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I love to watch birds, or maybe I should say, I like the challenge of trying to photograph them. I’m always up for a challenge! So, in an effort to lure them to my kitchen window so that I can photograph them, I feed them. Not with a cute handmade bird feeder or a big beautiful feeder that stands alone in the yard. No, I feed them by simply putting the food on the windowsill. Eh hem. Hey, it works. And it’s easy. Win win.

Sometimes I’ll walk by and look out, and there I’ll see him.

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Waiting… for me to get away from the window. Ha! Anytime I’ve walked by before or so much as breathed, they would fly away. But today, I think they realized I’m not out to kill them.

I used to feed them with a mix of bird seed, but then I realized that they only ate the sunflower seeds. So now that’s all that I put out. And, today, I think I realized this little guy may be eating a little too much. I’m making it too easy for him. He’s a little more plump than I last saw him.

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I’ve imagined that they have little bird families. So, this is his wife! She looks a little sassy.

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And then this stud showed up. Isn’t he beautiful? He’s also a little bossy. He dominated the windowsill.

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 I thought it was because he was looking out for his wife.

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But then I realized that he was just being stingy. Hey dude, ladies first.

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I should give them names! I’ll take suggestions if anyone has any ideas.
(Y’all, it’s late. And I understand that I may sound a little cuckoo (pun intended)… imagining bird families and wanting to give them names, pbbssh.)

All this to say, I love watching them fly around. I love that they have gotten used to me standing at the window and are not afraid anymore. I love that they are beautifully colored by our Creator. And I love that when I see them, I’m reminded of the verse in Matthew that states, “ Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26)

What a nice reminder, to know that God will always perfectly supply for our needs!

And now you see why I stand at the windowsill often.

Ah, the subject of chores. We’ve tried chore charts in the past, and I just wasn’t good at staying committed to them. But throw in an extra holiday where the kids are home and stuck inside because it’s just been too wet to do anything outside, and watching them throw things here and there… I had had enough.  I was sure we had rats in the house when I found food wrappers in the couch cushions, not to mention the clothes all over the floor, and toys strewn all over the place (Stepping on Legos in the middle of the night. Who’s been through that hell?) So I had an epiphany and decided that I needed some help around the house! Imagine that. I need help!! (I’m finding more often that it’s OK to admit this.) So, I enlisted their help and we cleaned for the better part of their day off… or tried to, at least. It was much like going to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned while eating Oreos. The struggle was real. So I searched on Pinterest for “chore charts” and just like everything else on Pinterest, I was overwhelmed with ideas. Do you pay them for chores? What kind of chores are age appropriate? What happens if they don’t do what they’re asked? There are several free printable chore charts out there that you can customize, as well as lists of age-appropriate chores.

After digging around, I found this link to a chore picture chart. Although my kiddos can read, I am a visual person, and I like pictures. So I took some of the pictures and created individual chore charts. Ta da.

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The days of the week that they are responsible for each chore is marked with a star.

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I’m going to ease them into this idea of actually helping around the house. We can’t be drill sergeants the first day or they’ll hate me forever. So we have basic, very easy to complete items on their everyday chore lists. I didn’t put get dressed or brush your teeth as a chore, because c’mon. Those are givens. I’m not going to pat them on the back for putting clothes on. But items like make their bed, pick up toys around the house, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, load the dishwasher, etc. are things that are expected of them, daily, without getting paid. Yes, without getting paid. They live in this house and have everything they could possibly need or want, so they can give back and help out without a monetary prize. However, I do have “Work for Hire” chores that they can get paid for. These are things that I just don’t want to do. *wink* Like pick up limbs in the yard. I will wow them with ten whole dollars if they will get all of the fallen limbs from our front yard to our back yard limb pile. We live on several acres, so this not an easy feat. And don’t tell them, but I’d pay them more than $10. Now they can’t pick a Work for Hire chore if they haven’t completed their other daily chores. See how that works? If they want the cash, they have to be responsible in the first place.

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Now their school has a color system for being good throughout the day. Green, yellow, orange and red.  When they’re on green, they’re rewarded with TV/Wii/iPad time at home. They have an hour to pick and choose what they would like to do. And I know it’s hard for their little bodies to sit still all day and be quiet. I get it. And often times than not, my son gets on yellow for talking when he’s not supposed to. Because, he talks all. the. time. But to take away his game time at home isn’t the worst thing in the world. The boy could use some less time playing Minecraft. He was on yellow today, and instead of playing on the iPad, he’s making up his own songs on the piano as I type this. Win. Win. 

So, we’ll see how this new system goes and if I can stick with it. What are your tips for running a successful chore system? I’d love to hear them!

“She needs to be broken.”

Spoken by the director of my daughter’s former school, those words ring in my mind. I was called in for a “meeting” by the director because of my daughter’s behavior one day. I honestly cannot even recall what she was accused of doing. She was 5 at the time, and not all 5 year olds are perfect. And the other child involved in the incident was the director’s granddaughter. Let’s just leave it at that. But, I vividly remember sitting in her office, as if I was in a therapy session. “She does have anger issues…” I said. “She needs to be broken,” she said.

She is a firecracker, that’s for sure. Strong willed. Independent. Determined. And if you ask my husband, she gets it from me.

But I keep hearing that word in my mind. Broken. She does not need to be broken. She is already broken, as we all are. We are all broken people, in need of healing. In need of a Savior. Rather than nod my head that day in affirmation, I should have said that. I’m saying it now. We are all born broken. And we are all in need of a Savior that will heal.

