Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Favorites: January 29, 2016 Edition


While winter seems to be a wee bit PMS-y lately here in the south, we are full speed ahead in our home with the comfort foods of the season. I am all about some soup! Aside from Campbell's Tomato accompanied by a few cold cheese cubes, these two have become my two new favorites. Of course, I found both of them on Pinterest while searching for delicious new noshes. Both were HUGE successes with the whole family--yes, even the kids--'cause picky eating has never been an option in our house.

Both soups made enough to have leftovers and reheated beautifully! YUM. YUM. YUM.

The third is an ah-mazing dessert. Now, if you aren't all that savvy in the kitchen, don't freak when you look at the picture and think, "Woman is nuts!" Seriously, I've never made a dessert this quick and easy that tasted so good! It's awesome . . . not on any diet plan you may have for the new year, but c'mon, life is too short to miss out on this one!

I call these three faves: soups and sweets! Enjoy!

Creamy White Bean, Ham, and Tortellini Soup
(I left out the cumin and oregano, and it was still great.)

One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese Soup

Blueberry Cheesecake Roll-ups



This week, I'm going to take a break from complaining about the cold (both the temperature outside and the infection that has taken up permanent residence in my bod for the winter) . . . I still can't believe that I used up a favorite slot last week on tissues, but I still stand by my choice. Thanks, Puffs, for providing just a little bit of solace.

Stacey and I are on the same wavelength this week: I, too, am enjoying some comfort food. I'm a cheese lover, but I've never been a fan of pimento cheese. But about two years ago, my husband ran across a recipe that made me change my mind. About once a month, our daughter would sweet-talk Daddy into making a batch. There's a lot of grating involved, so it's not a quick thing to throw together. One day, he came strolling in from Publix with this:

Store-bought pimento cheese. I know. I almost didn't even give it a chance, but this kind is made in Pawley's Island, and I do love to support businesses in the Carolinas. My man urged me to try it on toast, so the next morning, we toasted bread in the toaster oven on both sides, and then for the last few seconds, we added a thin layer of this cheese (okay, that's a big story--we glopped it on like it was our JOB)--got it a little melty. That night when we got into bed, he said, "Tomorrow morning we get to have another PC!" I haven't had my cholesterol checked lately, so my fingers are crossed about that, but for now, breakfast is a little brighter. (My little girl still politely declines this version.)

While we're discussing indulgences, another of mine is good music. I get into music ruts here and there, and I was in a big one a couple of months ago. Then I discovered this CD:

I enjoyed her music when she sang under the name Watermark, but this CD is just amazing. I love every song, and it's a big bonus when you hear your five-year-old sing, "Worthy is the Lamb!" in the back seat . . . so beautiful.

My last favorite for the week is a store:

I was in there earlier this week. I came home and declared to my husband, "Soma is Victoria's ladylike big sister." He replied, "So now you're too uppity to shop at Victoria's Secret anymore?" Well . . . yeah . . . but he doesn't have to be such a brat about it.

Actually, I'm not saying that I'll never shop at VS again; I mean, there may come a time in my 40s when I may want a pair of panties that say "Text Me" across the back--but for now, Soma is my girl. So far I've splurged on the softest panties I've ever owned (and I'm as picky about my undies as my daughter is about her pimento cheese) and a couple of foundational garments (which I abhor, but they're a necessary evil of today's social norms--and if you have to wear them, you might as well get good ones). I haven't bought any pajamas or clothes yet, but trust me, those purchases are in my future.  The store is quiet and nicely decorated, and the customer service is excellent.

Hope you all have a great weekend filled with soft clothes, soft music, and great food!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Whatcha Got Wednesday: January 27, 2016 Edition

"Let's Talk About Sex . . . AGAIN . . . "

As a follow-up to the previous question about sex, I'd like to offer some resources to use as a backbone for your discussions. Remember, this is not a one-and-done situation. This particular subject is a prime example of why we should be using leadership parenting.  As John Rosemond says, your parenting has to be an attitude--a point of view. Too often we are reactive in our parenting when we should be proactive in the way we present not only our authority, but also our guidance in such areas. Do not fall victim to the notion that all teenagers are rebellious and that once they reach "that stage," they are gonna do what they are gonna do. Nonsense!

