Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday Evening Church Meals for Children

Over a year ago, I happily started helping out with our Wednesday evening suppers at church.  The family that was doing it had been doing it for many years and had decided it was time to stop.  Consideration was given to stopping the meals altogether.  (Actually, they weren't really meals at that time but more like snacks.)  Myself and others did not want it to end, so I decided I'd give it a try.  I knew this was something that the children looked forward to, and with our bus ministry, I knew some children really needed it.

After weighing the options, I realized that a small meal for the youth would cost relatively the same as purchasing snacks - sometimes cheaper!  So, that's the direction I chose to take.  At the time, I had a few ideas but started searching the Internet for meals that were easy to serve to a crowd, but unfortunately, I didn't come up with a whole lot.  Over time, we've developed a few different menus, and we just rotate those. 

This is a ministry that I enjoy participating in, and I have a lot of help.  The hardest part, which actually isn't hard at all, is deciding what's next in the lineup and purchasing what is needed.  I rarely spend over $40 a week and usually it's less as others are often donating some of these items that I just have to add to.  I usually shop on Wednesday afternoons, deliver the items to the church, and I always have help to get everything cooked or ready to serve, and thankfully, there are several who help with the cleanup afterward, so this is not a burden for anyone. 

Here are some of our menus (I usually plan for 40-60 as I want the adults to feel free to eat, too):

Nachos! (This is the crowd favorite)
We use the big can of condensed nacho cheese at Walmart, and after adding milk, it goes a long way.  In addition, I have to purchase the chips (around 6 bags), 4-5 pounds of ground beef and 2 packs of taco seasoning, shredded lettuce (1 large bag), sour cream, and salsa.  Then we add a dessert, which is usually cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. 

Chicken Nuggets
I buy around 5 bags of chicken nuggets (usually the 90-count bag at Walmart).  Each person is given 4 nuggets with usually some left over for seconds. Macaroni and cheese and a salad is served with this.  Condiments and desserts are added.

Corn Dogs
A local grocery store has a box of 80 corn dogs for $12! They are slightly defective, which just means they may look ugly - not dangerous to eat or taste affected in any way.  We add tater tots, condiments and dessert!

Pizza Rolls
Same as chicken nuggets, there's usually 90 in a bag, sometimes more, so I buy 4-5 bags.  I usually serve corn and a salad with these in addition to condiments and dessert.

Chicken Sandwiches
I buy the big bag of Tyson chicken patties, usually 2-3 bags, and then purchase buns and shredded lettuce.  We'll serve chips, pickles and dessert alongside.

Hot Dogs
I purchase 6-8 packs of hot dogs and buns, and with this we'll serve chili (sometimes I'll make a crockpot full and sometimes I'll buy canned), and on occasion I'll make slaw.  We add chips, condiments and dessert.

I cook a lot of noodles and then offer two choices for sauce.  I make a red sauce with meat and a white sauce with chicken.  I buy the canned sauces, fry up some seasoned ground beef for the red sauce, and open up some canned chicken and add to the white sauce.  We'll serve a salad, bread and dessert to go with this.

If there's a good bit of extra money left at the end of the month, I'll purchase pizzas from a local restaurant.  We all love their pizzas, and they sell one-topping pizzas for $5.99 each! We'll add a pasta salad (2-3 boxes of colored noodles boiled/drained, tiny pepperonis, 2 cups of mozzarella, Parmesan cheese to taste, and 1-2 bottles of Olive Garden Italian dressing) and dessert, and this is an easy night for all of us!

In the winter, I have a chicken noodle soup recipe a friend shared with me that the kids enjoy.  (Two LARGE cans of cream of chicken soup, 1 box chicken broth, 1 Rotisserie chicken, and 2 packs of fine noodles - these are in the Jewish section at the grocery story, if I'm remembering correctly.  I then double or triple this recipe.)  PB&J sandwiches and desserts are served with this.

With all these choices, we can easily rotate and the kids are getting a variety so if they don't like one week's choices, they might like the next. :>)

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Hidden Things

I post a lot about our home.  I know this, and it got me wondering.... Does it appear that I am worshiping our home?

I gave this some thought because if I am, it needs to stop.

