Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review - Children and the Lord's Supper

Children and the Lord's Supper is a collection of essays addressing the issue of (as you can probably guess) children's participation in the Lord's Supper. Specifically, the book provides a critical assessment of the doctrine of paedocommunion, defined as "the admittance of a covenant child to the Lord's Supper on the basis of his descent from at least one professing Christian parent." Edited by Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan, Children and the Lord's Supper offers both a rebuttal to pro-paedocommunion arguments as well as a defense of the historic Reformed position that covenant children should be admitted to the Lord's Table only after providing a credible profession of faith. The collected essays address the topic from Biblical, theological, historical and pastoral standpoints.

The book is released under the Mentor imprint of Christian Focus Publications, indicating that its intended audience includes pastors, seminary students, and other serious readers. The book would also be most appropriate for those examining the issues from within the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions, as the historic Reformed confessions form a starting point for much of the book's arguments. The book's contributors include a number of respected Reformed authors, including Derek Thomas, Joel Beeke and Cornelis Venema (in addition to Waters and Duncan). The collected essays address topics including the nature of the link between the Lord's Supper and the Passover, the application of the critical "self-examination" passage in 1 Corinthians 11, an examination of relevant portions of the Reformed Confessions and liturgies, and a survey of historical evidence for the practice of paedocommunion in the Patristic era.

I would recommend Children and the Lord's Supper to anyone looking for a succinct defense of the traditional Reformed view on admission of children to the Lord's Supper. Those outside the Reformed tradition will also benefit from reading the book, particularly the essays on the Passover, 1 Corinthians 11, and the history of the practice in the early church. For non-Reformed readers, the essays dealing largely with the confessions and Reformed liturgy may be interesting but not as helpful in evaluating the practice of paedocommunion. (Admittedly, I have not read much in the way of pro-paedocommunion literature, especially the works critiqued in this collection, so I will have to defer to others to indicate whether the pro side has been fairly represented.)

Personally, the issue of children and the Supper is one I have not firmly settled in my own mind, and instead of settling the matter, Children and the Lord's Supper gave me further food for thought. I am a member of a Presbyterian church, so I do hold the Reformed confessions in high esteem. Yet they aren't infallible, so I would have appreciated if the book had spent more time examining the relevant Biblical texts than it did. I also found the historical survey most interesting, as it pointed to a diversity of practice in the early church. Perhaps this points toward a way forward on the issue of children and communion? Either way, the book provides a great starting point to a conversation on an important topic, and I look forward to hearing the other side present their case.

(Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for writing a review. I was under no compulsion to provide a positive review.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hot Doughnuts Now

So, last Saturday we traveled to Alabama for our first family Christmas celebration with Gaines' Grandmama. And we came home from playing dirty Santa with...a doughtnut maker.

And not just any doughnut maker. A Sunbeam one, bright yellow, that looks like it came straight out of the Simpsons!

It's complicated how we got it, actually. I opened it when it was my turn, but then someone stole it from me. However, Jacob was so distraught at losing the doughnut maker ("Noooooooo!") that his dad and Aunt Amy conspired to get it back for him after the game. He was almost as upset that Amy stole it away until he realized it was really for HIM. Such a sweet aunt! Glad Uncle Mike was so agreeable about swapping gifts! (We promise to share some with you!)

This Tuesday morning I felt well enough to try it out. It's quite simple, really, you just preheat, make a batter, spray the hot molds with cooking spray, add batter to the pan, and heat until done. Just like the sandwich maker I used to have growing up, except this does get really hot, in order to bake them up all crispy, so watch your fingers!

I didn't just use any old recipe that came with the book, though. If I was going to make doughnuts, I was going to MAKE DOUGHNUTS. Baked Apple Pie Cinnamon-Sugar-Covered Doughnuts, to be precise. This recipe made about 15 of our mini-sized doughnuts. Perfect for hungry little boys who ate at least two each!

We will be trying this again very soon, with glazed doughnuts, per Ethan's request! Yum!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Year in Review: January

This has been the sparsest year yet on our trusty old blog. With these few weeks left in 2011, and in anticipation of more blogging to come in the new year, I'm giving you a recap of all the things I might have forgotten about if I didn't take a few pictures. Most deserve a blog post of their own, but as it is, you're lucky to get this much. So, without further adieu, I give you: January.