The lessons you wish to teach you daughters AND sons should start at a very young age. Your children learn very quickly what your expectations are and what your non-negotiables are. If you waiver and fail to be consistent, then yes, chances are high that you will have a rebellious teenager--but you also probably have a handful already. When a child does not have the simple security of knowing that your yes means yes and your no means no, then you are practically begging your child to test your boundaries.

As a parent, if you are consistent from the very beginning, then those moments of frustration will decrease as your children grow because they will feel secure in the knowledge of where their parents stand. They will know (even when they don't like it) that you have their best interests at heart--that YOU are the parent LEADING them as they grow.

So, parents . . . start early. How about the clothes you allow your children to wear? You may think that a onesie with a cute saying on the front (Diva, Princess, Heartbreaker, Handsome, etc.) is harmless fun, but even those seemingly innocent sayings perpetuate a notion of "Look at me!" Don't let those attitudes take root from the very beginning with your children. Even if the child can't read the words that are plastered across his chest, he will instinctively know that people are reacting and noticing him. Instead, urge your children--even as toddlers--to be humble and modest.

Start teaching your daughters to be ladies and your sons to be gentlemen, and start early--earlier than you think. Model this behavior. Personally, I can't stand that the new norm is for girls to wear shorts under dresses and skirts. I realize that isn't a popular view, but hear me out: what motivation do our daughters have to learn to keep their legs together, learn what they can and cannot play on while wearing a dress (monkey bars, etc.) if they have on shorts to prevent their panties from showing? I know teenage girls right now who sit like cowboys in a skirt because they are so accustomed to wearing shorts under them. Teach them to be ladies, for Pete's sake!

I could go on (shocker, I know), but you get the gist.

As you approach the specifics of marriage, intercourse, and childbirth, use the Bible (there's a lot of really good stuff in there!) You'll find a few verses below to get you started. But keep in mind that these are YOUR children; as with anything else, trust your own gut, and don't completely rely on fodder from others. Dig into the Word on your own. Children always know when you're genuinely sharing or just regurgitating something that you've read or heard.

Genesis 1:27: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them."

Genesis 1:28: "God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Psalm 139:13: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb."

Genesis 2:18-25: "The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.' That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

I Corinthians 6:20: "You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."

I Thessalonians 4:4: "that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable."


For girls, the American Girl Doll books The Care and Keeping of You are very good and thorough. Book 1 is for younger girls, and Book 2 is for older teens. My daughter and I took the first book along on a girls' day, and I had her read aloud as we bebopped around that day. It was great! No interruptions, she had my full attention, and it covered things that I might not have thought to bring up. I highly recommend it! I am still searching for a good boy book, but I have also found that most guys I know "ain't reading no book about that stuff!" So . . . to be continued!

Bottom line: take charge of the subject. Please don't sacrifice your children's knowledge because you're squeamish. 

Think of the way that you learned about sex: was it a good experience? How would you have liked to learn about sex for the first time? Did the knowledge you had have a direct result on how you handled yourself when intimate moments arose in your life?

Grow in wisdom for the sake of your children. We know you can do this . . . and we're here for you!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Marriage 1st, Children 2nd

Yesterday while doing a little shopping with my kids after school, it dawned on me . . . .

"Ya know, Stace, some of the folks reading your blog may be wondering why in the world you guys talk so much about marriage if this is supposed to be all about parenting!?"

That's how it is you know; if you're passionate about anything, you sometimes just assume others are as well--or even worse, that they understand where you're coming from. Obviously not always true.

So here it is:

I (as well as Andrea) are very firm believers in marriage before children. I'll even go one step further and say marriage before sex. How 'bout them apples!? You'll find no apologies here for our very strong belief in traditional marriage and in the divine plan for family balance: our relationship with Christ, then our marriages, THEN children.

I know, I know, I'm such an intolerant, hating, close-minded, old fashioned, ridiculous, ignorant woman. Did I leave anything out? Unrealistic? Yeah, I'm also unrealistic. Did I cover it all?

The truth is, as far as The Word goes, our marriages must come first in the home. I talk to A LOT of parents out there, and the longer I do this, the more I see a trend which, unfortunately, isn't a huge shocker. Parents are struggling. They are doing so primarily because their marriages have never happened, ended in divorce, or are heading in that direction.

We are even defining ourselves by our parental status: "Stay-at-home mom" rather than "housewife." And the logic is usually along the lines of, "I don't live to serve my husband. Why would I call myself a housewife?"

