Monday, June 30, 2008

A whole new world at our house

In an effort to build our savings account, Scott and I are taking a good hard look at our budget, seeing where we can make cuts.  We have also seen some areas where we need to alot more money.  

But today I wanted to write about one of the more drastic spending changes we have made.  We are discontinuing our internet.  Completely.  Tomorrow.

I am still getting very nervous about that change.  We have a great alternative that I am very excited about.  We have a new coffee shop in our town that has internet access.  Scott has been encouraging me to get away regularly for a little quiet time.  But of course I never do it.  Now he's saying, "You are doing it and here's some extra motivation."  So I'll get to play on the internet, have some time to be quiet and alone, and save over $60.00 a month at the same time (minus the cost of the coffee, of course).

Now, every time I think about not having internet access at my fingertips, my heart pounds.  I'm not saying this is good, I'm just saying this is what happens.  Right now, I keep my laptop open on the desk in full view of the kitchen and within listening distance to most of the house, and I can just pop over and get online whenever I want to check out a recipe, check the weather forecast, or whatever else springs in my mind.  I can also hear the comforting bing from Outlook, telling me someone loves me, um, I mean, that I have an email.

But I can already think of some great reasons why this is a good idea.  Scott and I will no longer walk over the computer to check our inbox before we great our children or each other.  Gone will be the ability to hide behind the keyboard while countless minutes pass and this dishes don't get done.  My internet time will have to count.  This will be a good thing.  

I think this new plan will not only save us money, it will save us time.  And cause us to think about our internet time and also our time here at home.  We want to have more face to face conversations with people like our children. 

I'll still be writing on my blog, and using autopost as my friend.  I'll still be looking forward to reading your comments and writing back and forth.  I am hoping that  my posts will be better and more focused, but that may be setting my hopes too high.

So even though I am very unsure how this will work, I am so thankful Scott came up with this idea.  I am looking forward to the discipline it will bring.  It is our prayer that God will use this change to conform us more into his image and to bring himself glory as the sustaining joy of our lives.  

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Here's some meme fun from Totally Scrappy at Mudpies to Dragonflies.  I have a lot to do at home tonight, so I won't be able to finish the whole thing, but let's see how far I can get!  Check out Totally Scrappy's blog for more participants.

1. LAST MOVIE YOU SAW IN A THEATER.  The Veggie Tales movie with the pirates.  Totally disappointing.  We spent a lot of money on the movie, took the whole family, and it wasn't very good!  But the kids loved it, loved being in the movie theater, and we went to Red Robin afterward for dinner, and that went a long way towards taking the sting out of the disappointment for me.

2.  WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING?  I am reading a three right now, but the best one is a devotional by Susannah Spurgeon.  The best part of the book is the biography of Mrs. Spurgeon at the back of the book.  I have learned so much from her example as a pastor's wife.  I'll probably be writing a review of the book when I'm finished.

3.  WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOARD GAME?  Scrabble.  Scott is not a fan, but I know he's showing me the love when he suggests we play.

4.  FAVORITE MAGAZINE?  Southern Living

5.  FAVORITE SMELLS?  Italian food cooking, yeast bread dough, my baby Caroline's hair after her bath.

6.  FAVORITE SOUNDS?  My husband sleeping next to me, my kids laughing really hard, the car pulling in the driveway when Scott has been out of town.

7.WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD? Feeling like something might be wrong with one of my children. 

8.  WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?  Does the day have to start already?  I wish it wasn't so, but there it is.


10.  FUTURE CHILD'S NAME  don't know

11.IF I HAD A LOT OF MONEY I'D:  That question has a lot of weight.  In my better moments, I'd say I would support missions,  help those less fortunate than me, and live simply.  I know I would be tempted to indulge myself and spoil my children, though.  Of course, I have such a generous husband, I'm know he would help me direct our money towards godly pursuits like he does now.  
I do think if we (people in general) had a lot of money, we would probably do what we do with our money now, but on a larger scale.  If we are faithful with little, we would be faithful with much, and if we are selfish with little, we would be selfish with much.  Having a lot of money is not a prerequisite for being generous.  We wouldn't become giving, generous, debt-free people just because we had more money, because those are heart issues, not income issues.

12.  DO YOU DRIVE FAST?  Not anymore


14.  STORMS- COOL OR SCARY?  scary

15.  WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?  1980 Cutlass Olds.  The joke of my late high-school life, and continues with my friends who knew me then.  It was the bane of my existence, and I was so prideful I would stay late after school just so no one would see me drive away in it.

