Tuesday, October 31, 2006

From Housekeeping for Two Alice L. James 1911

"When the weather is pleasant and cool an excellent time for the daily walk is directly after luncheon. It is most important that everyone should spend a part of every day in the health-giving open air. If one has a stoop with awnings, or a shaded porch or garden, the matter is easy to arrange. Sewing and reading under such favored conditions can be enjoyed out of doors, at any time during the day, when spare or waiting moments are at one's disposal.

"Now and then little gardening can be done. Digging about the plants, weeding and water, is fascinating work, or to run the little grass-cutter over soft turft is an exercise to be enjoyed. But, when there are none of these privileges, a leisurely walk may take their place and bring one home rosy and invigorated in body and spirit."

My note: Well, as Mrs. Walker does, I believe in theory that everyone is more healthful when they get outside at least once a day -- in all but the worst weather. When my children were very young, I saw the difference in their mood and their quality of sleep when they spent lots of time playing in the fresh air. It's sad to me that many children are kept inside so much these days. And, then, parents wonder why they are cranky and whiny. But, at any rate, I'm not one to preach on that right now. I have quit being concious of getting fresh air every day for myself, so I intend to remedy that. Today is a good day to begin -- It's nice and sunny here. :)


Monday, October 30, 2006

Scrooge and the Joy of Repentance

Last night, dear hubby, a houseguest, and I watched one of my all-time favorite movies: A Christmas Carol. I treat myself to an early viewing every year – before the Christmas rush comes and I start saying Scroogisms, like “I have so much to do! Bah, humbug.”

I’ve always thought that the story of Scrooge makes a wonderful parallel to Christian repentance. This was brought home to me even more deeply when I read, “Repentance,” by Ed Anton. This wonderful book briefly cites a Christmas Carol. More importantly, it is a thorough study of what Biblical repentance really means and how essential it is to an understanding of the gospel. I can’t recommend the book enough.

Anyhow, back to Scrooge. Of course, Christian repentance has nothing to do with Christmas ghosts. Our repentance is motivated by conviction from the Holy Spirit and is based on what Christ has done for us on the cross and through his resurrection. We are not visited by ghosts, but by flesh and blood Christians -- Christians who have experienced repentance and forgiveness themselves. These people lovingly hold out the gospel to us when we are lost. They lovingly keep calling us to repentance once we have become Christians. Despite the fact that Scrooge's motivation is different than the Christian's, the story of Scrooge is a good depiction of what true Christian repentance looks like.

First, Scrooge is confronted about his past, his present, and where his future is going if he does not change. Realizing the truth about himself sets his feet on the path to change. At one point, he is almost overcome with horror at the way he has lived his life. This sorrow is not yet the point of repentance, but it will take him there.

As 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." Worldly sorrow cries over sin, but, in the end, does not change. Thus, worldly sorrow falls short of repentance, and it leads to death. Likewise, Godly sorrow is not the same thing as repentance, either. But, unlike worldly sorrow, godly sorrow is a catalyst that gets us to repentance. Godly sorrow has both the desire to truly change and the faith that, through Christ, repentance and forgiveness are possible.

Fortunately, Scrooge chooses to let his sorrow lead him quickly to repentance. He realizes that he wouldn’t be shown how terrible his condition is unless there is hope of redemption. He understands he is being given a second chance at life.

At this point, Scrooge "gets the message". He changes his entire mindset – his whole way of looking at life. He puts away his pride, his selfishness, and his stinginess and he embraces humilty, unselfishness, and generosity. He turns his value system upside down; what was the most important thing in his life is now the least, and vice versa. He looks forward to a new way of thinking and living. Now, he has arrived at repentance!

Scrooge then falls into his grave – a picture of our dying to sin and self. It is also a picture of baptism: As it says in Romans 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

A few moments later, Scrooge awakens to his new life! He has experienced the twin joys of repentance and forgiveness, and he is forever altered. He does not sit around and moan over his lost years or the pain he has caused through his evil deeds -- as I am so often tempted to do. Scrooge's past was done away with in the grave. Scrooge is grateful. He leaves the past behind and looks forward to the future.

Scrooge is hopeful. He is joyful. He has new values. He has a new heart. He is a new man. He gleefully looks for ways to put his new way of thinking into action.

This new heart of Scrooges shows itself in the things he does. He happily purchases a huge turkey and has it sent to Bob Cratchett’s house. He gets dressed and runs to church, where he joins in the singing. He makes peace with his nephew and his nephew’s wife, both of whom he had spurned, and he spends a wonderful afternoon at their home.

The next day, while Scrooge waits for Bob Crachett to arrive, he echoes the sentiments of many a Christian: "I don't deserve to be so happy. But, I am."

When Bob first arrives, he is unaware that Scrooge has undergone such a dramatic change of heart. Scrooge plays a practical joke on him, offers him a raise, and breaks into laughter. All of this is so unlike the old Scrooge that Bob suspects that Scrooge has taken leave of his senses.

“No. I’ve come to them,” says Scrooge.

Bob’s fears are relieved once he sees that Scrooge is sincere in wanting to be a better employer and a good friend to him.

The movie closes by telling us that Scrooge held to his "repentance" for the rest of his life. The transformation in Scrooge was inescapable, and everyone marveled at it. Some even laughed at the changes in him, but Scrooge didn’t care. His own heart laughed, and that was enough for him.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Stuck on Quotes...

In keeping with yesterday's posts, here are two more quotes from Gone with the Wind about how inner beauty outshines whatever physical traits we have.

In the movie, Scarlett and Melanie were both played by beautiful actresses. In the book, however, neither girl was pretty in the classical sense.

The first chapter of GWTW establishes that Scarlett's facial features left something to be desired. The opening sentence reads, "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."

Scarlett was calculating in her appearance, and she understood how to play up her best physical features and to downplay her less attractive ones. This was true when it came to the weaknesses of her character, as well. She knew how to appear sweet and innocent, though her inner character was anything but sweet or innocent. Throughout the book, however, her eyes often betrayed her true motives to those who were of a discerning nature.

In the first chapter, we read, "But for all the modesty of her spreading skirts, the demureness of her hair netted smoothly into a chignon and the quietness of small white hands folded in her lap, her true self was poorly concealed. The green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life, distinctly at variance with her decorous demeanor."