Really? But you're quick to point out that you are a "stay-at-home mom" . . . 'cause THAT doesn't scream "you're all about your children." You are serving your children. Soooooo . . . . ?

We know that the entire family thrives when the marriage thrives. Children who have a front-row seat to a loving marriage will undoubtedly succeed in their own family lives.  This is not to say that children in homes where a parent has passed or single parents for whatever reason can't successfully raise a happy, healthy, God-fearing child. But I will say that I have YET to meet a parent in one of these situations who disagrees that having a happy marriage--and a marriage FIRST--would have been much more preferable.

Here's my point: being "old-fashioned" isn't synonymous with "out of touch" or "ignorant."  It certainly shouldn't be a four letter word either. As far as I can gather, when we're old-fashioned in the ways of marriage and allowing the Biblical model for family to be your guide, most everything else falls right into place. God has the most perfect plan for our families . . . as Gary Chapman says, "it's one of his BEST ideas!"

That's just my two cents.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Favorites: January 22, 2016 Edition

Happy Friday, everyone . . . enjoy!

Stacey's Favorites:

Okay, so we are all well aware of direct sales, but I must say that I really do love some smell-good. Room sprays in particular appeal to me because they are instant and ready when you need a dash of something special in a jiffy! My favorite scent is Scentsy's Luna . . . but it really just tops my long list of faves!

Another direct sales item--but again, one that has had staying power for me at least. I've never been one to use any kind of skin care regimen beyond the teenage Noxema shower experience. I semi-reluctantly went to an Aloette party one evening and was introduced to this moisturizer. I actually purchased the entire set . . . which we shall keep on the DL . . . ahem. Though I used the entire system consistently and truly saw a difference in my not-so-old but not-quite-as-young skin, the moisturizer was my favorite, and when I ran out of the other products, I kept this one restocked. Even though it is designed for night, I use it each morning as well (per the saleslady's advice--and because the day moisturizer had a greasy feel to it). This is good stuff!

Last, but certainly not least, is my laundry formula for the best smelling clothes eva! Back story: a few years ago, one of my students always--ALWAYS--smelled so good! Very fresh and clean (which is just short of miraculous since it was a little boy)! One day I asked his mother what kind of shampoo she used because he just smells so good everyday! She laughed and said it wasn't their shampoo, but their laundry routine. And here's another shocker: her husband came up with it!


The first step is Tide Sport with Febreze. Use as directed. Pretty straightforward.

The second is Suavitel liquid fabric softener. Again, use as directed.

And the final step is Downy Unstopables. Blue cap. If you've never used these beads, you toss them right into the washing machine on the clothing, not in a dispenser on the machine. I use a capful per load, but you can use as much as you like. Because they can get a bit pricey, I recommend buying the giant bottle at Sam's or Costco; MUCH cheaper!

There it is. Trust me when I say it will change your life. Nothing lifts your spirits like getting a whiff of fresh and clean all day long!


Andrea's Favorites:

I know that I give Old Man Winter a lot of lip. But in my defense, he gives it back to me . . . for the past two years, I've pretty much kept a cold or an allergy attack of some kind throughout the entire winter. I'll get a week off here and there, and then I'm right back to hacking. (My son recently told me that he had forgotten what my voice usually sounds like. Peachy. I sound like an 89-year-old chain smoker . . . just like I’ve always dreamed.) Thankfully, I’m still functioning, but winter always finds me looking for comfort. Today’s favorites are all about comfort (and counting the days until warmer weather).

I know. I'm actually getting ready to write a nostalgic tribute to a box of tissues. These were in a big display at CVS last week for 99 cents, and I actually glanced through the display to see if they had any plain ones. I thought the Vicks would be overwhelming. That's all they had, so I bought a box, and I was so pleasantly surprised. The scent takes me back to the days when I would have some kind of fever-inducing cold as a child, and my mom would take me to my great-grandparents' house for the day while she was at work. I didn't care for the Vicks treatments at the time, but these soft, lightly scented tissues take me right back to that feeling of being in my Granny's lap. Comfort!

I’m not the only one sniffling around here; my children are the sneezy twins these days. Even though they’re now five and almost seven, I still keep a bottle of this on hand:

They use adult shampoo and children's body wash or bar soap now, but when they have colds, I close the bathroom door and get it good and steamy in there--and once they're clean, I'll help them slather a little of this over their chests and tummies and leave it there a minute or two before rinsing. I get as much comfort out of the scent as they do!

