Essential Traditions/Real Food Real Frugal

The archives for the old Essential Traditions blog and the old Real Food Real Frugal Blog

Permeation of Princess Power

I have worked in day care, mother’s day out, as a nanny and a teacher. I am pretty familiar with the under ten set, what they like and don’t like. In working with kids I get to spend a great deal of time around toys. I think toys are great, when they are done the right way.

If you walk down the aisle of any toy store you may notice something odd. Each aisle is filled to the point of ridiculousness. What may catch your attention is the fact that young children’s toys cover every inch of the color spectrum. They are bright, vibrant and full of variety. But this ends at about 18 months. At this point the toy aisles split off into a boy’s side and a girl’s side.

The boy’s side is dark; there is a lot of brown, navy and black. The toys are intense! (And that is an article that we will save for another time.) For now, I want to talk about walking into the girl’s side from the abyss of boyhood. The pink on the shelves usually oozes onto the floor and grabs at you as you walk by. You see the pink, you can hear the rustling of the dresses, you can smell the sweet scent of “body spray”. There isn’t much transition and the sudden and intense pop of “party pink” overwhelms every sense.

Yes, that is a princess pancake maker….

I can get over the overabundance of only one color in the girls section. What I cannot get over is the permeation of princess power. The princess stuff is EVERYWHERE. It isn’t just the movies anymore; it is the dolls, clothes, shoes, hairbrushes, posters, bedclothes, and on and on. Everything and anything that can be marketed as a princess product is thrown at young girls.

So why does this bother me?  I have a serious issue with what the princesses represent. A lot of people think that it is innocent and that this doesn’t really hurt anyone. In my mind the issues that these movies contain is huge, and cannot be overlooked. Modesty is an issue in every single princess movie. The princess’s entire life revolves around the man that they eventually walk into happily ever after with (with the exception of the movie Brave in which she does not end up with the prince). The girls throw themselves into fits of tears when they don’t get their way or when life is too hard. Parents are portrayed as bumbling fools who should be petted and sent on their way or as overly controlling tyrants.

We encourage our little girls to look up to these women and to emulate them. And then we wonder why the little girls grown up believing that they are entitled to anything and everything that they want. This isn’t just a secular problem. I was shocked the other day to be walking through a Christian bookstore and to see Bibles complete with plastic crowns!

Yes, you are the daughter of the King. But God is not like the kings in movies. In the movies the girls are encouraged to be vain, materialistic, and selfish. Those are not the attributes the God encourages in His girls. The princess in the movies consult no one and act in willful disobedience as long as it fits in with their plan. That is not ok. We need to be the role models that they look up to. We, as Christian women, need to remind girls what it means to be a child of God.

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Do You Escape?

This weekend has been rough. No specific reasons, really. I’ve had a ton of orders to complete before tomorrow (I still shudder a little when I type that out, although I’m on schedule to finish just fine). My husband was off work. We had no real pressing errands to run or anything. Just sort of an off weekend. The kids were bouncing off the walls and nipping at each other. This made for some tense parents.

There was one point where our sons actually got physical with each other. I snapped. I yelled. I told the offending son to go to his room. Then I realized how terribly angry I was, and I got scared. Have you been there? Please tell me you have, because I felt awful.

So I went to my hiding spot, which is conveniently located in the basement at our washer and dryer. We have a clock radio there (our battery operated emergency radio so we can listen to storm reports when tornado season spins around). During non-tornado seasons, I have it set to our local Christian radio station. I stomped down the stairs, slammed the ON button on the radio, ripped open the dryer door, and got to folding.

It was a small load, so the folding didn’t take near as long as I needed it to. I took the boys’ clothes over to their dresser, went back to the washing machine, and leaned against it. I wasn’t singing along with the music, which I normally do while I’m folding. I didn’t pray, which I normally do when I’m not singing.

I just leaned.