Last New Year's Eve we spent the long weekend driving up to Kentucky to attend Gaines' cousin's wedding. It marks the longest road trip we've ever taken as a family. It was also the perfect place to read my first Wendell Berry novel. Snow still clung to the mountainsides near the interstate as we drove, and the crisp air and mountain vistas made me want to return again during the fall. And the boys -- miraculously -- sat through the ceremony quite well. They also enjoyed the reception, but I heard we left too early, before the real dancing began. Still, here are the highlights:

Ethan really really wanted some food. Stat.
Jacob and his 2nd cousin Kaden making funny faces.

Me and my oldest boy starting off the New Year.

Nana dancing with Ethan. He was getting so sleepy...
 I don't even want to know what this was about. Cake?

Ethan dancing with his 2nd cousin Charlotte. So sweet!

Back home, the older and younger women of our church started meeting together each Sunday evening to participate in the Apple of Gold mentoring program. There was lots of laughter, yummy dinners, and much sharing of life, love and recipes.
One of many demonstrations. Lauren taught us knife skills. Two of the women in this picture, Becky and Lauren, now have newborns! Later, we wondered what exactly WAS in those recipes?!

Some of my favorite ladies watching from afar. There's my friend Lindsay smiling for the camera, and she, too, just had a baby this past summer. I love seeing the nursery so full of little ones!

Ok, so right in the middle of all this January fun came THE GREAT SNOWPOCALYPSE of 2011. If you didn't hear about us snow-trapped Southerners you were either in a snowstorm yourself of living under a rock. But we made the best of it!

Our back porch covered in inches. INCHES! of snow.
Jacob loved being out in the white stuff and could've stayed all day.

Ethan, however, was not so pleased and looked like this for most of his half-hour outside. "Too cold!" We were glad Daddy got to stay home, even if he did bring work with him. But we let him out to play with us for a little bit!
Jacob the red-nosed reindeer?

Question: Will winter outerwear still go on deep discounts in January if we have another one of these freak storms this year?

Ok, moving on to more fun our field trip at the end of January! A fellow homeschooling mom and mother of five, a good friend from church, had two extra tickets to the Georgia Aquarium and asked us to go with them at the last minute! We were delighted! We also got to make a trip this past week (in December) and it was so fun to see how they've grown and how much more they enjoyed seeing the different exhibits now they are older. Still, I think our January trip will always be remembered for who we got to see it with...

Ethan studies a starfish. I love he still had a mullet!
Hanging out with a friend of ours from church!

Watching the deep-sea creatures with some siblings from the same family. The manta rays were a favorite!

Attempting a family photo, but the tropical fish were more interesting.

And that sums up our January of 2011 in pictures. I'm sure we did lots more wonderful things, like paint pictures and play trains and read books, but I was also in that first trimester zone where I was TIRED ALL THE TIME (thanks, Calvin) so mostly I remember staying inside, where it was warm. And taking naps. Can we do that again this year?

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Get the Giveaway Fairies to Like You

This week, despite being a bit rough in the general life category, turned out to be quite prosperous online. I won not one, not two, but THREE online blog giveaways.

If you've been a reader for a long time (and bless you, because this blog has been basically dead for three years) then you might recall I had a spree of winnings back when our oldest boy was a newborn. I was online all the time and blog contests were just getting started, so I think I just got lucky. I won baby gifts and toys and all sorts of things -- some I still use and enjoy and some I gave away as presents! But this week I proved that the magic can still happen.

Not only did I win the previously mentioned camping gear, I won TWO prizes from Half-Pint House Handouts. I've been following Megan's blog Half-Pint House for years now and started entering her contests only recently, whenever I saw something that struck my eye. Earlier this week, I won a $50 Spa Gift Card, which I fully intend to use on myself once I recover from surgery.

