Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Laughs

Christmas just keeps getting better as our kids get older.
You see, our favorite form of worship is laughter...and our kids just keep getting funnier.

Last night, we went to the extended family Christmas Eve party.
Lots of home cooking, praising our Savior, and children performing.
Yep, it's a family tradition that kids must entertain the crowd.
They sing, they dance, they perform skits or read poems.
This year, our boys decided to shake things up for the older crowd...and brought electric guitars and drums. In true Rassi style, they also made us laugh a little - so the song didn't seem so long.
*sidenote* Evan IS singing; but with his cold, the microphone being too low, and the drums blaring...Micah was a bit surprised to hear that this sounds a lot like a solo.

Christmas morning has been wonderful.
Due to colds and late nights, the family slept in.
Well, everyone but me.
I got to spend time in the quiet, praising God - for becoming man, conquering death, and showing us how to live in this world.
That quiet time was such a wonderful gift, and then this little blessing showed up.
Evan has been working on his "Christmas Outfit" for a couple of weeks.
For years, the Rassi family has told hopeful little children (ornery too, since they are Rassis) that all they are getting for Christmas is "A glass of milk and a spankin' machine."
This year, each boy independently decided to wrap a special present to surprise his brother.
Micah spent an hour building his gift out of Fishertechnics.
He was giggling to himself and couldn't wait to see the look on Evan's face.
The motorized "Spanking Machine".
Unbeknownst to him, Evan was also full of anticipation. He was bursting at the seems to see how Micah reacted when he unwrapped the following gift...
Yes, it's a glass of milk...and our "spanking spoon".
In our house, a successful surprise must be followed by a giggle, an emotional sigh (these come from ME, of course), or a scream.
I'm quite glad they chose giggles this year (because I am also the main screamer).

The boys started off the gift-giving with their pranks, and quickly moved on to the "real" presents.
(Something they want, something they need, something educational.)
In the middle of all it, Clay and I opened up our gifts as well.
By the reaction (more a hearty laugh than a giggle), I would say that THIS was Clay's favorite gift of the day.

If you don't understand why this is funny. Go ahead, yell across the room, "What's Updog?"
See what your friends and family say...it might help explain.
If not, then make a comment below, and I'll explain it to you.

Well, Christmas is not yet over.
I'm off to cook and eat and giggle some more.
I hope you are all taking time to worship Jesus in your own special ways.
(And I'd like to recommend laughter as method that is always enjoyed.)

Luke 2:10 
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Strokes of Genius

These are 10 favorite parenting tools which I've stolen stumbled upon over the years.

1. The "Oh No You Didn't!" Jar
If you break the rules in some way, pull a paper slip out of the jar. We don't call it a 'job jar' because it is MORE than simply chores. For instance, the paper slips might say: 

    • Sincerely apologize for your behavior, and thank God for grace. No consequence.
    • Rub Mom’s feet for 10 minutes.
    • Windex every mirror in the house while singing a song.
    • Clean your brother's room.
Caution: we learned that you need an opaque jar for children who can read - even if the slips are folded. We also learned to keep the completed tasks in a separate bag so the 'easy' ones don't keep finding their way back on top of the pile.

 2. Handwritten Letters from Mom
To teach cursive, or not to teach...THAT was the question. My solution was to teach them how to write without being crazy about it. They each write their memory verse in cursive once a week, but the rest of the time they can print or type. (Yes, they are always lobbying for short verses. "Mom, I think our verse this week should be John 11:35, 'Jesus wept.'")
I decided our boys need to READ cursive more than they need to write it. So I started writing them a personal letter each week. Sometimes it's a letter to both of them, sometimes they get individual letters. Sometimes I hand-write the letter, sometimes I use a funky cursive computer font or have a different family member write a letter. It's genius because it forces me to sit down and encourage my children, to challenge them, and to love them...in writing.
 If they want to keep these memories forever and ever...they can. If they don't keep them, I take the really good ones and keep them anyway.
3. Scripture Memorization Box
I may have already mentioned this...but this thing is marvelous! (I stole it from Charlotte Mason, you can find the video here.) The family learns one new verse at our own pace by reading it twice daily. We also read a few other verses that we have previously learned (just for review). It is very little work. A minute or two of reading...and we review EVERY VERSE WE HAVE EVER LEARNED each month.
It gets scripture flowing through our brains for the each day. LOVE IT. Seriously, check it out.
We read a daily verse, a verse for the even or odd day, a verse for the day of the week,
and one (or two) for the day of the month. 
4. The best way to get my kids to eat healthy is to go on a very strict diet myself.
If I have measured, weighed and done the math so that I know EXACTLY HOW MANY CALORIES I need to write down in my food journal, my children will want to eat some of what is in my bowl. Every. Single. Time. (I just keep saying to myself: "At least it's good for them, at least it's vegetables, at least it's fruit. Don't cry because you get to eat even less than you thought you would.") If I get "smart" and make a double batch...they won't want any of it.

