Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Play it Again, Mom

The chocolate Easter bunnies are a happy memory.  Empty plastic eggs appear to have multiplied and hidden themselves in various corners of my house. The baskets are holding other treasures now, but one of their Easter goodies still retains its luster.

I bought the boys personalized CDs from Christianbook.com.  #1 son received "Jesus Loves You" which rocks like a praise band.  #2 son has "Fun Time Bible Stories" which giggles and marches and hums along at a toddler tempo.  They've been in steady rotation ever since Easter Sunday.  The guys are fascinated by hearing their names spoken and sung aloud.

"I love to spend time with you. It's my favorite thing.
J--- you make me want to sing.
Today is going to be great fun
Spending time with you." (From Fun Time Bible Stories)

One day, when I picked up DW from school, his teacher said she had a touching story to share.  At lunchtime he'd turned to one of his buddies and said, "I got a CD for Easter. It says 'I'm precious in God's sight.'"

Worth every penny.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Witness to Truth

Monday Manna

Today I am participating in "Monday Manna," hosted by Joanne Sher at An Open Book. Visit her blog for links to more discussion on Acts 22:15.

You will be his witnesses to all men of what you have seen and heard.  Acts 22:15

The courtroom gallery is silent. The judge adjusts his glasses.  The jurors sit in various attitudes of interest. An attorney approaches a lone woman, who has just sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  

“Tell the court what you saw the night of April 18, 2009.”

The witness’s duty is to provide evidence in a trial, to tell her story in her own words before the court. The judge may ask her questions. She may be cross-examined.  Above all, the witness’s primary duty is to tell the truth.

God instructed Ananias, a devout observer of Torah and a believer in Jesus the Messiah, to go to a man named Saul of Tarsus and restore his sight.   By faith, Ananias delivered God’s mission for Saul--bring His name and His truth before the Gentiles and before the people of Israel. (Acts 9:11-19)

God had chosen Saul, also known as Paul, to be His witness.  A witness is more than one who sees what happened; he has to be able and willing to affirm the truth of his testimony.

After his encounter with Jesus, whom Ananias calls “the Righteous One”, Paul was more than willing. He testified to God’s grace, God’s providence, God’s sovereignty, God’s love.  He told his story in his own words before more than one court. He was put on trial, cross-examined, accused, and imprisoned.

Paul never wavered in his witness.

Your testimony may not contain the drama of Paul’s, the heartache of Peter’s, or the blessed relief of Mary Magdalene’s. But you are also called to be His witness. Speak the truth. Tell your story. In your own words.  

When the Pharisees investigated Jesus’ healing of the blind man at the Pool of Siloam, they grilled him mercilessly. He couldn’t answer all their questions, but he told them the truth: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25b)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Banana-Bran Muffins

Don't touch those bananas--I mean for them to turn brown.  Today we made "Banana Bran Muffins", one of our favorite snacks.  The basic recipe is from Mommy Made*and Daddy too!  Home Cooking for a Healthy Baby & Toddler, but I've tweaked it over the years.

It's a big ol' plate of happy....

Banana-Bran Muffins
Makes approx. 12 full size or 24 mini muffins

Dry ingredients:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup wheat bran (I've also used wheat germ)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups pureed ripe banana (about 3-4 medium-large bananas)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Add ins (optional)
Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tins (lightly grease or line with paper baking cups).

Stir dry ingredients together in one bowl.  Use a larger bowl to mix the wet ingredients together.  Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add your add-in(s) and stir until just blended. 

Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full.  Bake 15-20 minutes--until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

My recipe says they'll keep for a few days.  We've never had any stay around that long!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


My name is Karen and I’m a perfectionist.  I like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist. Never quite over it, but always learning to laugh at this personal foible.

Perfectionism is a craving.  I think “just one more edit” or “one more attempt” and I’ll have it.  It’s a form of idolatry. My mind creates an ideal and I think I can achieve it--but it always eludes me, morphing into something slightly different each time I think I’m close. I have trouble letting go of a project. I crave that next attempt at improvement.

It’s a form of pride. Close enough is just not good enough. Others compliment. I question whether they’ve looked closely enough at the subject at hand.  I believe I can do better because---well, because it’s me. I can do it.

Like I said, I’m recovering. 

I’ve been fortunate in my writing to have some good teachers.  One high school English teacher wrote comments on our papers that would probably get her in trouble nowadays for “damaging our self esteem.”  On the contrary, she was usually right and we knew it.  She chiseled away at my writing until I was forced to uncover the gemstone in the middle of all the dirt and rock.

I’ve learned to take comments in stride--even the negative ones.  When I taught workshops on customer service, I occasionally received biting comments on my positive attitude.  The first one hurt. I was new at the job and didn’t want my supervisor to think ill of me.  Never mind that I had 75 good reviews from the same class.  Months later I began to laugh at that review.  It was so over the top, it gradually became funny.

Then there are the comments that offer constructive criticism. Criticism from someone I respect is a gift. Some criticisms have to do with opinion, which I may or may not agree with. Those force me to think about why or how I wrote on a subject.  One comment on a FaithWriters contest entry led to an online friendship with a dear lady who pointed out a glaring error.

So I was caught off guard when a Good Friday piece I wrote for a website received a rating of -2. Negative two?  This online newspaper allows readers to click a green “up” or red “down” arrow to rate articles.  I’ve had articles receive a 1 rating, maybe a 2, and sometimes a 0.  But this I had to investigate.  Scrolling down to the comments section I found....nothing.  No complaint. No idea where I didn’t connect with the readers--2 of them, obviously. Nada. Zip. Zero. Uh, make that -2.

