Monday, May 31, 2010

Walking with the Dinosaurs

Last week I took the kids down to the Satrosphere Science Center, here in Aberdeen to check out the new exhibit, 'Walking with the Dinosaurs.' Some of our friends joined us for the morning.


Satrosphere has special Little Scientist Days with extra activities focused on younger children. It is a small science center, but we tried to make the most of our time there. They also have a small, padded play area for little kids next to the cafe. We spent quite a bit of time there playing with our friends.


The kids wandered the exhibit, looking at the dinosaur bones and the models used by BBC in their TV series of the same name. It took a few times through the exhibit to really start to catch their interest.


Joshua enjoyed watching clips of the BBC special on TV screens throughout the exhibit. The big volcano eruption at the end was the most interesting.


They also had a small 'I-spy' sheet for kids, to encourage them to hunt for the dinosaurs they saw on their paper. Joshua just found a model that was pictured on his sheet.


They also had a dinosaur story time that the kids really enjoyed. We have been checking out dinosaur books at the library, too. Joshua keeps asking questions about why there are not any dinosaurs around now and what happened to them.


After story time, the kids got to make their own dinosaurs. They have been playing with these all week. We had a fun time and will probably go back again on another Little Scientist Day.

Check out more pictures from our dinosaur adventure at Dinosaurs - May 2010.

His Sexuality - Praying Wife - Chapter 4

This is a difficult discussion to have on a public blog read by strangers ... and my parents (am I blushing yet). But I do feel it is a vital topic in our marriages that needs to be covered with prayer. Instead, I will address this topic in more general terms, bringing out some of the points in the book and share a few other resources that I have enjoyed.

This is not a discussion about who want physical relations more often, or who needs what more. This is about learning to protect our marriage through prayer.


A few points from the book...
  • For women, sex comes out of affection. We want to resolve issues and feel emotional intimacy before we want physical intimacy. "But actually there is a far greater chance of settling other issues if sex comes first."
  • "There is probably no more important means of fulfillment for a man, and no area where his is more vulnerable."
  • "Something is built up in a marriage when this need is met... something is diminished when it is not. You leave yourself open for temptation, and far more destruction than you can imagine when this area of intimate communication is neglected."

Let us pray
Here are some areas to think about as we pray about this "intimate communication" in our marriages...
  • We can pray to be set free from experiences that happened before our marriage that have damaged. God wants to bring healing and restoration -- physically, emotionally, spiritually.
  • If we don't have the desire, or energy, for physical intimacy, pray for God to show you his perspective on sex, and for wisdom to apply these truths. This is an important part of our ministry to our husbands. (I Cor 7:4-5)
  • Pray for purity in your marriage and protection against lust or sexual immorality. (I Thess 4:3-5)
  • Pray that your desire will only be for each other, never being tempted to look elsewhere for fulfillment.
--
A few other resources about this topic...

One step that will improve your S-E-X life -- This article reminds us of a much more scriptural view of sex, bringing us back from some of the lies we are taught by our society. If marriage is for life, than sex is a lifetime exploration that keeps getting better. Definitely worth reading.

What you are NOT responsible for -- This article provides a refreshing balance to the teaching that wives are solely responsible for their husband's sexual satisfaction. Shela looks at the issues when there is sin, or past injuries that need healing.
--
Next up, Chapter 5: His Affection. We will look at physical affections in our marriage, apart from the sexual intimacy. Open physical affection (or the lack of it) can have a profound effect on our marriage, our self-esteem and our view of God.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday


This week we ate almost everything off our menu, for the first time in about a month.

We really enjoyed the chicken from the Sweet 'n Sour Chicken recipe, though my hubby was not thrilled with how much pineapple was in the sauce. I fried up extra chicken and the kids loved the "new chicken nuggets" at lunch the next day. I may have to make my own nuggets using this method.

We also tried the Japanese Chicken again; I used actual Mirin instead of the substitute and it made a wonderful difference in the taste!