But I've examined my heart in this area, and I honestly don't think I am.  I am grateful for our new home.  I love that we went from 2200 square feet with a full, partially-finished basement to 1800 square feet of space that makes so much more sense with no waste, and it is so fun to dress it up to fit our lifestyle and personalities.

This is a "before" picture.  The past two weekends, we have been staining the front porch. I'm very happy with how it looks - it just feels warmer and more cozy.



I think it's important to care for my home but in a way that honors God.  Am I going into debt to make it a showplace to impress others?  Thankfully, no.  I'm taking my time and purchasing things as they appear or searching out deals for things that are needed.  I've allowed all our children to decorate their rooms however they want.  (Some choices have made me cringe a bit, but I just walk away.)  And even though things are not exactly as I want them yet, I'm fine with that and would not let it prevent me from having guests over.  They're welcome anytime!

When we built our home, I said I wanted it to be a place where all feel welcome.  I want my guests to feel cozy.  I want my family to be comforted in this little piece of space that God has allowed us to live in, to always feel loved and safe, and hopefully be surrounded by beauty at the same time.

On Saturday evenings, we often invite friends over for supper.  It's very motivating for me to clean and get things in order - because so far, all of our guests have been coming over for the first time since we moved in, and I know there will be a home tour.

Although what is seen may be nice and tidy - what is not seen may be a different story. (I could definitely make a correlation here to our lives as Christians, but I'm pretty sure it's been done before, so I'll leave that alone.)

Just a few examples of the "seen:"

This is our homeschool closet.  I don't even mind if the doors are left open. :)

The girls' bathroom as well as the one generally used by guests.

The Dining Room

The Living Room
The kitchen - although it rarely looks like this.

View of the back porch from the living area.

This past Saturday as I was preparing our home for our friends, I realized my cleaning routine was taking a bit longer.  For the first few months, I could have the entire house cleaned (with the children cleaning their rooms, of course) within two hours or less.  It's taking a bit longer these days.  I didn't really think about the reasoning behind this until Saturday evening when our friends were here. 

During the home tour (our closet) and later while having supper together and the wife was searching for a utensil in my kitchen, I found myself a bit embarrassed. 

I realized that while I've been trying to make what is seen look nice, what is not seen has gone to pot.  I read Emilie Barnes' books early on in my marriage, and she taught me a long time ago to make sure everything has a "place," but it seems I've forgotten about that.  I've been throwing stuff here and there and then closing drawers and shutting doors - out of sight, out of mind.  This may seem like a good idea, but when items don't have a place or they're just out of place, it causes more work - thus more time spent in cleaning! 

So, if at some point I've given the idea that I'm the perfect housekeeper, I'm going to be painfully honest and let you see the "unseen." (Well, obviously, you're seeing it, but if you walked in my home, you might not.)

The Master Closet.  Makes me want to cry.

The Cookbook/Recipe Drawer.  Before we moved, I went through all my cookbooks and got rid of several and tried to condense my favorite recipes into one book.  That helped, but this definitely is not a working solution at the moment.

The JUNK drawer.  I know everyone has one, but this is ridiculous.

The inside of the fridge.  You're lucky if nothing falls out when you open it.
I love to organize - although there's not much proof of that right now, but that's my goal for this week or month or however long it takes - to get this place in order!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The 2017-18 School Year

We've been a homeschooling family since 2002, and I think every year has looked different.  2017 is no exception.

One big change is that I am now down to 2 students!  Madison graduated from public school in 2014 (she homeschooled through the 8th grade), and Cari is a 2017 graduate from her homeschool co-op.

Cari attended the same co-op for three years, and Amelia and Matthew attended there last year.  It was a good year, but there is another co-op in our area that I've always wanted to give a try, but their schedule never lined up with ours.  This year, it did, and that's where we are.  It's different, but I like it.  It is a classical school, and I've always liked aspects of a classical education.  In fact, we've used a lot of classical curriculum over the years and even attended Classical Conversations at one point.  I liked CC, but I always wanted to move past the memorization, and we weren't in that "group" yet.  Now, it's like the best of both worlds with memorization and also learning about what you're memorizing.

