Monday, February 28, 2011

my answer

My nine-year-old son is afraid every night.

OCD steals his peace, haunts his dreams, fragments his sleep.

Someone is going to put a spear through my bed.

If he lets his hand dangle on one side of his bed, or too close to the edge, something will come up from under his bed and chop it off.

He's sure someone is lurking in the hallway.  He tries not to look up.

If he doesn't turn over a certain number of times in his bed, something bad will happen.

No.....these aren't the thoughts of a child allowed too much cable TV.

We don't have cable.  And the Mom and Dad here never watch movies--rented or otherwise.  No time.

For six weeks, at his request, I laid down with him until he fell asleep.  It was how I could be the face of Jesus to a hurting boy, afflicted with an ugly disorder.

But I ended up falling asleep in there, finally emerging around 10:20 P.M. most nights, with a groggy body and a slew of chores to do.  It just wasn't working.  My sleep was fragmented by my two year old, as well.  And I had no down time.

Last week I told him I would merely pray, cuddle for a bit, and then leave the room, as I'd done for years.  Most of the nights since then, everything has gone relatively well, thank God.

There are problems in the middle of the night, too.  My husband started sleeping in the spare queen bed, so that when our son awakens at night, scared out of his mind, he would have a place to go that wouldn't involve him waking the baby.

Most nights he ends up with Daddy in the wee hours, sometimes so scared from a dream that he can't fall asleep unless he can touch Daddy's arm or shoulder.

Sometimes he can't fall back asleep because he's uncomfortable, but he fears if he shifts from his spot, a bomb will explode under the bed.

OCD has an ugly, cruel voice.

My sister-in-law, who had a son at age sixteen, told us recently that her son washed his hands incessantly and had horribly scary dreams as well, when he was our son's age.  As a young mother, she wasn't aware of OCD and didn't know to ask questions at the pediatrician's office.  Her son had other peculiarities growing up. He recently sought help, at age 33.  The diagnosis?  OCD and Bi-Polar Disorder.

He is single, lonely, depressed, dysfunctional.  He's never had a girlfriend, though he's always wanted one.  He would like to marry someday, but is terribly scared of dating.  He lacks personal confidence and suffers from social phobia.  He doesn't take his medicine, so he frequently experiences the slumps of Bi-Polar. He does manage to hold onto his job as an auto mechanic.  He's a good one.

My father-in-law, whom I've seen only twice in twelve years, is very peculiar. Since his wife's auto-accident death 36 years ago (husband's mother), he has remained a widower, though not by choice.  His peculiarities point to something neurological. He's estranged from his two kids (my husband and my sister-in-law), by his own choice.  He doesn't answer his phone or open letters, so we check on him via a neighbor.  He's in his mid-eighties.

When my husband and sister-in-law went down to Florida to see their Dad three years ago, after their Dad underwent hip surgery, things went awry with the relationship.  Their father got very upset that Lorrie cleaned his house while he was in the hospital.  It hadn't been cleaned in years.  He suspected she was looking for money, though distrust had never permeated the relationship before, as far as either child could tell.  Other strange things upset him that visit, causing a three-year silence from him.

The other night, my son's fear was great.

And I wasn't the face of Jesus.  I was irritated.  After battling two days of full-day headaches, I couldn't be the face of Jesus to anyone.  I was spent.

He went to sleep finally, after I angrily told him not to come out again.

But I felt horrible.  I wanted a do over.

He didn't choose the cards he's been dealt.  He doesn't know how to make OCD go away.

How will I have enough strength, enough grace, enough agape love, to be the face of Jesus, every day, to this boy--despite whatever else goes wrong in my life?

Everything points to my son having a dysfunctional, unhappy life.  Others before him, of the same blood, haven't faired well.  What makes me think God will spare my own son from the same earthly dysfunction, or worse?

My own husband, afflicted with, as far as I know, just regular inattentive-type ADHD, hasn't led a happy life.  At eighteen, husband was sure God was calling him to the ministry--either a pastoral position or a missionary one. He was so sure.

He spent five years in Bible College and a year in Seminary.  To get by while in school, he worked as a custodian.

Now 52, he still works as a custodian. He's haunted by that fact, every day. What went wrong?  How could he have felt so sure of God's voice, calling him to ministry?

The answer, I know, is to practice gratitude every day, despite how one's life turns out.  Despite deep disappointment, despair.  Despite walking a path not chosen.  Who knows whether certain paths result from our own mistakes, or because God preordained them for us?

When I'm called to comfort those I live with, over things hard to swallow, it's so difficult to say, "You have God and He is enough.  Our salvation is enough.  His grace is enough."

I say different forms of this same thing.  Over and over.  I don't know what else to say.  I don't have any other answers.

My answer may not work at the moment it's given.  Life entails ups and downs, for everyone.  In a deep down time, it sounds like the last thing even a Christian wants to hear.

But when a beautiful woodpecker appears at our feeder, it all makes sense.

In that moment.

The abundant life is lived in moments from God.  They are our grace.

When we give thanks for them, when we identify the moments as gifts from God, they carry us through to that glorious time....

...when Jesus takes our hand, receiving us in Paradise.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spelling City

Have you heard of the award-winning site, Spelling City?

If not, here are a few details:

- It's free.  For a few more perks, you can join for a modest fee, but it isn't necessary, trust me.