Menu for this week:
Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Praying Life

Over the last five months, my women's group has been reading A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. This study came at the right time in my life, when I felt God challenging me to move deeper in prayer. It provided a new approach to prayer, and encouraged me (along with my prayer partner and our study group) to move forward with all God was teaching me.

This book approaches prayer as a means to seeing and understanding God's bigger story in our lives. He weaves the lessons in the book through the journey of his life with his family. There were some legitimate complaints about some of the editing choices and writing style, but overall I enjoyed this book.

The book opens with several chapters set to redefine the way we view prayer and our relationship with God. These chapters are healthy reminders for mature Christians and extremely important lessons for new disciples who are still learning to see the world through God's eyes.

It does not take long before the book delves into the deeper struggles and hidden darkness in the lives of most Christians to varying degrees -- lack of faith, wrong priorities, pride, cynicism, lack of surrender, desperate clinging to control. Although some of this was very basic, I found myself challenged by some of the attitudes that it revealed in me that God wants to replace with HIS perspective and HIS truth.

After confronting the struggles and issues we often have with prayer, the author turns to focus on the story that God is writing in our lives, showing us, encouraging us to be aware of the bigger picture that God is working all around us. I was extremely encouraged by this new perspective, to lift up my eyes (and my prayers) from just seeing the day to day and instead see the beautiful tapestry that God is weaving in my life and the lives of my family.

The book concludes with concrete ways to apply our new lessons in prayer. He talks about the weakness of any prayer system, warning that we not allow prayer to become a ritual instead of communion with God. This author uses both prayer cards and a prayer journal, but not in the structured, overwhelming way I have seen before.

His prayer cards focus on scripture and praying big-picture issues in the lives of those we love. For example, he spent years praying for his daughter, that she not love the things of this world, praying 1 John 2:15-16 in her life.

The author also encourages using a prayer journal as a way to be aware of our place in the story. He encourages us to look at two questions:
  1. "How am I doing? What is coming at me? Am I happy, sad, thankful, discouraged, angry, frustrated?"
  2. "What is God saying to me? What does the Word say?"

As we learn to live in obedience and repentance, fully surrendered, we learn to see the story God is creating in our lives and enter into the communion God wants to have with us.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roadwork

Joshua is completely fascinated and obsessed with construction and road work. During our walks around town, we always stop to look at any construction that my be happening on our route.

My son found this book, Roadwork, at the library last week and we have read it multiple times each day. It is a simple book, written for more like a two-year-old, but my four-year-old loves it.

In this book the construction team needs to build a new road into a little town. Starting at the planning stages, the crew makes the road, paints the lines, lights the road and even plants trees and shrubs, until the road finally opens for traffic.

The colorful illustrations on each page focus on the big machines (which is probably why my son loves it so much). Each page is a little rhyme; the first line is a short repeated phrase and the last line is a fun combination of onomatopoeia (words that spell the noise they are describing). Here is an example from the first and fifth pages.


Plan the road. Plan the road.
Mark it on the map.
Hammer in the marking pegs.
Ping! BANG! TAP!
...
Seal the road. Seal the road.
Make it hot and squishy. 
Spread the sticky tar and stones.
Sploshy! SPLASHY! SPLISHY!



I love the way this book has inspired my son. Today he pulled out his book and started "making a road" of his own. He started with a big paper to look like the plans, then he marked out the road (from the kitchen I could hear the plastic hammer pounding the floor).

Then he pulled out all the construction machines he has, no matter the size, and used them in his road creation. It was beautiful pretend play. And he eventually recruited the help of his little sister and his friend who was visiting this afternoon. So funny to see them all using plastic containers as "pounders" to flatten the roads.

In addition to this book, Joshua also found a great new video at the library, Real Life Action: at the Building Site. This DVD walks kids through a real life building site. On this huge construction site, they are in the process of building 400 homes.

