Friday, December 31, 2010

My Favorite Posts from 2010

Since it's the end of the year, I thought I would review my favorite posts with you. You may have already read them all, but maybe you've missed one or two. Here's your chance to catch up!
What were your favorite posts this year? Mine and yours?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer

Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer is a fictional book that takes place in the near future after a series of wars that have devastated America as we know it. The American society has been transformed into the "Influentials" with their mansions and power and the "Industrials" and "Illegals" who live in shanty towns outside the city walls with absolutely no power and few possessions. This story is about Caitlynn who was genetically engineered. Because of this engineering (she is the only embryo out of thousands to have survived), she has many people hunting her. Feeling betrayed by her father, she has to flee the only world she has ever known into one she does not understand, and she is not sure that she can trust the only person wanting to help her.

I really enjoyed this book. As a little bit of a science fiction nerd, the premise behind the book intrigued me. Of course, I don't like genetic engineering, or the disparity between the people groups, but I find glimpses into possible future-scenarios fascinating and, at times, terrifying. This book is well-written, and the characters are believable and likable. I recommend this book...if you like reading such things.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Do You Say?

We were given this handout about the Shorter Catechism in Sunday school. We are supposed to use these handouts to help our children understand the questions. As you can see, Sarah Beth likes to color them.

While she was coloring the other day, she asked me about this picture. What was the man doing with the baby? What was the oven-looking thing? (She didn't put it that way.) I didn't know what to tell her. Should I tell her the truth, that the man is going to burn the baby in the fire in order to please his false god? That seems a bit much for a four year old. Or should I "fudge" it just a little bit? Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what I told her, but it wasn't the whole truth, although I did include the fact that some people don't worship God. (She's fascinated by that. "Why don't they?" she keeps asking.)

Oh, I want to protect my children. I want to keep their childish innocence intact and not let it be disrupted by the evil things of this world. There are stores that I stay away from at Halloween because of the evil displays they have; I don't want my children exposed to such things.

But this world is filled with evil. The intents of my heart are oftentimes evil. At what point are children old enough? For some things, I know that I am not old enough; I don't want to see those things or be exposed to them.

Yet, there is evil in our world. Like it or not, we are all exposed to it. Even the Bible stories that we teach our children have disturbing parts to them. We like to use the story of Noah's ark as a delightful children's story because of the animals. But it's not a delightful story. God destroyed the whole world and everyone in it except for the select few (the chosen) on the ark. The whole world...that's not a nice image, but it's true.

What about Jonah and the whale? My children love that story. But it's not a great "children's" story, either, as Jonah is eaten by a whale. Alive! And God planned to destroy the city of Nineveh, killing everyone there, if they didn't repent. Children's story?

I know that we cannot and should not protect our children from every bad thing in our world. But what would you say to your child if he asked you about that picture?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: On This Day in Christian History by Robert Morgan

In On This Day in Christian History, Robert Morgan compiles noteworthy events in the history of Christianity based on the dates they occurred. Each summary is about a page long and tells an interesting anecdote from one of Christianity's heroes.

This book makes a nice addition to a daily devotion. Each story is a great starting point; you can do further research and reading on the ones that interest you. If anything, the summaries are too short, leaving the reader yearning for more. I do, however, have a serious "bone to pick" with Morgan about this book; the Bible references on each page are taken from the Contemporary English Version which, in my opinion, is a poor translation. Other than that, the book is fun to read as you learn more about our Christian history.

While my opinions are my own, I want to thank BookSneeze for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Pictures

Waiting to open presents. Rachel was still in bed, and we didn't wait for her. Poor thing!

Daniel got snow for his birthday, and Sarah Beth got pink clouds for Christmas.

Oh, boy! Christmas!

We hosted my family for Christmas dinner this year. There are a bunch of us: nine adults and eleven children. A little chaotic, but a lot of fun!

"I can't believe I'm getting this!"

My sister-in-law being silly. (I guess I was, too.)

Playing with the cousins. Thankfully, the weather wasn't too bad for the children to play outside.

Do you think Sarah Beth was having a good time?

After everybody left, and we had a light supper, we put together some puzzles Sarah Beth and Daniel received. They love puzzles. Daniel is concentrating hard!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Joy to the World!

