Thursday, December 13, 2012

Say What? Advent, the Incarnation, and a Zombie Apocalypse?

     This year, my husband has been leading us in advent devotionals.  It's a time where we sit together quietly on the couch and meditate on the coming of Christ and all that means for us.  We have serious discussions that are profound and instructional.  Take last night, for example.  The conversation went like this:

Oldest son-- "So if "incarnation" means "becoming flesh," does "carnation" mean "flesh"?"

Miles-- "A carnation is a flower."

Oldest son-- "Hmmm... Maybe a carnation is a flesh flower. So if we have a zombie apocalypse, we can feed them carnations."

Miles -- "Actually, a carnation is a nation where everyone has a car. AND if all the cars are pink, then it's a pink carnation."

Youngest son -- (giggle, giggle, giggle, giggle......)

     Somewhere in there, my husband threw out the Latin definition of incarnation.  My youngest giggled the entire time at the clever plays on words.  Me?  I was sitting there incredulous that we went from the incarnation to pink cars and zombie apocalypses.

     I'm still chuckling this morning.  My wonderful husband and creative sons left me with a very fun memory, and I'll bet they will never forget what "incarnation" means.  

Monday, December 3, 2012


I love this video! Cracks me up, and yet, the message is awesome!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Journal

     Since 2004, our family has kept a Thanksgiving journal.  Each of us goes around and tells what we are thankful for after our Thanksgiving meal while one of us records our responses in a journal.  If we have company, we invite them to join us in being thankful.  Last year, we read through our Thanksgiving journal, going back several years.  When we read through mine, I had said that I was thankful "for a car that works" every year.  We thought that was hilarious.  I worded it the exact same way every time.  I was also thankful for chocolate and coffee, my husband and boys.  No surprises there.

     Our boys have been thankful for things like "dry diapers" (when my youngest was 2 we filled in what we thought he would be thankful for!), Sunday School teachers, friends, Legos, a fish named Redeye, Mommy's yeast rolls, candy, Jesus dying on the cross and rising again, penguins, cute little puppy dogs, clean water, and "losing my teeth."  
     What are you thankful for this year?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jenny's Pumpkin Bread

     I'm allergic to nutmeg so I have to modify lots of pumpkin recipes.  Here is a recipe that I came up with a few years ago.  I like to combine the features of several recipes to come up with my own.  This pumpkin bread is yummy -- and you can substitute sweet potatoes (mashed).  Very tasty -- and no nutmeg.

Jenny’s Pumpkin Bread

2 ¼ cups flour
1 tblsp. all-spice
¼ tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1¾ cups mashed pumpkin (15 oz can) or cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cranberries (optional) 
½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
cinnamon/sugar mixture to sprinkle on top

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, all-spice, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin or sweet potato, and oil.  Mix well.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients.  Add cranberries if desired and mix thoroughly.  Spoon into 2 greased and floured 8x4x2 (or 9x5x2) inch loaf pans.  Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts or pecans and then cinnamon/sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 10- 20 mins.  Remove and let cool completely on rack.  Wrap with plastic wrap.  

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

     I've had people ask me how I save money by using coupons.  There are a million sites on how to use coupons, but I am going to attempt to explain my personal system.  It's not that hard, but it takes practice.
     First, you need to know a few things.

1.  Know how much stuff costs.  You can't know if something is a good deal if you don't know what it normally costs.  Years ago, I made a notebook of what our most common purchases cost at different stores.  Now, it's all in my head.

2.  Shop loss leaders.  Now that you know what things cost, you know what a good deal is.  Almost every grocery store flier has items that are loss leaders.  Loss leaders are items sold at cost or below cost to get you in the store, hoping to suck you into buying lots of other things.

3.  Stock up when things go on sale.  Don't buy things you don't need, and pay attention to expiration dates. When things you use a lot go on sale for really cheap, stock up.  Don't go all "extreme couponing," but buy enough to last you a while.  For example, I always keep 2 laundry detergents.  When one gets low, I start looking for sales on another.  This past week, All detergent was $2.99, and I had a coupon for "buy 2 get $1.00 off," so I got two.  I never ever pay full price for something like detergent, deodorant, soap, or toothpaste.

4.  Know when things go on sale.  Baking supplies, cream soups, canned soups,  broth, etc. go on sale from November until  Christmas.  Hot dogs, condiments, etc. go on sale around Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day.  Here in Texas, we have items such as Spam that go on sale at the start of hurricane season.

5.  Meal plan around sales.  

6.  Buy the Sunday paper with the coupons.  I have it delivered at my home for $1 a week.

7.  Sign up your Kroger card online.  They will send you their coupons in the mail, or coupons to your e-mail box.  Yesterday, I got a "digital" coupon offer in my box for buy $5 off produce, get $2 off.  

     This is what I did Monday, November 5th.  I find that Kroger has the best overall prices and deals, so I mainly shop there.

1.  I looked at Kroger's sales flier and circled all items that were a great deal.  They were having a "buy 10 participating items, save $5 at the checkout" sale.

