Monday, December 31, 2012

100 Verses ~ Week 1

100 Bible Verses in 2013

The new year is upon us, which means it is finally time to begin our scripture memorization journey!  I am so amazed how God has taken this little idea to start a Facebook group for people who might like to take the challenge of memorizing 100 verses with me and grew it.  Honestly, I expected only about 30 or so people to join our group.  As I am writing this, our group is now over 220 participants!

  I am truly excited for each one us as I am reminded of the words of Isaiah 55:11.  " So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."  God is in the business of transforming lives and He uses His Word to accomplish His purpose.  I fully believe that we not only have the opportunity to memorize God's Word this year, but we have the opportunity to be transformed by it!

So, let's get started!

We will begin in the beginning with The Bible's Fantastic Four (2 verses this week, and 2 next week).  Our verses this week are...

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (NIV)

John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (NIV)

If you are memorizing from a different translation, feel free to click on links of the verse references to find these scriptures in your preferred bible translation.

Memorization Tip of the Week:  Each time you say your memory verses out loud while memorizing start and end with the reference.  For example, while reviewing our first verse I will say, "Genesis 1:1.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Genesis 1:1"  The references are usually harder to remember than the verses themselves, so if you review your verses using this method, you will be practicing the references twice as many times as your verse, helping to secure it in your memory! Pin It Now!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Pregnancy Journal ~ Week 16

As I'm rushing from one task to another, tripping over clutter and toys, answering endless questions, refereeing the last sibling argument of the day... I mean it, I've had it. Just be nice to one another or at least handle it yourselves...And that's when I feel it.

Two swift movements.  Deep within.  Is that what I think it is?

Two days later.  The presents unwrapped, the clutter hidden away.  I'm sinking down into the first peace of the evening.  A little body snuggles into my side and lays his head on my shoulder...There it is again.

Just a small flutter.

I reach down with one hand and press into the skin of my abdomen.  Searching.  Will my fingertips fill a kick?  A push back in the palm of my hand?  Not yet.  But there is a sure flutter.  Movement inside.

The little one sees my hand and lifts his head. "Is your baby awake?"  he asks, wide-eyed.

"I think so," I smile.

He smiles too and I wonder if there is anything better in life than this.

Read more and link up your pregnancy, post-partum, and baby update posts at My Joy-Filled Life. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snapshots of Christmas

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Bars

 I met my husband when I was just 15 and I can still remember my very-young-self standing in the kitchen next to my future mother-in-law making "Peanut Butter Balls" for the first time.  The first thing I realized was that these peanut butter balls were nothing like the peanut butter balls that I had ever had because they were not covered in chocolate.  The second thing I realized was that my would-be husband really liked them.  Thus, I wrote the recipe down on an index card and we have been making them ever since...well, at least we have been making a tweaked version of the recipe.

5 cups of rice crisp cereal
1 cup sugar
1 cup kayro syrup
1.5 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

 First, measure out your 5 cups of cereal and set aside.  Trust me, when it is time you will want to have it ready.
 On the stove top, mix all other ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.

Once your peanut butter mixture is boiling, quickly mix in the cereal.  And this is the part that you have to call in extra enforcement and act FAST!  Everyone gathers in the kitchen, quickly grabbing small bits of the burning hot peanut butter cereal mix, rolling them into balls and then throwing them onto waiting wax paper.  If you don't act quickly, the mixture will cool and crumble and no longer stick together.  So just accept the fact that you'll be burning the fingerprints off of your finger tips.  There will be screaming and peanut butter cereal will be flying all over your kitchen.

(and this is where I tweaked the recipe)...

 You could simply pour the mixture into a greased baking pan, press firmly, let cool, and later cut them into bars instead of rolling them into balls.

Less screaming.  Still just as delicious.

(See my previous post for simple directions for those Christmas Kiss Treats.)
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Been There, Pinned That ~ Christmas Kiss Treats

 Last week I participated in an annual cookie exchange with friends.  Unfortunately, as much as I love to eat sweet treats I really dislike baking....and cooking....really, I prefer to stay at least 10 feet away from the stove at all times.  I use my crock pot.  A lot.

