Friday, May 31, 2013

Homeschool and Mother's Journal, May 31

In my life this week:
I'm nearly there in experiencing victory over rebound headaches! This has been a long-time prayer and I thank the Lord for His wisdom and healing. I'm so excited about this new-found health!

The central air conditioner in our house went out again today, so it wasn't all good this week. Last week it was the circuit breaker, but we checked that first thing this time. We can't afford a new unit so I pray it's something minor. This Momma needs her air; some people do heat well but that's not me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I'll be saying that a lot if we lose our central air!

I'm doing fine washing dishes by hand after last month's dishwasher demise, but I must say, doing dishes in the hottest water you can stand gets very hot in the summer!

Wearing lighter clothes this time of year means less laundry. My whole house is neater and cleaner because of the time freed up. Makes it easier to host and teach a Saturday Children's Bible Study here in our home.

Our friend Dean helped Peter repair one of our bird boxes and now we have a bluebird pair nesting in our yard!

In our homeschool this week:
I'm working my girls hard (ages 4 and 6) now that they sit still longer. We added in regular modeled writing. I use chart paper to write the sentences they dictate, talking about grammar and spelling while I write, eliciting the sounds from them as we sound out the words together. Then, they use a pointer and read the "daily news" back to me. I then copy their sentences onto lined paper and cut them apart between each word, and the girls put them back in order and read their sentence to me, and read the words out of order too.

We added in a second read-aloud session, starting our school day with 5 stories chosen from Honey For A Child's Heart.

Honey for a Child's Heart Fourth Edition  -     
        By: Gladys Hunt

Here are the favorites this week:

Now One Foot, Now the Other
Publisher synopsis "Bobby was named after his best friend, his grandfather, Bob," begins Tomie dePaola's heartwarming tale of the special relationship between grandchild and grandparent, Now One Foot, Now the Other (1981). The title refers to one of the boy's favorite stories: how Bob taught Bobby to walk. And after Bob has a stroke, it's Bobby's turn to help his grandfather relearn how to walk. 

My notes: The special bond grandfather and grandson share is so heartwarming and the tale itself is woven expertly. I never wanted it to end but it ended grandly! We were all smiles (and Momma was in tears too).

I know a Lady
 Publisher Synopsis: If you are lucky you know someone like the elderly lady in this book. Whenever she sees you--coming home from school, trick-or-treating at Halloween, or walking with your dog in the wood--she makes you feel special. She is someone you admire. She is someone you love.

My notes: Great for reinforcing seasons, hospitality and kindness. The girls and I loved this!

When Jessie Came Across the Sea
Publisher Synopsis: When a young girl from a poor eastern European village learns that she must leave her beloved grandmother for a new life - and a new love - in America, they both feel that their hearts will break. The sure and inspired narrative by award-winning author Amy Hest is paired with paintings by P.J. Lynch that glow with warmth and carefully observed detail, creating an unforgettable tribute to the immigrant experience.

My notes: Very special story and a wonderful social studies selection for all ages. I don't know why this didn't win a Caldecott Medal; the paintings are so exquisite. I had to linger on every page...the detail and beauty were so amazing.

Zinnia's Flower Garden
Publisher SynopsisSpringtime is here, and Zinnia can’t wait to plant her seeds and watch them grow. She carefully takes care of her garden, watering her plants, weeding, and waiting patiently for something to sprout. And soon enough, the first seedlings appear! With art just as colorful as a garden in bloom, young readers will enjoy watching Zinnia’s beautiful garden grow, and may even be inspired to start one of their own.

Good Reads Synopsis: Zinnia grows many kinds of flowers in her garden. Sunflowers, sweet peas, and (of course) zinnias bloom in the sunshine. Customers come to pick their own bunches of flowers. Bouquet-bright artwork shows all Zinnia's tasks, from planting the seeds to cutting the beautiful blooms. The perfect tie-in to elementary biology units about plant growth-and school gardens-this book will be especially welcomed by teachers. It is a splendid addition to Monica Wellington's nonfiction for the very young and a true spring delight that's good in any season

My notes: A must-read for preschool and lower elementary. What a beautiful, exciting science book!

Publisher SynopsisApple cider, applesauce, apple muffins, cakes, and pies! Annie is a very busy apple farmer. She bakes yummy treats with the apples she picks and saves her best apples to sell at the market. Follow Annie through her apple-filled day of picking, counting, sorting, baking, and selling, and then try making some of her simple apple recipes.

My notes: Another outstanding preschool and lower-elementary science pick!

A Pocketful of Cricket
Publisher SynopsisOne afternoon late in August, before the start of a new school year, Jay finds Cricket. Cricket fits just right in small spaces--like under a tea strainer or in Jay's very own pocket--and Cricket makes the most exciting sounds. But what happens when it's time to go back to school? Will Cricket come too?

Forty years after its original publication, this charming tale continues to capture the imaginative world of a child.
On his way home with the cows one evening, a six-year-old Kentucky farm boy catches a cricket and makes it his friend. The story reveals a child's sense of wonder about nature in verse-like prose. Caldecott Honor Book

Publisher's Weekly: Honoring its 40th anniversary, the Caldecott Honor book, A Pocketful of Cricket by Rebecca Caudill, illus. by Evaline Ness, is back, starring six-year-old Jay who meanders through the countryside and finds striped beans that "felt cool-like morning," an arrowhead and a cricket that he brings home, among other treasures. Caudill's gentle sentences pair well with Ness's charming vintage scenes in mustard, red, avocado and black inks. 

My notes: As a mother of boys and littles, I can definitely say this book captures the wonder of childhood. Excellent nature book we can use to give thanks to God for his glorious gifts. I loved every descriptive word and all four of my kids did too! Outstanding story.

My boys had a great school week too, but in the interest of time I'll be brief about them this time.

Peter, age 11, thanks to the Teaching Textbooks math program he's used for 2.5 years, now says he likes math and he thinks he's good at it! I can't tell you how thankful I am for this program and for my son's new enthusiasm!

Peter's spelling skills, too, have come a long much so that I no longer consider him behind in spelling (or in anything, actually). This year has been one of real blossom. All the reading he's been doing for the last three years has had a great impact on his writing and spelling skills. Nothing helps more than 2 hours of reading a day, which he gets between literature, science and history. We do read-alouds with him on top of that. I like our spelling program, Avko Sequential Spelling, but it didn't have half the impact reading itself did.

Helpful homeschooling advice to share:
Don't fret when a child has difficulties. Pray them through. Pray for guidance on curriculum choices and then wait for the Lord, and the books, to do their work. Cut out worksheets as much as possible and get them reading.

