Tuesday, November 23

Learning Games for Benjamin

After reading a blog post from Becky about work boxes, I clicked on the link she provided to read more about this cool organizational system for homeschoolers and IT'S SO NEAT! Absolutely love it. My mind immediately started racing with ideas of how I would incorporate the curriculum(s) I plan on using when I start homeschooling my kids. Ahhh... I really love teaching, can you tell? :)

So... on the link Becky gave (www.confessionsofahomechooler.blogspot.com) I was reading some of this ladies ideas for her "teeny tot work boxes" she makes for her toddler, and I got really inspired! So, I started brainstorming ideas for new learning games for Benjamin that he can do right now. While I don't really have need for the actual "work boxes" right now, these various games are great for building motor skills & learning. They are also great entertainers and break up the monotony of him playing with stuff from his toy box. I'm already thinking I might bring a few to church with us next time.

So here's what I have so far:
Beads and shoelaces for him to lace through. Found this at the Dollar Tree in the toy section. (I plan to go back to the Dollar Tree and buy some plastic nylon string for these because the inside of the beads are rough and the shoelaces tend to snag and get stuck. Still though- much cheaper than I've seen them anywhere else!)

Wooden sticks for sorting by size.
(Originally skewer sticks that I cut the tips off of and sanded on the ends)

Colored bowls and pom-poms for scooping, sorting by color, counting... etc.

I found these Pooh Number Match cards at the Dollar Tree.

Okay, so you probably get this game... put the numbered card in the corresponding numbered cup... also motor skills building with the clothes pins.

I've been wanting to buy him some army men for awhile but I knew I didn't want to dump them in his toy box to just get lost... so I figured I'd put them in a "work box". Standing them up is rather difficult even for me so that's building motor skills & we can also count with them.

This is his favorite so far. It's a cardboard box wrapped in brown paper with holes punched in the top. He sticks the coffee stir sticks into the holes- keeps him busy for awhile and he's really good at it too.

(he likes us to clap each time he gets one in ;)

Well... that's it for now! Making these games was my special project for today... tomorrow: learning to make hair bows- In case you haven't heard... we're having a girl! :D

White Chili Recipe

You've simply got to try this fabulous fabulous FABULOUS White Chili recipe! It's a new family favorite for us. Delish!

1 pound (boneless skinless) chicken breasts (cut into 1-inch cubes (may substitute smoked turkey or smoked ham))
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cans (14 oz.) northern or small white beans (undrained)
1 can chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz. chopped) green chilis
1 teaspoon (ground) cumin
1 teaspoon (dried) oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whipping cream or evaporated milk

1) Sprinkle chicken pieces with garlic powder and salt. In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute' chicken in olive oil 4 to 5 minutes, stirring. Transfer meat to 4-quart slow cooker; add next seven ingredients, up to sour cream. Cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours.

2) Turn off cooker and add sour cream and whipping cream/milk. Stir well. Serve chili over a sweet cornbread.

Soooo yummy on a cold night! :)

Sunday, November 7

Meet Joseph

One night about a year ago, I was lying on our couch waiting for Nick to get home from work. He worked the late shift and it was the middle of the night. I was sure everyone I knew had been tucked soundly in their beds for hours by now. And so, in an effort to pass the time, I flipped through an endless stream of infomercials on tv- hardly paying attention. I mentally checked things off my "to-do" list that I had completed that day, then I leaned over to check on a sleeping Benjamin for the 10th time. My tired brain was begging for sleep, but I would not concede. I was determined to keep the same hours as Nick- and that included going to bed at the same hour.

I stared drowsily at the tv, when a new infomercial took the scene. It was for an organization that provided food and care to children living in poverty. As I watched, my interest grew. Nick and I had been discussing lately how we'd like to find new ways to fulfill the commands in Scripture to "help the poor and needy". We had some other Christian friends who sponsored a child overseas. We often talked about how "neat" that was, and how we should involved with a program like that. Then, we would promptly forget the idea and go on to discuss other things.
As the pictures of children living all over the globe in various levels of destitution rolled across the screen, I felt the Lord tugging on my heart strings. Now was the time. It was time to get involved. I had made every excuse in the book to procrastinate. Through the years, I heard lots of stories of "sham organizations" that made me wonder how much of my funds would actually reach the child. Well, it was time I called that what it was: another excuse. "You haven't even done any research on organizations... why are you dismissing it so quickly?", I felt a voice in my heart ask...