I let the music absorb into my skin and right down into my soul. I didn’t really listen to the words. In fact, thinking about it now, I couldn’t tell you what songs were playing. And I don’t know how long I was downstairs. I might not have been actively communicating with God, but I believe He was communicating with me. Call it the equivalent of the time-out I put my 4 year old in sometimes. Boy, did I need it.

I finally went back upstairs and into our son’s room. He had de-stressed by cleaning his room (although he threw all of his brother and sister’s toys out in the hallway, but I don’t blame him for that). I went in and closed the door, and apologized for yelling. We talked over why I did what I did, and why he did what he did. We talked over ways to avoid getting physical in the future (we’ve had issues with this in the past, and he’s been doing very well with it up until this outburst).

I guess the point of this story is to take a break. We all need it. Step outside. Hide in your basement. Wherever you need to go: lean. Lean on a dryer. Lean against the sink in the bathroom. But lean on Him. Even if you don’t know you are.

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Pizza, Cookie Dough, and Packing Tape

I moved to a new apartment this weekend, and what an adventure it was! I was living in a little town outside of Dallas in a two bedroom apartment with one roommate. Now I live in Dallas proper and I have two roommates in a one bedroom apartment. When people hear that the first thing they say is, “why would you do that?!?”

Let me tell you, this may be the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

I have been working for the last several years to turn my life around. I got out of feminism and into a biblical view of womanhood. I started listening got God’s calling for my life and made hard decisions to pursue His glorification rather than my own satisfaction. It has not been an easy road and I have fallen more than once. Thank goodness for God’s grace! But recently I realized that I have made my own path more difficult.

I have been continuing to hang out with (and live with) not only nonbelievers but with people who actively choose to disobey God. I tried to “work on” them but ultimately I came to realize that I cannot do the Holy Spirit’s job. I continued to interact with these people, convinced that my example would be good for them. But you know what happened? Slowly I started spending more time with them than with other Christains. I started speaking like them and even behaving like them. It was like I was reverting back to who I was before I gave my life to Christ.

Due to the recent choices of my roommate I knew I could no longer live in that environment. I called a good friend of mine and told her what was going on and guess what? She needed a roommate! (God really is awesome that way!) So we made plans for me to move in. Katie and Melinda are my new roommates and in our few hours of bonding over pizza, cookie dough, and packing tape I am already more encouraged than I have been in months. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” ladies, this goes for us too. We have to be careful of what we allow to eve poured into us, and who is doing the pouring. I want to be a great tool for the use in God’s kingdom, I need to be sharpened with other women of God. 

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What’s in Your Closet?

Good morning!! How did your weekend go? After a hot date with my crochet hook on Friday night, Hubby and I took a just-the-two-of-us road trip up north a ways on Saturday to meet a woman and her husband for dinner. She and the hubster went to the same school in Saudi Arabia and hadn’t seen each other since. Great time, great food, and beautiful area (we’d like to move near there someday!). Yesterday we had a couple over who has a boy not far from Bean in age, so they got to play and we got to chat over a bowl (or two, or four) of hot chili and the football game (which the Ravens won…blah). I hope your weekend was just as fun as ours!

Now, on to the real question: how do you organize the closets in your home?

We live in a too-small-for-all-of-us house, so our closets are a little wonky. The coat closet is out on a front porch that’s super cold in the winter and super hot in the summer, so we really don’t use it for much but storage. We’ve got closets in every room. However, the kids’ room closet is blocked by a bed (and is pretty full of some of my mother’s stuff anyway), so they have their dresser and “closet” downstairs in the basement.

I’ve read books and blogs about bigger families having “family closets” in their home, and I’ve been throwing the idea around lately. My washer and dryer is in the basement, so it would be so much easier to take the clothes right over to be put away stright out of the dryer. There is plenty of room, so storing clothes for all of us would not be an issue. The dressers my husband and I use in our room would have to stay in our room, so we would need to find one more dresser to put downstairs (the boys’ dresser is already down there).

