Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Leading Girls in Summer Ministry


I can still feel the excitement of the arrival of summer when I was a teenager. The school load was lifting, the sun was shining and I was ready for whatever may come my way! I knew I had 12 weeks to use my time and energy for friends, sleeping, vacation and perhaps some place to make money. But most of all, I would look for a place to be involved that was beyond myself. I was ready to be a part of a mission’s trip, small group volunteering opportunity and church-wide outreach. Summer was a perfect time to do ministry!
The teens in your life most likely feel the same way. They are thrilled to enjoy the freedom of summer and yet are searching for a place to use their lives to help others through outreach. While this is a time for routines to be relaxed, it is also prime time for your students to get involved in ministry. Here are some ways to encourage your girls to be a part of all God has for them this summer:

  1.  Communicate with them Never assume the students know what is going on. Take time to let the girls know what is available with your girls group, youth group or church. A text, phone call, conversation in the hallway, email invite, or message on social media can be just what is needed for the girls to know what is happening and that they are invited to be a part of the ministry event. Sometimes teens need many reminders! As a teen, I could sit through a whole announcement and somehow my mind would be somewhere else and I missed what was going on. That extra communication from you will assure that the girls know the upcoming outreaches.
  2. Cheer them on Just because it’s on the calendar doesn’t mean the girls will want to go. That’s where we come in as leaders to cheer them on! I can fondly remember my youth leader telling me, “I am counting on you being there, Casey! It won’t be the same without you.” It took my decision to go to a whole new level as I chose to be a part. Let girls know their participation is important for the ministry to be effective. Show them how their gift set can be used and why it’s beneficial for their growth in the Lord. They may also need some assistance in making the outreach a priority with their schedule. Cheering them on encourages them to see it as a valuable way to invest their time.
  3. Connect with them After the girls know what they can be involved in and are encouraged to help, having you there with them is the best part! There is something special about working together for a ministry project. The time, prayers, and hard work together-moments are things teens will never forget. My favorite memories are not only the tasks of ministry but the people who were a part of it with me. It deeply impacted my life to see my leaders not only lead up front but to also serve alongside of me in the details. And if you are unable to join them at all the events, connect with them afterwards to hear all about their experience. Just showing you care about what they did and how it went can be of value.

         The next several weeks can be memorable for you and your girls to make an impact. Help teens embrace the opportunities to live beyond themselves in excitement and fun with some summer ministry!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Liking the Daughter You Love

     


     Raising a girl can be a blessing and a challenge all at once. Girls can be enjoyable and yet so difficult at times. As I think about raising daughters, lines from the song “Maria” in the classic movie The Sound of Music come to mind. “…She is gentle! She is wild! She's a riddle! She's a child! She's a headache! She's an angel! She's a GIRL!” Girls are so lovable and yet not always likable. 

