Sunday, May 31, 2009

Celebration time

This has been such an amazing year of school. Our homeschool group at church (we just got together this year and started one), has been a huge support system for me and the kids.
last night we had our end-of-the-year party. A couple of my friends even made hard-covered yearbooks for each family! I love the way we have all been together enough that the children are comfortable with all the adults. I held other children tonight as much as my own. This year has been better than I even hoped!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The LJ fan club

Thursday was my girl's last day of Mother's Morning Out. For the beginning of the party, the teacher let the kids play on the indoor playground with the parents. The most interesting thing happened to me, a first for me as a Mommy. It began with a Mom asking me if I was Lydie's Mom. She told me her little boy liked to dress up and pretend to be "Lydie Joy" at night. He had been playing this game with her on a daily basis. Odd, but sweet and interesting. Then, another Mom came up and told me her daughter insisted on a particular pair of sandals at Target to "look like Lydie Joy". Oh my, is this a pattern? Later, Lydie's best friend's Mom told me that all Hayley could talk about was Lydie, and another parent nearby agreed that her child was the same way. Apparently she could have her own little fan club at preschool.

This girl of ours. She makes her mark. I'm thinking there are two possible outcomes here. Either she will be really overbearing or maybe there's a spot waiting for her on Broadway. Or maybe she'll be President one day, there's a third option. All I want is for her to take her larger-than-life personality and use it for God's glory. I pray she is as captivated by Him as her classmates seem to be with her!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Our new playroom

I posted about the boys helping me paint the other day. With their help, we primed and painted the room in two days. Then I moved the furniture and they helped to organize their toys. Doesn't it feel great to go through the toys and purge? We still need to spray paint the little table and chair (white) and put something on the big blank wall, but we are basically done.
This room is normally our dining room. It attaches to our family room and kitchen. So I wanted it to be neutral and simple. My Toot asked for a big mural on the wall. He loves our school room that is very bright. But for this room...I don't think so!

Before: After: This is the main wall seen from the family roomI made some inexpensive art for the wall. All three pieces cost $27. The canvases are 16x20. They were painted black. I enlarged some black and white photos and adhered with Mod Podge. Then I hot glued embellishments. I am pleased with the way it turned out.

Another view. The light from the chandelier produces a glare on the art work, but still, I had to remove the shades for more light. This room only has one window. Plus, I love the look of a chandelier without shades.
The big blank wall. Haven't decided what to do with it. See the red and green table and chair that need the white spray paint?
This room has already been worth the trouble. The kids have played with their toys more than ever. And, clean up is so much dragging toys up and down the stairs!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Preaching to myself

I have a bit of a bump in the road with one of my children here lately. He seemed to be directing some unexplained anger towards me and I have been stumped as to the reason. More than stumped, I have been heartbroken over it. A few days ago I sat down with my most insightful friend and spilled my guts, so to speak. Here are the two things we came up with...

:::First born children seem to be the recipients of added stress. Not only do they feel naturally inclined to be protective care-takers, and sometimes rule-followers, BUT they also often bear an unreasonable amount of responsibility from their parents. These expectations can lead to tension. Also, if their personality is one that requires extra time (aka "high-maintenance personalities"), then we might not express the same adoration and laid-back qualities as we do with our younger children. Even though they are amazing, brilliant, admirable...they might not feel like WE think they are. We can't just enjoy them, but we must let them KNOW we enjoy them!

What to do?
~Delight in our children! Forget expectations, challenges, agendas and just enjoy!
~Reach out and touch them, look at them, stop what we are doing. They are never too old for our undivided attention and physical touch. And this first-born type will not ask for much. Just initiate! Ask self, "Do I look interested, pleased or just interrupted?"
~Spend time alone with them- maybe even a night of their choice!
~Pray often!