Two kids tour the construction site with the site manager and  learn the process of building a house from start to finish. And we get to learn about all the machines that help out during construction. Joshua has decided that his favorite is the telescopic forklift (also called a telescopic handler).

As the mother of a little boy, I am learning more about construction and machinery than I ever expected or needed to know. But everyday is a great adventure, and you never know when a big truck carrying a giant excavator will drive by.

Check out more wonderful books for your kids on Feed Me Books Friday, hosted by The Adventure of Motherhood.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Things I Love Thursday: Dean's Shortbread

Since moving to Scotland, we have become huge fans of shortbread. You can find shortbread at such low prices, but not all shortbread is made equal. We recently discovered Dean's Shortbread ... and this may possibly be the best shortbread I have ever had.

Last weekend we went out to Huntly to visit Huntly Castle and take in the sites of the town. And guess what else is located in Huntly? That's right, Dean's Shortbread Factory, along with a gift shop and bulk-packaged shortbread biscuits.

Thanks, Emily, for introducing us to Dean's and recommending we stop at the factory.

We wandered through the gift shop looking at all the yummy shortbread and other Scotland treats (jams and relishes and other sweeties). In the end, we picked out several different kinds of shortbread from their bulk section. Some of my favorites are the Orange and Chocolate Chip, and the Coconut and Chocolate chip, and of coarse, the original.

These are biscuits that are set aside at the factory and placed in simple, inexpensive bags, instead of the beautiful packaging you find at the stores. And did I mention that the bulk items are sold at terrific prices? If you are ever in Huntly, make sure you take the time to stop by.

They have a little cafe, but it was closing when we arrived at the end of the day. There is also a viewing gallery, where you can look over the factory productions, but they don't make shortbread on the weekends, so all we saw was a dark room.

We did, however, snap this shot of the kids with the local Huntly piper. This shortbread was originally sold to help raise money for the local pipe band. As the popularity grew, the started a small bakery and it had kept growing since.

I don't know how easy Dean's is to find in the US, but I know they sell some of their products on Amazon.com. You really must check out this wonderful taste of Scotland.


For more things people love, visit The Diaper Diaries.

Huntly Castle

This past week we had such beautiful weather in Aberdeen (and throughout the UK), and we took advantage of it. On Saturday we hopped on a bus headed to Huntly Castle.


This site has had a castle on it since the 12th century, though most of the current ruins date to the 15th century. It was interested to see how the site had been build and rebuilt, and how different sections are in completely different levels of ruin.


This is a fun castle for kids because there is so much open space to run around.


Joshua loved climbing on the rocks that use to be walls to parts of the castle.


The brew house is one of the few that is still standing, complete with a roof. Abigail was fascinated by the weird hole in the floor that was used in the brewing process.


Joshua loved all the barred windows in the mail castle. There were still some pieces of the beautiful wall and fireplace ornamentation (but you have to check out my photo album to see those pictures).


The kids loved exploring all the parts of the castle. 
Joshua was also drawn to the sound of the river on the other side of the hill.


In the gift shop, the kids enjoyed trying on all the hats and helmets. These jousting helmets were the favorites, probably because the face pieces could be moved.


What a beautiful day! The weather was perfect, and we had a wonderful time together. 
Check out the rest of the pictures at: Huntly Castle - May 2010

I'll be writing a follow up post to talk about our time exploring the rest of Huntly (the city).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sweet Doggy!


Joshua and Abigail were enjoying a beautiful day in the park. 
They were sitting peacefully in a field of blue bells ... until ...


What could have transformed those sweet smiles into such scowls? 
A friendly little dog wandered a little too close to the kids. 
Darren graciously didn't take pictures of the terrified look on their faces when the dog tried to lick their faces.
Joshua is not a fan of dogs...

Abigail was a little more curious, a little less concerned, but did not like the dog in her face.

Poor little doggy didn't get any attention from our kids. Is it too obvious that we are cat people?

