Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WFMW: Helping a Toddler Use Stickers

Sometimes I impress myself with my brilliance. I have no idea if other moms have discovered this trick to help toddlers use stickers, but I made it up one day out of frustration with helping Mary,  2 1/2 years old, get new stickers to put on her paper. Maybe you've known about this for years, in which case I say to you, why didn't you tell me?!

In order to make sure none of my friends can say I didn't share this amazing trick, here it is:

Pull the non-sticker sticky paper off the page before you let your toddler work with the stickers. It means all they have to figure out is how to get the sticker off, without messing around with the background of the stickers. This is really great for developing fine motor skills too.

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And yes, those are princess stickers. Don't judge me. They were on clearance and at the rate Mary uses stickers (a little over 100 on the day I took this picture!) I'm not too picky. They have bug and airplane and dinosaur stickers too though.

Linked up at Works for Me Wednesday hosted by We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I eat like a homeless person, and I love it.

Bruce here. I've hacked into Jennifer's blog to post something. I want to share one of the ways Jennifer makes me proud.

Jennifer's friends might know that our church started a homeless ministry about a year ago. But, what few people know, is that shortly after the ministry started, Jennifer got the idea that one day a week she would cook dinners for the nine homeless people being served by the ministry. And she's continued that for about a year.

Every Tuesday, she cooks a big dinner. Most of it goes to the homeless people. She even packs the food up and drives it the mission. And some of it stays with us and becomes our dinner.

Moreover, she makes really good food for this ministry. In fact, the food is so good that I often joke with her that one of the things I appreciate about her ministry is that it means at least one day each week, I get to eat well.

It's sort of a joke because she does try to cook well for me other times. For example, a few months ago she decided to make Friday nights "guy food" nights. That's when I get some red meat, BBQ, or other guy food.

But, it's not completely a joke. It's true that I look forward to Tuesday night dinners. See, the Sabin family lives on a tight budget. We have vegetarian night, for example, not because we're trying to be healthy, but because meat is an expensive part of dinner. So, I look forward to Tuesdays because Jennifer makes sure the food she makes for the homeless is on the upper end of what she would ever make for our family.

And that's why I've hacked into her blog. I want to publicly praise Jennifer's Christlike attitude in this.

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
                                                Luke 14:12-14 (ESV)
When it comes to charity, most people, if they give at all, give from their excess. We donate the older clothes that we don't want anymore, or that we outgrew. We have some money taken out of our paychecks because, we're assured, we'll never even notice it's gone. While all such donations can still help people, they don't represent our savior, "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Php 2:6-8).

Jennifer is giving of herself, taking extra time to cook for 13 people (the 9 homeless and our family of 4), and then she delivers that food, every week. And, in that, she cooks some of the best food we'll eat all week. She doesn't combine vegetarian night with homeless ministry night. She truly gives her best to those who cannot repay her. And she has done this, week after week, since last Fall.

Few people know about this because she doesn't do any of this for her own glory; she does it out of her love for God. And that's why I am proud of her and have been blessed by her.

And while she wouldn't want the glory for this, I feel fine praising her in public. And while Jennifer might be embarrassed by this blog post, I'll gladly accept a little appropriate glory. After all, Solomon once advised young men to look for the woman who's character would bring him glory. The whole "Proverbs 31 Woman" passage hinges on its central thesis:

Her husband is known in the gates
   when he sits among the elders of the land.
                                               Pro 31:23 (ESV)



Tonight's mouth-watering baked chicken, seasoned beautifully,
served with twice-baked potato. Scrumptious.

Fun Playdate at Indian Summer Farms

I love finding new places to do cool things in my chosen town. And as active as I am in my community and as much as my husband likes to tell people I'm the "stay at home mom who never stays at home," I still find new places to explore with my kids and friends all the time.

My most recent discovery is a produce stand called Indian Summer Farms. Obviously though, it is more than just a produce stand. I organized a play date there for my MOPS group and for $5 per kid, we had a great time! Here's a peek at what it included:

Feeding the animals in the petting area. Mary had NO fear and walked right up to the goats with her bread. She might have even been a little too bold at moments for this momma!
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Hanging out in a unusual play area that included a wider variety of toys in an outside area than I ever expected.
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There are also two swinging tires that the oldest kids really enjoyed. Gave one of the moms a pretty good work out trying to get the swings higher and faster!
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A few rides on this water barrel train. It carried the kids between the different areas of the farm that we visited. And then at the very end, they got to take one long train ride all the way around the property.
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In the middle of all this fun, we did get to pick strawberries. Each girl picked about a bucket's worth and it was included in our cost. I was having so much fun out in the field chasing Mary (not!) that I didn't get to take pictures, but the berries were delicious, both straight off the vine and later that day when we ate them at home.

