Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Traditions

This blog post is sliding into home; I think this is very literally the last day that I can post about Christmas traditions until next year, even though I have been thinking about this post for the last couple of weeks. (There will be a post coming up about the BUSYNESS of this first half of the school year, but it will be in January as seems fitting.)

I wanted to post about our traditions at Christmastime for a couple of reasons.

  1. I get super nosy about the people whose blogs I look at. I want to know everything about them, how their personal lives run, and how things that they do can make my life better/easier/more God-glorifying. Because of this, I wanted to share these things with you, just in case you are like me.
  2. We are still, with children aged 5 and 2, in the pretty young stages of being a family. I feel like each year, the traditions change a little depending on where we are or what we are doing. Making a list seems to be a pretty good means of me, personally, reflecting on the traditions that we do have.
  3. I'm interested in your Christmas traditions and think that it may be nice to start a dialogue about them (but probably for next year, haha).
Tradition #1 - the Advent Calendar

This tradition is the most longstanding tradition we have in our house. One birthday of mine back before Charlotte was born, Adam bought me this Advent calendar. Every year, we fill it with slips of paper that have scripture on them and Dove chocolate. The idea is that each day, after dinner, we munch on our chocolate and Adam reads the appointed scripture.

I say that's the idea because we never do all of the days. Tradition #2 gets in the way, usually in between December 8-13, and some nights the kids just need to be poured into bed. Because of that, I keep a little candy dish for all of our "leftovers" to go into next to the calendar.

This year, we added a new component of this tradition. Adam talks with Charlotte a little about the scripture that he reads, applying it to Jesus and asking her questions about it. Then, he made a list of the people that Charlotte knows and each night, after the Bible reading, we prayed for one of the people on Charlotte's list. 

All in all, this takes about 10 minutes after dinner. Some days, that was definitely too much for tired/grumpy/not-feeling-100% kids. But every year we bring out the Advent calendar, there is much excitement, and every night we say that it is time to do it, even Jonah says, "Yay!"

(It occurred to me I should probably link to some Advent Calendar lists of scripture: here is the GirlTalk one and here is a more expansive one. This is the one we used this year that has a Bible study to go with it.)

Tradition #2 - the Christmas Worship Night
As I was planning this post and thinking about all the things that we do each year in December, this worship night kind of jumped out at me without me really considering it a "tradition." Both Adam and I are in our church choir, and each December our church puts together a worship night where the choir prepares praise and worship songs. It's not really a "Christmas show," even though I traditionally pitch it to people that way, so it really is more of a worship night. It wears our family out, and at the end of it, we feel like we have nothing left in the tank, but it is wonderful and a truly beautiful, if not inadvertent, tradition of ours.

Tradition #3 - Decorating with Christ in Mind
This isn't exactly a tradition, so to speak, but I wanted to discuss it anyway. I am not a natural decorator. I have commitment issues. Seasonal decorating, then, is that much more intimidating to me. But a couple of years ago as I was pursuing the ideas of biblical womanhood, I was convicted about keeping my home and making it a place that was warm and welcoming and lovely (decorated, haha). The more I thought about decorating for Christmas, the more I considered that in decorating, I can help my family keep the focus on Christ.

We live in a split-level house. During busy school weeks, we hardly go downstairs at all - the kitchen, main bathroom, dining room and bedrooms are all upstairs. The Christmas tree, however, is downstairs in the family room where 1) there is more room and 2) Jonah won't wreck it before Christmas. Because of these two things, I try to make the upstairs festive as well, without the tree. I put our nativity on the ledge coming up the stairs and lights around the ledge to brighten up dark days and light the manger scene.

More so this year than any other so far, I have noticed that this being in such a prominent spot in this season really has impacted my kids. Charlotte sees it and notices it more because it is in such a prime location in the house. Jonah can't wreck it, but he can see it, and that makes him want to play with his Little People nativity.

So there you go: three of our Christmas traditions. Whether we stay home for the holiday like we did this year or we travel like we did last year, these three things are consistent, and I pray that they are the things that my family remembers and looks forward to each Christmas. Merry Christmas, y'all, and Soli Deo Gloria.

