There's Mail From Mom!

Wouldn't it be nice to have a letter from mom in the mailbox each time you checked it? Here's a place to check your mailbox for a heart-to-heart talk with mom...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Breakfast time on the homeschool range...

This family is a family of breakfast eaters. My husband is of the firm opinion that if a man doesn't eat breakfast it's because a female in the family trained him out of it. He (and almost all our children) wake up with food on their mind.

During the summer no one is sitting at the table ready to eat at 8:00 a.m. However, once school starts I wants breakfast cleaned up and forgotten by 8:30 a.m. so we can get the business of the day in full swing.

Some of the menu ideas we like are:

  • Ham, Sausage or Bacon with fried eggs and bread of some kind. (toast, pancakes, waffles, muffins, sweet rolls or biscuits.

  • Sausage gravy and biscuits

  • English muffins with egg, meat of some kind and cheese made into a sandwich

  • A big skillet of scrambled eggs topped with cheese and served with Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits

  • Omelettes made to order

  • Quiche

  • Overnight Breakfast casserole

  • French toast

If you make breakfast you know how long it takes to make waffles or muffins or coffee cake in the morning. Here are a few of the things I do to make shortcuts and not have to get up at 4:00 a.m. :) to have a good breakfast for the family.

  • Keep ziplock bags full of diced peppers in your freezer and a ziplock bag full of diced onion in the fridge. When you're making omelettes it's just as simple as getting the bags out and sprinkling what you want on each person's omelette.

  • Have all the items for quiche ready to go the night before where you just put them in the pie shell and stick it in the oven at the right time.

  • Make the cinnamon rolls from Pioneer woman's site (they're wonderful) and keep them in your freezer. The night before set them out to thaw and the next morning warm them in the oven. (It makes 7 round pans of them!) Any yeast bread will do fine being frozen ahead of time. (Have I mentioned my all time favorite sweet bread called Cream Cheese Braids?

  • When you make biscuits double or triple your recipe and freeze the extra ones. Then use them just like the ones you buy at WalMart and pay too much money for!

  • Prefry your sausage for the sausage gravy and stick it in a freezer cup for when you need it. Put it in the fridge the night before and your good to go!

  • Make up powdered milk and stick it in the fridge for cooking. I use it for gravies too.

  • Make a double batch of waffles (just keep baking them during breakfast) and put the extras in gallon freezer bags. Then on a busy day you can just toast the frozen ones! (and don't forget to do all kinds of varieties with the waffles. Our last ones had banana, nuts and cinnamon in them.....mmmm.

Breakfast is brain food. Starting the day with a good meal is a good habit to get to develop for the family. It also starts the day around the table together. It makes good memories for the children. (Later they'll realize how special this really was.)

With fall coming I'm already pulling out the recipes for Pumpkin Drop Doughnuts, Monkey Bread, Apple Cinnamon Rolls and other fall favorites. Start a breakfast file in your cookbook today!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to School!