I know there are books out there geared for strong-willed children and how to ‘correct’ the issue. A couple of years ago, shortly after that meeting in the director’s office, I began to read The Strong Willed Child.  As James Dobson says, “Challenging as they are to raise, strong-willed children can grow up to be men and women of strong character—if lovingly guided with understanding and the right kind of discipline.”  Some days are a battle. And it can be mentally exhausting trying to figure out how to react when she tests me. Most of the time I just want to scream. Because as it turns out, you see, I’m broken too. And perhaps the healing of my brokenness comes in part from raising this strong-willed daughter of mine. We are one in the same, knit from the same thread.

I know we’ll get through this testing phase. “This too shall pass.” Am I right?

Though she is strong-willed, she is lovely. Perfectly broken.

 

Well, I’m back. I took a hiatus from the blog world during Christmas time so I could focus on spending time with my family and taking a much needed break! And now that it’s a new year, guess who is trying to eat healthier. *raising my hand* After a recent check-up at my doctor, she told me I had gained a few pounds since my last visit. Eh hem. Not exactly what I wanted to hear! As if there is ever a time that a woman wants to hear that she’s put on a few pounds. In any case, I’m trying to eat smaller healthier meals/snacks throughout the day.

So we’re in the kitchen today making granola bars! I don’t even want to know what I’ve spent on granola bars at the store. But, let’s just say that my kiddos have one just about every day for a snack. And here’s the thing. They are so simple to make. You probably already have most of the ingredients you need! So let’s get to it and make some cranberry pecan granola bars.

Here’s our cast of ingredients. The one thing you might not have is dried fruit and wheat germ. I had never even heard of wheat germ before prior to reading this recipe.

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 Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, salt, wheat germ, cinnamon, chopped pecans and cranberries.

You don’t want to chop your pecans too fine. Small little bits is fine.

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 Once you have your dry ingredients in your bowl, enlist the use of your kitchen helper to mix it all together.

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 In a separate bowl, mix together the honey, egg, canola oil and vanilla. If you have local honey, that’s even better!

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 Make a well in your dry ingredients, and pour in your wet ingredients.

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 Stir together until the wet ingredients are incorporated throughout.

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 Spray the bottom of a 9×13 dish. Flatten down the granola into an even layer.

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 I didn’t go quite to the edge of my dish. I wanted my bars to be a little thicker, and hopefully to stay more chewy.

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 Bake for 30 minutes, and then let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting. You want to cut them when they’re still warm so that it will be easier.

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After cutting, let them cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Now, how easy was that? And, they’re delicious! You can change it up by adding almonds or different kinds of dried fruit. Here’s the printable. Enjoy!

 

Cranberry Pecan Granola Bars
Quick and easy recipe for a healthy snack!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 C old fashioned oats
  2. 1/2 C light brown sugar
  3. 1/2 C wheat germ
  4. 1 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1 C all purpose flour
  6. 1 C cranberries (or other dried fruit)
  7. 1/2 C chopped pecans
  8. 3/4 tsp salt
  9. 1/2 C honey
  10. 1 egg, beaten
  11. 1/2 C canola oil
  12. 2 tsp vanilla
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
  4. Make a well in your dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients. Mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Spray the bottom of a 9x13 dish and evenly spread the granola. The thicker they are, the chewier they will be.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into bars (they should still be warm).
  8. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
the Sparrow's Nest http://sparrowsnestblog.com/

I heard Amy Grant’s “I Need a Silent Night” on the radio today and boy, did it speak to my heart. I wanted to yell, “YES!!! I need a Silent Night.”

“I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night.”

We are at the height of the Christmas season. Ten days until Christmas. Count them. TEN. Have you finished all of your shopping? We tried to keep things easier this year and instead of buying gifts for extended family just for the sake of buying something, we made donations in their names instead. We bought a few gifts for each of our children (Santa brings 3 and we give them 1-2 more), and thanks to Amazon Prime, everything is conveniently hidden in plain boxes in my closet. And even though the gifts are bought, I’m still finding myself in this constant state of just being BUSY. Between Christmas parties, and weekly ballet practice, piano lessons, football practice, basketball practice, and choir practice, where is the time to just….. be? When will the day come when we can not rush from one place to the next and just relax and enjoy the mundane moments?

With all of our responsibilities, it’s hard to balance it all, isn’t it Moms? And how important it is for us to have balance so we’re not ready to be committed to the local asylum. (I see you nodding your heads. I know you understand! A silent padded room sounds kind of nice, right?!) 

I don’t know about you, but it’s time for me to take a step back and re-evaluate my priorities as a wife and Mom. This has been my busiest season yet as a photographer. And due to overbooking family Christmas sessions, I allowed myself to get so busy that I ended up giving my family the worst part of me. I was stressed, and when I get stressed, I am c-r-a-n-k-y. “What!? You don’t have any socks? Where are your school uniform pants? You HAVE to wear THOSE pants. What do you mean your clothes are all still dirty? Oh, and you have a test today? Did you even study?” Let’s just say my sweet husband ended up folding and putting up several loads of laundry and unloading the dishwasher for me several times. And there were a few weeks where I didn’t help my kids review what they needed to know for their weekly tests because I was too busy taking care of everything else I needed to do for my clients. They got their Christmas cards in time to mail out, but I have no idea if my children were ready for their spelling and vocab tests. Open and honest. #momfail

I have yet to read Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes.  As I was typing out this blog post, that book title came to mind. I’m taking it as a wink from God. In fact, I just took a moment to order it on Amazon. (If you do not have Amazon Prime, you are missing out people!) Lysa writes, “… Remember the decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.” Those are powerful words. How are we spending our souls?

If you’re reading this and you, too, have a crazy busy schedule, I challenge you to take a step back. Breathe. And make it a point to have a true silent night by reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas and the precious gift of all His grace.

Now, I have a mountain of clothes I need to go fold.  : )