P.S. The Charlie Brown Christmas Special
Adam would want me to add this, since God has preserved this in our culture to this point. Linus shares the true meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown from Luke 2, so every year, we end up watching this special at least half a dozen times. We also play the music all season. :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Coming Soon...

...are new posts from me. Two weeks from today, be looking for a new post. :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Swan Song

So, today is the day. The last day of summer. Precious summer, the season that teachers and children spend the rest of the year waiting for, and it is coming to a close for this year. Just so that I don't (ever!) come across as one of those perfect moms who has all of her stuff together all of the time, I wanted to give you a little reflection of my summer.

It was a short summer for our family this year, not for me, but for Adam. The past two weeks since he has been back have been tough, not because he's working and I'm not, but because they've been so imbalanced. My work is looming in the foreground while his is already going full-throttle. That has been tough. On top of that, my father-in-law graciously came in and helped us put in a new bathtub and shower: not an easy job at all. The shower is almost usable (yay!), and I am completely ready for this small portion of our summer to be over.

We didn't do nearly as much as we set out to do this summer. I think, from reading other people's Facebook posts, that I am not alone in feeling this sentiment. I think that summer in this regard is like Christmas, where it is so easy to have unrealistically high expectations and plans and then be disappointed when those things don't all happen. We want everything to be the perfect mix of busy and relaxing, and the balance between those two is hard to find.

There were many things we did do, though, and this is what I keep reminding myself. The kids did take swimming lessons, and they wore us all out (the lessons, not the kids!). We worked VBS. Charlotte got to go to Sports Camp. We visited our parents in Ohio. We went to the library. We didn't relax very much, but the different kind of busyness is a very nice change in the summer.

Another one of my teacher friends says that she enjoys getting back to the routine and schedule of the school year. That is something that I think most of us can appreciate. If it were summer forever, then we wouldn't appreciate it nearly as much. We need routine and so do our kids. So I think that, this year, I am content to bid adieu to summer and welcome the school year.

Check back next week to see our family's Back-To-School celebration on my first day of school. Soli Deo Gloria, y'all.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ground Warfare

My apologies, dear readers, for not having written in a while. I have two sweet weeks of summer left, and I have been trying to squeeze the most out of them. My husband goes back to school this coming Monday (boo!), so my summer will mostly end then.

What I want to write about and encourage you in is not an original concept; the title of it actually came from this book, Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard, which my husband adores. The term can mean many things, especially in a spiritual context. I've heard raising children, for instance, be described as warfare, specifically against the sin that wants to take over our children (Voddie Baucham). But for this post, I mean something a little less eternal in scope when I talk about ground warfare.

In Buzzard's book, he uses the term ground warfare to describe planning out your week as a couple. Actually sitting down together with planners and calendars and agendas and figuring out what is going on at the beginning of each week. Scheduling time to be a couple, sure, but also making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to dinners, picking up kids and who's giving baths to name a few things. It is this idea of ground warfare that I want to encourage you in today.

I'm a planner, and I am better when I am busy. Oh, I moan and complain about being busy, for sure, but I much prefer busy seasons to quiet ones. If you've ever heard the maxim that if you want something done, you should give it to a busy person to do, that busy person is me. But in my busyness, I do not appreciate surprises. I make my menu every weekend, and there is no deviation from that menu during the week unless some sort of catastrophe strikes. I drop my daughter off at preschool and my husband takes my son to daycare. Adam walks the dog in the morning. I feed the dog. Routine, routine, routine. That is part of what makes our crazy life function. Take the menu, for example. When I didn't make a menu (and I can't believe that there was a time in my life when I didn't), we were significantly more likely to either a) eat the same things over and over again or b) eat out. Giving the menu structure, however, helped to vary our meals and keep us from the temptation of eating out on a whim. My husband has an hour long drive home every day, and he is far less likely to be tempted by all of the fast food places that he passes if he knows exactly what will be waiting for him when he gets home.

