Mom Monday Week 49 – Christmas Gifts

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What do you want for Christmas? I hope you get what you wish for. Here are my wishes:

1. Health for everybody in the family. Right now, my daughter is complaining of ear aches and is coughing at night. My son just finished his cold. I am still struggling with a bit of a cough myself.

2. Patience with my children and myself. I certainly need it as we homeschool and enjoy each other’s company 24/7.

Mom Monday Week 49

3. Peace on earth, good will among men. You know how that goes.

4. Good weather so we can spend some time outside every day throughout the winter. Fresh air does wonders for the mind and the body, but freezing cold air does not appeal to me at all.

Continue reading »

5. Last but not least, I wish for a less ambitious agenda. I am guilty of putting too much on my own plate and burning out like a candle in the wind. (Sorry, Elton John!)

Which brings me to my next point. I started knitting again. My mom taught me when I was a child, but I did not keep it up. For some reason, I decided to pick up a couple of books from the library so I can learn knitting terminology in English and get some simple projects underway.

Since then, I have knitted two pairs of slippers, a pair of leg warmers, and – don’t laugh! – a bean bag for the kids’ corn hole game. My daughter uses it as a pillow for her stuffed Panda, but at least it’s being used, right?

I will have to return with some pictures and simple patterns. There I go again, making more work for myself. There goes #5 above…

Mom Monday Week 45 – Enjoy!

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When was the last time you had lunch or dinner at your local Olive Garden? For those not living in the US, Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant (American-style, of course), which stays full pretty much all the time. Wherever you go in the US, if you find yourself in an Olive Garden restaurant, you will be told by a server, “Enjoy!”

As far as I know, this is the closest American equivalent of “Buon apetito!” – have a good appetite – which many European languages and cultures have before a meal.

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I remember the cultural shock of some American evangelical missionaries who came to Romania. Before meals, everybody wished them a good appetite. These sons and daughters of the Pilgrims told us they pray before a meal. They don’t wish each other to have a good appetite. It’s enough to make one smile, right? Continue reading »

The American grim determination to accomplish things and worship God while shoving some food in the mouth over the keyboard to get hunger out of the way has lead to Eat Pray Love – the quest to enjoy one’s food, to find God outside Christianity, and to love outside marital vows.

So here’s what I am proposing. Let’s have both prayer and a wish for a good appetite before a meal. Let’s sit down with people who love us and whom we love and enjoy and savor our food. Every morsel, every bite. Be there for every forkful of goodness you put in your mouth, with thankfulness in your heart for the Giver of life. The experience will exhilarate you. Plus, it will reduce the number of calories you ingest. It’s true, too. I wrote a blog post about a book which documents this.

God created us to enjoy ourselves. At the end of every day of Creation, He saw that the work of His hands was “good.” A pastor with several doctorate degrees after his name told me recently the Hebrew word translated as “good” in Genesis 1 and 2 means “mmmmm…. good…” or “enjoyable.” It describes not only the Creation, but also God’s enjoyment of His Creation.

If God Himself takes time to enjoy the work of His hands, why not us? Buon apetito! Now you can say grace.

Mom Monday Week 35 – Just Pray

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I hate to sound like a Christian Pollyanna, but, many times in life, it really is that simple. Just pray. I could tell you story after story – mine or my friends’ – when results were not forthcoming. Then, when the people involved decided to make their situation a matter of heartfelt prayer, things went smoothly. Here are only two… Continue reading »

I think of a morning when I came to God and recognized my growth area when it comes to motivating my strong-willed son to come to the school table. I simply told God I needed help with that. The result was that I relaxed about it. And, somehow, my relaxed attitude helped me deal with my son in a way that relaxed him.

He obeyed readily and did his work without complaining. No special revelation, but I did say some things to him that were funny – not me in my natural state of mind – and I thought, “This must be God’s answer to my prayer this morning. How did I come up with that?”

Mom Monday Week 35 Just Pray

I think of a night when my firstborn was still a baby. Breastfeeding was not going well, but I did not give up. We had to supplement with formula after a month, because he was not gaining weight properly. And I kept breastfeeding. Sometimes it would be such a struggle.

One night, my husband went to prepare a bottle. When he came back, our son was nursing happily. “What happened? How did it happen?”

I smiled. I had prayed, i.e. from the bottom of my heart, knowing that mom’s milk would give my son so much more than formula. Again, bringing it all up to God and making myself vulnerable, admitting my growth area, relaxed me. The baby relaxed and latched on properly. No struggle.

