Thursday, September 22, 2016

Learn Your Kids

When my un-twins (one is adopted, black hair, olive skin, the other born of me light brown hair, and fair with freckles--then--and they are 8 months apart, always in the same grade) were in fifth grade, their teacher asked them to write a story about an animal in the first person giving a personality to that animal. "I am an octopus. I have eight hands and can hold a different thing in each one..."

She told me later that the story tells her something about the children as they project their own personalities into the story. 



When my untwins were in kindergarten they had the homework each night of drawing a picture on the top and then dictating what it was about to me. Sometimes it was a story, sometimes just a description, but along with what they were learning, it was another way to get to know them.

You've probably heard people say, "Be a student of your child." There are many ways to do this, and listening to their stories is one great way. Listening to our children tell us a real life or imaginary event gets us so much more into their brains than if we quiz them down. That's why it helps to have a story prompt or a question when you are with them.



I have fifteen ideas for you to prompt your children to talk to you. Good places to use these are in the car, while waiting in the doctor's office (or anywhere you have to wait), and, of course, around the table. 

Just have one or two in mind at a time. If you have multiple kids with you who can participate, you could get one to start and the next can choose whether to tell you about their version or have a new idea.






















~ ~ ~ ~ ~
On the first day of school _________
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
If I ever commit a crime, it will be _________
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The best note I could find in my lunch is __________
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tell me a place.
Now tell me a name.
Next tell me an occupation.
Now make a problem for that person, in that place, doing that job.
(After they create the problem)
How will he/she solve the problem?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You have woken up inside a snow globe.
Tell me about life there, 
then tell me how you will get home.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~




~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You are President for the day. The first thing you will do is ____________________
~ ~ ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I wish there were a law that said ____________________.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ ~ ~
If I could talk to someone who does what I think I would like to do someday, I would ask them _____________________.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You become invisible each day for one hour, 
but only if you help someone in some way. 
How would you help someone while you are invisible?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~





~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Pick the third destination available and say,
Tell me all about the trip you would take to this place.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You are an animal. 
What are you and what do you like to do?
What are you afraid of?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more fun ideas in the car or around the table see this post.





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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Car Games

One day I was at a book table and a man picked up a copy of my book on family mealtimes and said "Your next book should be on 'raising your kids while driving'." He had more confidence in me than I do in my writing and wisdom.


While I was never a taxi mom due to raising our children in South America, we have spent our fair share of time in the car together thanks to wonder and fear inducing traffic jams in third world capital cities and cross country road trips, mostly in the states.

Does this sound familiar? As Dad concentrates on traffic and directions, Mom valiantly tries to keep everyone happy...or at least prevent bodily harm...between four children who are tired of being in the car and cooped up with each other and have a sudden, drastic aversion to being touched.

Here are some of our favorite ways to make car rids fun. These tried and true activities will work whether you are driving across country or across town.


  • Listening to Adventures in Odyssey 
  • Sing through the alphabet (sing a song that the first letter of the first word starts with "A", then one that starts with "B", and so on)
  • The Alphabet Game (while finding "J" and "Q" in Spanish speaking countries is easy, "K" is nearly impossible)
  • I Spy/Twenty Questions
  • Listening to Adventures in Odyssey 
  • The Cow Game (two players or teams each choose a side of the road and count the cows they see; these are "their" cows; if they pass a roadside memorial cross or a cemetery all their cows die; the one with the most cows at the end of a set time wins)
  • When we traveled around the states we would play the "License Plate Game" but this usually lasted the whole length of the trip. We would work together to spot license plates from all 50 states in the Union. (Going to a popular national destination like the Statue of Liberty, Yosemite National Park, or Disney World and trolling the parking lot helps with those hard to find states!)
  • Fortunately/Unfortunately story telling (first player begins a made up story ending their one minute--more or less--story with a predicament; the next player says "fortunately" and solves the problem; the next person say "unfortunately" and creates another difficult situation; the next storyteller says "fortunately" and so on; this is most fun with an odd number of people)
  • Did I mention Listening to Adventures in Odyssey 



Besides ear buds and videos I've come up with a couple of new ideas that I hope to try out soon.

The first involves using your data plan and this random word generator (or any other you find). This one lets you choose the number of words you want. I suggest three. Click on "generate random words" and the next player has to try to make a sentence using all three words. For example, just now I got "official", "glove", and "version".  Here's the sentence I came up with:

It was always nerve-wracking when my boss used her official white glove
 to see if my version of clean met up with hers.

For a more challenging version of this game could be that you have to tell a continuous story with each person using their three words in the next sentence of the story.



I like words. You probably guessed that. But one reason verbal word games are good is they don't involve (much) looking down and reading which can cause carsickness which leads to unhappy passengers. 

