Monday, July 30, 2012

Great Calendars for Children

There is so much that is celebrated or remembered from history.  Each of them a learning experience and an opportunity to make your homeschooling experience fun and relevant.  Looking back is so useful as it reminds children that who we are today is a result of who has gone before us.  Also children often think things just exist and it's a lovely reminder that someone discovered or invented  an item before it could exist.  I have found some lovely calendars and use one or all of them at the same time.
Calendars are great for any homeschooling mother.  You could use it for circle time, or just to start the day.  I find that it opens up all sorts of discussions and also for topics for your journal.  The best way to use these is a daily practice.  And for those of you that unschool this is really a great opportunity to open up doors of interest for further study.

Here are some of the best online calendars I have found so far:

I love this one, colourful, relevant and with the occasional website which is great for further reading.  This is definitely my favourite.
This calendar is more like a crafting calendar based on what's happening.  This is a great one if you are looking to do arts and crafts with your children more frequently.

Though not quite a monthly calendar this calendar is for summer, fun activities to make summer holidays exciting and entertaining!  I know we are experiencing a South African winter at the moment but many of these can be used for any season or any day when you want to avoid book work at all costs.  (yes those days happen too)
Lots of links, too many to even mention
This is another great site with lots of arts and crafts, also unit study approaches to some of the topics.
Blogger Se7en +1 has also created her own calendars and in fact every month she will give you a free calendar to print, as well as loads of links to books that complement any of the mentioned events.
I would definitely use this site in conjunction with the other calendars. This one does quizzes and questionnaires on the events.  So it requires some reading or research before you could actually attempt some of these.
Reading is fundamental has created a calendar which encourages your children to read a book, do research or look online for more information about any of the topics listed.  You could have your children reading all day and I really think that this will help with encouraging a more active reading style, without very much effort on your part.

PBS Kids - Raising Readers
This one is definitely aimed at younger children but such lovely activities and a lot of outdoor fun things to do!
These guys offer you a food and holiday calendar which you can download and print off.  Great for putting up against your wall.

Have you found any others?  Please leave a comment and share!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Recipe: Natural homemade air freshener with oranges, cloves and cinnamon

I have a very sensitive nose.  I don't like smelliness.  I am constantly telling my children to brush their teeth over and over again, I spray way to much deodorant or perfume on myself because I like to smell nice.  I buy things to make my house smell nice, toilet tablets for the toilets, potpourri for between my clothes, toilet spray for the bathrooms, essential oils for the counters and floors.  I know this may sound odd but don't imagine that I vapourize everything at the same time!  I'm not that bad.
But I also am so aware of how many of these things are full of chemicals that fill the air and fill my children's lungs.  And so I am always looking for something natural and not harmful to us or our environment.  And then I stumbled on this recipe idea for making a natural homemade air freshener.  I wish I could remember where I had found it, though it's probably common knowledge to many of you.

With it being winter, there are plenty of oranges around.  I use the oranges my children have already eaten.  (so no wasting of oranges, just re-using the skins).

Recipe for a natural homemade air freshener
Orange peels of about 2 to 3 oranges (I am sure you could use lemons too)
Whole cloves (3)
1/2 cinnamon stick
Water and a pot

I simply let this simmer and it releases the most amazing fragrance.  It fills the air with the richness of spices laced with orange - and it's wonderful.  When I feel like it's done it's job, I switch it off and leave it to cool.  I might decide to heat it up again later in the day.    Normally a small pot like this will last for about 2 days(I just leave it on the stove and heat it up when I want to).  After I am finished, I remove all the bits and put the water in a spray bottle.  I then use it as a cleaning spray which gives the house a lovely citrus smell which I use for counters and for mopping the floor.

Simple but delightful and of course for those of you who struggle with pests like ants - this is a win win situation because they detest oranges.

What natural methods do you use for making your house smell lovely?  I would love some more ideas

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Out and About: The Baxter Theatre: Worst of Both Worlds

I could quickly see why this play, Worst of Both Worlds, written and directed by Bulelani Mabutyana and starring Lubabalo Nontwana and Thando Suselo were the winners of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival for 2012.  Though both young actors (21 and 19) - they delivered a remarkable performance in this story of a girl who is abducted and trafficked at a young age, growing up under slavery, abuse and prostitution.  

I was led down the road of innocence in a town - Khayelitsha, where a young Xhosa girl's life is dramatically changed from a life of song and laughter, to abduction, abuse and prostitution.  I sat riveted in my seat as I felt my emotions rise and fall:  laughter, horror, pain, empathy, even anger.  I took offense at the violence and language of the child traffickers.  And yet hoped with her as she attempted to escape from those who would enslave her.  I wept with her when she found her family and then the subsequent sadness and sense of loss.
Though I have seen various productions at different theatres, none has touched me to my core as this one did.  Child trafficking is never a comfortable subject, and this production did nothing to hide its destruction.  And even with the humour which at times almost seemed uncomfortable, out of place - there was a grim reminder of the reality of the situation in our country and many others.  

