Thursday, December 31, 2015

Movie Review

The homeschool community was very excited to show Beyond the Mask in the theater here last spring. We had such a busy spring we didn't even attempt to attend the showing. I requested it from the library and finally had my turn last week. It was frustrating that I got it over the holidays. I squeezed in watching it one night after the Lambs went to bed.

After watching it, I think the Lambs would need to be a little older to enjoy this movie. I think the age to watch this would be high school. I didn't try to fit in the Lambs watching it before it was due and because it was in high demand I wasn't allowed to renew it.

The homeschool community had a right to be excited about this movie since two homeschool graduates made this movie. This all began with some cousins getting together and making home movies several years ago. Now they were ready to produce a big film.   It was impressive that one actor was John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings), one writer was Paul McCusker (Adventures in Odyssey), and Stephen Kendrick (Fireproof, War Room) helped with the directing. There were 750 special effects! People around the world worked and also volunteered to make this movie. I appreciated that it was PG rating.

This movie seemed to have it all-action, adventure, love, and historical setting. They did their research so it was historically accurate, but they played with events that really happened so that the characters in the movie were in those historical events. I personally thought some of the events in the movie were a little far fetched to be historically correct, but they could have happened. I am often frustrated with the historical accuracy of films. This one seemed to get it correct or at least show "what might have been".

I am also often frustrated with the theology in "Christian" movies. I was pleased that this movie seemed to get it right. Then I listened to the bonus features and as the producer talked about their motivation to make this movie they got it wrong.

I would recommend this movie to high school students, especially that they watch it thinking about what they know about that point in history and that they think of how the movie was made-looking at the special effects. There wouldn't be anything wrong with showing it to younger and older, but I don't think they would get as much out of it. And I would recommend that the family watches the bonus features together and talk about the theology together.

*Spoiler Alert: Quit reading here if you want to watch the movie!

A female character in the movie says, "Neither redemption or love can be earned. They are gifts granted freely from God."

The producer talks about this part of the movie in the bonus features. He quotes Titus 3:5. Then he says, "If we accept that (Titus 3:5), turn from trusting self and trust Him, God creates a new identify in Christ Jesus."

The producer also says, "We don't have to work hard to be good enough. Jesus has already done that for us. If we accept the redemption He offers we have hope for the future."

I believe the female character got it right, but the producer did not. We say in the meaning to the Apostles' Creed in the Small Catechism-

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

The producers statement goes beyond the female character's line and what the producer adds is not necessary. I know blogging about this is being really nit picky. That is the point. The Gospel is that Jesus did it all for us! We don't have to, nor are we able to, accept it ourselves.

One part of the movie that I appreciated was it gave a broad view of what was happening all over the world during Colonial Times in America. My high school history class seemed to just focus on what was happening in England and America. But we forget that dumping the tea in the Boston Harbor was much more involved than just those two countries. I thought the movie did a great job on this, especially because people were working on this movie all over the world when they made this movie. Because it was a group effort that view came across well.

You could tell that they did their homework and it showed that the historical accuracy was pretty good. Even the parts that didn't really happen, could have happened in the movie.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

First Days of Christmas

We didn't attend 2nd Christmas Eve service because Lamb 2 and 3 were grouchy and tired. The Lambs had a fit that they were missing church! After putting them to bed I sat by the fire with a cup of tea and read a book until Ram came home.

On Christmas Day we did attend church. Then we came home and had crepes and lingonberries for lunch. The Lambs received remote control cars. Ram's parents came late in the afternoon. We opened a couple of presents and then we ate Christmas dinner. Then we finished opening presents. Then we had pie. I hurried to send everyone upstairs so I could watch Call the Midwife. It was a delightful holiday special remembering barren women.

On Saturday the Lambs received stylus with Star Wars characters on them in their stocking to go with their new Boogie Boards they got from Grandpa and Grandma. Ram and his dad took the Lambs to the Star Wars movie. Ram's mom and I went shopping. We both got a couple of great After Christmas deals. We also went to Macys to get ties for the Lambs to go to Stonesetters in January. We were disappointed that the coupon that I had expired at 2pm and we were there at 3pm. I never would have gone close to the mall the day after Christmas if Ram's mom hadn't wanted to. It ended up being busy, but not terrible. We just took our time driving between stores. After the movie we all went to a BBQ restaurant.