- You type in your child's list of spelling words, and the site uses those words to generate these options:

Spelling Test 
Vocab Test
Teach Me
Play a Game 
Printable handwriting worksheet using the words 
Write a sentence or paragraph using the words

- This site is incredible!  You will be both thrilled and amazed at the convenience and the technology.  It is multi-sensory, so all learners benefit!

- For public- or private-schooling families:  You can use the weekly spelling lists given by your child's teacher with this website.  You simply type in the weekly words, and the site teaches the words individually, generates multi-sensory practice games, gives meanings, and tests your child--keeping track of scores and previous lists.

- For homeschooling families:  You can use an individualized spelling program offered by the site, or your own word lists.  There are many types of lists available, including:

Compound Words
Dolch - Sight Words
Geography Lists
Homophones and Homonyms
Literature Based Word Lists
Monthly Holiday Lists
Phonics & Sight Word Curriculum
Popular Word Lists
Possessive Nouns
Sample Lists

Sound Alike Words
Word Abbreviations
SAT words, list 1 & 2

This post probably seems like an ad for the site, but really, it isn't.  I came across a reader comment on the Pioneer Woman's Homeschooling site that mentioned Spelling City, so I took the time tonight to peruse the site. So glad I did!

There are many aspects of education that simply cannot be automated, and thank goodness for that!  But if spelling and math automation truly helps students excel, I'm all for it.  There are still plenty of subjects left that require discussion and cooperative interaction.

jackpot on math, garden beds

Have you heard of the Teaching Textbooks math curriculum?  It's ideal for auditory learners, who happen to do very well with lecture.  Visual learners benefit as well!  I am switching Peter to this!  Just what we've needed! Ree Drummond, from The Pioneer Woman, does an excellent review of the program here, with photos.

Also, here is a picture tutorial for a raised garden bed, also from her site.

Friday, February 25, 2011

birds, squirrels, snow, gratitude

We're back to snow on the ground, which makes this Momma glad.  

For three days last week, the ground was clear.......and muddy.  Each romp outside led to two loads of laundry.  Forgive me for thinking of the weather in terms of how many loads of wash it entails, and how many vacuumings.

The fluffy white stuff fell for two days, pretty steadily.  This squirrel found a cookie sheet of seed buried under the snow on the kids' picnic table.

He was so happy, having hit the jackpot!  He ate and stuffed his cheeks for a half hour!

He took a break, once, for a drink from our pond.  Oh....I mean our sandbox. The kids forgot to put the lid back on.  They're quite thrilled to see it become a bird and squirrel watering area.  Whatever we can do to help our friends is okay with me.

Who knew I'd suddenly become so enamoured of squirrels, that I'd stand at my window and take an insane number of pictures of their antics?  I just can't get over this guy digging in the snow like a dog, looking for the seed he completely ignored for a week, when it wasn't covered with snow.

So, with a snow-covered yard again, we're back to indoor fun, most days.  Like oatmeal cookie making.  And dough eating, despite my egg warnings.

Forgive me for the sight of our cookie sheets!  I finally replaced these old things, just yesterday.

The Lincoln Logs have been a hit this week.  The cowboys, pictured here, have metal cars, in addition to their horses.

When snow covers the ground, and some days are too cold to venture out, they run around the circle created by the dining room, entry way, living room and kitchen.  Thank goodness for that circle!

Since I last wrote about birds, we've put up a suet feeder.  Here is a friendly nuthatch, come to visit.  Beautiful!  A downy woodpecker was also spotted in this tree, but he didn't come to the suet.  You can put bacon grease in a used yogurt container and nail it to your tree for a suet feeder.  Add seed to the grease, or not.  The birds really need the fat this time of year.

We also added a peanut butter-and-seed-covered paper towel roll, which is holding up well considering the weather. It's a week old here.  The peanut butter is holding it together.

Here we have some cowbirds (or is that a starling beak?), come to fatten up.  At one point, five of them were eating at a time.

Mommy just couldn't get over that squirrel!

Here they are, last week, enjoying their bikes.  I really need to get my littlest sweetie a tricycle.  She is a tiny thing, but in the 75% for height, so maybe her feet will reach the pedals of something.

Quote of the week:  Momma:  "Make your beds quickly!  The plumber is coming in twenty minutes."

Mary:  "Can I show the plumber how nicely I made my bed when he comes?"

Friday Gratitude

- For helpers doing more and more around the house, so Momma has time for stories during the day, and board games, and cookies.

- For Paul, saying the past two mornings, "This has been a great morning!"  He loves the feeling of us all working together to make the house neat and tidy.

- For Barney's Farm, one of the best videos ever made for children.  It contains a myriad of songs my two year old loves!  She previously never watched a stitch of anything.  When she does the motions for When Your Ears Hang Low, I'm so tickled.  And every time the square dances come on, she comes to get Momma for a lively time, kicking up our heels together.  Yeehaw!  I think my favorite lines, and hers too, are  "Who knows how to waddle all around the farm?  Quack, quack, quack!  The duckies do!"  She puts her hands under her armpits, flaps them, gets down low, and waddles!  Oh, how I love two year olds!

- My perm, to disguise my limp hair, happens in a week.  I'm so thrilled!  Just resting for two hours and being taken care of, will be a blessing.  I plan to bring Ann's book.