Scarlett's "charm" consisted of flirtatious tricks, which she employed to get her own way in life. So, hers was not a truly lasting beauty. Nor, was hers the type of beauty that springs from peace and, thus, spreads peace to others. She was a person who was "turbulent" in heart and who created discord around her.

Nonetheless, Scarlett was full of life. People were struck by her dimpled smiles and her vivacious chatter more than they took note of her plain features. Her vital personality gave her an aura of beauty.

In contrast to Scarlett, Melanie was not calculating in her appearance. Her face, like Scarlett's, is described as being plain. Unlike Scarlett, "she had no tricks of feminine allure to disguise its plainness." Melanie didn't need those tricks, for her cosmetic was a selfless, loving heart. She may not have been able to gather a flock of beaux around her as Scarlett did, but she didn't want to. She did not set her heart on gathering conquests, but desired, instead, to love her family, her friends, and her betrothed.

Here are some excerpts from the first time Melanie is described in GWTW. Scarlett was intent on disliking Melanie, for Melanie was engaged to the man that Scarlett wanted to marry. But, Melanie's lovely inner character was so apparent that even Scarlett was forced to grudgingly admire it.

"She (Melanie) looked and was as simple as earth, as good as bread, as transparent as spring water. But for all her plainness of feature and smallness of stature, there was a sedate dignity about her movements that was oddly touching and far older than her seventeen years....Her heavy earbobs with their long gold fringe hung down from loops of tidily netted, hair, swinging close to her brown eyes, eyes that had the still gleam of a forest pool in winter, when brown leaves shine up through quiet water... What made matters worse was that under his (Ashley's) smile, a little sparkle had come into Melanie's eyes, so that even Scarlett had to admit that she looked almost pretty. As Melanie looked at Ashley her plain face lit up as with inner fire, for if ever a loving heart showed itself upon a face, it was showing now on Melanie Hamilton's."

These two women are creations of fiction. But, their description highlights a truth we see in real life. Beauty isn't just about physical characteristics. Even a worldly type of charm can make any woman seem lovely -- at least in her youth. The real beautifier -- the one that lasts -- is the one that Melanie possessed: Love.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have it said of us, "If ever a loving heart showed itself upon a face, it was hers"?


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Two Good Deeds in a Naughty World...

"In her (Melanie's) small face, her eyes were too large for beauty, the dark smudges under them making them appear enormous, but the expression in them had not altered since the days of her unworried girlhood. War and constant pain and hard work had been powerless against their sweet tranquility. They were the eyes of a happy woman, a woman around whom storms might blow without ever ruffling the serene core of her being.

"How did she keep her eyes that way, thought Scarlett, looking at her enviously. She knew her own eyes sometimes had the look of a hungry cat. What as it Rhett had said once about Melanie's eyes -- some foolishness about them being like candles? Oh, yes, like two good deeds in a naughty world. Yes, they were like candle, candles shielded from ever wind, two soft lights glowing with happiness at being home again among her friends."

Isn’t this a lovely quote about a woman’s loving heart being reflected in her eyes? Yes, I know it’s cheesy to be inspired by a quote from Gone with the Wind. But, after all, I did grow up in Georgia, where the book takes place. And, my family in Tennessee endured the Civil War and its aftermath, just as the characters in Gone with the Wind did. Our family stories were so vivid that I don’t think I quite realized they had taken place nearly one hundred years before I was born! So, when I read GWTW, it seems to me as if I’m reading about people that I know. (I must add a caveat here: Sadly, the book reflects the patronizing racial attitudes of author Margaret Mitchell’s own era and of the time of Civil War setting).

At any rate, Melanie is quite a study in gentle, unselfish, sweet, and quietly courageous womanhood. Did you know that Margaret Mitchell originally intended to make her, and not Scarlett, the heroine of Gone with the Wind? Unfortunately, people from outside of the South picture Scarlett as the ultimate Southern woman. Actually, it is Melanie who Mrs. Mitchell lifts up as the true Southern lady.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Having a Blast with online Books About Homemaking

Mrs. Blythe, a fellow blogger, was kind enough to share with us a link to a treasure trove of antique homemaking books -- which contain tons of information. I'm having fun skimming through these old volumes, which are listed at the Digitial Book Index.

So far, I've looked at books from about 1911-1917. I have learned two things: Educators and government agencies provided w0men that era with information that was practical for their particular situation. They took into account if the woman lived in a rural area, a city, or the suburbs. They gave step-by-step instructions about all aspects of homemaking -- from budgeting to cooking to buying furnishings to nursing the sick to what type of curtains were the most practical to how to clean every item in the home, etc.

There is a book, for example, geared to women who kept home in a tenemant flat. The front of the book lists everything that a homemaker in such situation would need, and gives a dollar amount that should be spent. The author of that paticular volume suggested that a stove would cost a whopping $9.00. -- How prices have changed! Though some of the items on the list are things I wouldn't use today, the majority are things every house still needs. I intend to go back and take a closer look at that list to see how my home compares.

Of course, some of the information in these books is out of date. But, a suprising amount of it is useufl today. We can use the information to spur us to thinking how to apply this knoweldge to our own lives. I'm eager to read chapters on organizing a kitchen from various books, as the kitchen is my weakest spot when it comes to having a place for everything and everything in its place.

Secondly, these books unashamedly claimed that a knoweldge of homemaking would add to the beauty, the healthfulness, and the satisfaction of life. I love this quote from a pamphlet entitled, "Three Short Courses in Homemaking", which was designed to be used in rural schools in the Southern U.S.

"The beauty and sacredness of home life should receive emphasis, so that girls may feel the importance of conscientious work in the performance of their household duties. The girls should have some insight into the economic, sanitary, and social problems that are involved in housekeeping, so that they may develop and increased appreciation for the homemaker's work. The two most important things to be taught are the value of cleanliness and order."

How many authors of today could get away with recommending that public school teachers should emphasize the beauty and sacredness of home life to their students?


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Old Things

I like old things that time has tried
And proven strong and good and fine;
Rose-petal softness of old sheets;
Old pottery of quaint design;
Old trees that stand against the wind,
However gnarled their branches are,
Symbolic of a soul grown strong,
Communing years with storm and star;
Old houses marked by hours
Of love and living through the years,
That proudly bear their stamp of worth
In spite of strife and stress and tears;
Old faces time has etched with lines
Of love and laughter, sorrow, too.
I like old things -- they have a depth
Unknown by anything that's new.
Cora Mae Preble


Monday, October 23, 2006

Tips For Teaching Children About Money

Charles Surgeon once said, "Economy is half the battle of life. It is not so difficult to make money as it is to spend it wisely."