Another game you could play involves synonyms. There are two ways to play this game. The first is to choose a common word, like "good" and try to go around listing synonyms. The first person says, "Good" the people following each say one word that they think is a synonym like: nice, admirable, excellent, outstanding, etc. Everyone decides if the words is a synonym of of some kind. If they don't think it is, use your data to look it up online to settle the dispute. The person who can't think of a synonym or who says a word that is not a synonym is out. Keep going around with new words until one person is the winner.

The second way to play this game is to do it with a synonym not to a main word, but to the preceding word. For example the list might go like this: Warm -> Hot -> Gorgeous -> Pretty -> Fairly -> Justly -> Rightly -> Properly -> Appropriately...get the idea? This can be a lot of fun because you will get some unexpected words that were completely different than what everyone was thinking!

Both of these games could be done with antonyms as well. In the first version, keep listing antonyms to one base word. In the second, give an antonym to the preceding word.

If you are a soccer mom (or a hockey mom, or a orthodontist appointment mom) you can put these ideas to use right away. Or you can bookmark this page for your next road trip!


Happy Travels!






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Thursday, September 8, 2016

20/20 About the Class of 2020

I was at a ministry and job fair for the kids entering Emmaus Bible College working a booth for our church along with another Emmaus alumna, although she had graduated approximately 30 years after I did. She looked at the incoming freshmen and said, "I'm not old enough to say this, but they look so young!" I had to laugh. My husband and I had just been commenting a few days before on how young the new students look.



But today I looked up The Mindset List that Beloit College puts out every year to help us understand the new college students' way of looking at the world. Warning: this list may make you feel old. Here are some of the observations they made about the class that will graduate in 2020:

  • Among those who have never been alive in their lifetime are Frank Sinatra, Tammy Wynette, Shari Lewis, Sonny Bono, and Flo-Jo.
  • There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.
  • Vladimir Putin has always been calling the shots at the Kremlin.
  • There has never been a German Mark or a French Franc.
  • The year they were born India and Pakistan became nuclear powers.
  • Emails are old school; better text them if you want a response.
  • X-rays have always been digitalized and immediately readable.
  • A Bush and a Clinton have always been campaigning for something big.
  • Snowboarding has always been an Olympic Sport
  • John Elway and Wayne Gretzky have always been retired.
  • They have never seen a billboard ad for cigarettes.
  • Airline tickets have always been purchased online.
  • Instant tray-less ice cubes have never been a novelty
  • Newt who?
  • Michael J. Fox has always spoken publicly about having Parkinson's disease
Some I found even more disturbing from previous years were:
  • The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them.
  • Billy Graham is as familiar to them as Otto Graham was to their parents. (If you are asking, "Otto who?"...that's the point.)
  • They have access to unlimited information, but are unable to enjoy a social event without their phone.
  • They don't have to leave their room to see "dirty pictures."
And not on the Beloit list, but a sad statistic I found elsewhere:
  • As many as 3 out of 4 college freshmen from Christian homes who go to secular universities will not continue to attend church on a regular basis...ever again.



















And this is why you should be proactive about college students. How?
  1. Pray for those you know going away to college.
  2. Write to them, maybe send a care package. You don't need to give them a sermon, just some news from home, and an "I'm praying for you."
  3. Look for students on the college campuses near you.
  4. Find out if the college has a "job fair" or "community information" booth. Get in there and be outgoing and welcoming. Have some info about your church including where it is and even offer rides if people need them. Believe me, when I do this, even though it is at a Christian college, it is hard to constantly try to "sell" my church to these kids because that's just not my personality. But every contact helps.
  5. If parents dropping off their child bring them to your church to visit, walk up and say "hi". Get to know the student and get their phone number. Invite them to church and for lunch afterward along with a few people in their age range.
  6. When the students show up, go out of your way to be welcoming, help them find the coffee bar, explain the schedule of meetings. Ask if they need any furniture for their dorm and find out if anyone has any to give away.
We recently housed a married couple from India who have come to study for two years. They were with us for 10 days until their apartment became available. Then we put out word on our church email list of the furniture they needed. My husband helped them go all over town picking things up. I took them shopping. And we had people they might click with over for dinner. Another of those families had them to their house for a meal. 

Last Sunday a group of students were at our house for lunch including this couple and they were discussing where they might make their home church for the school year. Someone asked Godly (yes, that's the husband's name) where they would be attending and he said, "I guess this one!" We had won him over.




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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Now THAT's Entertaining!

I've already confessed here that I enjoy watching HGTV, especially the episodes where they take a run down house and make it look amazing. When the prospective owners talk about what they want, I've noticed that one thing everyone wants is a "gourmet kitchen" and an "open concept" house. Why? "So we can entertain in here."