Ram's parents joined us for church on Sunday. We came home and ate leftovers. We spent Sunday around the house. The stocking treat today was lemon coconut water.

Monday I went to the grocery store and thought I overspent my monthly budget but I came in $0.83 under budget. Plus I have a mail in rebate and I will get $3 more. I am quite proud of serving Paleo meals and buying stocking treats and still staying under budget. That afternoon Ram's mom had some shopping to do at the health food store (to take home with her) and I had a coupon. It was good to go see what they had and decide it is not worth a membership for us. I had planned on cooking supper, but everyone was a little stir crazy with the cold weather so we decided to get out and go to Sushi Boats. Lamb 2 "won" by eating 14 sushi plates.

Tuesday's stocking treat was Butterfingers that were on Christmas clearance. Ram's parents joined us to go to the Basque museum. We had been there once when we first moved here and spent a little more time there this time. Since we were downtown Boise we decided to go out to eat again to a fish restaurant. The Lambs loved their fish and chips. Then we came home and I made deviled eggs for a snack. For supper Ram and I made Broccoli Beef. It was so good we will definitely make that recipe again! Ram's parents called it an early evening because they are flying to a family wedding today. This was Ram and Ewe's 14th wedding anniversary, but we didn't do anything special.

I was surprised how quickly the few days with Ram's parents went. We hadn't planned on eating out so much, but that is what happened. We have lots of food and desserts leftover. I will try to freeze some and we will eat the rest this week. It is nice to not have to cook for a few more days of vacation.

This morning's stocking treat was $5 each with a note that we would go to the Lego store today. We had never been there before. I made clear that we were going to window shop and to possibly buy individual pieces by the cup. There wasn't a lot of selection left in the individual pieces so after a long time looking Lamb 1 asked if he could buy just one piece. The salesman asked what piece he was interested in and said if that was all he wanted, he could have it for free. We decided to come back in a couple of weeks and see if they had a better selection when it wasn't right after Christmas. Lamb 2 had a fit that he wasn't allowed to spend his own money. It ended up being a good lesson for all of the Lambs that  it is possible to window shop but not buy anything.

We are all fighting colds and sore throats here. No one is officially sick but everyone isn't feeling completely normal. I hope to catch up on laundry and paperwork at the end of the year. I also hope to send out Christmas cards and plan for school. On Saturday I am going to a scrapbook day with a friend, so I need to get organized for that. Ram is back to work visiting shut-ins this afternoon and tomorrow and writing a sermon for Sunday. The Lambs are enjoying their last few days of vacation before we are back to school and regular activities on Monday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Almost there

Ram's mom hosted us for Thanksgiving. She said that the day before we came she thought to herself one recipe down, 4 more to go, etc. until she made all the food. She prepared all the food before we got there so she could relax while we were there. She cooked everything from scratch so it would be Paleo so everyone in the family could eat it.

It is my turn to host Ram's parents for Christmas dinner. First I have thought one room down, 11 more to go, etc. until I cleaned the whole house. I didn't want to put up the Christmas tree until the living room was cleaned. (Full disclosure here: I deep cleaned the downstairs rooms and fast cleaned the upstairs rooms. I hope to deep clean upstairs after the holidays.) It took me the entire month of December to do all the cleaning. My house was very neglected in 2014 when Lamb 2 was in all his therapy and I think I finally got caught up.

Now it is my turn to make all the food from scratch and Paleo. I began with desserts. I chose 5 desserts because they are small and Ram's parents will be visiting us several days.  I have completed 4 of the desserts and will wait to make the 5th one until this weekend. The Paleo pecan bars were more complicated than I thought they were going to be, but I had a small sample and it was worth all the work! I am hoping to have one dessert each day they are here, but if Ram's dad hears about it he will probably request to sample all of them with Christmas dinner!