2.  I went to, logged in, clicked on "Grocery Deals by State," clicked on the Kroger icon, and clicked "Texas Deals" on the right.  Current Kroger Deals popped up.  I clicked on the left hand side anything that looks like a good deal and that we use.  Then at the bottom, click "Display Selected Deals."  Print.  I also took the time to print out any online coupons that were listed. 

3.  I went to Kroger's website and loaded some of their digital coupons onto my card.  Didn't use them.

4.  Coupon clipping.  I used my deals from to find the coupons in my coupon fliers/booklets.  I write the date on the front of each coupon flier.  Then I use the "code" on the side of the print-out to find the coupon I need -- rather than cut out all the coupons.  So, the print-out looks like this:

10-28 RPDiGiorno Pizza 12.6-34.2 oz
Qualifies for Buy 10 Get $5 Off at checkout, final price after promo savings


The coupon I need for the DiGiorno Pizza is in the 10-28 packet of Red Plum coupons.  I get that packet of coupons out of my folder, find the Digiorno coupon, and clip it.  You'll also get SmartSource and other coupons.  (I do not have time to cut out and organize every coupon.  This way works for me.)

5.  I went through coupons I got from Kroger in the mail and pulled out ones I could use.  They usually send ones that correspond with the sales.

     All this took me about 40 minutes.  I took my list and my youngest son and headed to the store.  As I purchased items from the "Buy 10 get $5 off" sale, I put a tally mark on my list.  I bought 60 of those items.  I spent $94.61.  I saved $86.57 or 47%.  I only used $8.30 in manufacturers coupons -- mostly I took advantage of the loss leaders in the Kroger flier.  Campbells cream of Mushroom and chicken are on sale for 50 cents.  I use this a lot so I bought 10.  Land O' Lakes butter was $1.99 -- I bought 4.  I got a free tube of toothpaste and a free toothbrush.  I put those in our Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.
     This will take you longer than 40 minutes to start out, but it gets easier.  I think 40 minutes of work to save $86 is not so bad!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Waging a War Against a False Sense of Entitlement

    Our society lives and breathes a false sense of entitlement.  It's false because it's not true.  It goes something like this:  I want it so I deserve it and someone will get it for me.  No need to earn it.  No need to work hard.  No need to wait on the Lord.  So how do we fight against a false sense of entitlement?

 1.  Don't make it so easy.
     I remember when the Atari came out.  Oh my goodness!  We thought that was the coolest thing ever.  My three sisters and I wanted one.  We wanted one bad.  My dad got one of those cans with the plastic lid, cut a hole in the top of the plastic lid to make it look like a bank, and told us that we could buy it when we'd saved up for it.  We saved and saved and saved and saved.  I can't remember exactly the cost, but I remember it took us about a year to save up the money.  Then we bought it, and we loved it.  I played Pac-Man until I had a blister on the inside of my thumb from the joystick.  The Atari was the greatest invention ever.
     A few years ago, my boys wanted a Wii.  My husband got one of those cans with the plastic lid, cut a hole in the top of the plastic lid to make it look like a bank, and told them that we could buy it when we'd saved up for it.  (Yep, he knew the Atari-story.)  It took us about nine months, and the day we bought it, the boys were so happy.  The waiting and the family effort of working and saving for something was fun and taught the boys the discipline of saving for something they wanted, even if it took a really long time.
     The point of this long story:  Don't make it so easy for your kids to have all those things they really, really want.  There is something good about saving and waiting -- and waiting and waiting.

2.  Don't be afraid to say no.
     Sometimes your kids don't need that stuff at all.  They don't have to go to every activity.  They are not entitled to play computer games all day.  Say no.  

3.  Make them do chores.
     Teach your children to do chores because they are members of your family.  Things need to be done, and they need to help.

4.  Don't make excuses for their bad behavior.
     Adam said it was Eve's fault.  Eve said it was the snake's fault.  Since the beginning of history, humans do not want to take responsibility for their bad behavior.  Don't enable that.

5.  Don't bail them out all the time.
     Sometimes they will make mistakes that cost time, energy, and grades.  Don't bail them out all the time.  It's ok to fail.  Painful for the parent, but ok.  

6.  Teach them the value of money.
     When young, teach them the value of money in terms they will understand.  "I can buy three bags of Kroger brand of pretzels or one of this brand for the same amount of money.  Which is a better deal?"  Last week, I took my youngest to the grocery store and he wanted some Little Debbie's Christmas cakes that were on sale for 3 for $5.  The Christmas tree shapes had 5 in the package.  The same cakes in a six-sided shape had 10 in a package.  He went with the 10 after I pointed out he could get way more for the same amount of money!
     When they are older, make them save up for stuff they want -- even if it takes a long time.  I am surprised by the number of teenagers who have no concept of what things cost.

7.  Get over the guilt.
     Who cares if everyone else is doing it or that everyone else has one.  You need to stand firm and be the parent.  It's ok.  They will not die if they don't get everything they want.  It's good for them.  Don't feel guilty.  