Both Lubabalo and Thando, transformed into a multitude of characters, through changes in lighting, voice and mannerisms in a blink of an eye while never physically changing their appearance (they wore very simple clothing that you eventually didn't even notice, their performance was so gripping).  A simple set of a single table and chair was transformed before me with clever and effective lighting and some unusual changes in position.  I love well designed beautiful sets - pretty things and yet, what they achieved was beyond paint and canvas.  

After the performance we were privileged to be invited to the the Baxter Restaurant and while we were there I had the opportunity to chat to the writer and director of Worst of Both WorldsBulelani Mabutyana.  I asked him why he had chosen this specific topic and what I discovered is that he had personally lost his cousin in a similar way and some of his close friends too.  And then it really made me realise why there was so much depth and meaning to so much of what I had seen.    I find his own story, made this production even more meaningful to me!  How someone could take so much of what he had been through and present it to us, the audience. What a remarkable man, writer and director!

Worst of Both Worlds will be performed at the Baxter Theatre in the Golden Arrow Studio for the next two weeks from the 24th July to 4th of August at 7pm.   And if you book on a Friday night you can buy your ticket and have a meal at the Baxter Restaurant for only R100 per person.

This is not suitable for children under 13 and with good reason.  The language of the child traffickers and though a fair amount of symbolism is used, the reality is that the issues that are being presented are not sugar coated or to be made to look pretty but rather a stark reality.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A truly South African recipe: Magic Malva Pudding

Recently Ethan entered a competition for Kids National Geographic and this was his favourite South African recipe he entered and so I thought I would share it with you (you will notice that it remains unedited, as it is aimed at children)

The Malva Madness
50ml butter (make it slightly soft in the microwave otherwise it can be very hard)
400g white sugar 
2 eggs (big ones)
2 teaspoons Bicarbonate of Soda
2 cups milk
525ml flour (the regular one not the one that has baking powder in already)
3 tablespoons (big spoons) of apricot jam
2 tablespoons vinegar (the white one)

And now add some Magic

1 cup cream
220g brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence 
pinch of salt

How to make it
You have to put the oven on first at 180 degrees Celsius
Make sure you put all your baking things and ingredients on the counter first so you know where to find everything and also to make sure that you haven't forgotten something like the time my mother made a cake and didn't know that she didn't have any baking powder. We almost didn't have cake.

First you start by mixing the butter and sugar together. I used an electric beater but I am sure you could do it with a normal whisk, its just much harder to do. Put your eggs in as well. Make sure you break your eggs in a separate cup first otherwise you might end up with broken pieces of egg shell or even worse a rotten egg and then you will have to start all over again. And just do them one at a time, its better that way. Use the beater again.

Put your bicarbonate of soda in the milk and stir it until you can't feel the pieces. It must feel smooth. If it's not dissolved it feels like there is sand in the milk. Now you must put this together with the sugar and butter.

All the other ingredients must be added, it looks like a lot but once you mix it with the beater, it will go down a little. You must put in the flour with a sieve, the jam and the vinegar. You have to beat it until its smooth. It's quite runny but don't worry once you cook it, it will look just like a cake.

Use a oven dish that you have spread butter over so that it doesn't stick. Pour it all in and put it in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

Now while you are waiting for the cake part to cook, you need to make the sauce which is the best part. Without the sauce there would be no magic just Malva Madness. Because you will be mad that you forgot to put the sauce on. In a small pot you need to put all the sauce ingredients, cook it until it boils and all the brown sugar needs to be dissolved. It might get a little thick but that's even better because it makes the malva even more delicious and sticky. Don't leave your pot, otherwise it will bubble over or burn.

The moment the malva is ready you must pour the sauce over straight away so that all the sauce gets sucked in. They both have to be hot for it to work. The best time to eat it is while it's really hot with ice--cream, which is my favourite, or with custard or even better, with both.
I hope you enjoy this, I know it's my favourite.


This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page.  We hope you enjoy the
 carnival as much as we have!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gold Nuggets #6 : Great Art Sites

Treasure treasure treasure.  I love finding online treasure.  And this weeks one's are goodies and they're all about art.  I have very little artistic talent in the conventional sense - I don't know how to paint too well , I sometimes forget how to mix colours, and my idea of a portrait would be a stick figure with ponytails.  However I do not want to disadvantage my children in any way and am always looking out for ways to encourage artistic expression - which could be in the form of arts and crafts, painting or sculpting.  With this in mind I have found some awesome awesome sites.
Though we do a lot of free art such as box construction, free expression and drawing - the type of activities I prefer to do with them are opportunities for them to learn and develop a diversity of skills to express their creativity.  And here are some of the sites I visit frequently and some that I have just discovered that I am dying to try out!

Deep Space Sparkle - Art lessons for Kids
What's fantastic about her site is that her lessons are original and beautiful.  They are arranged according to Grade and this art teacher puts all her art lessons into practise at the school she works at.  When I see the type of art her children are producing, I am awestruck. She also sells her lessons in packs for a mere $5 and they look great!

