Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gumbo!

I found fresh, not-horrible-looking okra in the grocery store the other day and couldn't believe my eyes!  My husband and I debated over how to fix it... fried?  (my favorite)  okra and tomatoes?  (his favorite)  We ended up going with gumbo.  I haven't had good gumbo in years and my craving was satisfied with this recipe.

How to find a good gumbo recipes?  I did an ingredient search on All Recipes for "gumbo", "roux", and "file"... not many results with those terms, but I combined a few recipes to make something I think is delicious and authentic.

Get out a big pot and...

Make a medium roux with:
    •    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    •    1/2 cup butter

Make, what the cajun folks call, "The Holy Trinity"...
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, saute your vegetables in 1 Tbs. butter:


    •    3 stalks chopped celery
    •    1 cup chopped onions
    •    1 bell pepper, chopped

I added:
    •  4 cloves garlic
    •  1 poblano pepper, chopped

When the your roux is medium brown, add the sauce and spices:
    •    8 cups water (even better with chicken or beef broth)
    •    8 ounce can tomato sauce
    •    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    •    2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
    •    1 Tbs. dried parsley
    •    1/2 tsp. black pepper
    •    a bay leaf

Add your sauteed veggies to the pot, then add the star of the show:
    •    1 pound okra chopped into medium coins

Select your seafood/meats of choice - about 1 or 1 1/2 lbs. altogether:
    •    breakfast sausage cooked & crumbled
    •    salad shrimp
    •    crawfish if you can get it!
Canned seafood can work too!
    •    1 can minced crab, 2 cans clams + juice

I threw in a can of corn because I had some.

And of course,
    •    1 Tbs. file powder (an authentic cajun thickener... not completely necessary, but nice when you can get it)
    •    If you like it extra spicy, sprinkle with Tony Chachere's cajun seasoning to taste.  We used that stuff like salt and pepper growing up.  I don't think this recipe requires it, especially if you use spicy sausage, but leaving it out would be like leaving out my firstborn child at the dinner table.
    •    Serve over rice


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Monday, October 7, 2013

Bible Readings for a Baby Shower

 I went to a baby shower a year or so ago where the woman hosting did some encouraging Bible readings and songs.  It was wonderful and I kept thinking, "why have I never seen this done before?!?!"  I recently had the opportunity of sharing some readings at a baby shower myself and the other women had a similar reaction to mine.  I hope these thoughts will be an encouragement to you today. 

Thank you for joining us as we celebrate ___________ becoming a mother, and her child, a gift from the Lord.  I wanted to read a little from the Bible and talk about this new little soul that will be joining us soon.  There is so much encouragement, wisdom and knowledge to be found in the scriptures, and when it comes to becoming a parent, I think those of us who have experienced it will heartily agree that we desperately need God’s encouragement, wisdom and knowledge as we take on such a responsibility. 

James 1:5 - God gives wisdom liberally and without reproach to all who ask

Charles Dickens - “It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. ”

Babies are more than just cute and cuddly little dolls

They are created in God’s image - Genesis 1:27 - “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

They have been created for God’s own glory - Isaiah 43:7 - “Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

Jeremiah 1:5 - “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Our children are SOULS that belong to God that we give right back to Him.
In 1 Samuel when Hannah prayed for a child, she made a vow to the Lord and promised, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant... but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life...”  Hannah gave Samuel to God to serve in the temple, but the reality for us, is that our children are a heritage from the Lord, and as their parents, we must devote them to God.

And isn’t it so with all of our blessings from God?
All of the are things that we have are things that He created.  They belong to God and we are entrusted with their care for a time.

As a parent, it is our job to diligently teach our children about God.
Deut. 6:1-9 - "These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

We do this by reading the Bible to them, and sharing God’s teachings
Isaiah 28:9-10 - “To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast?
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”

And it is never too early to start -
“Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.  On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God.”  (Psalm 22:9)

We also do this by the way we live.  With babies and young children especially, it is our job to reflect God for them while they come to understand God for themselves.  I believe this is the most challenging part of being a parent - accurately reflecting the character of God for my children in the way I behave and the words I say.  Having God’s word written all over MY heart first, so I can know and understand God as I teach my children.  And this is so important because it is from their parents that children first learn trust, obedience, love, honor, and respect... all things they will need to know in order to choose to follow God. 

