November 19, 2010

Thankful for a Respite

Last night was Kyle's final baseball game of the season. It has been wonderful to see the boys, especially Kyle, develop their skills and begin to understand some of the strategy. There were several innings this season where they actually made plays to get kids out and many boys actually caught pop fly balls! Considering Kyle has never played baseball before, he did very well. He can run fast, so as long as he could hit to ball, he can usually get on base. He became better at catching a thrown ball, though grounders still get by him. Most importantly, he had a lot of fun and learned that it was okay to strike out, to get thrown out at a base, and to make mistakes. I am most thankful for the coaches, who did not have an ego complex, but who made sure the boys practiced and that they were in control in the dugout. I am, however, thankful that two of our days are not being taken up by baseball.

Tonight, we attend John's graduation in TaeKwonDo. He will go from white belt (first level) to orange. He attends classes twice a week, which has sometimes clashed with Kyle's games. Added to this, the girls have horseback riding lessons each week, Kyle has Cub Scouts and Jessi has a weekly worship choir practice. For the last six weeks, I have been attending a MomProps Bible study focused on parents of tweens/teens, which happens the same night as Kyle's

All that means that there has not been one week night for the past six in which we have been able to eat without having to go somewhere immediately afterwards. Our schedule is school, some rest, sometimes an afternoon commitment and then getting ready for dinner and evening engagement. The crock pot has been good to me. I have also made many of Gigi's chicken salad sandwhiches (my great-grandmothers recipe) for baseball game nights.

So, as we move into Thanksgiving preparations, I am very thankful that God has given us the means and arranged the schedules so our kids can explore sports and teamwork in outside activities and know that other adults expect them to listen and obey them. I am thankful that He has given me the stamina to get through each day. I am thankful that there are so many nights when we are still eating as a family, even if it feels a little rushed. And I am thankful when at least one sport ends and we have one night of being able to rest together as a family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 9, 2010

A Change of Seasons

Can I go outside now?

Several weeks ago, the high temperatures which Arizonan have been suffering broke, allowing people to turn off air-conditioning, open windows, and step outside after 8 a.m. Last year, we had higher temperatures over all, but this year, we truly had a monsoon season and you could feel the humidity stick to your skin. This weather has been wonderful. The nights have become cool again and then, sometime around mid afternoon, it is a balmy upper 80's, perfect for playing outside.

What we don't get to experience so much is the change of colors. Most of the trees around us are either pine trees or palm trees, imported. And even the leafy trees that we have don't experience cold enough temperatures to turn colors or even fall off until sometime in December or January. I miss Lake County, Illinois, when the kids and I could take hikes out in Forest preserves and create swirls of leaves with their feet. I miss building piles of leaves in our yard for the kids to bury themselves. Walking in fallen leaves appeals to all my senses. If I really want to experience it, though, I can drive 3 hours northeast, along the Mogollon Rim, which is a range of mountains separating the valley in which we live from the Colorado Plateau, or go to Prescott in the middle of the Bradshaw Mountains. Even the mountains surrounding Tuscon, like the Catalina Mountains, have aspen and other deciduous trees in the upper ranges. It sounds like a great field trip for Bridgetender school. :-)

Even though I may seem to be complaining, Fall has always been my favorite season and in Arizona it is doubly so. By September, we are all suffering from cabin fever, even with a pool.

For your entertainment...
Last week, I had Jessi and Kyle memorize and sing "Erie Canal". It is too large a file to upload here, so Eric posted it to his Youtube account here. It is a bit long because they sang it more
andante than vivace.

Last night, the kids were outside at twilight, playing. The high had been 64 but the temperature was dropping. They decided that they needed winter gloves and hats. So they went back outside wearing gloves and hats...still wearing shorts and sandals. Yes, that is quite a picture. Too bad I can't find our new camera. Honey???....

Filed under "Not Quite Forgotten"
You might have noticed in recent months that I stopped publishing weigh-in results. I took a bit of a break with the stress of starting the homeschool schedule with a new curriculum and a new student. By the grace of God, I did not gain weight This was a huge surprise because, based on how bad my eating habits became, I should have gained it all back. Spurred on by God's kindness, I am going back to trying to lose weight at a REALLY crazy time for trying to lose weight. My goal is to lose the two pound necessary to get me to a ten pound overall weight loss before Thanksgiving. I am trying to avoid sweets until the Thanksgiving holiday time, where I will be in an environment inundated with luscious cakes, cookies, pies, and food in general. If I lose the two pounds and hold it through Christmas, I will be a happy girl.