- My Mary is learning her letters in a most unusual way.  Paul loves to spell words with the foam bath letters.   Lately, he's taken to asking Mary for the letters he needs, as though she were Vanna White, his lovely assistant.  (My Mary is lovely, IMHO)  He does it on purpose, to help Mary learn.  In the past two weeks Mary has learned five more letters!  As she gives him a letter, she'll ask me, "What things are for G?"  I then name as many G words as I can.  This is great fun at bathtime!  Beth loves to get in on it, holding up letters for me to name.  Whatever big sister does, Beth does!  Mary is her heroine.

- When the children list their prayers, it gives me insight into their thoughts and worries.  Both Paul and Mary have prayed about Peter's behavior, which can be erratic.  I needed the reminder to pray for them, as they learn how to live and play with a special-needs brother.  Life is more complicated for them as siblings, then it otherwise would be, though they both love their Peter and enjoy his imagination.

- For the privilege of mothering.

- For the way God provided for me, a desperate mother, twenty-six months ago, when I was having so much trouble nursing my newborn, Beth.  How I've loved our nursing relationship over these past two years.  How Beth has loved it, and still does.  I hope someday to help mothers look into the future, those first newborn weeks.  Yes, this seems impossibly hard now, but the memories you'll make, the good you'll do, are worth the tears.  Some women want to so badly, but just need loving encouragement and someone to be strong with them, for them.  It's so hard to walk the nursing road alone, if family and husband don't support. It most certainly does not happen naturally, most of the time--although hospital birth experiences may hinder what God intended, those first hours.  I've often thought about what God was thinking, when he made the beginning nursing relationship so hard.  I know it's part of the childbearing-pain curse--from Eve--but what else was on His mind?  

- For God allowing me this writing time, to chronicle motherhood, and spiritual awakenings and whispers.  

- For the nice plumber, who didn't mind three of my kids watching him, fascinated, use his loud snake thingy, which for $130 solved all our drain woes.  Oh, a working tub drain again!  I'm thrilled! 

- For Peter saying this morning, "Wow, between you and Paul and me, we're going to have this place so clean, we won't even have to prepare for Lorrie's visits!"  He remembers that each time an overnight guest comes, Momma does hours and hours of cleaning, which stresses the family.  They like the money they're earning for extra chores, yes, but the sense of accomplishment and team-work feel?  That is thrilling them more.  I'm so grateful.....I didn't want to turn them into mercenaries!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Family Prayer Time

I'm experimenting with writing in bulk more, and pre-scheduling posts to publish at 8:00 AM in the mornings, so that I take a computer break on the same day the children do--leaving the computer off completely on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.  I'm not sure the post-scheduling Blogger feature is working properly this week though.  Hopefully, this entry will post Thursday at 8:00 AM.

I pray with my children....

...before each meal.
...before a special event.
...when someone expresses a fear.
...when someone complains of a physical ache.
...when our day is going poorly--as in, I'm pulling my hair out!
...when I tuck each child in at night.

Different times in our parenting years, we've tried structured family prayer time.  It works quite well when just Mommy, Daddy, and the two boys are present.  During those times we used the ACTS acronym, with Daddy opening the prayer, followed by each person contributing something as we go through each part separately (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).

Put the girls in the mix and things always fell apart--very little actual praying, much irritation, some tears.

Now that Beth is two and Mary is four, both girls will color, draw, or paint at a table long enough for us to have reasonably-structured corporate prayer. Mommy and Daddy are still a bit frazzled, but God is honored and everyone participates. Afterwards, we all feel great.  Rejuvenated.  Confident.

The only problem is, Daddy is absent from our home most of the time.  That leaves me filling in the gap, seventy percent of the time.

Recently, I came up with a plan--or rather, God put a plan in my head.  And it's working!  Let me first say, I do believe God loves any family attempt at corporate prayer.  And shame on us for not doing it consistently!

But this Momma needed some way to make it saner, so this is what we've been doing:

The kids and I all have notebooks in front of us at the dining room table--yes, including the two girls.  We make three columns on our page--one for thanks, one for people, one for things.

The boys and I make at least two entries under each column.  Mary, age four, dictates her prayer requests to me, and I write them in her columns. She then colors, draws or paints on another piece of paper, until it's her turn to pray.  I just verbally remind her of her requests, when her turn comes.

Beth, age two, just scribbles on her notebook page.  When it's her turn to pray, she bows, folds her hands, and says whatever, and we understand a portion of it.  God gets every word, though, and that's all that matters!  :) She's happy to do it.  If she's too wiggly or screams to get out of her booster before we're done, I give her some coveted food to munch on, like cheese.  (Yes, I'm shameful that way.)

Peter, who sound spells and cares about ideas, writes a lot.  Paul, a perfectionist, spends way too much time making his list--worrying about the spelling, penmanship, and grammar, despite my insisting that these are lists, not sentences.  I've learned that Paul needs to start his "lists" before the two year old is called to the table.  She doesn't have the patience for long writing sessions.

Once everyone has at least two entries in each column, I open the prayer and we go around the table, taking turns talking to Jesus about the two or more things on our page, from the column we're on.  Because there are three columns, we go around the table three times.  Then, Momma or a volunteer closes the prayer.

