Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sharing our blessings this season


Last year around this time, we worked with our boys to raise funds for Heifer International.  Our goal was to buy some bees and a goat for people around the world that are in need.  We didn't quite make that goal, but were able to purchase a goat and some chickens.  My boys learned just a little bit about what it means to love people as Christ did.

This summer we met Mr. Baxter at our garage sale.  He had stopped by to look at something and began to share with us about the ministry he heads.  This local ministry reaches out to children and families in Jamaica who are in need.  They work with 3 local "Basic Schools" as well as churches and individuals to improve the lives of Jamaicans through Christ-like relationships.  Mr. Baxter travels regularly to Jamaica to continue these spiritual ties.

We loved talking with Mr. Baxter about Jamaica UpRiver Outreach.  As we spoke, he shared that it only costs about $35 a month to feed one of their basic schools.  That's 28 kids from ages 3-6.  We brainstormed about ways that we could connect with these schools and how our children could be in touch with some of the people there.  It has been great to begin learning about Jamaican culture with the boys.  
Manasseh, our 5 year old, has fallen in love with the people, the music, and the culture.  He is extremely enthusiastic about working to raise money to help the children at one of the schools - Fustic Grove Basic School.  I asked him the other day what kind of goal we should make regarding how many days to try and feed the students, his answer? 100,000.  I figured out that would cost about $117,000.  That's do-able, but I'm not certain it's within our reach this year.

Our goal this year is to raise $420.  This would feed the children at Fustic Grove for an entire year.  That's 1 meal per child, 28 children per month, for 12 months.  It breaks down to about $1.17 per day - less than most people in the United States spend on a hamburger or a coffee.  

Our plan is to sell crafts and baked goods at our church sale this weekend.  We will have handmade felt masks, felt crowns, some Christmas ornaments, banana bread, a variety of cookies, and someone is even donating a diaper cake.  There will be a variety of other items available at the sale for donations to this project.

The boys and I are also available to help with yard work such as raking, picking up sticks and nuts, etc.  We would love to bake or cook in exchange for donation, or even do a little light cleaning around the house.

Will you consider helping us feed these precious children in 2014?  $420 is all it will take - can you give up a soda this week to feed an entire class in Jamaica?  You won't only be filling their bellies.  Feeding these children will help them learn better, they will be more successful as adults, and have an opportunity to know Christ's love in a new way.

If you're interested in helping the students at Fustic Grove this season, feel free to contact me through my personal email address - - or on Facebook.  I will be glad to answer questions for you.  We are also able to mail some of the craft products in exchange for donation.  ALL proceeds will be donated to the children at Fustic Grove Basic School.

Many blessings to you and yours as we enter this season.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tummy Stuffers - A great gift for a 2 year old (sponsored post)

My two year old loves to fill things and dump them out and fill them again... and dump them again... It seems to be a common stage that many two year olds experience.  As Azariah approached his second birthday, we were presented with the opportunity to check out Tummy Stuffers.  I have to admit, I thought they were kind of silly at first.  I also knew that my boys would love them.

Tummy Stuffers - Logo

Guess what: Azariah (and the other boys) love this alligator! In fact, it was one of the few toys I packed to keep my boys entertained during a youth convention while I worked as a vendor.  This little guy held all of their toys and scrunched up to fit inside their special toy trunk!

The boy's play trunk, ready to go to youth convention.
He gobbled up toys and spit them back out.  He chased little boys around to gobble them up.  He even worked as a hat!

Azariah, wearing the Tummy Stuffer as a hat!
Our alligator was out last week when Azariah's therapist was over to work on speech.  She adored him and used him with Azariah to prompt some words!  I never thought that our Tummy Stuffer would also work for therapy, how excellent!

Whit considers fleeing the scene

While our kitten is not so much a fan of the Tummy Stuffer, I think it's a fantastic gift option for toddlers and preschoolers!  Christmas is coming, who is on your list?  I'm positive that my 3 and 5 year olds would love to have Tummy Stuffers of their own (in fact, they've already told me which ones they wish for)!  Tummy Stuffers sell for $19.99 plus shipping and handling.  13" seat pets come with a free 8" buddy (for a limited time)

More Than You Can Take

I just heard a song on the radio that stopped me in my tracks.  I've seen a blog post that so many people have shared about the lie that "God won't give you more than you can take."
This is Selah.

I've been there.  You see, yesterday marked the due date of our 5th baby.  Selah would be in our arms now, had we not lost babies 4 & 5 in the last year.  Talk about an overwhelming feeling.  It sure feels at times like "more than we can take".