Whether you are struggling to feed your children intellectual food or spiritual food or physical food, just pray. The Lord will come to your rescue. He gently leads those that are with young, remember?

Mom Monday Week 34 – Einstein Flunked Physics

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So, it’s a new homeschooling year. Some of you have already started. Others, like me, wait for September. Regardless, we all start the new school year with mixed feelings, don’t we?

Somewhere, mixed in with excitement and confidence, there are some fears. Maybe you don’t like a particular subject. Maybe you don’t know much about a subject.  Continue reading »

As for me, I have a weird relationship with science. It does not inspire me. I made good grades in science. I even majored in Math and Physics in high school (they have majors in high school where I come from), but I didn’t get excited about it. It’s a long story how I ended up majoring in real sciences when my heart was really on foreign languages and literature.

Anyhow, now I homeschool. What to do about science? I decided to take the bull by the horn and get to know more about the poster boy of modern science – Albert Einstein.

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Maybe, just maybe, by reading Walter Isaacson’s 500-page biography on Einstein, I will get the right dose of excitement about science. I’m only in the first 100 pages, but I have learned that Einstein flunked a Physics course at the Zurich Polytechnic.

There’s hope for the rest of us, right?

OK, so I have not told you everything. Einstein did not flunk Physics because he did not know the subject matter. He flunked it because he did not go to the lectures very often. He did not like that particular professor that much, either. So Einstein got a 1 out of 6 – a failing grade. He had to re-take the class.

Just in case you, too, have a love-hate relationship with science (or any other subject for that matter), I suggest you take the bull by the horn. Find something that might get you interested in it – from a different angle. Unless, of course, you want to delegate it to a co-op tutor or an online teacher. That works, too.

Mom Monday Week 32 – Teach Them How to Pray

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“I would pray, but I don’t know how… Nobody taught me how to pray… Nobody… taught me… how to pray…” says Sandra Bullock’s character in “Gravity” – a recent Hollywood movie which garnered seven Oscars. If that’s not the cry of every adult who grew up without religious guidance from his parents… If that’s not the cry of every young adult who goes off to college, runs into trouble, and does not know what to do.

I know that cry. Nobody taught me how to pray growing up.  Continue reading »

I grew up with Christian parents who took me to church once a year, on Easter. We had no Bible in the home. When I started reading the Bible on my own, they panicked. Nobody we knew read the Bible unless they were Protestants, and Protestants were a religious minority in Orthodox Romania.

Mom Monday Devotional for Homeschooling Moms

Protestants were not even considered fully Romanian. After I received baptism as an adult and joined a Protestant denomination, one of our family friends asked me, “Why have you betrayed us?” Somehow Romanians have been taught to equate Orthodox Christianity with being a Romanian.

Protestantism is German or American in their book, probably because of Martin Luther and American Evangelicals who came to Romania as missionaries after the Berlin Wall fell.

When the Lord called me, at 16, and started guiding me, the first thing He taught me was to pray before my meals. I found an Orthodox Book of Prayers and looked for Mealtime Prayer in the Contents. It was the Lord’s Prayer and I read it before every meal I had by myself. I was still embarrassed to show my family that I had become “religious.”

Over time, I came out of the religious closet. I also learned to pray with my own words.

The irony is, many American adults are turned off by the concept of prayer. Their parents took them to church every week and told them to say their prayers before meals. It all became a meaningless ritual. A friend of mine who grew up in a ritualistic, rigid, empty, church-going home, came over for dinner one time. Before we could even say anything about offering a prayer of thanks before the meal, she said, “We don’t need to pray. I’m thankful, aren’t you?” We did not offer a formal prayer.

So there is a balance. When we teach our children to pray, we should make it meaningful and help them understand they are talking to the Lord Jesus, Who loves them and longs to hear their voices addressing Him. If our prayers are rushed and lifeless, a rote ritual before driving somewhere or before family worship, we might do our children more harm than not teaching them to pray at all. That’s all I’m saying.

Mom Monday Week 31 – All Eyes

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Still reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Just when I get lost in her poetic writing and can’t tell what she means anymore, I stumble upon a new pearl. For instance “All Eyes,” – the concept that spiritual life is a striving to become like the cherubim described in Ezechiel, who are covered with eyes. Thus, they can behold God’s glory constantly, from all the angles.  Continue reading »

In our humanity, we don’t see God’s glory in the hard moments – the four-year-old who throws a book at mommy or the six-year-old who refuses to behave in church. We do not see God’s face in these little people who are still growing, still pushing our limits as parents, still testing our authority. But we should.