My friend, Gina Bassman, who created and runs her own home business -- Gonicofish.com -- shared eight tips with me for teaching young children about money. She and her husband, Robert, who runs his own CPA firm, are using these with their six-year-old son, Nico. They consider Nico to be their miracle child, as it was difficult for them to have a child.

At any rate, here are the things Gina suggests:

1) Open a savings account with your child at the bank. Physically take him to the bank regularly so that he can make small deposits. Talk about his savings passbook with him. Praise huim as the balance grows.
2) Give your child a small allowance in increments that he can easily divide. That way, he will be able to use some now and save some for later.
3) Help your child save for a particular item on his or her wish list. Give him an envelope labeled with the name or picture of the object. Let him put small amounts of money in. When the envelope contains enough money, take him on a fun shopping trip to purchase the item.
4) Begin early to teach children the amounts of coins and the denominations of bills. Most children can mast this during their pre-school years.
5) Before taking your child grocery shopping with you, talk to him beforehand about what will occur on the trip. If you plan to allow him a treat or a toy, set a price limit. At the store, help him
to choose an item within that dollar amount. If you start your shopping trip with this limit in mind, it will teach the child how to have self-control when confronted with all of the colorful displays in the store. It will also make the trip smoother and easier for you. At any rate, be sure not to give in if your child whines for everything that he or she sees. You will be doing your child a favor in the long run.
6) When letting your child have a treat, give him the money and have him hand it to the cashier instead of just tacking the cost on to your own purchases. In that way, he will learn the concept that whenever you bring home an item, a cost is involed.
7) Play matching games with the faces on dollar bills and counting games with coins. Make it fun.

And....drum roll for number eight...sure to be a favorite with moms who strive for frugality and simplicity in their home lives -- Gina says it's never to early to teach a child how to comparison shop! Now, there's a mom after my heart!

8) "The Internet is a great way for teaching children how to find the best price and value for an item," she says. The other night, she helped Nico shop on the Internet for a toy harmonica. She says he enjoyed looking at all of the pictures. She let him hunt and peck for the keys and reports -- with no bias, of course -- the "he looked adorable" as he searched for te right keys. She says it was a wonderful way to spend fun time doing something that he enjoyed, plus he learned about value, price, and computer skills in the process.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Middle Schoolers Need More Attention

According to an article in Reader's Digest, about half of U.S. moms stay home for their baby's first year. They generally return to a fulltime job outside of the home at some point after that.

By the time the kids are 11, 80% of their moms work outside of the home. But, according to RD, studies show that middle school age, when social lives expand and isssues like sex and drugs crop up, is when children really need attention.

This confirm's what my mother's instinct had already told me: the ages from nine to fourteen are critical in a child's life. This is when children most need their mothers to be at home! This is also when they need to have a close relationship with their fathers.

This is the age when children begin to wrestle with their faith; when they begin the process of making their parents' faith truly their own. They transition slowly from thinking like a child to developing more adult reasoning.

Not only that, but their bodies change. Their peers change.

My adult children tell me that these are the years when peer pressure is the hardest -- even harder than in the later years of high school.

With so much going on at this time, is it any wonder that middle-school-aged children need their parents?

We did not homeschool at the time. I remember picking my children up from school when my son was in fifth grade and my daughter was in sixth. I was amazed at the numbers of boys and girls who trampled the yards surrounding the school. Many of these boys and girls paried off and hung all over each other. I was amazed that the owners of the houses did not say anything. Finally, it dawned on me that in most of those houses, no one was home.

During this period, one of my children's school acquaintances became addicted to diet pills and also became pregnant and a mother at the age of thirteen! This girl and her boyfriend hung out in a home where the mother was away at work.

Another school acquaintance of my daughter's was caught with a gun on campus. God was able to work good through this; it forced my children to become stronger in their convictions and in their faith. But, still, it was sad to see the toll that parental neglect took on children this age.

My husband mentioned casually the other day that if we were starting with a baby in today's climate, we might re-think the homeschooling thing. However, homeschooling parents can't be lax just because their children seem to be safely in the nest. I know a couple where the mother homeschooled the children, yet the children went off track for a bit in those middle years. Plus, the children did not develop some skills needed to cope with adult life.

So, whether our children go to school or stay at home with us during these years, they need us to be wise and involved parents. They need us to listen, listen, listen and to listen some more. They need to be able to tell us their thoughts and fears, without our overreacting (It can be so hard not to overreact out of fear, instead of calmly listening with faith!) They need us to encourage them, to love them, and to believe in what God is doing in their lives. They need us to pray with them and for them. They need for us to provide a safe place for them to bring their friends. Most of all, they need a fun and peaceful home environment.

Now, I'm not talking about smothering our children, here. Children of this age do need to become more independent. If we are going to help them be ready for adult life, we need to start letting out the parental rope just at bit at this age. Within certain bounds, we should let them visit friends' homes and go to certain events. We should gradually allow them to start making more decisions on their own now, while they are still under our roof and we are there to guide them through the process. We need to teach them how to take care of the responsiblities they will have in adult life -- such as handling money, choosing what to wear, etc. Yet, as we do let them grow up a bit, our children should know that we are there for them.

Despite the challenges, these can be delightful years. Preteens and teenagers are fun! I have so many treasured memories of our family during these years. That's another reason why we parents want to give our children the attention they need during these years -- We don't want to miss this marvelous, special time in their development.

According to the article in Reader's Digest, teens graded their parents on how well the adults know what's going on in their kid's lives. Only 35% of moms and 31% of dads got A's.

"We can do a lot better than that," Ellen Galinsky, president of the Familes and Work Institute is quoted as saying. "There's no substittue for parental attention, and consistenty is more important than hours spent. Even a quick chat in the car together can make a difference."

Times in the car were special for us when our children were that age. But, I would challenge Galinsky's thinking that having quick chats in the car is all that is needed. This is where I feel like a voice that is weirdly at odds with what our culture preaches. In my opinion, raising children takes time, time, and more time -- from birth until they marry or otherwise embark on an adult life.

