April 15, 2014

Why I'm Opting Out of Easter Service

I still remember Easter morning of 2012. I often remember the bad moments more than the good. It's something I'm trying to change, but this particular morning was SO disastrous that it still lingers in my mind two years later.

On that day, I somehow managed to get out of the house and to the church but not before fighting with my husband, spanking my daughter, and seething with frustration and discontentment. I happily abandoned took my daughter to her Sunday School class and then marched walked right back to my car and sobbed for the entire church service. Whoever wrote the lyrics "easy like Sunday morning" has clearly never attempted to go to church.

As you may have guessed, my house was clearly under the attack of Satan on that morning and I swore that I wouldn't let it happen again. It was so bad that I went as far as putting this "appointment" on my calendar for 2013. Y'all it was BAD!


My journal entry for that day reads...

"I vow to NEVER try to go to church again on the seemingly religious-all-for-show Sundays."

... and I was dead serious. Easter is a busy day with lots of expectations. On that infamous morning I was dealing with a basket of candy that my daughter can't eat (dye sensitivities) and trying to get all of us looking photo ready because it's Easter for goodness sake and preparing two casseroles for the big family get together that we were going to be late to because we had to go to church first. I don't like to be late. I'm type A, without a doubt. The thought of going through all of that hoopla only to arrive at church and unable to find my seat because of the-only-show-up-for-Easter-service folks... well, it was just icing on the cake. Trust me, I know how selfish I sound. In typical Murphy's Law fashion, I had a few kinks thrown into my plan and I was fit to be tied. You can take the girl out of the South but you can't take the Bama out of the girl. Basically, I had placed too many lofty expectations on the day that were neither holy nor obtainable. But I was determined, by god. Naturally, this was my first mistake. It all seems so clear, now.

I had to figure out a way to prevent this from happening again so, in 2013, I decided to opt out of Easter service. This went against everything I wanted. I love the Easter service at our church, which is unique because I've pretty much hated Easter Sunday services my whole life. Too much focus on the harsh reality of the crucifixion for my taste. But at TDF, they focus on the celebration of the risen Christ. Isn't that what Easter is about anyway? It's the amazing revelation that our Creator overcame DEATH and provided a way for us to be with Him in eternity. He made a way so that all of my mistakes are not only forgiven, but forgotten, and will be that way as long as I continue to make them. Which, let's face it, I screw up on a daily basis even when I'm trying my best not to. Darn you sin nature. Grace, on the other hand, is a beautiful thing!

So, I was sad that I would be missing that little pep rally. I desperately wanted to just pray a hedge of protection around my family so that I could be a part of that celebration. Ultimately, it wasn't just about getting to church. It was about solving all of the other expectations I had placed on the day. Therefore, I held firm to my decision to opt out and it was one of the better choices I've made in life.

My solution? I decided to bring "church" to me. I wanted to share the celebration of this special day with my family with no expectations and less hustling and bustling. So, last year, we woke up and snuggled in bed and opened Easter baskets (this time with carefully selected dye-free candies). Then we headed downstairs to worship in my daughter's love language: Art & Music!
She and I had such a sweet time working on six craft stations and singing & dancing to the Contemporary Christian music station on Uverse. Then we were able to leisurely get ready for our big family get together. I had already made up my mind that we didn't have to be picture perfect or wear fancy, new dresses which was also a relief on the budget and tLG who despises dresses. I didn't have to stay up late the night before or wake at the crack of dawn to prepare my casseroles either. Besides, God doesn't care if I worship in my pajamas. Bless Him! It was one of the best Easters I can remember. I only wish that I had thought of it sooner.

I can't wait to do it again this year! Here is my Easter Pinterest board where I'm saving up new arts & crafts ideas for this Sunday. I'm particularly excited about this one.
I know that opting out of Easter service is potentially a controversial choice. I am so thankful for the many childcare volunteers, staff, choir members, greeters, AV team, and many more who make the choice to be there to share the celebration of our risen Savior with all who come. I'm even thankful for those who only come on this one Sunday and sit in my seat because they need Jesus too. It also provided me an opportunity to re-evaluate my motives, which were clearly in need of attention. Seriously, thank you!

Once upon a time my "word of the year" was SIMPLIFY. This holiday had gotten so out of control in my little world that it needed a major overhaul and simplification was the only way to solve the dilemma.

Maybe one day we will go back to church on Easter. Maybe one day I will be the childcare volunteer or the greeter for Easter service. But, for now, I love our new little tradition and am looking forward to celebrating Easter at home for a while.

I hope that you and your family have a meaningful Easter whether you choose the hustle & bustle route or the laid-back version. In the meantime, I'll try not to envy those of you who have figured out the happy medium. For those of you who put on the front that you have it all together on Easter when your morning really looks like mine did 2 years ago, you have permission to opt out at any time.

Blessings to you!