The truth is just that - God won't give us more than we can take... but we forget this next part, we leave it off ALL THE TIME.  Listen closely because this is important and when you forget about it, people leave feeling weak, inadequate, unloved by God - because why would he dish it out to them and not others. 

So here it is: God won't give you more than you can take WITH HIS STRENGTH.

That's right.  Sometimes we get knocked down and the ONLY way up is through Him.  His strength is certainly the only way we made it through the last year. In His strength, we continue to stand, to fight, to live.

As I washed dishes and listened to the song about God not giving us more than we can take, I thought of the verse, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

WHAT?!!!  Honestly, I can't figure out what that means when I look around and see the hurt and brokenness in the world.  I do, however, know that because of my faith in the good, holy, perfect God - I was able to make it through the last year.  I know that if it hadn't been for His strength, my burden would have felt much more desperate, lonlier, harder. 

Are you there?  Are you in the dark times?  His burden is light.  Spend time in prayer and discovery.  Let him pull you through.  Turn up the worship music.  Cry on his shoulder.  His strength will pull you through.  God is a BIG God. 

Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power! (Eph 6:10)

I urge you to do some study in Ephesians 6.  Learn how to suit up in a way that will make you strong in the face of a powerful enemy.

Blessings as you walk through each day and trust in Him.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"No Way" (Two Year Olds, Tantrums, and Power: 9 things to remember)

We have a two year old.  In fact, he's 2 years and 10 days old now.  He seems to be very aware of the stereo-type "terrible two".

Okay, okay.  In truth, he's not ALL that bad.  He has learned "No Way" and especially loves using it at bed time.  Dear Randy had an hour long show down with him the other night, it was a special treat.

Believe it or not, he's our first one to really challenge us quite this way.  Yes, each of our three boys has gone (and continues to go) through periods that they want to test us a little more than normal.  This little guy though - he's fiesty.
"No Way Bed"
Azariah has a strong will.  It's not JUST about bed time, but that is frequently when we see it the loudest.  Do you have those days?  Whether your child is 2, 5, or 16 - we all struggle with how to deal with "tantrums".  Yes, they change as children get older.  (Just look at our recent political stand-off - adult tantrums).  So how, as parents, do we help children through those difficult times?

1) First off we have to recognize what is behind the tantrum.  Tantrums come when there is a struggle for power.  Two year olds are just learning that they have power.  They can do things on their own now that they couldn't do just a few days or weeks ago.  Life is exciting and they want to experience the power of being in control.

Unfortunately, quite often older children and adults experience the same feelings.  Be honest, you have those days too (that's why we even have power struggles with our kids - we want control).  Have you had a tantrum this week?  Not a full out kicking and screaming tantrum - maybe one just inside your head.  What injustice have you experienced that made you so mad you had to drink some coffee, or take a walk, or write a congressman?

2) Next we've got to legitimize the need for power.  We all have this basic need for power.  It makes us feel good to know we have control over a situation.  When I can pay my bills on time, I feel in control, powerful.  When my children behave in a certain way, I am pleased - because they have given me the power of influence over their lives.

Our children feel the same way.  They need opportunities to express and explore their power in the world.  Having power over their situations in life helps to feed a child's self-esteem.

3) We have to stop mid-tantrum and think about whether this is an important struggle.  I mean when my 4 year old throws himself down in on the floor in the middle of the store, because he wants to hold the left side of the cart and not the right.  (Yep, happened this week).  I have to stop myself from reacting  out of my need for power.  I have to remember that he is frustrated, his need for power is being thwarted.  Is it really important for safety reasons that he be on the right side of the shopping cart?  Maybe.  If it is not, however - I need to give up control.

Sometimes this means we have to apologize to our kids.  Talk about giving up power!  Yes, we actually need to humble ourselves and repent in front of them!  Believe it or not this is not only healthy for our kids, it is a healthy experience for us.  It is also VERY hard - remember, we believe we need to be in control.

I'm not talking about giving in to your child's every desire.  Children MUST also learn things like patience, self-control, delayed gratification, and humility.  My children don't get everything they want by throwing fits.  In fact, sometimes I sit back and let them throw fits - even in the store.  It really doesn't bother me if my child is having a full blown tantrum in the middle of Wal-mart.  If he wants a candy bar and that's not on my shopping list, we're probably not going to get one.  (Those are rarely on my list).

4) Seeking opportunities to give our children power is important.  We really struggled with this for a while with our 5 year old.  He was showing us through his actions that he wanted to express his power.  Things like chasing the cat, arguing with his brothers, and so forth.  They seem like minor infractions, but are definite expressions of this need. 