::When our children, especially boys, have earned extra freedom by showing they are trustworthy...give it! My friend used the analogy of footsteps. They take a step by consistent obedience, and we take a step by allowing added freedoms. If they do their part and we do not do ours, we will feel resistance. They have proven trustworthy, and we have not. It makes them angry, even if they can not articulate the reasons. Besides, later they might not be able to handle freedom as teens if it has not been a gradual process of trust, obey, trust....

What to do?
~Recognize their successes.
~Do not expect their obedience to be perfect. Is ours? Recognize even their progress.
~Remember respect is important to boys, much like it is to men. When there are consequences, talk privately. Don't belittle, speak or push irresponsibly. Just lay it all out and then follow through. Offer prayer and encouragement. We're walking together here towards Christ. We're on the same team.
~Offer examples of our own struggles. I firmly believe that respect is not lost when we apologize or share our own sinfulness. I believe much respect, love, and hope is gained in a young boy's heart during these tender moments. My son is getting past the age of just obeying with his hands and mind. His heart is involved more than before. I am his authority. But, I am also a fellow sinner saved by grace. We have so much in common. Meet on common ground.

"A flurry of accomplishments will not get us happily across life’s finish line. Tasks are not the purpose nor the priority. If to-do lists are what compels us, inevitably, we’ll stumble. Because that’s not the essence of family life.
The essence of family life is the care of souls. "

My own parenting motto (used when I find how broken, fallen I am):

There is now "no more condemnation for those who are in Christ", only conviction with the point of sweet restoration.

*So now I quit feeling like a loser for what I have missed/how I have failed, and I move forward, by God's grace.

Praying today that God would be glorified, working through me, in spite of me, in our home. Let me know if I can pray for you, too!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Flanders fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie?
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Notes from a good day

Today was the type of Saturday that hasn't come along in a while. Everyone was healthy and rested. Our agenda was completely blank. The day started with breakfast made side-by-side with my husband. Some women are territorial with their kitchens. On the contrary, I love company when I cook. After an hour or so of lounging, me with a puzzle, Andy with the newspaper, and the kids with books and toys, we decided to head to the local farmer's market.
The farmer's market was busy and full of interesting sights and people. We bought a few things and played in the town square. Then we decided to have lunch out, at a new place, an Australian bakery. I love to try new foods with the kids, and all of our lunches were delicious.

During Lydie's nap, I went out to collect some items for an art project. The boys tried out the pool for the first time this year- not a big hit, too cold! But they all (including Andy) went in and underwater and are now part of the "carbonite club".

Dinner was fun with the usual chaos of all three children trying to talk over one another. Once one of them begins a story, the other one wants to add to it (because mostly all of their adventures are together these days), and the table vibrates with one big, loud voice. We are working on the "one at a time" rule. But their excitement is contagious. And I am enjoying their eagerness, just in case it fades with age. While the kids talked, Andy and I ate-Mexican food and sipped a Sweetwater, a great combination.

After dinner, the kids and Andy jumped on the trampoline while I cleaned the kitchen. I cracked the window so I could mix the laughter of the kids with the jazz music from the kitchen. I had to hand-wash the dishes, but I didn't mind. And a little while later, all the kids' toys were put away. Little hands, faces and teeth were washed. Bed time exercises and reading were done, along with a late devotion. And we left the kids with good books and soft light.

I have just finished an art project. Could there be anything more relaxing than painting with soft raindrops falling outside? Time for a movie, glass of tea, and a soft pillow and blanket shared with Andy. The perfect ending to the perfect Saturday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


My best friend's children- our closest buddies

What would we do without y'all?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reluctantly releasing control

It was so tempting to send the boys off with a movie or to the backyard. But I knew they were capable of helping me. And I am trying really hard to allow them to help me when they are able. So we all picked up paintbrushes together. We are transforming our dining room into a play room. I am giving up my "pretty room" (which was mostly untouched by little hands) and surrendering to the need for a playroom. Our school room downstairs will be solely for school, now. I just felt like I couldn't stand one more day of tripping over toys in the family room.