However, if you realize that you and your middle school child haven't been talking lately, a quick chat in the car is a great place to start.:)


Thursday, October 19, 2006

What if....

I caught a chilling bit of an interview on educational TV last night. The interviewee worked for the Secret Service at the time of President Kennedy’s assassination. He recently wrote a book weighing in on what actually happened on that day in Texas. He was involved in the governments original investigation of the event. Not only that, but he was in charge of guarding Lee Harvey Oswald’s Russian-born wife, Marina, when she testified before the Warren Commission.

This secret service agent stated that Oswald’s wife was kind to him and that he liked her “well enough.” But, he said that he never cared to be around Oswald’s mother. He described her as being “cold”.

Looking back on it, this agent believes that Oswald’s early home life set him up to have violent tendencies. He equates many of Oswald’s personality traits with the patterns seen today in children who commit school shootings. He also compared Oswald’s profile to that of John Hinckley, Jr.., who attempted to assassinate President Regan in 1980.

This is the part that chilled me: The agent said he came to know Oswald’s brother well. Oswald’s brother was a successful and likeable husband, father, and businessman in Texas. Oswald’s brother was well-adjusted and showed none of the violent or unstable traits that Oswald did.

So, why the difference between the two brothers? In this secret servant agent’s mind, it was because Oswald’s brother was put up for adoption as an infant. He received more affection and attention from his adoptive parents than Oswald did from the brothers’ birth parents.

I share this not to place blame on Oswald’s mother for the fact that her son shot President Kennedy. Obviously, I have never met her and it is not my intention to judge her or to criticize her. I don’t know what challenges she faced in her own life. Besides, Oswald was an adult at the time of the assassination and was responsible for his own actions.

But, I was saddened by the thought that many children don’t get the attention from their parents that they need. And, this secret servant agent sees this as a factor that tips many children toward the horrific acts of violence that tear at our society.

If Oswald's problems did arise because he was starved for attention and affection, it is possible that he might have taken another path in life if another adult had shown an interest in him? Perhaps, God, in his love and providence, has worked through willing hearts to avert other, similar tragedies. I have heard many people say that when their own immediate family was having a hard time, an aunt or a neighbor or a Sunday school teacher provided them with needed love and guidance. Some people are Christians today because a kind neighbor once took them to Bible classes.

What if we all reached out to children in our communities who could be starving for parental attention? What if we invited a lonely child to eat a meal with us now and again (with permission from that child's parents, of course). What if we included a neighborhood child in a family devotional or a family game night? What if we took a plate of hot cookies out to preteens who are hanging around the yard of a home where the mother is absent? Who knows how invaluable such small acts of kindness might be to the world.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Today is a Good Day to Laugh

We all love to laugh. When things are going well, merry times come easily to a couple or a family. But, have you ever gone through a time when it seemed like the “fun” in your home slipped away? Perhaps, you and your husband were working through some communication problems. Or, finances might be tough. Or, you might be concerned about one of your children. It’s often a string of little trials that gets us down. At times like these, it’s easy to forget this healing prescription from Proverbs, “A happy heart is like good medicine.”

I wonder if we women aren’t particularly prone to finding it hard to laugh in the tough times. I have an idea that many of us want to have everything in life tied up neatly in a bow before we allow ourselves permission to have fun. But, if so, we’ll be waiting until we reach heaven.

I love this quote from Jane Canfield: “Happy people do not depend on excitement and fun supplied by externals. They enjoy the fundamental, often simple, things of life. They waste no time thinking other pastures are greener. They do not yearn for yesterday or tomorrow. They savor the moment, glad to be alive, enjoying their work, their families, the good things around them. They are adaptable, they can bend with the wind, adjust to the changes in their times, enjoy the contests of life, and feel themselves in harmony with the world. Their eyes are turned outward; they are aware, compassionate. They have the capacity to love.”



Friday, October 13, 2006

Part Two: Getting down to the Fun Stuff
Games to help your child feel loved and secure:
(These are geared for ages 2-7, but you can adapt them for older children as well.)
I. Who Loves You? In your mind, make a mental list of several people who love your child. Then, ask your child, "Who loves you?" Help them answer, "God loves me." Ask the question again. Help the child answer "Daddy loves me." Soon, the child will be able to run through the list himself. Play this game with your child often. Note: I always began the game with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as three separate answers. My goal wasn't to teach them anything about the Trinity, which would be heavy going for a child under the age of six. I simply wanted to reinforce the concept of God's love by mentioning it three times before we started on imperfect, human examples. Then, I listed my husband, myself, grandparents, etc.

2. The Thankful Game: Whenever the kids and I got in the car to go somewhere, we each had to say three things we were thankful for before I started the car.

3. The Thankful Notebook or The Blessing Book: We also kept a notebook of things each of us was thankful for. We used an inexpensive "one-subject" notebook. You can keep this simple, as we did, or you can make a beautiful scrapbook. Periodically, we would go back and re-read our list of blessings. This focused our attention to how God daily demonstarted his love for us, even in the midst of the ups and downs of life. Even as an adult, I have to do things to focus my attention on my blessings. It's so easy for me to focus on problems and responsibilities to the extent that I don't recognize the many ways that God blesses my life everyday.

4. The Something New Book or The Different Ways Book: This is not one that I've personally tried, but I read about it in connection with children who are very shy or very reluctant to do anything that is new or unfamiliar. One mother described how fearful her young son was of doing anything that deviated from his routine. He wanted to wear the same shirt every day. He insisted on eating the same thing for lunch each day.

So, this mother helped her son make a "Different Ways Book" -- a scrapbook showing the boy dong things in many different ways. Along with that, she praised any setp that he took towards overcoming his rigidity and shyness, no matter how slight his effort was. She did not focus on whether he succeeded, but rewarded him with praise for the fact that he tried. Gradually, he became secure and was willing to try many new things.

This book could be adapted to the very shy child. You could make a scapbook together showing times when the child has done something to overcome his shyness. "Ben went to his Sunday school class today," would be one example. Or, "Ben said hello to Mrs. Brown when she stopped by for a visit." Copy children's stories that include examples of children overcoming their fears or being warm, giving, and outgoing, and paste those in the book as well. Re-read them frequently.