I love it!  And in the future, I look forward to adding more columns, starting with one for confession.

We date our entries and draw a line under them, so that the same page can be used the next day, if there's room.  When a prayer has been answered, we'll circle it on our page.  Later, when we have some things circled, we'll do a brief "praises" component, in which we tell everyone how God answered yes.

On the days Daddy can participate, he both opens and closes the prayer. And as our spiritual leader, my husband also reads from the Bible after the breakfasts he's here for.  Also, two nights a week, he arrives home just after the boys' tuck-in time, and prays with them (around 9:15 p.m.).

Studies show that children will take these spiritual practices with them, through life, if the man of the home leads them.  The same goes for church attendance.  Husband and I are cognizant that my solo contribution doesn't yield as much fruit, but my leading seventy percent of the time, and husband leading thirty percent of the time, seems better than the children only participating in these spiritual practices a couple days per week, when husband is available for leadership.

The best spiritual yield for children, studies suggest, is when both Mom and Dad are present for church services, and for home spiritual practices. This article helps illustrate the importance of Dad's spiritual leadership.

Here are some prayer entries from my nine year old, from earlier today:
Thanks column:  for pretty snow, sledding, trees
People column:  for salvation for Richard and Elizabeth, Grandma and Grandpa, Elena's family
Things column:  for a hermit crab, for caterpillars this year, for bullfrogs

My seven year old prayed....
Thanks column:  for my high score in multiplication, that Peter played a board game with me
People column:  for Peter to read without OCD problem, to heal Mommy's headaches
Things column:  for warmer weather, for pretty birds

My four year old prayed...
Thanks column:  for Aunt Lorrie, sailboats, water, Mommy, Peter
People column:   for Beth to be good, for Peter to be good
Things column:  for a new soccer ball, for a clothesline

After the lists are made, the prayer part only takes about 10 minutes.

Matthew 18:20 

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

learning styles

I wanted to include some quick notes about learning styles, as a post script to my Leapfrog Twist and Shout Multiplication post.

Three learning styles have been identified:  visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), and tactile-kinesthetic (doing)

If you are unsure of your style, or of your child's style, check out this learning styles quiz.

- Unless a learning disability is present, all of us can learn through any style.  However, it's far easier to learn when information is presented in our dominant style.

- We are born with a dominant style, which emerges after the preschool years.

- There is frequent overlap in learning styles (for some people more than others).

- As young children, we are all tactile-kinesthetic learners, which is why preschool should be unstructured and hands-on.

- Visual learners make up 65% of the population.

- Auditory learners make up 30% of the population.

- Tactile-kinesthetic learners make up 5% of the population.

twist and shout multiplication/auditory learners

Just ordered this Leapfrog Twist and Shout Multiplication, for multiplication fact memorizing (and some division).  Seems like the perfect thing for auditory learners!  Anyone have one at home?

children and chores--what's working

I've seen many posts on managing children's chores, and plenty of pre-made charts and gadgets advertised to make it all easier.  The money was never there to invest in these things, and I never found the time to make anything permanent or durable.

We've tried different lists over the past few years, including paid chores and unpaid chores.  But each time, life with littles undermined consistency.

Still, the boys have made their beds and put their dirty clothes in the hamper for the past two years.  But guess what?  They still need reminding some days; it isn't automatic yet!  For that matter, flushing the toilet and washing hands afterwards isn't consistent yet either.  I've found that teaching boys hygiene and personal chores is quite the endeavor!

Rather than try another list of pre-set chores, I decided to retain just the two unpaid bed and hamper chores, and add others as needed, for the opportunity to make money.  There are times I really need help with different things, like right now.  I want a system that works for me.

My boys will have the burden of supporting their families someday.  To prepare them, we need to teach them to exert themselves, even when they don't feel like it.  They need to have a yes attitude toward opportunities for work.

And my girls too, for that matter.  Caring for a home and family is hard work, starting right after the honeymoon.  The pressure on a wife is not as burdensome as that on a husband--nobody forecloses on your home if you fail to clean it properly--but her work ethic needs to be strong.  She can't eat the bread of idleness and still hope to bless her family.

After the fall in the Garden of Eden, God made work the main theme of our lives.  Children should enjoy their childhood's, true, but we can't shield them from what real life entails: work!

These thoughts swirling in my head, I decided to try something new.  I put a piece of plain white paper on the fridge with a column for each of the three older children.  When a need arose, I asked who wanted to do the chore, and I gave my offering price. If more than one child responded, I split the money--only crediting children who did a nice share of the work, without complaining.

Each time a chore was completed, I listed the date, chore and the money due, on that child's column.  No one has been paid yet because I don't carry money--just my bank card!  At the end of each month, I'll make sure I have the dough in hand, ready for pay day.

Here is what the chart looks like right now:

Paul, age 7
2/6, inside windows, $2.50
2/7, folding pajamas, whole family, $.35
2/9, checking mail in snow, $.10 (I don't pay for this chore if the weather is good.)
2/10, vacuum living room, $.15
2/18, clean yard, $1.00
2/19, help with Beth, $.10
2/22, clean whole playroom, $.20

Peter, age 9
2/14, fold towels, $.15
2/19, fold towels, $.15
2/20, vacuum playroom, $.10
2/22, vacuum hall, entry way, living room, $.20

Mary, age 4
2/15, put sleds away, $.10
2/18, help clean yard, $1.00
2/20, help clean up Legos sister dumped, $.05
2/22, help clean playroom, $.10

As you can see, Peter and Mary got into the game later than Paul.  It impressed them that brother was earning so much money, so they decided to exert themselves.