  Thankfully, the world of Pinterest has opened up a whole new world of discovering new "recipes" that are actually easy to make and yummy.  (Unlike one of those fancy cooking magazines that claim "simple" recipes, yet have 20 ingredients and 35 steps.) 

  Now, if you are on Pinterest, you've probably seen the directions for these easy Christmas treats as it has been a popular Pin the last few weeks.  A Pin I found linked to these directions on Cooking Classy.  And if you haven't already tried it yourself, I am here to tell you that these little candies really were simple to make and super tasty!  Here's what to do...

Preheat oven to 200.  Place chocolate kisses on top of square pretzels.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Top each kiss with an M&M.  Let cool and set in refrigerator.

  Funny story...the original Pin called for Hershey's Hugs instead of kisses.  I sent my husband to the store to get the ingredients and soon received this text from him...

"Pinterest is of the else can you account for a SUPER Wal-Mart being out of both square pretzels and hugs?!?!"

  :o).  He eventually found the square pretzels at another store, but we opted for the kisses as they were also out of hugs.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Pregnancy Journal~Week 14

      So we were blessed to announce the news of our expected 9th child a couple of weeks ago to our family and friends.  This was made even more special because our sweet friend and photographer Tammy Stayton, took pictures of our family to announce our big news.  We even waited to tell the kids until our photo shoot, so that Tammy could capture our children finding out about the new baby.

     We had already told the kids to line up in birth order and I handed them a number to hold that corresponded.  Once every one was lined up and Tammy was ready, I pulled out the #9 sign.

     "Um, wait a minute?!!"  I said.  "What's this?  Why do we have a #9...what do you think that means??"

      My know-it-all G12 replied, "Mom, that's an upside down 6."  Hmmmmm.

     "No," Dad said, "that's a #9.  Why do you think we have it?!"

      Here is their reaction...

 G12 finally gets it!

They were definitely surprised, which surprised me.  I figured the older ones had noticed how sick I had been for the prior couple weeks and were already in the know.

 E9 was most expressive.  I asked him what this look was all about and he said he was thinking about all the dirty diapers!

 L4 looks so sweet here.  It's hard to imagine I started this blog when I was expecting her.

Here the little ones try to figure out what it all means.

I had my second appointment this morning and all is well.  Once again, we heard a strong heartbeat and my midwife says it definitely feels like a 'baby #9' in there and 'not a baby #9 and 10'.  Also, I was excited to schedule our ultrasound for the next visit in mid-January.  We always find out what we are having and I've been pinning ideas for a gender reveal party.  What do you think?  Should we do a gender reveal party?  Still trying to decide.

 By the way, linking up to My Pregnancy Journal at My Joy-filled Life this week.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scripture Memory System Box

You may have noticed that I now have a new tab at the top of my site.  Please check out 100 Bible Verses in 2013 to find out how you can join in the challenge to dig into God's words and "Write them on the tablet of your heart." ~Proverbs 3:3

When I decided to take on this challenge and revamp my scripture memory practice, I was totally inspired by another awesome Scripture Memory System to create a Scripture Memory System Box to organize my verses and help with my daily review.  My box is simplified from the original version a bit, but I'll share it with you along with instructions to set up your own.

You'll need:
An index card  box with tabs (at least 20)
Plenty of index cards (at least 100!!)
A pen - preferable one small enough to fit in the box

So you may want to start by writing down all the verses you already have memorized and or a couple that you want to begin memorizing.  Just write one verse per card.  (Sometimes I memorize a chunk of scripture at a time.  If it is only 2-3 consecutive verses, I will put that all on one card. If it is longer, I will often divide them up over multiple cards but keep them together in a group to review at the same time.)