Places We're Going and People We're Seeing:
The children enjoyed another year of A Day Out With Thomas the Train on a strangely cold May day, tickets compliments of the Children's Hospital 4-year-old Beth goes to for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The boys also enjoyed two fishing trips with Daddy and our friend Dean. The girls and I went along for one of them and after a couple of hours of fishing we all enjoyed a two-mile hike.

Neither Dean nor my husband care much for fishing, but they're glad to help the boys. I must say, though, it's stressful due to all the problems that occur with the poles. The boys and Mary caught a multitude of 4-inch blue gill, reeling in one right after the other. Peter kept them to fertilize our garden with, which he does every year.

Our friend Dean giving Beth a break from walking.
The two kids next to us weren't catching anything so my boys took them under their wing and gave them worms, baited their hooks and advised them not to reel the line in so often. The little girl then did catch one fish and she was thrilled. Seeing my Peter help her warmed my heart so! Their father wanted to fish himself and he was very impatient with his kids, not wanting to untangle their lines or bait them. It made me appreciate my husband's brand of fathering so much, let me tell you. He's a wonderful Daddy--not perfect, but sacrificial, always putting his children first. Sometimes you have to witness another father in action to gain new appreciation of your husband's family ways.

While at the nature park and pond, few to no mosquitoes, thank the Lord, even though we were on a deeply wooded trail. I keep saying we're having a minor drought here in Northeast Ohio, and the low water level in creeks points to the same. No mosquitoes is nice but it usually means not enough rain in these parts, and conversely, too many mosquitoes means too much rain. Food prices went up after last year's serious drought so I'm hoping for good crops this year.

Peter will enter the children's library photo contest again this year. He turned in fine photos last year but the winner took a picture of a cute pig and it seems all kids--who are the main voters--love pigs. My Peter has it in his mind that to win this contest he must have a pig photo. Lo and behold, our friend Erica keeps pigs out at her parent's 32-acre estate. We're all going out there next week to visit the pigs so Peter can take photos. They told us they'd bring the whipped cream because the pigs are hilarious when they get that special treat; Erica and her husband shoot it right into their mouths.

This is their second collection of pigs, and they name them all, so it was disconcerting to hear them talk about how good the bacon was from their last collection. Don't ask me how you can name a pig and have fun with it, and then talk about how good its bacon was, but whatever, we love this family. I want to live on a farm alright, but I don't want to kill any animals or think about them going to slaughter. Silly, I know.

Tomorrow the boys will take part in a kids' fishing derby contest at our favorite nature park. Three hours of untangling lines and such; my husband is a saint.

My Favorite Thing This Week:
Our nature hike last Sunday. So special to be all together, exploring and exercising.

My Kiddos Favorite Thing This Week:
The water balloons they played with in the backyard today.

Things I'm Working On:
I'm studying humility in my quiet time and really enjoying that. Peter is working on the garden and I hope to help him finish up this weekend.

I'm Cooking:
So far this week for dinner: crockpot porkribs, turkey sloppy joes, turkey burgers, spaghetti, crockpot whole chicken. We filled the propane tank today so grilling is next!

I'm Grateful For:
My Lord, my husband, my children, our friends, our garden, the healing power of prayer, family devotions in Isaiah, flowers, birds, hiking trails, pretty ponds, sweet kids

I'm praying about:
Our 11-year-old neighborhood friend, Lexie, repeated the fourth grade this year and still earned D's and F's. I'm praying about having her come every day in the summer to use our 4th grade Teaching Textbooks CD Rom. I know it would help her and staying a couple hours for school with us would too. But, she is high maintenance; her ADHD makes her jump from one activity to another like the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book series. My son Peter doesn't have this same type of ADHD--he's not inattentive, just hyper and impulsive. She's an exhausting guest but I love her and want to help her, but part of me is screaming "NO way! I can't do it!" I plan on praying another week before mentioning it to her. She's said many times she wishes I could homeschool her--not to improve her grades, but because she gets bullied at school.

Homeschoolers or not, we all need to pray for the nation's youngsters; bullying is a complicated, heartwrenching problem.

Poem to Share (for upcoming Father's Day):

A Father's Prayer

Lord, make me tolerant and wise;
Incline my ears to hear him through;
Let him not stand with downcast eyes,
Fearing to trust me and be true.
Instruct me so that I may know
The way my son and I should go.

When he shall err, as once did I,
Or boyhood folly bids him stray,
Let me not into anger fly
And drive the good in him away.
Teach me to win his trust, that he
Shall keep no secret hid from me.

Lord, strengthen me that I may be .
A fit example for my son.
Grant he may never hear or see
A shameful deed that I have done.
However sorely I am tried,
Let me not undermine his pride.

In spite of years and temples gray,
Still let my spirit beat with joy;
Teach me to share in all his play
And be a comrade with my boy.
Wherever we may chance to be,
Let him find happiness with me.

Lord, as his father, now I pray
For manhood's strength and counsel wise;
Let me deal justly, day by day,
In all that fatherhood implies.
To be his father, keep me fit;
Let me not play the hypocrite!

Edgar Albert Guest
Have a blessed week, friends!
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Studying Humility: Part 1
Dear Friends, in my quiet time I'm studying humility. While I'm on this journey I'll share scriptures or quotes that really impact my heart.

Isaiah 66:2,“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” 

Prov. 25:27“It is not good…to seek one’s own honor”

Today I have a long but easy-to-read and powerful quote from Here is the link to the whole article:

Honor comes from God, and it comes – as counter-intuitive as this seems – as the result of downward mobility. Jesus chose downward mobility, a descent from the heights of heaven to a teenager’s womb to a cattle trough to a peasant home to a dusty road to a cross to a tomb. Jesus didn’t surrender a little; he surrendered everything completely, confident that his Father would take care of the outcome. The most powerful person who ever walked on the planet calls us and says, “I served you, and now I’m asking you to serve others. A servant is not greater than his master. If I did this for you, you must do this for one another. I’ll take care of your dignity. You don’t have to take yourself so seriously, because I take you seriously.” 

