Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Ring Test Update

You may remember that a few weeks ago I blogged about an old wives' tale to predict the sex of one's unborn baby. If you dangle a ring (or other metal object) in front of your belly, it will either spin in circles or go back and forth in a pendulum. We got circles.

According to the tale, circles indicate you're carrying a girl; a pendulum indicates a boy. Supposedly, the metal detects and responds to the energy emitted from the baby's hormones. Sounds strange, I know. You don't have to put much stock in it, but it was fun to try and see.

(Stop reading here if you don't want to know until the baby's born what I'm having.) :)

Our doctor's ultrasound confirmed...the baby is a GIRL! How fun. The boys have really been wanting a sister and just knew all along it was a girl, "because the ring test said so." We had to have lots of talks about how the ring test may not be accurate. They kept the faith.

In the hope that maybe I was carrying a girl, I went ahead and crocheted this hat. Isn't it adorable? I figured that if we were having another boy, I would just pass it along to a friend. Now I'm thrilled I can keep it for our little girl to wear (I like the pattern so much I'm sure I'll be making more for friends expecting girls).

So does the ring test really work? Many people think so. All I know is it worked for me and two of my friends who are also expecting girls. If you're pregnant and curious, it can't hurt to try!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Fragrance of Beauty in our Homes

When you think about when you love your home the most, or when you most enjoy being at others' homes, is it because something there delights your senses?  Probably the answer is yes.

The most welcoming atmospheres usually evoke positive sensory experiences. Maybe there is a candle burning, or another form of fragrance and the house smells good; it is relatively tidy and looks warm and cozy; perhaps there is soft music playing and it sounds nice; most likely, there is food or beverages prepared and available for your visit (or your guests).  All of this fills makes you feel pleasant and peaceful.

In  Family Fragrance: Practical intentional ways to fill your home with the aroma of love , J. Otis and Gail Ledbetter share the power our senses have upon our perceptions--for good and for bad. "It is through the senses," they write, "that an overpowering desire is created within the human soul to stay connected with the home, or to separate and remove oneself."

The gist of the message is that we want our homes to not only look and smell nice, but to feel nice. We want our children and our spouses to learn that the aroma of the home will be consistent and uplifting, not filled with moodiness, impatience and tension. They write, "The Apostle Paul talks about the atmosphere we create when we live our lives before believers and unbelievers alike: 'But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.'" (2 Cor. 2: 14-15 NIV).

While we will all have bad days, the acrostic they use to help us aim for a peaceful atmosphere with our families in our homes is AROMA:

"If a sweet aroma is to be accomplished, it will take a determined focus on our part. It will require an intentional effort."

So at the close of this Messy Monday, I'd love for us to think about how we can create a pleasant aroma in our homes. What is one practical thing we can do to improve relationships within our home? What is one practical thing we can do to make our home feel more welcoming? (On my end, we are working on teaching the boys not to give into the sinful nature and fight physically when they're upset at each other; I am also aiming to set the table a bit more nicely, so at least some nights of the week it feels like a special celebration, instead of the same old-same old).

"A caring aroma that is inviting and inspiring can be created with a little time, effort, and creative thinking. How can you create an intoxicating family atmosphere in your home? How can you draw your children in?" -- Family Fragrance: Practical intentional ways to fill your home with the aroma of love

Menu Plan Monday

Hope you had a nice weekend! Here's what's on our menu this week:

Fried eggs, toast, grapefruit
Bran muffins, cantaloupe, yogurt
Granola and berries
Hot cereal (oatmeal/Malt-O-Meal)
Cereal and bananas

Turkey sandwiches, apples, carrot/celery sticks
Broccoli Cheese Quiche
Dinner leftovers (turned into something slightly different when possible)

(recipes for taco soup and tangy pork chops in Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: 700 Great Slow Cooker Recipes
3 Bean Taco Soup, cornbread
Chicken and Mushroom pasta, salad
Cornbread chicken, Chinese Cabbage salad
Roasted chicken with cauliflower and chickpeas
Homemade pizza
Tangy pork chops, potatoes, coleslaw

Visit Menu Plan Monday for more menu-planning ideas!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Favorite Frugal, Natural Cleaners

A few years ago, after the birth of our first son, I remember asking my mom questions about what my grandma (and my mom's grandma) used to clean with. What products did she use? Surely, back then, Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner, Pledge, Clorox wipes, and a host of other products did not exist. What the generations that preceded us used were arguably frugal and efficient. So what were they?

My mom said: vinegar and baking soda.

They worked great then; they still work great today.

I was interested in going back to basic cleaners not only because they save money, but also because with little boys who get into mischief, I didn't want anything around that could poison them. Vinegar and baking soda won't taste great, but they won't hurt my kids either.