This weekend, I encourage you to sit down with your husband and do ground warfare: plan out this week. Is it busy or calm? Is someone working late and when? Are any guests coming over for dinner? Who's got the kids when? Is there something special or not special going on with you as a couple? Plan it out, and then carry out the plan. I know, my free spirits, that this is not very much fun. Where's the spontaneity? Well, let me remind you of two things. Number one, I have two small children. Spontaneity, in my experience, does not favor small children. They need consistency and predictability. My husband, to a degree, needs consistency and predictability. In part of managing my home, I need to instill those things. Number two, our God is not a God of chaos. He works in perfect order and rhythm, doing things consistently according to His character. To see this, just look at the creation of the world. It was not done on a whim, with some animals created one day before the sun and the moon were created. Everything was done in order. Knowing that my home should reflect my God, I want there to be order.

Is it always perfect? Dear reader, of course not! Teaching is a very unpredictable profession to be in on a daily basis, so yes, sometimes the plan falls apart. Do emergency things need to be done sometimes that are not part of the plan? Of course! Do we have impromptu dinner guests from time to time? Sure, but not usually on a school night. The point is that the plan was there to begin with, and then we get to decide whether or not it is altered.

Try ground warfare this week, and definitely check out Date Your Wife for your husband. Soli Deo Gloria, y'all.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Giving In to My Career

I have fought my career for almost five years. I have fought wanting to be at home, raising kids instead of being at school spending time with other people's kids. Some days have been easier, and some days have been more difficult. The education system has certainly not made my fight any easier in its favor with its overemphasis on testing and increasing the rigor in arbitrary ways. Over the past couple of years, I have tried to love my career, but it is difficult. This is mostly because it is a career and not my whole life, which it seems to be with most teachers.

Today's sermon was on the parable of the talents, and I will not go into the individual details of it. The part of the sermon that struck me the most was the simple fact that one servant received five talents and another received two. They did not compare their inheritance with one another, and neither did they even give themselves thought before they went about glorifying their master with it. All of the sudden, my years of fighting with my circumstances felt immature, futile and, to be honest, sinful.

According to J.C. Ryle, a talent is anything that can be used to the glory of God. Looking at my life, I have more "talents" than I can even name: my intellect, influence, experiences, strength, talents and gifts, not to mention my husband and children or our home and supportive parents. Today, for the first time, really, I was forced to look at my circumstances as not something that had been forced upon me against my will. Instead, these are things that Lord has given me, entrusted me with. What I do with them will show my faith and diligence. That has a way of changing one's perspective, especially when doing nothing with my talents shows hatred and disregard for the Master Himself.

This sermon solidified in me a decision that I've been turning over in my mind for a couple of weeks. I am going to get my Master's in English. For anyone but an English teacher, this would be a throwaway program to pursue, but this would offer me more flexibility in both my current school and maybe in future opportunities. I am excited about the possibilities and the opportunities, and I am excited about more than that. For the first time in almost five years, I am having to commit to my career. I am not going to be allowed to get out of it while this is going on, and that is a refreshing thought to my soul that has been searching frantically for a way out. I will be expanding my talents in this endeavor, and though I know that the chance for idolatry is there, there is much more opportunity for God's glory than my own.

Thanks be to our God. Soli Deo Gloria, y'all.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Whole Summer Off

When I, as a teacher, tell people who are not teachers what my job is, I get the same response that most teachers do: It must be so great to have the whole summer off! And today, I am not going to argue with you. I will just say that, you know what? It is great to have the summer off.

I wanted to share with you what I do during the summer. I mean, obviously, I do all of the things that I do during the school year, just at a much more leisurely pace. We go to visit our families. We take day trips. We work on the house. But what do I do during the summer? Here's a short list.