I did most of the grocery shopping on Saturday and the poor Lambs have had to ask before having fresh fruit and other snacks that are usually unlimited because they are for recipes. Today I went to a couple more stores and picked up the final ingredients for Christmas dinner. I still had money in my grocery budget and there were great items on clearance so I stocked up a little on a few more items.

Tomorrow the Lambs will put our Advent calendars away and they also have a few areas of the house to clean up their toys. I will tidy up and do a fast clean the bathrooms. I will make the sides to go with our ham too.

I am looking forward to going to 4 church services in the next 4 days. I am looking forward to several days of relaxing after working hard cleaning and baking. I am halfway done with Eternal Treasures and hope to finish. I am looking forward to playing card and board games with the Lambs. I have enjoyed reading Christmas cards we have received from friends and family. I plan to send New Year's cards this year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The things they say...

Lamb 2: Mama, may I have a licorice box for wrapping presents?

Ewe: I'm sorry, but I don't know what a licorice box is.

Lamb 2 came back in a few minutes with a liquor box!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Look what came today!

I was surprised there was Sunday delivery. I guess that happens this time of year! An envelope came from here:
 I received my complimentary copy of the book I contributed to:

I began reading it as soon as I opened it. It is so much fun to read sections from many friends. Many of the teachers I taught with at Zion in Fort Wayne contributed, including  Rev. Harrison (senior pastor while I was at Zion) wrote the forward and Rev. Brondos (headmaster while I was at Zion) has a section too. Other homeschool friends contributed too. I learned about the hymn and pelicans featured on the cover while I was teaching at Zion. In a small way I feel that this book summarizes my career teaching both at Zion and now teaching the Lambs at home.

I am featured in three different sections. I actually did not say the quote that was attributed to me on page 51. I figured out who said that and e-mailed Cheryl about it. This book is printed on demand so future copies should remove my name and attribute it to the correct person. I did say the section on page 65, that was my small contribution. I also wrote the long section on page 106, but Ram got the credit for that one!

This book is mainly written for homeschoolers or those considering homeschooling. It also has suggestions of what you can do with your children at home if they attend school.  It also has suggestions for how LCMS schools can work with homeschoolers. I highly recommend all LCMS to read this book to understand homeschooling more.

Cheryl and Rachel had a huge job organizing contributions from a lot of people all over the country. They did a fantastic job. The little bit of communicating I did for my small contribution was so much fun to work with Cheryl. When I wrote this we were taking Lamb 2 to lots of therapy and she was very encouraging about my homeschooling him. She reminded me then to keep reading quality literature to him and to keep going on this journey. Well, we have continued on this journey and he has had much improvement, but we have much more academic work to do with him yet. In the meantime we are reading quality literature to our Lambs!

You can order Eternal Treasures from Amazon.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Church Advertising

Our church is located centrally in a growing city. In fact, it has grown 139% since 2000. We have visitors at our church almost every Sunday. Several times a year I hear comments like, "I had no idea there was an LCMS church on your busy street" or "I drive by that church every day on the way to work and I had no idea it was an LCMS church."

So our church decided to send out a mass mailing to the local neighborhoods reminding them that we are located in our city and telling them what time our Christmas services will be. I haven't seen the mailing yet, but I know it has a picture of the Holy Family.

With our church doing this, I have paid attention to the junk mail recently. We received 3 advertisements for local churches this week. One had a picture of reindeer antlers, one had a picture of a forest, and one had an angel. The one with a forest was an 8x11 size so cost the most to print.

Obviously the angel one was the best of what we received. But where is Christ part of Christmas at these churches?

We are praying that our mailing goes to some people that need a church that celebrates CHRISTmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Financial Decisions

Due to health care costs rising, we are going to have to pay a portion of our family's health insurance beginning in January. I must stress that we were given a choice and we chose to continue with our current insurance and pay a portion of it instead of switching insurance. We really appreciate that our insurance includes medical, dental, mental, vision, and more.  We are thankful that Ram's employer is still paying a much bigger percentage than we are.