Finally, when you're feeling a little puny and a little grumpy, there's nothing like seeing something like this:

And now I have a game plan to get me through the rest of this winter.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

These Days

Last night, I went into my son's room to give him one last kiss before bedtime.

It's been a good couple of weeks. We've heard "yes ma'am" and "no sir" a lot more often than usual (this is a huge sign of respecting authority for South Carolinians, so if you're from another part of the country and you don't get that, skip this part and keep reading). We've seen our son ingest a lima bean on purpose. Earlier this week, he got up from the table to go get something for his sister so that she wouldn't have to get up. He also played dolls with her. He attended a tea party. He put his empty hangers in the closet rather than leaving them dangling on the closet door knob. Dirty clothes have gone into the hamper.

I leaned down to kiss him, and he wrapped both arms around my neck and gave me a tight squeeze. Then he pulled back, looked me right in the eye, and said, "I've really been liking you a lot these days."

Well, thanks for the approval, Your Highness.

But I think I know why he was feeling so lovey-dovey all of a sudden; as I've heard Stacey say so many times, "The most obedient children are the happiest children." It's so true! When they are respecting our authority and trusting us to lead them, the whole family is aligned, and everyone is happier.

He's going to test me this week. I might get a groan when I put a vegetable on his plate. He might stroll out of his room with lights on and clothes on the floor. He may head to the car tomorrow morning and leave his book bag in the house. But we'll get back on track, and he'll eventually realize that letting his parents take the lead allows him the freedom to be a child.

Childhood freedom? Those are some happy days.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

21 Ways to Teach Your Child to be Respectful

One of the biggest challenges for parents, no matter the child’s age, is getting said angels to realize this big green ball does not revolve around their being.  The stumping point for most is in the “how.”  How do I teach my child to think of others and not just himself?  How do I teach her to act like a lady? How do I teach them to show respect?

Well, there isn’t any textbook or pamphlet, no course, drill, or test for selfless behavior and respect. But we do have the Word and the ultimate model from our Father.  "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." --Mark 10:45 (NIV)

It is by no happenstance that you are your child’s parent. You were chosen specifically for your child, and within you, through Him, you have all that you need to teach this selfless love for others and raise respectful children. Of course, your children also have free will . . . but that’s a topic for another day!

We teach such things by doing--by modeling respect and service. We know that our children are watching and listening even in those moments we wish they weren’t . . . you know, like that time when your five-year-old shared with the whole class that you don’t always wear pajamas to bed and that she's afraid that if the house catches on fire, you won't be able to get dressed quickly enough to get out of the house. (Okay . . . that one might have been ME when I was five . . . and yes, my mother was mortified when the teacher told her what I had said during a PTA meeting!) So yes, rest assured, your children are paying attention to EVERYTHING.

Here are just a few ways to model and “teach” your child to show respect toward others as well as themselves, to serve Him from whom we are created, and to start giving back to the big green ball!
1. Never buy clothing with words across the buttocks for yourself or your child . . . just don’t.
2. Chew with your mouth closed . . . no one wants to see all that.
3. When you finish shopping, put the cart back, even if it means walking back in the store.
4. Be kind if the waiter gets your food order wrong; you have bad days at work too.
5. Kiss your spouse FIRST when you get home at night! (That first kiss came before the kiddos, you know!)
6. Let the guy behind you with one item go ahead of you in line. You just might make his day!
7. Always leave a tip. ALWAYS.
8. Use “ma’am” and “sir,” with folks older than you or in a position of authority--especially in the south.
9. While waiting, give up your seat to the adult standing, no matter how old he or she is.
10. Throw your hand up in appreciation to the driver who lets you into traffic--and then be sure to let someone in yourself.
11. Hold the door--yes, even the elevator door. Your floor isn’t going anywhere.
12. Say “please” and “thank you,” even among friends. They are STILL magic words.
13. Save the TV and iPad for long car trips. There is no substitute for quality conversation and sing-a-longs!
14. Always support your child’s teacher in front of your child; if you must disagree with her, do so in private.
15. Let the doctors and dentists do their job. They are professionals.
16. Be on time, but if you do arrive late, sit in the back.
17. Prepare ONE meal at night! Your home is NOT Burger King.
18. Dance with your spouse in the kitchen . . . dinner won’t burn in those few seconds.
19. Run an errand for a friend, prepare a meal for a grieving family, send a card via snail mail . . . just be there.
20. Sometimes the reward or treat is a job well done. Period.