In fact, Peter decided to let Momma know he was open for business.  He made up a cardboard sign yesterday, with an open and closed flap taped to the bottom:

Get vacuming, folding, clening windos, garuding (gardening), clening rooms dun here.
Prise list: 
folding 10 cents
clening rooms 50 cents
gardening 25 cents
vacuming 25 cents
clening windos 10 cents 

Every time I pass his sign, I smile and want to squeeze him.  So cute!  (Except that we just reviewed done last week as a sight word, and I thought he mastered it.  For some reason he can spell them orally, better than on paper.)

I'm having fun with this system, and I'm impressed with their developing work ethics.  No more nagging or complaining!  As far as the money goes, well....I know that is controversial.  My conscience is at peace with this.

Another thing they must learn about is money management.  Learning to put aside 10% for church tithe and 5% for savings will serve them well in the years to come.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

elementary literary choices

I stumbled across this 1000 good books list while reading a review of a Jigsaw Jones mystery.  I perused the list for elementary 4-6 and was very impressed with the thought and effort put into the compilation of this resource, offered by a group of 25 homeschooling mothers.  It's well worth your time to click over there.

Also, you might find this site useful, which levels children's books for you with just a title.  Just mark the parent box at the front page, and then on the next page you type the title of the book, or the title of the book series.  It brought up the whole series when I typed "Jigsaw Jones Mysteries".  BL stands for book level.

Keep in mind that if a book is within your child's interest level, it could be anywhere from several months below grade level to a year or so above grade level.  As long as kids are reading a good portion of their material at or above their grade level, a few lower books aren't going to matter.  The bulk of a student's new vocabulary words come from your read alouds, which should be two grade levels above your child's reading level, or higher, depending on interest level.  Never abandon the read alouds!  They work to increase vocabulary even in high school students.

Now, about that Jigsaw Jones mystery review I searched for.  Here is an excerpt from it, relating to one of the books:

The first thing I didn’t like about it was the use of the word, “Yeesh,” throughout the book by the main character. This was just part of a slightly bad attitude that showed towards his teacher. After the teacher reads a couple love poems, the main character thinks, “Give me a break, I mean who talks like that anyway? Yeesh.”
 I want to instill a love and respect for Shakespearean literature in my children. This book is counterproductive to that end.
Further, the teacher instructed the class to write their own love poems. The character thought, “Me? Write a mushy, gushy love poem? Oh brother.” I want my children to do what their teacher says and I want them to do it cheerfully with a good attitude.

I looked for reviews because I brought home four Jigsaw Jones mysteries from our library, hoping to move Peter beyond this OCD reading slump by offering a faster-paced, shorter book.  While the Boxcar Children are definitely good books, some of them contain slow moving chapters, which can frustrate an afflicted boy struggling to get through least right now.

Some writers are experts at weaving a tale, others are good at structuring sentences or writing dialogue, and still others are good at pacing.  Rarely will you find mastery of all the elements constituting good fiction. When you do find it, it's usually in the later works of a prolific author really interested in the writing craft, and not just the selling market.

I have a unique dilemma with my Peter.  In order for him to approach conventional spelling, I need to use a solid spelling program consisting of sound families and sight word review.  More importantly however, I need him to read a large amount of print.  If he's not seeing the sound families over and over in context, as well as the sight words, his spelling woes will continue.  Isolated spelling lessons aren't enough practice for strong auditory learners, IMHO.

Similarly, a chapter or two a day of required reading isn't going to move him much further either, in terms of spelling mastery.  I need volume from him right now, without pushing it on him.  Without any pressure.

So, can I really deny Peter a fast-paced, enjoyable book--one he'll be glad to devour--just because it contains the word "yeesh"?  Or because the character dislikes love poems?  I wish I could!  I don't adore fluff literature any more than the next mother, but I'm committed to helping my children get hooked on books, for many compelling reasons, as long as their own character isn't compromised.

Junie B. Jones--a character many Christian mothers despise--doesn't offend me because I think the author makes it clear that Junie B. is not to be emulated--she's no hero.  She's so silly and naughty and out of touch, that she's funny in an Amelia Bedelia kind of preposterous way.

I would be bothered by a sassy character my own child was encouraged to emulate or look up to.  Whether that character is the boy from the Jigsaw Jones series or not, I can't tell yet.  I've decided to have Peter read the first book aloud to me (since he's reading aloud anyway, right now), so I can neutralize any less-than-stellar aspects of the characters' personalities.  If by the end of the book I'm not comfortable, we're back to the drawing board.  It seems to me that Peter was affected by this OCD thing for about a month the last time.  If I can just keep him reading through this one....

Hopefully we can go back to the Boxcar series after this.  Since many of that series were written decades ago, the kids are respectful in a Laura Ingalls Wilder kind of way.  Times have indeed changed, and not to the advantage of discerning parents. This whole reading material thing is one very tedious issue!  I love me some picture books!  It was so much simpler when my kids were younger!