16.  FAVORITE DRINK? coffee in the mornings 
17.  FINISH THIS STATEMENT, "IF I HAD TIME, I'D:  do some crafts



20.  NAME ALL THE DIFFERENT CITIES AND TOWNS YOU HAVE LIVED IN? ok, here goes:  St. Pete, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Bradenton, Florida (3 separate times); Graceville, Florida; Louisville, KY; Bloomfield, KY; Jacksonville, FL; Wake Forest, NC; Edenton, NC; now somewhere else, NC.

21.  FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?  my boys play t-ball.  Hilarious.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cloth napkin solution

I have been working on switching to cloth napkins for a while.  I have two main reasons:  to cut down on waste (we go through a lot of napkins) and to save a little money (we go through a lot of napkins).  I had a few mismatched cloth napkins, but after a while they just didn't cut if for our family of six, especially when we had friends over.

I priced cloth napkins in the store, but found them to be pretty pricey ($1.99-3.99, for cheap napkins at Walmart), especially when I added up how many we would need for me to avoid washing the same napkins every day (we go through a lot of napkins).  

So I got on ebay and found a restaurant supplier who sold in huge lots- 50 to 100 at a time.  The great thing about the napkins is that they were large and white.  White is good- it looks great with lots of different kinds of dishes, can be casual or formal, and can be washed with bleach and hot water, which is pretty important considering the kinds of messes we can make when we eat.

I bought 50 napkins for $29.99, about .60/each.  I love them!  I washed them all, and put about half away in the linen closet to stay extra fresh and nice.  The rest I put in a kitchen drawer and we use them at every meal.  In between meals, we put them in our chairs so each person can reuse their own napkin at the next meal, and I wash them when they start looking like they need it.  I just throw them in a white load and they come out looking great.  Definitely works for me!

Panic attacks, mine and Sophie's

Like mother, like daughter.  Or so the saying goes.  

This morning as I was preparing for our day, I had a mild panic attack, complete with shortness of breath, chest pains, brought on by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  I was anxious about a number of things, but I had been entertaining thoughts about not being to get everything done every day for the next 18 years or so.

As we were leaving for the library, Sophie couldn't find one of her shoes.  She was sitting in the mudroom, looking for it by the shoe rack, and the rest of us filed out the door one by one to load up into the car.  I took Caroline out the buckle her in the car seat, and when I got outside, I heard a blood curdling scream (that girl can really scream), "Don't leave me!!!"

Now I have never left Sophie anywhere.  She is always very close by except when she sneaks in the boy's bedroom to watch a princess movie.  I usually take Caroline outside, get her settled in the car seat, and then head back in to finish Sophie up.  And almost every time in the midst of this process she calls out for us not to leave her.  "Sophie, we are not going to leave you.  Mommy would never leave without you..." are words familiar to our household.

Today the emotion was much higher than usual and so was the pitch and volume of her exclamation, but this is not something new for her. Just like my panic attack was nothing new for me, although today's was worse than normal.  I don't usually have such clear physical symptoms, but anxiety is never too far away, and loves to come right on in and make itself known if I just open the door.  Sometimes I don't even have to open the door, I just have to stop paying attention and anxiety barges right on in before I know what is happening.

Is there a cure for this anxiety problem?  I see commercials every day for one drug or another and the commercials play a lot, so I'm guessing that this is a major problem for lots of people everywhere.  And there is a lot to be anxious about- the economy, the presidential election, that pesky war our country is in right now, gas and energy prices and if the laundry will ever get caught up.

Well, the Bible is clear about anxiety.  Jesus himself told us, "Do not worry about anything," calling on our trust in God and his goodness and faithfulness to his people (Matthew 6).  Our trust in God is grounded in who he is, in his abilities, and in his character.  This great God, who can do nothing wrong, and who sovereignly orchestrates everything that comes to pass, works all things for his glory and for the good of those who love him.  This great God has told us, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)  That is a powerful promise.

Paul also said, "Be anxious for nothing," telling us instead to, "in everything in prayer and supplication make your requests known to God."  That command comes with a pretty powerful promise, "and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6-7) 

It sounds like the anxiety problem is nothing new.  People have always had lots of problems, at least since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden.  We have always been worried about feeding our families, keeping them clothed, and if our 401ks will be there or not when we retire. 

 And God is good.  He cares for his children, and provides help and comfort.  We are told in 1 Peter 5:7 to "cast all your anxiety upon him for he cares for you," and that includes our cares about whether our kids will turn out right, global warming, tornadoes, and the never ending pile of laundry. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer is here

and so starts the fun.
(it's a little bright out here)
Sophie tried out the boogie board (when she says 'boogie' rhymes with 'doggie').
My three oldest join Daddy in the waves
Caroline hangs out with Mom and watches from a distance.

