Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gaming Devices in Church?

A friend of mine on Facebook recently asked this question: 

"Should it be acceptable for children to play their gameboys during any part of a church service?"

Here are my thoughts.  

I think there is a deeper question here. How do we teach our children to engage in corporate worship?  

I've been unofficially diagnosed as ADD. I can tell you that I struggled for years in a liturgical church service. Even as an adult, sitting still listening and even taking notes is difficult for me. My body needs to be doing something in order for my mind to be quiet and listen.  

This begs the question, how well do you know your child? Are they the type who can sit quietly and listen to something they are really interested in or are they the type that wiggle even when watching their favorite TV programs?  

If they need to be moving to stay focused, how can we constructively enable them to do what they need to do? Should we passively teach them that God made them wrong by enforcing behavior that fits into a compliance mold?

How can the church encourage its people to be what God created them to be without disrupting others' worship experience?

Here are some suggestions... if your child is old enough to be rational, discuss with them why they want to bring their gaming device. Explain that you want them to engage in what's going on. If you know they are capable of absorbing information by sitting still and listening, then that should definitely be encouraged. If they have a hard time, determine a compromise. This compromise should be something mindless and repetitive they can do while listening. Above all, don't expect more of your child than yourself. Our children notice when we whisper during church. They notice when we doodle or fidget. It's provoking them to anger to expect them to be better behaved than we are.

Here are some examples of what to do to resolve the issue. They are not meant to be taken as black and white, right and wrong, simply some things to consider.  

There is a lady at my church who approached the pastor thus. She wanted to crochet during the service. Her craft is repetitive, often requiring hours of the same stitch again and again. She explained that she wasn't trying to be offensive, and honestly wanted to know if he minded. He said it didn't bother him, since he knew her heart.  

I've often taken simple knitting projects to church. I find that the repetition of the same stitch again and again quiets my mind enough to listen to the service. I try not to be showy about my work. I usually work on scarves that are not too large, use materials that aren't flashy, and sit in a location that is not distracting to others. 

One of my daughters draws during the service. I have talked to her about maintaining focus, and being sensitive to the speaker. She must stay quiet and she must not try to show off her work while the service is going on.  

My son, who is now 16 years old used to have a hard time sitting still and listening. Now he does fine. It took him a bit longer than a lot of other kids, but he learned and eventually settled down. He doesn't doodle or fidget. He does whisper the occasional comment to his friends about what the pastor said, but I know adults who carry on constant commentary to their neighbors through the entire service.

Our 4 year old usually has a children's program to go to during the service. We allow her to play games like Angry Birds or Bubble Shoot on a tablet when there isn't an alternative for her. She's at an age where she isn't going to understand most of what is going on, so we would rather encourage her to sit quietly, than to be bored out of her mind and start getting mischievous.  

So to answer the initial question: There is nothing in the Bible that says it's wrong to play games during the church service. In Hebrews 10 we read: 

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

In light of this, I believe parents should guide their children to be engaged in the service. They should do this by getting to know them, the way God created them, and encourage them to engage within that nature. I believe "Gameboys" and other PGD's are too mentally engaging for the majority of children to use them during a service, however I think very young children should be allowed to use them to teach them to be still and quiet while others are trying to listen. However, they should be weaned off of them as soon as they are mature enough to engage more.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Counting Blessings

Some days it's harder to count my blessings.  Sometimes we, as mothers, are hit with a deluge of bad circumstances that threaten to drag us under.  Today has been one of those days, and it's not over yet.

I can feel in my gut that today is a test to see how I weather under abnormally adverse circumstances.  I am determined to pass that test the first time.

First, I prayed for God to guide my steps, and I've tried really hard to follow His leading.  I'm doing just that in writing this blog post even though I feel my skin crawl as I get more and more behind sitting here.

Second, I am going to write a list of things I'm thankful for thus far today.

