Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas photo fun

Before I begin describing our recent Christmas photo fun, I have to quickly say the semester just ended and my husband took his last final on Wednesday! Of course, there will be, Lord willing, many more semesters to follow, but we are so thankful for God's goodness and faithfulness to us as a family.

Now for more Ellison family fun:
We try and send out Christmas photo cards each December. Granted, I don't usually get them mailed until the week before Christmas, but I am really just thrilled to send them out at all. I am not a go get 'em type girl, as my friends and family can truthfully verify. Actually, when doing on of those personality profiles, I was described by some friends who know me quite well as the why stand when you can sit? personality. Very accurate description of me.

Anyway, I thought I would be very brave the other day during a Kindergarten break between math and reading lessons and try to take the Christmas photo of the kids. By myself. Those of you who know me probably know where this is going. Honestly, though, I thought this was a good idea. My kids love having their pictures taken. If they even see the camera, they will ask for me to take their picture.

I got all three littles' good clothes on, their hair combed, and even got their shoes on. I positioned them all in front of the tree. Carter here. Josh there. Sophie in front. So far, so good.

Here we go. As I say, "Smile everyone!", the fun stops cold and Sophie starts making faces like this:

and this:

The fun just kept up on coming! Soon, Sophie's pouty faces turned into outright bawling:

Here's a fun shot of Sophie after I had to take her dress off due to her excessive sobbing which led to gagging:

After several Mommy/Sophie meetings, I got her all cleaned up and the Lord helped her to have a more cheerful heart. We ended up with some really sweet moments. Here is one I was able to capture with my camera:
Of course, at this point, poor Carter's mouth was cramping! Josh just goes with the flow- it's all good with Josh. One more, just for fun:

Every time I think about this experience, I laugh out loud. Of course, I do not laugh at my daughter's poor attitude. But I laugh at motherhood and all its challenges, at the work required for even the most seemingly simple tasks, and at the joy that comes from raising our children for the glory of God. Worthy work, indeed!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Sunday afternoon well spent

After church yesterday we rode over to Duke University (about five minutes from our church) to walk around and enjoy some time together. We had never been to Duke so we were in for quite a treat. The campus was beautiful and the chapel was, well, astounding.

Here are some photos:
The sun is in our eyes!

The inside of the chapel, facing the back. There was no way to really capture the scale and grandeur of the architecture, stone carvings, stained glass, and woodwork (at least with my camera!). But I did get to capture these three wonderful creations:

Scott found a great little alcove for a photo of the kids. If you are on our Christmas card list, you might be seeing this one again!

We had a great time and I was amazed at the skill and craftsmanship displayed in such an impressive edifice. I have lots of thoughts on this and on several statements recorded by the visionary for this building project, but will have to save those for later. For now, Kindergarten is calling my name!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Family Altar, part 2

A few more thoughts on family worship:

Earlier, I spoke about there being no sense of duty in our motivation for doing family worship. I think that statement needs a little clarification! On our better days, we do family worship out of our sense of joy in doing so and out of our great need to gather our family together to meet with God.

However, we often experience difficult days when our hearts do not yearn for God or we have stuffed ourselves full of worldly pleasures and our desire for God has been dulled. Or maybe we are exhausted from the needs and demands of the day. What then?

These are not times to withdraw from the Lord, but rather when we should simply go about family worship in the same manner as we normally do. We can always come honestly to God, and express our lack of affection (He knows anyway!) and our need for Him to rekindle our love.

Expect that there will days when family worship will not happen. We can be providentially hindered by all sorts of things that occur during the course of the week. I have read about Elisabeth Elliott's upbringing, when her father led in family worship twice a day! That is very commendable, but may not be (I want to say probably will not be) doable for most families. Do not read of examples like this and feel like you do not measure up (like I often do!)- rather take the principle and ask God how you can apply it to your own life. (More on that in my next post.)

As with so many other areas of our lives, sometimes we can only do the best we can (and our best is usually greatly lacking) and rest in Christ, knowing that God's mercies are new every morning and only His faithfulness is great (our faithfulness will never be great, and is always the result of God's grace in our lives). And that is a reason to worship.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The family altar

Our family has always desired to gather daily to worship, pray, and read the Scriptures together. Over the past week, by the grace of God, and thanks to my husband's leadership, we have all joined together before bedtime to worship as a family. These have been some of our sweetest times together as a family.

Unfortunately, I think both my husband and I were surprised at the joy family worship would bring. And it has brought joy. Or rather, God has given us joy as we have retreated for a few moments to focus on Him in song, prayer, and Bible reading.

In the past, we have had the tendency to think of family worship as adding to our list of duties to be performed at the end of the day. You know- clear table, do dishes, brush teeth, bath time, jammies... do family worship. But we have discovered that we do family worship because of the delight and joy we have from fellowship in God's word after the bombardment of the day and the constant pull of sin and our own desires to gain utmost importance in our hearts.