Art Projects for Kids
This website also offers daily art lesson plans - which I find especially useful for the younger children and if you want to buy individual lessons they are also for sale.  I subscribe to her feed and so get all my lessons in my inbox and then decide which ones I feel like doing.

The Crafty Crow
This is a collection of thousands of crafting ideas. So many innovative ideas, you could be busy for years if you were to try all of them.  These ideas are submitted by readers, bloggers and anyone really with a crafty idea.  In fact if you come up with your own arts and crafts idea, this would be the place to submit it!

Disney Family Fun
They have some lovely crafts on this site, some of them with videos and if you stay on this site long enough you'll find a treasure of recipes, printables and game ideas.

If you have found any great art sites, please share by leaving a comment!  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friendship and the loneliness of motherhood

Who encourages you?  Who is watching your back, checking to see how you are doing?  Notices that things are just not what they appear to be?  Who asks the difficult questions and doesn't allow you to sink into guilt and depression?  Who offers to take your children so you can gather your thoughts and regain your strength? 

Is it possible?  Surrounded by other mothers, activities, co-ops, sports and every conceivable excursion?  Could it be?

Could you be struggling with loneliness?

Just because you are surrounded by activity and other mothers, you may mistakenly think that these are friends - until the hard times come, when you want to reach out and talk to someone.  Then it's not so easy to find the right person to talk to because you wonder what they will think of you or what their reaction will be?

As women we are faced with so many challenges.  Some involve our marriages, others our finances and some are personal battles that we have to fight and overcome.  Your husband may be your best friend, but what happens when your best friend let's you down?

We often neglect our relationships with our friends because we are busy - busy with our jobs, busy at home, busy with our children, serving our husband and fulfilling all our other parenting and marital duties.
Today consider who you call friends.  

But don't leave it there....

Pick up the phone and call them, 
Send an email telling them what they mean to you,
Take out your diary and make some time.

And then....

Treasure them, build with them and allow God to use them in your life.

Among life's precious jewels,
Genuine and rare,
The one that we call friendship
Has worth beyond compare.

- Author Unknown -

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Planning your homeschooling room

Homeschooling this year?  New to this all?  Or just looking to revamp,  re-organise and improve on what you have?  Not everyone has a room dedicated to homeschooling so never fear if you don't.  When you are planning your room or working space, you need to take a few things into consideration to make homeschooling that little bit easier and hopefully a little more organised.  These are a few things that I need in my homeschooling room which are different to my list of homeschooling things that I cannot live without.  But I need both:)
1.  A desk or a shared space like a dining room table. And this space needs to have space.  4 children bickering about whose book is in the way, or whose page is overlapping another one's page will drive you batty. I have a big table when we do group work but also have two other desks when they invade each other's space.  Maybe your children are more gracious but mine aren't.

2.  Good lighting
We have a lot of natural light from our windows but we also have lots of rain during winter and the further away you move from the window the darker it gets.  Make sure that all areas have good lighting.  Avoid the light bulbs that emit a yellow light and try and get the white light bulbs instead.

3.  Consider your social life and the visitors to your home.
My husband runs a business from home and our homeschooling room is right at the entrance of the house - AND we don't have a door to close.  I make sure that at all times the room is presentable and if I know we are about to launch into a particularly messy adventure, I take them to the back of the house to the kitchen and dining room area.  (there my secret is out) I am sensitive to the activities in our home as well as our social life.  Where you decide to homeschool, needs to take this into consideration, otherwise you will constantly be berating you children for leaving a mess and constantly be apologising to everyone who comes for a visit.
4.  Place for books - lots of them
Boxes, shelves or crates, be prepared for books.  I never have enough space - we are always inheriting books or buying them second hand.  Curriculum books arrive and we can't even find space for storing them. I once built a bookshelf just from planks and bricks that had been covered with wrapping paper.  It doesn't have to cost you a lot.
5.  Variety - this is great for maintaining interest. Whether you use different rooms to do this or whether you create different spaces within one room - make sure that there are a variety of potential work spaces.   We love excursions and are constantly out and about but there is always work to be done at home.  And to ensure that you maintain interest and variety, think about where else you can work.  We use the kitchen for all science experiments as well as our back yard, reading in our beds, Bible in the lounge, read alouds on the couch or outside on a blanket if it's warm, art on the plastic table on our patio, Mandarin at the computer etc. Don't be bound into thinking that everything has to be done at the dining room table or in the homeschooling room.