It's my responsibility, and my pleasure, to expose my children to great works of literature, but I don't expect them, at ages 7 and 9, to choose only classics for their pleasure reading.  I certainly wasn't choosing Charles Dickens-caliber books when I was nine years old.  In fact, I didn't start reading for pleasure at all until the fourth grade, with my run of Nancy Drew mysteries.  That hooked-on-books miracle helped me excel in school for years to come.  There's no question that reading a lot changes things.

The mother quoted above goes on in her review to make some solid points, to her credit.  She is obviously a very caring mother.

Monday, February 21, 2011

a day of grace

I'd been working so hard lately, really trying to bless my family with socks, underwear, and pajamas always in their drawers, bathroom sinks and toilets always clean, a dusted-vacuumed-straightened living room, and wood floors free of long-standing crumbs.  My youngest had been playing with her sister more, and keeping herself occupied with beloved bathroom chores, like pottying and brushing teeth.  There was simply more time to devote to household chores, and just as that happened, God worked with me on living more sacrificially to bless my family.

If anyone noticed the cleanliness and orderliness of the house, they didn't say anything, except for Peter, who mentioned that the laundry containers were remaining relatively empty.  It's possible that only Peter shares my affirming-words love language, so I don't really expect compliments from my housemates.  My husband is not an especially appreciative man, but neither is he critical.  The worst kind of husband for me would have been a critical, sharp-tongued man.  I can count on one hand how many times my husband has criticized me in the last twelve years.  So, I feel loved enough by my fellow earthlings, and it helps knowing that God is pleased when I use my time unselfishly.

Right about the time we arrogant humans think we're pretty hot stuff--making progress and all--God mixes it up a bit.  Have you noticed that?

My two-year-old is now in the midst of a molar-teething frenzy.  She's getting more miserable by the day, as one second-year molar prepares to break through the gum.  The three other molars are all in different stages of readiness, below the gum.  I can't even take a shower without her crying uncontrollably.  She doesn't want me out of her sight for long, and she's back to waking quite frequently at night.

Further, although she still loves to brush her teeth, there's a lot less independent pottying going on.

And the house?

It's going downhill again, despite my stronghold on new routines.

The other night I actually had to leave the kitchen in a colossal mess over night, after overcooking a large chicken in the crockpot, because Beth woke up twenty minutes before the chicken was due to be done, and in settling her back down, I fell asleep for an hour. (Husband gets home very late most of the time.)

I jolted awake, smelling the chicken.  Rushing to the kitchen, I feared the worst.

Yes, that's right.  Dry, dry, dry.  The thing was actually boiling--on low!

Just as I finished separating the meat from the bone, and started some bone broth on the stove, Beth woke up again!

I gave up, people!  This was the third wake-up before midnight.  I put the meat in the fridge and decided to call it a night.  My face and teeth were already clean, thankfully.

This chicken and messy-kitchen fiasco occurred on the eve of my PMS ride, and that certainly didn't help my dejected frame of mind.  Frustration abounded as I went off to bed with my hurting sweetie.

It felt like the walls were crumbling down.  (I know...forgive the melodramatic in me right now.)

Powerless....that's how I felt.

Much of the last two years, I've felt powerless.

Life was getting a little saner on the homemaking front, and now this whole teething thing!  Suddenly, I couldn't even cook a chicken right!

Every person here, except for me, just loves meat....especially chicken. While I eat meat regularly, I've always been neutral to it.  Not so, my housemates.  They didn't notice a cleaner house, but dry, yucky chicken, they would notice.  And the kids would definitely say something about it.  "This chicken is terrible!", is what I expected to hear the next day.  Not even soup would revive it, I feared.

To top it all off, in my haste to leave the kitchen and quiet my fussy child, I put the gas burner on level 4 for my 24-hour broth.  I usually put it on level 2.

My husband woke at six in the morning, detected a really strong chicken odor, and went to investigate.  All the broth had boiled away!  What a waste of nine dollars, for a hormone and solution-free chicken!  It was pretty much worthless now, except that my husband loves chicken enough to eat it dry.

Don't you love that kind of man?

All this wordiness to say.......we don't live on our own merit.  If we're good at something, it's God.  If we're failing at something.....well, that's usually God too.

I guess I was getting prideful about having a clean house?  And getting too involved in keeping it that way, at the expense of time with my children?

Aren't you glad God tends our hearts so well?

I'm so grateful for his pruning ways!

My husband felt sorry for me the next morning.  He read my dejected heart and knew what the two culprits were.  While he couldn't do anything about my hormones, he did delay his work departure and amuse our teething toddler for an hour, while I set the kitchen to rights.

He got less sleep that night as a result of his later start.  But I felt cherished and understood, and that was priceless to both of us.

I managed to smile through my day, remembering his kindness.

It was God's grace.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
1 Corinthians 2:5

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sock Puppet Tutorials

Multiple choice questions for you.  

1.  Why would I show you a picture of freshly laundered hats, mittens and scarves?

A.   I am pulling a Pioneer Woman move and offering a Cleaning-Out-My-Closet Giveaway.

B.   I wanted you to guess which items belong to which child.

C.   All the snow melted here, and these long-lost twenty pieces were found plastered to the soppy grass. 

Answer:  C  
The little people around here can't be bothered, apparently, to bring in their gear after romps in the snow.  This store of items accumulated outside over the last six weeks!