There is no duty there, but a deep need is met in our hearts! We need it, we desire it, we find pleasure in it.

Now, I anticipate that there will come a day (probably very soon), when sin, busyness, or laziness will win for first place in our hearts. I anticipate this because of the truth of Romans 7 and my own experience in the spiritual disciplines. And I also anticipate that God's grace will be present then just as it is now to restore our focus and to remind us of the pleasure to be found at the family altar.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Gingerbread Fun

While I cooked Thanksgiving turkey, the kids and Scott put together a gingerbread house. Here are a few photos:

The kids and Scott all had fun, but I think the boys' favorite activity has been picking off the gumdrops and candies every day since. Josh will bring me to the gingerbread house and say, "This one is loose..." In other words, "I need to eat that one!" This year's gingerbread house will not be a family heirloom, so we decided to let the children have fun slowly eating each piece of decoration. There are still plenty of candies left, so the gingerbread house fun should last for a couple more weeks.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

With the time change, my kids are now up at around 6:00. This does not make for a happy family, as Mommy needs a little time with the Lord and with her coffee before her little ones get up. The first couple of days after the time change were difficult for me. The boys were up and cheerful and dressed and it was only 6:15 and I was barely out of bed or still in bed.

Then we did this: We put a clock in the boys' room and told them to stay in bed or play quietly until the clock said 7:00. The boys (ages 3 and 5) have loved the responsibility, and Mommy has cherished the needed quiet time to prepare for the day. This has really worked for me!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bed time here at our house, part 3

My children are like stair steps- all coming in nice, even 19 month intervals. When Carter was three and Josh was the prescribed 19 months, God blessed us with a sweet, spirited girl. Sophie has been a true blessing to our home. She has certainly shaken things up! I usually hear something like, "She's spunky, isn't she?" or "She has a lot of personality" within fifteen minutes of meeting someone new.

But we are talking about bed time, arent' we? I have described our experience with bed time with our first two children. Both boys followed a schedule, and were happy sleepers. When Sophie was a newborn, I became much more flexible with her schedule. I had to be! Carter and Josh were busy active little guys, and I no longer had the freedom to focus solely on my newborn.

I think both Sophie and I benefited from my new-found freedom. I still followed the pattern of feeding right after she woke up from her nap, and I would try to keep feedings at around every two to three hours, but after that one 'rule' I was much more flexible. If Sophie fell asleep at the 'wrong' time, this was a blessing and not a problem!

(With Carter and Josh, my mother had found it astonishing that I would try to keep my babies awake until the prescribed nap time. Her philosophy was that if a baby wants to sleep, let him sleep. After Sophie, I saw and I felt the wisdom in my mother's words.)

The amazing thing to me was that even though I was no longer so rigid about the schedule, Sophie slept through the night at around the same time both boys did. I did not need to be so afraid! I think all those scary, worse-case scenarios (i.e. if you do not follow a rigid schedule or if you rock your baby before bed or if you let your baby go to sleep fifteen minutes after a feeding- your child will not sleep through the night until he is a teenager...) are based on fear.

Now I have come to believe that if you are happy with your baby's routine, or lack thereof, and your baby is happy and growing, then there is no need to change what you are doing. Different families have different needs, backgrounds, and goals. Some of us count the days until Baby sleeps all night, others are perfectly fine sleeping with or next to their babies for many months in order to feed or cuddle Baby at a moment's notice.

If your baby is cranky, you are miserable from lack of sleep, or your husband is asking, "When are we getting our bed back?", then you might want to seek counsel from another mother or email me and I'll help however I can.

Sophie will be two in December. At bedtime, I read her a book, turn out her lights, rock her, sing the Gospel Song, pray, and then sing God is so Good. I usually finish the last song while I am standing right next to her bed. In the bed she goes, with her blanket she has had since birth, along with her soft baby that she has also had since she was an infant.

I love bedtime with Sophie! I get special time alone with her, and I relax and rock while my husband wrangles our rowdy boys up for bed. While I used to rush as fast as possible through putting my babies to bed, I now love to linger and often will sing our special songs several times before I put her in bed.

With our boys, who are five and three, we do jammies/teeth/bathroom and then (I've joined them by now) often read a book. Then it's time for prayers, kisses and hugs, and in the bed. Before my husband leaves the room, he tells them a story which always starts out, "Once upon a time, there were two boys named Carter and Josh..." and proceeds to recount their day.

Bedtime is a source of great joy, and of great relief. Scott will often say, "You made it" and I'll breathe a sigh of contented relief. Then it's almost bedtime for Mama before my little stair steps are up and at it again.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Laundry help

There is one single thing that has helped me the most in the area of laundry control and expense. As a family of five, we produce a lot of laundry. Every day we wear five shirts, five pairs of pants or skirts, five pairs of socks, and five sets of underthings. This adds up fast, both finacially as well as in terms of time.