Since then, I've continued to look into more natural cleaners. I found a great list online of formulas you can make on your own using common household items, like vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide.  Here's the list I found:

Here's some of my favorite formulas:
  • I mop the floor with about 1 c. of white vinegar to about a gallon of hot water. Sometimes I add a few drops of an essential oil.
  • Furniture polish=olive oil, some lemon juice
  • Scour sinks and our porcelain tub with baking soda
  • 1 c. of vinegar and 1/4 c. baking soda to clean the toilet
  • Make your own magic eraser
  • Clean the shower (and remove scale deposits) with a hydrogen peroxide/water solution (about 3:1) in an spray bottle
  • Laundry detergent
Do you make your own cleaning formulas? What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coffee Talk Thursday: Curriculum

Coffee Talk Thursday

Lately I've been researching curriculum choices for homeschooling our oldest in first grade next year. My sister-in-law generously passed down to us her A Beka curriculum for 1st grade. We would still need to order consumable workbooks for math, phonics, spelling, and language arts, but other than most everything we would need is there.


If I didn't have the A Beka materials on hand and it were totally up to my husband and I to order our own materials for next year, here's what I think I would do:
 But I'm torn, since we have been given the A Beka materials, and I feel like maybe I should just try it as suggested (with the curriculum guides and lesson plans) for a year. At the same time, I'm not crazy about creating the official classroom feel at home. That is one of the beautiful things about homeschooling--it doesn't have to look like the public or private school down the street. Sure there are times for lessons, but real learning takes place in the home all day long--even when it doesn't look "formal."

So, I'm still debating and praying about it. 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5).

In the meantime, what materials--or curriculum--do you use for homeschooling? Do you love it? What do you love about it? Have you tried any materials that just haven't worked for you (or your kids)?



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reading 101

During a small group setting a few weeks ago, a fellow mom encouraged her five-year old son to read to us. He didn't skip a beat. That boy read his book fluently. Big words, like "Zacchaeus" didn't even cause him to stumble. Not one bit.

Inwardly, I felt the sting of comparison. My five-year old son, meanwhile, is learning consonant sounds while working through his Get Ready, Get Set, Go for The Code books; he's also starting to learning simple three-letter words, like "sat," and "cat," "bug" and others. Some days, sounding them out is a bit tedious. But until "story-time," I felt pleased with his progress.

I had to remind myself that this other boy is in kindergarten for a full day at a school that really pushes phonics and early reading. His teachers spend many hours a day drilling him--and the other students.  I purposely have chosen not to spend hours on phonics right now with my son. 

Reflecting on all of this caused me to reevaluate my educational philosophy. I choose not to push with too much too soon. I don't want my son to hate reading, so if it's too much of a struggle, I don't think he's ready to dive in yet. That doesn't mean we won't work on it; I'll just try to find another approach to keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. Because learning is an innate, God-given desire, I believe there will come a time when he will desire to learn to read on his own; when we reach that point, he'll be highly motivated and the learning will come much easier.

For example, I was trying to take him through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Everyday was a struggle. He really didn't like the book. He thought it was too boring and tedious (it was tedious for me too). So I shelved it for awhile. If we sat down to work on reading, we brought out real books. I had him try to sound out a few words, or a page if it was a book he could handle. 

However, I  brought out my copy again after seeing where this fellow five-year old was at and feeling like I needed to step it up a notch. We don't work on a lesson in the book everyday, but aim for a few a week. It's a pace we can both handle. Neither one of us get too frustrated. I suppose the whole episode was productive in that it helped me to realize that I could be doing more to teach him to read at this point. It was also good, because it reinforced my decision (and renewed my confidence in that decision) to ease into formal, structured schooling.

Some books that have helped me reach these conclusions are: 
The point is to reach our own conclusions carefully regarding our child's education, and then stay confident in them--even when (especially when) others may cause us to feel the sting of comparison. It can't bite you if you don't let it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Clothes Were Neatly Folded

During our Sunday dinner, I asked my oldest son what he learned at Sunday school. The lesson was on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. One of the details he shared was that "Jesus' clothes lay neatly folded."

"Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself." (John 20: 6-7 ESV).

That spawned an interesting discussion around the table. Why did Jesus take the time to fold his clothes? The Creator designed the world in an orderly, meticulous, highly detailed fashion. Did that same precision to detail and orderliness carry over into everything He did on this earth--even folding his clothes?

My husband thought it was significant that these details are included in the Bible. They certainly didn't have to be. Yet in nearly every Resurrection account in the Gospels, you will read that the cloth was folded. What is the significance of that detail? I don't know. I'm still pondering that one.


If Jesus, the Lord of all, can take the time to fold a cloth neatly (and deems it important enough to tell us about it in the Bible), surely I can improve some of my own habits--aiming for neatness, not sloppiness.