This is our first week back to school but preparation for going back to school begins in April/May for the Neal household. ( We purchase our curriculum at the end of the school year! :) Then I do my best to concentrate on summer activities until about a week or two before time for the new official school year.
About the first of August I begin thinking about school again and it shows up in my prayer journals. This year the first entry was on June 17th. I think the reason for that is because Asher chose to do some of his senior year's schoolwork during the summer.
I remember when the Lord began dealing with me about our children's training. As I would read the verses in Deuteronomy that the Christian schools were using I was troubled because it didn't give the priests the responsibility to teach and train the children. The responsibility was laid squarely on the shoulders of the parents. The second thing that bothered me was that more and more Christian women were leaving their homes to work in the Christian school. As a young wife and mother the Lord had showed me very clearly that my ministry was to have my home as its core.
Please remember as I'm giving you our personal testimony that homeschooling was almost unheard of when the Lord began dealing with us about it. We were truly entering an area that very few people were brave enough to approach.
My husband and I would discuss it and we both felt that it would be disloyal to our pastor and send a confusing message to the church if we pulled our children out of the school to be taught at home.
I began to seriously pray about it. In my mind we needed to do it and do it now because time was slipping away. However, the Lord always knows what's best and the principle of honoring authority kept me from taking a position of authority over the Lord, my husband, and my pastor.
The real crisis for me came when it was time to send the last of our four children to the Christian school. I felt like I was going to be desolate staying at home with an empty house while my husband was at the Christian school with everything that was precious to me--my entire family. I began to waver on my conviction of the woman being a "keeper at home" (with the emphasis on the word "at") and listening to one older woman's comment that "the Christian school was simply an extension of her home".
It seemed everyone at our church assumed that when Nevin went to Christian school his mother would be there too joining the work force. I approached my husband with the idea that the school was just an extension of the home and got a strong reaction! He let me know that his conviction hadn't changed and I wouldn't be going anywhere!
Now during this entire time the Lord had been working. I truly didn't see any of it till I was looking back at it. The year that Nathan was supposed to go to Christian school our pastor announced that we were going to have to teach our own kindergarten age children at home. The woman that was supposed to teach had to stay home and care for her dying mother. So, we ordered the curriculum from the school and I taught him kindergarten at home!
The next year we had the same situation and I taught Nevin kindergarten at home. I absolutely loved every moment of it.
Then God called my husband into the pastorate and he began actively seeking where the Lord wanted him. When he took his first pastorate they had just closed their Christian school and he let them know we would be homeschooling. We offered to help anyone else that was interested in doing it. At that pastorate we ended up with a large group of homeschoolers!
Once I began teaching all four children at home I realized how merciful the Lord was to me to let me start out with one student, then two students and then up to four. His timing was so perfect, and mine so flawed. (This all took place over a period of about five years.)
Early on I asked the Lord to give me verses for our homeschool and He gave me II Peter 1: 5-8. That portion of Scripture taught me one of the most important lessons in teaching and training children--that teaching facts (knowledge) is useless if you haven't first taught your child that the Bible is the final authority in our lives (faith) and that character is more important than lessons. (virtue) I have used that as a pillar in teaching our children.
Another valuable lesson the Lord taught me was that just pulling my children out of the world system wasn't going to automatically give me godly children. I realized that based on the depravity of man my children had the love of the world built into them. Therefore, if I thought pulling my child out of the world was going to take the world out of my child I was sadly misled. My motivation for pulling my child away from the world system was so that the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit could be heard over the distractions and lures that the world has. That child had a choice to make but I wanted to get them in an environment where they could hear the Holy Spirit and have an opportunity to make a choice. Satan is a master at sending distractions, so I wanted to remove as many of them as I could!
I have met some parents who have been deeply disappointed when they thought having the perfect environment would create a perfectly spiritual child. Sometimes I've watched them even pull themselves into a shell and out of the local church thinking that would help. It doesn't.
The goal is to send those children into the world as glowing arrows to do the work that the Lord has for them. (Ps. 127:4) The home is the boot camp for this. Sending children into the arena before they've become trained and mature is like throwing a kitten into a pack of grown dogs and expecting it to come out the champ. My prayer for each of my children is that they will walk in obedience to the Lord in being 1) Saved 2) Surrendered 3) Submitted 4) Separated unto the Lord from the world 5) Servants 6) Soldiers.
Over the years the Lord has given me many verses concerning my children. Here are a few:
I. Seek the Lord for wisdom and the right way for our little ones. Fast and pray over them. They are so precious. (Ezra 8:21)
2) Fight for their spiritual welfare for all your worth. Remember who your Captain is so you're not afraid. (Nehemiah 4:14)
3) Three things that we must teach our children and grandchildren: A. the praises of the Lord B. His strength C. His wonderful works. (Psalms 78:4)
4) Letting the Lord keep the "strange children" out of our lives will allow our children to be healthier spiritually and "polished" as He wants them. (Psalms 144:11,12 ) *This is a cause-and-effect passage.
5) The Lord wants to fight for my children! (Isa. 49:25)
6) The bottom line teaching has to be done by the Lord Himself to get the right results. (Isa. 54:13)
7) I must set a "watch" and cry to the Lord even in the night for my children. (Lam. 2:19)
8) And here's my new one. This is a direct answer from the Lord with one of my biggest battles with my flesh--impatience and irritation. (I am in my 50's!) "the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning." Prov. 16:21b. Oh, I pray the Lord brings that one to mind on a regular basis when I need it!
That's not all my verses but some of the ones that are precious to me after over 20 years of homeschooling. The Lord's been good to me and given me "extra blessings" through adoption. I'll be 62 when my homeschool journey ends. But really it won't end there...I have 17 grandbabies you know!
As we head back into the homeschooling year I am reminded that we begin homeschooling when they are born. When I see someone with a lack of confidence I remind them that they are the one that taught there child to talk, eat, and encouraged them in their first steps. They are the one who potty trained the little one and has already taught them so many vital life skills.
Many years ago others taught me that curriculum is simply a tool and that a dedicated and committed teacher can learn right along with the child if they are willing to humble themselves and do it! My children have taught me as much as I have ever taught them!
I always grab a few hand-picked articles or books to get my homeschool engine up and revving at this time of the year. Some to encourage me and motivate me and some to remind me that God's schooling is the best.
I pray that each of you that are beginning a new year will be able to do it with joy and expectancy. I pray that those whom the Lord is dealing with will be patient and obey Him on His time-table. I pray that each of us no matter where we are in our journey will dedicate ourselves to being a tool in the Master's hand to see our children won to Christ heart and soul. God bless every mother and father who are committed to teaching and training their children for Him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Joy of Children...