It might take a while for the weight this awesome responsibility to really sink in.  And very soon you will realize that you have messed up.  Because we all mess up this job of parenting.  You will grieve for your mistakes, but I hope in that moment you will realize that we can’t perfectly parent our CHILD’s way into heaven.  As much as we want it and try our hardest to do the job well, God allows each person the choice to love Him or reject Him.  

And so we pray for you, Stacy, as you take on this weighty responsibility with this little soul.  But we also pray for this baby boy, that he will have a heart for the Lord.  We pray that he will choose to love, obey, trust, and honor God.  Ultimately, this is THE ONLY THING.  Of all of the “great things” this little baby boy may do one day in this world, the only thing that really matters is that he has eternity in his heart and that he chooses to  follow the Lord.  We pray that he will have a heart like David who said in Psalm 119:30-33 -
"I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!"

Jesus gave His life for you and for me, and also for this baby boy.  Enjoy these days of purity and perfect innocence. Just as Mary did with baby Jesus, treasure the things that he does in your heart, but be thankful that God has made a way for him to be with Him some day.  The rest of us here today do not bear the same weight of responsibility as a parent, but we are here to encourage you and help you and your baby boy along the way. 

Sing - “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “Because He Lives”

Malachi 2:15 says, talking about a husband and wife, “Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?  And what was the one God seeking?  Godly offspring.”

Psalm 127:3 - “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord”

Jesus loved little children. In Matthew 19 he welcomed and blessed them saying, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 

This baby is a good and perfect gift from the Lord, and we thank God for His goodness, mercy, and love in sending such a gift.  We praise God for the gift of motherhood because as it says in Psalm 113:9 - "He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.  Praise the Lord!"

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Blogkeeping

Sorry blog readers/commenters... I've been getting a ridiculous amount of spammy comments all of the sudden.  At least for the time being, I am adding word verification in the comment box in hopes that it will foil the spambots.  I hope this doesn't make commenting too cumbersome because I so appreciate each and every one of your comments.  Please let me know if you have trouble with the new setup and I will do what I can.  If you can't get through with a comment, you can e-mail me here:  churchmouseathome@gmail.com

Now, why so quiet around here?  I am finding that trying to keep up with the day-to-day cleaning, laundry, cooking and basic needs + homeschooling + taking care of myself means no time to blog.  I have wondered for a while when that day would come. The biggest change has been that my primary time for writing has always been during our daily "quiet time" and I have been needing that time for a daily nap.  That time is also now very, very limited now that my eldest child no longer naps.  It has kind of all happened at once.  So I'm not giving up entirely because I still love having a place to write, but I am finding that it will probably happen with much less frequency. 

It's just the stage of life I am in.  But I am still here, and I will still write when I can. 

I hope you have a blessed week!

Love,
Heather

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Simple Gifts

This blog might step on some toes.  It definitely would have stepped on mine a few years ago, so take it with a big old handful of salt and use what is relevant for you.  Differing opinions will not bother me, you have my word!

Simple.  Everyone wants simple. 

But simple does not make very much money, does it?  And money is what makes the world go 'round. 
Specifically in regards to homeschooling and teaching Bible (and we ALL do it - remember, you are your child's first teacher even if you send your child to public school), I've been drawn more and more to simple. 

Full confession:  I have a bachelors in music education, taught children's Bible classes since I was 16, and I was a music and pre-school teacher before I became a stay at home mom.  I LOVED making beautiful bulletin boards, handwork, decorating my classroom, etc...  I poured a lot of time, work and much to my husband's chagrin, money, into teaching other people's children.  And if I am being completely honest with myself, most of that work was not for my students.  It was for me.  Much of it really didn't enhance the actual learning of the students very much.  (There are a few exceptions, but sadly, very few.) 

I like coloring, cutting, pasting, laminating and making things pretty.  So there. 