I can't describe how difficult is was for me to involve the boys in this project. Painting is hard and messy. And two energetic boys seemed like, well, a nuisance! But I began to think about how this could be a good activity for them. They could learn appreciation, dedication, and persistence. And, if I am committed to this home schooling gig, I know I need to take the time to patiently train them to do all the things around the house that I do. So, I bit the bullet, and asked them to join me.

I have never been so proud of a paint job. After a little practice, they were actually helpful (as opposed to just making extra messes!). And I began to wonder how many things they can really do/take responsibility for that I miss because I just want it I think if I have learned anything this year about parenting it is that the really good moments take sacrifice and patience. I need to pray for more and more each day!

"Patience is the companion of wisdom."
St. Augustine

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Boredom busters

The other morning I was late starting school (again). The boys were too sleepy to go outside and play, and to get out a big lot of toys didn't appeal to them because they were "on call" to start school whenever I beckoned. So, here's what Toot did:(He also had a hot wheel with a black square taped to it, which was all taped to the window itself.)

He made a toy store. In his little fifteen minutes of spare time, I am always most impressed with what he does. I guess maybe he is tired of these toys and saw a potential profit. Or maybe he just likes the idea of numbers and coins. But he had a good store going by the time we sat down for school. This is why I am struggling with what activities to choose for next year. This year we have done very, very little things. I think of Boy Scouts and piano and karate and tennis and all that we are not doing. But then again, sometimes it IS a really good thing to get a little "bored"!

The writing on the wall

Today we learned about Belshazzar and the infamous "writing on the wall". The kids made their own renditions on paper.Then, they started creating all kinds of chants and poems about Belshazzar and Daniel. I had them write down one of their own creations. Here they are:

Mene Mene Bellchazar.
If you were at golf you'd maybe get a par!
God said I really really want you,
what about your poo?
(silly, bodily function- infatuated Toot)

Mene, mene, Bellshazar,
you will die so far.
If you wish to fled,
you will definitely bled.
Now this is true,
you may get the flu.
God wrote on the wall,
you broke His law.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mr. Smart, Absent-Minded Professor

Toot loved exploring Savannah. In the picture, he is using a magnifying glass to look at rocks in the market. He cracked me up on the trolley tour because he missed half the city due to his fascination with the window. He rolled his trolley window up and down, using his mathematical brain to find the perfect heighth of the windshield for optimal wind current. He also loved climbing on and around the statues, touching every plant and rock in town, and playing hide and seek. I love to see his Papa and Uncle Rick's engineering skills coming through in his own personality. He is going to design and build great things one day, I think!
It was so much fun to think about our trip through the eyes of my little ones. I hope and pray we get to travel many, many times during their childhood. These trips make fun memories for all of us!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Little eager sponge

Jaybird's favorite activity from our trip was the trolley tour. He loved to hear stories about the history of the city. After each story he would say, "Mom, did you hear that? This is the most haunted city in the country!" or "Wow, a lot of wars were fought here, cool!" And then after we left the trolley he requested to walk to several of the monuments for a closer look.
This kid is a sponge for facts. He loves to learn new things and remembers them well. I hope all that he learned about Savannah, the oldest city in Georgia, will find a safe place in that big, smart noggin of his! I thoroughly enjoyed learning and talking with him on this trip!

"I stood agog in Lafayette Square in Savannah, amid brick paths, trickling fountains and dark trees hung with Spanish moss. Before me rose up a cathedral of linen-fresh whiteness with twin Gothic spires, and around it stood 200-year-old houses of weathered brick, with hurricane shutters that clearly were still used. I did not know that such perfection existed in America."
~Bill Bryson (The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America )

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Our sweet southern belle

While Andy went to business meetings, we enjoyed Savannah for a couple of days. I challenged myself to observe the town through the eyes of each of my children. I love being able to wisk them away on quick, last-minute trips like this one!