2.  Why would I show you a picture of this adorable, yet sadly mis-designed sock puppet Peter put together while I nursed Beth to sleep?

A.  My kids asked me to show it to you.

B.  I wanted to illustrate why we could be featured on the "Un-Crafty Crow".

C.  I spent forty-five minutes searching the Internet for directions on how to properly design a sock puppet.  Because I like you so much, I wanted to show you examples of both the proper and improper way to make yourself a child-delighting sock puppet.....just in case you're without a vehicle and in the house with four young kids, hours and days on end--meaning you're desperate for activities that don't involve them running through the house like wild hooligans.

Answer:  C

After my intensive study, I decided to follow this photo tutorial, involving a glue gun, an oval piece of cereal-box cardboard, and an oval piece of felt, to make a Kermit-the-Frog start for my children's awesome sock puppets. They get to do all the fun stuff--raiding my craft supply in the process!

Here are some decorating ideas and other tutorials:

The Lady from Sockholm sock puppet

Wikihow Make a Sock Puppet Video

Sock Puppets from Danielle's Place

If I, a very uncrafty mother, can do this, so can you!  It's a skill that will "bless the socks off" your kids for years to come!  Think of the possibilities! Puppetry, or any type of theatre, is a fun and very effective way to develop language skills in your children!  All ages will benefit.

Next week, we'll look at homemade puppet theatre possibilities!

Friday, February 18, 2011

a step backwards

My Peter is once again experiencing OCD symptoms while he reads.  As before, his brain is telling him he's skipping words.  In order to make that right, he repeats words and phrases about every other sentence, making reading a laborious chore, rather than a pleasure.  It's suddenly difficult to get him to read three chapters a day, whereas before he read two to three hours a day, depending on our event schedule.

He also suddenly tracks with his finger and reads aloud again--both of which he'd grown out of.  He tells me these things help him read all the words.  Despite my assurances that he's a great reader and no problems exist, he believes the voice in his head--at least while the book is in his hand.

Should this reading problem continue to arise, Peter will need OCD medication to get through college, if he chooses to obtain a degree.  The volume of required reading will simply be too much, if he has to plod along like a stuttering, beginning reader.

I'm wrestling with God over this, as I did last time.  It's so painful to witness. He's also washing his hands excessively again, making them chapped and prone to bleeding.  No new stresses have arisen here, so I can't attribute it to that.

I force myself to think of the Book of Job, when I'm plagued by the "Why, God?" question.  There is a purpose.  Maybe it's just the sin curse and nothing more, but that's too frustrating to consider.  I want to believe instead that something glorious awaits my son--as it did in Job's life.

After God's long talk with him, Job replied,

Job 42:2-6 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.  You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.'  My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." 
How does it end for Job?  
Job 42:10-11 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.  All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house.  They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. 
Job 42:12-13 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.  He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.  And he also had seven sons and three daughters.
 Job 42:16-17 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.  And so he died, old and full of years.

I don't have the benefit of God's presence or of his tongue-lashing.  But I do know He feels the same way about my arrogant questioning.  It's simply not acceptable for the created to question the Creator.  

And so I dwell on Job's latter life.

Maybe it's not likely Peter will have fourteen thousand sheep (although...he does want to be a farmer).  But there will be something.  I can count on that.

Some blessing awaits my precious son.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

outside my window....inside my heart

Thought you might enjoy the show God put on here the past couple days. 

Our eyes have been peeled to the window, looking for birdie friends, or squirrel friends.......

.....and God said yes!

Our first feathered friend?  A chickadee!  And, oh how pretty!   He's enjoying our peanut-butter-and-seed covered pinecone.

The best investment for kids' art is simple watercolors.  Oh, how I love thee.  Far less mess and fuss.  I can say yes every time!  
While I nursed Beth to sleep last night, the others painted some happiness.  

Wednesday Gratitude:

- 50 high-quality kids' garments found at the thrift store early this morning, for only $69.00!  I had my stamp card completely filled out and got 35% off!

- The colors God put on a chickadee.

- The tail talk that squirrels do.  Have you ever seen it in earnest?  Quite amazing!

- Trees full of squirrels

- My boys understand that though nature, we experience God.  My girls are learning it more every day.

- I came home with three large bags of clothes and my husband was just happy that the kids were happy.  He didn't ask about the cost.  He knows it would have been a small fortune from a retail store.

- The exclamations of delight around here lately, and the scientific note-taking Peter is engaged in, about bird and squirrel behaviours.

- Little girl squeals about pretty clothes.

- A 40-degree day today, and an expected 60-degree day later this week.

- Homeschooling

- Very few illnesses in the past nine months.  I have to it because I started cooking from scratch, for the most part?  Whatever the reason, it's sure a blessing!  (The whole foods didn't help with ADHD, unfortunately.)

- I don't have my own car, but I do have a yard!

- Reminders from Him that I'm to bless my family and practice self-denial.  Therein will be my mothering legacy, if I'm faithful to the Holy Spirit's whispers.

- Yet still, knowing that His grace surrounds me.

- Reminders from Him that I'm to bless my husband, whether the trash gets taken out or not.  And should I mention the trash?  No.  Just love.  Just do love.  It's an endless series of actions, done to bless God, regardless of whether the receiver deserves the love action.  Did we deserve the cross, after all?