Washing clothes is one of the main sources of non-negotiable expense in our house. You can't eliminate it from the budget, but you can seriously cut down on the actual amount of expense.

So here's the tip: Make sure clothing is truly dirty before you wash it. Wear dresses, dress pants, work pants and shirts, and even play clothes twice or more before throwing them into the dirty clothes hamper. Lest you think I am crazy (or am a 'dirty' person) for saying this, I am not the only advocate of this method. Its proponents include Martha Stewart, Elisabeth Elliot, and most importantly to me, my mother.

When we lived with my mother, she would often help me catch up on the laundry pile. One life-changing day, she said, "Tami, your family has more laundry than any family I've ever seen. You wash more clothes than I've ever seen. Your children can wear their clothes- even play clothes- more than once!" My mother faithfully raised four children, so her words hold a lot of weight for me. This stopped me in my tracks. That night, I told the boys to lay their clothes that they had worn that day out for the next morning, instead of putting them in the hamper.

I've never gone back to my old habits.

This saves money in at least three ways:

-Your clothes will last much longer- too frequent washings causes fading, wearing, and misshapenness (not sure that's a word, but if it is, it means loss of shape). This is Martha Stewart's main point.

-You will save money in detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets.

-You will save electricity. The washer and dryer are our main energy outputs after the air conditioner/heater.

I don't have to convince any mother of the mental help cutting even one load will produce.

By the way, I hope it goes without saying that there are days that my kids get too dirty to re-wear their clothes. When we go out, I try to make sure they look nice and fresh. And Sophie, at twenty months, usually makes enough of a mess at meal time to earn a clean shirt. If the clothes get stained, wash them right away! If they smell, in the wash they go. And OF COURSE, this rule does not apply to underclothes!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bedtime here at our house, part 2 (a few more words about babies and bedtime)

Yesterday I posted a bit about our early experience with bed time. We were strictly 'Babywise' parents with Carter, our oldest. Three hour schedules, never ever rocking at bed time- this system has both pros and cons, but I have learned with experience that such rigidity is not necessary to achieve the goal of even very young children happily going to bed.

When Josh was born 19 months after Carter, I had some pretty significant problems while we were still in the hospital. We ended up staying for almost a week while I recovered and got my strength back. He was also very jaundiced and had to stay in the nursery unless I was feeding him.

This made for a difficult time for me as a mommy with a new baby whom I loved so much. Carter had stayed in my room after he was born, and I found his 'rooming in' with me to be helpful in establishing good breastfeeding as well as providing a great opportunity for bonding. Because of my own difficulties and Joshua having to stay in the nursery, when we left the hospital I felt like I was still in a daze. But I was happy to be recovering and taking a beautiful baby boy home to see his big brother.

After we got home, it took me several more weeks to fully recover and regain my strength. God was so gracious to me! Josh slept so well right from the beginning.

I kept him on the same three-hour feeding schedule, nursing him right when he woke from his naps. At night, he would wake up just once and go right back to sleep after I had nursed him. I don't remember him 'crying it out' at all. This could be because he spent his first week on the schedule of the hospital nursery. (He was fed on a fairly strict schedule there, and then would go right back on the bili-lights.)

I know for sure that God was with us! I had a newborn and a 19-month-old and was very weak, but I don't remember that time as particularly trying (maybe I have mommy-amnesia, but I really remember this as a sweet time). We also moved four states south (from Kentucky to Florida) when Josh was six weeks old, and both boys made the transition smoothly.

Josh was sleeping so well at six weeks that when we moved I put him in the same room as Carter. Carter never skipped a beat, and when I would go get them in the morning, I would often find Carter standing in his crib smiling over into Josh's crib. What sweet memories!

Tomorrow: A girl is born: here comes Sophie (and more about bed time- I think I digressed a bit in this post!)

For mother's of boys, only

If you don't have children yet, or have only girls, you may not want to read this post. Really.

If however, you have one or more boys, share a knowing laugh with me as I recount the following conversation I had with my three year old today:

J: Mom, what's my bottom do?"

Me: "It goes poop" (I told you not to read this if you don't have boys!)

J: "What's poop do?"

Me: "It goes in the toilet."

J: "What's the toilet do?"

Me: "It flushes."

J: "Then what's it do?"

Me: "It goes down to the sewer." (I'm no toilet expert!)

J: "What's the sewer do?"

At this point I was at a loss of knowledge about the waterworks system and what exactly the sewer doos, so I just moved my hands in a back and forth/swishing motion and said, "It doos this..." This seemed to satisfy him and off to nap he went.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A little muffin help

Next time you make muffins, try using an ice cream scoop to fill the cups. To make it extra easy, spray the scoop with non-stick spray (like Pam). Works for me!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bedtime here at our house, part 1 (a few words about babies and bedtime)

We just put all our little ones to bed, and as I rocked Sophie in her room, I thought about how many times I've gone through the nighttime ritual since I became a mom. Carter is well past his fifth birthday, so it has been at least 1900 times!