November 5, 2010

Bad Missions ideas

This has probably been handled better by other blogs, like "Stuff Christians Like" and "The Church of No People," but I thought I would share some ideas of spreading the Gospel that might not have the life changing, come-to-Jesus impact you might think they have. These are all things I have either been told about or personally experienced.

1. Leaving a tract instead of a tip: Whatever message you "think" you are sending, the actual message you send to the person who has been serving you is "I am a cheapskate. Come be a cheapskate like me." Most people do not want to be known as cheapskates or associate with them. Moreover, when you stiff the server, that tract connecting you to Jesus tells him or her that Jesus is a cheapskate, which is a total lie according to Phillipians 4:19 So next time you are tempted to leave your server a tract, make sure you leave him or her at least a 50% tip. That applies double if you have just eaten at a pricey restaurant because if you can afford to eat at a pricey restaurant, you should be able to afford a generous tip.

2. Putting a tract in a kids Halloween bag when you have been chintzy on the candy: Though you really want to be Jesus' light in a dark holiday, you are actually sending kids the same message as the lousy tipper. My goal has always been to give them really good candy, put a Bible verse on it and to be generous in how much candy you give. Not all of my family members have been on the same page, which is why I eventually started buying those M&M cookies bags at Sam's Club instead of many bags of Hershey's Miniatures. There is no way to be a cheapskate with big bags of cookies.

3. Having two male missionaries walk around, bicycle around or drive around at night and approach a single women who is walking her dog or walking with her daughter with offers of assistance: You may think that you look like the "hands and feet of Jesus," but really, you just appear creepy and most women start feeling for their mace, personal alarms or phone when two men approach them at night. Telling them that you are a missionary doesn't really make them feel any safer because anyone can pretend to be a missionary as a ruse to get close enough to do something bad to them. Oh, and don't ask the woman how far of a walk she has to get home. We have read _Little Red Riding Hood_ once or twice in our lives, you know.

4. Standing on a corner or in the middle of a college campus and yelling out to all the people passing buy that they are sinners/prostitutes/drunkards/etc. on their way to hell: First of all some of those people you are insulting just might be Christians. Secondly, you are the exactly the type of person that Jesus would have insulted when he was alive because you try to make yourself appear to be more virtuous than others. Have some humility, please! And maybe it would be better to get to know the people by listening rather than by shouting.

5. Attending a soldier's funeral protesting something that isn't remotely related to nor honoring to the sacrifice that the soldier made for his country or to the grieving family.

To read about a bad missionary idea that (hopefully) hasn't happened yet, read this at Stuff Christians Like. If you have any other examples of bad missions ideas, leave them in the comment section. I am personally trying to stop arguing as my bad missionary idea. Another job for the Holy Spirit!

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:4-9

November 2, 2010

What about mercy?

My youngest had a bad night Monday night with sniffles that woke him up. I knew that trying to get him up would be a challenge on Tuesday morning, but we were meeting with another family early that morning to do P.E. and I needed everyone to get ready quickly. My husband woke the kids up before he left and the youngest laid there while everyone else dragged themselves out of bed. I took a shower. Ten minutes later, he is still lying in bed with no intention of getting up. I go over and gently shake him and kiss him while I tell him that it is time to get up and get dressed. After I am dressed, I go in and remove his pajamas and lovies from his bed, placing an outfit on his bed. This causes him to stir a bit. Fifteen minutes later, I find out that he is still not dressed and has done nothing more than pull himself into a vertical position. My voice is sharper now as I tell him that he had BETTER be dressed soon or he will not get breakfast. Ten minutes later, he loses breakfast and I put a timer on him giving him two minutes to get dressed or he will receive corporal punishment. If you have been keeping any track of time and the number of times I have spoken to him, you know that it has been about an hour since he was first told to get dressed and that he has had at least four requests, more than my usual number. He fails to beat the timer. As I walk upstairs, telling him to come to my room, he starts wailing because he knows what is about to come next. Seeing me pull out the instrument of discipline, he cries out, "What about mercy?"

I do feel the need to end this story with some bragging on his behalf. At the Monday night Boy Scout meeting, which he attended with his Wolf Scout brother, John received a hiking badge, even though he wasn't old enough to be in Boy Scouts. The Scoutmaster gave it to him because, on the long hike up South Mountain during last week's family camp outing, he never complained once. He still gets a proud smile when he talks about it. He will also be graduating to orange belt in Tae Kwon Do next week. And he has read his first book with very little help from me.