 We made our family list tonight of our goals this summer and eating ice cream, going to the beach at least once a week, and family movie nights ranked high.  Library time made it on there too, so all will not be lost on the academic front.

I can already feel the difference around our home.  The kids are playing more, I am cooking more and just for fun, and my short daily to-do list is not a burden.  To top it all off, Grandma will be here in less than two weeks.  

Scott and I have our nine-year anniversary to celebrate, summer reading to enjoy, and our family has a lot of sand to grind into the carpet of our van.  Sounds like it's going to be a great couple of months.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to survive while your husband is out of town

My love, co-parent, and closest friend has been out of town three times in three months.  We've been apart for the gospel, separated by IX, and been left solitary for the purpose of education.

My husband reminds me that there are military wives who have it much worse and traveling business men gone much more than he is.  I know that is all true, and I know God gives grace for whatever circumstances he places us in.  I also think that God has something special to show me in my situation and I don't want to waste this opportunity to grow just because other people have it harder than I do.

So how do I, as a very needy, "please help me", dependent mom make it while my husband is out of town?  Here are a few tips:

1.  Ask God for help.  As with all things mother-related, I can do nothing alone but "all things through Christ who strengthens me".  This is not a cliche, or an overused catch phrase.  This is the truth and heart of any attempt at anything difficult.  There is no 'just do it' mentality here.  No bootstraps strong enough to pull myself up by.  God and God alone.

2.  Plan easy meals.  We are not big on prepackaged stuff.  I like to cook, need to save money, and we prefer simple. homecooked food.  However, when Mom is flying solo, the kids eat most of their meals at the counter, and it is mostly super easy homemade stuff like quesadillas, peanut butter sandwiches, and even frozen pizza, pizza rolls and other fun, out of the ordinary treats.

3.  Make your daily goals very simple.  As in clothing, food, clothing and food.  School time is light- just the basics.  Focus and feeding and clothing.

4.  Plan some extra fun.  Try making a list of some fun things to do while Dad is gone.  Last time we went to the beach, checked out a park we don't visit often, and had some new friends over.  Because you are focusing on the basics (food and clothes, remember?), and not deep cleaning anything or relandscaping the yard, you'll have more time and energy to have fun.  But please keep it simple.  

5.  Don't forget quiet time.  Every day.  Quiet time is when your kids each go to their own area and you go to your own area and everyone is quiet.  And alone.  It's wonderful.

However, if you don't already do quiet time in your house, this is not the time to start.  Quiet time takes some training.  Switch to afternoon movie time instead and work on developing the quiet time habit when your husband is back home and your sanity has returned.  (This may take a few days.)

Ok, enough with the list.  Remind yourself you will make it, go over Step 1 several times a day, and don't give up, sister.  He'll be home soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WFMW: Story Bible for Children

We have tried a lot of Bible picture books.  Some have been good and some not so good.  Instead of critiquing the not so good, I though I'd tell you about how much we like this one and why it's been so helpful to us.

The Big Picture Story Bible uses very simple language to tell the great stories of the Bible.  God's redemptive work throughout the Bible is highlighted.  God is the subject of the stories.

One of the best things about this story Bible is given in its name: It presents the Bible as one complete book, with the main story of God's redemptive work woven throughout many books over many centuries.  I didn't 'get' that until I was an adult.  I never connected Abraham to Moses to David to the prophets to Jesus to the apostles.  I didn't see the Bible as one book with one main point, instead it was a disconnected set of stories.

This good book is helping me to teach my children the major themes of the Bible in a simple, understandable way.  And that works for me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I loved this post

Simple Mom wrote a great post about the best company to work for.  I was really encouraged.  You will be, too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I think the verdict is in

Thanks for your help in identifying this:

Which grows on this:

Apparently it is this.
The yellow King Humbert Canna.  

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to the love of my life.  You are an incredible father.  God's grace is evident in you as you serve and love our family.  You teach our children to love God, love His Word, and love each other.  You teach them to honor me as their mother. 

 You show our boys how to love their future wives by the way you love me and our girls the qualities they should look for in their future husbands by displaying those qualities in our home every day.  You have taught the boys how to ride their bikes, catch a baseball, and gel their hair.  You are Sophie's Prince Charming and Tarzan.  And you are Caroline's Dadadadada.