The playdate ended with some home made ice cream! This might have been the best part for the kids.
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Oh, and that strawberry onion next to her ice cream, she picked that. We had never been able to do that before so it was kind of cool to see the onion coming out of the ground.

Some more pics from our fun day at Indian Summer Farms:

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Mary is definitely the camera hog these days. She loves posing and smiling for the camera, whereas Charlotte runs the other way when I even suggest I might like a picture of her!
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 And quite possibly my favorite picture from the entire morning... Mary reacting to the news that it was time to go home:
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Have you found a new favorite play date spot? When was the last time you visited some place new with your kids?

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's All About Relationships

There has been a theme in my life in the past several months. Anyone lucky (?) enough to hear me talk about the problems in the world knows that I always come back to the same solution. I don't intend for things to always turn this way, but it just seems that if people would listen to my advice, the world would be a better place.

That sounds awfully vain. I know. But I am not suggesting something new, even though it might feel radical to some. This idea is biblical and where it is practiced, life improves for everyone (but maybe not before it gets a little uglier).

For me, it's all about relationships. I honestly feel that, if we are willing to engage in honest communication and let the messiness of life spill out of and into us, then so many things would be better in life.

But, what do I mean by "let the messiness of life spill out of and into us"? Good question.

What I mean is, if I am willing to be real with other people and not be scared to get into their messiness, then we'd be in relationship together. And it goes both ways, I have to be real about my struggles and my challenges too.

For example, how is it that we can have churches in America where probably 50% of the people aren't even saved? I'm not talking about those new churches that are genuinely attracting the lost. I'm referring to people who have grown up in church their whole lives, dutifully come to church each week, and then walk out the exact same person they walked in as, week after week after week after week. No amount of music or preaching is ever going to change them.

However, if we were willing to truly be in relationship with these people, and be willing to engage them beyond the 3 hours of "church" on Sunday morning, we might see that they are trying to fill their "god sized hole" with all the wrong things - academics, career, family, community service, exercise, etc... And then, if we are in relationship with them, we can show them how those things are not bad, but that they will never be able to complete them as a human being.

Or consider this example... an unwed girl gets pregnant and the father definitely wants nothing to do with her or their baby. Which serves her better - a picket line at her local abortion clinic or real people who commit to helping her find ways to keep and support her new family? Are we willing to let her come and live with us when her boyfriend/parents kick her out? Are we willing to invite her messiness into our neat world that may already be running smoothly?

One final example... and this one is closer to home than any of the others. What about the moms of young children who aren't sure if anyone else even knows what their days are like. Pick up toys. Wash the dishes. Sweep cheerios. Read "Pokey, Little Puppy" for the hundredth time today. If that mom comes into our church and she is ignored by the other women, she is going to feel hurt. I've been in that position. New to town, no friends, new church. The women who had been there for years looked right past me. Eventually, one person made an effort and that effort made a world of difference.

I could go on and on, as I am sure some of you could too. The lack of genuine community and relationships in the current American culture is abysmal. The fact that it is just as bad within our churches is inexcusable.

My challenge right now is to find other people to be "in relationship" with, to make sure I am putting feet to my idea that life is best lived when we "let the messiness of life spill out of and into us." Are you willing to get real and honest with another person? Will you accept this challenge with me?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Hole to China

When I was a little girl my family spent a lot of time at the beach. I even had a fringed shirt that said "Beach Bunny" on it!

One of the many activities that kept my attention was digging a hole to China. Did anyone else ever do that? I can't be the only one. Can I?

It occurred to me that no one ever told me I couldn't do it. I don't have a single memory of any grown-up saying that it was impossible to dig a hole through the earth and end up in China.

In my head, I started to form a metaphor about letting kids have dreams and ambitions. About never letting them think anything was impossible and the adults all wishing they could have the hope of a child.

But then, suddenly, I realized why no one ever told me that digging a hole to China is impossible.

Think about it. What reason can you think for not telling a super chatty child that she can't actually dig a hole deep enough and that she'd die from the molten core long before China was even an option?

Yep. Now that I'm a mom, I totally get it. If any of my children ever want to dig a hole to China I'll be happy to let them try while I enjoy the beauty of the beach.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cardboard Testimonies

Today, I received an email from my church asking me (and everyone else on the church distribution list) to consider participating in sharing a "cardboard testimony." I've been watching videos of other churches doing this for at least a few years and always hoped I'd get a chance to participate.