 6.  Age plays a very important role in how you set up a learning space.
My youngest is 4 going on 14.  Though she is so little she is always wanting to get involved. At times she is allowed to work at the same table as the boys but then she draws on their pages, breaks their things or starts to sing at the top of her voice. Because of this I have created a play area to one side and also she has her own special desk for "little girls".  I don't isolate her but try to prevent distractions and interference.
7.  Distractions
Some distractions can be a learning experience but you definitely want to be in a space where there is not a constant external demand for attention by the activities surrounding your children.  We used to have our work desk right next to the window but we are situated next to the main road. So you can only imagine  the thrill of every ambulance, car chase or anyone raising their voice as they walk past.  Now we have moved the desk further back into the room and use that space for the play area instead.

8. Hooks, nails, walls, white boards 
Think of creative ways to put their work on display. We rent so this is fairly challenging but we have found ways, like sticking art on windows, using our fridge, hanging art from a string with pegs. They love having their work on display.

9.  If you are thinking of painting - yes bright colours are pretty but they can also be very disturbing too.  Go for calming colours if you are going to paint.

10.  A big couch - for read alouds and literature studies
We don't have one in our homeschooling room - as there is too little space but we just migrate to the lounge and while I read, they build with Lego.
11. We also needed computer space.  We have one old desktop (did I say old - VERY old) and two laptops.  Though the laptops are mobile, we end up with cords everywhere and children trip over them consistently, no matter how many times you tell them to watch where they are walking.  If you plan on using computers, don't wait until they rip out the chord and you hear your computer crashing to the floor.  Cords are meant to be tripped over, especially by children and then we can't blame them, if we leave them lying around.

12. Printer - this is a serious must.  We didn't always have one but I don't actually know how you can homeschool without. With so many great curriculum online like CurrClick - where you pay, download and print and Homeschool Freebies - it really is a an asset. Our printer does do colour prints but we run out of colour all the time and so now we just stick to black and white and add colour ourselves - not as exciting but a whole lot cheaper!

14.You can decorate the walls with all sorts of educational posters but my opinion is don't waste your money.  I bought posters and initially there was an interest but eventually no one even saw them anymore.  What I would recommend are some good maps.  Laminate them so that you can write on them with dry markers when you are doing a specific study (something I have still not gotten round too).  But maps are great.  As for the rest, rather put the children's work up.  They will love it and will also love showing everyone that walks through the door, their latest efforts.
15.  Start collecting goodies for your art box.  I used to think art was really expensive but if you start a collection before you know it you will have loads of materials to work with - wool, recycled items, glue, paper, magazines etc.

16.  Stationary - variety is the key. Don't spend a lot of money on expensive items unless your child is older or very responsible. I have bought some lovely colour tipped pens only to find my 8 year old colouring in so hard that he destroyed half of them in a day.  Test them with a few items first. If they are diligent and careful - go ahead but rather get a few cheap items from the dollar store to start and go from there.

Enjoy the adventure of creating your learning space.  It's not just for your children but for you too, so give it some thought.  There are lots of ways to do this in a very affordable way and I will chat about that tomorrow.  
For those of you who have homeschooled for some time, have I left something off the list of things that you feel should be included?  Why not leave a comment?

Linking up with Raising Homemakers

Friday, July 13, 2012

How do you know if your husband is addicted to pornography?

Yes it happens to lots of men, it happens more than you think.  You may even be in a place where you have a sense or suspect that your husband is involved in pornography but you can't put your finger on it.  How do you know?  You have this nagging feeling that things are not what they appear to be.  How can you tell?

Here are some symptoms that could be indicative of an addiction to pornography:

*  Your husband isolates himself from the family frequently and often at unusual times - like late at night, middle of night or in the early morning.
*  He will seek out errands or activities that take him away from the family and out the house.

*  He is inclined to be secretive and especially private about cell phones, computers, books and DVD's.

*  He may lock himself in a room for extended periods of time saying he needs space.

*  He may be very distracted in the company of women and noticeably paying attention to their bodies.

*  Seeking out company of women in social settings is a norm or the opposite may occur - he might be be very uncomfortable around women socially.

*  There is media evidence:  history of websites visited, videos taken out or magazines.

*  Financial privacy - he may be spending money on pornographic material so he will want to cover it up and will not be accountable or transparent about finances.  There may be unusual numbers on credit card or sums of cash  unaccounted for

*  Boys nights or trips where no women are allowed. Though pornography is normally viewed in isolation, the cover of going with friends might allow him to seek out satisfaction for his addiction freely.

*  There is a lack of accountability and often isolation from friends and mentors.

*  There may be an over-defensiveness and unwillingness to discuss or review behaviour and is easily offended when the subject comes up.

*  MIA - Missing in action without a logical explanation or vague explanations of where he has been.

*  Changes in intimacy - though your husband may be trying to be creative or adventurous, sometimes husbands will try and re- enact what they have seen.  They may also not want intimacy (as they are finding satisfaction elsewhere) or they may become excessively interested in sex.

