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Redeeming Selfies


Selfies are part of our narcissist culture. They have come to represent a self-centered group of people that is at best to be pitied for it's insincerity & insecurity, and at worst deeply narcissistic and self-serving. It is obnoxious when EVERY picture on someone's Instagram is a selfie of them alone.   I myself have had to unfriend an acquaintance because everyday she posted a SOLO selfie. She posted almost nothing else.  She was beautiful, but it was draining. A friend's teenage little sister posts Instagram selfies that make her look like a 25 year old women, wearing clothing I would only deem appropriate to wear in front of my husband, alone. Teens post selfies with inspirational quotes, using the quote as cover to share a picture that makes them feel enough for that moment, in a world that tells them they are never enough.

But I am deeply thankful for selfies.

Sometimes we live in a world that thinks "if I didn't get documented on social media, it didn't happen".  Some of that is true, and frustrating as many struggle to be in the moment of their real life. Being in the moment is so important, do not let the camera steal you from experiencing the now-moments of your life.  But it is also OK to capture those moments with a picture, or gasp, a selfie.  Memories fade.  Alzheimer's exists. Children grow up and forget. People you love leave you way too early.

I believe Selfies can be redeemed.

Picture are powerful.  Pictures bring back details of fuzzy memories, maybe even the smell of the grass as you laid on a picnic blanket.  They sharpen your memory of a beloved's face after they've left.  They make you laugh at a joke told ten years before. They are time machines.

One of my first sessions as a family photographer, I was photographing a group with a very silly dad.  He made faces at his kids to get them to smile.  He laughed with his whole face.  I was just learning my style as a photographer, and I wanted to capture those moments of candid silliness.  I almost deleted half of them because they were not "frame-worthy" and slightly out of focus (I was still learning my craft). Thankfully I didn't, because three months after our photo session, I learned the Dad had suffered a major stroke and was paralyzed on one side of his body.  My photos were the preservation of his funny faces.
 

MOM INCLUDED 
As a parent, and especially a mom, if I don't take selfies, I'm not in pictures. I am the main picture taker in our house. It is a personality issue, nothing my husband does wrong or neglects. Even before selfies were "a thing", I was the person in my extended family that gathered people for pictures.  Or I would get a groan after I snapped a candid.


And let's face it, we look prettier in selfies, because we can control the angle. Looking pretty will mean you will likely be in more pictures with your kids. I want my kids to have tangible memories with ME in them. As a family photographer I encourages families to get professional pictures done each year, but you don't want your kids to look back and only see a picture of you once a year; probably on a morning that you were all grumpy trying to get to the pictures on time and make sure everybody had the right clothes on. Selfies allow you to take everyday pictures of you at the zoo, or at museums on vacations, or snuggling on the couch reading a book. What a beautiful and amazing gift selfies can be to your children.

I am friends with women and moms who are the picture-takers in their families too.  If we don't get selfies of ourselves together, we don't have pictures of our friendship! Yes, we could ask our kids to do it, but they are shorter.  Short kids take pictures from an angle that add an extra chin to most women, especially me! It is normal to want to feel pretty in a picture.


And yes I will admit that I have a selfie stick. My kids are getting taller and without a selfie stick it's really hard to get all four of us in a picture. We recently went to Chicago for my twins' 11th birthday, and a selfie stick allowed me to get all four of us, plus the museum, in the picture. Yes I could have asked a by-standard to take a picture, but my insecure self probably would have not liked the silly double-chin I imagine I have, or how big my arms looks.  With a selfie- stick I get the best both of sides: a picture that I feel OK in and a memory to be preserved forever for my family.

Taken with my handy Selfie-Stick
FUN WITH MY KIDS
Selfies are also a part of my kids' culture. As a homeschooling family, I'd like them to still have shared experiences with their peers. I had snapchat on my phone solely because my kids wanted to play with the filters. They don't have their own phones, but all their friends do. They won't be getting a phone any time soon, but I can allow them  shared experiences through silly selfies on MY account. I have since deleted snapchat due to their choice of content, but Messenger has fun filters we play with.



PRICELESS MEMORIES
People also leave too early.  As we looked at photos for our brother's funeral slide show last year, I realized how 90% of our family pictures were pictures of the kids.  Let's face it, kids are cute.  Christmas pictures were zoomed in on happy faces of kids opening presents, with only my brother's arm in the frame. My brother was also separated and then divorced the last year of his life, and thankfully he chose to take selfies with his kids during that time. If he hadn't done that, his kids would not have as many pictures of WITH their dad during his last months. My last picture of my brother and I was a selfie a month before he left. His last fishing trip he took a selfie of him doing the hobby he loved best. These are memories I treasure more than words can describe.