When Carter was first born, I was very unsure about how bedtime should work. I had heard all the stories about babies and then young children who would not sleep for years, and was a little scared that might happen to me. A very kind young mother in our church told me about Babywise, and I followed the prescribed schedule in a rather strict manner. Carter did sleep through the night by his third month, took great naps, and seemed to love his bed (after the first few weeks of scheduling, that is).

Since we were following Babywise principles pretty closely, there was not much rocking at bed time. I did spend a good bit of time rocking Carter, but we usually rocked while I nursed him or during 'wake/play' time. When it was time for bed, it was cuddling while I held him next to the bed and then I would put him in bed and that was the end of that (after the first couple of weeks or so, he would go right to sleep or entertain himself until he fell asleep- he literally loved going to bed).

I was happy with this arrangement, and Carter seemed to be happy as well. I didn't spend a lot of time in bed time rituals- I was afraid that I would create a 'crutch' for him. I have changed a bit since then!

As the years go by, and two more children have been added to our family, I have learned that very few rules are quite so 'hard and fast'- and there are few guarantees. Rocking a baby before bed does not have to create a 'crutch'. But being able to place your baby in his crib knowing that he will most likely go to sleep and sleep until morning is a beautiful thing. Now I do both, but more about that in a later post!

Next post: Here comes Josh- how bed time changed with Baby #2!

Ready for Church

I have been unable to get into Blogger for several days, so I've also been unable to post. I hope to post later today. For now, it's time for school, playing, and then lunch.

Here are some photos for Grandma from last Sunday before church. My little ones are never hesitant to pose for the camera. I'm so glad!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Detangling little girl's hair

When Sophie was born, I entered into a whole new arena of motherhood. Of the many things I've learned over the past twenty-two months, learning to 'do hair' is one of the most important!

Sophie has long, fine hair that often gets tangled, especially right after her bath. To help get the tangles out, I've discovered a great thing: Pantene Smoothing Comb-in Treatment. I put a pea-sized amount in my palm and rub it in from the roots to the ends. This has worked much more effectively than No More Tangles, and keeps her hair soft and shiny and smelling great. One bottle will last at least a year. Works for me!

A new use for Gorham flatware

I learned a new function for my Gorham flatware this morning as my five year old grabbed a soup spoon to smash a very cute, very tiny black bug who had made his way in from the cold of last night into our dining room. I'm sure the Gorham guys in Germany or wherever never assumed their fine flatware would be put to such use. Who knew?

Either way, my three year old is always looking for an opportunity to cheese for the camera. (That I did know.) This morning's events gave him his chance.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A few thoughts on fall

I love fall. Growing up in Florida very close to the beach, after months of sweltering heat and brilliantly bright sunshine, fall was when it temperatures dipped below 90- at least for four or five hours. As soon as the thermometer dropped into the low eighties, we would pull out our sweaters, turn the air a little lower, and drink hot chocolate while sweat dripped down our foreheads.

At back-to-school time, when my mom would take us shopping for new clothes, I was always amazed at the number of sweaters for sale. It seems that department stores buy the same clothing to sell in all their stores, no matter where they are located. So all of us Florida girls had the same long sweaters and stirrup pants (loved those!) to choose from that the girls in Vermont were deciding upon.

Mom would stock us up on sweaters, nice sweat shirts, and a good jacket- which I guess we thought we would need for the one day of the year it got cold enough for us to enjoy them. We could have done several outfit changes on that special cold day and then sent the then-useless sweaters up to the girls in Vermont. Instead, we would continue to wear the sweaters anyway, pretending to need them.

After moving away to college (in north Florida, where it did get pretty cold) and seminary (for my husband) in Kentucky, we moved back to my hometown. Being on cold-weather autopilot, when fall came we bought sturdy coats for our boys (Sophie was not born yet, and we had learned our lesson by the time she came.). They never wore them. Not once. Jeans, long sleeved t-shirts and a light jacket were completely adequate. My husband's very nice Land's End Squall Parka (which is, by the way, the best deal ever on a great jacket) has gone unused since Winter 2002.

Carter, my intense 5 year old, loves-loves-loves cold weather. He has asked me almost every day since he could understand the concept, "Is it going to be chilly today? Can I wear big (long) pants?" While we were in Florida, I had to break his heart 364 days out of the year and tell him, "It will not be chilly today, tomorrow, or the next day."

Learning the seasons has gone a long way in helping to mend his broken heart. So has moving to North Carolina, where we have already had lots of cooler weather than we are accustomed.

We are thrilled with the leaves beginning to change, the fields of pumpkins ripening, and the nip in the air. Yes, the jackets have already come out (but not the Squall yet). Carter has worn 'big pants' every day for two weeks, and cowboy boots are the standard foot attire for my boys. We have enjoyed every minute of fall, even though we do miss the beach once and a while.