It's almost time for school to begin again at the Neal household and I can feel myself gearing up for the new year. Before I get into school mode though I want to take my mind back over the time I spent with my grandchildren recently. Children are one of the delights of my life and spending time with grandchildren is one of the joys of getting older!

I just got to spend time at Jimmy and Alicia's helping her after the birth of their sixth child--Elisha. Because of medical complications Alicia was in the hospital eight days and my stay was a little longer than usual. That just gave me more time to be around and get to know their children.

I still have three of my own at home and the two youngest went with me. They thoroughly enjoyed time with family as much as I did.

After I came home I jotted down things that my grandchildren had taught me while I was with them. I already knew each of these things but being by myself with a large group of kids (8 part of the time and 9 when I had Brian and Niki's Halle) reminded me of things that you sometimes forget.

One of the first things that I was reminded of was that children love to work if it is at your side. The younger they are the more important this is. If you send a 3 year old alone in their room to clean it up they are miserable but if you go in the room with them and say, "Well, let's see if we can make this place pretty!" they're happy to do it with you.

At the beginning of the week the kids and I talked about how God made a family a team and I gave them each their part of the team"work". Briley, Cierra and I got putting a meal on the table and cleaning it up down to a science by the end of the week. One of the girls set the napkins and silverware on and the other one set the plates and the cups. I did the food. At the end of the meal one of them cleared the table and the other one swept the floor while I washed dishes.

One day Audrey (who is 3) wanted to do her part so I handed her a dishrag and told her she could scrub down the benches. She wanted to be in on the work and I thought that was great! What amazed me was how good a job she did and how thorough she was. She even washed down the lower part of the benches.

If I'd sent her in there to do the job alone she would have been miserable. But because we were all working together and laughing and talking she wanted to be a part of it.

Another reminder that came back to me was that side-by-side time with children makes precious memories. So many times we think that we have to spend a lot of money or do something really big for children to be happy but when I think of my precious childhood memories it's not the big events but the personal time I spent with my grandparents. Things like my grandfather peeling apples and feeding them to us as he told stories. I remember baking with my grandmother and sitting at the table with her after that just talking.

Because I was doing a lot of meal preparation I made sure the kids were involved in it with me. Because there were lots of children I had Helper #1 (my main helper) and then they had helpers.

(#2, #3, etc.) The children learned to break eggs, flip pancakes, etc. and I don't know about them but I sure enjoyed our time together. Audrey and I made up a new little song for flipping pancakes and Isaiah and I had a wonderful heart-to-heart talk while washing dishes. I hope their memories are as sweet as mine.

Being with the kids reminded me that children are so easily motivated. At the beginning of the stay it was almost overwhelming to think of fixing three meals and a snack, doing laundry, keeping the house clean and making it to church with my brood I was watching! I am definitely feeling all of my 54 years since my illness last year. I knew I was going to have to enlist the children's help!

I talked to them about having a "We-Can-Do-It Club" to help us through this time with their mama's illness. (See Alicia's blog- We made up a chore sheet of morning, afternoon and evening chores and I put them in a notebook. It was so cute watching Caleb faithfully check his sheet each morning to make sure he'd done all his work!

I set up a point system (good and bad) and monitored them for incentive, attitude, willingness, obedience, etc. Nine bad points in a day required a talk with dad when he got home (no one had to have that, by the way!) but the good points went toward a reward when I left. The children amazed me with their desire to get good points and avoid bad ones.

Isaiah taught me a lesson in how much children can understand if we communicate with them at their own level. He'd had a day with some problems and was really frustrated. His frustration was coming out! At the end of the day I got alone with him and explained to him what I'd seen and gave him some thoughts on how he could keep from being so frustrated. As we were walking up the driveway to the house he slipped his hand in mine. I could tell he was just happy I understood and had talked to him. Later, when he got really frustrated again he came in with a chair where I was doing dishes and said, "I decided instead of getting mad I'd just come in here and help you." And that made both of us happy!

Another reminder was how children that have routine and schedule in their life are contented children. I learned this early in my mothering. Children like to know what's happening next and that they can count on it! I've had kids get very upset with me when we ate a brunch and missed a meal in their day.

Children fall into routine so smoothly. Breakfast at a certain time, lunch at a certain time, rest time, supper, bedtime snack. It is time to.... When they have a pattern and routine it creates a feeling of safety. Knowing where things go and what is expected of them each time will be the same--all that creates a happy child.

Each night I read out of a book called "Tucket's Travels" to the children. I think every single child except the two little ones asked me some time during the day--"Grandma, we are going to read tonight aren't we?" Just another reminder that children like a pattern to their lives.