1) I'm thankful that the head lice was only found on two of my children rather than on all four.
2) I'm thankful that one of them has very thick hair even though it's harder to apply the necessary medicated lotions, and even though her hair seems to be much more lice ridden.
3) I'm thankful that one of them has hair that is thinner, although it is more wavy and hard to maintain, because it's much easier to apply the necessary anti-lice products.
4) I'm thankful my children know how to do laundry, so I'm not the only one washing bed linens.
5) I'm thankful that I have a working washer and dryer as it makes washing linens so much easier.
6) I'm thankful that the children took the initiative to put bowls on the dining room table to catch the drips coming through the ceiling from their bathroom.
7) I'm thankful that I was able to easily diagnose what was causing the drips (a simple toilet overflow) and fix it without calling a repair man (yet).
8) I'm thankful that there were clean towels available to mop up the toilet water, and I'm thankful that my kids' bathroom floor is now much cleaner than it was.
9) I'm thankful that I was able to take a shower and eat food today even though it was much later than I would have preferred.
10) I'm thankful that I wasn't out of laundry detergent or shampoo, or floor cleaner or any other necessary items to clean up the sundry messes that were made today.
11) I'm thankful that laundry was relatively caught up, so I wasn't piling on even more work.
12) I'm thankful that I already had something on hand to give my homeschooling friend for dinner tonight.
13) I'm thankful that I don't have a broken hip like the homeschooling friend I'm feeding dinner to tonight.
14) I'm thankful that my tire was only low on air, and not flat when I got in the van to pick up lice medication.
15) I'm thankful for a music teacher who comes to my house to teach my children, even though today ended up being a not-so-great day for adding in three half-hour music lessons to the rest of the tumult.
16) I'm thankful for the finances to pay for mouth surgery, even though I would like to cancel that appointment for a second time right now.
17) I'm thankful that my hubby prays for me when I text him, and calls me to check up on things even if that phone call comes as I'm cleaning cat poop out of the tub so I can shampoo my daughters' hair.
18) I'm thankful for two cute kitties, even if they insist that the tub is a much more delightful place to poo than their litter pan.
19) I'm thankful for four capable children who had patience with me even though I yelled a bit this morning at how slow they were reacting.
20) I'm thankful for children who were very understanding when I explained that I was not upset with them, but at the circumstances of the day thus far.

I think that's good enough for now.  I admit some of this was typed with internal sarcasm, but I really am thankful for the many things God has done for me, even in light of all the yucky stuff I have to deal with now and then.

Now to get back to the general havoc of the day.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Unschooling: Atomic Marshmallows

Photography: Diana Horak (used with permission)
I got an idea from a friend of mine several months ago.  She posted pictures of her kids making atoms out of marshmallows.  I decided that would be a fun thing to try with the kids.  So I went out and bought two bags of mini-marshmallows.

Then I created suspense buy telling the kids they were for a school project we were going to do someday.  Then I waited another month or so before I actually pulled them out of the cabinet.  Ok, so maybe that part wasn't intentional, but rather an attack of my procrastination gene.

Here's how I did it (and how it worked in the unschooling framework).

I waited until the kids were getting their afternoon snack and told them I was going to let them have marshmallows today.

I printed out two copies of the table from this site.  Then I printed out pictures of the atomic diagrams for the first 18 atoms on the periodic table.

I explained how to determine the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons based on this page.

I let the kids pick which color marshmallow to designate as each one.  They picked the following

Yellow: Electron
Peach: Proton
Green: Neutron

Then I told them that they could build as many atoms as they wanted, but they had to build each atom before they could eat the marshmallows it contained.

My youngest daughter (4 years old) built the least number of molecules with a total of three.  Well, technically her third was just arranging random marshmallows on toothpicks, but I let it slide.

My son (15 years old) built the second least with 8 total.  They had to build them in the order I printed them.  He got to carbon and, despite his usual high sugar cravings, decided he would rather go play on the Wii U.

My oldest daughter (10 years old) finished a total of 9.

And my middle daughter (9 years old) finished the most with a total of 18.  Yes, that was all the ones I printed for her.  She probably would have kept going had I printed more.  In fact, she ran out of the other three colors and had to use pink ones for the last atom.  She then ate her fill of marshmallows and had a napkin full to deposit in her treat bin, to be eaten at her leisure on another day.