And I still do!  But as a homeschooling mom, I don't get very much by way of daily prep time for that kind of thing.  And because of the situation in our local church where my kids are the only children that attend our small, just-getting-started group right now, I am their perpetual Bible class teacher.  This has caused me to re-evaluate just what is important and just what really enhances their learning and what is just... fluff.  Pretty fluff.  But still fluff. 

My time is valuable.  Their learning is important.  I have needed to be more discerning to make the most out of what we have.

All those adorable Pinteresty things for homeschooling and Bible class... how many of those projects are really only for the teacher/mom?  Be honest.  And there is nothing really wrong with that.  But I just don't have that kind of time any more.

I need to sleep and take my vitamins.  I need to get outside with my children.  I need to read them piles of books and cook them healthy food.  My husband needs lovin' time.  I need to wash the dishes and do laundry.  A couple of times a week, I really just need to get a shower. 

I'm a thirty-something-year-old mama and I need to keep things simple. 

And simple works.  It really does. 

We don't do crafts in Bible class.  We have a simple timeline posted on a wall.  We have a bookshelf with Bibles and a stack of white copy paper on it.  I have the ESV Family Bible and a set of Betty Lukens felts for a visual aids.  If we didn't have that, a whiteboard and some markers would do.  We have a box of crayons.  And my boys are learning at a tremendous rate!

This is our simple Bible class "program" for two boys, ages 5 and 3:
  • We pray
  • Sometimes we sing Bible songs that go with the lesson.  Nothing complicated though.
  • We go through the Bible and read a Bible story.  We work in chronological order.  
  • We find our Bible story in our simple timeline.
  • Sometimes we look at things on maps if it is relevant to the story.
  • We review the story with the felts.
  • The boys "narrate" the story back to me as they draw key events with crayons on the plain paper.  
Most people would say our classroom is bare.  But it is simple.  It is without distraction.  Preparing a lesson every week is practically no work for me, which is important since I have been teaching without a break for about 3 years and don't expect to stop any time soon.  (Just FYI - I only teach on Sundays.  Midweek we meet with the adult class, since we do so much Bible teaching at home also.)  Simple only seems to enhance their learning.

And it is the same for homeschooling.  Mostly it is about the books, and when it comes to Bible, it is about THE Book.  We don't spend a lot and we don't need a lot.  But you won't be able to find this sort of thing at a convention or in a catalog. 
Your most valuable resources are things you already have:  your Bible and your mind

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snapshots of our School Days


Big Little turned five this past fall and while we have been homeschooling him since the day he was born, we've been slowly working towards a little more structure in our day.  I do not believe all five year olds need this kind of structure, but our son really seems to crave it, and thrives with the mental stimulation that he is getting.  Starting at the beginning of January, I adopted the above "routine" and we are all just about used it it by now.  We are aiming for "doing school" three or four days a week at this point and I am actually amazed how much we get done and in how little time! So I will share some of what we are doing, but please know that this is just what works for our family and do not hold it up as some kind of standard.  As you will see in the pictures, the boys are still learning mostly through play and I believe this is as it should be.

If your are interested in more information, I use Ambleside Online year 0 and we follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy
Some of our learning looks fairly traditional.  Note the look of concentration as he does copywork.
Biggie got to the letter "d" and wrote it the way you would write a half note - he didn't do the downstroke to the bottom of the line. I pointed that out and he answered, "Oh I never do that part. It's just a spot of bother."
Some of it is disguised as play.  (See the letters made out of legos?)
Some looks like "work".  (Trying out parsnips for the first time in our soup!)
sorting out lowercase and capital letters while Little Littles plays along
And we do lots and lots of reading.  And apparently, playing with string.  :)
Notes -
We are working through the Singapore Math level A book and we both like it very much.  We supplement with sorting buttons, working with an abacus, and various other math games.

For piano, I used to teach beginning piano, so I am just doing little 10 minute sessions with him using the Jane Smisor Bastien "Very Young Pianist" series, which I really, really love.  It uses wonderful illustrations, teaches the basics of music and it is simple and not cluttered with overly flashy cartoony stuff.