They attend on Tuesday and Friday of every week with homework assignments on the days they are home.  Unlike the previous school, I only have one volunteer day per semester, so Brad takes them to school on his way to work, and I am able to stay home and work/get some things accomplished.

Amelia is taking a Foundations class, which is a history-based class, and a Grammar class, which includes grammar, literature and composition.  

For Foundations, they use Streams of Civilization, In Their Words (a Notgrass curriculum), Know What You Believe by Paul Little, the Bible, and The Chronicles of Narnia.  Lots of books, but they don't use them all at once.  Her teacher uses a little of each here and there.  It is a challenging class, but Amelia is in 7th grade, so it is time to buckle down and wade through the challenges.

In her grammar class, they use Harvey's Revised English Grammar.  It looks like a book you would see on Little House on the Prairie, which is awesome.  I tend to believe there is nothing wrong with the way children received an education back then, and it's a blessing they didn't have to suffer through Common Core. So I'm all in with this grammar book.

At home, Amelia uses Teaching Textbooks 7 for her math, and for science, we have a curriculum on *weather* that came from Answers in Genesis.  She also has a daily devotion/Bible lesson.

As for Matthew, he is taking all of his classes at the school.  He has a Classical Core class, which includes history and Latin.  They use Story of the World for history and Prima Latina for Latin.  He has a language arts class in which his teacher creates her own worksheets for editing practice, and he also has grammar charts that he is memorizing.  They  work on writing and composition with the IEW Ancient-History Based writing curriculum.  I love how it goes right along with what he's learning in his history class.  For math, his class uses Rod & Staff, which we've always used at home for the early years, so that was a big win!  And in science, they use Science in the Beginning by J. Wile.  I really have no complaints about any of the curriculum.

At home, in addition to his homework, Matthew works on handwriting skills and has a daily devotion/Bible lesson.

This year is definitely their most challenging yet, educationally, but I think it's good for them.  In the past, I might have backed off if something appeared to be too challenging, but seeing the sense of accomplishment when they jump through a hurdle is encouraging.  And needed.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Excitement of Fall Activities

Amelia has become a certified horse lover, and Matthew currently has a football obsession.  Our fall activities are right in line with making these two very happy.

Being a barrel racer is Amelia's goal, and she got a small taste of that this past Saturday.  Her riding instructor has occasional shows where her students can demonstrate their horse-riding abilities, and this helps them decide if they want to go on to "bigger and better things."  Amelia signed up for all 9 events, but unfortunately she had to leave before it was over.  I think she ended up doing 7 or 8.  (I missed the beginning as Madison had to start the day with her while I took Matthew to his game and then I had to leave before the events were finished in order to attend a wedding two hours away.  Thankfully, our cousin was in town and stayed with her so she could participate in more events.) 
Without a doubt, Amelia loved every second.  The events were fun, but in-between, she was told to go out in the open pasture and ride the horse around, and that was the icing on the cake. 

We hope to some day get a horse, but we have a lot of land preparation to do first.  Until then, this is an excellent option.
As for Matthew, he chose flag football over fall baseball this year, and he is loving it.  He's not quite big enough to play regular football, so this is a great option. 
He's playing with an Upward organization, which we've never done before.  We're used to competitive recreation leagues, so this is quite different for us, but I like it and so does Matthew. (I'm not sure he's realized that it's not competitive. Lol!)  Practices are one day a week (yay!), and games are the same time every Saturday.  Simplicity!  Love it!
Madison and I - a little tired after the busy morning/afternoon and then driving two hours to the setting of this beautiful wedding.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Georgia Landmark

Cari, #2, is a movie-watching girl.  In fact, she has big plans of being in a movie one day.  {Well, actually, I guess she's fulfilled that - in a way.  With Atlanta becoming a booming location for the film industry, she's had the opportunity to be an extra in a couple of things.}

One of her all-time favorites is Fried Green Tomatoes, which was filmed here in GeorgiaI had mentioned in an earlier post that she had wanted to go on an adventure to find the restaurant featured in FGT, and we were able to go that day.

The restaurant is called the Whistle Stop CafĂ©, so I looked up the address and we headed that direction.  I much prefer backroads to interstates, so we took that route and casually stopped at some antique stores along the way.