When you are first learning a verse, write it down on an index card and place it in front of the tabs.  You will review these cards daily.  Keep these verses in this 'daily review spot' until you can easily recall it.
Once you have worked on the verse for a while you will move behind one of the first five tabs.  Label these tabs M, T, W, Th, F for the days of the week.  (I choose to only use M-F, but of course you may want to add Sa and Su tabs as well.)  Now that you know this verse pretty well, you can just review it once a week.  Review the verse weekly for several weeks until you feel confident that you will not be forgetting it.

Finally, you can move it behind one of the next 15 tabs.  Now to be honest, the original creator of this system suggested having 31 tabs at this point and labeling them accordingly, so that your memorized verse would only be reviewed once a month.  But I didn't have 31 tabs...I had 15.  So I decided I would review my memorized verses bi-monthly.  As you can see my tabs are labeled '1, 16', '2, 17', etc.  So, if I put a verse behind the '1, 16' tab then I will review it on the 1st of the month and the 16th of the month.

In the back of the box I keep blank index cards and an ink pen to write new verses.  I have been using this system for about a month and I'm loving it!  I try to spend a few minutes each morning during my quiet time and I often throw my box in my diaper bag to take along with me.  My kids like to quiz me in the car.

I'd love to hear about scripture memory systems and tips that you use!  Let me know in the comments what works for you.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankful for New Life

We were excited to announce the coming of the newest member of our Crew to our family and friends on Thanksgiving Day!  Baby is due to arrive in early June! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To 'Unknown' - A Response to Your Comment

You may remember that a few weeks ago I posted a review on the book Children in Church.  I also wrote about our conviction to be more intentional in the discipling of our children and how we had been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to let our children participate in the middle school youth program at our church.  We did pray about this for some time and decided that we felt that God was leading us away from participating in the older youth programs and instead moving towards worshiping together as a family on Sunday mornings.  You can read the full article and review at this link.

Recently, I received a comment from 'Unknown' who is a youth ministry leader.

'Unknown' wrote...

I too appreciate the thought you have put into considering the spiritual health of your children.

As a youth ministry leader, I would like to offer some food for thought: As parents we often become overly protective of our children - and rightfully so at times. Your points on the environment within youth ministries is a painful reality. But three points I'd like to voice for consideration:

1. Children's ministries allow for youth to connect with God on a youth level. The communication methods used in most children's churches are tailored so that kids can meet with God at their own development level. What seems like foolish games for us, actually has a method behind it for learning retention and psychological well-being. Putting a child into an adult setting can often become great family time, but highly ritualistic for the child and can lead to a sense of spirituality without full understanding because the "language" used to explain the theology shared is not the "language" children speak (as it is tailored to a more mature adult audience).

2. There is power in multiple perspectives and techniques. You know what your children need on a certain level, but as parents, we are not perfect either. Sometimes we need to allow our children to be exposed to other Christian viewpoints. Not to woo them away from the Truth, but help balance them in light of our own spiritual misunderstanding, strongholds, and shortcomings.

3. No church ministry is perfect. Segregation does not help progress within a learning environment, but stifles it. If you are finding the problems you mentioned going on in your local church - I would suggest you engage, not segregate your children. Be the voice of reason. Become involved. Lend your voice of wisdom from God to help other leaders focus the children. The more leadership for children, the better, and most children's church leaders would be thrilled to find someone who is not just a parent who wishes to engage the well-being of their own kids, but also the well-being of others children whose parents are not discerning the same issues you are.
The Enemy divides! The Lord multiplies! Believe me, it will be more than worth it. 


I really do appreciate that people take the time to read my articles and respond to them (even if they don't agree with me!)  Sometimes I am able to take the time to respond ... my crew does keep me pretty busy :) ... and I wanted to respond to this commenter.  I am afraid, that often tone is difficult to translate when writing, so before you begin to read my response I want you to know that I was not offended by these comments and I mean no offense with my comments.  I truly believe that "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." (Prov. 27:17) and enjoy a good healthy debate among believers.  So please don't mistake my passion for the subject matter to be anger.  That's simply not the case.