I gave them the parameters and they performed to their level of interest.

You might be asking, What about the other pink marshmallows?  I told the kids that for every element they read about I would give them 5 pink marshmallows.  All three of the older ones read the introduction about hydrogen here (first 7 paragraphs).  The four year old repeated the names of the first 6 elements to me, and I gave her 5 pink marshmallows.    

Saturday, August 31, 2013


So... tonight I actually said what I was thinking, out loud.  I know to most of you this comes as a shock since I seem like I say whatever pops into my head immediately.  While that's true about my attempts at humor and encouraging things, I usually don't give unsolicited advice to complete strangers.

Here's how it went down.  I was at a restaurant with my BFF and her beautiful almost four month old daughter.  Our waiter commented on how cute the baby was and as he was walking away he said, "I can't wait to have kids.  I want five."  I was so surprised that when he came back around I asked if I had heard right.  He launched into this five minute explanation of how he's ready to settle down and have kids and he just has to find the right girl and all the girls he's met just want to play games.

Now, normally this is the part where I smile and nod and maybe say something about how I hope he finds his soul mate.  Tonight I took a leap and told him, "If you want to find the right kind of girl you need to go to church.  That's where the girls are who are ready to settle down and have kids."  I was expecting him to blow off my comment, but instead he agreed with me.  My BFF recognized his upstate NY accent and commented on it.

After he checked on his other tables he came back and pulled up a chair and told us all about how he had moved here on his own and was looking for a new life and all that.  I asked him where he lived in the area and recommended a good church near him (he said he didn't have a car).  Before we left the restaurant he told us that God must be really trying to get a hold of him, because there have been a bunch of times in the five months he's lived in the area where random people have told him to go to church.

Tonight I'm praying that Patrick will find God, and if he's already found him once, that he'll be re-infused with passion.  I pray that he does find the girl who's willing to get married and have five kids with him, but not until he's ready to support her spiritually, as well as financially.  I'm praying that tomorrow morning he'll wake up earlier than he thought he would, with more energy than he expects (he's working until 1:00 am) and that he'll remember the recommendations he received and try out the churches I mentioned.

One more thing... Any of my friends at the Harbor... let me know if Patrick shows up tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I Exercise in Front of My Children

I used to hide from my children when it came to exercise.  I got up earlier than my children so I could get in a work-out before they awoke. This only ended up with me collapsing into bed exhausted without any energy left to spend on my husband.  I used to wait until they went to bed before getting out the elliptical.  This gave me a burst of energy right before bedtime but made it impossible to get up the next morning.  I tried going to the gym after dinner and leaving the kids home with my husband.  This sucked time away that I could have been spending at home with him.  To work out as consistently as I should have, it just wasn't good for our relationship. 

I didn't want my kids to see me all hot and sweaty.  I didn't want them to interrupt my workouts. I was trying to get healthy for their benefit, after all.  According to the experts, a healthy mom has more energy to help her family.  I even justified that if I wasn't getting my form right, they wouldn't see it and try to copy my bad habits.  

That all changed when I hired a personal trainer.  I wanted to get healthy, and I was willing to hire a professional to help me achieve my goals.  I gave myself a year to gain control of my regimen.  I checked out the personal trainer at the gym and the cost was way out of my budget, so my other option was to hire someone to come to my home.  I did a quick internet search and sent out a request for someone to help me.  Within a week I had a call from a guy in Miami.  The only hitch... the earliest we could meet was at 10:00 in the morning.  

Within a few weeks my three year old decided to join us.  We were working out in my garage and front driveway, in the blazing heat, but still she persisted in joining us.  The older kids had chores and independent schoolwork to do, so they only came out if they had a question, but the three year old wanted to be by my side the whole time.  It got to the point where she would be dressed with her shoes on within minutes of the doorbell ringing.  

