Thursday, June 6, 2013

Devotion: Jump As Far Away from Trouble As You Can

"My child, if you have done this and are under your neighbor's control, here is how you get free. Don'g be proud. Go to your neighbor and beg to be free from your promise. Don't go to sleep or even rest your eyes, but free yourself like a deer running from a hunter, like a bird flying away from a trapper...You cannot carry hot coals against your chest without burning your clothes." Proverbs 6:3-5, 27

We all watched my sister's hand, holding our breaths, waiting. At first, there was nothing. No movement at all. Then suddenly the small, dried bean jumped. On its own. My sister was completely freaked out by it, she dropped the bean and ran screaming from the room. You see, my son was given a pair of Mexican Jumping Beans from his Sunday School teacher. None of us had actually ever seen one before, so it was a great source of entertainment for our family for days.

If you don't know anything about Mexican Jumping Beans, which, honestly, I didn't think were real, is that they truly do jump. Without going into the science of it all, basically if they get hot, they are designed to jump in order to get away from the heat. It's a survival technique for them. And it's really fun to warm up your hands, and then watch them jump around.

So this morning as I was reading today's Proverb {I'm going through and reading a Proverb a day}, I happen to see out the corner of my eye one of the beans, which was near my coffee cup, twitch. It was somehow fitting with this morning's devotion. The title of Proverbs 6, at least in my Bible, is "Dangers of Being Foolish." As I got to verses 3-5, God set upon my heart how important it is to get away from bondage, to be relentless about it. God hates sin and the hold it has on our lives. Verses 3-5 say to not even rest until you are free from the bondage. Don't put it off. Don't like pride get in the way of you apologizing to someone and don't let it stop you from turning away from activities that lead you to sin. I love how it says, "like a deer running from a hunter." You know that deer isn't stopping to eat some berries or refusing to leave its home because a hunter is coming. That deer RUNS and runs as far away as possible.

Verse 27 serves as a reminder that there are consequences to sin. Holding sin close to your heart is going to get you burned. Even if you do flee from sin, there are still consequences. The faster you get away from that sin, the less you are going to get burned. We are going through Hosea during church, and chapter 5 talks about how God will punish Israel for turning away from him and embracing sinful nature. Verse 15 says, "Then I will go back to my place until they suffer for their guilt and turn back to me. In their trouble they will look for me." Just as my children must face the consequences of their disobedience at home, we, children of God, must also face the consequences. We must understand that holding that sin close, whether it is pride, anger, gossip, jealousy, lust, or whatever else that replaces God in our lives, is going to affect your days to come. It's going to leave marks on you.

And I just love how much God desires so much for us to recognize our sins, release them, and turn back to him. Hosea 6: 1-3 says, "Come, let's go back to the Lord. He has hurt us, BUT He will heal us. He has wounded us, BUT he will bandage our wounds. In two days he will put new life in us; on the third day he will raise us up so that we may live in his presence and know him. Let's try to learn about the Lord; he will come to us as surely as the dawn comes. He will come to us like rain, like the spring rain that waters the ground." God loves us. He desires for us to be free from sin, from the bondage that holds us, from the burns that will be left on us because of our selfish desires. Just like those Mexican Jumping Beans are constantly testing the temperature and jumping as far away from the heat as possible, we, too, must always be assessing our lives, and jumping as far away from the heat and sin as possible.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Don't Let Your Thoughts Lead You to Destruction

"Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life." Proverbs 4:23

I was running, keeping a steady pace, training my body to run further and further. My heart was pumping and my feet were beating out the rhythm of the music I had pulsing through my ears. I felt great. Well, I felt great physically. My heart felt a little heavy. I was motivated to run, but there was no passion; it was just "get through this run, get through this run." It wasn't until I was on the "walk cycle" that I realized what the problem was. My thoughts were not pure. You see, I chose a "Workout Station" on Pandora, in hopes that it would give me upbeat music that would help motivate me to keep up a pace. And although it did help me keep pace, the words were making my heart heavy. All the songs coming through my ear buds were laden with words and behavior that is not part of my lifestyle. At first I thought the feelings were because I didn't know the songs, so I wasn't able to sing along in my head. Then I started listening to the words as I running. The talk was all about who someone was going to "hook up with" or how much that person was going to party until they didn't remember a thing. And so on. It was NOT my cup of tea. But I kept running, and I kept listening.