Also, before you read my response I want to clear the air about what exactly my concerns about the middle school youth program were.  Just in case you did not read the prior article, here is an excerpt,

"It's not that I don't trust that my church youth group leaders are fully committed to the Lord and to serving our youth.  It's just that, I remember middle school.  I remember that kids were catty.  They were obsessed with boy-girl relationships.  They were mean.  Let's face it, I was one of those kids in middle school.  I realized that a large portion of my child's Sunday morning church experience was going to be "socializing" among this peer group.  And I'm not trying to sound judgmental...please hear my heart...but let's face it, we all know that a large portion of youth group is also geared towards fun and games.  They're kids.  They like to have fun.  I get it, really I do.  It's an outreach tool.  But what I couldn't seem to reconcile with myself, was if it was all worth it.  I knew that there was nothing that even loving, caring youth workers could do about eliminating the negative influences that would undoubtedly be presented to my kids by their peers. "  

I also followed this up later in the article to let you know how our thoughts on the matter had progressed through prayer and study...

" I want you to know that this conviction of mine to bring my children into church worship with me is no longer so much about being concerned about the negative influence that they may receive from peers.  It is much more about a call from the Omniscient God directed to my husband and me to bring up our children "in the training and instruction of the Lord"(Eph. 6:4).   Consider this quote from the book (Children in Church):

"We knew we could probably do an adequate job of teaching our children about the faith if we kept them at arm's length.  However, to pursue the divine mission of nurturing and training the next generation, we needed to be willing to live out before them, moment by moment, our prayerfully faithful though oft imperfect desire to love and serve the living God." "

Finally, my response...

To Unknown,

First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read my article and to post your thoughts on the matter. I would also like to say that every point that you brought up are not new thoughts to us. We prayed for nearly a year about our decision to let our children participate in the middle school youth group on Sunday mornings. We fully considered every argument in order to decide what we felt was best for our family.

Now, I'd like to respond to your comments. You hinted at first that we were being "overly protective" (Presumably by not allowing our children to participate in the middle school youth program). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that "overly protective" by definition means that one is protective of someone or something when there really is no danger or threat. However, in your very next sentence you admit, "Your points on the environment within youth ministries is a painful reality." That's just it. Having not grown up within the church myself and having not volunteered with the middle school youth program, I was very concerned that I was being overly protective. So I sought out counsel from many Christian friends, both of whom had grown up in youth group and those who have and currently volunteer there. I went looking for someone to tell me that my concerns weren't warranted. I couldn't find one. Every person, even those volunteering there and those with their children in the program confirmed that I had reason to be concerned. So I concluded that I wasn't, in fact being "overly protective"...I was simply being protective, which is my job as a parent to do.

As to your point that "Children's ministries allow for youth to connect with God on a youth level"... I think that it is presumptuous to assume that a youth leader (who sees my child only 1-2 hours a week) or a program director (who doesn't even know my child) knows better than I, his mother and primary teacher, how my child learns. Each of my children thrive with different learning styles and personalities and I am very aware of each of them. My husband and I believe that we, the parents, are mandated by Scripture to disciple our children. We don't just drag our kids into church kicking and screaming and expect them to "be quiet and listen". We look for ways to engage them before, during, and after the service. The book I reviewed, Children in Church, is very helpful in offering practical ways for the parents to help their children become engaged during the sermon including preparing their hearts for worship, helping them to draw (when they are very young)and take notes during the sermon, and discussing it as a family afterwards. Also, discipling our children doesn't just happen on Sunday happens daily as we have family worship, devotionals, and prayer we discuss spiritual matters as we go about our day and study God's word within our school curricula.