8.  Encourage ministry to those less fortunate.
     Do an Operation Christmas Child shoebox every Christmas.  Help a needy family through your church.  Take them to a food pantry or a soup kitchen to volunteer.  Help them see that they are truly blessed.
     So what do you want your kids to learn about money and stuff.  Think through what you want them to know and believe, remembering that a sense of entitlement can strangle the Holy Spirit.  Then go from there.  We know stuff doesn't make us happy and true happiness comes from trusting in God -- let's live that out and train our kids to do the same.

For more:  
Entitlement -- Strangling the Holy Spirit
Entitlement Vs. Waiting on and Trusting in the Lord

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Entitlement vs. Waiting On and Trusting in the Lord

Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

     For a few months now, the subject of entitlement has been wandering around slowly in my head.  The subject keeps making appearances in my psyche, and I've been trying to put my random thoughts into some sort of order.  On Sunday, I heard Joanne Kraft discuss entitlement and how the attitude robs our children and strangles the Holy Spirit.  I keep turning this over in my mind, and it seems to me that entitlement seems to go hand-in-hand with not wanting to wait and a lack of trust.

     I ended my last blog post by saying, "it seems, the enemy has done more to harm us through this suburban-lifestyle-entitlement-stuff than we can imagine.  I'm pondering all this, but I think it has to do with waiting.  Waiting for stuff.  Waiting on the Lord.  Waiting."

     We are always in a hurry, but entitlement is the "belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges" -- not only that we are entitled to privileges and things, but we are entitled to them now, not later.  We expect what we want when we want it.  I think texting and e-mailing and googling has added fuel to this fire of needing, wanting, demanding everything now and fast.  It used to be that if someone called you and you called back in a day or two, that was ok.  Now, we're like, "She didn't call me back for 2 days!"  We expect that we will get a text response immediately, or we're being ignored.  We expect stuff now.  Right now.  Life seems urgent, hurried.

     I was going to say that this attitude of entitlement is a kid-thing, but I think it's a people-thing.  No one wants to wait anymore for anything ever.  How does entitlement strangle the Holy Spirit?

     God doesn't work on our time table.  He's not in a hurry. The more time goes on and technology makes life "easier," the harder it is to wait for anything, and waiting on the Lord and His timing becomes harder and harder and harder.  I think, when we don't have time to wait, we don't have time to trust, and then we strangle the Holy Spirit because He doesn't work as fast as we want Him to.  He's not fast enough, and we try to speed things up and get ourselves in all sorts of trouble.

          Therefore, when God isn't fast enough, we lose trust.  If we believe we are entitled to things when we want them, then we get angry at God if we don't get them when we are ready to have them.  We don't trust that He knows what He is doing and that waiting might be good for us -- or that thing or job or relationship might not be what we really need at all.  Eventually, the entitlement attitude in our kids will translate to a lack of trust in the Lord as they become adults.

     So maybe a lesson we need to teach our children in this society is how to wait.  How to slow down.  Maybe we all need to practice waiting. 
     Waiting.... for stuff.  Waiting on the Lord.  Waiting.

Noah waited for rain while people mocked him every day.
Abraham waited for his son, Isaac.
David waited to be king on God's timetable while Saul tried to kill him over and over.
Jesus waited to begin His ministry until 30 years old.
Paul was prohibited to preach the word in Asia even though he really wanted to.

Isaiah 40:31  but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

     How do we teach our kids to wait?  How do we teach them to trust in the Lord NOW for the little things so they are not afraid of waiting for big things later?   

     More later.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Entitlement -- Strangling the Holy Spirit

Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

     Last night, I was listening to Family Life on the radio, and I heard an interview with Joanne Kraft about her book Just Too Busy:  Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical.  The book sounds interesting, but what caught my attention was a short tangent from discussing the book. 
     Some friends of the family asked her son if he could come to Australia and be a jackeroo on their 3,000 acre sheep ranch.  The son figured he needed $1200 to go and asked his dad to pay.  His dad responded, “You know what, son, I can pay for that, but I’m not going to pay for that. That’s between you and the Lord.”  The son was shocked and replied, “But Dad, I’m only 15! How am I going to earn money to go?”  Well, with hard work and faith that God could provide, her son earned the money for the trip. At the end of the story, Joanne Kraft said this:

"I tell this story, when I share with parents at conferences or at women’s conferences, about entitlement and how we are robbing from our children....We’re stealing opportunities. We’re really strangling the Holy Spirit. How do we expect to raise independent, God-honoring, hard-working children if we don’t allow them those opportunities? We can’t expect our kids to want to lean on God if they’re not doing it now....We do, we steal from our kids."

     Stealing from our kids.  

     I've been tossing the idea of entitlement around in my head for a couple of weeks now.  I've heard parents tell stories of kids who beg for a toy and then play with it for a day and then they're done.  I've heard parents say they are afraid to say no to their teenagers.  I've heard of teenagers who have no idea how much their car insurance costs their parents.  In my gut, it seems that all this is unhealthy, bad for our kids like eating too much candy or drinking too much soda, but it's much worse than I thought.