Friday, October 20, 2006

To Halloween or not to Halloween??

We don't celebrate Halloween at our house, but neither do we hide from it. (How could we hide from the second biggest retail event in the United States?)

Some of my close friends participate in Halloween, some shun any participation, and several meet in the middle with a hybrid/alternative. I have no issue with any of these approaches, as each of my friends is listening to their consciences before the Lord.

John MacArther has some great thoughts on this subject. I'm happy to refer you to someone my husband and I respect (on this topic and many others). Consider what Johnny Mac has to say.

Also, Crystal at Biblical Womanhood has written a post on the subject and lots of people have chimed in the discussion there.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Here's a way I save money on chicken breasts as well as chicken stock:

Instead of buying (usually expensive) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I now purchase bone-in chicken breasts, often with the skin on (this will depend on the best price). (.99/lb this morning at Lowe's Foods.)

I usually freeze whatever meat I buy and then pull it out to defrost as the week goes on. I de-bone the chicken and place the bones and the skin in a pot of water with some celery tops and big chunks of carrot. I'll also add onion if I have extra. Boil the water until the vegetables are tender. Drain the broth in a colander, discard the cooked veggies and bones. If you want your broth very clear, you can then run it through a fine strainer.

I freeze one cup of stock in individual small (cheap!) ziploc bags. To me, it's like having gold in the freezer!

Now you have lots of homemade chicken stock as well as boneless, skinless chicken breasts ready to use. I used to buy at least one large Swanson's brand chicken stock a week.

Please do not be intimidated by the de-boning! When I was first married, I never bought bone-in chicken because I thought it was too hard and too messy. But with this method, it is ok to leave a little meat on the bones- it will add to the flavor of the stock. If you are going to make chicken soup out of the stock, you can pick the little bits of cooked chicken off the bones to add to the soup.

It also helps if the chicken breasts are still a little frozen when you de-bone them. They are not as slippery that way!

We go through a lot of chicken stock every week- I use it for pasta sauce, soups, and to flavor so many other dishes. Making my own has saved me at least $2.00/week, plus the money I save on the chicken breasts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A link on which you should click

Check out this link:

As the wife of a seminary student and (if the Lord wills) future pastor, I just loved reading about Southern Seminary's new approach to preparing students for local church ministry. My husband and I have spent countless hours discussing the local church and the current practice of fragmented ministry within the church. We are not completely 'family integrated' in our approach (we do use the nursery for our babies and love Sunday School for our older children), but we see danger in complete separation of families in the local church.

I could write lots and lots about this subject, but for now, I'll leave you to check out the above link and to join me in being encouraged that a seminary has seen this need in the church and is addressing it in such a radical way.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Day at the Farm

I've finally started to figure out the Google photo software, so I thought I'd share some recent photos of our first homeschool field trip. We visited the local farm of a dear lady who opened her farm and home us.

My children loved the animals, which included goats, a horse, a donkey and a llama. I have never visited a more lovely homestead. Our hostess kept her flower beds beautiful, and still grows vegetables, grapes, and herbs. She made us fresh lemonade, hot apple cider, homemade cookies and muffins.

What a delight it was to take in the beauty of all of our host's hard work and to see how God has blessed her with such talent for making her home and farm such a warm, inviting place. God's character is reflected in all beauty because he is the author of all beauty, and so God is reflected at the farm of this lovely lady.

Hope you enjoy these photos of our visit!

Precious words, precious truth

Yesterday we had a great morning at church. Before the service started, Josh tugged my arm and pointed at the wooden cross that is built into the front of the church right above where the choir sits. He said, "Look Mom. The Cross. For our sins."

My heart soared! Yes, the cross, where Christ gave himself as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Yes, the cross where God demonstrated his love for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Yes, the cross where God reconciled us to himself (Colossians 1:20).

Any my heart soared that my three year old is beginning to understand that the gospel is for him. Oh how I pray that God, in his mercy, will save my children while they are still young.

Later during the service, we sang the following song, which so beautifully grasps the wonder of the grace and love of God toward us, his former enemies (Colossians 1:22):

How Deep The Father's Love For Us
by Stuart Townend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocing voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Donut Day

Saturday is Donut Day here at our house. Donut Day is when Daddy takes the boys to get- you guessed it- donuts. They head out early, while I am usually still in bed. While they are gone, I take a shower, read my Bible, and get Sophie up and dressed.

Meanwhile, at the donut shop (a local shop we've come to love), each boy picks his favorite (powdered for Carter, sprinkles for Josh) along with chocolate milk. They settle into a table and chat and the boys get to watch the only tv they see all week (usually Playhouse Disney or Nick, Jr). At some point, I'm sure Scott would like to transition to more in depth discussions, but for now all three enjoy simply sitting together, enjoying their sweets and each other's company.