Then, this afternoon, given the opportunity, I could barely think of anything to share. Figures! Right now I feel like I am in the middle of finding out what the back of my piece of cardboard ought to say. God is still not finished writing my story and I don't really know how it is going to turn out.

But, I really want to participate, so I did come up with a testimony that is relevant to who I am now and will be sharing it on Sunday, April 29th in my church's evening service. (If you are local to me, that would be Kathleen Baptist Church. Feel free to come and visit!)

Until then, I am watching all sorts of cardboard testimony videos from other churches. Each one of them moves me to tears. It really confused my girls today! I explained that the tears were happy ones because I was watching people share how God had changed their lives. Charlotte can't read yet and kept asking me to tell her what the testimonies said. And if you have ever watched one of these videos before, you know many of them reference porn0graphy addictions, adult.ry, sexu@l abuse, and other sins and hurts that are too much for a 4 year old to comprehend.

I explained that not everyone was as blessed as her to grow up in a home that loved God and that meant they were hurt by bad choices, either their's or someone else's. But that when they flipped the sign, they were saying that somehow, God had made them better, had healed them, or brought someone into their life to make it hurt less.

Finally, after asking me to read every single one, even though I could barely talk because of the tears, Bruce summed it up for her very well. Here is my version of what he said: Everyone has problems. God is there to fix those problems if we trust Him with our deepest hurts and pains. These people had trusted God and experienced freedom and God offers that freedom to everyone.

So it doesn't matter what choices you have made in the past; whether you were the sinner or the one sinned against. God cares about you and wants you to be in relationship with Him so He can heal you. Watch this video with me and see the healing He brought to many others that you can also be yours if you just ask for it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Value of Popularity

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how Charlotte fits in with her peers. In part this is because I hadn't been certain that we would home school her and she might end up at the local elementary school.

Right now, when I observe Charlotte with her peer group, I think she's a bit socially awkward. She isn't as concerned with personal space as others and is overly enthusiastic for even the small things. It kind of makes me cringe a little when I see them react to her excitement over something they don't consider a big deal.

After exploring the issue of her social behavior a little more, I've decided it is important to me because I want Charlotte to have a better social experience growing up than I did.

If my memory is correct, I was "popular" until 4th grade. I had lots of friends, don't remember being the object of teasing or bullying, and faintly recall creating an exclusive club for my friends and I to join. However, once 4th grade started, I was in a different school and didn't have any social capital to build on. Then, after 9 weeks, I was in another school. Same story. Moving onto 5th grade, I was in yet another school.

By the end of 5th grade, my family moved to a new city. At the beginning of summer. To a neighborhood with hardly any kids, let alone any my own age. To their credit, my parents enrolled my brother and I into a summer camp, but there were enough days at home that summer and the next that the entertaining myself with food started to affect my body shape.

So, lucky me, I got to start 6th grade as an overweight newcomer, in the special program for "gifted" kids. You'd have thought they would all be uncool together, but that wasn't really the case. Even in our class of 20 or so students, there was still a hierarchy of coolness. I was not even on the scale.

Fortunately, it wasn't all doom and gloom. I made friends, some of whom I still talk to until this day (Hi Michelle & Jennifer!) But from that point forward, I never really fit in. In fact, I don't think I really fit in anywhere until I was in my 30's (Thanks MOPS!). Seriously. It took me that long to work my life out so people enjoyed being around me, or at least tolerated my bad habits long enough to see the good in me.

And in between 6th grade and 30? There was a lot of teasing and a lot of bullying and a lot of being lonely.

Everything in me wants to protect Charlotte and Mary from that life experience. Is that a realistic desire? No, but it doesn't change what I want for them.

Luke's post about the "Popular Kids" prompted me to explore more of what I want for my daughters. I asked my daughter's Sunday School teacher to share with me what she saw as Charlotte's strengths and weaknesses. And what she told me made me feel a little better. While she kind of hedged on the weaknesses as being typical of a 4 year old, she also observed that Charlotte is extremely compassionate and knows how to manage her emotions well by walking away from a conflict instead of escalating it.

That made me really proud of Charlotte. I realized that even if her peers consider her a little odd because of her enthusiasm for animal crackers, it's okay. Because even though I want to protect her from unkind looks and "mean girls," at the end of her life, I'd much rather she have spent her time worrying about helping others than fitting in.
"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.' Matthew 25:37-40