Thursday, September 29, 2016

National Coffee Day!

September 29

When did you start drinking coffee?


Photo Credit: Christina Fleming

I started drinking coffee when I was on a mission trip to France between my freshman and sophomore years of college. For breakfast the only beverage we were served was cafe au lait--coffee with milk. The milk was heated and with enough sugar I could drink it to get down my French baguette slices.

When I came home I kept drinking coffee, but with lots of milk and sugar. There were no specialty coffee shops then (back in the dark ages!), so we just got black coffee and dressed it up ourselves. I'm not saying it was the coffee, but I gained seven pounds that summer. Then I gained seven more the following school year!



How do you like your coffee?

Slowly I got rid of the milk and sugar by decreasing it slightly until I was actually drinking it black. But then I drank it mainly for a hot drink or socially because I never really liked the bitter flavor. You know, "I like the smell, but not the taste." 

At some point after I had to go off sugar, I started sweetening my coffee, first with aspartame, then sucralose, and now I use stevia. I like my coffee sweet unless I'm eating something with it, like at breakfast or some kind of sugar-free dessert.


Photo Credit: Christina Fleming


Have you given thanks for your coffee today?

My 95 year old friend Marion lives in a retirement community and is now in her last days. She can't eat or really swallow, but she rubs a sponge on a stick around her mouth after dipping it in ice water. She said her last request is that she be able to dip the sponge in cappuccino. 

I pretty much take it for granted that I can have coffee any time I want, however I want it (though I still usually drink it black and sweet). Watching Marion fade is hard. And thinking how she'd just like a taste of cappuccino makes me grateful for all I have and excited to think about her being in heaven with the Lord!

Final Question: What's the best way to enjoy a cup of coffee?


Photo Credit: Christina Fleming


Answer: With a friend!







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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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For More Ideas and Inspiration:

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