You also said, " the "language" used to explain the theology shared (in church services) is not the "language" children speak". Unfortunately, this is partially true...but also a serious problem. At what age do you think a person should be able to comprehend a sermon spoken from a typical bible-preaching pulpit? If not by middle school, then by high school?? Surely by the time they are an adult and in college? By the time they are married? Then why is it that the "youth" of our church continue to segregate themselves from the majority of the congregation well into adulthood...with high school groups, college age ministries, even "young married" ministries. These ministries aren't just stopping with an after church social or in-home bible study...they are tailor making entire worship services "speaking in their worship style and language". I agree with you that "Segregation does not help progress within a learning environment, but stifles it"! I agree with you that "The Enemy divides! The Lord multiplies!" which is precisely why I do not believe in the age segregation that takes place within the church. My 11 year old has accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior. The same Holy Spirit that resides within me resides in him. I think he is perfectly able to comprehend preaching from the Word of God. And when he comes to something he is having trouble understanding, thankfully his father and I are right there next to him to help him understand.

You also said, "There is power in multiple perspectives and techniques. You know what your children need on a certain level, but as parents, we are not perfect either. Sometimes we need to allow our children to be exposed to other Christian viewpoints..." Oh, I will definitely agree with you that I am not perfect (in parenting and otherwise!) and I'm afraid, my children are the ones who know that the best! Once again, just because my children aren't participating in church youth group on Sundays doesn't mean that they are not being "exposed to other Christian (or non-Christian) viewpoints". We openly discuss what other people think and believe with our children and ask them what they think. When we made the decision not to participate in middle school youth, we sat down with our son and explained to him why. We gave examples of our concerns, we didn't try to shield him from it, but explained it fully. He understood and agreed with our decision. We participate in a variety of activities with other families (church related and non-church related) including Bible Bowl (a youth program complete with games and candy rewards), homeschool co-ops and field trips, and sports/extra-curricular activities. We are close friends with several families (all with different 'Christian viewpoints') whom we see on a nearly weekly basis. We consider them not only friends, but mentors for ourselves and our children.

Finally, I appreciate the encouragement to volunteer within our church's youth program. And I will say, that we very nearly did. My husband and I prayed specifically about this. We both felt that the only way we would allow our kids to participate in the youth group would be if we were volunteering. We felt that would only be responsible since God gave us, the parents, the responsibility of teaching our children about Him (Deuteronomy 6:7). One day we will stand before him and I don't think "Well, I sent him to Sunday School...I don't really know what was going on there, but that's not my fault," is going to fly. However, instead of convicting us to serve and participate there, my husband and I both felt a strong conviction to 'step it up' in discipling our own children and for us, that included Sunday morning.

We also felt a conviction and a burden to share this with others. Neither of us feel that youth ministry is "wrong". We know families that are doing a fine job of discipling their kids and still participate in all youth groups. But we know so many more who are not discipling their kids and I think this is largely due to the fact that church body is rather silent on the matter. Instead of telling parents to step it up and live out and teach their children about their faith, instead of encouraging dads to man up and lead their families spiritually in the manner of family devotions and worship within the home, the church body is often saying, "Don't worry about it...we got it handled. Just send them to youth group on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights." But that is not enough and it is not Scriptural.

I want to be clear. Even though we choose not to participate in the middle school and up youth program, that does not mean that we don't find value in it. I know that many parents simply won't teach their children about God. And if they won't, someone definitely should. But I do often wish that youth leaders would recognize that the parents should be the first to disciple their children (both because Scripture mandates it and because it makes sense-parents are with them more and know them and love them intimately). I wish that youth leaders would invest as much time into equipping parents to do what Scripture tells them and working with parents as they do in trying to reach kids "in their own language". Parents are the ones who truly know the language of their child's heart. We are the ones who are best fit to reach them when we are fully leaning on God and walking in His way, that's why God gave them to us!

As a youth leader I beg you, stop telling parents, "Back off, I got this!" Please instead encourage parents to step up and do what God designed them to do. If we can get parents to step up, I believe my concerns about church youth group will no longer be valid. It doesn't matter how many loving youth group leaders a church has, there will still be severe issues of sin that is prevalent among our teenagers and preteens today. But if the church can get the fathers to "turn their hearts back to their children" then we will see a real change and growth in our children.