Joy to the world! The Lord is Come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav'n and nature sing, And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and flood, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love, And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My New Floor Cleaner

I just love my new floor cleaner! Let me count the ways:
  • She's self-propelled; no more pushing a mop and broom for me!
  • She buffs the floor as she sweeps. That army crawl does amazing things on my floor!
  • Don't forget about the suction. Anything and everything that she finds on the floor goes into her mouth. I don't even need a dust pan anymore!
  • Last, but certainly not least, she's awfully cute.
How do you keep your floors clean? You really ought to get one of these!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Who I'm Not Buying Christmas Gifts For

(To be grammatically correct, the title of this post really should be: "For Whom I'm Not Buying Christmas Gifts. I know that, but it sounds kind of funny, don't you think?)

Buying gifts for people at Christmas can get expensive. It seems like you have to buy something for everyone, and it can be hard to find the perfect gift for each and every person on your list. We have a secret: we don't buy gifts for many people. It saves a lot (a lot) of time, money, and aggravation.

It is actually easier for me to list the people for whom I do buy gifts than those I don't. I buy gifts for John, and we buy gifts for our children and three of my in-town nieces and nephews. That's it. How do we get away with it? Why do we not buy gifts for my parents, siblings, and the rest of my nieces and nephews?
  • My parents do not need anything. They do not even want much, and what they do want, they buy for themselves. Since there is nothing they need or want, we make a donation to their choice of ministry in their names. This gift makes them happy, and it helps out a worthy ministry. (I do have a small gift for each of them to open, however. Shhh! Don't tell!) While it doesn't save us much money, it saves a lot of time and aggravation.
  • All of my siblings and our spouses used to buy gifts for everyone else, and that got expensive since I have two brothers and a sister. We decided to draw names, and that worked well...for a few years. One year when John and my brother-in-law exchanged gift cards to the same store, we decided it had gotten a little ridiculous. Then we started playing the "White Elephant" (aka "Dirty Santa") game. We just quit doing that a couple of years ago, and I'm not sure why...but it's kind of nice not to worry about it.
  • There are a bunch of nieces and nephews in our family (eleven to be exact), and again it's expensive to buy gifts for all of them. So we draw names. How does that work since John and I have three children but my younger brother has two? Well, you draw the number of names that you have children. We draw three, and my brother's family draws two. The children still get gifts, and we still have the fun of picking presents out, but it's limited. And let's be honest; they don't really need a toy from every aunt and uncle.
Do you do anything similar to cut costs for Christmas present-buying? What other methods do you use?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Links of Interest

Here are some links I think you might find interesting:
What interesting sites have you found this week?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baking Cookies

Well, we finally got around to baking those cookies I've been telling you about all week. Boy, are they good, too. And worth the extra effort to find the correct Hershey's Kisses which are, by the way, Mint Truffles, and they are very good all by themselves!

Here are my little helpers enjoying the fruit their labors.

You should have seen how much chocolate they had on their faces after licking the spoon and the paddle from the mixer. I wish I had taken a picture!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

National Bill of Rights Day

Did you know that today is National Bill of Rights Day? I didn't know that, either, until I read an editorial about it in today's newspaper. Isn't it a shame that this important date has been forgotten? The Bill of Rights protect us from the government, and as we forget about them, we lose more and more of our Constitutionally-protected freedoms. Just in case you have forgotten what they are, here is a brief summary of the first ten amendments to our Constitution.
  • The First Amendment guarantees our freedoms of religion, speech and the press, the ability to assemble, and the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances."
  • The Second Amendment guarantees us the right to own guns.
  • The Third Amendment guarantees that we won't have to billet soldiers in our own homes.
  • The Fourth Amendments keeps us safe from "unreasonable searches."
  • The Fifth Amendment spells out our rights to justice and keeps the government from stealing our property.
  • The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to a "speedy and public trial."
  • The Seventh Amendment gives us the right to be tried by a jury in any civil case amounting to more than $20.
  • The Eighth Amendment protects us from "cruel and unusual punishment."
  • The Ninth Amendment says that we have more rights than just those listed in the Bill of Rights and protects us from infringement of them.
  • The Tenth Amendment limits the power of the federal government.
I'm not sure how best to celebrate this date, but I won't let it slip up on me again.

For more information, head over to Bill of Rights Day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advice Sought: Baking with Children

Isn't this a wonderful time of year to do some baking? It's nice and cold outside, so the hot oven actually feels good (as opposed to the middle of summer). If you make too many cookies or too much cake, well, it's Christmastime, and you're expected to share.

I'm struggling, however, with baking with children underfoot. My kitchen is fairly small (although I've had smaller), and there is not room for both of my older children to pull up chairs to the counter. I guess they could share a chair, but I have a feeling that one child would accidentally (of course!) push the other one off. I usually wait until nap time and let Sarah Beth help me before her playtime in her room. I feel like poor Daniel doesn't get to help (or lick spoons).