April 14, 2014

[REVIEW] Growing Up Duggar (Jana, Jill, Jessa & Jinger Duggar)

Growing Up Duggar
By: Jana, Jill, Jessa & Jinger Duggar
Preview Here
I was so excited when I learned that the four oldest Duggar girls were writing a book. I can't quite seem to get enough of this family and I was interested to know more about how the day-to-day details of how they make it work. On the flip side, I wondered if what these young 20-somethings would have anything to say that would resonate with this mid 30-something working mom. Let me just say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I borrowed this book from the library but I quickly realized that I'm going to have to purchase it. There were so many times while reading that I felt the need to highlight and underline some of the principals they follow.

Growing Up Duggar is broken down into 8 sections and focuses on your relationships with yourself, parents, siblings, friends, guys, culture, your country, and the world. To be so young, they all seem to be mature beyond their years and this is reflected in their writing and how they portray their message.

As a recent homeschooling mom, I've been on the hunt for curriculum. After reading this book I wish the Duggars would create a curriculum for how to raise a family. They share many resources in their books and this one is no different. However, Jim Bob and Michelle just seem to come up with the neatest little "tricks of the trade" to teach their children and capture their hearts. I gleaned so much from this book that I hope to start implementing in our home very soon. In fact, step 1 is to get my hubby to read the book so that we can get on the same page.

I'll admit, part of the Duggar lifestyle seems pretty ultra-conservative but reading it from the girl's perspective made it all click and make sense for me. I was never 100% sold on the whole courtship philosophy, until now. Reading about the practice in detail made me think back to my high school and college days. There are relationships that I wish I wouldn't have started. I feel like the courtship model they use would have saved me a ton of heartache.

It was eye-opening to read from their point of view. They were so open and honest. They genuinely want young girls to develop a love for the Lord and experience the peace that comes from His plan for their life. I was certainly inspired by them and I'm guessing you will be too. I would definitely recommend this book for girls of all ages and especially parents of daughters.


April 10, 2014

[REVIEW] Chore Monster App


I first learned about the Chore Monster app on Day 3 of the Teach Them Diligently Conference. It was one of the first things I implemented upon my return and we are L-O-V-I-N-G it!

For starters, this is an easy way to keep the chores organized. I don't have to make any Pinterest-inspired charts. There are no stickers or checkmarks to keep up with. It's all managed from my phone and tLG checks off her chores from her iPad. It can also be managed from your computer.

I can set up individual chores and put them on a schedule for once a week, once a day or anything in between. Chores can be set with an alert at a certain time of day. If they aren't completed on that day, they show up to be done first on the next day. There is also a "skip chore" option that I use when we are traveling or if she is sick. I also love that you can use pictures with the chores, which would be super helpful for little ones.

I took the things I learned from Crystal Paine and we started using Chore Monster in the following way.

  1. The first time a chore needs to be done I have tLG watch me perform the task. I talk about each step involved. 
  2. The second time around, I have her complete the chore while I remind her of the steps. 
  3. The third time, I have her tell me the steps and complete the chore while I'm close at hand. 
  4. At this point I turn her loose to complete the chore on her own or call me if she needs help. 

Chore Monster has an "approval" option where I can check to see that the chore was completed before awarding points. Crystal encouraged us to praise and praise whatever we see done correctly and help them to perfect the parts they struggled with, always staying encouraging and up beat. Once the child has proven they can do the chore and be accountable, you can change the setting to automatically award points. At this point in time I am no longer checking the mail or feeding the dog. These responsibilities have been completely turned over to tLG and she is doing a fantastic job!



We were on an allowance system before so we've set up the chores to reward on that same type of scale. For example, feeding the dog is worth $0.25 so I set up Chore Monster to award 25 points for that activity. Her reward options are based on dollar amounts. For example, my kiddo is literally DYING to have the computer version of Minecraft so she can join SKRAFTY (secretly, I want it too because they have homeschool classes). She is currently saving up 2000 points ($20) to earn this reward. It's taken her a few weeks, which teaches perseverance as well! 

Another feature of Chore Monster is using raffle tickets to spin & win monsters at the carnival. Kids earn 1 ticket per chore completed so there is an added incentive to do chores.


Overall, we have had a wonderful experience with Chore Monster. Getting tLG to help with things around the house has never been easier. I'm serious! It's been a breeze. It's a FREE app and I would encourage you to try it out at your house too!

Note: I am not an affiliate for Chore Monster. I simply enjoy sharing tools that work! 

April 4, 2014

[REVIEW] Divergent (Veronica Roth) - Book & Movie

Divergent
By: Vernoica Roth
Preview Here
I've mentioned a few times before that I only like to read fiction books that I know are being made into movies. It is what it is.

I've put off reading Divergent mostly because I read Hunger Games and hated it and heard this series was similar. My dear friend, from A Southern Ruckus, tried to convince me otherwise but I wasn't having it. Until I saw the trailer and decided she might be right. It's the movie thing, I swear.
So, I read this book cover to cover in just a few days. My hubby on the other hand knocked it out in one. He keeps trying to say he's not a fast reader. Whatever.