And last, but not least . . .

21. Chill out and remind YOURSELF that your child is not the center of all things living!

Be gracious.  Be grateful.  Do good.  Your children will follow your lead!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Some Snacky Therapy for the Mid-Winter Blahs

If you're like our family, you're probably starting to grow weary of the short, cold, lack-of-sunshine days, and you might need a little pick-me-up. I made the recipe below a few weeks ago, and it was one of those rare moments when the angels sang, the stars and planets aligned just right, and everyone loved these things. Everyone. The husband, the kids, the husband’s co-workers . . . everyone. (My son commented, “I like these peanut butter meatballs!”) Granted, these do have chocolate chips in them, but then there’s also that flaxseed meal that everyone raves about. How bad can these be?

Peanut Butter Energy Bites

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup all-natural peanut butter
½ cup ground flaxseed meal
½ cup mini chocolate chips
⅓ cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all of the ingredients together well. Roll into balls the size of your choice (I made mine using a fairly large cookie scoop). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to a week (mine haven’t made it past two days yet).


Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Answer to Little-Boy-Induced Laundry Woes

During the first couple of months that I moved out of my parents’ house, I was back over there constantly. I remember one afternoon, I was babbling away to my mom about something while she was getting ready to do laundry. I noticed that she would pick up a garment, squirt it with some kind of mystery spray, and toss it into the washing machine. I had a nagging moment of panic—why did she spray every single garment, and what the heck was that stuff she was spraying everywhere? Was I supposed to do that? Did I miss something during my crash course in laundry? I spoke up, and she responded, “Oh, these are your brother’s clothes, and this is stain remover. Trust me, there’s definitely a spot somewhere on these clothes.”

He was 7 at the time, but that statement might still be true to this day.

Now that I have my own little boy in that age range, I’ve tried every stain remover on the shelf. A few of them work really well (and if you want to hear my sermon on the one that works about as well as plain old water, I’ll tell you in secret since it’s not nice to bad-mouth products in a public forum). Then I finally discovered my own homemade remedy, and it’s my favorite (once again, thank you, Pinterest—sure, you waste a lot of my time, but you do occasionally deliver gems like this one): 1 part original blue Dawn dish detergent and 2 parts peroxide. That’s it. Mix it together and put it in a spray bottle. Guess what spray bottle I used? The empty one from the worthless spot remover. See there? Not so worthless after all—the spray nozzle on that thing is stellar.

So now, much like Mom, if I’m starting a load that is heavy on the little boy clothes, I randomly spray garments—kind of like a little laundry insurance policy.

Wishing you a Saturday filled with fluffy, stain-free clothing,


Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Favorites: January 15, 2016 Edition

From Andrea:

Happy New Year! Along with the majority of the world, I’ve started 2016 with a little self-improvement vow—but really, this vow has more to do with buying new beauty products than clean eating and sugar reduction. Along with trying beauty products, I’ve run across a few other gems that I thought I would share.

I believe my feelings toward winter are well-documented; I don’t like it, and it doesn’t seem to care for me either. I normally go barefoot all year ‘round, but apparently I’ve entered the elderly years, and I just can’t hack it with the cold floors and bare feet anymore. Enter these little honeys:

If you think that they’re on my feet right now, then you would be correct. I bought them on a total whim, and I was right back at Target less than a week later buying a second pair. They’re cute, machine-washable, super soft, and warm without being hot. I think I may need them in the grey and purple to complete my snuggly collection.

While I was at Target preparing my feet for what I feel is probably going to be a brutal February, I also picked up some jewelry cleaner. I have several silver necklaces that are looking dingy, and I normally use the silver cleaning cloths. This got good reviews, and now I see why.

I dunked my silver bead necklace into the cleaner, counted to 10, and removed it . . . gave it a rinse, and just like that, it looked as sparkly as the day I snagged it (from the cutest little store that has, sadly, gone out of business since then). I can’t believe how well this cleaner works. I think I’ve said farewell to those wimpy cloths.

