Thursday, July 29, 2010

Big Church

Do you remember that song by Peter Gabriel called "Big Time"?  In this song, there was a line that went "...and I will pray to a big God as I kneel in the big church..." I don't know why I was thinking of this song today.  Maybe it's because after so many years of snickering and pointing fingers, my husband and I have done an about face and started attending a big church - a mega church if you will - a few years ago.

I listened to and firmly believed the claims that people only go to big churches so that they can remain anonymous; so that they can do church without the commitment.  This may be true for some people who attend big churches.  Yet, even though I believed that small churches were the way to go, I kept wondering how that big church was able to do so many things in the community if it didn't have the commitment of so many people.  I was intrigued.  We decided to check out the location of this big church, you know, just out of curiosity.  Then we checked out an Episcopal church.  This experience brought flashbacks of candles, incense, and the standing, sitting and kneeling that were spaced at just so intervals during the service.  We could safely say that we were done with liturgical churches.  So with sweaty palms, we went to the big church.

We've never looked back. Since joining the big church, I have discovered that there are numerous opportunities to get involved.  I have joined a wonderful women's Bible study; I volunteer in the special needs ministry; I volunteer at the summer day camp.  I have discovered faithfulness in preaching the gospel, a vitality in fellowship, and enthusiasm for serving where I didn't think these existed.  Do I feel that big churches are better than small churches?  No.  There are positive and negative experiences to be had in either setting, which I might discuss in another post.  My lengthy point is this: if you are looking for a church home, don't dismiss a church because of its size whether large or small; don't dismiss a church because it's not a part of your favorite denomination.  Visit each church a few times.  And most importantly, don't forget to pray about it.

Dear Lord, may all of Your congregations, large and small, faithfully represent the Body of Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Aren't Wii Having Fun?

We've had a Wii for two years, and I have to say that it's alot of fun.  Initially, I was reluctant to get a gaming system.  I had images of kids being transformed into couch potato nerds who never left the house and never saw sunlight.  (I would say that that's only partially true.)  However, when it's 100+ degrees outside it's not like the kids are going to be running around, riding their bikes or their scooters.  Many of our summer days are 100 degree days.  So, we got a Wii.

That decision proved to be a good one for several reasons.  First, my Asperger's kid was instantly attracted to video games.  Go figure.  He's also very good at these games.  Again, go figure.  However, there has been another benefit to having a Wii that we could not have predicted: it has given him a social outlet - another way to make a connection with other kids.  This has always been very difficult for him.  Since being introduced to the wonderful world of Nintendo, he now knows who Mario and Luigi are.  He can talk strategy and exchange hints and cheats with other kids.  And best of all, many of the games are made for 2-4 players, so he doesn't have to play alone.

I'm sure that there are still some harsh critics of gaming systems.  I used to be one of them. Many of the criticisms I've heard revolve around the type of games played and the amount of time kids play them.  After having a Wii for a couple of years now, I have come to view these issues as parenting issues.  Parents purchase the games and parents set time limits.  It's that simple.  We have one game that is rated "T" for Teen and that's Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  The rest of our games are rated "E" for Everyone. Our son accepts the fact that certain games are not allowed in our home.  Period.

Finally, who would have thought that my husband and I would come to enjoy having a Wii.  Since we don't have cable, Dish, or DirecTV (we use Hulu and Netflix), the Wii has become a great source of entertainment on those hot summer days.  As a bonus, if you are a Netflix customer with a wireless internet connection and you have a Wii, Netflix has a free DVD available that allows you to use your Wii to download movies from the Netflix Instant Queue.  Pretty sweet.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Convenience in a Can

Although the title of this blog is "Soak the Beans", I haven't done much bean soaking lately because it's been very hot.  It's times like these when I readjust my budget and allow for a little convenience: canned beans.  Yes, I know, canned beans are way more expensive than dry beans, but before you write me off as another spendthrift posing as a hip frugalista, hear me out. 