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When Jacob was coming to meet with Esau, after decades of fleeing from him, he still feared Esau might harm him. And when they came face to face, Jacob said he saw God’s face when he looked at Esau. He saw God’s face while looking into the face of the one with whom he had a conflict since birth.

Esau, the one whom Jacob tricked. Esau, the one whom Jacob feared. Esau, the brother Jacob fled from for decades. Esau had the face of God, in Jacob’s mind. Do you think Jacob might have been covered in eyes? Was Jacob all eyes, a gift received after wrestling with God all night, after being hit in the sinew of the thigh – the strongest muscle in the human body? Apparently, we need to get hit in our strongest point in order to crumble before God and receive His blessing, a new name, and a new vision – all eyes.

I could not believe my eyes (no pun intended) when I saw this text, but there it is, in Genesis 33:10. Ms. Voskamp told her teenage son, who was having yet another conflict with his younger brother, and who felt happiest when there were no people around, “Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessings… and all faces become the face of God. See, son?”

And so the journey into thankfulness takes me one step further. Besides writing down 10 blessings every morning, now I have a new column in my journal: The Ugly Beautiful. The hard things in my life, the ones that grate and scrape me, the people with the thoughtless remarks, the rude and the jealous, the naughty children, they go under that heading. Dare I see God’s face in them?

Dare I say, with Job, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 33:10) Can I grow eyes all over me, to see God’s presence in all that I receive, good or bad?

Mom Monday Week 30 – Ripe Raspberries

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Sometimes you just need to eat raspberries slowly to wake up to the sanctity of the now. Ripe, juicy, sweet, tart, red raspberries.

I am reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Finally. I have been circling and circling around this book, avoiding it because it is a New York Times Bestselling Book. Sometimes bestsellers disappoint me. So I did not have the courage to pick it up.

But then, thankfulness seems to be the answer to all my questionings.  Continue reading »

I am reading Ms. Voskamp’s book and I am blessed. I am learning to slow down.

I have been so busy this summer. Why? I don’t know.

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This is a new experience for me. Summers have always meant really, really hot and slow days. Slow. Not this summer. Soccer camp, zoo outings, violin lessons, Safety City, swim lessons, summer reading programs, reading to the kids, starting a history curriculum, finishing up my second book, Alliance Française meetings, Maker Faire…

We did not even attend everything we wanted to. For the first time since I became a mother, I missed VBS. What?? That’s right. We had a conflict with another event we had signed up for before they announced the VBS dates.

I have yet to make it to the Heritage Center in Townsend where they have amazing workshops for children in the morning. I also would have liked to take them to the Museum of Art. No chance.

Why this busyness? Maybe because they are older and we find more programs suitable for them.

“…urgent means slow… the most urgent necessitates a slow and steady reverence,” writes Ann Voskamp. “Life at its fullest is this sensitive, detonating sphere, and it can be carried only in the hands of the unhurried and reverential – a bubble held in awe.”

And so I started turning people down when they asked me to teach another class (I already teach four) or when they asked me to show them real estate (I still have a license, but don’t use it much).

Because classes to teach will always be there and real estate will always be there, but my children are only small once. I plan on shedding some of my other responsibilities later this year, when my tenure comes to an end. I believe in being responsible and finishing up a job started.

But I want to live life slowly. More slowly than what we are doing now.

Are you in awe at ripe raspberries this morning? Are you taking it slowly?

Mom Monday Week 29 – Gratitude

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Lately, I have been receiving the same message from different sources of inspiration – which makes it bold and strong in my heart, because I realize Providence really wants me to get this. Ready? Here it is: Be thankful. Feel grateful. Count blessings. The glass IS half full.

On her gracious blog, Ann Voskamp recommends that we fight feeling with feeling. That makes a lot of sense.  Continue reading »

As I read Attitudes of Gratitude, the same message came through. If you feel angry, think of something that makes you thankful. Like, the house did not fall on us last night. The more outrageous, the better. It might even make you smile.

When I read Mommy Pick-Me-Ups, the authors reminded me to step back and take a deep breath when things heat up between my children. That’s the moment to remember how thankful I am for having the gift of these children. They teach me patience and help me grow in my character.