But due to paying this next year, our finances are going to be tighter than they have been. I was glad that we had several months notice before this took effect. I began by trying to figure out a family budget including this. Since I did it several months ago, I have had time to get more exact numbers and make corrections.

We rearranged payments for our life insurance and stuff like that. We used to pay the boys life insurance quarterly and now we will pay each boy's once a year. I prefer this because instead of paying 3 bills each quarter, we will pay 1 bill each quarter and get a break 1 quarter. That will save on postage and checks too as this was one that was not withdrawn from our bank account. Some of our other payments are withdrawn but we chose to not make this one automatic.

We contacted our cell phone company and changed plans. We are saving a lot of money with our new plan plus we get unlimited talk and text now.

We told the church the amount we wanted to be deducted from Ram's paychecks for our HSA. We contacted our tax lady to get an idea of what our taxes will be next year. When all this was done, my budget turned out much better than I thought it was going to be. We will need to continue being frugal, but our new budget was not impossible.

I remember my mom often saying that you have to have money to save money. What she meant by this was if there is a good sale at the grocery store you need to have enough money to stock up on that item when it is on sale. If you don't have enough money to buy it while it is on sale, if it is an item that your family needs, then you'll have to buy it later when it is more expensive. I have thought of this advice often while I was shopping the past few months. Recently when there have been good sales I have stocked up a little more than I used to. I ordered 60 lbs of chicken from Zaycon because it was a good price. Even doing this, I have been under budget on my groceries the last few months.

When Ram got the car serviced they said the battery could make it longer, but he should start thinking about replacing it. He told them to replace it immediately because we have the money now and it would be one less thing to worry about next year. We have done other stuff like this recently.

When I realized our property taxes had a slight increase I added that amount to my December mortgage payment. I don't want to get behind in monthly mortgage payment amount. We did that a couple of years ago and it was awful!

We have done our homework and planned well for this. We are ready for January 15, the first paycheck when this takes effect!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December Declutter and Cleaning Update

I had plans to do a lot of cleaning in December while many of our extracurricular activities are on vacation. I did not get off to a good start due to being sick. I was determined to clean before getting out Christmas decorations. Here's what I accomplished recently:
*Went through all my December teaching files. I discovered some craft ideas to do with Sunday School. I threw a bunch out. I don't think I had ever gone through these files-there never seemed to be time to do that during the holidays.
*I organized all of our Christmas books. I put a few to give away and plan to read a few one more time before giving them away.
*I put the fall decorations away/organized/gave away some.
*I am half way through organizing our biographies in our library.
*I organized the homemade jam to give away as Christmas presents. I kept about a dozen jars for us and gifts to be given away later, but all the rest is marked with names of who it goes to.
*I organized all the piano music and piano books. The piano bench was stuffed full and it was all over the top of the piano and floor by the piano. I couldn't convince the Lambs to get rid of very much, but now it is out of the piano bench and organized.
* I cleaned up and did deep cleaning in these rooms:
     Dining area
     Living Room
What was needed most in these areas was to wash the walls-I really didn't expect a neutral color inside the house to be this hard to keep up with. The areas that were worst were by door handles, light switches, and the stair handrails. Several Magic Erasers were used!
*I began organizing our files on our computer. I often download free homeschool resources and they were in one huge folder just titled homeschool documents. I started the project to organize all that and ended up organizing all our documents. I am not finished, but I already love how much easier it is to see what we have.
*We have had a very gradual decorating the house for Christmas this year. As we decorate I am cleaning out each tub and getting the Christmas decorations organized. I have given away some and plan to give away more after using it one more Christmas.

Here are my plans for this week:
*Finish decorating for Christmas. Continue organizing tubs of Christmas decorations.
*Wrap and mail presents for far away family.
*Clean back entryway and kitchen.
*Plan menus for meals while family will be here.
*Finish any Christmas shopping and grocery shop for Christmas meals.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bad day followed by good days

The past several years the Lambs have written a wish list to Grandma and Grandpa of one big present they would like to receive for Christmas and again on their birthdays. This almost always is a big Lego set, but once Lamb 1 asked for a model train set. They spend several weeks deciding what their one request will be followed by a second choice in case what they ask for is out of stock. (That happened one year.) The Lambs always received their first or second choice. This meant that with 3 Lambs they usually got 6 big sets of Legos each year and several other smaller Lego sets. 

