or two ago, I began to force myself to go to bed earlier.  Most nights, I head to bed around 9:30/10:00.  I read for a bit and my head usually hits the pillow no later than 11:00.  Some nights, like tonight, it's later; but, as a habit, I have become a person to goes to bed early and rises early.  I know that if I am to exercise and spend time with God in the mornings, I need to be in bed early at night.  I am up by 6:00 most mornings now and I find I get so much more accomplished, I am healthier, happier, and rested physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So, yes...we go to bed early around here.  I think Ben Franklin was on to something when he said, 

Early to bed, 
early to rise, 
makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. 

In my humble opinion, I believe that is what the Lord intended.  
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