Then there is the matter of organizing the clothing. Should it be hung by size and color? Type of clothing? Person it belongs to? I’m just a little OCD about clothing (in closets and dressers, so I’m not sure what would appeal to my control side. {wink}

So how does your household handle closets and clothes storage? Do you know anyone or have you ever had a family closet? How does it work for you?

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Can I Serve if I Can’t Knit?

I have a very dear friend (and now roommate!) who amazes me. She is in the final stretch of PT school and yet still finds the time to make plum jam and handmade lace headbands… DURING FINALS. She also makes food to take to ill church members, and knits fun things for friends and family. She is the person you call when there is a ministry opportunity because she knows how to do all this stuff.

She is what I call a domestic goddess.

I am not, and everyone knows it.

Let me tell you, I used to really struggle with the fact that no one in my small group called me to bake casseroles or help plan a baby shower. So I made a list of all the things I wanted to learn to do so that I could minister. The list included learning to make food that can be frozen and reheated, knitting (just so I could give baby blankets), and getting better at public speaking (so that people would want me to speak at their small groups). Yes, all of those are good things to learn. But then I realized I was completely ignoring the things I could do, the gifts that God has given me.

No, I can’t knit a blanket or sew tiny clothes for expecting moms. But you know what I can do? I can babysit, I can drive her other kids to ballet and football. I may burn casseroles, but I can clean a home like you have never seen. I may not be great at organizing games to play at a baby shower, but I can get the oil changed in her car.

I didn’t grow up learning to minister like my friend did. But I have been given a servants heart and a great deal of real life experiences. Everyone starts at a different place. But God can use even me, a former waitress/bartender turned teacher. Just imagine what He can do with you.

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I’m not ready for spring.

Thankfully, the weather isn’t ready for spring either. The temperatures here are in the 20’s. There was a chance for snow/sleet over the weekend, but we got nothing but a few flurries. I *love* winter and snow, so this disappointed me just a little.

Anyway, back to spring. I have not started going over my garden plan yet. I haven’t purchased anything from my seed catalogs. I do have some seed starter pots that I found in some “moving out trash” from a house down the street, still in the box and everything! But that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.

While the seeds for my veggie garden aren’t planted at all, there are seeds sprouting in my heart every single day, no matter what the temperature is outside.

“The heart is like a garden. It an grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” ~Buddha

While we are responsible as adults for the seeds that sprout in our own hearts, we are also responsible for the seeds we plant in the hearts of our children. Have you ever truly stopped to think about what seeds you plant? Sometimes if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed or wake up late and don’t get my Bible time in the morning, I’ve seen in the faces of my children that I’m planting the wrong seeds. Then I make a conscious effort to dig those out and plant joy, love, self-confidence. I try to make sure to always plant the knowledge that I love them no matter what, and God loves them no matter what.

Many of the plants in my small backyard garden perished last summer. We had drought conditions and high temps most of the summer, which I could fight on a daily basis. However, we went to a family reunion for a week (a week frought with peril including a car wreck and a burglary, which I’ll leave for another post). I’m not sure what I was thinking (or not thinking, apparently), but I didn’t line someone up to come water the growing plants. Upon our return, the poor plants had shriveled up to almost nothing, and what was left was overgrown with weeds. I salvaged what I could, which wasn’t much…just that short time had taken my once promising vegetable garden to a three-fourths empty plot.

Like my garden, if we leave the seeds of our children’s hearts untended for even a moment, weeds can and will sprout and choke the life out of them. Thistles of hatred, self-entitlement, laziness, resentment, and jealousy can and will take over. We must be diligent in our tending to their little heart-gardens. We must lead them to the Heavenly Father, The Master Gardener. If we do not, the world will most certainly plant seeds of its own.

Gather your gloves, rakes, hoes, and watering cans, mamas and daddies…these gardens we tend are of utmost importance and have been entrusted to us for care.

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Living Life

“There are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely-or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.”
—- Oscar Wilde

I went to dinner this past week with some old girlfriends. These girlfriends knew me when I was in graduate school, fighting ruthlessly for every opportunity. Back then I was working towards a career as a curator. I came to school every single day in professional clothing and sky-high high heels. I got internships and made straight “A”s.