You cast vision for how our home should be, and you graciously lead me accomplishing that vision.  You do not claim to be a perfect parent, but you model humility before us when you humbly seek God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of your children when you make mistakes.

Thank you for how you love us.  Thank you for how you lay your own life down for us.  Thank you for choosing us over golf, fishing, and hunting.  Thank you for buying t-ball cleats instead of songs for your I-Pod and for buying Happy Meals instead of Starbucks coffee.  Thank you for driving a silver minivan when you would prefer a four-wheel drive pick up.  Thank you for working two jobs when the bills outweighed the paycheck.  

Thank you for praying for us every morning before we get out of bed.  You are a visible sign of God's grace in our lives.  We love you!


If I do this
then I can do this
and then I can do this- Victory!
Now if I could just figure out how to get back down.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How does your garden grow?

When we moved in our house (the pastorium at our church), I knew I loved the spaciousness of the yard.  I had no idea the surprises that awaited me, though, because we moved during the winter.  As Spring and now Summer have come, I have been so excited to watch new things sprouting up all the time.  First we had daffodils and tulips, a first for me since I am from Florida and there's not a lot of success so far down South with bulbs that need cold winters.  

We are total novices to all this plant care.  I don't know if I'd call it gardening yet.  So far we are just waiting and watching.  It seems like every week something new pops up or something we thought was dead and gone starts sprouting green branches and flower buds emerge.  We've almost destroyed a few jems, but so far so good.  We have a few mysteries, like this: 

This amazing flower blooms on these:

We still don't know what they are called.  When we first moved here, these plants were all dried up and Scott cut them down.  We thought they were old corn stalks. As you can see, they quickly made a full come back, but in the meantime we made the mistake of telling some church members about that, and now we get teased, "Hey Preacher, I have some corn in my yard that needs cutting down..."

When I was a little girl, I spent a great deal of time with my great aunt.  She had the most amazing hydrangeas.  They have been my favorite flower ever since.  Imagine my delight when these started blooming:

Up close:

We also planted our first vegetable garden this year.  Here's some squash:

We also have green peppers, jalepenos, sugar snap peas, green beans, watermelon, corn, cucumber, chives, basil, and cilantro.  I took pictures of a lot of the other vegetables, but they are not cooperating with me.  The squash is the prettiest, though.

Here is a grape vine.  We are not sure what type of grapes these are, maybe muscadine.  It's full of tiny clusters.

Here are some Zinnias about to bloom.  The bed around the lamp post in our front yard is full of them.  This is my first time planting zinnias, and I check them at least twice a day in anticipation of the first bloom.

Here is a random view of our side yard.  You can see our dog's pen in the corner.  We love this yard.  All the pine trees remind me of Florida.  There are always pine cones for the kids to pick up when they are extra bored and need something to do. 
One more hydrangea just because I can't resist.

Check out more gardens at The Preacher's Wife, where Lisa is hosting a garden party.

I'm a feeder reader

Thanks to this post, I'm now a feeder reader.  Meaning, I read blogs through Google reader.  If you don't already do this, you may want to at least attempt it.  The Pipers explain it so well, and makes it easy to understand. So far, I've found it to be immensely helpful.  It's definitely worth a try.

Ok, I feel weird writing "The Pipers" like we are friends.  We aren't, but they seem friendly.  Just wanted to clarify.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


T-Ball season has come and gone.  We are always glad to start t-ball, and I am always glad when the last game is played.  Those few weeks of hurried afternoons, late dinners, and late bed times serve our family in many ways.  We get to meet new people, which we love.  This year this was especially great because we are so new to our community.  

T-ball also gives our boys a chance to learn a new skills.  Carter was tearing the field up this year with strong batting, fast running, and consistent cat

Josh was tearing up the field in another way- getting thoroughly dizzy drawing  intense circles in the clay with his cleats and wrestling in the dug-out with his new buddies.  (In all fairness, not all his time was spent this way- when he was up to bat, he was focused and he ran fast around the bases.)  

Last year, when Carter was learning the game, I was always very nervous.  Would he strike out?  Would he catch the ball?  This time around, I was able to laugh and enjoy the learning curve.

Take a look:

Here's Josh throwing the ball to first, sporting his signature look- the "only the front" shirt tuck.

"Carter, look over here so I can take your picture."

Carter after hitting the ball.  He was always the last player on his team up to bat, so the coaches would have him run the bases.  He started to think that he had hit a home run every time.  I had to tell him the real story- he was just the base cleaner, so to speak.  He took it well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WFMW: catechizing our children

Catechizing is simply a form of learning in questions answer format.  For instance, the first question in our catechism is, "Tell me, child, who made you?"  And our children answer, "The great God who made heaven and earth."