(There may be other factors, and also not all of these symptoms taken in isolation will necessarily be indicative of an addiction to pornography  - but a few of them, may be a warning to you)

According to Focus on the Family there are 5 stages of addiction:

Five Stages of Addiction

  1. Early exposure. Most guys who get addicted to pornography start early. They see the stuff when they are very young, and it gets its foot in the door.
  2. Addiction. Later comes addiction. You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You're hooked. You can't quit.
  3. Escalation. After a while, escalation begins. You start to look for more and more graphic porn. You start using porn that would have disgusted you when you started. Now it excites you.
  4. Desensitization. Eventually, you start to become numb. Even the most graphic, degrading porn doesn't excite you anymore. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again but can't find it.
  5. Acting out sexually. At this point, many men make a dangerous jump and start acting out sexually. They move from the paper and plastic images of porn to the real world.
I know you may feel like ignoring it, you may be too afraid to ask him because you  know the answer already, maybe you are too ashamed to talk about it because you are afraid your friends will reject you.  It's a scary place to be in, you blame yourself, you blame him.  But you would rather leave things as they are.

Pornography is a serious problem and it's not static, left undealt with it has the potential to escalate - destroying lives and marriages and leading to criminal behaviour.

Now I know this is a difficult subject and even now you may be wondering:

What do I do?
Before you judge your man and accuse him, remember that most men know that what they are doing is wrong and are ashamed but like any addiction, he doesn't know how to break free, how to stop or how to fix himself.  I know you may be feeling hurt, confused and betrayed but there is far more at stake than just your heart.  His heart is also hurting.  He already feels like a failure and that he's not good enough.  Something in his past, started him on this journey - it's not just in his genes, or just because he's a man.  When you read some of the real life stories of why men become addicted to pornography, you will realise that there are defining moments in a man's life that will lead him down that road.

It's not about you!  It's not the weight, your looks, the clothes or anything you have done. This is all about him and his particular struggle. Don't blame yourself.  Don't condemn or doubt yourself. This is not your fault!

Seek out your pastor, a mentor, counsellor or a trustworthy friend and let them walk alongside you as a couple.  There is a wonderful opportunity for healing and restoration.  It's possible to overcome this in Christ! It may not be an overnight fix but as you work through this, you will find freedom.

There are two fantastic books written by Dave Hain, who has counselled thousands of people, with all kinds of addictions around the world.

He runs an international ministry in addiction called "From Addict to Disciple" .These books are a must for both you and your husband.

Don't feel alone, don't feel like you can't speak to someone because its a shameful secret. Don't let the fear of others, decide how you are going to deal with this.  By speaking out, you loosen a foothold of the enemy to destroy your marriage.  By speaking out you will find people who will support you and pray for you and counsel you.  By speaking out you will have the freedom to move forward and fear will no longer have a grip on you.

If you want to ask any questions or share a personal story, you are welcome to email me. otherwise feel free to leave a comment.

Linking up with Unveiled Wife

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to maintain purity in marriage

Pornography, magazines with semi clad men and women,  the Internet, novels and the media flaunting sexuality and the perversion thereof - how does one maintain purity in marriage?   Even now accessibility of all of these things is on the rise - and a lot of effort by advertising agencies has "normalised" this type of unhealthy fascination.  It has desensitized our awareness of what is acceptable or not acceptable.

But God's word is always the final voice on everything we face and are tempted with, our environment or society may have changed but he hasn't.  He remains unchanging. He has not changed with the times - or lightened up.  He remains firm and steadfast.

And so should we.  But it's easy to slip into complacency, to tolerance and then acceptance.

Heb 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
We need to be vigilant in protecting our marriages, because no one else will!  And the world would tell us that marriage is disposable!
There are a few things that Sean and I have put into practice to protect our marriage.

Make love frequently
Now I know guys will love this one!  Don't they always.  But it's true.  If you deny your husband intimacy in marriage - the temptation is far worse!  I have heard so many reasons why women don't spend time in intimacy with their husbands.  Be careful.  Don't allow the enemy a foothold in your marriage.  When I am intimate with Sean, he is especially devoted, considerate and loving.  But when we have not been intimate for a while, distractions seem that much harder to ignore.  Don't let distractions steal your husband away from you.  Not tiredness, not "I don't feel like it", not conflict or unforgiveness.  Come together often and joyously.  And if you are cringing at the thought - then pray!  Ask God to restore passion and love for your husband - you'd be amazed at how He answers these types of prayers.
Have access to social networking sites and email
We know each other's passwords for social networking sites and can randomly check in on each other at any time.  Sean has even asked me to scan his Facebook home page for unwholesome images, because there was a time where Facebook allowed all sorts of very dubious spam content.  They seem to have sorted it out for the moment.   If I pick up that there's stuff going around we become especially vigilant.

Cell phones are public
Technology has changed the way we interact with one another - SMS, BBM, apps on phones.  The more transparent we are in this area with each other, the more accountability and protection there is for marriage.  You might initially feel like your privacy is being invaded but surely there should be no secrets or out of bounds areas?(Just a note on the first 2, be careful of snooping.  The intention of these are accountability, to ensure that we protect one another and are protected.  Don't demand access every day, every hour and start to become suspicious.  But establish openness.)