     As a mother of five daughters, I certainly love them all deeply and unconditionally. But it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t necessarily always like them. For instance, one of my girls talks excessively. This little one reminds me of the continued “Maria” lyrics, “When I'm with her I'm confused, out of focus and bemused and I never know exactly where I am…” while another daughter is highly emotional and “Unpredictable as weather, she's as flighty as a feather…” The other three deal with everything from hyperactivity, “how do you make her stay, and listen to all you say…” to overly opinionated, “many a thing you know you ought to tell her…” to stubbornness “…many a think she ought to understand.
    So, assuming there may be another mother out there that has admitted she doesn’t always like her daughter, here are a couple of things that are helping me on this journey of liking my lovables. First off, choose to like her. The story of old “Mr. Jones” comes to mind. After his wife passed away, Mr. Jones needed to move into a nursing facility. Upon arrival, the nurse walked him down the hall on his way to his room. She said, “Mr. Jones, we have prepared the room for you and we will see how things are when you get there.” He answered, “I already like it!” “But you haven’t seen it.” “No, but I have decided that I will like it!” And we can do the same as mothers. We can decide to have the attitude of accepting our children no matter what. This resolve can drive us steadily forward through the challenges that may lie ahead. I am determined to like my girls.
     Secondly, remind yourself how undesirable you have been. I can think of dozens of my behaviors that weren’t what they should have been. I don’t even know how my dear mother made it through all my questions in elementary school, my emotions in junior high, and my dominating attitude in high school. Furthermore, as an adult, I still have moments of less-than-admirable actions. None of us are completely likeable at all times. This very thought causes me to give grace to my daughters. And just as most of us know when we are being unacceptable, our children may be in tune with their own awareness of their behaviors yet may not be mature enough to know how to handle it or stop.     This leads to a third step of taking time to communicate in order to work through issues. While it is necessary to decide to like our girls and beneficial to remind our self of our own shortcomings, this doesn’t mean we just move on and let things go as they are. In fact, this is a prime time to face the issues at hand in order to gain understanding. Listen. Ask questions. Engage with her emotions. Then, share your feelings and thoughts so that she can see how her actions are affecting others and how she can improve. Sometimes we need to confront the unlikeable as we lead our girls. It may take time and several attempts but they are listening and most girls do want to know how they can be the best they can be.
  In fact, my mom and I had a talk like this just a few years. She and I were frustrated with each other. So, we talked it out. It took three hours and many tears to work through how she thought I was controlling and I thought she was careless but it worked. We both ended it feeling understood. And we also knew we both had things to work to improve.
     Finally, when all has been done, think outside your own personality. Sometimes we just don’t like our daughter because she has a different personality. There are some things about girls that are a part of who they are! I am amazed at how my five girls can all be born within seven years and each can be so unique! I have had to accept that while some things need to be changed, there are other things that are just personality.
    For example, one night I burned the rice at dinner but served it anyway to see if anyone noticed. Well, they did. And each one had a comment. My oldest said logically, “Mom, the rice is burnt because you got distracted with laundry.” My second girl responded, “Yes, but its okay because we all make mistakes, mom, and I still love you.” The next one wasted no time and spit out the food while saying, “Yuck! That is terrible!” Her younger sister took note and said, “Thanks for making it mom but I am NOT even going to taste it!” And of course, my toddler just played with the rice happily. It was just a matter of their personalities. Sometimes, it’s just easy and fun celebrating who they are and how they see life!
     Overall, learning to like the daughter you love may feel like the ending words of the “Maria” song that ask, “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” but I believe we can. We can like them as we do all we know to do then simply embrace the fact that, like us, “She’s a GIRL!”


Also published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine






Friday, July 17, 2015

I Am Not Miss American Teen Anymore...






          (Post from June 2013) As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.

      Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown people celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year all going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.

      Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And for me, I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.

      Now, fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.



     My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't even been washed in four days, I haven't worn a single ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week. (Not to mention that I caught a stomach bug and have visited the bathroom more times than I checked the mirror in high school.)



      Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 (MSG) that challenges me. "Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."


     There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!

      Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!

      So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength. I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.


P.S. Congrats to Miss USA Erin Brady from Connecticut...let's do coffee in 15 yrs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What We Use for School

     After much, I mean MUCH, research, this is the easy-breezy, bottom line, thorough direction we have chosen to follow for our curriculum. One of the outstanding things about home educating is that we can pick what we feel is the best for our children according to their needs and our direction as a family.

     So, we use different things to teach our children including life experiences such as trips, church, extended family, hospitality, events etc. We have chosen curriculum in book form, some in DVD, some in Audio, some in a teacher/classroom setting, and some online. This format has allowed our girls to flourish in education given in many approaches.


In addition, something else we do that is unique but beneficial is that we often (depends on the year and ages) send our girls to 6 weeks of public school at the end of the year. This has been worthy of doing for the experience (MAP testing, field trips, outdoor skills day and to see how other children live and learn) personal discipleship (by way of witnessing and being challenged by the world against their faith), and a change in pace of the flow of how we do life. This also gives me a little vacation and makes them appreciate home education the rest of the year! It truly does show them the pros and cons first hand rather than us always explaining why we do what we do the rest of the year.

    All that being said, I have listed the curriculum we use the rest of the year.  When you read below, you will see that we use much of the Classical Conversations material and school group. It's extremely inexpensive compared to private classical school and you will know your children are actually learning everything they need to know. This takes the pressure off of my mind wondering if we are doing what we are supposed to do as well as keeps me on schedule weekly.

     Classical Conversations is an awesome co-op (most likely there is one near you) where you don't have to teach as there are tutors. Hooray! And, it meets once a week and your children get many of the benefits of a school (recess, backpacks, classroom setting, field trips, school parties, year book, friends, teachers) without having to go every day.

     As stated previously, we use many methods and materials. The following is our list:

Pre-school
There is a checklist I have composed of all things needed by the end of the child's fifth year. Check posts for this list.