I did not try the "Different Ways Book" myself, as our family's problem has never been being overly rigid. Our weakness tended in the other direction -- towards not being as consistent in our schedule as we might have been. But I have known children whose fears did lead them to be overly rigid, and I have seen the unhappiness this can cause them. Such children need gentle encouragement to help them become more secure.

5. Catch your Child Doing Something Good: This is really a game that you play with yourself. In a busy family, especially a large one, it's easy to give your child attention when he or she does something that needs correcting. It's part of the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" syndrome. We do need to stay on top of misbehavior and attend to it immediately. But, we need to be equally attune to a child's positive behaviors. If we give our child more feedback for acting up than we do for obedience, the child will learn to misbehave even more just to get our attention. So, determine on a morning that you are going to try to catch each of your children in the act of doing something good. When you do, give your child a hug and a word of encouragement.

One more hint: There is a time for specific praise, and there is a time for more general praise.

Specific praise confines itself to a particular accomplishment. "Suzy, I like the way you organized your bookshelf. I especially like the way you placed the little vase that grandmother gave you." If Suzy is taking her first steps towards becoming more organized, this will lift her spirits. She will think, "I organized my bookshelf, and that turned out well. Tomorrow, I'll clean out my closet." However, if you say something like, "Suzy, you organized your bookshelf. You are so neat," that could actually make Suzy feel worse. If she thinks about her messy closet, she may deem herself unworthy of the label "neat" and feel guilty for taking your praise. Though we all need some specific encouragement throughout life, very young children often do especially well with this type of praise.

Now, as Suzy gets older, she may consistently demonstrate a knack for organizing things. However, she may not understand that this is a talent. She may wonder, "What do I have to give to my future family or to the world?" At that point, you might say "Suzi, in my opinion, you have an eye for making a room look pretty. Would you come with me when I organize the children's toys at church? I could use your help." Or, you could say, "You seem to love organizing things and making a room look pretty. Have you ever thought about taking a course in home decorating?"

In the same way, you could say, "Ron, you seem to like working with animals, and it seems that you have a real talent for taking care of them. Would you like to be a vet one day? Or, have you ever thought about farming?"

This general type of praise helps a child identify talents he didn't realize he had. It should be coupled with a suggestion for how the child can develop and use his talent. The child may not be interested in following your suggestion, and that's ok. You're not trying to force the child into a mould that's not right for him; you are merely helping him explore possibilities. It's good if you can, over a period of weeks, bring up two or three talents for each child to think about.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Children and Security
This post: Laying out the Serious Groundwork
Tomorrow's Post: Let's have some Fun!

By the time a child reaches the age of two or three, he starts weaving an emotional pattern that determines how he responds to life. The threads he uses are from a number of sources, one thread being his in-born personality. Perhaps the strongest threads are spun from the child's observations of the way people respond to him.

By age six, a child has already completed an emotional tapestry that falls somewhere between one of two opposing attitudes:

Attitude A) I am loved. I am secure. I want to grow up and try new things. We can picture this tapesty as being bright, colorful, and laced with golden threads.

Attitude B) I am not loved. I am insecure. The world is a frightening place. I don't want to try new things; I just want to stay in a zone where I feel safe." We can picture this tapestry as being dark and somber. This gloomy tapestry may set up a child to have problems with anxiety, despression, and shyness later in life.

Many child development experts believe that once a six-year old hangs his tapestry on the walls of his mind, it is there for life. I disagree. I believe that God has the power to renew and transform our hearts and minds at any age.

However, as parents, we do want to give our children the best emotional start that we can. We want them to be secure enough to face new experiences and to master new skills.

Since a child is maturing, it's only natural that we and other adults in the child's life take note of his progress. Have you ever thought about how much of a young child's feedback from others is based on one of two things: 1) His or her physical development and 2) His or her accomplishments in learning and behavior?

This feedback is both positive and negative. We cannot always control what is said to or in front of our child. Other people comment, "Suzy, what a pretty girl you are," or "Spencer, you're learned how to tell time! Aren't you clever?," or "Mark, you are growing so tall and strong," or "Alice, you're always such a good girl?" Conversely, people may ignore Suzy's sister, Marie, who isn't as cute. They may wonder aloud why Dan, Mark's cousin, is so short for his age. They may say to Alice's friend, Lilly, "Why can't you act as nice as Alice does?", and they may burst Spencer's bubble when they realize that while he can tell time, he has not yet learned how to count change.

As parents, we also contribute to this picture by praising positive behavor and by correcting negative behavior. Here, we do have control over the feedback and how it is delivered. Rather than speaking idly, as in the examples above, we can make sure that our comments are well-thought out and beneficial.

Carefully delivered positive feedback is a wonderful thing. How delightful it is to rejoice in the gifts that God has given to a particular child! In the same vein, how sweet it is for parents and child to celebrate the child's accomplishments. After all, God recorded this about our Lord Jesus, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men." Don't we want our children to develop in these areas, as well? Proverbs 20:11 tell us, "Even a child is known by what he does, by whether his conduct is pure and right." Don't we want our children to conduct themselves in a way that is pure and right?

We are all inspired to reach higher goals when we receive encouragement along the way. By pointing to a child's gifts and accomplishments, parents and other adults can help a child identify, develop, and enjoy his particular strengths. As the child grows toward adulthood, he can begin to use those strengths in the service of the Lord.

In the historically based movie, "Chariots of Fire", Scottish preacher Eric Lidell recognized that God had gifted him with the ability to run. One of his sisters chastized him for competing in track meets instead of going directly to the mission field. Eric said, "God has made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure." God used Eric's speed to land him a spot on Great Britain's Olympic team. At the Olympics, Eric was stunned to find that one of his events was scheduled for a Sunday. He humbly, but firmly refused to participate in the event, despite pressure from the crown and despite attention from the media. He ended up winning a medal in another event. More importantly, he showed the world the importance of placing Christ first in priority. Later, Eric did go on to the mission field, and he lost his life there.

Had Eric doubted his gift for running or God's purpose for endowing him with this gift, he would never have had the confidence to pursue his talent. He never would have made the Olympic track team. He would have missed the chance to share his faith in front of the entire world. Eric's ability to run and his enjoyment of running became a tool in God's hands.