Carefully selected films and media
We avoid any films with S or N.  And we usually keep our films at a 13 Age Restriction.  Again, it limits the options but no DVD is worth the effect it can have on our marriage.  

We are very open and honest about our relationship: about the areas that we are struggling in, and relationships with friends and God.  I know that every time I open up to Sean, I have someone who prays for me, who will watch over me and protect me.  The same goes for him.  In the beginning its not always easy to hear about struggles and you have to guard your heart - but it seems the more we confess our weaknesses the less of a stronghold they have over our lives.
Don't read about romance, live it!
I have written extensively on this topic.  Remember your husband needs to be in your thoughts not some mystery man riding on a horse on his cattle farm.  A millionaire whose hair is jet black with dark unreadable eyes ----- need I say more?

No television/movies or computers late at night and alone
Not only does it interfere with sleeping patterns but it makes us more miserable, more likely to have arguments.  It also can lead to temptation, when others are not around.

Stay with family when away from home
If Sean goes away on a business trip, he stays with friends or family - or takes someone with him.  On the few occasions he has travelled alone, he stays at a Bed and Breakfast.  A family run guesthouse, where though he doesn't know the owners, there is more of a family environment. He avoids hotels whenever he can.  He also always asks the guesthouse to remove the television from his room.  Satellite channels and many of our local channels are poison at night!

We do not entertain individuals from the opposite sex if one of us is not at home.
Even really good friends.  Entertaining someone from the opposite sex (even when the children are around) is not good for you or your friend.  When someone arrives unexpectedly at our door, I am still friendly but I tell them straight away that Sean is not home and so I won't be inviting him in.  I used to worry that I would offend but again - what's more important?  It's all about being vigilant and not giving the enemy a foothold.

Avoid regular interactions with a particular person which could lead to something more
It could be another parent of a child in your child's class or weekly sporting events.  Try to build new friendships or spend time with different parents when you go.  Ensure that you chat in a group rather than in two's.

Dress carefully
I ask my husband to check my clothes, I don't want to be a distraction to others (thereby defiling their marriage beds) and also not to attract any unnecessary attention.  I don't always get it right, I sometimes make bad choices but I have learnt to protect my marriage and other's marriages, by ensuring that I select my clothes carefully.
Read the Word and Pray together
We're really bad at this.  We start off well and then we get busy with our own things.  Yet time and time again, when we do this we marvel at how much of a difference it makes in our marriage! And answered prayers! I sometimes want to smack myself silly as to why we let this one slip so frequently but we keep trying and trust that we will grow into it! I cannot emphasise this one enough!

Resolve unresolved issues 
These can cause barriers and act as a catalyst for temptation.  You might feel like your husband doesn't understand you, and yet the guy at work just seems to say the right things at the right time.  Conflict and unresolved issues not only cause stress, but it prevents intimacy and open communication.  Talk it out, if you can't - get help.  But deal with the issue at hand.

I hope some of these ideas will help you too, maybe some of these need to be put into practice.  What have you found works in your marriage ?

Linking up with Unveiled Life, Wise Woman Link up,  Women Living WellRaising Homemakers

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Faulty foundations in Marriage and Parenting

I could say it's all your fault, or my mother's fault, or my twin-sister-which-I-don't-have-who-lives-in-Russia's fault- but then I would be denying responsibility for my own actions and reactions.
We all have faulty foundations which result in faulty towers- even if we were brought up in a Christian home, these faulty foundations can be in any part of our thinking or make up.  It could be in our approach to parenting, discipline, communication, friendship or conflict resolution.  The problem is that unless we sort out our foundations we will continue to pass on this same weakness in character to our children.

All you have to do is have my kids over at your house for a couple of hours and you will quickly hear and see my weaknesses.  (or Sean's but like he said to me one day - I spend 80% of the day with them so they are more likely to be showing my weaknesses rather than his - OUCH!)

I could try really hard and lay blame (which would be my natural inclination because it would be convenient) but actually, more importantly I need to remove those faulty foundations and replace them with good solid biblical ones.  This can be a rather painful process and some take longer to remove as they can be entrenched and difficult to get out.  But with doing this, I am able to be the mother, wife, friend and daughter God intended me to be.  And I can leave a wealthy deposit in my children's lives.

What do your foundations look like?  Are you tired and frustrated by some of your foundations - the ones you know need to change - the ones that keep tripping you up?  The ones that cause hurt, disappointment, broken relationships - I know I am! And I can stay in this space and keep on doing the same thing, the same way with the same result


" Lord in your mercy and grace will you change me.  Show me Lord where there is faulty thoughts, behaviour and emotions and help me to submit to your hand of change"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Love and Marriage

Anything that brings you closer to your husband, solidifies or grows your relationship should be something you pursue and focus on.  However, if anything puts a distance between you, whether it be mentally, physically or emotionally - these things should be avoided at all costs.  
(reworded a bit but taken from  Love life for every married couple by Ed Wheat)

Ouch! Is all I can say.  Who thought that when I decided to get into this book, that within the first chapter, these 2 sentences would have me re-evaluate what I do and how it impacts my marriage.