     Strangling the Holy Spirit.

     Beyond fostering ingratitude and unhealthy attitudes about stuff and life and work and responsibility, we are "strangling the Holy Spirit" when we give in to and encourage, however indirectly and unintentionally, attitudes of entitlement in our children.  

     Interesting.  So, it seems, the enemy has done more to harm us through this suburban-lifestyle-entitlement-stuff than we can imagine.  I'm pondering all this, but I think it has to do with waiting.  Waiting for stuff.  Waiting on the Lord.  Waiting.  

    More later.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Perspective: FWPs -- First World Problems

     Last week, I went to Sam's Club and bought about 10 pounds of ground beef.  I made 8 hamburger patties and decided to brown, season, and freeze the rest.  As I was trying to brown, oh about 6 pounds of ground beef in a big ole pot, I was getting increasingly frustrated.  I had put too much in, it was hard to stir, I was burning the bottom and not getting the top cooked at all, and I began to mumble to myself something that sounded like this, "Dadgummit.  Why won't this stuff ... ahh... that hurt.  Man, this is frustrating.  Arggg.  This is taking forever!"   And then it hit me:  I am standing here grumbling about browning meat to freeze for my family to eat over the next few weeks when there are people in the world who do not have food to eat at all.
     First World Problem.
     A few weeks prior, my cell phone time kept getting mixed up on my text messages so they were all jumbled up and I could NOT for the life of me follow a conversation.  My husband texted:  "FWP."  
     First World Problem.
     I can't figure out what to wear.  First World Problem.
     I need to exercise more.  First World Problem.
     My grass is dying.  First World Problem.
     My computer is so old.  First World Problem.
     Where should we go out to eat?.  First World Problem.
     Gas is so expensive.  First World Problem.
     I really need a pedicure, but I'm too busy.  First World Problem.
     We are out of garlic bread, and I was going to make spaghetti for dinner.  First World Problem.
     I am having such a bad hair day.  First World Problem.
     My health insurance premium is going up.  First World Problem.
     Oh no!  We're out of coffee!  Yes, even this is a First World Problem.
     A First World country is a country that is developed, industrialized, and well, rich.  The opposite would be a Third-World country which is an underdeveloped country marked by poverty.  Watch this:    

     I have a toilet that flushes, a car to drive, clean water to drink, and a refrigerator with food in it.  I have more than enough clothes, a roof over my head, and a bed to sleep in.  I take my kids to the doctor when they are sick, and I buy them presents for Christmas, their birthdays, Easter, Valentine's Day, and just because.  I can read and write, my children are being educated, and my sons get more allowance in a week than a billion people in the world live on in a week.  I throw food away.  I have electricity.  My children do not have to work so we can survive.
I am blessed.
So many in the world are not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How Parenting Shapes Us

     Not long ago, while in the midst of a parenting "challenge," my husband reminded me that parenting is to shape the child, but, maybe more importantly, parenting shapes us, the parents.  As Christians, God uses parenting to make us different, better, more like Himself.  
1.  Parenting Helps Us Develop the Fruit of the Spirit
     I told someone this past Saturday that by the time by youngest is 18 years old, I will be the most patient person on the planet, and I was serious.  I taught high schoolers in the public school system.  I have worked with all ages of kids in Sunday School, VBS, Children's Church, and the nursery.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for a 45 minute temper tantrum because I said, "No."  Nothing prepared me for how enraging it can be for a two-year-old to look you in the face and defy you when you are in a hurry to get somewhere.  Nothing prepared me for the looks you get carrying a screaming three-year-old out of ToysRUs.  Nothing prepared me for cleaning up throw-up on two hours of sleep for the 15th time.  Nothing prepared me for the unconditional love that I would have for my boys, and the joy I would have at their successes.  Patience, gentleness, self-control -- the Holy Spirit uses parenting to develop this fruit in us.   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galations 5:22-23  (ESV)
2.  Parenting Shows Us Our Weaknesses
     Parenting shows us where we need the Lord to refine us.  Do we have anger issues?  Worry issues?  Control issues? Do we use bad language?  When our children start yelling at other drivers, "Hey, jerk!", then we realize we need to watch our mouths.  Often, our children mirror us, and we don't like what we see.  When we see it, we can take it to the Lord and ask Him to help us, so we can be different and so we don't pass down baggage to our children.

3.  Parenting Teaches Us We Are Not in Control
     In our brains, we know God is in control, right?  Parenting confirms this down to the insides of our bones.  Despite parenting books that teach us that we can control our child's behavior if we use their "correct" methodology, parenting makes us realize that we cannot control those little hellions children.  Even harder, we cannot control the child who is bullying our child.  We can't heal our child of an illness.  We can't make a learning disability go away.  We just can't fix everything.  Ultimately, God is in control -- of the universe and of our children.  Parenting can and should help us rely on God to help us, give us strength, give us wisdom, and give us endurance.