And then there's this (which does fall into the previously mentioned beauty product category):

I got this as a stocking stuffer for Christmas, and I’m a big fan. One end is for hydration, and the other end is for renewal. I have to tell you that I can’t tell the difference between the two—both feel smooth and creamy without being sticky. But I tend to lean toward using the renewal side more because I feel sure that something amazing must be happening to my lips with a word like that printed right on the tube.


From Stacey:

2016 is proving that I am still quite in love with some of my favorites from the last few years. Just this week as we were discussing our Friday faves, I couldn't help but notice my favorite cookbook of late right in front of me on the counter. I refer to it often, but for more than just the delicious noshes . . . Bree Drummond is a fabulous photographer and children's book author! As soon as I read that lil' nugget in the intro of her cookbook, I was hooked; as it turns out, her books are some of my favorite read-alouds in the classroom as well! Anywho, her dishes are easy, beautiful, and so yummy. Definite crowd pleasers!

These little gems are also filled with amazing shots of her family's ranch and family. Her passion for family--and her husband especially--is evident in all she does. Enjoy!

As a family, we are most often found outdoors, but when the weather gets cold, family games are our go-to some nights. This game is just fun for everyone! Simple, yet mind-blowing all at once. I'm not a math person, so the fact that every single time there is a matching object no mater how you mix 'em up BLOWS. MY. MIND! Our kids received this as a gift years ago, and ever since we've collected quite a few others with varying themes. Spot It is fast-paced and different every time you play. Of course, we get a wee bit competitive with this one . . . and laughter always ensues!

Uno and Monopoly also tend to reveal the competitive spirit in each of us. I'm pretty sure we do NOT play by the rules!

2015 was a difficult year in our home state. Through prayer and love for one another, we came out strong (a bit soggy and sad but not surrendering)! Long before we were all wearing some state pride, I ran across these shirts in royal blue for my kids at Mast General and just fell in love with the simplicity, color, and soft fabric. (My children fell in love with some candy cigarettes . . . but that is a story for another day!)

Though there are many out there with the state theme, this one remains my fave! Love it!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Whatcha Got Wednesday: January 13, 2016 Edition

Q: What is the most appropriate age to have "the talk" with my daughter?

A: First, and most importantly, recognize that it is never just one talk. Teaching your daughters--and sons too, for that matter--about moral and Biblical truths about sex and such MUST be a continuous conversation. For a lot of parents, talking about such things with your children can be quite intimidating and overwhelming.

Go straight to the Word. Using scripture as your guide gives you just the right thing to say and a multitude of opportunities to discuss so much more.

At my house, we've had those initial break-the-ice convos about menstrual cycles and how a baby is made. So when they were around 10-11, my children and I worked through the book of Proverbs. We read a chapter a day, taking time to discuss every couple of verses. Our conversation has been very open and age-appropriate. I am a firm believer in answering only what they ask. Yes, we need to educate, but we don't need to over-educate. It is a delicate balance when you're talking about preservation of childhood innocence. However, I don't want them getting the 411 via magazines in the grocery checkout or in the school bathroom between classes.

God's Word will never fail you. Use it as your guide always. And when it comes to those tough conversations, LITERALLY use it as your guide. Sex and relationship discussions, especially when discussed using the Bible, more often than not, lead to discussions about SO many other facets of living out your faith. It isn't enough for them (or anyone for that matter) to hear us say "believe THIS." They need to know why, ask questions, and dig deeper. We all do!

Talking to our children about sex and relationships needs to be interwoven naturally in our daily lives. This world is sure enough throwing more "knowledge" at them than we can shake a stick, flag, gun, or gender role at! This means addressing why you choose not to wear words across the buttocks of your pants for example, wearing appropriate colored bras under certain clothing to stay modest, and why you will NOT be purchasing thongs for your daughter in middle school. You get the point . . . .

We have to wake up and realize that being overwhelmed and unsure of how to even approach some of these topics needs to be conquered! If you're nervous or hesitant . . . get over it. This is a big deal! It is our responsibility to our children and their future spouses to stay ahead of what the world is teaching.

Use the Word . . . make time to have those conversations . . . and develop those relationships. They won't just come you one day to discuss the burning desires or fears of their hearts if there's been no foundation. Start now. They need you.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Real Barn Burner

Don't get me wrong: I hate seeing retailers stocking the shelves for Christmas before I've even enjoyed my 4th of July BBQ.