 If a man does not understand that, he will live in constant insecurity. We all know what insecure people look like. Always searching for approval, they cannot relax. They’re driven. They never reach the mark, so there’s a perfectionism that torments them and everyone around them. Often, their self-esteem is tied to their material possessions, and it’s so important to always have something a little bit newer, a little bit better than the other guy. Because insecurity and envy often go together, they relentlessly find faults with others. Pride seeks the higher place; envy has to do with resenting others’ good fortune. An insecure person is so focused on image rather than substance that they have a persona. They have an image that they have to sustain, and our culture supports that. Proud people are defensive. They cannot handle criticism or rebuke. They cannot receive it, and, therefore, it’s hard for them to be teachable, because they always have to defend that image, that position.
...The Scriptures tell us that he (Jesus) understood three things before he assumed the role of a lowly servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples: Jesus understood where he had come from, that all things had been given to him and where his final destiny would lead Him (John 13:3). In other words, he understood his true identity, true dignity and true significance. He knew who he was, why he had come and where he was going.
Likewise, you and I, as new creations in Christ, can have the same security. We have transferred our trust from ourselves to him, and in so doing we receive the abundant life he promised us (John 10:10). We are no longer in the line of Adam; we are in the line of Christ (Rom. 5:12-21). The significance of this may escape us, but this means nothing less than that we have come forth from God (John 1:12-13; 3:6). It means that every spiritual blessing has been given to us (Eph. 1:3). It means that our eternal destiny is at home in heaven (Phil. 3:20-21).

What I find most beautiful, most significant in this quote? This right here:  ...The Scriptures tell us that he (Jesus) understood three things before he assumed the role of a lowly servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples: Jesus understood where he had come from, that all things had been given to him and where his final destiny would lead Him (John 13:3). In other words, he understood his true identity, true dignity and true significance. He knew who he was, why he had come and where he was going.

Friends, in Christ we have our true identity, true dignity, and true significance.

Let us not chase after the things of this world, which cheapen who we are. We have come forth from God, and that is infinitely more than enough. We can bow low as a servant because we have nothing to prove, nothing to defend. No image to uphold. We can live a life that points to Christ, reflects Christ, embodies Christ, when we give ourselves fully to Him, trusting in the worth that comes from being born of God and loved by God.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Portrait of True Hospitality

The surest way to judge someone's hospitality gift is to take your touchy-feely littles over to their house. Do you know what I'm saying, mamas? The experience can be warm and wonderful, or nerve-wracking and disastrous. You might drive away from one house with the warm fuzzies, and from another horribly embarrassed and lecturing the little ones.

And afterwards, spankings handed out at home, you slump in a chair, wondering what in the world happened. You don't often have this kind of trouble with them; by golly, what was it today ?

Maybe you feel a tad guilty for disciplining them, because somehow, you feel partially responsible.

I'm not saying kids should be allowed to climb all over furniture and break knickknacks, making nuisances of themselves. It might happen occasionally with the under-four set, but it's never okay; discipline required.

Today we took a quick trip over to an aunt's house and stayed outside. We hadn't been there in quite some time, and we found they had new things in their yard, like a brick-bordered flowerbed and an eye-level windchime. My 4-and 6-year-old girls were touchy-feely, wanting to rattle the windchime a bit and walk along the brick border. I said no and pulled them away, but it took a few times for them to get the message. They weren't rough or doing any harm; they couldn't have ruined anything they touched or stepped on. I just wanted to prevent any disasters and set the tone.

One thing's for sure, they didn't understand my nervous vibes. 

Friends, this aunt and uncle care about their stuff. They don't want little hands checking out the lace on their curtains. There's no materialism in the sense that they buy every new thing--they live modestly in fact--but their house is filled with knickknacks purchased as gifts probably from their kids and grandkids. Nothing pricey, but there's always the nervous tension that comes when people who care about their stuff encounter little children.

I feel this tension the moment we arrive, and it steadily climbs. My kids are curious in that house, possibly because I have very few knickknacks, preferring a tidier look to my rooms. Neither my walls nor my tabletops are cluttered or busy.

As soon as we got into the van after the 20-minute visit, I was livid with the girls. My aunt hadn't seen them in quite a while and her impression was surely that they were testy, ornery girls, when in fact, I rarely have trouble with them in public places.

Once home, as the clocked ticked into the afternoon, I continued to teach, hang laundry, and wipe down bathrooms, but all the while I stewed and tried to get to the bottom of the whole behavioral nightmare and what part I might have played in it.

It really puzzled me, because in the last two weeks we've been to the AWANA leader's house twice, and both times it was a wonderful experience.

Do you know what Erica, the leader said, almost right away, the first time my 4-year-old reached to touch something?

"Oh, that's okay. They can touch anything; I don't care about my stuff."

She had few knickknacks, thank goodness, and what's more, she hadn't bothered to mop or vacuum before the two social events we were there for. There wasn't clutter, but since the house was also home to two frisky dogs, it definitely didn't have a clean appearance.

I marveled at this because I stress about my house and clean it right perfect before I have great cost to the whole family and to my time. I would probably have people over a lot more if I didn't feel a certain level of cleanliness was required. Clutter is not good, but do all the floors need mopped, and does the bathroom need to shine just so, as well as the wood?

For heaven's sake, no. Why can't I get that?

My whole family loves going to Erica's house, who is a wife and a mom to two teens, and a children's church coordinator. She loves my kids and she loves having us and many more families over for cookouts.

She says the same thing to every parent: "I don't care about my stuff."

And something happens to every parent upon hearing this. They relax. And the more relaxed Mom and Dad are, the less the kids get testy. The better they behave and the more they charm, because there's no tension in the air to mess everyone's emotions up.

The Lord opened my eyes to several things today, including my ugly pride.

I'm not exactly going to give my girls an apology for spanking them after the visit, because they did defy me, after all, about touching things.

But now I'm more keenly aware of the tension-over-stuff phenomena that occurs at some houses. And instead of going to those houses, I'll invite them to my house instead, if possible.

Here, we don't care about our stuff.

And in the future, this Momma is going to care less about cleanliness and concentrate instead on clearing clutter. I'm far more likely to extend hospitality when I only have clutter to attend to, and not three hours of cleaning on top of it.

Will people notice some dirt? Maybe. Will it make them think less of me? Probably not. Will they feel comfortable in my home, like they can relax, put their feet up and enjoy the fellowship? Absolutely.

What would Jesus do? 

He would care about people. The human angle always...never the material angle. He would have Christians gather together often, not just in the church building on Sunday, but in each other's homes, building one another up in Christ. Laughing, dining, loving, praying. Doing life together and bearing burdens.

Now, your turn. What have you learned about hospitality?

Ephesians 6:7
Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Behold Wondrous Things

We're blessed to have a pastor who, though only 33 years old, preaches very well and bravely exhorts as well. He's quick to remind us that if we can't find our Bibles on Sunday morning in the rush to get ready for church, perhaps it's because we haven't opened them since the previous Sunday?

Our Heavenly Father has so much for us. He's wanting always to give us good gifts, and guess where the bulk of those gifts are kept?

That's our Bibles. God beckons us to come to Him and receive. Come and be filled to overflowing.

God's plan is for our stay here on Earth to be rich in meaning, love, joy, and peace, despite the human condition.