I have to admit that I would not have chosen to do this myself, but this was very important to my husband and so I added it onto our morning Bible time.  After we read the Bible and pray, I go right into asking the questions.

Catechizing sounded hard to me, and I wasn't sure how to start- none of my friends were doing this (to my knowledge), so I just started out reading the questions and the answers, one at a time, to our kids.  I use a sing-song kind of voice to help them learn.

Each day I start back with the first question and add additional questions when it seems they have the gist of the previous questions.  (When we got to a certain point with our oldest I would just review the first questions every week or so.)  We spend at the most five minutes a day on this.  It just doesn't take long for young children to memorize vast amounts of information.

I was surprised last week to realize that Sophie (age 3) knew almost every question Josh (age 5) knows.  I haven't worked with her past the first five questions or so, but she is present for Josh and Carter's questions, and has learned them just by being around. 

No need to wait until the kids can understand what they are learning.  This is memorization tool that serves to build theology into their little minds while they can memorize anything you put before them.  I'm sure we all have songs we memorized as children before we understood the words and now as adults we are a bit shocked (ok, ashamed) that we knew the lyrics to "Like a Virgin" memorized way before we knew what we were singing along to.  Even if you didn't know that particular song, you know what I am talking about.

We have been shocked at how much theology our kids have learned this way. The catechism gives them a framework in which to view the lense of Scripture.  I do not believe this knowledge saves them or changes their hearts- only God's Spirit can do that and we beg God for the salvation of our children.  But it is our prayer that God will use this knowledge like a well of water that they will draw from for the rest of their lives. 

Still dubious to the benefits of catechizing your children?  Here is an article (from a presbyterian perspective) you may find helpful.  

Our family uses the Tract Primer which is full of other great learning tools.  There several other good catechisms available, like this and this and this.  This definitely works for me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Our girls

Sophie at the ball field, being a fan.  Scott coached the boy's t-ball team, and Sophie loved to try to run onto the field, yelling "Good job, Dad!" and other cries of support for the Ellison men.
I had the cutest pose for both the girls- sweet smiles in the bath tub.  I turn my camera on and Sophie pours a cup of water over Caroline's head.  No more smile for Caroline!  
Caroline is scooting around everywhere.  This is the look she usually gives us whenever she catches our eye.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I need it every day

My handsome pastor (and husband) preached from Hosea 3 today.  The gospel message is so clear in this text- God redeeming his people from sin, loving us while we were still sinners, and paying the price to ransom us from death.  I was reminded again that I am Gomer, the adulteress, the woman who prostituted herself to sin and who had forsaken her faithful Lord to go her own way.

I am thankful for the reminder that God has redeemed my soul, and my passion for serving and loving my Savior has been renewed.  The gospel is not just powerful to save us, it is powerful to keep and to continue to change us.  

As I was reminded of the goodness of God and his merciful kindness, he was faithful to bring to mind sin that still dwells in my heart.  I still have a sin problem, and my sin keeps me from experiencing joy to the fullest and puts a wedge between me and the One who loves me with an everlasting love.  I was saved once for all time, but I still stand in need of the power of the gospel to convict me of my sin and give me power and hope to overcome the sin that still resides in my heart.

The gospel also serves to give me endless praise for so great a Savior.  What kind of God is this, who buys back that which is already his, who sets his affections on his enemy, who sent his beloved Son to die for those who hated him?  I am again shocked and amazed and deeply gladdened by such a gracious saving King.  Oh my soul praise him for his thy help and salvation.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Is this pathetic?

I think I must be on the list for most pathetic blogger.  I'll take the title- it fits!

A very quick update on details of our life:  Scott has been in seminary since August of 2006. While pursuing his degree, his job moved him about two hours from the seminary.  Scott started preaching supply, and then received the opportunity to pastor a small congregation.  We accepted the pastorate, and moved into the community in March.  Our family loves it here, and we are experiencing the joys and difficulties of serving a local church.  We are very thankful to be where we are, and I am learning about trusting God and asking Him to make my dreams for myself centered around Him, His Word, and His will.  

Moving here and starting to serve a church full time has been stretching and wonderful and difficult and excited and already heartbreaking.  We love our congregation and are looking forward to growing together in Christ.

I haven't been blogging because I don't have a lot to say!  The past few months have been much more about absorbing than writing, more about adjusting than analyzing.  

We've been busy as a family, though, and I want to share some of the memories we have made and experiences we have had with all of you, so keep checking back- photos are coming!