At first I was annoyed.  Why was she so intent on following me around, trying to copy me.  She was getting in the way.  She was interrupting my workout time.  Then one day something clicked.  I decided to pick-up a few things from the fitness department at Wal-mart so I could do some workouts on the days my trainer wasn't there.  I was comparing the 8 lb and 10 lb work-out balls when my three year old asked if she could get "this one."  It was a smaller orange 4 lb weight ball.  She was carrying it gingerly and trying to put it in the cart.  

In that moment I realized allowing her access to my exercise regimen was teaching her a positive side to exercising.  From that moment on I made sure all my children understood that as long as their chores were finished they could join my work-out.  They couldn't take it over, but they could do what I was doing and learn from "Mr John" alongside me.  

Here are a few of the benefits children receive from watching their mom exercise:

1) They see that exercise is normal.  It's not an activity saved for special occasions.  It's a part of daily life.  

2) They learn that you're willing to step outside your comfort zone.  When you push yourself to complete five more reps than you did the week before, they learn to push themselves farther.  They see that you must challenge yourself to get results.

3) They find that maintaining good health is not easy.  They discover that people on TV who have healthy bodies and lean figures don't just magically get that way.  They know learn first-hand what it takes to maintain their health.  Hopefully this will, in turn develop some compassion.

Children can even learn positive lessons from what may seem like negatives:

4) They may see inconsistency.  Children need to see role models fail.  They need to realize that life isn't just a series of successes, but a mountain of difficulty to climb.  Perfection is for heaven, and until we get there we must be over-comers.   Managing failure is an important step to success.

5) They learn that it's ok to rest.  They need to see mom take a break now and then.  There were several times I had to cancel my appointment with my trainer due to illness or because something else came up that was more pressing.  But they also saw that the next week I was right back on again.  

6) If you allow it, they may even become accountability partners.  When you know that your children are aware of your regimen, you are much less likely to skip because you "just don't feel like it."  

So, don't hide from your kids.  Invite them to exercise with you.  Include them in your successes and let them see your failures.  Allow them to interrupt you, but teach them boundaries.  Show them by example that there are parts of life that aren't fun, but are necessary and beneficial.  And get your little girls smaller versions of your equipment, because watching a four year old do adult exercises with tiny pink exercise equipment is just priceless.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

A New Perspective on an Old Problem

The following story is fictional, and intended to prove a point.


I'll never forget the day he told me.  There were tears in his eyes as he bared his soul.  My heart beat heavily in my chest as I saw him draw up the courage to get it out.  They were words no mother wants to hear, words that meant my comfy spiritual life was over.  I didn't want to believe it, I tried to pretend it was just a phase.  He would grow up in a few years and get over this nonsense.

I tried to handle it well.  I said, "Thank you for telling me this.  I'm glad you were honest.  I want you to know you can tell me anything."

He wanted to talk to his father, and I had to convince him to wait until he got home from work.  I shot off a text warning my hubby that our son was having a very bad day.  I hoped it would alert him enough that he wouldn't come home cross.  .  

I asked him so many questions.  "When did you start to feel this way?  How do you know it's real?  You know what the Bible says about this lifestyle, right?"

He answered confidently.  He knew what he was talking about.  He knew it was wrong, but he was powerless against it.

I told him I needed some time to think.  I walked to my room and quietly shut the door.  This couldn't be the fate of my child, my beautiful boy.

We had home schooled him, taught him Biblical values, kept him separate from the world.  He hadn't had any of the brainwashing "You're born this way" crap from the government schools.  He had asked Jesus into his heart when he was young.  He read his Bible and prayed.  Every indicator pointed at a growing relationship with Christ.  He wasn't perfect, but he was normal.  Or, so I thought.

I didn't realize how long I sat there, staring at an invisible point on the wall.  When I heard the front door open I looked at the clock on my bedside table.  How had the time flown?  I walked out to greet my husband.  Suddenly I felt the pain in my throat that comes when you're trying not to cry.  I tried to call him out of his room, but my voice came out all funny.

He must have heard the door too, because he came out a moment later.  He asked us both to sit down.  I held my husband's hand as I listened to him repeat the story he told me earlier.  Then it was silent, painfully so.