He could have just let all the cloths lie in a rumpled pile, but he didn't. How does that example speak to us? What one habit can we work to improve in our own lives?

Healthy $10 a Day Menus

In reality, I probably need to only plan about 4 or 5 main dishes each week, because we always end up with meals on the menu we haven't gotten to yet. But, to be prepared just in case, I like to plan a main dish for most days of the week. If it doesn't get made, at least I have the ingredients on hand to make it another time.
So here is our menu for the week:

Cream of Wheat
Roast beef sandwiches, apples
Enchiladas, corn, salad

Peanut butter baked oatmeal
Leftover enchiladas, salad
Mexican pork chops, rice

Goulash, bread and butter
Cornbread chicken, Chinese cabbage salad, sweet potatoes

Fried eggs, toast
Leftover chicken cut in strips, tomato slices, salad, leftover sweet potatoes
Roasted chicken with chickpeas and cauliflower

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples
Homemade pizza, Caesar salad

Rotini pasta bake, salad, french bread

Sunday roast with potatoes and carrots, applesauce

Visit orgjunkie.com for Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Time Change

Coffee Talk Thursday

Is it just me, or is it a little tricky adjusting to Daylight Savings time? (I really love the fall back switch to standard time, though). Here's what I love about it: the extra daylight. Here's what I don't love about it: getting out of bed in the morning. If you normally wake up at 6, now it feels like waking up at 5. If you're used to getting up at 5, now it's like you're rising at 4. It just takes a little time for your body clock to get adjusted. Same for the kids; although, in my house, they used to wake up anywhere between 6:45 and 7:30am. Now they still wake up at 6:45-7:30 (go figure), but it feels like 5:45-6:30 from what we're used to.

Going to bed requires adjustments as well. If your body clock usually feels tired around, let's say 10pm, until you become accommodated to the new time, the clock will read 11 before you feel tired (but remember, waking up at 6 now feels like waking up at 5). 

It seems like I remember hearing the best way to cope with it, for ourselves and for the kids, is to go to bed and wake up at the same time as usual--regardless of what the clock says. What I mean is--if the kids normally go to bed at 8pm, they will still go to bed at 8pm (even though it will feel to them like 7pm and they may not be entirely sleepy yet). If our alarm (internal or a clock) goes off at 6am, keep it set for 6am--even though you'll feel a little sleepy waking up an hour earlier than what you're used to.

This week, though, has been a bit off. The boys have been going to bed later--the clock pushes 9pm before we take them up. I've been tempted to sleep (or at least lie in bed) later than usual, simply because it's earlier than usual! We'll get adjusted, though. Just need a few more days.

What is your experience of getting adjusted to the time change?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heaven is for Real, an Astounding Tale of a Boy's Trip to Heaven and Back: Is it Biblical?

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back I recently read Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, because I was given a copy by a family member. The book, written by Todd Burpo—a pastor in Nebraska—tells the story of his son Colton’s experience during surgery following a ruptured appendix. Although the surgery was completely normal—Colton never flat-lined and the operative report showed nothing unusual—Colton, who was four at the time, claimed months after surgery that he had gone out of his body and taken a trip to heaven for “three minutes” while on the operating table. The book reveals the details he shared about his heavenly visit.

Although encouraged to see how God spared the Burpo’s little boy's life and provided for their medical bills, thumbing through the book, I was immediately alarmed by what I was reading.

I am so thankful we are grounded in a biblical church, and that I know my Bible well enough to know that his tale is not in line with what the Bible teaches. At the same time, I am deeply disturbed that so many people are reading this book (it is a New York Times #1 bestseller) and coming away thinking it's an accurate, theologically sound picture of heaven. Far from it.

I am also deeply troubled that Colton's own father is a pastor and never once refutes Colton's claims with Scripture. He backs them up with Scripture when they conveniently seem to support Colton's stories, but he never tells readers who may have limited theological or biblical understanding that the Bible presents a different picture from his son on certain topics, such as his son’s report that all people except Jesus fly with wings and that the angel Gabriel sits on a throne to the left of God the Father. People are being misled by this book and are basing their views of heaven on what Colton says and the new information he presents.

For Colton's story of his trip to heaven to be true, it must agree with what Scripture teaches about heaven. If it doesn't, either the Bible is wrong, or Colton's story is wrong. Since no one else seems to be doing it, let me provide the Scriptural evidence to disprove some of Colton's most troublesome, Scripturally inaccurate claims.

1) Colton claims people have wings in heaven.

Page 72: Todd Burpo writes,
“So what did the kids look like? What do people look like in heaven?"
“Everybody’s got wings,” Colton said.
Wings, hugh? “Did you have wings?” I asked.
“Yeah, but mine weren’t very big.” He looked a little glum when he said this.
“Okay…did you walk places or did you fly?”
“We flew. Well, all except for Jesus. He was the only one in heaven who didn’t have wings. Jesus just went up and down like an elevator.”
If you look up references to wings in the Bible, you will find passages conveying biblical truths using bird metaphors. Isaiah 40:31 talks about how those who “hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;” Jesus says in Luke 13:34 that he longed to gather his people to him like a “hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” Birds were created with wings. Man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1), without wings.