Plus, this morning Megan let me know I won a Baby Bullet! I've secretly wanted one for a while, ever since my previous mini-food processor bit the dust after the birth of our second boy. Our oldest, 4 year-old Jacob, will probably be the most excited about this since he has been declaring for months, even before Calvin arrived, that "We NEED to buy a Baby Bullet, Mommy! To feed the new baby!" I think he's been watching too much Sprout. He even quotes the commercials. He's going to be psyched!

Well, all this happened because late one night last week I went on a twitter-flurry of entering giveaways. And I'm here to share my secrets with you.

1. Enter contests only for things you actually want to win.

2. Enter often, maybe a few times a week, but only if you feel it is worth your time. If a contest takes me a few minutes to enter without too much effort, I'll do it. But if I don't really like the product or the entries are too complicated, I usually don't bother. But even if you only enter once in a blue moon, you have a chance.

3. Enter small, blog-based contests. Half-Pint Handouts is a great site, and she has multiple giveaways each week! The contest I won from Southern-Savers had about 1,000 comments, which are pretty big odds in my book -- it might be the biggest contest I've won yet. Definitely the biggest prize I've ever gotten. I like to stick to smaller contests, usually from people I know. But I will still enter the Pioneer Woman and Money-Saving Mom Giveaways. Just because they have really cool stuff.

4. Go all in! If there are multiple ways to enter, use them all -- Facebook, Twitter, etc. I have a Twitter account mostly for the purpose of giveaways. And you can always un-like or un-friend something after a contest is over. Rafflecopter, a service that many blog giveaways use, makes this easy -- it tells you what to do for each entry and then you just check that you've completed that step.

5. Don't be disappointed. There are lots of contests out there, and lots of people entering them. For me, it's a fun diversion that I take part in every now and then, but I don't count on winning. Ever. Which is why it is such a great surprise when things like this happen! I count it all joy!

Alright, now that I've shared my tips and tricks my odds of winning are sure to decrease sharply since you found me out. But please show Megan some love at Half-Pint Handouts. And read all her other stuff, too. You'll like her. It's my way of saying "Thanks!"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Camping, here we come!

Back in October, I entered a contest at Southern Savers, one of my most favorite coupon websites.

Today I got the exciting news that I won $500 in camping gear from the Boy Scouts of America!

They haven't given exact details of what is included in the camping gear, but I hope it's enough for this family of five to go camping this spring!

We don't have any of our old gear (not that I had much to begin with -- a small tent and maybe some sleeping bags), and we haven't been camping since before we had kids -- so this is a wonderful blessing to us, especially right now. Yay for the great outdoors!

I am so thankful for Jenny at Southern Savers for hosting this contest and for the Boy Scouts of America for sponsoring the prize. I'll be on the lookout for packages in the coming weeks!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brothers in Blue

Three locations. Same sofa. 
Three brothers. One outfit.
Oh my, how the years go by.

Jacob, age 4 months. Arbors at WC apartment.

Ethan, age 2 months. Centennial Ridge apartment.

Calvin, age 4 months. Lockridge house.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spooky Spider Cookies

If you are looking for something fun and simple to make with your kids this Halloween week, I've got a tasty treat that takes no time at all. We actually made these back at the end of September. The idea came from a class that Jacob took last fall at a local nature center the week they studied spiders. (Forgive the ill-lighted photos -- it was an overcast, rainy, PJ day.)  Here is my version of these arachnid-shaped snacks.

Chocolate Spider Cookies

You will need:
  • chocolate sandwich cookies (we prefer Trader Joe's version)
  • pretzel sticks (also good for spreading)
  • mini M&M's (the regular ones work OK in a pinch)
  • something sticky (we used Nutella, but peanut butter works fine)

This is a very hands-off project for the adults, so just set out the supplies, make an example, and let the kids go to work!
To assemble, just open up your sandwich cookies, like so....

Arrange the pretzels in the icing so they form eight spider legs. You might want to break the sticks in half. (This moment affords an excellent opportunity to discuss the difference between how many legs spiders have versus insects. Numbers! Science! Comparison! Counting! We are "learnding."

Next, put the cookie back together (You may need some extra "glue" here to hold it together, so spread on some extra Nutella. Because you can.).