My husband looked into my eyes and the tears were too painful to hold back any longer.  They streamed silently down my cheeks as I tried to swallow.  I hoped he had better answers than I did.  He didn't know what to say.  He sat there with me breathing heavily for several minutes.

In that silence I knew that there was nothing we could do.  Our son was going to be outcast.  He was abandoning our faith and siding with the enemy of our soul.  This deception would surely lead him down a path that would end in premature death.  He would never know the kind of loving relationship we did.

He was... Gluttonous.

In the weeks to follow he decided he needed to let people at church know.  It wasn't fair to the other kids in the youth group to pretend he was normal.  The youth pastor preached a lesson on the evils of gluttony.  He asked everyone to pray to break the power of gluttony over their lives.  He read from passages like Philippians 3:19 and Proverbs 25:16.

The pastor had a meeting with the three of us to discuss this issue.  He said our son's influence in the youth group could be disastrous.  He wanted our son to get up and publicly denounce his sin and tell everyone that he was no longer going to choose to be gluttonous.  Our son was adamant that he couldn't lie to everyone.

Eventually the pastor asked us to leave the church.  He went over the passage about church discipline and explained that he had to do it to "save our eternal souls."  We found out through a friend that he later denounced our family as wolves in sheep's clothing.

We lost so many people we thought were friends.  They just couldn't get over the fact that our son was openly gluttonous.  It broke my heart.  I could see the bitterness developing in my son.  He had been taught about the love of God.  About the forgiveness of sin.  He mocked our pastor for his catchphrases like "Love the sinner hate the sin," and I couldn't blame him.

I certainly didn't feel like I could help him.  I had never been in his position.  I mean, I had my faults, but gluttony?  I just didn't understand how he could be that way.  He was such a good looking boy too.  How would this affect him physically.  I knew it was only a matter of time before his health was affected.

I tried to find ways to help him, but every Christian I talked to just sort of clammed up and acted like they were sorry for my loss.

That was so long ago.  We've been coping with this so long now that I'm used to it.  I've made peace with the fact that my son is a glutton.  He even found a partner.  Someone who understands his side of things.  They've been together for many years.  What did I learn?  The church has no idea how to handle this kind of thing.  They put it in a little box and file it away under the "excommunication" label.  There are no help groups.  At least none that I can find.  I've heard the same verses quoted over and over that my son is in sin and since he chooses to be in sin there's nothing we can do but shun him until he repents or dies.

The sad thing is, if he had fallen into some besetting sin like pornography or alcoholism we would have received more support.  It's too late now.  He has diabetes and has already lost some toes due to poor circulation.


The moral: Just as we wouldn't realistically shun someone for being gluttonous, and would try to help them overcome this sin, we shouldn't shun someone who's gay, but rather rejoice that they are bold enough to be honest about their position and help them understand how to live a victorious Christian life.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Proud moment

I'll try to keep this short... In fact, I would have made this a status update on Facebook, but the story is too long for that venue.

I have to say I was really proud of my 15 year old son yesterday.  Here's what went down.

I picked up my BFF's 13 year old boys like I do every Monday for our homeschool co-op.  My BFF just had a baby, and my 4 year old had the sniffles, so I couldn't leave her there this time.  She sat in the back seat of our minivan and tried to talk to the boys.  They were too absorbed in their DS game to even realize she was there.  She was too far back, and the boys were too loud for me to carry on a conversation with her, so I turned on the radio to give her something to listen to and take her mind off being ignored.

As soon as the boys heard the radio one of them commented on the channel.

Z: "Classical music is like one of the worst music ever."
M: "Yeah.  It's worse than Rap." (Had to agree with him about Rap being near the bottom of the list)
Z: "Yeah, It goes Classical music, Rap, then Jazz because I hate Jazz too."

To my utter astonishment, my son decided to challenge his best friends on their emphatic statement.

R: "What's wrong with Classical?"
M: "It's just the same quiet stuff over and over."
R: "No it's not!"
Z: "Well all the lame ones are quiet."

About this time we arrived at co-op and had to turn of the beautiful song playing on the radio.