We finally made it around mid afternoon and I was surprised at how crowded it was!  We put our name on the wait list, and they said it would be about a two-hour wait, but I think it ended up being just a little bit over an hour.

There were several small shops to browse through while we waited.  They were wayyyy overpriced, but that's to be expected I suppose.

When we finally got seated, it was near closing time, but they didn't seem in any big hurry to rush us out. 

To begin with, we had to try the fried green tomatoes, and of course, they were probably the best I've ever had. 

Cari and I ordered the Rooster Strips with sides of green beans and garlic mashed potatoes.  Her boyfriend, Hunter, went with us, and he had a hamburger.  It was all quite tasty.

We enjoyed ourselves and left "as full as ticks" as my mother-in-law would say. :D



Monday, September 11, 2017

Irma, Etc.

I don't mind unexpected "holidays."  I would prefer they not involve tornadoes and power outages, and so far so good.  It's raining ridiculously and the wind is whipping but not much worse than during a really bad spring thunderstorm.  I can't imagine what it must be like to experience a full-on hurricane.

In any event, school is already cancelled for tomorrow as well as Matthew's practice, so we get two full days at home.  I'll take it!
In other news....this weekend, I stepped way out of my comfort zone in two very different areas.
#1 ~ My hair.
I got highlights!  I've been fighting the gray for many years now and honestly feel like I've been losing that battle.  I went to see Tina (my hair lady) last Tuesday and showed her a picture I liked that included a lot of silver highlights. My thinking was, "if you can't beat'em, join'em."  But, on Saturday morning, the day of my appointment, I was second guessing all that, and she convinced me to try some blondish highlights instead and slowly work in the silver over time.  I agreed, and when she was finished, I was scared to look in the mirror.  But I did.  And I had no idea who I was looking at!  But I'm thinking now that I love it. 
This was my first time EVER to have it professionally done, and I'm wishing I would have done it sooner.  My scalp hasn't been itching as it usually does and I didn't have to worry about dripping color on the cabinets and floor of our mostly white bathroom.  Yes, unbelievably, I've done that.  Oops.
[I should probably post a picture at this point, but I don't have one to post at the moment.  I'll do that soon.]
#2 - The church choir.
Our church has a song leader for congregational singing but not a choir director per se.  On Sunday mornings, we just gather in the choir loft and pick out a song and start singing with no practice.  That works out okay, but my husband (the pastor) and others have been hoping for something more intentional.
I love music and always have.  It's good for the soul and one of my favorite ways to worship.  I sing at church on occasion and I play the piano, so I have a few musical qualifications.
(Being the pastor's wife, I was a little unsure about doing this.  I knew it was a need and that I could help with that need, but there have been times in my life that I've not been a pastor's wife.  During some of those times, I've heard from others what they felt a pastor's wife should and should not do.  I find myself sometimes listening to those voices, and I know those are the voices I should NOT be listening to.)
I put it off for a few weeks, but the idea just wouldn't go away.  I checked with a few people to see if they'd mind, and everyone seemed good with it.  Sooooo, a few weeks ago, I had a message put in the bulletin that we'd be having an upcoming choir practice, and on Sunday evening, it happened. And it went so well!  I didn't worry about who would or would not be there. I decided early on that this would not be about me and my plans but would trust God to bless the efforts. We had a great turnout and accomplished what I felt was a good bit in a short period of time.
I don't want this job forever, and the second someone else wants to do it, I'll gladly step aside.  But until then, I don't mind and actually enjoyed it!

In recent years, I would have been very hesitant to do either of those things.  I used to not be this way.  I think it started around the time I inadvertently decided to be somewhat of a "people pleaser."  Yuck, I know.  Or maybe it was my legalistic years that brought it on when I didn't want to associate with anyone who didn't see things my way.  Yuck again. 

(During those years, it was much easier to just keep to myself and not do anything that would draw attention, and I still do that sometimes.  Basically, it's an unhealthy "fear of man.")
I'm desperately trying to find a cure for the people pleaser syndrome, and I'm having to step out of my comfort zone at times to do this.  It's a hard prison to break out of, but slowly but surely, I'm doing it, and it's absolutely freeing as well as simplifying.
Galatians 1:10 ~ Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of  God?  Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

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