His Finances - Praying Wife, Chapter 3

Finances are one of the leading causes of conflict in marriage. The way we handle money is so deeply tied with how we value and view ourselves and others; most of the time I aren't even aware of how deeply this connection runs until it is tested. No wonder we struggle to agree how to use such a powerful tool.

Walking in unity with our husbands can be a challenge, especially in the area of finances, but it is vitally important if we are to display the glory of God in and through our marriage. As we look at praying for our husbands to have a proper, Godly view of money and our family finances, we also need to evaluate and pray about how we handle money.

Do we fear lack of money? Maybe we need to look at where we are placing our trust and security. Do we splurge, treating ourselves? Do we often feel guilty about our spending? Maybe we are trying to make up for the feeling that we aren't valuable ourselves, or that we are "worth it" as marketing (unbiblically) tries to tell us. Do we even pay attention to how much money we are spending? Maybe we need to remember that we are only stewards of all that God has given us.

Here are some important areas to consider and pray about. You should come to an agreement with our husband in these areas, but remember to pray for the right timing before bringing them up. Finances are difficult to talk about at the best of times ... don't add poor timing to the conversation.
  • Tithes and giving - Malachi 3:10, Psalm 41:1-2, Psalm 34:10, Proverbs 21:13 - Again, I must stress that how we give to God and others reflects our hearts. Examine your response to giving tithes to your church and gifts to the poor. Pray for yourself and your husband to understand God's will for your finances.
  • Planning for the future - My husband has been self-employed for several years now. This means that we do not receive regular paychecks. God has been dealing with us (and mostly me, because I handle the day-to-day finances) on cash-flow management and saving appropriately for the slower months. We also are being challenged on how we save for the future -- that it would not be out of fear, but out of a desire to be able to bless others even when we are no longer working.
It doesn't matter who handles the day to day finances -- each marriage functions differently, and normally one or the other will be stronger in this area -- but as husband and wife, you should agree on a budget that includes giving and saving. The details of your budget really depend on your strengths and weaknesses, how well you keep track of spending, and ultimately, how well your income covers your ongoing expenses. If you are currently making very little money in comparison to your expenses (including debt, house payments, etc), your budget will need more details and will need to be more carefully tracked.

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt 6:21). God wants us to find our treasure in him, not in our finances or belongings. And remember, "my God will supply all your needs..." (Phil 4:19). He is our ultimate provider, where our security resides.


Let us pray
Here are some thoughts as you pray for God's view of money in your lives and for unity with your husband in your finances.

Lord, I pray ...
  • May we both be good stewards of all that you give us, and walk in total agreement as to how it is to be dispersed.
  • Give us wisdom to handle money wisely.
  • I pray that we will find it easy to give to you and others, as you have instructed.
  • Help us remember that all we have comes from you, and to be grateful for it.
  • I pray that we will not be anxious about finances, but will seek your kingdom first, knowing that as we do, we will have all we need. (Luke 12:29-31)
--
For more resources on the topic of finances check out Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and Crown Financial Ministries.
--
Next up, Chapter 4: His Sexuality. We will look at how to view our sexuality from God's perspective, and learn how to pray for our husband's sexuality and our physical intimacy in marriage.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday


I am so thankful for a husband who is willing to make dinner on short notice. I can't remember what happened this week, but he ended up cooking several times. Somehow we didn't use most of the meals on our menu, instead eating out of our freezer a little more (my back up plans, in case things go crazy). So, we will be repeating several meals this week.

Menu for this week:
Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Best Buds??

I love stories of siblings that are best buds, enjoy playing together and totally adore each other. Well, that is not the case with my kiddos. Yes, they get along sometimes, but they spend most of their time together pushing buttons and fighting over toys. I spend much of my mothering time as referee.


It finally occurred to me that I should be praying about their relationship (I know... why does it seem that prayer is a last resort?). I am praying for wisdom, to understand how they relate to each other, to see what I can do as a parent to encourage their friendship, to view them as the developing people they are and respect their need for individuality as well.