The speed at which holidays seem to blaze through gets faster and faster every year . . . but . . . Valentine's Day . . . it is MY FAVORITE!

We just celebrated Christmas, but for whatever reason, I am all over Valentine's 2016! It started yesterday as I was perusing a catalog that was very reminiscent of Current (is that still around?) Anywho, it seemed that every page had something to offer in the way of X's and O's, not to mention Easter and St. Patrick's Day. Those three always seem to be a bundled package. It got me thinking about my mom, which I do every day since her passing ten years ago, but more so than usual as I thumbed those pages. You see, my mom was that mom who decorated for every single holiday (including the lawn on my parents' anniversary). I'm pretty sure she coined the phrase "craft room," well before HGTV started cashing in . . . heck, before they were even a household name! Such was the place so much was housed and created, but I digress . . . .

I have fond memories of little wooden figurines and perpetual holiday decor all year long. These are the kinds of memories that wrap you up like a warm blanket. My mom was awesome. Our home was always a home. For whatever reason, I never did this beyond fall decor and Christmas decorations in my own home--until today.

Just last week, I was still plugging in my Christmas tree every night and enjoying the glow. Re-enter the Current-like magazine. Most of our Christmas decorations are red and white, sooooo, with a little adjusting (and 10 to 12 business days for delivery on certain items), I decided to embrace Mom's enthusiasm and holiday homemaker sense of style (minus the 80's touch) and turn our home into a love shack--complete with heart-themed tree!

The surge of desire for such a plan is really twofold: the first, obviously came from my mom, and the second came from an old tradition in my family surrounding Valentine's Day. You see, we celebrate pretty big: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. The story goes (round and round the table every year) that when my father and his siblings were children, they put all of their just-received Christmas gifts (which weren't many but did include a go cart for the four of them to share) in "the barn." It is still a matter of debate as to whom, but someone burned down the barn, gifts and all! Fast forward through the "way they each remember it" to my grandmother. Not having money to replace any of their gifts at the time, she managed to save enough money to get them each a little something special by the middle of February, and so began the first Valentine's Day Breakfast Celebration. She carefully wrapped these small tokens and placed them at their seats during the special "breakfast for supper." It wasn't about recreating Christmas, but bringing a bit of joy to her children during the winter months following this childhood heartbreak.

Every year since then, for nearly 50 years, our family has continued this celebratory event. To our family, the celebration is all about our love for one another--because we all know that so much more could have been lost in that fire. As an extended group, we share breakfast for dinner on the closest Saturday. We even exchange small gifts! Last year, I was so stoked to find ceramic BARNS--and just enough for each aunt, uncle, and my dad! LOL! I couldn't help myself! Each individual family has clung so tightly to the tradition that we each have a special breakfast ON the14th--no matter the day--which means some very early school mornings some years! But nevertheless, it is complete with fun plates (mine are passed down from my mom - shell shaped china plates that we only used for that day), fun cheapy decorations, and of course little gifts for everyone from mom.

Now don't get me wrong: I certainly don't advocate the ridiculousness at which so many have become accustomed the celebrating non-events and gifts for simply breathing. This is a long-standing family tradition, one that started well before every person became a trophy-holding "winner."

I love this holiday for so many reasons. I love the doilies, the HOMEMADE cards, recollections of

Valentine boxes created by my kindergartners from years gone by, and being extra girlie dressed in pink. But nothing compares to the love shared and passed down by these two mothers. These images are forever ingrained and, as a mother, I pray my children, too, will cherish the value of tradition born from a mother's love for her family; the gift of warmth wrapped in sweet memories that they can hold long after I'm gone.

PS - My hubby is totally loving the festive atmosphere. He got a little giddy as I was decorating and asked, "So does this mean 12 days of Valentine's gifts?!?!" (See our November 17th blog.)

No, my love . . . don't get crazy.



Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Year, New You . . . blah blah blah

So here we are with another new year just beginning. The gym parking lots are full, Nordictrack commercials fill the TV screen, my Rodan and Fields Facebook friends are in full swing to help us all get better skin this year, Oprah and her Weight Watchers pleas . . . please, and of course the multitude of presidential candidates vying for our votes promising change, change, change! ENOUGH!