This incident demonstrates how we want to steer our children's thinking. It's good for a child to think, "That lady at the store said I'm growing tall and strong. I'm glad God is helping me to grow." And, it's fine for a child to exclaim happily, "Listen, Mommy, I can sing the ABC song." Celebrating little milestones like these builds a child's confidence for the next challenge that comes his or her way.

Just as positive feedback can be helpful, negative feedback can also be a tool for learning. It's an inescapable fact that a child will experience both constructive criticism and thoughtless, hurtful comments throughout his earthly lifetime. It's part of our job as parents to teach a child how to respond when this happens. He must learn to grow better and not bitter when someone confronts him about his sins or mistakes. He must learn to hold to his convictions, even when those convictions bring him censure from others. He must learn how to calmly work things out when a friend, co-worker, or family member disagrees with him on some point.

If we shield a child from all negative feedback, his emotional and spiritual growth will be stunted. However, a young child thrives best when the positive feedback outweighs the negative. Particularly when a child is passing through the age of two, we often feel like we have to constantly say, "No. No. No." It's crucial that at the same time, we are also saying in words and actions, "I love you. I love you. I love you."

Positive or negative, feedback from others is an accent thread in our emotional tapestry. So, too, our own opinion of our physical attribures and our outward performance. These two strands, however, are not meant to be the dominant threads. In order to truly hold our tapestry together, we need stronger material. We need the confidence that comes through God's love for us.

Toddlers and preschoolers lack the maturity to sort all this out. Without guidance from parents, a toddler may easily get the wrong idea. The child may internalize adult reactions in a way that makes him think he is valued only on the basis of his physical development or his performance. This view of life places the toddler on shaky ground. No matter how a child excels in a certain area, there is always another child who is prettier, smarter, stronger, faster, or more obedient.

If pretty Suzy gets the idea that she is loved mainly because of her beauty, how will she respond when her mother compliments Ginger's lovely blonde curls?If Jack gets all of his security from being "the good boy", how will he respond when he goofs up and disobeys Daddy?

Obviously, if a child continues to be hampered by a performance-oriented approach to life, he will run into deeper and deeper problems. Perhaps, his talent or physical attributes might carry him into middle age. Eventually, however, raw bodily strength or beauty diminish with time. Likewise, no one can achieve or sustain perfect performance in any area of life. Most of all, we can never be "good" enough to earn the love of a holy God. We have to learn how to rest in God's grace.

So, as parents, how do we help a child found their emotional well-being on a solid foundation. How do we teach him that he is loved and that he can learn new skills and cope with new experiences?

Since we are training a child, we must deal with his outward performance. Obviously, we will also care about his physical health, growth, and neat appearance as well. But, we don't content ourselves with merely achieving a child's outward performance. We go deeper. We win the child's heart with our love. We love the child not on the basis of his achievements, but simply because he is our child. More importantly, we train our children to rely on God's perfect love.

We help our child choose love as the dominant thread that he weaves into his emotional tapestry. (A healthy fear of the Lord is right up there, too, but that's another subject for another post).

One way to do this is to make God's love the last thing on a child's mind when he goes to sleep and the first thing on his mind when he wakes up.

At bedtime, set aside time for a short chat and a prayer. This time can be about any topic. As you prepare to leave the room and turn out the lights, however, end by commenting on God's love for the child.

Sing a simple song about God's love. "Jesus Loves Me," is an obvious example. Or, read a picture book that talks about God's love. Perhaps, you can help the child memorize a simple verse about God's love, and you can recite it together every night until he knows it by heart.
Help the child to think of specific demonstrations of God's love he can be thankful for.

Talk about something you experienced during the day that speaks of God's love;

"I saw a bluebird, Mommy," says the child.

"Yes, we saw the bluebird picking the ground for food. God feeds the bluebird. God gives you food to eat, too. God loves the bluebird, and God loves you even more," you reply.

At bedtime, a toddler or preschooler may pop out with some problem that has been troubling him all day. Perhaps, he went into Daddy's office without permission, and he broke a pencil mug. This is weighing on his tender heart, even though neither you or daddy have yet discovered the broken mug. Deal with a troubling incident like this. But, after you have done so, re-direct your child's thoughts back to God's love.

When my children were little, I often let them fall asleep to tape recordings of soothing songs and soothing Bible verses. There are many CD's and tapes that are designed around the theme of God's love. Some are especially meant for bedtime use. When my children reached kindergarten age, we used a devotional book that was themed around the topic of sleeping peacefully in God's love.

If you set your mind to it, you can come up with any number of simple and creative ways to send your child off to dreamland secure in God's love.

In the morning, when the child wakes up, greet him with a hug and the warmest smile you can manage. Use waking up as another chance to recite a verse about God's love. The thought might brighten your own day, as well.

Another way to focus the child's attention to the right source is to look for ways that our child is growing in faith and character. Spend as much or more time talking about that as you do about the child's outer behavior or his physical qualities. Growth in faith and character may be harder to detect than the outward things. But, these matters of the hearts are of primary importance. Proverbs 4:23 teaches us , "Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Finally, the most important way for you to help your child to be secure in God's love is for you to you to grasp this concept for yourself. Studies have shown that young children pick up cues about how to respond to a situation from their mothers. If you habitually react to life with anxiety and insecurity, your child will weave this same pattern into his own emotional tapestry. Don't go off on a guilt trip if you do struggle with insecurity; we all have things we need to work through. Perhaps, for one reason or another, your own emotional tapestry has been damaged and needs to be re-woven. But, do be urgent about growing deeper in God's love.

Paul prayed for the Ephesians to grasp wide and long and wide and deep is the love of Christ and for them to know this love that surpasses knowledge. Pray this often for yourself, your husband, and for each child in your familiy.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Does My Presence Refresh My Family?

Do you have a friend who, by merely walking through the door, makes you feel instantly calmed and uplifted? I have a few friends like this, for which I am extremely grateful.

I want to have the same effect as a friend, a wife, and a mother. In this regard, I'm still a work in proccess.

I love the following quote from Pat Hershey, Author of "The Idea Book for Mothers."

"...I am fully convinced that there is nothing that will improve the atmosphere and productivity of your home as much as you: the enthusiastic mother who provides positive words and a postivie outlook for her family.