Redeem the selfie; take it from a tool of narcissists, and turn it into something beautiful.  Use it as a gift for your children.  A snap shot of you, feeling beautiful and enjoying your life.
My brother and I, just a month before he departed for Heaven.






Puberty Book for Preteen & Tween Boys



I have been looking for a book like Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys since my twin boys turned 10 years old!  I don't usually dedicate an entire post to just one book, but this is too good not to share!   Each puberty issue is clearly addressed & well written, but not in boring technical terms or with a feel of an 1980's health class video. The fun illustrations and wording that will make any young boy interested.

Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys is a book I checked out from the library, then immediately ordered. By the time I had found this book, I had checked out multiple books, trying to find a book that covered these puberty topics in a way that:
 1.) was interesting for my kids
2.) was NOT more focused on sex education that the many facets of puberty

I recommend an adult read it with your preteen, as it opens up opportunity for great discussion. My husband will be reading this with my 11 year boys a chapter at a time as part of their nighttime routine.

The physical changes are explained, and accompanied by multiple practical applications, like how to correctly ice a sprained ankle and how to use baking soda in stinky shoes!

Each page has funny, yet informative, illustrations that will draw any young tween into reading.

I love that on top of the physical changes, there are many emotional challenges covered; like bullying , confidence versus arrogance, and late bloomers. The funny illustrations and simple to read terms are perfect for any preteen.

The book validates the emotional roller coaster of puberty, while also challenging the boys to use self reflection in their moods in feelings.  It spends a large part talking about the hormones that are influencing their moods, but I appreciate most the PRACTICAL tips to work through new feelings of moodiness and aggression (i.e count to 10, don't isolate, apologize if you know you were wrong, etc)


This is not a book about sex! It is about puberty. The small chapter on erections & nocturnal emissions discusses the biological aspects, and how to handle the unexpected erections in public or clean up after a nocturnal emission. These are biological things our sons must know. Zero about sex or masturbation. Those conversations are left for a parent. If you are looking for a book to introduce the discussion of sex, I highly recommend The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made.










Safe Does Not Feel Comfortable



In January of 2017, I chose SAFE my word for the year.   The motivation had been a betrayal by a person who I had invested in for over a decade. I had poured myself into this relationship, and me and my family  were so savagely betrayed and rejected that it nearly broke me. There was despair as I watched my pattern of not holding emotional boundaries with unsafe people rearing its ugly head again. I felt God whisper this word to me, "safe", and knew that it was my word for the year.  I had no idea how that would play out.

My husband and I then experienced a year with more loss than I thought possible. I lost my health for a time, which led to a loss of my ability to engage in my life, my ability to parent for awhile, my ability to homeschool.  The health issues led to severe & odd food allergies, loosing all my comfort foods and countless opportunities to share a meal with loved ones. We then lost several of our most intimate friends/support system in the world to relocation of their jobs.  We didn't think it could get worse, then the year ended with the worst loss of all, the passing of my husband's 36 year old beloved brother, father of 4 young children, to a freak accident.

In the year I wanted to be safe, I felt more fear and pain than I had ever known in my life.

God showed me a new definition of Safe. It was a year of safety, but not the safe I was thinking.  Safe does not mean comfortable.  The safety I experienced was NOT the safe I associate with holding my babies to my chest, keeping them warm and loved.  It was the safe of a battlefield, the safety of a shield that keeps you protected as blow after blow beats you down to your knees.  The shield keeps the blades and arrows away, but you are exhausted as you think the metal will inevitably bend around you, molding to the shape of your battered body.

Hear my cry, O God,  listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you  when my heart is faint.Lead me to the rock    that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge,  a strong tower against the enemy. Psalm 61: 1-3

It was the safe of David in the caves, as Saul sought to destroy him.  The safety of hard rocky surfaces, no feather bed and freshly laundered sheets.  It is a hard place that feels scary and foreboding, but in actuality is keeping you sheltered from the enemy that is seeking to kill you.  God is our safe shelter in the storm. Shelters are not always comfortable, but they are strong.