But Satan has a plan too. There's much in the world that makes our stay here rotten, like the stench of sin. The allure, and then the stench, is everywhere. We can't protect ourselves or our children enough.

The speech teacher three of my children go to has a speech game on her iPad. Twice monthly we go to speech and yet I hadn't heard anything about this iPad. I didn't realize my girls knew of the existence of the iPad, since no commericals come into our home. There's a lot we spare them by not having a TV signal, and by not using the Internet as TV.  I don't even realize all that we're missing, but I'm grateful.

But suddenly, this week, my mostly-unmaterialistic girls are asking for an iPad and I'm grieving at their coveting.

We teach purchasing on a needs-basis only, with few exceptions per year (such as pre-used, purposeful items). Our Compassion children's faces on our kitchen cupboards remind us of where our money is better spent. There's a sinful discrepancy in the way the first world lives compared to the third world, and I don't want to be a part of that discrepancy, except to try to correct it.

Well girls, I said, an iPad might be necessary for competing in the business world, but we're not in that world so we won't be getting one; we have a computer already. Think of the significant, life-changing benefits our Compassion children would enjoy with the same $400 - $700. And you? You would just have a second that would entice you to spend more and more.

But even before the words left my mouth, I knew my lecturing was worthless next to the Power of God; only God changes hearts. I'm an imperfect parent and as such, I have no power by myself. My only power comes from God...the oral reading (for my girls especially) and teaching of the Word of God, and my prayers.

Maybe in your house it isn't an iPad and materialism this week, but a teen who wants to date and touch. You can try hard to keep your teen separated from her beloved beau, but ultimately, the Word of God and your prayers are the real power.

As parents and as Christians, we can't afford to leave the Bible on the end-table or bedside, unopened, all week. Doing so is trading God's peace for Satan's stench. It doesn't take long for a Christian worldview to water down, inviting sin into our lives.

Dear Friends, none of us is immune. We desperately need the Word of God, everyday. If there's a newborn in the house or littles and we can't manage everyday, then can we listen to the Word of God, with just an Internet connection? We can do it! We just have to understand the impact and thirst for more of God.

Prayer Time: Dear Heavenly Father, we love you. We thank you for the wondrous gifts you offer in your Word. May we receive those gifts unto ourselves and thirst for more. Make us thirst for your peace and your righteousness, not Solomon's empty experiences. The world empties us, but you fill us. Oh, Lord, may we be filled to overflowing and bring glory to You.

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

Here are some scriptures that teach the value and the gift of God's Word:

Psalm 119:105     
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Joshua 1:8     
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Romans 15:4     
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Hebrews 4:12          
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

1 Peter 2:2
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

2 Timothy 3:16-17     
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Matthew 4:4          
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Psalm 119:10-11          
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Baked Beans to Die For

I'm bringing baked beans to a Memorial Day bash, so I went searching. Bless my soul, what do I find but a delicious recipe with a photo tutorial on the Pioneer Woman website. You won't be sorry, friends. Try it. You'll need to bake it 2 hours, so plan ahead. Otherwise, it's easy.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Folly of Pain Avoidance


Psalm 119:67-71

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law. 
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.

My rebound headache situation worsened so I decided to go cold turkey and not take anything at all for my migraines for 30 days straight. Rebound headaches, also called medication-overuse-headaches (MOH), are the third leading cause of all headaches, though they're still poorly understood by most physicians. 

How do they start? Over-the-counter headache medicines (and prescription headache medicines) are not designed to be used more than twice a week. When a tension headache or migraine headache sufferer begins to use them more than twice weekly, the headaches come back (rebound) as the body develops a tolerance or addiction to the medicine. If the cycle continues--have headache reach for medicine--eventually the headaches occur daily, and sometimes more than once daily.

We tend to think of addiction as something that comes with serious prescription medicine, but the fact is even Tylenol can be a culprit, especially if it's paired with caffeine. A Tylenol/caffeine cocktail is what I've taken for 17 years for migraines. Otherwise, I am not a caffeine consumer; I avoid coffee, tea, and soda, and only get a tiny bit of caffeine in a handful of semisweet chocolate chips. Caffeine is a definite culprit for many headache sufferers. If you don't get your morning brew, do you get a headache? That is a rebound headache--your body pleading with you to give it what it is addicted to, in this case, caffeine.

I never sought prescription medicine because for the first years of rebound pain, I didn't know what was happening. Then later I either hoped to get pregnant, or was pregnant, or was long-term breastfeeding. 

Now that my last child has mostly weaned herself, I can seek something better, but I know it wouldn't help unless I break the rebound cycle first, since a prescription medicine will cause the same issue.

To cure a rebound pain cycle, go without medicine for 30 days straight. To avoid a rebound headache cycle, remember the 2-5 rule. You can take something for two days straight, but then don't take anything else for 5 full days. You can't cheat and take Tylenol for two days, and then take ibuprofen for the next five days. No, you have to go five full days without any medicine, no matter the pain level.

I knew living life with a raging migraine was going to be extremely difficult with four children around making noise, needing me, and sometimes squabbling. How would I keep up with meals and chores, I wondered? The ideal mother, in my mind, was not someone frequently lying down with ice on her head, pleading with everyone to be quieter and to stop shaking the bed. Light, glare, noise, and motion aggravate a migraine. Eventually, a migraine leads to nausea and vomiting and this can be scary for children. I wanted to avoid upsetting my children and husband, and I wanted to avoid severe pain.

When you go cold turkey in your approach, it can take between 2 days and 10 days to feel better, and some people will continue to have daily headaches for weeks or months. If you take prescription medicine, check with your doctor first, as some will cause seizures if stopped abruptly.

This has been and will continue to be very hard on my family and on me, but hopefully by one month we'll be through it. When the cycle is broken I will still get intermittent migraines, probably until after menopause, but I'll be a lot healthier and my family will have developed strategies to endure mom's migraines.

The huge lesson for me and for my family has been this: We can't avoid pain. 

Modern medicine has been such a blessing in coming up with vaccines and antibiotics, and with medicines and protocols for treating diseases like my daughter's juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. JRA used to be an awful life sentence for children, but now there's so much they can do.

Sometimes though, medicine can be a curse. It makes us forget something important about life: that it is painful. It's smart to judicially avoid some pain, but trying to avoid all of it is a serious character flaw.

Have a difficult marriage or a difficult child or relative? Have a difficult boss or coworker? Do you have chronic pain, either from headaches or from an injury or disease? Life will entail pain and it will take many different emotional and physical forms. Sometimes, we just have to endure it, rather than pop a pill, get a divorce, or change jobs.