I looked the part, I got the grades. But in the end I was living someone else’s life. When I went home at night and the worked stopped there was no peace. In fact, there was a hole in my heart. After a great deal of prayer and time with just me and God, I realized that I was playing dress up. This was my moment to decide, who am I? Am I going  take on a career that does not make me happy because of the prestige that come with it? Or am I going to get brave and live my life?

It was not a quick change, or an easy one for that matter. But I got my teaching certification and I am now teaching kindergarten. No, I don’t spend my days surrounded by and selling valuable pieces of art. I go home at night and I am dirty and exhausted.  My girlfriends think I have lost my mind.

But you know what? I am exactly where God designed me to be, ready and willing to work for the glorification of His kingdom.

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Change Is In the Air

Eight days into 2013. Has it sunk in yet? Have you stopped writing 2012 on your checks yet? How about your resolutions? Did you make them? Are you still going strong, or have they fallen to the wayside?

I’m not sure I’ve ever seriously made a resolution. I guess when I was younger, I’d say something like, “I am really going to try to exercise more”. But I’ve never gone so far as to make it exact…”I WILL lose 30 pounds this year” has never crossed my lips.

This year strikes me in my soul as a year of changes. I don’t have a gut feeling on whether they are to be good or bad, but is change ever really bad? It might be uncomfortable at first, and it might not be exactly what we had in mind, but change brings experience.

My home-based business has completely taken off. This means that I’ve been working like crazy at home and as a result, some things at home have begun to slide. This is a change I am not happy with, so I’ll have to make some adjustments to make it work and keep everything running smoothly. My husband is traveling for work again, and the kids go back to school tomorrow. So it’s about time to get back into the routine, but at the same time changing the routine to fit the family’s needs.

One thing is certain, however. One thing simply cannot be put on the back burner. One thing is of utmost importance, and the success of everything else revolves around it:

****My time with my God must continue.****

I typically get up early in the morning, and before waking the kids to start the day, sit down with my Bible and spend time with God. I can feel a major difference between the days I make time for this and the days it slides. Major difference. So this is a top priority. However, things being as they are now {read: busy!!}, I am envisioning a lot more late nights up finishing product. Sadly, anything less than about 5 to 6 hours of sleep for me makes for one Grumpy Mama Bear. So what gives? I will not sacrifice my time with the Lord. I will have to adjust, and maybe do my Bible time before I sit down for the night to work, then spend my working time praying and meditating on God’s Word. I don’t like this. I much prefer to do this in the morning. However, change is necessary and in certain seasons of our lives, we must adjust. It will be uncomfortable at first, but it’s not up for negotiation.

How do you adjust to change? Do you embrace it with open arms? Or do you prefer consistency and continuity and go at it kicking and screaming? However you choose to approach the new year and the changes it will most definitely bring, may God pour His blessings on you throughout this new year.

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Gingerbread Disaster

Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, we get together to make a family gingerbread house. My older brother and his family, my older sister and her family, and my family all cram into my mom’s house (which is currently our home while she’s living in California, although she’s here for an early Christmas). This year was almost a reunion of sorts, as I hadn’t seen my niece and nephew (my brother’s kids) in a long time. We settle in to visit, eat a good meal, construct the cookie house, then open early Christmas presents from my mom.

This year we had a slight problem. The night before, mom baked the gingerbread and cut the pieces (using a very old pattern, one she says she’s going to replace everyt single year, and it’s not happened yet). It has been a warm December so far, and since the gas oven adds about 10 degrees to the house, I’d opened the kitchen windows just a crack, and I’d forgotten to close them when I went to bed. The next morning, the gingerbread was softer than it normally is, but we thought nothing of it and went on with making dinner (this year was chili in the crock pot!). People started arriving, and we had an absolute blast catching up and watching all the kids interact with each other. We ate ourselves silly, then started the cookie house. This is where the fun really began.