I mean, let's be real here: have you ever stuck to a "new year's resolution" simply because it was a new year's resolution? Maybe you have, but I might be tempted to call you a liar until you showed proof . . . but hey, that's just me! The thing is, resolutions are all about the hype and feel-good intentions coming on the heels of peace and good will toward men in the shadow of Christmas; a time when we've eaten waaaay too much, spent more than we should, not focused as much on genuine time with one another, and overall done most of the things we swore we wouldn't AGAIN this year. So we resolve to be a better person. Lose weight, take better care of our skin, exercise for our health, take on the penny challenge to save money, dive into couponing, blah blah blah. Been there, and guilty of all THAT!

One year, I resolved to keep the desk in my office, the desk in my classroom, and my car all clean at the same time. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That little psycho moment lasted about one week. I didn't have a fourth spot to put all the junk when the other three were clean. Another year, I resolved not to purchase any more magazine subscriptions. This one was more a self control issue. You see, I had several subscriptions; I'm kind of a magazine junkie, but I also do not have the virtue of patience. So, if the magazine got to the grocery store checkout before my mailbox, I bought it! I know, I know. This one probably didn't classify so much as a resolution, but more of a self-convicting, "Hey, Ding Dong!? What are you doing? STOP!"

The point is that all this resolution mess is just nonsense. It's like parenting: there is no magic date or age. There's no working up to doing what is best for our children and, more importantly, our marriages. There isn't a kick-off date for real meaningful change in our lives. We either live it, taking up our cross daily, or we don't. That is it.

We live in a time now where if I have to keep at something for too long, it simply must not be meant to be, or if it makes me unhappy, God forbid, I must throw in the towel. Really? Sure am glad our grandparents didn't live this way!

Resolution comes from listening to The One and Only--really living by faith and obedience . . . and it happens in a moment. And here's the real kicker: it isn't always January 1st or a Monday for you habitual dieters out there. For me, it was June 5, 2015. That was the day I closed my childcare center after 34 years in business. It wasn't because I HAD to but because I CHOSE to. Christ had called me into service, and while it was beyond scary, my faith was bigger than my fear, and I chose the answer, "Yes, Lord." These last 7 month have been a daily commitment to that "yes." I went from operating my center and teaching our kindergarten and first grade class, managing 17 employees, caring for over 120 children AND their families, being "on" 24/7 in the field of self employment . . . not to mention tending to my own children and husband, heavy involvement in church and professional organizations . . . to an almost complete stop. Whoa! Talk about a shock to the system. I had no idea how to live that life. I had way too many minutes available and way too much quiet. Sooo, when the opportunity came to take a long-term substitute teaching position at my children's school, I jumped on it! More to do--that was just what I needed! I'll fast forward to the end of that 12-week adventure; my husband gently reminded me at the end of a particularly stressful day that I had closed my center in order to focus on the plans God had my life and ministry--so what was I doing?

I was keeping busy. (Silly man--couldn't he see that?) But that was just it--he could see it. So over the Christmas break, we prayerfully decided that I would not return for a second long term subbing position. I can't tell you how much I hated making that phone call. I was an employer once too. But I did. My "resignation" was accepted but countered with another position, not in a classroom, but in the office. My heart leapt! Oh yes! I could do that! No problem! But once again, the man I married reminded me, "Nope; focus, woman!" So again, I said no.

That "no" was the best no ever! It was in obedience, and not out of a resolution I, or my husband, had made. I was deliberately choosing to live out the parenting mission I've been called to do and embracing the honor in being a housewife and mother and not just offering my leftover self in these areas. It occurred to me yesterday, just two days after that second "no," that this whole experience strangely resembled the behavior of a disobedient child--that one kid who does everything BUT the thing you tell him to do. While I hadn't been rebellious, I hadn't been focused on just what He wanted me to do. But when I did . . . WOW! Almost immediately, it was like a director yelling, "ACTION!" Andrea and I had the most amazing night. Emails and phone calls as quick as we could handle them came flooding in. It was so amazingly overwhelming! Like a big warm hug from Papa God, as one of my sweet friends calls Him, and Him saying "YES! She can be taught!" (I like to think He has a rockin' sense of humor!)

I've been all smiles these last two days and truly drinking from the saucer! To continually say "Yes, Lord," to get out of my own way, and to allow Him to use me. THESE are the things I'm focusing on today and everyday. Real change doesn't require elaborate planning, preparation, or proclamation. The shape of our heart shows in the fruit we bear, not on the tags of our clothes.