Using a pretzel stick, dab on two dots of Nutella and add the mini M&M's as eyes. That's it!

Here comes the best part...the eating! (They look so tired in this photo, but really, they were excited!)

We finished off the theme by singing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and reading Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider before taking naps. We may make these again this week, and if so, I hope to include a reading of Mary Howitt's poem, "The Spider and the Fly," which, though morbid, could make for an interesting inclusion in the cookie. Maybe the spider could swallow up a regular-sized M&M for the "fly"?! However you make these and whatever you do, please enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: 365 Great Bible Stories

The opportunity to review 365 Great Bible Stories The Good News of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation came at just the right time in our family. After the birth of our third son, things have become more hectic than usual, and so I've been looking for a way to incorporate more Bible reading time into our family's daily routine. This larger compilation by Carine MacKenzie, who has written numerous other children's adaptations of Bible stories, seems a natural fit for our family.

Things I appreciate about this Bible story book:
  • the depth of theology -- the commentaries, particularly in the OT section, point toward Christ and the stories remain faithful to the truths found in Scripture
  • the breadth of stories -- her selections include highlighting lesser known passages, yet they are almost always connected to some aspect of faith in Christ without simply moralizing
  • the brevity of each selection -- no story is more than a few paragraphs long and each fits on a page, yet the content is sound and requires close listening
  • the option of reading the stories thematically -- you can trace stories about Jesus, wars and battles, the Holy Spirit, journeys and travels
  • the illustrations are also thematic (dove for Holy Spirit, road for journeys, etc.) which allow even pre-readers to recognize the larger threads of the Bible

Overall, I found this an excellent format for our purposes. These brief yet powerful stories will provide ample discussion and lead us to search the appropriate Scripture passages further. Though the illustrations were not in a style I particularly favored, I was glad that they refrained from attempting to illustrate Jesus, since that almost always turns out badly. And the repetition of iconic illustrations to assist in identifying the common themes of the stories turned out to be quite helpful to our children. The target age seems to be younger elementary students, but I think our almost-5-year-old will easily be able to understand the main points and the "Think" comments. We are looking forward to reading through these daily selections over the course of the next year as we grow together in our study of God's Word. MacKenzie's 365 Great Bible Stories is a great jumping-off point to guide your reading of Scripture as a family.

Full disclosure: I was sent a copy of this story Bible from the publisher, but these words and opinions are completely my own. I really do appreciate it and plan to use it in our family's devotion time.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Support Slugs and Bugs

You've probably heard us extol the virtues of Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame and their kids CD, "Slugs and Bugs and Lullabies." But maybe you haven't?

We've known about and loved both of these talented singer-songwriters for years, but it wasn't until they turned their awesome lyrical prowess toward the kid scene that we realized they found a niche that no one else could do better. Hilarious lyrics. Non-annoying music. In fact, the tunes are quite catchy, but yet somehow remain free from the cloying repetitiveness of other music aimed toward the toddler set. And they share the love of Christ, to boot.

The first time we heard one of the songs from the original Slugs and Bugs album was at Andrew's Behold the Lamb of God concert in Nashville in December of 2006. I was pregnant with our first son, and I distinctly remember listening to "Matthew's Begats" and thinking that we should choose our kid's name from the lineage of Christ. Apparently, Gaines had the same idea, just a different name. (He won.) Anyway, during the "in the round" portion of the concert where all the artists take turns sharing their original songs before the Christmas musical is performed, Randall Goodgame began singing "Bears, bears, they got no cares. Bears don't drink from a cup..." I was instantly hooked. It was the beginning of a revolution in music written for rugrats. After the concert, we bought a copy of the CD and listened to it for the first time in a car with our good friends Chandra and Kennan. And we laughed our heads off. Especially at the not-so-subtle references to kids getting eaten by something (orcas, panda bears, a tiger) and the background vocals by someone named Anklejelly Jones. And since then, the refrain of "Tractor, Tractor" has been heard on the lips of at least two Redd children almost every day of their lives. Possibly a third. So far, he's inaudible unless screaming.