Lydie carried this magnolia bloom all over Savannah yesterday. She kept saying, "It mells so boo-tiful, Mama!" The way she looked (and smelled) is frozen in time for me. Her favorite part about this magical town was the beauty. She soaked it up and talked about it at every turn. I love that about her!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just back

...from my favorite city!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's day 2009

There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.
~Chinese Proverb

Sometimes I still can not believe that I am a Mommy. Even though I hear myself called by that name hundreds of times a week, I still wonder how and when we got here. Three kids, a boy that will soon be nine years old, and almost thirteen years of marriage! I am thankful for days like this to just attempt to absorb it all. I feel so honored!

"Behold, children are a gift from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
Psalm 127:3-5

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A quick trip

"Youth fades, love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; a mother's secret hope outlives them all." Oliver Wendell Holmes

What a fun overnight trip to my hometown. My sweet nephew turned 8 and we celebrated Mother's day early. Now we are home and unpacked and I am so thankful for new memories!

Friday, May 08, 2009

A surprise package

Today's mail was chocked full of encouragement. Somewhere between another graduation party invitation (we are honored, praise God for the wonderful teenagers we know that have grown into amazing adults entering this needy world), another precious get-well card for Andy, and the usual junk, the boys and I spied an oddly shaped brown envelope. The return address was from India. The letter was addressed to my middle son- first name only. What in the world? I confess, my husband took the envelope outside to open it, just to make sure there was no anthrax. No kidding. His idea, not mine.

But to our surprise, it was a thank you letter from the little boy who received our Operation Christmas Child box! He not only sent a letter telling us about his faith, family, and interests, but also a picture of his family. We just stared. There he was, and we had touched him some how. It lead to some exciting conversation and thoughts about how God is at work all over the globe. One of our desires for our little ones is for their education to include a more global perspective than I received as a child. I don't remember reading many books or watching many movies that were set in foreign countries. I only visited one foreign country- Ireland- before graduating high school. And I certainly never went on a mission trip, except a week of volunteering at a youth summer camp in downtown- which terrified me. I don't remember having any real regard or appreciation for different customs. It was all just, well, foreign. And as a result, I felt no connection with people who were different from me. What a sad, misrepresented, dull view of the world I had!

So this small glimpse into a people group that we may never visit, but we can befriend, is so wonderful for me, as both a parent and a fellow student. I want my children to have respect, interest, compassion, humility towards all types of people. I would love for them to join us on trips as a family and on short mission trips to far-away lands. But today we were all reminded that our God can use us right here. A little box of goodies, and look what we get in return! A pen pal, hope that the gospel is being spread across the globe, and a glimpse into another land. I saw this quote recently which says it all:

"I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within. "
~Lillian Smith

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The importance of art education

"Man is a maker. This is part of what it means to be in the image of our Creator God. As we learn to collaborate with Him, He confirms and mightily blesses the work of our hands...When we allow God to bestow His favor and beauty and delightfulness on the work of our hands, He makes artists of even the humblest among us." ~Leanne Payne

I love art. I love drawing, painting, arts and crafts, studying artists- the whole gamut. My boys have been a little reluctant to catch the fever, though. One loves to build, solve mazes, and put together puzzles. The other loves to tell stories and write. Neither seemed to really enjoy anything that requires a long amount of attention to detail.
I prayed about this little dilemma while I was planning for our home school year. After all, one of the big advantages of being their teacher is providing a tailor-made, individualized education. I thought maybe we could just stick with art history and minimize artwork projects.

After some research and prayer I decided to not only incorporate art projects into our curriculum, but also to do regular artists' studies and picture studies. We also have one drawing lesson a week. The boys go to our neighbor's house for art class once or twice a month, too. The reasons I chose to press forward and treat art with the same type of importance as math, reading, and writing are the following:

~Artwork reflects the creativity we are endowed with by our Creator God. We bring Him glory when we study His world and try to recreate it. We also see how majestic, enormous, and intricate His creation really is which inspires worship.

~Brain research confirms that art education strengthens student problem-solving and critical thinking skills, adding to overall academic achievement, school success, and preparation for the work world (aka their calling).