I love my kids even though they are giving me gray hairs.

November 1, 2010

November Elections--Confessions of a Frustrated Voter

This Tuesday is an election day.

The political signs have been up for months and I am sure that if I watched the morass of manure known as network television* without the benefit of pre-recording it, I would be assaulted with negative campaign ads from all of the elected officials with the exception of judges, who can’t really campaign. Instead, I rely on a combination of voter guides, campaign web sites and newspaper interviews to research the candidates. And I do most of my research at the last minute. There. I have said it. Every Tuesday after the first Monday of November during an election year, I resolve to keep better track of the candidates voting records so that when the next election season comes around, I know whether I can trust the incumbent or send them a pink slip. Instead, I go back to trying to keep up with homeschooling, outside activities for kids, church, housework, friends and other local affairs. Then, when election time comes up again, I resort to the equivalent of cramming for the test. This year, because of the sheer number of issues and candidates on the ballot, my husband and I are using the “divide and conquer” method of researching the the two pages of decisions that we have to make. I usually have no problems finding information on any of the candidates, except for one—judges. According to judges, they can’t state their views on any issue because it would affect their impartiality as a judge. So, I am asked to vote whether or not to retain a judge with basically no information provided other than to see how their colleagues view them, through Judicial Performance Reviews. This is where my frustration starts.

* I also confess that some of the shows on TV are pretty good, but "morass of manure" has alliterative qualities and, you must admit that most of the political TV ads closely resemble manure, at least in smell.

This year, the voter guide I use did claim to have a guide on judges. However, voter guides generally rely on the candidates replying to their surveys and, of the 56 judges on the Mesa ballot who were sent generic questionnaires regarding their judicial philosophy, only eight replied. Since this is a voter guide developed by a conservative group, one could assume that the other judges didn’t reply because they are the liberal judges who feel the need to legislate from the bench because most Democrats do not respond to their surveys. However, my mom taught me that when we assume things, we make, well you probably know that saying. One of the judges wrote a letter referencing a website that would allow me to see a record of decisions made. However, there was no good interface that would allow me to look at one judge’s history of decisions on that site. I would have to look up each individual case, read it, find out the judge’s decision and why they made it for the last year to develop an idea of whether they are judging strictly by the strictly literal interpretation of the law or by the law as they wish it had been written. I also started looking at the Judicial Performance Reports for the judges. The problem is that only 20% of the attorneys that were surveyed actually sent in results, which might skew reports one way or other. What if a bunch of liberal attorneys want to give a conservative judge a bad review and make sure to send in their surveys or conservative attorneys try to "blacklist" a liberal judge through those surveys? The one place that didn’t seem to have much information about judges was the local newspaper, which is EXACTLY the place that, theoretically, should be providing the information. But that is another day's rant.

With the problems that have surfaced with judicial activism over the last few years, shouldn’t we be provided information about how many of a judge’s decisions have been overturned in appeals, and whether or not they believe in a literal interpretation of the law vs. a revisionist interpretation? Fortunately, my homeschooling cohorts have come to my aid and provided the web address of an anonymous blog which rates the judges based on whether they are very conservative, moderately conservative, moderately liberal or very liberal. The blog is anonymous because the state conduct guidelines would allow a lawyer to be debarred for openly criticizing a judge or other attorney, though siting a judge as "liberal", "moderate" or "conservative" is hardly being critical. Apparently, the anonymous blogger is a lawyer and wants to continue to practice law. Without knowing this person very well, except by reading other blogs published on the site and other sites read by the blogger, I am basing my decisions primarily on the blog’s recommendations because I have very little other information and because the blogger is not afraid to highlight when people disagree with their assessment of the judge's political leanings, which I respect very much.

So I go with a bit of knowledge I glean from my sources and with help from my hubby doing the research to vote on Tuesday. After having spent the last year or so studying the American Revolution with my kids and reading about the months that our Founding Fathers spent designing a government that passed power from one person to the next peaceably with input from the governed through the election process, I have a renewed passion for voting and for making sure I am making reasonably informed choices. I also urge you to exercise the freedoms that our forefather's fought to give us, the freedoms that women and emancipated slaves fought to achieve, the freedoms that people living under dictators in other countries can only dream of having: the freedom to have a voice in our government and to hold government accountable. Whether you agree with me politically or not, please vote this Tuesday.