Marriage has not been easy for us.  There are been some real struggles - packing of bags, lots of tears and crisis moments.  On the flip side though, it's been a journey of joy, laughter, friendship and love.  How is it possible?  I know it sounds crazy doesn't it but sometimes those times of desperation, are often times when I didn't know how else to cope but to pack.  Marriage is uncharted territory.  I haven't done this a few times, practice makes perfect doesn't exist in this equation.  And if like me, you have parents who had their own challenges - it's not easy to find your way in a world which says divorce is your way out, or never committing to marriage - just in case.
But often our problems have been rooted in this very thing - allowing things to put distance between Sean and I.  They might seem insignificant in the beginning but it can cause us to live past one another, together but apart.  And so I sat down and reflected on the things that cause us to grow towards one another and those that would cause us to grow apart.

My list looks something like this:
Things that grow us together:
* frequent times of intimacy and physical contact
*  spending time every day talking about how we feel, the challenges we are facing and sharing the victories
*  doing things together 
*  date nights
*  praying with and for each other
*  encouraging Sean, building him up with positive feedback about his parenting, provision for the family, his role as a husband
*  speaking to him in his love language (service and affirmation)
*  making an effort to present myself to him in an attractive way
*  submitting to him and asking for his advice
* listening to him 
*  Grace
*  Endurance
Things that pull us apart:
*  deciding that I "don't feel like intimacy" and therefore neither should he
*  not making time for marriage moments
*  prioritising children and housework rather than spending time with him
*  late nights
* too much screen time
*  too much "me time"
* criticism 
*  busy days 
*  unforgiveness
*  impatience and worry

And now?  Well a list is fine, but these are areas that I really need to grow in -to work on in my marriage.  Nothing is going to happen overnight either - oh no, there is no magic wand that will change these things quickly.  It will take effort and I will need to be intentional. But I know that in my heart, I want to be closer to my husband.  I want to keep growing closer to  him because I love him.  

I am my lover's and my lover is mine

Why not get a piece of paper and make your list - and decide today to grow in love, grow in passion, bring restoration and renewal in your marriage.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Marriage Moments

When he reaches out to you, how do you react?  When he tries to hold you, do you push him away or run into his arms?

I know that parenting, housekeeping, cooking, cleaning and all the other responsibilities you have as a wife - are exhausting.  I get exhausted.  I often reach the end of my tether on a very short rope.  And after I have given myself to all these things - there are times in the day where my husband reaches out to me for affection, intimacy -  a moment. 
How I respond in that moment, will often determine our intimacy-metre for the day and sometimes the week.  Could it really, you ask?  Oh yes, because sometimes that moment is the only moment in the whole day where we can touch, embrace or kiss .  It's the moment where you step onto the bridge that moves you from friendship to lovers.  I often refer to my husband as my best friend - and this is important too - but he is my passionate lover.  Though I can have many friends - I can only have one lover. 

A one-of-a-kind relationship - needs to be nurtured, treasured, appreciated and  protected.
And the first step to protecting - is embracing marriage moments........

stop the mundane, for the moment
a kiss, and then another and another...

a hug, a cuddle, an intimate whisper

holding hands, small touches, teasing glances

Take that moment and don't let go 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mel's Must Have #3: Birth Photography

Now before you jump to any conclusions, no I am not expecting baby no 5! Though the last time I said something like that I discovered I was pregnant a week later!  But this time I am sure!   About 3 weeks ago I met a really inspiring individual.  Her name is Marysol and she is has the privilege of being a birth photographer. - Now when I heard her say this, I had this glazed look on my face as I briefly remembered the delivery room - and I was like - oooooohhhh so you take photos of the baby being born.  (and in my mind I was thinking, no way would I want someone taking photos of the nether regions while giving birth).

But this is not what this lady does.  She does something so special and so precious - she captures those first moments.  

Wives don't want their husbands taking photos, they want their support - emotions run high during this time.  Marysol is very discreet and captures moments that are often missed.  The first time you see your precious bundle - the look on dad's face - memory moments.  

So if you are having a baby, or know of someone having a baby - forward this on to them. Marysol only books 2 families a month because she is on call before and after the due date. That means when you go into labour at 3am in the morning, she gets a call as well as the gynaecologist!  

And if like me, having babies is a thing of the past - consider making use of her services for family photos, weddings or birthdays.  If you visit her website you will see the excellent quality of her work. 

Please Note:  I was not asked to write this review and I get nothing for writing it - this is just another one of those things that I love, and would like to share with you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Reading Hit List: July 2012

Last week I focused on Extra Curricular Activities for the children, but as important as our children are - it's vital that you schedule activities which will enable you to grow and develop, or for rest and relaxation.  I don't believe the pursuit of "me time" should be the focus - but there needs to be a place for you to feed your spirit, move your body, stretch your mind, build relationships.  Just because we are parents doesn't mean that we don't need to maintain balance in our lives and give ourselves the opportunities to grow too.