So how do I find these opportunities?  Some ideas include things like: Go on a walk and let your child be the leader, ask your child what they would like for lunch, let your child help with menu planning, give him a chance to rearrange his bedroom.  Letting him cut apples with a KNIFE (yes, even our 2 year old can do this with some help).  These things don't sound like big, mighty, powerful acts - they do, however allow your child new chances to be in control of the world around him.

5) During a fit, look for alternatives.  Manasseh is throwing a fit because he can't have cookie for snack.  I know that we don't have cookies... or they aren't healthy... or he's allergic to something in them.  As the parent I get to make the final decision about what he is allowed to eat.  He is 5 and does not fully understand all of my reasoning.  I can sit down and try to rationally explain things to him - he might understand sometimes.  The reality is, in the middle of a tantrum, no one really can think objectively.  Just think back to your last tantrum - what did you have to do to cool off?

I might let him know that a cookie is not an option today, but the next time we go to the store we can look at cookies that are up to my standards.  I could give him a few options for his snack (thus giving him power to choose).  I can ask him to come up with some ideas for next week's snacks so we can plan for things he likes better.  In looking for alternatives we empower our children.

Sometimes there are no alternatives.  We must help our children learn to accept disappointment and understand that they will not always have power to make all of their own decisions.  Even as adults, we must answer to other people who have power over us.

6) Use consequences that leave the weight on the child's decision, not consequences that burden the parent.  This is hard sometimes.  We often allow ourselves to be stressed by our children's decisions.  Instead of getting frustrated that my children are wrestling at nap time, I can let them carry that stress.  See, I can grumble and growl and make threats and let my blood boil because I am frustrated by their actions.  It really means that I'm letting them threaten my sense of control.

If we give them control of the situation, and define consequences ahead of time, then let them make their own choices - we don't need to be stressed.  The children may choose poorly, we may need to give a consequence - but we have given up our control of the situation.  Children can learn so much be connecting consequences with their choices.

How does this play out?  If you tell Sally and Joe that it is bed time, here are your expectations, these are the consequences for not following them.  Sally and Joe might decide not to meet your standards.  If they don't, you simply follow through with the consequences.  Sally and Joe learn that you really mean it and are ultimately in control of the house - but still have given them power to choose their actions at bed time.  You are able to focus on other things.  This works better with older children (my two year old doesn't yet understand consequences).

7) Emotion coaching is helpful!  Helping children understand why they feel how they feel at different times is extremely helpful in combating power struggles.  Once we begin to really grasp how our emotions effect our actions we can take control over our behaviors!  it's true - emotion coaching leads to self-control (read: power over self).  A great resource for learning about emotion coaching is Mary Sheedy Kurchinka's book, Kid's, Parents, and Power Struggles.

8) It is not healthy for children to have all the power all the time.  It seems like it would be easier to just let our kids make all of the decisions.  Then we have no reason for power struggles.  However, our children must learn that there will always be people they need to answer to.  There will be a boss, a love, a government, etc.  As I stated before, children need to learn things like patience, delayed gratification, humility, and self control.  These make a healthier, happier child.  Children with boundaries know they are loved.

9) Remember, you are the parent and you have the final say.  Even when you give your child options - you control the options.  As the parent, you control the situations in which your child expresses power.  It is easy to get stressed about our children's behaviors.  They are learning and growing, just like we are.  Take a deep breath.  Remember that you are the boss, even when Sam throws a tantrum.  You can help him through this.

Take a deep breath.  Your kids are going to grow to be healthy, loving adults. You can make it through those tough times and come out better on the other side!

How do you help your child through tantrums?  What do you do to soothe yourself when you're having that mental tantrum about something that seems unjust to you?  Do you have other tips to share?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Where Have We Been?

Wow, it has been 4 months since I last wrote on my blog.  Why?  Oh so many reasons.

Did you know that I have a seasonal job?  If you've followed me closely, or are close to me for real - you certainly have seen it.  I am the program director at an amazing camp in northern Indiana.  We moved back to camp at the start of April and spent our summer living on campus full time.  The boys LOVE it there.  I have loved it since I was a child and am so blessed to be back at the camp.  More about the camp another day - I have plenty to share.

We came home to Fort Wayne officially on September 11.  Why this date?  It was the first night of Awana and the boys couldn't miss it.  We love Awana for so many reasons.  Poor Azariah can hardly wait until it's his turn to stay for the evening. 

We started kindergarten this fall.  Manasseh loves learning.  He really likes worksheets.  I love it that when we do school at home we have such a great wealth of resources and can do tons of outdoor education that can't happen in a public school. We have already had tons of fun, hands on learning experiences as a family.

We're keeping busy - on top of these things I am auditing a discipleship class at Anderson University School of Theology.  This is rocking my brain with ideas about how to improve the camp ministry.  I can hardly wait to start putting some of these new ideas into practice.