Pain avoidance comes from what, mostly? Cowardice and lack of faith. And sometimes from shame; we don't want to be perceived as sickly or weak. We avoid the pain because we assume we won't be able to endure it. That God is not big enough to get us through it. 

But in truth, our pain leads us to the Lord more often then we'd otherwise go to him  And our Lord? Where does He lead us? To peace and joy of soul.

My 9-year-old Paul keeps saying he wants me to be happy, and why did God have to give me migraines? It's been a wonderful opportunity to teach that even though my face shows pain, not happiness, my soul is ever at peace, finding joy in my Lord and in my family.

Don't look to someone's outside, my son, and check for happiness. Happiness is fleeting, like your short turn on the trampoline. But look instead at the soul, and check for peace and joy. When you're looking for friends and later for a wife, don't be deceived by happiness, which can hide a whole lot. People addicted to happiness won't be along for the long haul; they don't have what it takes.

It's peace and joy of soul--having a heart that beats for God--that makes a person healthy...that makes marriages last...that allows cancer sufferers to thrive...that makes a grieving parent want to live again. 

It's peace and joy of soul that make a life rich. 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps 23)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Finally Some Pictures

AWANA derby cars. These won first and second place in design.
 Husband worked overtime and bought us another camera. The other broke after Thanksgiving so I haven't posted pictures in several months. Catching up just a little today.
I fought a four-day migraine off and on and got behind on a lot of chores, so I'm refraining from regular posting until I catch up.
We also saw the ENT and found out that Beth's tonsils and adenoids both need to come out in July. She's at definite risk of sleep apnea because the tonsils are nearly a four, the maximum size. It will be so nice to see her breathing normally again, but this surgery can be a long recovery if the child refuses to drink a lot up front.  Miss Beth is a terrible patient--she just withdraws into herself from the trauma of the whole thing and refuses to drink. I will try slurpees and popsicles and a whole lot of prayer.
I was dismayed to learn that she has to go 20 days without any arthritis medicine to prevent a bleeding episode (ten days before and 10 days after surgery). I hate the thought of her well-controlled arthritis becoming a problem again. With God's grace though, this break from medicine could go well. It all depends on what God has for us, and on our choice to have an open hand to all he has for us, both pleasant and otherwise.
I had to practice that open-handedness while down with migraines.

Paul's jubilant jump when he found out he won first place in derby car design.

A salamander found on a recent nature field trip.

Rose-breasted grosbeak, a rare find for us.

hikers and nature seekers

You don't see California-mountain majestic beauty here in Ohio, but there's plenty of everyday beauty.

All are happy after the AWANA awards assembly.

It's plenty hot here this week, but this one of Beth was taken on an April nature hike.

My Mary also on an April hike.

Blessings to Give thanks for....

...the air conditioner wasn't broken afterall. Maybe it was the 7 loads of laundry I did on a hot day, that popped the breaker?

...quality library programs

...a fun church picnic

...a fun backyard barbecue at the AWANA leaders' house, at which my kids jumped their hearts out on the trampoline.

...the migraine subsided

...a good doctor for my Beth

...Beth, age 4 years, 5 months, self-weaning with nary a tear from either of us. It happened so naturally and beautifully and both of us were apparently ready. I'm sure there'll be a handful of nursings left as there's still a little milk to be had, but she remembers it less and less, sometimes going three days without asking. I give thanks to a glorious God for 12 years of nearly continuous nursing. I will look back on them as the best years of my life. I had my difficulties at first with each child, with Beth having the hardest time learning to nurse (one whole month!), but the rewards and blessings far outweigh those early, anxious, desperate tears. (4 years old is the average world-wide age for children to self-wean.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Perfect Dinner Table

I love advocating for the family dinner because I've experienced the blessing of this precious time, no matter the season of life. And I hate what the extra-curricular craze has done to the family. 

The problem is not the sports (or activities) themselves, but the anti-family organizations that make up the weekly schedules. As parents we need to learn to say no, since two children or more in sports at the same time is way too hectic for anyone, unless the children choose the same sport (activity) with the same schedule.

Limiting your children and yourself to a bare minimum of evening events (hopefully preserving 5-6  family dinners weekly) may seem hard, but when you decide that your goal is legacy parenting, not popular parenting, it becomes easier to set limits. 

Too much running around makes for a less healthy diet, a messier house, and grumpier families who aren't bonding.

Today I have some research to share.

~ Teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and much less likely to have substance abuse problems.

~ Today only about half of American teenagers say they have regular family dinners, and 34% of those meals are fast food.

~ Teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.

~ Frequent family dinners were associated with better school performance, with teens 40 percent more likely to get A's and B's.

~  Family dinners were the most important family events in helping children develop language skills.

Family Dinner Tips:

~ Have coloring books, Playdoh, or building toys nearby for the preschoolers.

~ Go through the book of Proverbs over and over in short nightly chunks. Small chunks are conducive to larger families with small children, and the repetition over time will help the lessons sink into the heart.

~ Don't force children to eat. These struggles ruin the atmosphere and give your children unhealthy power over you, which could work into eating disorders later. And a related tip: Don't be a short order cook, but do try to keep meals appetizing to youngsters. No, I don't mean a steady diet of pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs and macaroni. But can you put in some pleasers each week, like tacos and spaghetti? And if the main dish doesn't please, can you put in side dishes they particularly like?

~ Don't worry about being a gourmet cook or presenting something new all the time. But if you need inspiration and help with organization, you could use a menu service that includes weekly recipes and grocery lists for a nominal fee. Here are three choices:

~ Here is a menu mailer service from Saving 
~ Menus4 Moms 

~ If you don't want to use a menu planner, but you aren't particularly organized either, you might try rotating the same 10 - 12 meals so that your grocery list remains pretty much the same, with the exception of seasonal produce. You won't forget important ingredients and you're more likely to have what you need when you need it.

Family Dinner Questions (to rotate):

~ When did you think about God today? What made you think of Him?

~ What are you thankful for today?

~ What favorite verse or quote did you learn or read?

~ Name one new thing you learned.

~ Name one amazing thing you noticed.

~ Who blessed you today and how?

~ Who did you bless today?

~ What made you especially happy today?

~ Did anything make you sad?

~ Did God bring someone to your mind who needs prayer?  

~ Did God bring something to your mind that you need to change about yourself?

"The Perfect Dinner Table", by Edgar Guest

A tablecloth that's slightly soiled
Where greasy little hands have toiled;
The napkins kept in silver rings,
And only ordinary things
From which to eat, a simple fare,
And just the wife and kiddies there,
And while I serve, the clatter glad
Of little girl and little lad
Who have so very much to say
About the happenings of the day.