One of the ways I do this is by reading.  I never seem to be able to read just one book.  This is not a wonderful gifting - but rather my inability to stay focused on one subject for too long.  Unless I get my hands on an investigative thriller, courtroom drama or detective crime series - then I consume a book in a day.

I know this sounds silly but I always try and make a balanced selection.  Yes I know I sound repetitive about balance but I am the type of person who gathers speed in a specific direction sometimes to the exclusion of all else and so I intentionally remind myself in everything I do about balance and focus.  And because I know that I am the example to my children, I keep a close eye on them too!

Here's my reading list for this month:

Love life for every married couple by Ed Wheat

Time to Embrace by Karen Kingsbury

The Soulwinner by CH Spurgeon
Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel
Eldest by Christopher Paolini

What's on your reading list this month?  What books are on your bedside table?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Out and About: The Baxter Theatre: Imperial Russian Ballet

Though I normally write the Reviews for my own blog, I decided to give my husband the platform to give his impressions of the Imperial Russian Ballet.  After all, a man's opinion on this ballet might give a different perspective.

The Russian Ballet Delights

A close to full house packed the main hall at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town last night as my wife and I attended  the premier of the the Imperial Russian Ballet in Cape Town after completing performances in Bloemfontein, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth.  We were privileged to meet the man behind the company, Edouard Miasnikov - a wonderfully entertaining and warm individual who professed to be a real lover of Durban. Apparently this is his favourite spot in South Africa, mostly due to the warm waters he enjoys frequenting while on tour in South Africa.  His love for this country is one of the many reasons he continues to return our shores with groups like The Bolshoi Ballet, The Ice Revue from Moscow - Kaleidoscope, The Moscow State Classical Ballet and so many more.

From the onset Act I, Carmina Burana was unlike anything I've seen before.  There were hints of raw passion, humour and emotion.  Dancers in a mystical folklorish setting, dancing across the stage in dazzling costumes (by Andrey Zlobin) left my wife and I speechless.  The Russian Ballet is unlike any other style of ballet (according to Edouard Miasnikov) - and I had to agree having watched my sister perform for 20 years in South African ballets in schools and shows. This powerful piece was like watching ballet for the first time; leaving one feeling astounded, amazed and impressed, all at the same time.

We were seated amongst other members of the press and media and judging by their ooh's and aah's and bravos after various scenes, we were not the only ones who were impressed. The ballet dancers are notably professional,  with years of grooming evident in their poise and capabilities.  Under the superb directorship of Gediminas Taranda, the first act proved to be a surprising and intriguing start to the Russian Imperial Ballet. 

After what seemed like just a moment, the first act was over and  it was time to grab a drink and some snacks from the well catered services at the Baxter Theatre and mingle with a real assortment of moms, dads, some children and the young crowd out to enjoy an evening out on town.  Ballet seems to be popular among such a varied group of people and is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.  Watching the ballet conjures up emotions and feelings unlike any other that one would experience, watching a rugby game or some other form of entertainment that South Africans may be more accustomed to.

The second act , Walpurgis Night followed by various pieces from the original classic performances such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote and Sleeping Beauty was a spectacular delight.

For me, the highlight of the ballet were two individual pieces.

The first being Anna Pashkova, who performed barefooted to the haunting music of Don’t Leave Me by Zhak Brell .  Anna commanded the stage with her ability and interpretation of the music leaving the audience spellbound.

The other individual piece, was that of  the dying swan of "Swan Lake" performed by Oxana Sharova. I forgot for a moment that I was part of the audience.  The combination of music, on stage mist and an exquisite performance - make this scene come alive for me.

Though I have focused on 2 individual pieces, it would be unfair not to mention that all the principle dancers:  Anna Pashkova, Elena Colesnicenco, Ekaterina Tikanova, Duminica-Radamaria Nazarenco, Nariman Bekzhanov, Igor Subbotin, Aleksandr Volkov and Arcadie Nazrenco delivered outstanding performances. Each of these talented dancers delivered performances that were worthy of a world class ballet company - one of the world's best.

For other men out there, you may be uncomfortable about seeing other men "jumping around" in tights but after one gets past the initial surprise and discomfort, you start to appreciate the choreography and the set.    The overall beauty of the performance and and the superb way in which it all comes together in one explosive expression of creativity, will have you waiting in anticipation for the rest of the performance to unfold.

I spent a wonderful evening with my wife, at a highly recommended and enjoyable ballet performance!  Make every effort to book a seat, your wife will love you for it and you will discover that ballet is meant to be enjoyed by all, not just by our wives!
Special thanks to the Baxter and Linette de Kock for inviting us to review this performance; to Edouard Miasnikov for entertaining us with his ballet company escapades and to each of the dancers, who gave us yet again a memory moment!

Sean Grant