Now, here's the best part.  As we got in the car to drive home I remembered our conversation from the morning.  I decided to turn on the radio just because I'm the mom and I can.  Within a few moments Light Cavalry by Franz von Suppe came on.  I took my opportunity to make my point and when the most lively moment came on I cranked the volume.

B: "So what was that about all classical music being quiet?"
Z: "Well, all the lame ones are."
R: "So this isn't a lame one?"

Suddenly the conversation shifted to reveal their true feelings.

R: "This is for Horse Races."
M: "You know what the best horse music is?"
Z: "Yeah"
M: "The Riders of Rohan"
B: "You know the all the Lord of the Rings music is classical, right?"
M: "No, that's not classic music.  It's not 30 years old yet."
B: "Not 'classic'... 'Classical'. Even the dwarves' song in The Hobbit is classical."
Z: "Well, we like that kind of classical music then."

Anyway... I guess I'm proud first, because my son doesn't hate classical music, and second, because he didn't succumb to peer pressure and hide his true feelings.

I guess I'm also proud of my BFF's sons for sticking to their guns and when they were proven wrong, being willing to admit it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

An Open Letter to my Firstborn on His First Day of Work

Dear Son,

There have been few times in your life I have greeted with anxiety.

The first was your birth.  The anxiety I felt upon leaving you in the NICU while I went home to recuperate from your emergency delivery has not been matched yet.  I hope I never feel that way again.

The second was your entrance into early adulthood at the age of 13.  Your first birthday I took in stride, not worrying too much about your future.  As your 13th neared, I wondered how I would let go and allow you to mature without micro-managing your transition.  The last few months leading up to that day caused much introspection and careful consideration.

Now you embark on a new phase of life.  One that I pray over constantly.  One that requires me to release you into the ungodly world.

I have educated you at home because I didn't want the enemy to have a say in your education before you were mature enough to handle his attacks.  I took my role as your God ordained guardian seriously, pushing you at times like a mother bird would knock a fledgling from the nest.  All the while I have watched cautiously trying to maintain balance between allowing you to make mistakes and rescuing you when your lack of wisdom would cause too much harm.

We both know I haven't excelled at times.  For instance, the time when you were rough housing on your bunk bed with your buddies, resulting in a fall and a broken foot.  We both know that I made you walk a mile on that foot, not realizing it was actually broken, unwilling to listen to your complaints.  I've already apologized for that and hope that you now see it in a humorous light.

Regardless, I have tried to keep you from attacks on your self esteem from ill-tempered peers.  I have tried to rescue you from humanistic brainwashing by power hungry adults.  I have tried to caution you against bodily injury by teaching you how to be adventurous but still careful.

By bits and inches I have tried to build in you the ability to overcome any obstacle in life through encouraging your trail-blazing spirit.  I have gradually lessened the number of orders I give you while increasing the number of suggestions.  I have begun the process of requiring you to take responsibility for your decisions.

And now you are in the workforce.  You will be spending hours around peers and elders who may not have the same worldview, who are not motivated by Christian love, and who will use manipulation and control to satisfy their selfish desires.  These people will not understand why you won't sacrifice your health and well being for a few minutes of chemical pleasure.  They will not understand why you are not interested in illicit talk and avoid sensual imagery.  As it says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, they will not understand your motivation because it is foolishness to them.  They cannot understand it because they see through carnal eyes.

Unlike the teachers and mentors you have had, your employer is not interested in your growth and development except where it brings in a profit.  The end goal of your company is not to nourish and feed you.  It is not to ensure that you are healthy or fulfilled in life.  The goal of your company is to make a profit.  They have merely hired you because they need another able bodied young man to help do the grunt-work.

In closing, I say this.  Keep your eyes on Christ.  Make it your goal each day to serve Him.  Be an example of the believers.  Let them know you're a Christian by your love.  Be the best you can be by the power of God.  Don't allow the ungodly actions of your associates, seemingly without consequence, lure you away from your relationship to God.  Guard your heart, guard your eyes, guard your mind, guard your tongue.  Realize that you will receive a greater reward in heaven when you overcome.

Above all, I love you.  I'm proud of you.
Your mother