In 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, Paul writes about the resurrection body. He says, “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.” God created us in His image (Genesis 1), as men and women, with a human body, not as a bird with wings. Paul also writes, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Cor. 15: 49).

Our bodies will be resurrected, like Christ’s. Therefore, if Jesus does not have wings, we will not have wings. Also, in the description of heaven, Revelation 21:24 says, “The nations will walk by its light.” Notice the word “walk”—not fly.

Further, in the account of Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew chapter 17, when the disciples saw Moses and Elijah, they recognized them. “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4). No mention of them having wings.

Jesus' resurrected body did not include a set of wings, and we are told we will be like Him.

2) Colton claims people have lights over their heads in heaven.

Page 73:
“Everyone kind of looks like angels in heaven, Dad.”
“What do you mean?”
“All the people have a light above their head.”
Todd Burpo goes on to cite what he claims to be Scriptural evidence of lights over one’s head, using the examples of the angel appearing to Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb (that his appearance was like lightning), Stephen’s face as “bright as an angel’s” during his stoning, and John writing in Revelation about a mighty angel with a “rainbow over his head,” and that the angel’s face “shone like the sun.”

It seems that what Colton was trying to describe was a halo, which the Bible does not say exists, but is depicted in virtually all children’s Bible stories, Renaissance art, and other drawings that a four-year old would most likely have been exposed to—even though his dad (who is a pastor) says he was not exposed to pictures like this.

The description given in the book of Revelation of those in heaven is that they are wearing “fine linen, white and clean.” (Revelation 21:14). No mention of lights above heads. Either it’s new and extrabiblical, or it’s a made-up story from an imaginative kid.

3) Colton claims Jesus has a rainbow horse and that he got to pet him. (page 63).

When the Bible talks about Jesus with a horse, the horse mentioned is always white. (Revelation 19:11, 14).

4) Colton's depiction of God's throne.
This is Colton's account:

Page 100:
"Well, what did God’s throne look like?” [asks his dad]
Colton: “It was big, Dad…really, really big, because God is the biggest one there is…And do you know that Jesus sits right next to God?...Jesus’ chair is right next to his Dad’s!”
Todd Burpo:
“It was another one of those moments when I thought, He had to have seen this…'Well, who sits on the other side of God’s throne?’”
Colton: “Oh, that’s easy Dad. That’s where the angel Gabriel is. He’s really nice.”
Todd writes, “Gabriel. That makes sense,” and then cites Luke chapter 1, when Gabriel foretells John the Baptist’s birth and says, 'I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…'
“So I’d had my glimpse into God’s throne room, but Colton’s descriptions had me wondering: if God the Father was seated on his throne with Jesus on his right and Gabriel on his left, where was Colton?”…
“Where did you sit, Colton?” I asked.
Colton: “They brought in a little chair for me, he said smiling. “I sat by God the Holy Spirit.”
“What does God look like?” I said. “God the Holy Spirit?”
Colton furrowed his brow, “Hmm, that’s kind of a hard one…he’s kind of blue.”
He then goes on to claim that’s where he met his Dad’s grandpa, sitting by the Holy Spirit.

So that’s what Colton says about the throne room of heaven. This is what the Bible says:

First, though, let's not forget all the Scriptures that tell us that God the Father is invisible. ("The Son is the image of the invisible God."--Col. 1:15; Jesus: "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known"--John 1:18).

So how could Colton have possibly seen God the Father, and can he--the God of the Universe--possibly be contained to a "really big throne"?

If that's not enough, let's look at a biblical description of heaven's throne room:
Revelation chapter 4:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven…At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones, and seated on them were 24 elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumbles and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4: 1-11).
There is also another account of the Lord seated on his throne in Isaiah 6:1-4, which corresponds with the Revelation account.
Neither of these accounts resemble Colton’s account to any degree.

5) Colton claims to have seen Satan in heaven, which was revealed three years after his supposed “trip” to heaven, ironically after watching the battle scene in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Page 132:

Colton's mom: “Well, I guess that’s one thing you didn’t like about heaven—no swords up there.”
“There are too swords in heaven!” he said.”
“Um…okay. Why do they need swords in heaven?”
“Mom, Satan’s not in hell yet,” Colton said, almost scolding. “The angels carry swords so they can keep Satan out of heaven!”…
Dad: "Hey, Colton…” “Did you see Satan?”
“Yeah, I did,” he said solemnly.
The rest of the page goes on to describe how Colton shut down and never did want to talk about seeing Satan.