I have a pet peeve about the word entertain when it refers to having people into your home. When I think of "entertaining" I think of a song and dance routine or at least a desire to show off and get compliments. 



I think it's great that people want to invite others into their homes. That is one of the best ways to make friends, encourage others, share of our blessings, perhaps learn of needs and help, maybe be helped, know how to pray for others, bring people together to form friendships, and to obey the Biblical command to be hospitable. That's where the word "hospitality" comes in. Hospitality is thinking about how you can give to others. In other words, are you trying to impress, or bless?

But it isn't necessary to have a chef's kitchen or a model home to invite people over. The goal is to have fellowship with others and to generously share what God has given you. That can be done even in these circumstances:

  • Around a table that seats four so only two guests can be invited at a time
  • In an apartment with only an kitchen bar, so everyone sits in the living room area, even on the floor
  • When the dishes have all been bought at Goodwill and they don't match in color, style, or era
  • Where the kitchen only has one functioning burner and the rice has to be made ahead and then a one pot stove-top dinner served
  • With eight people squeezed around a table meant for four to six
  • On a back patio because the house is just too small
I have been invited into homes like these. And when the hosts are welcoming, everyone has a great time!


When my parents were first married they lived in an eight by twenty-nine foot trailer. It was in Texas, so they could bring their table outside, place a large homemade plywood top on it to extend it, cover that with a tablecloth and invite people over for a meal under their awning on a regular basis.

In South America we have been in people's homes so humble they had to borrow extra plates from the neighbors in order to serve us all at once. Do you get the idea? It's not what you have, it's what you offer.

I recognize that in today's American English, "entertain" is the word people use to talk about having others into their home and "hospitality" is an industry of hotels and restaurants. (Please don't get me talking about that pet peeve. How can they call it hospitality when they expect you to pay big bucks for it??

In the end, it doesn't really matter what term you use, 
as long as your attitude is right.






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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rosebud Vegetable Tart

A friend of mine asked me to bring a vegetable dish to a wedding open house for her daughter who was married out of town. I decided to see what I could actually do that would befit the occasion. That's when I found this recipe for a Zucchini and Carrot Roses Tart. It was beautiful, but could I make something like that?  I decided to try.




Of course, I had to fiddle with the recipe some. I decided to use crescent roll dough out of the can instead of puff pastry. Since I didn't have multi-colored carrots, I decided to use yellow summer squash as well as zucchini and orange carrots. I also added more salt and pepper.

Here is my recipe. (At the end are a few notes that helped me.)

Rosebud Vegetable Tarts
Ingredients:
1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 oz. Ricotta cheese (1/2 15 oz container)
2 eggs
3 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
4 oz. Mozzarella cheese
2 orange carrots
2 green zucchini 
2 yellow summer squash
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper




Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375. 

Unroll dough and press into tart or pie pan on bottom and up sides. Trim excess. Mix together ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan and salt in medium bowl. Slice carrots, zucchini, and summer squash into thin lengthwise strips.

Spread cheese mixture on top of dough.

Warm half vegetable strips in microwave for 20-30 seconds. This makes them more pliable. Choose one vegetable strip and roll it into a spiral. Add another strip of the same vegetable around it to make it into a rosebud. Place the vegetable bud upright into the center of the cheese. The cheese mixture will hold it in place. Choose a different vegetable and make another rosebud. Place the varied colors of vegetable buds in the cheese creating a spiral starting from the middle toward the outer edge. Squeeze as many as you can in. Warm the other half of the vegetables in the microwave and continue until the pan is full.


Brush the tops of the vegetables with the olive oil. Sprinkle the oregano and pepper over the top.

Bake at 375F for 45-55 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Cut into wedges or squares. Makes 8-10 servings.


Notes to make it easier:
1. Since I did not have a mandolin or other vegetable slicer that would slice the vegetables, I used a cheese slicer. 


2. Warming the vegetable slightly in the microwave (20-30 seconds) would make using a cheese slicer easier.
3. I sliced once lengthwise then turned the vegetable over to make the bottom flat in order to keep the vegetables steady as I sliced them. 


4. If there are a lot of seeds in the center, do not use the part with seeds.
5. For the center ring, a carrot/potato peeler makes a thinner slice that is easier to roll and then the thicker slice can be wrapped around that spiral.


6. When placing the spirals in the cheese, place the open end toward another spiral that is already placed to help it stay shut.




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Thursday, August 18, 2016

What if Your Vision of Heaven is All Wrong?