I’ve mulled this over since Easter and found that what I feel most is embarrassment. Among the articles with 4’s and 6’s and even 0’s there stands my -2. It’s the big fat C- on the page.

No one is going to read my article again, I thought.  It’s been brushed away.  Branded.  Nothing to see here....move along.  That’s what annoys me.  I want one more edit. One more attempt.  The courtesy of one comment I can wrap this rating around.

Then I move on and laugh at myself as I shake my fist at invisible critics.

Like I said, I’m recovering. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bunny Munch Baskets

The preschool Easter party was this week and I signed up to bring a “fruit/vegetable” snack.  Great.  Now all I needed was an idea.

An Internet search revealed that most of the featured snacks for Easter involved eggs or some sort of carbo-sweet. Wrong food groups.  So I invented this basket of bunny food to add some fun nutrition to our festivities.

The basket is simple: a paper cupcake liner.  I put coconut in a baggie with a few drops of green food coloring. A few shakes later I had edible grass to line the baskets.

I filled the baskets with colorful fruits and veggies that a bunny might eat. I like the contrast between orange and green and we all know that bunnies like carrots, so matchstick carrots went in first.  Grapes, apples, and cantaloupes are on sale this week, but there’s no end to what can be included: strawberries, thin celery sticks, blueberries. Slice the larger fruits into bite sized pieces.  I cut and prepared everything in advance, so assembly only took a few minutes.

There was a little something for everyone.  Some kids passed on the coconut, but eyes sparkled at the colorful array of goodies.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Some Kind of Initiation

Been subbing as an assistant in one of the classes at DW's preschool. Delightful.  The preschool teachers are amazing women who answer tough questions, wipe noses, fill glue bottles, and read stories all at the same time. One of the best things about teaching is that you never stop learning and you're steeped in the environment of the inquisitive.  I would never have thought to ask, as one child did, "What time of day do lizards hatch out of their eggs?"

At my age I take lizard eggs for granted.  Actually, I don't think about them at all.

Day 1 went rather smoothly.  I managed to learn all of the names, not too hard since half the girls have the same name. 

Day 2 was interesting.  They taught me a new song, a silly song, with extremely silly motions. The kind of song most adults would not be caught dead performing.  Halfway through the song I looked around and realized that I was being watched closely.  Would this woman actually follow along and do every single crazy thing the song called for?

They don't know me.   I can Hokey Pokey with the best of them.

So I gave it everything I had: thumbs up, arms back, feet apart, knees together, bottom up, tongue out, eyes closed, and turn around.

Afterward half the class wanted to sit next to me.  I'd passed some kind of initiation.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

One Little Palm Branch

Today is Palm Sunday. We've been talking about Easter for weeks, mostly learning the story and building vocabulary.  Passion Week is noisy and confusing. There's talk of death and crucifixion.  People are waving palm branches and shouting. There's a "last" supper and betrayal with a kiss.  Heady stuff for a 4-year-old, but he wants to hear it again and again.

Yesterday he cried because he fell asleep before his Bible story CD was finished.  "I wanted to get to Easter!"  He'd listened patiently through creation, the flood, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Jonah. Just about the time that 12-year-old Jesus was left at the Temple, my guy fell sound asleep.  So he missed Easter.

Today he carried one little palm branch around the sanctuary as the choir and congregation sang Hosannas.  It was noisy, a little confusing, and he needed to follow the big girl who carried the cross.  But he got to be part of the story--waving his palm branch for Jesus.

Plenty to do this week: Easter parties, egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, baskets, even a birthday celebration.  Through it all we'll try to stay awake for the big moment, so we don't miss what we've been waiting for.  We'll not miss Easter.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Painted Toast

Today's rainy day activity was Painted Toast.  It's simple, inexpensive, and easy to clean up--three things that make it popular with this mom.

Here's how: 
  1. Put 2 Tbs. milk into bowls--one bowl for each color
  2. Add 5 drops food coloring into each bowl
  3. Stir

We made blue, yellow, green, and red (pink, actually).  The paint is a deliciously creamy color and completely edible. We used small paint brushes that I keep aside for food use.

Once the paint is mixed--the sky's the limit.  My 2-year-old enjoyed applying paint, mostly in one spot. My 4-year-old made rainbows, a face, and one piece that blended colors to make purple and orange. Even mom got into the act with a butterfly and a self-portrait.

Then it's off to the toaster.  We like our bread lightly toasted and the colors stayed bright.  The bread was so pretty that they passed on the jelly and enjoyed it plain.  

Their verdict?  "Yummy!"

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...

Time flies when you're having fun.  Time also flies when you're raising children.  I'd fallen off the Blogger wagon for awhile--not that there weren't any deep thoughts or things happening, but simply because time was in short supply.

I've missed the time to ruminate at the keyboard, but have not been idle in my writing.

My second draft of "Ruth" appears to be in the finishing stages.  I taught it to the Becomers I class in January and they learned, enjoyed, and assisted me in finding the weak points in my written study.  After Easter I'll teach the Becomers II class with the "new and improved" version.  I confess that I'm excited that my Sunday School class is anticipating this study.  I'm praying that it continues to touch lives.

I've been writing a bit for The Cypress Times. I wish I had a bit more time to devote to this site, but I feel blessed to be even a small part.

I only entered one Writing Challenge last quarter. I'd peek at the topic each week, but if an idea didn't spring to mind, I let the week slip away.  This quarter started with "Up and Down" so we'll see where that leads.

2009 is marching on....