Last year, Randall produced a Christmas album and began touring the country in earnest doing Slugs and Bugs only shows. Among appropriate holiday-themed tunes, Randall included new verses to the perennial classic "Jesus Loves Me," which is a household favorite. But did you know that they are producing a third album this year? Oh, yes. And YOU can help make it happen! Andrew is back as part of the action and they've got a page on Kickstarter where you can make a donation to support the new album as it is being made. You can also check out some of their new songs! "Mexican Rhapsody" may be one of my new favorite homages, especially since I spent all those hours on high school trips listening to Queen blaring from someone's boom box.. And we te gusta us some Mexican food.

You can also check out Randall's attempt at a support-raising video here. Yes, he is that funny in real life.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lil' Brudder has arrived!

One week ago today, our third son, Calvin Harris, entered the world at 1:48 p.m. He weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs and 9 oz and 22 and 3/4 inches long. See? The photo doesn't lie.

Not bad for being only five days late -- his brothers, both born at 41 weeks, weren't even nine pounds! I'm so grateful for the answered prayers -- he came all on his own without the need for a repeat c-section and labor kicked in only a few hours shy of a scheduled induction. In fact, his was probably the easiest delivery out of all three and he was the biggest by far! (I plan to share more of THAT story soon.) We are so proud to be at home now with our "little" guy, and he's eating like a champ already and figuring out this sleeping thing. Jacob and Ethan are enamored with him (who wouldn't be?!) and are very sweet to the youngest Redd brother, though perhaps not so much to each other.

Here are a few more shots from the hospital. This is one proud Dad:

I love this next picture. Look at this kid! So young, so handsome -- so much hair! Sideburns like Elvis. Big blue eyes. Chubby cheeks. So much to love! (This also may be my best-ever photo in a hospital gown.) Current nickname: Chunk-a-munk

Perhaps you are wondering about his real name. The middle name, Harris, was Gaines' great-grandfather's name, and we just liked the way it sounds. We've had this tradition so far of using family names for our sons' middle names and were trying out different ones for months. Finally, someone mentioned this and it stuck. The coolest part we found out only after the birth -- that Gaines' great-grandfather was actually named for the minister that married his parents. What a neat idea!

As for the first name's inspiration, I'll let you guess. Was it...

A) the imaginative and irreverent six-year old boy whose best friend was a stuffed tiger, created by cartoonist Bill Watterson?

B) the amazingly agile former Georgia Tech wide receiver, who now plays for the Detroit Lions? (given his size, this might not be a bad guess!)

or C) the famous 16th-century theologian and Protestant Reformer, whose best known work is his Institutes of the Christian Religion?

Of course, he is Redd 5 after all, and if we were true nerds, we might have named him Luke:

Monday, August 08, 2011

Summer Fun, Summer Sun

This may be the hottest summer on record in Atlanta. I don't know, but for me, it has certainly felt like it! I've never had a summer baby before, but now I know that the complaints are justified. Last week, I spent time in two different air-conditioned buildings and was still incredibly hot.

However, we have found some ways to beat the heat and enjoy some time out-of-doors.

May wasn't so bad. We enjoyed racing in the driveway:

Finding bugs:

Eating ice cream with friends:

Discovering new ways to enjoy the baby pool:

Hanging out by the swimming pool at a friend's apartment:

June found us taking many trips to the local sprayground/splash park:

Practicing our mad bubble-blowing skillz:

The boys made a new game of racing toy cars down the slide into the pool:

And Ethan developed a fascination with his dump truck, bringing it from the sandbox to the pool:

Jacob also took swimming lessons the first week in June, and since then we've been spending at least one day a week at a friend's pool, but I always forget to take pictures there.

July came and went much more quickly than I expected, with little energy for photos. But I found one of those sprinkler spray beach balls on clearance a few weeks ago and it, too, has brought much joy:

I'm so behind on pictures, I barely have covered half of our summer. Some events and excursions that deserve their own post (hopefully soon):

  • May's inaugural field trip to the Botanical Gardens

  • Memorial Day weekend visit to Alabama to see DeeDee and Gaga

  • June day trip to the annual Moore family reunion, also in Alabama

  • The story of our new swagger wagon

  • Preparations for little brother's arrival