After the donuts and chocolate milk have been consumed at the donut shop, my three men head home with my favorite donut (glazed) in tow, along with the least-messy donut they can find for Sophie (usually plain cake). We girls enjoy our treats and grill the guys with the same questions every week, "How was it? Did you like your donut?..."

Saturday mornings are special- the boys enjoy their donuts and Daddy enjoys the quiet ritual of time with his boys. During the week, Carter often asks, "Is tomorrow when Daddy stays with us (his way of describing Saturday)?" Donut Day is a simple ritual with very little financial cost, but lots of impact. I'd love to hear if anyone else has any rituals around their house.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What's for dinner

Here's whats cooking at our house:
I've been trying to cut dinner costs lately and we've been really enjoying fresh produce from the farmer's market, so soup has been on the menu more often. For dinner tonight, the menu will be chicken noodle soup, homemade rye bread (from the farmer's market, not my kitchen!), and salad.

Here is the recipe for the soup. I have never measured the ingredients before, so I am estimating on some of them. Each item can be increased or decreased depending on your taste. Also, I often make homemade stock at the beginning by boiling the bones and skin of the chicken breasts with the vegetables. Remove the bones and skins after about twenty minutes and proceed.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
6-8 C of water
2 celery stalks
2 medium sized carrots
1/2 red onion
two split chicken breasts, boned and chopped
2 good handfulls of egg noodles
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

Chop vegetables (I use my food processor), boil in water until soft. Add chicken, thyme and sage. Simmer for thirty minutes.

I like the noodles firm, so I do not add them until about fifteen minutes before serving. At this point I might put the 'soup' in the fridge or continue to simmer it on low until dinner is almost finished. After the noodles are cooked, you can add more water to make it soupier if you like. This is really the most simple recipe- I add and play around until it is just how we like it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My space.. who knew?

I have just been introduced to My Space. I thought the My Space world was designated for teenagers and pedophiles (you can tell I obviously got all my info from Dateline!).

But my best friend (hi Jaime!) told me yesterday that lots of our friends from college and many of her colleagues have My Space accounts and use them to keep in touch.

All I have to say is, "Who knew?" I spent a bit of time today clicking around, catching up with people I haven't seen in years. It was a lot of fun! Now I know.

What do these words mean to you?

Roberta at Debtor to Mercy ( posted a word association meme.

Here is what comes to my mind when I hear these words:

Home: A cozy place where my family lives (we've had several different locations!).

Morning: My husband's favorite time of day. Not so much for me, but I've changed a lot in this area since we had children.

Comfort: Hazlenut coffee, a warm blanket, and my husband's company.

Inconceivable: God's grace- his love, forgiveness, and mercy all lavished on his children.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My roles

I have been contemplating the goodness of God in placing me in the role of woman, wife, and mother. We have had a lot of change in the past several weeks- a different state, vocation for Scott, apartment, church, lifestyle, income bracket, -and all of this change made away from the comfort of my mother's reassuring presence (I miss you, Mom!).

However, in the midst of all this change, my roles in life have stayed the same. I am basically doing the same things- just in front of a different backdrop. I am still a child of God, the helper and lover to Scott, and the trainer and lover of my children.

Even though we have moved hundreds of miles away from what used to be home, I still pray, cook dinner, sweep floors, bandage hurts, counsel various family members, teach phonics and catechism and kindness, and have a lot of fun playing with and caring for my family (because these are many of the everyday ways my roles as child of God, wife, and mother play out during this season of my life). This has made our transition to a new place infinitely more smooth and easy.

These roles are simple, yet quite difficult- and even impossible apart from God's grace. How thankful I am that I am able to embrace and rejoice in how God has made me and the specific role He has given me to play in His grand plan of redemption. And how thankful I am for the simplicity and comfort I receive when I seek to live out who God has made me to be.

Being a woman is a wonderful, enjoyable, God-glorifying thing. As I learn more and more what it practically means to be a suitable helper (Gen 2) and to submit (Eph 5) and to love (Titus 2), I am blessed with great joy in God's perfect plan for women.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The farmer's market and the glory of God

Another Saturday is gone and it was well spent. I had my husband all day, and that was a true delight! We all piled in the van (mini) and headed to our small downtown, which hosts a farmer's market every Saturday morning.

Our children enjoyed learning from the various farmers, who all practice organic farming. We learned about compost worms (would love to try that!), how mushrooms are cultivated, and how my favorite herb (basil) is grown.

I was able to pick up a good bit of fresh produce as well as free-range eggs and all natural chicken (no antibiotics...). Of course, we also had to buy a loaf of homemade sourdough rye bread (yum!).

After we had fully experienced each section of the farmer's market, we stopped by a local artist's studio where I hopped out of the car and enjoyed a quick walk through. I was stunned by the talent and beauty displayed in each painting, carving, and piece of jewerly.