The past few months the Lambs have often asked to use the computer and I found they were often searching Amazon for their wish list. I realize that this is today's version of the Sears catalog that I used as a child, but I thought they were spending way too much time on this. Add in that their requests were getting bigger each year-no 11 year old needs a $200 Lego set!

We wrote a small Christmas wish list and took it to Ram's parents at Thanksgiving. I honestly planned to help them write to Grandpa and Grandma right after Thanksgiving with their one big request. But I got sick and it didn't get done. I thought about it and wondered if we should even ask them for a big present for Christmas. We talked to Ram's parents about it on Sunday. 

At lunch time on Monday Ram and I broke the news to the Lambs. This year we were not going to ask for a big present from Grandma and Grandpa. Lamb 1 acted very grown up about it although he did try to negotiate to ask for a smaller Lego set. Lamb 2 tried to run away from home. Lamb 3 sat on a chair and wept.

When they finally calmed down we talked to them. We told them that getting a big Lego set was not the real meaning of Christmas. We reminded them of all the small items on their wish list this year that they really want. We reminded them that Grandma always gets presents that they don't even ask for and they will get plenty of presents this year. We told them they will still be able to ask for a big present for their birthdays. We talked about the theme of Lamb 1 and 2's basketball camp of "I am Third".  (God, others, self) We reminded them that they have tons of Legos and should play with the toys they already have.

After they were calmed down they got out the tubs of Legos. Since then they have played Legos every minute they weren't busy with school, piano, chores, or sleeping. The amazing part for me is that overall they have played really well together. They haven't played together this well in a long time. And no one has asked to use the computer other than using the metronome.

Honestly I think it was easier for Ram's parents to just order 3 Lego sets online than to get 2 or 3 small presents for all 5 of us. The reason why they called on Sunday was to make sure they understood a couple of items on our small wish list. But all 4 of us adults agreed the smaller wish list was going to be better for all us. I was surprised to see that it is already helpful to us before Christmas.

Some other things happened that made Monday a bad day for me. I'll spare you the details during this holiday season. But there was such a difference in the Lambs after Monday that it has made the next days good days.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Shopping this week

I spent all day yesterday shopping. I have one more present to buy and I have completed Christmas shopping this year. Here's where I went yesterday.
*I started at a Food Service Supply store to buy a couple more items to finish up our bazaar supply shopping. I should be done with this, but messed up our order so we still have some $ to spend. I am buying supplies for next year's bazaar.  I ended up not buying anything there as they didn't have what I wanted.
*Target advertised buy 2 $25 gift cards get 1 $5 Target gift card. The advertisement wasn't real clear which gift cards were included in that deal. I went to the customer service counter and asked. They couldn't figure it out either so they gave me the deal. I bought a few other items there too.
*Michaels to buy one item with my 50% off coupon.
*Kohls to use Kohls cash, Kohls $5 reward, coupons, and sales to get Ram a nice pair of boots for $20. This summer the whole sole fell off of his boots that he had since college. I figured it was time to buy him a new pair since he got almost 20 years out of the last pair!
*Costco to buy Christmas presents, groceries, and renew our membership this year. Ram usually shops at Costco for us so it was a treat for me to go by myself.
*Hobby Lobby to buy a gift for my secret sister at church with a 40% off coupon.
*Fred Meyer (like Meijer for my Midwest friends) to get the Friday freebie (Welch's juice).
Then I came home and took a little break while Ram ran a couple of errands. He took his boots back to Kohls and exchanged them for a larger size. He had told me what size to get but he hadn't bought shoes for so long that he didn't tell me the right size! Plus I thought he should have them a little large so he could wear heavy socks with them.
When Ram got home it was supper time and I hadn't made anything. We made the decision to go to Chik-Fil-A which ends up not being a cheap meal for our family, but everyone likes it. We don't eat out very often. We all went together to these places:
*Chik-Fil-A to get take out.
*Grocery store #1- The Lambs and Ram sat in the car and ate while I picked up a little produce.
*Grocery store #2-The Lambs and Ram sat in the car and finished eating while I picked up this week's specials.
*Walmart-We all went in here and bought a few items that we needed that I didn't find anywhere else during my shopping. I tried to buy the right items to get a free Shutterfly book from Healthy Essentials but I don't think I bought the right ones. So this week I'll have to take those back and start over on that project.