Kindergarten - 1st Grade
Geography, latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading and handwriting

Math - my own teachings from random workbooks of basic addition, subtraction, clocks, and money

2nd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading, handwriting and grammar

Math - Math-U-See DVD program

3rd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Phonetic Zoo Audio for Spelling, Abeka for Grammar and Cursive

Math - Teaching Textbooks Math Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

4th Grade-6th Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Classical Conversations which teaches the grammar, writing, and vocab using the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing), and Phonetic Zoo audio for Spelling


Math - Teaching Text Books Math Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

7th Grade - 12th Grade
All Subjects are Classical Conversations ... but I haven't been to this point in school yet with my girls so this may change. Otherwise, this is my plan.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Goals for Ages 3-5 yrs old.


          When we had the first four children in four years, my mind was always racing to remember which child needed to learn what thing. It was mindboggling to keep track only to realize one had not learned something they should have by a certain point. With all the training and teaching going on, I was just happy they were fed and clean by the end of most days. But there is more that needs to be learned in those first five years.


      So as some of you have asked, we are sharing the list of important things we wanted our girls to know and do between the ages of 3-5. This list allowed me to keep track of where each girl was and who needed to learn other things. 


     They are divided into 5 Categories that we implement every day for some through guided life learning and other days when we do "school time" which is approximately 3-4 days a week. 

 All these goals can be taught through basic simple teaching, games, books, dvds, car rides, Cds, and lots of talking. Plus, depending on when you start kindergarten, you have two to three years to teach it all so that takes the stress off of cramming it in their little heads in a year.

      On that noteconsider starting kindergarten as close to age 6 as possible. I say this for a couple of crucial reasons. First, when they enter kindergarten closer to age 6 they have had more time to develop emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

     When they are on the "older side" of kids in the class they can have the experience of leadership to the classmates because they are ahead. Just think of the joy of being one of the first kindergarten kids to lose a tooth, or to be a fifth grader with cool braces, a junior high sports boy with a year ahead in height and strength, a mature freshman girl that is out of the awkward stage, or being one of the first friends to drive and have a job. In addition, their hearts have had time to grow in the Lord and they are able to make solid decisions with wisdom and knowledge that time gives.

     Secondly, when you start later, the child is home longer on the back end of high school before leaving for work, college, or marriage. A year can make a difference when entering the adult world. And by those years we want every second we can get with our kids before they are grown and gone!

     Although a child may be ready for kindergarten schoolwork that doesn't mean you have to send them. Go ahead and have them do some older work at home but consider waiting to place them in kindergarten at church class or school class until closer to age 6. This is a precious time to bond and enjoy a stage with your child as much as possible. Honestly, I would rather have my toddlers go to preschool a few times a week than my 5-6 year olds leave. They are easier and so much fun to do everyday life with by the time they are out of the "I walk around and get into stuff in dangerous ways" stage!

     And if you have already started your little one and this info is too late, perhaps the Lord will lead you to make the courageous decision to hold your child back a year to repeat or to just take a year off. My mom had to make this choice with my brother when he was in the second grade. He turned 7 in September and started second grade but she felt it was best to hold him back. He thrived socially and academically far better than the year before which kept on through his high school years.

     For us, our Allison turned 6 in June and we started her in Kindergarten then. She will be 7 in June and starting first grade more mature than those younger students entering that are perhaps just turning 6.

     Just something to think about but God will lead you for what your child needs and it may be different.

     So, back to some ideas to follow as you guide your 3-5 year olds. Here is what we have researched and used in our children: 


1. God -
His love for us, He does good, and He is good. You can learn these through Bible stories (read from Story Bible book, Dan and Louie Cds), prayer (for anything, anytime, anywhere) and scripture memory. (Steve Green's Hide 'Em in My Heart Cds or otherwise)

2. Others - Receiving love, showing love, manners such as personal hygeine, phone skills, doorbell responses, key phrases (thank you, bless you, you're welcome, please), how to behave in quiet settings (such as weddings, meetings, church). 