"Actually, if you habitually cultivate the habit of projecting positive attitudes to your family and others, it won't always be necessary to speak. Your very presence will carry a positive atmosphere wherever you go. In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about such a positive atmosphere that was created by Titus' presence. He said, "Then God who cheers those who are discouraged refreshed us by the arrival of Titus -- not only was his presence a joy, but also the news that he brought of the wonderful time that he had with you.

"Ask yourself the question, "Does my presence refresh my family?"


Monday, October 09, 2006

Hints for Toys

Someone shared this hint that helped me when my children were small: She said that children are often overwhelmed if they have too many choices on their toy shelves or in their toy boxes. Their instinct will be to play with one toy for only a moment and then to pull out the next toy and the next and the next, until the whole play area is a chaotic mess. Reducing the amount of toys on shelves or in toy boxes helps the child settle down and play more creatively with the toys that are available to him or her. An added bonus is that pick-up time is easier for the child and for you.

My friend suggested boxing up some toys and putting them away. Leave out only what your children can manage. (Of course, leave out one or two favorite items for each child all year round). Let the children play with these toys for a month or two. Then, put them away and bring down the box you have stored away. The children will be excited to have something "new" to play with. Let them thoroughly play with this set and then rotate again.

This tip is particularly helpful for after Christmas or after birthdays, when grandparents and extended family may have showered your children with new gifts. Allot these toys out through the year, so that the child can enjoy them all along. That way, you don't hurt Grandma's feelings; You do, at some point, use all of the toys she sent But, you also don't allow the child to be overwhelmed by too much stuff. This was especially helpful in our family as our budget often precluded buying toys for the children throughout the year. So, we made the most of Christmas and birthday stashes.

Something else that is helpful is to talk to children about what your family is doing to help others. Involve them when you put together items to take or send to missionary families or to families in need. Your children may surprise you by wanting to donate some of their possessions, as well.

Of course, if they are very young, you may have to help them make wise decisions here. But, in the main, it's good for children's hearts to sacrifice a special treasure for the sake of others. And it's good for a mother's heart too. I found that it was much easier to sacrifice my "toys" than to watch my children sacrifice theirs out of their childlike faith and love. It helped my faith to see how God took care of them.

In one family I know, the family was holding a garage sale, the proceeds of which they were doing to donate to missions. The children begged their parents to let them sell many of their own possessions. The parents explained to the children that the family could not afford to replace all of these items and helped them think through whether this was something they really wanted to do. The children still pleaded to be able to donate their toys and to help with the garage sale. So, the parents let them. And, the children experienced so much joy. Not once have I heard the children ever mention that they missed the things they sold.

Another tip is to continually weed out toys that your children have outgrown or that are broken. Often, toys stay in the pile long after even the youngest child has ceased to care about them. This only creates more clutter. Also, the forgotten toy at the bottom of your toy chest might be another family's delight. So, pass those old toys on.

Now that my children are grown, I keep a small box in my hall closet with some of their old toys. I use these toys to entertain little visitors to my home so that their mommies can relax a bit. Every so often, I refresh this stash with some inexpensive item from the dollar store.

When I have grandchildren, I will keep more things on hand. But, I hope that someone will stop me if I start to go overboard. Now that this could become a real possibility for me, I can see why grandparents are tempted to spoil their grandchildren. :)


Friday, October 06, 2006

Ideas for dressing up inexpensive bookshelves

Someone in my husband's office complex threw out two inexpensive laminated white bookshelves early this year. A young artist who works for my husband's company grabbed one for his apartment, and I grabbed the other. I brought mine home to use in our kitchen. I took off the inexpensive cardboard backing which was damaged from the rain, and I replaced it by stapling and hot-gluing fabric that I had left over from making cushions. Like a ninny, I put the fabric on the wrong side, but my mistake actually worked in my favor. That left me with a nice, unlaminated trim around the shelves, which would accept paint. So, I painted the edges a country red to pick up one of the colors in the fabric. Then, I flipped over one of the shelves and painted it rusty red, as well. The end result is hardly a showpiece, but it looks quite at home in my French country kitchen, holding some of my cook books and magazines and a few chicken themed trinkets. And, I can't argue with the price!

An idea I've been meaning to try for another room is to attach narrow strips of decorative, antique looking molding acround the edge of contemporary looking shelves to make them look less clean-lined and contemporary. I would, of course, stain the molding to match or paint the
whole thing white. You could probably find a way to similarly ornament a dresser. I saw this idea on HGTV.

Decorating for dummies suggest covering a laminated white bookshelf with primer and etting it dry, sanding the bookshelf and wiping away the debris, applying another of primer, and then painting it with two coats of an oil-based, semi-gloss enamel paint, sanding between the two coats of paint. They suggest using a spone brush so that you wil have no brush strokes. They also suggest using Penetrol, which improves your paint, they say. They recommend letting the shelves dry for ten days before putting anyting on it.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Some traditional decorating rules – Use or ignore as you desire

There’s an old saying in the creative arts: “You have to know what the rules are before you can break them.” The idea is that if you understand the basic principles, you will be able to put your own creative spin on them – even to the point of skillfully breaking a cherished maxim now and again. On the other hand, if you don’t know the principles, you’ll break them accidentally, and the results may not be pleasing.

Below is a list of long-held decorating conventions concerning the use of art in the home. Following these rules creates lovely, traditional interiors that whisper, “People who appreciate beauty live here.” On the other hand, I’ve been in many a home where rule number one was broken, and the effect was delightful!

So, I hope you will enjoy reading about the rules. But, please don’t feel bound by them if your inner drum wants to beat out a different rhythm:

1) Don’t hang family photos in the living room or other public spaces. If you do want to display likenesses of family members in the living room, use painted portraits. You may display photographs of loved ones in more intimate spaces – such as bedrooms or a casual den.
2) Do not use fruit or vegetable still life compositions in your bedrooms and be cautious about using them in a living room. These are best saved for dining rooms and kitchens.

3) Don’t hang small landscapes near large still life paintings or prints. The imbalance in the proportions will take away from both. (This rule is based on a principle of art and it is not simply a tradition. So, we’d all do well to pay attention to this one.)

4) Don’t use barnyard scenes in a formal, traditional, or modern living room. They are fine for casual country interiors or for use in a casual den.

5) This rule seems so obvious, I’m surprised to find it mentioned in a decorating book: Don’t use bloody battle scenes in a dining room.

6) Don’t hang religious art in a bathroom.