     Often, we focus so much on turning out perfect children that we fail to see how God is using parenting to turn us into children who are more like our Father.  So, the next time your son talks back or your daughter refuses to eat her dinner or your son whacks you in the face with a pillow when you're not looking, take a deep breath, pray, and ask your Father to give you what you need to be a godly parent, a godly person, a reflection of Him, and, I believe, He will answer.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Blame Game: A Lesson in Taking Responsibility

     Last December, three weeks before I put a hole in my bumper, I was in another car accident.  I was waiting to turn left onto El Camino Real at about 6:00 p.m. on a Friday.  The traffic was insane, and I remarked to my children, "I shouldn't have come this way.  This is dangerous."  I actually checked behind me to see if I could turn around.  The woman in front of me, driving a very big Mercury Mountaineer, pulled into the median to try to get across.  She realized that, not only was she not going to make it, but that her big vehicle was blocking oncoming traffic.  She put her vehicle in reverse, hit the gas, and slammed into the front end of my car.  The boys and I saw it coming.  I screamed, "She's going to hit us," honked the horn, and braced myself.
     She did over $1200 damage to the front end of my car, and after about ten days of trying to reach her by phone, her insurance company had to go to her house.  She told them that I rear-ended her.  She lied.
     She said she was sitting still, and I rear-ended her.  Despite the fact that I had two witnesses in my car, they said it was her word against mine, and her insurance would not pay.
     She lied, and we had to bear the burden for her choice to not accept responsibility for her actions.  For months after the accident, my youngest son flinched and grimaced every time he saw someone brake in front of us.  We had to pay our $250 deductible to have the car fixed.  We had to do without our car for a week while the vehicle was in the shop.  I currently have a huge hole in my back bumper because the second accident, which was my fault, happened three weeks after the first, and I didn't want them to think I was lying the first time, so I didn't claim it.
     She lied.  The injustice of it really rocked my boys' world.  They didn't understand it.  Why?  Why would she lie?  "Why?" they have asked me over and over again, especially my youngest.  He wanted to canvass the neighborhood, find witnesses, prove our innocence, hold her accountable.
     She refused to take responsibility when it meant repercussions for her.  She blamed someone else for her mistake.  She was selfish.  Who knows?  Maybe she was going to have a serious insurance hike if she was in one more accident, but still, shouldn't we do the right thing, tell the truth, no matter what?
     Ever since that accident, this woman has become the poster-child, in our family, for NOT doing the right thing, NOT taking responsibility for our actions, NOT admitting we are wrong even when it means getting in trouble, and NOT being willing to make it right with the person that we have wronged.  I've explained that this is an issue that goes back to, well, Adam and Eve.
     So, I guess, in the spirit of Romans 8:28, thank you God for giving my boys a very real, tangible lesson on owning up, making things right, and doing the right thing at all costs.  I have used the example of this woman over and over again when one son blames another for his own sin, when one of the boys refuses to admit wrongdoing, when one is making an excuse for bad behavior, when one son needs to make it right -- or when one of the boys is trying to make sense of why someone he knows will not take responsibility.  Adam and Eve, Aaron and the golden calf that just "jumped" out of the fire, Saul who offered the sacrifice because Samuel took too long, and a woman who said she was rear-ended to avoid having to be responsible.  
     I pray that my boys will remember this lesson, that it will be a part of who they are, and that they will stand up and be men who take responsibility, even when it's hard, because it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

God Only Gives Us What We Can Handle... Where's That in the Bible?

     I read Dr. James' Dobson's The New Strong-Willed Child years ago because, well, I needed to!  I remember coming away from the book with the quote, "God gave you this child because He knows you can handle it" as my new mantra.  When parenting got tough, I would recite this phrase in my head.  Admittedly, there were many days when I thought God had messed up because I just could not handle it.
     Not too long ago, while running that quote through my head, again, trying to cling to it like I had for many years, I felt God speak to me, quietly:  "Stop clinging to that.  It's not true.  You can only do it through Me."  Sucking in air at the realization, I started turning this over in my mind.  God does NOT give us what we can handle.  We can only handle trials, tribulations, and all that crazy, tough stuff through His power and His strength.
     Feeling mad and frustrated at Dr. Dobson for "hindering" me, I looked up the "quote" in his book.  This is what I found, underlined in the book, by ME, years ago: 

     "When parents bring one of these tough youngsters into the world, they need to recognize that while raising that child may be difficult for a time, it is worth their effort to do the job right.  Their attitude should be, 'The Lord gave me this challenging child for a purpose.  He wants me to mold and shape this youngster and prepare him or her for a life of service to Him.  And I'm up to the task.  I'm going to make it with the Lord's help'...if they can perceive their task as a God-given assignment and believe that He's going to help them to fulfill it, then the frustrations become more manageable."  (p. 31, underlining mine)