Devotional for Homeschool Moms

As we started memorizing 1 Corinthians 13, my children and I talked about what true love is. How can I feel love toward somebody else if I am busy feeling self-pity?

So back to Ann Voskamp – fight feeling with feeling. Replace self-pity with gratitude for the things you do have.

If you are able to read this blog post, that means you have internet access somewhere, somehow. Just to have that – internet access – is a blessing. I know, I know, it can easily be a curse, too, but let’s stay positive and grateful, OK? 🙂

If you are able to read this, you have eyes to see – how wonderful! You are not blind.

If you are able to read this, you may have felt God’s calling to homeschool – imagine that! The Almighty had and has a job for YOU! What a privilege to work for Him!

If you are able to read this, you take time to feed your soul by fellowshipping with other homeschooling moms in the blogosphere – there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors. That says a lot about your commitment to spirituality. Congratulations for taking a moment to feed your soul.

Do you see how gratitude takes care of negative feelings?

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Mom Monday Week 28 – Water, Water, Everywhere

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Homeschooling is uncharted territory with each one of your children, because each one is unique and may require a different curriculum. But when you homeschool your first born, we are really talking uncharted territory, 100%.

It’s no wonder that I am overjoyed to see how things tie in so beautifully for us, even though we are only beginning our second year homeschooling. Lately, it seems that the theme in most of our studies has been water, water, everywhere. Continue reading »

We have started the study of history – the ancient world. A big issue in those days was water. We have been taking our time with the chapter on Egypt and the Nile River. I can’t wait to show you what we have been working on. But the idea is that water was extremely valuable back then. If you had water, you had crops and healthy animals. You could survive.

Water Water Everywhere

This concept was only reinforced in our devotionals, because we are studying the Old Testament stories from Betty Lukens’ Through the Bible in Felts. After a famine in Canaan, probably related to a drought, Isaac moved to Gerar to find water for his animals and for his family and servants. But he experienced a lot of trouble because of water wells in Gerar.

You know the story. His father dug many of the wells which Isaac reclaimed as his own. The locals were not happy. They took over these wells. Isaac had to dig another and then another, because the scenario repeated itself.

Isaac persevered. At one point, he moved further away. That adjustment worked and he was allowed to remain there.

The Bible story mentions that they always seemed to have water and food in Egypt, but God promised Isaac abundance if he did NOT go to Egypt.

All this ties in even further with our health and science studies of late. I am in the process of teaching my children to drink water between meals. For their age and body mass, they recommend six cups per day. I drink at least eight. I love water.

We all know that our bodies are mostly made of water. Have you told your children? Here are some activities you could use in your homeschool to relay the importance of drinking water.

Mom Monday Week 27 – Meditate

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Can you believe we hit the half-way point in 2014 – and now we passed it? This seems like a great moment to pause and meditate on how the Lord has led us thus far.

Ellen G. White, a Christian author of the 19th century wrote, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us and His teaching in our past history…”  Continue reading »

Don’t you love the way they talked back then? I know, I know, not everybody talked or wrote that way. Just sayin’…

Meditate Mom Monday Devotional for Homeschooling Moms

So let’s take a moment and meditate on God’s blessings to our families in 2014. Psalm 119:27 says, “I will meditate on Your wonders.”

Let’s stop doing and let us be. Still. And know. That He is God.

I can think of all the meals I have prepared for my children. All the cleaning. The laundry. 180 days of meals, sweeping the floor around the dining room table. Folding towels and tiny dresses and small socks. Why am I going back to doing?

A Christian author reminded me in an email that God made human beings, not human doings.

How have I been so far this year? Have I been more calm, more at peace with myself and my circumstances? I am glad to answer “yes.”

Plus, I have learned that I need to drop some of my responsibilities after I bring my commitments to an end later this year. I cannot just drop out. It does not work that way.

And now about homeschooling… I found a great quote about burnout in children. It’s by Ruth Beechick, the author of The 3 Rs and other fantastic books that will teach you how to teach your children. She says, “Burnout comes from unsuitable work, either too much mindless busywork or too much pushing beyond the child’s present ability. Remember to lighten up once in a while with a change of pace – something like a day trip or a Friday of free time.”

You can probably relate to what she is saying, can’t you? So pay attention to your own work but also pay attention to the work you give your child. Let us all avoid unsuitable work.

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