He also claimed that he saw the coming great battle known as Armaggedon—that, “in heaven, the women and the children got to stand back and watch” the future battle while the men fight.

Refuting these claims is a bit more involved, as doing so requires a comprehensive biblical theology about heaven, evil, Satan, and his eternal doom. But let me begin with Isaiah 14: 12, which says,
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star,…You have been cast down to the earth…”
Some scholars believe this refers to Satan. Scholars also believe that Ezekiel 28 offers information about the fall of Satan, through allegory with the king of Tyre.

Jesus said in Luke 10:18 that He saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 about a time when he was caught up to the third heaven.
 “Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man—either in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
Paul refuses to speak of them but says they were wondrous. Would angels walking around on patrol to keep evil out be your version of paradise?

That is also certainly not the vision of heaven portrayed in John’s vision, recorded in the book of Revelation:

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down….Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short.’ When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child…Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:7-17).
Numerous passages present that Satan lost his place in heaven and was “hurled down” to the earth, along with his fallen angels. While he may be “roaming throughout the earth” (Job 1:7), Scripture also says that until he is bound for eternity, Satan maintains access to God. In the words of my pastor, Jack Olsen:
“Rev. 12:10 says he accuses the brethren before our God day and night. There is some debate about where to place this passage chronologically, but I believe this describes a yet future casting of Satan out of heaven for good. He was cast out of his original position in heaven (Ezek. 28:16), but still has limited access to accuse the brethren before God (also Job 1:6).”
For a clear picture of the eternal heaven, we can look at Revelation chapter 21:
“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21: 27).
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Rev. 22:14, 15).
In conclusion, I fully agree that heaven is for real. But since there are so many elements of his story that contradict Scripture, Colton didn't take a real trip to heaven. Besides, his operative report (included in the book) shows he never left his body. This isn't being passed off as a "vision," or a possibly fictitious story from a then four-year old. (Besides, kids have great imaginations and have a hard time distinguishing fantasy from reality). It's being passed along as fact. That's where the problem lies. If you want a true peek at heaven, check out the Bible.

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they will fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:16).
Have you read the book? What do you think about it all?

Other reviews I recommend:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Preparing for Rising Food Prices

At the grocery store this weekend, signs were everywhere in the produce section, alerting consumers that severe weather in the South and Southeast means--for the next several weeks--prices on winter produce will be higher and supplies will be limited. In Japan, food shortages are already being experienced, grocery stores are closed, and people are waiting in lines for rationed amounts of food and water. The earthquake and nuclear catastrophes there are likely to affect food prices worldwide as well.

All of this has me thinking that I'm glad I have prepared a pantry. It's not terribly extensive, but there is enough to last us at least for a little bit through a natural disaster or emergency. Even if there isn't an emergency, I am thankful to be able to dip into reserves I have purchased on sale when their prices climb at the grocery store. I don't have to pay an exorbitantly high price for items our family needs.

If you haven't done it already, I encourage you to stock up on some pantry essentials--especially when you see them on sale. You can do it a little at a time to work it into your budget. That way, you'll have things on hand if prices rise higher than you can comfortably afford for a season; plus, you'll be prepared with some food in the cupboard in the event of an emergency.

There is some helpful information here about building up a pantry. Brandy tells the story of how she slowly stocked her pantry to be able to feed her family for a year. You can also use a food calculator on her site to find out how much your family would need if you were trying to build up a year's worth of storage. Even if you don't do a year, it's helpful to see what kind of items you may want to keep on hand.

(Disclaimer: she links to an Latter Day Saints site about food storage. I am not LDS. So while we disagree theologically, I appreciate the practical tips on building a pantry frugally. There is some really helpful advice there.)   

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Healthy $10 a Day Menus

I don't know how it happens, but it seems to happen a lot. Last week, I only made probably half of the dinners on my menu plan. Family came from out-of-town for my son's 4th birthday and took us out to dinner (nice treat!). Leftovers provided an easy dinner one night when my husband was out of town, and I didn't feel like cooking. So a few meals carry over again this week from last week. We'll see how many carry over into next week as well. :)

Oatmeal, grapefruit
Calico bean salad over brown rice, roma tomatoes
Leftover chili and cornbread, or choice b: leftover tuna oriental over rice

Scrambled eggs, toast, tangelos
Cheese quesadillas, salsa, pears
Oven-fried chicken, baked potatoes, spinach and romaine salad with mandarin oranges and almonds

Cereal, juice, bananas
Red beans and rice (with some hamburger or bacon thrown in)
Crockpot pork chops (Cream of mushroom soup, onion soup packet, a little milk; didn't get made last week), mashed potatoes, green beans

Veggie omelets, toast
Tuna salad sandwiches, carrots
Enchiladas, corn, salad (didn't get made last week)

Cream of wheat
Macaroni soup, bread (This is getting to be a joke, since it's been on my menu several times but I have yet to actually try it!)
Bbq meatballs, oven fries, mixed vegetables

Pancakes, eggs, bacon, orange juice
snacks for lunch
Leftovers for dinner

Probably leftover pancakes if there are some, or something else that's easy
Roast, potatoes, carrots, applesauce

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Worth Reading

Through a link on Making Home, I stumbled upon a blog new to me--I Take Joy. Many of the posts refreshed my spirit and inspired me in mothering. A post I found particularly thought-provoking was called "First-time obedience, really?" .