This last month or so I have begun to see a few changes. Joshua is beginning to take pleasure in helping Abigail and showing her new things. This afternoon, Joshua was looking out the living room window, commenting on the cars down below. When Abigail expressed interest, he pulled another chair next to his so she could see out, too. Then he proceeded to point at various cars (specifically, Mini Coopers) ... "See that red one, it is a Mini Cooper ..."



And Abigail has begun missing Joshua when he goes to school. She has started requesting a goodbye hug every time he leaves. She always asks me if we when we are going to pick him up. Abigail is beginning to exhibit "younger sibling" adoration for her big brother. She loves everything he loves, and like to do things that make him happy.


They still spend too much of their time bugging each other, but some of that just goes with the territory. Learning how to navigate life with a sibling is one of the biggest lessons they get to learn at this age.

I will keep praying. And I will enjoy those little moments when they demonstrate how much they love each other ... believing that they will become the norm.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nature Notebooks for Kids


As spring has blossomed all over Aberdeen, the kids and I are exploring nature and all the beauty around us. I was inspired by a notebook I saw online of nature pictures one family took of their walks (sorry, can't find the link), and decided to make little Nature Notebooks for my kids to display their discoveries.

I found these little composition notebooks at Staples. They were the perfect size at a great price (through I would have preferred something without lines).

I printed out these little covers and taped them to the front of the notebooks.


After the kids finished coloring, I covered them with contact paper to help them last a little longer.


Then we were ready for the real fun! We gathered leaves and flowers from our back garden and laid them out on the table to divide the spoils. I pulled out the glue and they started assembling their nature notebooks.


 
Joshua loves the leaves and greenery. He started with ivy and "sticky plants" 
(I haven't found their real name yet). 



Abigail was all about the flowers. She has azaleas, daisies, bluebells and several flowers I couldn't name (if I had better pictures, my mom could probably tell me what they were).


To add the finishing touches, I wrote a few quick notes about the plants and / or where we found them. After the glue dried, I covered the leaves and flowers with contact paper, again to make them hold up a little bit longer.


I love watching their wonder and excitement as we explore nature together. And these notebooks are the perfect motivation to pay a little more attention to the beauty all around us.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Darren heads to Manchester

In April, Darren (and five other guys from Aberdeen) took a trip to Manchester, U.K. for the Society for the Study of Theology conference.



The conference was held at the University of Manchester, toward the north end of campus. Apparently, the main campus is nicer, but they didn't wander down that far.



But they did spend some time walking through the city of Manchester. Here is the Manchester City Council building that dates to 1877. Beautiful architecture! There were street artists sketching this building from the city square.



The Manchester's architecture juxtaposes the very old and the very new on nearly every city block.



At then end of the conference they hit the pub for celebration (and more theology talk, I'm sure). The two guys with Darren in the picture both presented papers at the conference.



Before heading to the train station to depart on Thursday they stopped at the historic John Rylands Library.



Inside the John Rylands Library is a the University's Special Collections, including a small fragment of St John's Gospel, the earliest known fragment of the New Testament in any language (but it was in use at the time, so they didn't get to see it).



University students actually study in these nooks. Awesome space. I know that Darren would love to be spending his days studying in this type of building and atmosphere.



They had a short train stop in Edinburgh on the way back. Darren and a friend took the opportunity to check out the view of the city before boarding the next train.

Below is a picture of the Edinburgh skyline. The tower to the left is reportedly where John Knox preached. To the right is New College at the University of Edinburgh, where we came within a hair's breadth of going instead of Aberdeen, and right of that on the hillside are the remains of Edinburgh Castle.



Darren stopped to enjoy the Scottish street performers. He called the kids and I so we could enjoy the music as well. I put the phone on speaker so the kids could listen to the bagpipes... and both children started dancing. Too cute!


Darren posted more pictures on Facebook: Manchester 2010

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