     Sorry, Dr. Dobson, I've been misquoting you in my head for years.  "I'm up to the task.  I'm going to make it with the Lord's help" is quite different from "God gave you this child because He knows you can handle it."   
     Now, the question comes, why, for years and years, did I misquote that book?
     It is simply so easy for me, maybe for you, too, to try to do things in my own strength -- a job, child-rearing, parenting, illness, marriage, church service, etc.  Isn't it the American Way to pull ourselves up by our boot-straps, get to work, and get it done?  If we work hard enough in school, we can get out of our poor neighborhoods.  If we do our best in sports, maybe we'll get a contract.  If we get into a good college, we can get a good job.  If we work our tails off in a business, we can be rich.  If we would just try harder, we wouldn't be in this mess.  If we read enough parenting books, try enough strategies, pray hard enough, find the right system, our kids will turn out... perfect.
     Don't you think our Enemy looks on, nodding his approval, knowing we will fail, happy to see us striving in our own power?  

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13 NKJV

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.   
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV

     Thanks Lord for the reminder.  In all I do, in all that You have set before me, help me to focus on YOU as the source of my strength and power.  Help me when I've had all I can take.  Lift me up.  Renew my strength.  Help me stay the course.  Give me patience, perseverance, endurance to run this race.  For when I am weak, yet trusting in You and Your power, then I am strong.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hot Chocolate Pudding -- One Way to Use Up Hot Chocolate Packets

     Last year, I put all our hot chocolate packets in a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer.  One thing is guaranteed:  If you put hot chocolate in the freezer, no one will drink it because they won't remember it is there! I have somehow ended up with WAY too much hot chocolate.
     Yesterday, I decided it was time to use up all those little packets.  It's too hot in Houston to drink hot chocolate in October, sadly, so I did some online searching to try to discover other ways to use it up.  For whatever reason, I thought it would be cool to make pudding out of it.  I couldn't find a recipe so I made one up, and well, it passed the Mullin boys' taste test so here it is.

Jenny's Homemade Hot Chocolate Pudding

5 packets of hot chocolate (I used Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensations)

4 heaping tblsp. All Purpose Flour
dash of salt
2 cups milk (I used 1 cup whole, 1 cup 1%)
1 tblsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix hot chocolate powder, flour, and salt in a saucepan.  Over medium heat, whisk in milk.  Stir continually (about 12-15 minutes) over medium heat with whisk or spoon.  When thickened, stir for 2 or 3 minutes longer and then remove from heat.  Whisk in butter and vanilla.  Pour into little bowls (or one big one), cover with plastic wrap with the wrap touching the pudding to keep a hard "crust/skin" from forming on top, and chill.

     Easy!  No added sugar.  Delicious!  I doubled the recipe and added crushed Oreos on top for lunch at church and came home with an empty bowl!  I see lots of pudding in our future.  Yep, we have lots of hot chocolate packets in the freezer!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

He Never Changes

     This morning, my little guy sat in my lap, saw this "saying" on facebook, and said, "I don't get it."  
     "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever," I replied.  "It's a Bible verse."  Silent pause.
     "It means that Jesus never changes.  He never gets so angry with us that He decides to destroy us all. He never gets so frustrated with us that He decides He's not going to save us after all."  Light bulb.  He's always faithful, always loving, always just, always holy, always good, always Jesus.  He always keeps His promises.
     I'm thankful for the reminder.  Usually, while reading things on facebook, I just sort of skim over the sayings and the admonitions to re-post things if I really love Jesus.  Today, I got to really think about what Hebrews 13:8 means by explaining it to a child, my child, and that always touches me.  Thanks Lord, for the reminder.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Is Man that You Are Mindful of Him? Astronomy Lessons

     This semester I have the privilege of teaching astronomy to 27 third through fifth graders.  The last time I taught astronomy was about 5 years ago to my oldest son.  Coming back to the subject so many years later does not dull the awe that I feel every time I study the heavens.

Psalm 8
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.  From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,  what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:  all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,  the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!    

"Swirls of gas and dust reside in this ethereal-looking region of star formation seen by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This majestic view, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), reveals a region where low-mass, infant stars and their much more massive stellar neighbors reside. A shroud of blue haze gently lingers amid the stars."

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is just one of an infinite number of galaxies in the universe.

The Milky Way contains 200 - 400 billion stars.  
Our Sun is just one of those stars.

Our Sun is a medium-sized star.

One million of our Earth's would fit inside 
our medium-star-sized Sun.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,  
what is man that you are mindful of him, 
the son of man that you care for him? 
Psalm 8:3-4

Yes, what is man that You are mindful of him?  
We are but tiny specks in the vast universe 
and yet God knows us, loves us, and sent His Son to die for us.  
Your name, O LORD, is truly majestic!