This series was SO much better than Hunger Games, in my humble opinion.

Yes, they are a divided population and each faction has one key job/attribute they focus on. The difference is they have a choice of where they want to belong. Also, the government isn't oppressive. They really are trying to keep peace among the factions.

Divergent follows the story of Tris, a 16-year-old girl who has reached her day of choosing. Instead of declaring loyalty to her home faction of Abnigation (selfless) she chooses Dauntless (brave) but her aptitude test reveals that she also has tendencies for Erudite (intelligent). The combination is called Divergent. The population has been taught to fear divergence because they don't always conform to one way of thinking, which is what keeps the current system of peace in check.

The plot chronicles Tris' initiation into her new faction, her attempt to keep her aptitude a secret, as well as the relationships she forms among her peers and, in particular, with her instructor. Things get really interesting when one of the factions gets a little too big for their britches and tries to take over. Guess who turns out to be the hero and the heroine.... exactly!

This past weekend we also popped over to see the movie. I usually maintain that the books are always better than the movie. In this case, I kinda disagree. The basic plot of the movie was the same but there were some key conversations that were altered, especially in the simulations that the initiates must go through. It actually made more sense the way they played it out in the movie. I didn't appreciate that the ending was changed. I think it would have been just as exciting if it had played out exactly as it did in the original story. Alas, Hollywood disagreed so we had some alternations and thus they will have to make some alterations in the next movie as well.

It's always interesting to see who is cast as characters and if their physical attributes line up to they way I perceive them as I'm reading. In the case of Four, they totally nailed it with Theo James. Major mysterious personality and hard-core hotness alert! And he is all tatted up. Mercy!
Overall, both the book and the movie were very exciting! As a parental note there is quite a bit of violence but surprisingly little language in either one. I usually have a weak stomach for violence but I was able to tolerate the movie pretty easily. I'm giving Divergent two thumbs up in either media.

Up next, Insurgent. Too bad we have to wait until 2015 for that movie.

March 31, 2014

March 2014 in Pictures

Be sure to check out our March 2014 Monthly Update
 Made snow cream for the 1st time. 
 She's big into snakes these days. In particular, corn snakes. 
 Cleo (AKA Houdini)
 K-Diddy and Skylar at Aunt Whitney's Wedding
 The BEST flower girl ever!
 You have no idea how many shopping trips it took to put 
these two outfits together. 
 Me and my girl at the homeschool conference. 
 Happy Birthday Honey!

March 2014 Family Update

March was kind of a whirlwind. Even more so than our usual tornado-like life, but it was awesome! Here's why....

Early in March I attended the Empowering Fearless Birth conference in Tennessee. It was so fun to be around so many birthy people at once. I volunteered for the event and had a wonderful experience.
The weekend after that, we hopped down to Birmingham for my little sista's wedding. No, I can't believe she got married. Yes, I'm old. tLG was the flower girl and, yes, she did wear a dress. She also let me fix her hair with a ton of hairspray and didn't pitch a fit. Yes, we bribed her to cooperate. No, I can't stand how grown up she looks. Either one of them.
These BEAUTIFUL photos are courtesy of Greenlaw Photography.
On the homeschool front, I attended the Teach Them Diligently conference here in Nashville and that was amazing! I learned so much and walked away with a ton of resources. More than that, I was encouraged in a way that was worth every penny of my registration fee - which was surprisingly affordable. I can't wait to go back next year.
Me and Grandma at #ttdnashville
We've just come off of 2 weeks of Spring Break. I personally think 2 weeks is waaay too long but when you've got neighborhood kids showing up at your door every morning (because they are on break or intercession or whatever Metro wants to call it) it's kind of hard to stick with the homeschool routine. Oh well. That's the beauty of homeschool. If we suddenly want to take 2 weeks off, we can. However, upon return you may have to deal with an attitude of epic proportions. To follow all of our homeschool adventures, click here.

On the nYn front, I've hired two doulas to join my team and I'm making headway on funding my trip to Uganda. I've also got another nYn project in the works but it may be a while before I can get to it. All I can say is, it's BIG! I know, I know. I hate vague updates just as much as the next guy but this one is going to require some logistical planning, strategy, and financial commitments in order to come to fruition so I don't want to say too much just yet.

The April calendar is shaping up to be just as busy, starting with a trip to Dallas to visit the bestie and my 1st doula Skype baby born March 13th.
See more March 2014 pictures here.

Diagnosed with Epic Awesomeness


Dear Parent 

Doctor's Note

This kid has a bad case of epic awesomeness. 

Kid must do this... 
  • Eat Pizza
  • Play Video Games
  • Eat More Pizza
  • Play With Friends
*********************************************

I swear I cannot make this stuff up. This is just a glimpse into the personality I live with and attempt to teach on a daily basis. 

She keeps me on my toes, that's for sure. 

I must say, if a kid even has the gumption to come up with a letter such as this, I think I must concur with the diagnosis. 

tLG indeed does have a bad case of epic awesomeness. 

And I'm glad she's mine.