What do you do? Do you bake during nap time or after your children's bedtime? Do you send your children to a different part of the house while you bake? What about when you make things like fudge on the stove? Or do you hope that a DVD will be enough of a distraction? How do you get your Christmas baking done?

Please help because I have some scrumptious-looking cookies that I want to bake this week.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Meme

Here is a fun Christmas meme I found at It's Almost Naptime. Feel free to play along!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate, definitely. Honestly, I've never even had egg nog. (It just sounds gross.)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa does not come to our house, so all the presents get wrapped.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
This dilemma was huge when John and I got married. I grew up with small, white lights, and he grew up with BIG, colored lights. We compromised with small, colored lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. Don't need to.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Usually, the week before Christmas, however, we bought and decorated our tree last Saturday.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
I don't really have a favorite, but I love that there is a great excuse this time of year to make cookies and pies. Yum!

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
I don't really have a favorite; they were all good but not spectacular. (I hope that doesn't sound like I'm complaining because I'm not.) However, my Granny used to make all kinds of candy when we came to visit for Thanksgiving and Christmas: buckeyes (or peanut butter balls), turtles, Mississippi mud, etc.. It was wonderful to walk through the dining room and eat a piece or two without my parents saying I had had enough.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I never believed in Santa Claus. I have a brother and sister who are almost five years older than I am. They probably spoiled it for me, although I really don't know. I don't feel like I missed anything, though.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
What a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion!

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
We just put lights and ornaments on it. How do you do it?

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love, Love, Love it! Since we live in the Deep South, we never get it. It's always a holiday (literally!) when we get some.

Funny story: The only white Christmas I have ever had was in Jacksonville, Fl., visiting my grandparents. But it wasn't snow; it was ice.

12. Can you ice skate?
I doubt it since I've only tried once and that was in high school.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I'm not sure what my favorite was, but one of my favorites was a clock-radio (remember those?) that my parents gave me when I was about twelve. The neat thing about it was that it played tapes. Oh, I loved that present! As a matter of fact, I still have it. Thanks to my trusty (old!) clock-radio, I know what it is in the middle of the night and I'm never late to work or wherever else I'm heading for the day.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
The most important thing is that Jesus Christ gave up the splendors of heaven for us (for me!) and came down to earth as a lowly, poor baby. Isn't that amazing?!

Of course, I also enjoy spending time with family.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
I think I have a new favorite: Grasshopper Pie. Yum!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Opening presents. Is that bad? Maybe we need to start some traditions.

17. What tops your tree?
Honestly, we have an angel for the top of our tree, but I really need to replace it. Angels aren't pretty tree-topping things; they are scary creatures. Whenever they appeared to men, the first words they uttered were, "Don't be afraid."

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
While I enjoy both, I have to admit that I prefer receiving. It's my love language.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
"Joy to the World!"

20. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?

21 Favorite Christmas Show?
No doubt about it, my favorite show is A Christmas Story. "Don't shoot your eye out!"

22. Saddest Christmas Song?
Christmas should be a happy, joyful time because Christ came to be with us. Immanuel! If pressed, however, I guess I would have to say "Mary Did You Know?," but I don't much care for that song...probably because it's sad.

Let me know if you play along with this meme so I can head over and read yours, too.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Links of Interest

I have read some articles and posts lately that I thought you might be interested in. Some are fun; some are not. Enjoy...or not, as the case may be.
I haven't done a "linky" post like this one before; let me know what you think!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feeling (Un)Welcome

Last night, our family went to a church Christmas party for dinner. My children and I got there a few minutes early, but I was still one of the last ones to arrive. John was coming, too, but he was later than I was. When I got there with my hands full (diaper bag, purse, Floppy Seat, Rachel), everyone was already seated, and there was just one place for me and the children - an empty table. That's where we sat, waiting for John. A few people smiled in welcome, but only one person came to greet us - our pastor. And no one thought to come help a mother with full hands.

Sarah Beth and Daniel climbed into their seats, and finally a waitress brought me a high chair for Rachel. As I sat there by myself, feeding Rachel her supper, I couldn't help but think, "I could be doing this at home." John finally arrived, and then another couple (who was later than we were) came and sat with us. They don't know it, but this couple redeemed the whole party for me.

I don't write this post looking for sympathy. I write it to remind you (and me!) that we need to be on the lookout this season (and always) for people who need some kindness. There are people in our churches and at our social functions who feel lonely and left out. As a family of believers, this should not be.