First and foremost, canned beans are convenient.  There's nothing wrong with convenience every now and then.  Convenience only becomes expensive when it's a way of life. Second, meals made with canned beans are still cheaper than eating out...believe me, when it's over 100 degrees I think about eating out often. Third, I've discovered that adding a can of beans to some old favorite recipes makes a heartier meal. This week, I have added a can of cannellini beans to my mushroom risotto.  Served with a cucumber salad this was a filling meal.  I also added a can of black beans to my taco hamburger recipe.  This would also be a good filling for burritos or a taco salad. Of course I can't forget the all-time-kid-favorite Beans & Weenies:

  • two cans of white beans
  • a bottle of BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 pkg Lit'l Smokies or cut up hot dogs
Adjust the ingredients to your taste. Combine in a sauce pan and simmer 20 - 30 minutes.

Personally, I like crockpot Beans & Weenies, but in a pinch or when the weather's hot, stove top Beans & Weenies get a thumbs up from me...and the kids.  So go ahead, give canned beans a try.  Be brave and buy some canned bean varieties you normally wouldn't buy.  It's still cheaper than McDonald's.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Been There

Summer is not my favorite time of the year. Even with all of the fun activities going on, the summer heat begins to drag me down. July is a particularly hectic month for me.  There is alot going on in July: the 4th of July, the cats' birthdays (no, we don't have a party), my nephew's birthday, trips to the beach, my youngest son's birthday.  It's the last one that brings mixed emotions.  This year he will be 8 years old.  What makes it really difficult is that his cousin is one week older than he is and there is a world of difference between the two boys.  Each July, this fact stares me in the face - undeniable and unavoidable. 

Parents shouldn't compare their children to others, but the fact is we do to some extent.  My son and my nephew may be the same age chronologically, but developmentally, they are years apart.  My nephew is cute, he reads and writes, he plays sports - he is very athletic.  My son is also cute with a laugh that is infectious, but he doesn't talk.  He has not yet learned to read or write Braille, he walks with a limp and he still plays with preschool toys.  Am I bitter?  Not so much anymore.  That doesn't mean that the pain has gone away; it simply means that I choose not to dwell on it most of the year.  July is the one month when I struggle with this.

It's a struggle that forces me to evaluate the progress that's been made, how far we still have to go, and my attitude towards it all.  It's a struggle that forces me to sift through the baggage I've accumulated.  Thankfully, in the midst of this personal struggle, there are people to see, things to do, and places to go.  In fact, this weekend we're taking a day trip to the beach.  It promises to be a fun, relaxing day as always.

To my son and my nephew: Happy birthday, boys!  You are both very special.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chihuahua Charm

Drop-kick dogs, dust mop dogs, rat dogs...whatever you want to call them, Chihuahuas are still dogs.  I am a cat person by nature and believe me, I've used these epithets to describe little dogs before.  Obviously you can't apply these to big dogs, but big dogs still annoyed me nonetheless.  However, like many parents, we thought it would be nice for the boys to have a dog because a dog might be able to handle the kid energy that a cat doesn't want to deal with. We also knew many parents with special needs kids who firmly believed that a dog made a positive difference in their kids' lives. If we were to get a dog, I reasoned that it would have to be a smallish dog, a cat-size dog.  Now, which breed?

Terriers are cute but they are waaaaay too hyper for me.  I already have a kid with ADHD; I don't need a dog with ADHD.  Poodle? No. Enough said.  Dachshund? Mmmm,  Chihuahua? No.  Long-hair Chihuahua? Maybe.  Despite reading many negative commentaries about Chihuahuas and children, last year we got a long-hair Chihuahua and it has been the best thing for the boys, especially our oldest.  He now has a buddy around all the time.

IMHO, Chihuahuas get a bad rap because many people treat them like babies instead of dogs.  Before we got a dog I read somewhere that if you wouldn't allow a big dog to do it, then don't let a little dog do it.  This was very good advice that I wish my oldest son would heed.  Our little Chi walks all over him but they have a ton of fun together.  Strangely enough, because our youngest son is blind he is not taken in by the Chihuahua charm, consequently he doesn't put up with any nonsense from the dog. The dog is very deferential toward him and this is so funny to watch. This is the pecking order in our pack from the dog's point of view:

Alpha- My husband
Beta- Me (Alpha when hubby isn't around.)
Gamma- Youngest son
Delta - The cats
Epsilon- The Chihuahua
Zeta - Oldest son

My oldest son would deny being in last place, but there you are.  It's kind of hard to deny when it's there in black and white.


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