Scott and I shared a few thoughts as we were driving back home. The produce was bountiful, the art beautiful and we were once again reminded of the real purpose of the earth and of all beauty: the glory of God.

God gave his magnificent creation and all the fruits of the earth so that we could look around us and exclaim, "The earth is the Lord's and all the fullness thereof," and, "The heavens declare the glory of God".

God is the source of all beauty, and all good art should remind us of his beauty and cause us to turn in worship of our glorious God. I still remember pastor John Piper saying that when we exercise creativity we are reflecting an attribute of God, whose imagination and creativity can never be rivaled.

So this morning was great, and we had a great time meeting new folks, teaching our children a little about where their food comes from (the shitake mushroom farmer was fascinating!), and have already enjoyed a few delicious tastes of the food we bought. But none of these enjoyments was an end to itself. Behind and around and through all of our activities was the gracious pull of our loving God, beckoning us to come enjoy and delight in and worship Him.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What a week

This week has been busy and blessed. Scott has been on fall break from school, so he has been taking his lunch and class breaks and studying, as well as using the early evening hours to study for next week's mid-terms and papers. He has needed to take the computer with him for research, so I have been computer-less.

The break from cyberspace has been nice, but I realized how much I use the internet to keep in touch with friends and to stay updated with world events. I find it much more simple to catch the headlines and weather online instead of being on the newscaster's time table to find out if Carter should wear 'big pants' (his favorite- the child asks every day if it is going to be 'chilly outside') or shorts.

Ever notice that in order to find out how hot/cold/wet the day is going to be, you must endure at least fifteen minutes of commercials, fluffy filler stories, and various people screaming hello to their children and grandchildren?

Not that I don't enjoy morning news programs. When I was single, I would often turn on Today or Good Morning America while I got ready or ate breakfast. I also found that the morning shows reflect (secularly) what influences mainstream America- as well as our fellow believers.

But now, indulging in such tv viewing, especially in the morning hours, means that someone's breakfast is being delayed, my boys are getting restless in their room, or my daughter is probably calling, "Mama!!!" for the twentieth time from her crib.

On top of the lack of convenience in my mother-to-young-children schedule, I have come to realize that most of the 'news' in the early morning shows is unnecessary nonesense and about 90% of the 2 hours (!) of content boils down to a colossial waste of time! Harsh? Yes, but true!

I'm not quite sure how my update on our week turned into a commentary on morning news shows (which I have watched for so long!), but there it is.

Enough about that. I hope to be able to keep up a little better in the coming days. I have much more on my mind than I have time to write!

Until then, it's off to the Farmer's Market tomorrow with my little family. Carter wants to show me "the meat and the candles and the soap..." Sounds like a great way to spend a fall Saturday morning.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Early fall days

The air is cool, the breeze is blowing, the sun is shininig, I am sitting out on our back porch with the computer in my lap, the boys are playing in the woods and grass behind our house, Sophie is going back and forth between me and the jogger, where she is taking her baby for a ride... does it get any better?

For a girl born and raised in Florida, "fall" is an unfamiliar concept to me. I am unaccumstomed to leaves changing, temperatures dropping, breeze blowing, the general feel of the changing of seasons. I loved Florida, the beach, wearing short sleeves all year long- but I could get used to this fall business!

Of course, winter is another story. When we lived in Kentucky a few years ago, i distinctly remember wondering when the cold would stop and I would again relish the delicious feeling of the warm sun on my skin.

But for now, we are relishing the early days of fall.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I wasn't quite ready...

Carter took his first solo (sans Daddy) shower tonight. He washed his hair, scrubbed, and rinsed. I kept peaking in, making sure everything was progressing nicely, and it was.

Josh was also in the bathroom, firmly declaring that he wasn't ready for the shower yet (he's still a little scared, and doesn't even enjoy showering with Daddy). I told him he could stick with baths until he is five. Good enough for him.

While Carter was thoroughly enjoying his shower time, I stood amazed at the goodness of God. My child, whom I earnestly hoped and prayed for and joyfully held in my arms for the first time just five short years ago, is growing up! Thank you Lord. Bless him. Save him while he is still young. Give him a hatred for sin and a love for Christ. Give us wisdom and grace and kindness as we raise him.

Carter was so thrilled with himself when he was finished! He wanted to wrap the towel around his waist like he was twenty. He came out and showed Daddy how clean he was nd proudly exclaimed, "I can take a shower all day. I can take a shower for a party."

His last comment especially blessed my heart, "Hey Mom, want to teach me how to wash the dishes?" In due time, Carter, in due time.

Our day

We started homeschooling four weeks ago today. I didn't realize it had been that long! Carter is in kindergarten, and we are starting out with Bible and Language Arts, and hope to add math next Monday.

Here's a little bit about what our day looks like right now:

Our school day starts with all three children around the table after breakfast, when we read a story from the children's Bible (I'm using Egermier's), followed by working on our memory verse. We also review the boys' Sunday School lesson (our church uses Desiring God children's curriculum and they are covering almost the same passages that we are in our children's Bible here at home).