I am thankful that this happened to me last night because I hope that the next time I am in a similar situation, but on the other side, I remember what it's like to be alone. I want to remember so that I pick myself up out of my comfortable chair, my familiar setting, and my encouraging conversation, and go make someone else feel welcome. How hard is that? And yet how meaningful?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Booking It: December 2010 Edition

Jessica at Life as Mom wants us to list all the books we read this year; unfortunately, I can't remember all the books I read. Oh, well. Here are the ones I read this past month.
  • By Hook or By Crook by Betty Hechtman is a light, easy read - maybe a little too light. But I enjoy reading mysteries about women who crochet even if they're not all that well-written. (You can read my review of the second in the series here, if you want to know a little more.)
  • These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon is the third in the Mitford series, and it was another great read. (For more information, you can read my reviews of the first two in the Mitford series here and here.)
  • I read You Can't Make Me (But I Can be Persuaded) by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias because I have a strong-willed child, and I was looking for some help. This book was a good choice. Tobias explains why strong-willed children don't always obey authority as they should. Sometimes they're being creative, sometimes stubborn. John and I certainly know that the threat of discipline (and the discipline itself) do not always encourage correct behavior. That's when the creativity comes into play. Sometimes you have to be a little creative in order to get your strong-willed child to do the right thing. Of course, you cannot let disobedience go without being unpunished, but Tobias shows you how to encourage your child's obedience without letting him run all over you.
I hope that Jessica continues "Booking It" next year. I plan to hop on board in the beginning instead of waiting until the year is half over.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Words Children Use

The other morning when I got him out of bed, Daniel said, "It's not dark outside anymore." I was surprised and smiled to myself at his use of the word "anymore." It's a fairly big word for a little boy, and he used it correctly.

Later, Sarah Beth wanted me to come play with her in her room because she was "lonely." Again, I chuckled to myself at her use of the word "lonely" because what does my four year old child know of loneliness?

As I thought more about it, I wondered if God smiles indulgently at us, too, as we use words like "love." "I love my husband." "I love my children." Do we really know what love is? Consider what love means to God: sacrifice. God the Father sacrificed His Son. God the Son sacrificed His life. For us. For me.

Do we really know what love is? Do we really practice it? What do you think?

Friday, December 3, 2010

FO (Finished Object) Friday

I have been working on this vest for a while now, and I am so excited to be finished with it finally (except for the buttons), I just had to share my joy with you! This project is the first one I have done for myself since my Christmas stars last year.

The pattern for this vest was fairly difficult which made it fun to work on...except when it was aggravating! I don't know how many gauge swatches I made, and I can't tell you how many rows I pulled out because of a mistake I made. I wanted this sweater to be as close to perfect as possible since I spent so much time (and money!) on it. Of course, there are still some mistakes, but I'm not pointing them out!

I am amazed at how warm this vest is, considering the loose weave of the pattern. I shouldn't be surprised, though, since I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn to make it. As the name implies, it has cashmere and merino wool in it. Yum!

I want to warn those of you who know actually know me: you're likely to see this sweater a lot. Since I spent so much time on it, and since I like it so much, I plan to wear it every, single time that you see me. Okay, maybe not every, single time, but often. I hope you don't mind, but if you do, tough!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmastime Generosity: A Good Thing?

What is it about this time of year that makes us feel more generous? Fishmama at Life as Mom has a list of ways we can demonstrate God's love to to others during the Christmas season. Doesn't it make us feel good to do things for others?

While these random acts of kindness are great, why should we do them during this season? I mean, what is so special about Christmastime? If these acts of kindness and generosity are good at this time of year, aren't they good all year long? I've read through the Bible a few times, and I haven't come across any command to give more freely or to love one's neighbor more during a certain time of the year.

Of course, I do not want to discourage you from doing good this month. In fact, I want to encourage you to act upon these suggestions. However, I do want to challenge you to continue these good deeds into January and February and March get the idea. What's good in December is still good in July.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Amazing, Pollution-Eating Trees

Scientists studying deciduous trees have discovered that some actually absorb ozone-causing pollutants. Isn't that amazing? God designed these trees to combat the very pollution we create. And He did this long, long before there was any pollution.

While I don't buy into the whole "global warming" myth, I think this article shows how amazing our Creator is -- and His forethought. Environmentalists would like us to believe that we are destroying our world, but it seems that God has everything in His capable hands. (Of course, I think we need to be good stewards and take care of this planet He has given us, but that doesn't mean that we need destroy all industry because of pollution.)

What do you think?