I am not linking to this with the intention of starting the debate about first-time obedience here on my blog. I have no problem with training our children with the expectation of first-time obedience. After all, I do not want to nag my boys to do something five times, or even for a half hour (like reminding them over and over again to get their socks and boots on so we could go for a walk this afternoon). They should obey the first time they are asked. In a perfect world, they always would.

But since we are not living in a perfect world, they will not always obey the first time they are asked. And they may likely meet with discipline. I say "may," because there may be a good reason why they didn't move like a little robot when asked, such as perhaps they were just finishing up a project and were planning on doing what Mom asked immediately when finished in just a minute. Harsh discipline in that instance may just be too harsh. That kind of harshness chronically can create bitter hearts.

What I really came away with from the post was to remember that in our child training and discipline, we need to avoid the anger that can result when we feel a need to control a child's behavior, and the harshness that can result from disciplining for lack of first-time obedience.

I also loved what she wrote about not disciplining boys for not behaving like mild-mannered girls. Outright disobedience is one thing, but harshly disciplining one's personality (which may be more loud and active) is another.

Good food for thought...

Here is an excerpt from the post:
"First, we must understand that all discipline should be focused on the heart–not the behavior. Over 800 times in scripture, God talks about the heart–Love the Lord with all of your heart. God searches to and fro for a heart that is completely his. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart... And yet I see many extroverts being disciplined for being louder and more talkative (not rebellion–a personality issue–or boys for being boys–moms who want them to behave like a little lady, etc.)...
And so, when we discipline our children, we must learn to look at their hearts. Is their heart rebellious? Are they being willful? Am I expecting too much for them–their age, their level of over-stimulation, the circumstances, their maturity level, their abilities? A child should not be punished for being exhausted, immature, a boy, or for making a mistake. I make mistakes all the time, again and again. And yet scripture teaches in the new testament and the old that maturity is as a result of training, time, growth, heart and will."--Sally Clarkson, I Take Joy.
Another post that clarifies her position: http://www.itakejoy.com/part-2-of-the-mystery-of-discipline/

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good Buys at Warehouse Clubs

A friend wondered the other day what the best buys were at Sam's Club. We don't have a Costco here, so I can't address that (I imagine they would be similar), but I can address what I find to be a good deal at Sam's.

First of all, our membership is a group membership paid for through my husband's employer. If it were not, I am not convinced the savings would justify the cost of the membership. So that's the first step--pricing it out and seeing if it makes sense for your family.