So far, we have 7 grandkids and only 6 sides of the cookie house, including the roof tops. The youngest of the grandkids is still just a little too young to have a whole side to herself, so we have just enough space for the other kids to each take a turn. I think they ingest more candy than actually gets on the house, but it’s a great time for the kids and adults alike. My sister is the resident “gluer” and arms herself with the old metal icing gun, ready to first put icing on the sides of each piece of the house (to build it), then in designs on the pieces and tops themselves (to decorate it with candy). We have bowls full of different types of candy, although this year was the first year we weren’t able to find Necco wafers (our go-to candy for the shingles).

During candy application, we noticed the roof wasn’t exactly straight. One side was okay, but the other had a very obvious “dip” where the chimney was attached. But that’s about all we did…notice it. After Bean was finished decorating, however, things got decidedly worse, and it happened pretty quickly.

The roof was very obviously going to collapse, so we hurried to figure out some way to prop it up. A plastic fork seemed the logical answer (or the only answer we could come up with), so we performed some minor “surgery”. This lasted maybe 15 seconds, then the roof and the sides started caving. We were almost literally laughing our heads off as everyone took a turn trying to repair the damages and prevent any further buckling.

To put it mildly, it didn’t work. At all.

We figured it was a good thing, since my family would be stuck with all the gingerbread and candy once everyone else left. This way, kids and adults alike could eat away bit by bit for the rest of the evening. My older son, however, knew we couldn’t not have some sort of cookie house on display, so he designed a sort of makeshift cookie “tent”. It was the best he could do under the current conditions.

No matter…every year the gingerbread house is better than the year before, and this year is no different. What traditions do you celebrate every year?

***Editor’s Note: PLEASE forgive the blurry pictures. There is a setting on mom’s camera that has been somehow changed and we can’t figure out how to fix it.

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Preparing Your Heart for Christmas

December. Yes, that’s right: it’s December. I figure if I say it enough, it’ll sink in. Somehow, the last few weeks have just flown by!

Once Thanksgiving hits, the speed of life sort of jumps into hyperdrive, doesn’t it? How then do we keep our hearts open to the astonishment and miracle of the birth of our Savior? How do we keep from succumbing to the hustle and bustle of the season?

I believe there are many ways to simplify Christmas, but that’s not really what I’m talking about (although that *does* help!). Christ is the center of Christmas, right? What better ways to keep your heart open to the miracle of His birth than to stay in the Word, and to pray? Yes folks, dare I say it: it’s that simple!

The Bible is the manual to life. The answer to every single problem we may encounter is right there in those pages. When we read those words, we are open to learning what God has in store for us. Even if we don’t understand it at the time! I will readily admit, as a “newer” Christian woman, that sometimes I read a few verses or chapters and when I’m done, I think to myself, “What did I just read?”. For whatever reason, it feels as though I haven’t absorbed the words. but my God is still working inside me!! How magnificent is that?? Opening that book every day is like a salve…it calms the soul, heals any hurt, and gives a peace that is necessary all year long, but especially at Christmas.

As for praying…I cannot emphasize enough the importance of speaking to our heavenly Father! Literally friends, all the time! I speak to Him as though He were sitting right next to me…the kind of conversations I might have with a girlfriend over coffee. Don’t get me wrong: I am not the perfect prayer warrior! I don’t always feel His presence. Sometimes I want to cry out (and sometimes DO), “Where are you, LORD?!? Why can’t I feel You?”.  And I still (more often than I like to admit) try to work things out on my own. Seriously, why bug the Almighty with something trivial like my impatience in the check-out line at the grocer? But friends, He wants us to go to Him with everything. It’s so important that I’ll write it again: Everything!!  He wants to hear about our troubles and triumphs.

So as we approach the day we celebrate the miraculous birth of our Savior, read about His life and pray to Him about yours. Keep Him as the center of the season, and He will keep you wrapped in His blanket of peace.

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