When I switched over to my "Sovereign Grace" station near the end of my run, I honestly felt a peace. Not even kidding; it was as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. My thoughts began to focus on the beauty of the early morning. I was able to think, clearly, about things I needed to do that day, and my heart was reminded of people I needed to pray for. I recognized, in that moment, that the words of the songs in the "Workout" station had my heart going down the wrong path. Proverbs 4 is FULL of warnings about making sure wisdom leads you. Verse 27 says, "Don't turn off the road of goodness; keep away from evil paths." I, essentially, turned off the road of goodness by allowing the music direct my thoughts. I could have kicked myself for letting worldly things distract me from enjoying a morning a jog to its fullness.

As I was turning the last corner {and, at that point, the dog was dragging me home}, Philippians 4:8 came to mind. "Brothers and Sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected."  God was giving me that gentle nudge back onto the right path. The peace that filled my heart, the burden that was lifted, it was all orchestrated by Him, the one who can give peace and joy. Would that "workout" music have made me into a sinful heathen thrown far, far away from God? Most likely not, but it would have taken my eyes off Christ, even for just 30 minutes. And my desire is to keep my eyes on Him. I know now that when I go on my jog, the music I let push me that extra mile needs to be filled with words that are going to lift me up, bring me closer to Him, and set me on a better path for the rest of the day.

What things in your life, whether innocent or intentional, pull you off the path? Have you been on the road of goodness long enough to recognize you are heading down a dangerous area? It is never, NEVER too late to stop and enjoy the freshness and joy and peace that comes with going down the right path. You've got to just "switch stations" and plan in the future to keep it there. Don't let the temptations of the world trick you into a path that may be full of struggles.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gifts to Buy or Make for a Male Teacher

My middle child is a spirited one. And as well as he did in kindergarten with two, lovely ladies, I felt that he needed a male teacher to reign him in. Lucky me, the only other male teacher left in the school was a 1st grade teacher. So I made petition to get No. 2 into that class, and HE MADE IT IN

No. 2 had a wonderful year with lots of growing and learning on all our parts. Then Christmas came along...and then Teacher Appreciation Week...and, finally, End of the Year. Those are all typical times students bring in gifts to their teachers showing them the love and appreciation they so much deserve. 

The problem is when you have a male teacher, getting a gift card to Target or buying a potted plant may not necessarily be something a male teacher would want. And not all male teachers are in to gardening or tools, either. 

So if you have been or are going to be in the same boat that I was in the past year, let me share a few things I did for No. 2's teacher this year. 

First thing, find out what the teacher likes

One thing I really love to do at the beginning of each year is have the teachers, male or female, fill out a little survey. I give this at the end of the first week with a "You Made It Through the First Week" care package {complete with sticky notes, pens, tissues, tylenol, glue sticks, tape, and a small gift card to Starbucks or Sonics}. I use this information all year long for ideas on gifts for the teachers. And, if I happen to have the emails or contact information of the other parents in the class, I share that information with them as well. 

This is one of my favorites to use for teachers. Find it HERE
For the male teacher, I actually gave him a longer list, since I was sure I was going to need more information to pull from through the year. Here are the questions I sent him. I used the survey above to get me started on this list. It's not in any cute format, but you get the gist. 

When is your birthday? 
Where do you like to get a quick lunch? 
What is your favorite restaurant? 
Where are your favorite shopping spots? 
What is your favorite soda? 
What is your favorite candy? 
What is your favorite color? 
What is your favorite place to get a gift card from? 
What is your favorite meal? 
What is your favorite Starbucks, DD, or hot drink? 
What is your favorite sport and team? 
What is your favorite music? 
Who is your favorite musician? 
What is your favorite scent?
Do you collect anything? 
Name one place you would like to visit. 
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner? 
What is your favorite type of book? 
Who is your favorite author? 
What are your hobbies? 
If you could choose 3 gifts at or under $25 each, what would they be?