Dairy & Egg Free Meatballs

Dairy and Egg Free
MEATBALLS

  • 1 pound ground beef (lean)
  • 1/2 cup crushed crackers
  • 1 tsp Italian seasonings 
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat to 400°
  2. Combine all the ingredients (I like to add the meat last)
  3. Using a spoon, make small balls and place on greased pan, lined with aluminum foil.
  4. When done, place cooked meatballs onto paper towel.
  5. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes.
You can freeze these easily, then pop back into the oven to warm them and crisp them a little bit.






Depression Era Chocolate Cake- Dairy, Egg, & Vanilla Free



I love the history and science behind this cake recipe.  Many say it originated during the depression, when eggs, butter, and milk were hard to come by for the average family, and is also known as Crazy Cake. I also didn't use vanilla, because of an allergy, and it was still delicious!

The science behind the vinegar and baking soda is also very cool. You may see small air bubbles on the top of your beautifully risen cake, but you can't taste the vinegar at all!!! I have used applesauce to substitute for eggs in cakes, but this was must more light and fluffy than any applesauce cake I've made.  It is probably the best cake I've ever eaten, very moist and light; everyone went for a second piece.


Depression Chocolate Cake a.k.a Crazy Cake
Egg Free and Dairy Free

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder


  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups cold water


  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar


Directions

  1. Sift flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa together into a bowl. Combine.
  2. Pour oil & vinegar into second bowl and whisk until combined. Pour in cold water & stir.
  3. Add wet to dry mixture. You will see some bubbling as the vinegar reacts with the baking soda.  Stir until completely combined. 
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes, or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean.  I used two greased & floured 8 inch round cake pans, but you could also use a 9x13 pan.  
  5. Top with powdered sugar (or your favorite icing).


Satan is a Mean Girl



Raise your hand if you think being friends with women is hard! I can just imagine all your hands raised on the other side of the screen!

Jesus was a great example of how important friendships were, but maybe you’re thinking Jesus was closest with men, so I should be friends with only men!   I’ve lost count how many women have shared that it’s just easier to be friends with men because WOMEN ARE HARD. I admit I've been there before with girlfriends.  It didn’t seem worth it. Men can be simpler (I mean that in the nicest of ways fellas).  I am a mother of boys, and I was honestly really frightened that God might make me a mom of girls.  Like a legitimate fear.  I didn't know how to relate to girls, and I had years and years of baggage from girl warfare.

And boys are great.  No male bashing here.  We need to have Godly men in our lives for countless reasons.  I LOVE that my husband is my best friend, but he can’t be my only friend.  As a woman, having only male friends isn’t realistic or appropriate.

There is one simple fact that I have learned the past three years; Female friendships are not hard just because women are hard, but because they are under attack by our enemy.


In war, the biggest battles are planned for the biggest threats.  If that is true, WE KNOW female friendships have to be a threat to Satan’s plans for our lives. I would like to propose that  GODLY female friendships are being attacked with a similar ferocity that he he attacks marriages, because Satan knows that healthy female friendships grow the church, and he is scared of us.

Think of that, Satan is scared of us!  Females are powerful in God’s church.   Satan chose Eve not because she was the weaker sex, but because of the powerful influence she had over the heart of Adam.  Satan thought he could subtly exploit that power and influence.  Women can drastically affect the moods and directions of our homes through our actions and attitudes. Women are the heart of the family, and in turn the church.

Anybody have a mean girl in their school?

We think of Satan as a man, but he is going to come at us with mean girl tactics, not boy tactics.  He knows how to divide women and make you feel less than enough. He specializes in creating cliches where woman feel either superior or left out.  And Satan’s motivation is NOT the same as the mean girl you knew.  That poor girl bullied because because she was afraid of being left out, or loosing her spot in the group. His motives are much more sinister..

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10  Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

 He wants you fighting your battle alone so that WHEN, not IF, you stumble, you won’t have anyone to pull you back up. He wants you isolated. 



A females’ life can change drastically for God when she is surrounded by other Godly women.  Godly women can spur her on and encourage her in life's struggles.  Through friendships,  can see new intimacy in our marriages, find healing from old wounds, or seek genuine growth in our parenting.

On the other hand, Satan can also try to destroy a woman, a family, and eventually the church through the divisions between women. I saw first hand how Satan tried to tear my extended family apart through spiritual warfare in female relationships.  The bitterness and divisiveness between the women of my extended family has had years of consequences that ripple though the lives of every male, female, and child.

