Monthly Archives: September 2009

Sand, Salt Water, & Sunshine

We spent the weekend at the beach.  It was our annual beach retreat with the other people on staff here at our mission home offices.  It was a weekend of sand and sunshine and salt water.  (How’s that for alliteration?)  We also had fresh donuts each morning and some yummy ice cream and cookies, but those things don’t start with the letter “S.”

A highlight of the retreat is always the sand sculpture contest.  I use the term “contest” loosely, as I don’t think a winner is ever actually named.  Every participant gets a melty ice cream bar or fudgesicle, so -as you can see- everybody is a winner.

This light saber was very creative.

This bird on a nest was truly amazing.  There is no way our family could create a sand sculpture like this.  We cannot even get the sand to come out of those castle-shaped buckets and retain the form.


Then there was this giraffe.  Every little spot was detailed on.  It had the correct shape and proportions.  It even survived a broken neck when a child accidentally tripped on it.


Just over from the giraffe, was this family of manatees.  I thought this was exceptionally creative.

Look at the whiskers on this daddy manatee.


Seriously, we cannot do sand castles.  The sand never holds its shape when we dump it out of the molds.  We just cannot get that sand:water ratio right.


So we went with a simple geometric shape this year.  We figured we could do a rectangle.


And then we added some dried seaweed.


And an iPod is probably more representative of our family than a castle anyway.   Yeah, that’s what I mean.  We weren’t going for easy; we were looking for a sand sculpture that was most representative of our family.  Yeah, that’s it.

What do you think my youngest is doing in this picture?  Contemplating the meaning of life?  Examining his shadow? Pondering why his family can’t make elaborate sand sculptures of animals?  Praying that God will bring somebody into his life who can teach him some art skills because he has just realized that his parents will be absolutely worthless in this aspect of life?


Nah, he’s probably just wiping sand off his forehead.  And maybe wondering when his next snack will materialize.

Hey, that’s an “S” word — snacks.  And it would cover the fresh donuts, the cookies, and the ice cream.

Ok then, our weekend was filled with sand, salt water, sunshine, and snacks.  A good time was had by all.


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Talking With or Talking To

This morning my 8-year-old son did his Bible Study Fellowship homework.  One question asked what he could do today that would honor God.  When I first read his answer, I thought he had mis-written it.  In large print, he had scrawled, “pray with him.”

I briefly considered telling him he had written the wrong preposition.  Shouldn’t that “with” be a “to”?

But before I could correct him, the Holy Spirit corrected me.  Prayer is supposed to be a conversation, a combination of talking and listening.  Prayer is supposed to be talking with God, not talking at Him with my laundry list of requests.

Too often, though, I do pray to God, talk at Him, hurriedly reciting my lists of what I want or need or even hurriedly running down the list of things I’m thankful for, just so I can check that off my Things Good Christians Include In A Prayer index.

And I do this even though I know better.  I know that our God desires relationship.  A huge overarching theme in the Bible is that God wants to DWELL with us, live with us, fellowship with us.  I paid attention in college Bible courses; I know this.  Yet after all these years, I rush through prayers talking at God rather than with Him.

I don’t know what the other 8-year-olds will write on their BSF homework papers, but I’m thankful for my son’s large manuscript, “pray with him.”  Yes, I think sitting and talking with God would honor Him today.

Deuteronomy 4:7 — What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray?

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Today has been an emotionally exhausting day.  I feel burdened, physically heavy-hearted, in a way I haven’t for a long time.

Living as part of a community of believers can be exhausting.  And messy.  Bearing one another’s burdens hurts sometimes.  It can be downright heart-breaking.

And so I remember the words to a song we sang in church on Sunday:

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I see your grace is enough
I’m covered in your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me

And then my soul exhales.  And the burdens feel lighter.

His grace is enough, indeed.

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My Questions About Healthcare Reform

I have some questions about healthcare reform. I’m not being cheeky and my questions are not rhetorical.

I think it’s obvious that some changes need to be made. Healthcare costs are outrageous. Far too many people are uninsured who would like to be insured. Malpractice lawsuits are out of control. And far too many insurance companies spend far too much time and money trying to get out of paying the very bills their customers bought insurance for! So, we need some kind of reform.

I do have some concerns about the current proposed reform. I would like to cut through rhetoric and hyperbole and get to some answers. Unfortunately, as I’m reading through the President’s speech last night, he brushes aside or dismisses some concerns without really answering the questions.

For instance, the President said, “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.” Ok, I want to believe that. However, from what I understand, there is not specific wording in the current plans that would forbid using federal dollars to fund abortions. Some Republicans have asked for such wording to be included, but they have been denied. So, I’ll start there for question #1 —

1. If there is no specific wording which says abortions will not be covered by any public option, how can the President guarantee that no federal dollars will go toward funding abortions?