Science and Art and such very much follow our interests and whims... painting with watercolors, practicing with scissors, bird watching, etc...  As the weather warms up, we will be spending more time outside doing nature study.


And in between all of this, you will find me running laundry to the washing machine, folding it, working on a grocery list while the boys paint, etc...  Work, play, and school are all woven together into a rich and vibrant life.  It is a lifestyle that we feel blessed to live.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tips for Keeping a Clean Bathroom part 2

That is not Lysol in that can!
Almost two years ago, I posted My Tips for Keeping a Clean Bathroom where I encouraged my readers to try keeping a spray bottle of vinegar and a stack of rags in each bathroom for simple, quick clean-up.  I still think this is a wonderful method, but I have found a few more simple cleaning techniques I'm excited to share that have really helped me keep up a clean bathroom.

First, I combined a few different ideas from Pinterest to create my own disinfecting wipes.  I used an old Lysol container and put in pieces of my husband's old undershirts that I cut up.  (I cut the body of the shirt into quarters for these wipes.)  About 10 of these wipes fit in the container.  I mixed up a cleaning solution in a jar that consisted of the following:
  • 1/2 c. vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Dawn dish soap
  • about 15 drops of essential oils (I like orange and tea tree oil.)
I poured this mixture over the wipes, shook them up, and I had wipes ready to go for cleaning the entire bathroom.  They even worked nicely on the mirror!  (If yours seem a little dry, you can always add a little bit of water.  If they are too wet, you can squeeze out the excess liquid in the sink before using them.)  These 10 wipes lasted me about a month, and then I just laundered them and made up a new solution.  I have such a small bathroom and it has no cabinets, so this one little container hides in there very well.

The second idea is for cleaning the tub. I use coconut oil in my boys' bath water in the winter and this tends to make my tub get dirty in a hurry.  It is so much work trying to scrub out the bathtub, that I tend to put it off way too long.  I bought a little dish scrubber (shown above) and filled it with equal parts Dawn dish soap and vinegar.  I keep it right in the shower on the hanging rack.  About once a week while I'm taking a shower, I shake it up and do a quick once over on the tub and tiles.  This takes less than a minute and has been keeping my tub nice and clean.  I'm thrilled to give up the task of scrubbing out the bathtub every month!

Do you have any tips for keeping the bathrooms clean?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Big Littles Gets His Wish

We've had flurries and a few flakes, but no ground cover to speak of... nothing snowball worthy.  Big Littles has been dreaming of snow for weeks.  Thanks to facebook friendships, we've seen pictures of people living north, south, east, and west of us all getting snow, but nothing here.  It's actually been too warm here most days and we've had lots of rain instead.  Big Littles announced one day that he was going to pray to God that we would have snow on Christmas.

I took a deep breath.  That was a tall order.  But I told him to pray anyway.  God would hear him, and if it was God's will it would happen.

On occasion I gave him further explanation and told him that sometimes God has other plans that need to happen for other people and that sometimes when God says "no" it has nothing to do with us.  But I also said that God loves to bless the people that love and obey Him, and we could pray that God would bless us with snow on Christmas. 

So for weeks he has prayed that we would have snow on Christmas.  And I just kind of held my breath and hoped he wouldn't be too disappointed because the weather forecast was not looking very cooperative.

Yesterday, after not saying anything about it for about a week, Biggie confidently announced that we would indeed have snow on Christmas.  I asked him how he knew that and he said, "I've been praying to God about it."  I smiled and gave him a few more encouraging words, but honestly, he had the faith to move mountains and I had almost none that this was going to happen.

So when we woke up this morning and Preacher Man looked out the window and announced that we were going to have a white Christmas, I almost didn't believe him!  And the next moment, I thought of the joy this was going to bring to my son and how this one blessing from God would do so much for his growing faith (and I must admit, mine), and I thanked God for this wonderful gift.

Indeed, it was the best gift of all today.   Sometimes God just blows me away.  I am humbled and thankful that He would be mindful of my young son... and me. 

Luke 18:15-17 - "And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.
 
The long-anticipated snowball fight!

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