Shanna Pin It Now!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Toddler Diaries - Sensory Bags

 The Toddler Diaries is a blog series I created to showcase the toddler activities I attempt with my 5, 4, 3, and 1 year old.  I also rate our experience to let you know if I think it was worth the time (and the mess)!  Feel free to check out all of my Toddler Diaries posts.

Sensory Bags
 I've seen pins and posts about sensory bags and thought the idea looked intriguing.  It's a pretty simple concept that starts with a bag of balloons.
 Next, search your home looking for items to put in your balloons.  I chose the following:

rotini noodles
paper clips

 Next, fill your bags.  I made two of each, two balloons with buttons, two balloons with noodles, etc. so that the kids could match the balloons according to feel.  I DID NOT use the same color balloon with any two of the same sensory item.  I wanted the kids to be able to match the bags by feel OR match them by color.  I also realized that a very full balloon of rice felt very different then a balloon with just a little bit of rice, so I did two of each.  Similarly, I made two balloons with a small ball of yarn each in them as well as two balloons with some yarn just randomly stuffed inside.

 L4 seemed to have the most fun with the sensory bags.  She could understand the concept of matching them by feel which was a little harder for my younger 3 year old to grasp.

Rating:  Educational activity that promotes good thinking skills.  However, the bags are slightly time-consuming to make and really don't hold our kids' attention very long.
Time Commitment For Me:  It took little more than an hour to find the materials needed to make the bags and fill them.
Toddler Time: 5-10 minutes.  This is the most disappointing part of the project.  I thought the kids would have more fun feeling the bags, trying to guess what was inside them, and matching them.  Unfortunately, it really doesn't hold their attention.
Additional Comments: We've actually had these bags for a couple months now, and I rarely pull them out.  Honestly, I forget that we have them.  I'm afraid these bags were just a little underwhelming for our toddlers. Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Teaching Kids to Sing

 The creators of Vocal Coach are Chris and Carole Beatty.  They have been teaching singing for over 40 years.  They offer both Vocal Coach Singer (great for junior high students through adult) and Teaching Kids to Sing (for ages 5 through 5th grade).

Our family was sent Teaching Kids to Sing which includes 2 instructional DVDs and 1 instructional CD.

The first DVD is broken into four sections:

Warm Ups

The second DVD includes three sections:

The CD includes a total of 4 songs and 8 Warm Ups (each has a track with vocals and without).

The videos are recorded in what looks to be a typical music classroom.  Chris Beatty leads a group of students in vocal exercises and songs as he instructs both the students and us (the DVD audience).  Carole Beatty is also in the classroom helping the students as they learn.

My children in grades K, 2, 4, 5, and 6 all participated along with these DVDs.  At first they seemed hesitant to sing along with the lessons, but as they saw that everyone was singing (including Mom!), they quickly joined in.  I appreciated that kids were in the video (not only singing, but often answering questions) and I think that it made it easier for my kids to feel like they could participate.

E9 said, "I think the Teaching Kids to Sing videos helped me to learn a lot more about singing.  I know that I need to stand up tall when I'm singing now."

A10 said, "I like how they turned everything you learned into a song at the end of the lesson."

H6 said, "I liked it because they are teaching me to sing."

Our kids learned songs like "Upright Child of the King" to remember to use good posture while singing and "Breathing Rap" to help remember to use proper breathing.  The DVDs are not very long...maybe about 30 minutes each.  We chose to watch the lessons 2 at a time and then practice the songs and warm-ups in between. 

I think this is a great beginner program for anyone wanting their kids to learn the basics of singing.  It's so user-friendly...just pop in a DVD or CD and sing along! 

Teaching Kids to Sing 3 Disc DVD/CD Set is sold for $44.99.  Both this product and the Vocal Coach Singer were reviewed by the Schoolhouse Review Crew, so be sure to check out the blog for more info!

Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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