5. Vegetables get eaten better if bacon is added to them.  
Bacon Brocolli Salad,  Bacon Spinach Salad, Bacon and Cauliflower. BACON!!! 'Nough said.

6. Speaking of spinach, spinach can also be hidden quite effectively in yummy foods 
Especially in fruit smoothies. Can't. Even. Taste. It.

7. The best way to get our kids to do creative, educational activities (rather than play video games) is to do them ourselves...for enjoyment. 
My husband plays instruments, so my children play instruments. If I start to do artwork, my children tend to join me. *Don't get too excited. Most of the time, this does NOT work with chores. Believe me, we've tried. It's hard to make chores seem fun no matter how much you smile.

8. When my kids ask, "Can I have a pop?" or "Can I have a treat?" my answer has become, "How many waters, fruits and vegetables have you had today? Gotta balance it all out." 
They can't even argue with that. They know if they make healthy choices throughout the day, they get more freedom. If they don't...not so much. Isn't life that way? If I saved my money, I get to go on vacation! If I bought a $4 coffee everyday, I get to watch everyone else go on vacation. Now I just need a Mom to ask ME how many waters/fruits/veggies I have had in a day before I get a treat.

9 & 10. Facebook. 
While it may actually be the most frequent way I end up shirking my parenting responsibilities, it is also the only way I will remember all the funny things that happened in my house during these precious years. I counted this as two strokes of genius because it not only keeps me seeing the funny in everyday life (which helps me really like my kids); but it provides a way that my youngest son (the non-reader) might actually READ about his childhood someday. It is a record of short, funny blurbs that are entertaining...kind of like the Calvin and Hobbes comic books that he reads VOLUNTARILY on occasion. 
For example:

December 2009
Overheard this conversation...
Evan: Micah, remember the time we ate kleenex?
Micah: Yah, but I've eaten worse things than kleenex.
Clay: Really? What?
Micah: Broccoli

March 2010
I asked my 7 year old to list some of the rules at the elementary school. His first answer?
"You can't wear capes to school."

June 2010 
I am at the stage in child rearing where I can't ask the question, "You know what?" without someone saying, "Chicken butt".

April 2012 
My two VERY different little boys had to finish a simile: Reading is as enjoyable as _______. One boy said, "video games!" and the other said, "pooping out an anchor." *sigh*

Linked up to Top Ten Tuesday

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'm a Christian...which means nothing?

If I announce, "I am female", you are told that I am not a man.
*Clay just said, "It's true. I checked." *
You could base all kinds of assumptions on that one little word (some of them beautiful, some of them ugly), but you would know very little actual truth pertaining to my world.

If I say, "I'm a 39-year-old wife and homeschooling mother of two boys", the picture becomes a bit more clear. Actually, it could also become a bit more skewed since I do not, in fact, wear denim jumpers/grow my own food/hate public school/have insanely backward kids or drive a van that says "Find Jesus today or burn in Hell forever"- all of which could pop into someone's mind when they hear 'homeschooling mother'.

My point is that there is a very broad spectrum to most descriptions; so unless people crawl into each other's worlds, they know nothing.