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

new screen guidelines

A couple weeks ago my sister, who is going through teacher education courses, sent us a few learning websites her professor spoke about.  One of them, this math site, has created quite the obsession in my number lovin' Paul.  This intensive focus isn't a healthy thing, so I've set new guidelines for our family regarding screen time.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, we won't turn on the computer at all, starting this morning.

I just wanted to tip you off, because I won't be able to return e-mails as timely, or write as often.

Good Tuesday to you!

I'm a liar

Okay, husband made a liar out of me this Valentine's Day.  He brought home 12 ounces of Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Chocolate for me, which he found at Walgreens on the way home....before midnight even!

I usually eat semi-sweet baking chocolate, so this is tasting devilishly good.

I'm sure I'll regret it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekend doings and Happy Valentine's Day

Saturday morning found us making bird feeders for our backyard.  The kids spread peanut butter on pine cones, then we rolled them in black oil sunflower seeds or cornmeal.  We tied string tightly around the center of the pine cones and hung them from our trees.

Do yourself a favor:  Do this in the morning in pajamas.  Who needs an extra outfit change?

We also cut large circle holes on two sides of milk jugs (you'll find raised circles already on the jugs).  Next, we made two small holes right below the larger ones, and threaded a stick through these two small holes, for a perch.  You can also use wooden dowels.  Lastly, we tied a string around the top of the jug, securing it there by putting the lid back on.  You'll find a far better explanation and a diagram here.

We placed a small amount of seed in each one to start.  It usually takes a couple weeks for birds to find new feeders, and I didn't want new snow soaking a lot of seed before we even had visitors.

We've made three milk jug feeders so far, placing one in the front yard and two in the side yard.

Next up, egg carton feeders.  We will cut the top off of an egg carton, use a hole punch to punch one hole in each of the four corners, tie a string to each hole, and then tie the four strings together at the top.  Lastly, add seed to each egg compartment, and tie to a tree.

None of these are weather resistant, of course.  The birds will appreciate them nonetheless--especially in winter--and you'll earn yourself some regular visitors.

You can also spread peanut butter on a paper towel roll, roll it in seed, thread a string through the center, and tie it to a tree.

While you're waiting for birds to find your goodies, put stale bread all over your yard.  It might help them come sooner.

The kids looked outside all three windows every few minutes, waiting for birds--taking breaks for all manner of silliness in the playroom.

 My girlies helped me make cornbread on Saturday and again today.  I keep my recipes in a back bedroom to cut down on counter clutter.  Beth, upon hearing me say we're making cornbread again, rushed to the bedroom, grabbed a recipe and brought it to me.  It happened to be the right one, since it was the last one we used.  I had no idea she even knew where the recipes were, or that she paid much attention to my following them when she helped.  She continues to delight me!

Yes, Miss Mary did put her dress on backwards.  :)

We were all delighted this morning to find that our resident squirrels found the teaser bread and seed we put out.  They fought over it and put on quite the show!

The boys seemed to have lost interest in helping with recipes.  My girls are still faithful, though. It makes me smile to have them along side me!  That is, until they spontaneously decide to add water to the mixing bowl--from Momma's water bottle!  I'm learning to never turn my back on the mixing bowl!

Nice paintings produced this Valentine's Day.

 Also this last Saturday, the older kids did a Valentine craft offered at a nature center.  It was difficult--actually making my Paul cry tears of frustration--but they sure are pretty!

These were formed from tissue paper wrapped in pipe cleaners, which were then poked into those spongy flower thingys, and wrapped with foil.)

Valentine's Day gratitude:

- for our penpals, who blessed the socks off my kids with an awesome care package, and delighted me with my own copy of Ann's book!  If only these kids would let me read it!  I haven't been able to get past chapter one (which was a magnificent chapter).

- for hearing my nine year old talk to his stuffed animals as he was placing them on his bed this morning

- for the sparkling delight in my children's eyes, as they found their Valentine bears and their small boxes of chocolate.

- for hearing a thousand times between Saturday and today, "When will the birds come, Mommy?"  I know the longer it takes, the more delighted we'll be when our first feeder friends visit.  We've seen a flicker in one tree and a blue jay in another, but they didn't see our feeders!

- for this luscious honey cornbread and navy bean soup and chili to go with it, these past few days

- for that husband of mine, who keeps meaning to buy me something for Valentine's Day, and for Christmas, and for my birthday.  :) I think it's been a good five years since he's gotten around to any gifts.  Neither of us has gifts as a love language, so I find it amusing more than anything else.  Few people hate shopping as much as my hubby does.  This probably seems strange to some, but no significance comes from gifts--other than thankfulness--if they aren't your love language.

- for God's faithfulness in growing me.  He has spoken to my heart about being faithful in the small things, like performing the chores I don't care for, in order to bless my family.  Now that my littlest one is more independent, and I'm not overwhelmed every second, it's time for some serious spiritual growth.  I feel God moving in my heart.  And I'm so glad He times his lessons so as not to discourage us!  Even two months ago, I wouldn't have been able to receive, willingly, these current lessons.

I hope you got blessed today, friends, in one way or another.  :)   Happy Valentine's Day!

I am blessed by your friendship!