If you went out and asked ten people "What is heaven to you?" you would probably get ten different answers. And they would probably be along the lines of:
  • "A place where I can eat all I want, of whatever I want, never exercise, and stay a perfect size 8."
  • "Endless time and a mountain of books."
  • "The end of suffering and pain."
  • "One big, long party!"
  • "Being the star player on the team that everyone adores."
I know that I remember thinking about the passage where Jesus tells the Sadducees, "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) On reading that, I thought, how could it be heaven if I'm not with Jim? But just like the people above, I had a wrong idea of heaven.


Photo Credit: My friend, Joy Delzer

I was using the word heaven as an idea. One of the dictionary definitions of heaven is "a state of supreme bliss." You see, I thought heaven was all about me.

The Bible teaches us that Heaven is a very real place, not an idea or a state of being. And it is definitely not about me...or you. It is a place where those who go there will live in perfect communion with God and worship Him. It's about God.

The Bible tells us that all tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4) and in His "presence is fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11). So we will be happy, but our happiness will come from God Himself. 

In fact, we won't be worried about the injustices we experienced on earth, or the difficulties we encountered, or even mourning those who are not saved because our focus will be on God.

I'm pretty sure that in that "twinkling of an eye" between life on earth and heaven our priorities will change completely. Everything that was so important on earth will suddenly become so insignificant we will wonder why we ever wasted a thought on it. Every. Single. Thing. 

So the big question for me is why do I spend so much energy planning, worrying, fretting, and protecting? I need a better vision of heaven, but more than that I need a better relationship with God. When He becomes the most important thing in my life, then everything else falls into proper perspective. Including my idea of heaven.


*   *   *

This was not intended to be a treatise on heaven. 
Just a motivation for us all to get to know God 
and know what we are looking forward to.


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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Every Night--I Promise It Works!

I always dreamed that we would have deep meaningful conversations around our dinner table, especially on holidays. But we are normal parents with four normal children who despite our best efforts could bicker about anything, complain about their favorite food, monopolize the conversation, jump out of their seats twenty times during one meal, and spill the milk. Oh wait, it was usually my husband or I who spilled the milk! (Of course, we were trying to prevent that, or some other minor catastrophe.)



Not to say that our family meals were disasters. Rarely did all of those things happen at any one meal and we had meals where none of them happened. But the conversation was more likely to have one person telling us over the period of ten minutes what happened in their dream the night before until it became so fantastic that you wondered when the dream stopped and where the imagination began. Or we parents feeling like interrogators trying to find out when a project was due and what was involved. Or heard the full and complete story of what happened in a video game. Or, well, you get it. It just wasn't the conversation of my dreams.

Not to say we never had good conversations. Often they were short, so short they were almost over before we realized how deep the question had been, or how profound the insight. Like when our five year old son said, "If the earth rotated slower, days would be longer, right?"



Or when our youngest asked a question about what she was learning in science and her brother who is nine years older answered her question in detail that sounded like a textbook, but in words that she could understand.

Or when our other daughter asked if we could pool our Christmas money to buy something nice for some kids at church who barely had the money to pay bus fare to church.

How did these happen? We sat down to dinner with our kids and we all stayed at the table for thirty minute or more...every night. We had kids living at home for basically twenty-seven years. And we had dinner with them every night they were home.



In their late teens and early twenties jobs, practices, friends, and classes took them away more often, but if they were going to be there, we ate together. We flexed our meal schedule to make that possible.

Today our kids are our friends. We enjoy getting together. I was thrilled when our German son-in-law told me he couldn't wait for Christmas because he wants his daughter to know her American cousins, "Because with family you don't have to impress anyone. You can be yourself."

When our five year old granddaughter visited by herself for three days the thing she wanted to do "next time I come alone" is have a picnic dinner with us. And the event she took the most pictures of was a four generation family dinner celebrating her great grandma's 90th birthday.



My daughter-in-law asked me to come stay with her for a week while my son takes an intensive PhD class. And my other daughter-in-law and our youngest daughter are planning a road trip together.

This kind of family closeness doesn't just happen. Twenty-seven years of family meals has helped. Along with these thoughts.

If you feel like dinner last night was a disaster and you are tempted to feed the kids early and enjoy a quiet meal with your husband or plunk everyone in front of the TV while you eat (both options once in a while), please think again. It might seem like a failure, but the time spent together is not. I promise you!



Here's a project: take a small notebook or even a piece of paper. After dinner try to write down one good thing that happened at the meal. It might start with, "No one spilled anything," or "No one got scolded." But listen to the conversation. Maybe you will add, "Noah said 'please' and 'thank you' without prompting!" And then, "Kait told her sister she was proud of her!" 

Keep it handy and do this every night for a week. Or longer if you can. Or every once in a while. After a time, look back at this record. You will see a pattern of family meals having benefits in your family. I promise.


Tell me some of the good things that have happened around your table recently! I'd love to hear them. Write below in the comments or at this email.





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