All photos from
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Purposeful-specific-quality-inducing-praise Experiment

     I've been reading lately about praising your children, and I realize that I am very, very good at pointing out what my kids do wrong.  However, knowing that praise is a good thing, I try to praise my kids as much as possible.  After some of my reading in the last few months, I wonder if I'm doing more harm than good.  Read on.  
     There are studies out that show giving children unspecific, random praise, such as "Awesome.  Good job!  Excellent.  Way to go," can actually harm their success in life. (The Praise Paradox: Are We Smothering Our Kids in Kind Words? and Can You Praise Your Child Too Much?)  For example, saying "You're so smart," all the time actually conditions them to want to give up easier when trying something hard because they automatically assume they are no longer smart if the answer doesn't come easily.  However, praising children about their hard work and perseverance even when things are tough makes them desire to keep on trying even if the test or task is hard and frustrating.  
     Also, I have been reading about praising children intentionally for the qualities you desire to see growing in them and finding those nuggets of greatness among their bad behaviors.  What qualities do you want to see in your child?  Do you want him to be cooperative, patient, respectful, helpful, humble, kind, grateful, and selfless?  Do you desire your child to honor authority figures, choose good friends, manage time well, avoid temptation, exhibit self-control, and handle rejection appropriately?  Do you want your child to persevere, share, and express thankfulness?  If so, choose to see their successes in these areas, no matter how small, and specifically praise them for those qualities instead of only pointing out their failures.  No matter how small the success, praise them for the characteristics you want to develop in your child.  This type of "praising" takes thought and a plan.  What do I want to see developed in my child?  Then, you must go about seeking, actively, to see and praise those attributes.
     On the flip side, the argument goes that parenting a child ONLY when he or she has done something wrong is parenting in the negative.  When our child comes to the table  right away when called to dinner, then we say.... nothing.  When our child ignores us and continues to play even when called, then we lecture about the necessity of obedience.  If our child shares like he's supposed to, we may say, "Good job sharing" or not.  If he refuses to share, well, we go after it.  The point is to try to also parent in the positive moments.  
     I've been mulling this over for a while now, and I think I want to try this method of praising my children and see what happens.  Here are some examples of the way I used to praise my children (1) and the way I hope to try doing it (2).  I call it my purposeful-specific-quality-inducing-praise-experiment. 

1.  I love to see you reading!
2.  I like the way you came over and began reading your book.  Reading is such an important skill, and I'm glad you see how important it is.  You are really showing wisdom!

1.  Good job starting your school work.
2.  I like the way you started your school work without complaining.  You are showing responsibility and hard work.  I appreciate that.

1.  You are a great piano player.
2.  Your piano playing has really improved because you have worked so hard.  I appreciate the way you have listened carefully to your teacher and made the necessary corrections.  That shows maturity.  You are really growing up!

1.  Wow!  You ate all your dinner without complaining.
2.  Thank you for eating your dinner without complaining, even though some of the food was not your favorite.  It shows a lot of self-control not to complain, and I like that you have decided to make healthy choices for your body.  Good job!

1.  You got a great grade on that test! You are so smart!
2.  You really studied for that test and your hard work and perseverance paid off!  You did your best, and it shows!  I am proud of you.

1.  Good job at the store today.
2.  That line at the grocery store was really long, but you were so patient.  I like the way you helped me unload the cart.  What a good helper you are.  I am blessed to have a helper like you.  

The toughest is turning something really negative into a positive.
1.  You would've been done with your math by now if you hadn't been fussing and complaining so much.  You lose your Wii time for the day!  (Imagine angry face!)
2.  That math was hard, and you got really frustrated.  You showed great self-control by calming down quickly and then getting that math problem done.  Way to stick it out and work hard.  (I actually did this after my youngest son got so frustrated with a math problem that he threw his pencil all the way across the table.  I sat silently until he calmed down, picked up his pencil, tried again, and completed the problem correctly.  Then I gave him the above praise.  His reaction to this praise was absolutely amazing.  At first he was stunned and looked at me quizzically, expecting the number 1 above response, and then he gave me a huge hug.  Hmmm... maybe there is something to this.)

     At the bare minimum, it makes sense to me to praise the qualities and characteristics that I want to see in my kids WHEN I see them.  We'll see how this goes...

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 3, a Book Review

     In  The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex Part 1, I discussed how to form and model a healthy, Biblical view of sexuality, tips on talking about sex, and other topics leading up to puberty.  Then, in The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex Part 2, I explained the "nitty-gritty" of puberty:  physical and emotional changes, the importance of fathers, and the continual need for a mother's love.  Finally, I want to share a book that may help you as you introduce your son to how he is changing.
     When our oldest was still pretty young, my husband and I decided we needed a good book to introduce our son to puberty and sex.  I asked other mothers of boys, did internet searches, and bought a few, but I didn't find one that my husband and I liked.  Then, by God's providence, I came across this one, and we have been very pleased with it.