Just because we’re women, doesn’t mean we are not on the front lines of a spiritual battle.  Satan wouldn’t be attacking female friendships if we weren’t important to God’s plan.

ANYTHING WORTHWHILE IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

So…how do we fight? We must become aware of our enemies' tactics, see the landmines he plants as just that, an attack of an enemy trying to to divide you from those who would have your back in battle.


This is an excerpt from what I hope becomes an e-book I am writing.  Let me know your thoughts, and if you'd be interested in reading more of the specific mean girl tactics Satan's uses to divide us.

To Desk, or not to Desk: that is the question


To DESK, or not to DESK: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous judgment from other homeschool moms, Or to take arms against a sea of distractions, And by opposing end them?

There is a lot of debate about desks in the homeschool community. We have done our school work on desks, the dinner table, the couch, outside on a blanket, and the living room floor! In Kindergarten, I tried to make my wiggly boys sit for way too long in desks that were way too big for them, and it was a disaster.  Later on, I felt like a homeschool mom failure because the free range all over the house school just wasn't working for us anymore.

Each homeschool plan has it's own season.  The floor & couch were perfect for my preschoolers & kindergartners and the metric ton of picture books we read. The small card table for any worksheets was appropriate for kindergarten, because I could help both of them easily at the same time. They also only had VERY SHORT age appropriate lesson time, which half of the lesson was spent on the couch reading a book.

Preschool Floor Time

Kindergarten we used a card table in the basement

1st grade, we tried a chest in the living room for several subjects
In 1st and 2nd Grade, we had a larger dining room table for our school work. Somehow my kids always found a way to kick each other under the table, or push their papers onto "their brother's side"
Art and science on dining room table

Let's try outside!  
 We tried outside one year because the weather was beautiful, and we had summer fever.  It was nice for a  few days and for a few subjects at a time, but doesn't last when you live in the Midwest.  Again, I saw these beautiful homeschool blogs of kids reading their math book while in a tree, and felt like I was somehow missing the mark. We still wonder outside if possible, but honestly it just doesn't usually work for the consistency we need to keep focused.  Don't get me wrong, they get PLENTY of outside time after school, and several times a week my kids are kicked outside to read on the front porch in the fresh air.
I give up, bring on the desks!
After six years of homeschooling we have had the most success with open front desks, because the desk gives my children their own space, with plenty of storage inside.  It was in third grade when we made the move to desks for each child.

More Freedom to Move
 No matter how big the table was, someone was always magically kicking or bothering someone else! One of my children is a "bouncer".  He NEEDS to be moving while doing school.  His moving tended to shake the table and annoy ALL of us. It seems counter intuitive, but the change to desks has given him more freedom to move during his school work. He can stand up and do his work, or he can wiggle in his desk and tip his chair slightly.  He can kick the wall or his chair band, or bounce on a ball seat.  All of his wiggling  is contained in his own space, without it distracting his brother or me.

Less Clutter
We tried simple desks without built in storage for 6 months, and they were a cluttered disaster!  I switched to the open front desk, and we all love them! As a mom, I love that their clutter is hidden away. At the end of each semester, each child does have to clean out his desk, or becomes a scary mess!

 Focus and Staying on Task
Now remember, MY kids are not YOUR kids.  I believe in free range parenting.  I believe in allowing them to explore their interests, and seek their desires: but I also believe that my two little boys inherited my ability to become easily distracted! As and adult, I have had to compensate for this distraction bent by building in boundaries for myself that keep me on task. Sometimes I don't like these boundaries, but they actually give me the freedom to do things I love.

The past two years have created more focus without the distractions of having to share a work space, i.e the dining room table. You will notice that desks are even facing the walls.  This decision was first made just due to space, but it has prove essential to helping my kids focus. The lay out we have now helps them stay on track with their school work, and efficiently work through their workboxes. This lack of distraction has enabled all of more freedom, because they get their school work done faster and I'm able to leave the room sometimes without them becoming completely distracted.



But again, this is could be a season. These desks were well worth the investment for how much they have lessened my need to help keep my kids on task and break up silly fights over space. I expect to be in desks through Junior High, but I have no definite plans for High School.

I hope this helps anyone who is thinking about their homeschool plan.  Remember, each room is unique, and each child is unique! These work wonderful for our workbox system, but you must see what works best for your family!