~Art classes provide opportunities for the advancement of creative skills useful in communication, writing and other areas.

~Artwork helps with fine motor skill strengthening.

~The arts teach us how to have respect for all types of cultures. It is a window into parts of God's world they may never visit. And, it is a bridge connecting our customs with others around the world, giving us a sense of humility and respect for different people groups.

~When working together on a project, students develop crucial skills in cooperative decision-making, leadership, clear communication, and complex problem solving .

~ Both artwork and writing are good mediums for learning to do things in a process. This type of work leads to patience, self-discipline, persistence, and the knowledge of how to make multiple revisions to create high quality work. In other words, art projects build character.

To my surprise, my boys have learned to enjoy our art projects. Although Toot would still rather play with his art teacher's rubix cube than participate in a complex art assignment, we are making progress. I have noticed that not only are they spending more time on the art projects that I assign, but they are drawing spontaneously almost on a daily basis. I am so glad that God gave me the insight to make artwork a non-negotiable part of learning in our home. Maybe one day they will love it as much as I do! But if not, they will surely reap some wonderful benefits along the way.

Pictures: Toot's drawing from movie night (Journey to the Center of the Earth), Jaybird's pasta lion made after studying Babylon and Daniel

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

An early summer reading challenge

Maybe it's because of the constant barage of rain and thunder, or maybe just the illnesses lately, but for one reason or another we are excited about the summer. In fact, the boys have read through their book lists for the school year, so yesterday we started "The Great Reading Challenge". (We have a dramatic flair for titles.) I thought I would share our idea in case some one else is thinking ahead as well.

First, I chose 100 books for each of the boys. I will share the titles in the next post. Some good sources for collecting a list are Heidi's blog, the Veritas Press lists, the Sonlight suggestions, and ambleside. I recommend reading books on the level of the grade they just completed. My boys can read a year ahead of grade level, but I want their summer reading to be fun and not too difficult. I put my list in order from the shortest to the longest books. This was the most time consuming task of all. Then I made a display (which doesn't have to be this elaborate, I was just desperate for an art project.) I would suggest displaying the list in a place where the kids will see it so they don't forget to read. Next, I went to the library and checked out the first 25 books on each list. Then I made up the rules:

1. When the kids have read 25 books they get a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese's with a friend.

2. Each book over 150 pages counts for 2 points. (I didn't choose any books over 200 pages.)

3. When the kids have read 50 books they get a trip to play mini-golf.

4. When the kids have read 75 books they get to rent a new Wii game for game night.

5. When the kids have read 100 books they get a trip to a local amusement park.

6. For every 25 after that I will continue to reward fun field trips.

My boys read 7 books (total) the first day! And I was inspired to challenge myself as well. I hope to read 1 book a week this summer. We are so excited! Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Looking backwards to see forwards

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”
~Rachel Carson

The past few days have been very encouraging to me. We have returned to our normal days, with less just-getting-by strategies, and more purposeful routine. And like every unforseen road the Lord takes us down, I am seeing a small glimpse into the lessons He has for me in this place. For one, this week the boys have reminded me, unknowingly, why I love this home schooling lifestyle.

It took me over half the school year to get used to the slower pace of home schooling. When Jaybird was enrolled in a private school last year, there was a constant flow of activities. Meetings or volunteer time on committees, extracurricular activities and lunches with friends after school dictated our calendar, not to mention the daily 20 minute commute (each way, twice a day) to school. A simple weekly trip to the library was even a difficult promise to keep. The life we had chosen for our family was busy and filled with things away from home. There was also a fair amount of good things, but our busyness was one of the negatives.

This year, it is not uncommon for the kids to finish school and chores and have 4 hours a day of time leftover. My children have never (not once!) complained or asked to return to the life we had before. But, to my surprise, I missed it for a while. I missed seeing my friends in the carpool line. I missed asking my best friend if she and the kids wanted to join us for a lunch date. I missed being part of a team. Now, we have friends over maybe once a week. We take "fun" homeschool classes (pe, lego club, etc.) once a week. We go on a field trip once a month. Other than that, we are mostly at home or doing things together as a family.