Second, Share with Others and Enlist Help 

At this point, you should have a decent amount of information to choose from. I would recommend smaller gifts for holidays such as Christmas and Valentines, and larger gifts for Teacher Appreciation and End of the Year. For the larger gifts, join in with a couple of parents. OR, if you have access to all/most of the parents' emails in the class, share the list above and make a large gift basket {or bag or bucket or cooler} for your teacher. This does two things: 

1. Helps cut down the cost for YOU on getting a large gift for the teacher
2. Can make everyone in the class feel like they can contribute to a gift. 

As a former teacher, I know that there are so many students that can't afford to buy cute little gifts for the teachers. I normally ask if parents can send in 1.00 to go to a gift from the class. If you have 30 kids, you can get all kinds of things to fill up a bag for the teacher. 

Third, Choose When You Want to Give a Large/Small Gift 

During the school year, there are quite a few times when your child may want to bring a gift for his/her teacher. It is important for you to know ahead of time when you are going to give a gift. I like to check out the survey at the beginning of the year and start planning immediately so we can budget AND so I don't have duplicates. It can get expensive if you get a large gift for each event during the year. Here are some days you may want to give a gift to a teacher: 

1. The first day of school
2. Christmas
3. The 100th day of school
4.Valentine's Day
5. Teacher Appreciation Week
6. End of the Year

Gift Ideas for Male Teachers

Here are some of gifts I got for my son's teacher this year and some ideas that I picked up from other parents along the way: 

  1. Classroom Supplies
  2. Basic supplies for teacher-use only {sticky notes, bathroom passes, etc}
  3. Books, books, books {OR a gift card to a bookstore}. If your teacher sends home those Scholastic book order forms, see if your teacher is registered on the Scholastic website. You can actually buy books for teachers there as well. If he makes a wish list, you can actually purchase books, many times at a discounted rate, any time of the year. 
  4. Snacks. 
    1. Teachers need snacks through the day. For my son's teacher, I gave "manly" snacks, such as beef jerky or cans of nuts {check for allergies first}. 
    2. Many times teachers may have snacks for students who forget to bring snacks {if their class has one}. A teacher would definitely love if you got one of those LARGE containers of snacks for the class, such as animal crackers or pretzels. 
  5. "Handy" tools, such as flashlights or a small "fix it" box that has small screwdrivers in it. I actually used those in my classroom quite a bit...you would be surprised at what suddenly needs to be unscrewed or tightened up. 
  6. Gift cards
    1. Food
    2. Entertainment, such as movies
    3. Sports gift card. I got a NFL.com gift card one year for a male teacher who LOVES Green Bay. 
    4. Retail stores such as Outdoor stores {REI} or Sports stores {Dicks} 
    5. Education stores 
    6. Book stores 
  7. Meat Rubs. This is my most popular gift to get a guy, ANY guy, for ANY special events. Here's a great website to find some meat rubs. Get those really small {4 oz} mason jars, fill 3 or 4 of them, wrap some twine around them, and give those in a "rustic" looking bag or container. 
  8. "Themed" Gifts {these may depend on what your teacher likes...refer to the survey} These are GREAT GIFTS for the class to chip in together:
    1. Fishing Weekend: Small tackle box, tackle, fishing line
    2. Beach/Lake: Cooler, sunscreen, sodas, bug spray, and snacks 
    3. Movies: Fandango Gift Card, bags of kettle corn, sodas, a popcorn bowl 
    4. Ice Cream: Ice Cream bowls, ice cream scoop, sprinkles, hot fudge, and a gift card to Publix to get ice cream {thanks, Betsy, for such a great idea} 
  9. Coffee
    1. Gift Cards
    2. Coffee cups
    3. Coffee cup that is actually a single serving French press 
    4. Coffee {if you have a local brewer, this is a GREAT way to support local businesses} 
    5. Coffee accessories {sugar, cream, InBru, etc} 
  10. Board Games 
    1. Educational board games he can use in his classroom
    2. Games for his family
Here are some pictures of gifts I got for my sons' teachers: 

Homemade strawberry jam with homemade biscuits 


Found this printable HERE. I have paired this with sticky notes that are shaped like apples AND I attached one of these to an apple pie. 