That said, here is what I find to be worth the trip:
  • Possibly laundry detergent (They used to carry ERA, and the price of All Free and Clear is comparable with finding it on a great sale at the grocery store; other detergents are probably less expensive on sale at the store)
  • This is the only place I can find a large pack of flour sack towels, which I love to use for drying dishes.
  • I buy almonds and walnuts from Sam's, as well as dried fruit (Craisins are a better deal at Sams than at the grocery)
  • Romaine lettuce. You can buy a pack of eight romaine hearts for $3-something. A pack of three at the grocery store are $3. Wash them and store them wrapped in damp paper towels or flour sack towels, and they keep in the frig for a couple of weeks.
  • Fresh produce at times. You can get 5-pound bags of apples for .99 cents per pound. Big bags of carrots are a dollar-something. Lately, the strawberries and grapefruits have been wonderful--better quality than I find at the supermarket. But the prices are comparable with produce on sale at the store.
  • Frozen vegetables. Great quality broccoli florets and other vegetable blends for $4 for a huge bag (or two bags). Much better quality than I find at the store, and less expensive.
  • Bread (when I don't make my own). The kind we like is less expensive at Sam's than at the grocery store.
  • Dry Pasta (although great store sales can beat the Sam's price).
  • Vitamins. I bought a large container of Flinstone's Complete on sale at Target. Then I went to Sam's Club. An even larger container was a dollar less.
  • Meat. It is choice, which is a higher grade than select (what most grocery stores carry). Sometimes, you can find meat on markdown or you can find certain cuts for a good price per pound. Chicken breasts are almost always $1.99/pound (the sale price at most grocery stores), and sometimes they go to $1.79.
  • Cheese, depending. I read once that shredded cheese is less expensive at Sam's than a grocer, but block cheese is cheaper if you wait until it's on sale at the grocery store. Tillamok is a great quality brand we have in our region; a friend told me it melts better in baking. If you can't find it on sale, it is a better buy at Sam's.  
  • I buy frozen concentrate orange juice in a family-sized 6-pack at Sam's.
  • Sometimes clothes. I usually walk through and see if anything's a great bargain. I just got my boys two-piece Reebok athletic suits (zip-up jacket and pants) for $4.91 each.
  • Books/cookbooks, and the specialty books table. It's worth browsing through. Sometimes you can pick up some neat gifts for a good price.
  • Dog food.
  • Plastic wrap.
  • Spices, oil, honey, maple syrup. A 25 pound bag of flour is about $6, but usually once a year (around Thanksgiving), one of the grocery stores will advertise flour for $1 for a 5-pound bag, and I stock up on white flour then.
  • Oatmeal. I buy a box of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats with 2 large bags inside for about $6. This is the best price in town (unless it's the once-a-year-$1-a-large-carton sale).
  • Eggs maybe, if you otherwise get them from a store. Sometimes they're .60 cents a dozen, sometimes they're more.
  • Electronics sometimes. Worth checking prices. My husband has found the best buys at Sam's on the items he's wanted.
Here are some items I think are not good deals:
  • Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, etc.)--you can almost always find these on sale at the grocery store, or Target/Walgreens/CVS, which make them a better buy
  • Diapers. Better on sale with a coupon at a different store.
  • Most canned goods (usually less expensive on sale at the store, or in a case lot sale at Kroger affiliates), but if you don't feel like waiting, the prices are pretty good.
  • Cereal, snack food bars. Grocery store sales beat the Sam's price.
I am probably leaving some things out. What do you find to be a great buy at warehouse clubs? (P.S. Jonni McCoy writes about this subject in her book Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Boys and My Housekeeping

I was visiting with a friend of mine who also has three boys and is pregnant with her fourth. The difference between us, though, is her house is always impeccably neat and well organized. Mine is...um...not. Sure, I try, and I work very hard, but chaos is almost always around some corner.

As we were talking about it, I realized that our boys are quite different. Mine just frequent the realm of "things one should not do." This means I am constantly stopping what I am doing to check what they are doing. Simple tasks take forever--some never get finished.

Let me give you an example.

A few days ago, I was unloading the dishwasher. Should take five minutes. But it's rarely ever that simple.

It was a nice day outside--almost 50 degrees. The boys went out in the yard to play. It's fenced, but they know how to open the fence, so I have to check on them every few minutes. On this day, they did not try to open the fence. Rather, they got the keys to the garage, which is not attached to our house, and opened it.

When I went out to check on them, I found one son trying to put an arrow on a bow. I herded him out of the garage, locked it, and brought the keys inside. I tried to unload the dishwasher again. Then I saw my other boys in the yard with small gardening shears, pruning my dead plants.

Although the examples change hourly (sometimes it's perfume and lotions they get into), this is all normal activity in my house. Today, one son invented a game called: "What's faster? Me or the toilet?" Object of the game: try to flush a toy down the toilet and see if you're faster or if the toilet's faster. How do they think of this stuff? How can I stop them? (Sidenote: after asking him about it, I guess he races not a toy, but himself against the flush of the toilet. Can he make it to point A before the toilet finishes flushing?)

So this is a large part of why I struggle to get everything finished as I should. You just can't focus and finish when you have to constantly keep boys from (or interrupt them from) doing something that is either dangerous, dumb, or destructive (or all of the above).

Here's hoping for a day where they will play productively with their toys...and only their toys. But I suppose that for them, venturing into never-never land is much more risky and therefore, fun. Who wants to play it safe when you can take a walk on the wild side?

Going back to the difference between my friend and I and our housekeeping--my home, therefore, is not one where neat and tidy reign but where the wild things are.


Healthy $10 a Day Menus

I love payday--and particularly going to the store after payday! Last week, we were out of our grocery cash, and while I could have gone shopping and put the groceries on the debit card, with the cash envelope system, once the envelope is gone, you're done. So while it was a self-imposed spending fast, we stuck to it. That means I did not make it to the store to pick up the turkey breast on sale for $1.49/pound, and I did not make the turkey meals on last week's menu. We still had plenty of food to eat.

What I did not make last week carries into this week. Those items were: beef stew and tuna noodle casserole.

Here's the general idea for the week ahead.