3. Play -
Lots of open imagination time, some directed time, playing with others


4. Work -
Why we work (to carry out God's purposes on earth) and how we work (with excellence unto the Lord)



5. Education - Safety Skills (calling 911, what to do when lost, water safety, strangers), 7 Keys to Health (Water, Rest, Exercise, Vitamins, Healthy food, Massage, and Clean Hands away from the face), Personal Information (names of family members, phone numbers, address), Colors, Shapes, Letters  Counting to 100, Parts of the Body, Handwriting (letter formation, name, upper and lower case, keeping it in a straight line, and spacing), Calendars (days, months, seasons), Workbook Pages (fun books from local store with some cognitive work pages).

          This is a list to plan for and give guidance but don't stress when its not all done perfectly. If you do a bit by bit over the 3,4,5 years it will all come together! I hope that this list is a help to you as you lead your little ones in the way and timing the Lord tells you is best for your family!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Time for Myself




     (Repost) One of the things that shocked me about motherhood is that I am never off the clock. Its eternal. Seriously. Most things end but not mothering. School lets out for the summer and everyday at a certain time. A job has certain hours plus vacation days. But not being a mother. There is no time clock. There is no vacation. There is no stopping point. Ever.

      After much frustration, I have learned I can't compartmentalize my mothering. I literally would say "I am off the clock. Its past 8:00 pm and I am not responding." This didn't really work. First of all because Scotty said it was ridiculous and second of all because my girls didn't stop needing me at bedtime.

      So if you can't beat them, join them. That means that I am in it for life. I have decided that these little people are my new best friends. (Don't worry, I don't mean I won't lead them and fall into some crazy philosophy that children need us to be friends instead of parents.)When I became a parent I became a mother for LIFE. Plus, now that I have accepted the children as a part of life, I have much more joy enjoying them.  


Even though I am very "pro-motherhood" and "pro-be-with-children-more", I also have a plan to maintain some time alone (but no, that picture above isn't me reading...I didn't want to spend my precious alone time making a selfie of me reading. Ha!)

     1. I get up before the children do so I can get a good attitude, eat, get dressed, read my Bible, stretch, go to the bathroom (a luxury once they are awake), and write out the schedule on the marker board. If I have a newborn then this plan is out the window and I let other things go in life so I can make it through the first three months.

     2. No one is allowed to get up before 8:00 unless they are capable of not talking, needing anything, and staying out of the way and it better be for a good reason. That is, of course, after I greet them lovingly (which isn't easy but this post may help...

http://realifecasey.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-first-five-minutes.html). 
     Otherwise, when they get up before 8 I greet them and send them back to bed to read or play quietly until I come get them. For the toddler that gets up at 7:00, I change a diaper and give a drink while they stay in their bed and it buys me about 20 min. Then, I go in and turn on the light and turn off the noise maker and give books and toys, that buys me another 20 min, and then I send an older sibling in to play for  with them which buys me the last 20 min of time until 8:00. It isn't perfect but it works most of the time.

     3. Everyone takes an hour break in the middle of the day. It doesn't matter if you are 10 yrs old, we are all taking a break. Everyone goes to their own bed or if I am gracious some can rest in the living room with no talking. If you are 4 and under you must sleep. If you are 5 and older and can make it through the day without meltdowns then you can just have quiet time. Books, drawing pads (no markers or crayons), magnet boards, puzzles etc are allowed.

     4. Everyone goes with Daddy at 8:00 pm. Scotty takes over after I do after baths/showers/teeth for the girls. This allows me time alone until we get our couples time at 9:30 and he can bond with the children. There are exceptions like when he travels or has a message to write or is in a pastoring crisis but overall this is what we do.

     5. Date nights, nights at grandparents, and getaways are on our calendar.
(See post Staying Connected at
http://realifecasey.blogspot.com/search/label/Marriage).

      These are all the ways I keep my mind and emotions from being overwhelmed and not having time alone. This is crucial especially for those that home school or have multiple little ones. Since you are in this mothering journey for LIFE, you must have a plan to stay fresh so you can be the best mama you can be.

      P.S. We also have a rule of no needing me while I use the restroom unless its an emergency (vomit, blood, danger) and no note-passing under bathroom door asking questions either (believe it or not this is a hard one to break for my girls).

     And if you only have small children then you may just need to plan your potty break around their naps or video time or just take the baby with you in there...they won't remember it. But I don't recommend you going to the bathroom while they are eating in the kitchen because seems like every time I do this someone ironically starts choking or it is so silent I think someone is choking the whole time I am away which leads to being tense while I am away and we all know that's not healthy.
      Yeah, being a mother takes some major planning even for the bathroom sometimes!