2. The President noted the problem of there not being enough competition in the insurance market in some states — “Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company.”

It would seem to me that the solution would not be to offer 1 more option (the government one) in a state where there are only 4 or 5 or 1, but to allow people to shop for insurance in other states, thus opening up every option for everyone. Why isn’t this form of deregulation considered as a solution to the “too few providers” problem? (Is there a good reason why we can’t shop interstate markets for insurance?)

3. The President has promised this about the not-for-profit public option — “Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. ”

Will employers be allowed to choose the public option for their employees? Will employers be allowed to drop insurance plans because their employees could get the public option?

Honestly, I think adamantly saying, “It would not impact those of you who already have insurance,” is a pretty big promise to make.

4. The President said that the public option will not be subsidized by taxpayers. –“And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be.” Then he compared it to public colleges and universities. Those are subsidized by taxes.

How can a public option administrated by the government not cost taxpayers money?

Public universities cost taxpayers money; the Postal System costs taxpayers money; Amtrak costs taxpayers money. How will this public healthcare option not cost taxpayers money?

5. Next, the President promised that the healthcare plan would not add to our deficit — not one dime. Then he referred to entering office facing a trillion dollar deficit because of spending that our nation didn’t have the money to pay for. And then he said, “I will not make that same mistake with health care.”

Ok, again, I want to believe this. However, am I supposed to forget that upon entering office with a trillion dollar deficit, President Obama quickly spent $787 billion? (And, by the way, I know the last administration grew our government big-time and spent its way deeply into debt. I’m not happy about that either.)

The plan House Democrats offered up would add $220 billion to the deficit over 10 years. How is that not adding one dime to the deficit?

In his speech, the President said he would pay for most of his public plan with the savings that would be found by cutting wasteful spending. Again, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t know for sure how well the government would do at finding wasteful spending in the current healthcare system and cutting it. However, I do know the government’s track record has not been to efficiently manage money.

What specific wasteful spending will be cut? And how much is “most of the funding”? And how will we pay for the part that “most of” doesn’t cover?

6. Number 6 isn’t a question. I just wanted to say — you’ve got to love a speech that includes the word “demagoguery.” 🙂

7. President Obama assured senior citizens that their Medicare coverage will not be affected, that they will receive the benefits they’ve been promised.

How do you cut a program by $500 billion without affecting the coverage?

Because Medicare is essentially required of senior citizens, Medicare Advantage is an option that allows seniors to choose healthcare programs that better meet their needs, plans with more generous benefits. Some of this $500 billion is going to come from Medicare Advantage subsidies.

How can we cut billions of dollars from Medicare Advantage without affecting the coverage of the senior citizens who use the Medicare Advantage plans?

If a public option would potentially offer people insurance that is less expensive while maintaining plenty of private options (like we have in education and shipping) and still cost nothing to taxpayers (UNlike education and shipping), and especially if a co-op or nonprofit entity could administer the plan, then I wouldn’t really be opposed to a public option. However, I don’t see how a public option would not cost tax dollars. And from what I’ve read about the current plans being considered by legislators, they would cost tax dollars and they would be administered by the government, which hasn’t proven to be efficient.

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Say What?


Before I became a mother, nobody warned me about the things I would hear coming from my own mouth.

I mean, I knew about the “Pretty is as pretty does,” and “You made your bed, now lie in it,” and “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit,” sort of things that would come out of my mouth.  Yes, I expected all of that.

But what I did not expect was the absolutely absurd things I would find myself saying.  Ridiculously absurd things.

This all came up in a conversation I had with my friend Diane the other day.  She was on her way back to her apartment with her five children and several loaves of bread.  Her toddler was carrying a bag of bread for her.  As she and I stood talking, he clearly got bored with it all and sat down on a nearby step.  But I suppose the step was hard and uncomfortable because little Sammy decided he needed a nice cushion to sit on.  Well, you know where this is going.  All Sammy had was that bag of bread, so he sat on it.

So my friend Diane found herself exclaiming, “Don’t sit on the bread!”

As Diane and I shook our heads, we marveled at the things we’ve found ourselves saying over the years.

I have actually heard myself saying, “Don’t put your toes in your baby brother’s mouth!”

To which a child old-enough-to-know-better protested, “But he likes it! Watch him!  He likes sucking on my toe!”

Thus I found myself in a discussion about the uncleanliness of sucking other people’s toes and how it doesn’t matter if a nine-month-old thinks he likes something, the momma has the final say.

Before I had kids, nobody told me I’d ever have to say stuff like, “Don’t put your toes in the baby’s mouth!”

I’ve also said or heard some other mother say all of these things —

* We don’t put dogfood in our mouths.