Four big round eyes that dance with glee,
Forever flashing joys at me,
Two little tongues that race and run
To tell of troubles and of fun;
The mother with a patient smile
Who knows that she must wait awhile
Before she'll get a chance to say
What she's discovered through the day.
She steps aside for girl and
Who have so much to tell their dad.

Our manners may not be the best;
Perhaps our elbows often rest
Upon the table, and at times
That very worst of dinner crimes,
That very shameful act and rude
Of speaking ere you've downed your food,
Too frequently, I fear, is done,
So fast the little voices run.
Yet why should table manners stay
Those tongues that have so much to say?

At many a table I have been
Where wealth and luxury were seen,
And I have dined in halls of pride
Where all the guests were dignified;
But when it comes to pleasure rare
The perfect dinner table's where
No stranger's face is ever known:
The dinner hour we spend alone,
When little girl and little lad
Run riot telling things to dad

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Tribute to Inspire Mothers Everywhere

Tuesday isn't typically a posting day for me, but I wanted to share a tribute letter 29-year-old Sarah Clarkson wrote to her mother, Sally Clarkson, for Mother's Day. This portrait of Sally reminds us to live bravely as mothers, to boldly embrace life's offerings and have as our constant companion, God's grace. God's grace (love, faithfulness, joy, covering) is our strength. It is the love, the smile, the affirming nod that allows us to go forward, chartering new and beautiful and awe-inspiring territory.

I link to Sarah's letter for another reason, too. Of all the online writing I encounter, I find Sarah's prose the most beautiful, on par with Ann Voskamp's but easier to read. They are equals. Words are just to communicate, true, but when a gifted person weaves them together exquisitely, reading them is just as beautiful an experience as sitting at the base of the most beautiful mountain in the world, the scent of the wildflowers bringing joy to our noses, our eyes watching the amazing bees buzz and pollinate before us, feeling the breeze on our bare arms, and squinting in the sun at God's expanse of a mountain and its gorgeous companion lake. The whole scene reminding us of His great love affair with us, The Church.  

When we search out beauty, we find God. There's no other explanation for the beauty offered in nature. And there's no other explanation for the beauty we see in some people. God gifts us in different ways so that we all reflect some aspect of His character.

When Ann and Sarah write, it is as though God is speaking the beauty, as much as He speaks it with wildflowers and lakes and mountains. There are many talented non-Christian poets and author's, but the most beautiful pieces I encounter are always from people who love God...who call Him their strength and their song.

And it's no wonder.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Blessings

Now is the time for blessings. Really, really, really time to count and give thanks for the beautiful, because there's plenty that's hard.

Last Sunday night Paul's asthma attack kept me up, and last night it was Beth and her coughing fits, twice making her vomit. Her methotrexate is an immuno-suppressant drug that makes it hard to get over illnesses, and she's also suffering from seasonal allergies.

Anyway, holding her at a sixty degree angle all night so the post-nasal drip would stop making her cough, while she thrashed about trying to lie flat, felt like a CIA torture chamber. Every time I would nod off she would have another coughing spasm. I decided against cough medicine because her cough was productive and I knew her body was trying to prevent pneumonia.

And of course you know it's always a cruel joke the way they perk up in the morning, after keeping you up all night with their cold symptoms. You think it will be a sick day and you'll read storybooks and watch thrift store movies under blankets with bowls of popcorn by your side.

But no, by day they're energizer bunnies, at least until 3 PM, at which time they fall apart emotionally, about the same time you're falling apart.

But God.

Always, there's beauty. Even in this portrait of maternal misery. Grace, that is. Children remind us that nothing's all that bad. That the sun comes out in the morning. That every day is new, fresh. That in all things, we can give thanks.

Thank you, Father, for these graces and blessings:

~ Paul went all day Sunday not needing his inhaler

~ The children presenting me with their exquisite handmade Mother's Day gifts, setting my heart all aflutter.

~ A chocolate pie for dessert

~ The little autistic boy I work with in the church nursery sitting in my lap, finally, and letting me look at books with him. I had to grab him, literally. The pressure of touch allows him to concentrate somehow, whereas otherwise he just wanders around the nursery aimlessly, ignoring everybody and touching the walls and the textures. He seems to need constant physical stimuli. He didn't want me to read the books, but he pointed to each letter of the alphabet and identified them! He doesn't speak otherwise, but he said each letter so that I could discern his speech. God spoke to me while little Rowan sat in my lap, his hair smelling so fresh and clean. If we take the time to really understand, there are no disabilities, just differences.

~ Peter reading book after book to little Ashton, the music pastor's daughter, in the nursery yesterday.

~ Beautiful children's fall and summer clothing finds at the thrift store

~ Husband showering Beth, again, while I took care of the vomit sheets.

~ None of the other children waking up, miraculously, when Momma shouted, "Help...she's throwing up! Please get me a throw-up bowl!"

~A jewel of a movie, very old, found at the thrift store and set in 1903, called So Dear to my Heart about a little boy in love with a pet lamb he takes to the county fair. So heartwarming.

~ A son excited about what the earth will yield from tiny seeds. And the miracle of the seed bringing us awe year after year.

~ Seeds representing the hope God asks from us as we wake each day. Dedicate the day to Me and watch me grow something beautiful out of it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother's Day Devotional

2 Corinthians 12:9 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power.

I love the idea of Mother's Day. It's a day to honor both the mother and her sacred calling.

The day, in my mind, is filled with images of special teas or special, relaxing lunches. Those never happen to me, but Mother's Day still reminds me of them. I think of bouquets of wild flowers picked with tiny, eager hands. Of hand-written notes scribbled with devotion and unfailing love.

Something like the latter happens here, in the form of construction paper Mother's Day projects, colorful weeds picked from various corners of the yard, and busy hands and heads thinking several days before what they can put together that would be extra special.

Sometimes, okay most of the time, the projects just create more work for me, like the paints that still sat on the dining room table at 6:45 PM last evening, just as dinner was ready. Not to mention the glue stick film on the table, and the stray pieces of tape sticking to the wood floor. I have the patience for these things of course, but it's a conscious choice to be gracious.

I don't always choose graciousness while scraping pieces of tape off the wood floor, but on the day before Mother's Day, it's just easier.

I'm still in the trenches here so the day itself is never ideal. Sometimes, Mother's Day is downright rotten. There are still the dishes and the loads of laundry. Mud still gets tracked in on rainboots. Clothes I painstakingly fluffed and hung in the boys' room still manage to find their way onto the floor of the closet--at least on Peter's side.

We all have an idea of the mother we want to be; it's awfully hard to shake that ideal. It haunts us when special circumstances render us everyday failures.