How You Are Changing:  For Boys Ages 10-12
Book 3 of the Learning about Sex Series for Boys
from text originally written by Jane Graver, 
updated and revised

     This book is a gentle introduction to puberty that goes into, in my opinion, just the right amount of detail.  The book is filled with Scripture, has a prayer at the end of each chapter, and encourages young men to embrace themselves as creations of God.  Other books show pictures that would make most boys uncomfortable.  For example, in Before I Was Born (for ages 5 to 8) by Carolyn Nystrom, published by NavPress, there is a somewhat realistic drawing of a mother giving birth.  I realize that some families choose to have older children present during childbirth, but for young boys who have not had this experience, this picture (see below) and others like it could make them feel uncomfortable.  
From God's Design for Sex Series, Before I Was Born,  Book 2, Ages 5 -8, by Carolyn Nystrom, NavPres.
This drawing and others like it would make a young boy going through puberty uncomfortable.  
Notice that the recommended age range for this book is 5-8.  

In contrast, How You Are Changing uses more ink-type drawings that do not have a realistic feel but are instructive.  
From Learning About Sex for the Christian family, How You Are Changing, Book 3, For Boys ages 10-12, Concordia Publishing House. The entire subject will make boys uncomfortable, but the pictures in this book offer enough information to be instructive without the realism that impedes the point.

    How You Are Changing is only 56 pages long and contains 8 chapters.  My husband asked my son to read about a chapter a week when he was 12 years old.  Then they would discuss the chapter together at McDonald's or at home when little brother was in bed.  The age range for this book is 10-12; however, I don't think he would've been ready at age 10.  Age 11 and a half probably would have been fine.  However, your son may be different.  If he is in public school and has heard some things in the locker room or has friends who have shared with him some juicy tidbits, then it may be time to go ahead and read the book together.
     The tone of the book is light yet serious.  After reading it, your son should come away feeling like he knows what to expect and that it's new and different but part of God's plan.  This series also has a set of books just for girls.
     Below is a brief summary of each chapter.  

Chapter 1.  You Are Wonderful
This chapter is about how God created your son to be male.  It goes on to discuss how girls and boys are different physically -- but also in other ways, such as emotionally.  It emphasizes that no sex, male or female, is better than another.  It encourages your son to remember:  You are special, you have talents, and God loves you very much.

Chapter 2.  Male + Female + God's Gift of Life = BABY
Using appropriate pictures, this chapter show how the bodies and reproductive organs of men and women are physically different. Then, the chapter discusses how a brand new person is made:  "When a sperm cell from your father met and united with an egg cell in one of your mother's fallopian tubes, your life began.  In that instant, the question of whether you were going to be a boy or a girl was decided.  ....The egg cell and the sperm cell did more than just stick together.  Following God's design, the two cells changed into one new cell -- the beginning of a brand-new person!  That tiny life has all the DNA factors that make a person unique -- that make you you." (p. 18)
     Later the chapter discusses family as a gift from God and the subject of difficult families, followed by God's plan for families.  The book describes intercourse on page 22:  "At times, a husband and wife will want to express their love for each other in a special way called sexual intercourse.  At those times, they will go off by themselves.  They will hug and kiss each other and touch each other all over.  The husband's penis will become firm and hard, able to fit inside his wife's vagina.  This is a private act between husband and wife."  Finally, the book discusses how it is God's plan for only a husband and a wife to "make love in this way" (p. 23)

Chapter 3.  God Took Care of You ... Right from the Beginning
This chapter explains how a baby starts out smaller than a dot and then miraculously becomes a baby.  Later, the chapter addresses where babies come out  "...the vagina and vulva stretched to let you come out between your mother's legs."  (p. 28)  

Chapter 4.  You've Grown!
Chapter 4 uses a dialogue format and answers questions and concerns such as:  "Some kids think sex is dirty":  "As we said, some people have mixed-up and sinful ideas about sex.  They might be embarrassed by using the right words for penis and vagina, for instance, so they use slang words instead.  Or they get their information from jokes and made-up stories instead of from an adult they can trust, like a parent.  We are reminded in Matthew 15:19 (ESV) that 'out of the heart come evil thoughts...sexual immorality'"  (p. 36).  Other concerns are discussed such as being embarrassed to talk with parents about sex and wanting to be alone. 

Chapter 5.  Next Step:  Adolescence
This section discusses "How Boys Change" -- weight, height, hair, testicle growth, erections, voice changes, wet dreams, etc. in under 2 pages, then moves on to "How Girls Change," about a page in length and covers period, menstruation, breasts, etc.

Chapter 6.  Am I Normal?
This chapter addresses boys of different shapes and sizes, circumcision, different rates of growth, and weight gain.

Chapter 7.  Feeling Good about Your Sexuality
Written as a dialogue between a teen boy and the author, this chapter broaches such subjects as inappropriate tv shows, watching girls, sexual abuse, smoking, drugs, and alcohol.

Chapter 8.  It's Great to Be Alive!
This final chapter is an encouragement to young, growing boys that it is special to be human and that God has a special love for his human creations.  Furthermore, the author describes "God's good gift of sex" as a means to bring other wonderful children into the world.  "God's love can make sex a wonderful part of your love for another person.  Guided by Him, you can choose a wife who will share your life.  The love you have for each other will be extra-special if God lives in both of you."  (p. 55)

     Overall, this book is an encouraging, unabashedly Christian discussion of male sexuality written in a light, easy-going manner.  I highly recommend it.