This goes great with a coffee cup filled with those single serving instant coffee packages. Go HERE for the printable. 

Here are some websites that have printables that can be paired with gifts: 

  1. Crazy for Crust 
  2. How Does She 
  3. Moms By Heart
I sure hope this helps. Supporting teachers and getting gifts to show our appreciation is so very, very important. Teachers are overworked and underpaid, but they love your kids. They need reminders of why they are there: for the kids. Whether your child's teacher is male or female, I pray this helped you when you are looking to purchase gifts for your child's teacher in the years to come. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Alphabet Days Summer Curriculum

If you have young children and are blessed with the opportunity to stay at home with them all summer long, you may be craving for a way to entertain and educate your child all while having fun and saving money. When it came to the summer when my boys were turning 3 and 2, I decided to come up with a schedule of sorts that did all of the above things. I was able to use this curriculum, with slight changes in activities or food, for three summers.

Since I was still teaching, I only had about 80-90 days to work with, which is around 12 weeks. I always try to give a buffer of at least two weeks after school gets out and before school lets back in. I needed time to decompress from 180 days of constant educating, and I would need a few weeks before school started to get geared back up, finalizing lesson plans, making copies, setting up my classroom, etc. So when I decided to do "Alphabet Days" with my kids, that gave me about 5 weeks, Monday-Friday of little activities. Most of them were either FREE or inexpensive. I focused on going to places around my area of Charleston, South Carolina. I also tried to include making something {food or crafts} at least once a week. I also try to make my first week around the Fourth of July, so we can do something with "F"lags.

So if you need some ideas, please see my list. If you are from Charleston or the surrounding areas, this will apply to you. BUT if you are not from this area, please use this list as ways to create your own list of places and activities in your area.

Each day we focus on a letter of the alphabet. We started this week (June 29th) and will be doing this on the week days. Each day is focused on an activity (whether we go some place or do something at home) and then focus on a food that starts with that place. If you would like to come or have ideas for letters (keep them local and cheap, please), let me know. 

A: Angel Oak Tree, applesauce
B: Bee City, banana split
C: Chalk drawing, cookies
D: Dip in the pool, donuts OR hot Dogs at Perfectly Franks 
E/F: Fourth of July Events and crafts, Exercise Fun
G: Cypress GARDENS, grapes 
H: House of Bounce {This is one of those bounce castle places} 
I: In-house movie, make your own Ice cream 
J: Jam day (pick blueberries and make some jam)
K: Kites and Krispe Kreme
L: library and making Lemonade
M: Children's Museum and Moes
N: Northwoods Mall play area and nuts {Make nut butter, almond, peanut, etc}
O: Outside all day (probably the park) and oranges
P: making Pizza, make Pottery {out of playdough}, make Pancakes  
Q: quiet time and Quiznos 
R: Racoon (I have a friend who raises them) and raisins
S: Swamp (Beidler Forest) and Spaghetti
T: Turtles at Charlestowne Landing 
U: Umbrellas in sprinklers 
V: sounds of Violins, make onion rings out of Valdalia onions, study Venus fly traps 
W: Water and watermelons
X: Pirate Cove (for X marks the spot, thanks, Kim for the idea) and making Xylophones
Y: York Town 
Z: End it with the ZOO!!

Here are some pictures of the kids doing "Alphabet Days" through the summers: 

Making "H"ouses 

Homemade "D"onuts 

Reviewing "K"

"P" shaped "P"ancakes with "P"inapple pieces 

Making "P"izzas 

If you noticed with the "K" day, I also had worksheets for them. I have two sites I LOVE to use when looking for worksheets. Please check them out: 

1. Hubbard's Cupboard 
2. 2 Teaching Mommies