When you can't succeed no matter how hard you try, what's the answer?

Ephesians 3:16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being

First, let me tell you what's not the answer. Slay the following and lay them at the Lord's feet:

~ envy
~ pride
~ disillusionment
~ blaming

Motherhood is noble, even when we feel like failures at it.
Motherhood is a blessing, even when it threatens to kill us early.
Motherhood is for us, even if we're lacking the qualities we think we need.

Motherhood is bigger than any individual mother. It is hard and it's noble and we are blessed to be called to it by our Heavenly Father. And if you've never conceived, you can still be a mother to someone who never had a loving mother. There are many girls and women who need to be mothered, still. A mother isn't just someone who conceives, but someone who tenderly sacrificies her desires for another and never stops believing it's worth it.

The best mother is not the one in ideal circumstances..."normal" children, good health, good income, plenty of support. The more ideal the circumstances, the more the P word rears its ugly head. Pride. A prideful person is rarely admirable in anything, so if want to be admirable, we certainly shouldn't waste time envying women in ideal circumstances.

So...what kind of mother is ideal? What kind of mother can we look up too, and strive to be like?

Just today...a very trying came to me. 

An ideal mother dusts herself off after an ugly day and wakes up the next morning with joy, rather than dread. She knows what saves her. Something bigger than her. Something farther reaching in power and scope than what she's capable of on her best day.


Yes, the ideal mother knows grace, intimately.

She opens her hands to the free gift. To the saving rope that keeps her from drowning.

Failure does not define her. It rolls off of her. Discouragement does not rule her, it only prompts her. Prompts her to accept it again and again, with a smile....Grace.

Children don't need a perfect mother who never yells, who never gets ugly when her work is spoiled by mud or laziness. They don't need a mother who never locks herself in the bathroom to cry.

Our children need a mother who knows Grace. Who happily grabs that saving rope, immediately, and gives thanks for it.

2 Corinthians 12:9 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.

The worst thing we can do is let our failures define us, discourage us, and take the wind from our sails. Satan loves to upset the mother, for he knows that much rides on her ability to love. Discouragement takes us inward, not outward. It makes us selfish, not sacrificial.

When we're doing it in our own strength, we know discouragement, intimately.

The wind in our sails is not our own striving, but His Grace.

Grace is Jesus cleansing us. Grace is power. Grace is strength. Grace is ability we don't have. Grace is even joy.

It's the wind in our motherly sails, so catch it today and every day.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength

Edgar Guest Poem

"Where's Mamma"

Comes in flying from the street;
"Where's Mamma?"
Friend or stranger thus he'll greet:
"Where's Mamma?"
Doesn't want to say hello,
Home from school or play he'll go
Straight to what he wants to know:
"Where's Mamma?"

Many times a day he'll shout,
"Where's Mamma?"
Seems afraid that she's gone out;
"Where's Mamma?"
Is his first thought at the door--
She's the one he's looking for,
And he questions o'er and o'er,
"Where's Mamma?"

Can't be happy till he knows:
"Where's Mamma?"
So he begs us to disclose
"Where's Mamma?"
And it often seems to me,
As I hear his anxious plea,
That no sweeter phrase can be:
"Where's Mamma?"
Like to hear it day by day;
"Where's Mamma?"
Loveliest phrase that lips can say:
"Where's Mamma?"
And I pray as time shall flow,
And the long years come and go,
That he'll always want to know
"Where's Mamma?"

sniff that poem

Happy Mother's Day, my dear friends!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Homeschool Mother's Journal, 5/10/13

In my life this week…
9-year-old Paul's asthma attack and his subsequent suffering from extremely itching, burning allergy eyes. Gotta love that grass and tree pollen. Medicine helps little and only God's grace keeps the sufferers from going insane. I feel so sorry for my husband and son, as this could go on another month.

My 11-year-old son learned to mow and use a weed-whacker, much to his delight. It's his favorite pastime now and my yard looks better than it ever has.

We're going to plant flower seeds this week too, mother and son; it makes him so happy that I would work in the dirt with him. Usually the inside keeps me so busy it's hard to get outside. I'm so thankful for all his grown-up help, especially since my husband doesn't get home until 7PM.

In our homeschool this week…
I'm thinking tonight that our current read-aloud, Cheaper by the Dozen, is too mature for my boys.

Front Cover

The humor is more appropriate for high school-aged kids (mine are 9 and 11). I don't know what Sonlight was thinking in including this book for upper elementary kids. It even discusses what boys want from girls in high school. Perhaps many people felt as I do about its maturity, because it has been discontinued in Sonlight. I added it in because we needed some more read-alouds, but I don't think I'll even finish it myself.

What makes a book worth my time, or our time, I have to ask? The goal of this book's authors (brother and sister write autobiographically about this family of 12) is to amuse only. I like to see more than one good attribute in a book. Especially, I like at least one character significantly changed for the better, and I like the character's betterment to speak something important to my children and me. I don't see any depth like that in this book. As I said it's just humor and at times the Lord's name is used in vain because the father spoke this way. Not every chapter, but enough to cheapen the humor. Leaving out the words of course, it would make some fun for a family of teenagers to experience the book with Mom and Dad.

I will definitely make time this summer break to preread Sonlight's read-alouds as well as the readers. This year I've only found time to preread the readers. There are many jewels and a few lemons in every year of Sonlight. What is one family's jewel might be another's lemon and vice versa, which is to be expected from any literature-based curriculum.

Paul just finished The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden, which is a delightful, intriguing story about a boy, Gregory, suffering from attachment disorder because of nannies who've come and gone too often.


His parents are busy architects, both of them. Gregory is healed by his sacrificial love for his new housekeeper, who is from the Ukraine and terribly homesick and melancholy--not so different from what Gregory himself feels on a daily basis. He goes to great lengths, coming out of his shell in the process, to make her a "good place" in the family kitchen. It's so simple, yet so profound at the same time. The healing power of love is on display and when you finish this short book, you're better off for having given it your time.

Peter is almost done with The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty Birney, about a boy whose father challenges him to find seven wonders in his own town--a town the boy previously thought of as boring.


He finds, through his contacts with neighbors and family, that his town is anything but boring and that all around us, if we take the time to look, there are wonders.

For social studies and science the boys are still reading the books I mentioned last week: The Story of Inventions and See and Explores Space, Stars, Planets, and Spacecraft

We continue to enjoy using Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease, Level 4. We're all learning so much new information as we go. It truly is a worthwhile resource and so easy to use, especially if you have reluctant writers.