So I whipped out my laptop, and began typing in the website address flashing on the tv screen. I browsed through each and every page on their website for about 10-15 minutes before finally coming across some clue that they were a Christian organization. It was a small statement of faith, carefully hidden in the History portion of their lengthy About Us section. "Hmm... not exactly what I was hoping for..." I thought, disappointed. "There MUST be an organization more closely tied with Christian mission work than that!" After keying some descriptive words in my Google search box, a multitude of companies/organizations sprung up on my screen. I scrolled through, searching for words of interest and clicked on a couple of sites to explore them. Within the next few minutes I found "the one".

It was Compassion International.

As soon as the home page popped up, I was impressed. I didn't need to search and explore to figure out if they preached the gospel of Christ, it was proclaimed in their mission statement and even their motto ("Releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name")

I soaked up every tidbit of information they offered online and learned that in addition to providing education, food & medical care, their "centers" where the children attend weekly Bible class; work with the local established church (encompassing many denominations.) I studied their financial statements (available online,) and learned the details of their program; and I knew I didn't need to look any further. As soon as Nick walked in the door, I excitedly told him of my plans and how I felt the Lord prompting us to sponsor a child. Immediately he said, "Let's do it." I looked up at him, a little surprised. "Well, don't you even want to see all the details first and check out their financials?!" I asked shockingly as I hurriedly brought him from page to page on my computer. The Lord must have been talking to him too, because he didn't need any convincing. His mind was already made up.

We must have looked like two kids at Christmas when we proceeded to select a child. We were both giddy with excitement. The thought of making a REAL difference in some body's life SO far away was a feeling unlike any other I've had. When we began looking through the children's pictures my heart sunk a little. "This is going to be hard!" I thought, knowing I couldn't afford to sponsor them all. We decided to search through the "immediate needs" list of kids who had been waiting a long time for a sponsor, then we narrowed the search even further by choosing AIDS affected areas. Our eyes scanned the seas of faces with names, ages & locations posted beneath. I stopped several time to point out different children to Nick, then he stopped. He pointed. "That's the one." He said simply. His finger rested on the photo of a little boy. His name was Joseph and he was five. I looked eagerly at Nick, "Are you sure? You don't want to look at all of them?" "No." was his reply. "I just have a feeling. And I know he's the one." Bewildered at how certain he seemed, I replied "alright!" and clicked on Joseph.

I smile when I think about Joseph. He's a sweet little boy, now 6 years old. His favorite food is rice and beans and he loves soccer. I mean, LOVES it! Every picture he's ever drawn us has a soccer ball in it. We've received well over a dozen letters from him over the past year. He doesn't write yet, so his teacher writes for him, then the letter is sent through Compassion to be translated and is then sent to us. He lives in Bagamoyo, a fishing village on the eastern coast of Tanzania, Africa. The homes there are mostly mud huts, and the average wage of families lucky enough to find work is $12 a month.

Because of our sponsorship (which is only about what we spend on a nice meal,) Joseph has clothes, food, and most importantly he is part of "the program", meaning he attends school, Bible class & misc. functions at the center. I was surprised at the amount of communication we've had with Joseph- and with the info Compassion has sent us. They even send out an annual brochure specific to each country telling you about your child's culture. (Ours even included a recipe!) We also received a letter from his local pastor describing the work going on at the church. I was really excited to learn that his local church is Pentecostal. Upon receiving that news, it really did feel like God had brought us and Joseph together on purpose.

Although you can email letters to your sponsored child, we like to write them so we can include photos, coloring pages & stickers. When the center takes a picture of Joseph, they send us one. A few months back, looking at his photo I noticed that his shoes looked a bit worn and possibly had a hole in one toe. So, I went online and sent an extra $20 specifying that it be used for new shoes. I was delighted when a short time later we got a letter from Joseph thanking us and saying "see how smart I look in my new shoes?" *too cute*

The posted picture is of Joseph (with his baby sister Ester) wearing his new shoes. Things must be cheaper over there because he said he also bought his sister dress with our gift. :)

Sponsoring Joseph has been an amazing experience for us thus far. It's a very small effort on my part for a surprisingly large blessing in return. We hope to some day visit him in Africa (and judging from his letters he fully expects us to :) If you've ever thought about getting involved in a program like this, I heartily encourage you to look into it!

I am REALLY glad that I did!