7) Floral subjects are appreciated in almost every room. They are especially nice in rooms with a feminine feel to them.

8) Landscapes and boats also work just about anywhere. They are particularly nice in a room with a masculine feel.

9) Other masculine subjects are sports, historic war heroes, and hunting scenes. If you need to decorate a man’s office or den, you can’t go wrong choosing one of these themes.

10) Whimsical art is great for children’s rooms.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Wonderful Entryway

The first impression that your family and friends have of your home is your entryway. Whether your front door opens into a wide hall, a small foyer, or into your living space, why not make the first glimpse that people see cozy and inviting?

Of course, the entryway begins outside of the front door. Step outside and jot down what you see. Is your front porch or walkway neat? Is there a welcome mat, where people can wipe their feet? Does your front door need cleaning or painting? Do you need to replace loose, worn doorknobs or door handles? Do you want to need to update a door-wreath or other seaonal decoration?

Come back inside and take stock of what you see as you actually enter your home. Remember, your entryway needs an inside mat, as well as an outside one. Such a mat will further keep famiy, guests, and pets from tracking in dirt, pollen, and debris on your floors or carpeting. In fact, profesional cleaning expert Don Aslett states that we would all cut down on our cleaning time by putting commercial grade mats inside all doors through which people and animals may come inside of our home. While this is the ultimate in practicality, you may prefer to have a prettier or a more formal entryway rug. If your door opens abruptly into your living areas, a rug just inside of your door can help define your entryway space.

Another practical consideration is a pretty and functional umbrella stand. You also need some place to hang coats, as well. Coat racks are handy and are often attractively made. Some people find that it's hard for them to keep a coatrack looking neat, particularly if everyone in the family piles at least one jacket or coat on it. If your deocrating style is country casual, hanging purses and coats on a long Shaker-type peg rail may be a neater option. The ideal would be to have a large enough coat closet to hold coats for family and guests. We do have an entryway closet, but it fills up with our own coats and leaves little room for guests. One creative family in our neighborhood keeps a rolling clothing rack -- the kind you see in garment districts -- hidden away in storage. When they have a gathering, they roll the rack down to their office to hold the overflow of coats. Other people place coats and purses on a bed in a downstairs guest room. Sometimes, you can assign an older child to be in charge of taking the coats back to the room and fetching them when the guests leave.

Similarly, family and guests will appreciate an entryway mirror, where they can quickly check their apperance on their way out or way in. A table for mail, keys, and a notepad is nice, as long as you don't let the mail sit or accumulate in a messy pile. Another nice feature is to place a guestbook on a small table. That way, whenever new guests come over, you can ask them to sign. If they are willing to write down the information, you'll have a handy record of their phone numbers and addresses. You can jot a few notes about the occasion, too, so you can thumb bacl trough the book and enjoy lovely memories of events in your home. A place to sit to slip on shoes or galoshes or to wait for someone else is handy, too.

Plants -- silk or green -- are a lovely touch in any nook of your home. This is particularly true in a foyer or a large entry hall.

Lighting is essential. If you have a foyer or entryway hall, you'll likely already have overhead lighting. Whether you do or don't have an overhead light, also think about placing a small light on a pretty table or chest. Family and guests will enjoy being beckoned into your home by soft, gentle lighting.

Consider the colors of your entryway. Does it blend with the other colors of your home? Many people use colors near an entryway that mimic the colors of the outdoors -- such as green or yellow or blue. This can give family and guests that they are bringing a bit of fresh air and sunshine with them as they enter the home. Light colors and small patterns can make a small entry way feel larger.

Often guests come through the front door, but family and close friends enter through other doors. Take some time to make the spaces inside and outside of these doors inviting as well. These areas won't be as elaborate as the space you create around your front door, but they can still be cheerful. This is also a good place to provide attractive but functional storage areas for shoes, raingear, etc.

In the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslett movie of Sense and Sensibility, the front entryway to the sisters' home had a rack with lovely gardening and household aprons on it. The girls grabbed one of the aprons when they went outside to plant flowers or if they needed to do some houshold chore. They quickly hung the aprons on these pegs whenever they saw that company was nearing.

I would love to have a railing of pretty aprons displayed openly near the kitchen doors, where my family enter the house. But, I haven't figured out a way to make that work with the space I have. Don't you think, though, that such a rack would be a lovely, inspiring, homey touch to a family entryway?


Monday, October 02, 2006

Castille Soap

In one sense, my mom was "green and clean" in the days before the "green" movement brought back gentle houshold cleansers. She was a huge fan of Castile soap, which I saw listed as a very safe and non-toxic "green" household cleanser. (She was a fan of old-fashioned Octagon soap to get stains out of white clothing, too, but that's another story).

Though my mother used it, I never knew exactly what Castille soap was. According to Wickipedia, the name "castile" soap has come to mean soap that is made from vegetable oil rather than animal fat. Sources that have been used in castile soap are coconut oil, olive oil, hemp, jojoba oil, and almond oil. Another source says that it dates back to the 9th century, when people in Castille made soap out of olive oil. Imagine! It goes back that far.

I would imagine that pure, olive oil-based castile soap was what Mom and other women of her generation used.

Since I can't remember exactly what mom did with her trusty bars of castile soap, I looked up some cleaning recipes on the Internet.

Here's an all purpose home cleaning recipe using castille soap from a site called Loretta's place:
"Use liquid castile soap and baking soda or Borax in different ratios. Use a little soap and soda/borax with lots of water on floors, walls and counters. Use more soap, soda/Borax for tubs sinks, cat boxes, anything that can be well rinsed."

Here's a recipe from the same site for washing pets with castille soap to rid them of pests:

"Fleas and Ticks
Wash pets with castile soap and water, dry thoroughly, apply an herbal rinse made by adding 1/2 cup fresh or dried rosemary to a quart of boiling water (steep for 20 minutes, strain and cool. Spray or sponge onto pets hair, massage into skin. Let air dry, do NOT towel dry as this removes the residue of the rosemary."

Here's a substitute for bacterial handsoap from Nature Moms:

Fill pump dispensers with Castile Soap, add essential oil of lavendar.

One caveat: Though castile soap is a very safe, non-toxic soap to use for humans and for household items, it is very high in PH. Thus, it can be drying to the hair. One article I read suggested that it not be used as a shampoo.