The girls' ( ages 4 and 6) favorite read-alouds this week were:

Over and Over

This delightful book, Over and Over, by the talented Charlotte Zolotow, teaches a preschooler about the seasons and holidays of the year. The illustrations are so beautiful you want to get lost in them. Really. We've all loved this and little Beth has requested at least six readings already.

The Full Belly Bowl

The Full Belly Bowl is a long-time favorite we keep checking out again and again.

Dear Friend, the tiny note reads,
In appreciation of your kindness and generosity,
I leave you this Full Belly Bowl.
You need never know hunger again.
Use it wisely or it will be a burden.
To empty, pour it out.
When not in use, store it upside down and out of reach of children.

This magnificent story is anything but predictable and every page keeps the family riveted. In the end the old man no longer has his full belly bowl, but he's much happier than before and a little wiser.

The Seashore Book, also by Charolotte Zolotow, takes you to the sea in your mind, helping you smell the scents and feel the textures and hear the sounds of the ocean.

"What is the seashore like?" a little boy asked his mother. He lived in the mountains and had never been to the sea.

His mother smiled. "Let's pretend," she said.

And Charlotte, one of my favorite children's authors, true to her craft, shows instead of tells. She makes you feel as though you're right there, among the waves. Beautiful story.

The girls also enjoyed a Mother's Day story, a craft, and movement games at the library on Tuesday. They were so proud when giving me their Mother's Day present!

In other Pre K-K news, I've found that the lower case letters, the ones that look alike, are giving them trouble. We spend some time each day matching upper and lower case letters so they can distinguish u and n and h and all the others that look similar. The capitals are no problem.

When you think of all the letters and numbers kids this age need to learn to print, it's overwhelming for both teacher and students. Starting in the correct place and going the correct way to start is the hardest part. Penmanship is my least favorite thing to teach.

Every child has the hand strength and visual memory at different times. Writing them in the air and on large paper over and over in crayon helps with visual memory too. It's all very tedious, even though we have a good handwriting program.

My favorite thing this week was…
The AWANA awards assembly on Wednesday. The kids stand up there and receive awards for their hard work and they recite a verse or verses that they particularly liked from that year. I was so proud as both my boys overachieved and all the kids did very well on their verses, despite stage fright. This nine-year scripture memorization program is so worth a family's time. I can't think of any other extra-curricular activity that prepares a child so well for life as a Christian.

Yes, it is hard work. It requires perseverance and a heart for God, but the outcome is simply and utterly beautiful...a child who goes out into the world with a strong biblical foundation, with scores of verses hiding in his heart so he can find his way in a confusing world.

The program scaffolds nicely to provide age-appropriate verses, and there's enough review that the child is not simply memorizing and then forgetting, like Friday's spelling words. And because they must show up knowing their verses each week, everyone at home is kept accountable, which isn't necessarily the case if you work on memorization alone at home. The kids want to do well. They really want to achieve and grow in Christ.

There are also weekly Bible lessons, weekly incentives, and weekly PE games and many special things to look forward to, like the AWANA derby. It runs from Sept. to May. on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. Look into it for your family here?

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
AWANA awards and seeing the fruits of their hard labor recognized and celebrated. Knowing that Mommy and Daddy are moved to tears over your efforts and growth is a priceless benefit in and of itself.

Things I’m working on…
We have a very large flowerbed that is part shade and we're hunting up the right seed packets to make it flower nicely this year. There aren't a lot of choices for part shade so this is challenging. We can't afford to buy annuals every year.

I’m cooking…
for dinner so far this week....taco bake, cheesy eggs and cafe potatoes, pasta with turkey sausage, pumpkin pancakes and fruit, and I can't remember the fifth thing.

I’m grateful for…
...the chapter books my little Beth, age 4, carries around everywhere. She even checked out chapter books from the library instead of picture books this week, telling me she loves books and could she please have these? She sits on the couch with the open chapter books in her lap, pretending to read them to her dollies. Or she just sits there by herself, pretending to read them silently.

My husband is driven a little crazy by all the chapter books she gets off the shelves and leaves around the house, but being a teacher I'm just tickled at the whole thing. I indulge her in this, just asking her to come and get them.

I'm grateful for God's grace for my son, who feels like screaming over his itchy eyes...and does scream at times. The more he bothers the area the more histamine the body produces, creating a puffy, horrifically ugly mess of his eyes. He is learning mind over matter with God's grace. He uses the allergy eye drops the doctor prescribed but in bad allergy years they're not enough.

I'm grateful for little Mary, age 6, telling me that when she grows up she will own only as much as she needs, and she will live simply. I teach this and we write to three Compassion children in three different countries, but it's quite a thing to have a 6 year old announce that she's made this decision about her own life. That she won't covet. And the truth is she rarely asks for any material thing, compared to her siblings. Yes, I know children will change, but God has spoken to her heart and I'm incredibly awed.

There are so many challenges and setbacks in raising children, but when you discover a bright spot like this, it lights up your heart and helps you keep fighting the good fight for the Lord, without growing weary.

I’m praying for…a list of supplication prayers and for my son and my husband re allergy issues.

I rewarded my kids this week by…
Dairy Queen

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

Edward Guest poems (20 August 1881 - 5 August 1959)

Mother by Edgar Guest

Never a sigh for the cares that she bore for me
Never a thought of the joys that flew by;
Her one regret that she couldn't do more for me,
Thoughtless and selfish, her Master was I.

Oh, the long nights that she came at my call to me!
Oh, the soft touch of her hands on my brow!
Oh, the long years that she gave up her all to me!
Oh, how I yearn for her gentleness now!

Slave to her baby! Yes, that was the way of her,
Counting her greatest of services small;
Words cannot tell what this old heart would say of her,
Mother -- the sweetest and fairest of all.

He Who Serves, by Edgar Guest

He has not served who gathers gold,
Nor has he served, whose life is told
In selfish battles he has won,
Or deeds of skill that he has done;
But he has served who now and then
Has helped along his fellow men.

The world needs many men today;
Red-blooded men along life's way,
With cheerful smiles and helping hands,
And with the faith that understands
The beauty of the simple deed
Which serves another's hour of need.

Strong men to stand beside the weak,
Kind men to hear what others speak;
True men to keep our country's laws
And guard its honor and its cause;
Men who will bravely play life's game
Nor ask rewards of gold and fame.

Teach me to do the best I can
To help and cheer our fellow man;
Teach me to lose my selfish need
And glory in the larger deed
Which smoothes the road, and lights the day
For all who chance to come my way. 

Happy Mother's Day to all!

I know these journals are long and a hearty thank you if you've ever gotten to the end of one of them. Secretly, when I read a short one? I feel cheated. I love me a long, long letter with lots of internal thoughts penned.