I spent a lot of money yesterday, but I stuck to my list. I really haven't spent very much of my December grocery budget yet due to stocking up when everything was on sale before Thanksgiving.
My one impulse buy was 94 cents at Walmart. I bought more incense cones for my smoker. This was myrrh scent. We were almost out of the first ones I bought a year ago that were frankincense scent. We burned one last night and one today. Ram said we could burn that continuously and he wouldn't complain. I believe we need to treat ourselves once and awhile. I was happy that both Ram and I enjoyed my cheap "splurge".

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Spending the Holidays with Family

I wrote this some time ago, but I am publishing it now as it fits this season.

The first Christmas after we were married we went to my in-laws. This was the last Christmas before my husband was an ordained pastor, which meant it was the last Christmas we could be away from home on Christmas Day.
I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday even though it was 13 years ago. I don’t have any brothers and my husband doesn’t have any sisters, so it was a learning experience for all of us for me to be the only female among the “kids” that were home that year.
I also remember going to the cemetery that Christmas. Ram and his younger brother shoveled a pathway in the snow so we could reach his older brother’s grave. We even set the camera to take a family photo at the cemetery. We had no idea then that the following Christmas Ram’s younger brother would also have a gravestone marking his place.  

I have a little advice to share that I have learned in my 14 years of marriage.
1.  Don’t take your family for granted. I have so many friends that can’t stand their MIL or some other family member. They dread family visits. I am blessed that I have so much in common with my MIL (such as we both had 3 sons). We just don’t know when our last Christmas will be with the family members that we spend this Christmas. Thank God for your family even if they drive you crazy some times.
2. Don’t leave on bad terms. Because of what I wrote in #1, if you have an argument or say something you shouldn’t have said when you are with family, please ask for forgiveness before you leave (or your family members leave). Looking back I wish I would have played a few more card games and spent a little more time with my geeky brother-in-law that only Christmas that we spent together.
3. Take care of necessary business now. We don’t know when our last Christmas will be. Are your children baptized? Have you written a Will? Do you have life insurance? Ram and I updated our Will last summer. If you can't do this business during this busy season, schedule time to do it in January. 
4.  If you are unable to spend holidays with your family, try to do traditions you can do long distance. Recently we have been unable to spend Christmas with anyone on my side of the family. We ship boxes with presents with items we think they would enjoy or they need. We talk on the phone with them. Some years we Skype with them. When we have been unable to spend Christmas with my in-laws, we had crepes and lingonberries at our house just like they had at their house. I know of families that celebrate Christmas in July when everyone is able to get home.
5. If you are grieving for a family member, do the holiday traditions that you want to do and remember that you don’t have to do the ones that are too difficult for you. Ram’s family still hangs 5 stockings on the fireplace.  I have purchased ornaments to remember our miscarried babies, but I just can’t remove them from the boxes and hang them on the tree yet.
6. Talk to your children about your family members that have gone to heaven before us. My children will never know these two uncles. Even though it often brings tears, we try to talk about them and share pictures and family stories with our children. They should know about these family members even though they never met them.
7. Attend church regularly. When you are at the communion rail you will be with your loved ones and the whole company of heaven.
8. Treasure the people you do spend holidays with. Whether you spend the holidays with a whole bunch of people, just your spouse, or a few friends, enjoy it. Try not to be so busy with cooking and dishes and decorations to spend time with those people. You won’t regret sitting and chatting with them while you are together!