* We don’t put dogfood in our brothers’ mouths.

* We don’t lick other people’s blood.

* Please don’t let your brother drink from the toilet.

* If you see your little brother put your sister’s toothbrush in the toilet, you should tell her BEFORE she uses it next time.

* You may not pee in the trashcan.  You may only pee in the toilet.

* You may not carry a dead lizard into our home.  Dead lizards are not pets.

* Please don’t let your baby brother pick your nose.

I guess I just assumed a lot of these were sort of a given.  But I have learned that nothing is a given when you have boys.  Well, come to think of it, some of these things I’ve said to my daughters.  So it’s not just boys.  All of them have, at times,  acted like they’d been raised by wolves thus far.

How about you ?  What ridiculously absurd things have you heard yourself saying to your children?


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Ideas for Spelling Practice

Whether we’re home educating our children or practicing spelling words for school, many of us need creative ideas for practicing spelling words.

Not all children are auditory learners, so orally reviewing the list each day may not work with some children.  I am homeschooling my third grade son this year, and he has some problems with auditory processing; however, he learns very well kinesthetically.  Touching and feeling and experiencing the words helps cement them into his brain.

I have gathered some books and boxes and internet sites full of creative and fun ways of learning spelling words.  Today, I want to share some of those ideas with you.  I hope you’ll also share any great spelling practice ideas here in the comment section.

I use these ideas with the son I’m homeschooling, but I also use them to practice word lists with my second grader, who goes to the mission school here where we live.


By far, the favorite way to learn spelling words around here is making them out of clay.  Sometimes Caleb forms only the letters out of clay, and sometimes he also forms a picture of the word out of clay.  For instance, when we did a list of homophone words, he formed the clay word and then he took those and remolded them to make a picture of the word.  So the clay letters “MAIL” became a clay envelope and the letters “MALE” became a stick figure boy.

In my experience, children love writing on a white board or chalk board.  Hang a small one on a wall (or paint a wall in chalkboard paint) and have them copy their word list.  Because of the friction the fingers feel from the chalk when writing on a chalkboard, as opposed to a white board, the chalkboard is probably better for the kinesthetic learner.

Other ideas:

*  Form the spelling words out of dry beans or nuts.

* Fingerpaint the words.

* Cut and paste the words from letters from newspapers or magazines (like a ransom note).

* Write the words in the form of a picture of the word meaning (i.e. “HOUSE” written around the shape of a house).

* Use a BINGO dot marker to form the words out of dots.

* Fill a small plastic container with sand and write the words in sand with the tip of the finger.

* Clap-Tap the words — Spell each word aloud, clapping on each vowel and tapping on each consonant.

* Copy the words and circle the blends with a colored pencil and mark each vowel with a different color.

* Dice-Roll Rainbow — Choose a spelling word and write it in large letters on paper. Roll the die to determine how many times to trace the word. Then trace the word in a different color crayon or colored pencil each time.  Do the same for each spelling word.

* Write each spelling word on an index card in large letters. Using a hole-punch, punch along each letter (leaving paper between each hole).  Tape each index card to a rectangle of construction paper.

* Type the words on the computer.

* Write the words on index cards, then lay out the cards in alphabetical order.

* Look up each word in the dictionary and write the definition on the back of each word’s index card.

* Rhyming Couplet — Think of words that rhyme with the spelling words.  Choose a word and write a rhyming couplet, underlining the spelling word.

* Use the spelling words to create math story problems.

* Yarn Words — Glue yarn on thick paper in the form of each word. After the glue dries, close your eyes and feel each word, spelling aloud as you go.

* Letter Beads — String letter beads to spell each word.

* Use toothpicks to spell out the words.

* Cheer Words — Make up a cheer for each word.  Snappy, catchy, short, loud.  Then cheer through the list.

* Secret Code — Make up a secret code and key, then write each word in code.  Give the list to someone to de-code.  Check to make sure they spelled each word correctly.

* Suffixes — Add as many suffixes as possible to each spelling word.  Then check in the dictionary.

* Letter Tiles — Form each word out of letter tiles.

* Postcard — Write a postcard from an imaginary trip using five spelling words.

* Short Story – Think of a story idea (going on a space trip, buying a puppy, visiting a zoo, etc.) and use the spelling words in that story.

* Write 10 sentences about your state (or whatever topic you’re studying in history or science) using a spelling word in each sentence.

* Letter of Complaint (or Compliment) — Use at least 10 spelling words in a letter of complaint or compliment.

* Guide Words – Look up each spelling word in the dictionary and write its guide words.

* Acrostic — For longer, more difficult words, form an acrostic.  Example — ARITHMETIC = A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream

Now, how about you?  What ideas do you have for learning spelling words?


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