  • Oatmeal, grapefruit
  • Chicken salad sandwiches, pears
  • Beef stew, whole wheat bread and honey
  • Strawberry shortcake

  • Middle son's 4th birthday! (He gets to pick the menu today...here's his picks):
  • Pancakes (I grind my own whole-wheat flour)
  • Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, some sort of vegetable
  • Chocolate cake and ice cream
  • Out to dinner with a gift card? Or...
  • Sesame chicken (cheating and splurging with a box from Sam's Club), brown rice, Asian-style vegetables, fresh pineapple
  • Egg Casserole, toast, more grapefruit if it lasts; otherwise, strawberries
  • Turkey sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, apples
  • Crockpot pork chops (on sale for $1.97/lb; adding a can of cream of mushroom soup, one can of milk, and a packet of french onion soup mix) and mashed potatoes, green beans
  • Eggs in a hole
  • Tuna noodle casserole, peas, mandarin oranges, rolls
  • Enchiladas, corn, salad
  • Whole-wheat waffles with strawberries and fresh whipped cream
  • Informal lunch (snacks/leftovers)
  • BBQ chicken, baked potatoes, mixed vegetables
  • cereal or something quick before church
  • Promised the boys I would make them cinnamon rolls (I use my wheat grinder to grind whole wheat flour, so they are somewhat healthier) :) for brunch with fruit and probably scrambled eggs
  • BBQ chicken sandwiches, pickles, seasoned potato wedges
 Visit orgjunkie.com for more menu planning ideas!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Free Peek into The Womb

I marvel at the wonder of pregnancy--the knowledge that an intricate human being is being formed each day in my womb. An ultrasound offers a peek into the womb. It always fascinates me to see what the baby is doing, unbeknowst to the outside world.

Ultrasounds are also expensive. We will have one with our doctor in the next few weeks. It will cost $451 dollars. Without insurance, on top of the $4,000-some dollar OB bill, it adds up. But it is possible to have a free ultrasound.

Our local Care-Net Pregnancy Resource Center offers free training ultrasounds. These offer the nurses additional training in measuring babies at various stages of pregnancy. They like women to volunteer so they can get this extra practice. Women who volunteer get a peek at their baby in the womb, at no cost. It's a win-win for everyone.

I have had two ultrasounds at Care-Net. Whereas the doctor's ultrasound is usually more medical ("let's find the organs and systems and move on"), the Care-Net nurses--in my experience--let you marvel longer at your baby. They have to gather their measurements, sure, but for the most part, you can watch what the baby is doing, unhindered by the necessity to take another measurement, or move the monitor to see the spine, etc.

I am not sure if all Care-Nets offer the free training ultrasound, but if you're pregnant, or know someone who is, it's certainly worth calling and checking into.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coffee Talk Thursday: E-Mealz?

Coffee Talk Thursday

I listen to Dave Ramsey's radio show, and one of the ads you hear frequently is for E-Mealz. I know several people who use the service and seem to really like it. I think it would be particularly great for people who are too busy to menu plan and shop around sales. When I've looked into it, though, I come away thinking two things:

1) Do I really want someone else to menu plan for me? (I kind of like doing it myself)
2) I think my menu plans are more frugal than theirs. For example, on the Kroger sample menu, the pork chops are on sale for $3.97/lb. When I menu plan, I aim for meats $2/lb. and less whenever possible. So that week, if I was menu planning for our family on my own, that is a meal that I wouldn't even include on our menu plan, because it does not meet my personal price-point.

Yet, lately, I am wondering if it's worth giving it a try for a month. After all, it is only $5 for a month's subscription. Plus, it might be fun to have someone think of new meal ideas for you. It's a great way to try some new recipes. I could test it out and see if I save more planning my own meals, or if you really do save money on their plans.

So what do you think? Do you use it? Do you love it? Or do you like planning your own meals and find that you save more money that way?


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cookies You Can Feel Good Eating

My boys are always hungry, it seems. So when it comes to snacks, I want them to eat something healthy that actually provides them the nutrition they need--and not just empty calories. When it comes to one of our favorite kinds of cookies, they don't know they're a health-food cookie; they just know they taste good! That's all that matters to them!

These aren't your typical chocolate-chip cookies. They are wholesome, hearty, and--sugar aside--nutritious. With the apricots, they are a great source of vitamin A. Did you know apricots also provide Vitamin C, iron, potassium, and fiber?  (I usually buy a big bag at Sam's Club). I personally love them, and the kids gobble them up too.

Here's the recipe:
Apricot Oatmeal Cookies

3 c. old-fashioned oats
2-1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1-1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
6 ounces dried apricots, chopped
3/4 c. canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. lowfat milk
3/4 c. walnuts, chopped

In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, apricots and walnuts. Mix well, by hand, to break up any lumps. Add eggs and oil; work in with fingers until well blended. Combine baking soda, vanilla, and lowfat milk and pour over oat mixture. Mix well with fingers to make a stiff dough.
To make cookies, portion with a food scoop, or make 1-1/2 inch balls by hand. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Press each down with wet fingertips. Bake at 325-degrees for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!