  1. I read. I read during the school year, but over the summer, it's different. I read novels I'm thinking about teaching. I write in the margins. I highlight. I read inspirational teaching books. I read theology. I read my Bible every day. I read literary fiction to stretch my lit crit muscles. I read bubble gum to relax. 
  2. I check out books from the library. Yes, I know this goes with number one, but see where I'm going with all of this. I check out cookbooks, tons of cookbooks. I try recipes and experiment in the kitchen. I check out books on interior and exterior design and try to improve our home. I check out books about housekeeping and cleaning, and promptly forget everything in them when the school year begins. But every summer, I make some changes that stick in our school year routine. 
  3. I organize at least one space. Sometimes, I wind up doing more spaces. Last summer, I think it was the pantry. Or the junk drawer. During maternity leave, I organized our back room and bathroom closet. I need to reorganize Jonah's closet to make it work better, and I should probably organize my dresser, since I've been putting that off. 
  4. I cook. I find out new recipes and try them. I research nutrition depending on what our family needs: IBS, heartburn, borderline blood pressure, lactose intolerance. I bake. I try to fine-tune our family's health and eating habits. Again, some things stick into the school year; things like that vegetarian pasta soup with whole-wheat penne and garbanzo beans don't.
  5. I hang out with my husband. We watch movies while our kids nap. We play cards at the dining room table. I blog on the couch while he plays PS3 on TV. We kiss. We take the kids places and let them run around. We don't spend the entire summer trying to keep our house perfectly clean. We date. We plan our anniversary outing. 
So what about you? What are you doing this summer? Can I encourage you to use some of the extra time in this slower season to brush up on some things you've forgotten or gotten lazy about? Try to use this time to better your home, your family and yourself. God will bless you for it, and who knows? It might even stick when fall comes around. Soli Deo Gloria, friends!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Drumroll, please...

I now officially have TWO blogs! Hurray!

This blog will remain (or become again) a blog about biblical womanhood, balancing work and family, homemaking, raising kids and being a teacher all the same time. I feel like I have something to say about these topics, and I know that women in my position in the Christian community need support, encouragement and good ideas. This is what my vision for this blog is.

My new blog, will post pictures and videos of my children for my out-of-state family members who don't get to see them that often. Check in to see what our family is up to.

Up until this point, trying to do both things on this blog has been a challenge and had begun to hinder the vision of it, so I hope you like the changes. Of course, you are welcome to visit and join either blog. Thank you, dear friends and family!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fairy Party

COMING SOON: Big changes to the blog.... I am going to be separating my pictures blog from my writing blog. Exciting times! I'll keep you updated!

Pictures from Vivan's fairy party this morning. It was so much fun and so girly!

 All ready to go...
 ...and then really ready to go at the party.
 Writing her name on Vivan's Happy Birthday sign.
 Meanwhile, at home...
 Getting face paint
 With Lisa
 Decorating a wooden box with paint and jewels (all the girls loved this)
 Making her own lip gloss, which she almost couldn't wait long enough to do, she was so excited!
The girls
Thank you Lisa and Vivian for a fantastic party!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Superheroes, Hairdos, and Feet

Pictures for the first Monday of Summer Break 2013.

The kids started Father's Day as superheroes, running around wearing Adam's t-shirts as capes.  Charlotte understood it was funny to be a superhero.

Jonah just understood it was funny.

Dona, Dona, Dona, Dona, Dona, Dona, Dona, Dona, Jo NAH!

Saving sisters from the tyranny of small plastic trash cans.

Then, last night, Charlotte gave herself her own after hours hairdo.  Adam and I discovered the look when we checked in on her before we went to bed.  It is almost every hair band she owns.

Smiley Charlotte at lunch.

Smiley me at lunch.

Smiley Jonah, showing off his foot, at lunch.

Oh, and Charlotte got new shoes to wear with her brace. She seems to like it, but encouragement would help. 

Much like everything else we have done with the surgery, she got to choose the pattern.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pictures now, insight later

All right, here's the deal: pictures now, insight after the school year ends. Deal?
It would be fun to have no captions, but if you insist...

 Me and Charlotte the morning of getting her cast cut off (finally!)
 After the cast is gone (but not the bandages)
 The boot
 Jonah really likes to throw Charlotte's Hello Kitty on the floor and get in her rocking chair.

 Post-mother-daughter pedi pictures!

 This is something new I tried: salad bar and baked potato bar night. It was fun, but our family definitely isn't used to this AT ALL so it would take some getting used to. Adam said that we're not good at making baked potatoes. That made me laugh.
Charlotte dressed up for princess night at church (where they were talking about Queen Esther). 

Monday, April 29, 2013


 While I was cooking dinner tonight, it was suspiciously quiet. When I came out of the kitchen, I found Jonah had tucked himself into a corner and was surrounded by board books. :)

Weekend Visit with the Grandparents!

Barney and Kim were here over the weekend to love on our kids (and take us all out to dinner). It was great to see you; love you both!