I think it really took me until December to come into my own with our choice. And now, I see our choice to walk this path (that is a little less traveled-no pun intended) as an excellent option for our boys. I could try to articulate why I feel this way, but instead I will share a list of observations from Monday until now.

Here are the things I have observed my boys doing that they did not do when life was busier:
Resting after lunch with a book, calming down at night with a book, waking up in the morning with a book >Writing their own manuscripts for books and movies>Making cards for people without prompting>Tasting honey suckles>Digging holes to see what's under the dirt>Stopping at the sight of a drop of dew on a clover and yelling, "Mommy! Come look at the diamonds!">Playing long enough in the creek to learn to skip stones for the first time
I am very thankful for this time for them to enjoy these normal, childhood activities. I think that many children who are in school all day long enjoy all of these things. But for us, I never made the time to just let them roam loosely when we were busier. These things take time, especially time at home. So I am only speaking of what works for us, and I never mean to insinuate that home school is a better option for any one else. It just feels good to finally feel at home with this new lifestyle. While I am actually working harder, our life is simpler and lighter. And while I do not believe this schooling option is for every family, it feels good to know it is good and right for us.

Hindsight's 20/20

We have had an eventful 7 days. Finally, the last couple of days have been back to normal. Praise God! Here are a few recaps of last week:

~Wednesday- A quick trip to take Andy to get an epidural for his back turned into 7 hours of chaos with the kids. First, the doctor accidentally made "a lumbar puncture" in his spinal cord. In his words, "His a-hole caught on fire!" Yes, it's nice to laugh in retrospect. That made the 15 minute appointment (with kids and books and blocks and noise in the waiting room) into a 2 hour trip. Have you ever taken a "nature walk" through a parking deck? Interesting.

Then, I stopped for take-out lunch to cheer Andy up, only to leave my wallet in the restaurant. I went to fill his prescriptions, only to find the doctor forgot to prescribe the back to the office we went. Did I mention I also forgot his insurance card? And finally, I dropped off disability papers for the doctor to sign with hopes of swinging by Andy's office and turning them in (before his paycheck suffered). But I was told it would take 7-10 days to "process" (aka get a signature) which lead me to a mixture of grovelling and crying that I'd rather erase from my memory altogether. The whole day we held our breath waiting for the possible side effects of the epidural mishap. The doctor said Andy might stand up and "have the worst headache of his life". But thankfully, and because God promises to not give us more than we can bear, we were spared.

~Friday was another bad day, unfortunately. BUT, it was mixed with humor, too. (In retrospect, of course.) Friday was our big day. We had an appointment with the orthopedist, which we had anticipated for 2 weeks. We came prepared with over a dozen questions. I won't recount the details of the appointment, but it can't be good when the first words out of the doctor's mouth are, "Well, you look terrible! (looking at Andy) But your wife sure looks good! (looking at me from head to toe and back up to head again) His unprofessional bedside manner just got worse and we learned nothing. Needless to say, we are getting a second opinion soon. Later, Andy was doing his combo of sit and stand that gets him through a meal at the dinner table. The cat got under him and, because we are dog people with a pet cat and have little tolerance for her (plus the bad day and all), he said, "Go away!" My two and a half year old Lydie responded without a pause, "Read some books!" Do you know the movie? It makes me laugh just to think that she can quote it! Here's a hint:
~Since then, life has improved considerably. Andy is getting better every day. He has had a couple of short outings and returns to work on Monday. We enjoyed a visit from Mimi this weekend and are blown away by the meals, yard work, and gifts we have received during this time. Andy received several cards just yesterday in the mail that were so touching. And I have never been so thankful for the every day graces of good health that we take for granted. Tomorrow I will begin posting on the fun memories we have made lately and some planning ideas for summer and school. Maybe we are finally on the mend!