Last of all, (but not least--I could name many more) I was reminded that a little full attention given to a child goes a long way. After supper I would go outside and watch the children play. I would get a cup of coffee and sit on the glider and watch them skate, ride bikes and play on the swing set. The truth was I was so tired I couldn't do anything else!

If I got up to go get more coffee one of them would say, "Grandma, where are you going? You're not going in, are you?"

I enjoyed the "Watch this Grandma." "Look at what I can do!"

It didn't take any energy, just a willingness to sit there and watch them.

What a time I had with the children. How wonderful to watch these children developing and their personalities blooming. Each one so different and so precious.

Briley--creative, a leader, always willing to help Grandma find her way in the Reagan household! Briley deserves a crown for being the wonderful big sister and little homemaker that she is!

Caleb- the artist, sensitive and detailed, painfully honest about himself whenever I asked him a question. Caleb's earnest desire to do what is right and to do it right is a joy.

Isaiah- cheerful, quick-witted, third born that has much to say if you stop and talk to him. He was a delight to watch as he went from his full military outfit to a cowboy with all the "fixins". Kept me laughing and kept me company at times when all the other kids were playing.

Audrey- My bedmate at night, my fellow cook, (her first question is "Grandma can we cook together?" when we talk on the phone), she is patient and kind. (and spunky too!:)

Macey- The most pleasant toddler I can ever remember, quick and willing to obey and gave me a baby to love on. I enjoyed having a little one to get up and check on in the night to make sure she was covered and pat her little head.
Elisha- I look forward to getting to know you!

Reagan babies--thank you for being patient with your grandma and for being such a wonderful blessing in my life! I enjoyed our walks to the soda fountain, reading together, bedtime snacks, watching you work so hard at earning points and trying to please me, making and eating lots of cookies, and everything else we did together during my stay. Thanks for reminding me how wonderful children are in our lives!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Revival Week...

I just got back from about 10 days with my daughter, her husband and 6 children. We're all rejoicing over the safe birth of Elisha Maclaren who weighed in at 8 lbs! During those 10 days my oldest daughter Niki and her husband Brian brought home their newly adopted son, Evan Michael. He weighed in at a mere 4 lb. and 11 oz!
I feel so blessed by the Lord. We now have 17 grandchildren! Those grandbabies are a joy all in themselves.
Alicia needed mom more than ever with this baby because of her paralysis that hit her on March 12th of this year. She ended up having a C-section with several complications. Her hospital stay was 8 days and she had to come home to a hospital bed and home health care. That wasn't what we had all hoped and prayed for but the Lord knows and we trust Him completely.
I thought I was doing pretty good with keeping up with a houseful of little ones, but when I came home the adrenalin must have cooled off and I felt like I could sleep for a week! Our revival was beginning on Sunday and my flesh was dreading the activity level of a revival week.
However, the Lord took care of that by just one day of being under some good preaching. This morning was especially good and Brother Donnie was preaching on "I Remember" and going over things that Christians need to take back that we have given up.
One of his points was "I Remember when the Lord's Day was the Lord's. He talked about how at one time in America Sunday belonged to the Lord and it was a holy-day in our lives not a holiday. He mentioned the "blue law" being in place.
My mind went back to when I was a girl and nothing was open on a Sunday. If you'd forgotten something at the grocery or hadn't filled the gas tank you were just out of luck. Everything was closed. I even remember in the small towns of Indiana when I was a girl every business closed on Wednesday at noon so the people who worked could be in prayer meeting on Wednesday night.
We've come a long, long way from that. Instead of Sunday being the day we put on our best and go to the house of the Lord we find people at WalMart or sporting events or eating at their favorite restaurant/bar.
I think we need to ask ourselves what we want our children to remember. At our house we have a large Sunday dinner. I want my children to remember coming home from church and walking into a house with the wonderful smell of a delicious meal. I want them to remember a table full of people talking about the message and what happened at church that morning. I want them to remember having preachers and missionaries around our Sunday dinner table.
I want our children to remember that Sunday was a day that we were in the house of God at the appointed times and that it was a joy to be there--not a burden to complain about. As more and more churches are making it "convenient" and "comfortable" for the people by shifting times and schedules so that people can serve other "gods" it only makes sense that the professing Christian appears more and more worldly and shallow.
I want our children to remember that Christ had the preeminince in our household and that everything on the schedule was pushed out of the way to see to it that we never forsook the assembling of ourselves together outside of a real emergency.
This week we took our children to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati as we came home from our daughter's house. There is a quote there on the wall that says this: "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." -Martin Luther
From the first time I read that quote it has made a great impact on me. If we're going to have revival we must take back what we've given away and we must take a stand on the issues of our day without apology or intimidation.
For myself, today was a day of renewed commitment to the Lord to not lower the flag on keeping Sunday a day totally set aside for the Lord. It's the least I can do after what He's done for me.