One of the primary words used to describe me REALLY makes me squirm when I think of the conclusions that people might jump too. (They can make even the homeschooling mom assumptions seem mild).
The word is "Christian".
Sure, people will assume that Christ and the Bible are part of my belief system; but other than that, they know nothing unless they take the time to sit a spell...and have a conversation.
Even while being a Christian, I try not to assume what people are thinking when they use that word to describe themselves. Its connotations are just too far-reaching:
  • Some Christians seem to have sentimental attachments to Christianity and wear the title with pride without living out (or even knowing) what they profess to believe.  (It's kind of like me living in Indiana and wearing my Ohio State Buckeye sweatshirt with pride. I was raised in Ohio. I grew up KNOWING that Michigan is "bad" and that the Buckeyes are "good". Even though I can't list one member on the team or even name the coach, I still call myself a fan. I'm not a fan. I'm clueless, but I have sentimental attachments to Ohio.)
  • Some Christians seem to wield their faith as a weapon. These believers tend to focus on the 'right and wrong' they have been taught. Sometimes these are good-hearted people with loving intentions, but things get a bit twisted as they focus on rules rather than hearts. Sometimes, they are not so good-hearted. They have an agenda and plan to use faith to accomplish it. Society sees this group (both sides) pulling out their big, heavy Bibles to smack people over the head until they agree with them. They come across as trying to dictate and legislate lives. People don't tend to respond well to that.
    *sidenote* This type of Christian often glosses over the Biblical Jesus who gave others the freedom to disagree with Him and even deny Him. Jesus was gracious with unbelievers, focusing on their hearts more than their actions. (He did get harsh at times...but it was generally directed toward church leaders who proclaimed their own righteousness while condemning others.)
  • Some Christians seem to have genuine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:5) Their humble, Christ-centered beliefs are evident to all who spend time with them. They stand out because they serve. They invite others into their homes. They have conversations. They allow others to disagree with them...and still keep hanging out with them.
*Oh Lord, PLEASE let me be a Christian that fits into that last category (even though words like "humble" are a real struggle.) I have spent time in the other two camps during points of my journey. I'm sure I've done my fair share of damage as I perpetuated the uglier stereotypes that cling to Christianity like a burr on a dog. Help me to be filled with your Holy Spirit so others see that fruit in my life.*

Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason...and this is just the surface that I've scratched.
It appears to me that loving, Spirit-filled neighbors and servant-hearted, peace-filled coworkers are not the Christian "norm." If you disagree, you may want to watch more TV or check out my Facebook page (especially during the most recent political race - ouch). It seems that not enough LOVE has been spread by Christians to counteract the twisted faith that is so often represented in the media.
How awesome would it be if we would change that?

One of the first steps to change could be to stop wasting time with our own assumptions.
It is probably much more beneficial to focus our energy seeking out truth.
If we assume, let us assume that we have more to learn from each other, further to travel on our own journeys, and that we don't know NEARLY as much as we think we do.
That might be a good start.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pinterest Ruined My Stinkin' Blog

Heather: So...I was on Pinterest the other day....
Me: Mmhmm...
Heather: I happened to click on a link about slushies... and next thing I know, I'm looking at YOUR BLOG!!!

That silly do-it-yourself-slushie post has had over 225,000 visits.
If you don't know which post I'm talking about, I'm not even going to give you the link.
It doesn't need any more attention than it's already gotten.

You see, I thought getting a post on Pinterest was a great idea for sparking interest in my blog...at the time.
(sidenote: It's amazing how many of our family train-wreck-moments end with, "I thought it was a great idea...at the time.")

I came to a point where I began to hate that popular little slushie post.
All those visits to my blog took the wind right out of my sails.
Sounds backwards, doesn't it?
You'd think I would be HAPPY that all those people came to my blog, but I wasn't (after the first 50,000 hits). I came to realize that very few of those Pinterest followers read my slushie post and thought, "I wonder what else this lovely gal has to say."
I noticed that most of my visitors were content to USE me for my slushie knowledge.
Yep, I said it...I felt used. (OK, so maybe that is a bit melodramatic, but I never said that my kids get their flare for dramatic effect from their dad.)
The reality that "slushie interest" did NOT translate to "blog interest" became a dark mist that crept up around me. So many Pinterest people visiting, so few people actually READING anything I have to say. "What's the point?" I would think.

So that is what I've started processing. What IS the point to charliebrownteacher.blogspot.com?
For me, it's not about blog traffic. Thank you, Pinterest, for teaching me that lesson.
It's not about approval. Oh, don't get me wrong, I still want you all to think I'm funny and likable...and godly...and a good mom...(and all kinds of other things which will only be satisfied when I look to God INSTEAD of you.)

I've decided that the point is:
  • To remember funny things that happen to my family...because I will forget them.
  • To share the lessons God is teaching me. I need an easy way to remember God's movement in my life. If I write the lessons down, maybe I can have the added bonus of my boys reading them when they are ready to hear the wisdom that sounds like "Wah Wah Wah" right now. Maybe they will learn from my lessons too...someday.
  • To share my history. I spend all day with my kids and still haven't shared half of the stories I have from my childhood or from courtship with their father. My history made me...and it has played a major role in making them who they are. It is also full of humor...and I think others can stroll down their own memory lane as they laugh at mine.
  • To count my daily blessings rather than focus on the negative. I ALWAYS want to remember how much I enjoy my marriage and being a mom. I want this blog to be an account of that in 40 years...as well as tomorrow or next week if I have a day when I struggle.
I think it's time to clear the mist away and start writing again.
Thanks for sticking around to see what happens.