I have also begun a little bit of volunteer work with Silent Blessings, a ministry to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, bringing the gospel to life in a new way.  Their television show, Dr. Wonder's Workshop, is going to be the base for a new Vacation Bible School curriculum - Dr. Wonder's Sign Lab.  I get to do a little bit of behind the scenes helping with some things.  How fun!

The boys go to daycare on Thursday mornings while I'm in class, they absolutely love spending time with new friends - the oldest 2 are especially little socialites.  Since they're going to the daycare, I get to help with some things around there on Thursday afternoons.

Whew.  That's where we are, and where we've been in a nutshell.  I'll share about a few of these things in some more detail over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm Fat and I Don't Want to Die

As we pulled into the lot of a local burger and ice cream joint, my five year old son groaned in the back seat.  You see - we had already eaten a lot (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and yes, second dinner).  This is not our custom but that is what happened tonight.

Manasseh whined, "Are we eating, again?" Seriously, I don't know where this boy came from, we may have taken the wrong child home from Vacation Bible School, he loves food.. usually.

I told him, "Yes, we are going to have a snack and talk with some friends for a little while."  Again, he sighed as he proclaimed, "I'm fat and I don't want to die!"


My 5 year old son is hearing the message that he's fat!?  He's never heard it from his parents - it's not truth at all.  We really don't talk about weight in front of him.  We do talk about health and making healthy food choices, treating our bodies well, etc.  This "I'm fat and I don't want to die" thing kind of rocked me.

I'm still pondering what to do with that.  You see - he tells me that he heard it from a friend.  She told him that all kids say that.  He believes it to be true now.  Yikes!  Even though my kid isn't getting these messages from school and mainstream media, his friends are.  His friend, by the way, is not fat either.

My heart breaks for the 5 and 6 year old children that are hearing that they are too fat - 5 and 6 year olds!  Truth? Some children are too fat, they are obese.  These kids don't need to hear it in those words either - I'm sure they do though, far too often.

As you go to bed tonight, say a prayer that your children be protected from the lies that they are going to hear from friends, family, media, and even school.  As you wake up in the morning, find a child and encourage them.  Tell them how beautiful they are, point out something they do well, love on the children around you.  Most of all, listen to them.  Hear the messages that they are getting (they'll tell you if you listen).
I did tell Manasseh very plainly tonight, "You are not fat - and we are all going to die."  I want him to know the truth.  I hope he's learned to trust me.  I want him to know that I won't give him an ice cream cone if I think it's going to kill him.  I want him to grow to be strong, healthy, and wise.

How do you help your children balance the messages of our culture with truth?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I know I'm not the only one #mamavation

It's 12:50 am in Indiana.  I'm awake.  I have a VERY full time job and 3 VERY full time children.  I want a sweet, yummy snack but I have mostly health food in my house.  I'm a little irritated about my lack of junk.

I know I'm not alone.  Thank you to the ladies who are part of Mamavation and remind me I'm "normal".

More than my midnight snack desires, I really appreciate knowing that I am not alone in my struggle to improve my health and the health of my family.  You may know that we've been on a LONG journey to healing for things like diabetes, arthritis, and allergies.  We are still working on it and some times the process seems so very slow.  We're not good at making fast changes in behavior at our house - but we continue to make steps in the right direction.

I would love some feedback, advice, encouragement, etc from others who have been there, made it through, and are living healthier, stronger lives.

Here's my story:
I have been a type 2 diabetic for AT LEAST 8 years (longer than that, but not diagnosed earlier).  I am overweight.  I struggle to find time in my schedule to really exercise.  Here's why:  as I said, I work VERY full time in the summer as a camp program director - in fact, I live at work.  I work from sun up to well, it's after midnight and I've still been doing some work.  I am also a "stay at home" mom to my boys who are 1, 3, and 4.  We eat simple foods, mostly vegetarian, mostly plant based - but not entirely either of those.. sometimes we cheat on that and I'm pretty much okay with it.  I mean - my kids have been asking me for salad at breakfast this week, I think we're doing pretty well on the diet thing.

I have had 2 miscarriage in the last 8 months or so, after miscarriage number 1 I gained 20 pounds - in a month!  I didn't change my diet at all, just had crazy hormones or something ridiculous like that - also had a switch in meds.

I want to be healthy, I want to kick diabetes in the butt.  I want to be able to run and play with my boys for the next 30 years - my grandchildren too by then.

HELP!  How can I get my crazy schedule in order and find a way that I can get good exercise and nutrition when I am insanely ridiculously busy most of the time?/??

Is anyone else in my shoes?  What do you do?  What have you done?