After Bible, Sophie goes to play in her room (which she loves!), and Josh plays legos in his room or plays with Sophie in her room (which she doesn't always love.).

Carter and I hunker down with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for phonics/reading instruction. After we are done with our lesson (20-30 minutes), Sophie and Josh join us at the table where they color and Carter works on his handwriting lesson.

Next it's time for cleaning up/putting away, and then I'll let the children choose something to play for a few minutes. Next, we'll read together (not quite narrating yet, but we are working on this) for about 15 minutes and then get ready to go outside. I'll walk Sophie in the stroller and the boys will ride their bikes or scooters. Often, we'll visit the playground as well, where Josh is working on his swinging skills and Carter is learning the monkey bars.

By this time, the morning is gone. Some days, it feels like my mind has gone with it! We eat lunch, and I'll read out loud some more if I'm up to it.

I would really like to do some science in the form of nature studies and using some of the great books we have in our library. I'm not quite sure where the time would come from right now, though.

In the midst of the above order of events, there is a lot going on: heart training, pottying, washing hands, picking up, folding a load of clothes, changing diapers, disciplining, instructing... I have moments of real joy, when I know that this is right and I can feel the strength of the Lord. Other moments, I am full of anxiety and sometimes impatience towards my children.

Over the past four weeks, homeschooling my children has been an incredible opportunity for sanctification, showing love for Christ and my children, and of learning another way to die to myself and live for God. I have been thrilled with Carter's progress and thank God daily for his help, strength, and guidance in this endeavor.

I have so much more in my mind and heart to say, but this post is quickly becoming cumbersome to read, so I'll continue more later. And besides, Scott is almost home for his lunch break!

Friday, September 22, 2006

More love to Thee...

"More love to Thee, O Christ..." This has been the cry of my heart over the past few weeks.

One of our dearest friends and my husband's spiritual father called us last night. I picked up the phone, so we chatted for a few minutes before I got Scott. Brother Jerry, as we call him, asked me, "How's that little red head of yours?" (He knows Sophie is a little spunky.) In reply, I asked him that he would pray for me to love Christ more and to love my husband and children more.

Brother Jerry wrote my request down as we spoke and then added that in all of his years of walking with the Lord he has come to discover that we can only love others as much as we love Christ. In other words, our love for others, including our love for our husbands and children, will never exceed our love for Christ.

And so my prayer continues, that I will love Christ more and myself less. I echo the words of Elisabeth Prentiss' 19th century hymn:

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Aren't you glad?

Aren't you glad that God is good and his word is true?

Aren't you glad for the promise he gives us in Romans 8:28-30:
"And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also jstified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

My mom is going through some sigificant difficulties right now. As I was praying for her, I was reminded that there are no accidents, there is no purpose-less happening in the life of the child of God. All things work together, for our sanctification and for God's glory. And God's glory certainly shines when an unredeemed sinner's heart and life are transformed into the image of Christ.

Can you think of a difficulty you are experiencing right now that you would rather avoid? (This should not take too long- we all have such experiences.) Remember, this too is part of the all things.

As Elisabeth Elliot says, "Either we are at the mercy of chance or we are held under the everlasting arms. There are no other options."

God's word confirms over and over that the truth is yes, indeed we are held God's everlasting, loving, good and sovereign arms.

Aren't you glad?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blog design contest

For all you fellow bloggers- Susie at Bluebird Blogs is hosting a contest for a free blog design. Check it out here.

Even if you don't win the free blog design, Blue Bird's prices are unbeatable.


Settling In

We are officially (I think) settled in- to our new apartment, our new town, our new school (Scott at least), our new job (Scott again!)... I guess our new life.

I can't go any further without stopping to thank God for his grace to us. Of all our blessings, we deserve nothing! God's grace has overwhelmed us as we have moved and 'resettled'.

Our blessings in Christ are incomparable. I've been camping out a little in Colossians- let me share with you just a little bit about this Christ:

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and n earth, visible and
invisible...And he is before all things, and in him all things hold
together...He i
s the beginning, he firstborn from the dead, that in everything
he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to
dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or
in heaven, making peace by the blood of his whom are hidden all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (1:15-20; 2:3)

Our greatest blessings are spritual, and are not contingent on what God does for us as much as who he is for us.

I want to be clear that we are thankful for all God has done for us. But I also want to be clear that God is always good, and everything he does is good and right, even when (and sometimes especially when) our plans do not 'work out'.

We have walked through days (and I know such days are also in our future) when we did not understand what God was doing. We have not always seen him work out circumstances in the way that we have hoped and prayed. But his grace was there in the dark times, as well as his presence and his love. How great is our God.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Welcome to the Ellison Family Blog. We'll be posting frequent updates, photos, and miscellenious happenings. Thanks for checking us out!